buying art cards for snail mail

Hi again!  Thanks for joining me for update # 2.  In this update I share my plan for ongoing learning in 2020, and how you're helping me with that, what I'm watching and reading at the moment, a new online business and a follow up to that cake I was making last time.  Read on...

Iso-amnesia got me good.  I threw the last update together pretty quickly which meant I neglected to include some big things I've been doing in the background.


The One-Year, Self-Directed, Alternative Graduate School (of Life) Experience 

A couple of years ago, I started listening to a daily podcast by Chris Guillebeau of Side Hustle School fame. Dissatisfied with my work life but unable to see how I could develop an alternative income strategy that suited my situation, these short and sharp daily examples of people hustling on the side - or better - replacing employment with a business - got me thinking about what I could be doing.


My personal life had been through some big changes and while my work was well paid it didn't really hold my interest or offer any meaningful challenge.  I needed an out, I needed to be stimulated.  I bought one of Chris' books, "The Art of Non-Conformity" and the messages in it resonated with me.  The most impactful message, though, was the concept of meaningful learning without the need for a formal education framework. You can read about his original concept here, where he compares the cost and benefits of setting up an alternative to tertiary or formal studies.


I'd planned 2020 to be my year of the Self-Directed Alternative Grad Year of Life, and I started preparing for the year of learning ahead.  My freelance business was growing and I was feeling positive. I was gaining contracts and remote roles, my confidence was building and I began exploring other income ideas. Enter global pandemic. 


I don't need to tell you how CV19 has thrown things into disarray.  For a few weeks I lost my mojo and I've only just taken control back and started setting up routines and plans.  So, what does a year of self-directed, alternative study look like?  Take a look here for the full list.


Because I've appointed YOU to be my accountability partners, here's a quick update on my progress in a couple of those areas.


SUPPORT A NON-PROFIT ORGANISATION:  For the past couple of months I've been spending a few hours a weeks volunteering for Rafiki Mwema, a charity supporting abused children in Kenya, helping monitor their social media interactions.  Their story is equal parts inspiring and horrific and their fundraising success comes almost entirely through the massive efforts of a young woman on the New South Wales north coast.  I urge you to read their website or take a look at their social channels.


WATCH AS MANY CHRISTOPHER WALKEN MOVIES AS POSSIBLE:  You laugh. You also know the man is a genius.  This year I've only chalked up four - Catch Me If You Can, Hairspray, Batman Returns and a video short of Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice. Not technically a movie, but highly entertaining. (I also endorse his reading of Where The Wild Things Are - easily found via google and possibly not for children's ears.)


WRITE OR RESEARCH EVERY WEEK:  Every day would be more accurate during LITTOC.  This week I've discovered navy beans are no longer grown in my regional area, a few tricks to promoting your business on LinkedIn, I've written about 5000 words in total, across a number of projects, both professional and personal, including an old-school letter to a stranger.


LEARN SPANISH:  Mas informaciones la próxima vez. 


STORIES:  I read a lot of travel and tourism blogs and articles and at the moment much of it is supposition about what the industry will look like post-COVID19.  As part of my #stayathome experience, a little spring cleaning has been happening and I've been coming across things around my house that remind me that I have plenty of stories of my own to recall.  And I should remember them, because the world is already a different place than it was when I experienced those places and people and cultures.  Here's my first Travels from my House post, going all the way back to 1988 (yes I know - you were five then - don't go on about it).


READ:  This article discusses how lack of social interaction can affect mood and memory - when the days all start to feel the same and we don't have the usual conversations, meetings or discussions to clarify out thoughts.  If every day is becoming Blursday, this quick read will help explain why.  


I'm currently (still!) reading The Drover's Wife by Leah Purcell.  It's not what I expected, knowing the Lawson version fairly well, but I'm enjoying her down to earth storytelling and honest perspective. Historical fiction isn't usually a genre I look for but this is the fourth book I've read over the past few months that features women in harsh times and searingly difficult situations, so maybe it's becoming my thing...


