‘Say “Good Morning” to yourself.’ With Ming Zhao & Anna McNaught

Say “Good Morning” to yourself. Tell yourself that “you are enough” and “you are beautiful” or whatever it is that you need to hear as an affirmation. If we walk around all day with negative or hateful thoughts dominating, we will feel that way! I used to follow the mantra, “fake it till you make […]

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Say “Good Morning” to yourself. Tell yourself that “you are enough” and “you are beautiful” or whatever it is that you need to hear as an affirmation. If we walk around all day with negative or hateful thoughts dominating, we will feel that way! I used to follow the mantra, “fake it till you make it.”

At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep and preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving leaders and influencers who are practicing their own philosophies about how to maintain their wellbeing.

As a part of our series about “Social Media Influencers Share Their Top Self Care, Wellness, and Beauty Tips, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna McNaught.

Anna is an award-winning digital artist, full-time traveler, and Photoshop guru known for her dreamy and imaginative artworks. She has a passion and a vision for helping entrepreneurs and creators build and grow their businesses through the power of Instagram. Intending to crash the largely male-dominated-digital-manipulation world on Instagram and gain recognition as THE designated female digital artist on the scene, she decided to carve a niche for herself combining her love of photography and graphic design. These pieces quickly gained recognition — opening up a whole world of art shows, opportunities, and new clients such as Adobe, NASA, Crocs, Audi, Getty, and five-star hotels around the world. She pursues a life of creative freedom and exploration; travel and new horizons — all with the operative goal of creating value for her clients and teaching others how to do the same.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory of how you came upon this career path and to where you are today?

Art has been at the forefront of my career path ever since I found a love for graphic design and photography in high school. After college, I packed my belongings and moved across the country to Los Angeles to pursue a career in fashion photography. It was a rude awakening to discover the fashion industry didn’t want me. For a very select few it works out, but for me, this wasn’t the career path that I was meant to take, and I would have to start from square one. I spent over six months pounding the Hollywood pavement, submitting dozens of job applications on a daily basis, and searching Craigslist for anything I could do related to my career choice or not. I eventually found a part-time job selling solar energy systems door-to-door to make some much-needed money. My first break finally came when I landed a job as an in-house corporate graphic designer. It was your typical windowless 9-to-5 with restricted design guidelines, and after several months into it I realized something was lacking. I had lost my creativity. I was at rock bottom and ready to turn tail and head home. I had an epiphany that if I was going to survive, I needed to reinvent the direction in which I was headed.

In the largely male-dominated-digital-manipulation world on Instagram, I wanted to be the premier female photographer and digital artist. I would make a niche for myself, combining my love of photography and graphic design. If there wasn’t a job for me, I was going to create it. I took a chance and started posting my surrealistic Photoshop creations. These pieces quickly gained recognition opening up a whole world of art shows, galleries, and new creative challenges. I began making enough money from my art that I was even able to leave my corporate job and work for myself.

I wanted to return my appreciation to the community. After long hours of research, classes and pep talks, I start a blog and series of online courses to teach people how to take better photos, master Photoshop and market themselves more effectively on Instagram.

Last summer, my husband, also a photographer, and I decided to leave our luxurious Los Angeles life, buy a camper van, and travel. Our little brand that we started together, Leave The Map, has quickly grown into a full-time travel business for us. With international clients, we are now able to pursue our dreams of photography, video and art from anywhere in the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband! He’s my rock, sounding board, business partner, life partner, and best friend. We sit side by side every day working on our own businesses and our travel business together. There aren’t many people that you can live with for months on end in a 10 foot van! We surprisingly make it work, with only sporadic disagreements over super important things like who used all the toilet paper. When I was working from home and he was still working a corporate job, I would spend all day brewing over an idea or problem. We would discuss it when he got home and within minutes the issue would be resolved. He has one of the most creative and innovative minds of anyone I’ve ever met and has a way of viewing the world with the brightest rose-colored glasses. We perfectly compliment each other as yin and yang and he keeps me glowing when times are challenging.

