The notion of our work being a two-part harmony

Sometimes my mantra for the day comes to me early. Sometimes later. Sometimes right before bed. Today, I was fortunate to find this thought upon which to meditate almost immediately after opening my eyes in the morning.

“All business vocations should strive for greatness (excellence/quality) and goodness (heart). All business vocations should have a harmony between profit and the desire to do good work for the world. How do you do this? By pursuing both priorities all the time.”
Shawn Askinosie in Meaningful Work: A Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, And Feed Your Soul

Do I pursue both of these priorities all the time? I know that, when woven together, they make an almost unbreakable combination that can carry me through “dry” times, times of doubt, and times of excitement with grace and purpose.

Do I give them equal weight and equal space in my daily activities?

Your destination will be all around you

I’ve never been very interested in relying on a GPS device in my car to get where I’m going.

I’m one of those crazies who loves maps, and I want to know where I’m going by seeing it on a map. I like knowing what’s on the way, just off the route. I like knowing whether I’m going east or west, and what landmarks exist that can help me to orient myself. I like to see the hospitable things along the way, like where I might buy some apples, or a friendly place to stop in for a cool drink and a snack. I like to know where I am, so, if technology fails, I can tell someone where to find me.

Even as we’ve entered the age of digital maps on Google, I still want to SEE where I am going by looking at a map, not be told step-by-bite-sized step by an electronic voice. The latter tells you nothing about where you are in the big scheme of things when you get there. And when you don’t know where you are, you don’t know how to get home if your gadget can’t figure it out.

The GPS approach to business doesn’t appeal to me either. There are so many formulas out there to get us to “success.”

Do this.
Be this way.
Then do this.
Then buy this.
Then go here.
Then write this, say this, sell this, herd them into a pen, funnel them into your mailing list, sell sell sell, all under the disguise of helping people.

Then you’ll be rich like your business guru (except you probably won’t). You will have reached the outcome they assured you was the right one, and the happy electronic voice will say “You’ve reached your destination.”

That isn’t too interesting to me either. I’m on a new path every moment of every day, with a map in my heart that shows me how I want to feel at the end of the day, where I want to wind up, and all the unexpected beauty and kindness that’s available all along the way.

I’d be interested in a nightstand GPS device that, every night when I lay down, whispers quietly to me, “Your destination is all around you. Nice job on the trip today.”


The unexpected joys of insomnia

I don’t get enough sleep. I know that. There are several reasons for that, none of them easily remedied, but there is one fringe benefit to it: I’m learning a lot.

Around 3:00am, my body decides it would prefer to get up, move around, drink water, and stare out at the Moon (and lately, Mars). When I can coax it into laying back down, I try to keep it entertained by listening to podcasts.

Generally, the podcasts in my playlist relate in some way to storytelling, doing work that matters, taking better care of our hard-working bodies and minds, or having a balanced and meaningful life. Good Life Project, Sounds True, The Minimalists, The Moth, Caffeine for the Soul, The Urban Monk… All have populated the pre-dawn hours of my life recently.

Here’s something fun that happens, though. My “other brain” is still listening even after I’ve fallen asleep, and it’s paying close attention.

Invariably, I’ll wake up again “for good” at 6:00 am, with one earbud still plugged into one ear, my iPod wedged in my armpit, and the podcast long finished. But I’ll remember very clearly something I heard while I was sound asleep. I stumble to my desk, grab the nearest pen-like object, and write a few words down that allow me to go back and find it again (there’s a special place in heaven for podcasts with transcripts…)  At the very least, it’s good food for thought, and at its best, it’s the answer to a perplexing question I’d been carrying in my heart.

It happened on Tuesday. And I’ve never shared this with anyone before, but I wanted to share today’s with you. It’s a little magical.

I woke and scribbled down a line from Alisoun Mackenzie’s wonderful “Give to Profit Podcast” in which she explores how to use our work and our businesses as “an opportunity to be kind.” I could remember something beautiful, so I went hunting for it and eventually found it:

“I didn’t have the time to keep my charitable giving separate from my business. So I brought my desire to make a difference in the world into the heart of my business.”


