What’s Holding You Back?

Five years ago, things with SPACESHIPS had slowed down for a few months. Our drummer was working 70 hour weeks and our bassist was preparing to get married. 

And then there was me, with nothing extra going on and all these musical ideas that I couldn’t share with anyone. 

So I wrote a solo album. 

But five years later, it still hasn’t been released. I’ve played those songs live a number of times. Sometimes I’ve even played through the entire album. I’ve even come up with a name (NTVTY) and made some social media pages! But only one song has been recorded—and it’s not even finished. 

If you’re reading this, I’m sure that story sounds all too familiar. Creatives are infamous for their tendency to start a thousand projects before they’ve even finished one. We have all of these dreams and aspirations, but following through with those projects is another story.

But why? What’s holding us back? Let me try to answer that by looking at the excuses I’ve told myself about why this solo record still isn’t finished and see what kinds of lessons we can learn. 

“I Don’t Have Time”

As you probably know, NTVTY isn’t my only musical project. Between my main project SPACESHIPS, my ska project Dad Jokes, and the few other side projects I’ve started with various other friends, my solo stuff often takes a back seat. 

Then there’s my work, my relationships, and various hobbies. Once I’ve made my schedule for the day, there’s not really time left over to record.

But here’s the truth: I really could find the time if I made the time for it. Instead, I let that time go to video games and Netflix and scrolling through my endless social feeds. If I set aside just half an hour each day to record, my album would be finished before I knew it. 

What other things are you letting take time away from your projects? How intentional are you about making time for your projects? What time-wasters can you give up to spend time on your projects instead?

“Preparation Takes Too Long”

Every once in a while, the bug to record will bite me, but then I’ll start thinking about everything I need to do to make that happen.

I need to plug in my recording interface, set up microphones, clean up the music room a little bit…I should probably restring my guitar before recording too. Actually, I think I left my guitar at the church…

I’ll convince myself that that’s more than I want to deal with just to record part of a song, so I’ll do something else instead.

In reality though, it doesn’t really take that long to get ready. It might take ten minutes to get to a point that I’m ready to hit record (if I remembered to bring my guitar home, that is). But that ten minutes can feel like a huge hurdle. 

But if I—again—actually make the time for it, then it’s nothing at all. Last week when Michelle and I were working on getting our podcast ready for broadcast, we started thinking about a theme song. I had a rough idea, so I went into my practice room and picked up my guitar. 

Two hours later I had written and recorded a theme song from scratch. Because I made the intentional time for it in my schedule. 

What obstacles keep you from picking up your project? Are your tools buried in a closet? Do you need to buy some supplies? What can you do to batch your prep time so you can get right to work?

“It Doesn’t Really Matter”

The biggest difference between NTVTY and the rest of my projects is that I’m the only one here. In all of my other bands, other people depend on me to pull my weight to book shows, write songs, and practice my parts. If I don’t do those things, I let them down.

But I can let myself down pretty easily. It’s really easy to tell myself that I’m too busy to make time for my solo project—I understand, and I’d rather slack off too. It’s not like I’m disappointing anyone else by ignoring it.

Here’s the thing though: on the rare occasion that I do play a solo set, I always get a ton of comments from people about how much they can relate to the songs. In fact, I think I get more feedback after a NTVTY show than any of my other bands. 

These songs matter. Something about these songs hit people in a way that my other songs don’t. And if they matter enough to the people listening, then it should matter to me. 

And if it matters to me, I need to make the time to finish it. 

In what ways have you diminished the importance of your projects? How would you act differently if you were convinced of their importance? Who might need to have your art in their lives?

Challenge Time

We can talk all day about our excuses for ignoring our creative projects, but it’s not going to mean a thing unless we get off our asses and do something about it.

So here’s the challenge…

This week, spend at least one hour of intentional time on a project that you’ve been putting off. 

It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to finish anything. You just have to make progress. And I’m not exempt—I even remembered to bring my acoustic guitar home from the church today!

