I know, I know. V-Day gets a bad rap among the cynics. But I’ve always loved it. Since I was, like, eight years old, and boys were not even a thing yet.
Even when I was perpetually single and had essentially built my entire identity on being free as a bird, and ain’t nobody was gonna tie me down.
And now, as Anthony and I are coming down from our seven-year anniversary and celebrating the closing of our first house together, I still frickin’ love Valentine’s Day.
I asked him if we could make a Big Deal out of it this year, so we’re taking a trip out to historic Galena, Illinois for a little holiday getaway! (That’s where we’ll be at the release of this post.)
I’m not declaring my undying love for Valentine’s Day so that all the cynics will change their minds and hop on the roses-and-chocolate train. I’m simply expressing my joy around this particular thing right now because I think it’s an excellent vehicle for a far more important message:
We do not need a reason to Love harder.
I don’t know about you, but I’m, like, a total love bug. Nothing would make me happier than if I could hug the people I adore every single day for five minutes straight, per person. (That might even take longer than 24 hours, but you know, #mathisntreallymything.) I have literally been referred to as a “koala” and a “human furnace” by all my serious boyfriends (yup — both of them). If I could feed the entire world or rescue all the animals, I would.
There are times I have felt overwhelmed by the absolute outpouring of love I have bursting out of my heart — and there have, of course, been more times than I can count where the dark side of loving this hard meets ego and I’ve felt absolutely devastated. (A topic for another time.)
Slowly but surely, though, I’ve learned to sooth my ego and begun to let go of the attachments I have around the “results” I believed I needed in order to Love, and Love epically.
Now, I want to radiate Love wherever I go.
Have you noticed a drastic drop-off of posting on this blog?
Rather than give you a list of excuses or reasons why I ghosted on everyone, instead, in a gesture of self-love, I’d like to say that that period of silence was completely necessary. I do apologize for disappointing any of my readers.
Almost for as long as I’ve had this blog, I never really knew what I created it for.
Until now. As of today, this will now simply be a medium for me to radiate Love.
I’m a creative, and I always have been one. It brings me utmost joy to be a maker — but for the longest time I let the shame around being seen for who I really am, the fear of imperfection, block me from that joy. Which brings me to . . .
First and foremost, as cliché as it sounds, I had to become my own Valentine. Then anyone/thing else just became bonus.
I’ve spent so much of my life almost apologizing for the fact that I exist, the fact that I take up space. Who would find value in the things I create, the insights and wisdom I’ve mined from the textures and experiences I’ve lived through? Who could redeem such a perfectly imperfect, wandering soul such as mine?
I mean, this wasn’t just an issue of low self-esteem or a long bout of high school angst. I never identified as particularly emo . . .
I just wanted to be more than I believed I was, and wanted the world to validate me. Craved approval from the outside so that what I was on the inside could feel safe.
Call it #daddyissues, #mommyissues, #minorityproblems, #writersblock, or even blame it on the Patriarchy — any of those infinite scapegoats for a female maker in today’s world to point a finger at to keep her distracted from her inner desires and inner power — and believe me, I’ve blamed each and every one of those things at one point or another.
But they’re not the Truth.
I had to claw my way to the Truth. It took me years, and a whole lot of tears, monetary investment, and toil, to discover my Truth. The Truth that I am ever-changing, I am infinite, and I get to choose at every moment what part of Infinity I want to experience or express as.
Would you say the same about you? I would. I may not know you (yet), but I know you are infinite, too, and that that comes as a beautiful mélange of colors, flavors, and its fair share of despair and danger.
And so, during all this time of coccooning, I’ve noticed that the more fiercely I am able to Love myself and hold space for every facet of me — yes, the koala-bear, generous parts of me, and also the parts of me that throw tantrums or feel the desire to unleash some serious bitch slaps . . . and the parts of me that would rather spend all damn day playing Choices on her iPad rather than lift a finger to do any kind of manual labor — the greater my ability to do the same for others from a place of peace rather than judgment.
Loving myself hard has been a challenge. It’s still near impossible some days in some instances. But as my heart expands and embraces myself more wholly, so does my capacity to love other people from a genuine place.
So allow me to reintroduce myself — and this blog. And this Valentine’s Day, I invite you to Love harder. Love from your Truth. Love from wholeness.
Love, Love, and more Love,
PS. What do you think of the new format? It felt like time for a more modern look. Please pardon the “dust” (i.e., impersonal stock images and whatnot) as I remodel.
I used to be a cheerleader on my school’s spirit squad — which meant that at halftimes and at pep rallies, the crowd had their undivided attention on my team and me. I’ve performed onstage in many capacities, from dance to piano to flute to musical theatre. As a high school senior I found solace in drama club, and I was nominated by the members of my public speaking class to represent them in front of the village.
It might be a natural conclusion to make that I have no problem with standing center stage — all eyes on me.
