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What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

What I Wish I’d Known When I Was 18: Some Advice from a Creative Business Owner

Last week I spoke at the Glug Leeds networking event along with four other people. We each shared our thoughts on what we wish we’d known when we were 18.

After a lot of thought in preparing for the talk, I realised there were only a few really important things that I wish I’d known. Some of them I’ve only just come to in the last few years, and I think that’s an important point; it’s never too late to take on board advice, and it’s not useful to berate yourself for not knowing it earlier.

We’re all on a journey and we can’t get to where we are now without having trod our unique path.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#1

The first thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is that relationships are everything. As an 18 year old, I believed I had to make it in the world. I was the one who was going to achieve great things, and I had to do it on my own merit. It couldn’t be part of the team; it had to be me and me alone.

What I’ve realised as I’ve got older is that success is not an individual accomplishment. There are many, many people here helping us do what we want to do with our lives. That might be as small as someone explaining how to use specific tools to run your business more effectively, or as big as a bank manager giving you a loan.

It’s easy to believe in the culture of individualism that we’re living in, but our success and failure in work and in our lives is dependent on the relationships that we have with others.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#2

The second thing I shared with the Glug audience was that boring stuff is surprisingly important. I’ve worked with lots of different businesses since I was 18 – in fact, in the last six years I’ve worked with over 40 brands – and one thing all the most successful businesses have in common is that they run their business in an effective way because they care about boring stuff.

That might mean they focus on doing well all those things which frankly sound completely dull, like HR, operations, facilities management, health and safety and progression plans. Working for myself, I’ve had to be in charge of all the boring things (as well as all the exciting thing) and I’ve gained a newfound respect for how important these elements are in running a business.

Lots of modern marketing businesses attract people with perks. These might be a ping pong table in the office, free massages, beers on a Friday afternoon, company days out or some other fun activity. These are great for team building and for lifting people’s spirits, but ultimately they’re not a replacement for running a business sensibly and effectively.

I think it’s easy when you’re 18 to be distracted by these perks and not ask important questions of the employer you’re talking to, like “How does your HR department work?”,  “What’s the progression plan you have in mind for me?” and “What’s the pension scheme like?”. Thinking about these things feels very boring, but getting it right can aid you in business success; you won’t be worrying about small things because they’ll be sorted, so you can focus on the big, fun, exciting stuff instead.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#3

The third thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is not to ignore the causes of mental health problems. I think this was something which resonated with a lot of people in the audience, and it’s because we don’t talk about it enough.

During my second year of university, I realised I was suffering very badly from depression. Since that point I’ve undergone therapy a number of times, most recently last year when I suffered with anxiety for the first time in my life. I feel very lucky that I had access to therapeutic practices when I needed them, and was able to address the causes of my mental health problem – not just the symptoms.

When we’re busy or when we have limited funds, it’s very easy to try and find solutions for  the symptoms of mental health problems, rather than the causes. The symptoms are sometimes easier to treat, because they may have a medical solution. For example, if anxiety gives you problems with your digestive system, you can take medication to calm this down. Sometimes, it’s essential the symptoms are treated rapidly to protect your health and the health of others.

But.

I see a lot of my students who are struggling with mental health problems for, perhaps, the first time in their life being given access to symptom treatment but not cause treatment. The reasons for this are many and highly political (hey, stop cutting funding and resources!). But it’s also on us to recognise that mental health problems are often rooted deeply in our past and the lessons we’ve learnt about how to behave or how to think, even if those lessons have been unconscious.

By addressing the causes of mental health problems, not just the symptoms, we can start to work on how we feel and how we relate to each other in a much more meaningful way. I don’t think symptoms should be left untreated, but neither do I think the causes should be ignored. Having the time and space to talk about some of the causes behind my mental health problems dramatically improved my happiness, as well as my empathy for others.This in turn has increased my successes.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#4

With that in mind, the fourth thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is to lighten up.

