The Birthday List: Go to The Blogcademy.

The Blogcademy BerlinAround the mid-year point I decided to do some reflecting on my birthday list and to swap out any items that I’d decided I really wasn’t interested in. I completely agree with Danielle LaPorte’s writings on letting go of dreams that are no longer jiving and choosing feelings over objectives. If it doesn’t feel good and light a fire in your heart, then what’s the point? So I chose to strike off three of the goals from my list and picked new ones that I was actually excited for (you can see the amendments here).

One of these items was “Completing B-School.” I initially signed up in the winter, but after wading into the content, I decided it’s not for me. While I’m still working to create financial independence and do my own thing full-time, I’m not ready to leave the job I love and a lot of the material wasn’t well-suited for blog-based, digital entrepreneurs. I wanted an intensive learning opportunity that was aligned with my goals and plans for world domination (cue maniacal laughter).

Enter The Blogcademy.

This two-day workshop seemed like exactly what I needed to get the focus and expertise required to take my blog to the next level. I’ve been following Gala’s blog for years and her work was pivotal to my own self-love journey. All three of the headmistresses have inspired me to create a beautiful, helpful blog and it seemed like a dream come true to learn from three women who are all so uniquely talented at their crafts. So I was elated when my scholarship video was selected and I was offered a spot in their Berlin class.

the-blogcademy-berlin-2At the end of July I got in a plane and flew to Germany. I settled into my AirBnB apartment and got ready for a weekend of rigorous learning, laughter spiked conversation, intense brainstorm sessions, and constant note-taking. In between classes I gorged myself on Vietnamese food and vegan burgers, oogled colourful street art, was brought to tears by the V&A David Bowie exhibition, and caught up with old friends over beer. I absolutely adored my time in Berlin and, most importantly, left The Blogcademy bursting with inspiration and new ideas. Here are the five most important things I learned:

Have a plan. Anyone can start a blog and so most of us do it without much planning beforehand. But we accomplish more when we have a plan. This can just be a short document that outlines your mission and goals, how you’ll measure them, and how you plan to achieve them. Allow it to evolve organically, but putting some thought into this gives you something to refer to when you’re feeling lost or unfocused.

Consistency is king. Quality content is always important but if your readers can’t rely on you to be around when you say you will be, eventually they’ll stop checking in. It’s better to post less frequently but consistently, then to plan to post every day and then find yourself constantly behind. If you end up being able to post more often, this will be an extra special bonus for your readers.

the-blogcademy-berlin-4Be distinctive. Choose words that paint a detailed portrait and make people’s eyes light up. Design photo elements that make each post look undeniably like yours. Wear a statement piece that makes someone want to come over and talk to you (case in point: my new, faceted United Nude shoes from AllSole). Write posts that make people think and look at an issue from a new angle. Take photos that show off your point of view. Standing out from the crowd makes you interesting. It gives people a reason to follow you rather than the millions of other blogs out there.

Write for someone specific. Know who your reader is. What she likes. What she wants. What her hopes and dreams are. Create a vivid picture of her in your mind and write every post for this person. It’s a lot easier to write compelling content when you know who you’re trying to reach, rather than writing for everyone and creating something totally mediocre.

Create value. People are looking for content that teaches them something or helps them in some way. Your blog might provide inspiration on how to dress or instruct people on how to make amazing food, but if you’re creating something useful, you’re more likely to get people coming back for more.

the-blogcademy-berlin-3The headmistresses emphasize from the first minute of class that The Blogcademy alone is not going to make you a superstar blogger; only years of dedication can do that. But I walked away from the weekend with renewed focus, more confidence in my brand, a better understanding of how to monetize my website, and an imagination brimming with new ideas for content.

Of course it’s important to consider carefully before investing in any new venture, but I think beginner bloggers would benefit from getting so much knowledge in one place rather than learning everything through trial and error, while more seasoned bloggers can gain valuable insights on how to up their game.

If you’re planning on becoming a blogcadette, these are my tips for making the most out of your experience:

Be realistic about your expectations, but also know what you want to get out it. There’s only so much that can be covered in two days, but the headmistresses are more than willing to provide guidance about your individual situation. Come armed with questions and don’t be afraid to ask them.

the-blogcademy-berlin-5Get your blog up to scratch. Make it as good as you can before the workshop so that when you get your individual report card you’ll be getting feedback on your very best work and then you can make it even better.

Follow through and review. The Blogcademy blues are real. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with ideas, so break up what you’ve learned into actionable items and start chipping away at them one by one, day by day. And don’t forget to review your notes regularly because you’ll find new ways to implement this knowledge the more you progress.

