FEARLESSLY FLEXIBLE

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Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)


I love it when the topic of the blog and my life coincide. In fact, I am not sure anymore which comes first – the topic that I am blogging/writing and painting about or the life/business event.

The first thing I experience, with almost every blog topic or interview, is being stuck. Can you relate? I shake my head and think, “Well, hmmm….this is kind of a big topic when I think about it! How will I capture this one?” Inevitably, I say to myself, “Shit….what the hell was I thinking starting this crazy idea of sharing my visual journals with the world?” The process of visual journalism is actually a bit torturous for me at first. With each new subject, I have to convince myself to just start the research so I can spark the idea that will become the painting. This little dirty pleasure of how I make art used to be something I hid in my own private journals. I had no pressure attached to that activity or deadlines. No one saw the work or read the stories but me so what they were and when they happened were purely accidental. Making the publicly scheduled commitment to share my thoughts and art with you has been an interesting experience as well as an exercise in committed brave tenacity for me!

So a few days ago I got down to it. On my first Google search for this week’s entrepreneurial trait topic: “Flexibility,” I found The Complete Leader website created by the business consulting firm Price Associates, which is based in Boise, Idaho. I gnawed on this quote for a few days:

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Flexible leaders have the ability to change their plans to match the reality of the situation. As a result, they maintain productivity during transitions or periods of chaos. Leaders skilled at this competency embrace change, are open to new ideas, and can work with a wide spectrum of people. Tomorrow’s leaders must learn to treat uncertainty and ambiguity as the new normal. Being flexible includes large changes, but also trickles down to everyday activities that are subject to change.
~The Complete Leader

After a few days of pondering this, I thought, AH HA! Early in my young adult life, I heard it said that true strength is yielding. It was attributed in some way to the Zen concept of going with the flow. In other areas of this website this Zen like approach to change is mentioned. The idea is that in a storm, grass easily blows in the wind when the largest tree is sometimes cracked and destroyed because it cannot withstand the pressure of the storm. In the real world business climate, we have no choice but to reinvent ourselves regularly and quickly. This is not a new idea. Being flexible is, however, a very practical idea. We have all heard the idioms, “stop throwing good money after bad” or “being stuck in the mud” or “spinning our wheels;” all of which means that it is stupid to keep putting forth energy and resources toward something that is not working or is not working well enough. The bottom line is that we have to be flexible in our approach to success or we will never succeed. Some may call this fickle. I call it reality. I recently listened to Noah Kagan (who was employee #30 at Facebook who went on to found AppoSumo.com) speak about “Being a Wannapreneur” on one of Tony Robbins’ podcasts. The thing that struck me about Noah is that this is a guy who executes, evaluates and changes quickly.

My colleague John Waters, owner of Waters Business Consulting Group in Scottsdale, AZ and one the 2016 Fearless 13 for my Art of Fearlessly Doing Business project, stated, “If you are going to pursue your business dream as an entrepreneur, you must be flexible because your original plan almost never ends up being the plan that you will succeed with over time.” Another of the 2016 Fearless 13 Jayson Khademi co-owner of Saffron Jak agrees. He says that, “Flexibility = success. Rigidity = no room to grow.” (Click on John and Jayson’s names to see their fearless interviews.)

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Yet there are some things that we cannot be flexible about. Some core values cannot be compromised. Sarah Jo Willy, owner of Creative Muse and Tough Girl Soaps, states, “For me flexibility is about first understanding what you can’t be flexible on…honoring your core values and the values of your business…and then being crazy flexible in order to deliver in a way that exceeds the expectations of my clients!” We stay true to our values but open to our methods.

Flexibility is also a daily decision. I am a time blocker. Every day my schedule is blocked out across project work, meetings, painting, writing, the gym, yoga, errands, administrative tasks, etc. I schedule myself from 4:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. every day. Yes, I even schedule my down time and play time too. On Monday, one of my first activities is to look over my current activities and make enough time available in my schedule for what has to happen during that week. I have a general plan for what my weekly time block template requires but things change and sometimes my appointments are unable to adhere to my weekly template. I change what needs to be changed on a daily and hourly basis and move time blocks around as necessary because as they say, “Shit happens!” However, I do try and stick to a formula because the more we can standardize our schedules, the more we can get done. Everyone I schedule an appointment with is first given an opportunity to select a time that I have designated within my plan for “meeting” block. It is only when we cannot find a fit and it really makes more practical sense for us to meet outside those hours that I make an adjustment. I am not such a stickler to this approach that I lose unexpected opportunities as they arise or don’t put out a fire when it’s raging because I did not make time for it on Monday. I find that this process is an interesting screener of prospects or referral partners who are not committed to meeting with me. If they are unwilling to engage in the process they actually self-eliminate themselves from being a good fit for us working together. I also practice what I preach by leveraging technology as much as I can. If you are still living in the 1980’s and are not willing to schedule an appointment with me online, then that is an example of how I define self-elimination; which equates to you not being a good fit to meet with me. I am about getting shit done as quickly as possible, being flexible when it makes sense, yes – but not so flexible that I lose hours of productivity time catering to everyone else’s schedules without even making an effort to streamline that process by utilizing new tools. I do not let my calendar rule me – I rule it. Flexibility is something we choose wisely. After years of networking, I know it is not wise to be a leaf blowing in the wind.

