Love Breaks Down Walls

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Independence. As an only-child, it is what I’ve owned. I’ve fought for it, worked hard to prove it, and suffered in it.

Being strong was a badge I owned. Growing up in a household where I often questioned love and intention, control was important to me, a place where I could write my own story.

And when standing on your own and providing for yourself is your battle cry, surrendering to love is no easy feat. To show up without safety pads and back-up plans, and to rip off the stubborn badge that boasts “I can do this alone” requires more than awareness. It takes deep work that pushes you to show up openly.

Because after all the Nicholas Spark novels and movies that ended in “Happily Ever After”; and after that wedding where the printed programs immortalized the love you were supposed to have forever; and after that heart-wrenching break-up that happened over Facetime because he moved across the world… You begin to re-examine your relationship with romantic love and the purpose it serves.

I’d always wanted epic love, craved for depth, sought for connection. While I’d kicked around my fair share of hearts (and had mine slayed a few times myself) and well-learned that love takes monumental effort, what I didn’t count on was that love hadn’t finished teaching me. And that sometimes, the lesson didn’t feel good.

Because when a soul mate enters your life, they dig. They root up things you thought you’d left behind. They call out the parts where you haven’t let go. They see the passions you let burn out and shine a flashlight on them.

I couldn’t see–
Scars that I was embarrassed of.
Stories I hid because of shame.
Pages of books I’d buried so I could move on.
Experiences that built walls keeping others out.

A reflection I had still not embraced as beautiful.

And then love shined a crystal-clear mirror. While confrontation can be excruciating, I could see me. By choosing to look, I could begin owning my past, acknowledging my fears, and releasing my pain.

I began writing a new story.

I became honest about my headstrong independence which had become more of a shield I wore to protect me from potential pain and inevitable heartbreaks. This well-intentioned armor gave me a false sense of control. It boasted fictitious strength that others affirmed was admirable, so each day, I put it on again.

I feared relying on someone else, because what happens if they leave? Or when you’re alone? Or if something happens. That’s the funny thing about risk, we consider the “what if X happens?” We don’t always consider what happens if we DON’T do something.

What’s the risk of never letting your heart open enough? Or if you’re too proud to ask for another’s hand to hold?

I will tell you. You risk the pain of never knowing how love can hold you. You risk never experiencing the magic of another person being there with and for you, that you don’t have to slay your dragons alone.  You risk never learning that vulnerability is not weakness but the highest form of courage and strength.

Yet, there are times you may want to throw your hands up. You have a bad day. You have a brutal fight. Something from your past rears its ugly head. You realize not everything is as “sexy” or “endearing” as it once was.

I didn’t say this was easy work. I’ve fought it and sometimes denied it.

But this time I can’t walk away when I’m angry. Or tune out because I’m distracted. Or ignore because I don’t want to confront.

This is where you discover and face those dark and ugly places so you can get past them and be set free. Sometimes it feels your partner IS that dragon you are slaying, but they are only revealing what you couldn’t previously see.

When you allow them in deep enough, they fight alongside of you, instead of against you.

Occasionally, tears must fall to wash away the residue of excess egos and past heartbreaks that cause poorly-delivered words and fuel misunderstandings. Sometimes raised voices must leak to excavate the buried pain and traumas that had become heavy weights.

While seemingly impossible, these difficult times allow you to break through layers to get closer to reciprocally understand the nuances of each others needs and desires, in order to more fully satisfy them.

Contrary to the message of the classic fairytale, love is not a prize to be won, nor a finish line of an obstacle course, not an ending to a movie.

Love is a rolling journey, a thousand moments:
Of being present when we want to run.
Of misunderstandings that challenge how we communicate with the world.
Of standing naked draped in imperfections, dimples, and scars; and being accepted.
Of misspoken words that should have never been uttered and make us mindful to become more tender with what we say.

Of eye-rolling annoyances that expand our patience.
Of leg-squeezes under the table to connect without words.
Of intimate declarations not for show on Facebook but exchanged while facing another.
Of vibrational surrender.
Of passionate love-making.

Profound love exists. Life changing, body shaking, soul overtaking love exists…if you choose it.

You choose to show up. To exist openly.

You choose for love to inspire you or to exhaust you.

You decide that partnership will grow you or lose you.

You choose for tears to destroy you or exalt you.

And thus I choose to say yes to:
giving more when I thought I had
trying even when I feel tired
opening my heart in the most vulnerable and expansive way

Because the reward that greets me first thing in the morning and at the end of a long work day, makes every victory a bit sweeter, every smile a bit wider, and each laugh a whole lot louder.

Sometimes walls are built to hold things out. I choose to break my walls so I can truly allow love to come in.

