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Advice for DesignersBefore and AfterBlogging Advice

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning

By 09/21/2014February 21st, 201925 Comments

In the last year, I have been travelling and spending a lot of time in hotel ballrooms learning how to take my business and website to the next level.

Finding the right guru to get you there is not an easy task, let me tell you! I’m always the ONLY colour expert/decorator in a room of around 700 people. However, after a few false starts and stops I am now on the right path, stay tuned for some big changes coming soon to this blog.

Anyway, I was in a course in March where the trainer said something so obvious that I was stunned I hadn’t figured it out myself and much sooner. And I was really cranky that I had wasted all this time not doing what I should have been doing.

So lucky for you, I’m about to share it with you, and you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for this advice like I did, haha.

This is such a great tip to move your business or blog forward, it blows my mind that I have not looked at every decision about every new technology we have to learn from this perspective sooner.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

If there is something you need to know, some kind of technology or skill or program that is essential to the long term success of your business, then get yourself into a course and learn it!

That’s it.


There’s only so much you can out-source.

Confidence comes from two things:

1. Trust in self

2. Knowledge, skills and experience which equals competence.

If you trust yourself and you learn what there is to learn in order to feel competent, that’s where confidence comes from.

When I decided I was going to be an internationally known colour consultant many years ago, I decided to put myself in a situation where I could get a TON of hands-on experience.

Then, after I created my system for Understanding Undertones™ and started writing this blog, I got so busy that I I kept putting off little things that I knew I should be learning.

Okay so, here’s how this advice applied to me.

My blog will be six years old on Halloween. And I only started lessons in January on how to use a DSLR camera.

So that I could take photos that look like this:

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria Killam

My living room

Instead of this:

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria Killam

Ever noticed how dark your photos get when you take them facing a window? Well, this is how they look if you are using a point and shoot or a good camera and you don’t know what you’re doing.

And obviously I still have a lot to learn about photography. However, all this time, I have been taking photos for this design/colour blog with an instant camera!! I’m actually embarrassed to admit it! Not that it wasn’t obvious by the photos anyway. I mean seriously, was I thinking I would magically just get better at it?


This in no way replaces my photographer for project photo shoots but there are gazillions of photos I take for this blog without my photographer nearby that’s for sure.

And I’m learning Photoshop.

I did take a two day, weekend crash course a couple years ago but guess how much retention you have from 16 hours in a row?


My course is three hours each Saturday and here’s what I’ve learned from just two sessions:

Here’s a picture I took myself of a living room I decorated a few years ago:

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria Killam

Of course, here I am with instant camera and it’s facing the window so it’s dark and I couldn’t do anything with it.

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria KillamHere’s the same room with some photoshopping techniques I learned yesterday.

Certainly not as great as it could be with some good camera skills in the first place but talk about a night and day difference!

We have not learned how to remove cords yet and that’s why you see them here ; ) ; )

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria Killam

This is a photo I took in St. John’s when we were there last week. Notice that the mural below the colourful row houses is done in sepia tones. Also the roof on the turquoise house is more red than black.

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria Killam

Here I turned the entire image into a black and white photo and just added the colour back into the houses so now the roofs look like they are the same colour and the mural is in black and white which allows the colourful homes to stand out!

I’m so impressed with myself I can hardly stand it, haha.

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria Killam

And here is a mantel I styled and snapped, however the room was dark and this is how the photo looked in the end (above).

Two Reasons to ALWAYS Keep Learning | Maria Killam

Here’s the after photo. This one is not such a dramatic difference as the others but it’s a better photo with the adjustment I made.

The technology behind running a website and business on-line is staggering. And yes you should be able to find people to help you, but what happens when you need to have something done at 11:00 pm on a Saturday night or 6:00 am on a Tuesday morning? Or the person that you’ve hired is AWOL. That’s when you should at least know the basics of HTML for example.

