In Move the needle, Shelley Brander shares the stories that shaped her as a person, a wife and mother, a creative, and ultimately, as an entrepreneur leading Loops and Knit Stars, two global craft businesses, and a movement to Knit the World Together. Shelley’s hope with this book is that it will inspire us to trust our own creativity, flow with the seemingly random twists and turns that life throws at us, and discover and fully live our own passion and purpose.
Creativity is the new currency of business.
If you can find a way to turn your hobby into your jobby, you’re making a huge step forward. Work becomes play, meetings evolve into playdates and even the toughest challenges turn into adrenaline-fueled obstacle courses. Yes, you might end up working harder than you ever imagined you could. But it’s a feeling that you’re getting away with something in the best possible way.
Lean into your creativity at every step. When you find yourself feeling inferior because you’re lacking MBA or some accounting skills or whatever, fall back to your secret weapon: creativity. Knit the cashmere scarf that gets you the lease deal. Craft and cobble together the product or service the world has long been waiting for.
Creativity is boundless.
When your ideas get rejected or someone gives you feedback that stings you, remember you have a thousand other ideas lying around. Unlike profit margins and balance sheets, your creativity is infinite. You might have to lick your wounds for a while but as soon as it’s over, you start looking for the next idea. It’s bound to be better than the last.
Creativity is not zero-sum.
Never underestimate the power of shared creation. When you invite others into the process of creation and joy, really cool things start to happen. Conversations spark. Healings begin. ‘Why’ begins to emerge. And as soon as that happens, there’s really no stopping you now.
Creativity is progress, not perfection.
Aim for progress, not perfection. From the very beginning, set aside any perfection. Perfection is more likely to work against you than it will work for you. Instead, make small goals, take small steps and celebrate small wins. Ask yourself what’s the smallest step you could take today that will move you forward? Acknowledge any progress is still a progress.
Feeling stuck? This too shall pass.
We have more energy than we realize. The human capacity for endurance and achievement is virtually boundless. You have deep wells of untapped energy inside you that when life comes to tap you out, you hold your ground and say out loud ‘this too shall pass’. And this is potentially the catalyst for your greatest contribution, for the dream you haven’t even begun to dream yet.
Find a good deal for everyone.
No matter how insignificant it seems, any deal can become the seed that grows into the partnership that defines your career or business. This is why you must exercise your empathy muscle every day. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you work with and then take action from there.
Advocating for others doesn’t mean you are thinking less of yourself. It means you’re thinking less of yourself less. You can still ask for that raise, raise that price as you praise self-acceptance. Every single time your boss grants that raise or your customer pays that price, it’s validation not just of your worth, but your work.
Be creative when you pivot.
When you pivot (as you inevitably will at some point), lean into your creativity. Shelley recalls how she leveraged her creativity whenever she was working on a new store. She said, “I looked for new ways to bring my creativity to the table. Building the flying saucer ceiling fixture, the button display, the crocheted art installation—each of these projects gave me something positive and creative to focus on, renewing my enthusiasm for the pivot. And while you’re in the process of pivoting, never forget: Progress is better than perfect.”
Meanwhile it’s important to look before you leap or pivot. Always remember to put your customer empathy hat on before getting carried away by your own creativity. At the same time, when you do make a mistake, recognize that it doesn’t always require a complete do-over.
Build your team and widen your circle.
Build your team, early and often. Reflect on your zone of genius (areas you’re best at) and followed by your zone of weaknesses. Then hire people to fill in your weaknesses. Shelley admits she wouldn’t have ended up with a crappy system that took years to rebuild, if she had listened to herself and hired more tech people from the start.
Widen the circle. Look for opportunities to collaborate. Look for people with values that align with yours but perspectives and skills that differ. Stay open to partnerships. They don’t have to be forever and they don’t have to be 50/50. The right collaboration right now could massively multiply your business and your impact for years to come.
You can’t connect the dots until later… much later.
You don’t need all the answers right now (spoiler: you’ll never have all the answers). Do your research, find a mentor and have no fear. Just get going. Shelley thinks of every entrepreneurial journey as making a sweater.
You’re knitting along, stitch after stitch and row after row. You keep moving ahead on faith that you’ll eventually have something that resembles the pretty modeled photos on the pattern. Thousands of stitches later, you wind up with a series of flat pieces—a front, a back, two sleeves. Slowly, meticulously, you attach each of the pieces. Then you soak it in water, pin it out. And finally it dries, and you put it on, and hope it fits. If it doesn’t, well . . . you give it to a friend and start another sweater. But now you know more about sweaters. And nothing can take that away.
You keep moving forward, trusting the process, believing in your creativity and knowing the next sweater will fit better than the last. Congratulations… you’re learning to zig when others zag. And don’t forget to document the journey—in notes, in photos, in a journal, whatever works for you—so you can keep looking back and seeing how far you have come.