Houston Kraft is a speaker, author, and kindness advocate who has spoken at over 600 schools or events internationally. In 2016, he co-founded CharacterStrong to help schools more effectively teach empathy, connection, and kindness. To date, they have worked with over 2500 schools globally serving over 1 million students.
His new book, DEEP KINDNESS, is a call to action, moving us past the surface level ‘confetti kindness’ marked by cutesy phrases and empty gestures. Featuring a 30-act starter plan, journal prompts, and practical exercises, DEEP KINDNESS dives into the types of kindness the world needs most today, taking an honest look at the gap between our belief in kindness and our ability to practice it well.
(Fun facts: In 2019, his face was featured on Lays BBQ chip bags as someone who helps “spread smiles.” His mom is his hero and her best life lesson is to “hug like you mean it.”)
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In this episode we talk about the difference between kindness and niceness, the dangerous mindset we have around kindness and how to change it, social and emotional learning (it’s not just for kids!), figuring out what your markers of success are, and SO much more.
This episode is in support of Sisters Network, Inc. Sisters Network is the largest Black breast cancer survivor-run organization in the United States. In 1994, Karen Eubanks Jackson founded Sisters Network Inc., during her personal fight to survive breast cancer Jackson recognized a lack of “sisterhood” in traditional organizations, a staggering breast cancer mortality rate for African American women and limited culturally sensitive material. Sisters Network Inc. is committed to increasing local and national attention to the devastating impact that breast cancer has in the African American community, as well as giving assistance to those undergoing treatment, and educating/empowering others with information on the importance of early detection. Their Breast Cancer Assistance Program (BCAP) provides services to women facing financial challenges. As a Survivor, this program provides financial assistance for but not limited to: medical related lodging, co-pay, office visits and prosthesis. This program also provides free mammograms for women. To learn more + donate, click here.
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“You should start a podcast. In a few years everyone’s gonna be doing them. If you want to, now’s the time. But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”
Sitting in a café in Silverlake across from my friend Jessica on a crisp April afternoon, I soaked in her words as my eyes wandered in the way they do when I agree with someone but am also a little terrified by what they’re saying.
It was 2015 and I’d just launched the website for my new project, WANT: Women Against Negative Talk, three months earlier. I was simultaneously working as an editor for a wellness site, which I joked was my “grad school” since it was so clear that everything I had learned about navigating the digital space over my four years thus far was directly applicable to what I was creating on my own. There were clear formulas, processes, and platforms to follow and utilize.
Podcasting, however, was brand new territory. I barely knew of anyone who listened to podcasts…let alone HOSTED them. Well, except Jessica. Did I have what it would take to start my own??
It’s over five years later and I’m so glad I took Jessica’s advice when I did. My podcast, WANTcast: The Women Against Negative Talk Podcast, launched in September 2015 and just celebrated its fifth birthday (I’ve got a kindergartener, folks!). Not only am I relieved that I got to podcasting before the medium’s big boom post-Serial…I’m relieved I took the second part of Jessica’s advice to heart just as much as the first part:
“…But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”
Expectation vs reality.
My heart both bursts and breaks when I think about people starting podcasts today. It bursts because I absolutely love how accessible podcasting is. I love that with minimal equipment and overhead, almost anyone can create a show. I love that with the slew of podcasting platforms that exist at various price points, almost anyone can subscribe and listen. I love the wide range of possibilities that exists with podcasting.
It breaks for the same reasons one’s heart breaks when anything they love becomes a bit too mainstream. I’m reminded of the bloggers circa 2010 and the big blog boom that followed soon thereafter (side note, try to say big blog boom 10xs fast). It seemed like every single mega company was adding a blog to their website – and if independent bloggers weren’t willing to turn their blog into a business to keep up, they’d fall back into the shadows.
Big media companies now dominate the pod charts, making it harder and harder for smaller, independently-run podcasts to get the downloads (and even visibility!) they deserve. If you’re a small fish in the big pond of pods and want to monetize your podcast, the mainstreaming of podcasts has made it REALLY hard to do so, especially without the help of an ad network.
But that’s not all: while podcasts *seem* relatively easy for anyone to create, the process of creating a quality episode – let alone entire show – is anything BUT. With only your voice, mind, and sound quality to connect with listeners, something as small as a faint clicking sound in the background (your dog walking on hardwood floor or husband typing on his computer, perhaps?) can get listeners saying No Thanks. The one exception is if you’re a big celebrity…in which case, people find the lack of polish somewhat endearing. Stars! They’re just like us!