My mum will tell you I was always a very serious child; very thoughtful, often with my head in a book or distracted, often thinking about the problems in the world or the problems that I was involved with. As I got older, this translated into an attitude where I was unable to laugh at myself. I took myself and my work very seriously, to the point of which I became po-faced and sometimes paralysed with fear of being embarrassed or laughed at.

Over the last few years I’ve learnt that I can be silly, funny and even ridiculous – and I can still be respected and liked. For all of the problems in the world, which we should absolutely be fighting against and looking for ways to solve them, the world is an irrational, bizarre, ridiculous and joyful place. Things happen for no reason. The universe is chaotic. We have a silly streak inside of us that makes us do things we didn’t anticipate.

It’s really important we embrace this and make it part of who we are. When I did this, I realised I could let go of the way I thought someone should act if they were successful or happy or cared about their work. Instead, I could just get on with actually caring about my work, being happy and being successful.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#5

The final things I shared with the Glug audience that I wish I’d known when I was 18 is a quote from Brené Brown.

Brené Brown’s TED Talk videos on shame and vulnerability came at a point in my life where I really needed to hear those messages. Since then I’ve read her work, watched her Facebook live videos and tried to integrate the messages she shares from her research into my own life.

One of these messages is this: you are worthy of love and belonging.

This is one of the most powerful statements I have ever read. When I first shared it with my partner, he immediately began to say “…if you do what?”. This is the point of the statement; knowing that we are worthy of love and belonging not because we have done something or said something or acted in a certain way, but just because we are human.

Acknowledging this statement has enabled me to feel happier with myself, care for myself more and care for others even when they are acting in a way which makes me feel frustrated or sad.

In this article about valuing your time I said this:

I want you to know your time is worth something, because it’s precious. You do not have much of it and you must value it because of that. It’s not about your skills or education or any other factor; you must value your time simply because one day it will run out.

My ideas on this are inspired by Brené Brown. Your time is precious because it is limited, not because of who you are and what you do. Because you exist, you are worthy of love and belonging.

I wish I’d known this when I was 18, because so many things in my life were done out of the belief that I was not worthy of love and belonging. I think lots of us do things because of this belief.

We’re in relationships we don’t like because we think we’re not worthy of real love. We’re in jobs we don’t like because we think we’re not worthy of being at a better company. We shy away from making new friends or trying new activities, because we think we’re not worthy of being accepted into a community or being shown affection and care. I definitely did all of these things at some point in my life out of the mistaken belief that I was not worthy.

Acknowledging that you are worthy of love and belonging is hard because we’re conditioned to believe we are only valuable if we do something ‘valuable’. What Brené Brown is asking us to do is give unconditional love to ourselves. Many of us struggle to even give unconditional love to others, let alone our harshest critics. But even beginning to think it could be possible that you are worthy of love and belonging will change the way you feel about yourself.  

It’s not easy to remember it, and it’s not always easy to practice it for yourself or others. Here it is again so it’s clear in your mind:

You are worthy of love and belonging.


What’s next?

I loved doing the Glug talk and really enjoyed watching my co-presenters share lessons from their lives.

If you can this week, spend some time thinking what you wish you would have known when you were 18.

What one lesson or piece of advice would you give that person? Even more importantly, do you think you are living and remembering that advice now, when you have the opportunity to put it into practice?

Please do share your thoughts with me on Twitter @ebsnare.

What I Wish I'd Known at 18 - Eleanor Snare

“My Time Isn’t Worth Anything.” Is Yours? Why Valuing The Time You Spend on Your Creative Business Is Essential

“My Time Isn’t Worth Anything.” Is Yours? Why Valuing The Time You Spend on Your Creative Business Is Essential

 

Today I want to talk to you about time and how we value it.

 

The other day, me and a friend of mine were discussing getting some repairs done on his car, and whether he could do it himself.

When we talked, I said “It really depends on whether you feel you have the time to do it and learn how to do it.”

He said, “Well, my time isn’t worth anything.”

The conversation continued but a part of me retreated into my mind in shock.

 

I run my whole creative business based on specific hourly and daily rates that I’ve calculated based on my experience and the market as a whole. I have to value my time as ‘worth something’ to run my business.

