01 Jun

The Wilds

Sometimes, when we’ve had to become very wise very early in life, when we’ve had to grow up quickly, or make ourselves into a partner or a parent when we were not quite finished being a child, or childish, or gotten to spend much time alone, we might go a little off the rails later on.
When we make vows and promises and covenants and pacts in our youth, we often have to break them again sooner than we thought we might. This is not a thing to feel ashamed of – when we can’t stop a thing from falling apart, when we realize love really isn’t all we need to get by, it simply is what it is.
But when it happens, whoever unmakes the vow or cuts the tie, whoever allows things to fall, or perhaps even fights for them in vain, the one who breaks or is broken away from, this one might scatter for a little while, and do this other thing where they seem to run in five directions all at once, all of them terrifying and dangerous and risky and apparently willfully alarming and self-destructive.
When this happens, we might be tempted to rush in and save these ones from themselves. We see the wild abandon and the tightrope walking and we cry out, stop! It isn’t safe! Come back, come back! Be small for a while! Let us protect you from yourself!
Grief for lost self is a peculiar creature. It has this way of making us long to force the unfinished parts of us back into process. It may drive us towards dangerous people and dangerous places, because we long to feel something other than numbness and loss. We want to be wild again. We have unfinished business out there. We grew up too soon. We want to feel like conquerors, instead of like the conquered. Grief makes us feel around for the young, vulnerable, untested aspects of our psyche and grasp them tightly, kissing them tenderly on the forehead, before we drag them out on the town to get tattoos and meet dangerous strangers wherever they can be found.
Breaking a promise we made in our youth is often a kind of death to hope. But it can be the rebirth of the self that stopped exploring the wild, wide world when that premature promise was sealed.
If we do not finish our exploration of the wilds when we are young, the wilds wait until we are free again. Then, if we allow them, they come back to claim us.
For all the women who were not allowed to wander, to wonder, to become their full, wild selves, the time is come. The wilds have returned for you. You have only to set yourself free.~ Jo Hilder


To purchase this image as a canvas, please visit my online store here.

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18 Nov

Stay In Your Canoe.

A few years ago, I saw someone demonstrate how young girls (and boys) could understand what boundaries – physical, emotional and sexual – looked like. They took their arms and made a canoe which reached from the point their hands could touch out front, around and behind them. It created a canoe shape in which they sat right in the middle. I’ve never forgotten this, and I wish I’d learned this earlier. I’ve never found a more effective way to imagine around myself a space in which I healthily and sanely situate myself, safe from those I don’t wish to share myself with, or whom try to cross my boundaries. I can share my canoe with others if I choose, but in my canoe, what I say goes. It’s a no shame, no guilt, no violation space, and I maintain it carefully.

Sometimes my canoe is as big as the physical space I inhabit – my house, car, group, shop for example. Sometimes it’s skin thin. Sometimes i step out and into someone’s else’s, or they into mine. But canoes are my standard and I don’t break that standard. Nobody and nothing gets into my canoe unless I will it to be so, and I do not apologize for it. It’s a place of safety, security, well being, and it is mine to police and share as I see fit.

Christmas is a time when women especially are expected to load a heap of shit into their canoes. We get out of our guilt free zone and walk around surrounded by pressure to spend, buy and bring people together for the sake of some invented holiday where everyone is supposed to feel happy and connected. We are supposed to allow people we would never let near us any other time to disregard our canoe. We also feel it’s okay to pile up our own feelings of loneliness, lack, guilt, shame, pain and circumstance on others because we feel them so intensely this time of year. We get out of our canoe and look around and feel others are more, have more, do more, get more, and rather than dealing with it, or seeing things as they are, we begin to try and get in others canoes and get them to deal with it for us. But none of this shit is real.

Nobody has less shit to deal with. We all have ours, and it’s all magnified, triggered and exacerbated at times like these. We all hurt for the ones lost or absent, we all feel shame for things unsaid, we all wish those ties could be mended or smoothed or healed right now, even if just for a time. Yes, some have nothing and no one at Christmas, and our time to think of them is all year round, not just now. And our time to ask for help and support in our own loneliness and isolation is not just now, but all year round as well.

Just because Christmas looms, our triggers are not others emergencies. The toxic actions of family members or friends are not our job to accommodate just because a teeny baby was born two thousand years ago and religious people decided that was December 25th and a Coke commercial stole a European tradition introducing a fat white man who visits little kids at night to bestow on them the result of our over extended credit cards.

Argh, I’m getting back in my canoe.

