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While a college student at then-Augusta State University, management major Cole Watkins took a class that challenged him to create a business. Inspired by past times he’d taken his friends out kayaking, he conceptualized Cole Watkins Tours — now rated the No. 4 thing to do in Evans, Georgia, on TripAdvisor.
At the time Cole Watkins Tours was in development, there was an outdoors store already in Evans that offered kayak rentals, but Watkins saw a need with his model and decided to fill it.
“If you were done kayaking when Escape Outdoors closed, you had to bring it back the next day,” he said, adding that for some folks, that was fine, but it could be an inconvenience or deterrent to others.
“With my company I didn’t want to have a storefront because that was going to cost money. I didn’t have money. What I wanted to do was start slowly building my inventory of kayaks,” Watkins said.
When he started, Watkins had three kayaks in inventory — so he could take a husband and wife on a tour, but if they had a kid, one of the three had to sit out.
“Now I’m up to 19 kayaks. I don’t want to get any more than that,” he said.
now. I’m going to start it and I’m going to start making money year one,’” he said. “I didn’t show her up but like, why borrow if my plan doesn’t need it?”
His plan was voted top in the class, and several classmates were assigned to his team to put together the official business plan. That was about the time Watkins got serious about the potential Cole Watkins Tours had.
“I thought we could really make money with this. I got on Vistaprint to get business cards. When I tallied it up, it was $20. I was like, I don’t know if I want to spend $20. … For $20, I could get three or four drinks tonight at the bar. If I spend $20, will I make it back? So — ugh, click,” he said. “Then my first phone call came.”
Watkins’ first tour earned him $90. A portion of his profits went back into building up his kayak inventory, first getting to seven, then eight, then finally the 19 he has now.
In addition to the exercise benefits of kayaking, getting out on the water is a good way to de-stress and explore the Augusta area. The routes offered by Cole Watkins Tours take paddlers through Savannah River tributary Betty’s Branch, down the Augusta Canal, to visit wild donkeys at Stallings Island or to a close-up visit to the J. Strom Thurmond Dam.
“We’ve had kids as young as 1 in the kayaks with their parents and as old as, I didn’t ask, but upper 70s, maybe 80s. It’s not a hard thing to do. Augusta is a great spot to learn because there’s no crazy rapids. Most of the routes we offer are still or float downstream, like a lazy river,” Watkins said.
types. Girls are way more balanced at kayaking. Their center of gravity is in their hips. Guys, especially muscled-up guys, are a little more wobbly,” Watkins said. “I was thinking [my first customer] was going to be fine in this kayak, and he fell in on a very cold 8 a.m. morning. My very first person I slid in tipped over.”
Since then, he’s only had five or six paddlers take unintended dips in the water.
One of the plus-sides of business ownership is that at times when Watkins needed the extra income, he could make the decision and give himself a raise.
“2016 is when I found out my son was coming, so I worked my butt off and had my best year yet. That’s all side money on the weekend,” Watkins said. “I put in a lot more hours. I was getting a lot more progressive at using money on Facebook to do group tours, even on weeknights. Normally when I got off work I go home. That year I was doing every Tuesday and Thursday [on the water], even Fridays. Anything I got, I accepted, and tried to make it work.”
Now that he’s both a husband and a father, and soon a father of two, Watkins dialed back how much he’s out on the water so he can spend more time with his family. He focuses a lot on rentals and tries to capitalize on having three waves of kayakers out each weekend day the business is open, and he reserves time to go on family vacations twice a year or so.
Since he is more selective now than in previous years, Watkins will refer kayakers to his competitors if the situation calls for it.
kayaks out on the water with an individual he only sort-of knew. “I took him out there and he gave me $25 each. I was like, ‘Shoot, I just made $50, which was a lot of money for me when I was 21. I didn’t have to do anything but pick it up. So my whole plan changed.”
Today, about 66 percent of his business comes from kayak rentals.
