I Know My Brand is Indistinct… And I’m OK With It

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Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Very few of you probably don’t know how I spend my time off the blog and off the page. I work a regular “9-5” job in an office in Midtown Manhattan. My official title? Marketing and Brand Innovation Manager at a hotel company. Which means I spend my days creating and honing hotel brands and then determining how we market those brands to the wider public.

So why does my personal brand seem a little…wacky and unfocused?

Well, cause I am wacky and unfocused.

My brand is me.

I once spent a lot of time trying to cram myself into different, single boxes, to make a brand work. I was going to be Fitness Amanda or Writer Amanda or Book Reviewer Amanda or Foodie Amanda. And then I tried to be all of those things at once, trying to be an expert in every single one of my hobbies. It took years for me to realize that the most authentic true brand I could create for myself, was just to let my freak flag fly and see who came running.

That means I talk openly and honestly about how tough all of this is. I sometimes cook on my Instagram stories but rarely share photos of the food I prepare on my feed because I am terrible food photographer. I workout all the time, but only post the occasional photo of what that looks like. I share poetry more often. And I share photos of my day-to-day life, of the beauty in a life that sometimes either feels too fast or too boring. I share the balance between all those aspects of who I am and I encourage my followers to do the same.

I love a beautiful brand. I love curated photos. I love color schemes and different tones of voices and I adore creating logos. (Truly!) And these are all aspects of powerful important brands and we should learn from them for our businesses. But for me, a lack of focus and a lack of breadth are just who I am. I am a little wacky. I am overwhelmed a lot. I become obsessed with something and then abandon it weeks later for something new. I am a creative nutcase and I share it. And I’m ok with that.

So tell me, what’s something you’re doing that you KNOW isn’t the “right way” but you’re doing it your way anyway? Why do you do it this way? Why is it important to you? Tell me in the comments or make an IG post and use the hashtag #cheapcourage.

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What I Don’t Want to Tell You

I recently read somewhere (Forgive me I completely forget because I read anywhere from 5-20 articles a day, plus countless social pages. So if this was you or you know what article I am talking about, shoot me a note and I’ll link to that sucker right here!) that whatever it is I don’t want to share or write about, is exactly what I should be sharing or writing about.

And I don’t mean boring topics like “All the Times I Forgot What Day it Was” but the things that scare me a little. The topics and thoughts that put a little pit in my stomach when I think of telling someone about them. They’re the things I think I’ll be judged for and they’re the things I should be sharing… According to this article or quote I can’t even link to.

I really took this to heart, and since this is Cheap Courage after all, from it I am going to start a series of blog posts all about the shit I don’t want to share. The hope being that: a) You find out you’re not alone b) I find out I’m not alone c) We all get closer d) I help someone. And I hope by me sharing the tough stuff will give you the courage to do the same. We’re all human and we’re so beautifully imperfect I really think it’s high-time we start embracing that.

First off I’m tackling FAILURE… dun dun dun… 

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Ok so, there’s this huge misunderstanding out there that anyone who is “successful” is “gifted” or “lucky”. Sure, some small percentage of the time this is true but really, a successful person is someone who didn’t give up after their first 55 failed projects. Success is resilience. It’s almost as frustrating to me as when someone tells me I am lucky to have great “genes” to keep me fit and I have to correct them and say “I have great workouts 6 times a week”. Success takes work and time and patience.

I have been out of school for 7 years. I have been writing “regularly” for about 4 or 5 of those 7 years. I am JUST NOW doing the following: a) Submitting work to be published regularly b) Asking for critiques c) Sharing my work on social media d) Figuring out this blog. I have had some really minor successes and I hope to have more and more and maybe some major ones… but what’s nuts is the following list.

Here’s everything I’ve failed before getting to where I am now (that I could remember):

  • Creating workouts and recipes consistently for this blog
  • 2-3 blogs of my own before this one
  • Writing for a food blog, a neighborhood blog, 2 pop culture sites, a woman’s site, a comic book site, a recipe site, a cheating (really) website, a travel site (all of them went under)
  • Trying to start a VLOG
  • Attempting to become a food writer, columnist, editor, freelance grammar checker, fact checker, research, blogger for hire, a movie reviewer
  • Finishing a spec script for various shows
  • Writing stand-up, doing Improv, writing sketches, writing a humor blog

And here’s everything that’s either still in the works, has come back recently, or I am not ready to give up on yet:

  • A book of essays
  • A book of poetry
  • A podcast or two
  • A travel video series
  • Some sort of fitness certification
  • Becoming fluent in French
  • Creating collage art

So you see… this stuff is HARD. There’s a million things out there to try, to attempt, to research, to learn, to forget, to pick back up… some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t. Some of it sucks, some of it is fun, most of it is a huge “waste of time”.

Turns out I have some resilience but finding focus has been difficult for me. I love the shiny new object, always. This year has been a great exercise in discipline and focus and it has paid off with a few good hits and some fantastic work.