Do that, and let us know what you end up doing! 

Episode 2. The Bergamot – Jillian + Nathaniel Share What it’s Like as Full Time Musicians

Jillian Speece and Nathaniel Hoff of The Bergamot share what life is like as two full musicians on the road. Hear how they got started in their music careers and how they got to where they are today. These two are about to release their next full length album, Mayflies, on September 19, 2019. 

The Bergamot is a nomadic husband/wife music duo that has been playing full time since 2009. Their dreamy blend of folk and 70s rock has led them to widespread acclaim, including playing SXSW, appearing in the video game Rock Band, and even winning an Emmy. They recently finished a 50-state tour and have a documentary about that tour coming soon. 

Listen here

Continue reading “Episode 2. The Bergamot – Jillian + Nathaniel Share What it’s Like as Full Time Musicians”

Episode 1: Meet the Killers How We Left the 9 to 5 to Start Our Own Creative Jobs

In this episode, you’ll meet your hosts, Nat and Michelle FitzGerald, and learn how they went from being tired middle school teachers to running their own makerspace, art and music festivals and more. Now these two are killin’ it and living that creative life on their own terms. 

Through this episode, Nat and Michelle share the difference between doing creative work for yourself versus doing it for a living, how they got to be Killer Creators, what they were doing before, and secrets for staying creative, productive, and motivated.

Listen here.

Continue reading “Episode 1: Meet the Killers How We Left the 9 to 5 to Start Our Own Creative Jobs”

6 Reasons Why You Need to Make Art

Maybe you say that you are not an artist, that you couldn’t even draw a stick figure if you wanted to. Well, I believe that’s not true. Creativity is part of the human experience, and making art is one of the best ways to express that creativity. And you can learn to do anything with enough practice. Now we can make a broad definition of what art is. You might be more into the culinary arts, music, or performing arts, but that’s still art. And there are many reasons why you should be making more of it. Today we’ll just look at six of the best reasons why you should be making more art.

It makes you a better problem solver 

When you use your creativity, you help your brain get better at divergent thinking and problem-solving in general. NASA did a study to see where creativity came from, because they wanted their scientists to be more creative, you know to invent new technologies and all. So they tested a group of kids from the time they were five years old until they were adults. 98% of those kids tested at genius levels of creative thinking and divergent thought when they were just 5. But by the time they were adults, only 2% tested at the same levels. So, that means we all have this innate creativity in us that just needs to be fostered, and it will help us do more than just make art. When we are able to use our creativity and divergent thought, that’s when we can innovate invent and come up with creative solutions to problems. So when you make art it helps you make better decisions all around. And that’s something I can get behind. 

It’s Good For You

Making art can be therapeutic, even healing. When you get into the zone while you are creating a piece of work, you can lose track of time and you can forget about your other problems. You can get into what is called the flow state. I’ve had students with chronic pain say they forgot about their discomfort while lost in their creative flow state. It helps clear the mind and gives you a break from the mental load we so often carry. So if you find yourself with lots of stress in the day and needing to give yourself a little break, you should make some art. 

Making art keeps your brain healthy. 

Studies have shown that the more you use your creativity to make and try new things, it helps your brain create new connections to keep growing and to strengthen the connections you already have.  Your brain is like a muscle, and needs to be worked out and keep active to stay healthy. When you are making art, your brain works in a more active way and thus keeps you healthy. It can even help to stave off dementia 

It’s fun. 

Or at least it should be. When you are able to make art and create it any way you like, there’s a freedom and enjoyment of being able to express yourself however you like. Growing up, my mom always told us that the messier we were, the more fun we were having. And she was right, whether we were helping her decorate cakes or making our own out of mud in the backyard. When you lose the enjoyment in making art, you need to step back and reevaluate how you’re doing it. Because it should be fun. And that is the best kind of art to make. 

There are no rules. 