The problem with THAT is that those might be the podcasts people are being inspired by when they say they want to start their own. But the bar listeners have for a new voice is so different than the bar they have for their favorite celeb who feels “so accessible!” to them. You can have the best ideas and the most well-thought-out episode…but if your sound quality isn’t decent, it’s going to be tough to retain listeners…if that’s what you’re after. And that’s not even taking into account episode structure, intros, outros, interview skills and styles, editing or lack thereof, storytelling, coughs, sneezes, ums, likes, laughs, and so many other purely subjective things that the listener may or may not love or loathe.
Even if you’re someone who doesn’t care about making bank off your pod, the expectation vs. reality gap of “starting a podcast” has become so wide that, according to studies, half of all podcasts don’t get past 15 episodes (this one study from 2018 said that 12% don’t even get past the first episode).
Because I want to.
I’m so glad I followed (and have stuck with) Jessica’s initial advice of “you know, don’t do it if you don’t want t0.” While I’ve worked with sponsors in the past, I stopped doing ads back in early 2019 because I didn’t want my need to make money from podcasting cloud my judgement of whether I actually WANTED to podcast or not. With every single decision, pivot, and new season of the WANTcast, I’ve asked myself: is this something I am doing because I feel like I have to, or because I feel like I want to?
So far, the answer has been: because I want to.
Because of this rule of thumb, I’ve been able to cross the half-decade mark feeling so proud of not only the show, but the listener community we’ve developed. I trust my audience, and they trust me. And they know I don’t take that trust lightly. They know I choose topics, guests, spotlights organizations, and the very rare very occasional sponsor with them in mind.
Over the last half-decade, I’ve invested in this mic, this mic, and this mic (which I use currently). I’ve made sure to never sacrifice the quality of the episode, which means I’ve turned down many guests who are ok but not a stellar fit, and have hired an editor to make sure my sound is as clean as can be given the equipment I’m willing to pay for.
Our topics are deep and nuanced. We’ve covered: Facing your fears, Creative depressions, Personality types (astrology, human design, Myers Briggs, and more), Body image, Trauma, Sex education, Speaking up, Racism, Sexism, Ableism, Ageism, Jealousy, Forgiveness, Visions, Dreams, Goals, Self-doubt, Self-worth, Anxiety, Overwhelm, Mental illness, Ghost worries, Circumstantial happiness, Experiential longing, Fat-phobia, Body neutrality, Addiction, Recovery, Through lines, Grief, Boundaries, Planned Freak-Outs, Self love, Self like, and SO much more.
And if there’s one thing I’ve embraced, it’s that I do things MY way.
I don’t do things by the book, but I attribute the WANTcast’s longevity to sticking to a few specific self-made rules. Take what works for you, leave the rest.
Here are my top podcasting tips for anyone who wants to start a pod from the heart:
Set your own schedule. Pick a schedule that works for you, and don’t be afraid to alter it when it no longer does. Refuse to sacrifice the quality of experience for the quantity of episodes. When I began the WANTcast, I started on an every-three-weeks schedule, because I was working a full-time job, community to and from that full-time job, and knew I would never have the bandwidth to create and produce episodes on a weekly basis considering the rest of my life. All the podcasts I listened to were on a weekly schedule, but I knew I’d be one of those people who never got past 15 episodes if I followed their lead.
Since then I’ve been on an every-three-weeks schedule, every-other-week schedule, a weekly schedule, and what is now an every week-or-two schedule (because right now, I need that flexibility for my own mental wellbeing). Consistency is key but it will also screw you over if you’re too married to it. Find what works for you, whether it’s what you see others doing or not.
Fuck analytics. Analytics are overrated, and subjective. DO NOT look at analytics to tell you how “good” or impactful your pod is. Marie Forleo calls these Vanity Metrics: numbers that don’t actually move the needle in your business. Are you giving people a clear CTA in your episode about how to let you know they’re listening and loving your show? Do you prompt them within the episode to share? Are they sharing? What are they sharing? What are they saying?
