Some crazy cliff: Why times like these need people exactly like you

“And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
(J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye)

Audra is a friend of mine (in real life, but not her real name) who needs you. She’s retired, active in the community, and intelligent, but spends most days coping with a soul-depression that’s almost completely crippling. Just what is the point? she whispers to me over her coffee cup.

There’s also Marcus, who’s trying to run a small woodworking business, teaching people how to build their own soulful, beautiful objects. He needs you too. He’s a gentle man, but is so angry and scared so much of the time that he’s frightening away potential students with some of the things that come out of his mouth.

And then there’s my former co-worker Kim, who was always everyone’s favorite refreshingly free spirit, the gauzy-dress-eagle-feather type. She feels completely lost in her own life, as though she doesn’t even know herself anymore. She sits in front of the TV every evening with haunted eyes, unable to pull them away from what’s unfolding on CNN.

These are people who all suffer from the same affliction: Being alive in these confusing, frightening, frustrating times.

For just a mindful moment—then we’ll wash it clean with a deep breath together—let’s take a 1000-foot view of the times we live in right now. We see things like mass killings. Incomprehensible hatred. Incontrovertible scientific data shows our climate adjusting to human activity in ways that, far sooner than predicted, is going to make it very difficult for all manner of living things. Toxic buildup in our air/land/water is suspected of causing insidious disease and even mental illness. Slow-moving social and environmental catastrophes beget poverty and violence and desperate migration. We grow thick skins and huddle together in polarized social tribes.

Let’s not even talk about Twitter.

Okay. Breathe now.
Close your eyes, take in a deep breath to a count of 4, hold it for a count of 7, then slowly release it for a count of 8. Be here with me again.


Most of us in this community are sensitive people. We don’t just see all of this, we feel it in our spines, our shoulders, our solar plexus. When we allow ourselves, it all feels so heavy and dark.

Strangely, wondrously, I have one singular thought every morning when I pull on my bunny slippers: Thank heavens for all of you.

In this troubled world, those of us who work for ourselves in helping professions are like a human chain on the edge of J.D. Salinger’s crazy cliff. Our hands are linked tightly, one to the next, to help keep as many good people as possible from falling off the edge.

We try to be brave, and try not to peek at the drop-off behind us.

We are coaches (of businesses and lives). Consultants sharing what we’ve learned. Healing practitioners of all kinds. Authors. Guides. Specialists in alternative healthcare. Counselors. Journal/poetry therapists. Teachers of writing, yoga, art, music, dance. Creators of beauty. All of us, creating work that solves one small piece of a larger life-puzzle or, more likely, just helps people stay on their feet, and stay clear and loving and healthy.

People like us—people who help other people—matter more than they ever have in human history. The stakes now are astronomically high.

If you’ve never thought of your work in this way, let me assure you this is true:

  • Maybe you’re helping people navigate their difficult life-transitions in ways that are strengthening and freeing. In addition to life’s normal burdens, coming to grips with the mess we’re in and adapting to it is a huge transition.
  • It could be you’re working with kids, helping them be calm, think critically and be more self aware, so they know where the cliffs are and how to avoid them. (The strong, thoughtful children of this generation are largely going to be the people creating innovative solutions to the problems created by the last generation…)
  • Maybe you’re teaching people to see through the games played by the “food industry” to make better choices about what they put in their body. Pills and surgeries avoided. Bankruptcies due to health catastrophes averted. Lives bettered.
  • If you’re helping people to create livelihoods/businesses, you’re helping them be more resilient and giving them a reason to keep going even on the bad-news days.
  • Body workers and energy healers of all kinds are helping all of us draw on our body wisdom, our inner resources and strengths, to just keep going forward and doing what we can.
  • Or you may just be creating your art—or living your life—in ways that refuse to dabble in the petty, the divisive, and the sensational, and you’re sharing that with others. They see. And in that way, they know there’s an alternative to the noise and the silos we’ve created.

 If there’s one thing I could tell you to send you into the coming week, it’s this: We’re all in a uniquely powerful position, not necessarily to save the world (though that’s still possible) but to change the experience of the people who are in it, so they have the perseverance to live their lives with more grace, grit, and resilience.

We may or may not have the power to turn back the clock and return to a time when our gut doesn’t clench each time the news is on.

But we all have the power to look at our work as resilience-building—helping good humans everywhere to become smarter, saner, healthier, and prepared mentally and physically for whatever comes next.

Blessings to all of you, for all that you do. Have a great week.


Rock in river life balance

What’s your rock in the river? Prioritizing work and life the right way.

It took a long time to get my second college degree.

I looked forward to the start of every semester. The day the new term’s class schedule came out was like a high holy day. What new & interesting things would be offered?  What piece(s) of my degree puzzle could I snap into place, moving me closer to graduation?

And this is what it looked like:

First, I’d look at my work calendar, with big parts of the day blocked for “work”…mornings for people, mid afternoons for tech, etc.

Then, I’d look at the schedule of classes I wanted or needed to take, and see which ones fit into the empty spaces on my calendar.

My work calendar—with its prime daytime hours blocked out, though there were no clients assigned to them yet—was the rock in the river, immovable and sacrosanct.  My education, my growth, and the writing projects I was just wildly crazy about? They all had to flow around it.

My friend Cate was also self-employed. She had a health condition that was greatly helped by regular movement, so she looked forward to the quarterly class schedule from the local recreation center. She hoped every time that they’d offer the right kind of fitness class at a time when she felt she’d be available to take it…between her work, the kids’ soccer practice, nonprofit board meetings, etc. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t.

Like mine, her established pattern of work—the thing coach Charlie Gilkey refers to as “economic work”—was the rock in the river, and even life-altering self-care had to bend and flow around it, so she could be available for everyone, convenient to THEIR schedule.

Do you do this too, as my friend and I did?

Old journals from my closet show a typical frustration with things I wished I could do, but felt I couldn’t, because of the economic work what-ifs. What if the perfect client came along, but I had to tell them their availability doesn’t match mine?  What if my friend’s family got mad at her for putting them in charge of dinner?

Spin the dial to late 2019, and the question is different: What if we all flipped this—not a little, but a lot?

What if we make Life the rock in the river, and find a way to make Work flow around it?

