Sometimes, the world becomes a difficult place to be. Coping with uncertainty, anxiety, and even sadness for a long time is a big challenge – even more so for creatives who are incredibly perceptive types. That’s why relying on empathy is so vital nowadays.
Empathy gives each of us the ability to create a more peaceful and kinder world, even on the worst of days – especially in the worst of days.
That’s why today we’re going back to innocence!
Remember those days when we were kids and we didn’t have to worry about all the madness in the world?
Don’t you wish you could just invite that state of mind into your life whenever you need a safe place to be yourself?
In hindsight, our childhood memories are some of our happiest memories which continue to nurture us. Lucky for us, there are illustrators like Lisa Glanz in our community, who show us it’s possible to reconnect with that part of us on a daily basis.
In this episode of the Drag & Drop show, Lisa opens a door into a fairytale kingdom that overflows with innocence and tenderness. She shows us how empathy plays a huge role in making magic happen and how it can become the cornerstone of a rewarding career.
Get ready to be amazed by her wonderful illustrations and the delightful stories behind them!
Lisa is an illustrator whose driving passion is to create graphics that add whimsy and magic to your creative projects. Her mission is to add value to other people’s work, so they can be happier with its results.
After having studied design in college, Lisa worked with various companies until she decided to go out on her own. For more than a decade, she’s been managing her company and growing as an artist and as a business owner. About halfway into her freelance journey, she made the switch from graphic design to illustration.
Why did she do it? How did it feel to start in a new creative branch when she was already a senior in another?
Listen to our conversation to find out!
Lisa’s illustrations bring out the best in people. Just looking at her work is like getting the most wonderful hug ever – if you don’t believe me, just take a quick look at her website, but make sure to hit play on our conversation for some good company and behind the scenes insights!
We really wanted to talk to Lisa for this season of the Drag & Drop podcast because her whimsical and delightful work is full of joy and life. Everything she creates overflows with kindness and empathy, making the world a better, friendlier place. I’m really, reaaaally excited for you to learn how Lisa works her magic and how she weaves empathy into (literally!) every single thing she does.
Stuff I was curious to find out:
- How self-empathy helped Lisa during her pivoting journey from graphic designer to illustrator (02:26)
- The drivers that pulled her towards becoming an illustrator (11:04)
- How Lisa practiced empathy prior to meeting the customers she wanted to attract (20:33)
- How long it took for her to reach the level of clarity she now has around her work and purpose (24:56)
- How Lisa’s illustrations are connected (30:12)
- How The Honest Designers podcast positively influenced her life over the past two years (41:19)
- What makes empathy timeless for Lisa and how other creatives can practice it to thrive (54:02)
What you can learn from this episode:
- How to gradually overcome self-doubt (04:24)
- The importance of shaping your business practices around what suits you (15:11)
- Why you should post on social media only when it’s easy (18:12)
- Why enjoying what you do is crucial for successfully selling your products in the long term (28:12)
- How to manage your sensitivity and turn it into your most powerful asset (33:46)
- Seven practical pieces of advice for creative freelancers (45:47)
- How the “I’m always right” attitude can narrow your opportunities and affect the way you connect with people (55:14)
You can help others in your own beautiful way
Our world is constantly in need of help. There are infinite ways we can support others but, more often than not, we’re led to believe that there are only a few that matter. Some examples that instantly come to mind may be going to a shelter and feeding the homeless, taking care of a senior person, or donating money or food to an animal rescue center.
Each and every one of us should be seeking to be of service to others in any way we can. The suggestions mentioned above are great places to start, but they’re not the only ones. We have a tremendous power to be generous – all of us – and we just need to figure out how to manifest it in a way that aligns with our principles.
Whether it’s making the world a more colorful place with your drawings or a nicer one by giving people sticky notes with kind words on them, your actions matter! So dig into your empathetic nature, let your imagination flow, and do whatever it is that you do best. You may discover wonderful opportunities along the way!
Your business is your reflection
We’ve all heard of business models and planning strategies that are proven to be successful and “guarantee” a competitive position on the market. There are tons of books on these subjects, regardless of the industry you’re in.
With all this information about what has worked for others, we might sometimes forget one essential ingredient – ourselves. Trying to lead by the book and build blocks without a foundation is a surefire way of making it harder to find your why and thrive.
Before getting your head wrapped up into strategies, statistics, and whatnot, think about what suits your needs.
How would you want your business to look?
Do you want to be independent?
Do you want to feel happy about the work you’re doing?
Do you want to be fulfilled?
All these things are important for shaping the business you want.
Figure this stuff out first and then move to business plans, models, and strategies. If you go the other way around, you run the risk of getting exhausted and fall out of love with your work and vision.
Sensitivity is (super)power
If you’re a sensitive person you might resonate with the “there’s something wrong with me” feeling. But just because you sometimes cry over something that most people laugh at doesn’t mean that you’re wired the wrong way.
Instead, this type of sensitivity can massively contribute to your success. Experiencing deep feelings and the ability to connect with people – and understand what they’re trying to communicate – is exactly what gets people to work with you.
Allow your sensitive side to shine, let it become your (super)power, and stop treating it like a weakness. You’ll be amazed by the creative force that’s hidden inside of you!
As Lisa wrote in one of her wallpaper illustrations: “Just do YOU. Always!”
