Getting Back to Work


Late last week I spoke at the Circles Conference to a packed (and quite stylish) audience full of designers. And now I’m nursing what my friend Brené Brown calls a vulnerability hangover.

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My talk was about how painful it can be to be a working creative because of The Fear. But that if we can just do a few things – like get specific about what both the worst case scenario and the ideal day look like, get clear on what we really want to be doing all day, and maybe make a mantra to remember what that is – then maybe it won’t be quite so painful to put your heart into your profession. I didn’t really get serious about my talk until two weeks ago. I had written out what I wanted to say – and when I read it out loud it sucked. So I recruited my speech writer and voice coach (that would be my sister and business partner, Tara) and we spent an entire Saturday afternoon out at my parents lake house writing my script – word-for-word. Then I spent the next week memorizing my cues and designing my slides. The night before my talk in the hotel room I practiced forgetting the script so I could sound casual. As if I was going to walk up on that stage and give a story that had just come to mind – like lunch with a friend. Then I practiced walking (the stage strut – not quite a model stomp) and talking at the same time without forgetting that words were supposed to be coming out of my mouth.

Oh. And that was all only after getting my snotty and over-tired baby to sleep on the hotel bed – two hours after his normal bedtime. Which for a baby, and a new mom, is kind of a big deal.

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After my talk I felt high. I had a quiet, humbling moment of gratitude when I found myself backstage. And then when I was sure nobody could see me I pumped my fists in the air – like a dorky protagonist in an 80s romantic comedy who just scored a date with the homecoming queen. I know it’s probably not cool to admit that I was proud of myself … but I was proud of myself.

I made my way back to the conference lobby buzzing with inspiration and energy. And that’s when I saw my sister talking to my creative girlfriends – my tribe from all over the country (and even Canada!) – and my baby crawling around on the floor at their feet … and for a minute I felt like I had it all. And that I could actually do it all. But today. Today, I have fears, my self-doubts, and my vulnerability hangover. And now I’m getting back to work.

P.S. You can watch the talk here. 

Talk notes drawn by Terence Tang.

  1. mai

    you were great! loved the q&a as well.

  2. Steph

    You totally rocked it AND your outfit rocked too (loved the clogs).

    You reminded me how important it is to not only visualize my ideal day but actually write it down too. Also to share more and put it out there even if it isn’t “perfect” yet.

  3. Meg

    This is great! Awesome talk and awesome job!

  4. Caitlin

    Congratulations Kathleen!!!

  5. Jessica

    I wish I could have seen it!

  6. Raven

    I totally get the vulnerability hangover, it is SO hard to not feel it! Even when you know you did a fantastic job! Thanks for linking to it here so we can all benefit from it. I need some extra inspiration for a huge thing I’m designing for work, and I came here to see if you can inspire me. And hey look! You did! Thanks for being vulnerable. I really appreciate it 🙂

  7. Michelle

    You rocked that so hard! I’m not a creative professional, but I got so much out of that. It gave me some really good, concrete ideas for how to steer my career in a better direction.

    Yup. The vulnerability hangover. But thank you for being vulnerable and making a huge difference in so many lives.

  8. Amanda

    I really loved this. It’s just what I needed to start my week off with, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  9. freaking’ fantastic … no surprise there (at all).
    & just exactly what I want to hear (on repeat) thank you K.

  10. DOM

    annnnd that is why you are a badass. Thanks for sharing the talk and keeping it real day in day out. Air fist pumps well deserved 😉

  11. Katie

    Thanks for sharing the talk, it actually made me cry. You should be so proud of yourself!!

  12. Lina D

    Your talk was so great that it inspired me to comment for the first time ever- and I follow a lot of blogs jaja!

    I am currently trying to figure out my direction and I didn’t realize how badly I needed someone to be real (!) and remind me that fear cannot be the thing that prevents me from following my dreams.

    So thank you so very much! Time to go make some lists and get specific 🙂

  13. Tracey

    You are awesome! Congratulations Kathleen, that was a warm, interesting, wise talk.

  14. Emily Duncan

    I’m totally watching this right now even though I should be sleeping. You did awesome. thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  15. Marlena Merkt

    Ridiculously proud of you, lady friend! Wish I could have been there to give you an unwelcome hug. 🙂

    • Kathleen

      Uh, I’m a total hugger. I think you have me confused with my sister. 😉

  16. Carrie

    I am so glad the video is available! You were great! With everything I’m learning and experiencing in my first year of freelance, you are so great at bringing things back to ‘center’ and getting real about shit. You do amazing work and I’m glad you are out there sharing it with all of us 🙂

  17. Deb Charlap

    Can’t wait to watch! Will schedule in some time to enjoy, soon 🙂 Meantime, know that you touch people, move people, change people. You being you is powerful and I offer you my deep gratitude for your courage and voice. Plus, WOOT! You did it!

  18. thenik

    You rocked the sh*t out of that. Thank you for sharing, as you always do, how to just be less fearful and more purposeful. Xo

  19. Ashley

    Oh, how I relate to that sentiment in your last paragraph. I feel like that is an ever-present pair of emotions in my journey as a working (self-employed) mama. “Heck yes! Am awesome! Hear me roar” to “What the hell am I doing?” The reality of cleaning up my own kid’s poop and crying babies will bring me down to earth every time. Heh.

  20. krist

    seriously loved your talk!
    many thanks for choosing vulnerability over hiding your light.

  21. colleen

    Loved the talk and the reference to a chat we had online about jeans 😉

    Only wish I could have seen your sister’s mantra too but the camera person never showed the slides. =( I’m really loving the idea of rephrasing your stress into wildly productive & living the dream. Maybe you could test out the tattoo with a Tattly like Jess Lively’s inspiration Tattly tattoos.

    • Haha, yes! I kind of merged our conversation with another client conversation as an example. XO!

  22. I love you Kathleen. You are brave and wise and sweet. THANK YOU for sharing yourself with the world. All I can say is that when you show up the world wants MORE. Never hold back, trust that your tribe is here to love you and support you always. I loved your talk:)

  23. Ellen

    Your talk is so inspiring! You said everything that I need to hear right now. It’s got me writing a creative road map for the coming year.

  24. I just came across this – wow, just wow. You are a magnificent speaker and it really did make me feel like we were just friends having coffee. So many things resonated with me and I think getting specific is truly what is next on my list!
    Thanks you SO much!

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