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After the Jump: Top 10 Lessons I’ve Learned from D*S (mp3)

by Grace Bonney

Last week I had a pretty big work epiphany: I am no longer the product-researching machine I once was. I used to stay up all hours of the night clicking through endless links and exhibition lists written in different languages — I couldn’t get enough. But almost a decade later, my interests have shifted, and I find myself wanting to write about different aspects of design and home life. That realization led to the search for a new team member and some pretty deep thinking about the ways I’ve changed and the lessons I’ve learned while running this site. So with subways and transit closed after Hurricane Sandy and no possibility of getting guests (or myself) to and from the radio station, I called into the station and recorded today’s solo show from my living room in Brooklyn. My topic for this week’s show was both deeply personal and business related: The Top 10 Lessons I’ve Learned. From embracing change and delegation to accepting my role as a boss and trying to learn from mistakes, I decided to lay it all out in the open today. I shared examples from my own business and life for each lesson and decided to end the show with the 5 biggest mistakes I’ve made along the way and the 5 things for which I’m most proud. Some of the lessons I’ll discuss are:

  • Lead with Passion
  • Break Rules
  • Find Your Inner Boss
  • Make Time For Life
  • Embrace Change


This was an important but tough show for me to record; it’s funny how there are some things that you need to teach yourself more than anyone else. And I feel thankful that today’s show gave me the chance to do that. Sometimes you just need to say things out loud to remind yourself of all the good, bad and in between that you’ve learned from. I hope you’ll all join me in the spirit of sharing and learning from mistakes and share your own experiences in the comment section below. I’ve always learned most from real-life experiences and hope that the lessons I’ve learned (or survived) in my own life and business will help some of you out there listening.

Thanks to everyone for listening, and I’ll be back with a live show next week with designer Thom Filicia! xo, grace


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  • Grace,

    I wanted to encourage you a bit with my comment today.

    Firstly-I love listening to you “After the Jump” podcasts. They really are a delightful part of my week. I am always inspired and challenged in my thinking. I usually listen to it mondays when I am editing photos from my Monday photoshoots for my shop. It really inspires me while working on my business.

    Secondly- I have been doing a lot of traveling in the past 2 years and I have used many of Design Sponge’s City Guides! It’s actually one of the first things I check to see if there is a guide about the city I am interested in visiting.

    Lastly- I was really challenged by your comment about putting the hard things off. I am ashamed to say this is exactly what I do. I know that these things are the things that will really help my business move forward. The longer I put them off the tougher it gets to respond to them and to actually get them done. I am an Amercian living in Germany and many of my business calls I have to make are in German. Though I have a pretty good grasp of German, having lived here 2 years, I still dread having phone conversations with german suppliers, or potential collaborators. I am inspired to get these things done. One phone call at a time.

    Thanks Grace for really sharing from your heart and empowering those who listen!


    • thanks so much for listening, anna.

      i struggle with the “putting the hard things off” issue on a regular basis. i’m a master procrastinator and it’s definitely something i try to work on little by little. hang in there- trying just a little bit every week definitely helps put a dent in the problem ;)


  • Grace –
    I cannot tell you how inspiring and touching this broadcast was for me. I recently rediscovered DesignSponge* and I think it was meant to be for me to hear this. A few years ago I found myself losing my new marriage at a young age and it was terrifyingly difficult. I can’t even begin to explain how hard it was for me. I was forced to reassess my life, be honest with myself and try to rediscover happiness – which for me meant leaving NYC and taking time off work to reconnect with family, friends and the outdoors.

    In the past year I have started a business and I’m just now getting back into the things I was passionate about previously – but with a more balanced approach and perspective of what’s important. Your mistakes and lessons are things that woman all over the country are going through. I’m thankful to have gone through some of them myself because I wouldn’t have learned as much about myself if I hadn’t. But it really feels good knowing I’m not the only one who is and has struggled. Thank you for bring so open and honest.

    And just a quick note – a number of years ago I started a blog (which I’ve outgrown at this point), and I emailed you to tell you about it. To my surprise, you responded with a personal email and even featured one of my first posts on DesignSponge*. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me at the time. I appreciate that your approach values each reader, their time and what they have to offer.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • libby

      thanks so much for your kind words- and for listening. i just sat down for a second to listen to the broadcast (i never listen to my own shows, i haaate the sound of my voice) and the sound quality was so much worse than i expected. thanks to you and anyone else for struggling through that grainy sound ;)


  • Grace,

    I love the openness this has. Your story of starting the blog, your influence on me and so many others, and your candor in your life and business (like this After the Jump) is always so encouraging to me. I wrote you an email two years ago about wanting to change the direction of my career path. You responded so quickly and with enthusiasm that I could do anything. So I did. And now my path is completely different than it was when I wrote you. You are such an encouragement, not because of how successful you are, but because of how real, passionate, and dedicated you are.

    Thank you for Design Sponge and thank you for messages like this one.

  • hi Grace, thank you for such a refreshingly honest podcast and for sharing your experiences. I have been a fan of DS* since the very early days, you have inspired me time and time again and I admire your “sticking to my guns” attitude. i loved the way Design Sponge has organically grown. After so many years, and hundreds of blogs (including my old one ) Design Sponge remains my number one. thanks for being such a great source of inspiration and keep up the amazing work !

  • Grace,

    Simply blown away. You have always approached what you do with a sense of grace. Your name is no mistake. I think that’s why so many of us come back. Thanks for reminding us that you are fully human, with triumphs and failures. I think we all need a touch of reality in this blogging universe.

    I should add that I too have appreciated the fact that you answered an email of mine in the past. That personal touch is never lost on a fellow creative. Keep up the good work. Add me to the list of creative gents who loves Design Sponge!