I’d been thinking about the mindset that many good people are attached to, the one that goes like this: “I need to make a lot of money with my business so I can support the causes and charities that matter to me. Once I’m bigger and have tons of cash, I’ll finally be able to give to those causes/volunteer more/change the world.”

Is that true? Do we have to wait?

Isn’t that something like, “I’ll be a nice person just as soon as my life is better”?

“I’ll stop patronizing that awful local business just as soon as a new one starts up”?

“My job tires me out too much to look for another job”?

What lies at the heart of your business? What can you be doing now with the work you already do, that doesn’t require any special income level, any special success metrics? How can you shape your business to be an engine for good – AND a livelihood that supports you?

Alisoun’s podcast is just brilliant, by the way:

My actions are the ground on which I stand

My actions are the ground on which I stand. —Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve been living in the world of words lately. As I try to grow this budding new “business” of mine (though that doesn’t seem a good description of it) I spend hours and hours writing, researching, listening to words of wisdom, and exploring.

I was talking with a client the other day who has been working on trying to build his business for some time. He has wonderful systems in place, a good vision statement, and beautiful product & service offerings designed.

And not a single client to show for it.

He’s been building the business in his head for a year. Building a website but not publicizing its existence. Building his expertise but not inviting anyone into it. His training is impeccable, his wisdom deep. But the weight of just carrying it around with no one stepping forward to say, “I want what you’re offering, here’s my money” was deepening into depression.

He asked me what to do.
I suggested he physically go out and find a client to work with.
He reminded me he didn’t know any clients.
I reminded him he knew some human beings.
He said that they weren’t interested in purchasing his coaching.
I said, who said anything about purchasing?

My advice was to close his laptop computer, get out of his home office, and ask, ideally in person, someone in his trusted circle (friends, family, cool colleagues) to be his coaching client, so he could try out what—until now—has been beautifully and productively happening only in his head and heart.

I suggested he make it someone who really believes in him and wants him to succeed, but also a) can benefit from what he’s doing, and b) is willing to be perfectly candid with him and give him good feedback.

Yes, I am a big believer in the small, bite-sized action as a powerful catalyst to jump out of torpor. Until the body moves, the brain will not get the picture.

Actions are the ground on which I stand. Thoughts and wisdom-gathering are essential.  But the action of reaching out—in real life—and working with a real human made of skin and bone and muscle and neurons is essential to get it all the click into place, like hooking the train engine up to its cars so you can finally take people on their journey.

Actions are tangible, physical, and stimulating to your brain, body, spirit, and energy in order to start attracting the right people to you.

Actions—even “free” things like the one I’ve suggested to my client—tell the universe, I am here, I am moving, I am ready. See?

In his situation, he didn’t need more learning, more online workshops, more reading, more podcasts, more website tweaks.

He needed action. (And he’s working on it. He has his first meeting next week with his former boss, who was interested in what he’s offering.)

Now that I’ve helped him, I wonder what MY action will be?


Yet another blog post about morning rituals: Yeah, I know. Sorry.

Oh no! Not another blog post about having a morning routine!

Okay, I get that. But I am looking out at all of you and I see that fourteen of you don’t yet have a morning ritual of your own, seven of you have one that you never remember to do, and three more are saying, “What is she talking about?”  I’ll refer to you as the Don’t Haves, the Avoiders, and the WTH tribes.

You three in WTH? This first part’s for you:

The morning ritual is something that’s been written about in Fast Company, Inc., the Wall Street Journal, and about a trillion other publications.  It’s been popular among high achievers for centuries. Marcus Aurelius had a morning ritual. Benjamin Franklin had one.  Mark Twain contributed the often-quoted advice more than a hundred years ago, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day” (translation: get the hard things out of the way first).

The theory is that, by starting your day with some sort of routine that combines contemplation, goal-setting, and various kinds of preparatory activities, you can set yourself up to have a productive, focused, and happy day—by intent, not by luck.

For you Avoiders (which is me sometimes)

There are so many reasons for avoidance. Or so I tell myself.

