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How to Start Your Own Business - learn from my mistakes

Updated on October 10, 2014

When passion meets opportunity...

I have loved all things celtic for as long as I can remember.

When our family started taking annual (sometimes bi-annual) holidays on the Isle of Skye, my love for celtic designs grew even more intense.

I found it strange that the gift shops didn't feature anything like that. Scottish thistles and scottie dogs were everywhere - but no celtic knots or designs. When we visited Dunvegan Castle, seat of the Clan MacLeod, I was struck by the lack of MacLeod related memorabilia.

I spent a long time chatting to the lady who ran the gift shop - and yes - if I could design something they would be happy to stock it.

This was the first step in starting up my own business. Passion met opportunity and I was up and running - but that was just the beginning...

Picture Credit Author's Own Cross Stitch Design

I had to learn how to create a celtic knot

When I got home, I bought this book and began to learn how to create celtic knots. I spent hours hunched over graph paper, working out how the endless 'over, under, over, under' knots worked.

Ready-to-Use Celtic Designs

Then I bought this one. I was looking for help and inspiration anywhere that I could find it. The Dover Art series was such a huge help to me! This book helped me to branch out into pictish creatures.

159 Celtic Designs

This one helped with the animal (zoomorph) designs and led me into celtic lettering.

Celtic Designs for Artists and Craftspeople

I was on a roll and just had to have this. Owning the CD made me feel very professional and it was state of the art back then. It's still a great resource for celtic design.

Celtic and Old Norse Designs

Another helpful and inspirational book. I just couldn't get enough of these. I still love them now.

First lesson learned...don't lose focus!

I got so bogged down with teaching myself how to create celtic knots that I lost site of my prime objective - supplying MacLeod related items to Dunvegan Castle on Skye. Luckily, I kept all of my knot designs. That proved very helpful later on.

I realised that I needed a better system of designing and took to the internet. As usual, Amazon came up with the goods and I bought an inexpensive piece of software that helped me design straight onto a graph with the click of a mouse. The software also enabled me to scan pictures in. This sounds easy and the scanning part was.

You often see cross stitch charts for sale on eBay and I bought a couple of the best sellers to see what they offered. I was stunned. These people had just scanned in a picture and printed out a chart. A chart with up to 1,000 colours. Who would bother to stitch that? Also, it was fairly obvious that the cost to stitch one of these would be crazy.

So I went back to my scanned-in designs and spent a LOT of time reducing the numbers of colours down and softening edges. My MacLeod designs were taking shape.

Picture Credit 'Dunvegan Castle' designed by the author, faeriesong

My MacLeod designs were taking shape

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Picture Credit  'Clan MacLeod of Harris' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Clan MacLeod of Lewis' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Dunvegan Castle' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Clan MacLeod of Harris' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Clan MacLeod of Harris' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Clan MacLeod of Lewis' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Clan MacLeod of Lewis' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Dunvegan Castle' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Dunvegan Castle' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com

Lesson Two...timing is important!

After all of that, I realised that I had run out of time to supply ready-to-sell cross stitch kits to Dunvegan Castle. The tourist season was well and truly over. I had a major pity-party and then picked myself up off the floor and had a re-think.

I looked back at my knot designs and realised I had a LOT. If I wanted to sell designs the only way to go (until tourist season started again) was to make my own website.

SkyeStitches was my first attempt at a website. It no longer exists but it was my first love.

Image Credit Author's previous website that no longer exists

Lesson three...life gets in the way.

Everything was starting to pick up. The only thing that I really wished I had was a home on Skye. Not just for our family but for the business too. Would people want to buy a design inspired by the Isle of Skye from somebody living near Oxford? Hasn't got the same ring to it, has it?

They say be careful what you wish for. Due to a series of completely unforeseen events (which is a whole other story) we got an opportunity to relocate. To Skye...um, no. Just a few weeks before, the powers that be had taken the Toll off the immensely long bridge which connects Skye to mainland Scotland. House prices on Skye shot up overnight. We couldn't afford to move there. Cue heartbreak.

