Do Sh** That Scares You

do sh-- that scares you

Wise and revered First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” This is good advice even for those who aren’t risk takers. Because doing something that scares you need not be solely concerned with the physical.

Because I’m not a risk taker or an adrenaline junkie. I’m not a thrill seeker. I was never a fearless child. Not that I have many fears. Heights I can deal with except in certain circumstances. While at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto years ago, I could not step foot on the glass section. It’s an area where you can stand and see straight down. It can hold like a herd of buffalo. But my leg wouldn’t stop shaking so I just looked at the view in front of me not below me.

I’m also fine in the dark except that I can’t see. Roller coasters aren’t so much scary as they are nauseating. So I don’t tempt fate on that one. I’m looking out for my fellow riders. I’m also not really scared of death. It’s inevitable so it does little good to waste energy being scared. And that prevalent fear of public speaking doesn’t apply to me. I love it.

But life is scary. It’s scary in that everything can change in an instant. I could walk out my door today and never come back. Accidents, crime, wrong place wrong time and a million things in between can 180 your life in a heartbeat. So why not do some sh** that scares you. If you’re scared of something then you actually do it; you win. More importantly, it takes away the power of fear.

As I’m out there living life with a capital L, I’ve pretty much had fear’s number. I zip lined a few weeks ago. No hesitation, just stepped off and went. It was exhilarating. It’s the closest thing to flying most humans will ever feel. Great experience and would love to do it again.

But I haven’t been really scared in a long time until I went down the Wenatchee River on a raft with four real rafters. I thought it was just going to be a laid back rafting adventure. Then we got there and started getting into wet suits and packing up gear. Then there was the safety review, which I paid attention to like my life depended on it (spoiler alert: it did).

Then we get in the water, and the fun begins. There were multiple occasions where my heart was in my throat, and I was literally shaking. As a city girl, I’m not super outdoorsy. To clarify, I love to be outdoors but I’m just not an outdoor adventurer. My many years of girl scouting or previous rafting experience did not prepare me. I was with people who knew what they were doing so I deferred to them. Even though I did fall in, I received a passing grade from the pros. And more importantly, I did something really damn scary.

So these are examples of scary situations. But I do things every day that scare me just as much, but in a different way. I bare my soul with words that aren’t always easy to write. I’m honest to others and myself. I walk away from circumstances and people that are toxic. I’ve lived every day for 20 plus years without my mom, yeah that’s still scary. I take chances on people and let myself be vulnerable, unimaginably scary. I love people who may disappoint me or leave me. I prepare for professional rejection on the regular because not everyone thinks I’m publication worthy.

So I guess these adventures are small potatoes compared to what I and many of you do every day. Being brave is different for every person and every situation. If you want to feel alive; if you want to feel your pulse, simply do something that scares the sh** out of you. Every. Damn. Day.

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My “Golden” Rules

golden-rules

I can’t apologize for being real and saying what I think. I do always try to say it with respect and kindness. But I simply cannot be something I’m not.

At this point in my life, I can see no reason or benefit to be anything less than 100 percent real. So it’s very unlikely you’ll find me small talking or blowing hot air.

I’m not perfect, but I am imperfectly real. I strive to lead an authentic life. If you don’t like me, I don’t have any desire to change your mind. And if I don’t like you then that’s probably not going to change either. However, I’ll never be cruel. Instead I’ll do my best to avoid you.

I live by three “golden” rules. I hope they guide me in my actions and decisions. I fall short regularly. But I believe in the power and freedom of self awareness

Rule One: Be good to others

I long for a culture where condemnation and criticism of the choices of others isn’t the norm. I long for inclusion. Whatever your beliefs may be, they are yours. And my beliefs are mine. So if they are different, let’s agree to disagree. Worry less about my salvation and more about your own. So as long as you’re not hurting anyone, it’s not my place to judge.

Being good to others is more than kindness and empathy. I’m not always great at these. I do realize that not everyone has the strength to pick herself up. There are a million horrible things that happen to us in life. You can waste your time with blame, or you can move on. You can’t do both. Choose wisely.

Being good to others is often about saying nothing. It’s about not being a judge or jury. It’s about not discounting the experiences of others. It’s their experience; not yours.

So when I live this rule, it’s not that I’m selfless and full of inspiration. I’m not. I do respect the views of others. So please respect mine. Our differences make us human. So why are they often what tears us apart?

Rule Two: Be good to animals

I’m suspicious of those without pets. Of my inner and extended circle, I can think of no one who doesn’t share their home with an animal or three. Having an animal makes every home better. But my rule extends beyond the domesticated. We have a duty to care for and protect animals. Yet most see animals as something to control or use.

