Ah, a quiet moment to write.
Each Christmas I privately write a review of the year. This started out as a business thing, but it always includes personal reflections of course. This year though, there is more joyful personal stuff than ever before, which is wonderful. Through the boat (which I live on) and the ponies (which I help with) I have been fortunate enough to establish a restful, energising, and positive counterpoint to my work (which I am still passionate for).
Something that I had written about frequently (on the old private subscription-diary) is learning curves. Specifically, looking at lessons from the Sigmoid curve and how it describes the life cycle of things like skills or projects.
It seems you can use the curve to describe the small details of a thing (learning how to pattern a corset) or the big overview of a thing (the overall shape of a successful brand, from birth to death). I’ve been thinking of this curve as describing my skill-set for about the past two years.
I know corsetry. There is always more that can be known, but I haven’t been in that phase of fast growth and daily discovery for a couple of years now. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of corsetry for me, it just means that the educational satisfaction I get from corsetry has slowly come to a near-standstill. I love my work, but I also love learning. If I’m not challenged by something new to understand or master I get somewhat bored.
There is a lovely peacefulness about feeling confident in corsetmaking… I can focus on aesthetic to a higher degree than ever before (as with the curated collections), and our clients can feel safe that we will make something gorgeous for them. Indeed, this is why we declared 2015 “the year of beauty”!
But what about that part of me that needs to be studying? Hopefully I have begun new curves soon enough that the transition will be fluid. For a while it was a small photography curve (the love of pictures continues, but it isn’t something that is an all-consuming interest in the way that corsetmaking was), which kept me sane during a difficult 2014. Then in 2015 it developed into a “general life” curve, with the boat keeping me occupied. But by mid-July another new curve started. Or rather, an old one was rekindled. Horses! And I am so happy for it. And rather cross with myself for ever letting it slip away in the first place.
At any rate, I’ve spent two years wondering what to focus on now that corsetmaking was a more peaceful and less mind-blowing affair of daily educational breakthroughs, and am thrilled to have things to keep me challenged and interested. So that was the real message from this year’s review. To keep study at the forefront, whether it is happening quickly or slowly… To let things overlap rather than focus entirely on only one thing for too long. After all, as the diagram from Forbes above illustrates, transformation (education, change of direction, addition of a skill or whatever) may be difficult to achieve if coming at it entirely from cold through having let the previous curve burn out.
“We are more likely to make this transformational change when the initial curve is still on the rise, since resources, energy and confidence are high. By contrast, initiating a transformation becomes much more difficult in a state of decline when resources are depleted. In other words, a new curve must begin while the first one can still support it.”
I suppose this also ties into the idea of, “don’t wait to be ready to start!” Or rather, don’t misunderstand what “readiness” might really be…
People wait and wait for ideal conditions (without really defining what that means) before embarking on a new thing. I’d put off getting properly back into horses for about ten years, convincing myself that I wasn’t the right sort of person, wouldn’t be welcome anywhere, didn’t have enough money, etc. etc. And oh, what a surprise, I’ve found a community stables only 15mins away that I can help at… what an unexpected joy! But you know, they’ve been there for decades… I could have found them when I first moved to Birmingham about four years ago, if only I’d had the confidence to look. I told myself that I wasn’t ready to get back into horses yet, without realising that readiness wasn’t what I thought it was.
The point is this. Just make a start whenever it feels right to do so. Forget new year resolutions and the like, don’t worry about succeeding or being the best or transforming your life. Just quietly make a start on whatever you think the next curve might be. If you can begin learning a topic by reading, then fit in a book a month. Or every two months. By the end of a year that’s still a big step further along than if you’d done nothing… and maybe it will prove to have been the gentle beginning of a new learning curve.
And what of a curve to enhance the business and keep Sparklewren going? Well that has required more focused thought, and still does. I’m not a natural at the business side of things because it doesn’t much interest me. I do, however, quite enjoy thinking about overall strategy. Presentation, branding, structure, etc. And so this year we created our first test curated collection and decided to be more organised with regards to our sample sales. This might all change, of course, but the plan for now is to have two sample sales per year (Summer and Winter) and two CCs likewise (though it may end up being one CC, as they are intense projects to put together, even before unveiling them to the public). The plan is to have repeatable structure, so that I can devote some time and energy to those personal-interest learning curves. So that my need for study can be met even as the study aspect of my corset-world slows down. And so that my natural tendencies in corsetmaking (to focus whole-heartedly on styles and aesthetics for brief periods of time) can be exploited and enhanced to the full.
Right, that’s enough rambling for one day. I’m off for an evening of fun with some of my best friends from childhood before bouncing down to Manchester, Liverpool, and finally Birmingham in time for New Year. I hope everyone is having a Christmas in which they get the time for whatever they need (rest, reflection, fun, family, whatever it may be) and that you are all proud of your 2015 lessons.