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The only thing I find analytics good for is to see what’s working and what might not be working as well as it could. Know your average download rate. What episodes fall below that rate? Which ones fall above it? Did an episode spike in listeners and then drop back down right after – a sign that maybe someone with a big following shared your episode, and so their followers ONLY listened to that episode? Look at analytics with a critical eye. Once you do, you’ll start to see patterns, and you’ll be able to get information about what kinds of content people are loving the most, so you can make more of it.
Don’t be afraid of the PIVOT. Begin with clarity of vision, model, and purpose…AND be willing to pivot to serve the greater vision. Start with a clear reason WHY you are starting your pod. What is it that speaks to you? What are your objectives? How will you know whether you’re achieving those objectives or not? Will you have guests? Sponsored ads? What problem are you solving for you listener, or how exactly are you looking to enhance their life?
Start your pod with those at the forefront. Make your plan. Stick with it for at least 10-15 episodes so you get into a rhythm and can accurately gage what is working, what isn’t, and what were just growing pains.
AND THEN…if you EVER feel like you need to make changes, make them with that clarity of vision in mind. Get back to your roots. Your whys. Your mission. Maybe that means you change the format of your episodes, maybe that means you change your schedule. But whatever it is, don’t just keep doing something simply because it’s how you’ve always done it. I promise you that if you’ve developed a close relationship with your community, they’ll most likely be on board and be able to see the bigger picture.
Do it because it’s a fit for you. Do it because you love it. Do it because it’s fun. Do it because it’s a fit for you.
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Do NOT do it to “keep up.” Do NOT do it because you think you should. Do NOT do it because someone else told you to. If it works for you in one season of your life, great. If it stops being a fit for you and doesn’t work in the very next season of your life, let it go. There will always be a new platform or medium to get into. That doesn’t mean every single one is going to be the best fit for YOU…or ALWAYS be the best fit for you.
Well, other than to stay in integrity with yourself and your show by constantly re-assessing if your intentions align with your impact. But other than that. No rules other than the ones you make for yourself.
WANT YOUR SELF:
Have you started a podcast? Have you chosen NOT to start a podcast? Why, or why not? Are you THINKING of starting one? Which of these tips did you find the most useful?
And if you’re a WANTcast listener…what has been your favorite episode so far? Did you have a favorite guest? Or maybe a favorite topic we covered in a solo episode or a favorite story that’s stuck with you? I would LOVE to hear.
Not subscribed to the WANTcast? Subscribe here in iTunes or over on Spotify.
And while you’re at it, subscribe to Jessica’s podcast, One Part Podcast. She is very very wise.
What happens when you feel a “calling” to change things up…but everything is going just fine? What if you’re doubting a choice is the right one to make…but you don’t have proof as to why?
In today’s episode of the WANTcast, a listener asks if she should follow her gut and change everything, even though life is great. I share some insight into my move to NYC after a lifetime in Los Angeles, plus a few big, get-honest-with-yourself questions to ask yourself when facing major change of ANY kind.
Ever feel like you don’t have enough time to make your mark? Feel like technology (or maybe just other people) are more in control of your life’s story than you are? In this solo episode, I talk about my latest “a-has” about making meaning and leaving your legacy – and hopefully, it’ll give you some of your own a-ha moments too.
It’s been three days since I’ve been back from Italy and I still haven’t opened my computer. It’s not because I don’t have things I need to do (I do) or that I can accomplish everything I need to on my phone (I can’t). It’s because for two whole weeks, I was reminded of what my life was like when it wasn’t portable. And I was brought back to a time when my worth or livelihood wasn’t even remotely dependent on a screen.
I’m not an avid traveler in the least, but I know the power of what a change of space can do for the soul. Traveling, whether to Rome or Rhode Island, will rip you away from the familiar and at the same time remind you of all the things you recognize and hold dear even when the landscape is foreign. You start to remember who you were before the proverbial “world told you who to be,” and you start to wonder if you’d still be YOU if born in another time zone, speaking another language, under a different sun/moon turnover. The things you think define you fade away during takeoff, and all that’s left are your thoughts and feelings upon landing. Going away becomes a homecoming.
But back to the laptop. I know I have work to do, and I know I can’t claim “re-entry” forever. I’ve gone off the grid before. I’m down with the Vacation Responder settings. But there’s something particularly off about my tech-aversion this trip around, especially since it was all in such close, tangible access the whole time around. I could feel my laptop’s sleek, cool edges kiss my fingers as I slid it out of my bag for TSA, expecting my flight to be filled with issuing invoices and playing email catch-up. I recognized my computer’s gentle weight and thud as I landed my backpack back at home in its resident corner of our 475 square feet, fully expecting it to yell for my usage now that we were far from the coastlines and Caprese salads. I listened hard. I really did. But I couldn’t hear its call.
