Monday, April 7, 2014

Own It.

This weekend, I attended a pretty powerful conference called the Instigator Experience. 60 attendees with big ideas that I am certain will change the world, or at the very least, change some people who need their brilliance.
And yet I was struck by how after meeting some of them and asking them about their bold idea, they'd lower their voices or say, "Well I kinda sorta have this idea..." or they'd say, "Umm I really want to do (idea) but..." and they'd list reasons why it might not work.
As a former journalist, I know the power of words. I know the power of conviction. And if you don't believe in yourself or your ideas or your purpose, I will never believe in it, either.
Ownership is powerful.
Ownership of your ideas, your beliefs, your principles is the line you draw in the sand with the universe. You throw down and say, This is who I am.
You've only to look at the people you admire to see they not only embrace their identities and ideas, they compel others to do the same.
Oprah drew a line in the sand years ago and said from now on, my show will purposefully create connection and positive change. And it worked (despite what tv "experts" told her at the time). She created a movement of people who believe in the power of positivity and compassion.

Ellen DeGeneres drew a line in the sand and said, I am a lesbian. This is who I am. She lost her tv show, and faced rejection and criticism....temporary circumstances. Look at her now.

Keenan Ivory Wayans drew a line in the sand and said, I'm not getting the roles I want. So I will create my own roles and my own show. In Living Colour broke ground and is still treasured by its fans (like me! I loved Men on Film...genius).

We can all do this in our own lives. We can own who we truly are, unapologetically. In fact, scratch that. We can own who we truly are, joyfully!

So stop hiding, coming into the light and live your truth.

We need authenticity. We need individuals. We need YOU.

As you are.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Your Body Loves You

A friend of mine recently began experiencing some frightening health issues. Panic attacks, debilitating illness, the kinds of things that don't typically happen in your thirties. As soon as I learned of the situation, I immediately wondered what my friend's body was trying to tell him.

I've had my own health issues in the past that were, in reality, warning flares shot into the darkness intended to get me to pay attention to what I was doing to myself. Of course, I did not know that at the time. Back then, I simply got frustrated and angry with my body because it was keeping me from working harder. That is, until I read Dr. Christiane Northrup's Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom.

It was 2009. I was working at a major news network in Chicago at the time and under major stress. I was constantly jumping on airplanes, waking up in hotels, working without sleep. Go, go, go. It seemed exciting at first but that quickly wore off. I was exhausted but I forced myself to keep going. And then my health began to fail.

One weekend in January, I woke up with a bad headache. Headaches were nothing new. I regularly had migraines and I took my prescription medication and thought that was that. That day, however, the pills didn't work. My headache got worse, nausea set in, and suddenly I felt the worst pain of my life. It was so bad, I knew something was really wrong. I tried lying down, or taking a nap but that was out of the question. That's when I called my mom. She urged me to go to the hospital but I could not drive myself. I finally reached a friend who, thank god, said she was on her way. I called my mom back to let her know my friend was coming, and asked her to stay on the line with me. The next thing I remember, I was on the floor, the phone on its side next to me. I had passed out from the pain. At the hospital, I was so dehydrated, I was immediately given fluids and morphine. Finally, the doctors gave me a reason for the pain: an ovarian cyst had ruptured.

That was scary enough. And yet, just a couple of months later, I was on my way into work on the L (train), reading emails on my Blackberry when the words ceased being legible, and turned instead into squiggles on a screen. I blinked and blinked but could not read the screen. I looked up and attempted to read the train map above the door. Blurred squiggles. That's when the pounding in my head began. Bam bam bam, it was like someone was hammering the left side of my brain. I started to panic. I didn't know what was wrong. I managed to make it into the bureau and tried to pretend like everything was normal. But when my producer asked if I was okay, I said, "I can't read anything. I can't read. My head is pounding. Something is really wrong." We rushed to the hospital and they immediately admitted me because the staff suspected I was having an aneurysm. I was put into the Cat Scan machine, and thankfully my results were normal. Diagnosis: abnormal migraine. Cause: stress.

That wasn't the last visit to the ER. Just a few weeks later, I was again doubled over in pain. This time, a kidney infection. I was at my wits end and so was my family. After a lifetime of health, I'd now been to the ER 3 times in 6 months. It made no sense. So I went to see a holistic doctor. She examined me, drew blood and asked me many questions. At the end of my visit, I asked, "What can I do?" She looked right at me and said, "You're extremely stressed. Quit your job." But there was no way I was going to quit. I was finally a network correspondent and nothing was going to ruin that.

