Do the boring shit

Snooze!So I’m getting some new pictures taken.

Have I mentioned that I’d rather poke my eyes out with dirty chopsticks than get in front of a camera?

My first choice happens to live a kajillion miles away.


So after nursing that heartbreak, I was left to ferret out some local folks.

I asked around for recommendations.

I searched the googles.

I did all the usual stuff.

And, after much ferreting, I found eleven possibles.

Boudoir? Um, no.

So I poured some chai and commenced poking around each photographer’s website.

Checking out their work.
Checking out their vibe.

I eliminated five from jump street.

Two who only photograph babies.

But not what I need.

One guy who does boudoir stuff.

So not what I need.

Another person whose website looked like Flash threw up all over it.


And one guy who seems to have turned high-fashion douchebaggery into an art form.

Dear gawd.

So, post-poking, I ended up with seven contenders.

14.285714% = FAIL

I sent emails or left voicemails for all seven with the quickness.

And, when I did, I made it a point to be uber clear.

Who I was.
What I needed.
When I needed it.
How to reach me.

And I waited.

And waited and waited and waited.

Do you know how many people got back to me?


The other six just didn’t bother.

Not even a quick thanks-but-I-can’t.

I even contacted one photographer twice. Because I really dug their work.

Zero. Zilch. Zip.

Houston, we have a problem.

Don’t slip on your swoon

I totally grok how easy it is to get swept up in dropping major coin on biz-ey stuff.

Piles of books.
And courses.
And info products.
And business coaches.

I’ve done it myself. A lot.

And sometimes that stuff is really helpful. And really valuable. And really necessary.

But sometimes we miss the common sense stuff.

The obvious shit.
The free shit.
The boring shit.
You know, the basics.

Newness is never in short supply.

It’s seriously tempting to chase after fresh systems + secrets + insider magics.

And it’s easy to get swoon-ey about The Next Big Thing.

That shiny new nugget.
The one everyone’s talking about.
With that sales page that just makes you ache.

But the shine can be blinding.

The flash gets distracting.

While we’re sitting through teleclasses + digging through PDFs + hooking up the rigging for that brand new system that will make us filthy rich, internet famous and loved by millions, something kind of craptastic happens.

We let the tried-and-true stuff slide.

Like, you know, getting back to people who are interested in what you do.

Even if you can’t help them right then.

Shore it up

Here’s the challenge with tried-and-true.

It’s unfun.

And unsexy.

And kind of obvious.

Which also makes it totally snooze-ey.

But that doesn’t make it any less essential.

Because this is what shores up* the foundation of your business.

Getting back to a would-be client might not be as hawt as soaking up never-before-shared smartness from a business guru.

But that guru isn’t paying your bills.
Or recommending you to their friends.
Or talking about you on the twitters.

And you can suck down shininess until you’re ready to OD, but if your foundation sucks that shine goes to waste.

* In my head, shoring it up has officially become known as Snookitime. Damn you, MTV.

Foundations, baby!

Sometimes the key to turning up the fabulousness in your business is tending to the basics.

Take care of the foundation.
Then worry about the shine.

You don’t have to pick one over the other.

This isn’t about either/or.

But do the unsexy stuff first.

And then do it again and again and again.

Every single day.

Because that’s what gives you staying power.

That’s what sustains the shine.

Sometimes the best shit is the boring shit.

What are the unsexy-but-essential parts of your business?
What snooze-ey stuff has had a huge impact on your success?
How do you keep up with the boring bits?
And how do you keep the chasing-after-shiny in check?

Flickr credit – Jörg Bilder

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25 Responses to Do the boring shit
  1. Anna Guest-Jelley
    April 7, 2011 | 9:12 am

    Love this! It’s so true: show up, do your work, be consistent. This is what I try to do, even when sometimes it’s a pain, or boring, or any number of things. So appreciate you for pointing out what it means to really be present for what we’re doing!

  2. Fabeku
    April 7, 2011 | 9:16 am

    @Anna – Really being present. That’s a huge part of this, isn’t it? I think, sometimes, the chasing-the-shine thing can be just the opposite. A distraction with a side of maybe-I-can-escape-ness. Like maybe we’ll find some shiny something that will save us from the boring shit. Being present is big mojo.

  3. Skaja
    April 7, 2011 | 10:02 am

    Reminds me that the parts of what I do that I love (creating the artsy stuff) loses a bit of meaning if other people can’t see it (because I dread the boring parts, like scanning and posting the work).