Before my stroke, perhaps that would have been the case. But once I felt myself turning inward as a protective response from the attack on my brain that was the stroke, I found a safety there that I still to this day return to when I need a little grounding.
The unconscious decision to amble through my young adulthood more internally than I ever had before hasn’t provided only safety and grounding, though. It has come with a price, and that price is pretty steep.
It’s cultivated a newfound fear of being seen. What does that look like?
It’s when I find myself in a crowd and choose not to speak up for a need I may have. A need for the people standing in front of me to move so that they no longer block my view. It’s never asking someone not to smoke while we’re outside together, internalizing my discomfort at the smell and effect to my health. How I’ll find a seat in the back of a classroom or training audience even when I voluntarily chose to be there to learn. Trying to blend in and not be noticed — not speaking up in classes or Facebook groups or against emotionally manipulative people. Or even not mentioning past accomplishments or experiences — when they would contribute to the flow of conversation — for fear of bragging or out of glorification of being low-key.
It’s any time I mute myself or when I subconsciously believe the authentic me might be “too much,” and I trade that natural me for a diluted, quiet version of myself I don’t recognize as me.
And this fear of being seen absolutely manifested when I did my first “real” Periscope broadcast on Monday afternoon (i.e., me speaking directly to the camera). My heart was racing; I felt the flood of overwhelm as I saw the anonymous viewer count go up — and go down — as though any of that actually mattered.
This first scope was flawed — it probably took me the first three whole minutes to get my phone set up on the tripod and you could feel my nerves running through my body — but at least I did it.
I’d rather imperfectly and unapologetically express myself than continue to play small in my little corner of the Universe. It’s the only way humanity can flourish, if the voices for good and for personal power gain strength rather than getting shut down. Shut down not only by “the other side,” but by themselves and their own fears! Which is what playing small is all about.
It’s what the other side counts on — that our Higher Selves become silenced without intervention. It’s their most insidious secret weapon against us.
I’d had this mounting frustration, this nagging theme running through my life — a voice saying, “Why doesn’t anybody know how awesome I am? Or what gifts I have to give to the world?”
This whiny voice of the martyr could have defined me, but my Higher Self wouldn’t have any of it. The reason why no one knew was because I had cowered in the corner, played the People Pleaser, worshipped humility at the expense of my authentic self.
I believe we all are entitled to generous self-expression, and this fear of being seen can kill so many good fricking ideas. It can numb people from their dreams.
Quieting down our passions helps no one. I, for one, know firmly that I want the world to be better because I lived in it.
That isn’t possible if I don’t up the game. So terrifying myself by forcing myself to be seen — to create, to put myself out there — in order to make myself stronger not only serves me, but gives you permission to do so as well.
Today I heard a woman named Kristin Sweeting Morelli say something that rocked my world.
“Shame can only live in darkness.”
She said it in the context of people — of women in particular — keeping to themselves the things they were most ashamed of about themselves and their experiences, whether they were at fault or not.
Shame doesn’t belong only to the miscreants, the cheaters, the liars, the politicians. Everyone carries shame about something in their lives, and in our world today, women feel shame surrounding so much.
Shame for being fat. For being old. For being educated. For being a stay-at-home mom. For having children — for not having children. Being divorced. Staying in a relationship that’s bad for you. Being successful. Not having a job.
And, pretty much universally, women are shamed about that which makes them fundamentally who and what they are: feminine beings who come into this world as highly sensitive and sensual creatures.
It isn’t until women are able to feel safe in their communities (whether these communities are friends, family, a partner, or an organization) that they can begin to shed that shame. Safety is the foundation of vulnerability — which is one of the most powerful forms of connection and healing there is.
I’ve been part of Kristin’s special tribe of women since its inception in late 2013. I’ve witnessed the unfolding of countless women into something so sacred and beautiful that I’m struggling coming up with the words right now.
As an invitation to catch a glimpse of what this tribe is about, Kristin hosts an immersive, radiant online festival celebrating what it means to be a woman . . . what is the Potent Feminine, and how to access her. Because every woman has it, inside. But in a culture of to do lists, multi-tasking, carting children around from activity to activity, business, eating junk, and generally feeling like we must be Superwoman, most of us have lost touch with her. We’ve settled for toxic relationships and environments and neglected our own self-care, wearing this as a badge of honor.
How many of you reading this would actually take me seriously if I asked you to take a 15-minute break between your workday (or watching your kids) for yourself to just get in your body and dance?
I feel like so many of you just rolled your eyes and muttered your own version of, “Yeah right. After I cross off A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H . . . from my list, maybe I might get around to it.” Like any other modern-day woman, there are times I feel like this too.
Let me tell you about Kristin. She was a self-made multi-millionaire by the age of 30. Do you think she might know something about that go-go-go lifestyle?