Take advantage of the community. I love that The Blogcademy connects you with badass babes, not only in your class but around the world. There’s a private forum and monthly Google hangouts for blogcadettes, and all of the other women are so willing to provide their feedback on everything from design and content to newsletter formats and digital product ideas. One of the best things about blogging is making new friends across the globe and The Blogcademy makes it easy to become part of a community.

And of course if you have any questions about my experience, I’d be happy to answer them!

Thank you so much to Shauna, Gala, and Kat for sending me to class – it was definitely a life-changing experience.

Love, glitter ears, & rainbow confetti,
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Photos by Shell De Mar.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

space-girls“As a wise friend likes to remind me, this is a practice. You don’t go to the gym once and consider yourself done. Same here. Meditation is a practice. Working out is a practice. Loving yourself, perhaps the most important of all, is a practice.”

I’m so glad that the Self-Love Book Club read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It before we go on hiatus.

It’s such a short book – you can easily read it in a sitting or two – but it really gets at the guts of why self-love is so important and how you can start practicing it every day.

Kamal Ravikant has had an interesting life to say the least. He’s trekked to one of the highest base camps in the Himalayas, meditated with Tibetan monks in the Dalai Lama’s monastery, earned my US Army Infantry patch, walked 550 miles across Spain, lived in Paris, been the only non-black, non-woman member of the Black Women’s writers’ group, written a novel, held the hands of dying patients, and worked with some of the best people in Silicon Valley.

He’s also built hugely successful companies and nearly lost everything.

Several years ago he found himself depressed, sick, heartbroken, grief stricken, and often unable to even get out of bed.

When Kamal felt he couldn’t take it anymore, he made the decision that changed his life. He vowed to love himself.

The book outlines the very simple practices Kamal started using every day in order to do just that. Using a mantra, a meditation, and a simple question he made self-love a daily practice and saw his life open up in almost magical ways. He became healthier, happier, and more successful in all aspects of his life.

I love this book for its simplicity. Kamal’s story is inspiring but his words are also fiercely practical. By the end, you’ll have learned concrete, completely non-woo woo tools for transforming your self-love journey. I’ve been experimenting using his practice myself and have found it immensely valuable.

Have you read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Love always,
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Photograph by Julie Loen

Do It With Style

Do-It-With-Style“Style is the answer to everything. A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art. Bullfighting can be an art. Boxing can be an art. Loving can be an art. Opening a can of sardines can be an art.” - Charles Bukowski

I went through a period of resisting stylish clothing. I basically lived in a wardrobe of (often ill-fitting) jeans and t-shirts. I thought that this understated uniform made me a more legitimate student. A better environmentalist. A more genuine activist.

But along the way, I realized that the way we present ourselves to the world doesn’t detract from the work we create; it enhances it.

Style is the language with which we express ourselves aesthetically. And it isn’t restricted to the clothing that we wear; style infuses everything we do.

It’s in the extra flourish we add to our signature. The flavours we use to season our food. The signature hue we buy every accessory in, from headphones to Filofax.

And you can’t avoid making some sort of style statement.

So you have to decide, would you rather fade into the background or boldly express exactly who you are? Do you want to show the world a washed out version of yourself or intentionally create yourself in any image you choose?

Choose to live out loud. Choose to do it with style.

Je t’aime,
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Photograph by Fishee Designs.

Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Kate Gabrielle

kate-gabrielle-tattoo-1Kate Gabrielle, 27, Illustrator

Kate writes one of my favourite personal style blogs, Scathingly Brilliant. Her cheerful, pastel infused aesthetic comes across clearly in everything she does from the outfits she wears and the way she decorates her room, to the illustrations she sells on Etsy and the gift packs she curates on Sweet and Lovely. Kate recently got her first tattoo and I was curious what this experience was like for someone who is an artist herself. Today she was kind enough to tell us more about it.

When did you get your tattoo? May 2013

Have you always been interested in tattoos? What made you take the plunge and get your first one?
I always thought I might get one, but I didn’t decide for sure until my cat Hypatia passed away in February 2013, and I knew that I wanted to get one to memorialize her. It still took me a few months to finally get up the courage, and I ended up getting it done on her adoption anniversary, May 19th.

As an illustrator, what part did you play in creating the design of your tattoo?
I did a pencil drawing of Hypatia that I brought in with me to the tattoo parlour. It didn’t end up exactly like my drawing, but that was the intention.

kate-gabrielle-tattoo-2What’s the story behind your tattoo?
I had a really difficult time when my cat passed away, and this seemed like a good idea for keeping her with me always.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently?
I would definitely plan ahead! I had my sketch drawn and I knew where I wanted to place it, but I didn’t do any research about which parlour to visit. I finally decided to get my tattoo on her adoption anniversary, and just wanted it done right away. My brother and I went to a place that accepted walk-ins and got them done on the spot. To give you an idea of how bad our artist was — he misspelled the name on my brother’s tattoo! Yikes! He managed to (kind of) fix it but it’s a really funny family story now ;)

If I could go back, I’d definitely find a reputable artist and visit beforehand to make sure they were right for me. My artist didn’t do a really good job of accurately copying my sketch. I asked for him to copy my pencil lines, but he did traditional shading instead, and the lines in the tattoo make her fur look sharp and pointy. I’m sure in the hands of a much better artist I could have got something a lot closer to what I had in mind. At some point in the future I’d like to get it touched up a little.