So I worry about the dogs pacing the shelter floors. I worry about the elephants prized for their tusks and nearing extinction. I worry about the bears in Alaska who have lost critical protections.

My ask of anyone is to see the beauty in nature; a beauty created by animals and plants. They do not need man. They were here long before us and will probably survive us. People often say that humans have personified animals; that they simply don’t have feelings. I would argue with this all day. They may not be as complex as we are, which is probably a good thing, but they most definitely feel and grieve and love.

Rule Three: Be good to yourself

The hardest rule not to break, for we are all too often unkind to ourselves. I am my own worst critic. No one has ever been or ever will be harder on me than me. I’d say I’ve called a truce with myself. I try to have boundaries, so that yes I can push when necessary but also let off when I’m hitting the wall.

Someone told me the other day they had high expectations of me, and I answered, “I have high expectations of myself.” I expect to be perfect. As I’ve already told you, I’m not. So there’s this winding trail of disappointment.

I am honest with myself. It took me a long time to get here, to be self aware. It was work, and I didn’t do it alone. It’s peaceful though. It’s calming to know that I control my attitude and choices. Nothing nor no one has this power but me. Don’t ever surrender the power you have to be your own person. It’s hard to get back.

Be patient. Be considerate. Understand that if you are trying every day to be better and be authentic then you are doing great. You’ve survived everything that’s happened thus far, and hopefully can still smile.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Always know in your heart you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.” I hold this in my mind a lot. Maybe you will as well.

I’m no inspirational leader or motivational speaker. I’m just a woman who loves to write and is sometimes not afraid to be vulnerable and honest. I just have moments of courage, and they happen to come out in sentences. If my words every mean something to anyone then I’ll feel heard; I’ll feel purposeful. I’ll feel I’m following the rules.

How I Landed My Dream Career

How I Landed My Dream Career

 

First, I just want to say this isn’t an article about how everything happens for a reason, and if you just focus on success, it’ll happen. This is a story about not settling. This is a story about how a job and a career are different things.

A year ago, I felt like my career was going nowhere. I left a job I loved because I just couldn’t keep going on a path that was all dead ends. So I took a job that I thought would move me into the right lane, and the pay was great. I soon learned that the job wasn’t what I expected. So I moved on after a few months to a position that paid more but still wasn’t what I wanted to do. But it gave me the time I needed to focus on where I wanted my career to go.

However, this was just a job, and I was a contractor not an employee. As a contractor, it was hard to feel like I was a part of something, which made feel disconnected to the work. I worked with some very smart and competent people. But no one seemed to have a plan for my role. It was like they went on a hiring spree, I showed up, and they weren’t sure what to do with me. I was used to just being thrown in, but when you work for a large company, it’s basically impossible to create work. But I tried. And really the clichés about large companies are mostly true: lots of red tape, corporate speak is rampant, and most of the time, new ideas aren’t appreciated. These were not bad experiences. I did learn things. I learned a lot about what I didn’t want for my career and that having at least some leeway to be creative is essential. And that I really like working and collaborating with others. The in person meeting is hard to come by in global companies. Technology allows for alternatives, but in my opinion, there’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye and giving them your attention.

I also learned that in a large company, your role is just one small cog and that was hard for me to swallow as my experience has been one where I’ve had to wear a lot of hats. I was able to connect what I was doing to the bigger picture; I just had little opportunity to influence the strategy. It became easier to just do what I was told. And that’s not me. I need to be challenged and engaged. Otherwise, I just feel like I’m simply showing up.

But during the year of contacting, I enjoyed flexibility that allowed me to find exactly what I wanted and focus on continuing to improve my skills and connections. This time allowed me to connect with some amazing folks and do some really cool things. So even if my day job was blah; I had work that was creative and challenging. I also took this time to learn new skills. I can now create landing pages without the help of a developer! Life doesn’t really hand out opportunities just for showing up. Attitude about your situation is what you can have control over, not much else.

So while I could worry less about financials, I had plenty of time to find the right fit. I had a lot of bad interviews. Not that the people were bad; it’s just I kind of immediately knew it wasn’t for me. I never turn down interviews even if I was already on the fence. You never know who you might meet or what it might teach you. I, at one point, thought I had found a great opportunity but because of situations beyond my control, the company made the choice not to fill the position. I did meet a great guy who 100 percent believed in me. We were completely on the same page so it turned into an opportunity, just a different kind.

The worst interview had to be the one that made me literally sick. It was so hot in the room, and I was in there for over an hour with no water. I’m not saying it was a literal toxic environment, but I decided my body was trying to tell me something.