You see, creative work is like an iceberg. The rest of the world sees this one small glowing accomplishment when really below it is a bunch of scary and weird failures we’d rather hide. Well, not today my friends, not today.

Are you ready to share a failure with me? Leave a comment! WANT TO SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD?! Post on Twitter or Instagram with your failure and hashtag it #cheapcourage. Let’s get it out there and move on my friends.

xoxo

 

Guest Post: Why I Fear Happiness

I will not gab here for long, because the guest posts are for other voices. But I just wanted to say: hurrah! My very first Cheap Courage guest post. YOU COULD BE NEXT. Just drop me a line! And now without further ado… “Why I Fear Happiness”:

img_20161009_120902054I could talk your ear off about Ireland.

My second semester my sophomore year in college, I lived in Cork for five months to study abroad. On a brisk January morning I found myself in a taxi with a man with an accent too thick to decipher, two red and white polka dot suitcases, and some scribbled instructions from my father on how to find my apartment. I knew no one and tried to wear a confident, albeit terrified and tired, smile as I entered the worst apartment I’d ever live in.

What followed was five months that, as every cliche about studying abroad goes, “changed me forever.” I stumbled between pubs and classes, fell in love for the first time, traveled 8 countries over 30 days with my roommates, and found I was a person I actually quite enjoyed. My anxiety stayed at bay and my depression never seemed to take hold while overseas.

It was every montage sequence you find in a grainy sepia-toned coming of age film about 20-somethings trying to find their way. It was chaotic and hard and therapeutic and exhaustingly beautiful. When I got back to the states though, it took me years to find that person again and more or less, I never recaptured that frenzied happiness I had once felt.

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Molly at 20 in Ireland

Three weeks ago, my husband Luke and I boarded a plane headed to Ireland for our honeymoon. Us picking Ireland as a honeymoon destination was a decision made on a lucky find with a cheap airline back in March. It wasn’t until we took the train from Dublin down to Cork and taxied through the city that it started to feel real.

The next few days, next to the day I married Luke, were the happiest I’ve ever been. My cheeks frequently hurt from smiling too much and my slight Irish accent came back within days. Unlike my college town, the city of Cork hadn’t changed in the nearly six years since I had lived there. The hot chocolate shop still stood, as popular with locals as ever, and the famous chipper was still serving bags of greasy chips. The pub I used to frequent still had the same white daisy painted over the blue exterior. Even the table configurations inside were the same.

We took trains around the county of Cork and on our last day ventured out to Doolin to hike the Cliffs of Moher. While I had lived in Ireland, I joined a mountaineering club (mainly to meet Irish men but that’s beside the point) and seeing the Irish cliff sides again brought everything back. It brought me back. I was 20 again and confused but also deliriously happy about the freedom that being away from home can only give you.

But I wasn’t back. I stood on a mossy tuft of grass and looked out over the sea. We had taken a picture together moments before and when I looked at it, I could see my forehead wrinkles. I had smile lines. My hair was longer but slightly less thick. I also was thinner but different.

This was different.

I was now 25 and married. I lived just beyond the city limits of Chicago with Luke and our aging dog who didn’t quite understand she was aging. I had a stable job. I was happy.

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Luke and Molly, the newlyweds

I’m not a fan of happiness. It’s weird to see that written out but it’s honest. Happiness is fleeting, it’s inconsistent, it’s never permanent. It’s a hope, not a promise. When you finally start to feel happy, that’s when you should be afraid because now you have something tangible to lose. I didn’t realize how happy I was in my life until I stood in the October air of County Clare but now I’m do. And now I’m afraid.

Most of my life I’ve been unhappy. I don’t know if most people would gather that as words are easy enough to hide behind. I talk about myself in vague, self-deprecating ways so no one delves deeper. I talk constantly about anything and everything so people don’t question me for fear that I’ll never stop talking. I can remember two concrete times in my life I could call happy: those winter and spring months of 2011 and the past couple years.

I don’t know what to do with happy. It feels like something palpable I should be able to hold tightly. I remember my flight home from Ireland back when I was 20 and how scared I was. It was like emerging from this contained segment of my life and desperately wanting to hold onto who I had found. What I had found. I had figured it all out and nothing would ever be bad again. I remember crying the second the wheels touched down in Milwaukee. The pressure behind my head built and I was nauseous. Somehow, I felt I had to let go. In the coming months I’d fake my way back into sorority life and be more miserable than I’d been in years.

Recognizing happiness is like when you’re in a horror movie and thinking about the monster is what makes it more powerful. If I recognize I’m happy and draw attention to it, that’s what will be the end, or so my brain keeps telling me.

When the plane touched down in Toronto from Dublin, Luke and I scrambled through the airport, desperately trying to get through customs as fast as possible during our short 1 and a half hour layover. We made it just in time to our plane to Chicago. We laughed the way you do when you’re tired but also relieved. He squeezed my hand and kissed my sweaty forehead. As the plane took off and we headed back to Chicago, I reached out and grabbed a hold of his thigh.