Like Bob Ross would say, “You get to create your own little world, however you like it.” And when you create and make art, that same idea applies. There are no rules in art. Creativity, at its core, is being able to innovate and think of new ways of doing things, of making new connections and combinations of things. So that applies to art. Now, sure, if you’re creating art for a client, there may be some limits to meet their expectations, and there are some basics principles and techniques you should be aware of. But apart from that, there are no expectations, there are no right or wrong ways to create. I always heard about art that you need to know the rules to break them. So go break some rules. And when you make mistakes, you’ve only discovered a new way to do something or how to create a different thing altogether (look at you, you inventive creator). So, be free, and create whatever you like. Be weird. Do something unexpected. Make art without rules. 

It makes life worth living. 

I don’t know about you, but I always feel most fulfilled when I’m creating something by hand. I even go out of my way to do it. The other day, I decided to go home and make a pizza from scratch rather that grab one to go, since I really enjoy cooking and creating a meal. And you can bet your bottom dollar, I have for sure gone home to make a piece of jewelry or wall art I saw at a store rather than buy it there, just because I wanted the satisfaction of making it myself. Sure, it’s enjoyable to consume art, like when you go to the movies or to a museum. But that experience is passive and not nearly as enjoyable as actively creating art yourself. The same way watching someone skydive is not nearly the same experience as skydiving yourself. Since our creativity is an innate part of our human nature, I believe that we don’t really get to experience that same joie de vivre that we do when we are expressing our creative nature through creating art. Try it for yourself and tell me that’s not true for you too. When you are making art you love and get into that flow state, you will know what I am talking about. So, go make art and make the most of your life while you still can. 

So there you have it, six great reasons why you should be making more art, any kind of art you like. I didn’t even touch on all the great ways your art can benefit others and the world at large, but these reasons alone should be enough to encourage you go pick up that brush, guitar, pen, or whatever tools you use to create, and go make more art! If you’re ready to become a killer creator but don’t know where to start or how to even find the time to start, we’ve got the perfect program for you. Join our email list to make sure you don’t miss the next time our enrollment opens. In the meantime, stay killer and make more art!

Defining Your Own Success

Yesterday morning, Michelle’s grandma stopped by for breakfast before leaving town. We made jalepeño and herb omelets, a pot of fresh ground French press, and ate Concord grapes straight from the vine growing over our pergola. 

As we were tidying up dishes, she said to us, “Oh, this was just so special.”

I responded, “This is actually pretty normal for us most mornings.”

Just about every morning, we wake up and make a big, delicious breakfast. If the weather allows, we eat it on the back patio, right under the previously mentioned grapevine. We take our time with it, talking at our leisure before getting on to our work for the day.

It’s a simple luxury, but it means a lot. 

When we were teaching, our mornings were completely shot. We felt lucky if we had time to stop at McDonald’s for a McMuffin before school. Big, leisurely breakfasts were a Saturday-only treat, and one that we relished.

One day at such a breakfast, Michelle and I were talking about our dreams and how we might want our lives to turn out. Halfway through a delicious homemade breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hash browns, I said, “If we could do this every day, then that would feel like success to me.”

. . .

Everyone wants to be successful, but we don’t always have a clear picture of what that life looks like. In the United States, we often equate success with a number in a bank account or the car in our driveway. It might be a house in a certain neighborhood or the square footage of that house. 

But you can get those things while your life is still too hectic to enjoy them. You might have to work far too many hours at a job that you hate just to achieve those goals. 

And if you ask me, that’s not success.

There is no price high enough for me to consider a life where I am overstressed and overworked. No salary is big enough to make up for the time it takes me away from my wife and creative work. 

Because we define success a little differently than the American dream.

For Michelle and me, our definition of success looks like big breakfasts, walking our dog around the park in the middle of the day, making and enjoying great art in our community… all things that don’t depend much on our bank account—as long as our bills are getting paid. I often joke that when I can buy as many records as I want and Michelle doesn’t bat an eye, then I’ll know that we’ve made it.