Andra Zaharia: Lisa’s illustrations bring out the best in people. Just looking at her work is like getting the most wonderful hug ever – and we all need to experience this comforting feeling these days. Lisa’s whimsical, delightful illustrations are full of joy and life! They overflow with kindness and empathy, making the world a better, friendlier place. That’s exactly why I’m excited I get the chance to learn more about how Lisa works her magic, and how she weaves empathy into everything she does.
Andra Zaharia: Welcome to the Drag & Drop show, where we explore how practicing empathy transforms how we do business and live our lives. I’m your host, Andra Zaharia – a fellow podcast listener and creator. This season, I’m on a journey with Creatopy to discover how leading women around the world use empathy to connect and do work that matters. Join us, to find out how to drag and drop small acts of empathy into our lives to make it more rewarding for us and those around us.
Andra Zaharia: In her own words, Lisa is an illustrator who is “passionate about creating graphics that add whimsy and magic to your creative project.” Her mission is to add value to other people’s creative process, so they can enjoy their own work more and its results. After having studied design in college, Lisa worked with various companies until she decided to go out on her own. For more than a decade, she’s been managing her company and growing as an artist and as a business owner. About halfway into her freelance journey, Lisa made the switch from graphic design to illustration and that’s a wonderful story I can’t wait to explore!
Andra Zaharia: my guest today is also one of the hosts of the Honest Designers podcast, which started as a series of chats among friends and turned into a wonderful, empathetic podcast for the creative community. Lisa’s incredible eye for detail is visible throughout her illustrations, from designing lovable characters to creating patterns and products I’d put all over my home. No matter where she shares her work or creative process, you can tell Lisa has a rich inner life that bubbles to life in beautiful ways. So, Lisa, tell me, when did empathy make the biggest impact on your life?
Lisa Glanz: Well, firstly, thank you for that intro! Wow! I should hire you as my PR! You really made it sound good! I guess, just going back to what you mentioned, the pivot that I had in my career – that was quite a big change in my life, as you can imagine. It was a huge struggle for me to come to terms with the feeling of being behind. I always felt like I was 10 steps behind all the other illustrators out there, so it took me a long time to come to terms with that and stop beating myself up about that and realizing that the steps that I took along the way, even though I always felt that they weren’t the absolute dream job, they obviously set me up for where I am today. So, I think when people beat themselves up or don’t give themselves a break, they always feel like, “I’m not there! It’s a lot there!”, but all those small steps we take every day in our career, in our life – even if it’s meeting the wrong partner and realizing it 10 years later – they all add to our experience of life and they kind of help us in our next phase. So, I think it’s important to cut yourself some slack, especially women – we’re not good at this at all! And, yeah, that was one of the biggest things I took away from that scary change that I made, I would say.
Andra Zaharia: That was a very brave thing to do, especially because you’ve been in the field for such a long time and it’s so difficult to let go something that you’re good at and a place where you’re very rooted into.
Lisa Glanz: Yeah!
Andra Zaharia: I was curious, throughout this process, did you use any sort of practice to help you keep track of your progress? Because it’s so easy to disregard our efforts when they’re very granular or just step by step like that.
Lisa Glanz: So, I’m a very spiritual person and I spend a lot of time working through issues in my mind and doing things that I know are good for my soul – if I can call it that – and also good for creativity and I’m bringing myself back to reality. That sounds terrible thinking about that, but what I mean is kind of grounding myself because I do live in my head a lot, as most artists do; we tend to kind of live in our heads a lot of the time. And so, the practices that I really cherish and value, are things like my daily walk with my dog, and just drawing for the fun of it, doing things like that.
Lisa Glanz: When I was going through that hard time of shifting my career, I was so stressed, I was struggling with things like self-doubt; I had massive, massive, massive self-doubt, I really thought I wasn’t good enough, and that pretty much shook me up every single day, but I knew that I could get through that if I just persevered. Fortunately, I think I’ve got it from my mom that I have kind of like a very strong, determined will, and I have a sense of like, “I know I can fix it. I know I can get through it, I know I can figure it out.” I’ve always had that sense of “This can be fixed” or “this can get better.” I think that approach or that psychological approach really assisted me. I also did a lot of meditation, even though I don’t really do it so much anymore, which is kind of sad, I should do it more often. And then, I did call upon my meditation practice a lot more and, as I said, I am spiritual, so I would spend a lot of time in my head trying to work it through. Even the logical questions, like, for example, I would say to myself, “Okay, so you think you suck? Where’s the evidence? Are you sure you suck?” All those things – be realistic and give yourself questions and answers that you can actually work yourself through. Otherwise, you feel like it gets, “So, where do I start? How do I get through this? What’s my starting point of actually finding a way through this?” So, yeah, I use practical questions, I use practical practices and spirituality, as I said. So, do whatever you can to make yourself feel grounded again because I think we get too caught up in stuff that isn’t real. We start making up things like, “You are the worst artist in the world! You’ll never get anywhere. No one’s going to buy your stuff.” And those are all untrue. So, yeah, challenging those bad belief systems in yourself is important, I’d say.
Andra Zaharia: They’re absolutely essential, especially these days. I found it to be, even though I never considered myself a creative type – although I work in content creation, which involves some level of creativity – I definitely empathize with a lot of the things you mentioned, especially around gaining this objectivity and chipping away at those mental biases that can get out of control really, really fast if we let them, and just asking these questions and trying to gain some footing into reality and looking for proof, exactly like you said; I think that that is so, so important, and it’s something that’s really approachable and easy to do. It doesn’t take an enormous effort that is only available to some, so these are very, very practical. I love that you mentioned meditation because I know that everyone feels that they want to experiment with it, and sometimes it can work for you. I was actually just talking to Meg Lewis in another episode of the podcast and she did her own podcast, and she’s doing a comedy podcast that also involves meditation and that’s something totally different.