She has also overcome a number of physical and emotional trials that I won’t get into right now — challenges that no human being should ever have to face, let alone as a child. The fact that she has been able to rise above these challenges and shed the shame that came with them is for me a shining light of hope for the rest of the world.
So about this online festival. It’s called the Red Tent Revival, and this is how it works: each night, for five days, Kristin livestreams an hour of dance. Dance, for me, has played a significant role in my own freedom as a woman and as a young stroke survivor who was once paralyzed on a half of my body: After the stroke, I stopped dancing for about eight years. When I started again, I felt like I had liberated myself from a prison of my own making.
What kind of dance do we do in the Red Tent? Every installment is slightly different, but I had the privilege of joining Kristin in Boulder this March to attend the Revival in person, so this particular iteration of the festival is especially sacred to my heart. (She is rebroadcasting it because back in March she was going through some really intense personal issues.) The first day, we kicked off with some drumming and allowing our bodies to respond to the beats.
Day 2: CONSCIOUS BURLESQUE
We started off with burlesque, led by Mad Ame Merci, a beautiful soul who teaches Conscious Burlesque.
Conscious Burlesque is not just about stripping off your clothes and teasing the audience. I’m a frequent audience member at various cabarets and burlesque shows here in the city, but Conscious Burlesque is a different art form.
Mad Ame Merci performed a gorgeous piece she created to show us the sad unfolding of a stifling relationship she had gone through, and it sent chills through me (through all of us). I loved the contrast of the ugly (smearing her lipstick off as she pulled off her gloves, for example) against the beautiful choreography. It was raw; it was real — it felt to me like the tragic love story so many of us have lived.
Day 3: SENSUAL DANCE
My first experience with sensual dance under Kristin’s guidance was on my first day in her tribe. I was so moved as she led us to consciously choose parts of our bodies to love. It started simply: begin with a part of your body you find easy to love, like your hair or your smile . . . but then gradually moved to loving the parts that are more difficult.
For me, this was my left arm — at the time, I was still holding grudges against the left side of my body for betraying me after the stroke.
It was like the first day I started writing my memoir. A barrier had been lifted, and the tears began to flow. Forgiveness and love began to replace the resentment and disconnect that once existed between me and my body.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found myself mesmerized by Shakira music videos. It’s less about the music to me and all about her movements. In my early 20s I vowed to one day move like Shakira, and while I’m not there (like, at all), experimenting with bellydance is always a fun ride. The isolations and the undulations make me feel so sensuous.
Kristin brought Sadie Marquardt, one of the bellydance global community’s most prominent figures, to guide us in some basic bellydancing movements. She was incredible!
In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I have to admit bellydancing has always been a bit of a challenge for me (especially in the presence of others) because it exposes the part of my body that I’ve spent a lifetime trying to cover up. (Shame lives in darkness, right?)
But Kristin created an environment in which every body type, any kind of belly — reminding us that women’s bellies have life-sustaining qualities and that that’s where our power lives — is wonderful and accepted.
Hearing this made me feel safer in the presence of my own self-judgment, even when I was participating in the Red Tent from the privacy of my own home.
Day 5: SAMBA
Samba is a sort of street dance they do in Brazil. My favorite part is the costumes: full plumes of giant feathers, feathers, feathers! As a student of ballroom dance, I have had quite limited exposure to samba personally, since it’s a slightly different animal altogether.
On the final day of the Revival, Sadie returns fully covered in beads and feathers. It’s fabulous — and then we learn a basic routine. (It’s a cardio workout!)
After the live dancing sessions each night, two virtual “stages” will open up: the Aphrodite stage and the Kali stage, each containing an exclusive RTR interview for you to watch and learn from for the next 24 hours. These interviews are the meat of the Revival because it begins our “coursework” into the Potent Feminine.
Back when I was going through a dark, painful breakup, I helped myself through it by learning from relationship experts. In that journey, I always resonated with a lady named Alison Armstrong. To my delight, Kristin invited Alison into the Tent with her brilliant work on The Queen’s Code. This groundbreaking work has shattered what I — and most other modern-day women for that matter! — have always believed served us in the world. . . . Through Alison’s Queen’s Code work, we have learned a completely new, counterintuitive way of operating with (and not against) the men in our lives. With Alison’s insights on the strengths and weaknesses of both masculine and feminine energies, we have learned how to empower ourselves as well as men in the world at large. No longer do we as women need to put men down in order to feel safe — and I believe this is the newest chapter of feminism.
Within the Red Tent Revival, Alison was gracious enough to share a four-part series on how to be the queen of your own life. The final day was especially powerful, as she and Kristin took us through a sacred ceremony to end the war between the sexes for good. It was epic.
Besides Alison, Kristin invited other cutting-edge experts to discuss their areas of expertise: Sheila Kelley, the phenomenal creator of S Factor, who demystifies the Erotic Creature within every woman. (As an aside, please take a look at her TED talk, which I adore.)