“That was a thing that made me uncomfortable, but wound up being the best thing for this model,” he said.
In a recent issue of Vogue Knitting, there’s a story about how expressing beliefs through art is “as old as civilization,” said Atlanta, Georgia, resident and knitter Jill Vogin. In the US, it’s older than the country itself. According to the story, during the American Revolution British wool was taxed — and the American handspun yarn industry began.
“The American women, what they decided to do was stop using the fine wool that was coming out and using handspuns. There was a whole cottage industry during the Revolution of what women were making out of these scratchy fleeces that they were getting locally. … The American flag? It’s a quilt. Betsy Ross sewed it to express a baby country’s yearning for independence and its own identity,” Vogin said. “To me this is not a new phenomenon. This is as old as the hills. It’s just the materials we have are more sophisticated in some ways.”
For Vogin, those materials are a pair of knitting needles and a skein or 17 of yarn. Though she’s been knitting on behalf of causes she supports for several years, in late 2018 she debuted the next phase of her creativity.
“I said, ‘Find a knitter and buy the pattern,’” Vogin said. “We’ve sold a handful of them, a few hats and a few patterns. My goal is to just keep developing that over time. It really seemed to me that there is a niche there for people who want to be able to express themselves in these ways because so many women are going to the Capitol now to protest or to lobby. I can take that same basic hat pattern and put a powerful message on it.”
She’s developing a follow-up pattern in time for the 2019 Women’s Marches, inspired by people who share her political views being called snowflakes. Though she wouldn’t share all the details yet, Vogin did say that the phrase will be “I am the storm.”
“I think about this whole concept of ‘liberal snowflakes’ and feeling like yeah, one snowflake is pretty weak, but a bunch of snowflakes together? Watch out. Winter is coming,” she said.
>> color speaks
One of the first memories I have of Vogin is seeing her stand at the front of the room during the “show and tell” portion of an Atlanta Knitting Guild meeting and talk about her Elvis sweater. She knitted his portrait on a sweater in one of the most fabulous displays of colorwork I’ve ever seen, and it was followed by her John Lennon sweater. That one featured not only a portrait, but song lyrics as well. The techniques she learned making these pieces springboarded her craftivism — colorwork displays of motifs and words pertaining to causes and candidates she’s passionate about.
When Jon Ossoff ran for Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, her sweater encouraged Georgians to “vote your Ossoff.” She knitted an abstract Statue of Liberty with “persist” emblazoned on it in day-glo neons, and recently finished a “speak truth to power” top that was featured in Atlanta Senior Life magazine.
“That’s kind of where I’ve been evolving to instead of, ‘hey, vote for this person,’ and more showing my love of the country and distain for some of the things that are going on,” Vogin said.
Much of her colorwork touches on hotbed topics, but Vogin hesitates to call her patterns and finished apparel political.
“It’s beyond that, it’s more of who I am as a person. What I believe is so challenged right now by what’s going on with the government that it looks political, but it’s deeper than that,” Vogin said. “I’m using color and I’m using design to basically express what I’m feeling about what’s going on.”
Vogin said for much of her life, “nice girls” weren’t supposed to talk politics, much less embed their views and beliefs in their sweaters.
“We knitted plain little sweaters and granny squares, but we didn’t dare speak out or we would lose our jobs,” Vogin said. “I think now for women that is really changing dramatically and so I expect to see more and more of that coming out of me in what I’m doing: not being a sweet, nice girl anymore but being more true to who I am and what I feel and not being afraid to express it anymore.”
Attention, Bulldogs — Athens. Has. A. Cheese. Market. This is NOT a drill!
Fritz Gibson, a Tifton, Georgia, native who grew up with Extension agent parents, spent years in Vermont and Chicago exploring the culinary world, and he kept ending up working with cheeses. When he and his wife, who works in wine, moved back to the Classic City, they’d already created the idea for Half-Shepherd. The timing was kismet: he said about three months after they moved back and discovered this space off Prince Avenue in the Normaltown neighborhood, the space came up for grabs and they nabbed it.