Things are about to get crazy around here. There will be pressure, and spending, and traffic, and no parking spots, and expensive seafood, and family coming, or family absent, and unanswered phone calls, and long working hours, and unreasonable expectations, and reasonable expectations unmet.

Darling, take my advice. Don’t be tempted to get out of your canoe. Don’t expect to be rescued when you do. Deal with your shit. Stay firmly put and don’t get out to rescue anyone else. Women especially are expected to lower their boundaries, forgive the unforgivable, counsel everyone else’s pain, overfeed the already satiated, and comfort the comfortable, at this time of year. Get in your fucking canoe and push off the pier. Wave sweetly at them as they watch confused from the shore. Let them find their own canoe and paddle where their own thoughts and troubles will be their work, not yours. Don’t try to heal people or conflict or the wrongness that’s comes with facilitating peace between people who ought not be in proximity any other time with your time, money or energy. It’s time for a canoe journey, sweetheart. It will be time to return probably about February.

16 Nov

Doing Awesome Broken (Wyong Writers Festival, Nov. 16th 2019)

For those who may be interested to read my Wyong Writers festival speech on Doing Awesome Broken, here it is

There once was a woman who loved to walk in the wilderness. At night she dreamed of the scent of the trees, the feel of the earth beneath her feet and the sound of the wind moving through the tree boughs overhead. Every morning, she packed her knapsack and tied her boots, and headed out on her favourite track, excited for all the new experiences which lay ahead.

As she walked along one day, suddenly she heard a small voice coming from somewhere. “Where are you going?” the voice said. “Don’t you know it’s dangerous out here? Do you have a map?”

“No, I don’t need a map, I’m exploring,” she replied to the voice, “but excuse me – exactly where are you?”

“I’m here”, said a small child-like creature who suddenly popped out from behind a tree. “And I’m concerned. In fact I’m WORRIED.”

“What on earth are you worried about?” said the woman. “I’m fine, and you appear to be as well.”

“How silly you are,” said the creature. “If only you KNEW all the things that could go WRONG for someone just wandering about unprepared. I think I should go with you and warn you about ALL THE THINGS.”

Despite being already annoyed with this little bore who seemed bent on spoiling her adventure, the woman agreed to take it with her. They headed off with it perched on top of her knapsack where it could easily chatter into her ear.

“Always look down, there’s so many things to trip on. Look out! Those leaves are poisonous. Did you hear that? I’m sure that’s a dangerous animal in the bush waiting to pounce. Did you bring snacks? We might starve. You can’t go there! I did once, and what happened was HORRIBLE! Oh my God! How far are we going? Can’t you walk faster? Slower? I think we should go back. This was a stupid idea. I want to go home!”

Exasperated, the woman stopped and put down her knapsack. Sitting opposite her passenger on a  stump, she watched as it sobbed and rocked itself. At first, the woman felt afraid. Clearly this little creature was terrified out here, even though this was its natural habitat. The noises and strange movements seemed ominous rather than interesting, and suddenly she was afraid of becoming lost, despite the fact they hadn’t left the path. Perhaps wandering out here was a stupid idea, they really were both in danger, and it was time to go back. Dreaming of the wilderness was turning out to be much more pleasant than actually being in it.

But as she sat looking at the little creature sobbing, she was moved to compassion. This little one was much smaller than the woman and seemed to have suffered much in the past. She realised all the chatter and foreboding was nothing more than fear. All the wonder and enjoyment of the wilderness, the mystery, adventure and peace to be found there were invisible to it, overcome as it was by its private fantasy of everything that could go wrong. The woman gathered the little creature up and comforted it for a long time. “Everything will be all right. You are small, but I am big. I think if you come with me, rather than me obeying you, both of us will be much happier.”

And so they set off, the woman with the little creature on her shoulders. It never did cease its chattering and foreboding, but the woman now understood all it uttered were only little fears, not irrefutable facts, and so carried the little passenger with patience and love in her heart.

What we have come to know as the inner critic is that little frightened passenger who lives in our unexplored wilderness. Every time we venture from our comfort zone, its ominous little voice will begin to pipe up and try to have us return to where it’s safe and everything is familiar. But every creative, explorer, artist, adventurer and lively spirit knows our inner critic is not the voice of fact, but of fear. It wants to keep us safe from failure, from harm and from shame.

Rather than hating or obeying the inner critic, it’s better to give her the compassion, comfort and understanding she deserves and craves, and simply forge ahead. Better to try, fail and learn, than to assume failure at the outset and never have the opportunity to grow.

