Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Decision to have a creative life.

One day, not yesterday and not last week but years ago,  I decided to have a creative life.

Having a creative life right now is mostly expressed as writing. Sometimes its drawing or painting or conducting some odd experiment but most of the time its writing. I write nearly every day but this wasn't always the case.

When I was a young adult I was really prolific--I turned out short stories and artwork with frightening ease. And then when I was flushed into the working world it all stopped. I just couldn't get back in my groove. So I started to tell myself ridiculous stories about all the things I had before that "made me creative". I tried to simulate those things and blamed my lack of creative fire on my job, my relationship, obligations etc. I blamed it on living in a two bedroom apartment with no "space" to write in. I blamed it on being in a relationship with a highly extroverted person who loved being social (and taking me with her). I blamed it on everything except my failure to sit down and put pen to paper.

Instead of writing I spent my time thinking about what I didn't like doing, about how to escape the things I didn't like, and about how my life would be so much better once I finally escaped every irritation. Because then, once I wasn't irritated, I could finally have a creative life.

I played make believe that my creative life would happen in a future time when things were magically better.

One day I realized things wouldn't get better unless I sat down and wrote.

The space I wanted to have to create I had to create inside myself--the will to create no matter what my circumstances.

The will to create doesn't require a nice studio, perfect quite, comfort or other rarified qualities. It means making my creative life a priority. A top priority--right up there with my family life but not second to anything.

Today I'm a writer with a mission to go further with my writing--to tell better stories, write more helpful essays and to encourage people who want to create whatever they want in life (the epic sh*t I keep talking about) even if circumstances or experts say that isn't going to wash.

It all started with me deciding to have a creative life and then believing the circumstances I had were perfect already.

Are you waiting for things to change so things will change for you?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Trash thoughts didn't trash me

The last few weeks feel like I've been going from one personal energy crisis to the next. This happens. Life doesn't just stop because things aren't going smoothly or there is a cluster of "must do now" work happening. Usually, I navigate most of these things pretty gracefully but last week my mind decided it was going to go into full tantrum mode and tell me everything was total shit.

Everything. Total shit.

I woke up last Wednesday and immediately was treated to a long litany of bad news and negative predictions all courtesy of my mind.

Luckily I had a 7AM bus to catch as morning meetings so I couldn't pull the covers over my head. Up and out the door I went.

On the bus I tried all my techniques to work with my thoughts, looking for how true they were, telling myself of all the things I had to be grateful and happy about.

NOPE!!! This morning my mind was particularly stubborn. That coupled with some random body pain and fatigue from not sleeping that great made for a big old cup of WAHHHHHHH!!!!!

People, I have stuff to do!

The world isn't sitting still waiting for me to have a good day.

There is a story I always turn to when things feel like crap. I don't know if its a true story or not but I like the idea so here it is.

Lance Armstrong (lets put aside our opinions about doping etc for another time) when he was recovering from cancer was extremely weak--he was emaciated and lost significant muscle mass in his once powerful legs. But he was also on a mission. To get back into training, his team mates helped him stay up on the bike while he did whatever training he was able to do.

Somedays, you just need to be taped to the bike.


I wasn't dealing with chemo. I was just a bit tired and low spirits. My brain wanted me to think I was dying but that wasn't it at all.

I had a morning appointment with Precious. I DID NOT want to work out (my brain already told me it was futile and I really needed to go back to sleep). However, I showed up early and did some deep stretches to help juice up my body. After Precious got hold of me I doing squats and lunges well enough. By the end of my workout I felt much better. We even made it through two circuits.

Progress.

For the rest of the week I made sure I got more sleep and kept up my routines. I dropped a few social commitments and stuck to the basics. I looked at my schedule and moved things around so I would be using my energy at its peak instead of deferring it to "later".

I didn't get everything done this week I had in scope but I got a lot done. A lot more than if I listened to my grim pronouncements.

I even managed to launch my new program and revised website.

