How to Stop Buying Clothes You’ll Never Wear

invest don't shop

The Nordstrom Semi-Annual sale just happened and so did a $3000 dent in my credit card. Ouch! Yes, I bought about $3K worth of new clothes which is insane for me, but about 60% of that purchase has already been returned and about $800 of that initial sum was new threads for my husband.

I’m not going to lie, I love to buy new clothes and I don’t see anything wrong with that, however, I’d have to say that at least 35% of the purchases I’ve made over the course of my life have gone completely unworn.  That’s a huge problem.

I used to go to a mall and buy things for sport. The mall was my jungle and I was on a mission to hunt and kill the best deals ever. Because of this mindset, I’d often end up buying some cute clothes at killer prices that I knew I’d never wear. Uh, goal achieved? Not really.

HOW TO STOP BUYING CLOTHES YOU'LL NEVER WEAR

So here’s how I’ve changed my shopping strategy so that nothing hangs in my closet unworn again:

  • I avoid malls at all costs, I do all my clothes shopping online, and only shop at stores that give free return shipping (because I’m notoriously bad for not getting my size right). This has been a game changer for me and I’ve eliminated so much wasted time and unworn clothes.
  • I try on clothes at home (before I’m committed to keeping them) so I can see them in context with current my wardrobe. I can easily check how many other items I already own that will work with the piece. Does it go with everything in my closet or barely anything? If it’s a lone soldier, it goes back. I only want pieces that I know will work across my wardrobe.
  • I don’t take the tags off until I’m 100% sure I want to keep the garment and I’m about to wear it. I’m notorious for liking something initially, but when I actually put it on to wear out of the house, I wonder How to stop buying clothes you'll never wearwhat the hell I was thinking. Everything needs a second evaluation before I decide to keep it.
  • I will often buy things that I see worn by fashion bloggers. This provides the benefit of understanding how to wear and style the piece (because I am not good at this) and bloggers will often let you know when items are on sale. I love shopping this way as the blogger (who did the leg work for me) gets affiliate revenue, and I get the perfect piece that I know how to wear.
  • I never buy clothes that are final sale, especially if it’s online. Even the cutest pants that are are marked down 75% are still too expensive if they don’t fit, you can’t wear them and you can’t return them. J Crew has slayed me with this one. I find cute final sale items, I’m convinced they’ll fit, I bite the bullet and buy final sale and then I end up donating them because they’re unwearable. Never ever will I do this again.
  • I don’t buy special occasion clothes. Like, ever. My average gala or wedding attendance is about once every 2 to 3 years, so I see no reason to buy a new outfit that I will only ever wear once. I’ll either accessorize a basic black dress, recycle the one cocktail dress that I have or if it’s a really fancy event, I’ll Rent the Runway. This is such a brilliant concept.
  • I never shop with other people. Back when I mall shopped for sport, I’d often go with friends. This was our social activity which seems so bizarre to me now, but that’s’ what we did. Because I’m not confident with my ability to pick clothes, I’d often rely on the opinion of my friends to tell me what looked okay on me. We all do this. Even when we’re not sure we like something, we’ll often buy it just because our friends think it looks cute. Even the sales person’s opinion is carefully weighed. You can imagine what happens to these pieces once you’ve got them hanging in your closet. Yep, nothing!

It has taken me an embarrassing amount of time to figure this strategy out, and I’m so incredibly grateful for the evolution of online shopping!! I hope you find these strategies helpful. Here’s a few of my favorite online retailers that have great stuff (IMHO), generally good prices and amazing customer service and shipping.

How to stop buying clothes you'll never wear. Click To Tweet
  • Nordstrom
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • Zappos
  • Amazon
  • H&M
  • Lulu’s
  • New York & Company

Now I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite things from the Nordy’s sale.  I’m sure they’re all sold out by now, but damn are they cute, affordable and in my closet, ready to be worn AF 🙂

In Defense of Corporate Jobs

Corporate job

I really admire entrepreneurs and folks who opted to save like crazy to gain financial independence and early retirement in their 30’s and 40’s.