There’s Dr. Debra Wickman, a gynecologist who specializes in reconnecting women with their own anatomy and shedding light on the years of darkness we women often have with our lady parts. For me, this was absolutely amazing and sacred.
It was then in her interview with Laura Silva (daughter of the man who brought us The Silva Method), Kristin said, “Shame can only live in darkness.” I believe this to be the fundamental belief under everything we do in the Red Tent Revival and the Pleasure Tribe — to bring the thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, unconscious patterns we brought with us out into the light so they no longer live in darkness and can finally heal.
OWN THE REVIVAL/JOIN THE RED SISTERHOOD
Throughout the Red Tent Revival, you will have access to not only the dance sessions and the interviews, but you’ll have the chance to enter Kristin’s “WOOHOO” contests, and you’ll receive some exclusive Secrets of the Red Tent.
If you decide the material you’ve seen in the Red Tent is valuable and you want to keep it forever, you will have the chance to own the Revival and all its videos as well as some divine bonus content Kristin made especially for us. You can also choose to join me and my sisters in the Pleasure Tribe and the RED Sisterhood — it’s a yummy community of beautiful connection, exploration, and celebration. I’ve been part of the Pleasure Tribe for 18 months and counting, and I would never go back.
I’ll address what you may be wondering . . . I am part of Kristin’s Impact Posse, which means I’ve volunteered to help spread the word about her work. The Revival is completely free, but if you opt to make a purchase, I do get a commission.
Back in March, I committed to helping raise funds for one of my R.E.D. Sister’s Red Mastery journeys, so if I do make any commission from this promotion of the RTR, half of it will go to my friend’s fundraiser. I believe in Kristin’s R.E.D. movement with every cell in my body (R.E.D. stands for “Radiant, Erotic, Divine.”) — so my question for you is, will you have the courage to discover your inner R.E.D. goddess?
Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you in the Red Tent!
Howdy, everyone! My personal trainer posted this Lifehack.org article to Facebook today, and I thought it appropriate to share. 🙂
Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.
1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves
Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.
2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power
They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.
3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change
Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.
4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control
You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.
5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.
6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks
They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.
7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past
Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.
8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over
Mentally strong people accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.
9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success
Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.
10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure
Mentally strong people don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.
11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time
Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive. They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can behappy alone.
12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything
Mentally strong people don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.
13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results
Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.
When I was a senior in high school, I was involved in each of that year’s shows (fall play, spring musical, spring play). High school was kind of a lonely time for me, so by the last year I found a lot of solace in drama club. One of the most active members of drama was a guy named Matt Ryd, who was always a fun — and funny — guy. Really good guy.
After we all graduated (he was a year younger than me), I discovered that he was also a musician. He actively promoted his music, but because we weren’t close I never attended any performances. To my surprise, sometime last year (I believe), he came out with a video explaining that he had for a long time been struggling with an eating disorder. He checked himself into rehab of some sort to get better, and excused himself from social media, leaving us with the video to help spread awareness of what he had been living. Once he returned to society, I honestly thought things were going well for him.
It is with a heavy heart that I tell you all that I just found out he took his own life this past Sunday. Although I couldn’t have known, it makes me feel (hindsight being 20/20 or not) like I was partially responsible. Not because I was ever mean or nasty to him, but because I hadn’t gone out of my way to ask him how things were. I assumed they were fine. Plus, he always had no shortage of praise, recognition, or comaraderie, but quite obviously, he was still a tortured enough soul who desperately sought peace. Of course, I and anyone else who knew him wishes there were something we could have done to prevent what happened.
Ladies and gents, let’s walk away from this reminded that we must (not merely “should”) go out of our way to connect with people and remind them of how much love and support they have behind them. This applies to friends, family, significant others, children, the people who are estranged from us (probably most of all). Think about how bad it makes you feel when someone asks you how you are out of formality and not because they actually care.
I’m committing myself to looking at people in the eye when we speak, even if it is only a momentary exchange, and being the best friend/sister/daughter /writer/personal accessories stylist/me I can be. I call this divine interruption — the events that happen outside of our control that shake us up and give us a reality check.
Please keep Matt (and anyone who is suffering in silence) in your thoughts and prayers. What does his story inspire you to do differently? Share your ideas and revelations in the comments below.
When I was very young (we’re talking, like, elementary school), I remember one of my teachers complimenting me, saying that I had “more creativity in one pinkie than [she had] in her entire body.”
Well, while that doesn’t actually make any sense because every human being on Earth has the ability and propensity to be creative — and we all create our realities through the actions we take every single day — it does point out that some people are a little more in touch with the special spark of creativity within themselves. I feel that in many ways I have been one of those people. Lately, I am also often not one of those people. Before I knew how to do anything, all I did was draw. I drew and drew and drew until I learned to read, after which you could never find my nose out of a book. I went to the bathroom with a book, ate with a book. (To this day, you will rarely find me anywhere without reading material. I have to convince myself not to take books or magazines with me to social engagements, calming myself down that if all else fails, I do have my Kindle app on my phone. Yes, I am that girl.)