 

 

So, here’s to you, the man I call Boo. My writing muse, co-pilot adventurer, and growth partner:

To laughing at 2 pm on a Thursday because we both happily quit our jobs and celebrate living our truth.
To spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen with sour beers and perfectly curated Pandora stations (careful not to break a toe).
To oyster happy hours and subsequent Whole Foods drinking binges, when the rest of the world knows it’s Tuesday night and we’re living like it’s Saturday.
To the moments I get impatient and raise my voice, and you call me out and always forgive.
To helping me remove the weights I never even knew I was carrying.
To the things I feel and always mean to say, and instead transcribe publicly to the world.

Here’s to knowing the most devastating and scary moments of my life may still be ahead of me, but hearing you softly snore at 1 am while my mind is spinning in irrational fears, I know I’ll be able to face it.

Thank you for the arms that hold me when I don’t ask, the fingers that wipe the tears that fall, and the hand that holds mine that makes me utterly powerful. May we continue to choose each and every moment.

Happy Birthday.

Today, I granted your wish of celebrating your gifts by using mine.

 

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Ask For What You Want.

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I generally want people to figure things out without me telling them. Usually, it’s with men.

If I’m feeling insecure or unlovable, I want nothing more than for him to wrap his arms around me, reassuring me that I’m the greatest love of his life.

But I don’t tell him that.

If something is bothering me, rather than spit it out, I can sometimes clammer around with an obvious weight, waiting to be coaxed with the perfect question.

If staying in to watch a documentary slightly edges out going to see a new action flick, I shrug to say “I could go either way” instead of voicing my bit of preference.

In so many ways, I’m audacious. I’m wiling to say uncomfortable things and give honest feedback. I confront situations where I need to step up.

Except, sometimes I don’t ask for what I want.

Sure, if it’s a sale, I’ll ask for the order. If it’s a business proposition, I have no problem being straightforward.

But when it comes to my personal needs, I can end up taking the back seat.

Because, shouldn’t the other person just get me? Shouldn’t they know what I need? Somehow, I unconsciously administer a test, yet I don’t give them an opportunity to pass it. It’s usually by chance if they do.

My thinking says, “I don’t want to have to TELL you.” And then it switches to me and someone wants something, yet I stand clueless and would have happily obliged.

S/he’s not a mind-reader. But we expect him to know all our idiosyncrasies, inner dialogue, and complexities. We can unknowingly create obnoxious expectations that we fail to let him in on. And worse, we emotionally slap him when he moves “incorrectly”. We treat his actions as if they are malicious instead of what they usually are… Unaware. Sometimes the person that deserves the benefit of the doubt the most, isn’t the one who receives it.

It’s as if being a soulmate or a magically delivered “One” means that our partner will suddenly become psychic… or superhuman… Or both.

Society has raised us to be polite. To say please and thank you before we even know what that means, as our mom whispers commandingly at us.  We don’t want to “impose”; we don’t want help in the store; we’re worried that the person is too “busy”.

And this easily translates into our interactions with people closer into our lives. Our well-trained manners become a guideline for not stepping too far over bounds, or being too forward. Or not asking for what we want.

Why is it frowned upon to ask for affection, attention, or to have your desires met? Instead, we put pressure on another to just “figure it out.” Our fear of being labeled selfish or demanding or inconsiderate has taken us too far in the other direction. And so we silently suffer when we could be reveling.

When someone I care about really wants something, I want to deliver. If someone has a need, I derive joy in fulfilling that. It’s funny how it works in one direction, and yet I forget to give myself the permission to reciprocate the same.

It is when I acknowledge my own worthiness that I remember, it’s ok to ask for what I want… And to receive that.

As I began to apply this authenticity to my own relationships, I found my openness and audacity were rewarded. Without the barrier of holding back, I found I was showing up more fully me. Little problems were resolved in their baby stage, rather than compacting into giant wars.

When my dog wants me to pet him, he roots his little nose and artfully pops my arm up. Sometimes he punctuates it by blowing his nose on my face. And I laugh and joyfully comply.

It’s time to take a lesson from the pup. To indulge our partner in the chance to address our desires and attend to our needs. To experience the joy in being part of another’s enjoyment and fulfillment. To be more free with our wants. Satiation is a gift in both directions.

So, next time you’re acting indifferent but you really want to go out to get sushi for dinner, try this fun experiment… Put it out there. Or if a neck rub would be the most miraculous way to save you from a headache and stressful day… Say what you feel.

Expression isn’t a luxury.

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Should Your Life’s Work Stay the Same Your Whole Life?

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The average employee changes jobs every four years.

Yet, with each job, it’s likely you take it on as if it’s your entire “Life’s Work”. Consuming 40-80+ hours of your daylight (and sometimes night) hours while expending the best of your energy, and sending other parts of your life to the back seat.