Despite the issues with it, I really do love the tattoo though. Whenever I look at my wrist I’m reminded of my little angel and that’s why I got it in the first place.

kate-gabrielle-tattoo-3Do you see any more tattoos in your future?
Definitely. I’m planning on getting a little heart or paw print for each of my cats, since I want to give each cat a tattoo but I don’t want to end up with a full-sleeve of cat faces, either. I also really want to get some kind of tattoo that combines my favorite tv shows (The Office, The X-Files and 30 Rock) Just something discreet and symbolic that would make me smile whenever I look at it, but I’m not entirely sure what yet. And if I can ever get up the courage (I feel like this one requires more courage than any other body part) I’d LOVE to get my eyeliner tattooed on. It would be a dream to wake up with perfect eyeliner every day.

Thanks, Kate! It was so interesting to learn more about your tattoo and I’m glad to hear that although your first experience left some things to be desired, that it hasn’t put you off getting more.

If you’d like to see more of Kate, be sure to read her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Love, sugar lips, & chocolate kisses,
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The Expat Diaries: Becoming Grounded.

how-to-be-groundedPeople often encourage (the proverbial) us to “stay grounded.” But when you’ve just become an expat, this can feel like an impossible task.

You’ve ripped yourself up by the roots and moved away from everything that seems to hold you in place. Throwing yourself into the new and unfamiliar feels like the exact opposite of being “grounded.”

Now that I’ve lived there for almost a year, I usually feel so settled in and so in love with my London life that I forget that it’s still all so new. It takes a long time to put down roots and mine are still young shoots, pushing their way into the ground. They get bigger and stronger each day. But the roots that I spent most of my life growing and nurturing are on the other side of the world. And I pulled many of them up when I moved here.

Most days this doesn’t matter. Everything’s in the flow and it’s easy to let everything develop in it’s own good times.

But when a crisis occurs or things don’t go according to plan or I’m just in a bit of a funk, there are days when I feel like a lone leaf blowing in the wind. Like I’ve lost my footing and I don’t know how to connect with the ground beneath my feet.

how-to-be-grounded-2That’s why, as an expat, it’s important to learn how to become grounded from the inside out. Reaching across the ocean through Skype or leaning on relationships that are only just beginning to bloom provides a certain kind of support. But finding the peace of mind that comes from within means that you can take it with you wherever you go, because you’ve built roots that transcend geographical borders.

After working on this myself over the past 12 months, here are my top 3 tips for becoming grounded. Whether you’ve just moved to a foreign land or are just looking for a sense of inner fortitude in your day-to-day life, I promise they’ll serve you well.

Commit to loving yourself. 
I know I talk about this in almost every post, but that’s because it really is the most important thing you can do. When you truly love and accept yourself just as you are, you’re no longer as effected by external circumstances. Your life is infused with a sense of calm and contentment. For most of us, this will be a lifelong journey, so find ways to re-commit to loving yourself each and every day. If you’re not sure where to begin, take a look at my Adventures in Self-Love series.

how-to-be-grounded-3Create a practice that centres you.
This will be something that calms you down and re-connects you with yourself when you’re feeling lost or unsettled. I like a simple meditation practice – just sitting still and tuning into my breath. In DARE/DREAM/DO Gala describes a wonderful exercise for clearing out negative energy and grounding yourself. The importance is choosing something that works for you and practicing it consistently everyday, even for just a few minutes. That way when you need to ground yourself, it will be a familiar, comforting, and effective  practice to come back to.

Find comfort in routines.
Although I’m a big advocate of spontaneity and adventure, when life is feeling chaotic, I take solace in the familiar. A barista who knows my name and regular order. My favourite corner of my favourite coffee shop. A weekly pilgrimage to the flower market. The order of a nourishing morning routine. These things become our anchors. The familiar comforts that pull us back to ourselves when life feels out of control.

It’s naturally to feel swept away sometime, especially when you’ve just made a major life change. Be gentle with yourself. Commit to self-love. Find your centre. Embrace the routines that make you happy. These are the keys to becoming grounded and growing roots that you can take with you anywhere.

Love always,
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Photos by Soops.
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