Ok, that's it for this Sunday morning. さようなら for now.

If you have a tale of how you overcame your trashy mind talk, I want to hear it! Please send me a message or leave a comment below.







Monday, January 26, 2015

There is no other shoe to drop

Have you ever had a run of good things show up in your life and then get really nervous that something is going to come out of the blue and screw up your happy dance?

Let me tell you a little story.

Just a little over a week ago I was so elated that my kitchen was getting a full re-do and the result was a shiny new fridge with all the bells and whistles we'd hoped for at a dramatically reduced price.

A day after I published that blog entry I noticed my cat Turtle running around the house at full-speed. He looked like he was being chased by demons. I suspected our two small dogs had chased him but he was panting and foaming at the mouth, twitching and nervously jerking his head behind him like there was something evil just past his shoulder. He was staring into the distance, not recognizing me or his surroundings.

12:30AM we were in the pet hospital emergency room with Turtle hoping the vet could tell us what was wrong. Twenty four hours and a thousand dollars later it was determined he was having seizures. Something was wrong with our poor boy's brain and he needed to get on medication right away.


Later that week I take my Mom to the doctor to get a second opinion after a prior doctor had mismanaged her case. The new doctor called for a biopsy and sent me back to pick up the tissue sample the original doctor had taken. Forms, and phone calls and faxing and transfer fees--the original doctor wasn't interested in making it easy to get a second opinion it seemed.

I'm sure Mom is ok or at least will be with the right treatment. Still, its a biopsy.

Plenty of other things were happening on other fronts--some of them needing my immediate attention or at least needing me to take notice.

In the middle of that I had scheduled myself to teach a class on my book. I had many people sign up so I knew I needed to pull it together and make the magic happen.

Mountain high to the valley of stress below.

So many feelings.

But despite how stressful it was worrying over my Mom's diagnosis and my poor cat's well being, I found myself having pockets of joy.

When I focused on the class I was going to teach or my writing projects or even the fact that in a couple of days our new fridge would be showing up real joy would show up--real visceral joy.

Feeling joy when other things felt terrible left me kind of confused. How can these things be existing in the same space? Also, getting happy over something as trivial as a major appliance made me feel a little like a bad person.

Real joy just happens. Just like real pain.

I recall every time in the past where I talked myself out of moments of happiness worried about the "something" that was bound to happen to show me the error of being in a state of bliss.

Call it what you will, but that kind of denial is an ugly superstition born of the fact that life is in constant motion and we are exposed to a variety of experiences that elicit both pleasure and pain--sometimes in close and coincidental proximity--sometimes at the same time as well.

Here is some truth. You can't escape pain by denying joy--even the joy of a simple, silly thing.

Pain happens. So does joy. Let them both in. Feel them both fully.

Our little boy home again.
Just two nights after rushing him to the vet, we brought our kitty home fully doped up on anti-seizure meds.

That night Turtle slept between us. Every so often I would reach out to stroke his silky coat and feel the subtle rise and fall of his ribcage.

He was weak but hour by hour started to show that he remembered us. Eventually he treated us to his deep, contented purr. I couldn't stop my eyes from welling up--overcome with feelings of love and relief for this little soul I was sure we lost.

I don't know how long we get to have Turtle--you invite pets into your life knowing that they won't live as long as you and that someday you will lose them. I'm reminded of this every time something like this happens. But I don't stay in that thought.

I won't deny myself the joy of having Turtle with me today. I also won't spare myself the pleasure of sitting with Mom at her table for Sunday lunch. Or even the simple satisfaction of filling our new fridge with fresh produce and cold drinks. Its all good.

Do you believe in the other shoe dropping? Are you willing to give that up in favor of extra joy? Drop me a note and tell me about it. I'd love to hear from you.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

The magic of making room for what you want

This is a simple tale. No metaphysical magic implied but the real world kind that comes from when you move things around to make space for the things you desire. 

I give to you the tale of the new fridge that just wouldn't fit.