I’ve found myself here repeatedly, and watched others do the same. Our identities become interlaced with this work. We then cancel our personal cell phones, we switch all our email to company email, we stay too late, we lose ourselves/relationships/priorities in the process. Instead of Jean, it becomes “[insert company name] Jean”.

We convince ourselves Someday it will pay off, acting as committed martyrs for the cause.

You may give the best of yourself to your work every day, potentially sacrificing a lot in the process. I most certainly skipped weddings, missed nights out with friends, pulled all-nighters, ate too many Lean Pockets, slept in airports… All in the name of a career I had taken on. It is your CAREER, right? It’s what you know, how you provide for yourself, and the comfortable desk you autopilot to each day. Thinking there’s possibly another route may freak you the hell out. It’s the safe, proven path everyone takes.

  • But what happens when your work becomes trading time for dollars, a countdown to TGIF?
  • What happens when the path you’ve devoted yourself to no longer aligns with who you are and the life you want to lead?
  • What happens when signs of discontentment that lead your eyes wandering outside the coffee shop window and mindless flicking of your Facebook feed emerge?

What happens when you…change? Can your Life’s Work change?

I’ve been a resource to my circle by way of job-hunting advice, interview role-plays, and resumé writing. Having been a hiring manager in my companies for years, I know what employers are generally looking for. Amongst what’s important: Stability. Loyalty. Tenure.

But what does tenure actually say about you?

You’re not flaky, flighty, or unpredictable. A safer bet.

Or consider…
That you just “stuck it out”?
That you gave up on something bigger?
That you’re good at being miserable and “pushing through”?
That you flat-out stopped trying?

Maybe as a hiring manager I was wrong all this time.

Upward mobility, commitment and dedication… All this is jargon we hiring managers look for and love. But as I think of my past, and most importantly, my future, I wonder:

If I change, is it possible my Life’s Work SHOULD change?

As I shape shift, I find light coming through the space where I was once a circle and am now a triangle. To stay on the same rail while becoming richer with more life and new wisdom doesn’t allow me to best serve the world… Or myself.

Does it make sense to stay rigid within one decision, to sit in a place that doesn’t cultivate my fluidity, for the sake of not being labeled a “job hopper” or because I think it’s honorable just to “stick”?

It’s most certainly easier to avoid confronting fears and taking the risks that push us to discomfort. Moving audaciously (and sometimes uncertainly) is scary, so we learn to stay put and to even tell ourselves it’s honorable. Our modern work climate and social norms enforce this by rewarding our singular path, embellished with validating words like “loyalty”.

Yay, you didn’t leave in 40 years, here’s a plaque and an oversized sheet cake.

It’s a wonder, then, that companies who want to continually grow and adapt to an ever-changing and competitive landscape in the business world, don’t tend to prioritize how they can best feed and support the evolution of their most important resource, their people. But, more on that another time…

So we learn to wear this commitment as an invisible leash, tethering our souls, instead of as a staircase that leads us to the next balcony. Instead of a necessary dot that was meant to connect us to the next dot.

The hardest decision in life, then, might be to have the courage to follow the next dot. And if our resumés could better reflect those bold choices and important risks, we’d be showcasing a life well-lived and in pursuit of ourselves.

That’s the resumé I’m interested in building.

Growing up in a struggling single income family, I vowed my choices would never be confined by finances. So I made the money, bought the stuff, and in the end found the dopamine kick that fancy toys gave me filled my house, not my soul. Stripping away my materialistic self forced me to dig deeper and find that lavish lifestyle and status symbols would only trigger hollow, temporary highs. Instead now, I choose to be rich in experience and free in minimalistic living. Security is no longer money, it’s self worth.

This has cleared space to follow my heart, my love, my… Life’s Work? Perhaps I was creating this opening all along.

Consider: Is your Life’s Work your skill set, just what you’ve been good at? Or is it the passion you bring to something, the inexplicable force that leaps you out of bed on a bone-chilling morning. Perhaps, it’s that ludicrous idea you can’t put to rest and seeps out every time you push it back. It could be that long-held interest that’s not even a current talent but, once cultivated, will reveal your truest gift.

Maybe it doesn’t pay well.
Maybe it pays better.
Maybe it just doesn’t matter, because what’s having all the money in the world if your stomach pangs and your soul aches daily for more?
Maybe it’s saving money to take a couple years off to immerse in your “non job” life’s calling…To tinker, explore, and serve.
Maybe that tinkering brings a whole new perspective and breathes invigorated life to merge your current job into a new iteration of your Life’s Work.

Or maybe, just maybe… Your Life’s Work is a continual shift, a constant evolution that morphs with compounded experiences and newfound wisdom.

Completion. New challenge. Completion. New challenge. New journey. New pursuit.