Lisa Glanz: Oh, wow! Yeah.
Andra Zaharia: She made it more for her.
Lisa Glanz: Yes, well, that’s the thing! I was going to say, that’s an important point. I think people get hung up on that whole meditation has to be this real guru, you have to be really good at it – and it’s not true at all! What I did was I found a guided meditation that was specific for my needs, and at the time, for me, it was all about believing that I can do this which, in a sense, is a faith, right? You’ve got to build the faith in yourself, build the faith in the process, build the faith in the universe, or whatever you believe in. And that guided meditation – I mean, I wasn’t good at meditation. I just knew you had to kind of empty your brain. I mean, who knows how to do that, right? So, I literally used that every single day for about three, four months until I really started believing what I was hearing and I think that’s the important thing. You’ve got to use the tools and shape them to suit you to get through the difficult times. I mean, we read about all the stuff that other people are doing to achieve these things and you feel like an idiot, “Why isn’t it working on me?” And you’ve got to shape them for yourself. So don’t always think that what that person’s doing is going to work for you. Really experiment and ask questions for yourself and do stuff that’s going to help you the way you like doing it. It’s important!
Andra Zaharia: And it is absolutely essential, and I also feel this kind of encompasses how you’ve built your life and how you’ve developed your creativity and your process along the years, shaping what you do to fit your way of doing things, to fit your perspectives – and I absolutely love that! And you can tell that you put a lot of thought and a lot of energy and a lot of yourself into everything you do. That’s very, very visible to everyone!
Lisa Glanz: Wow, that’s good! Thank you!
Andra Zaharia: So, I’m very curious to find out what kept pulling you towards illustration because you made this transition after such a long time, and it was clear that there was a pull there. What kept you going towards that?
Lisa Glanz: Yeah, it’s weird because I’ve asked myself the same question. As you said, at the time, I had a very successful graphic design business and there was no real reason other than, I guess, a sense of fulfillment for me to change careers. I mean, I was doing well. When I told my mom and my siblings that I was changing, they just thought I was insane – why mess with the good thing – which made it more difficult because I’m not saying they frowned upon and my mom will always support me no matter what, but I could sense that she probably thought like, “What are you doing?!” But anyway, as a kid, I loved drawing and I loved creating, but at the same time, I always had the sense of, “I want to help others, I want to give back.” That really sat with me my whole adult life, and although I enjoyed doing work for clients and help them out with their branding and this is, and the next thing, I just had this overwhelming sense continuously in the back of my mind, like, I want to help people, I want to be doing something that can actually have more of an impact on more than one person, and I had no idea I was going to achieve that.
Lisa Glanz: Through the whole transition of illustration, I didn’t know that that was actually going to be the answer to that feeling because only since now that I’ve developed my business the way I have – I teach classes, I do tutorials, I create products that I know that people love using for their own work and the emails that I get from my customers saying how much they appreciate what I do – that’s it! That fulfillment that I’ve been after, all those years, finally came true and it’s weird how, at the time, I kept thinking, “Maybe I need to go work in an animal shelter. Maybe I need to be a helpline person or something” and I kept having that, “How do I help people?” And it’s weird how you can do the same impact but doing it in your way and now that I’ve discovered that that’s actually really what’s going on – a mixture of my creative expression and helping people, teaching them and all that kind of stuff – it’s like magic! That’s where the magic kind of comes together. Yeah, so that’s the other thing I’ve realized that it doesn’t have to be the shape that you think is the normal kind of shape of stuff. And so, the way I’ve shaped my business has suited me and my needs, I guess, for expression and helping others. So yeah, it’s been wonderful! I’m privileged, actually!
Andra Zaharia: And we’re lucky to have someone like you to show us that this is possible. I think that so many creatives out there need examples like yours and the fact that you talk about what you did, and how you stumbled, and your wins, and everything in between, I think is so important because it shows them that there’s an opportunity there for them to create a body of work and a way of working that suits them, and that helps them grow as a person because what we’re seeing now more than ever – and this is going to accelerate even further – is that we’re finally talking about emotions in the workplace. We’re finally talking about the fact that there’s no professional us and personal us, that there’s just one human being that has so many roles and so many thoughts and challenges and aspirations – and bringing all of that to work and bringing all of that to the rest of our lives is absolutely essential!
Lisa Glanz: Absolutely! And just speaking on that whole thing of shaping, when I first started my business, the first thing I thought of was how do I shape this to suit me and you kind of look at all the other people how they’re doing it – obviously, you need to get an idea. For me, I liked a lot of stuff about it, but there was stuff about it that I didn’t like. So, for example, as much as I love talking to my customers, and my community, I’m not a big social media person. I mean, I didn’t have Facebook until I think a year ago and I don’t have a Twitter account – I don’t do any of that stuff. So, Instagram was usually for me, and I thoroughly enjoy Instagram from that point of view because it’s visual and I get to communicate with people, which is great, but I’m not a big person on that. And I thought, “Well, that’s it! That’s in your business! How are you ever going to have an online business without a social platform?” And I realized you actually don’t need to do all of them. Just pick one that you really like, and stick to it. And there’s this pressure, like, you’ve got to be on Facebook, you’ve got to be on Twitter, you’ve got to be on this, you’ve got to be on that – and I’ve just realized you don’t. You really, really don’t. So, it’s so important to shape things, even your business practices, around what suits you and I think if you don’t do that, you run the risk of getting exhausted and not enjoying it anymore. So yeah, that’s quite important to remember.