So we looked further afield and widened our net from the Inner Hebrides to the Outer Hebrides. House prices on the Isle of Lewis were much better. We bought a croft house with six acres running down to the sea.

We were extremely happy but what effect would this have on Skye Stitches?

Our new home in the Outer Hebrides

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Hanging out the washing is such a drag...Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking back the other way down our village.Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. My husband being a crofter with some of our sheep.Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking back up at our village from the beach below.Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. The view from our house.Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking across the water from 'our' beach. You can see the snow covered mountains of Sutherland (North West Scottish Mainland) on the horizon.Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. The view from the car park in Stornoway. I love to sit here and watch the seals beg for scraps from the fishing boats.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Hanging out the washing is such a drag...
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Hanging out the washing is such a drag...
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking back the other way down our village.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking back the other way down our village.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. My husband being a crofter with some of our sheep.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. My husband being a crofter with some of our sheep.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking back up at our village from the beach below.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking back up at our village from the beach below.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. The view from our house.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. The view from our house.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking across the water from 'our' beach. You can see the snow covered mountains of Sutherland (North West Scottish Mainland) on the horizon.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. Looking across the water from 'our' beach. You can see the snow covered mountains of Sutherland (North West Scottish Mainland) on the horizon.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. The view from the car park in Stornoway. I love to sit here and watch the seals beg for scraps from the fishing boats.
Picture Credit: Author's own photograph. The view from the car park in Stornoway. I love to sit here and watch the seals beg for scraps from the fishing boats.

Staying afloat...

So, we relocated. House needed a ton of work. Money was going out - and none was coming in.

I abandoned Skye Stitches as we now lived on the Isle of Lewis. Abandoned but not forgotten.

I did a Return to Nursing degree module but there were no jobs available, so I took a job working in broadband support. All the time, the cross stitch business was pulling at me.

After a year of phone work, enough was enough. I approached Highlands and Island Enterprise with my business plan. They liked it! They gave me a grant of £3,000 (which I didn't need to pay back...woohoo!) and that got me started. I made the jump and left my broadband support job to tackle my business full time.

Image Courtesy of thebodiebunch.blogspot.com

My website is born!

I spent a huge wodge of the grant on buying a domain name from 1and1:celtic-cross-stitch.com and on a website hosting package which I bought from Actinic. It was going to be my window on the world and because it was my shopfront to creative folk, it had to look good. It took me weeks and weeks to build but I loved every moment of it.

Note: The website is still up but not taking sales. Note to self - sort this out!

Image Credit Screen Shot of Author's own website

Update! Breaking News!

My darling daughter has now taken both me and my ailing, no, let's face it - dead, website, in hand.

She is a computer whizz kid and has now taken down my website, transferred the domain from Actinic to one.com and will, in due course, install a Wordpress blog onto the brand new website which will also enable digital downloads of my designs.

So, if you go to celtic-cross-stitch.com now, all you will see is a holding page.

I will update again as soon as anything new happens. Isn't she amazing? And all because I wrote this lens. Wow. The power of Squidoo in action - it's breathtaking!!!

News Flash Image Courtesy of ohsuchislife.wordpress.com

My Celtic Knots found a new home on the website

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Picture Credit  'Anchor Chair Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Chocoholics Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Harbour Rope Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Heather Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Hebridean Sunrise Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Cross' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Misty Isles Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Rippled Sands Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Summer Moorland Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Summer Waves Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Anchor Chair Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Anchor Chair Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Chocoholics Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Chocoholics Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Harbour Rope Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Harbour Rope Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Heather Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Heather Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Hebridean Sunrise Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Hebridean Sunrise Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Cross' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Cross' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Misty Isles Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Misty Isles Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Rippled Sands Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Rippled Sands Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Summer Moorland Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Summer Moorland Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Summer Waves Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Summer Waves Knot' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com

