Jessica Mullen’s career path is purely her own: she’s a lifestreamer! What is lifestreaming? It’s an ongoing record of your life, stored online & made accessible to anyone who might be interested.
You might be surprised to hear that it’s also a legitimate way of making a living. (I know I was!) In this interview, Jessica opens up about how lifestreaming has changed her & what you need to know if you’d like to do it, too!
Tell us about what you do.
I am in the business of being. My business model is to figure out how to feel good, follow my inspiration, and share what unfolds. If it makes me feel good, you’ll hear about it.
My personal website, jessicamullen.com is currently home to The School of Life Design, an ad-hoc curriculum created to disseminate my lifestreaming research. The School follows principles similar to graphic design and promotes self-evaluation and self-actualization through iteration.
My Complete Lifestream is a real-time collection of what makes me feel good throughout the day. I maintain my focus on well being by taking special note of an obscenely gorgeous sunset or immortalizing an exquisite kale salad. I collect the most powerful of these thoughts, emotions, and adventures into long-form joy explosions. These rampages, in which I turn my attention towards gratitude, intentions, desires and love, are magick spells I weave to attract more good into my life.
The Popular Podcast is a video lifestyle podcast based in Austin, Texas. Co-created with my business partner and lover, Kelly Cree, in June 2008, The Popular Podcast boasts an over 300-episode (and counting) video archive of Kelly’s and my journey to $ustainable lifestreaming. Though it’s constantly changing, the present goal of TPP is to show others how fun and easy it can be to make your life your living.
I maintain an income stream portfolio as diverse as my interests. I make money through advertising, affiliate programs, donations, fan club subscriptions, merchandise, and sponsorships. Kelly and I also run a tiny vegan food business for our friends, sell underwater fetish videos, and peddle our wares on the bridges of Austin.
What does an average day at work look like for you?
There are three things that I MUST do every single day: write a “magick spell” post, meditate, and exercise. I consider all of them to be my primary work, because without them I don’t feel right – I don’t get the inspiration to do good work throughout the day.
I wake up sometime before noon and immediately start writing down what I’m grateful for. This forms the beginning of a “magick spell” post. It’s how I line up my energy in the morning, almost like brushing my teeth – I make sure my emotions are all bright and shiny before talking to anyone!
I meditate to clean out mental cobwebs and forget about anything that’s bothering me. Then I go for a walk or a run for an energy boost and to feel good about my body.
After that, anything is possible! Often, Kelly and I will work on editing and publishing podcast videos for an hour or two, and I’ll spend another couple hours writing or brainstorming for the School of Life Design. Website design and maintenance takes up some time too, but we address those needs as they come.
The rest of the day is spent cooking, exploring beautiful Austin, making art and spending time with people I love. It’s almost all “work,” because the experiences inevitably end up on one of my sites in some form.
Do you work alone or with other people?
Kelly and I are partners in almost everything we do. We make the podcast together, and she’s the creative and communications director for the school. We spend all day every day together, so we are constantly brainstorming new business ideas and ways to have more fun.
Is this what you wanted to do as a child? Did you end up in this job by “accident” or was it a planned career choice?
I remember wanting to be a teacher and wanting to create constantly. When I first got access to a computer, I would color all day in a Sesame Street painting program. When I got Internet, I started learning how to make websites to promote my band. I didn’t have any solid plans other than knowing it would involve computers. Lifestreaming didn’t really exist when I was a kid, but if you had told me what it was I would have wanted to do it for sure!
How long ago did you start on this path?
I’ve always enjoyed making websites and online journaling, but it didn’t come together into the title of “lifestreamer” until graduate school in 2008. As a web designer, I was obsessed with bringing all of my online activity into one place. I heard of the idea of “lifecasting” from Julia Allison and found out what “lifestreaming” was through Mark Krynsky at lifestreamblog.com. It was like I found my holy grail and all my research became about experimenting with lifestreaming.
How long were you doing it before you made it into your career or primary form of income?
Luckily I was in school with student loans while getting started. Graduate school was a way to literally buy time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life, and I got to focus all my schoolwork on what is now my livelihood. Kelly and I did lots of exploration into monetization and content generation. When I graduated in May of 2010, we began making it our business to feel good, and all our good business ideas followed.
Did anything significant happen to get you to that point, or was it a series of small steps?
I learned about the law of attraction last spring! The actual websites and technical bits were mostly developed as school projects, but it wasn’t until Kelly and I started focusing on feeling good that our business took off. All of those platitudes like “give what you want to get” and “you bring about what you think about” are true! When I learned to practice positive thought patterns all the time, my life became a lot more pleasurable.
What kind of education do you have?
I went to Catholic school through 12th grade, received my BFA in graphic design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005 and my MFA in design from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010.
Do you think official qualifications are important for someone entering your industry?
No! Anyone can be good at lifestreaming. After you do it for a while, your website becomes your credentials. People get to see what you do every day. They get to see what you’re working on right now, not a piece of paper saying what you used to do.
If you went to school, did you enjoy studying? Could you see where it might lead you at the time? What advice would you give to someone else who might be studying to get into your industry?
When I first got to undergrad, I studied computer science. I couldn’t pass Calculus II, so I had to find something a little more my style. I settled on graphic design because I loved making websites and figured the two must meet somewhere.
