Hello Etsy Recap: "Fear, Working With It" by Michael Carroll

Forgive my last post, readers. I think it was disjointed.

However, I also think that particular HelloEtsy presentation, which was about reimagining work, was disjointed as well. Where as the other presenters all worked well within context, I'm still not sure how well those three presenters jived.  Again, it could be my feeling toward the presenters, which I'm sure came across in my covering of them, but as I sat down to draft this post, I realized that I should have written about the second presenter, Rasanath Dasa, who talked about his experience leaving Wall Street to become a monk and the idea of letting down your mask, in today's post.  Rasanath jives well with Michael Carroll, the man who not only had an entire room of 200 people close their eyes and meditate for a few minutes, but sat in a single chair on a dimly lit stage and told stories.  If you can't already guess, I loved him!

Michael Carroll is a mindfulness teacher and author, who once was an executive at Shearson Lehman/American Express, Simon & Schuster, and The Walt Disney Company.  He is now a consultant and coach whose client list includes Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks, Unilever, and the National Board of Medical Examiners. His goal is to help individuals explore embracing their fears and using them to their advantage. Oh, and meditation.  Heavy, right?  Yeah!

I was a few minutes late to Michael's presentation, but as I walked in and sat down, I walked into a story about a missing cat that took residence under the barn behind his house.  He told us about the family that was looking for the cat and how he called to tell them, your cat is hiding out under my barn. When the family arrived to claim the cat, the cat would not come out. He stayed rooted to the spot even as the father offered food, and the little girl cried, and the mother demanded that the father trying different approaches.  Finally, after a bit of time, the family gave up. They were moving and the cat was not budging, so they left.  Michael says that he never bothered the cat, but instead allowed the cat free reign and now, when he sees the cat around the yard, he seems more confident and sure of himself. He's more aligned with his feline ways and is out frolicking as he was meant to frolic.

I remember laughing at that story.  I've known some lazy domesticated cats, yet, they do still enjoy hunting birds and other animals at moments so there is something instinctual to being wild.  I suppose more importantly, what I enjoyed about this story is the symbolism of the cat wanting to be free and actively seeking freedom in a way that made him turn away from security and chase the wild unknown.  Sounded a lot like me last October when I got on a plane and flew to Japan to study paper making.

Having studied Buddhism (he started studying Buddhism in 1976, graduated from Buddhist seminary in 1982) and meditation for many years now, his teaching of mindfulness as a leader makes sense.  Meditation after all is the art of being present. Of understanding yourself in all the chaos going around.  That mindfulness can avoid messy conflicts in all arenas, but especially in what we create ourselves when we focus on our fears and limitations.  That is what Michael focused on as he continued his presentation - fear and how to work with fear.  

Now, a little about me and why this presentation made my heart happy, and made me want to meet and talk with Michael the next morning. Last year, I got on a plane to Japan. I knew the over all plan, but I didn't know the full plan. I knew I didn't know Japanese, but I knew that wasn't going to stop me. I knew I had a certain amount of money and so I'd have to work within those boundaries. I knew one friend in the entire country and he lived in Tokyo, and I was traveling hours, and hours away.  When I boarded my plane for my first stop on my trip, Istanbul, I cried for most of the trip. Until I fell asleep. My cousin had written a card to me that said something along the lines of, "you're one of the bravest people I know. I don't think I could do this." That only made me cry more. I was essentially stepping out into the unknown world. I had absolutely no expectations aside from learning paper, some fear, but I got the education of a lifetime and that includes, accepting my fear and moving forward with it by my side.

Now, back to Michael's presentation...

He stated boldly, "Artificiality is powerful, and we are being spoon fed it daily."  Artificiality is a form of fear. It's the idea that you have to put on a mask (thanks Rasanath!) to confront the World; to protect yourself.  If you think about it, America projects this idea of fear, time and time again.  In order to get away from this, you have to understand the principles of fearlessness, which are the following:

  • Just appearing as a human being has fundamental presence to it;
  • Vulnerability is the essence of being human; it is seen as a weakness, but it is not - to the fearless mind, vulnerability is power. 

That's it!

He cited examples that included Karate. In Karate, you're not intimidated by your circumstances, you're aware of them and because of that, you know how to react.  This is confidence at its core.

Confidence has an openness to it. 

When you meditate, you're allowing openness. When you practice mindfulness as a leader, which is the name of his book, by the way, "The Mindful Leader."

To work with a fearless mind, we have to work with the mind we have. Working with our mind, that is given to a whole host of chemicals running through our bodies (endorphins, anyone?!), emotional reactions, untrue thoughts, etc. The reason meditation works for many is because it focuses you to stop focusing on these million thoughts running through your brain. It gives you pause for how ever long you practice, even five minutes can change your day dramatically (if you can't tell, I practice meditation on a some what regular basis), and how you react to these running thoughts. 

According to Michael, humans spend our time thinking on experience rather than having it. In fact, 80% of the time, what we are thinking about is more distressful than it really is.  We keep trying to get reassurance in a world with no guarantees for the painful experiences we have yet to, but will, have.

As he began to wrap up his presentation, he discussed how we all want to get somewhere and usually fast. He also mentioned that when we do get to where we think we're going, we want to be someone else. This blind spot is intense and it creates an enormous amount of suffering of us as individuals.  In doing this, we overlook how simply being here is who we are. It doesn't make us boring to be who we are. Being boring is healthy; it helps heal our souls after being out in the chaos of the ever changing and rapid World we live in. 

