August 2, 2015  • Newsletter

Elaine at age 10 with Jordan, the source of these entrepreneurial lessons
Elaine at age 10 with Jordan, the source of these entrepreneurial lessons

The dog days of summer are upon us, and I’ve never been one to waste a opportunity to connect dogs—specifically my dog—to the worlds of business and art. Archie is a wonderful co-worker (except for the snoring), he believes strongly in the value of exercise (or at least the value of sniffing trees on walks), and he has a taste for the finer things in life (chipmunks).


But the life lessons I’ve gleaned from canines don’t end there. Many of my earliest lessons in entrepreneurship came because of four-legged friends.


I learned the value of persuasion at age nine (particularly arguments that were compelling to my audience) by convincing my father to let me adopt Jordan, the loveliest beagle that ever lived. I learned the value of strong management, including selective motivation, clear communication, realistic expectations, and a well-timed celebration, by training Jordan to sit. (That’s all he mastered.) And I learned the value of grit (especially the messy kind) as I discovered the fun parts of having a dog—the public parts, the celebratory parts, and the cuddling parts—were only part of the equation. And they only worked when the behind-the-scenes messiness was under control.


But I wouldn’t have traded those lessons for anything… In the spirit of promoting entrepreneurship and the value of companionship, we’ve combined the dog days of summer theme with four tasks to help you better manage the business of your art this month.


Increase Awareness

I love a nice, brisk walk, but I rarely get one with Archie. Archie loves to walk, but for him, the walk is less about traversing from point A to point B and more about sniffing every imaginable tree, shrub, flower, and plant we may encounter. After all, there may have been a chipmunk there once upon a time.


Archie is a fan of documenting his progress as well. (And what a lesson on tracking progress toward goals.) He marks between 70% and 80% of the foliage he sniffs. Why the remaining 20% isn’t worth the effort is beyond me. But the dog has standards. Some trees just aren’t worth marking. Your August Awareness To-Do: Don’t forget to notice the world around you. And maybe even pause to sniff it.


Let Go of Sunk Costs

We humans occasionally get in our own way. We perseverate on previous decisions – especially the wrong ones – and we fail to make adjustments if we’ve invested in a decision that turns out to be less-than-ideal. We keep watching terrible movies because we paid for them; we keep eating food we ordered long after we’re full; and we continue in unfulfilling jobs because we’ve already invested so much time and energy in them.


Let’s take a lesson from our fast-to-forget friends and let go of sunk costs this month. Sunk costs are costs you’ve expended that you cannot get back. A sunk cost is the big blind you pay during a poker game, it is the cost you’ve paid to purchase a book or watch a movie, it is the amount of time you’ve invested in a project that is going nowhere. A sunk cost is gone – for better or for worse – and it shouldn’t affect your decisions going forward. Your August Budgeting To-Do: Let go of sunk costs in your decision-making. Make the best choices for yourself going forward.


Find a System that Works

You’ve got a bit of time left in 2015, so if you haven’t already found a system for tracking your time, your money, your business (or all three!), now is a great time to explore one. Do a little research, chat with some peers about their successful systems, and sign up for a free trial to see how it goes. Who knows? You may even find one you really like. Your August Systems To-Do: Find a system that works for you.


Support a Peer

The lazy days of summer will end faster than you can say “polar vortex.” Before you miss the entire month of August, reach out to a peer and set up a time to meet for an iced coffee, a bubble tea, or some other cool beverage. Bonus points if this peer can share insights with you about the business of your art. Your August Assistance To-Do: Invite a peer to share a cool beverage and catch up.



To recap, there are a few things you can do this month—with the entrepreneurial spirit of our canine companions as inspiration—to make it through the dog days of summer.

  • Awareness: Don’t forget to pause and notice the world around you.
  • Budgeting: Let go of sunk costs in your financial decision-making.
  • Systems: Find a system that works for you.
  • Assistance: Invite a peer to share an iced latte, a bubble tea, or something else refreshing.

There’s another lesson in entrepreneurship embodied delightfully by our dogs: Optimism. Whether they are hoping for walks on the rainiest of days, watching diligently for chipmunks that just might wander into the yard, or waiting patiently for a morsel of food to fall from the table, dogs possess a level of optimism unequaled by their human companions.


Perhaps we could all use just a bit more of that optimism.


Happy August!


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