With quitting out of the question but my health in jeopardy, I was in a rough place. That's when I serendipitously came across Dr. Northrup's book. I finally made the connection between my health issues and my current mindset. She explained that most migraine sufferers are Type A personalities, who hold excruciatingly high standards for themselves. Hello! That was me! She went on to say there was no pill to cure it. Instead, a migraine sufferer had to learn to ease up on themselves. Be nicer to themselves. Be encouraging. That was the lightning bolt moment. I realized I constantly criticized myself, I cut myself down, nothing I did was ever good enough for myself. I treated myself in ways that I would NEVER treat others. And that had to end.

I also realized that my body had been trying to save me from myself. That often when we inexplicably experience health issues, it's because of unhealthy mindsets or extreme stress. And I was unhealthy. I was extremely stressed, overtired and taxing my immune system. This realization changed my life. I finally understood that our health, so precious, so priceless, must be valued above all else. And if something we are doing is harming our health, we must take steps to change our behavior or situation.

In my case, it had everything to do with the unrelenting pace and impossible bar I'd set for myself. The workload. The pressure to be perfect. As I eased up on those ridiculous standards, I became happier. More centered.

Perfect is prison. And I was determined to break out.

Thankfully, I've never revisited those scary days. My health is great and I actively work to keep it that way. Most telling of all, I've never again had a migraine since that scary day in Chicago. I truly value myself these days. And that's the best medicine.

So if you find yourself experiencing physical symptoms that you can't explain, don't be angry at your body. It may be trying to help you, to force you to stop what you're doing and pay attention to areas in your life that may be out of balance. By no means do I believe that all illness is related to what I'm talking about and clearly medical issues deserve medical attention. However, it's worth exploring how your mindset, your current career environment, your relationship, whatever you're dealing with may be affecting your health.

Above all, be nicer to yourself. You deserve it, mind+body+soul.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Unsure about your Passion? Start Small and Choose Joy.

My last post on giving yourself permission to follow your passion touched a nerve. Some really loved it, which I appreciate. And for many readers, it also prompted some tough questions, namely:

What if I don't know what my passion is?
What if I'm not sure what I really want?

If you are asking these questions, then the time to answer them is NOW.

Let me explain: Ambiguity is perhaps the most dangerous mindset of all. You can get stuck here for years, vaguely aware that you're unhappy or uncomfortable, your passions and dreams dormant within you and yet…you don't do anything.


Because at least the pain you're in is familiar.
At least that job you hate pays the bills.
At least you're not alone.

It's tempting to stay here at the corner of unhappy and status quo.

But you can't.

Life is constant evolution, constant change.

Things end. Things begin.

When you stay stuck, you're denying yourself the richness of life that makes it worth living. Stagnant water kills fish and plants. Stagnant lives kill dreams and passion.

So how do you get unstuck? You start by choosing joy.

My sisters bring me joy. 
Ask yourself what makes you happy.

Perhaps it's playing the piano.
Perhaps it's writing in your journal - the things for which you're grateful or the things you'd like to accomplish that day.
Perhaps it's enrolling in a cooking class.
Perhaps it's taking a hike this afternoon as the sun sets.

Small choices. Small actions. But if they bring you joy, they bring you closer to a life that truly makes you happy.

When I left news, I didn't have a totally clear idea of what was to come. I was scared. I was uncertain.

So I started small.

I enrolled in salsa dancing classes because nothing puts a smile on my face like dancing (well, maybe cats). I'd always felt insecure about salsa dancing because I'd never properly learned the steps. And yet from the first class, I fell in love. I loved the way it felt to step in sync with my partner, to execute a turn well, my hair whipping around in time to the beat. We'd wrap up 2 hours later, sweaty, laughing and joyful.

That class made it much easier to do the kinds of things that made me happy because well, feeling good  feels good! So I wrote stories and then a book. I volunteered. I travelled. I kick boxed. I wrapped up ambivalent situations that weren't serving me and made decisions to pursue the things and partnerships that do.

The more I choose what makes me happy, the more I feel empowered to take risks for what really brings me joy.

Now I'm poised to launch my first ever business.

And I swear I am not lying when I say if I hadn't started my salsa classes, I don't think I would have had the cojones to start a company. I didn't know how to dance but I was willing to make mistakes and missteps, to learn and laugh at myself. And I will undoubtedly do much more of that in learning how to be an entrepreneur.