Leo Babauta (one of my heroes) first wrote about his morning routine in 2007 here.  His routine starts at 4:30am and takes about two hours.  Tony Robbins often talks about his “Hour of Power” and even had a podcast you could tune into if you couldn’t motivate yourself to do it alone.  Hal Elrod has a handy acronym for his version of it, S.A.V.E.R.S. – short for Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribe — which I tried for a while. It took about 30 minutes, and covered a lot of bases.

Each would last about two weeks. Then I’d find all the excuses in the world not to do it.

No matter what it says about me, I found that ALL of these were just too much of a time commitment to be sustainable.  (If that makes me an unfocused slacker, so be it.) I’m a person who does her most inspired work in the early morning within an hour of waking up, and I couldn’t seem to get myself to consistently postpone that creative window with a big block of time for some guru’s prescribed ritual.

I had to find something that was easy to stick with, felt good (not a chore), and had a measurable impact. Otherwise, I’d just be tempted to dive into the day right away.

And finally, for the Don’t Haves:

If you Google “morning ritual” you’ll find at least a gazillion different iterations of this. It might be helpful to take a chance at something like “(name of person you respect)’s morning routine” to see if something resonates. Or you can check out a newish book that catalogs the morning routines of a slew of noteworthy people called My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired by Benjamin Spall.

After failing to stick to any of the mainstream wisdom about this, rather than sink into self-flagellation, I sat with it a while.

I decided, to steal a line from The Martian, that I had to logic the sh*t out of it. So I wrote down my criteria:

Drink and breathe. My body is dry, dry, dry when I wake up, and it’s been running on decreased oxygen levels. We don’t breathe as deeply when we’re sleeping, and not all our alveoli (lung spaces) are on duty at night.  It’s a wonder any of us can think straight. Drinking water and waking my lungs and brain up with some good deep breathing gets the machine jumpstarted again.
Move. Simple. And effective. I’ve noticed that if I move my body before I sit down to write, I can actually…write well. Come up with ideas. Not stare out the window with my pen suspended above the paper. If I don’t get any movement in, my thoughts and creativity are like sludge.
Notice: What’s going right in my world? There’s plenty of time later to think about what’s not, in fact it’s hard to avoid. Making sure I check in once a day with what I’m grateful for has helped me stay sane.
Write: Capture, on real paper, what I’d like to have done prior to sitting down in this exact space again tomorrow.

And all of that has to take less than 15 minutes, or I will. Not. Do it.

A tall order, delivered

Three years ago I attended a workshop offered by local coach Katy Moses Huggins called Kick Start Your Business.  Lots of super-useful stuff eventually came out of that workshop, much of which still drive my work systems.  But the part I implemented immediately, and which has made a massive difference in my work, was her morning ritual, which takes about 10 minutes. It looks something like this for me:

3 minutes of movement.  No rules on this. It’s whatever gets breath, body, blood moving.  I usually click on the coffee pot, set a timer, and do 3 minutes of whatever movement seems to fit that morning.  Stepping up and down the carpeted step down into my family room, walking around the quiet house lifting hand weights, easy yoga positions, wrestling with the dog, or just going outside and pulling some weeds.

1 minute of deep, rhythmic breathing.  I’m a person who routinely robs her brain of oxygen when stressed, by shifting my breathing to shallow, short, barely-useful breaths.  Conscious deep breathing oxygenates my brain and gets me thinking more clearly almost immediately. I couple this with drinking two very large glasses of water; one before, one after.

3 minutes of gratitude.  I never would’ve believed this mattered if I hadn’t tried it. Even on the most stressful of mornings, I force myself to be quiet and think of the people, places, things, fateful life events, everything and anything good that has graced my life and made me what I am. Instead of leaping right into everything that’s wrong and needs to be fixed, I start with what’s right. When I don’t do this, my day plays out entirely differently, and stressors become nightmares.

3 minutes of powerful actions I can take that day to make progress toward the life I want.  I keep a special, inviting multicolored journal and pen on the coffee table to sit and do this part.  It guides my entire day.  Taking a hint from Leo Babauta, I write down my three “MITs” (most important things) that I want to be sure I complete before the end of the day.  And then anything else that my gut says would bring me to day’s end feeling complete, powerful and happy.