Your body is a vessel of skills and talents. Some have been obvious, yet some are only surfacing. What lies untapped within you that begs to be invited out? Consider the buried genius that is awaiting your permission to experiment.

Like children play dress-up, we have a need to role-play and dance with different sides of ourselves. Today, you make an excellent news anchor, and tomorrow you want to be a restauranteur. It would be a tragedy to never know.

If we have only one lifetime here, then to spend it on a singular, linear path when we house so much potential limits the breadth of our lives.

Positive discontent and yearning often prompt extraordinary ideas and creations to emerge.

A year ago, my hair was brown. Now, it’s pink and blue (well, actually now pink and green). I’ve changed. I quit my “perfect” cool beer job. I leapt without a net.

Now, I’m betting on me. I vow against mediocre comfort and quiet desperation.

Have the courage to take the bet on yourself.

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It’s OK to Not Know.

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What’s next?
How are you gonna make money?
You didn’t get another job before you quit?
What about health benefits?

I. Don’t. Know.

And I realize how human nature this is, we all assume working is a mandatory. At all times, we need to have a career, we need to have it all figured out, we need to have a stream of income, we need to be chasing the next thing.

Or we don’t.

At first, I felt the pressure to know and have a defined path ready to articulate. My worried parents would feel better if I had something good to tell them. Aren’t I supposed to have a plan?

And then I remembered. This isn’t about what anyone else thinks or what others think I should do…This is about what feels right for me.

I have no idea what’s next, what I want to do, or how it’s all going to go down. And I’ve chosen this path by design.

I’m instead allowing myself to sit in the uncertainty of it all and learning to embrace it. What am I doing tomorrow? Who knows. But in my overly-planned, highly-detailed, self-scrutinized life, it’s this amazing deep breath I get to take right now to buck all the “you should’s” and instead say, “I feel like…”

I don’t have all the answers.

I might not even have one answer right now.

So tomorrow I might meet a friend for lunch, or snuggle with my dog, or decide to run a half marathon, or be inspired to create a company with a social good mission.

In fact, the damn promise of it all makes me giddy. I have no premonition of who I’ll meet, what unexpected experience will shift me, and what epiphany will come flooding in.

For now, I roll around in all the possibility ahead and slowly let today melt in my mouth.

I get to sleep in. Yes, I can meet you for lunch. Sure, I can do a Skype call. You bet, I will stay up all night watching Breaking Bad (even if it gives me weird dreams).

I can be inspired, lazy, or change my mind a hundred times. And I probably won’t curl my hair.

Time is really all we have and spending every moment figuring out how I’m going to launch my next career isn’t the only thing. I believe it will unveil itself in due time. When I’m ready.

Instead, I can check in with myself, learn something new, marinate ideas, and indulge in longer kisses. I sit on the edge of potential and splash my feet in it.

So no, I’m not aggressively job-hunting right now. We have our entire life to work. What we never spend enough time is in play. In reflection. In stillness.

Didn’t you love recess as a kid? When you could throw out every care and put your chest to the sky?

I spent my entire life chasing and climbing. I followed a prescribed path. I did what I was supposed to do. Now I get to do me.

We wait for vacation, for Saturday, for next year, for someday… But we’re living today. We say we will, and then we don’t. We fantasize about what it will be like “when”, and then we change our minds before it ends. By then we’re so far committed, we feel obligated to follow through.

Have you ever considered that this “thing” you’re working for won’t be something you want by the time you get it?

I thought I wanted to retire by the time I was 30, I wanted 2.5 kids, I wanted to be President. None of those are even slightly true now. So sacrificing myself to buy that 3-story mansion or turning myself inside out for one more rung on the ladder…They sound nice today, but will they when I get to that point in my life? I could end up wanting a condo in the city or to instead write books by the ocean like in Something’s Gotta Give.

And what happens if “someday” never gets to come?

If you are in pursuit every moment, how will you ever enjoy the view?

My ten-year planning doesn’t honor me now. It doesn’t allow me to immersively experience what living day to day has to offer, and the buffet of choices I may want to suddenly explore.

Right now is about listening. Being. Exploring. Quieting the noise so I can hear my heart. Because only then can I make the right choices for me.

When the intersection of my skills and passions find a venue to best express them, I’ll take off my pajamas again. And I’ll be ecstatic when that next adventure begins.

But for now… I’m savoring every second of the present.

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Tearing Up My Script.

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How many of us are living an existence primarily fueled by a script that we’ve read and never questioned?

*Raises hand*

I don’t believe in doing something “different” just to defy the norm, but I have come to a new place in life where I’m painfully aware of the paths or actions I’ve taken simply because they are the ones I’ve observed. In some cases I was told, expected, or just plain followed what seemed safe.