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So today over bacon and eggs, I thought, “Ok Michelle, snap out of the stuck place now! … Who are some great companies who started out as one thing and ended up another?” Below are a few that I found during my Google travels in the article 10 Companies That Completely Reinvented Themselves, by Dave Ross.

• Hasbro was a successful textile remnants dealer for 20 years. Today we know them as one of the biggest toy companies in the world.

• Avon founder David McConnell originally sold books door to door. From his experience, he created the California Perfume Company, which later was rebranded as Avon.

• When the company was started in 1837, Tiffany initially sold stationery and writing utensils. In 1853 the company shifted its emphasis to jewelry.

• Berkshire Hathaway was a textile company when Warren Buffett took it over. Today it is a global investment firm.

• Royal Dutch Shell started off as a small antiques store in London that specialized in decorative shells, which expanded to a broader import/export business, which lead to a shipping company that built the first oil tanker, which then merged with Royal Dutch Petroleum to become the company it is today. There are 44,000 shell stations world wide.

• Western Union started off as the first telegraph message company, went on to introduce the first fax and is now the largest money transfer service in the world.
Other great examples of companies that reinvented themselves are: Apple, American Express, Amazon, National Geographic, Wipro, Nintendo, Nokia and IBM.

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As I look at my own business, initially I created my business to complete projects for business owners that needed a project manager with an owner’s mindset to get projects that were stuck on their To Do list moving forward and completed. I am still taking on chunky projects that interest me with business owners who are on fire to grow. However, when I created the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business project as a creative way to network and meet my ideal client, I entered a whole new area of opportunity that I had not anticipated. You never know when you will stumble upon a good idea. Most opportunities I have found are accidentally revealed in the process of putting forth effort, or they are a necessary change based upon the business climate. As a result of the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business experience, serving on the board of the Sonoran Arts League, being a benefactor of the Arizona Consortium of the Arts and growing my network in the arts; I am in the process of launching other components to my business that include commercial curator and artist representation services, public speaking events and retreats, and a line of books and greeting cards. In the future, I anticipate adding a clothing and jewelry line. As I develop these products I will be blogging and posting about the process.

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Smart, on fire entrepreneurs are flexible and excited about possibilities. We are not afraid to switch directions and add branches to our tree. We do not stay stuck in one way of thinking. We are open to trying new things and finding unexpected solutions to problems. We are not stuck in the mud. We do not spin our wheels. We spend our time, energy and money wisely. We don’t let the fear of making a mistake or failing scare us one bit – we simply go with the flow!

Illustrations Story:

Some animals actually do a thing called wallowing – where they emerge themselves in mud, water, or snow for a period of time every day. It is a comfort behavior and used for a variety of reasons including temperature control, relief from molting and skin maintenance. This idea makes me laugh. As many of you know, laughter is how I know I have the idea for the painting. So many entrepreneurs, and people in general, stay stuck in the mud for far too long on a particular topic because they are comfortable there. There is a time for mud, yes – but it is not forever! These business owners just simply refuse to change with the times and be flexible with the business climate. They have made their mind up that this is how it is and that is it. They become inflexible rule Nazi’s. Elephants can become stuck in the mud for so long that the mud not only dries completely, but it cakes around them to the point of immobility. Don’t be that elephant! First of all, we are able to know when we have wallowed too long and we can also ask for help if we are truly stuck. Having a memory that never forgets like an Elephant is good when it comes to remembering your customer’s needs. However, never forgetting can sometimes be a bad thing and make you stay stuck.

The paintings this week are about some areas I see business owners and artists wallowing in: The Cell Phone Police, Social Media Phobes, Calendar Dinosaurs, Sticky Note Junkies, Anti-Delegation Control Freaks, and the “I suck at Sales and Marketing” People. I could go into each of these areas where I see people stuck in the 80’s or not being open to growing. However, I have decided not to use this blog to get on my soapbox into a big debate. The paintings are for your consideration this week. We all have our opinions!


Michelle Micalizzi is a Business Executor & Visual Journalist, Her company Fearlessly Deliver, LLC helps business owners especially artists to FEAR LESS & DO MORE! Michelle uses her ability as a Visual Journalist to tell the story of Entrepreneurship. | 480.526.2609 | michelle@fearlesslydeliver.com

The Gallery at el Pedregal
Select Paintings from the 2015 & 2016 Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Projects are also for sale at the El Pedregal Gallery through October 2016 | Presentation – Art is Business and Business is Art: Oct 27th 5-7:30PM.

Hidden in the Hills – Studio Tour
All Fearless Art will be available for sale at the Micalizzi Studio during the Sonoran Arts League’s 2016 Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour on Nov. 18-20 & 24-26, 2016.