We all have a wilderness we dream about and wish one day to explore. A book to write, or perhaps one to read. A discipline to undertake, an adventure to have. I own a boutique and for some of my customers, trying on a dress in a brave colour, or even one without sleeves to cover what they believe are upper arms ugly enough to make planes fall from the sky, is terrifying. They fear criticism. They fear judgment. They have a permanent passenger screaming in their ear, shaming them about their bodies and asking them who the hell they think they are to not be INVISIBLE. When we have been shamed for the way we look – and shaming for many of us begins with our physical bodies – the desire to be unseen can be deep-seated, and painful when challenged. I have a sign in my fitting room which reads DARLING, YOUR ARMS LOOK FINE. You see, I like to address the passenger directly but with love and humour. That little blighter takes itself way too seriously and often, when called out, can be helped to see how out of perspective it’s demands really are. Nothing makes me happier than when a customer leaves my shop with an outfit she would never have worn before, having been given permission to feel, look and be the amazing woman she is. The inner critic does not speak truth, she speaks fear. And rather than obeying her frightened, and frightening, monologue, we can regard her as what she really is – a spinning nucleus of unanswered fears, driven by the desire to keep us safe. But obeying the inner critic won’t keep us safe. It will keep us small. The wilderness we dream of will remain a dream unless we find a way to comfort our fearful thoughts and feelings. They may be borne of experience, but they are also borne of our memory. The wilderness we desire is best travailed with our imagination.

I have a friend who created a wonderful project based on the concept of human happiness. As a psychologist, she studied the subject for years, writing content, conducting interviews and gathering data. She packaged it all up into a program she planned to launch as content on a website. I helped her create the site, and she set a date for the launch – her birthday. On this auspicious day, her baby would be introduced to the world. As the day grew closer, she began to baulk. She’d been working on her first blog post for months, and it still wasn’t ready. She was convinced the day the website went live, ninety eight percent of internet users would visit it, read that first blog post, and judge both she and it as rubbish. So, she wrote, edited, wrote, ditched everything, began again, procrastinated and panicked, all the time trying to make that blog post PERFECT. Her birthday came and went, he blog post was unpublished, the site remained invisible. I don’t know what happened to her project, but the irony of her being so miserable creating content on human happiness was not lost on me. There is no such thing as perfect. Sometimes it’s okay for things to be a little bit crap when you let them go into the world, including yourself.

Often when I’m sewing in my shop, people comment on how CLEVER I am. I dislike the word CLEVER – it always sounds a bit smarmy to me. I like to answer, “well, if nothing else, I’m prolific!” I used to be a bit of a slap dash creative, but I learned it’s good to take on skills which will bring about a better result. I employed a guild-accredited patchwork teacher once to teach in my shop, and when she saw my sewing, she was horrified. I was glad for her guidance. However, I’ve also learned attaining to perfection is a burden. Author Malcolm Gladwell famously stated you need 10,000 hours to be a phenom (not an expert, as is often misquoted.) An expert is different from a PHENOM. A phenom is a person who is outstandingly talented or admired – in other words, CLEVER. Call me a phenom any day. But let’s not miss the bit about the 10,000 hours. That’s a lot of time doing something. That’s PROLIFIC.

Aiming to be prolific is possible. Aiming for perfection is a recipe for disappointment. It is self-sabotage. Prolificity (say THAT three times fast) is actually very easy when you love doing something and, importantly, you give yourself permission for it to be a little bit crap when you release it to the world.

I worked with an acting teacher who shared with me a phrase he learned from a successful screenplay writer. KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Let your dear things go. Launch them. Send them away. Give them permission to fly. So often we wilderness-seekers are paralysed not by potential failure, but by our former successes. We fear a change to the formula or exploring new ground will bring disapproval instead of the accolades we enjoyed when last we tried. My acting teacher friend encouraged me to move beyond what people appreciated before to explore new ground. Publish the blog post with its imperfections and move on to the next one. Thank people for their compliments, then sit down and make something new. Don’t find yourself in fifty years singing the same old songs to the same old people, just because they clap each time. Our darlings need to be allowed to fly away, so something new can come. Our little passenger likes to keep us repeating past successes because they’re safe, but the wilderness is for PHENOMS. Past successes can be as inhibiting as past failures, but both need to be released to move forward.