...and so did my Pictish Animals

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Picture Credit: 'Four Pictish Dogs' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Entwined Birds' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Pictish Creatures in Denim' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Pictish Creatures in Blue' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Pictish Fish' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit: 'Four Pictish Dogs' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit: 'Four Pictish Dogs' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Entwined Birds' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Entwined Birds' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Pictish Creatures in Denim' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Pictish Creatures in Denim' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Pictish Creatures in Blue' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Pictish Creatures in Blue' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Pictish Fish' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Pictish Fish' - designed by the author, faeriesong for celtic-cross-stitch.com

...and Some Hebridean Wildlife

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Picture Credit  'Dolphins' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Eagle'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Grey Seal'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Heron'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Highland Cow'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Otter'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Sheepdog'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com  Not exactly wildlife, but prevalent on these isles!Picture Credit  'Stag'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Dolphins' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Dolphins' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Eagle'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Eagle' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Grey Seal'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Grey Seal' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Heron'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Heron' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Highland Cow'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Highland Cow' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Otter'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Otter' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Sheepdog'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com  Not exactly wildlife, but prevalent on these isles!
Picture Credit 'Sheepdog' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com Not exactly wildlife, but prevalent on these isles!
Picture Credit  'Stag'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Stag' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com

...and a Few 'general' Designs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Picture Credit  'Baby Boy Sampler '  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'God Bless This Mess'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'Hands to Work'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.comPicture Credit  'You'll Always Be My Friend'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Baby Boy Sampler '  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Baby Boy Sampler ' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'God Bless This Mess'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'God Bless This Mess' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'Hands to Work'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'Hands to Work' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit  'You'll Always Be My Friend'  - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com
Picture Credit 'You'll Always Be My Friend' - designed by the Author, faeriesong, for celtic-cross-stitch.com

Lesson Four - It's not all about the designs...

I loved designing. And now that it was my full time job, I threw myself into it with a passion. I bought new cross stitch design software which took everything to a whole new level. I'm ok on the creative side.

What, I discovered, I am not ok with is the paperwork side of things. Dull, dull, dull - but sadly very necessary when you're running your own business. Here in the UK, I had to register as Self Employed which was easy enough. You just go to the Government website and click in a few boxes.

I also had to keep track of what I was spending and what was coming in. With hindsight, it would have suited me best to just make a chart of 'in' and 'out' and fill it in every time either of those things occurred.

I attended Business Seminars run by HIghlands and Islands Enterprise. They were very helpful and I understood it all when I was in the room listening to the Tutor. Then I'd get outside and think "What?". Having been through the process of starting and running my own business - I have learned the one thing that would work for me, if I ever do it again (which I'd love to one day). That simple thing is 'KISS' which stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid!


Lesson Five - give yourself a salary

I started a blog called Hebridean Living and then came the great day when I could announce that I'd been selling at the Craft Fair. So much excitement - I felt I was in Heaven.

This was all early days and I was selling designs all over the World - America, Canada, Germany, Holland. But there was one big problem. I wasn't selling enough - and having spent a lot of money on the website and then all the items that you need to make up cross stitch kits - there wasn't enough left to live on.

It came back to me that we'd been told at a Seminar to give ourselves a salary - which I hadn't done. Being the passionate, creative type, I hadn't bothered with the day to day nitty gritty.

Photo Courtesy of My Own Blog

If life gives you lemons, throw them back and yell "I WANTED CHOCOLATE!"

Two things happened simultaneously to finally kill of my business.

1. My beloved software decided to develop a bug. A major bug. It would no longer convert my designs into charts. When you're selling cross stitch kits, this is a huge downer. The lovely guy who designed and sold the software spent hours with me, trying to get it going again but the horrible truth gradually dawned. I no longer had any means of designing. And - I had no money left in the pot to buy a replacement.

2. The recession hit the UK. Everyone was suddenly watching the pennies and 'luxury' items were the hardest hit. That included my sales, which dwindled to nothing.

The dream was over. It was time to go back to the day job. It broke my heart.