I’m also grateful for my family. They have helped me beyond measure throughout my life and career. My parents have always been supportive with major life changes, like when I told them I was packing up to drive to LA with no job prospects and just a lot of hope, or when I called them and informed them it’s time for me to leave LA and travel full-time in a van. I was met with “Wow, good for you!” This was followed by, “Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons and realities of it all.” But, they have always helped me work through problems and celebrate my wins. My younger brother, who is also an artist, has become my “art editor” as I share everything with him before it goes live. He helps me to understand my strengths and weaknesses and shows me how I can improve. He challenges me in the best of ways and keeps me on my toes. Even though he’s 5 years younger than me, I look up to him and learn from him everyday.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I accidentally interviewed with an escort service! When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was desperate to find work and purpose. As many young people do when they move to LA, I tried to become a model and actress. I saw a post on Craigslist about a high-paying modeling gig. It was pretty vague and didn’t share many details but gave a number to text. I reached out, sent a headshot, and set a time and public place to meet the manager and his girlfriend. Something felt off from the moment I shook hands with them but I didn’t want to burn my bridges and remained polite. They asked for my ID which I found to be strange, but subsequently learned it was to make sure I wasn’t a cop. I was feeling pretty rattled and asked, “So what is the modeling job exactly? Is it clothing or runway? You didn’t include any details and I thought that’s why we were meeting.” They both laughed, astounded at my naiveté. “Oh honey, this is NOT modeling.” They alluded to what I would be doing and told me I needed a tryout with them at their hotel. It suddenly dawned on me what was going on! I made some sort of excuse, telling them I’d think about it and hightailed it out of there. But as I recall, I was so incredibly nervous I gave them both a hug goodbye!

Looking back, I was extremely naive, a country girl in the big city. I should have known better, but you have to live and learn and make mistakes that you can hopefully laugh at years later. This encounter taught me if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and to trust my inner instincts. With experience comes wisdom and with wisdom comes confidence. If I ever found myself in a similar situation today, I could easily say “no way” and walk out.

As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

I believe that if they “know” that their dreams are dashed then they set themselves up for failure. Mindset has SO much to do with our levels of success. It starts by believing in and convincing yourself that you CAN do it, followed by a hefty dose of sweat and perseverance until you see that something impossible has become a reality.

My best advice would be to just start! So many of us get hung up on how to start or the perfect time to start, and what I’ve found works best is just jumping in head first. Post the photo even if it’s not perfect. Take a weekend trip to start gathering travel content. Write that blog post even if it’s not your best material. Just get the ball rolling! From there, begin to take baby steps toward your end goal. Say yes to as many opportunities as you can because each one will grow and expand on another.

For example, after I got married, work was slow for a few months. I found myself on Craigslist once again! Even though I felt I was overqualified, I applied for a photo editing gig at a conference. The owner of the company quickly got back to me and said it was for Adobe MAX and asked if I was interested. Of course I was! While working for this company at the conference, I met a woman from Adobe who introduced me to the live team. I’ve now been on their live stream multiple times teaching Photoshop to thousands of people worldwide. I have made enduring friendships and launched my Adobe Ambassador career, all by saying yes to a job a might have easily overlooked.

Can you share with our readers some of your strategies you’ve used to build an engaged, loyal, and large online community?

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that it’s getting harder to grow an audience on Instagram due to the algorithm and over-saturation. That said, there is still plenty of room for opportunity. One of the most important strategies is finding a unique spin on who you are and what you want to share.

There are of course some more tactical steps such as posting daily and posting only quality content, using 30 hashtags, and creating something so good that people can’t look away! I also recommend cross-promotion which has worked really well for me. I share everything that goes live on Instagram directly to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I’ve seen other people use new platforms to their advantage such as jumping on TikTok when it first hit the app store.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive and care for oneself in three areas: body, mind, and heart.

You are a busy person with a demanding schedule, can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that help your body thrive? (Kindly share a story or an example for each.)