Our work matters. But it’s just one aspect of a much bigger picture. It’s our duty to keep it in the proper perspective, even if you love it with all your heart, even if it’s the way you keep going financially. You have to trust me on this: There are ways to do this, adjustments to make, that will let you have it all.

It’s a work in progress for me, but here are some bite-sized ways I started doing more of it, and they’re things you can try no matter what your circumstances are:

1) If you don’t have a scheduler (paper or electronic) or if you resist it, get one.

Most people I know who are lax about scheduling, not wanting to feel closed in,  are the very same ones who never quite get around to the things that really light them up. A scheduler lets you create space for everything that’s important to you, and create flexible blocks for “anything goes” as well. Try it.

2) Figure out one to three things you crave more of.

No-shit exercise dates with yourself. Regular massage or bodywork to keep your body happy. A weekly walking/coffee (or walking+coffee) date with someone who lifts you up. Put them in writing, and keep them sacred.

3) Look around at the things you do because you’ve always done them.

Maybe you’ve left big swaths of choice daily time real estate open for others. Been the sole grocery-shopper or laundry-doer? Attended a networking meeting even though you’re not finding your perfect clients there? Volunteered for various duties so you’ll feel like a good person?

Keeping in mind the craving above, compare it side-by-side to these things, and choose. Would you risk a pouty family member in order to feel like a million bucks?  Give up/change up a volunteer gig to make room for a dream you have?

4) Trying sinking one rock in the river of your life.

It might be a class you will NOT let yourself miss. A block every morning for self-maintenance. A four-hour block every week to work on your book.  An hour with your aging mom.

Make everything else flow around it. Everything. That means no client appointments no matter how much you like them, or if they say it’s the only time they can come (often, these are people who have prioritized their own lives over work, thus their time scarcity). No projects that suddenly come up. No saying “yes” to someone else’s non-critical needs.

The rock stays, the rest flows.

5) Stick with it for at least a month, no cheating.

Don’t worry about anyone’s opinion except your own. How did it go?

Add another rock, or trade it for something with an even bigger bang for your buck.


With a heart like yours, putting yourself first is the best way to serve.

You have a finite number of minutes on this planet, and if you learn to use them right, you can have both a magnificent life AND help those who need you most. Believe it.






calm marketing for introverts

Marketing for the introverted, the quiet, or the thoughtful

When folks see me on video conferences or workshops, they often assume I’m an extrovert. That’s far from the truth. Away from the public eye, I prefer to be alone, deep into a book about Pablo Neruda, in the garden harassing the weeds, or out in the woods with my cheek pressed against a ponderosa pine. (Did you know they smell like vanilla?)

I know and love many clients who are also introverted. Our way of living can be tough when it comes to marketing our businesses. For many of us, marketing feels exhausting, risky, and exposed…and most of the methods advocated today feel artificial and fake.

So let’s talk a bit about how to do this important work in an honest, introvert-friendly way:

0) Figure out how you’ll recharge from any outreach efforts you decide to do.

The wonderful business coach George Kao often pre-schedules in naps/rests between certain tasks because he knows they’ll be tiring for him. He gets a reset before moving on to something else. The first time I heard this, I saw two thoughts flash quickly through my body: 1) holy cow, who has time for naps? and 2) I should just be strong enough to do this without needing a rest afterwards.

I was so wrong on both counts. Marketing-ish tasks can be incredibly taxing for introverts. We reach out our arms and say, “Here I am, here’s how I can help,” and hold our breath to see how many walk toward us, how many walk away. Draining.

Step zero is allowing that: This is hard for people like us. It’s okay.  Give it the importance it deserves, and physically carve out time for it, just as you would for a loved one who needed you.  Find a handful of actions you can take to recharge—this is going to be very personal: Napping, meditation, cooking, running around with the dog, picking up a book for a half-hour, shoveling snow, planting crocuses…I have 15-minute recharges and 30-minute/60-minute as well.

Find yours, and schedule them in like George does. I promise you will not regret this.

1. Reach out to your people, and don’t worry as much about the others.

A lot of you reading this have worked with me to identify the people who are the best fit for you and your work. When you’ve identified the person or people you most want to serve, you’ll start to notice that some clients and readers will be closer to the mark than others. In fact, there will always be people who don’t get us, and that can create an inner nag: What if they don’t understand? What if they’re not into my work? Should I be trying to “win them over”?

The answers, in order, are “that’s okay,” “that too is okay,” and “no.”  We’re conditioned by the media to shape ourselves so we’re the right choice for everyone. In marketing, this IS important if you want to be one of those people with a gazillion casual fans you need to corral to fund your next Lamborghini…you must bend the rules of integrity to reach them all. But for most of us, that’s just not the case. We want to do solid work, make a difference, reach the people we’re uniquely suited to serve, and make a nice livelihood from it.

So write to your people. Create products and services for them. Reach out to them and make friends. Devote 90% of your energy to those who are in your perfect circle. Is it hard to leave the others to their own devices and focus on your tribe?  Sure. We’re sensitive, caring people. But it’s worth it on every level.

2. Use “scheduling by energy” as your superpower.

There’s a certain amount of public connection that has to happen to stay in touch with your proper folks and be part of their lives. Yet, if people like us spend a ton of time on social media or publishing posts or what have you, it can suck the energy out of us so fast it makes our heads spin.

I don’t know about all of you, but I pay attention to the ebb and flow of high-energy and low-energy times. In the latter, any writing or sharing or being in contact feels like a forced march, exhausting rather than energizing. Instead, I use the high-energy, high-creativity times to produce and pre-schedule things, even if I have to wipe my calendar to take advantage of a sudden crackle of energy.

For example, this article was written during a high-energy burst, along with two others, a Facebook post, and the first draft of a newsletter. I DID have to postpone a planned lunch to the next day and watch the recording of a workshop instead of being there live. But it was a more than positive trade-off.

You can schedule posts in WordPress and social media to release on the date you’d like them to publish (I know…this is a “pay no attention to that wo/man behind the curtain” moment…)  Exception: On my Sunday Coffee newsletters, I do make sure I’m with them on the Sunday they’re sent, otherwise it wouldn’t be coffee, would it? I need to make sure each one goes out with a certain number of coffee molecules or it’s doesn’t count.

