Just Because You Own It Doesn’t Mean You’re Good

When I opened my yoga studio I didn’t really know what I was thinking. I had sold all of my things and booked a one way ticket to India before I got cold feet and moved back to San Diego to open Hale Holistic.

The day before I opened the studio I sat out on the patio and felt a sick panic through every part of me.

It never went away.

I was telling Alexis the other day how fucking dumb I was about some things.

I paid my teachers in cash because I wanted them to be happy. But whoops, I couldn’t deduct it as an expense.

I charged $10 for a drop-in and $100 for a 10-class pack, not incentivizing anyone to spend more money on a larger quantity of classes.

I didn’t do monthly autopay because I thought people would be reluctant to let me store their cc info. So I had them swipe their card every month around the time they needed to renew which meant the beginning of class was sometimes bottle-necked by people swiping their credit cards (because that gd swiper never worked!)

I didn’t run a campaign before opening or have a grand opening party because I didn’t want to bring a lot of attention to myself. I had no social media prior to the first class. My way of getting the word around was walking through East Village handing out flyers for a new studio about 5 days before we opened. And I barely handed any out because I did’t like talking to people or selling myself.

My thinking the whole time was that I was going to make a really awesome place and people would just show up.

Well they did, eventually. But not before I almost had to close the studio, several times.

I had to stomach no-shows for about the first week before people started to trickle in. The ones that found it always found it at random while eating breakfast downstairs at The Mission. It was kind of like a second-story mystery and only people with curiosity took the flight of stairs to see what it was all about.

Yoga, kickboxing, and green smoothies. The first hybrid studio in San Diego. And the first yoga studio to offer free green smoothies shots after every class anywhere. I was proud of that. Probably cared more about it than actually making money at first.

I had a $30,000 investment from the help of my parents and my grandmother who had just passed away. To me, a guy who was living a reclusive monk life with no car or belongings, that seemed like enough money to last an eternity.

Actually, it was only enough money to last me three months.

By then we had a small following and a small family. The teachers were unique and the members were different than other studios. Word got out that this is where you went to practice if you didn’t want to deal with all the pretentious bullshit of other studios. And it was very inexpensive 🙂

With the help of a few more investments from gracious members I was able to start getting my shit together. I realized I wasn’t going to be successful if I kept up with this I don’t give a shit as long as this place is cool attitude. I studied other successful business models, started making my own unique marketing materials, got an organized assistant, and developed relationships with other businesses in the area. Eventually, we started killing it on social media because we were the only yoga studio not posting generic peaceful crap every day. Instead, we focused on our members and using humor and emotion as our main messaging because I determined they were the most honest things we could all agree on.

Hale Holistic: Yoga Studio, San Diego California from Hale Production Studios on Vimeo.

(All of our videos were made with our members and teachers as the actors)

I hated the customer service aspect. Emails about parking and whether or not we have a towel service. First-time students complaining about a homeless person peeing on the side of our building during savasana. It wasn’t the fun part of the business. I just wanted to build community and make funny marketing pieces.

Eventually I sold. I didn’t make any money in the 5 years I owned Hale. In fact, I lost quite a bit. But it was cheaper than an MBA and as my dad recently told me in a heartfelt email – Hale was what launched me into the person I am today.

I know what I’m good at. And I also know what I’m not good at. My second business, also named Hale [Productions], has been profitable in each of the first nine months it has been open. I am not making the same mistakes. I have brought in all the right people. And my ego didn’t even get a chance to get involved this time around.

I work with a lot of business owners whether it be consulting or production. And I can tell immediately if a business is going to make it or not by whether or not the owner thinks they are the best at every individual component of the business. If they want to run social media, and be a teacher, and balance the books, and run marketing campaigns, and build websites, and sit on external boards, and write copy, and develop future business, and take meetings, and write proposals, and hire new staff, and so on – then they are toast.

Often times this is a necessity when just starting, and that’s fine. It’s the thinking that no one else can do it better than you that’s toxic. As a business owner it’s hard to let go of the ego when you watch someone else do something differently than you would. And the thoughts in your mind that tell you they aren’t doing it as well. When in reality, if you just back off and let them work within the parameters you have outlined, what is produced is often well beyond what you originally thought possible. And the fact that it’s different becomes an incredible asset.

At old Hale I thought I had to do everything. And my work load piled out the door. I wasn’t successful. I got my ass kicked. At new Hale I don’t want to do anything except oversee our small team’s Trello board and make sure we have a plan moving forward.