Two daily self-care body routines that are extremely important to me are getting outside and proper hydration. I had actually put self care on my back-burner until a health incident brought into sharp focus the importance that I strongly underestimated. When I first started my business, I was still working a 9-to-5 job and would listen to podcasts on my long commute. At work I would listen to business videos while I did my design tasks and then read everything I could during my lunch break followed by more videos and podcasts, and taking notes even faster than I could consume the information. One day at work, my computer-like brain had a hard shutdown. Everything got blurry, my brain went blank, and I lost all motor skills. I tried to tell a co-worker I needed to go to the hospital but all that came out was a garbled inaudible mess. I told her to call my husband but I couldn’t remember his phone number nor could I remember where we lived. Panic set in. About 10 minutes later the paramedics showed up, took my vitals, and said I was having an anxiety attack, to have some water and take some deep breaths. Then they left. My co-worker drove me home and that’s when the worst headache, exhaustion and nausea swept over me. At my doctors advice, I saw a neurologist and ended up spending the week of my 25th birthday in and out of the hospital for testing. The results indicated a fluke migraine. I was relieved to find out that nothing was seriously wrong. I realized, however, there was something wrong with how I was living my life and treating my body.

I toned back on the amount of information I was consuming. I took a proper lunch break and stepped outside to get some fresh air. I started taking care of my body and my brain. As busy as the day may get, I find that any frustration, stress, or creative blocks are relieved when I get outdoors and move my body. It gets energy flowing again and clears tension that can easily lead to similar situations like mine or worse! My new lifestyle is conducive to spending more time outside. This has greatly benefited my overall health.

An awful lot of health aliments are attributed to dehydration. That is why hydration has become an important piece of my self care routine. It’s an aspect of health that is too often overlooked or considered non-essential. I start my day with a glass of lemon water while not looking at any electronic devices. Then I drink water consistently though out the day and keep a 32 ounce water bottle nearby at all times. I enjoy ending the day with a cup of tea. As simple as this may sound, I find that hydration is key to keeping my energy high, avoiding even the slightest headache, and staying healthy!

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind or heart to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

Two of my favorite routines to help my mind and heart thrive are journaling and painting. Ever since I was little, I’ve kept some form of a journal or diary. What started as a place to detail every boy I ever crushed-on, evolved into a place to vent and share frustrations and eventually has become my vision board and goals for the future.

I used to have a particular journal for each subject and tried my hand at the ever-so-popular bullet journaling. I realized that I was spending more time worrying about what it looked like instead of getting the thoughts out of my head. I now use my journals as a way to clear my mind, clarify my intentions, and in a way, it is my form of meditation. Now, I have notes in my phone, a journal app, a journal next to my bed, one in my backpack, one at my desk, and one in the living room.

Just like journaling, painting and art have always been a big part of my life. In high school I painted almost everyday. It was before social media and so the pressure to perform and create a masterpiece didn’t exist. I simply created for me. Up until the end of last year, I had largely stopped painting. In January, I decided to challenge myself to do one painting per day. As I picked up the brush, the natural flow and meditative state came right back to me and I remembered the importance of creating just for yourself.

Our culture is so production oriented that we feel guilty taking time for ourselves. Yet how can you be healthy in body, mind, and spirit if you don’t make time to nurture those parts of yourself. Allowing time each day to focus on your own physical, mental, and spiritual health is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. To be successful, requires balance in all aspects of one’s life.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Have a routine, exercise daily, and say good morning to yourself.

1. Have a routine — Whether that be an evening routine, a morning routine, or an all-day routine. I personally hate routines which is part of the reason why I decided to travel full-time. One routine, however, that helps me to feel beautiful is my evening skincare ritual. It’s not so much about the skincare part, although I do love that, but more about a chance to be alone, pamper myself, and feel better afterward. For me, this routine provides immediate calming and and instant feeling of beauty both inside and out. When you feel good, you look good, and of course your skin, as a result, glows a bit brighter!

2. Exercise daily even when you don’t want to. I’ve never been much of a gym-rat. Instead, my go to workout is any kind of outdoor activity. I’ll admit it, I can be super lazy and some days I would rather just curl up in bed then get up move. I always find though that when I sweat or even just get my blood flowing with a quick walk, my endorphins flow and both my attitude and confidence improve. With a positive attitude and elevated confidence, you do feel more beautiful.

