Lauren Russo is one of the smartest, most analytical friends I know in Austin. She's shared some great business insights with me ever since we met, which is why I hired her as a coach for a "power hour." By the end of the session, I walked away with more clarity about my brand and my goals. I'd recommend her to anyone!
Lauren, what drew you to working with creative people?
First, I should say that I think everyone is creative in different ways. The kinds of creative people I tend to work with are the right brained, non-linear folks in creative professions who have a million ideas, love connecting ideas and people and things, and feel a strong pull to make their mark on the world. Their creativity is intuitive and part of everything they do. It's not just about one facet of their life (their work, for example), it's really about engaging with everything in their life; their style, their homes, their relationships, their travel, etc., with a creative sense of possibility.
I work with creative people because I love creative people and their problems. I love how their brains work, I love how funny they are, I love that they don't always do things in the most linear fashion but always do things in ways are totally interesting to me. I love how creative people are truly engaged in making the world we live in more beautiful, more just, more interesting--just better!
I also like to think that I have a special understanding of creative people and how they work. They are often misunderstood by more "linear" or left-brain type thinkers--and their creativity sometimes even gets them into trouble, because it's not always understood by others. They can be seen as rebellious, flighty, unfocused, arrogant, etc. I know that they are none of those things, in a bad way, and some of those things in a good way.
Finally, I am a creative person. I have had many creative jobs and practices in my life--editor, actor, costumer, storyteller, writer, producer. I understand the yearning people feel to fill their lives and work with creativity, because it's a desire I share.
As a coach, I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot of patterns with your clients over the years, good and bad. When it comes to being the best that we can be, what are some general things we should remember?
The most important thing I think that we can all stand to remember is that when we fight ourselves about where/who/what we are, it just makes things worse.
Another way of saying this is you can either spend all of your energy fighting your weaknesses, or you can draw energy from your strengths. So many clients spend a lot time and energy on "shoulds" and beating themselves up for perceived weaknesses. This is called perfectionism and every perfectionist alive thinks they have their perfectionism under control and they are all lying liars.
When, actually, success comes from three things, I think,
1) Knowing what you want*
2) Leveraging your strengths to get it*
3) Keeping going when you want to quit*
*doing all three totally imperfectly
All of us get tend to get stuck in one of these places more than the other two--but all of us get stuck in all of them at some point or another.
My favorite thing to do is help people through each one of those places, without using the weapons of perfectionism: self coercion (forcing yourself to do something you don't want to do) and self-criticism (being mean to yourself in attempt to motivate yourself).
Also, it's important to know how to feel good! So many of us have no idea how to feel good, on our own, without relying on other things or people to inspire good feelings. But when we realize that we can actually choose to feel good, choose to have fun, choose to be excited about our lives and our work, without waiting for everything to be perfect, then that is really liberating.
You’re an avid reader and TV-watcher. What are you reading and watching right now?
Oh my gosh, I love that you asked me this question, because I LOVE reading and TV watching. I work with a lot of novelists and screenwriters, in part because I love the genres so much!
I am re-reading The Firesteel, by Ash Huang, because I just pre-ordered the author's next book and it made me want to read it right away, so I am doing the next best thing, which is re-reading the book she's already written. It's a gorgeously written fable about time travel and love and it has my favorite dedication of any book ever, "for problem girls and ardent boys."
I am reading The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum. This one I am reading in pieces, both to savor it, and because it can be really intense. Daum is my favorite kind of writer: funny, honest, brave.
I also just started American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, by Nancy Jo Sales, upon the recommendation of a friend, because I wouldn't be me if I wasn't reading some non-fiction book that got me incensed about the patriarchy.
I am watching: Veep, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Archer.
I'm giving Wynona Earp a try--it's a little more sci-fi than I usually go for, but am a sucker for badass lady leads. I've also been watching re-runs of Cybill on Hulu. It really holds up! And it has Christine Baranski!
I’ve learned a thing or two from you about client management. Should service-oriented entrepreneurs be choosy about their clients? Why?
Short answer: Because life is short and you will be so much more successful working with clients who you actually love working with, who don't drive you crazy!
Longer answer: We tend to get really scarcity minded about clients and feel like we have to take whoever comes to us. Taking whatever you can get, both in life and in clients, tends to end up with you surrounded by people who don't even appreciate you for your special sauce because that's not what they're there for. The road to burnout and resentment is paved with the good intention of working with whoever wants to work with you. When you invest time and effort into clarifying whom you really want to work with and how you really want to serve them, that pays major dividends.
Minor codicil to the above: When you are first starting out, you necessarily have to be less exclusive about who you work with, not because you can't have standards, but because you are still figuring out whom you like to work with and how. That's okay! Once you have figured that out, however, no more excuses for working with clients that give you major headaches, unless you really, really love it.
What are three (or more) practical tools (or just essential things) that you can’t live without?
My MacBook and iPhone. I see people from all around the world and this lets me connect to clients regardless of timezone.
Thought work: This is a method of coaching myself that I also teach to clients that helps me figure out how to shift my results and feelings when I am not where I want to be. Using thought work as a tool, I can deal with any icky feeling or curveball thrown my way.
Sleep: This one is kind of obvious but I have a theory that almost every creative person needs way more sleep (and naps!) than they realize, and most of us aren't getting it. I love sleeping and napping--and it's a huge part of my creative business strategy. Sleep is healing, it's restorative, it's inspiring, it's vital. My sleep tools include a white noise machine, decadent sheets, a nap playlist, and occasionally taking magnesium.
What are some of your favorite indulgences?
I am a very indulgent person, so I have many.
An entire day off with nothing to do includes bike rides, guilt-free television marathons, really expensive incense (this is my favorite), sandalwood-y perfume (this and this are my two favorites), Zoe Comings jewelry, these pens, working from Barton Springs on Monday and Friday afternoons when I can swing it, the greens pizza followed by the marshmallow sundae from Unit-D pizzeria in Austin, listening to the rain (I use this when it's not raining and I still want the feeling), JC Pie Pops in strawberry cream, massages, herbal tea, re-watching the 2005 Joe Wright version of Pride and Prejudice.
What do most people not know about you?
I have a dark sense of humor and I am not afraid of deep, dark, scary, emotional shit (I am however, totally afraid of horror movies, so please do not make me watch one). A lot of people hear "life coach" and think "non-stop positivity train" (not to mention, "gag") but I am pretty down with acknowledging that there is plenty in our lives and in our world that is bleak, unjust, and messed up. I like to joke that we are all teetering on the knife edge of mortality (we could go at any time, really!), so why not go for it? My sense of carpe-ing the diem comes the understanding that there is plenty in life that we can't control, and plenty that is sad and hard, and we should therefore seek to cultivate as much joy and understanding for ourselves and others as we can manage. Bring me your secret shame, in other words, for I fear it not! I will probably (lovingly) joke with you about it (if you are ready).
You were probably looking more for something like, "I have a four-banded scar on my arm, from a run-in with a jellyfish at the age of four," which is also true.