These are typically smart, go-getter types who are the least likely to play the victim or complain about their realities.  These are the folks that know what they want and go after it.

But here’s the thing…their constant negative commentary about working a corporate job is starting to sound like a bad country song on repeat.

I get it. Most people who end up as entrepreneurs or save to become financially independent as soon possible, do so because they don’t like the idea of corporate jobs. They believe working 9 to 5 is something to escape and that cubicles are little 8-hour prison cells that no man or woman should have to spend 40 years working in.

Naturally, I can imagine they would feel this way or else they wouldn’t have the motivation to chose the path they did (which isn’t easy).  Entrepreneurship is hard and success is unlikely. Financial independence at an early age takes years of sacrifice and hard work, so they must have REALLY hated the idea of a 9 to 5 lifestyle in order to take the path they did.

But here’s the thing –  corporate life ain’t all that bad, folks. Just because you hated it doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice for someone else. As someone who has started several companies (and actually managed to sell one of them), I know how hard and lonely entrepreneurship can be. Working hard without a steady paycheck can be really stressful. Sure, you don’t have to be concerned with tyrannical bosses, but you do have to deal with tyrannical customers and investors, so that theory of being your own boss isn’t exactly true.

In the case of the financially independent and early retired community, while I commend your ability to live with less in order to have ultimate freedom, I question how free you can be if you have to live the rest of your young adult life on a very fixed income.

To be clear, I’m not knocking either choice. Like I said in the beginning of this post, I admire these two groups of individuals for their tenacity, fortitude, and creativity, so props to all those who chose this path and make it work for them. But can we drop the negativity around corporate careers? While they can seem stifling to you, they also have a lot of upside you don’t have.

  • They can be rewarding because you get to work on interesting problems without having to worry about not getting paid if the problem doesn’t get solved.
  • You don’t have to fix the printer, deal with irate customers or follow up on unpaid invoices (unless that’s your job).
  • Very often you enjoy handy perks like free or low-cost health care, tuition reimbursement and having a portion of your donations or 401K contributions matched.
  • By showing up at that same cubicle every day you get to build life-long friendships with the people around you.
  • You’re part of something bigger than yourself. You have people in finance, marketing, sales and manufacturing, all working towards the same goal as you.
  • You may even be lucky enough to get stock options from your company, making you a partial owner and that much closer to financial independence!

And the best part? If none of these benefits ring true for your current situation, you have 100% freedom to leave and find another gig that does, which is a huge bonus because leaving a job is way easier than leaving your own company. I know this first hand.

This may sound like I’m coming from a place of bitterness or envy, and well, in the case of the financially independent, there’s some truth to that. But overall, even if I could retire right now, I probably wouldn’t. I like to work. I like to contribute and I like being a part of a team. This is also why I’ve learned that entrepreneurship isn’t the best choice for everyone. I love structure, organization and creative resources at my disposal. I also love paychecks, stock options, and really good health care.

So in the spirit of overused hashtags that celebrate “rejecting the man” and doing things your own way, I’d like to take a moment to honor all those #girlbosses (and #boybosses, too) in corporate environments who do awesome things like keep the internet running, make sure your investment portfolios perform well, organize our health care system and make neat things like your iPhone or your car.

So consider this the next time you want to brag about how awesome it is to grocery shop at 2pm on a Tuesday….  #corporatejobssdrivetheglobaleconomy and #corporateworkersskeepthelightson #thankyouverymuch #dropsmic

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Minimalist Design That’s Inviting and Cozy

minimalist bedroom

I’m not an interior design expert, but I’ve noticed minimalism has a serious branding problem when it comes to interior design.

When I’m on Pinterest and I’m searching for minimalist spaces, I tend to find a bunch of stark rooms with barely any sense of personal space. The design is bare and cold. While I suppose that’s true minimalist form, it’s also not at all my style. There’s a way to blend simple lines and lack of clutter, but still, have a space that represents your style and creature comforts in an inviting way.