So it was months of bad interviews or jobs that seemed like a good fit but were under my salary requirements. I could have just gotten comfortable in my day job routine. But I knew I wasn’t fulfilled so I kept putting myself out there.

Then something amazing happened. I applied for a job on LinkedIn and had a phone interview with my now boss. I immediately knew I wanted to work for him. Then in my in person interview it got even better. I knew I had found my people and my place.

I’m just finishing my first week, and thus far it’s as advertised. The people are fun and friendly. I’ve already received so much praise and recognition for my work and ideas. That’s pretty amazing! And I’m thankful everyday that I get paid well to do what I love, write and marketing!

My advice to anyone unhappy in their career is that only you can change it. Your boss isn’t suddenly going to start appreciating you. The work won’t become interesting and challenging if you wish hard enough. But don’t settle. You deserve to be treated well and paid fairly. I bring up pay because it’s important to ask for what you need and not back down. I know what I’m worth, and in the end so did they.

If the offers don’t come then keep learning and growing. Top talent is a bit of a unicorn these days. If you know how great you are, make sure employers do, too. Tell your story because we all have one. I’m feeling really blessed right now, and right now, I feel that my career story has just launched into an exciting new chapter.

I almost died last Tuesday

memories_not_dreams

I almost died last Tuesday. Okay that sounds super dramatic, and to be clear, I’m fine. I work in the downtown area of Charlotte, N.C. It’s not exactly pedestrian friendly. I’ve had close calls before, while I was in the crosswalk and had the green light. This was different. I was crossing one of the main roads on my way back to the office from running an errand. I’ve learned to hesitate a second or two even after the light comes on that says walk. I stepped out into the road, and an SUV ran the red light and literally came within inches of hitting me. A lady behind me even gasped. But as I said, I’m fine, not even a scratch. So what did I learn about myself in that split second?

I learned that it doesn’t take almost dying for me to know my priorities. I’m not suddenly going to start using YOLO as my mantra or seize the day. Because I’m already seizing the day, at least as much as I can.

You see, this isn’t my first brush with mortality. I’ve lost almost everyone that was important to me. And I’ve been in the room sitting across from the doctor hearing him say words like “cancer” and “surgery.” Maybe this gives me a unique perspective. Sometimes I’d probably trade that perspective to just have one more moment with my mom. But that’s not the path my life has taken. I often say, “Life rarely turns out as expected, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful.” I really believe this 84 percent of the time. I’m not perfect. I often get caught in the cobwebs of the past or the shininess of the future.

But I don’t think you need loss or trauma in your life to realize what’s important. I read something the other day, “I want to die with memories not dreams.” That’s a really powerful statement. We all have dreams that still haven’t quite come true. My biggest unrealized dream is to have one of my novels published and to finish my memoir. The routine of life gets in the way of dreams sometimes, but I want more than dreams; I really do want memories. I want to live a life that’s full of beauty as well as heartbreak. I understand that a life well lived has both because you have to take chances, fail terribly and pull yourself back up, which sometimes takes longer than you had planned. I want to see more than the five miles around where I live. I refuse to let fear keep me from experiencing life; whether that be traveling abroad or sharing my stories. I’m not paralyzed by what “might” happen. I understand the reality of what can happen.

I’m not completely fearless. My worries are not uncommon: bills, loved ones, rejection. But you know, I’m just not afraid of death. It’s inevitable. Nobody gets to bypass it. I just want to be sure that when that day comes, however it comes, that I lived a life, took every opportunity, lived by my own rules and left nothing on the table.

How do you really live your life? What keeps you brave?

When will I be enough?

enough

This is probably a question that pops up in everyone’s mind from time to time; it’s like a stain that keeps reappearing or bad breath that a mint can’t cover. It persists so we persist in trying to define “enough.”

The chorus in my head has been on the same verses for too long: Am I good enough? Successful enough? Smart enough? Pretty enough? I wish I could say that the answer is yes. But depending on the day, it can go either way.

I had competing viewpoints on if I was enough in my childhood. My mom was generous with praise, always the encourager. But she pushed a lot, too. Straight A’s were expected. I never had a B until high school, but she wasn’t harsh, just slightly disappointed. My father, on the other hand, was absent and incapable of praise. Instead I got a lot of lectures on being fat. When this is how you start out in life, it’s hard to be kind to yourself and believe you are “enough.” Because ultimately isn’t it about having that belief in yourself?

But we keep falling into traps about what is “enough.” We get snared and dragged down, losing all focus on the things that really matter.