Go to college, get a “good” job, get married, have a baby… Live happily ever after. Check, check, check, uh…Pass.

And the alternate ending can be intermixed with: Do this in any order, dread Mondays, live for vacation, partake in community misery and grumble over your job / boss / wife / how no one gets you.

My parents had thoughts of who they wanted me to be and the life they assumed I’d lead. Of course, they wanted the best for me, and sending me down a path of risk, uncertainty, and unconventionality is not something that would have made either sleep well at night.

“Don’t get close to the water”, “Don’t touch the electrical wires”, “Don’t eat the cat food”. (I know, strange kid.)

That job is commission only?“, “You need a man to take care of you”, “You want to quit your good job?!”

In every chapter where I went off-script, they winced, sometimes pleaded, usually nodded in disapproval. This dissonance made me question actions I took: Should I not? Would I be making a mistake to improvise, to rip out a few pages, to ad lib?

So I did it… Or rather, at least I started that script. And sans the children, I lived these chapters.

But what happens when your heart tells you to go off script?

I’ve asked myself: Am I normal? Am I just rebelling? Or is there another script, a choose-your-own-ending, a different Master Plan that’s in store? And what happens if I never follow that script?

BUT, my fear screamed back, this is what I’m good at. This is my identity. This life is full of badges I’ve earned and checkboxes I’ve clicked that define me. Didn’t I get here by doing what I was “supposed to”?

What happens when you decide you want to tear up the script?

I find a blank piece of paper exhilarating. A new note on Evernote. An empty warehouse space. A white wall. What magic could be drawn/created/birthed if we allow ourselves a chance to start over?

It doesn’t have to mean hitting the reset button on your life, it can start with allowing yourself to consider and to try. Or perhaps adapting your screenplay and choosing to re-write the remainder of the chapters.

Deleting the:

I’m not a writer.
I’m not good at math.
I never got my degree.
I’ve failed at my relationships.
This isn’t where I thought I’d be.
I’ve never tried that.
Maybe I’m not good enough.
Who am I to?

Giving up the title of narrator or main character, and taking on the role of screenwriter. Cutting the societally-accepted marionette strings and taking your own first bold step forward.

It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s story.
If you chose to begin a new chapter or even a new novel today, what would that look like?

Would you pursue that new career path?
Would you take your ideas seriously?
Would you open yourself to love and stop the cautiousness heartbreak has embedded?
Would you write the book?
Would you say what you really meant?
Would you try?

I’ve decided to take the leap. After standing on the edge longingly peering over the cliff far too long, after architecting my so-called safety net a hundred different ways and wondering if it could catch me…I dove without knowing.

I believe the best stories come from improv. My entire life has been it’s own rehearsal, and while there are no guarantees, my heart has never felt more free.

As tomorrow is never guaranteed, that extreme wake-up reminded me to pursue what makes me happy, not just what makes me money.

Yeah, change is scary. Uncertainty can be overwhelming. But far worse is the looking back on a life of maybe-what if-should have-unfulfilled-unattempted-could have been’s. The “things we didn’t do”.

I invite you to follow along in my new script, but more importantly, to question: Who’s been writing yours.

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Selling (knives?!), Breaking Fear, & Failure.

IMG_2880I grew up a timid child.

I was destined to be the girl who played by the rules, did what I was told, and stayed out of trouble. Fear kept me in check.

I never challenged my mom. I never tried out for volleyball. I never jumped in the water.

I was scared of everything. Of falling down. Of strangers. I would lie awake with a pounding heart, afraid something would happen to someone I loved in the middle of the night. Sometimes I’d consider that someday I just won’t wake up again, and my mind would spin.

My fears seemed irrational. There weren’t traumas that triggered these feelings, they were my own exploration of failure, pain, and mortality.

This fear was limiting, paralyzing at times. I was gasping for breath.

And then, of all summer jobs I could have picked at 19 years old, I decided to sell knives. Sharp shiny objects that I didn’t know how to use… In strangers homes.

I called strangers, and I sold them knives. Ha.

I quit after my first week. Drowning in discomfort, battling the head-shaking of my disapproving parents, and the risk of making no money at this commission-only gig made it an easy conclusion. The answering machine screened endless calls from my well-intentioned manager. I had orders I held (wait, but that’s money!) just to avoid the confrontation I knew awaited me. With dreams of “make $20k during your college break!” put to bed, I began doing administrative work at a local law office. Yes, this was easier.

My manager drove an hour to my tiny hometown, and we stood at the gas station until the sun slowly disappeared. We talked of everything, nothing to do with sales or business. As he retrieved my orders, he mentioned an upcoming management candidate meeting.

“You should come to the next meeting with Jessie.”