Think about your ideal life. What does it look like? Stay away from monetary goals. Instead, think about what your routine would look like. What time do you wake up? What sort of things do you spend your free time doing—and how much free time do you have? How often do you participate in your favorite leisure activities?

It might look a little different than if you get that promotion at work or if you go full time with your creative work, and that’s good. Use this picture of your ideal life as a goal, then try to reverse engineer that life. 

Create your own definition of a successful life. Because after all, no one else is living your life for you, so why should they get to decide what success is or is not?

. . . 

That version of your life might seem miles away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start heading that way now. Pick one aspect of your perfect life and implement it as soon as you can.

Think about less valuable things that you can trade for it. Maybe you can keep your Netflix binges to two episodes at a time so you can work on your art during that third episode. Maybe you can set your alarm a little earlier so you can have a bigger breakfast.

Whatever success looks like for you, don’t wait to chase it.

There’s room in your life even now to have a taste of that success. 

5 Ways To Boost Your Creativity

In the last several years of running our shop, we’ve run into a bunch of people who have said things like, “I could never do that—I’m just not that creative.”

Often, we feel like creativity is an inherent state of our being. We either are creative, or we are not. Someone else might be able to look at a canvas and imagine worlds hitherto unknown, but certainly, I cannot. 

The good news is, that’s not true. In fact, a NASA study of 1600 4- and 5-year-olds found that 98% of them performed at genius levels of creativity. The same test administered to adults only found 2% displaying that same level.

Your creativity is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it. It atrophies. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get it back. There are a number of things you can do to get those creative juices flowing again!

Here are a few of our favorites.

R-r-r-remix! 

One of the hardest parts of any creative work is that first idea. Few things are as intimidating as the endless potential of a blank page.

Instead, find something you like and put your own twist on it. Take a look at your favorite painting or song or story and move some elements around. Michelle teaches a Van Gogh painting class, and even the students who are the most dismissive of their own creative talents end up throwing their own twist on “Starry Night,” to great results. They’ll add Godzilla or the Death Star or their cat, making for a whimsical bit of art that they didn’t think they were able to do.

When I first started writing music, I would learn one of my favorite songs, then change the words. As I workshopped it, I would substitute chords and change the melody a little bit. It might have sounded like a ripoff, but that practice taught me a lot about songwriting.

Even now, one of my favorite songwriting techniques is to dismantle a song into its most basic parts, then write a new song around them. I’ll loop a guitar part and write a bass line to that, then I’ll erase the original and write a new guitar part to the new bass line. Rinse and repeat as needed. Before you know it, it’s a completely different song. 

Stop. Collaborate and Listen

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. That’s especially true in creative brainstorming. 

My whole life, I’ve struggled to finish stories. There’s a folder on my desktop that has around a dozen half-done novels and a couple screenplays. It’s not for a lack of passion—I care deeply about these stories. A few of them were even outlined all the way to the end. But I often run into spots where I just can’t see the next step. 

But in college, some friends and I used to email a word document around to each other. We’d write until we ran out of ideas, then we’d send it off to the next person.

And we wrote a few full stories that way. And I’m talking like, 150-page novels. When I couldn’t see any more possibles, my friends were brimming with ideas. 

If you’re stuck in a creative rut, find some friends and invite them to collaborate on your work. Or, start a brand new project together from scratch. It might not go the way you expected it to, but isn’t that the point?

Unplug

We spend so much time going from one task to the other. 

We wake up, scroll through social media, drive to work while listening to podcasts, tick through our to-do lists, drive home, eat dinner while watching Netflix, scroll through social media for a few more hours, then go to bed. 

And during that whole time, the creative part of your brain is engaged with what you’re ingesting. So when you sit down to create, your brain has a hard time switching gears.

But scientists have noticed that idleness can lead to more creative thinking. When your brain isn’t focused on any specific tasks, it starts to wander. Often, that wandering connects ideas in ways that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. 

If you’ve ever been struck by an idea while in the shower or while trying sleep, you’ve already seen this in action.

