There are a lot of people who have created an industry around preparing for disaster. They are the ones who always have extra batteries for their high beam flashlights and emergency kits in their cars. They have all of their papers filed neatly in a waterproof safebox, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. They watch the tides and track hurricane patterns. In the event of a natural catastrophe, they’re pretty OK.

There are less people concerned about preparing for success. As if success, once it happens, is something we don’t need to be concerned about. Every prodigy violinist that burns out, every literary darling who crashes and burns, every CEO who tumbles from the top is proof there should be some kind of preparation for success.

Here’s a few things you’ll need in your kit:

A sense of gratitude

A good friend or two who knew you when you were nobody

A commitment to get 8 hours of sleep every night no matter what

A willingness to look stupid

Batteries optional.

Fear Is Not Fabuloso

“I heard you speaking Spanish to Monica,”  said Lynn.  “You sounded pretty fluent.”

I thought about my conversation and smiled.  “It’s not so easy to express myself in another language even thought it sounded like I was doing it.”

“Well, you must have an ear for languages.”

People say that when they cannot see themselves speaking another language.  What is actually true is that I have no fear of languages.  Or of making mistakes.

In fact, it is because I am quite comfortable bumbling my way through Spanish that I have learned more than I ever could in a classroom.


Fear?  What is that?

It is the most idiotic way of thinking:  “I don’t want to practice speaking Spanish because I might make a mistake and that would be absolutely horrible.”

Might make a mistake?

How would that be absolutely horrible?

Of course you are going to put your foot in your boca  – a lot – and I guarantee you no one is going to knock you off their Christmas card list because you made a mistake in a language you are trying to learn.

This damaging fear is more rampant than you think and probably has contributed to more people on this side of the Atlantic being stuck in a one language frame of mind.

If you look closely, you will see the thumbprint of this fear holding people back from doing many things that take them out of their comfort zone.

Like success.



You only live once.

Actually, that is not true.

You live everyday.

You only die once.

Might as well go big.

Don’t think about what other people might think.

Don’t apologize.

Don’t stop.


Fear Of Success

Of all the things I don’t get in this world, fear is the most mind boggling to me.

So many artists resist or run away from fear and dig their heels into their comfort zone, getting attached to familiar ways of thinking and looking at the world.  This is not what brilliant creative forces of nature do.  They pull on their boots and kick up dust stomping their way to the OK Corral of Success.

Here’s a few tips on unleashing your inner cowgirl.

It is a brave act to bare your artistic soul and request a grant to do something that is close to your heart.

Courage is rewarded, couch potatoes are not.


What Are You Scared Of?

You want to control your creative career & lifestyle, your destiny.  But deep down you know that your big success means making bigger changes in your life that can be so overwhelming that you would rather end up settling for less or doing nothing than put yourself through all that or worst of all, fail trying.


Here are 6 reasons why so many artists are afraid of success:

  • 1. They hate agonizing over certain decisions because there are so many options
    2. They cling to possessions, statuses and material acknowledgments they have attached a lifetime of value to
    3. They doubt they are not up to the challenge of changing
    4. They are reluctant to take any chances
    5. They focus too much on their perception of the external world
    6. They are not willing to become beginners in learning new things


Most of the time, this is something I pick up in the tone of a grant proposal.  Something not exuberantly expressed, something held back, a deflated sentence or two.

Nobody will fault you for being big, bold and beautiful.  We will run you tarred and feathered out of town for being mediocre.  That actually isn’t true.  We just won’t fund you.


And you?

Recently, an artist told me she decided to go for a couple of new grants.

“They are fairly competitive and prestigious,”  she said.  “Getting any one of them would really be good for me.  I decided you were right.  It is the foundation’s job to give away these grants so why shouldn’t it be me that gets one?”

She has always been someone who had a reason for not doing things.  For being super busy, for being perceived unfairly as an older artist, for not going for opportunities.  Almost willing to settle into a life of lesser promise.

So I was pleasantly surprised to hear the boldness in her voice, the absence of the usual fear.  I am confident that will be reflected in her proposals.  Being bold, being assured, being assertive make for a distinctive tone.  I like that.

“I am still uncomfortable doing all this grantwriting but you know what,”  she lowered her voice to a confidential tone. “I feel good getting the damn thing off my desk.”

If that is what lights the fire to get you going, so be it.  I think that’s great.

Getting out of your comfort zone to build a dream is an everyday activity, no matter how small.