Before I could contemplate the idiocy of going back to a place I had just quit, I blurted, “Sure.”

This is one of my first memories of pushing to do something that was entirely uncomfortable in order to get something I wanted.

And it surely didn’t stop there. Coming back sparked me just enough to try again. I had to face some deep-seeded rejection insecurities just to set appointments. I would hold my breath, furiously dial, and read a script to unconsciously spit the words out. Once scheduled, I would force myself to the door, knock before I could hide, and walk in unknown homes.

One foot in front of the other. Focused on one motion before the next, as getting ahead of myself would surely cause me to bolt. It was as if I channeled every ounce of my impulse I could extract from my desire to succeed, and used that as strength to take the next step.

Staccato. Bobbly. But eventually I would get through each action. Sometimes I had to read a quote or call a friend who could coax me. Other times I gazed up at my bulletin board littered with sales newsletters and incentive scales to remind myself of the why.

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And then this incredible thing happened. I set appointments. I made sales. Customers were easily referring me. I started getting recognition.

That feeling became addictive.

I began paying attention to feedback, how customers were reacting to me, and examining things I said. I ferociously took notes at team meetings and attended conferences where I could learn more. My appetite for this fuel grew insatiable.

At some point down the road, rather than robotically going through the motions, I started to connect the things I was learning to things I was doing. What was rapport and how did I built it and why did it matter? What started as scanning the kitchen for “Pictures, Pets, and People”, shifted to asking questions and enveloping in the stories and lives of my customers. I was turning the process into real human connection skills.

This became my first entry into building a business and owning my destiny, discovering life outside of 9-5. I wanted to pour myself in, and quickly this knife-selling job became a lab where I could develop myself. In the office of my Pontiac driver’s seat, I became a dreamer, a leader, and an entrepreneur.

But I surely didn’t start as a sales pro.

SALES TAUGHT ME HOW TO COPE WITH PAIN:

A customer saying no or hanging up can either hurt you, numb you, or teach you. What I learned early on is that while numbing was the easiest coping mechanism, it wouldn’t have anything to teach me.

It was at that point that I decided in life, I’d rather feel pain than feel nothing.

I wanted to learn from the no. I wanted to understand what it was that made people want to say yes or why they chose no. I wanted to know why these rejections, that weren’t about me but about a business transaction, affected me and made me feel defeat.

Rather than run from this, rather than ignore and make excuses, I chose to use these difficult lessons as my mountain to climb and as my ultra-marathon to run. Daily, I would walk into this discomfort and sift through the emotions it left me with.

You desensitize fear’s power over you when you practice facing it repeatedly. Over time, that anxious feeling doesn’t lead to paralysis, it’s energy you channel to propel yourself forward.

Allowing myself to feel is what made me hungry to learn more. You can’t figure out how to ask the good questions until you allow yourself to sit in the difficulty. And as soon as I had conquered another peak, I found the more there was to learn.

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FALLING (AND FAILING) IS HOW YOU LEARN TO STAND:

Getting knocked down is the best thing that can happen to us. When you fall, you’re already down. You’ve encountered the worst. And while you may have cuts and bruises, you learn how to lick your wounds and stand upright again. With each experience, the muscles you use to stand again strengthen.

It is my longheld belief that success in sales is most largely achieved from choosing to get up over and over (and over) again.

The best sales practices in the world will never work one-hundred percent of the time, just like every person you date won’t be the one you should marry. Taking time to zoom the camera out and detaching enough to see the whole picture is where the ability to see what you could have done better comes into focus. Being honest with yourself, humble enough to ask for feedback, and soaking in the mentality and objectives of those who have been successful is where your discovery is.

And the growth comes from choosing to face it again.

Failure is a measuring stick. It’s the only thing that indicates how bad you want something. When you decide to try again and again, you learn what is worth working or fighting for.

Failure is an equalizer. It’s the one thing we all experience no matter what social class, background, or neighborhood we grew up in. We all posses the choice to do, or not to, in the face of it. It gives us all a chance to show up.

Failure is the differentiator. It demands the reaction that separates those who deserve the success awarded to them for facing it and breaking through, from those who walk away shrouded in “what if”.

To get what I wanted meant leaving my comfort zone, being bold, being daring, asking for what I wanted, being shot down, trying again. Because I learned wanting something bad enough, meant I might need to break through some walls to get there.

And I discovered I was always able to stand up again.

I believe, whether or not we admit or like it, we are all in sales. And while many of us have actually chosen that path, not all of us understand or enjoy it. You don’t have to be a superstar or a pro to succeed, and the learning and triumphs are how you can choose to enjoy it.

I wasn’t born a salesperson, but it was learned over time. The lessons and process have changed me as a person.