Trap One: If only some magical thing will happen then I’ll be enough. If I get the right job or the perfect marriage or some other thing then finally I’ll be enough. Listen, we all need to have goals and dreams. It keeps us moving, but what happens is that we stop caring about the present. It’s easier to look toward the future with hope that things will be better. The past betrayed us, and the present is just this thing getting in our way of the perfect future.

You know those vision boards that were so popular years ago (maybe they still are?). People put so much time and effort into looking at a board that was their ideal life that they didn’t appreciate what they already had. I don’t have a vision board. I stopped looking for what was at the end of the rainbow and decided the rainbow’s pretty awesome on its own. I haven’t completely conquered this trap; I still want more. I still have plenty to accomplish, but I refuse to ignore these moments that I’m experiencing right now.

Trap Two: Self-doubt and insecurity make us less likely to ever get to the prized “enough.” How much confidence do you have in yourself at this moment? Probably less than you deserve. I’ve always been confident in my intelligence and skills. With every fiber in me, I believe in my talent as a writer and marketer. I’m educated, curious and work hard every day to keep sharp. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts. I still second-guess myself and feel that I’m not where I should be in my career. I’ve made mistakes. I stayed at jobs too long that didn’t nurture me and my ideas. However, I do make my living writing. People pay me to write! The topics aren’t always interesting, but it beats looking at spreadsheets or filling in balance sheets (I hate math!).

Do the most successful people in the world have self-doubt? I don’t know; it’s hard to believe that they could be confident in everything 100 percent of the time. I can only speak for me, and I am harder on myself than almost anyone ever could be. Some would say it’s tough love, but being kind to yourself has nothing to do with being “tough” and everything to do with being comfortable with who you are and where you’ve been.

So when will I ever be “enough”? I’ll probably consider myself an utter failure until one of my books is out there in the world. I may never be a best seller, but I’ll never give up on this dream. It’s the same dream I’ve had since I was a five years old. It’s been really close then far away then close again.

So what is your “enough”? This is a real question from a real person typing these words, not a ploy for engagement. Because if we can all make peace with “enough” doesn’t that make the world a little bit better?

 

I am a Feminist: No Apology Included

feminist

It’s 2017, and unfortunately, some people still think I need a provider. An anonymous buyer paid for this billboard to express his freedom of speech and belief that “Real Men Provide, Real Women Appreciate It.”

billboard

This story popped up in my news feed, and at first I didn’t pay much attention then I realized that this is actually in N.C., where I live. That doesn’t surprise me. In many areas of the state, this would be conventional thinking; however, I live in the largest city in the state, and Charlotte is more diverse. As diverse as any larger city may be, there are opinions across the board. Everyone has a right to their opinion. These are mine. I own them and am comfortable expressing them.

I understand that whoever chose to pay the money to put this on a billboard has the right to do so. But I would argue that donating that money to a women’s shelter or other nonprofit would have been a better use of the money.

As a feminist, it does bother me that in some people’s opinion, my husband should do all the providing. But I’ve been paying my own way for all of my life. We are a two income household, and he does his part, which I appreciate. I’m not ashamed to say I make more money than him. I have never expected any man to pay my way. I learned this from my mom, who was a single mom who got little child support and no other help. My lesson from a young age was take care of yourself.

On the subject of feminism, it was recently brought to my attention that some think the classic definition of feminism is to be “anti-man and pro-abortion.” I had no idea. I thought being a feminist was about wanting to be on equal ground. As a feminist, I don’t hate men, even though I have many reasons to. I could write long paragraphs about all the horrible things that men have done to me over the years. I won’t. Those experiences don’t dictate my worth; I do.

My personal definition of feminism is that I believe gender should have nothing to do with opportunity. I should be given opportunity based on my skills and my talent. I want to see a day when they don’t say “female” in front of leaders or entrepreneurs who happen to be women. We don’t do that for men, except for the phrase “male nurse” because for some reason we need to make it okay for a man to be a nurse.

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? From a young age, we are given these gender identities. Depending on how progressive your household was, you, as a girl, may have only been given dolls as toys and not balls. My mom was athletic and loved sports so I knew it was okay to be interested in things based on what I liked not what my gender was. Sports have never been my thing so I gravitated toward dance and more feminine activities. But I felt as though I didn’t have limits, unless they were self-imposed.

In my career, there have definitely been times when I knew I was getting paid less as a woman or wasn’t being given the opportunities to grow. I think every woman who has a career has probably experienced something akin to this. I feel a responsibility to be a strong voice for women. I shouldn’t have to apologize for being a feminist. It’s become an ugly word, one that conjures up stereotypes and bitterness. Has it become less powerful now that it’s a label? I love words. I think they can be very powerful. They can also be taken out of context or misconstrued. I’m just wondering how we got to this place. Strong women are the backbone of society. We work more hours and still are the primary caretakers. Is this fair? No, but it’s reality.