Several years ago, when I lived in the Virginia Highland neighborhood of Atlanta, I lived within walking distance of this incredible neighborhood market that had sandwiches, a bakery, dry goods, wine and a cheese display to swoon over, which was (wo)manned by a real-life cheesemonger.
To my knowledge, at least during college and in the year since I returned, Athens didn’t have anything of the sort. Most of the larger grocery stores amped up their “fancy” cheese selection during the past few years, but I mean … it’s a grocery store. You go in, you play bumper-buggy with about 6,431 fellow shoppers all vying for the same half-pint of heavy cream. The store might be clean, but when you’re on a time crunch to get back home and cook a meal/take the dog to doggie daycare, it’s hard to achieve cookery zen when you’ve been waiting in the self-checkout line for 17 minutes.
This is why I love local markets, especially local markets that market other local stuff. Half-Shepherd takes things up a notch though: “Local foodies, I see your farmer’s market vibe and I raise you sandwich café.”
Yes, y’all, I counted: 24 mustards, additional cheeses, meats and spreads to pick from. I added the prosciutto and apple & onion jam, though in hindsight I’ll request Dijon mustard as well next time. The Old World has comte, an Alpine cheese I’d never heard of; gouda and brie, which is one of my not-so-guilty cheese pleasures; all on sourdough bread from Atlanta’s H&F Bread Co.
“If you ever tried to make a grilled cheese sandwich with an aged cheese, it kind of breaks apart when you heat it up and it gets oily,” Gibson said. “The trick is to mix in some less-aged cheeses with more moisture in them. With both [the Old World and Old School] sandwiches, we try to do one fairly aged cheese, one moderately aged cheese and one fresher cheese.”
For the Old World, the brie is the fresher, the comte a moderately aged melting cheese and the 30-month gouda the more aged.
My taste buds aren’t refined enough (… yet) to distinguish the difference between all three cheeses, but I can tell you that the blend of the three was a delicate blend of creamy, mild and nuttiness. Prosciutto is a paper-thin sliced Italian dry-cured ham. It is divine. Since it’s cured, it has a pronounced salty flavor, which to me just enhanced how mild the cheeses are.
I visited Half-Shepherd for its ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, and as part of that was able to enjoy kind of a two-fer. The owners put out samples of their Cubanesque sandwich as well, and that will definitely be what I get full-size next time. The roasted pork fell apart in my mouth, and the chow-chow gave a nice crunch and vinegar-y tang. Gibson said he puts the comte cheese — that moderately aged, nutty Alpine cheese on my sandwich — on this one as well. We uncultured (ooh, cheese pun!) Americans have a tendency to think of Swiss cheese as ivory slices with holes in them, but there is a much broader category of Alpine cheeses like comte that Half-Shepherd can now introduce us to.
What?! Don’t look at me like that.
Y'all already know my family’s coming to visit next just to take home artisan cheese, don't even play! Seeing their daughter/granddaughter/ niece is just a front to get good food.
just kidding, mom.
CRIST: When I was freelancing in grad school, I realized I was spending a lot of time on my couch, working in my pajamas and in my apartment. I found that pretty quickly after working in the newsroom environment for so many years, I was alone. My alternative or social outlet in Athens was going out to a bar and hanging out with people, and I realized I was doing that too much in the evening right around or after dinner. I had been thinking about ways to become more involved, and people would be like, “Get a hobby, Carolyn, go do some yoga or pick up some yarn and actually practice crocheting.”
[My best friend] was leaving her job and proposed the idea to me, and something about it just caught me. When I came back to town that summer we started launching the idea.
When y’all planned what would become Pixel & Ink, what was going through your mind about how to make this a reality?
Can we find a place to put a shop like this? What would the rent be like at a place where we’d put a shop like this? Can we afford the start-up cost?