Whatever it is that you are scared of pursuing, afraid to ask, putting off… The possibility is real that the thing on the other side is worth pushing for. And whatever vehicle you use to get there will only serve to teach you and give you more resilience and power to get to the next one.

Mine was sales… Maybe yours can be, too.

IMG_2881My earliest selling buddies… And still my great friends today.

 

The Chase for Perfection (and why it doesn’t work).

JeanOnTap.com

There is no other person who can replace you in your life, in the arena you’ve been called to. If you leave your place in the line, it will remain empty. No one else can be who you are meant to be. You are the hero in your story. ~ John Eldredge

I’ve been chasing. Playing catch and seek. I had to achieve. I wanted to win. I was striving to become something.

The answer was, I was already it. I am already perfect. We’re not supposed to say that, right? Because somewhere along the line someone told us it was arrogant and that it was more attractive to be humble. We learned to diminish our shine.

Because we’re taught to think we’re not “perfect”.

And what is perfectionism after all? Our science-backed theories and lists, articles on “5 ways to find the perfect man” or “how to have 6-pack abs in 4 weeks” are clever distractions. They are something we use to make sense of the world. Here is the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect life… By a societal standard.

This is a good grade (and you should want that grade), and success is when you get the answers right. Grades that put more value on behaving properly, following specific rules, and steadfast memorization.

This is what you are “supposed” to be.

So we wind up chasing in our careers, in our relationships, in our appearance. We put on make-up, get surgeries, get divorced, enlist another fad diet, run to the next job… Yet, what are we running to? More importantly, what are we running from?

It seems the hardest person to sit in a room with is ourselves. We judge, ridicule, and critique. We yearn and say that “someday…”, “when I…”, and “if only…”

But I am perfect. My self-growth journey has finally brought me this understanding: What I need is within me. This is about owning my skin, showing my swag, acknowledging my unique talents and gifts, embracing every part of me. And for those things I find unfavorable? Shedding what doesn’t serve me, not so I can aspire to be like others I put on a pedestal, but so that I can more deeply be me.

My relentless pursuit of personal growth… The next event, the next relationship, the next blog post or book I read… It admirably looked like my hunger to become better. But really, I was running.

I was running from myself, to be someone I thought was better. To be someone I thought people would like more, to get the validation I desperately craved. As a poor Korean kid growing up in an all-Caucasian community, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be invited to sit at the cool lunch table, to be picked for volleyball, to get invited to birthday parties, to be asked to the dance.

I learned, as we all do, that others inviting us in meant I was worth something. I learned validation was external.

And now I know that validation is something I must give myself.

I am enough.

Because no one else looks through my set of eyes, lives my exact existence, is privy to the thoughts in my head, feels the sensation of my skin, endures my rolodex of emotions. This is my experience. I look into a mirror reflected with something no one else can or will ever see shining back. And I have this chance to go through life with this liberating perspective and to treat myself in a loving way.

It’s time to shift.

That doesn’t mean my personal growth journey ends here, it just means I walk forward with a new curiosity to learn, awareness to shed the parts that don’t serve me (even if they did serve a purpose at some point), and a love and appreciation for myself.

I think about what feels right, what pleases me, how I can contribute, and whom I can share it with. Not who I’m supposed to be, what I thought I’d do, and comparison with others in a journey that isn’t mine.

Finding My Truth.
I finally understand what “finding my truth” means. Finding your truth is about finding what is really you… Outside of what others think and say, and outside of what you think others want you to think and say. Standing in your own skin. And yes, I have questions, uncertainty, mistakes, and scars. I’m afraid of making the wrong decisions, I get angry, I can be unreasonable. These are aspects of me, components that combined make a complex, dynamic, ever-flowing soul.

We can confuse “finding your truth” to mean having all your shit together and fully knowing and completely understanding yourself. I don’t understand or yet even know all the parts of myself, but it’s a hell of an exploration that I’m fully enjoying. Your truth is ultimately realizing that you harness the answers and immeasurable power, but no longer a race for “perfection”. Acceptance stops being dependent on what’s outside, instead loving yourself from the inside out. Abundance comes from within. When we are truly abundant, we have overflowing love to gift others.

As I make this shift, I’m forgiving and patient. You see, if you set out to golf and expect to instantly be Tiger Woods, you’ll probably give up in the early trials. Transformations and shifts are usually a step-by-step and sometimes faltering process. Working through deeply seeded beliefs or old habits is a checkered journey. I catch myself daily with the wrong self-talk, a petty thought, an aspiration for fame. This is nothing to be ashamed of… It’s part of a deeply ingrained belief system. I can learn to work with and through it.

Because every seemingly wrong turn or misstep is simply texture in my story. All part of the perfection that crafts me.