Andra Zaharia: This is a top mental health tip, in my opinion. I love that you said that you focused on the channel that suited you best because I also believe that – I believe that emails can be super powerful and I am subscribed to wonderful newsletters that do so much more for me than many other channels and it’s okay to be an introvert in social media and only stick to your thing. I’m the same. I tried all of them – not all of them; I never tried Tik Tok because I think I may be too old for that – but I closed my Facebook account almost two years ago and people ask me, “How are you going to do your job as a marketer without being on Facebook?”
Lisa Glanz: You can!
Andra Zaharia: The whole internet is out there! Facebook is not the internet and there’s so much more out there! I feel like even using these boundaries can actually improve our creativity and can improve our ability to go deeper into some channels and to understand nuances and to actually make it count and not just check and add a bunch of links on a website that don’t mean anything. That, in the end, depletes us, just like you said. So, I love your approach here!
Lisa Glanz: And I think, just on that, I mean, I even have this thing on Instagram where, for the first time this year, actually, I’ve really tried to only post when it’s easy – and what I mean is like, instead of spending I don’t know how many hours a day or a week on my Instagram posts, I’d rather post when I feel that what I’m providing for people means something or it’s funny, makes their day, whatever; not just randomly posting because my theory is, would you rather be spending time thinking of a new way to help a lot more people – in other words, creating a nice product or a new course or whatever – or spending those hours coming up with an Instagram post that’s going to get a few likes, and then it’s gone? So, I’d rather spend my energy and time on something that’s going to have a bigger impact – to help people, help them create their own work. So, that’s more important to me. And I think people have this pressure, “You’ve got to post once a day and you’ve got to post!” You don’t. You really don’t. I think the big thing is, just be true to yourself, be true to the message you’re trying to convey, and don’t feel pressurized. Instagram is going to be there tomorrow. It’s okay.
Andra Zaharia: And that sort of alignment between what we do and what we think and what we need can be very empowering and can be an incredible source of energy. This is something that I’ve seen in everyone that’s a leader in their community and that has done something that’s worthwhile, that has impacted the lives of others. It’s this alignment between their thoughts and their actions and sticking to them, no matter what the influences might be – and there are tons of that, especially in creative work.
Lisa Glanz: Yes!
Andra Zaharia: You mentioned the fact that you don’t interact on social media, like “the norm”, and that suits you very well. I know that you told Diane Gibbs in a podcast that you did with her in 2018 – which I absolutely loved – you mentioned that you knew what kind of customer you wanted to attract when you went into illustration. So, how did you get to know those customers? What was your starting point, and how did you add to that?
Lisa Glanz: Okay, so, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Marie Forleo at all.
Andra Zaharia: Yes!
Lisa Glanz: Okay. So I did her B-School course – it’s probably coming up to about eight years ago – and one of the main things that she teaches is finding your ideal customer and in our industry, and I think no matter who you are – graphic designer, illustrator, your industry or whatever – it’s so important to know who you’re trying to reach. And I think that’s the number one thing that I see that is a problem for people starting out, especially people trying to do what I do. And all the emails that I get is that they’re producing all this work, but they’re not getting any sales and they want me to have a look at it. I could see why because they haven’t considered – now this is where the empathy part comes in – they haven’t actually considered what their customer wants, because they haven’t actually figured out who is their customer.
Lisa Glanz: So, for me, because I was kind of new to the whole game, I started off focusing on the wedding customers. So, for me, initially, it was all about, if I was a designer and I needed to design a wedding invitation, what would I need to do there? So, that’s what I started painting flowers and creating backgrounds that I thought would be easy for them to use, and things like that. That was kind of my starting point. And since then, it’s grown quite considerably in terms of my understanding of my customers and what they need; some packs that I create are still very specific to a particular audience. So, I will create something that’s specifically wedding or specifically a logo design or whatever. So, they are definitely products that are still very specific, and that’s how I approach everything. I think, “Okay, so who’s going to be using this product, and how are they going to benefit from it? What do they need to produce, to make their best work?”
Lisa Glanz: So, it’s not about me, it’s not about, “Do I like this?” I mean, obviously, I’m going to create something that I enjoy creating, but it’s more important to answer the question of your customer. And you’re going to sit down and figure out, “Okay, so what do they want? What will make it better? What will make it easier? What will make it faster?” And those are the questions you need to answer when you start creating or putting a pack together, and ultimately, those are the goals that you want to achieve.
Lisa Glanz: So, knowing your customer is super important. I think that out of all the things that I learned from B-School is probably what kind of started my business to get successful so quickly, because I understood that upfront. If you’re not sure, like, if you’re sitting there thinking, “Okay, so, how do I figure out who my customer is?” the first thing I did was to hop onto Etsy and I started looking at what was popular in terms of downloadable products, and I also started looking at what people were creating, and then, I thought, “Okay, so, how can I help them to create that?” and that is a good base to give you an idea of what people are needing out there. And, you know, you can pick a very niche industry, but if you want to be safer, initially, I would say to choose something that’s very popular, choose something that a lot of people are doing. I don’t mean products; I mean, what are they creating for their customers, and then you are going to supply them something that they can use for their creations – and that’s a good place to start. And then, from there, you get an idea of who you’re actually servicing and that’s very important.