We have a guest living with us. She is a long time friend and business associate. Her specialty is helping her clients remove friction from their business and home spaces. Having her living with us is a little like having a genie in the house--things just start working better because of the small changes she recommends and implements. 

One evening she asked me about the small iceberg forming under the ice maker in the freezer.

"Oh yes, the freezer doesn't keep a consistent temperature--we want a new one but none of the fridges we've looked at will fit in the space. They are all about an inch too tall unless we get rid of that cabinet above the fridge. We are already short on usable storage."

That area of the kitchen isn't really storage. The cabinet is too high to use so we usually do things like pile bags of pretzels on the of the refrigerator. Its an area of clutter we never quite mastered.

"What if I can fix your storage problem"? 
Cabinet-GONE!


"Ok, but I don't see how you can". 

Thus began a whirl wind of our guest  doing spacial drawings and creating 3-d mock ups with cardboard in the kitchen to show us a variety of ways we could redo storage. She moved items around showcasing her mock ups to show us how to reclaim space and get our counters back. 

After a week of a variety of prototypes, a solution was decided on that would give us four times the space we'd lose from the little cabinet and give us additional clear counter space. 

We took a trip to IKEA and found an occasional table that fit the space but needed some minor changes to be perfect. We installed it the next day and started moving items into their new home. The kitchen felt larger and easier to move it. 

Even if we didn't get the fridge I felt the effort was completely worth while. (also, I was a little afraid of removing the cabinet and possibly screwing up the look of kitchen if I botched it--so if nothing else happened I was good to go).

The next day Keri and I went for dim sum breakfast and decided on a whim to go up to the IKEA and get some small shelves that our guest pointed out that would help which would clear up some counter space. While up there we went to the neighboring Big Orange (not the real name of the store) to order a new blind for the kitchen.

Lo and behold Big Orange had fridges on sale! And there was the one Keri had just told me about for $1500 off list! 

Wow! I was very excited about this synchronicity and called the sales guy over.
Just then Keri noticed some scratches and a small dent. I wasn't too put off because of the price reduction but Keri was significantly less enthused. I told the sales guy we were interested in getting the fridge but then he said 1. delivery wasn't free, 2. they wouldn't take away the old unit and 3. we would have to bring the new unit in ourselves--it was their policy. WTF??? We bought from Big Orange before and they included all of that for free. 

The scratches, the difficulty with delivery (it weighs over 300lbs!!! not likely I'm going to be able to move that even with our guest helping!) It started to feel "hard"--like I was about to force something to happen because the deal seemed so good. Even though I was excited by the savings I realized my inner compass was swinging away from it. Keri said she felt it too so we walked out. 

In the evening Keri wanted to shop for some pretty baskets for our new storage unit and asked if we could "just look" at the fridges at Giant Yellow Tag (also, not the real name of the store). We went out and Giant Yellow Tag  was also having a sale! 

I walked the aisles not seeing an option that was good for our kitchen. Just as I thought we ran out of inventory Keri called me one row over. 

There in front of us was a floor model fridge for $300 less than the one we saw that afternoon at Big Orange. No scratches on the outside and when we opened it they hadn't even taken out the packing materials--essentially a brand new unit. It wasn't the same maker/model but comparable in every way! Plus purchase included full install plus disposal of old unit. 

After paying for the unit, taxes and extended warranty (you want extended warranty that fo sho) the total was the same as the pretax on scratched unit we saw earlier! 

We paid the good man and our new fridge will be here thursday. This afternoon we removed the cabinet and the area is ready for our new toy!

No metaphysical mumbo jumbo here. But I have found time and again that when you intentionally make your circumstances ready for the thing you want, that thing has a way of turning up. I think its more like our minds are then trained to go on an intensive search to make the magic happen. 

What works, works. 

Give it a try. Think of something you really really want. Then do the things you know you need to do to make that thing fit in your life. See what happens. Then send me a message. I want to hear!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Putting yourself out there when you are an Introvert

One thing I've noticed from so many of the bright and shiny people I know is that a good number of them classify themselves as Introverted. 