In a high-energy moment right now and feeling creative? Cancel whatever’s coming up in the next couple of hours, even if it’s not socially/politically correct, and seize it for the work you love.

3. Embrace the beautiful, dangerous power of being completely yourself.

People who read me know that I’ve been doing this more and more as the years pass. I simply don’t have the time or energy any more to edit my Self to  be the pinnacle of mainstream professionalism. I am me, writing from the yellow room, the dog on my feet, and a disturbing lack of lipstick. For the wrong people, this will be uncomfortable. But for others, it gives them a sigh of relief, because they know I’m just me-the-person, not me-the-lofty-expert or me-who-all-should-aspire-to-be.

So my people and I just talk. And become more like friends (or don’t). We learn from each other, in a climate of relaxed candor. And all of our businesses grow.

Dare to share more of yourself. Not every teensy detail, and not constantly; our communications should always be more about “them” then “us.”  But do try to trust that you can be daringly you in your communications, in a genuine and unpracticed way, and the right people will be more likely to gravitate to you.

4. Know your three stories and practice sharing/writing/saying them.

In my post Do you know the three stories crucial to successfully growing your business? I talk about our three core stories: Your client’s, yours, and the story that you create together and that radiates out from your relationship with them. One of the things I do to make my internal stories external is practicing these until they flow out of my mouth as naturally as my own name.

Practicing these stories, like practicing a new language, makes it all flow more naturally. It is—I believe—a way we can more easily move through life as introverts. If we don’t have to complex over talking about ourselves, struggle to remember “the right things to say,” it’s a friction point we’ve avoided. This frees us up to be present and calm and use those brain cells for something a lot more useful.

I do this by building my personal story practice into work processes as much as I can. I have a little calendar reminder to revisit/review any public places I tell people about myself, like my bio pages on websites and social media. I write about my priorities and intentions before I have any coaching sessions or workshops. I have a close inner circle that I trust to give me feedback on it all as well. Practice makes personal.

5. Carefully choose the modes of outreach where you “extrovert,” and keep their number as small as you like.

Do you do well at writing, but cringe at public speaking?  Are you better at in-person work than work with online strangers?  Do you hate Facebook, but like the visual nature of Instagram?  Does the thought of being on video make you freak out?

News flash: You DON’T have to force yourself to do them all. It is not fatal to not be an expert at everything. Your business can be perfectly healthy if you just pick one or two ways to reach out and are very consistent with it. You can choose the one or two activities (such as writing a monthly newsletter and giving a weekly talk) that most closely match how you want to interact with the world. You can be warm and kind and helpful there, and become stronger and more confident. You may not get that Lamborghini, but you will be less stressed and likely much more effective as a result.

And, fringe benefit?  It’s likely that, as you become more adept and practiced being in those one or two areas, you will be called to push your boundaries a little bit and try another mode or channel (such as writing Medium articles, or easy Facebook outreach) just to keep your growing edge, er, growing.

In short, it doesn’t have to be hard.

You can rest when you’re tired, work with your energy, be yourself, practice your stories, and carefully focus your time online…and still feel needed, seen, and successful. Running a business as an introvert doesn’t mean we need to get used to exhaustion, risk, and icky feelings.

We just need to do things our way.




The art and science of capturing and caring for your free-range ideas

When you work for yourself, ideas are the life blood of your business. We need to keep on learning, keep on growing, and keep on aligning our work with the life we want for ourselves. A steady flow of ideas and inspiration allows all of that to happen.

We all find ourselves with inspiration and ideas popping up in weird or inconvenient places. At the grocery store, you might see a particular color combination that makes you think, “Hm. That is really vibrant…I wonder what my website would look like if I shifted from blues and grays to that…”   You might be on an online workshop and suddenly have a brilliant idea about a new thing to offer your own people. Or suddenly, on a walk, you get a blinding inspiration about a solution to a stuckness you’ve been suffering.

The tragic thing would be to just think, “That is SO amazingly great! There’s no way I’ll forget it” and not bother to capture it in some way.

What can happen if you don’t graciously capture ideas and give them a job?

Here’s the right-brain version, from Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic):

“When an idea thinks it has found somebody—say, you—who might be able to bring it into the world, (it) will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention. Mostly, you will not notice. This is likely because you’re so consumed by your own dramas, anxieties, distractions, insecurities, and duties that you aren’t receptive to inspiration.

You might miss the signal because you’re watching TV, or shopping, or brooding over how angry you are at somebody, or pondering your failures and mistakes, or just generally really busy. The idea will try to wave you down (perhaps for a few moments . . . perhaps even for a few years), but when it finally realizes that you’re oblivious to its message, it will move on to someone else.”

And here’s the left-brain version, from no-nonsense David Allen (author of the groundbreaking book Getting Things Done), who talks about the brain’s logic in these terms:

“Look, I’m only going to give you as many ideas as you can effectively use. If you’re not using them or collecting them in some trusted way, I won’t give you that many. But if you are actually doing something with them, then here, have a bunch!”

Welcome in ideas and treat them well, and they’ll keep coming. There are many possible aspects to idea care—capturing, ways to organize and store them, scheduling ‘idea dates’ to return to them, etc.—and I cover a lot of them in Week 4 of my fun workshop Organize Your Digital ‘Stuff’ Once and For All, starting up again in January 2020. But in the meantime, I wanted to share the tools I use to capture ideas.

I recommend having having two capture tools at your disposal all the time: A digital one and a manual one (your preference)

Why two?

An analog or manual way to capture ideas is handy and portable and doesn’t require electricity or a wireless signal OR the need to have your mobile device around, bleating at you 24/7. Remember a pen.

A digital way to capture them frees you from having to retype them, will probably have dictation abilities, outsmarts your (ahem) illegible handwriting, and often syncs across devices so you can reach your idea from multiple places (such as your mobile device AND Google Drive AND your laptop computer).

Whatever it is, make sure something is available to you all the time. Ideas don’t follow the rules – they show up whenever they feel like it.