Andra Zaharia: And also, your approach that’s focused on experimentation, and on this gradual process is absolutely vital because that’s how great strides are made – and often we see, when the media depicts all these success stories, they miss that middle part, the messy middle, the one that’s the toughest bit. So I was curious, how long did it take you to reach this level of clarity around your work and your purpose?
Lisa Glanz: In time, I’d say probably two years of flapping about. And, it that time, I realized what I liked and what I didn’t like, and I also made a very conscious decision early on to not compete with the masses. So, although I wanted to be trend-aware, I didn’t want to run off to the latest trend and try and produce a product that was in line with that. That, to me, was a too stressful situation. I know some people really thrive in that kind of arena and they do really well, but it doesn’t suit me. For me, I want to create something that I enjoy creating – as I said, that other people will enjoy creating – but is unique. And obviously, I am trend-aware but it’s not my driving force.
Lisa Glanz: So, because of those combinations, I kind of have to experiment – which also suits me because I love experimenting – and through these experimentations, some worked, some didn’t, but from that, some of them have been my best-sellers. For example, I created the Portrait Creator – I don’t know if you’re familiar with it – and it basically allows people to build their own portraits, and this came from hours of playing around and messing about and coming up with ideas, “Well, how can I help people who can’t draw, to make portraits?” So, to answer that question, that was like, “Oh, I can do this, this and this and put this together” and since then, the product itself has grown enormously. But that was literally born out of experimentation and, as you said, it can get messy, and it’s a risk because you could spend hours and weeks and months on something and then not having many sales. So yeah, I guess it’s you-win-some-you-lose-some kind of thing, but definitely, in those beginning phases you are figuring out what is going to work and what’s going to work for you, what’s going to work for your customer and yeah, I’d say about two years, in short. If I’m rambling, just tell me to shut up.
Andra Zaharia: No, no, no! I love hearing your stories and the way you walk us through them! Because these two years, while it may seem like a short period of time, they can encompass so much struggle, so much experimentation, so much effort put into all of these days and into all of these experiments, which may end up being winners or not doing so well. But, at the same time, I feel like you did an absolutely splendid job at creating such a diverse portfolio, such a diverse way of articulating products and things that kind of work to balance each other out – so you’re very good at that. Was this intentional or did it just happen, also, kind of naturally, along the way?
Lisa Glanz: Definitely natural, not intentional. I think it was probably a case of me getting better at doing certain things. So, things would be probably more simple in the beginning and then, as I got better and decided to expand in a particular direction, then I would take it there. To be honest, I get bored quite quickly, so I need to try and stimulate my creativity as much as I can. So, I do pivot quite a lot in my creation, in what I do. Sometimes I feel like creating something really sophisticated and other times I want to be fun and free and just do silly little things that suit a kiddies market. So, I guess I’ve been very fortunate that way, but it’s basically me having fun, I guess, and it’s kind of just worked out or it’s working.
Lisa Glanz: But I think that’s quite important because I think if you, as a creator and a producer of anything, really, are enjoying what you do, even though it’s for you, you’re still bearing in mind the other person – the person who’s going to buy from you – I think they sense that joy, and I think they pick up that this was created out of a place of enjoyment and love and inspiration or whatever. Because people buy from people, right? They don’t buy from a robot. So, they want to feel that in your work. And people are not stupid, they pick that up and I think that’s quite an important thing and I’ve been very fortunate that all my playful experiments have kind of helped me along the way in terms of creating different products.
Andra Zaharia: And you can definitely feel that there’s that connection between a creative person, such as yourself, an artist of any kind, and a person who ends up enjoying their work in any form it might have. It’s based exactly on that idea of thoughtfulness and in the reaction that it inspires in them. When I look at your characters, for example, I’m in absolute awe! The way you draw them is like opening a door into a fairytale kingdom. I absolutely love the colors, I love the expression on their faces – no matter if they’re human or animals or anything else. They’re absolutely beautiful. And I wanted to ask, are they connected in any way? Because I know that you have kind of small stories built around them, but are they connected in any way? Or is it kind of like each to their own universe?
Lisa Glanz: That’s such an easy question! I think the connection that they have is that they all start from this innocent place. They all live in this world that’s pure and innocent, and the intention is just joy, and love, and fun. When I sit down and draw – and I’ve realized this, the more I’ve been doing this for these couple of years – this is kind of my way of putting a really nice thing out there because we are all faced with really crappy situations, the world is full of horrible things and there’s sadness, there’s horrific things going on around us all the time, and we all have to deal with these terrible situations. But, we can all contribute something in our own way that is beautiful. And this, I’ve realized, is kind of my expression of replacing all the yucky stuff with hopefully something that’s going to be perceived as a fun thing, and joyful, and magical. I also want to remind people and myself of going back to that innocence; when we were kids, we played freely, we didn’t think of things like this. We didn’t have to worry about money and the economy, and all that stuff on the world – we were just free. I want to keep reminding us of that, and that’s what I hope to do in my work and I think that’s where they’re all connected. They aim to do that, just to take our mind away from the stuff that we have to deal with, as adults, all day long. And that world that they belong in, I guess I want to live in it. I also want everyone else to live in it. So yeah, I guess it’s just me trying to create a world that’s nicer.