There was a time, you might remember, when the internet was a joyful side-dish to the hearty main course of life. But gone are the You’ve Got Mail days of delighting at a *ping!* and taking each website for its www-face value. Inbox Zero is now the goal, and a site can’t just be a SITE anymore: it’s got to be a HUB, with impeccable SEO and a whole host of press mentions and celeb-cred to prove its legitimacy. We live our lives about one-third of the time on our own and the rest of the time vicariously through influencers, and we spend hours peeling through click-bait headlines that lead us to half-baked content meant to leave us wanting more and clicking together opinions we’re not sure are even fully ours. There is so much good to the internet – connection! collaboration! insight! But somewhere between the romance of Shopgirl and NY152 and now, the internet has become the hearty main course of life that each amuse-bouche IRL experience is crafted around.
Our almost two-week long trip to Italy was our honeymoon, yes – but it was transformative way way beyond the parameters of our relationship. During our twelve days hopping from big cities down to coastal towns and back again, my Noticing muscles were on overdrive and overstimulated to the max. I saw freshly-washed clothing being hung upon outdoor laundry lines because that’s just how it’s always been done. I heard 80s and 90s tunes covered and reimagined into dance tracks, with not one Top 40 hit or latest-pop-sensations in earshot (okay, just one – the ONLY exception was that “Juice” was playing everywhere, which as a long-time Lizzo fan made me beam with pride). I walked through thousands-of-years-old ruins while captivated by a tour guide probably half a decade younger than me who needed no notes or maps to help her and told the history of each corner by beginning with phrases like “You must now imagine…” And between stumbling upon the best meals of my life and chatting with locals filled with hometown glory, I remembered what it truly means to make an impact that lasts longer than your Self.
And so my reluctance to touch my laptop isn’t actually about an aversion to technology itself or some newfound dogma claiming the internet is ruining our society. No: my current hesitation is because I’ve been reminded for the first time in YEARS of what it truly means to live a legacy. My laptop – my so-called digital window-to-the-world – is a tool in my legacy-making toolbox…but must never, ever be the thing I use to CONSTRUCT and DEFINE my legacy itself. Wandering the uneven streets of Pompeii and scanning out over the Forum ruins and eating at cafes on the side streets of Positano and Amalfi reminded me of something I heard a historian once say that I can only now paraphrase: No era of our civilization is inherently more or less advanced than the other. We just gain and lose knowledge along the way, over and over. When I looked out over things I’d only seen in textbooks and dreams, my overwhelming though was NOT “What on earth were the tools they used to build this?” – it was “Who on earth were these people whose minds could conjure up such a vision?” Or, to be honest, I mostly thought nothing at all. Because it was the feelings that took center stage.
The feelings I felt – and the thoughts I formed directly related to them – those were centuries of legacy in motion.
Maybe your tech-of-choice isn’t your laptop like mine is. Maybe it’s your phone, or a tablet, or the television you use to numb or learn or search the massive void of 0’s and 1’s. Or maybe the thing you use to craft your You-ness isn’t even a piece of technology at all.
But it’s worth asking every now and again: is this thing helping me articulate my legacy, my meaning, my mission…or is it deciding those things FOR me? If this thing did not exist…would *I*? And am I clear on what matter the most to me, or am I scrambling to keep up with what I think matters most to others?
I won’t be able to stay off my laptop for long – nor do I WANT to! – but while I’m in this headspace, I’m going to do as much as I can to preserve the magic I feel. I’m going to write as much as I can pen-to-paper, then transcribe my words onto the screen if I need to publish an essay or article or even just a podcast’s Show Notes. I’m going to opt for IRL meetings whenever possible instead of tying myself to my Gmail account. I’m going to take my phone, and my purse, and my papers, and I’m going to sit outside somewhere or at least by a window to work and feel connected to the world at the same time. And when I’m on a computer (like I am right now as I transcribe this piece, with just one browser tab open at a time and the intention to “get in get out and get on with my life“), I’m going to make sure that whatever I do on that piece of metal is MEANINGFUL.