That’s 10 minutes.  This short amount of time works for me.  I have a very slow-dripping old coffee maker, and I find that I can usually complete the whole ritual while it’s doing its thing.  Then I can move into my day, which usually involves doing some writing first (daily writing has been one of my goals for the last few years), then working on my MITs.

I’ve never been one who could easily stick to a routine.  I’m just not wired that way.  I follow sparks of inspiration hither, thither and yon, and sometimes I get to the end of my work day and feel as though I had fun, but didn’t get anywhere near the work output I’d hoped for.

This morning ritual has been part of my life for some time now, and I can honestly say that when I DON’T make time for it, for whatever reason (insomnia, early morning crises, etc)  I feel it just as harshly as if I’d forgotten to eat, or was catching a bad cold.  I’m “off” in every way, and at the end of the day, it feels like I’ve been wandering around like a Roomba, running into limitations and turning around and around, covering the territory of my life but sooo inefficiently.

And frankly, there are too many things I want to do with my remaining days here on Earth to waste time that way.

So, yeah. The morning ritual thing has been beaten to death, and I’m sorry. But I still advise you to have one — but craft one for yourself. It’s turned me into a person I never thought I could be.


The moving walkway: How knowing our own patterns can keep us on target

Once, while sitting at Denver International Airport waiting for a crowded flight, the only empty seat to sit down was at the end of one of the many moving walkways that whisk people quickly to their gates.

The tinny little electronic voice—a pleasant woman-robot’s voice—droned on and on,

“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”
“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”
“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”

In between each repetition, there were three seconds (ask me how I know).

I should’ve moved (standing would have been better, right?) but I couldn’t. I was mesmerized by a pattern I kept seeing.

People would step off the moving walkway with their bags, and then do a 180-degree turn and walk back the way they came, to a gate they’d passed. The gate was usually halfway back to the start of the moving walkway. Sometimes they had to run back.

It reminded me then—and still reminds me—of a pattern I’ve finally identified in myself and how I handle personal and professional growth.

I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to new things to learn. I get “shiny object syndrome” like no one I know, at least when it comes to learning. Ooh! A class on managing my calendar better!  Ooh! A webinar on “How to organize your files and photos.” Ooh! A workshop on building online courses!

That, in itself, is a GOOD thing, right?  The desire to be a lifelong learner?

It would be a good thing, except that I go through the workshop, tinker a bit with whatever subject matter it taught me, and then Ooh! A self-care-for-entrepreneurs series! I need that!  I have folders and folders full of the most exquisite knowledge: courses, recordings, ebooks, workbooks, spreadsheets, and a trillion links to things I couldn’t live without when I first learned of them.

In short, I learn, but before I can really solidify the learning into a rock-solid habit in my life, I jump to the next shiny learning object to gather more, and more, and more. Those new skills never become the breakthrough I was hoping for when I paid for them. It’s me, compulsively jumping on the moving walkway and whizzing right past my destination: A calm, profitable, fun, and efficient business that nourishes me.

(When I think I can outsmart this, I then I jump on the walkway going in the other direction with a new push for professional or personal growth, and whiz past my destination going the other way. But I do get some nifty new folders full of abandoned resources out of the deal. Sigh.)

It’s not an efficient way to do things, right?

So I’m making an agreement with myself, right here in front of you: No new educational ventures until I’ve either
a) fully absorbed the lessons and habits of the previous one, and can describe how I’ve achieved the goal of it (a noticeable improvement of some kind that moves me closer to my desired state), or
b) decided not to use that knowledge after all.

Either way, I’ve wiped the chalkboard clean and am ready for something new.

Elaborate/expensive/fun avoidance is still avoidance, no matter how pretty the packaging.

What about you?  What’s a habit you’ve noticed about yourself that’s beautiful on the outside, but perhaps not in your best interests on the inside?




On marketing’s place in the world

“Marketing should magnify the truth, not manipulate a message.
Our job isn’t to get everyone to believe us.
It’s to give the right people something to believe in.”