I began really taking interest in my studies after an image-making class where I got to make disturbing pictures in Photoshop all semester. Then I had a fabulous mentor, Jennifer Gunji, who showed me what it was like to feel passionate about solving problems with design. Once I became a good graphic designer, the next logical step was to get a job at a design firm in Chicago. I designed websites and print publications at my first (and only) day job, but realized very quickly I did not want to work for anyone else but myself! I freelanced and taught web design for a while, but then went back to school to figure out what I loved.
If you’re interested in getting into lifestreaming, just start doing it. Don’t go to school! Everything you need to learn is online. Your mentors don’t have to be university professors. I LOVED my education but if I had known about lifestreaming before graduate school, I could have saved a lot of money!
What do you think is the best thing about what you do?
I do whatever I want, every single day. No one ever tells me what to do.
What’s the worst thing?
No one ever tells me what to do!
Would you call yourself a workaholic, & if so, are you alright with that? Do you think that’s normal for your industry?
I am a workaholic in the sense that I love doing what I do, and do it all day every day. But it doesn’t feel like work, because it’s so integrated into my life and it feels so good to create. It’s quite normal–many bloggers are successful because they make doing what they love their living by putting it online for other people to enjoy.
What would your number one suggestion be for someone who wants to do what you do?
Love yourself unconditionally. If you don’t love yourself, it shows through. Major turnoff!
…How about number two?
Don’t care about what anyone else thinks. Comments, Facebook, and Twitter can make us a little dependent on external opinions to make decisions. But the only way to find what makes you feel good is to listen to your emotions.
What do you wish you had known when you first started out?
Life doesn’t have to be hard! If I just feel good and do what I’m inspired to do, everything works out!
Are there any major misconceptions about your job or industry?
Lifestreamers can be seen as very narcissistic. I choose to look at it as radical self love!
Some people think lifestreaming is too time-consuming, but it’s just a natural part of my life, like breathing.
Others find lifestreaming distracting from “living in the moment,” but it helps me slow down and appreciate more moments than ever before.
My father worries about my reputation and ability to get a “real job” because I’m so vocal, but the whole point is to be loud enough to never need a real job!
Do you ever have any ethical dilemmas with the work you do?
A few people don’t like being documented online, so I have to avoid discussing them or taking photos of them. I respect the privacy of others by request.
What is the best thing that’s happened to you as a consequence of the work you do?
I’ve learned how to love myself and enjoy life.
What motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing?
I can’t stop! I’m dependent on lifestreaming to help me focus on the good in life. It’s how I process the world around me. My lifestream functions as my memory, my magickal record, and a pick-me-up whenever I need it. It’s a way of life. If I got cut off from the Internet tomorrow I would find another outlet, but like a painter paints, the web is my artistic medium of choice.
Who do you look up to within your industry & why?
My biggest inspirations are successful web media producers like the extraordinary Gala Darling, Steve Pavlina, Penelope Trunk, and Dawn and Drew. My life philosophy of feeling good came from the teachings of Abraham-Hicks.
Rate how happy you are with what you do out of 100 (100 being the best, 0 being devastatingly awful) on an average day.
Every single day is a 100. Not only do I decide what to do with every minute of my life, but lifestreaming has really helped me see bad experiences as good ones, because I look to document the positive aspects of any situation.
Is there much career progression available to you? What would you like to do next?
It’s likely that I’ll always maintain my personal lifestream website in some form, but I continuously find new creative projects to pursue. Right now Kelly and I are working on a textbook for the School of Life Design, and I expect that project to continue flourishing. All I want to do next is make better and better work–meaning my life will get better and better too.
Do you think you’ll continue doing this for the rest of your life?
I’ll continue doing it as long as it feels good.
How did you find my article on Josh Harris? Is that kind of lifestreaming something you’d be interested in pursuing?
I watched We Live in Public a couple months ago and found Josh’s dystopian view of the future quite limiting. Technology is not good or bad, it just depends what you do with it. The Wired City sounds like the next logical step in reality television. The Human Chicken Coop is a fascinating idea, but Josh appears intent on taking away people’s freedom. Lifestreaming does not have to be about giving up freedom. But Josh’s vision is one possibility that will happen if enough people believe it will.
I do think he is spot on about the death of privacy. I come from the belief that we are all one consciousness, and the Internet is one way that is beginning to manifest in physical reality. When we collectively let go of our fears about privacy, things will be very different!
That being said, I have little interest in 24 hour surveillance. The beauty of lifestreaming is that it is edited–I take an active role in making my life into art. In that way I am designing my life experience, not living by default.
Too much unwanted surveillance can cause people to act out in destructive ways, like what happened in We Live in Public. It’s rebellion against having freedom taken away, or caring too much about what other people think. Surveillance can also make people all conform to the same behavior, like in Foucalt’s Panopticon. But if we’re all one consciousness anyway… it kind of makes sense.
Where do you draw the line?
I don’t complain. I don’t speak negatively. That’s the line. I have no desire to put any more negative thoughts or emotions into the universe.
Would you ever put cameras in your house?
I have lots of cameras in my house! But I choose when to hit record. I don’t think privacy exists on the Internet, but I still value my physical space and time alone. And recording everything can be overwhelming–I’m not interested in reliving every moment in the editing process–just the really good ones.