Here’s some ideas to get the minimal creative juices flowing…

Start with limiting your color scheme to 3 or less.

minimalist bedroom

// Apartment Apothecary //

Simitry makes things look orderly and intentional.

minimalist design

// My Domain //

Natural woods and bold art can really warm up a space that’s otherwise white.

minimalist dining room

// apartment 34 //

minimal design asthetic

// NYDE //

Which is not to say that white rooms can’t be inviting on their own.  They can! You just need to vary the shades and play with texture.

white minimal cozy room

// Beautiful Homes //

Most importantly, it has to reflect the personal style of the person who lives there.  The more quirkiness and personality, the better.

modern minimalist dining room

// Almocodesexta //

What do you think?  Are you a fan of true minimalist design?  Can you see yourself feeling at home in sparse, empty spaces?  I do love lots of space, but I need texture, color, furniture, and a personal feel to really call something home.

How to Balance Minimalism + Wanting Nice Things.

minimalist office space

There’s a tendency to believe that minimalist exists on the bare minimum, where needs are met, but wants are discouraged.

Perhaps this is what minimalism is to some, but certainly not to me.

For me, it’s much deeper than that. It doesn’t matter how many items I own, it matters that they serve a purpose. That they contribute in some way to the best possible version of myself, and yes, that includes my curling iron and three shades nude lip gloss.

minimalist wanting things

If you own six hair brushes but you use all six of them because they give you equal benefit, then fabulous. It’s not minimal, but it’s purposeful. The problem starts with mindless accumulation of more when what we have is already enough. When we bring things into our homes and lives that don’t make sense to who we are or how we live to try to fill a void. Often we do this because we think these things will help us become the people we aspire to be, but it rarely does. I have owned nine pairs long-distance running shoes, but I still haven’t run a marathon.  This is where the fine line between wants and needs starts to separate.

Measuring the success of minimalism based on just meeting your basic needs is missing the point. Sure, it’s about wanting less, but you can still honor those wants that are important to you. It’s about enjoying and appreciating everything around you and choosing it intentionally because it serves a purpose of beauty or function (and let’s be honest beauty is just as important as function). With that said, to be a minimalist, start with being intentional. There’s no need to be austere or to ignore what your heart wants just because something is pretty. There’s no joy in living with less just because it’s less.

With that said, to be a #minimalist, start with being intentional. There’s no joy in living with… Click To Tweet

Money Can Buy Happiness When You Spend on Your Values

spending passions values

Value-based spending is exactly what it implies. It’s focused spending on the things, services or experiences that add the most value to our lives. That’s something very different for everyone, but the point is the same – optimize your spending on the places that mean the most to you.

For me, this includes important things like fitness (instruction and gear), healthy food, good wine and a generous amount of hair products (please don’t judge). I honor these things because I’m passionate about looking and feeling my absolute best. It’s important to me. I don’t over spend, but I don’t question the dollars that go to these expenses because the happiness payoff is huge in my mind, as it’s supporting my personal values of health, fitness and looking my best.

Money CAN buy happiness: Spend on the things you value. Be frugal with all other expenses. Click To Tweet

I also value my time, so I pay for a house cleaner, workout in a home gym and chose not to travel too far on the weekends.

Someone else may find the idea of a house cleaner or a three-figure visit to the hairdresser to be a huge waste of time and money. I can respect that. But I probably wouldn’t spend money on the things they value either. We’re all unique snowflakes with vastly different ideas about what’s valuable and brings us joy and what’s a complete waste of time and money.

value-based spending

This is why the theory of “keeping up with the Jones’” is so ludicrous. In theory, the Jones’ are investing in what they think adds value to their lives, so why on earth would you compete with their personal interests? There is no Jones out there with the same ideals, values, and interests as you, so why look beyond yourself as a measure of what’s important to accumulate?

If there’s a single message I hope to convey through my work with Funding Happy, it’s that focusing on value-based spending will bring the most joy, satisfaction, and quality of life to anyone who intentionally practices it.