You and I are not perfect. Our message, creations, words and work can never be. We are all, in both little and significant ways, broken and imperfect. Ben and I lived as caretakers for a time on a sheep station in rural Victoria. It was a magnificent place, established in 1850 with a bluestone mansion of 12 bedrooms and six bathrooms. My job was cleaner and housekeeper. Even though nobody was in residence but us, our days were full. I loved to spend my free time wandering around the property, through the many historic outbuildings and across the beautiful landscape. I got in the habit of picking up pieces of broken pottery and glass which were everywhere, and which came to the surface every time the sheep scoured a section of a paddock down to the dirt. I imagined a story for every bit I collected. Elegant wine glasses for celebrations, elaborately decorated dinner plates for reunions and rustic bowls for end-of-day meals by fireside. Medicine bottles clutched during fervent prayers murmured on bended knees. Liquor vessels for blessed relief and raucous laughter. Scent and cosmetic jars for luxury and indulgence. Milk bottles for sustenance and nourishment, preservation, nurture and health. Coffee and teacups for conversation – sit a while? Pass the sugar. Share a moment with me. I bring my treasures back in plastic bags and the cradle of my shirtfront, washing them carefully in the kitchen sink. I hold each one and give it a story, bless it, place it aside with all the others around the house in bowls where I can see them. Now, I muse, they all have a story. No longer worthless, they belong somewhere, to someone, again.

We all are wounded by our past – shamed, embarrassed by failures real or imagined. We are plagued by doubts, and by our little frightened passenger who just wants to stay safe. We have hurt people and been hurt by them. We have tried to save what would not and could not be saved. Just like all those fragments I found in the dirt, we too can be broken, dropped and forgotten, our stories rendered useless or imperfect in our eyes or those of another, but we are not ever lost, worthless or invisible. The value of us, and of our stories, is not negated by imperfection. Each fragment of us holds not only beauty, but also the fullness of our lived experience and our essence – where we came from, where we have been, and what is to become of us. We are broken, but we are not unseen or lost. We are all a beautiful, broken, if sometimes buried treasure. Even though it may seem so at times, despite the things that happen to us our intrinsic value, and that of all the gifts we bring, is never removed. Our worth is in our very dust, in our grains, in our shards – and in our stories. And it remains ready to be found, by us, and every friend, lover, seeker and storyteller willing to get their hands dirty.

© Jo Hilder 2019


13 Jun

Seeds Break Before They Grow

They call it a crisis, but they mean to say we were all together before, and now we look and seem so, so broken. But we were always in pieces – the difference now is we know it.

We know we have shadows and vulnerabilities and we understand selfishness is an aspect of self-care. We no longer aspire to inclusion, seeking to cure our flaws and have enough of our sins transmuted so that we are acceptable and useful to God and others. Now we know God is in us, and there are no others.

We have been the bad guy, we have hurt others and been hurt. We have studied forgiveness and found it both too difficult, and too easily surrendered up in exchange for the love we craved. We tried to be and do what was required, but we failed, choosing instead to be true to what emerged when everything seemed hopeless, when we could not be what and who they wanted, when the cracks appeared, when we stopped running and grasping and endlessly reinventing ourselves in their image and simply decided to let go.

And we were alone with all our flaws, mistakes, curses, damage and unforgiveness, and we dealt with them, are dealing with them, will deal with them.

We are now small, but we are at the same time infinitesimal. We are broken, but more whole than ever. We hold nothing, but have access to all we need, because we understand all the wisdom and strength we once looked for elsewhere was in us all along.

We do not hold to the past, because we are not it, we are who we are right now, in this moment. We know there are no heroes, no more fixed up people, no idols worthy of our worship. There are only those who awaken and share the wisdom, reminding us of what we already know, and those who are awakening to the wisdom.

This is not a crisis like a car accident is a crisis. This is a crisis like realizing the Emperor has no clothes. You’re the child calling it out to yourself. Are you listening? Everything outside that still, small voice is bullshit. You don’t go anywhere or sit beneath any authority to get this kind of revelation, this teaching, this permission to become. It comes from Source, from within you.

If you feel the pull to change, follow it. If you glimpse a vision of yourself more rested, more joyful, more at peace, throw yourself down that rabbit hole head first. Make it up as you go along. You’re supported in your happiness. Persist in your personal limitations and misery, and despite your company and the safety of numbers, you’re all alone.

Why am I writing this? I’ve no idea. Is it for you? Perhaps. I live this, have lived it. I’ve joined and left tribes, made and broken relationships, exploited and been exploited, faced death, experienced miracles, fought against being broken only to allow myself to come apart later. And life goes on.

I wanted a huge life when I was young. I have struggled for one bigger than I had at every juncture. Looking back, it’s been big. It is. Despite the fact all I have is my art, my family and my dog. I have no house of my own, no fortune or investments. I spent it all on the present moment.

The crises they warn us against can be painful, even feel like it’s breaking us apart. But it is the stuff of growth. A seed breaks apart to put out a shoot. I love that imagery. May that picture be with you today as you ponder your life. You’re not alone. You have not failed. You matter. Your being here is a marvelous miracle. Thank you.