To grow means to have help. To scale means to train. And training means you have to get over yourself and show people what you want and then get out of the way and let them do it.

Finding Fulfillment in Ordinary Work and Not Living an Ordinary Life

I think – I don’t actually think – I know, but it’s more modest to start with “I think,” so… I think that there is a growing trend in work needing to be “inspirational” and “fun.” People, particularly young ones (don’t worry this isn’t a millennial bashing session), have a hard time forcing themselves to work on things they are not passionate about. This puts a lot of emphasis on the work and gives the work a tremendous amount of power and control over them.

Striving to be constantly inspired places us in the position of mass consumption of self-help books and Ted Talks in order to create such a deep yearning for the life we think we want. And it puts us in direct opposition with the life and work we are presently involved with. Here comes the conflict – internal and external – with nowhere to hide, folks.

But why is it that someone like Tony Robbins, who has been so incredibly successful at selling products that are supposed to make people more like him, has very few students achieving at his level? In all of his years teaching and coaching, why hasn’t he been replicated?

Why do we need to continually consume the same type of “inspirational” information if it’s supposed to give us the tools to, dare I say, live the life of our dreams?

Constant fulfillment, optimal enjoyment, instant gratification, max living, passion, inspiration, thinking out of the box, goal crushing, dream weaving

We hear these clever phrases and feel instantly optimistic, like it’s a secret language that only the chosen speak, certainly not those “unenlightened” folks in Grand Rapids, Michigan working for the local power company. And then we make them into cute text graphics that we put on Pinterest not realizing that writing them in cursive is a far cry from living that kind of life.

Now we are obsessed with only doing things that make us feel “alive.” And I understand that our parents punched the clock every day for however many years and developed the black lung in the coal mines just so we could eat Hamburger Helper on Fridays and watch the television after supper if we finished our string beans and that we do not, in any manner, want to replicate that lifestyle. I hear you. I hear us.

Now if we can’t share what we are doing for work online and make tens of thousands of people simultaneously envious of us and dependent on us, then we are not doing important work. In fact, we are pathetic and our work is meaningless.

I’m just setting the tone here.

I mentioned earlier about the desire to live like someone else and work in a field that is cool because some twerp in flip-flops driving a Maserati was quoted one time saying fuck during a meeting with venture capitalists and half the world decided in that moment that they needed to quit their jobs and become like him.

Now, I’m not a Buddhist, although I’m not not a Buddhist, but I can tell you that the second we open our phones in the morning and log onto our social accounts and start looking at all those models and travel bloggers we start feeling like we are missing out. More importantly, most importantly, our current work becomes the enemy of our freedom. We obsess over everything we don’t have and we know we have to get out of our situations so we can finally pursue the things that are really in our hearts.

Unfortunately, most of us are not going to inherent a trust from our late great Grandpa Vangarden. Nor do we have 10,000 hours of training in a particular skill that will make us the foremost authority in a certain industry and instantly and indefinitely employable. Most of us are just kind of normal. We are just kind of hoping that something magical happens and we stop feeling so effectively shitty in our daily lives.

Why can’t we just admit that this is the truth? That we feel average. Rather, deep down, we know we are average. That we wish we were Elon Musk or Kate Moss or Stephen King. That we are just trying to attach to something those people said or did for a second so we can know what it feels like for ourselves. If we could admit that this is what we do, how we feel, then we have a chance at gaining perspective over our own, actual lives. And once we have perspective we can come up with a plan to make it more meaningful.

Here’s what we can do.

It’s not about the work we are doing as much as it is about the way we work.

I can tell you this, as someone who has worked largely for himself for the last 7 years, that doing ANYTHING from 9-5 will eventually become a terrible thing. I don’t care if I am curing cancer or being the tester for the latest techniques in oral sex. Overexposure to anything takes the life out of it. And LIFE is what we are all after, right? Feeling alive in our work and in our day-to-day.

So, the stigma about inspirational work can’t be as much about the work itself as it is about the newness of the work.

The real workplace is your mind. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur or particularly analytical. The mind needs constant stimulation, constant challenge. The second the mind has figured something out it might as well be dead to it.

But that’s not news. We all know this. We’ve seen it in our relationships. If we’re really looking, we’ve seen it in everything.

But why aren’t we actually doing anything about it?