This time when we landed back home, I didn’t want to let go.


img_20160612_124208-1Molly Sisson, 25, graduated in 2013 from University of Iowa with a BA in English and a focus in Creative Writing. She attended University College Cork for a semester in the spring of 2011. Following college, she fell into a career in finance and currently resides in Oak Park, IL with her husband, Luke, and their overly energetic dog, Lucy. She spends most of her free time reading listicles, binging entire series on Netflix, and eating lots of macarons. She sporadically posts blog entries on her blog: http://awriterswordvomit.blogspot.com/.

My Mind is a Mess: Passion Planner Review

One night I was visiting my best friend Kate at her apartment and in between sips of wine and bites of cheese (or gulps and hunks) she turned my attention to her brand new Passion Planner. Wow, I thought, I need one of these.

My whole life I’ve wanted to design a planner that functions how my brain functions– which is million different things all happening at once. Passion Planner is almost perfect. (I still want to design the ultimate planner one day. It’s one of my super nerdy life goals.) My only challenge is that it’s broken down by time slots which is incredibly hard for me to stick too but otherwise, I love the layout.

I’ve been using my Compact version for about 4 weeks now. And each week I get better at utilizing it. I let it help me form my week instead of jamming my week into it. I’ve surrendered to the planner a little bit and it seems to be going well. I stole the below image direct from the Passion Planner website because it’s going to do a MUCH better job of explaining how it works:

PP Breakdown

And all of those things get incorporated into your weekly pages. I know what you’re thinking: HOW?! HOW DO THEY GET INCORPORATED? It seems like a lot. Here are some sample pages from mine. Note: I don’t color in for the time I spend at work. I probably should but it scares me to see how much time I actually spend there. Maybe this week I’ll give it a whirl.

Example Week
I’m trying to teach myself to color code so certain things jump out to me. Yellow is my “Personal Life” color… it makes me happy!
example week 2
This was taken on Sunday of this week. I still had more to fill in and you can see my notes page is pretty open. That changes pretty quick.

I’m sure some people are a little tidier with theirs but I do my best… I’m only human. I enjoy seeing everything that I have to do on one open page instead of having to flip around and see what my week looks like. It’s also nice that there are sections on top of each day that say “Today’s Focus”, I use this to keep the “OMG A NEW PROJECT” part of myself toned down.

One of my favorite features of the planner is all of the Goal Setting material in the front of it. Before you even get to any specific months or days, you are guided through a series of exercises to get some awesome goals lined up for the next 3 months, next year and rest of your life! It’s a great way to keep your goals and passions (hehe) up front while you are toiling away on other things.

As for a mistake I made with it, I wish I had ordered the 8 1/2 x 11 sized version. When I ordered, it seemed like a huge pain in the ass to lug around but now that I am using the smaller size, I realize that I could have used the extra space. Especially because I have goofy handwriting. I think next year I’ll try the larger version and see how that goes.

So far so good with this planner and I am a pretty scattered person. This keeps everything I am constantly thinking about in one place. I’m not the most focused, but this has been helping. I strongly suggest checking them out! And, oh yeah, if you can’t afford the bound version, Passion Planner has PDF versions of the planner pages that you can print out and use. Amazing!

Welcome to the New Cheap Courage & Happy May Day

Today is May Day and this is the first official post of the NEW Cheap Courage.

Less than a year ago a dreamed up a new blog that I could use to help me face fears, take chances, and welcome you all to do the same. That mission still remains, but in a prettier package, a more rigorous posting schedule, and varied topics.

Even with the addition of pretty images and some “fun” stuff, I still promise to keep my honesty and messy bits. It’s important to me that we keep it real. Not everything is sprinkles on cupcakes or impeccably put together outfits or a 6-pack. Some things are tough, and ugly, and menacing. We’ll face them together. With our Cheap Courage. The kind you aren’t born with but the kind you create yourself.

So what’s new? DEDICATED SECTIONS. Click around the navigation up there and you’ll find sections dedicated to WRITING, LIVING, EATING, and MOVING. The 4 most important aspects of my life and 4 that I hope you’ll find inspiring. Some of the sections are looking a little barren right now, but trust me, by the end of this month you’ll have lots of clickable links, shareable photos, and fun shit to share with your friends. Fun shit is the best shit.

And before I go, I want to tell you about May Day. There’s a reason I picked it for my first post of this re-launch. It’s one of my favorite holidays. May Day is celebrated all over the world, but in the US it is a celebration of new beginnings, of Spring, of the NEW.

It was a favorite holiday of mine because when I was a little girl my mother would help me put together tiny baskets or cups (yes, DIXIE cups) of wildflowers for all of our neighbors. The tradition is to put baskets on neighbors doorsteps, ring the bell or knock on the door, and then runaway. I loved something so quaint and something SO Laura Ingalls Wilder, that I became quickly fond of it.

Here’s to May Day Baskets and new beginnings and new gifts. Because that is my intention. To give you all some new gifts to start off this new season in this new moment in my life.