I’m not writing this to start an argument, but I wouldn’t mind a discussion. Do you think feminist is a negative word? What about the billboard? Is it misogynistic? Or a message to men to provide? To me, I’m not offended by it. I know where I stand. I am a feminist; no apology included.

 

Don’t Be a Flake

dont-be-a-flake

No one wants to be a flake. We all like to think we are accountable, decent human beings. But there’s still an unfortunate amount of flakiness out there. If you are wondering if you are a flake then you probably are. Don’t despair; this isn’t a condemnation. You can get those ducks in a row or at least in the same pond. Here are three lessons to start.

Show Up

When I say show up, I don’t mean just physically being there but being present. But first we will start with actually being there. I have a full calendar most days. I have meetings and conference calls for my day job but also lots of calls or meetings for freelance work, and I can say from experience that people don’t show up. Even for interviews! A little over a year ago, I scheduled an interview with a hiring manager, which included me taking time off from my current job. The lady never called me. It was supposedly an issue with not having the correct bridge line. So I was okay with rescheduling. The call was rescheduled for a day in which I was on vacation on the west coast, but I still accepted the meeting. I got up way early, as it was a 9 a.m. start time, but I was on Pacific time. And once again, the lady did not show up! At this point, I was done. I had no interest in working for someone who thought so little of my time. It was rescheduled again, and trying to be the better person, I accepted. When I finally had the call, the person never apologized or even mentioned the previous mishaps. She could have offered me a golden throne to rule from, and I would have said no.

The second part of showing up is being present. I’ve been in many meetings where most everyone in the room was on their phone, not remotely paying attention. I do not take my phone out during meetings. It’s rude and sets the tone that you don’t care. And it’s even worse in virtual meetings! People are on their phones, replying to IMs and checking email. That’s why you have to repeat your question twice (it’s not because they were talking on mute, but that’s a typical excuse).

I was working on a project early last year, and I had offered to help a colleague with some of the project management. She arranged a call, and I accepted. During the entire call, she kept pausing saying she had to answer an IM; then she’d say, “Sorry, I’m being so rude.” I didn’t respond. I would have preferred to say, “Yes you are.” I was offering to help her, and she couldn’t give me 15 minutes to understand her needs.

Showing up and being present matters professionally and personally. My husband and I don’t bring our phones to the dinner table, and you’d never catch us at a restaurant glued to our phones. We actually like talking to each other.

Meet Deadlines

Deadline literally means “the latest date or time by which something should be completed.” Most everyone has to deal with deadlines at work and home. Yet no one seems to be able to meet said deadline. My first job after undergrad was in a legal department. Our deadlines were pretty firm, unless the court granted an extension. If you don’t submit your response to a complaint on time, that’s it. No do-overs. You lose. Because of this experience, I have a unique perspective on deadlines. I hold myself accountable and deliver in the time frame promised or given. But there is rampant disregard for deadlines in corporate America. The justification is always that he or she is slammed or too busy. To which I say, “Do your job.” Everybody’s busy; everybody, however, doesn’t know how to prioritize or manage their time. There are plenty of guides, articles and other content available to help people learn to do this so if this an area where you suffer, get some help. Also stop procrastinating. Make lists. Set reminders.

Stop Waffling & Make a Decision

Indecision gives me literal heartburn. If you can’t make decisions and stick with them, we aren’t going to be friends. I make decisions, not with haste, but I also have the ability to think critically about the consequences of decisions. I do not waffle. Every decision I make doesn’t always turn out as expected, but I learn from it and move on. I proudly own my decisions. But, I am significantly frustrated with the way in which I’ve seen people, who were in positions where being decisive was essential, unable to do this.

Great leaders make decisions with confidence. They carefully think through how the decision will impact the process, product or strategy. When I see leaders unwilling to make decisions, it’s usually because of fear. Fear is the biggest hurdle to execution. Fear keeps people staring into the headlights. I once had a boss that was paralyzed by fear, fear of one little word on a landing page or eBook. His fear strangled my ability to execute and ultimately led to me leaving.

I will admit there is one caveat to my strong decisiveness – sushi menus. They are so long and overwhelming! I defer to the hubby whenever we have sushi. It keeps me sane.

If some of these examples seemed a little too familiar, it’s okay. Most have no intention of being a flake. Often you need to become self-aware to be accountable. But accountability isn’t selective. You can’t just be responsible when things are good; you also have to be responsible when things aren’t so good. Take a deep breath, and decide to shed the flakiness today!