    It’s so easy to think, ‘Oh, I’ll just do this later,’ but later has that strange way of never showing up.

    Thank you thank you for shining some light on the obvious.

  4. Fabeku
    April 7, 2011 | 10:32 am

    @Skaja – Good point! Sometimes the boring stuff is the bridge that gets the other stuff out there. To the people want it + need it + love it. You’re totally right about later too. What an elusive creature.

  5. Susannah
    April 7, 2011 | 10:35 am

    seriously? only one photog got back to you? that is shameful!

    i try to do and be my best with every single peep that crosses my path, whether it’s in an email, on twitter, in the street, on my course, whatever – every little interaction is another chance to shine and make someone’s day. fact.

    i wish i lived closer 🙂 let’s make NYC happen!

  6. Joely Black
    April 7, 2011 | 10:45 am

    So true. And true of mental health recovery, too. We tend to want the big shiny bits of it first. The bit when you’re able to work again or get into a relationship.

    But it starts with tiny little things. Building a foundation. You can’t build a house without foundations, the things you don’t see, but it won’t work without.

  7. Molly Gordon
    April 7, 2011 | 12:14 pm

    Hear, hear! Most of us wouldn’t skip brushing our teeth because it’s boring. Many parts of biz are as essential as brushing your teeth. Let go of the emotional charge around them and just do ’em already.

    For me, essential daily practices are meditation, choosing, declaring, and reporting on a High Value Action, and following up on current and pending commitments. I spend a lot of time planning, too, which isn’t sexy in the moment. But the results are sexy as hell.

    By the way, I, for one, am disappointed that you didn’t go with the boudoir option.

  8. Jennifer Louden
    April 7, 2011 | 12:36 pm

    you would look so good with a little blush and pasties… sorry could not resist!

  9. Jennifer Hofmann
    April 7, 2011 | 12:38 pm

    This is right on, Fabeku. I appreciate such a significant example from your own life about how poorly things can go.

    In my own work, I see a lot of exhausted people who haven’t yet learned to make themselves a priority (spirit time, regular meals, sufficient sleep, etc.). Business owners with no emotional reserves and no financial back-up plan just run from job to job. Operating from depletion like this will almost always yield disappointing results like you experienced.

    My in-house rules include the following: Replenish first. Acknowledge. Communicate clearly. Be honest. Express gratitude. Own mistakes. Keep in touch.

    I can’t say I’m perfect at any of these, but my intention is to deeply support those who struggle, even though the little things. This intention transforms boring shit into deep service. This makes all the difference.

    Good luck to you on the photography gig. I just went through it myself and had great results from being photographed by an amateur who loves me (and has a good camera). You can see the love in my eyes. 🙂


  10. Sparky Firepants
    April 7, 2011 | 12:40 pm

    Your experience with the photogs is a common refrain I hear in the art biz. Those people that didn’t even get back to you? I’ll never understand that mentality.

    As for my own un-sexy but essential…

    You might be surprised to hear that sometimes creating my art can be a bit of drudgery. Don’t get me wrong, I love making art. It’s who I am. But there’s sketching up wildly fun ideas and then there’s the process of creating finished artwork. It’s actually pretty boring, which is why there aren’t any videos of me sitting at my computer illustrating. You’d be better off watching the golf channel.

    Or watching an episode of Cops where they just do their paperwork.

    But to get to this end piece of art that makes people (and me) happy, it’s necessary to slog through some tedious monkey work. Which is totally fine, because I know that it’s taking me somewhere good.

  11. Grace
    April 7, 2011 | 12:48 pm

    Too, too funny. This isan almost-exact description of my experience in finding a photographer. With the exception of the sobs in the beginning, since I never had a favourite.

    It is SO BIZARRE to me that someone wouldn’t follow up. Mind-blowingly baffling.

    I mean. Business knocking at your door. Huh?

    Anyway. Good luck with the photo shoot!

  12. Lilly
    April 7, 2011 | 12:51 pm

    Fabeku I love this post. Most of my day is unsexy essential. But I try and make it sexy in my mind, because we’re self employed, so I feel proud that I even do it! And I do it every day without being begged to by anyone!

    Snoozey stuff is what pays the bills, though I need intermittent shiny to recharge my snoozy.

    Also, when I think about it, shiny gives snoozy the reason to exist. So it’s a balance I guess.