That translates into valuing my time as an individual in my leisure hours, and wanting to spend it in fruitful ways.

The conversation started me thinking. We know time equals money, but do we really believe it – particularly when we’re talking about our own time? And when we think about time equalling money in our business, what does that actually mean?

 


Time and money

First, I should mention that, for me, time does not equal money. Time is far more precious.

During your lifetime, you can attempt to accumulate as much wealth as you possibly can. Given the right resources and privileges, there will be no limit to the wealth you can accumulate.

But you cannot accumulate more time.

 

You can be healthier to try and live longer. You can stay awake for more hours. You can multi-task or mono-task or batch your tasks and a thousand other things to maximise your time.

But, ultimately, you have a given amount of time on the planet, and that’s all you’re going to get.

 

Many yoga practices talk about the concept of limited breath; that we only get a set number of breaths in our life, and therefore it’s important to use them wisely through deep and restorative breathing.

These ideas of a limited amount of time and breath were one of the driving forces behind starting my own creative business.

It wasn’t so I could make more money. Although I am paid more on an hourly rate than I did when I was on a salary, my annual ‘salary’ now is slightly less than it would be if I was working in a full time job at the same level.

 

For some people, that’s a bit shocking. They see running your own business as a way to make lots of money.

For me, it’s a way to try and make lots of time. Or more accurately, to consciously absorb the limited time I do have. To ‘make’ it feel more by being more conscious of it.

Getting back time for the things that were important for me was the main reason I began my creative business, and I’m in a position of privilege to be able to do that.

 


Money and things

Second, I see obtaining money as about what you can do with it, not as a symbol of success (even when it’s not being used). Money ‘works’ because it’s a universal commodity; something which can be exchanged for any other product or service we want. When it’s not being used in that way – what is it? What’s it for?

 

One of the exercises I do with my students when I talk to them about employment is to talk about two ways of approaching salary. The first is having a specific number in your head, and wanting to have that number go into your bank account each year. The second is working out how much you need to live the life you want, and aiming for that.

I tell them most people start their working life by having a specific number in their head. They haven’t thought carefully about the life they want and how much this costs. They just want that number.

 

This is what a lot of the business coaches and other ‘six figure folk’ will talk to you about. We want six figures because, culturally, six figures seems like you’ve made it. And as Layla Saad says in this brilliant article, people who push this on us as a sales tactic are failing us.

But if you only need five figures or four figures, then why are you spending all your time trying to get six figures? You are using up a limited resource (your time) trying to accumulate a potentially-infinite resource (money) because you ‘six figures’ is a symbol of something.

 

There will always be more money to be made and no limit to the wealth you could accumulate. There will not always be more time. There will always be a limit.

 


Valuing yourself and your time

With these two things in mind, I want you to know your time is worth something, because it’s precious. You do not have much of it and you must value it because of that. It’s not about your skills or education or any other factor; you must value your time simply because one day it will run out.

 

I value my time more highly than any amount of money I could earn. That doesn’t mean I have so much money I don’t need to work – it means I think carefully when I choose what projects to work on and how I wish to set my hourly and daily rate.

Not everyone has this privilege, and I’m acutely aware of my own privileges in saying I have choice in my work. I believe (and fight for) a society in which people are paid a true living wage, or receive a universal income, which I see as helping us all to move away from valuing humans only through the lens of money and productivity. We are valuable because we live, not because we live with a certain set of skills, talents or knowledge.

If you run your own creative business, however, you are also in a position to think carefully, choose your work, and set your own value.

 


Calculating value

I’ve been clear it’s essential you value your time. But how do you go about calculating that value in a way which translates into something meaningful for your creative business?

How you calculate your worth – that hourly or daily rate, or even the eventual price of your products or services – is up to you. It’s up to how you value your time and how valuable you think your work is to other people.

 

Wealth coaches and other six figure folk tell you if you don’t put a high price on your hourly or daily work, or on your products or services, you have mental blocks to accumulating wealth. That might be true for some – but we also live in cultures with other people. We live with economics.