How and When to Quit Something

quitting like a boss

Our culture sees quitting as such a negative. To quit is to fail. To persevere against all odds makes you a hero.

I disagree. In fact, quitting might be just what you need to do in order to move on to bigger, better things.

The when and how of quitting:

Consider quitting anything that’s not in line with the person you want to be or the outcomes you… Click To Tweet

If you’re struggling to decide whether or not you should quit something, simply ask yourself: is this thing I am doing in line with who I want to be and what I want to create? Does it serve the person I’m trying to be? If it’s not, why you’re doing it? To what end?

If your answer tells you that your commitment is:

  • not in line with who you want to be
  • devoid of true meaning in your life
  • only being done out of obligation…

then it’s time to let whatever it is your stressing over, go.

That may require some difficult conversations, life changes or canceled commitments, but if you don’t say no to the things that aren’t meaningful to you, then you’re saying no to the things that are.

quitting

Don’t base your decision to quit on sunk cost.

Sunk cost is the idea that you’ve already invested a substantial amount of time, money or energy into something, so you feel compelled to see it through. In some cases, this is a great motivator. I openly admit that I would have ditched my first and only fitness competition and half-ironman had I not invested boatloads of money and training into the process. I knew, come hell or high water, that I would finish that goal because the idea of leaving money and sweat on the table was unbearable to me.

But what if it’s a failing business venture that’s not working out (despite your best efforts) or a relationship that makes you miserable, but you’ve been with the person for so long, you can’t imagine life without them? That’s when it’s time to have an honest talk with yourself and consider what you’re potentially leaving on the table if you don’t quit. You could be saying no to potential income from other work opportunities or the partner of your dreams by staying the course on a sinking ship.

Think of it this way – if you didn’t quit the first romantic relationship you ever had, you may have married that person. If your first love was anything like mine, that’s a frightening prospect. Personally, had I not left a startup that was draining money and energy from me for two very long years, I would never have found my new job that offers great life balance and a generous paycheck.

I’m not suggesting that all difficult situations should be immediately ditched without a second thought, but I do think we stay longer than we should in situations, businesses or other commitments that don’t serve us because we don’t want to let ourselves or others down by quitting.

Want to be confident about quitting?  Know your values.

There are certain things I’ll never quit:

  • Working out
  • Eating clean
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Writing

These are the functions that support my core values of looking and feeling my absolute best, having strong connections with the people I love and creative self-expression.  These things are everything to me, so I’ll never give up on them.  But with that said, I may quit training for a race I’m not ready for, ditch writing a blog that’s not getting any traction or distance myself from a relationship that’s draining or negative.  As long as I’m still focused on my core values, the activities that support them can change as often as they need to.

If you’re struggling with the idea of quitting something, but you’re beating yourself up about the idea of being a “quitter”, it’s time to stop.  Cliches like “winners never quit and quitters never win” are just platitudes.  They’re not intended to provide wisdom to guide the important day-to-day decisions in your life.

Now with that said, if you have a habit of not following through on commitments you make to yourself or others, that’s a different story.  Lack of follow through is a habit that will hold you back from getting where you want to go in life.  It can debilitate your career and make you lose credibility with the people around you.  It’s a fine line between quitting for the right reasons and not following through when the going gets tough.  Only you can decide what side of the line you’re standing on.  The best way to decide where your decisions are leading you is to ask yourself how quitting or not quitting will impact you 5 and 10 years down the road.

Sidebar:  One of the best books I’ve ever read (I mean, ever) is Essentialism, by Greg McKeown.  It’s a game-changer that will help you gain perspective on what’s important and what’s not.

Please share this with someone who’s struggling with the idea of quitting something.  Very often it’s a random message from nowhere that helps to put things into perspective.  

 

How to Buy Only What You Truly Love

There’s a woman I follow on social media. She’s beautiful, very fit and perfect in that Pinterest kind of way. She has an idyllic life. Gorgeous husband, cute kid, big house, a couple of dogs, great friends… all the things we crave.