What would you say are the biggest lessons you learned about starting and running a business? Are these things you’ll consider as you launch your new business?
I don’t necessarily advise it now, but we applied for a couple of business credit cards after we filed for our LLC. We didn’t necessarily create a great business plan — we didn’t do it the best way to do profit.
I think, as much as people like to talk about how boring business plans are, how you don’t need to think too much, you just need to take action … it is still important to have a business plan in terms of planning the products and the prices; how many you need to make to be able to pay your bills, and not just pay your bills, but pay yourself a salary. We’ve always been able to pay the bills but not ourselves. And that doesn’t work. You can only go so far without seeing the fruits of your labor.
One of the things that always struck me about Pixel & Ink was how it scaled. For a couple years there, it was in small spaces, and then most recently in a three-story building that incorporated an art gallery and there were talks of adding another business partnership in the basement. Obviously your freelance writing courses and coaching are different, but how did you choose to make that scaling jump? How did you learn from that?
Be careful about scaling up when you’re ready to scale. We were at that point where we were like, “Well, should we just do printing? Should we get rid of some of the other editing-intensive, time-intensive services, or should we scale up like crazy, hire staff to boost revenue, open an art gallery and start custom framing?” That went really well, but I think we may have also let our overhead costs get to be too much. We hired three employees and we probably should have only hired one; maybe open our shop first and then open the gallery later. There’s so many variables. If you actually want to scale, scale carefully.
We saw that some of the things we had scaled weren’t sustainable, and we wanted to shore up some of the losses we were facing. One of the things that we did was change our hours so we could get more work done. We changed to appointment-only instead of retail. We were trying to focus our clientele on artists and people who were looking at custom framing versus someone who would go to Michael’s and want Michael’s pricing.
Both you and your fellow co-owner went through some pretty serious life changes while Pixel & Ink was open. How did that lead you to decide this was the direction you wanted to take, especially once you found out your landlord was selling your building?
When we found out Saucehouse did want to move into the building early, we decided not to move a fifth time.
I was thinking more about journalism again. A year ago I really started listening to podcasts, reading blogs, watching waytoo many webinars to learn how to create an online business for Pixel & Ink. It was a locally based brick-and-mortar store. We were expanding our website for print and frame orders … we were going to develop these online resources for our customers and while I was kind of creating the ideas for Pixel & Ink’s resources, in my brain I was also creating, “What would I do as Carolyn Crist as a brand? What do I know? Freelance journalism.”
myself years ago from the start. I’m not doing this as a temporary thing. I’m taking this as a brand online as a way to teach people how to make freelancing, specifically freelance journalism, work for them.
We’re seeing more and more freelance and independent workers [see Crist’s TEDxUGA talk on this topic above]. I’m kind of building my own brand on that and give free information, but also have a video course. I’m also putting in personal training and coaching kind of offerings as well if people want me to help them create one-on-one plans of, “I have this dream publication, how do I pitch this,” or if they have specific questions.
In my cosmetics and skincare company, we hear a lot that there’s never a perfect time. Just, you know, do it and stop waiting. What was your impetus to decide January 2019 was when this would begin?
I really began dreaming about doing my own thing in September-October. The gradual pivots and transformations help you to plan. November was when we really knew about Saucehouse [buying the Pixel & Ink building], so sometimes outside influences will make you realize you will need to make some kind of change. We knew we’d have to move anyway no matter who bought the place. We were already kind of thinking about it. The more we were thinking, I just started planning.
I didn’t really get it down on paper and organized and on a website and create all the email lists until the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I think the lesson there would be to give yourself time to de-clutter. You can’t cram too much into your brain. If you have outstanding orders or clients and projects, go ahead and wrap them up, take a little bit of a break for yourself and start getting your next thing going.
It also helps that I need the money. Money’s a good motivator.