How does this all impact you and your Etsy shop?

For starters, it means you now have the freedom to be YOU. In fact, someone visiting your shop, wants to buy from YOU, not Gap, not Anthropologie, not Pier 1, not Walmart. They want YOU. 

I have a great example of someone being themselves and selling on Etsy. Her name is Lauren Falk and she sells some great quality, funky leather handbags and accessories under the brand LolaFalk Designs.  Last week, she sent out an email to her fan base that as soon as I opened it, I thought, "Damn! Lauren nailed this blast to a T!" In the email, she paired outfits and events with her handbags and accessories.  Lauren is a dear, dear friend of mine and the outfits, the events, the handbags all screamed Lauren. They showcased her particular style and confidence. I already own a leather wallet by LolaFalk, but it made me want to shop and buy not just her products, but some of the products she had matched up. That white/grayish zipped up at an angle coat/sweater thing is a dream!  I think you can get where I'm coming from here...BE YOURSELF. It'll shine through and attract the right customers.

The other way this helps is in the way you handle all the situations that turn sour in your daily business operation: the irate customers, the ones who don't pay, the missing shipment, or whatever else. If you take five minutes, (I swear five minutes works!), and start channeling your being here, your presence in this moment, you'll be able to handle the situation much better. 

Finally, in bringing this back to fear and how to work with it, if we can train ourselves to be present, to be mindful, in every thing we do through the day, we can tackle fear. We can say, "hey fear, I see ya, and I love you, and I'm glad you're here for the ride." When you face that irate customer, you can choose instead of being defensive, to be vulnerable. When you're upset because your package went missing and you lost revenue, you can choose to be vulnerable in how you approach the postman, or the Fedex employee on the phone.  By being mindful of your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them, including the fear, you can take that breath and choose to see the situation head on and find a mindful resolution without giving into the chaos. I guarantee, your business will be better for it, not to mention you and it will have a ripple effect on those you're dealing with in that present moment. 

If you're wondering how to meditate, well, I can give you some notes, but honestly, I suggest you do some reading and experimenting and maybe even find a class, or something along those lines.  Here is how I meditate:

1. Sit in the morning or afternoon in "your space." (If you're in the middle of the day, find a quite space, or maybe step outside.) Keep your back straight, let your head fall and let your head fall forward. I have pillows and a blanket set up in a small area of my apartment, by the window.

2. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel the breath pull all the way down and then release it.

3. Your brain will start racing a mile a minute not sure what you're doing, but try as hard as you can to not pay attention. This takes practice, a lot of practice.  I tend to focus on my breathing when my mind starts trying to take over and win.

4. When just starting, sit for as long as you can. Eventually, as you build up your practice, five minutes will turn into 10 and then 20 and on and on.

5. When you finish, say thank you. You are now present.

Oh and below, is a talk Michael Carroll did a few years ago after his book was released. It's interesting and will give you a voice to the name, as well as perspective directly from him, not just me.

If you have any thoughts on meditation and this topic, you know the deal, share below. I'd love to hear how you practice mindfulness, or intend to practice mindfulness after reading this post.   And Remember, practice mindfulness as we get into the whirl of the Holiday season. Even the Grinch, learned to be present...Until next time friends!

//Sara Stroman

S2 Stationery & Design

Hello Etsy Recap - "Getting to Curious" with Dr. LeeAnne Renninger

Hi Readers!

It dawned on me this morning as I was prepping myself for this article that if I don't start writing more, or covering more topics in one article, Hello Etsy 2014 will be here and I'll be behind.  Scary thought! I'm going to do some planning on how else to cover Hello Etsy 2013 so that when next year's event comes, we can review it quickly and I can share thoughts on other topics.

With that said, I want to cover Dr. LeeAnne Renninger's, Founder of LifeLabs New York, presentation on "Tools for Sustainable Enthusiasm that Saturday afternoon.  After listening to endless economists talk about our unsustainable economy, Dr. LeeAnne Renninger got on stage and told a story about her own path to finding curiosity and how it led to her work and founding of LifeLabs New York.

A brief summary of her story: as a child, her parents were building a house and she would have to go to the construction site and help/watch. One day out of frustration and boredom, she took a black marker and wrote on one of the walls, "This is boring," or something like that. She knew that her parents were going to be angry and was anxious about what would happen. The next day, when she went back to the site, she found a message (using her message) from her father that said, "only boring children are boring."  This message led her to curiosity, and the idea of sustainable enthusiasm, which was her message for us Etsy sellers, but also our culture. 

This session was interactive. We were given a handout that we each filled out during breakout points in the hour and a half we had with Dr. Renninger.  Her goal was to leave us with a series of exercises we could continue to use to help us when we're stuck, in difficult situations, want/need to capture attention and inspire people (including ourselves) to action.

When we weren't thinking about memories and filling out our handout, we discussed what makes entrepreneurship hard and what makes it great.  This led us to a tool that I need to remember to use in my every day life - the 20 Questions Technique.  It goes something like this - when you are frustrated, stick, annoyed, uncertain, get yourself to curious by asking 20 questions about whatever your thinking about in three minutes.  This will help you see things from a different perspective.  During the session, the 20 questions technique was about a pen.  A partner and I had to ask 20 different questions about the pen. After the three minutes were up, she went around and asked what kinds of questions we had come up with and there were some great ones like, "how many times has this pen been chewed on?" or "where was this pen made?" or "how many different people have used this pen?" 