But what if you were to work in intentional moments of mind idleness into your day? Getting away for a short walk through the park can give your brain the space to wander, leading to more creative.

Get Terrible

Sometimes, thinking up a great idea can seem like a task of Herculean proportions. But thinking up a terrible idea is no problem at all.

But what if there was something worthwhile in that stinking pile of bad ideas? 

Instead of trying to think up your best idea, try to think of the most terrible idea you can think of. Sometimes when my band writes, we try to imagine collaborations between the most oddball pairings of musicians (one song was formed as an imagined collaboration between Bon Iver and a metal band). 

When you’ve got a good list of terrible ideas, look at each one and see if there’s anything there that you actually kinda like. If there is, see if you can turn that terrible idea into an actual good idea. 

Take Risks

Risk is at the heart of art. 

Picasso took a risk when he contorted the human form into his famous cubism. Radiohead took a risk when they traded their electric guitars for synthesizers for their groundbreaking Kid A. George Lucas risked everything to make Star Wars, with almost no signs that it would pay off.

While you might not face some of the same backlash as more well-known artists, there’s still a risk when you create. You might waste a few hours making something you hate. You might waste some supplies. 

Create anyway. 

Give yourself a challenge. Try new things. Use mediums that you’re not familiar with. 

You might not end up loving everything you make, but you will flex your creative muscles big time. And when you sit down to create later, your brain will remember the lessons you learned there. 

Get to Creating!

There you have it: our five favorite ways to boost your creativity. While these ideas are powerful methods of flexing your brain’s creative muscles, it takes time to shake off the cobwebs. But in time, creativity will be second nature to you.

After all—there’s a good chance you had genius-level creative thinking as a child. You can get that back.

Why Free Spirit Types Need To Care About The Boring Business Crap

In college, there was a bit of a recurring joke any time anyone mentioned they were getting a business degree.

“So basically, you don’t actually have an idea of what you want to do when you graduate?”

Me and my friends from the arts, music, and philosophy departments would chuckle at their bland lack of creativity.

If they flipped the script on me, I would tell them I wanted to be a drifter—take a tour on a missionary ship, maybe hitchhike across South America…I even mapped out a route for a globe-circling solo boat trip. 

When I was asked why (and everyone asked), I would answer with some sort of pithy statement about the world being too big and exciting to not see as much of it as I can. But in reality, there was a much deeper reason motivating my wanderlust. 

I was terrified of responsibility.

Taxes were a mystery to me. I didn’t know the first thing about managing a checking account. People would talk about investments, and my eyes would gloss over. Any sort of official document would give me a panic attack. 

It seemed much easier for me to radically reorganize my life to bypass all of that entirely.

Needless to say, my life didn’t play out that way at all. I got married. I’m a homeowner. Hell, I’m self-employed. 

Obviously, I’ve overcome my aversion to paperwork. 

But if you’re a free-spirited creative like me, you might feel a lump in your throat any time you hear words like “analytics” or “marketing strategies” or “tax liability.” You may have been trying to run from those sorts of words your entire professional life.

But in the last five years of being self-employed, Michelle and I have learned that the better handle we have on the boring business crap, the more freedom we have to do all of our creative stuff. 

Here’s why.

Beat The Suits at Their Own Game

Every year, financial institutions collect over $100 billion in credit card interest and fees. Again, that’s just interest and fees. That doesn’t include money paid back from consumers.

And I can’t help but think that most of those consumers wouldn’t be too quick to swipe their credit card if they knew how much it was costing them.

Unfortunately, financial literacy is pretty low in this country. And the financial industry is literally banking on that. 

Credit card companies make all of their profits on the backs of lay people who don’t understand all of the terms and conditions. Do you think anybody chooses to borrow money at 17% interest? Sure, you mean to pay all of that back each month, but the unfortunate truth is that most credit card holders carry a balance month to month—collecting interest, and ballooning their balance into an insurmountable sum.