Earlier you mentioned that one of the reasons you jumped in on Pixel & Ink was to be inspired to maybe not wear your pajamas as work attire as often. Since you’re migrating back into a work-from-home environment pretty exclusively with this, plus your continued freelance writing, how will you avoid the pitfall of that pj comfort zone?
I feel like mental health-wise I’m in a better headspace. I’m going to focus on my physical health. When I am done with freelance by like 3, 4 or 5, I’ll go [to my gym] to get out. My brain just wants me to leave the house. It’s still the same reset.
And things like these where I have dinners and lunch and coffee meetings outside of the house. Now I can go and do something else the rest of the afternoon, but I feel like I went out. I’m sure as I get more into the year and there are several days in a row when I’m really stuck at home it’ll be tough, but I think … I’ve arrived back at the conclusion that I like working at home, so I’ll find strategies that make it OK.
Clearly you have the writing chops and a couple of degrees to prove you’re pretty good at what you do. But how do you come out and call yourself an expert on these topics, able to teach others?
It is a lot of mindset stuff. I have done it full-time and maybe I haven’t made a million dollars … but I have been able to live on it and work on another business while doing it. One of the key factors is, have people asked me my advice about it? Which is true. I’m not a 30-year journalist, but I can mentor others who are starting out.
Another aspect of it too, I’m so obsessed with this personally, in terms of buying transformational courses from other people. I realized there are some offerings with freelance journalism but they’re not quite what I want to offer. I was looking for it, so I might as well create it and see if others will buy it.
"This business is mental. The skills can be taught quickly. It's what happens up here that determines what you do with those skills."
I'd be shocked if I'm the first to tell you this, but what you focus on, you create more of. And I don't mean in the sense of stare at the owl sitting in your mom's front yard focusing on it delivering your Hogwarts letter (sheesh, finally!), but I mean, in order to be a champion you have to first champion your mind. Second, champion your schedule. We're gonna talk about that first one today.
Ever waffled with the idea of putting your business "on the back-burner," which is code-word QUIT?
You know what quitters don't do? Win. What's the best way to keep from quitting, so you can start putting #winning on all of your posts and texts to your mom? Remember those goals and commitments you made like, IDK nine days ago? If you want to quit quitting, stop starting over and keep going, you have to stay excited.
Excited you does things. Miserable or waffling you does everything to keep you from doing those things.
When I buried my business, goals and desires under other stuff [read: putting 200 percent effort in my full-time job at the expense of everything else], I was cranky. Angry. Frustrated. Not fun to be around. Liable to stab you with my knitting needles. I complained about everything because I felt like my soul was being sucked from my very body for 60 hours a week and I was so mentally exhausted all I wanted to do was a big, fat nothing. It was miserable. I was miserable. And when you are miserable and all you're thinking about is misery ... y'all, they don't joke when they say "misery loves company."
It was vital not only to my business, but to myself, to find a way to break that cycle; to get and remain excited, and to excite other people while I was at it.
For example: Let's examine Miserable Dallas from a few months ago (or honestly, at many points during the past decade, but that's neither here nor there). Miserable Dallas woke up frustrated about her job. She then stayed in bed until the last possible second because she didn't want to go to the place that made her miserable. Sometimes she would wake up with such anxiety it caused her to become physically ill. Miserable Dallas would eventually go to her job, spend the next however many hours were required of her there, talking to other people who were miserable or angry. She got in her car to come home and called her mother, boyfriend, best friend, someone she worked with who wasn't there that day, to fill them in on what misery occurred. She was so mentally exhausted after being miserable and dwelling in her misery that eff it, she was going to not do anything productive because she was no longer excited about anything ... and if there was a glimmer of hope, she sabotaged herself and squashed it. Do you think this Dallas was a champion of anything except perhaps amount of days she could go without washing her hair?
This is why Cheryl Fulcher's, who is a top leader in my company, words were like a "ohhh shoo," gut-punch moment at her event this month.