I know,  you're thinking, um isn't that hard if you're thinking about an ex-customer? But the reality is, it isn't. Think about a customer that is really driving you nutty. When you're trying to figure out how to handle the customer and the situation, if you sit down and ask yourself 20 questions, you might come up with questions like, "is this customer overwhelmed?" or "did this customer have a bad commute to work this morning?" or "did this customer have her cup of coffee or tea before sitting down to discuss this?"  When you take time to consider things like this, you have more empathy and can handle the situation in a completely different way than you might, if you didn't sit down to consider otherwise.

This technique also leads us to the idea that we're responsible for our own engagement, while increasing resilience, helps our health, and leaves people thinking we're smart. Awesome! 

Even more importantly though, it leaves to wonderment and surprise. That's where Etsy comes in.  Etsy is a delight machine! And no surprise, but surprise and delight are interconnected.  It leads to happiness and authentic happiness is different than contentment. A way to think about this is to think about large companies you purchase from:  Do they surprise you? Do you leave delighted?  When you place an order, or shop in a store, do you feel delighted?  Now think about being an Etsy shopper and answer those questions. How are they different? How are they the same?

When I buy from Etsy, one of my favorite things to think about is getting the package. Unlike any other online store that I buy from, I am always excited for an Etsy package. I can't wait to see how the seller wrapped the items, if they added any freebies, if they included a note of thanks. And I always get excited for how I may be inspired by those things, too!  That's what makes surprise delightful, it brings you back to the present moment. It is like Christmas morning when you're five years old all over again.

As Etsy sellers we can continue to do this. We can continue to fix the broken economy and market place by finding curiosity in ourselves and using that to delight and surprise our customers, fans, and community.

Now, in addition to the 20 Question Technique that I mentioned above, Dr. Renninger also discussed progress tracking as a way to build and sustain goals for surprise.  Something to keep in mind while progress tracking is that your goals should be

SMART - Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, and Time Bound. 

Don't just track to track. Track for a reason. Track to remain curious and in the moment. Track to find another way.

Tracking our progress also refuels enthusiasm.

One way to go about this is to write down one thing every day whether good or bad and your mood at the time. This is a great way to notice trends over time.

We'll start to notice the small things and how they keep adding up over time and how it adds to our over all happiness. 

The funny thing about writing this post is that it made me happy to share this session. I didn't do anything more than take my notes and add some flair, and yet, I feel more in the moment than I would have as I slogged myself together to go to work. So yeah, Dr. Renninger's message lives on!  I hope you find it inspiring and that if you take her approach to ask 20 questions to find curiosity that you'll share your experience with us below.  I would LOVE to hear how your getting/finding curious has led you to a different approach or path.

Until next time...

Hello Etsy Recap: The USA Owes $12 Trillion Dollars, or “The Fragile Economy” with Alex Blumberg

I still can’t believe I’m recapping the first session on Saturday, March 22, 2013 at Hello Etsy. It seems even more surreal that I write this on August 1st, almost 4.5 months later. I may be recapping Hello Etsy 2013 until the next event. I’ll try, for your sake, to not drag it on that long.

In our last recap, we discussed an animal researcher’s take on economics. Dr. Laurie Santos showed us how emotions and logic come together and are both similar and different when our closest animal relatives handle money. Her presentation was interesting, funny at times, and enlightening on how money can change everything we think we know.

It was a great segue to the next segment in that session titled “The Fragile Economy” by financial journalist and producer, Alex Blumberg, host of NPR’s Planet Money, hit the audience with some harsh realities with data he’s collected while spending his career investigating the myriad of pieces and processes that comprise our economy.

More so, he made this gal, who used to rely so heavily on credit cards, see the economic world in a completely different way.

I apologize for the bad Instagram photo here. But this was Alex Blumberg with an IOU from the US Government to China. Hilarious!

Did you know that the USA owes $12 trillion to the rest of the World? Don’t worry. I didn’t know that either. I knew we were in massive amounts of debt thanks to media reports, but I had no idea it was that large.

Did you know that $4 trillion is owed to retirees through Social Security? Yep, another issue I was aware of, but didn’t realize the largeness of that one either.

Did you know that we’re at 100% GDP right now? SCARY! Even scarier – In 20 years more money will be going out to people retired instead of more money coming in to build the reserve. Meaning that going forward, money is going to be added to the deficit.

Mr. Blumberg then went on to discuss the situation with saving, lending, and credit cards. This, readers, is where my heart skipped a beat and I felt a twinge guilty. In fact, I want to apologize to all of you who have helped me in my past years live a lifestyle of overabundance that I couldn’t afford. I am so sorry.

And believe me when I say that I am working on correcting the situation and paying you all back for your help. At this point, Mr. Blumberg said that we are always lending our money. Our savings are not our savings; they in fact become money that is lent to other people therefore making the fragile economy. Yup!

In other words, we are all part of this gigantic game of saving and lending. Credit cards are a great example of this. Credit cards allow people to overspend. When someone who has saved their money issues credit card spenders money to borrow so they can buy something they can’t afford.

This is why I just apologized earlier. That was a sincere apology because I had no idea when I was 18 and signed up for credit cards to help the George Washington University’s Softball league raise money for their team, that all the money I charged on them was really money borrowed from someone else. Never crossed my mind.

And then he gave the following bomb, at least I thought it was a bomb: Any time you borrow money, you are speculating. What we need is true speculation, not fake speculation. True speculation involves a more realistic understanding of our economics, both on a large scale (Country and World) and a personal level (bank accounts, wallets, savings accounts, and retirement funds).