  • I listened to your podcast last night and really enjoyed it, Grace. I love how you speak so honestly and are completely open with both the joys and struggles of your business. I’ve often found myself struggling in similar ways and it’s so encouraging knowing that someone as successful as you has and continues to work through these issues. Wishing you all the best. xo ;)

  • Dear Grace,
    Design Sponge is the place I’ve enjoyed many mornings with my first cup of coffee….It’s the place I’ve escaped to in the middle of the night with a newborn baby and it is the only thing I save in my INBOX, rarely hitting delete before I’ve had a chance to peruse…,, You’ve supported artists, designers and creators around the globe and it’s both empowering and encouraging for BIZ Ladies big and small….
    Your integrity and honesty stand out in the crowd– I guess it’s no wonder the WORLD loves Design Sponge! xoxo

  • Thanks so much for this, Grace. Another timely podcast!

    I’ve been running my business full-time for about two years and this past summer was the hardest ever. The euphoria of quitting a corporate day job and the thrill of seeing a business slowly but steadily grow has given way to the slog of constantly having your shoulder to the wheel just to keep the whole thing moving forward.

    Some recent struggles, most of which are ‘hard skills’ since it’s basically just me right now:

    -Operational and financial planning: I made (for me) big investments in site upgrade projects, trade shows and advertising in Q1, when revenue was great. I’m still learning how seasonal my revenue cycle is (wedding stationery), so I found myself really struggling with cash flow after August, when sales drop off.

    -Product planning: intellectually I know that products need at least a 6 month lead time to be marketed but I constantly find myself getting seasonal product inspiration as the season arrives and not beforehand (ex. I should have all new calendars finished by early summer, not November!) I constantly feel behind.

    – Managing others: I’ve always been good at structuring and planning work but not managing people. I hate it. I have an intern now, and it’s daunting to not only prepare work for her, but also take the time to empower her to do things, rather than just get impatient and think ‘Oh, I’ll just do it myself later, it takes too long to explain’.

    Luckily when I’m feeling down about things, inevitably I’ll get a mail from a client like the one I got this morning of a photo of the invites they ordered and produced along with a note of heartfelt thanks. It really makes my day and reminds me that I am making a difference!

    You’ve been consistently ‘lifting the hood’ on life and business on this podcast, and I really appreciate it. Having an online business allows us to make all kind of virtual connections, but it can also be oddly isolating and easy to slip into self-doubt. Hearing what some of the brightest lights struggle with, and overcome is a real encouragement!

    • eleanor

      thanks so much for sharing your feedback. man, i feel you on the financial planning part. that can be really tough, especially with seasonal businesses and a tough economy. sending lots of luck and good biz thoughts your way. thanks for listening :)


  • Hi Grace,
    WOW! Thank you so much for sharing your honest, insightful experiences! I truly admire you for this!

  • Hi Grace
    I’ve just listened to your podcast, and I feel so encouraged by your advice that I wanted to let you know.
    The digital world has fostered an amazing creative community, however the online persona of other businesses/people often leaves me feeling ten times less productive, happy, and confident than it should, and when you are starting out – as I am – it can all feel completely overwhelming.
    Thanks for sharing your insight, for reminding me that we are all human, and that if we stay passionate, authentic and excited in what we have accomplished (and plan to), anything is possible.

  • I will listen and leave my comments, I respect your work and has always ben inspired by the site and your words. Brave for putting out there your thought.

  • Book marked this just when it came out, because I wanted to listen to every word clearly. Had the time to do that only today. Grace, that was one of the most amazing, encouraging ‘piece of advice’ I’ve ever heard.
    I do not own a business, but I want to start out on my own. But I’m afraid, because I have no, absolutely no experience whatsoever in the design field, except maybe me poring through D*S and a few other blogs. Oh, and always love playing with paper, scissors and paint. And always thinking about deco ideas for class parties. (Plus a mum and a gran who stitched their own wedding dresses:) ) I mean professionally nil.
    Right now, I’m following a degree in the science field and I love the subject, though not the lecturers and lectures. But when I’m free, I’m sketching, looking at pictures that have got to do with colours and design and playing around with paper. Recently, I discovered paper-cutting and I’ve been enjoying it so much. I show my a work to a gracious graphic design teacher, and he is always impressed, though he says that I need to put in more soul into my work. :) When my friends see my stuff, they always tell me ‘you should show it to people, you should sell it…’ And I want to, but before that (and I’ve always wanted to do this), I wanted to make a full ‘portfolio’ and show it to Grace first. For some reason, I’ve always wanted to get your opinion first, ever. Maybe when I do finally decide I will and I hope you will be able to see it. It’s just that I keep putting it off to ‘when things get easier at work and home’, and something I realised was that it’s never going to get easy. It’s a cycle and maybe I should decide now. And I also realised that whenever you put up something on D*S that’s from the bottom of your heart, it always inspires me to ‘just do it’. And right now, in the midst of so many crises, I’ve realised that things are never going to get easier and that I should just jump in. Especially when there’s an opportunity knocking.

    P.S. When everything around at home and work and friends is messed up, and when I’ve no one I can really talk to, it’s always a relief to find solace here among so many warm and like minded people. A relief to find such beautiful people. I always wish I lived around NY and that I could meet Grace.

    • ri gal

      that was one of the kindest comments i’ve ever had the honor of receiving. thank you, from the bottom of my heart. i would be honored to have the first look at your portfolio one day. please don’t hesitate to send it :)


  • Thank you so much Grace. The reply made my day. I have grown up with D*S.
    <3 You will always be in my heart. :)

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