Jo ?

18 Mar

InSPIRED Business

So, is it possible to be professional AND spiritual in business?

My spirituality is a fundamental – and substantial – part of me. I can’t separate my philosophical and religious thoughts, ideas and practices from the things I do any more than I could remove our massive flat screen TV from the living room wall. Certainly not without a struggle, swearing, a huge mess, and a cacophony of unnecessary and disruptive emotions.

As far as what constitutes a healthy spiritual practice, anything that makes a human being less of an asshole is a good place to start. Spirituality of this kind can be worked out anywhere, in any way, big or small. I find making my art, exploring my creativity, writing, studying, and holding my space open and safe for those who enter it to be a deeply satisfying and perpetually energizing way to live. I can’t do anything in my personal or my professional life without drawing on something – someone – greater than myself. Yes, I mean God – Goddess, Source, The Universe, whatever.

For me, my business, as with my personal life, is “inspired” – literally – as being energized and moved by Spirit. Working inspired means saying no as often as I say yes. It means examining my motives and delegating my energy intentionally and carefully. It means making self-care a priority. The priority, in fact.

Being an inspired business – a spiritual business – isn’t waving hands over people’s auras or rambling on about woo woo or selling crystals and salt lamps. It means looking for the holy, the sacred, the good and the true in every person, whilst instating and keeping boundaries and safe spaces for all involved. It means operating ethically and honestly. It means showing your true face to people, and speaking your truth to them. It means not trying to take the place of Spirit in their lives, to trick or deceive them, or use guile and inauthenticity to create increase for ourselves, at others expense, financially, emotionally and socially.

It means, simply put, to create a spiritual business practice of not being an asshole. Or, as Kasey’s Dad so succinctly put it, simply not being a dickhead,

Happy inspired business.

09 Mar

There Is Enough For Everyone

Being a creative and/or a person in business is a challenge in many ways. Not the least when we feel others are out to steal what we believe is ours, be it ideas, customers, a share of the market etc. I know first hand both what it feels like to have something I created blatantly copied by someone I considered a friend, and to be accused of doing the same to someone else. It’s a tough game.
Or is it?
While we definitely need to protect ourselves legally from intellectual property theft and copyright infringements, and the likewise respect the legal rights of others, getting tied up in knots worrying about others “stealing” our ideas and even our customers will drive is crazy. Holding the perception there is only so many ideas and clients to engage with them is basically a poverty mindset, and will inevitably stifle our creativity and growth.
Disengaging our own personal worth from the ideas we have and the products we send into the world is vital for every artist, creative or entrepreneur. Seeing your creation as simply one expression of your vast imagination and resources helps us avoid the paranoid worldview which stifles creativity and makes us wary of others, turning potential allies into enemies.
The fact is, there are enough clients, money, ideas and opportunities for everyone. They don’t run out. The more energy we exert in trying to make everything ours and hoard it, the less energy we have to generate new ideas.
It’s not personal. Take steps to protect what is legally defined as your IP. Let go. Let your creativity and prosperity come through you, rather than merely to you. In this way, we open ourselves up to ideas, people and opportunities in ways we perhaps have only imagined.

27 Feb

Pushing Through By Letting Go

If you’re going to push through what can at times feel like never ending barriers to your joy, you’ll need to accept the way you feel as normal, whatever the way you feel is.

Frustration. Sadness. Melancholy. Worry. Boredom. Listlessness. These are moods, and sometimes not the response to something that’s happened we interpret them to be – they can be caused by a biological or chemical imbalance in us, rather than a circumstance happening to us.

Learning to be with our feelings and emotions, training ourselves to understand our thoughts and moods is so important in our growth and evolution. Self-understanding can help us avoid impulsive decisions and reactive choices which can undo our prior work and create unnecessary chaos and disorder.

It’s possible to sit with feelings of dissatisfaction, fear and frustration, and simply allow them to come to us, then through us, without our interpreting them as calls to action until we have had time to assess the facts and take an objective assessment.

When I was going through cancer treatment, I experienced more fear and loneliness than ever I had. I spent two months away from my family having radiotherapy as there was no facility where we lived. This time spent largely alone with my own thoughts and feelings was the first prolonged period like that I’d had in my life up to the age of 33. What I learned about myself – and about how to stand outside my thoughts and feelings, knowing they were not me, but a product of many things – has helped me so much since. I know how to be alone with my moods. I know how to sit with fear and sadness, even the inexplicable kind. And I understand also that even when we go through horrible circumstances and suffering, joy and happiness is possible. This is the gift I was given in my cancer experience – to see the possibility of joy in me, despite the imminent threat of suffering, and even death. Nothing scares me now. Not a damn thing.