As he continued, he discussed how all of this has created a lull that people have fallen into that the wealth in the World is a safe - that our economy is safe, but all the wealth that we see if in fact fake. We create and place the societal value of wealth and right now, we cannot continue in this way if we’re going to fix the economy.

Another way of considering this is, confirmation biases are dangerous and they are one of the most dangerous practices out there.” Pretty much the culture we find ourselves in is one of the most dangerous. SCARY!

Okay, so enough of the scary talk. How do we change this?  Well Mr. Bumberg already told us we need to change our speculation, but that’s not an easy thing to do.

As I’ve considered this, I’ve thought a lot about an old argument I used to have with a friend when I got involved in environmentalism years ago. We would go back and forth on the idea of capitalism and stuff and she would always end up saying, “Sara, you have no right to tell people in poorer countries who are just starting to thrive that they can not have what you’ve had because of the environment. It’s not fair.”

I would always pause and fight back with, “Yes, but what if we made stuff less cool? What if it didn’t become this “keeping up with the joneses” mentality and where we could collectively decide that for the sake of humanity and animals and the planet, we don’t make and sell garbage and instead focus on the necessities and things that are of quality and make people feel good, instead of cheap labored clothing and shoes and phones that only has one goal and that is money?”

I think about this because it’s essentially the Etsy global market place. It is the idea that we can shape the economy and make deep impressions with goods that promote engagement and connection between two individuals, the customer and the maker.

It is largely based on appreciation and the moment, not the future, and not on borrowed terms or money.

When I look at this as an artist and maker, I am aware that my invitations may cost a small fortune for some, but the value behind them is great. I spend hours working on an entire order, from the minute I exchange an email with the customer to the finale, which can be via mail, or in-person, drop off.

In many cases, I believe that my customers are my friends. As a matter of fact, a customer I am finishing up a custom order with offered me a table, she and her fiancé no longer need, because I recently moved into an apartment with no furniture; an amazing exchange of kindness and an act of friendship.

More importantly, I see the transaction as representation of combined art. While I get paid for my time, as any artist should, I feel wealthier for the experience – at knowing that my work is going out into the world with love and happiness and that that will inspire and maybe even cheer up someone out there. That to me is wealth and because of that, I look at my materials and how they are made (spurred me to go to Japan to learn paper making, but more on that at a later date), I look at my impact on printing, I look for alternatives for glue, etc.

I’m not saying we should all be this way, but I am saying that if we look at our work, motivations, and our desire to change the economy and how the current economy operates, we can start with our own money habits and in our business habits, too.

This is largely why, I have stopped using credit cards and why I’m more inclined to stash my cash in a box under my bed (okay, I’m not doing that yet, but I’ve considered it on several occasions).

It is also why I am trying to figure out how best to understand my understanding of my own economic status and how that will affect the greater economic fabric. That is how I believe we can change the conversation on the economy. Instead of pointing fingers, I say we apologize to each other for taking way too many risks and get to the heart of what we value as entrepreneurs, makers, business owners, motivators, customers, workers, and as a global community.

Seems idealistic, but maybe that will help us see the enormity of 12 trillion dollars and own up to finding a solution. Call me an idealist, but I believe the not-so-secret recipe in fixing most problems is ¼ cup self-reflection+ ¼ cup self-awareness + ½ cup working with others for the greater good.

If you’ve got any other recipes you’d like me to consider, or share, please put them below. Mr. Blumberg’s presentation really got to me and I’d love to read/hear your thoughts.

Next time, we’ll recap session two. We're getting there, friends!


S2 Stationery and Design // Sara S2 Stationery and Design

Hello Etsy Recap: "Overcoming Your Monkey Mind" by Dr. Laurie Santos - Really!

In my last recap of Hello Etsy, we discussed the very inspiring and urgent economic presentation of Stewart Wallis of the New Economics Foundation.  After his 30-minute discussion, he was followed by Dr. Laurie Santos, Director of Comparative Cognition Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University.  Dr. Santos studies why humans repeatedly make the same irrational decisions.

Dr. Santos started the presentation by sharing her reasons for exploring this topic:

  • Origins that make people tick
  • Understand history
  • Understand our constraints

or put in another way, "If you put animals in the same situations as humans, would they make the same things over and over?" 

Using our closest animal counterparts, she conducts research on monkeys to see how their behavior and our own irrational behavior are linked.  Using recent examples such as the financial collapse, climate change, and other global issues we have faced in the last five years and are still facing, she shared with us that while research shows that while monkeys do make many of the same economic decision biases as humans, humans do have some that are totally unique to us.    

Below is a video of a TED talk that Dr. Santos gave three years ago, back in July 2010 that discusses her study of the monkeys with money that they introduced to them for them to use to purchase food at a market.  At around the 7:05 mark in the video, she shares a clip of research in action. When she shared the clip with the attendees, we erupted in laughter, but mostly out of understanding.  Money can bring out the worst in us as well as monkeys, even though they had never had such exposure.

Our key difference is how we share.  We have been sharing what is in our heads for sharings sake forever and no other animal does this. As an example, she mentioned the story of William Henry Fox Talbotthe British inventor known for inventing the photographic negative.

He invented his tool because of a scene he attempted to replicate via pencil and paper while on his honeymoon. His dislike of his sketch led him to develop what became the photographic negative and gave way to what we know as photography.  This need to share and create is what generates new technologies, like Etsy, Facebook, or even Instagram as a way to spontaneously share.