Economic thought and structures affect us all, in negative and positive ways. Pretending you don’t have to look at competitors, customers, or your industry to put a price on your hourly or daily work, or your products or services, is complete rubbish.

 

Creative business people I’ve met often value their time and set their wage based on social norms, like the minimum wage. This makes sense in many ways; it’s a simple, easy choice, and we assume these wages are able to support someone in living a healthy and fruitful lifestyle.

But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t put a value on your time according to other factors.

A senior designer will get paid more than a junior designer because of experience and skill; are you valuing your time based on experience?

Someone who has a unique gift or a skill that’s very hard to master may get paid more because they are a rarity; are you valuing your time based on uniqueness?

People in London get paid a specific amount more than people outside the capital, because of the cost of living; are you valuing your time based on location?

 

As a personal example, I recently increased my copywriting rates. This was to reflect my experience in the industry and to better fit in with the market average shared by a trusted copywriting group.

Of course, when I did this I was nervous and immediately thought no-one would want to pay for me because I was more expensive. Of course, it didn’t change anything. People still wanted to hire me.

I had increased my costs because of legitimate and understandable reasons, and that made sense to people who wanted to hire me. What are the reasons behind how you value your time and set your rates?

 


What’s next?

Commit to valuing your time. Believe your time is of value (and not just because you might be skilled or clever or talented). Write it down, put it into your journal, make it your phone background. Start to let yourself value your time.

Then spend some time thinking of and documenting the reasons behind why you currently calculate the value of the time the way you do. Is it based on market averages, competition, the minimum wage, or something else? What else might you want to consider when calculating the value of the time you spend on your creative business?

Money is a very difficult thing to talk about and, as a creative business owner, it becomes even more complicated when the wages we’re earning are wrapped up in our own self belief and self esteem. Eli Trier’s email series and ebook called Naked Money is a great way to understand how different creative people relate to money, and their personal challenges. There’s also a Facebook group to join and learn from other creatives.

If you take just one thing away from this article, it’s that I want you to know your time is worth something. To your family and friends, your time is irreplaceable. To your creative business and your customers, your time is invaluable. There’s always more money to accumulate, but we only have so much time in the world. How you spend it, value it, and how you wish others to value it, is in your hands.

 


 

Crystal Clear Brand - A Workbook for Creative Business Owners launching September 28th

 

Your brand is invaluable

On September 28th I’m launching a do-it-yourself product to help creative business owners like make their brand crystal clear.

Your brand is one of the most valuable elements of your creative business. When done right, it’ll help you make decisions more easily and make the most of your time and energy.

The do-it-yourself product is a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand, done in an interactive, engaging and friendly way.

If you’re interested in learning more about the product and getting updates about the launch, sign up below.

To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.


 

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Do you value the time you spend running your creative business? How do you value it? Do you believe your time is worth anything? Acknowledging this is essential to the health of you and your business, so why don't we do it properly?

Four Ways a Crystal Clear Brand Can Help You Build Your Creative Business | Eleanor Snare Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

Four Ways a Crystal Clear Brand Can Help You Build Your Creative Business

On 28th September 2017 I’m launching a new do-it-yourself product for creative business owners to help them create a crystal clear brand.

It’s a downloadable workbook that takes you through all the essential, heart-and-soul elements of a brand, from your purpose and vision to your personality and core messages.


A brand sounds great – but it also sounds like a lot of work.

Why is having a crystal clear brand useful for creative business owners? Here are four simple ways it’ll help you build your creative business and reduce the stress and struggle you might be experiencing.


1. More effective decision making

With the right brand, the biggest impact you’ll see on your business is your ability to make more effective decisions. A brand is like a guiding light; it helps us decide what’s worth spending our time and energy on, and which things we should let go.

This applies to operational decisions – like the sort of products you should make and how you should make them – as much as it does to marketing tactics.

2. Less stress and struggle.

With more effective decisions comes less stress and less struggle. Creative business owners already have a hundred different plates to spin, from graphic design to accounting to email marketing.