Popular Tools: Analog/Manual

Manual tools are my favorite capture methods. Many people find that, when note-taking digitally, they’re engaging their logical/rational brain rather than their creative brain. If you’re like that, consider something analog:

● Your hand or arm, in a pinch
● A Moleskine or similar journal/planner with a pocket with or without
● A Bullet Journal
● A Passion Planner
● A Panda Planner (even though it’s not perfect for capturing ideas, I still think it looks groovy…there’s even an entrepreneur version)
● Grid paper or legal pads and nice pens. You deserve nice pens.
● A little portable whiteboard
● My favorite, the giant Post-It® pads 🙂
● Magic Whiteboard wall-clinging film (expensive but a roll lasts me for years)
● Brightly colored Post-It notes

(NOTE: With all manual methods, it’s important to have a system for transferring it to a mode where it can be permanently captured, be electronically searchable, and will have a chance at being implemented.)

I try never to let the week end without doing something more permanent with my paper notes. Even leaving them in a notebook may require you to go back and turn lots of pages to find them…and if it’s hard to re-find an idea, its chances of thriving are slimmer.

Favorite Tools: Simple Digital Capture

Emailing Yourself:

Don’t discount the simplest of solutions: Sending yourself an email. Most email apps on mobile devices allow voice dictation, making this a quick-and-easy thing even if you don’t have any of the following.

Talk to Yourself (Voice Capture):

Record yourself talking through your idea/thoughts and either transcribe it yourself, or if it’s long, having a Fiverr contractor transcribe it for you for as little as $5.

On Mac computers, try using the QuickTime app or iScream app or voice dictation on Microsoft Word

On Windows computers, try Voice Recorder –

On mobile devices, the possibilities for dictation/text-to-speech apps are countless.  Try these suggestions for Android and iPhone respectively:

Notepad Apps for Mobile Devices

Both iOS (Apple) and Android devices have some sort of notetaking app installed by default.  Look for Notes (Apple)  or Notepad (Android)  respectively.

If you’re curious about a certain note-taking option and want to see a comprehensive grid of options, what they’re compatible with, and what they do, check out this grid (I won’t paste it here…it’ll give us both brain damage):

Google Keep and Pocket

These are both little tools that help people save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later consumption. Once saved to either one, links to the content are available on any device — phone, tablet or computer. They’re compatible with most devices and Mac/Windows.

While not technically idea capture tools, I include them here because I’ve used them to capture and annotate things on the web that I can then “riff” on or take to other creative places in my own mind.  More info: and

Favorite Tools: More Capable Digital Capture


Cost: Free
Available for: Almost every computer and mobile phone
Usefulness: Limited but good for basic notes
Best parts: Free. VERY minimalist, so almost zero learning curve.
Downsides:  Er, very minimalist. No text formatting tools, no security, no organization tools like notebooks to organize notes into.
Learn more:

Apple Notes

Cost: Free
Available for: Mac OS X and iOS (Apple) devices
Usefulness: Good
Best parts: Free. Good tools for formatting, organization, locking notes, drawing tools, synching with the cloud, and you can use Siri to tell it what to do  🙂
Learn more:


Cost: Free for a basic version or $7.99/month for more features
Available for: Almost every computer and mobile phone
Usefulness: Excellent
Best parts: Notebooks to organize your notes, syncs to other devices, formatting, images, attachments, captures handwriting, audio recordings, reminders, more
Downsides: A bit of a learning curve because of all the features but there are good basic how-to videos online
Learn more:

Microsoft OneNote

Cost: Free with OneDrive  (5GB of storage is free, then it costs)
Available for: Almost every computer and mobile phone
Usefulness: Excellent
Best parts: Notebooks to organize your notes, syncs to other devices, formatting, images, attachments, captures handwriting, audio recordings, reminders, more
Downsides: A bit of a learning curve because of all the features but there are good basic how-to videos online
Learn more:

Want to compare Evernote and OneNote to see which is better for you? Here’s a comprehensive review

Special situations

At night, when camping, in a dark Alamo Drafthouse theater:

I still keep a notepad nearby, with a light-up pen. Because you never know what inspiration may come in those darker spaces…and flashing around your mobile phone during a movie is just inconsiderate.

Search “light-up pen” on or see these dual-color light ones

While driving:

I never try to capture anything while I’m driving a vehicle hurtling through space…even voice-to-text requires some divided concentration and I don’t recommend it. But I do keep my mobile phone handy (and my notebook) and look for the next possible opportunity to pull over and grab them.

On a hike or walk or stroll through the museum

I carry my mobile phone and use voice dictation while walking, if it’s that kind of walk. (There are also more mindful walks where I just leave it at home and carry my smallest notebook and pen.)

In the shower or tub (really!)

If you find you’re having great ideas there, don’t despair! Check out a waterproof whiteboard like this one or waterproof notepad & pencil  like this one

There is a whole system I teach in this segment of my workshop Organize Your Digital ‘Stuff’ Once and For All, and I think if you want to start 2020 fresh without all the digital clutter, it’s a fun way to do it.

But no matter what: Your ideas are so very, very important.

Begin taking more tender care of them, and you’ll be amazed at how your business grows.

Do you know the three stories crucial to successfully growing your business?

There are three stories that drive my whole business. Every part of it, from website content, to the classes I offer, all the way to organizing my computer and even remembering to do my accounting (seriously!) hinges on these three stories.

Over my 20 years of doing this, I’ve noticed that the people who’ve taken time to articulate these stories—even just in their journals—tend to steadily grow, stay on track, and suffer less frustration in their working lives. Below are these three stories, and I’ll put the most important one first.

Can you relate? (Want to practice? Email me your stories, or lack of them, because I am a story nerd and love to talk about it 🙂

The first:
Knowing the story of the person out there we’ve shown up to help…and who we’re uniquely ABLE to help.

The person who most needs what you offer has a story. S/he’s on a particular quest—whether it’s articulated like that or not—and knowing what it IS is the first step toward being able to establish a warm relationship with her.

I’ll tell you how I feel about my own, as an example to jump off from.

She’s always with me.

She’s had the guts to decide to work for herself rather than work for others. She’s not just after the benefits of self-employment: Creative expression, self-determination, autonomy, flexibility, income etc. She also craves the chance to shape her business to the needs of a higher purpose, bigger than just boosting the bottom line of a big organization with her skills and gifts.

Of course, she’s bumped up against all the obstacles we’ve faced too: It’s hard work to get started. It’s not easy getting a steady stream of clients. Marketing can be a mystery. Everyone wants to sell you some expensive miracle cure for whatever ails your business. Suddenly, 24 hours is too few to pull off the productive day you imagined you’d have. And those are just a few of the dozens of little stumbling blocks including…doing your books.