If you’re an interior designer, decorator, colour consultant or stager or in any business for that matter and you need help on figuring out how to take your business to the next level? And you know what’s missing?  Hurry up and learn it! Don’t wait six years like I did.

Even if you sub-contract little things that you don’t like to do, it’s still so powerful to know how to do it yourself if you find yourself in a pinch and it needs to happen now!

I recently heard a story about an exercise that Tony Robbins facilitated at one of his events.

He had the group of 3,000 people stand up and play Simon Says. At the end when the person who won was standing on the stage, Tony asked him if he thought he would win.

The winner said yes.

Then Tony asked everyone else how many thought they would win. It’s Simon Says, seems easy right?

100 people raised their hands.

So you see, you’re not competing with 3,000 people, you were only competing with 100.

There’s not a lot of people willing to do the work it takes to be the best at what they do. So if you decide to be that person, you won’t have a lot of competition.

What will you learn this Fall that you’ve been avoiding!

Related posts:

What do you Need to Change Today?

Happiness is. . . A Little Magic

Do you Have Good Taste?

If you would like help creating a palette for your home, become a client. Online or In-person.

To get your exterior colours right, download my How to Choose Exterior Colours with Confidence webinar and get my go-to list of colours.

Download my eBookHow to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

And, if you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert.


  • Marla says:

    This was absolutely excellent, as generous, as is your custom!

  • KM says:

    I feel that just as I learn one new thing after having taken the time to learn it I’ve already fallen behind because during that learning time someone else has just invented something else I gotta learn. Photo shop and I are getting to know each other but as for layout I’m old school cut and paste and then studied something totally different in college. The mind boggles. Thanks for sharing.

  • Maggie S says:

    If you learn the information the other good out come is that when you go to hire someone you really know what to look for–you have the ability to judge that persons skills and you can communicate effectively to them.

    Also it is very obvious that you are someone that wants to be the best–and is willing to put in the effort and work to BE the best!

    I started reading this blog 4 1/2 years ago and have learned SO much from you! When I found your blog I went back and read ALL your posts from the beginning and loved them all. I don’t know what people that are new readers do –six years of blog posts is a lot of reading! 😉

  • tara dillard says:

    Before this post, due to your sharing/mentoring/education/life/results, I signed up for a year’s course. 2 weeks in, have learned something in each module/webinar worth the price, alone.

    Something you don’t mention about taking a blog to next level, inner passion & grace. Aside from needing to earn a living, passing forward my decades of landscape design knowledge is the best way I know of saying, ‘thank you’, to Providence.

    Who knew the world needed a color specialist? Hilarious concept. Until it’s taken to the bank, with real money. Have enjoyed being your cheerleader for years.

    My CPA, 60’ish in age, asked last week how I made money from my blog. We were filing my corporate return. He looked at my blog and did not ‘get’ it. Told him, ‘people hire me to design their gardens.’ He totally ‘gets’ my income on the balance sheet.

    Blogging is entering a new chapter for everyone. Why? Those 100 from 3000 are culling themselves from the herd. In 5 years those wanting to begin a blog, as we did, will not be able to do it as we did. Won’t be long before blogging is a degree program at all major universities.

    Will continue, as always, to send those wanting blog advice from me, to your website. “Do what she says”, I say. Finally, I did the right ‘ thing’ before she blogged it. Paid serious money to get to the next chapter.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    • KA says:

      LOL, you can tell him a lot of people don’t get why the famous accounting firm Arthur Anderson blew itself up working for Enron.

      Bravo on your upcoming anniversary of the blog and all the magazine mentions, Maria.

  • Louise says:

    Glad you mentioned the retention thing. I recently took a 2 day art workshop in Washington State from one of the best pastel artists in the US (Lesley Harrison) only to come back home to feel I didn’t quite retain everything (thankfully I took SOME notes). Wish I’d watched her more carefully but I know the quality of my pet portraits will increase dramatically nonetheless. Lesley is an accomplished photographer as well and this should be an endeavor for you that would pay off in spades as it did for her. Best of luck.