Photo Courtesy of dolcevitadiaries.com

My main mistake and how I could have fixed it

I didn't create an easy system of monitoring how much money went in and how much went out and didn't keep enough money aside for emergencies (my software dying)

How to improve this:Right from day one, make a system that you can understand and be methodical about keeping it up to date. Forget fancy spreadsheets - a table in a Word doc of in and out would work.Keep a running total column at the end so you know what you have left at a glance.

I'd love you to leave a comment

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    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 2 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      Hey honey!

      We can't wait to have you up here! There are some wonderful places to visit and it's so uncrowded. When my dog, Fudge, was still with us, we'd drive to a beach and if there was one person on it, we'd drive to the next one :)

      Yeah - the paperwork is a necessary evil. Just do what works for you. A simple in and out system. I learned that one the hard way.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

    • Jennifer-Louise-W profile image

      Jennifer-Louise 2 years ago from Nottingham

      I can't wait to come up to the island, it looks breathtakingly beautiful!! :)

      Also, thanks for all the tips! Financing / Admin for Lilli Rose and Little Wax is such a drag but so important! Great hub.

    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 3 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      @flycatcherrr: Hi flycatcher - thank you for the kind compliments! Our Scottish venue is rather lovely...apart from the midges!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 3 years ago

      It was fascinating to read of your adventures in self-employment, and you've shared a couple of super lessons here. Looking at the very lovely celtic designs you created and your photographs of your lovely Scottish venue, that's just a big bonus!

    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 4 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      @NekoIchi: Hi chibikitty - I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it. As per the News Flash on the lens, my daughter is now working on it. I think writing about your experience would be great! I'm sure it could help other people. Go for it :)

    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 4 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      @anonymous: Hi kepha1979. I agree with everything that you said. I love the idea of thinking of it as an adventure! I'm so glad that you liked the lens. Thanks for commenting :)

    • NekoIchi profile image

      NekoIchi 4 years ago

      Great lens! I hope you are able to overcome the pitfalls and get right back to it. I'm slowly working on mine. Perhaps I'll make my experience into a lens, too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      When we're younger, the idea of learning from another's mistakes seems to ellude us. At another age, fear of mistakes seems to sometimes cripple us. But there is wisdom to be found, and sometimes when you just try, really cool things happen. By mistakes we learn solutions. I think it is helpful to think of it as an adventure. A curious spirit seems to be of much benefit. I enjoyed reading the lens:)

    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 4 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      @x10dit lm: Hi x10dit - well it's funny you should say that... My daughter took my dead website in hand tonight and is doing things to it in her room. Not sure what - although it involves transferring the domain name to another provider and installing wordpress for digital downloads. As soon as I know anything - I'll post an update in the lens. Very exciting. To be honest, my writing is my business at the moment. And I'm loving it!

      You should write about your business experiences. I found it very cathartic (if sad at times) but I wrote it with the genuine wish that people could learn from where I'd gone wrong. I'll keep an eye out for your business lens - go do it! :)

    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 4 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      @ItayaLightbourne: Hi ItayasDesigns - yes, I love the way you look at it. It's tough to learn from mistakes because we have to admit we made them in the first place. But they do say 'he that never made a mistake never made anything'. I will have another go at it one day but for now I'm loving the writing :)

    • conniec123 profile image

      Connie Clyburn 4 years ago

      This lens is great -- love your way with words! It seemed like you were sitting here talking to me.

      Keep up the great work!

    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 4 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      @conniec123: Hi conniec123 - aaaw, thank you! I will try! :)

    • x10dit lm profile image

      x10dit lm 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this story. Is there any way you can back to running your business, even part time? You've inspired me to write a lense about my business experiences too, it's been a very long road and I've learnt a few things too!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 4 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I learn more and more each year from past challenges. Great article and I hope you realize your dream very soon. :)

    • faeriesong7 profile image
      Author

      Mary Collings 4 years ago from Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland

      @anonymous: Hi simplyberry - thank you so much. I agree with you about learning from mistakes. I did learn an awful lot (and a lot about myself). I will go back to it one day...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I love this lens. I love the lessons that come from mistakes: the best way to learn. These lessons cross many disciplines. Thank you.