Our technology could disappear tomorrow like the city of Pompeii, and we could run through the knowledge-lost-knowledge-gained tap dance hundred of more times in this century alone. But what I have to say matters. What I have to give matters. And it does for you, too. And there is no passage of time or piece of equipment that could ever change that. Time and tech will try to steal your voice and reclaim it as their own, but your impact is yours to make, not theirs. And that impact fully transcends whatever it is you perceive to be your day-to-day benchmarks of predefined success. Our legacy isn’t in the things we birth or the structures we build, but the knowledge we pass and the DNA strands we eventually return back to the stars. And leaning into that profound knowing, and letting the things that once dictated what we did and how we did it take a seat on the shelf (or the far-left corner of 475 square feet) for a while can be more than enough to remind us of who we are.
I went to Italy, sure. But you don’t need to travel across time zones and sun/moon turnovers to come back home.
The guilt hit me before bed, as most guilty moments do.
Oh my god. I forgot WANT’s four-year anniversary.
My heart sank as I counted back since WANT’s big day had arrived and departed like nothing. One, two, three, four…ten days. TEN. DAYS.
I felt like a parent who had forgotten to put presents under the Christmas tree and it was way past December 25th. How could I have forgotten? Was I a bad business mom? How could I have been so negligent?
These, of course, were just rhetorical questions to fill space and buy time while I digested the gritty truth:
I’d been so caught up in what I WASN’T doing “right” over the last few months of running a business that I had completely ignored what I WAS.
I’d been pushing-pushing-pushing so hard, in hot pursuit, that I’d ignored the rock-solid foundation I’d already built.
I was telling my friend Angela the other day how I felt like I was struggling, and that nothing was coming to fruition “like it should.” She reminded me that in the span of a year, I’d gotten married, moved neighborhoods, transferred locations at my full-time job, QUIT my full-time job, began my first new job in fitness in eight years…and that was only in a year.
Moving across the country was harder on me than I’d like to admit, and I think moving uptown brought a lot of those unexplored feelings up to the front again. Changing neighborhoods in L.A. was no big deal for me – I did it almost every year! – because it was all so familiar. I knew the basics of Los Angeles by heart, and the newness of a neighborhood was simply thrilling to me.
Here, it’s different. The thrill is there, but there’s also a feeling of starting over I never experienced in Los Angeles. A feeling of starting fresh. New network, new connections, new places to meet up and places to be inspired. I didn’t realize it, but the lack of familiarity had been messing with my ability to move forward.
So, when I sat down to write a post commemorating the four-year WANTiversarry, something felt…off. Something I was doing before just hasn’t been present in the last few months. Something that was there for the first three years.
I always talk about how I believe curiosity will save the world. But I also believe it will save your business.
The biggest, boldest lesson I’ve learned in the last four years is to stay curious. When things aren’t going your way, in work and life, what do you do? Do you vent to your friends, over and over? Do you look and see what other people are doing, and try to keep up? Do you go over everything you could be doing BETTER in your mind, let it spiral, and just grind harder? I usually don’t, but for the last few months – maybe even the last whole year – I’ve been doing all those things and more.
Staying curious is the secret to anything worth doing, and worth doing well. Because venting won’t solve anything, keeping up with others won’t be true to your vision, and grinding harder will just burn you out. Curiosity is like a real-life Where’s Waldo book: you devise a strategy around what to look for (red and white stripes – got it! glasses – yes!), get in your zone, and zoom in on that mothereffer.
And that feeling of accomplishment and discovery is what makes you want to turn another page.
Almost TWELVE years ago, I came up with the idea for WANT based on what I needed most in my own life. And FOUR years ago, I (re-)launched WANT based on what I knew others needed, too. I saw that there needed, NEEDED, to be a space where we could go for tips and tools – along with motivation and inspiration – to shift our self-talk patterns in a real, lasting way. I knew, KNEW, that the business of affirmations and mantras worked for some people, but didn’t work for enough of them in the long run. And I got curious as to why that was.
What I found, through talking to others and scouring every popular self-help site and book I could find, was that people weren’t talking about the darkness as useful. If they were, they’d mention it then skirt the issue. I saw that there was nowhere that not only allowed people to feel their feelings fully, but encouraged them to think their thinks and feel their feels, and UNEARTH feelings they didn’t even know they had, and THINK thinks that they’d been avoiding for so long – and THEN, only THEN, gave them ways to move forward fearlessly through it all. Not around it all or past it all. THROUGH it.