Bernadette Jiwa, Story Driven: You don’t need to compete when you know who you are

How’s that for something to wake up to?

I’ve long had a problem with marketing, at least marketing the way it’s largely been done over time.

Having come out of that business, I am cursed with the memories of countless little rooms where the same conversation took place over and over again: “What can we say to get people to buy this?”

Oh, there were variants, like “What can we tell people about our company so they’ll want to buy from us?” and “How can we convince people that they need this?”

Only rarely did I see a product or service that was marketed like this:
“Here’s who we are, and here’s why we created this. It helps (these people) do/feel/be (this way), so we invite you to give it a try and see what you think.”

An example that comes to mind:

When Bevel’s Tristan Walker talks about why he started a health and beauty company for people of color, he was motivated by how hard it is to grow up in a country where cosmetics and grooming products have been crafted with one ethnic group in mind. It was hard to find the right makeup colors if you were a dark-skinned woman, for example, and impossible to find shaving razors designed for men with coarse, curly facial hair that made shaving hell (think razor bumps…ingrown hairs…ouch). And that’s more than just an inconvenience.

When he was a young Wall Street intern, a fellow trader sneered at him to ‘clean up the hair on his face.’ “I remember being mortified not only by the fact that the guy was a jerk, but also that I didn’t know what to do,” Walker says. “There were just no products for me on the market. For a hundred years, we haven’t had products that have worked for us.” (Fast Company)

The marketing of their product lines on Walker & Co’s website magnifies the truth:
For people of color, it was very hard to find beauty/shaving products that helped them not be mortified.
So they started a company to solve that problem, because life shouldn’t be like that.

No screaming, no scarcity, no subtle or not-so-subtle social pressure.

The message isn’t, “You know you’ll be less attractive/less popular/less happy if you don’t buy/wear/experience our stuff.”

It’s “There wasn’t enough of this in the world, so we made it for you AND for us. We’re in this together.”

I like that.

What’s the truth of your business, your practice, your work?
What does the world have too much of, or not enough of?
What do you offer that helps tip that balance?

Benefits of the baffled mind: Why so many people end up choosing self-employment these days

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Copyright ©1983 by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words.

A friend sent this to me over the weekend, in response to something I’d written about a personal challenge. (My best days often start with someone sending me a poem in response to an issue that seems unsolvable except by mental gymnastics. Life is good.)

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

I ended up in self-employment because I didn’t know what else to do. There was something pretty fundamental that I couldn’t figure out: How can I earn a living without feeling like crap every day?

I was literally sick ALL the time. I developed pancreatitis from extreme stress and anxiety. I commuted through clouds of carbon monoxide and angry drivers. I had eating habits that created neverending inflammation in my body. All of them a result of trying to serve the needs of my ultimate customers: rich men struggling to get richer.

There seemed no option. This is simply what you DO when you have a mortgage and dental insurance and credit card bills to pay. Right?

I didn’t know what to do.

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

I blame the red-haired videographer who came to our office one day to interview our CEO.

First, she shows up barefoot. No kidding. She was dressed in expensive turquoise and denim, with not a shoe in sight. She hauled up her own equipment, hefting the heavy cameras and other props like they were made of balsa wood. She wore no makeup, just a Mona Lisa smile, a suntan, and hip-length russet hair slung over one shoulder.

I talked to her as she set up. She’d started her own company because she wanted to choose the people she “helped with her work” (the first time I’d ever heard that expression). Originally it was just her, then she hired a couple of other people to help with admin and marketing. She made her own hours, chose her own clients, and won lots and lots of awards for her work.

It took a couple of years to convince myself that her journey could be my journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

Self-employment, I discovered, is an endless ebb and flow of bafflement followed by a clarity that vaults us forward. We don’t have the safe, bland routine of company life; we solve myriad problems, improve the way we do things, explore different ways of earning money, explore different ways of helping.