Andra Zaharia: You do a fantastic job at this, and you definitely open a window into that good, kind, and very sensitive part of ourselves, which is instantly activated the moment I look at your work, and everyone else that I’ve shown it to that didn’t know it previously. So, that definitely has that effect on people. You can tell there’s a lot of sensitivity to how you approach your work, and I was curious how you manage the sensitivity because, like you said, there’s so much going on around us and the more perceptive you are, the more you see 10 steps ahead, you see 100 steps ahead, you start connecting the dots and it escalates in a way that can become very overwhelming. What do you do when you have these feelings and reactions?
Lisa Glanz: Well, it’s really perceptive of you to pick that up because I actually am an extremely sensitive person, and growing up, that was actually a little bit of a challenge because I used to feel that there was something wrong with me because of my sensitivity. And it’s only now, in my adult life, have I realized – and I’ve always had in the back of my mind this thing – that sensitivity is going to be a power, I guess, for me, one day. And growing up was difficult, as I said, but only now, as an adult, have I realized that that sensitivity has contributed massively to my success as an illustrator because I do harness that and I do kind of call on that when I sit down and draw. And it’s having those feelings or having the ability to connect with a non-existent world that’s imaginary and try to bring that to life. I know some people would probably struggle with that, but I think, as a sensitive person, we find it easy to understand how that bear feels when he’s looking at that little snail on a flower. I guess, somebody who’s not sensitive will go, “Well, I don’t know. What do you mean? How am I supposed to know how a bear feels when he’s looking at the snail?”
Lisa Glanz: So, it’s now become my power, if I can call it that. And there was a long, long, long time in my life. I mean I’m 45, and basically, a good 35 years of my life, I really struggled with the fact that I was so sensitive. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve heard on the podcast, I’ve mentioned before, I used to have really bad panic attacks and that was because of my sensitivity to all these things. And since me following my true dream of being an illustrator, and expressing the beauty of the other side of life – because, as you said, we’re surrounded by all this horribleness – and just aligning my inner sensitivities to have a voice has really, really helped me. I mean, I don’t suffer from anxiety anymore, I don’t have panic attacks anymore, and it’s amazing – and that’s purely because I’ve allowed that side to kind of shine, whereas before I would constantly push it down.
Lisa Glanz: I mean, it’s just like, sensitivity in society often equals weakness, which is not true at all. I mean, those are two different things entirely! It’s like, they don’t even live in the same world! And I think that’s why I always try and think to myself like… I mean, my parents didn’t really know how to deal with me, I guess, but I always think to myself like, if I had a kid – which I’m not going to have – but if I had a sensitive kid, I would spend so much time building up that feeling, that sensitivity. It’s like your superpower, you know?
Andra Zaharia: It is! It really, really is.
Lisa Glanz: Yeah! And I just wish that society kind of knew that better and treated sensitive people better – especially in schools and things like that, because kids are so susceptible to name-calling and all that kind of stuff. Just because you’re sensitive and you cry over something that most people are laughing at, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. But yeah, it’s a challenge, as a sensitive person, but there’s places that you just need to go for yourself and make it work.
Andra Zaharia: And just creating space for yourself, so you can actually let yourself be this way and accepting that this is a big part of you, and, like you did, eventually transform it into something that looks like a life force, that’s a source of vitality and energy. Your story reminded me, actually, of one of the other conversations I had with another podcast guest, Tiffany da Silva, who is hypersensitive as well and she battled this for a long time and it does take a long time for sensitive people to come to terms with their perception and the fact that it works this way, and then being okay with that and making it part of you – like, accepting it and then shining a light on it.
Lisa Glanz: Yes, exactly! So, instead of you seeing it as this ball in chains, which I used to, I used to think, “Oh my God, it’s the biggest curse on Earth! Why can’t I just be like everybody else, and not seeing these things?” But it actually has become the thing that I really cherish about myself. And there are days that I wish that I wasn’t like that because it does become difficult. It’s difficult to see and experience the world in such a different way than most people do. But, there’s a reason for it, and I’m grateful that I have it. It’s not an easy experience, but it sure is exciting.
Andra Zaharia: Yeah! Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy, in my opinion. I mean, all the self-work and the fact that we’re talking about empathy – which is for some people such an abstract concept, and it’s so difficult to translate into practice – the fact that we’re opening up this entire conversation around our experience of things and how it’s so different for all of us and the fact that we’re talking about diversity and making it the standard, not something that is not an outlier. We all need to kind of invest more in this and I feel really lucky that I get to do this with you through this podcast and everywhere else.
Lisa Glanz: Yeah, and I think, just going on there so quickly, on that point, is that, as creative people, I think we get the raw end of the deal in terms of that, like, on the one hand, they want you to be sensitive because that’s when you understand things better, but on the other hand, it’s like, “Oh, don’t get too sensitive if I tell you your design sucks.” So, it’s almost like we can’t win, but yeah, it is a topic that I think that community as a whole needs to embrace and don’t be embarrassed about the fact that, “Hey, if you’re having anxiety, it’s okay! It’s okay. Do you know how many people are having anxiety? It’s loads, so you’re not alone. It’s fine, talk about it. There’s nothing wrong with you!”