I don't care what your business is — skills only take you so far. Seriously. Once you got the "how to" down, then you gotta do. It's the doing of the skills that moves you forward, and the not-doing that keeps you stuck where you are or moving backward. Take any class you had in high school or college: you probably learned a skill, maybe a certain lab technique, running two miles in PE, the Pythagorean Theorem, music on the trombone, whatever it was, in order to get better at it and more confident about your ability to do it, you had to perform the skill over and over. If you didn't do the skill, or convinced yourself you sucked at said skill, well, so be it. But if you committed (ha, there's that word again) to doing the skill repeatedly, you were the one breaking records in your high school cross country meets and being all Lindsay Lohan Mathlete about your life. Stop focusing so much on the "how to" and focus on the "let's do!"
The entire time I was so miserable I had the exact same skills I do today, but I wasn't committed to working them. I knew how to book appointments, make sure those appointments were going to take place, make women feel amazing and at home, ensure if they chose to shop they loved what they got (and if they didn't, figure out what worked better), share my job with others. That did nothing for me when I was doing nothing.
Are you there now? Are you afraid of going down that rabbit hole? Allow me to share with you some of the ways I force myself into a better mindset.*
*Please note that I am not a therapist, not a licensed mental health professional, and I deal with depression/anxiety without the use of medication. These are things that helped me. If your rut seems more severe than just being down in the dumps, there is no shame in seeking help. Seriously.
For a while now, I saw friends from my hometown post about going to this new coffeeshop called Rooted Coffeehouse. It looked absotively, posilutely Instagrammable: the drinks were beautiful and dressed with care; the decor had all the muted, neutral tones that are so modern and "in" right now; its actual Instagram account is straight-up eye candy and to be honest I am heavily inspired by the way they shoot their drinks, so hey, I'm going to copy that cat at some point for future stylings, I'm sure. But what I did not realize was that Rooted is much, much more than a coffeeshop.
vibe. No offense to Starbucks, of course, but y'all know I have a penchant for supporting local businesses and people. I'm as basic as they come (not pictured is the "You had me at Pumpkin Spice Latte" T-shirt I was wearing while visiting Rooted), but what I found when it comes to working from home is that you often need a change of pace. Or, well, place.
And truth be told, when I'm visiting my family, there are not a lot of options in the Evans and Grovetown areas for locally-owned restaurants that have an atmosphere I find both inspirational and able to focus in. Usually the music or the people are too loud; the lighting blows (have you ever tried digitally editing photos or video in the dark with your computer brightness up for full color clarity? If you haven't, don't; your eyes will thank you); there are distractions; it doesn't have WiFi; you get the drift. The difficulty of finding such a place that's not a minimum 30-minute drive from my parents' house was a tad annoying.
I was so, so excited when I realized that having to come to Evans for dreary duty — oops, I mean "jury duty" — meant that I finally had an excuse to check out Rooted myself. My mom, who's a retired educator and published author, and who happens to be working on a couple writing projects already for 2019, walked in and the first words out of her mouth were, "This would be a great place to come write!" BAM, y'all! And that was before we did so much as get our drinks and food.
Oh, yes. Food. That's right. I don't know how I missed the memo, but Rooted has breakfast sandwiches, lunch-ish sandwiches (it's open until 6 on weekdays and 4 on weekends), Millennial-approved toasts, oatmeal and those purple bowls of fruits and berries. Mom, Daddy and my uncle Abram indulged in "The Classic," which was a breakfast sandwich of egg, cheese, bacon and spinach on ciabatta, and let me tell ya, the breakfast sandwiches are hearty helpings. I should've snapped a photo (ugh, #hindsight) to demo just how big they are!
At most places I've been with picturesque atmospheres like Rooted, a $5 breakfast sandwich is a weensy lil' English muffin that has maybe a tablespoon of filling and the thought of a piece of bacon. Not. At. Rooted. Be prepared to bring your appetite if you order one of the sandwiches. The price is ridiculously reasonable for what is brought out on your plate.