When you live under a pile of debt, it raises your monthly expenses by a huge margin. More expenses means more work, and more work means less time to focus on your creative goals.

On the other hand, if you know the tricks that financial institutions use to entrap customers, you can avoid them—giving you more freedom to do the things you actually want to do.

Business Efficiency Leads to Independence 

At the risk of oversimplification, business has a simple purpose: maximizing profits while minimizing expenses. This is just as true for self-employed artists as it is for giant corporations. And those corporations have huge departments filled with the best business minds money can buy—accountants, advertisers, HR reps, salespeople…

But you just have you. 

Imagine if a company has an accountant that’s terrible at their job. They miss bill payments. Their books are never balanced. They miss valuable tax deductions that end up with the company paying more taxes than they need to.

Do you think that company will be operating as efficiently as it could be? Probably not. There’s a good chance their job will be on the line over it.

But if you look at your own creative business, you might be that terrible accountant. You look at your accounts and your expenses and you have no idea what you’re looking at. When tax time comes, you just fill in some numbers, hold your breath, and hope for the best. 

Your negligence could be doing bad things to your profit margins. 

On the other hand, if you have a good understanding of your business’s financials—or marketing or branding or web presence or whatever else—it can give you a huge boost.

And while it’s nice to make more money, that’s not the point. The point is that the more money you bring in through your creative business, the more independent you become. 

You might quit your job so you can focus on the creative pursuits that actually matter, but having a good mind for business will allow you to keep doing it.

Business Mistakes Can End Your Dream In A Hurry 

Let’s say you paint portraits of pop culture icons. You’ve been selling quite a few on Etsy—maybe you’ve even gotten successful enough to go part-time at your job so you can focus on your art. 

Then an art blog reposts your painting of Captain America to their three million followers.

Your Etsy page gets invaded. You quit your job so you can spend more time fulfilling orders. You’re making more money than you ever dreamed of doing what you love. 

But then one day, you get a piece of mail from Disney. It’s a lawsuit. They sent a cease and desist, but it got lost in the mail. Now, they’re suing you for using their intellectual property. You could either settle—which would bankrupt you—or you could try to fight it in court—which might cost even more. 

Now, that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s not too unrealistic. After all, only 30% of businesses survive past their tenth year. And I’m sure the other 70% didn’t just close down because they wanted to. 

Making poor business decisions doesn’t just get in the way of your potential profit. It could also run you into a proverbial brick wall. 

You might end up under a mountain of debt that you can’t get out of. Or you might completely forget to set anything aside for your taxes, and when the tax bill comes due, you’re nowhere near to affording it. Or maybe you’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to advertise to the wrong market, and now you have no more money to pay your expenses.

Suddenly, you’re crawling back to your old boss to beg for your job back.

If only you had paid more attention to the business side of things, you could still be making your living by doing what you really want to do.

The boring parts of business might seem like an annoying disruption to your creative process. But in reality, doing those things well is exactly what allows you to keep working for yourself doing what you love. 

You might rather have a root canal than deal with market analytics or profit-loss reports. And I get it. Spending hours hunched over a spreadsheet isn’t my idea of fun. 

But these business strategies are merely tools. And if you use these tools well, it will open up worlds of opportunity for your creative business.

If you feel overwhelmed when you think of the business side of running a creative business, don’t worry—we’ve been there. And we want to help. 

That’s why we built our webcourse, which will walk you through everything that we’ve learned in the last five years of working on our creative work full-time.

Join our email list for more info.

In the meantime, keep killing it.

A Creative Life is Not for the Faint of Heart

Henri Matisse is right. This creativity stuff is risky. You are taking your ideas out of your head and putting them into the world. And you’re hoping people like them. You’re hoping they get it. You’re hoping they understand what you wanted to say. But life doesn’t always happen like we hope. And so you think of all the things that could go wrong if you share your creative work.  What if no one likes them? What if it breaks? What if people see the real me and don’t like me? 