Andra Zaharia: Speaking about talking about it, you’ve done such a good job, along with Tom and Ian and Dustin in the Honest Designers podcast, doing exactly that. So, I was curious if you could walk us through a bit how that came to be and what role doing this podcast and having these conversations played in your life over the past two years or so?
Lisa Glanz: Yeah. So, just on that sensitivity topic, the funny thing is, when Tom actually put the whole thing together, it wasn’t really a podcast. He sent me an email and said, “I’m thinking of putting a group together, like a mastermind group. It’s just going to be you, Dustin, Ian and, basically, we’re just going to chat once a week, just to see what’s happening in our lives – it might be helpful.” I couldn’t believe that I found myself saying, “Yeah! That sounds great! I’m in!” And after I sent the email, I was like, “What on earth have you done?” I went into complete panic, total anxiety.
Andra Zaharia: Every introvert who says yes to social engagements, then it’s something they regret.
Lisa Glanz: Yeah, that was a huge thing for me! So, the first meeting we had, I was a wreck because I didn’t know what to expect. And they were all fantastic. So, we met a couple of times, and Tom kind of said, like, “Why don’t we record this?” Because what we were talking about was exactly what we needed to talk about: things about our work, stuff we’re struggling with, customer issues, product problems – all kinds of stuff. And yeah, I said, “Let’s just record it and see what happens.” And the weirdest thing is, obviously, the first few episodes were awkward and weird, because now, all of a sudden, we knew people were listening. So the whole flow became weird.
Lisa Glanz: But yeah, we eventually relaxed into it, and we got back to how it was in the beginning, and it’s been tremendous! It’s been amazing to feel just that feeling of you’re not alone and we’re all going through the same stuff. And no matter where you are in your journey, we all still struggle with the same feelings of insecurity, work-life balance, dealing with difficult situations in our work and at home and it’s cathartic and I think it’s so important for other people in our creative industry to realize that it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey, if you have a goal, you can get to it. You can get to it if you put in the work. And, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. We’re all going through the same stuff. And the people that you look up to are just human, just like the rest of us, there’s nothing special about them, so, you can also achieve all these things that you want to achieve, that they achieved. I think, as a creative, it’s important to give back and I feel so privileged to be able to do that, and it’s our way of doing that, and the feedback has been amazing. So, yeah, it’s been quite something, actually!
Andra Zaharia: And it’s really wonderful to be part of it, as well, as a listener, and even as someone who’s not directly a designer or an illustrator or a part of the industry – all the principles and the struggles that you talk about apply to so many other fields! They apply to everyone else because they’re basically tied to human nature. And yes, there are some specifics that go into dealing with freelance work and being an independent creative person, but they also work their magic in that they open our brains to possibilities that we never thought possible, and they kind of give us the courage to give ourselves permission to go in those directions, which is sometimes, one of the biggest obstacles we have to deal with. So, practicing self-empathy here is so important! What would be some of the things that you learned in the past, over a decade since you started running your own business that you think can help other creatives navigate uncertainty? Because there’s a lot of that these days, and there’s going to be a lot more of it, going forward.
Lisa Glanz: Yeah. Number one, I know we don’t like dealing with this as creatives, but you have to use your finances, you’ve got to get smart for that. I think, when I went out on my own, I didn’t just do the leap – I did it in a way that I knew I was financially fine if it all came crashing down. And what I mean was, I had at least six months because I thought by six months I’d be back on my feet, whether I was waitressing whether I was whatever, but you’ve got to really do that – don’t be silly about that. You’ve got to make a plan with that.
Lisa Glanz: And then, another thing that’s important is to remember that if something goes wrong and everything goes to hell in a bucket, you can always find an alternative. If it means cleaning people’s toilets, if it means waitressing – you can make it work, so it’s not the end of the world. And yes, it’s scary. It’s all those things, but you’ve got to rely on your resilience and your determination to get you through those kinds of things. So, because I had that in the back of my mind the whole time, it kind of took away the fear because we go into this quite scared, right? You think this is going work, and you start taking on work that is panic work. And it’s not necessarily the shape or the direction that you want to take your business in, but that’s what happens, you start panicking, and it’s not necessarily work that you should be doing. So, with knowing that fact in the back of my mind, it really helped me make decisions – the good decisions – for my business.
Lisa Glanz: And then, I also found that having a clear picture of where you want to go to, although you’re kind of new when you’re starting out, you still must have an idea of what is the shape of the business that you want to show – what do you want it to look like? And a lot of times it can be, literally, connected to feeling. So, do you want to feel independent? Do you want to feel location-independent? Do you want to feel happy about the work that you’re doing? Do you want to feel fulfilled? All these kind of things, they’re all important to shaping the business that you want, and then, you also need to think about the level of clients that you want – do you want to serve the lower-middle to higher-income because that also determines how you do business.
Lisa Glanz: So, it’s actually, really, a case of sitting down and having a serious chat with yourself and don’t ignore all those businessy stuff – we tend to do that because it’s boring, but we must. We must do that, and have an idea of how you want to shape your business and then stick to the path, as much as you can, along the way. But having said that, also, don’t be scared to pivot if you have to. So don’t be so stuck in a way that you don’t want to be doing that. Maybe try it out; if you really hate it, then come back. What else? You’ve got to have good contracts in place, don’t take on big work if you don’t take on deposits – I think that’s quite important. So, protect yourself. So, do whatever you have to do to protect yourself. And yeah, what else? Again, know your customer.