Curiosity was the foundation of WANT. And I know it needs to be the foundation of me, too. Curiosity has led me to realize that I am a writer, speaker, and community builder before anything. I come alive in front of an audience, and I LOVE bringing people together to make shift in tandem. Working solo and working online are amazing, and allow for a lot of freedom…but maybe it’s too much freedom.
That freedom can make you go down a rabbit hole that never was meant to serve you. You’ve got to pay the bills, so you think about monetization and you think about partnerships. You see what’s being done, and how it’s being done, and you decode the game you believe you’ve got to play. And let me clarify: monetization and partnerships are not wrong. I think it’s so cool that we’re able to be in control of who we work with and where our revenue comes from! But it’s worth looking at the kind of work YOU’RE doing and the kind of business YOU aim to build.
Curiosity has helped me realize that lately, I’m not doing a lot of the things that fill me up. Things I used to do super-frequently because I knew they were the right things to do. Think live events/panels, creating and executing on an editorial calendar, partnering with smaller brand with the biggest souls, and feeling the joy I’ve felt the last few years instead of searching for it.
And why haven’t I been doing these things? Simple. Imposter syndrome. The more you don’t do things – and the longer the amount of time that passes in between – the more you start to doubt your ability to do them.
Sure, I have some good excuses. A wedding. Multiple job changes. Moving. All the other regular life stuff that’s par for the course when you’re a Highly Sensitive Person and internalize everything. It would be ridiculously easy to place blame and offload onto those excuses. But I know the only thing that’d been getting in my way…is ME.
So going into Year Five (omg), I hereby promise you – and myself – the following.
I, Katie Horwitch….
…Will create workshops and panels for you that help you live fearlessly in your own life – and in turn, help me live fearlessly in mine too. We’re in this together. When I’m fearless – when my fear is less than my faith in myself – it empowers you to be fearless, too. And oh-so-vice-versa.
…Will structure my editorial calendar based on what I KNOW is needed, not what I THINK is popular. Not that I’ve been doing this, but it’s a trap I want to avoid at all costs. When you write about subjective things like emotions – vs objective things, like face masks – the formula is harder to decode. SEO is only going to go so far. You’ve got to trust your gut, big-time, and keep your eyes wide open for the solutions people are craving in their lives. And trust me, I love a good face mask write-up.
…Will – THAT BEING SAID – get back to writing some more content that has stuff in it like face masks. Round-ups are fun to read and fun to write! And I know it’s a strength of mine that I’m able to do them well, and from the heart. I love turning this kind of product-heavy content upside down onto its head and crafting a piece that speaks to how you want to feel, not how you think you should look. Or what you should do. Or ANY should, really.
…Will still pursue what’s not yet materialized, but will shift my focus to encompass the pursuit of enhancing what already HAS materialized. Always reaching for the next-best thing is no way to live. Once you get the thing, once you achieve the stuff, where do you go from there? Pursuit can be an addiction, and goal achievement can be a hit. It’s not a *bad* hit to go after…but make sure your livelihood isn’t attached to whether you achieve the goal or not.
You wanna start a business? Get ready for the wildest ride of your life. Starting, and then building a business that’s purpose and passion based is tough work, but it’s the rightest work you’ll do. Curiosity must be your foundation. Here’s what else I’ve learned.
1 – START SMALL, AND START OFTEN. Marie Forleo likes to say that clarity comes from engagement, not thought. I’d like to add that clarity also comes from starting with what you have, not scrounging for what you don’t. Want to start a podcast but overwhelmed by all the equipment you “need”? Guess what: you don’t need it. I began the WANTcast with a Blue Yeti microphone and GarageBand. I knew how to use GarageBand, but if you don’t, you can attend a 101 course at ANY Apple store, for free. You can also use websites like Zencastr that make production super intuitive. I started WANT by building a website off of what I knew how to do and what kind of content supported my greater vision. I did Marie’s B-Schoolbecause I knew I needed some extra support – and opted for the payment plan because I wasn’t about to go broke for my idea. I sent the site to my entire list of family and friends, and then focused on doing the best writing I could, week after week. It was a schedule I could keep up and it was quality over quantity. Work with what’s available to you, and with what WON’T overwhelm you. Again and again and again.