We are about to split into 10 different articles because I’m feeling the flow and I want to square us all away on all of our ailments but I have to keep this specific to finding fulfillment in ordinary work. I think that will be the title, or something close to it.

We find fulfillment in our work, and correspondingly our lives, when we learn to develop a schedule and lifestyle that works with the cyclical flow of our thoughts and feelings and simultaneously develops us as holistic humans.

Wtf does that mean, bro?

We have to consider that we are multi-dimensional people. Impossible to satiate with any one thing. It is a celebration to be so complex. And as another saying goes, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”

So, knowing that we are complex, multi-dimension creatures that are constantly seeking stimulation and easily distracted by the slightest red circle notification, we know it makes perfect sense to incorporate that information into the way we structure our work days.

Let’s forget 9-5 for a second because even saying it reminds me of an America I am ready to forget. Let’s say we are going to be active, cognitive humans from 7am – 7pm every day. That’s 12 hours dedicated to making ourselves better every day. Time for our work and time for ourselves. And in those 12 hours we are going to worry about 4 specific categories – Work, Health, Personal, and Creative.

Which can be further broken down as follows:

Work: Important Work and Boring Work

Health: Fitness and Nutrition

Personal: Relationships and Self-Development

Creative: All The Shit You Want To Do After You Watch Steve Jobs Or Read A Book About Picasso

In 12 hours it is our duty, as people actively seeking inspiration, to touch on all of these subjects.

In order to fill the time appropriately – to make sure that you are working towards something specific and not just floating in space – you need objectives, or goals, and you need them for each category. You can make goals for 5 minutes from now and you can make them for 5 years from now. Both are important. I prefer to focus on what is in front of me and let the big picture be a bit of a surprise. Meaning I only plan out 1 day in advance while loosely keeping the full week’s scope in the back of my mind. After all, I never would have guessed even remotely accurately where I would be today, 5 years ago. So I’ll leave that work up to the higher powers.

Loose goals – learn Spanish, draw a self portrait, post last 10 photoshoots on blog, get caught up on Yelp inquiries, invoice clients, settle credit card dispute, finish marketing videos for client, lose 10 pounds, drink a green smoothie every day, write proposal for Seattle, book tickets to SF, call my gd mom, etc…

Let’s say that I’ve written down my goals in each category for the next month (please be much more specific and organized than the above example). Now I can start taking those goals and plugging small steps into my every day life. Because that’s how things get done.

Here is what an average day might look like:

7:00AM – Wake up, make tea with lemon (Health)
7:15AM – Stretch for 30 minutes + listen to Spanish podcast (Health + Creative)
7:45AM – Meditate for 10-15 minutes (Personal)
8:00AM – Write in my journal for 10 minutes (Creative)
8:15AM – Make and eat breakfast. Eggs, avocado, toast (Health)

9:00AM – Refer to list of daily objectives written the night before (The Rolling 9)
9:01AM – Open laptop, edit photos (Boring Work)
10:00AM – Answer client emails, post photos on blog (Boring Work)
11:00AM – Call credit card company, bank, and AAA (Boring Work)

11:45AM – Boxing class (Health + Personal)

1:15PM – Make and eat lunch. Chicken, rice, salad, avocado (Health)

2:00PM – Run errands. UPS store, Trader Joe’s, George’s Camera (Boring Work)
4:00PM – Family photo shoot (Important Work)

5:30PM – Go out to dinner. Chill (Heath + Personal)

7:00PM – Edit photos from Family photo shoot (Boring Work)
8:00PM – Watch Narcos (Personal)
9:00PM – Take drawing lesson on Skillshare.com (Creative)
10:00PM – Drink tea. Read. Maybe stretch (Personal + Creative + Health)

11:00PM – Goodnight America.

My days are extended a little outside of the 7am-7pm time frame and yours probably will too. For me, the nighttime has a freedom attached to it that makes doing work fun. It’s also when I get a chance to work on some of my creative endeavors because that’s the type of mood I’m usually in.

I put check marks next to everything when I finish. I even give myself a check for eating breakfast 🙂 And the completion of the full list, of my “goals,” at the end of the day is more moving to me on a personal level than any one thing on there. Even my absolute favorite thing. Because I get to know that I’ve followed through on something. I’ve moved forward, definitively. And I’ve worked on things I’ve always said I wanted to as well as done all of the things I needed to, today.

Some people might argue that it isn’t enough time to get everything done. Not true. You have to give this system time to acclimate to your workload.