Dr. Santos comes to the conclusion that while we are different, what links us similarly is genetic evolution. The reason that our monkey counterparts master the art of using money and make the same mistakes that we do, even with little training is really a part of how we evolved.  And this means that it is really hard to overcome, which is why we react more risky when we're faced with our biases.

At this point she mentioned climate change by way of saying it is why even though our summers are getting hotter, our ice is melting, our natural disasters are more, we don't believe or do anything about it because it's relative. It is happening, but it's not happening to us. Our biases are different because we're not experiencing loss aversion (which we hate!), directly. Climate change for many is not like watching our stock market crash or having your checking account in the red, and therefore we can avoid it and put it off for the future.

The positive in all of this, is that we are changeable creatures. We are incredibly inspirational and like William Henry Fox Talbot, our need to share and trust, even with making the same mistakes again and again and again, allows us to find ways to break from our biases and do good things. 

I know you're wondering how does this have anything to do with Etsy? 

The answer is simple - we have still a long way to go to evolve, but at this point, and with tools like Etsy, we are connecting in good (and bad) ways unlike ever before and we can continue to create goods, technologies, and share our stories and experiences as a means to inspire those to come.  Etsy is doing that, and you are too, as part of the global Etsy community.

Writing this post today made me remember my own financial promises to myself during her presentation. It was easy to listen to her and think of the wealthy that have lost money, but I could see where my own biases come into play and how on a daily basis I make decisions that are risky when I shouldn't.  It's all about perspective after all. I wish you all better choices, continued evolution, and greater sharing with those you know and love.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Dr. Santo's thought provoking research.  Until next time!

Hello Etsy Recap: "Good Jobs, Good Business, & Good Markets" - Good Economics According to Stewart Wallis

Stewart Wallis, Executive Director of the New Economics Foundation, and a jovial Brit, was one of three 30-minute presentations in the first opening session on Saturday, March 23rd, titled  "Reimagining Economy."  Mr. Wallis's presentation was the first of the three panelists and was not just a great intro to the day, but a great follow-up to Mr. Rifkin's keynote address the night before. In other words, anyone who may have been lost in Mr. Rifkin's session the previous night, got a lot more clarity the next morning thanks to Mr. Wallis.

Now, he talked more than just economics. He talked about environmental concerns, climate change, and the impact we have on these through the current state of our economics.  So lets get the economics over with. I don't think you really want me to go on and on about economics (I should note, I didn't do too well in my college economics class, but that's because I was tired and had no clue I would be in the business world to the extent that I am now. Age and wisdom is an amazing thing, no?), especially when Hello Etsy covered a great mix of topics and I'm itching to share those with you, too!

Stewart Wallis's main presentation was on what he calls, "the four U's" that are interlinked and causing systemic problems in our economies:

Unsustainable, Unstable, Unfair, and Unhappy.  As any good Economist, he threw out the following data to back up these U's:

  • We've been on the planet for 175,000 years;
  • In 1975 we were using what the planet had to offer. Now, we've exceeded it by 50%;
  • Over the last 23 years, 80% of real new income created in USA went to the top 1%;
  • Top 400 Americans have more wealth than bottom 155 million Americans;

Daunting to think about isn't it to read this?  I mean, how is it possible that 400 Americans have more wealth than 155 million Americans?! (Readers outside of the US, I am sorry to be honing in on America's problems, especially when we can look all over the world and see employment and economic concerns for humanity as a whole.)  Even more so, how is it that we've exceeded the Planet's offerings by 50% in 38 years?

Mr. Wallis went on to say that we've moved beyond "trickle down economics." No longer is it feasible to even consider the idea that tax breaks of other economic benefits provided by the US government to businesses and the wealthy, will improve the economy, or benefit the poorer members of society.  The reason why we've moved beyond this is according to Mr. Wallis because economics doesn't recognize resilience, not to mention the way it is currently being practiced is morally and ethically corrupt. To drive it further, he said, "currently, markets are considered a religion and that's bad!" Amen!

He went on to explain that everyone should have a living wage and that corporations, if you work for one, should be providing that.  Instead, we live in a society where salaries reflect scarcity and scarcity creates over consumption and lack of opportunity in everything (education, medical care, food, and money).  If you've ever watched a show about obsessive couponers or hoarders, you know what I'm talking about. It's why Walmart and Dollar stores do so well.  When people believe that things are scarce, their actions mimic that belief.

These beliefs and actions are what is spinning our commodity driven world to chaos and why we now, have exceeded the limitations of the planet in the last 38 years.  It is why our oceans are with dangerously low levels of fish, polar bears are dying in the Arctic, bee populations are dying, and we, humans, are besieged with medical problems. Our systems are polluted thanks to our actions.

Etsy sellers and buyers are changing this, though. The Internet is helping to change this. Think about the shift we are part of, that is helping give back that sense of value to others.

So how do we change all of this? 

According to Mr. Wallis change comes in three ways. The first being, the critical challenge of -

"how do we provide enough good jobs while remaining within planetary limits?"- the remaining two fold into this challenge. 

