35 Things That I've Learned Over 35 Years
Today I turn thirty-five years old. That's a few years to have a few thoughts that I would now like to share with you. Here they are:
- You'll make mistakes, so own them. I just made one yesterday. I wrote emails from a defensive place -and I know better - emails that went out to six people including my CEO. I had to apologize to a client on a Sunday evening and today, on my birthday, my first order of business will be to march into my CEO's office and apologize to him as well. We've been going through lay offs. I might get fired. I might not. Even if your mistakes aren't laid out through multiple emails, still best to own up to them and see how you can fix them.
- You are amazing. It doesn't matter whether you have cellulite on your thighs or if your Tweet didn't get any love. Within you is something amazing that you should nurture and love and grow. Learn what is amazing about yourself, then praise that amazingness every single day.
- Watch your use of the word "sorry". "I'm so sorry, but I wanted to ask when you'll get that report to me." "I'm sorry, I just dropped my book right there." *someone bumps into you* "Sorry!" Mis-using this word yanks your power away like a bully who just saw the small kid with their lunch money.
- Your spirit is a tiny badass clad in a black leather motorcycle jacket who is ready to hit the road and travel to awesome places. That's to say: you'll get through the hard shit. You will. Life is a road that takes us to destinations of joy and despair, but the thing is, that road keeps going; you never have to stay in one place too long. Earlier this year I was ready to swallow a bottle of oxycontin because life didn't make sense after I lost a baby. Six months later, it makes sense. That's how life goes: it's dark then it's light. It hurts, then you heal. I got through it. My heart goes out to you if you're in a dark, suffering space right now, but put that jacket on your soul and get over to the next place.
- Do the crazy things that your heart is screaming for. Earlier this year, I asked my dad and my husband to go in on a ticket for me to attend a seminar that I've been wanting to go to. But not "a" ticket. I asked for the "best" ticket. They didn't quite understand why until I got back and told them about the amazing beings I was amongst and the life-changing connections that I made.
- If you're wondering what to do to accomplish your idea of success, watch people who are living a life that looks good to you. This goes back to #5. I'm obsessed with the idea of the intersection of wealth and creativity so I've been listening to podcasts that are hosted by/interview people who are rocking the middle section of that venn diagram. Guess what? They all went to the seminar that I went to at some point in their lives.
- When in doubt: compassion. This goes back to number one. I opted to defend myself and write emails that are more trigger-happy than a sniper with twenty targets in plain sight instead of stopping, centering and digging into that spot where I keep the compassion reserves, I would have been able to remember that my client is on the precipice of a huge event and she would rightfully like some damn answers about some stuff. If that comes off as throwing my ass under the bus: compassion. NOT retaliating by throwing someone else under the bus.
- Listen to understand instead of waiting to speak. I know this isn't possible all the time and I know this because of me and plenty of instances where I was thinking "ME! NOW I TALK! I'M SOOOOOOOOO INTERESTING!". However, if you can slow down and listen to the person in front of you with a willingness to understand, you'll start learning things about the ways other people operate that are different from your operational norms. You'll be able to communicate more effectively. And you'll notice people's trust in you sky-rocket because they'll love the validation of being truly understood and listened to.
- If you're going to look back, do it to appreciate how far you've come.
Our past may have shaped who we are, but it by no means should have any power on where we're going. I spent my Thanksgiving in Napa where there is a lot of wealth, a lot of beauty and a lot of luxury, which does not reflect the socio-economic status or the value system that I was born into. However, I am actively creating a life that will provide the choice of living in Napa with my family should we so choose to. Before I went up there, I wanted to show my husband where I was born. I think that it was appropriate the the road from the place I was born, to my desired and planned destination, went up, not down.
10. Take care of your body. Seriously. I remember when I was 23 and I was like, "ooooohhhh, nooooo, I went from a size 2 to a size 4!", then I would go spend two seconds on a treadmill and those size 2s were slipping right back on. Not so much in your thirties. Though having some nice hand fulls of lady curves is pretty awesome. But still, take care of yourself.
11. No one owes you a damn thing. It is fully your responsibility to create the realities in which you want to exist. That can be economically, socially, intellectually, geographically, career-wise - whatever it is, if you are reading this, then you have access to the internet which means you have access to a wealth of information that you can use to get you anywhere in life. But it's YOU. You have to do it.
12. You don't owe anyone a damn thing. Here's a fun exercise: the next time you need to decline an invitation or a request, simply say "no". Say it politely, you can even say "no, thank you". Or "I'm unable to do that right now." And then observe yourself as something inside of you will want desperately to give an explanation to the requestor. You don't owe them that. You don't owe charities money. You don't owe your time to people who bring you down or obligations that take you away from your family. (Write down all the stories around this that are coming up for you, just for funsies. This is not an easy one for people to wrap their minds around.)