On top of the avocado mash was a pile of microgreens, which not too long ago became a bit of a favorite of mine. Microgreens are the edible shoots of salad greens or flowers, picked just after the first leaves show up. I'm not sure which microgreens made up the mix on my toast this morning, but they have a lovely light, almost nutty flavor to them. The avocado was sprinkled with Himalayan salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper and hemp seeds. I didn't get much from the hemp seeds in terms of flavor, but overall the combination led to a gentle blend that had a subtle kick to it. Avocado by itself doesn't have much flavor to it — somewhere between a roasted cashew and unsalted butter? — so it takes seasonings very well, especially ones that are salty or spicy. I was not disappointed at all with this kind of breakfast, and it far outshines my own attempts at making avocado toast.
Obviously it is difficult to visit a coffeeshop and not purchase a beverage of some sort, and since the seasonal menu was still available, I partook in a cinnamon white mocha (made with the house-produced cinnamon syrup). It was really sweet, so if you like coffee-flavored-coffee, this one may not be for you. Being that I like quality coffee seasoned with quality creamer, this was a great treat! I love how it was presented — kind of hard to see in the above photo, but it came out in a tallboy glass topped with whipped cream and powdered with cinnamon. I felt so fancy taking it to the table! Bonus points go to Rooted for its custom cup-grips that say "spread joy," which I got when I poured the rest of my cinnamon white mocha in a to-go cup.
I'm quite excited about this new place to work, and also excited for what seems like such a positive addition to the Evans area. Not only is it a locally owned business, but it supports fellow locals as well. Some of its coffee mugs are made by Tire City Potters, located in downtown Augusta, and during the holiday season it started a series of craft, music and community events. I'm bummed I missed out on them and hope that I'll be able to make it back for future ones!
Now, if you need Mom or me any time in the next few days ... we'll likely be sitting on one of the Rooted couches, writing up our latest stories.
On the first day of 2019, two significant events occurred. I found a four-leaf clover (more on that in the coming days) and I watched the Georgia Bulldogs lose a bowl game.
I may not have been at the Sugar Bowl, much less playing on the field, but there's a lot that can be learned from what happened in those four quarters, especially when it comes to what you plan to tackle in the new year.
As a fan, I went into this bowl game with a muted mindset. Though I know my usual gameday traditions are 100 percent personal superstitions that do not affect the team one iota, I woke up yesterday morning, excited for the new year and completely forgot college football was happening at 8:45 p.m. My typical gameday attire that I am so careful to put on; the regular Saturday traditions I go through as a lifelong Dawg fan ... nonexistent.
Our big game of the season was over. Kirby Smart & Co. worked their tails off in a game that wasn't meant to end in red and black victory, and then the nation saw the "calibre" of teams that were selected to go on to the playoffs. They were high-ranked and deserving teams, but those teams that had a National Championship spot to play for showed lackluster performances compared to what was expected of them. Georgia fans, remembering what a season 2017 was and how we still performed incredibly well in 2018, putting up more points and almost pulling off both a Natty and SEC Championship victory against Alabama, were annoyed that the "four best teams" included two that looked like they weren't even trying to win a National Championship.
Having achieved all that, this bowl game was "meh" in comparison. At least some members of the team weren't all-in it to win it, or so it seemed from the outside looking in. As I mentioned already, my fan mindset wasn't all-in either. The 2019 Sugar Bowl Dawgs looked like those teams its fans said didn't deserve a spot to vie for the Natty. The team made mistakes its players are usually more careful to avoid, and it was clear Texas was ready to take this one home.
So, what does this long, drawn-out story have to do with you entering 2019?
It shows that if you're not bull-headed and committed to whatever it is you want to achieve this year, this week, this season of your life ... you're likely going to flail about and not get the results you're looking for. The Dawgs wanted to win this bowl game, I'm sure, but at least one player somewhere wasn't putting in the work to minimize mistakes and keep on track.