But that’s her social media self. Theoretically, I know she still wakes up with bed head, bad breath and probably gets bad gas like the rest of us. She’s perfect on Instagram, but in real life, she probably has all the same frustrations, insecurities and drama that the rest of us deal with. Theoretically, I know this.

But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to be like her. And not the real her who has anxiety and farts, but the social media her who always looks perfectly put together, super skinny and has a warehouse full of workout leggings in her giant walk-in closet.

I love her leggings and some weirdly naive part of myself thinks that if I can just buy the same leggings she has, my life will be just like hers.

I’m going to say this again, just in case you think I’m nuts – theoretically and intellectually I know her leggings won’t make me her. They won’t make me perfect. They won’t even make my Instagram pictures look better, which I really wish they would.

Those pants represent all the fake perfection I kill myself trying to attain even though I know in theory I never will. It doesn’t exist.

I don’t fault this woman for taunting me with her social media perfect life and outrageous legging collection. She’s doing what we all do. She’s presenting the illusion of her perfect self and I continue to buy it, hook line and sinker.

minimalism, shopping

But, back to the yoga pants.

There’s a point in my not-to-distant past where I would have bought the pants without giving it a second thought. I can afford them, I know I’ll get good use out of them (honestly, I do live in leggings) and certainly I “deserve” them. But in the back of my mind, without the self-awareness to acknowledge it, I’d be buying the pants because I want to be like her (the fake her) more than because I need // want // love them. That makes me think of most of the clothes I buy for similar reasons. There are little hopes attached to each garment, just hanging there like a price tag, only the price is my own self-worth that gets a little kick in the ass every time I buy something to become something or someone I’m not.

Beware of attaching unrealistic hopes to your purchases. Things rarely make you richer, smarter… Click To Tweet

The good news is that this realization has had a profound shift in my online shopping habits. I’m less inclined to head to my favorite .com shop for a little fixer upper garment that will somehow bring me closer to my idealized self. I’m not saying I won’t buy leggings again (oh, hell no), but I’ve become aware of an unconscious thought pattern that has resulted in a self-destructive habit. So the next time I buy something, it will be because it’s beautiful, functional and will serve my life in some way (yes, leggings do this for me).

So how to avoid this trap of shopping for your idealized self?

  • Don’t own excess – If I buy new leggings, I’m also prepared to give away an old pair.
  • Constantly question your purchases – Do I really need new leggings? (No)
  • Don’t give meaning to possessions – Owning a drawer full of leggings doesn’t make me a different or fitter person. No amount of Lululemon will make me any stronger, faster or leaner than I am right at this moment. Only I can do that. Clothing has nothing to do with it.

I’m curious if this idea rings true for you, too? If you have a closet full of barely worn clothes, then like me, you’ve probably been shopping for a version of yourself that doesn’t actually exist.  At least now you’re aware of it.

A Quick Guide to Becoming Minimal

Minimalism has been on my mind for some time now, but only recently have I taken any action to get there. Unlike some that come into this practice full-throttle, I’ve done it by dipping one toe at a time. Packing up all my belongings and sending them off to Goodwill seems too jarring to me, not to mention how much work it would be.

minimalism guide

I started by taking on the structure of the minimalist challenge, adding one incremental item to my purge pile each day. But by mid-week somewhere in week 3, I started to feel pressured by the growing numbers, so I just aimed to concentrate on specific areas of my home, one at a time and worked from there.

So if like me, you’d rather not turn your whole life upside down all at once, here are a few ideas to get you started down the path toward a minimal lifestyle. I suggest taking a week to tackle each area. Also, remember that getting rid of the unnecessary stuff already in your life is only half the battle. The other side is saying no to the constant barrage of things that you continue to accumulate, from junk mail to half-used bottles of BBQ sauce. Everything collects and builds so naturally that you have to stay conscious about it.