  13. chris zydel
    April 7, 2011 | 12:56 pm

    I sometimes wonder why my business is so successful because I DON’T do all the flashy, glitzy stuff. But you nailed it so clearly right here. I do the boring shit… like RESPONDING to folks who contact me with whatever helpfulness I can. And by gum…. it WORKS!!

    This also reminds me of a business idea that my brother once had. He was briefly toying around with being a contractor and the name he came up with for his company was “We’ll Call You Back.”

    And I SECOND Jen’s ideas about the pasties and blush. Oh Lordy, lordy … now I can’t get that picture out of my mind (-:

  14. Sandi Amorim
    April 7, 2011 | 1:16 pm

    God I love this post! Thank you for whipping out the cojones and saying what had to be said 🙂

  15. Candace
    April 7, 2011 | 1:31 pm

    You know you must have been channeling your inner Candace (awfully frightening if you indeed have an inner Candace!) But really there is nothing glamourous or shiny about doing a massive organization blitz on my music and compiling stray sheets of music and lyrics into orderly books yesterday afteroon. A necessary, but foundational task! I still haven’t found a good photographer for new website photos!

  16. Lisa Baldwin
    April 7, 2011 | 4:14 pm

    Oh, Fabeku. I’m just so sad that you dismissed the idea of boudoir photography so quickly. You do realise there could be a feather boa involved, right? Maybe even tassles. And I’m sure there’s a way you could incorporate the ninja motif.

    Meanwhile, thank you. Not just for the boudoir ninja imagery, but also for the phrase “don’t slip on your swoon”, and the straight-up smartness of this post. I’m 90% not-so-great at following-up and getting-back-to – not so much because of the distraction of shiny, but because it takes me a long time to do stuff. But chopping wood and carrying water are like that, yes?

    Much love and thanks to you and your feather boa, my friend.

  17. Christa
    April 7, 2011 | 4:27 pm

    Oh, I get it. And care about your suffering, but of course.

    The boooooring – it is the hardest part for me.

    And if I could, I’d run right over with multiple cameras. Pronto.

    Off to chop and carry more, procrastinate less…

  18. Marianne
    April 7, 2011 | 7:19 pm

    And this kind of smartness gets even more important when other parts of life rise up and claim almost all your time leaving only tiny little slivers for your beloved creative business (cue: my life right now). Then you have to drop something and the slippery temptation is to drop the wood and water, so that you can carry on with the play dates on Twitter or with fabulous potential collaborators… When the pinch comes on our time, we gotta keep getting the basics right.

  19. Naomi Niles
    April 7, 2011 | 7:49 pm

    Kind of sad you have to state the obvious, right? I’m constantly amazed at how often people do not return contact.

    I’ve been busier than ever the last year and haven’t been able to get back to people as quickly as I used to. But, I can’t imagine just never replying at all unless there was some technical reason that I didn’t get their email or whatever.

    A few times we’ve been contacted and people weren’t ready yet for the services (they didn’t have a budget yet or a solid enough biz plan or whatever) that later returned again and were grateful for the honesty when I told them they weren’t ready yet.

    I think it’s bad to just not answer though.

  20. Tara Gentile
    April 7, 2011 | 9:44 pm

    Yes yes yes. And ya know, I’m still not as good at this as I should be – things get by, to dos get undone, I miss connecting with super awesome people.

    But not as much as I used to, ya know why? Because instead of spending money on shiny coaching sessions and first class training programs, I spend money on a VA. And I tell her that I need her to take care of my foundations. Because the will is there but the flesh is weak.

    It’s important to me but I’m bad at it (well, not really bad just not good). And I know this. And so I PAY someone to the boring shit for me so I can spend time on the shiny stuff that I already know how to do (who says I need people to tell me this stuff?!?!).

    Thanks, Fabeku, for putting this out there. So so so true.

  21. Ellen Berg
    April 7, 2011 | 11:09 pm

    Love this! Yes, the basics are less shiny (think Squirrel! And the dog from Up!), but they’re basics ’cause they work. Not everything in life can be jazzhands…of which picture taking is NOT. Gotta suck it up and make that happen myself.

  22. Nadine
    April 8, 2011 | 12:17 pm

    “whose website looked like Flash threw up all over it.”
    Okay, so that cracked me up. I contacted literally two photographers about doing our wedding photos before I gave up and hired a friend of a friend. The first did e-mail me back after about five days, and was incredulous about our weekday-evening wedding in a way that kind of turned me off, and the other I never heard back from. Granted, I was asking about rates outside of their “all-day package” norm, but a job is a job, right? It should at least be worth looking into even if you don’t ultimately do it.

