I’m breathing again, having just launched our website project this past week. Everything was set to go live early in the week – launch campaign emails, final website tweaks, coordination with the team, announcements to be sent, facebook posts, advance tweets. I woke up on Wednesday morning grinning from ear to ear – the first email blast sent out while I was sleeping, but (who am I kidding) – I was too excited to launch this project to sleep in. I woke up at 4:55 AM. (I didn’t get out of bed that early, but I was definitely up and ready.) Sometimes I get too excited to sleep.
About the project: If you want to know more about it – it’s for designers and non-designers who love cities and landscapes – I’ll let you wander over the website at your own leisure. Over the past year, we’ve been building a resource to better understand how landscape architecture and cities intersect – and the result is a published quarterly journal and image resource for information about landscape urbanism.
On this blog, however, I write about doing things. About the process. About the ups and downs – what it’s like to figure stuff out, to work through the hard bits, to learn. This blog is a collection of thoughts – notes on the process, if you will. So here’s where you get the behind-the-scenes picture.
Part 2: Launch Day.
I’ll start with three vivid stories from the past year. This- this- is what it looks like. For better or for worse, these are some of the memories of making this project happen:
Snapshot 1: I’m sitting outside of my apartment, after several failed attempts to get in. I’ve locked myself and my keys and my phone on the wrong sides of the door, respectively, and I’m now stuck outside an apartment, late at night, wishing desperately that I were inside, in bed, sleeping. I’m not. It’s cold, I’m exhausted, and I’m slowly gaining more compassion and sympathy for the homeless people in the streets of San Francisco. And, I have to pee. No matter. 2 hours, no computer, no jacket and a homeless and cold Sarah finds a locksmith to let her into her own apartment, $200 later. Deadlines are deadlines, and I’m working, tired, behind the computer, alone. This is glamorous and exciting …
Snapshot 2: I’ve taken three sacred holidays from work, a vacation, and I’m in New York City, meandering through Prospect Park and talking with three editors about our vision for the website and our bigger visions about everything landscape urbanism, architecture – even forestry and dance. I am reminded that parks are for people, and that parks and cities last longer than people. I’m not really sure how long a website lasts, or even an idea … but physical spaces, they are the foundation of future generations. I remember why I’m involved in this. People. Places. Doing things that matter.
Snapshot 3: I’m drinking tequila and lime, laughing with new friends, grinning from ear to ear because somehow, remarkably, miraculously, we did it. A vision turned reality. A sense of satisfaction so deep that my bones and soul feel unstoppable. I’m waiting in line at a bar in this city and a complete stranger turns to me and says, “Excuse me, but can I just ask you a question?” I nod, gleefully. He goes on, “Can you just tell me – why are you so happy?”
It’s almost ridiculous. And I can’t stop laughing – because we got here. We did it.
Making things happen is beyond satisfying. It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, and it’s down-to-the-knees energizing, because it shows you what you can do if you put a little grease to the wheel.
An entrepreneur is someone who does something. Someone who builds something that hasn’t been built before. A person or business who makes things happen. In a corporate job, a solo journey, or somewhere in between, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs challenge the status quo. I’ve been fortunate this past year to have several projects at hand to focus on – and while I’ll be analyzing and critiquing this project for a quite a while, here’s a bit more of an inside peak at what I’ve learned and gathered along the way: the lessons from this project, part 2. (For the first post, check out part one).
- People want you to succeed.Just when it gets tough, people step in and do the most wonderful things. Embrace your peers – people want to help. People want you to do well.
- People admire hard work. Hard work is admirable. Hard work is gutsy. Hard work is courageous. When you work hard, people will help you out.
- There is an art to getting things done. I could not, simply could not, do everything on my list. Some days I had a short list of 10 big things I wanted to do, and by 12 PM at night, after more than a few 16-hour stretches, I had to put the pens and paper down and fall asleep. Glasses on face, lights still on, dinner plate uncleared – nothing spectacular or particularly beautiful. At the end of the day, despite how tired I was, I couldn’t let myself get bogged down by the disappointment of not finishing, of only getting 3-4 things done. Little by little, we carved away at the ambitious piles of work and made a dent.
- Each day, show up. Do something each day, even if it’s for a short time.
- Feeling stupid is part of the process. Feeling stupid on a regular basis is normal. At least, for me it is. The more I don’t know, the more dumb I feel, the more I can learn. I’ve spent an entire year feeling completely out of sorts and overwhelmed by everything. I’m hoping that (a) I’m not stupid or (b) I’m getting a heck of a lot smarter. Both are still to be determined.
- Learn as quickly as you can. Ask a lot of questions. The quicker you admit what you don’t know, the quicker you’ll learn. Pride has no place in growth.
- Become comfortable with uncertainty. Really comfortable.
- Frustrations can be high. Become comfortable with frustration. Learn tricks and techniques for staying level-headed even if your emotions run rampant. At times, I had to fight back angry tears because of things that didn’t go as expected – nights when a week’s worth of work was erased and we had to start over from scratch. Short of hitting my head against the bathroom wall, all those yoga exercises started to sink in, and I thought to myself (on many occasions): “Breathe. This too, is just a moment of discomfort. This too, is ephemeral.” Breathing helps.
- Plan for slow days. They happen. Don’t plan to work every day – it’s not possible.
- If you’re stuck, start smaller. Sometimes the projects and sub-projects seemed too big to tackle. Breaking it down in to smaller chunks is extremely helpful.
- Pivot. Iterate. Change. Ask, “is this working”? Test early and test often.
- No one else knows what’s in your mind. Telling people what you want is a really hard thing. Work on it. Ask for feedback. Strive for clarity.
- Disappointment is inevitable. Disappoinment occurs when your expectations don’t match the oucomes. Be sure to compare your outcome to your original state and be proud of what you’ve achieved, no matter what.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I over-promised on many occasions and learned this lesson (as usual) the hard way. I had to stop saying “Yes!” and “Sure!” to things I wanted to do, because I was promising away all the time in my day, and then some. I learned how to politely decline, and how to strategize to be more effective.
- It’s okay to leave things unfinished. Focus on getting the best parts or most important things done first.
- The middle is the hardest. For me, the dip in May was really tough to get through. I sent a letter to my peers and nearly quit my project, packing it up and putting it on the shelves. I often wondered, “is this worth it? Is any of it worth it?” Doubts are always there.
- Form habits. Don’t rely on last-minute decisions. Having a rock-solid vision plan to get you through can be golden. Habits can be my savior. Some days, my ‘dumb days,’ when my brain couldn’t think through strategy, I’d switch to my to-do lists, start with the easy wins, and finish as many tasks as I could before 11am. Then, I’d take a break for the rest of the day, having conquered many small things. This habit – of doing something, even the smallest of things – always surprises me with what it adds up to.
- Surround yourself with good people. They are a tremendous source inspiration.
- It is an incredible amount of work. Don’t underestimate how much work big dreams can take. Be sure you want this as your dream before you start.
- It is worth it.
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