But she keeps on going.  One foot in front of the other. One helpful friend’s advice at a time. One new client at a time. One life-lesson at a time.

Her courage just blows me away, even when she can’t see it herself.
She’s my hero, and I believe in her.

Who is yours?  And what’s her story?

The second:
Knowing the story of our own work, and WHY we do what we do

This story, when written down, can be big, or it can be small, but either way it should resonate through your entire being when you consider it.

Big might include:

  • how you came to this work, and why you chose to do it
  • whose lives you hope to improve with it
  • the pains or problems or challenges you help release
  • how people are utilizing what you’ve done together to create more joy
  • the ways your work is bringing more good to a person, a community, or the world – the “more of this or less of that” hope that I talk about so often

Small might simply be revisiting an exercise like this:

I help {___description of your ideal people____}
     to  { ____do, be, change, create, etc____}
          using my {____your specific loving offerings ____}
               so they can {__how is their life better?___}.

And the third:
Knowing the good story we hope people will tell others about us

To paraphrase a recent book I read on this, you and I have never gushed to a friend or perfect stranger: “Let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I had recently!”

That’s obviously not going to happen, right? But what’s the opposite? What IS the story we want them to tell?

Because we all do different things, it’s hard for me to give you an example, but clues might be found by considering some of these statements (variants of thing I’ve read/heard said about my own beloved clients)  Hint: People are becoming a bit immune to “s/he (or it) ‘changed my whole life’ or similar general claims, so you’ll notice these are more specific:

  • I finally feel like I found someone who “gets” me…and doesn’t try to squeeze me into a one-size-fits-all sales funnel.
  • I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to contact her and get started—I’d like all the time back I spent spinning my wheels.
  • Future me is going to look back on this (session/project/class) and realize that a huge shift in my life started right here.
  • Do you know he sends chocolate out to everyone he works with? It’s so cool!
  • She meets with me (for a walking session, over tacos, by video from under her oak tree, any time I need her). I’ve never met anyone else who did it that way.
  • It’s funny – it feels like she’s a friend who just also happens to be my (coach, teacher, consultant, mentor, etc.) How perfect is that?
  • I never thought someone could make me actually like (your topic, action, class, etc.) But I loved it.
  • I had a lot of resistance to change. But we just sort of magically dissolved that together by (what did you do?)

This isn’t just standard testimonial fodder (though it might be nice for that purpose).  Rather, this is capturing something you do, say, or offer that’s memorable, different, and very specific. Those are the kinds of experiences and transformations that grow wings and are shared from person to person easily and swiftly.

Knowing and internalizing these three stories for your work and your business can help knit together all of those dangling parts of your work that often don’t play nice together.




Do our clients care about us too?

How much do you genuinely care about your audience members as real, live, flesh-and-blood people? How much do they care about you?

Recently, in her delicious Friday newsletter, coach/author/friend Judith Morgan put her finger squarely on something I consider a key aspect of truly healthy, nutritious relationships with clients and customers:

I care about my clients’ dreams but here’s the important bit, they care about mine too. They care about me. It is reciprocal.

Being the obsessive ponderer that I am, I poured another cup of coffee and margaretted out for a while on this thought.

How important is this kind of reciprocity in our relationships with the people we serve? That it goes both ways, not just one way?

To me, it’s very important, but I’m open to the possibility that Judith and I may be the exceptions rather than the rule.

First, how often does it really happen, in our work lives? Do some (most?) businesspeople consider it an absurd thing to wish for? Stranger still, to expect? And, even more outlandish, how many of us dare to make it a deciding factor in whether we choose to invest our energies in serving a particular person/company?

Like most things, it can get a little complicated when you unpack it.

I picture a self-employed woman who has a startup business selling a product – a book, for example. Her income may depend on simply selling lots of them, and to many different kinds of people. Is it important to her that the people buying the product care about her as a person, or care about her business/livelihood? Is that even possible to know or intuit that, when often we have is a receipt from an online store?

What about service providers? Most of my people are in the business of offering a service, wisdom, knowledge, help. From this high-touch angle, it seems simpler on the surface. But is it? If you offer an online workshop to 100 people, is reciprocity something we can hope for? Are we allowed to hope that all of the attendees who purchase the workshop consider, “This sounds great to me, and it’s also a person/business whose work I’d love to support”?

How important is it to you? And how possible?

I feel as though mutual respect and reciprocity are possible in almost any situation, as long as we have the audacity to show our real selves to our readers and clients.

For many years in my work, I was afraid to show too much of myself, for fear someone would find something to object to. Oh, she supports that charity. Yuck, not another treehugger. She doesn’t have an MBA?

So if people read my sanitized bio, it was difficult for them to discern what sort of person I was. They’d piece it together this way: She knows websites, so she must be a techie person, who probably likes gadgets and programming and spreadsheets and stuff. She also works with people doing good things in the world, so she’s probably honest. I don’t have much in common with geeks, but it looks like she knows her stuff, so I may as well give this Margaret person a try.

Nowadays, it’s not hard for potential clients to get a clearer picture of who I am as a human. They can see me hiking at sunrise. They can read my book. They know I have a strange little dog named Gordon, that I volunteer in my small community, and that I believe self-employed people are probably the ones who are going to save humanity.

Even bigger, though, they know that I dare use “the ‘L’ word” in my business. I do a lot more coaching and teaching now, and I do it with my feet firmly rooted in love. They see me interacting with perfect strangers with respect and kindness. They can easily see how I thoroughly (and sometimes embarrassingly) geek out on helping good things come to life.

So I attract clients who are attracted to that emphasis on community and compassion.

And I repel clients who might grumble about that all as ‘namby-pamby new age BS.’ Sometimes they leave skid marks.

And that works perfectly for me.

In most cases, I end up with clients who want something more from a coach, consultant, or even a website person. They want someone that genuinely gives a damn about them as individuals, and so will offer up his or her best energy. In the face of SO many possible service providers for all of our “stuff,” these clients also prefer to support good, caring people whenever that’s possible.