13. Setting boundaries: do it. I'm a recovering people-pleaser which is another way of saying that I used to let people into my spiritual, psychological and physical space as much as they wanted to the extreme detriment to my own health. I found it really difficult to stand and tell people what was okay and what wasn't, but when I started doing this in my marriage and professional life, things started feeling really good. A few people were annoyed or confused for a bit, but it turns out people come around if they want to be in your life. If you are a people-pleaser, there are resources for learning about boundary setting out there. I would personally recommend a good coach or a therapist, but not one of those coddling therapists but like the tough-love kind.
14. Forgiveness is key. Especially of yourself. Just like setting boundaries, forgiving is a skill that sometimes needs to be learned in order to step into the next phases of our lives with grace, power and dignity. Forgiveness is an act that declares the past will not define the future. Forgiveness takes ten pounds off you. Forgiveness is the best you can give - yourself.
15. If you are experiencing anxiety, that is your body's way of saying something is really wrong. I have had a history of debilitating panic attacks. LIke, losing sight while driving down the freeway types of debilitating. If you need to see a doctor, please do. But I also strongly believe that if you share in the suffering of anxiety, it's a beautiful opportunity to deep dive within yourself and examine where you might be out of integrity between your values and your circumstances. The examination should be done without judgement, lest you compound the symptoms.
16. If you are experiencing depression, exercise. Again, if you need to see a doctor, do it. I'm not trying to give you medical advice, but what I know of depression, and I'm no stranger to that shit, is that you have to be a shark. You have to just keep swimming. I know you don't want to peel yourself off the floor, but seriously, break up your pattern. Go outside. Go to the gym. Go somewhere where the strangers are okay with hugging. Do something weird, and don't just lay there.
17. You are more loved more than you know. This is an uncomfortable exercise, but do it anyway: call three people who you respect and that know you fairly well and then ask them what it is that they admire in you. Then promptly send them a hand-written card - NOT an email or Tweet - with a gift card and a thank you note. Also:
18. Write thank you notes. It's cheap and it's an easy way to stand out from the masses. Think about it: how often do you get cards these days? Think about how much it would bring a smile to your face! Now go do that for someone else, because:
19. What you give is what you receive. You want reasons to smile randomly through your days? You want your significant other to acknowledge your efforts more often? You want people to listen to you more intently? Whatever it is, go do it. Make people smile randomly. Start saying thank you to your significant other for every small little thing they do and see if they don't start returning the favor (verbally or otherwise xo). See if people lean in a little more and start listening to you to understand instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. Because remember - no one owes you a damn thing. You earn it.
20. How you show up matters. The way you present yourself is a communication to your peers, audience or superiors of the concerns that you are willing to take care of. Are you willing to present yourself in a way that carries to the greater goods of everyone involved? For example, if you work at a place without a strict dress code, but you know that there is a potential client coming in, do you kick it in your Chuck Taylor's and jeans that day? Or do you step it up and put in a little more effort with the brown leather shoes and tailored slacks?
21. Don't be afraid of being different. I think that our society is moving out of a period of homogenization through education so that we can be "kept in line", which I'm highly grateful for. But because humans are pack animals and our reptilian brains still kick in from time to time, it's scary to stand out. The other day I went to downtown Calistoga in a dress and wedges. It was the day after Thanksgiving and the general uniform was Nikes, workout leggings and a fleece. For a second, I felt self-conscious because people might think I'm full of myself. But here's the thing: I am. Mainly in that way that I know what I have to offer because I've been alive for 35 years and I'm no longer 22 crying because my douche bag boyfriend was caught flirting with the bustier blonde at the apartment complex swimming pool again. Today if that happened I'd strut down the street singing "NEXT". As soon as I realized that I was about to shrink inside myself for fear of being too visible or too different on Black Friday, I stood a little taller and swung my hips like they were on a pendulum as I walked amongst the Nikes.
22. Do not let other people's standards of operation determine yours. Always operate just above your peers. Be the first one in the office or the one who gets to work right after a work party. Do fifteen minutes of solid work after everyone else has left. Even if you don't send an email with your boss cc'd on it, your consistent commitment to higher standards will start to be noticed by those who have the power to make a difference in your life.
23. Don't read the news. Do you remember in The Dark Knight where the Joker says, "I am an agent of chaos"? I feel like all news outlets - left, right, middle, up, down - should all have a disclaimer that says: we are all The Joker. Because they are. They are agents of chaos and merchants of fear. The solution that the networks offer is consumption of all sorts of crap, especially pharmaceuticals. If you're worried that your life will fall into a tail spin without the news, read this as an alternative. Then examine your need behind needing to be fed fear all the time.
24. Examine why you want the things you want. I've been reading Vogue since the eighth grade and I have a "thing" for designer clothes. But I was noticing unhealthy behaviors around purchasing clothes - compulsive and irresponsible - and after doing some deep-diving with my coach, we uncovered that my impulsive purchases that clearly indicated that my financial priorities were completely out of whack were not because I really, really, really, appreciate the stitching on Italian finery (I do, but ...), but because my concept of value around myself is off. I have found an amazing consignment store online and purchase sale items (go to Neiman's and try on different labels to get an idea of your particular fit and size in each designer) every once in a while. However, I do so knowing that they won't determine my value, but will help me show up powerfully in different situations - which is an ability in myself that I regard as highly valuable.