Having a crystal clear brand makes spinning those plates much easier and smoother, making the whole experience of running your business more enjoyable.

3. Easier and enjoyable marketing

A consciously-created, crystal clear brand also makes it easier and enjoyable to focus your marketing in the right direction.

Rather than thinking about all of the things you should be doing, because someone on the Internet told you it was important, you can use your brand to guide you on focusing on what’s essential and relevant to you and your customer.

4. A consistent, clear message

For me, one of the most exciting things about developing a crystal clear brand is that it means your creative business will have a consistent and clear message for your customers.

Instead of not knowing what to say to your customers online, in print or in person – or worse, not really knowing why you’re saying it – your brand will guide you. You’ll have consciously created a message that’s clear and consistent; one of the key ways in which businesses achieve success.


In this article I talked about how brand is created whether you’re doing it consciously or not. With a brand that’s crystal clear, you realise you can be in charge of that conversation.

You can give your customers the message you want them to have, not rely on the one they make up about you when you’re not in the room.


Follow me on Instagram for more updates on the Crystal Clear Brand workbook

For Your Creative Business, Brand Is More Than How You Look

For Your Creative Business, Brand Should Be More Than How You Look

Today I want to talk about how your brand is more than just how you look.

 

We live in an age of the image. Since the development of television, and even since the invention of photography, cultural commentators have been saying some of our societies have increasingly been dominated by images.

But right now it’s hard to escape the feeling of being surrounded by imagery, particularly online.

 

A few years ago, I went to a great lecture about visual representation throughout time. During the talk, one speaker mentioned we see more images in a day than a medieval person would have seen in their lifetime.

The number of pictures, photographs, icons, videos and more we consume is phenomenal. We have more visual culture than ever before, and in some ways of a better quality than before due to technological developments.

We have social media platforms dedicated to the image, which have developed in recent years. Instagram and Pinterest are the two big players, and we’re drawn to them because of the way in which pictures quickly and vividly tell us a story. They’re easy to absorb and feel ‘easier’ to create than a lengthy written article.

 


 

The result for creative business owners is there’s a big focus on how we, and our business, are represented visually.

A lot of information and education online about creating a ‘killer brand’ ends up focusing on images, colour palettes, typography, and all of the visual elements that going into making a brand.

If you run a creative business, this can be very appealing. It’s likely you understand and enjoy communicating in visual language, perhaps more than in written or spoken language, when talking about your business.

But brand is so much more than how you look.

 


 

Here’s a simple analogy. The clothes we wear are important, but they’re an expression of who we are inside. Our clothes can’t necessarily change who we are; they are ultimately just one way of explaining your personality to the outside world in a simple, easily absorbed way.

Yet if someone only paid attention to your clothes, and ignored the person within them, you’d be annoyed. You might think they were superficial, or perhaps weren’t getting the message you were trying to send out.

 


 

So why concentrate on the ‘clothes’ of a business – our visual representation – when we should be thinking about what’s inside those clothes?

I wholeheartedly believe the visual representation of you and your creative business is important to get right. But trying to make it look good without basing this beauty on anything solid is a sure-fire way to attract superficial interest.

Brand is so much more than typography and colour palettes. It includes:

  • The very heart of your business; what you stand for when you do your creative work
  • The purpose of your business and why you exist
  • The future of your business; the vision you have for what you’re going to achieve
  • Your personality traits and vibe that you give off that attracts customers to you
  • Your ‘soul’; who you truly are in life and in your creative work

The visuals you use for your brand are an expression of all this; they are not it. They’re just one way for you to communicate these things to potential customers.

 


 

Let me give you an example from my own creative business.

My website use a few limited colours to communicate the brand of my creative business. I use green because of its association to nature, one of my core values. I use a taupe colour because it’s warm and friendly – like me – but also sophisticated, expressing the high quality of my work. Finally, I use black and white because they are easy to read and classic.

This is a very simple use of colour to express something deeper about my creative business’ brand. On Instagram, it’s slightly more complex.