Minimalism isn't just getting rid of the stuff you already have. It's saying no to the… Click To Tweet

Start With Your Closet

  • Donate or sell your formal wear that you never wear. To stay current with fashion, use Rent The Runway when you need something fancy.
  • You don’t need 8 pairs of athletic shoes, do you? They look pretty, but perhaps it’s time to cull the heard and there’s lots of great places to donate them.
  • Undergarments that have lost their shape, have holes or just worn out – ditch these.
  • Got office wear that you never wear? Dress for Success is a great organization that helps women get dressed… for success.
  • Clothes you love but never wear – if you can’t find an opportunity to wear them, then at least profit from them! List your stuff on Poshmark or eBay. If you’re super lazy, just put them all in a pre-paid bag and ship them off to Thredup. They will pay you for what they can sell and donate the rest.

The end goal with your closet should be to have a small collection of clothes that you love and that you wear often.  It makes getting dressed so much easier, and trust me, once you’re out of high school, no one notices how often you wear stuff.  Honestly, I can’t even remember what I wore yesterday, so you can be sure I didn’t notice what anyone else wore.

Paperwork

I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t keep, but I will say that I took my most important docs and copied them to Evernote. In some cases, I still have the originals (for tax reasons) but most of this stuff I ditched.  I also started storing things like pet perscriptions, vet instructions, receipts for home and car repairs and other important info that I might need to reference somewhere down the line.  Evernote is an amazing platform for creating, storing, sorting and generally keeping yourself from becoming a hot mess.  I highly recommend it.

Photos

Memories are in your heart, not on Kodak paper. It may seem criminal to get rid of family photos, especially of people who are no longer with you, but how useful are those photos being stored in a container or old dusty album? Scan your pictures and share them with your family by creating a private family group on Facebook or Flickr.  Keep a backup on a hard drive to be safe. Bottom line, photos are more shareable when they’re digital.

Kitchen Stuff

This is an area where I realized I was collecting so much stuff I never used. Four sets of measuring cups, 72 forks and a juicer that was used once. So sad. I sold the juicer and ditched the gadgets. My kitchen feels more spacious and peaceful now and it’s a pleasure to cook in. Do I ever miss those gadgets I bought? Never. I can’t even recall what half of them were for.

Garage

Our garage is a breeding ground for half-used paint cans and lawn tools (note: we don’t have a lawn). I had a hard time letting go of things we might need in our “next house”, but given that we just moved here last year, I had to get over my future-hoarding tenancies and just admit that I don’t need lawn tools anymore.

Credit Cards, Bank/Investment Accounts & Subscriptions (this is what I’m currently working on)

minimalist finances

Every week the NYTimes comes to our house, and every week it goes into the recycling bin, unread. I have Dropbox, Apple storage and Evernote (all paid services), 6 credit cards (some were store cards I never shopped at), 8 investment and bank accounts (in two different countries) and a bunch of other accounts for things I never used. This consolidation took the longest amount of time and I still have to fly back to Canada to consolidate my retirement accounts in person, but it’s worth it. Dealing with banks and credit card companies is a pain. The fewer I have to engage with or find tax info for, the better.

You’re thinking this sounds like a lot of work, right? It is.

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it because you’ve been fine ignoring all this crap for this long, then think again. I have found that the “stuff” in our lives that is left ignored or not dealt with tends to accumulate as low-grade stress. Got an anxiety problem? This could be part of the problem.

Think about it – we’re always reminding ourselves to cancel that thing or call that guy to fix something, but we keep forgetting, can’t find the right number or just couldn’t be bothered. So little things left unaddressed, sit as a reminder in the back of your mind that you still don’t have your shit together.

Once you deal with all this stuff, you start feeling more “together”. Like your ducks are all lined up and you know the name, balance and expiry date on each of those little critters. It’s about controlling that which you can control in life by reducing complexity and streaming processes. It works in business and it works in life.