I am one of them. 

This doesn't mean that I'm shy (although I can be, especially when I'm in situations or in a frame of mind that trends towards feeling shaky or insecure) but it does mean that social interactions with groups larger than 2 or 3 cost me something in terms of my personal energy. It means that every time I put myself out there and have to be heard above the maddening crowd I am spending from my personal reserves. Those reserves have to be replenished which I do by spending time alone doing my favorite things (reading, writing, art projects, taking long walks, meditating) or spending time with one or two close friends.
I can't see you so you can't see me!

When you fall into the Introvert camp there is a huge temptation to exclude yourself from highly visible, energy expending activities such as leading teams, public speaking or anything that puts you in contact with lots of people.

The thing is, being with people is where its at. 

If you are a writer, artist, teacher or anyone who creates, connecting your work to an audience is one of the most important things you can learn to do.

I had a meeting with my mentor this last week and I asked her about her first year as a coach and mentor and what was one of the things that helped her get over the hump (from spinning her wheels to an active, growing business) and she said it was being comfortable talking to others about herself.

I caught my breath for a moment. The idea of "talking about myself" pushed a big button.

One of the virtues we are taught as children (especially females) is to think of others first and not be so talky about ourselves. I mean, how can you serve others if all you are doing is blah-di-blahing about yourself? 

Well, my mentor isn't known for blah-di-blahing.

The kind of "talking about yourself" she was describing wasn't about ego, over-sharing or thumping your chest. Its about connecting--finding the intersection between you and the person sitting across from you. And to do that, you have to risk sharing yourself.

For introverts this is important to remember. Genuine connection can energize but to get to the energy you have to risk putting yourself out there. You do that by sharing about yourself. 

I took some public speaking classes a couple years ago and I was dead certain these would be a horrible waste of time. I just hated the idea of getting in front of a group of people (and it was on a Saturday AND my boss was making me go!!!). But I discovered I was actually pretty good at telling a story in front of an audience when I connected with the individual people in the room instead of talking "at" the group. 

I actually remember going home after the class feeling pretty chipper despite having interacted with a group all day--a much better outcome than what I expected (which included lots of Anime on Netflix and Smartfood...not a brilliant recharge but I wasn't exactly anticipating an evening of meditation after that).

Bottom line, I had to learn that I could manage my energy in these group (or even crowd) settings. Also, the more bitter pill, was that I had to own that I was using my introversion as an excuse to not share things that are important to me. There is a big difference between the manageable concern of dealing with your energy in a crowd and more garden variety concern of the fear of being judged. 

Fear of putting yourself out there is usually married to garbagey thoughts such as "its egotistical to talk about myself", "who am I to go on like this", "those people will think I'm (uniformed, untalented, annoying, dumb, a lightweight, unhinged, over-reaching etc)". 

Well, some people may or may not be thinking trash thoughts about what you are offering--SO WHAT. 

In any given crowd there are going to be some people thinking shit thoughts about whatever they experience "out there". The trick is to not get caught up in it. Whatever "they" are thinking, has little to do with you--you just happened to be the one that started up a negative thought loop they already were nursing. Focusing on them will separate you from the people in that very same crowd who need to experience your art. Be brave for those people and go put yourself out there anyway. 

So, my fellow introverted artists, writers, dreamers and change makers, I hope you will challenge yourself to connecting with the people who need your good stuff. Find the connection, let the haters hate and bring your magic to the world.

If you want to see me put myself out there in a very public way sign up for my web class on Getting Agile with your Life. Free and there will be a Q&A to cover how this relates to your goals.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I just killed a habit as old as my home internet connection

I have had internet in my home in one form or another since 1994--yup 20 years.

And for those 20 years I would sit down first thing in the morning with my cup of coffee and read email and browse the internet.