I am still frequently baffled. And it can be uncomfortable. How to show up as myself in the world. What to offer my clients, and for what cost. Why a particular promotion didn’t work. Where to go next. But it’s not the helpless bafflement of figuring out someone else’s vision. It’s the empowering, mind-expanding bafflement of a puzzle or a mystery novel.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

If you’ve ever spent time sitting next to a stream that’s full of rocks and riffles and logs and waterfalls, you know that song. The obstacles give the water its music. (Conversely, the eerie quiet of a stream moving slowly through a sandy channel seems abnormal to me.)

It’s the obstacles in our work that make it interesting. Each little bump helps us grow bigger and better. Visiting the moving water of other peoples’ work—our clients, for example—can be just as good, and sometimes our eyes can follow the twists and turns of the water better than they can, having become so used to its shape. We can hear what they’ve long relegated to “white noise” and point it out to them, providing clarity and a way forward.

It’s a good life, isn’t it?

Be baffled. It’s the way to your real work, your real journey.


Excitement, orphaned: When so-called “rational thinking” extinguishes inspiration

I had an exciting idea pop into my head in 2010, like an excited 5-year-old bursting into the kitchen and then trying to get my attention. Mom. Hey mom. Mommm. Mom. Mommyyyyyyy.

The idea? What if I started writing books as part of what my business offered. My child-thought sold it this way: Look, people have all different incomes and needs, right? So you should offer helpful things in all price ranges so that everyone can see what you’re like and why you’re so fun to work with. Little stuff and big stuff and in-between stuff. Right?

Right!  I was thrilled. Why hadn’t I thought of that sooner???

I scribbled a list of book topics down in my notebook. I looked at my calendar and speculated that I could spend the first two hours of every day writing if I got up just a little earlier. I went on to see what business books were selling well, and how much they were selling for. I was going to be an author! Whoohoooooo!

Then I started looking at things like “how to write a book people actually buy” and how many new books were flooding the market. About how hard it was to get published, and why you should/shouldn’t use an agent, and the costs of things like editing and cover design. Slowly the life of an author didn’t seem so easy anymore. I wrote “Research book publishing” on a Tuesday in my calendar, a month down the line. When that time came, I ignored it and went back to what I was doing.

It wasn’t until 2018 that I finally published my first book. Eight years later.

Ever see this pattern in yourself? Excitement, “rationality,” abandonment.

Somethings pops into mind that gives you a little frisson of “wow.” It hits a chord and you get a little flushed with excitement. You want to give it a try. You think, “I think that would just be amazing.”

Then you start to think about the odds of it succeeding.

You start to wonder if it’ll work.
You can’t remember any of your well-dressed online gurus ever talking about it in glowing terms.
You start convincing yourself you don’t know enough to pull this off.
You notice there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, or rush hour traffic to be beaten.
You can’t handle that right now, so you table it or calendar it or just figure you’ll come back to it later.

And it floats away.

I was so sad to have lost those eight years. I could’ve written a shelf load of books in that time. Not big, ten-years-of-research tomes, but just short, punchy books that teach my self-employed clients how to do something super-helpful in their work and life.

If only I’d listened to that excited kid, and stopped listening when all the doubts and “what ifs” started crowding into the kitchen. Well, not “stopped listening.” It’s good to hear them out. But instead of letting them in the kitchen, asking them to leave their card in a basket by the front door, and I would deal with them in my own time, in small doses that wouldn’t overwhelm me.

Listen for those first exciting moments this week. Something moving through you that seems to want to be brought to life. Something you can do for YOUR clients, or for your community, or for the world, that is undeniably beautiful and right.

When you start to feel the first quiet objections rise, send me an email at

Tell me what you’re excited to try. Explain it to me. (This is all confidential and will never EVER be shared with anyone else, and of course it’s free.)

Tell me about the goodness it may bring to both you and to someone else.

Tell me what excites you about it.

Write it down, click Send.

Cast it out there before the tiny seedling of it can be mowed down by so-called rational thinking, like a message in a bottle. I will answer as soon as I can, and be the excited little kid in the kitchen that feeds your excitement and helps you find a way to bring it to life. I’ll also be the wise counsel that shows you how possible it is, and why it’s worth punching through doubt to accomplish.