Bonus: Not only does getting all this stuff taken care of feel good, the process becomes a very rude awakening to how much you spend on useless stuff you don’t need. It will have an immediate impact on your spending as it has on mine. I’m pretty sure Amazon.com is going to be reaching out to see if their most active customer (me) is still alive.

The Minimalist Approach to Workaholism

workaholic recovery

This is a personal post about something I’m struggling with now. I’m sharing it because I bet I’m not the only who might need the wake-up call, and the action steps to solve it.

Over the past several months I’ve been working to become more minimalist and intentional in my personal world with a hope to cultivate more engagement in the work that I do, but also more joy overall.

 

minimalist workaholic

What I’ve noticed through this process is that I’m an over-worker. Not sure I like the term workaholic, but I do work too much, and lately, that’s started to take a toll on my personal happiness. The overworking started several years ago when I was trying to get a food start-up off the ground (it got about 10 feet up in the air before it crash landed, metaphorically speaking) and it’s a habit that I’ve never let go of. So I continue to work evenings and weekends in addition to my professional day job, with my new side hustle.

The left brain, suck-it-up-buttercup side of me says “this is good. It will help you reach your goals faster so you can enjoy life more”. My right brain, the idealist in me (I’m a Gemini folks) says, “but you’re wasting life now doing all this work and you’re not promised tomorrow”. Both sides have equally valid points.

In a perfect world, I’d retire early from my 9 to 5 work with enough resources that it wouldn’t matter if my passion projects provided income or not. I could just focus on them full-time because I love the work.  I have a strong conviction around this because I think following a passion for your primary income is really bad career advice. But I’m not financially ready to retire, and I’m not willing to put off my passion projects until retirement because:

  • It’s my creative outlet (although still work).
  • It will help me retire early so that I can do this full-time.

But something has to give because I feel like my brain is working 24/7. As I become more minimal and intentional, I see how my non-stop productivity is creating disconnection with others, compromising my engagement at work and contributing to a low-grade, chronic anxiety. This “always be doing something productive” mindset is starting to chip away at my self-worth because on some level, I’ve adopted a belief that I’m only worthy when I’m working.

This is really bad.

So I’ve spent some time thinking about how I can turn the productivity bus around (or at least slow it down) so that I can balance work and pleasure for a more enjoyable life.

Here’s what I can realistically do to manage my “workaholic tendencies”.

  • Take the ear buds out of my head, turn off the non-stop learning-based podcasts and audio books and enjoy hearing what’s going on in my brain more.
  • Take little media fasts. I can’t shut my computer down for days on end, but I CAN stop the incessant social media scrolling.
  • Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow until my social media feeds contain only those who bring me joy or value. Pro Tip: want pure Instagram joy? Follow Tuna Melts My Heart and Hamilton Pug. Both are exceptionally adorable pups that leverage social media to advocate pet rescue.
  • Go to bed earlier and leave my phone in another room. I waste at least 30 minutes scrolling social media before bed. Not only is this wasting precious sleep time (I need at least 8 hours a night), but staring at illuminated screens decreases natural melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. I know I have to do this one.
  • Make more time for friends and family. I love the people in my life, but I find I’m spending more time alone (working) or in surface level engagement through Facebook. I’ve gotten to a point in this obsession to work that I have to think twice about meeting someone for brunch or happy hour because that time might be better spent doing something productive. I can’t believe I even admitted that out loud.

If I were to add a few stretch goals to this list I would also try:

  • Not working at all on Sundays (this would be hard for me)
  • Opting for fiction only audible books.
  • Drive to work in silence.

I am sure I’m not alone in my little obsession to work. I see it in my peers and the folks I follow on social media. Does any of this ring true for you?

PS – In full disclosure, it’s Sunday morning as I write this, so yes…. I’m still working on a Sunday.

Follow Your Passion – Inspiring words, but bad career advice.

passion yoga teacher

I’m not sure the first time I heard that expression, but I know where it led me. I was in Rishikesh, India, sitting on the floor of the ashram I was studying at listening to the American yoga instructor, (a recovering drug addict) talk about her experience of going from homeless to globe-trotting entrepreneur. After her recovery, she went back to school, earned an MBA and opened her yoga businesses both in the US and India, straddling life in both countries with her Indian husband. She wasn’t living my dream, but she was certainly living a life of her own design which I admired.