I include greenery or nature wherever possible in my photograph; again, because it’s one of my core values. But I also show the other values of my brand – love, play, helping and learning – through the colourful, fun and sometimes quirky images I share.

These images are expressions of me, my personal brand and the brand of my creative business. They’re not an empty shell. They’re chosen as expressions of strong foundations: my values, my purpose and my personality.

 


 

It’s difficult sometimes to step away from the reliance on visuals we have in contemporary culture. It’s very easy to be swayed by gorgeous, pretty, cool or fashionable images – because they are nice to look at, and who doesn’t want nice-looking stuff in their lives?

But the best visuals, and the ones you should use for your business, are those which represent something more meaningful. Your creative business’ brand is greater than the pictures or the fonts you use.

 


 

What’s next?

Here are some tips on considering whether the images you use are based on some strong foundations:

  • Do you know what the brand of your creative business is? Do you describe in colours and typography, or as something deeper?
  • Are you selecting images based on their ‘coolness’ or ‘prettiness’? Or are you selecting them because they communicate something about who you are?
  • Do you feel you’re creating images to fit in with some unspoken style of the platform you’re using? How about trying to fit in with current trends, even if they’re not very ‘you’?
  • Where are you getting your images from? Are you creating them, buying them, replicating them from other people or curating them? And how do you feel about what you’re doing?

How we look in a saturated visual culture is important, to help your creative business stand out. But the way your brand looks is an expression of something much deeper – something you might have to spend some time really thinking about to get results you’re proud of.


 

Crystal Clear Brand - A Workbook for Creative Business Owners launching September 28th

A brand that’s more than looks

 

On September 28th I’m launching a do-it-yourself product to help creative business owners like you form a brand that’s more than just pretty pictures.

It’s a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand in an interactive, friendly and engaging way.

A deep, conscious, clear brand is a huge help in visually representing your business. By understanding what the foundations of your business are, you can select and create images which really express what you’re about. And that is what attracts customers and keeps you enjoying what you’re doing.

If you’re interested in updates about the launch of this new project, sign up below.

To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.


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A beautiful Instagram feed is great - but is it all you've got? Your creative business deserves a brand that's about more than how you look.

I Discovered Ikigai and I Decided to Use It To Help My Students | Eleanor Snare - Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

I Found Ikigai and I Decided to Use It To Help My Students

Back at the end of 2015 I learned about a concept called ‘ikigai’. You might’ve heard about it, because it’s going to  be the new hygge.

Once I’d found out about it, and worked on exploring and finding my own ikigai, I wanted to use it to help others.

(After all, my ikigai is to help fulfil potential).

I decided to create an employment programme for my final year students based on the idea of ikigai. It seems that lots of people come to their ikigai at an mid point in their life; how could I bring my students closer to this concept earlier on?

How could I introduce it to them so they would start to make employment decisions based on that, not on external pressures?

This is the story of how and why I came to develop that programme.


In 2015 (my first year as a lecturer) I wanted to write an employment programme for final year creative students which was based on a more holistic view of ‘work’ and ‘career’. I wanted it to anticipate the blocks they may face in pursuing a creative life while giving them specific knowledge about how to develop a career in which they are confident and satisfied.

Rather than approach this through providing an outline for the sort of person they need to be or career they need to have in the creative industries, I was interested in helping them work out what was important to them first – then designing a career around that.

I hoped this approach would help students realise they have some level of autonomy in choosing their work. I also wanted to move away from working on CVs and LinkedIn profiles, and towards exploring basic yet deeply rooted elements which are essential to happy work and life.


Ikigai and self-actualisation

My starting point was ikigai, which you’ll have heard of by now. It’s a Japanese term originating in the Okinawa area (although that has been contested).

Loosely translated it means “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”. It is not necessarily about work, but about anything in one’s life which is this “reason”.

This concept has been identified as key to the long and fruitful lives of people in the Okinawa region, including in a seven-year longitudinal study of around 50,000 Japanese people which found that those who had not discovered their ikigai had a significantly increased risk of mortality (in a 2008 study by Sone, et al.).