Andra Zaharia: These are all super helpful, because working towards that definition of success often takes us in a place where we actually figure out that we need a certain level of emotional comfort, maybe financial stability as well, but it’s more about the emotional comfort because everything else kind of falls into place if we’ve managed to reach that level. And knowing who your people are, knowing who you like to work with, that is also incredibly important, just like you said. I’ve experienced that myself because I’ve been freelancing for a year and almost a half now and I’ve seen the people you click with – that gets you through the thick and thin, and that gives you the energy to keep being excited and enjoy your work and see the difference that it makes. That’s really where the magic happens.
Lisa Glanz: Absolutely! And it’s weird how, as a freelancer, you often think it’s not about that, but it actually really is and we always think that we don’t have control over that, but you do. You do have control over who you do work with. Obviously, initially, when we’re starting out, we are desperate for work, we tend to take on things that we don’t really feel like doing – and that’s okay, if it’s a percentage of 30-40% but then definitely try to focus to get work that does light you up, that you can go to work and get excited about what you do. I mean, when I first started out, sure, I did jobs that were okay, they were kind of “neah”, not at all that exciting, but then I had jobs that I went after, I literally wanted and I got, and those are the ones that made me get up every day and go, “Man, I want to go work!” And so, yeah, finding that balance is very important, and you are in control. Ultimately, I know it doesn’t seem that way. It seems like the world economy is controlling you, your local economy is controlling you – it is, to an extent, but ultimately we are in control of our day-to-day existence. And a lot of it, as you said, is emotional; even when you’re going through tough times, it’s important to keep your emotions in check and yourself in check and have a plan. If you have a plan, and you’re not freaking out, I promise you, the journey is so much easier!
Andra Zaharia: So beautifully said, and you’ve covered this so well, especially the part about cultivating this awareness of our choices of how we do things, of what actually replenishes our energy resources, and what depletes them. And I especially love the fact that throughout all this process, it’s all about giving yourself permission to be a certain way and to think this and to follow your own path, even if the road ahead is very blurry, and it’s very foggy, and at this point in time, none of us know what the future will look like. And the truth is that we never knew. It’s just that some times in history are more stable than others, but it’s also with uncertainty, that creative types can thrive because they see solutions and they find ways to see the world and to make the world a better place that other people can’t because they’re used to following a very specific sequence of steps, let’s call it that. And that’s a chance for us all to explore more creativity and to explore more empathy and to make that a bigger part of our work because we actually need it. We need it to support our lives, we need it to support our hopes and dreams through difficult times, so we can actually get to reach them. So, I’m very, very thankful that you carried us so gracefully through all of these things, and you shared all these personal examples and made it such a valuable story and a valuable set of principles that we can all apply in our work. I don’t know when time flew. I literally don’t know! I wanted to ask you what makes empathy timeless for you, in your work and in your life in general, and how creative types such as yourself can continue to encourage and practice it?
Lisa Glanz: I think it’s important that empathy should actually start with yourself. Often, we really give ourselves a hard time and it’s important to take into consideration all the things that you think are mistakes and disasters in your life. They really were there to teach you and to mold you and to help you grow. I mean, if I’m looking back at mine, I can see all of that already, how it has changed my outlook of life. So that’s the first important thing because if we can take care of our own empathy for ourselves, I think it’ll be a lot easier and automatic to apply to other people.
Lisa Glanz: And there’s this thing, especially – and I know I struggle with this – this thing of you always want to be right: our way is the right way, our way of thinking is the right way, my belief system is the right way, the way I do it is the right way. And it’s wrong to think that way. Well, okay, wrong is a strong word, but it’s unhelpful, and it’s also kind of diminishing, even for yourself, to think like that because what happens is if you’re not empathetic or expanding your point of view, or having a, more expansive view on the world, is that you don’t see the beauty that there is out there that before you thought was maybe ugly, and just having that empathy allows you to see the magic everywhere. And whether it’s watching other people’s techniques from an artistic point of view or just listen to other people’s psychological and spiritual point of view or whatever, it’s massive! It goes everywhere. I think as creatives, working that into your work, in what you do and your intention behind it and trying to kind of connect people that way from your soul to the other person’s soul – because it’s soul to soul, right? And just that approach, I think, if we can get that going a bit more, I think the world would be more empathetic and a more peaceful place – one can only hope! And yeah, I suppose that’s the best way we can do it, is to start from ourselves.
Andra Zaharia: Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for making this entire, not just this episode, but generally, the world a better place, a more delightful one, one that’s more focused on the good, and the positive and the things that connect us rather than those that make us fall further apart from each other. So, it was really wonderful talking to you. Thank you so much, Lisa!
Lisa Glanz: Thank you for having me! I really enjoyed it! I can’t believe it’s an hour already!
Andra Zaharia: Thanks for exploring empathy and its many nuances with us. If you found it helpful, subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app and leave a review. Until next time, this is Andra Zaharia, and thank you for listening to the Drag & Drop show, from Creatopy.
Connect with Lisa:
Resources mentioned in the episode:
- Episode 2 of Drag & Drop – Empathy Is Working Side By Side, Connected By The Common Thread That Binds Us Together
- Episode 4 of Drag & Drop – Empathy Allows You To Work Towards Something Greater Than Yourself
- Podcast: Sit There & Do Nothing
- Marie Forleo’s B-School
- The Portrait Creator
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