At first it meant connecting with a 28.8 kbps modem and then with a 56 kpbs (oooh, twice as fast...sort of) until I moved into a house of my own and had cable internet installed.

At first, I couldn't wait to see what surprises would show up in my inbox. But after a while it just became a habit. It was my version of looking at the newspaper in the morning.

Well, I recently quit this habit.

Why?

Spending my waking moments looking at  Facebook etc was costing me.

I knew I was losing prime brain time and spending far too much time browsing which resulted in a whole lot of procrastination. I let it go on and on for years as a more or less harmless vice--I wasn't ready to let it go until I realized I wanted to spend more time writing. That time wasn't going to just show up in my calendar. I needed to make that time.

On the first day of the experiment I settled into my chair with my coffee and resisted the initial urge to flip open my laptop. Instead I looked out the window.

There was a dove on the telephone wire over my fence. The sun was reflecting on its breast, making it appear golden. For a while I continued to have the impulse to pick up my laptop to read or (trickier) to write someone a message that needed to be sent RIGHT THEN.

I just let the urge pass, made a note in my notebook to contact my friend later and continued to watch the dove on the wire.

I finished my coffee and then started my day--a full hour ahead of when I usually would. I managed to jot down some ideas for some new projects and head out for a long walk.

I checked my laptop later in the day for all the things I normally would have at dawn. None of it was so compelling that I lost anything by waiting until later.

At that moment I made a decision about how I would start my mornings moving forward.

Only a few days before this I couldn't conceive of not starting my morning with a little browsing over coffee. It just seemed like an impossible habit to break. But by changing this habit I stopped up an enormous energy leak.

It turns out I didn't have to force myself to get up earlier to get my writing in. I could just get up and get going.

Small changes can yield huge results.

The new year is upon us. You can change a habit any old time (I just did) but I know its still popular to start things when the calendar flips over.

Have a big goal you want to work on? Want to succeed in making it happen? Check out the book I just published on Amazon. 


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

One lesson I hope people take away from the book


Well, despite the rewrite, the downtime in Maui, the ER, and the EVERY STUPID OTHER THING that showed up in my path I actually AM publishing in December.

December 16th to be exact!

I'm pretty damn excited.

I hired my friend, the enormously talented Kerri Antes to do a photo shoot so I would have some professional pictures for my author page and also for my website and other promo materials.

Here are a couple.

People, there are thousands of pictures of me on the web joking around, making faces etc. There are none that I can think of with me just looking nice.

I hired someone else to catch my good side because I needed some distance and for someone else to "show me" my good side.

This is pretty bad news (not that I could take a photo like this by using selfie mode on my iPhone).

No, because it's a pretty tight parallel to the way I've been treating my book project.

People come to me to help get over the baggage that keeps them from putting themselves out there, to take risks and to drop paralyzing perfectionism.

I want my clients to be aggressively on their own side and refuse to take crap from anyone who isn't on board with whatever crazy fantastic thing they want for themselves.

When I was working with my own coach this week (yes, I have one) she nailed me on my doubt on being able to draw an audience for the book.

"Why don't you think you can do that"?

"I guess I don't have the evidence that I can. I don't know if people will like it or find it valuable".

There is something stupidly incongruous with putting as much effort as I did in distilling down the information my new book contains if I have some lingering doubt that people won't find it valuable or be drawn to its content and lessons.

Good lord! I'm glad I didn't have this evidence requirement when I started writing. There isn't a whole lot of power behind the thought "I'm going to write this thing and maybe someone will read it".

No--you write a book because you want to reach the world.

And you can't wait for the world to tell you it's ok.

I've spent tens of thousands of dollars and years in effort acquiring the knowledge and experiences that fed the content of this book. I threw out everything and started from scratch so that the content would be concise and accessible. I did it because I wanted my audience to get something solid.

Being aggressively on my own side on this one.

If you undertake any new endeavor, don't cheat yourself with foolish thoughts such as "I don't know if its good enough" or "why bother".

Don't.

Just don't.