For the 9-5ers that are say, “Ha! Try this in my office,” I have prepared a thoughtful suggestion for you HERE.

Half of this day is shit I don’t want to do. It’s not fun, it’s not inspiring, it’s “Boring Work” and it pretty much sucks. But I do it in short bursts and I do it because anyone who has ever actually accomplished something they set out to knows you have to do a bunch of stuff that isn’t glamorous. But I can stomach it. I can almost learn to love it. Because it is a part of an ecosystem that represents all of me. And, most importantly, because I have control over how I’m spending my time and I know I am making progress as a person.

Inspiration doesn’t come from an individual act or a specific topic – it comes from being good at something, from following through, from feeling important, seen, heard, essential, and it comes from satisfying our own inner-critic, the one that thinks we’re ultimately too average to inspire ourselves.

Behind the Maserati twerp in flip flops are about a thousand coders breaking their knuckles doing the actual work that makes his world run. And ultimately, a good 10,000 + hours of coding skill in his own back pocket that got him to the place where he could wear flip flops. Although we like to only talk about the pretty stuff, we can’t neglect the fact that it’s the physical (wo)man hours – the work itself – that gives us a sense of self worth. In order to stay engaged in that type of work we have to dress up everything that is happening around it and know that the accumulation of accomplishment becomes the true inspiration.

If you are unhappy with your work it probably means that you are unhappy with your life. Instead of making your job the enemy and announcing that you have to quit and move to Bali because of a vision board workshop you attended, try taking some steps to break up your workload and make the rest of your day more fulfilling, on a health, personal, and creative level.

Take an art class in the evening instead of watching Netflix. Listen to a foreign language podcast during your commute instead of the same, tired Spotify playlist. Get to sleep earlier goddamnit. Get up early and do something personal. Don’t touch that damn phone. Sleep with it in another room. Turn it off! Wake up and feel your body and know your breath before you engage with the monsters of the world.

At some point you’re going to realize that it’s way fucking harder to work on yourself than it is to answer a customer email, and you’ll be begging for slices of the mundane to balance you out.

Kirk Hensler is the creator of ‘Organizing Inspiration – How to bring your brilliant ideas to the world,’ a course for entrepreneurs and creatives to identify their brand, create a work process, and implement an intuitive working schedule. Check out his course HERE.

Pencil Drawing Timelapse

When I was little I wanted to be able to draw as well as my older brother James. He was always drawing comic book covers in perfect detail. He had a drafting table in his room with an overhead lamp and he would sit for hours and get lost in his work. It was so cool.

I tried to do what he did but it never looked the same. My drawings weren’t horrible but they weren’t good enough to show my friends either.

For years I’ve picked up a pencil here and there and made a sketch, gotten close to portraying something, and then walked away because I couldn’t quite get it. I do the same thing with the guitar.

But recently, meditation has made it evident to me that I need to develop some real skills. I need a craft that I can master, something that will take considerable time and effort. Because it’s in that process I will understand what it means to be truly skillful.

I bought a book, Pencil Drawing – by Gene Franks. Then I bought 2 pencils, one soft and one hard, as well as a charcoal pencil, a sharpener, and an eraser. I also bought a simple sketch book with smooth white paper.

I went home and read the intro, followed the steps, and started drawing. I finished 5 sketches within 24 hours and wanted to do more. What struck me was the impact of simple techniques like creating scale, marking lines, and using different pencils to add shading. In reality, drawing is just a simple math equation consisting of proportions, shapes, and relationships. Once you understand the rules you can produce good work.

I’ve got a long way to go but I already feel infinitely better about my skills. Maybe I will be able to rival my brother one day. I hope he is still drawing.

I couldn’t help but notice the relationship between drawing and being an entrepreneur. The finished product looks so dreamy and off limits, whether it be a well-constructed brand or a pencil portrait of a beautiful woman. But you can strip it down layer by layer and see that it is just a carefully orchestrated set of iterations – each step building onto the next until it’s so thick with content and form that no one can identify each piece’s individuality.

To be successful we have to look past the finished product and see the steps it takes to get there.

Here is a video of my latest drawing – my friend Beryl posed nude for me.

Pencil Drawing from kale & cigarettes on Vimeo.

Kirk Hensler is the creator of ‘Organizing Inspiration – How to bring your brilliant ideas to the world,’ a course for entrepreneurs and creatives to identify their brand, create a work process, and implement an intuitive working schedule.

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