The answers to his critical challenge are many, but fairly simple:

  1. Shift in values - we must become stewards not consumers
  2. Shift in goals
  3. Shift in measurement
  4. Strong local economies
  5. Replenishing and enhancing natural capital
  6. Public service reform
  7. Strategic Governance
  8. Banking Reform (Markets as servants, power in markets, and tackling inequality)

All of these can be answered in how we see work. If you work for a company, that becomes how you are treated by that company. If you own your own business, that becomes how you treat yourself, your customers and business partners, and should you have any, employees.  This also means how you see your own relationship with money and the economy.   Mr. Wallis's list of what makes a good company, good includes the following:

  • Maximize returns to scarce ecological resource
  • Good job creation as a goal
  • Employees are seen as an asset and equity holders, not costs
  • Value of company is reflective of value created or destroyed

As for the changes necessary for the long term, to save the Planet, to get us back within planetary limitations, and to save ourselves, our values, and our happiness, we need to demand the following:

  • Countering Short termism
  • Changes to taxes and incentives
  • One bottom line that includes social and environmental as well as economic
  • Structure and diversity changes
  • Banking and finance reform

What is your part in making these changes?  You can begin by paying attention to you:

  • Your work
  • Your lives and communities
  • What you buy
  • What you demand

With those four points, Mr. Wallis ended with saying, CREATE A MOMENT OF CHANGE!

This may seem impossible, but it isn't. He's absolutely right! We can create a moment of change within our own world which will impact all those that we come into contact with, do business with, and share our products with (if you are an Etsy seller, or a buyer of Etsy sellers).  These actions will inspire others and before you know it, we're all humming a similar tune, a tune of change.

While doing research for this post, I came across a recent (today!) TEDxExeter talk that Mr. Wallis did much like his presentation at Hello Etsy.  I highly recommend you watch it, especially if you're interested in hear more than reading bullet points.

Next month, I'll cover another presenter from Hello Etsy. Until then, I hope you'll join me in becoming a steward!

As always, if you have any comments, or suggestions, leave them below.  Lets do this!

Hello Etsy: An Introduction to The Third Industrial Revolution and the Urgency of Jeremy Rifkin

Dear Readers,

Remember, how I promised to cover every session at Hello Etsy? Well, this month I'm going to share the opening Keynote presentation by Jeremy Rifkin, a man of many hats. He is an adviser to the European Union and to heads around the world, a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., and author of The New York Times best selling book, The Third Industrial Revolution, How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.

Friday night, March 22nd, the Main Hall at Pratt Institute was a buzz. Everyone in attendance was focused on the Keynote presentations opening this year's Hello Etsy.  Beginning with a warm welcome from the organizing Etsy Values and Impact Team, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, offered an inspiring presentation that included comments on his decision to take five weeks of paternity leave after bringing home his son.  I could spend more time on Chad's presentation including his mention of the 1936 film "Modern Times" by Charlie Chaplin (video clip is below) and the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi, "Production by the masses, not mass production," but I will not. Instead, I will focus on Jeremy Rifkin, who came on after, and who Chad did a great job of setting the stage for what was to come that weekend.

Mr. Rifkin from the beginning was a breath of honest air. Many, those who don't believe in climate change, that our government needs a shake up, or who believe that our economy is on the mend, would disagree with what he would go on to say, but I sat glued to my seat and experienced a range of feelings- troubled, scared, agreement, and hope. Over all, I felt a hope that the two hundred people sitting in that room would feel the urgency of Mr. Rifkin's message and turn that into inspiration to do more.

The first thing Mr. Rifkin said to the Hall was, "Everything in our current civilization is reliant on petrochemical (fossil fuels)." Not surprising to me given the time I've spent working with a large corporation on business interested heavily linked to petrochemicals, but for many others this may be a surprise.  According to data he shared, crude oil production peaked in 1979 and 2006. We had the most oil per capita in those two years.  However, with the Great Recession of 2008, things are different. According to Mr. Rifkin, two moments proving that the world we rely on fossil fuel is ending:

  1. July 2008, when the prices of everything increased
  2. The Great Sichuan Earthquake which resulted in the fall of the Stock Market

Not only are these statistics important to his presentation, but I think they give another perspective to those of you following current issues being battled by environmental groups in the US, Canada and even Europe - tar sands and fracking.

As he went on, he touched on climate change and what he considers the most terrifying piece of the topic-the water cycle. According to research, every one degree rise in temperature creates more moisture in the air. This leads to more destructive hurricanes and natural disasters (last year's Hurricane Sandy l, or this week's Oklahoma tornado, anyone?) that impact us all on a global scale.

After sharing these terrifying statistics and with full-on urgency in his voice, Mr. Rifkin turned to us and said, "what we need is a new economic plan for this world. It needs to move quickly to off-set carbon in 30 years, if we want hope."

He then went into discussing the Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) - a lateral power shift -favoring small business and the World.  In discussing how we need a lateral power shift to really create change, he used examples underway in the European Union currently. The EU is undergoing what they call the "disruptive revolution" focusing on the use of distributive energies such as wind, heat, sun, and waves. Where instead of relying on fossil fuels, we look to these new energies as a way of producing what we need, but also being able to store and share these energies with others on a more global scale.

He did mention how Etsy is allowing us small business owners to be part of this lateral power shift. Rather than selling through middlemen and relying on traditional business methods and practices, the use of the internet and sites like Etsy, have allowed us to directly target our market and share our products (that are often times not as energy dependent as goods created in a large scale factory) with those who want and value them.  Even greater, is that we're not just limited to goods, we're using this power to educate, and we're winning what might seem like a small battle, but is actually a much larger concern.

In line with this topic of a lateral power shift, Mr. Rifkin stated the following, "In the next 20 years, failure will have everything to do with energy costs, not labor costs." 