By the time I was 10, I fell so in love with my first favorite book, Matilda by Roald Dahl, that I memorized the entire first chapter I read it so much. (Is it any shock to anyone my contact lens prescription is over -10?) To this day, I still know the first sentence. I also wrote my first book, constructed out of wide-ruled looseleaf paper bound by those brass clasps that no one uses anymore. It was my first (and only) piece of fanfiction, a sequel to Matilda illustrated and colored in the style of Quentin Blake, Dahl’s own illustrator. It was legit!
I have no idea where that book is now, but I would pay to have it in my hands today. Because it was that book that first established in me the belief that I was a writer. From fourth grade on, writing became a part of my identity. I soon partnered up with a schoolmate who also liked to write and we would encourage each other to keep producing our work, every single day. Of course, our work was crap, but the important thing was that we believed in it enough to work on it consistently.
High school was an interesting time. Because I’ve been working on deleting the H-word from my daily lexicon (you know, the one that rhymes with late), I’ll just say that high school was a strongly challenging time for me emotionally. I have always been, although seemingly strong and confident of myself, rather soft and fragile on the inside (for this, my Taiwanese mother frequently calls me a “strawberry.”) So after all of my closest friends “abandoned” me (is there a more self-centered time than teendom?) for other schools — either private schools 20 minutes away, or in the case of my best friend, boarding school in Connecticut — there was just this feeling of profound loneliness and being lost. Yes, there were many new friends to be made, but I was in a very disempowered state back then, and my one daily salvation besides phone calls to friends I couldn’t see was to throw myself into my writing as soon as I got home from school. Every. Single. Afternoon.
I wrote my first (and only! So far, anyway) novel at fourteen. It was a POS rom-com-inspired YA novel called All That and a Cup of Milk. (I know.) I was so proud of it I even printed it out and bound it in a more sophisticated fashion than I did in fourth grade: I punched holes in it and put in in a clear white three-ring binder. Then, I went through my piles of Seventeen and/or Teen Beat magazines and cut out photos of random models that I decided looked just enough like my characters and created a collage. I then invented different handwritings (one of my favorite things to do back then) for each character and wrote their names down next to each photo.
The result is a VERY teen-worthy pseudo-book published under the name “Ex-Press Books, Inc.” (yeah, I don’t know why). I was even dork enough to create fake Library of Congress information on a fake copyright page. Fortunately, I still have it (otherwise I would have conveniently forgotten all this delicious detail.)
While the book is terrible and ridiculous and is zero representation of my writing today, I still keep it as a reminder to myself that I am capable of writing a novel from beginning to end. A novel! If you didn’t already know, a novel is at least 50,000 words. Mine was 16 chapters and 108 pages (single-spaced).
I don’t care how horrendous the writing is (the grammar is still impeccable, I’ll have you know!); the fact that I wrote it is the one thing that I remind myself of every day that I don’t progress on my own writing projects.
Here’s the thing. If you’ve been following my Rehab Revolution blog, you will know that in a few short weeks I’ll be at the annual UW-Madison Writers’ Institute conference for the second time. It is my goal to at least have a finished manuscript of my memoirs I started in 2008 to take to that conference, and to be able to practice a pitch to an agent. Practice a pitch, not actually pitch, because the idea of publishing, while exciting, is still scary as frac to me, and I need the time to mentally prepare for that.
The other thing you’ll know is that part of the reason why my memoirs are still in progress after starting it in 2008 is because I stopped working on it. Many reasons come to mind, such as:
fear of failure
fear of success
fear of rejection
fear of judgment
lack of time management
lack of good prioritizing
Oh, and, ironically enough, I also think that I have let it fall by the wayside because of a rather insidious self-created enemy. Fact is, I FEEL UNSETTLED WHEN I DON’T WRITE, but I’ve been writing all along. My hidden saboteur?
Are you kidding me? No wonder I don’t go to bed every day feeling like I haven’t put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, more accurately) in decades. This is also probably why I keep forgetting to journal!
I have a confession to make, as well. And getting this out is so urgent that it is 5.20pm on a Tuesday and I am still in my bedroom in gym clothes (for my theoretical “morning cardio workout”) without having eaten a thing yet today typing this. I think I may have announced on Facebook (and told everyone I encountered in real life) that converting to daylight-saving time is disgustingly difficult for me. Like, take-a-week-to-adjust-to-it difficult. What’s made it worse is my sudden and inexplicable new addiction to Jenna Marbles YouTube videos.