So take those first steps toward a more joyful life. Heck, sashay, shimmy, twirl, whatever makes you smile!

Choosing joy is the key to killing ambiguity and putting yourself on the path to your true purpose.

Flow freely and live joyfully, my friends.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Give You Permission

When I first realized I wanted to leave news, I remember thinking, "How can I possibly leave a career I spent years building? I sacrificed so much to get here!"

That's exactly what I told my best friend. She was quiet for a few seconds and then she said, "Do you need permission to leave?"

She was absolutely right. I needed someone to tell me it was okay to leave and start down a completely new path. I told her, yes, please, I need permission. And she gave me the greenlight to start fresh.

I've thought about that conversation often, especially over the last year. My life looks completely different than it did a year ago and I'm so glad that it does.

Permission is a funny thing.

It means that we are unsure about pursuing what we really want. We worry that maybe our dreams are a little too big, a little unreasonable, and highly likely to fail. We think perhaps it's best to stick with what's safe, what's secure and what we already know. But our hearts yearn for more. We fantasize about what it would be like to actually climb Everest/start our business/call that guy we've liked for so long and tell him how we really feel. And then we talk ourselves out of it.

How much have you talked yourself out of lately?

I used to do this all the time. My family and friends will tell you I would call them excitedly with this idea or that…that would inevitably fade away, me having done nothing about it because I was too worried about what other people would think or say or because I convinced myself I might fail.

That's when a few of us started what we call automatic permission. Ideally, you wouldn't need permission to do anything you want to do. And that's what I'm working up to these days. If there's something I want to do, I do it. No questions asked. No permission necessary. However, for the really big stuff, I have friends that I call and say, "Listen, I'm thinking of doing x." And they reply, "Awesome, go for it." Permission granted.

I've realized that it's a crime against yourself when you don't pursue what really moves you, shakes you, wakes you up in the middle of the night. When we talk about our heart's desire, what we really mean is what we are here to do. Our purpose. And it's not corner offices or cubicles or 401K's. Those are important, I get it. But one life…ONE LIFE PEOPLE.

Arriving in Antarctica!
My little sister is one of the ones who gets that. She's currently in Antarctica. On paper, her job
sounds…well…not exciting at all. She's a steward at a research facility. She prepares meals. However, in the short time she's been there, she's trekked all over the continent, had face time with penguins in the wild, worked the ice ramps where planes land and taken insanely gorgeous pictures of a landscape that may not last another 30 years. She is exploring and learning and living in the truest sense of the term. At 25, she's already visited all 7 continents and taken part in fascinating adventures, painting her face in Burma, visiting an orangutan refuge in Borneo, working in a bar in Northeastern Australia.

She never asked for permission to do any of this. She simply listened to her heart and went for it.

She inspires me. In turn, I try to listen to my heart as often as possible. And then I do what I feel moved to do. Because I know it may inspire others to begin doing the same.

So if there's anything you secretly long to do, don't wait.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Forget Inspiration. Try Perspiration.

Disclaimer: this post is not warm and fuzzy. 

If you consume social media, it's hard to get around it: it's a Successories world and we're living in it. 

You remember Successories, right? Back in the 90s? Those ubiquitous posters and office decor with pictures of eagles and mountain climbers that featured an inspirational message along the bottom? They were supposed to motivate us to climb that corporate ladder. Instead, they usually made us feel like setting fire to our cubicles. 

Hate to say it but I'm kinda starting to feel that way lately. Whether it's Instagram or Facebook or Twitter, I'm surrounded by artsy photos of insanely fit athletes that urge me to work harder, lift more, and run faster. Or photos with messages that bark out orders like Zen drill sergeants to:


Oh. My. God. 

Right now, if I had to make my own damned inspirational quote, it would be a few white words on a black background:


Look, I get it. I've posted a few of these inspirational thingies myself - usually Harry Potter quotes or Winnie the Pooh or whatever. And I understand that reading these in the right mood gives you a mental surge that makes you want to run up the stairs like Rocky with that theme in your ears. YES! YOU ARE A CHAMPION! 

I need that from time to time. Everyone does. However, inspiration porn (yes I went there, I called it that) is a temporary fix

You know what really works? DOING THE WORK

Forget what everyone else is doing (this is advice I need to take my own damned self). Focus on the work you have in front of you. And do it. Put some words on a page. Make that phone call you've been meaning to make. Outline your business plan. 