It’ll be fun for both of us.


You don’t have to “know before you go.” You can learn what to do by doing it.

“The only way to learn it is to do it.”
Archimedes in “The Sword in the Stone”

This month I’m writing 30 blog posts in 30 days—an exercise I sometimes do in order to completely immerse myself in some new learning or new way of working.

Day 3, and already I have writer’s block. Not a good sign. But I know, as Atticus Finch says, “it’s not time to worry yet.”

Proof in the pudding: One side benefit of this exercise is that it makes observant of anything and everything that may become a good and interesting topic for you, my reader. Even the pithy quotes that pop up on our Facebook newsfeeds may turn out to be better than any writing prompts we may have come up with for ourselves. Today is a prime example (the above quote).

I often think back to my younger self, and try to parse through the mental slides of what it felt like to be me then. The overwhelming stressor was that I never felt like I truly knew what I was doing. I spent a lot of time beating myself up for not knowing everything yet, always frantically studying to be something I wanted to be.

Long ago, I thought I’d like to be a tech executive. But I was never in league with the uber-tech crowd, never as systematic or well-dressed or polished as the real executives.

I thought I’d like to be a business jet-set type. I did get comfortable hopping on and off planes bound for new and exciting places. But I never figured out what to do with that part that happened when I got there.

I thought I’d like to be more of an extrovert in terms of work. That didn’t work out quite the way I’d planned either, because, despite all the classes and networking groups and expensive business cards, I never had fun doing it.

Somewhere along the way, a person I respected shared a similar bit of advice to the one contained in the quote at the top. “Stop trying to learn it all before you start. You can learn it as you go along. In fact, the BEST way is probably to learn as you go, because the lessons really stick then.”

It took me years to trust that advice enough to try it. But then, like an invisible jetpack, I became good at tech, at traveling, and at putting on my extrovert hat in business…by doing them all more, “in the run of play” as they say in sports. The flowing nature of continuous learning builds both halves of our brains.

These days I work with many clients who are frozen by all they don’t yet know.

They won’t start a business until they’ve spent thousands on coaching, classes, certifications, even the right clothes.

They won’t try offering that new workshop, because they can’t be guaranteed it’ll fill.

They won’t try focusing on a niche of people they’d love to work with, because they feel that specializing might scare away other potential clients.

They won’t even spend $10 on experimenting with a Facebook ad targeted to specific audiences, because they are afraid they don’t know enough and are afraid they (and I quote) “won’t be doing it right.”

Even this far into it, I’m working hard at these kinds of self-imposed roadblocks myself.  I’ll try to set them up to block myself when I’m fearful, sort of a freaky little Wizard of Oz-style self-challenge: “I’ll start doing this as soon as I get the broomstick of the Witch of the West, AND take that $1000 course by Miz Mega-Guru.”

Here’s how I’m shifting that now:

I’m treating any of these kinds of fearful junctures differently. I see them not as a success/failure scenario, but more like a joyous science experiment. I work hard daily to replace fear of the unknown with curiosity (it’s an item on my Google Calendar, in fact). There’s a part of me—and you—that still wants to look at the world with childlike wonder, and I let it.

A battery of the kinds of questions I ask in order to vet a new direction:

  • Would this be fun to try, even joyful?
  • Would I learn something that would deepen my understanding of why I’m doing what I’m doing for a living?
  • Even if it doesn’t turn out the way I’d planned, does it give me a compass reading for my next steps?
  • What am I actually risking? Not vague things like “credibility,” but tangible expenditures like “the four hours of writing I put into my online course, and the $14.99 for a paid Zoom account.” Can that time/money be utilized elsewhere, plowed into something else to fertilize and grow it?
  • What if I look at whatever happens NOT as a mallet of judgment that comes down on my head, but as a beautiful effort to hold in my hands, something to be studied, shaped, improved, and reused?

Cut yourself some slack. Give your intuitive brain some credit. It will know what to do.

Try something you’ve always wanted to try. You may be astonished at the results.

Keep learning. It’s a beautiful way to spend a life and grow a business.