3. Say “Good Morning” to yourself. Tell yourself that “you are enough” and “you are beautiful” or whatever it is that you need to hear as an affirmation. If we walk around all day with negative or hateful thoughts dominating, we will feel that way! I used to follow the mantra, “fake it till you make it.” I didn’t believe most of the positive things people told me to tell myself. I would get really down comparing my artwork and appearance to others who were so much better or prettier. So I said, “Alright, self, if this stuff supposedly works then I’m going to start saying I’m enough, and that I’m a great artist until it sticks and until I believe it.” And guess what — it worked. It is said one needs to believe something to truly “manifest it” but if you don’t believe it, how can you even start? Well, you say it until you believe it and you say it until it’s true in your mind. Sure, I still have days where I really doubt myself and am not very nice to my inner being but I would say 90% of my days now are spent feeling beautiful inside and out.

Is there a particular resource, a practitioner, expert, book, or podcast that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

My dear friend and mentor, Leah Gervais (Urban 20 Something.) I joined her 6-month Mastermind last year and it changed the way I do business and the way my brain works with my business. She helped to rewire my thinking and the way I view finances, my craft, clients, and so much more. Leah has become one of my best friends and it all started with a Facebook group. Four years ago when I was first starting my business, Leah and I happened to be in the same Facebook group for new entrepreneurs. I posted in the group saying that I was looking for beta testers for my new Instagram audit. She responded and we introduced ourselves via email. Over the next few months we continued chatting and sharing our successes and failures. Soon we were having virtual beers together over Zoom and hoping for a chance to meet in person. Leah came to visit me in Los Angeles a little over a year ago and it felt as though we had known each other our whole lives. I have the highest respect for Leah’s professional skills. She is not only an inspirational coach but also someone with whom I can share beers and laughs. She’s helped me to understand and see my potential and what I have to offer to the world.

Do you have a story about the strangest, most bizarre or funniest wellness treatment that you’ve ever experienced?

I had a really crazy Reiki experience once that tripped me out for a while. The healer started the session by chatting a bit, asked what’s been going on in my life and what I’d like to clear out, and had me lie down. Towards the end of our session she had her hands on the sides of my head and it felt as though the whole room tipped and then flipped upside down. I felt like I was suspended in the air as the whole room was sliding over the edge. I knew it physically hadn’t so my body and mind remained calm and I just went with it. A few minutes later, she gently pulled me out of my meditative state and I sat up and looked at her with wide eyes. “Whoa, that was crazy!” she said, “the room flipped!” I was dumbfounded that she had felt what I felt. It wasn’t scary, or weird, it just felt like the energy had shifted. We chatted about it for awhile and I walked out of her studio feeling as though the dark cloud I was carrying around from the week had disappeared. The effects of that afternoon stayed with me for a number of months and I could physically feel a difference. I still think back on that day from time to time and wonder what truly happened there. It remains a mystery!

As an influencer, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It would definitely be something for the environment, humanity, and how we can strive to heal our damaged planet. My brain has been flowing with ideas since the outbreak of COVID-19. Despite the toilet paper shortage, never have I seen people come together in such powerful ways. We have been forced to slow down and refocus and take time for ourselves and family. This has lead to a flood of good deeds, creativity, and a chance for the Earth to take a sigh of relief. I have been sharing a few art pieces about the Earth and humankind and how we can heal as a nation. I’m not quite sure what the idea is yet but I hope to continue to refine it over the next few months.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

Recently, I read a book called ‘The Third Door’ by Alex Banayan. I saw it randomly on someone’s Instagram story and decided to buy it. It sat on my shelf for a while until one day I felt called to pick it up. I flew through it in 2 days when normally it takes me over a month to finish a book! I reached out to Alex to tell him how much I loved the book and how it made such a huge impact upon me. I was excited when he responded and was just as friendly as he sounds from his book. I’d love to sit with him and learn more about all of the craziest and coolest things he’s experienced when interviewing some of the worlds most successful people. He also just seems like he would be a really cool friend!

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

My art and main page, and my travel page,

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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