  • Lucy HAINES says:

    Maria, From you I have learned so much! I want to take a course in 3D design as it was not taught when I was in college. I plan to find a class. Also in one of your blogs you mentioned the name Janice Lindsey “All about color”. I was curious to see what she had to say so I bought the book and am almost finished. I just love her book!! What knowledge she has. Along with your course I feel so much more enlightened. Everyone should read her book.

    You are full of inspiration and I appreciate you so much!

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I’m so glad I’m retired. The things I learn now pertain to my hobbies & not to a career or supporting my family.
    I wish I could find sewing classes that aren’t geared towards fashion & focused on home decor. I had to teach myself how to sew pinch pleated drapes from utube videos.

  • Gina says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! Knowledge is power! Photo Shop and SLR cameras are difficult. I took a summer camera course but still resort to “AUTO” regularly. UGH!
    I’ve mastered hiding cords, though! Almost every photo of mine needs to be straightened, too, Maria. That’s an easy fix. Usually you just look at the far corners of the room, then that’s the line you follow with the “Straighten” tool.

  • Gina says:

    Ok, I tried to paste a picture of a nice photo of mine with the cord removed…..guess I need to learn how to do that, now! Anybody?????

  • Thanks Maria for sharing. Being a teacher in my ‘past life’, I have always considered myself a life long learner. Heck, I’ll be seeing you shortly in Oct!

    I have always believed that knowledge is power and although you may not actually end up doing the work, if you hire out someone to do the work and they need to explain something to you, it’s always nice to have a little background knowledge so at least you know (a little) what they’re talking about.

  • Kimberly says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Maria! Your True Colour Expert course was the first new learning just for me I’d done…hmm, I guess EVER, since it’s something I wanted to learn and not just school for the sake of a degree. I plan to keep learning and appreciate the inspiration you are and that you pass on!

  • Lara says:

    Great advice Maria! I’ve been working hard to ‘push’ myself lately in my business. I have so many ideas in my head but often don’t make myself follow through. Last night I saw a cute plaque on Etsy that said “Don’t let starting stop you”. Love it! And with that in mind, today I’m FINALLY starting my blog.

  • cathy gibson says:

    “There’s not a lot of people willing to do the work it takes to be the best at what they do”. I love that and realize that you are so right! Thanks for another great post and for your honesty and generosity, as usual!

  • Lynn Forbes says:

    Wonderful post and a great reminder that moving forward takes passion, a little bit of faking it till you make it and a dash of humbleness.

  • Babs Loyd says:

    Great examples, I admire your tenacity once you know what you want. Thanks for keeping up-to-date with your skills. We all benefit from your great posts.

  • Maria Pereira says:

    Hi Maria, I enjoy reading your posts, and in the spirit of sharing what we know with a view to helping others, may I point out that a “mantle” is a cape, whereas a “mantel” is the correct spelling for a fireplace mantel 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    Thankyou Maria,

    I NEEDED to hear this …
    I know what I have to do now!


  • Kathy says:

    Just a tip, when lightening a photo you generally need to up the contrast a bit and to spot burn to keep it from looking washed out, and avoid using the sharpen tool if you can, which will make it look grainy. Upping the color saturation slightly can help too.

  • BillP says:

    I think that it would have been possible to take the row house photo without the telephone pole. Proper framing and a little cropping can make a huge difference.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I agree but then the navy blue house would have been almost cropped out totally and it wouldn’t have looked as balanced. The wires and telephone poles in St. Johns are out of control, it ruins the look of many of the homes but until they go underground, there’s clearly no other option.

      And I have lots to learn and I appreciate all your comments!

  • Agreed, I need to learn more about taking photos for my website. But, thankfully, my son Photoshops mine for me!

  • Nancy says:

    It’s always inspiring to read what you are sharing with us Maria. Thanks for the reminder! I’m downloading Photoshop right now! 🙂

  • Loved this blog – the before and after photos were very effective in pushing home the point to get training in whatever you need. I’ve got my thinking cap on!

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