I saw ikigai as similar, in some ways, to the ‘final destination’ of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: self-actualisation and the transcendent needs (helping others to self-actualise).

(If you’ve not heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before, read this).

One way they’re similar is because ikigai and self-actualisation can take any form; they don’t have to be high-brow. For example, the love of family might be your ikigai, which would be classified as a ‘lower’ need in Maslow’s hierarchy – but can also be a way of you self-actualising.

Another similarity is that ikigai and self-actualisation are dependent on the individual and their social context. I love this quote from Maslow about how the self-actualisation desire is different in different people:

“The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person…the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically…in painting pictures or in inventions”

For me, one of the most important similarities – and actually one of the most important things about ikigai as a whole – was that they are a continuous practice. It is the reason for waking up every morning, not just one single morning.

And from Maslow:

“[self-actualisation] might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming”

You don’t just ‘get’ your ikigai and stop. It is the complete opposite of our pervasive #goals culture; it’s something you find, embrace and just keep doing because every time you do it you become more you.

I believed ikigai and self-actualisation were key to talking about creative careers in a supportive and student-centric way. I saw that they placed the holistic development of the whole person at the heart of any activity.

They were the ‘colour’ of the colouring in, rather than the prescriptive outline.


 Discovering ikigai and self-actualisation

The next step I took was to understand the process by which someone could achieve ikigai and self-actualisation, the behaviours needed to do so, and then develop this into a programme.

In his work as a coach and entrepreneur, Marc Winn created a visualisation of how a person could achieve their ikigai. This diagram has been shared a lot so all credit to Marc; it’s a brilliant representation.

ikigai diagram by marc winn

This diagram has similarities to the one designed by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, showing the key characteristics of companies which significantly improved their operations.

Collins’ diagram consists of three overlapping circles: ‘passion’, ‘best at’ and ‘driving resource’. These translate in turn as ‘what lights your fire’, ‘what could you be the best in the world at’ and ‘what makes you money’.

The corresponding values in Winn’s diagram would be ‘passion’, ‘profession’ and ‘vocation’. But by adding ‘mission’, Winn saw the link between internal fulfilment and external, social need – which can be central to ikigai and self-actualisation.

When I saw the links between Winn’s ‘path to achievement’ diagram and the characteristics Collins discovered of significantly improved businesses, it suggested the principles in Winn’s diagram could be successfully applied to individual career development.

I felt confident that an employment programme based on ikigai would work.


Mr Arden steps in

From there, I looked more closely at some of the behaviours Maslow identified of people who he believed had achieved self-actualisation, which he shared in his 1970 book Motivation and Personality. These included absorption, experimentation and honesty – and a few more too!

One of my favourite books ever is Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To BeI saw links between his chapter subjects and the behaviour he encouraged in creative business people, and the behaviours Maslow identified.

For example, Arden has a chapter called “It’s all my fault”. One of Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours is responsibility.

Arden has another called “When it can’t be done, do it. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t exist”. Maslow lists experimentation as another self-actualising behaviour.

I saw that Arden was articulating – maybe unconsciously – Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours, and matching them to success in a creative career. I realised that adding this into the ikigai mix could make for a great employment programme.


The results

With ikigai at the very heart of the programme, I added an understanding of Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours.

I was inspired by Winn, Collins and Arden that this combination of ideas could work when teaching students about getting a creative career they were fulfilled by.

So I designed and ran an 11 week programme with around 15 students.

And it wasn’t half bad.

Read more about the results of the programme right here.

When I Taught My Students About Ikigai, Here's What Happened | Eleanor Snare - Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

When I Taught My Students About Ikigai, Here’s What Happened

In this article I shared how I came to devise an employment programme for my final year students that had ikigai at its heart.

Here, I want to explain some details of the programme and some of the results I gained.


What was the programme?

The programme was run over 11 weeks with my final year Fashion Marketing students, with seven in-person sessions and four self-directed sessions over the Easter break.

I sent a weekly email newsletter to the students for 10 weeks, which had a session recap and homework as downloadable PDFs. I included creative activities, video and images (no-one likes a boring email).