TRAVEL:  For some off the beaten track armchair travel, take a look at  Unmapped, the travel magazine for Crooked Compass, a small-group, culturally immersive travel company based out of Australia. You won't find the Amalfi Coast or the Maldives on their itineraries, instead, their destinations read like postcards from an adventurer's bucket list.


While it won't be getting much use at the moment, Beijing's new Daxing International Airport opened late in 2019 at a cost of around $12 billion and is said to be the world's largest airport terminal. Expected to handle up to 72 million travellers by 2025, the airport terminal was designed by prize-winning Zaha Hadid Architects and features visually stunning design elements.


CREATE (THE PIVOT):  One thing that's becoming apparent during LITTOC (Life in the The Time of COVID) is that adversity can lead to positive outcome. While thousands of Australian businesses are suffering right now, many are finding ways to reinvent their model or their offering to their customers. Small businesses and start-ups are using the downtime - and the pressure to find new revenue streams - to launch fresh ideas. A quick look at local business groups and regional organisations shows their diversity and agility.


The art in the image up top came about in just that fashion. Sharon Hunjas of Studio Shaswah launched an online shop this week, after months of "mucking around" to develop her own style. When COVID19 changed her working arrangements, she began using her time to turn her art into a business.  With a tech-savvy 20-something daughter grounded from planned overseas travel, she  developed a website, online shop and social media marketing plan.


I'd love to hear what individuals and businesses are doing to develop new income streams, and how they went about it. Email me if you'd like to share your LITTOC business pivot story.


Disclaimer: Sharon is a family member, but her art speaks for itself and the launch of her online business this month came about directly as a result of the impact of COVID19. It's the perfect example of a business launching as a result of uncertain and changing times.


LEARN: The Australian Government is working with educational institutions to offer subsidised six month courses to help fill the anticipated demand for workers in key employment areas as restrictions lift over time. The target areas are in health, environment, medical, science, teaching and a host of other areas (see the link above for the full list) and if nothing else, it offers a beneficial way to spend that free time that some of us have been forced into.  Note the subsidy applies only from May to December 2019 for study at AQF Level 5 and above.


For something less intensive, you could try one of the free courses available online at The Open University.  While it's based int he UK, the courses are free to anyone, with the ability to create an account to track your progress if you choose to do subsequent courses.


WATCH:  My watch-list is entirely frivolous - I promise to watch more documentaries - next month - but with series 2 of Ricky Gervais' Afterlife now available on Netflix, my viewing time is pre-booked. Afterlife series 1 was an absolute gem that I watched a few months after the death of my mother, and related to on a few levels. I wasn't a fan of Ricky Gervais before watching this short series but I'm a convert. The dialogue and characters are sad, bizarre, annoying, hilarious, clever and a little bit sweary, but this comes highly recommended for diversionary watching.


Violent deaths and sartorial elegance hardly seem ideal partners, but in Killing Eve they go hand in hand. The baddie in the this series is sooo bad but she's also quirky, clever (okay, and mentally deranged) and has a banging wardrobe. She also has a Mary Poppins' bag of accents - actress Jodie Comer, who plays the stylish assassin, has a real talent for them. Hard to beat for fun, fashion and gruesome murder. Released earlier this month on ABC iView, this black comedy drama is a cracker.


FOOD:  Remember the cake I talked about in the last update? For starters, I didn't use the recipe I mentioned, replacing it instead with a dark chocolate mud cake recipe that I tried for the first time. I'm pretty sure the recipients have forgiven me, even though they'll be eating cake for a few months after I presented their family party of five with this good thing, decorated with buttercream and biscuits. I went overboard, yes, but if you didn't already know it, baking is good for your mental health - call it mindfulness, flow or focus, the process of baking (and most other creative or physical activity pursuits) acts as a kind of therapy that can reduce stress. Eating too much of the end product, on the other hand, could increase stress in other areas - cake is always best shared. ;-)


Hope you enjoyed this update, feel free to let me know if you have any feedback.  Next time I'll be talking about content marketing and basic SEO, among other things.  You can expect updates to hit your inbox every second Thursday afternoon from 7 May. And if you have a friend you think would enjoy this, please pass it on. Thanks for reading.