We need to focus on renewable energies in order to move the TIR forward. While there are parties actively creating and looking to the disruptive energies listed above, there aren't enough.  Not to mention the EU can not be the only government entity looking to move ahead with these ideas.

I'm not sure that any of us Etsy sellers will be creating renewable energies, but we are part of the class of entrepreneurs in this new revolution, and if we are going to help create a shift in consciousness within the next 25 years, as Mr. Rifkin asked us to, then we need to start thinking about this and our role in how to bring more change and responsibility into our businesses.  Then use that as a means to change the political spectrum. We can use our muscle to demand sustainable practices and better energy systems the same way that large corporations and their lobbyists demand and promote unfair and bad business practices.

These same large corporations now, they are all eagerly publishing catalogs on the "socially good" programs they are creating and money they donate philanthropically, but we need to see more change. Unlike those large companies, we small businesses can make these goals part of our mission statements and part of our every day habits and really mean them.  I'm not criticizing these large corporations too much. I know I've helped keep them going, but as a small business owner and an environmentalist who cares about my impact on the World, I need to be aware and make necessary steps to keep my business aligned with my beliefs.

I could spend pages on his presentation, but I am limited here and I don't want to overwhelm you with too much more.  Before Hello Etsy, we received an email that included an article by Mr. Rifkin in the World Financial Review on March 20, 2012, titled, "The Third Industrial Revolution: How the Internet, Green Electricity, and 3-D Printing are Ushering in a Sustainable Era of Distributed Capitalism." 

It is heavy on economic terms and he discusses 3-D printers, which I didn't even touch upon, but I think it's a great way to learn more about Mr. Rifkin and what he believes needs to happen if we are to shift consciously and save the planet. 

What do YOU think, readers? Do you think we can help shift the global conscious? Is there something you can do to help move the TIR? Or better yet, just change one thing in your business to help? Let me know below in the comments. I'm always interested in the what I can learn from all of you.  

As for Mr. Rifkin, I don't know if he'll come across this posting, but if he does, Thank you Mr. Rifkin for your overwhelming and educational presentation. I am still thinking about it! 

More on Hello Etsy to come!

"It Starts With You..." - Initial Thoughts On The 2013 Hello Etsy Conference

Hi Readers! It's been quite a while since you've heard from me. I'll get into the why I've been absent at a later time (aka future posts), but for now, I want to come back to the Etsy New York Team Blog with thoughts on the most recent Hello Etsy conference held at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York the weekend of March 22-24, 2013.

Image by Etsy

Two years ago, I covered the first Hello Etsy New York Event. I shared what I thought were the key tips from one session. This time around, I need to put out a full series of posts because the weekend in it's entirety was mind blowing!

This year's Hello Etsy conference was completely different from the first one I attended. Two year's ago it was a smaller spin off of the huge event held in Berlin, Germany. I can't write about the Berlin event, but I can tell you that where as there were maybe 40 of us in the Etsy Labs that September day, there were now hundreds of us walking across the campus of Pratt Institute.  The speakers at the event two years ago were interesting, large personalities from local communities across America, and they were a great way to introduce the concept of sustainability to "Etsypreneurs."   The line up of speakers alone at the 2013 Conference shows just how different of a ball game Hello Etsy has become and will continue to evolve as Etsy takes it's shift into a socially aware and responsible company serious.

Last year, I reflected on Etsy's announcement of becoming a certified B-Corp on this blog and talked about what it means for Etsypreneurs.  I talked about how great it was to see Etsy moving in this direction. To be quite honest, it brought me to tears. My business lives because of the hope of Etsy. My world depends on a clean and healthy environment. If Etsy is going to pave that path that I'm walking for me, then I'm going to walk along it and help them as much as I can.  Which is why two years later, even though I wasn't overwhelming impressed with the first Hello Etsy Conference in 2011, I spent $85 on a ticket as soon as the event was announced.

I talked to quite a few different people at the conference and was amazed by the assortment of people in attendance. There were Pratt design students, Etsy staff, team members from Etsy New York, and then a whole host of different level Etsy sellers. I was a bit shocked at first by the amount of new sellers that were hoping to learn something new for the event. Then I realized that while they may not get what they were hoping for, they'd get something a bit different, and hopefully eye opening to starting their business.

For those of you who don't know, I spent almost five years working in a corporate communications department that focused on environmental/sustainable/corporate social responsibility (CSR) and I learned a lot. It is why I laid down the foundation of environmental friendliness, concern, social giving and education at the beginning of my business dreaming and planning.  It is why I love that Etsy is taking the steps to share this path with all of their community, not just the sellers, but the buyers, the government (have you seen how Etsy has teamed up with the entire town and Mayor of Rockland, Illinois on craft entrepreneurship?), leaders in the environmental, technical, and social change worlds.

There is a firm, but fine line between setting up a business from the beginning with deeply rooted mission for change and responsibility, not just socially and environmentally, but on good business practices such as ethics and morals, and a business that does it after the fact. Yes, it is better to be "in" than to be out, but you have a much harder time understanding your focus if you switch it years down the line. Not to mention, you have to then prove and become credible to your followers, fans, and customers once the change takes place.

Now, I'm not saying this is improbable, because it isn't, but it takes a lot of commitment and hard work. No matter how many good intentions we have, in order to change our communities and even our own ideas and practices, we have to walk the walk-we have to take actions that lead the way and show others that it is possible and that there is hope. 

That is the key to what I took from this year's Hello Etsy conference: "It starts with you and it starts small, but from those small steps anything is possible and will happen."