Now, if you know me, Jenna Marbles is an unlikely source of entertainment for me. She talks like a sailor and is obnoxious as hell, but I’ve decided that I love her because despite those unsavory (to me) qualities, her intelligence and unique brand of cleverness really shines through. To be fair, I won’t watch all her 130+ videos, and I often end up clicking off to a new one when I get tired of one I’d chosen in bad taste, but on the whole, I give her a thumbs up for a multitude of reasons. This girl, only three years younger than I am, is more educated than I am (she has a masters from Boston University) and has exceeded a billion(!) views on YouTube.
She is entertaining, unexpected, and what I love is that she never apologizes for who she is. And although much of her audience is equally as lewd or even angry and disrespectful, she is a loving person who respects and embraces herself. And that is rare. And refreshing.
Anyway, I bring this up because for the past two nights I have done the cringeworthy: I’ve stayed up till 4am watching an endless stream of Jenna Marbles videos. Perhaps at that hour I’m so slap-happy that I think she’s even funnier than she actually is? Or perhaps she is some kind of sensational genius.
I subscribe to many channels. Generally, I follow some amazing business leaders and life coaches, like Marie Forleo or Katie Freiling. I’ve discovered that YouTube tends to also suggest videos to me based on the channels I’m subscribed to, so in my addictive fog of Jenna Marbles comedy, today I was also suggested this video by Kyle Cease: The Greatest and Worst Time Ever.
Basically, he talks about how addictions like crack or anything else equally as obviously destructive are far less subtle than our micro-addictions that contribute to distracting us from our true desires and accomplishing what we want to do and being great. Read: casual Facebook updates or status checks, which apparently we do on average of 70-80 times a day.
*Raises hand* I am guilty. So guilty.
So I had a bit of a revelation today while I was finally getting gym-dressed (of course, with a video playing). Jenna Marbles has hit a billion views on YouTube because she releases a new video every single Wednesday and probably has done for the three years or whatever she’s been doing videos. Sure, her content is clever and provocative, but the nugget here is CONSISTENCY.
The difference between the people who accomplish anything (even a crappy made-for-teens-by-a-teen novel that the author herself won’t bear to read 10+ years later) and people who sit around complaining that they have nothing to show for their life and desires is being consistent.
Being consistent is the ultimate practice of delayed gratification. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” they say. “An inch is a cinch, but a mile takes a while,” says motivational speaker Scott Smith. “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step,” said Confucius.
I’m sure there are infinite other quotes about the nature of adding to your projects the incremental progress that eventually leads to completion, and that inevitable spin you take to marvel at your own work, that sigh of accomplishment.
This is getting long-winded, and I’m sorry. But the point is, if I want to put love over fear and embrace my inner creativity that has gone untapped for so long, I need to stop whining and apply some consistence to what I want to do.
Can I finish my book by 11 April? Absolutely. But am I willing to dial down the Facebooking, tweeting, jewelry “businessing,” working out, going to bed at 4am, etc.?
Yes. And no. I cannot rightfully say that my book is my number-one priority in life. Especially right now, when I have my taxes to do OR ELSE as well as my health/fitness/rehab to think about. Making money would also be nice. (No one pays you to sit at a Starbucks to churn out a book — even J.K. Rowling had to wait till her books were sold to see any return on her time investment!)
My plan now is to severely “trim down the fat” of my days, as Anthony says virtually every week. Facebook time will be limited to two ten-minute breaks each day. One will take place in the morning and the other, not until I’ve gotten the writing accomplished for the day. I will have to seriously develop an action plan that includes everything I only want to do in small enough doses that I can focus most of my time on what I want and need to do.
And don’t get me wrong; my book is going to be far from perfect once I finish it. It’ll probably horrify me only slightly less than All That and a Cup of Milk, but will require a huge amount of rearranging, rewriting, and reworking of different sorts.
I already feel liberated. While I do love Facebook and YouTube and e-mails, I’m going to force myself to get back in touch with my creative self. This means that for my first meal, even though I’m starving, I’m going to properly cook something. 🙂
It’s a shame WordPress isn’t much like Tumblr or Pinterest, in that it is kind of involved to post anything (still learning!) and I can’t just pin stuff whenever I feel like. But I loved this meme too much to ignore it — and this is why I love Facebook. (For a more extensive post on the subject I wrote a little while back, go here.)
Don’t you think this is exactly in line with my “love over fear” theme? What I always say to people who say their FB newsfeeds just annoy them is that I create my newsfeed very intentionally to ensure that the material I am exposed to is positive and inspiring. (This also helps me use social media in an empowering way in business.)
I also really liked this one from earlier today:
Let these insights be a gentle reminder; I know they certainly help me!
I am excited to share the last 10 tips to networking — the response from you has been so positive! Thank you! Of course, tweak the tips to suit your given situation. If you missed part one on the networking DON’Ts, you can read it here.