With the selling of products (or causes, or companies, or politicians) we are all witnessing a shift away from blindly supporting those who are abusive, disrespectful, or simply indifferent. That shift, I believe, is trickling down into even the smallest of businesses: All other things being equal, we want to give our dollars to people we feel are likely to care—about us, and about the world.

It’s a pragmatic, empathetic kind of reciprocity that literally changes everything, from creativity to productivity to profitability.

George Kao even defines true productivity as valuable interaction with the people your business can best serve, that inspires their reciprocity. When we’re generous in providing something valuable, when we do it genuinely and directly from the heart, readers and clients feel it. They engage with us. They read, watch, “like,” share, follow/subscribe, inquire, purchase, and refer.

We each try to help the other to succeed, by whatever tape measure “success” is being measured.

Honestly, we live in a society that’s simultaneously accelerating, darkening, and increasing the emotional distance between us. I look for any and all ways to slow down, pay attention, and remember what matters.

Here in my working world, this sort of caring reciprocity is key to my happiness, and so has become pretty non-negotiable.

How about you? Does this matter to you?

My ‘Word of the Year’ for 2019? You’re not gonna like it.

“The tiny cost of failure is dwarfed by the huge cost of not trying.”
Seth Godin,, The Tiny Cost of Failure

I admit that I haven’t jumped into the “Word of the Year” movement for a couple of years now, but this year I am.

You know about that thing, right? Where we’re advised by the self-help gurus to choose a special word each year to be our mantra or rallying cry or guiding principle for the coming year?

A Word of the Year always seemed a nice idea, but never seemed to stick for me, no matter how big I wrote it on my vision board or mirror, how many times it popped up in my online calendar, or how long it stayed my laptop’s screen saver.

That didn’t keep me from choosing one anyway when I was younger. Resilience was the theme one year, I recall (must have been having some challenges that year, hm?). Self-care has shown up more than once, as has Tenacity. A bit of a seesaw there. And Kindness shows up in my journal from 2002. That was back when I was stressed and crazy and actually needed a reminder to stay kind. (Imagine that…)

For 2019, my Word of the Year is . . . Failure.

Now, stop that. Hear me out.

I’ve decided this is the year when I’ll finally stop hobbling myself with the fear of failures big and small.

You didn’t know I was? Ah, that’s because I am simply masterful at hiding my fears from others. If the meme police allowed it, I’d even call it my “superpower.”

“Feel free to avoid [failure] by doing nothing, by second guessing yourself, by being your own worst critic, always ready to describe the apocalypse waiting on just the other side of shipping.
Either that or you can risk the narrative and risk the fear and make a difference.”
Seth Godin,, Failure Imagined (24 Variations)

I’ve had some time & space these past two weeks to ponder the mystery of Me. Why do I do what I do? Or even more interesting: Why don’t I do what I don’t do?

All the things I don’t finish, or the offerings & services I create but never promote, or the things I do promote but never adequately follow through? That, my friends, is fear with it’s green, scaly claw reaching for my throat, one long pointy fingernail outstretched: “Don’t bother.” 

Fear of hearing only crickets, or polite silence, or full-on disinterest. Fear of failing.

I started thinking about Failure when I read Seth Godin’s newest book This Is Marketing over my winter planning retreat. I’ve never been a superfan of Seth Godin. It’s been more of a formal nod of respect, but this book offered up some great thoughts about finding the people we most want to help, deciding how we can help them, and doing it.

Typically a night reader, I’d lie awake after the lamp clicked off, and think for a long time. How much time am I wasting by hiding away—or hiding FROM—the creations and communication that might help someone in my world? Why is my list of “new business ideas” the same at the end of the year as it was at the beginning? Am I waiting for some state of perfection and perfect safety first? How much time do I think I have left to do them, anyway?

So this year, a promise, courtesy of my Word of the Year:

I will write, a LOT, knowing that 100% of it might not ‘land’ for all readers. I will write and write and write some more.

I will offer advice and counsel, knowing that some people will say ‘I already know THAT, geez’ or ‘yeah, Seth Godin said something like that last Wednesday.’

I will offer my partnership and help, risking that people won’t need or want it, and may even mistrust my reasons for offering at first. I will offer anyway.

I will create things—programs, books, services, groups—that (I feel) will truly help somebody somewhere, and I will TELL people about them through honest and transparent marketing so that the ones who need me can find me.

I will fail at some of these things. I expect there may be some humdingers that won’t fly, won’t get a positive response, won’t help pay the rent. That’s okay. 

I will get up the next morning, put on the coffee pot, and do it all again, always reflecting, always learning, finding every possible way to support the people who matter most to me.

In this way, I will learn endless things.

So, here’s fair warning, Failure: You sure you wanna mess with me? (smile)

Welcome to 2019, everybody. Nice to be here with you. What will you embrace this year that you never thought you would?

“The rule is simple: The person who fails the most will win. If I fail more than you do, I will win. Because in order to keep failing, you’ve got to be good enough to keep playing.
So, if you fail cataclysmically and never play again, you only fail once. But if you are always there […] putting your work into the world, creating and starting things, you will learn endless things.”
Seth Godin, What to Do When It’s Your Turn

The annual planning retreat deconstructed: Beautiful, painful, and absolutely necessary

By the time you read this, I will be back online, in the so-called “normal” world. This was written from a quieter space, one that I hope you’ll consider gifting yourself in the coming year in some way:

All solo small businesses and practices can benefit from taking a little time each year—measured in days, not hours—to quiet down, disconnect, and get clear.  For a big chunk of December and January of every year, if someone were looking for me, they could usually find me in one of these places:

Curled up in a big armchair at our local indy coffee shop with my notebook, working on the new book I’m writing. Stocking feet tucked under me. Absently sipping a tall Americano.

Putting Gordon’s coat on (and mine) for a mind-loosening walk through prehistoric rocks at South Valley Park, which we hope will be sunny and dry and coyote-free.

In my home office, clearing, cleaning, and polishing nearly every horizontal surface and rehoming every errant post-it note, paper clip, doodad, memento, reminder, handwritten list, manila folder, take out menu, bookmark, everything. Clutter has repeatedly been proven to take a toll on our minds and our productivity, and I confess to being a clutterer in recovery (there, I said it). So at this time of year, everything goes where it belongs, and I recommit to keeping it that way.