Because these were my marketing students, I used marketing concepts to help them approach ikigai. In marketing you have your objective (the goal), strategy (overall way of getting there) and your tactics (ways of implementing the strategy). So:

  • Ikigai was the ‘core objective
  • Strategies were for achieving ikigai
  • Tactics were for implementing the strategies

Many careers programmes focus purely on tactics (such as writing a CV) without considering the ‘core objective’ – the ultimate purpose of the activity. Keeping the objective in mind meant the strategies and tactics we discussed were meaningful and relevant for the students – they were writing their CV for a purpose they believed in.

The sessions I facilitated were a combination of explanation, discussion, and independent and group activities, and were very relaxed. We covered everything from ikigai to salary to skills and vision boards. I also got to dream up ikigai-achievement strategies with the students, in a mentor/coach capacity.

My favourite aspect of the sessions was the way the group bonded with each other; they went from 15 or so strangers to 15 friends who understood and cared about each other’s passions.

That, for me, was worth all the work.


The results

I managed to wrangle feedback from the students before they left to get into the big, wide world, and the results made me do a happy dance.

They’d approached the course expecting it to be tactical – as one said, “more about cvs and cover letters”. Ikigai was a brand new concept, and they found applying it to a range of ‘normal’ employment ideas was quite challenging.

This was some of their feedback on that:

“It let me know that it is important to know myself in order to know what I can do and should do.”

“…it was more about actual purpose which I really liked”

“[Elly’s] approach to careers was on a larger, more thought provoking scale. The programme’s focus on Ikigai made us look at our whole lives rather than just a job.”

Although my sample size was small, I was really pleased to see that they’d started looking at their work differently; rather than succumbing to external pressures, they’d started to turn inwards to make decisions. Importantly, one of them said they no longer expected there to be “one exact right way” to continue their career.

For a generation plagued by social media comparisons and FOMO, this was massive.


But my favourite bit had to be when I asked them what one thing they would take from the course into the future. Here’s what some of them said.

“…knowing that we’re all in the same boat and it’s okay to not know exactly what you’re doing”

“That there is no one path to achieve your goal”

“To look for personal fulfilment in a job.

 

I just want to share that last one again.

 

One student would remember and hold with them: “to look for personal fulfilment in a job“.

That’s what they learnt from the course. That means before, it wasn’t seen as important.

Perhaps what we’ve been telling our young people – actually, all our people – has been wrong. We’ve focused too much, accidentally, on external pressures for work, rather than what fulfils us.

That, to me, is the essence of a creative career; moving towards what fulfils you. Living your ikigai.


So, did they find it?

Did my students find their ikigai?

I didn’t ask them.

Why didn’t I ask them?

Because it’s a hell of a lot of pressure to ask a graduating student “Did you discover the reason why you get up in the morning?” while they launch themselves into adulthood.

Do I think they did find it?

It’s hard to answer.

I believe it’s only by attempting, failing, getting burnt and getting back up that we find out who we truly are, and what we truly want to achieve in our lives.

I spent 27 years not knowing why I was here, and doing lots of things for lots of reasons that didn’t make me happy. And I think I was lucky I discovered my ikigai when I did.

My students (now graduates) have a lot of attempting, failing, getting burnt and getting back up to do yet. That’s the way life is.

But they have an advantage; they know there is something out there that will fulfil them. Their ikigai is out there.

By planting the seed of ikigai in their mind, I have brought them one step closer to finding it.


“Even though I do not yet know what my ikigai is, and was reassured by Elly that this takes time to find, being aware of the concept has adjusted how I think about my future career. Having one purpose that drives forward every decision is a powerful thing.

For me, I was always concerned with having that one particular calling; a job title that I could aim for throughout my education. However, I never knew and do not know at this time what this should be.

Finding an Ikigai makes the prospect of choosing a career less daunting as everything becomes broader; with personal fulfilment as the criteria, a lot of avenues appear to open.


One final note: a big thank you to all the students who took part in this programme; you were brave and it was an honour to help you.