1. Ask for what you want. At first glance, this sounds selfish, but it’s not. It’s being truthful about what you’re looking for, and people are infinitely more likely to connect you to who or what you’re looking for (a referral, for instance, “someone who wants to set up a fundraiser” or “a single mom in need of another source of income,” or even as general as “a doctor” — always ask for referrals!) if you request it. If you do need to jump in on an already-established conversation, just outright ask, “May I join the conversation?” Networking is as much about connecting others as it is about making your own new connections. On that note . . .
2. Give before you receive. What value can you provide to a stranger? Find opportunities to help or serve someone else before you ask them for anything. If no obvious opportunity to offer them a solution to a need arises, straight up ask, “How can I help you find what you’re looking for tonight?” It feels great to have that asked of you, especially if you are literally there alone (which I am 99% of the time) and you know nobody.
3. Actually call her up for that coffee date. Networking events, contrary to what you may believe, are not actually the time to set up appointments. They are the initiator of a conversation you will in theory have later. Never leave a networking event without the contact information of the movers and shakers that you met, which calls back what I told you in part one about not wasting your time. The phone can feel about 600 pounds heavier when it comes to calling someone you don’t know too well, but like working out, you may dread it before you do it, but you’ll be glad you did after the fact. (Admittedly one thing I immensely struggle with still.)
4. Friend him on Facebook. Or whatever other social media platform you want — it’s like phoning, lite. It does not replace meeting up again in person later, or they’ll just become the next vague connection you creepily follow via your newsfeed (like your classmates from fourth grade you haven’t seen in over 10 years). I say “creepy” because it’s so one-ended — what’s the point unless you’re going to interact?
I’m going to slip in another DON’T here — this happened to me this morning. Don’t send your new contact an advertisement that was designed for the general public in an e-mail entitled “Goose Island networking event” (or wherever you met them) — yes, sir, I’m talking to you. Thanks for leading me into believing you were going to actually make an effort to say something to me and then promptly morphing into a spam mail. Honestly, this guy probably just sent the e-mail to the entire list of attendees. Instead of being that guy, you can e-mail someone “Goose Island networking event” and in the body, say, “Hi Stella! It’s Liz from last Thursday. We met in front of the full-service bar! It was great to meet you. I’d love to hear more about your new book coming out. Would you like to get some coffee sometime this week?” It’s important not to come on too strong; don’t scare someone away by being overly excited — or worse, accidentally perceived as flirtatious. (It happens.)
5. Approach the leaders who’ve put on the event. It may be intimidating to go and say hi to the bigshot man or lady who organized the evening itself, especially if s/he was some kind of keynote speaker. But that’s why they’re there, and in my experience, they almost always know someone they should introduce you to. I’ve met some really amazing people because of this, and you’re almost guaranteed to be invited to their next soirée.
6. Be prepared. Always, aways bring your business cards and any relevant literature you might want on your person in case the occasion arises. (In the case of my jewelry biz, in conjunction with opportunity literature, I should carry around coupons and referral cards. And my calendar. It’s no wonder my purse is enormous.) Also imperative, a stack of Post-Its and a pen! My fellow business team member (and sponsoring superstar) Shiela Grimmett shared this tip with me way in the beginning — it can get overwhelming to sift through your stack of business cards later and not be sure who was who. So after you meet anyone and you have their card, write yourself a little note to stick onto it: where you met, what you talked about, perhaps what they looked like, or any extra facts to help you remember them. I swear that my dental hygienist must follow a similar practice because when I see her every six months, she freaks me out with how much she remembers about me from last time! But it’s a pleasant freak-out — one in which you feel special.
I also find that they come in handy when you do meet the occasional absentminded, unprepared person who didn’t bring cards (again, why??) because you can have them write their details down for you.
7. Practice your elevator pitch. Traditionally, people say you should limit this to 30 seconds, but you should really have multiple versions of it, both for length (30 seconds, one and five minutes, even an hour) and for different audiences. For example, a corporate person will speak a different language from a late teen who just graduated from university. This also comes in handy when you attend specific networking groups events that invite individuals to speak about themselves for a limited period of time. Remember not to go on and on about your business right away (if you’re just schmoozing — it’s okay at a networking meetup where you’re asked to talk about it specifically), and tell stories about yourself. People relate more to anecdotes because they humanize you. If all you talk about is listing all the other networking events you’ve gone to or about your job or business, they are likely to tune out and/or find you boring and move on to more sociable pastures. Learn to read people, and not only just for their vernacular.
8. React appropriately. People LOVE to share photos on their phone of their children and/or their pets. If you can’t stand either, deal with it. Don’t just stare blankly and say nothing — it might go against the grain because you might think this is inauthentic to who you really are, but it’s really just being a decent person and showing your humanity. (If you have a tremendous phobia of dogs or children, I think it would be far more interesting to respond with a story — say, “I’m so sorry; I’m deathly afraid of tortoises! When I was five I got trapped under a 90-pound one at the zoo for half an hour” — which expresses your opinion on the matter and simultaneously inspires empathy. Perhaps also a laugh.)