Because you know what feels so much better? Crossing things off your to do list. 

Truly successful people are WORKING. Their example serves as inspiration. 

And I don't mean making millions. 

They're just getting stuff done. Plugging away.

It's incremental. It's slow. It's "put the ass in the chair and stay there" type stuff. 

Once you start making progress? KEEP GOING.

It's not sexy. But it works. 

Start with the perspiration.

The inspiration will come. 

- XO,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hey You! Yes You! You're a Hero! Now Get to Work!

You start off the New Year excited and motivated, ready to throw yourself into new projects or business, when BAM! Something completely unexpected stops you in your tracks and knocks you over. This was not in the plan you wrote out when planning your goals for 2014. In fact, this is such an obstacle that it's blocking out the light that you felt in your spirit when thinking about all the awesome things you planned to do.
So what now?
Well, in my case I panicked a little and called my mom and best friend. Vented. Cried. I'll admit it, I cried. And then, I dried my eyes and got to work.
This is when it's helpful to have read Joseph Campbell's work.
He taught me about the hero's journey.
We are the heroes of our own lives. We are the protagonist, the lead character, and everything we experience makes up our journey, good and bad.
And here's where it gets interesting and useful: the bad is what counts.
Every hero encounters tests. Challenges. Situations that derail him/her from following their bliss. Situations that seem hopeless.
Think the Odyssey: getting blown all over oblivion when all you really want is to go home to your long suffering wife.
Or Harry Potter: try being 15 and wanting a girlfriend but having to fight acne AND evil.
Or Luke Skywalker: guess what? That guy trying to kill you? It's your dad! "You're not my father!" Oh yes he is, Luke. Oh yes he is.
Being a hero kind of sucks. Each time you vanquish an enemy, another challenge appears.
And that is entirely the point.
Anything worth having won't be easy.
You've got to fight.
You've got to kick in your reserve tank and keep going.
You've got to say, I want this more than I do an easy and comfortable life. I want this more than I do maintaining the status quo.
In my case, I've been in several situations that seemed dire and horrible at the time, but I managed to get through it and now I look back and say, Wow, that wasn't so bad. Or I saw, wow, that really sucked but I'm glad I got through it.
So I see this latest "argh-I hate this-why-why-why did this happen?" situation as just one more challenge in my hero's journey.
It ain't gonna be easy.
It may be painful financially and emotionally.
But I KNOW the end result is worth it.
Following your bliss is always worth the fight.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I'm not listening to you anymore.

I haven't blogged in a while because, well, I tend to get in my own head and talk myself out of it. These little voices say, "Who cares what you have to say? Do you really think you have useful stuff to impart?" Unfortunately I listen to them way too often. And I keep quiet.

It's scary to put yourself out there. Whether it's blogging, starting your own business, or ditching the corporate world to try something new, the mere fact that you are swimming against the tide is startling, both for you and those who know you.

And unless you're Kanye West who enjoys doing contrarian stuff (what I wouldn't do for some of that confidence!), it's tough to expose yourself to potential criticism.

The fact is: you will get criticized. If not by others, then believe me, you'll take of the job yourself. You'll feel small and scared and want to hide in some safe cubicle where no one will notice you, all the while hating yourself because you didn't try.

Which means…obviously…that you HAVE to try. You have to go for it. We weren't put on this earth to live small lives. We know this in our hearts. We are here to fulfill our magical, spectacular potential, whatever that may be.

In my case, I'm trying my hand at new things. Writing, trying to get my stories published, launching a media coaching business. Throw in a few charitable projects in Cambodia and other places and I have a full plate. That will REQUIRE me putting myself out there. That mere sentence just sent a chill through my heart.

And yet…I am surrounded by magnificent individuals who put themselves out there every day. They openly discuss their fears and the challenges they face and you know what happens? People rush to cheer them on and let them know they're on the right track because it's FRIGGIN INSPIRING to see people follow the map in their hearts toward the things that make them feel like they're squeezing life out of every second they're given on this planet.

That's who I want to be. I want to be brave. I want to believe enough in myself and the work I commit to do that it doesn't matter what the critics (including me) think. All that matters is that I am trying.

These are the conversations I have with myself every day. To admit this out loud in a blog seems nuts but…perhaps I'm not the only one. And if you know I'm struggling, then at least you'll know you're not alone.

So let's do this. Let's live.