At the time I had just left my job (and my work visa) in the US. I was getting over the loss of my mother to cancer and I was struggling to figure out my own priorities. That loss made me realize that time was short, life was precious and my corporate job was sucking my soul. So I went to India because I had a passion for yoga and I had naively believed that following a passion was the best way to make a living.

However, my plan of getting certified and becoming the next yoga mogul had a wrinkle in it. I discovered that while I enjoyed practicing yoga, I hated teaching it. One can only say “inhale upward dog, exhale downward dog” so many times. It lacked the intellectual engagement that I knew I needed to make it a sustainable choice. So by the end of my Indian sojourn, I was more panicked than ever before because I had no idea how I’d make money from my half-hearted passion.

career advice

Fast-forward 10 years. I’m back at the same company I claimed was sucking my soul in 2007. I have tried (and failed) to make my passions pay off more times than I’m ready to admit (okay, 5 times. I’ve tried and failed 5 times). While I do enjoy my professional work, it’s not a “passion”. To be honest, my passions change and evolve over time, so making money from them would be hard to keep up with.

Instead, I’ve come to appreciate my corporate job for different reasons. I am paid well for what I do, and I truly enjoy the people I work with. They’re kind, smart and everyone holds their own. I’ve spent so much time chasing the idea of monetizing a passion that I overlooked the possibility of finding enjoyment and contentment in a corporate job. While I’m not exactly “living the dream”, I do have great health care, a steady paycheck, several savings vehicles at my disposal and the opportunity to continue to learn and try new things within the boundaries of my organization (I think the kids are calling it intrapreneurship these days).

While I don’t regret any of my entrepreneurial adventures, I do regret the lost income that I could have been making had I tried these ideas as side hustles rather than a reason to escape the doldrums of full-time corporate work. In retrospect, had I taken more time to examine the reasons I’ve disliked corporate jobs in the past, and tried to fix or adjust to these challenges, I would be far better off financially today.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that some people don’t become successful from following their passions, but their stories are the exception, not the rule. We don’t hear about the entrepreneurs who bet it all and fail (time and time again) because people rarely get famous from their failures.

I read a great article about Warren Buffet today. Now there’s a guy who followed his passion and became one of the richest people in the world! But here’s the thing – at age 27 with a net worth of $127,000 he was (modestly) financially independent and considered retiring. He chose not to retire because people were asking him to manage their money for them and he found the work interesting. He was able to call his own shots because he didn’t need the money.

While I’m not poo-pooing the entrepreneurial dream, I am questioning how romanticized it has become. It’s a risky venture, and best left to evenings and weekends until it proves to be a viable and sustainable enterprise. This is particularly true for the idealists among us who seek to “monetize passions”. As Elizabeth Gilbert suggests, let your creative pursuits exist purely because they are yours. Never expect them to financially provide for you, but rather always promise to provide enough for yourself so that you can support your passions.

My best advice to anyone considering a passion-driven career risk, especially if it involves going out on your own, is to take it slow.  Test your concept to see if it’s viable.  Is anyone asking you for your skill or solution?  It’s also a good practice to figure out if you’re well suited for entrepreneurship before leaving your job.  Experiment in your free time and see how good you are at the hustle of finding new business and selling yourself. Some people are naturally great at this. Some people need a little time to build the skill but can get by with practice. Some people find it to be an unnatural and painful practice that overpowers the benefits of that kind of “lifestyle”. Know where you fit on that spectrum before you commit to too much.

Are you an advocate of jumping in head first, or are you in the “test and iterate” camp like me? I think it’s largely personality driven.  Some folks can only succeed if they “burn the boats” so there’s no turning back, while others need lots of exit opportunities along the way.  You can guess where I sit now, but initially, I burned boats.