In my career, this is something I've struggled with as well — especially when it comes to setting a new year resolution! You see, a resolution is essentially lip service. There's not much accountability to it. There's usually not much strategy. It's a whole lotta talk and like, zero walking. This is why for so many people, a new year's resolution lasts about 2.7 seconds. I've had a skincare and cosmetics business for going on seven years now, and for the better part of six of those, I was real good at telling people what I wanted in my life and significantly less good at putting a plan in place to get what I wanted. I was even worse at committing to working the plan.
I adopted, without realizing it, the same mantra that Georgia sports fans seemed to be annoyingly cursed with adopting for football, baseball, basketball ... pretty much everything except soccer. Thank goodness for ATL United for reminding us that this mantra isn't reality, it's something we let happen to ourselves.
"There's always next season. There's always next year."
Not to be a Debbie downer over here, but like. Y'all. Yes, there is always going to be another football season/another year because that's how the clocks work and that's how sportsballs work. However! What if something awful happens to you before your "next season"? Furthermore, imagine what your "next season" will look like if you stop bullsh*tting and become bull-headed about making those changes you keep talking about!
Stop with the new year's resolutions. Start with a new commitment. This was a hard, hard mind-shift for me to make, because I'd been stuck in that procrastinating "there's always next season" mentality for just about everything I wanted in my business. Moving up our career path in leadership; earning a free car; maximizing my financial resources; etc. Excuse my French, but who the EFF does that?! Who says they're going to make more money doing X, Y, Z or Q and then allows themselves to get overwhelmed with moving forward so they make a hard 180 back to where they were before, or they veer off in a completely different direction that's not getting them any closer to where they want to be, but instead puts them further in some kind of drag-me-to-hell-hole?!
ME. That's who. And I'm willing to bet a few of y'all as well. It is a mind-shift I struggle with D A I L Y.
I wake up in the morning sometimes [transparency note: I struggle with anxiety and depression on the regular, which is normal and OK but what's not OK is to do what I used to do and wallow in it] and it is an act of God to pull myself out of bed. I would make excuse after excuse as to why I wasn't going to work on my future that day. It's no wonder that some aspects of my businesses looked about as stand-out as the UGA Sugar Bowl performance!
This year will be different. I've got not only my own version of the Sugar Bowl to crush, but a National Championship to work toward. You do, too.
That's why I bit my tongue, stopped stopping and decided to launch Dallas Anne Duncan, LLC, or DAD LLC for short. It's a tad self-reflective and I hope you'll find it inspirational and helpful as you read and learn from what I've done, and from the journeys of those I admire. I'm not the super-rich media mogul with a picture-perfect styled natural light photography headshot who sponsors ads all over your Facebook feeds. I'm a real human, pretty salty and snarky and eggscellent at puns. I write, I knit, I enjoy beer and whiskey, I have two cats and a black lab and an amazing family and a supportive boyfriend and more baggage than I can fit in my Honda Fit. I've done things and made business decisions I'm not proud of. But what I learned is that it's possible to fail forward if you're willing to take the risk, make the commitment and do the work.
Remember what I said earlier, that whole commitment-instead-of-a-resolution thing? Commitments come with resolve. They come with strategy and planning and accountability. If I've got a handful of folks who are able to take away something positive from watching me work, seeing me jump hurdles, hearing from others who knocked down every obstacle to get to the hella exhilarating place and people they are today ... then I'm committed to work, jump hurdles and tell these stories in the hopes that it will help you write your own.
The lackluster mindset I had during the Sugar Bowl (and off and on for the past six years) is purposefully being cut off. There's so much goodness coming our way this year that NEXT YEAR will be absolutely insane. I'm calling it 2020 Vision, and the only way that's going to happen is being all-in and committed in 2019.
I think these words from former Bulldog Tim Worley sum it up pretty well. Feel free to save this one for inspiration as needed: