I ran the Kansas City Half Marathon on October 20th, 2018. It was my fourth half marathon race and it was a picture perfect Fall morning. I would probably hesitate to call myself a, um, runner? That just feels too official. But I put in the time to train and what kind of creative weirdo would I be if I didn’t blog and design about it? I didn’t run for almost two years. I hated it, couldn’t imagine running for 30 minutes. How boring! In life, I’m generally more productive and focused when I have a measurable goal. I want to be the kind of person who just goes for a run on any old day whenever I feel like it, but signing up for a race gives me a deadline and plan to get there. Over the past few months and years, I’ve realized how much the words I use encourage to myself during a training run are just as applicable in real life. Here’s what Katie’s Brain tells Katie’s Body during a run.
1. Go as slow as you want but do not stop.
I am a person who needs momentum. If I’m in motion I’m more likely to stay in motion. Newton’s First Law and stuff. A hard stop? That makes it really hard for me to mentally and physically get moving again. I track my mileage with a Garmin watch so I know how fast and how far I’ve gone. This means I’m aware of my pace; faster than usual, slower than usual, standing still waiting to cross a street. I notice that I run faster than usual on shorter runs when I know it should take me less time. My splits are all over the place, I’m winded, tense, and my expectations are unrealistic. But on longer runs, I am consistent. I mentally and physically know that I need to settle in because this one is going to take a little time. And that, I am learning, is the key to most important things in life, in business, in relationships. Go slow. Settle in. Save a little bit for later.
2. Take the hills one step at a time.
I’m not a fast runner, I am extremely average and extremely okay with it. Literally no one in the world cares if I run up a hill, or walk up a hill, or sit on the couch. And yet, I feel like a stadium full of spectators watch as I approach a hill. I find myself sizing up how giant and steep it looks. I’m contemplating how hard it’s going to be before I’m even there. Hysteria ensues… That’s not a hill! That’s, like, a mountain! A steep, jagged, treacherous mountain! Right here, in my suburban neighborhood! Spoiler Alert: Hills are part of the course, not the course itself. The act of running up a hill is the exact same as cruising a flat stretch. Two feet, alternating steps. Keep doing the thing you’ve been doing. It’s not one giant stride to the top. Um, is this sounding like a metaphor for life? A technical glitch, an upset client, a family miscommunication. They’re part of the course, not the course itself.
3. The only way home is to keep going.
Maybe this one sounds sad or harsh but I usually need a little tough-love-self-encouragement at the half-way mark or my turn-around point. I have to remind myself that I committed to putting in the work to do this run. I don’t force myself to a point where I’m injured or unhealthy or anything; this is more about accountability. In a firm, but polite manner I tell myself, “You’ve come this far. You committed to this run. You’re [X] miles from your end point. At half-way? It’s the same distance back that you’ve already travelled. You’ve gotta cover that ground to be done.” Backtracking over your first 50% requires the same amount of effort as finishing the remaining 50%. I try to employ this same mindset when finishing a particularly tedious or challenging project. Procrastination or self-sabotage inevitably set in and I just want to be done. The big idea is that there’s absolutely no substitute for doing the work. Tasks A, B, C must be done to complete the project. Power through. Keep Going. Refer to Number 1.
4. Measure your progress.
This is a habit I am working on cultivating. My better half is a meticulous record-keeper (gas mileage, bank account, running logs, you name it) and I’m trying to learn from him. Measuring progress is a big reason I wear my GPS watch to track my distance, speed, and frequency. Numbers help take the emotion out of certain decisions, especially for me (feelings, feelings, everywhere). Can I really run 6 miles today? Absolutely! In fact, you’ve done this a dozen times before in all types of weather! When I feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I’m learning to look back at the “analytics” of my life. According to the past 29 years, the data shows that I have survived 100% of the stressful times in my life. Track your progress and let the numbers prop you up when your heart’s not in it. Count the miles and the milestones.
5. Find yourself a few good cheerleaders.
I do not mean that you need to arrange a large crowd of adoring fans. It probably wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary. I do mean that you need a few people in your life who notice. A few trusted souls who acknowledge you’re working hard, putting in the hours. A few people who ask if you’re eating, sleeping, stretching, telling you to “just get it done already.” A few people who will linger after the race to sit with you while drink chocolate milk and eat a banana. I have found this to be true during each race and in my first year running a small business. I do not mean that only good friends refer clients to you. Again, wouldn’t hurt (I’m kidding!). I mean that a handful of people have trusted me to take care of businesses and people they care about. No crowds of screaming fans. A small circle can make such a big difference.
When people ask why or how I could possibly RUN THIRTEEN MILES, I usually tell them that any hesitations are shattered on Race Day. I know life-long runners likely don’t want or need the loud, spandex fanfare of an organized race but I love it. There is an electric energy the morning of a race. It’s early, it’s dark, the strangers next to you have run their hills and healed their blisters. Most folks will have one spectator along the route–a spouse, a kid, friend, coworker, etc–to shout a few encouraging words or hold a clever sign. Some runners are going it alone. You can hear the noise and celebration of the finish line a mile away. You might only recognize one voice in that crowd, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone is cheering for someone. Let the cheer spill over because it could encourage someone else.
Thanks for reading. If you’re one of my cheerleaders, thanks from the very bottom of my heart. If you’re someone else’s cheerleader, thanks from the very bottom of my heart, too. I don’t think you have to run half marathons or a business to know that slow and steady helps you stay consistent. But if you do want to run a half marathon or a business, settle in. This is gonna take a minute.
I posted a “Busy Bee” lettering graphic on Instagram awhile ago, and I had really wanted to write and publish this blog post at that time but I didn’t plan ahead quite enough. But here I am! The inspiration for this Design for Fun project began when I ordered the most adorable drinking glass from Anthropologie. I just loved the imperfect, artsy look of the glass and the tiny little bees are so cute!
The glass also perfectly coincided with my current professional status. You see, I’ve been doing this thing every year for the last, oh, 10 years or so where I enthusiastically say “Yes” to bunch of projects that I really want to do. I plan them out, stagger the deadlines, and inevitably they all end up happening at the exact same time. And this year is no different! Except that it is different, because this year I’m in charge and I want each and every client served by Kassel Creative to get the absolute best service in a timely manner. When friends and family would ask how things were going my most honest response was, “Busy, but fine, busy!” I should also say that I genuinely enjoy each project and client I’m working alongside.
Bee Bee Graphics
Presenting: Busy, but fine, but busy. I created these digital illustrations with lettering created by yours truly.
I’m trying to be much more aware of how I talk about my schedule, workload, etc. Any tips for limiting your commmitments or setting aside time to consider new projects before signing on?
Happy Friday! This is not a lengthy deep or personal post but I’m try to put more effort into my website and blog. The truth is like genuinely like designing and writing so I’m using my season of change to implement new creative habits. Before April and May of this year I had not designed or photographed or written anything for the pure joy of designing in at least a year. A YEAR. OF NOT DOING THE THING I LOVE TO DO. I mean, the glorious part of a J-O-B in the creative field means using one’s “creativity” each day in the office for clients. But after months and years of strictly making stuff for other people, you get burnt out or uninspired or both. I felt like I was withholding the very thing I like to do, from myself, because I should only spend my time on paid work. Getting paid to do what you do is, well, important and probably (definitely) the ideal scenario. There’s value in design; it’s important for communicating things. There are many technical aspects that can be most efficiently understood and completed by a professional. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUN.
2 Hours of FUN
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a perfectionist in almost every area of my life. But the books I enjoy reading, the art I enjoy looking at, and the people I enjoy spending time with are not perfect. And it’s OK. We’re all better for it. So I’m getting back to the basics by blocking off 2 hours of “Design for Fun” time to my calendar each week. I can make whatever I want for those two hours and the result can be simple, complex, dumb, ugly, or whatever else. The graphics below are the result of a couple hours of Design for Fun time a few weeks ago. I’m also experimenting with finalizing my own brand color palette so that’s how I ended up with those colors.
Things I am OK with this week:
I made progress on but am not done with my UX mobile app design.
I worked out almost every day this week.
There are emails from recruiters and miscellaneous other contacts I did not follow up with.
I have not done my business accounting for May yet.
I finished a 20 page document layout that was a day late but my client was flexible and excited about the result.
I ordered, like, 12 dresses and shoes for upcoming events and I didn’t really like how any of them fit or looked.
If you didn’t get everything on your list done this week, it’s OK. You’re OK. I’m OK. OK then! Thanks for reading.
Seasons in the Midwest can be unpredictable. Sweltering heat, bitter cold, gusting wind, driving rain, boring grey, eerily still. I turned 29 this week and I’m feeling…contemplative. I’m ALMOST THIRTY. While discussing with friends, I decided I still feel 23ish? Old enough to buy a bottle of wine but definitely too young for everything else I’m supposed to handle. While there are no major milestones that happened, Year 28 was super good and super weird. So… what have I been up to? Um, a little bit of everything.
If you’re close to me or follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably gathered that I’m taking some classes and stuff. Long story short, I left my design job at any agency at the end of December. I learned a ton and worked with some really great people along the way, but I needed to make a change. I ignored my unhappiness for a long time and made myself and everyone around me miserable in the process. I felt stuck, frustrated, uninspired, unmotivated, unhappy, unhelpful, un-everything, while following the path I thought others expected of me. Ultimately, I needed to make a change for myself. As a card-carrying member of People Pleasers Forever (definitely going to design something for this), I didn’t have a lot of experience in choosing my own path. The unknown is terrifying, especially for people-pleasing perfectionists (so I hear).
Making this change forced me into action, progress even. I’ve always wanted to try freelancing so I started my own business, Kassel Creative, with the legal and professional counsel of people way smarter than I am. I didn’t know how freelancing would go so I signed up for a few classes, you know, to stay out of trouble. One lecture class, Entrepreneurial Foundations, and one online bootcamp, User Experience Design. And you know what? It’s been awesome. Not entirely what I expected, and definitely not perfect, but awesome all the same. I do not have the rigid structure I once found comfort in but I do have a new appreciation for students, teachers, parents, small business owners, and the list goes.
Every January, I wonder if summer will ever come again. And when I long for sweater weather in August, I know brisk fall days lie ahead. So… what does extreme weather have to do with my professional ramblings? Seasons, man. I always knew exactly what my next move or role was until I didn’t. I never really had or embraced a season of true change, quiet, and discomfort. I still don’t know what my next step is. But I’m okay. Trying something new was not fatal. My biggest take-aways from my Season of Change are that change is almost always good and also that time is going to pass anyway so you may as well do what makes you happy. Year 29 is off to a great start and I do believe summer will show up sooner or later.
Are you on a clear-cut Five-Year Plan or are you wandering through a Season of Change? I hope you’re happy and learning a lot either way!
Oh yes, it’s that time of year when everyone’s talking reflections from last year and goals for next year. I’ve got a lot of each of those, too, but one of my life goals, just generally speaking, is to read as much as possible. This will come as no surprise from the girl who invited her friends to come over and read growing up. (more…)