Learning to sit with our own thoughts and not react to them immediately is a valuable skill and puts us in good stead across the whole of our life. We are not our thoughts. Like our art, our choices, our decisions, they are a product of us. You know, the hardest part of facing cancer is realizing that when it boils down to it, the cancer is made of you. And it’s the same with our thoughts. We get so caught up with fighting them, or surrendering to them, we forget about having compassion, because they are made of us, by us, often without our even being able to help it very much.

Give yourself a break. Sit gently with your thoughts and feelings and remember they are made of you – even your sadness, fear and anger. Hold your thoughts patiently with compassion, and as they come to you, allow them to come through you. Give your rational, mindful self time to process them. Don’t act until you’ve listened to yourself cycle through the response, the feeling, the rationale and the reasoning. Because you will. And eventually, your wisdom will join with your intuition in the quiet afterspace, and you’ll know exactly what to do.

You’ll know exactly what to do.

25 Feb

Ten Most Common Myths About Success


1. It will look exactly the way you fantasized success would look like. Every i dotted, every t crossed. Every bill up to date, every day filled with gratifying accomplishments and win after win.

Fact: Success won’t necessarily look like a solution to your problems. It usually presents as simply a new set of challenges to be addressed in place of your old challenges. Instead of trying to attain a state of perfection in which all problems are solved, aim to learn from every challenge and failure, breaking old patterns and moving your business and skills forwards and upwards.

2. It will not be stressful, but rather all our stress will go away because of it.

Every set of challenges brings stress as we consider and imagine the possible negative consequences of our actions and inactions, weighing those with the benefits. No initiative can break new ground without our growing into each situation with courage and common sense. Self-care and rest are imperative for stress management. We look after ourselves first, then look after our business. Entrepreneurship is not a cure for stress and workaholism, and neither are it’s fruits. Rather, it’s a classroom where we learn to balance outside interest with self-interest.

3. You won’t make mistakes or take risks that go badly.

You will. Learn from them, take responsibility for them, make good, and move on.

4. Everyone will love both you and everything you do, and broadcast your success to others without a trace of envy or malice.

They won’t. Do it anyway.

5. Most people will notice your little wins, and maybe even comment on them with occasional supportive hurrahs.

They won’t. Do it anyway.

6. Someone will notice. Just a little bit.

Maybe, but don’t count on it. Do it anyway.

7. You won’t care if no one notices you and what you’re doing.

You will care. It will hurt and you will be discouraged, angry and want to give up. Don’t.

8. You will have a really big pile of money.

Let’s hope so. But piles of money do not solve problems. They simply bring different ones.

9. Money will inevitably follow because you’re doing what you love, without your caring if it does or not because of your perpetual state of ecstatic bliss at being able to work at what you enjoy despite the long hours, exhausting effort and largely invisible state in which you accomplish small miracles on a daily basis.

Maybe. Probably not, but perhaps. Probably eventually. In any case, just keep going. Wherever “there” is for you, head for that. Overshoot a little, even. It can’t hurt.

10. Success is the point.

Where is this “there” you keep saying you’ll arrive at one day? What’s your goal – do you know what or where it is? What does success actually look like for you? Are you certain you’re not aiming for someone else’s picture of it? How will you know you’ve achieved it? Perhaps you already have? Maybe being on the way is the way?

So many of us wallow in discontent in our endeavors simply because we don’t have a clear definition of success which rings true for us. Once we have defined our motives, run a reality check on our values and expectations and put some clever strategies in place to protect our resources and our energies, we can begin to move more steadily along the plane of progress. Success may be less a place to arrive at than it is a way of being in where and what we have and are now. Success is attitude rather than altitude. Aim high, but carry snacks and take time to enjoy the view.

Jo Hilder

21 Feb

Your Business Is A Safe Space, And It’s Up To You To Keep It

You’ve heard me speak about safe spaces before, about creating, holding and keeping them. Your venture, enterprise or business is a kind of safe space, into which you invite others who become your customers, patrons, tribe and/or ambassadors. Your skill as a micro business owner operator is to know how to create and safe space, and learn and keep the guidelines which make it a place where the best of people can prosper.

But here’s something many small business owners and operators neglect, or even deliberately overlook.

Your space isn’t safe if it isn’t also safe for you.