At the kitchen table, sifting through the evidence of my work from the previous year with my journal at the ready, in order to capture what my heart says about it all. Did I enjoy doing this/that? Did it make a difference? (For whom?) What made me absolutely insane and stressed? What kind of work relaxed me into a state of flow? What do I want to create more of and less of in the world?
At my desk with my laptop, I turn my many notes into something wonderful. I sweep most of my jots, scribbles, and Evernote notes into an annual MS Word document I call simply, “Great Ideas.” I speed-type all the insights and light bulb moments and a-ha ideas and ‘never agains’ into it, then I start to shape it into sections/chapters, organizing it into idea clusters with big bold orange headings like:

Articles I’ll Write
Better Ways to Help Each Other
New Book Ideas
Wouldn’t It Be Awesome to Learn How To…
Making Social Media Painless
I’d Love to Work With…
Let’s Never Do This Again

… And so forth. It’s a way to revisit my best ideas in a tactile way, and capture them all in one place. I insert page breaks. I give it all page numbering and nice formatting. And when I’m done, I have a book of my year that’s a sort of navigational map I can consult any time I’m feeling overwhelmed, untethered, or unsure where to go next.

Sofa-bound, with my laptop on my stomach, going through my Google and paper calendars for the coming year to block out no-shit, non-negotiable appointments with myself for:

  • Writing
  • Moving my body (the artist formerly known as “exercise”)
  • Active gratitude
  • Getting to zero inbox and zero desktop regularly
  • Self-care
  • Connection with the people I care about (er, that’s You)

(Starting with an empty calendar, these blocks go in first. All other commitments that I make must flow around those things, and not the other way around.)

Sitting next to the woodstove, staring into the fire, and thinking about my Future Self. Would she be pleased with what I’ve accomplished this year? What advice would she give? What would she want me to do more of/less of in the months ahead?


That’s what I do for nearly two weeks out of the year, for about 75% of my waking hours. Here’s what I’m not doing:

Compulsively checking social media
Compulsively checking email
Listening intently for the squawkbuzz of my mobile phone (Oooh! Somebody needs me! 🙂
Doing anything on my mobile phone except checking my grocery list or texting good jokes to my husband
Hanging around with any person who stresses me, even if I care about them
Making a list of radical, grandiose new year’s resolutions
Tracking political developments, celebrity gossip, mainstream news outlets, partisan talking heads, or reality TV
Wearing business attire

For the first few years of taking this time away at year’s end, I was wracked by guilt at leaving everyone in my working life uncared-for and abandoned. As if I were Mighty Mouse, streaking across the internet singing, “Heeeeere I come to save the dayyyyyy…” When I saw that people got along perfectly well without me, things got easier.

And a treasured, nourishing ritual was born.

When I return to my regular daily routines, I have a peaceful, joyful clarity that sets the tone for the entire year.

What about you?

Do you have a way to clear space for processing and digesting all that life throws at you, or does it move so fast that it just keeps streaming along, carrying you with it?

Are you able to find—or create—an island of sanity? A place where you can truly sink into planning what you want to do with the remaining days and hours of your life?

It is would help, feel free to borrow, copy, or steal from mine. I know I’d be lost without it.

And if you’d like any new ideas, let’s definitely talk. I think you’ll enjoy tossing around possibilities.

About Me

I’m Margaret Rode, and I’m a coach/consultant and online marketing sherpa for people who choose to work for themselves (in whole or in part) and who want to be profitable from a place of authenticity, thoughtful action, and compassion. I offer quick solve-it sessions, coaching series that gently untangle an intractable set of habits, and counsel/help for painlessly making the most of your website, social media, and other tech tools. Contact me for a free, fun, no-icky-sales-pitch conversation to talk through where you are and where you’d like to be.

More of and Less of: The strange magic in knowing exactly why you do what you do

Life tosses us around sometimes, doesn’t it? Take time, for example. Sometimes we seem to have more than enough to “get it all done” and sometimes we’re struggling for 5 minutes to get our shoes on and get out the door. News, politics, and current events stress us. Family members need our help when we can’t even find the energy to help ourselves.

It’s a universal truth in self-employment: Some days, weeks, months, it’s hard to stay on track and moving ahead with our work, because we’re zigging and zagging all over the place.

To help keep focused on my destination, I have a secret weapon, a compassionate ray-gun, that I use in these times: It’s a little game I call More of/Less of, and it’s made a huge difference in my business.

You can try it too, and see if it helps you. Here’s one of my “More of/Less of” statements:

I help thoughtful self-employed people to create, cultivate and grow the work their hearts want to do. Why? Because I want to see MORE people on this planet working from a strong sense of purpose, with their own unique vision and contribution. I think it is going to save us all. (In fact, I think it may be one of the few things that can.)

I want to see LESS of the stress, powerlessness, frustration, and wasted resources that can be part of working for someone else. Less carbon monoxide from commuting, fewer fast food lunches, less office politics and misery poker (“…you won’t believe what so-and-so is doing to me…“), less social and environmental damage by big corporations.

I do it through bite-sized teaching sessions, regular coaching dates to help untangle specific issues and blockages, and hands-on help with stressors like “how do I attract clients now?” And yes, by being a tech sherpa, so all those self-employed people can stay connected and promote their work.

The exercise is deceptively simple. Just spend a couple of minutes thinking about each of these:

  1. What do you want to see more of in the world?
  2. What do you want to see less of in the world?
  3. And how do the services, products, or knowledge you offer the world contribute to those two efforts?

These three things, when fixed firmly in your mind, can do several magical things:

  • They can help pull you through the most trying of times, because they are rock-steady inside you even when the world might be shifting under your feet
  • They help you develop a radar for—and say “no” to—work, clients, or commitments that are just not right for you
  • They are an invaluable guiding star when you’re brainstorming new products and services: Is this creating more of X?  Less of Y?
  • They can help you attract new clients, readers, donors, and peers/partners who have the same values, and kindred spirits make for wonderful long-term clients
  • They help you articulate your work to others, in a way that makes it more clear and more memorable

You don’t have to be a social activist, a great visionary, or an 80-hour-week “hustle entrepreneur.”  It doesn’t really matter what kind of business you have (I’ll show you why below). This clarity game works even if you’re just starting out, or are just wanting to earn a simple living doing useful work that you love and are good at.