  23. dawn kotzer
    April 8, 2011 | 5:25 pm

    Well hello. I’m new to you and I like it. Good stuff.db:)

  24. Joan Bright
    April 9, 2011 | 3:47 pm

    Well, didn’t read every comment so forgive me if I repeat someone…but however boring, ordinary manners dictate getting back to people who took the time to contact you. Yes, I guess that’s more boring shit…that stuff your Mom taught you or whatever..but the little things do matter to people. Very much. It can mean the difference between a good referral…even if you two don’t do business, this time…based on just how nice you were…how polite, how helpful. Love this blogey bit, Fabeku, once again, you’ve hit it on the head.

  25. Fabeku
    April 13, 2011 | 2:08 pm

    @Susannah – Yeah, totally shameful. And what you said about doing-your-best-ness? Right on. So so true. Shine on, you! (p.s. NYC! Yes!)

    @Joely – Brilliant point! I think this fits in so many places. Building a foundation. For sure!

    @Molly – The brushing-your-teeth thing really makes it crystal clear, doesn’t it? Totally unfun. But totally essential. I also think what you said about emotional charge is key. Been thinking about this bit a lot lately. And your boudoir comment? I laughed ’til my sides hurt. And look at what you started here. (big grin)

    @Jen – Haha! There’s not enough blush in the world to make me + boudoir an ok thing. (big grin)

    @Jen – The operating-from-depletion is a good point. So hard. I’ve done it myself a bazillion times. I wish we could all put replenish first at the top of our lists. I also love what you said about deep service. Because I think the boring shit can totally be that. I’ve tried to look at it as an act of support, but you’ve framed it in a way that strikes an even deeper chord. Thanks you!

    @Mr. Pants – I totally get what you’re saying about the drudgery. And I’m glad you said it. Because the whole creative process gets romanticized in a way that I think is a) unrealistic and b) unhelpful. There are fabulous parts, sure. But also totally boring parts. Thanks for putting that out there. An important part of the discussion!

    @Grace – I know, right? Someone standing there with money in their hand. Ready to hand it to you. And nothing. I don’t get it either.

    @Lilly – I love what you said about being proud about being self-employed. I think you’re so right on with this. I hear a lot of complaining about admin stuff amongst self-employed folks. But it’s stuff you get to do to support your business + doing what you love + living life on your terms. I get that it’s not sexy, but it’s still connected to something ridiculous awesome. Great perspective!

    @Chris – You’ve built a delicious foundation, sweet friend. And it shows. Because look at you rocking the Casbah! (p.s. Love the tagline your brother thought up.)

    @Sandi – Thanks! Glad you dug it.

    @Candace – A great example of something that shores up a gorgeous foundation + supports you in workin’ your music mojo. Which, by the way, is fabulous.

    @Lisa – Feather boas. Tassels. Ninja motifs. I think my side my split from the funnies! OMG. So good. And I get what you mean about the takes-me-awhile thing. I’m a lot like that too. And I go back and forth between accepting it + struggling with it. Ah, the dance.

    @Christa – Thanks you. And, yeah, it can definitely fall on the hard side of things. Totally true.

    @Marianne – When the pinch comes on our time, we gotta keep getting the basics right. Gorgeously said. And so true. Prioritizing can be blergh-ey. But so so important.

    @Naomi – Yes! I think people (reasonable) people get the busy part. It’s the not-returning-contact that seems just wacky + mysterious + kind of dumb to me. I can also see why your clients would appreciate the honesty around their readiness!

    @Tara – I think it’s smart to recognize what we’re good at + what we’re not. And hiring help for the not part of it seems smart to me, whether that’s email stuff or accounting stuff or whatever.

    @Ellen – Not everything in life can be jazzhands. So totally true.

    @Nadine – Oof. What a headache. Even if it’s not someone’s thing – which I think is completely fine – it seems nuts to act put off or just to leave someone hanging. Unsmart. Uncool.

    @Dawn – Thanks!

    @Joan – So right. The little things matter a lot. There have been clients that weren’t a great fit for what I do. But I got back to them anyway. And I let them know that in a totally nice way. They all seemed to appreciate the honesty. In fact, two even ended up referring other people to me, which I totally appreciate.

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