For some months after we opened a year ago, a woman would come into the shop quite regularly, not to purchase anything, but mostly to download her problems. She would try on clothing, look around, ask for items to be put on hold, but I don’t remember if she actually purchased anything in all that time. After a while, whenever she entered the shop I would feel anxious and know I would need to be careful not to find myself standing for an hour listening to her unpack her terrible story to me, or to my mum, who helps out. No doubt, she was going through a hard time, however she did disclose she was seeing a qualified mental health professional to help her deal with it. Knowing she was supported certainly helped me draw a line behind which I knew I needed to stay, or I was at risk of being drained every time this person came into my space.

The last time she was in the shop was to ask me to hold an item **again** for her, with the list of terrible things that happened this week which she felt justified my removing the item from sale for another period of time. To clarify, we don’t hold items, I don’t have the room to store them, and we turn items over so quickly it’s simply not tenable. But her sad story and the long telling of it had moved my poor mum to agree simply to placate her and hasten her leaving the shop, as she was more than a handful, and it took all our patience and skill to provide a competent service to her, and any other customers who happened to be in the shop at the time. So she came in to read me her long list of sad reasons I needed to bend store policy and keep the item off the rack for her, and I gently told her that the item needed to be purchased today or would be returned to stock. After all, I run a shop, I conduct transactions. The customers inclement circumstances may at times impact the nature of these transactions, but at my discretion. That’s the skill of holding space. It’s called boundaries. And as the space holder and keeper, if you don’t set boundaries and make them clear, someone will walk right up and start making demands which make you wish you thought about boundaries approximately ten years ago.

So I told this customer, no. I’m returning the item to the rack today. You may purchase it now, or tomorrow, or next week. However, it isn’t going in my back room again.

What followed was a further litany of reasons I had to acquiesce to her request, mainly because of terrible things she was experiencing in her personal life right now. It felt uncomfortable. I was being manipulated. She was using her own misfortune, pain and unhappiness to get what she wanted from me. And she was not asking for my understanding. She was demanding I obey her. At volume. With wild arm movements. And a finger pointed in my face.

And it is at this point my focus shifts from making safe space for her, and keeping it for myself.

I did not need to ask her to leave, thank goodness, because in a split second of clarity she apparently realized she was becoming hysterical over a shirt, and so she threw one last aspersion at me and left.

I was going to ask her to leave. I felt threatened, and I was being verbally attacked. Her response to the situation was uncivil and disproportionate. Whilst I empathize with her circumstances, I’m not her counselor, nor am I obliged to provide her with additional services or favours because of them. She is not welcome to come back, because in my space, there are boundaries, and I am the one who keeps them. My customers, both the ones who come to conduct appropriate business, and those who don’t, need to know this.

If the space isn’t safe for us as well as for our customers, the space isn’t safe at all.

Comments and responses welcome.

20 Feb

It’s Okay To Be A Woman Who Doesn’t Enjoy Going To Women’s Gatherings And Events

What happens when you like the company and support of other women, but you’re not interested in joining a “circle” or being part of a group?

Nothing happens.

Look, I know there are times we women crave the support and connection we can only receive from other women. There’s nothing like it when you’re feeling isolated or perhaps even victimized by circumstances or situations. When you have young children, for example, or in abuse situations. Finding others who share similar experiences to us can be so valuable for our social, emotional and mental health, even our physical safety.

We chicks need to stick together.

But as a fifty year old woman, personally I’m growing more comfortable with my own company as I grow older. Combine this with some frankly horrible experiences in the past, and I’m now quite selfish with my private time, and find less and less I need the company or community of other women in a concentrated social situation.

My closest friends know this about me. I like it when we can just hang out and talk about real stuff. I don’t like small talk. Funny how most of us don’t, or say we don’t, and yet we willingly perpetuate these situations where the conversation is stunted and will never move beyond the level of surface chatter.

I may seem like the kind of person who would enjoy going to events and being part of women’s circles and groups. But I’m going to be brave here and admit I don’t. I was involved for over thirty years in various spiritual communities of different sizes in many places, including online, and I’ve seen and been through enough. I am the kind of person who can’t simply “attend” – and inevitably I end up as that person who is “too much”. Too intense, too overbearing, too wanting to be involved, help, make it better, bring my thing and be part of it. And sometimes my “too much” was welcomed, engaged with, rostered on and given all the avenues it so deeply desired to run down, because that’s how creativity works, right? But I understand now that the particular requirements of the paradigm I chose do not honor artists, because artists are free-thinkers, explorers and wilderness dwellers. So I broke up my long term relationship with evangelical Christianity, and followed my heart out beyond the walls.