25. Invest in yourself. The gym, a coach, seminars, travel, time alone, books, continuing education. All of that stuff will help you attain the house in Napa and the Gucci gown (or whatever that looks like for you).
26. Examine why you have the people in your life that you do. Seriously. Every year or so take a roll call and make sure the people who are blessed enough to receive your time, energy, presence and attention are people who challenge you to up-level yourself, who celebrate your successes, who are constantly pushing themselves to their own next level, who don't fall into victimhood and encourage you to validate it, people who lean in and listen and remind you of why you're amazing when you've lost your way. I know I said no one owes you anything, but you owe it to yourself to have high-quality people around you who want to give to you the way you give to them.
27. When you're overwhelmed, and there's too much to do, do one thing. Make a list. Then start doing things on that list. Start to feel the benefits of accomplishment. Welcome the thought "hell yeah, I totally got this". Check off all items on your list. Then:
28. Get really specific about your bigger picture. This advice is all over the place since the Sermon according to Sinek was preached from on high after his book Start With Why was published (highly recommend, by the way). But start with your why. And then start with what. Then how. Add the who's going to be on that amazing journey with you. Figure out the where. (Anyone want to meet in Napa?) And then invest in yourself, purchase education and learn how to make that happen.
29. Get really protective of your energy. A shaman once gifted me the Bands Of Protection and Bands Of Power that I didn't know I needed in order to handle my over-sensitivity in a highly sensory world. I'm not saying that you should go get a Shaman (but it is really fun to say "my shaman said" or "my shaman and I", even though people will be very annoyed by said phrases), but you should consciously notice when you feel emotionally or physically drained and then notice the activities, places, people or content that you were participating in/hanging out at/socializing with/reading/watching at the time you were feeling drained. Then, stop doing whatever it is because whatever energy you're misusing is a lost opportunity to step into your purpose and your power.
30. Get really protective of the people you love. And notice I didn't say possessive. Protect their energy and their boundaries if you see them having trouble doing it on their own. If they have it dialed down, stand back, admire and learn from their particular way of holding it down. If you love them, stand by their side and be in their world and step up from the Golden Rule into the Platinum Rule: treat others how you would like to be treated. OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH, can you imagine that world?
31. Ownership of self is EVERYTHING. Of your mistakes, of your weight, of your success, of your family. All of it. All of it is something you are a willing participant and enabler of. If your finances aren't where you would like them to be, instead of saying that your boss didn't give you a raise this year, ask yourself where you're not providing the value that would warrant the realization of your financial goals. If your spouse doesn't throw you down in a fit of passion like they used to, instead of lamenting to yourself that they've gotten lazy and unappreciative, take a look and see where you've become lazy and unappreciative. Do you nag more than you praise? Did your steadfast habit of wearing beautiful matching underwear sets when you were dating fall to the wayside in the hustle of every day life? If you are accomplishing your goals, making progress, experiencing more joy and happiness in your life and you are seeing a clear trajectory from where you are to where you want to be OWN IT. No one handed that out to you. Tony Robbins says we all have moments of grace, but it is how we show up in the world that allows us to receive that grace. OWN IT. Own all of it.
32. Authenticity will create heart connections. Your vulnerability, mistakes, confidences, sad stories, sexy stories, your joy, your sorrows... If you are holding back from sharing these stories with the people that you were placed on this earth to serve and to help, you're doing them a disservice. Even though our joys and struggles are fundamentally the same, we all experience them as isolated individuals. Imagine knowing that there's someone out there kicking ass despite the hardships that they've gone through. Now imagine knowing that your stories could be the inspiration for someone to go accomplish their dreams.
33. Examine the motivation behind your actions. If you're anything like me, you're a fan of a good glass of wine. Or maybe a mediocre glass of wine. But wine is no stranger to your lips. I know that the older I get, the more curious I am about my intentions behind the consumption. Same goes with healthier actions: what are my intentions behind the mile that I ran today? All of this goes back to Start With Why so that you can gain a deeper understanding of the value that you receive from the practices that you implement. Wine helps me feel calm and at ease. From there I can ask myself: why am I not calm and what is putting me ill at ease? And so on and so forth.
34. Do what makes you feel alive. Because that is very likely your purpose in your life. I feel alive when I'm traveling, wandering off a path with my camera, writing or engaging in an intelligent inspiring conversation. I feel alive when I can help people get from one perspective to a perhaps more effective perspective through the power of linguistics. That realization has put me on a very specific path where I know I can combine all of these things that makes me feel alive.
35. Gratitude. I have said it before and I'll say it again. Be grateful for what you have. Develop a cultivation practice around gratitude whether it's writing, sending a thank you note once a week, telling people you're grateful and why you're grateful... And see if your life doesn't improve drastically just through your gratitude practice.
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