2 – IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A PASSION. IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A BUSINESS. KNOW WHAT SEPARATES THE TWO (AND WHERE THEY INTERSECT). Someone once told me that if you don’t care about making money, it’s not a business. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but it’s 100% true. Just because you don’t intend to have any sort of financial transaction, though, doesn’t mean you can’t still create impact from it. What separates my passions from my business: the things that don’t fall into the “business” category are things I identify with that I am ALL IN on…except when it comes to the strategy and the industry. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pursuing my passions. It just means I’m not going to use up all my “strategy energy” for things I don’t want to scale. In the same vein, I don’t believe in the terms Day Job and Side Hustle if you really want to make your passion project into your purpose project. Also read: Down With The Side Hustle, Down With The Day Job,
3 – SUCCESS IS MORE THAN A NUMBERS GAME (AKA: NUMBERS ARE DUMB). We all crave guarantees, clarity, and definition (a reason why extremes are so alluring). Staring at newsletter subscribers, Google Analytics, and Instagram insights can be a welcome validation or a panic-button push, depending on the stats of the day.
In my past life as an editor, part of my job was to be increasingly aware of site and social analytics: how many people showed up to read what you had to say, what kind of “following” competitors had, how much engagement a post got when it went live…stuff like that. It taught me how to look and what to look for. It also taught me to look beyond the numbers: where people were coming from, where they were going to, how they were interacting with one another.
When I launched WANT, it became uber-tempting to define its “success” numerically, because I knew what that game looked like. In order to do X, you must have Y amount of subscribers. If your post/podcast/email gets Z amount of views, that means that A-B-C.
But I started to realize that WANT’s success didn’t work like that. WANT was resonating on a deep level because of the two-way street that was happening:the WANT community was opening their hearts and engaging with not just me, but each other on a personal and vulnerable level. Because of this, podcast guests felt comfortable shining a light into their darkest corners, weekly “posts” morphed into nuanced essays, and together we turned this platform into a movement on a roll.
Some days there are thousands of readers and listeners. Sometimes there are 30. But I’ve realized that while it might matter to people like sponsors or advertisers, those numbers don’t matter to US. They don’t matter to ME. Success is not about calculations, it’s about connection. Also read: Success You Can’t See.
4 – FLIRT WITH YOUR WHATS, GET MARRIED TO YOUR WHYS. There will always be a way to be better at something. But the quest for “better” can eat us alive if that “better”-ness is empty. As an HSP, I get overwhelmed easily – everything from piled-up emails to angry crowds. I also need to watch where and to whom/what I give my energy, because I’m like an empath on ‘roids: I’ll give and give and give until my well is dry, and even then I’ll find some way to empathize and give even when I’m not asked to do so. And the combo of the two? It leaves me with lots of things I tell myself I can be better at.
What’s helped me in these last four years has been committing to a purpose rather than just an action. For example: I receive lots of emails from readers and listeners, sometimes just saying hi, and sometimes asking me very specific questions. The hyper-empath in me wants to answer them all. But not just answer them, give the most groundbreaking answer ever! in my response. What ends up happening? The emails pile up, I get overwhelmed, and inherently feel horrible for what I interpret as letting everyone down. I now know that if I answered everyone’s questions personally and specifically, I would never get anything else done. So I use these questions to inform my writing, my podcast episodes, and the guests I ask to be on. WANT thrives off of your questions – so keep asking. What I’ve learned is that you are far from the only one searching for answers.
In Year Two, I flirted with videos. I ended up producing one and never touching video again. Because it wasn’t something that lit me up. And moreover – it didn’t have a strong WHY attached. Everyone told me how great I am on camera, and how good it would be for WANT’s growth. But it didn’t feel right, and because it didn’t feel right, I couldn’t keep it up. Maybe I will in the future – who knows! If there is a specific service I can offer…if there is a specific problem I can help solve…and video turns out to be a useful way to do it (and it begins to bring me joy), great. Yes, I quoted earlier that “clarity comes from engagement, not thought.” But that engagement has to have at least an inkling of a WHY behind it.
So, WANT, my darling, thank you so much for your patience while I work out some of my own stuff that’s tied to your growth and brilliance. It’s not you, it’s me. I know that sounds like such a line, but it’s true. I’m here for you.
Thank you for being here for me. I vow to reinvest in the JOY of the work, right here, right now.
To curiosity. To whys. To fearlessness. To being the you you know you’re meant to be.
Let’s crush the year ahead.
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