I spent a little while gathering up the lost and lonely disenfranchised before realizing the adage of being healed from what truly hurt us lest we bleed on those who didn’t cut us is so very and sadly true. Trying to convince the deeply institutionalized they can survive independently without being all clumped up together under the banner of being “like-minded” was like trying to cut my own head off with a bread knife – pointless, and painful. So I stopped rescuing people from group-think and went my way, demonized, resentful and happy to be the bad guy if it meant I got to spend more time by myself.

By this time, I’d learned it was okay to be alone, to be thought of poorly, to not have a group of like-minded people around me, and to pick and choose when, where and how I engaged with “community”. Which turns out to be infrequently, wherever I like and however I like. I don’t go everywhere I’m invited, and never, ever do I go where someone tells me “God needs you and what you have to offer, Jo.”

God does not “need” me, or what I have, and I’m not “robbing” God of either by staying in one place and not arriving at another. That’s pretty sick spiritual codependency bull crap right there.

But I digress.

It’s okay to not want to be involved in social huddles or special events carefully thought out to appeal to you, even if they really, really do. It’s all right to not want to form new ties with different people and incite in oneself new feelings of belonging or longing, or obligation. It’s okay to not want to join a circle, go to a group, network, or give your energy to new and different things. It’s all right to like your own company, mind your own business, and not turn up to things. Beware of FOMO* – it’s a real thing.

*(fear of missing out)

I say all this because there are so many events on we could all get along to, events designed to enrich, inform and enlighten us, and they absolutely could, should we decide to go there. But you know what? Also, no. You don’t have to. You’re not “needed” by God or anyone else to fill a gap or take a position. Does that concern or upset you? Maybe that’s a bit of work to take on right now. There is no lack in the bigger scheme, all is in balance, you are enough. Go, if you like, don’t, if you will. The you who decides to become part of that business, spiritual or social community is a whole person going in, and won’t be more whole coming out. You’re okay, and it’s okay to like your own company.


JO x

19 Feb

Why Your Purpose Is Not The Same As A “Hustle”.

I’m not keen on the term “hustle” used relating to small business. Actually, I despise it.
See the graphic shared with this post for why.

Words matter. The smaller the enterprise, the greater the meaning and impact little things have on your mindset and actions.
When you’re a micro-business, perceptions about you, and that you have, are not lessened by your size – they’re magnified.
Your intention setting matters. Your motivation matters. Your purpose and goals matter.

Think carefully about your definition(s) of what you do, even if you only ever kept these to yourself. Calling your business a “hustle” is virtually describing it and what you do as definitively lacking integrity, as categorically self-centred rather than broadly focused, as using guile and gaining advantage by a kind of “white” deceit. If you were to tell a client your service to them was a “hustle”, what do you think they will surmise?

My business is not a hustle. I’m not practicing sleight of hand here, nor am I doing some kind of commerce-burlesque behind giant red feathers to get people to part with their dosh. When you do dealings with me, what you see is what you get. Integrity is important to me, and so I don’t give my business my “all” – I keep some of myself back for me, protecting it carefully, so what I do give is honest and sustainable. My values are plain to see. I care about people, and I want them to become more of who they truly are, whilst I, through my business, do the same. That is not a hustle. That’s purpose.

My challenge to you, little business owner, as you navigate your way in the sea of entrepreneurship. Think about whether you can keep up the “hustle” you’re supposed to want, or you’d prefer to get up each day living the dream you know you do.

14 Feb

Tired Is Not A Life Skill.

They say it like it’s a badge of honour, as if pushing through our exhaustion, or hanging on when we want to let go is some sort of achievement of itself. But sometimes letting go is exactly what’s needed, even if just for a time. Stepping away, or even just taking a rest, may be essential for our own health and that of our interest or enterprise.

There are no such thing as “tireless” advocates, entrepreneurs, artists, activists or human beings. We all get bored, frustrated, jaded, angry, exhausted and disillusioned. And these are legitimate feelings and experiences we can learn from, and which sometimes must be obeyed. Tirelessness, relentless activity, keeping on as if we had something to prove, these can be toxic to us and the things and people we love. Listening to our bodies and to our intuition, reading the signals of circumstances and seasons, knowing when it’s time to hold on and time to let go, these things are wisdom, and sometimes we learn the hard way. The term “tireless” sounds great in magazine articles and podium introductions, but it’s not real. We tire, and only we can give ourselves permission to accept we do, and take rest in whatever form is necessary.
“Tireless” is not a life skill or an achievement of itself. You are allowed to become frustrated, jaded and exhausted. You are allowed to stop and do something different, or differently. Don’t be tempted into relentless activity by the desire to be known as a “tireless” achiever. Give yourself a break, friend.