Fear is for amateurs

El miedo es para aficionados




About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.


Measuring Success: What Kind Of Yardstick Do You Use?




lovely photo from diane


post by Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer




Are all of the front desk assistants of the National Endowment for the Arts pregnant?

Some things you simply cannot avoid wondering about if you happen to be outnumbered by young women, hands cradling their swollen bellies, waddling around the hallowed halls of the NEA.  “It is a very busy time.  Everyone is going from one meeting to another,” murmured Vanessa, a slender woman – not pregnant – who greeted us at the offices for local arts agencies where we  were scheduled for a meeting.

This is our yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, a time for me to personally touch base with the folks who shepherd our grant requests through the labrynth of their panel process and with whom I have become good friends with over the years.  I like the train ride down to DC, wandering wide eyed through Union Station and stopping to say a quick hello to everyone before they duck into yet another meeting.

2013-02-06 11.07.51

the lovely ladies working for local arts agencies

“We love when people come to see us, especially now that our travel budgets have been cut.  I wish more people did,” said one director to me who I caught grabbing a quick lunch at the Indian take out place.  I have to admit I don’t understand why more nonprofits don’t make it a priority to visit funders.  Every time I sit down with the directors, it is a chance for me to let them know what we are doing, what we intend to apply for and very often I will gain a valuable insight or piece of advice that will make our proposal rock.  If you want to be a successful grantwriter, consider this:  there is an art to writing for money.

This time, the big thing is innovation and transformation.  They want something that presents new learning or insights.  Something replicable and measurable.

“What does that look like to you? ”  I asked.  “Can you give me an example?”

Answer the Question, Goddamnit!

The director smiled.  “We talk about that a lot  The answer to your question is that we will know it when we see it.”

This is an answer?

They don’t know what a successful innovative and transformative project is.  And if they don’t know that, they cannot describe it.  Or measure it.

LIke many other funding opportunities out there, the NEA wants to see their dollar make an important impact.  Something that changes and transforms lives.  A model that can be replicated in other places.  And it falls to the artists and creative thinkers to visualize a project that can do all that and, most of all, deliver such an experience that allows the vision of the funders to bundle up the act and set up shop in another place.

It is a competitive category.  We need to leave no doubt among the grant panelists that yes, we are worthy of funding.  Why?  Because we transform lives.

How do we do this?

By creating a picture of the success we intend to create and a space for a funder to feel part of something that is moving towards real and tangible goals with benchmarks that can feed back into the process.


Do They Know?

Anyone who tells you “they will know it when they see it” has no idea what “it” is, which actually is a very good thing.  It is an admission of not knowing what they want to achieve, only knowing why.  This is a very good thing.  It tells me funders are willing to be outcomes focused and open to anything  as long as it is new in philosophy and that it changes something. To make art make a difference.



What You Should Know

For us, transformation has to be demonstrated by what an artist does with the skills, learnings and confidence gained by being part of what Queens Council on the Arts provides.  It is no longer and, in my book, never was enough to describe success as well attended events or satisfied customers.  How do I know this and why do I believe so strongly in this comes from simply watching the body language, especially the eyes, of the directors.  Their eyes did not light up when we talked about how happy the artists were to be part of the workshops, and to learn new skills.  We will have to create a vivid image of success that we will set as our goal which will be the artist as a confident, engaged, creative professional whose art can change the world.  Our yardstick will be the gradual changes their art and their actions cause in the world.

Here’s an excerpt from Marion Conway’s summary of the 2013 Annual Letter by Bill Gates:

In the last year Beth Kanter has been talking about the importance of measurement to the networked nonprofit.  Now Bill Gates opens his 2013 Annual letter talking about it with a quote from William Rosen’s  “The Most Powerful Idea in the World.”  Bill writes: “Without feedback from precise measurement, Rosen writes, invention is “doomed to be rare and erratic.” With it, invention becomes “commonplace.”……..But in the past year I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal-in a feedback loop similar to the one Rosen describes. This may seem pretty basic, but it is amazing to me how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right.


There, I said it.  And I believe it.

What does success look like, move like, sound like for what you do?

This way of thinking could be catching.  Unlike pregnancy, thank God.





 Subscribe and get a little Wow! every day


Check out Getting to Wow! to feel good, do good and look good

See what’s going on at Nonprofit Knitwear for all things   nonprofit and knit

Get some very cool Style Notes from me, your artspy

Hoong Yee