Everyone who got on the stage to present gushed about Etsy. They talked about all the great things about Etsy and how they see it as one of the greatest tools of change that's come about in the last few years.

You are part of that.

They mentioned how we're now able to laterally connect and share our work and make livings that have nothing to do with the current business structure, but have everything to do with our humanness and the connections we build and create together.  They are absolutely correct. When I think about some of the sales I've made to people as far as Australia, I am floored that my little box, that I use to type this post now, connected me to that person and to the person she gave my item to.  It is life changing!

In my next few posts, I'm going to delve into presentations full on. I think it's worth sharing for those of you who didn't/couldn't attend the conference. Each presentation had a different topic, had different leaders weighing in on that topic, and were so varied that I want to share.

Until my next post, please leave your thoughts in the comments. If you attended the conference, what did you think? What do you think about Etsy's shift into the sustainable movement? Do you have any concerns for your shop or business? Please ask and share below. I'm excited to hear your thoughts. Not to mention, we need to continue this conversation!

What are B Corps? Why Do We Need Stuff?

In my last post, readers, I reflected on Earth Day and sustainable small businesses and our own businesses. It was a lot to read, kind of heavy, I know. Today is going to be a bit along those lines, but I'm going to share two big things, that combined, relate to sustainable small businesses.

Please note that when I use the word sustainable, I use it a la Merriam-Webster definition
a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture>  
b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>. 

The first thing, which is the second question in the title, "Why Do We Need Stuff?" comes from Megan Auman, of Designing an MBA. In the last month she launched a site called Understanding Objects and is all about changing the perception that the world doesn't need more stuff, it needs YOUR stuff. 

Hardly a mind-blowing concept here, but as an artist, I've struggled too with the idea that there are already so many stationery companies out there, why does the world need my stationery? Or better yet, I've tried to build a business based on a Toyota business model where I buy only what I need when I need it to avoid having too much stuff around. To have another artist out there, trying to repair our concept of "stuff", especially in relation to our own art, it's encouraging. It reminds me that there is a place for my art and my stuff, it's just a matter of placing the correct value on the stuff we buy and sell to others.  

The second thing, is that yesterday, Etsy announced their certification as a B Corporation. This point answers the first question, "What Is A B Corporation?"  I encourage you all to read the article about Etsy joining the B Corporation Movement and what it means as an artist and seller on Etsy. It's some incredible stuff, let me tell you! 

But I want to talk about what it means for us, Etsy sellers, a bit and also what it means for our readers on this blog that are buyers and lovers of the New York Etsy Team.  

As, I've discussed many times, what I do personally to run a sustainable business- I run a non-certified sustainable corporation. That's right, I've taken my personal feelings and actions and have allowed them to determine how to run and operate my business. I think it's a logical step for any small business just starting up and one-artist show. However, when a largish company like Etsy takes the steps to become a certified B Corporation, it means they are opening themselves to being questioned regularly about their sustainable business practices and are open to follow a set of guidelines and metric systems that determine whether they are practicing sustainable business standards not just on local, environmental, and employee issues, but globally, as well.  Companies already established as B Corporations are Patagonia and Seventh Generation.

So what about you, artist and small business owner? What does Etsy becoming a certified B Corp mean for you? 

Well nothing yet. You don't have to rush out and do anything, but you should be aware that Etsy is interested in practicing good business for itself, and you. This also means that Etsy's hopes to influence others businesses to start practicing sustainability. It was in large part what Hello Etsy in Berlin (which I covered last year) was all about-how can large and small businesses make an impact for the good of the environment, irreplaceable resources, and humanity?

These are tough questions. After all, who doesn't want to make money? People go into business for a variety of reasons, but most often to make money.  Etsy's decision means that now they want to help small businesses keep making money AND make business decisions that don't hurt humans, or the environment.

I don't believe that many of us small businesses are capable of paying to go through the rigorous process of becoming a B-Corporation yet, but I think it's a great thing to aspire to. I also think it's something that can be started small just by using the tools in the NYC area:
  • composting your produce and coffee bean scraps (Etsy does it!)
  • riding your bike, or taking public transportation instead of driving
  • recycling even the smallest piece of paper
  • carrying our own bags when shopping to avoid taking new bags, or even just collecting all of your plastic bags and then recycling them in the bins specific for plastic bags
  • turning your paper bags into envelopes (I did a tutorial you can see here)
  • recycling your #5 plastic containers (mostly the stuff that holds your yogurt) at Whole Foods Stores
  • Reuse magazine pages to stuff your packages when mailing
  • Reuse boxes, when shipping mail (yes branding matters, but you can do a lot if you state your case beforehand)
The list goes on, and all it requires you to do is to look around you for the resources, until you are large enough and can become a B Corporation of your own.

And for buyers, what does this mean for you? 

Well, it means that you know and have a better idea of the type of business you are purchasing from. I don't want to imply that all businesses are bad businesses, because they are not. However, now those individuals that are concerned with the state of environmental affairs and want to start buying stuff that has value and meaning (Go Megan!), know that you're shopping on a site that is practicing sustainable business and is encouraging their members to practice the same, and they will feel better about their purchases and will put a higher value on them knowing that they are making an impact on the greater world.

Lastly, for artists, buyers and Etsy Small Businesses in NYC, I encourage you to check out Goodnik. Goodnik is an organization that helps social entrepreneurs whether they are in the for-profit or not-for-profit or aspiring B Corporation sectors. They are a great resource just for learning more about this topic.

Let us do more good business!

S2 Stationery and Design