I get it. When you create something, anything at all, it’s personal. There’s part of you in the work you create. And while that can be scary, it’s also the thing that makes this sort of work kind of sacred. You are creating something that never existed before you made it. You are bringing an idea to life. It’s like you are a mad scientist, a god, or an artist. 

But really. The work you make is important. 

Think of all the creative work that has affected your life. That has given you a new understanding of the world or your own identity. Think of all the songs that have given you hope, or courage, or expressed what you couldn’t. Think of all the stories that have let you live a thousand lives and see further than your front door. Think of all the art that has moved you to feel joy, compassion or even sadness. Think of the movies that have transformed you as a person, or just made you laugh when you really needed something good. 

Creative work does something other things fail to do. It helps us feel connection, belonging, joy, delight, surprise, and significance. And aren’t those the things that make life worth living? Aren’t these the things that define the human experience? Aren’t these things worth the risk of sharing them? 

If you are feeling nervous or unsure about sharing your creative work, just think of this. What if it makes someone smile? What if it changes a life? What if it helps someone know they’re not alone? What if it makes people kinder? What if it makes the world a better, more beautiful place? 

Your creativity is begging you to be courageous. 


It’s worth the risk to create and keep putting your work into the world. You never know what will happen because of it. And chances are if you don’t create it, no one will. That song, that story, that painting, that movie, that design will never be made without you. 

And don’t worry about everyone getting it. If even one person is changed by your creative work, it’s worth it. 


So be courageous, and be creative! We need it.

And, if you are ready to get your creative out work there but are not sure where to start or really don’t want to do this alone, you can join the Killer Creators and find everything you need, including a creative community, to keep to moving toward those creative goals. 

Will Anybody Die? Why You Can’t Afford NOT To Take A Break

The modern entrepreneur’s vocabulary is filled with statements like these.

“Rise and grind.”

“Hustle like you mean it.”

“Your dreams only work as hard as you do.”

We’ve even said a couple of those to you guys. And while there’s a lot of truth there, there’s a lot of danger too. 

Namely, burnout.

One of the reasons we started working for ourselves was because we were tired of other people deciding what we were worth. Michelle was putting 70 hours a week into teaching, planning lessons, and grading. One year, she was even honored as Teacher of the Year.

She got a plaque.

That’s it.

No bonus, no raise, no pizza party. Just a plaque, and some snot-nosed students asking, “how come she got Teacher of the Year?”

She got paid the same for busting her ass as she would have if she just had the kids watch videos and fill out worksheets every day. 

After I got laid off, she decided she was going to bust her ass for herself, and put in her notice. 

And friends, we hustled. 

We took odd jobs, rushed between craft fairs, worked on boosting our web presence. Our dreams weren’t taking a day off, so we weren’t going to either.

But a funny thing happens when you’re on that grind 24/7. You get tired. And when you get tired, you get uninspired. When you get uninspired, you start to resent the very dreams you’re working for. Resentment leads to burnout, and burnout leads to collapse.

No matter how hard you hustle, you have to build margin into your life. 

We discovered the importance of margin a few years ago, and it’s changed our lives. Too often, people rush from one thing to another without ceasing. We jump from meetings to lunch appointments to soccer practice to parties one right after another until we collapse in our beds and scroll social media for hours.

And entrepreneurs are often the worst at this. Work-life balance doesn’t really exist in a world where you are your business. Often, we feel like taking a break isn’t even an option. We can’t afford to stop working for one second.

But in fact, we can’t afford not to take breaks.

The most obvious reason is one of health. We all know that constant stress is unhealthy. We’ve all heard the stories of overworked Japanese businessmen dropping dead at their desks. 

But did you know that taking regular breaks can make you more productive?

Counterintuitive, I know. But the science supports it

Thinking too hard or too long about something can lead to something called “decision fatigue.” Your brain starts losing its capacity for critical thinking. 