9. Dress the part. It’s a fact of the world that you are treated according to how you are perceived. If you’re coming to promote your fashion business, it may be a good idea to curl your hair and wear something trendy and flattering. We all have our off-moments and off-days, but this all feeds into coming prepared. People won’t take you seriously if you look like a hot mess, or worse yet, you keep pointing out why you think you are one. (If it’s a bad skin day, cover up the blemishes and don’t talk about them.) People make immediate conclusions on who you are within the matter of seconds, so don’t sabotage it by coming in pajamas (unless, in some fortunate turn of events, this is some kind of networking slumber party ordeal 😉 ).
10. Keep it positive. Remember to smile! Networking isn’t the chore you might feel it is before you do it. Once you’re in a groove, it’s pie. No one wants to meet and befriend a grump, so lighten up the mood and be friendly! If you communicate with your body language that you are NOT open to meeting fantastic new people, uh, you won’t.
Thanks again to the fabulous leaders I referenced at the end of part one, and thanks also to Success magazine. (Told you I was a sponge.) I’ve found that these practices have helped me tremendously, and in conjunction with consistently showing up to events where folks are open to meeting new people, there’s the potential to really grow and reap all the benefits! By no means is this a 100% comprehensive list, so please ask any questions you may have in the comments below. I am going to conclude this series with a last post on where to find networking opportunities, so stay tuned!
Do you like this information? If so, it’d really help me out if you’d leave feedback and/or share it with your friends and get the conversation started!
Earlier this year, the “matriarch” of my business team led an exercise for each of us to do on our own. It was a difficult exercise, but the end result was to come up with our own themes for 2013. Some people resolved to “Just say no [to overcommitting],” others to “love myself first,” and I’m sure a slew of many other things.
Basically, to produce our personal themes, we were to figure out which were our top values in life. There was a list of important things, such as “family” or “honesty” or “wealth,” etc. and we had to eliminate them frantically (we were timed) in order to figure out which were our top five, non-negotiable, number-one-priority values. Of course, this was a challenge, since no one can cross off, say, family, without feeling like they’re implying that it is somehow not important.
But if you’re an independent person who currently has no family to speak of, crossing it out by no means implies that if you do have a family one day, you don’t care about them. It’s important to remember also that values can change. Priorities do, too, and it’s key to review these things regularly to make sure you are living your life according to what you find most important. The point of the exercise is not to make yourself feel like a terrible person, but to acknowledge that while all the values listed are always important, we can still identify the ones that are truly at the forefront.
We didn’t share what we crossed out, but the complete list is here:
Anyway, long story short, my theme for 2013 is “love over fear.” In my spiritual journey lately I’ve routinely come across this concept. I find that it is pretty all-encompassing, especially if you learn to view fear as “false evidence appearing real.” Fear is, in my opinion, the number one thing we allow ourselves to get caught up with to truly get in our own way.
Think about it! What do you regret in your life? The things you were too scared to do for one reason or another, right?
Or what are you busy putting off today because of fear?
Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of judgment, of getting in trouble, of losing what you have . . . the list goes on.
Where there is fear, there is no love. Choosing love over fear is instead a choice to put yourself and your goals first, to love what you aspire to do, what you stand for. To get out of your own way and plunge forth anyway, even if you do get hurt. Because you either win, or you learn.
I am so thankful to also have a guide in making this shift in my life, the “Spiritual Junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein. I discovered her through Marie Forleo (whom many of you know that I adore), and although I’ve known of her for a long time, I didn’t fully start following her and her message until the release of her new book, May Cause Miracles. It’s a 40-day guide to creating miracles in your life (no voodoo — it’s all spiritual work like meditation and learning to see things through a different lens), and while I admit I haven’t been doing every single exercise to its full extent, I also know that I will refer to this guidebook time and time again. (Next time, I’ll be better about the journaling. This is actually one of my 2013 resolutions . . .)
A couple weeks ago, the mantra for the day was “I believe in miracles,” and this set the tone for the whole day! I had an amazing experience the entire day, and I believe it was thanks to Gabby’s advice.
I explain all this because I’m introducing a new category for this blog in 2013: pieces on love and pieces on fear. Why focus on fear, you ask? Doesn’t what we focus on expand?
Well, yes, but you also have to understand that simply because we ignore something doesn’t mean it goes away. If you don’t acknowledge the leopard chasing you, it is foolish to think you can just imagine it disappear and it will. I want to address stories of fear in 2013 because I think anyone will be able to relate, and then I will offer solutions to these stories by suggesting conscious acts of love. In order to shed these stories we tell ourselves, we must actively choose to believe something better,
That said, I suppose my series on networking can be the first of what I imagine to be many topics on love and fear. Stay tuned for part two, posting tomorrow at 8am! (Um, yeah, it’s been scheduled. I will still be sound asleep at that time. Still working on that becoming-a-morning-person thing.)