Here are some responses I’ve received from clients when I asked them to play:

A small bookstore owner:

I want to see more people finding solace and joy in books, real books, and give them a place where they can meet others who do too. I want more people to remember how amazing books are. I want to see fewer people stuck on the technology addiction treadmill, addicted to beeping devices and constant “feeds” and the ten-second adrenaline rush of a “Like” on Facebook. Sinking into a story is so much better for our minds and bodies…I sell books for all those reasons.

A massage therapist

I want to see more people feel good in their bodies, unhindered by stiffness, aches, pains. I want there to be more people who know how human touch can shift our energy. I want to see fewer people suffering through chronic pain. Some people sleepwalk through life unable to really enjoy any of it. I offer all kinds of healing massage and I can help so many different kinds of people, I understand now why I went into this work.

A creativity coach

I want to see more people being able to let their creativity loose, whether it’s doing some kind of art or just going to work and doing their job. I want more people to know that creativity isn’t just a special chosen few – we all have it!! I want to see less of the mindset that tells us “I’m just not creative at all.” It’s not true. We all just need to learn a few skills to tease it out of ourselves. I teach those skills, and every day I see it changing peoples’ lives.

A furniture maker

I want to see more people proudly having handmade things in their homes, and not just jewelry or stuff like that. Real functional things we use in everyday life, made by a real human and not in a factory in Asia. I want to see less money being paid to own cheap pressboard junk that doesn’t help support an actual person, a neighbor. Just knowing that something I made in my shop is out there being loved by somebody–that’s huge for me.

What do you think? Want to try it? All you need is a few minutes.

Think about the work you do, or want to be doing.

What do YOU want to see more of? Less of? And how do the specific services/products you offer help make that happen?

Let me know what you come up with – and be sure to provide a link to your page so we can learn more about you.

Six clues that help keep me super-energized even “at my age”

Self-employed people often have a favorite book or books they keep on their nightstand. Usually, it seems like it’s a business book, something teaching core wisdom. Or it’s an inspirational tome by Michael Gerber, Tim Ferriss, or Seth Godin, or a dog-eared copy of Think and Grow Rich or The War of Art.

Anyone sneaking a look at my book stack these days would be disappointed to see that, of all the books that have come and gone, the only one that stays next to my bed constantly these days is How to Be Well by the functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman. Yep. A book not about keeping my business healthy, but keeping my whole life healthy.

I had been running my business in spite of how my body was doing, thinking it was just my age that was slowing me down. After all, I ate well, exercised, all that magazine-cover stuff. Must be something out of my control, right?

As I crept into my fifth and sixth decades on the planet, I started to see the small physical breakdowns common for people in my age bracket. Knees and shoulders started to hurt. I caught viruses more easily. I didn’t sleep as well, and little ailments and glitches would interfere with my ability to think well, work hard, and operate creatively on certain days. The machine of my body—which drives how well and easily I can do my work—was slipping into disrepair, and I was letting it, by pleading powerlessness.

Sometimes it takes a special resource to get through my preconceived notions, and this one did. It’s as though I’ve gotten a fresh, clean slate to work with. I’ve sunk deeper into my own core, past the layer of “how to run a business” and on to an even deeper spot, “how to run myself, so I have the power to do anything I’m called to do.”

Cool, huh?

What I love about How to Be Well is the way it’s organized. He outlines six pillars of keeping our bodies and minds well and capable, roughly divided into Eat, Sleep, Move, Protect, Unwind, and Connect. Each section has several 1-2 page subsections of easy-reading, actionable suggestions without any of the dense science found in similar books. It’s playful rather than dogmatic, with the topics in each area accompanied by fun, colorful artwork.

These are just a few of the habits (or habit-enforcers) I’ve already extracted from the book that have become priceless in supporting my life as a self-employed person:


Mastering the Nourishing Smoothie: I can whirl up a meal-in-a-blender packed to the seams with vital nutrients and never depend on manufactured snacks or plastic-wrapped foods (with all of their debilitating sodium, sweetener, and chemicals)

Eat Dinner Earlier and Breakfast Later: Giving my body a longer window to rest between “eating events” has easily doubled my energy, effortlessly dropped excess weight, and eliminated a lot of the mind fog of the typical American eating pattern of constant meals and snacks (and the insulin spikes that come with them).


Restore Your Ancestral Connection to Dark: I find myself out in the darkness more now, and it helps me to get more and better sleep. I hadn’t realized how things like LED bulbs were completely messing with my sleep patterns. (Great for saving money, lousy for reading before bed.)


Just Move (As Much as You Can): Grabbing any opportunity to keep your body in motion, even if it’s just getting up and walking around between tasks for a minute.

Play Like a Child: I hadn’t realized how I had so thoroughly brainwashed myself into thinking that movement/exercise had to be going to the gym, running on a treadmill, or powerwalking in order for it to “count.” My eyes now look for opportunities to be a kid again, climbing on rocks, walking the balance-beam of a landscape timber, or just digging in the dirt.


The Burden of Toxins: A Doctor’s Manifesto: Becoming cognizant of all the chemicals (many not adequately tested) I ingest and inhale and smear on my skin was massively eye-opening.

Give Your Mitochondria What They Need: Wildly helpful, and singularly responsible for the fact that I can work the hours I do in a way that’s healthy and joyful, not a Bataan death march of endless work. I heart my mitochondria now.


Smile. Laugh. Repeat. I hadn’t been doing ANYWHERE near enough of this (which triggered a cascade of funny reading, watching, and play).

Give Yourself a Massage: Who knew you could do this?  I do now.


Gather. Eat. Commune.  I’ve rediscovered the joys of gathering together with other people—enjoying good food, different energy, creativity-stimulating conversations. It’s not hard (even for this introvert) and it’s shifted everything.

Pursue Purpose, But Don’t Chase Bliss: I’ve discovered that the pursuit of “bliss” is not rewarding for me, but staying tightly connected to my various purposes in life—through a variety of activities and reminders and tactics—has elevated me in a way that five decades of previous life didn’t. Wildly wonderful.

I initially took the book out of the library, but now I own my own hardback copy, and it’s never going into the thrift store pile. Check it out at

Do you have an unorthodox book that’s been an unexpected spark for your work? Something off the beaten track that’s really lifted you up?

I’d love to hear about it.