But if you take a break and do something else, your brain is still mulling those problems in your subconscious. As your thoughts drift to other unrelated topics, your brain connects those tangents to your work. If you’ve ever had an “aha” moment in the shower or while taking a walk, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

But if you ask me, there’s an even more important thing at stake than your productivity…

You.

We weren’t made just to work every day until the day we die. Even if you’re making a living doing your favorite thing in the world, we need to take some time away. 

We need times of quiet. We need times where we waste time. We need to take time to do things that we love without worrying about how much money we could make if we were working instead.

And more than anything, we need times when we disconnect from all the fires and crises that spring up in our businesses and try to demand all of our time.

When Michelle and I are trying to enjoy our day off, but work things keep nagging for our attention, there’s a question we like to ask ourselves.

“Will anybody die?”

Nothing is so urgent that needs to take priority over your own wellness. No one will die if they have to wait another 24 hours for a response about a commission. But if you keep pushing yourself past your breaking point, you might. 

It might not be a swift, dramatic death like those Japanese businessmen. Rather, it might be the slow, painful death of waking up and realizing that you hate the things that used to bring you life. 

And no one can afford that. 

So here’s the challenge: this week sometime, take a day off.

Resist the urge to catch up on housework or other maintenance tasks. Instead, just rest. Do something you enjoy—walk to the park, play some video games, read a book—whatever non-productive tasks make your life worth living. 

It will require some retraining. We’ve been trying to get real intentional about taking Mondays off, but I still sometimes find myself talking shop in the work chat. And yes—it will require some rearranging of your schedule. You’ll probably have to work more on the other days to make sure you get everything done that you need to. 

But I encourage you to try it. And not just this week, but every week. Make it a habit. If your experience is anything like ours, you’ll never dream of going back.

Try it, and let us know how it goes. 

Done > Perfect

Things have been busy over here at the FitzGerald household. Not only are we working hard to build up resources for all you killer creators, but on Sunday, we’re throwing the fourth Rebel Art Fest, our very own art and music festival! 

A few years ago, we saw a gap in our local community. There were tons of great artists who were a little outside of the “mainstream.” Artists whose work was a little too out there or too outsider or too niche or too punk rock for the mainstream audience, so they often got overlooked at other art shows and music festivals. But that didn’t mean they were any less deserving of celebration.

Then we had a funny thought…

What if we just organized our own festival for them?⠀⠀

We filed a street closure permit with the city, called some artist and musician friends, and just did the damn thing. We put a tent in our parking lot and borrowed a sound system from a friend. We lined up artists on the sidewalk outside of our shop.⠀⠀

And people actually came.⠀⠀

Now, Rebel Art Fest takes place at a big park in town in cooperation with the South Bend Parks Department. And in all honesty, that’s exactly where we originally hoped the festival would end up. But we had to be okay with a rinky dinky block party for a couple years. 


Here’s the irony…

If we would have waited until everything was perfect to throw our festival, we might not have ever gotten the chance to move it to the park in the first place.⠀⠀

If we waited until we had more sponsors or more artists or if we were able to secure the park as a location, we might still be waiting to throw the first Rebel Art Fest. But because we had the guts to put it out there in the first place, we were able to get the name out there. We were able to get a buzz going. We were able to get people talking about this super rad festival that you absolutely cannot miss.

And as luck would have it, one of the guys who came out to that first parking lot festival would later become Parks Director. And when he was looking for really great events to highlight as part of South Bend’s Best. Week. Ever. showcase, he remembered our little festival and gave us a call.

Things don’t have to be perfect to be effective. Often, it’s better to just do the thing first, then wait to perfect it later on. 

Done is better than perfect.

And it’s the first step to the future you want.

What big dream or goal are you chasing? Are you waiting for things to be perfect? Are you waiting for someone to give you permission? Our advice is don’t wait any longer. Make a plan and take some action. You can always improve as you go. So get excited and get it 


And if you’re in South Bend on Sunday, June 2, stop by Rebel Art Fest to see what we started before it was perfect and see how it’s grown! It’s going to be rad. Seriously.

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