And really, when you get up close to anyone’s life, you’ll see a wrinkle, a scar, hear a complaint, see them tug at their shirt in insecurity. So what is this mirage we’re all chasing and why are we killing ourselves running after it?

This isn’t a your-mother-told-you-you’re-perfect-just-the-way-you-are lecture. This is knowledge that liberates you from the daily reprimand you give yourself for not being skinny/tall/pretty/smart enough. This is a prod to ask yourself: What is that thing you’re chasing? What happens when you get it? And what happens after? And what happens if you never get that?

What is this experience we’re living for? How can we be in our bodies daily infused with joy, love, inspiration, fulfillment, and euphoria? I find that to be the most intriguing pursuit.

We wait for tragedies to remind us life is short and to live each moment. When we do, we realize the pursuit of perfection was purely vanity that feels void and hollow.

So strive. Drive. Work. Push. But do it because the process of doing it feels good. Reaching something you worked for exhilarates you and the journey was worth each felt step. Not for perfection and not to “become something”or become someone.

Because you already are.

You are perfection.

 JeanOnTap.com

 

Don’t Silence Your Phone.

dave2The phone rang.

As I stared at the flashing name of one of my favorite friends who was traveling in Europe, I was startled.

Is something wrong?
Why is he calling?
This is odd…

My instinct luckily rationalized before the phone stopped glowing… I swiped the screen to answer, “Well, hello there… You’re calling me?”

In minutes, I was happily submerged in one of our classic deep conversations. There was no pre-call prep, no “Let’s get this over with”, no obligation, no anticipation. There was “What are youuu doing right now?” and shared moments of the day. There were painted pictures of international travel and mundane-made-silly musings. There were laughs.

There was the present moment.

When was the last time I’ve indulged in spontaneity? The unplanned conversation. The unexpected break. The disregard of my coveted calendar.

Technology has gifted us so much, but in that process we’ve lost some of the little subtleties we didn’t realize were delights until they were missing. The surprise knock at the door, stumbling into an amazing meal at a nondescript restaurant, watching the football game without spreads or predictions in mind.

Yes, I love the luxuries… I can sidestep bad restaurants thanks to Yelp. Scoremobile tells me if my UW Huskies are favored to win. And I’ve visually traveled the world and glimpsed the plates of countless restaurants via my Instagram feed.

But every once in a while, I like the impromptu. Someone was thinking of me and I’m rewarded with the live texture of their voice. The shifting tonalities, mysterious background noises transporting me to their side, and the illustration of the world as they are currently experiencing it.

I can’t remember the last time I picked up the phone just to talk. I don’t recall any recent instances of dialing without texting first. When the phone rings, I usually frown and quickly silence its obnoxious insistence away. “Not now!” I scowl. Instead, I substitute with a scheduled Skype or a timed phone call. Generally, it’s exchanged rapid-fire texts or sifted Facebook update comments.

Genuine connection cannot be born in Times New Roman. It needs the giggle as our sentence trails off, the whimper from the ridiculous remark, the audible sigh at the end of a long day. When we’re unable to mask in block font, people experience the real us.

Every once in a while it’s nice to go back, without pre-meditation or alert, and give someone the gift of you and your fully invested attention.

This isn’t to bash our online connectedness. I love the perks that Facebook has afforded me; to share in the little moments, recaps, and snapshots in lives of close friends to newfound acquaintances. Contrary to cynical articles I’ve read on how social media has made us more lonely, I believe they are tools. We can use them to disconnect and substitute the more intimate and meaningful actions that aren’t replaceable, or we can use the tools to supplement and color our relationships to greater depth.

Our ability to instant message and text are there to add another layer. We can add more resolution to our view. But sometimes we don’t want margarine, we’re craving real farm-fresh butter. That instant coffee can tide us over in a pinch, but there’s nothing like the home-brewed real thing. Sipped slowly. There’s nothing like the real thing.

Next time your screen starts flashing, resist the urge to hit “ignore”. Take on the interruption as welcomed, and pick up the phone.

Photos courtesy of Dave Ursillo.

dave

 

Set Your People Up to Win.

Jean On Tap

As supervisors, managers, and bosses, we can easily fall into a routine of absentmindedly directing and giving commands.

We tell others: “Do this.” Telling, not asking. Speaking at, not with.

And in harmony with expected procedures and hierarchy, our teams robotically march forward.

Giving orders stunts healthy autonomy. It builds a culture of people who wait to execute, do only as they are told, and fear speaking up or stepping out.

Enter an email I received from a colleague this week that went something like:
“I’d like to make sure ____ is happening if it is not already being done.”

My mind defiantly sneered back, “I’m already doing that. But thanks for bothering to ask…”

Instead of asking questions or eliciting real conversation, this simple email felt condescending. Brimming with assumption and a hint of authority, these careless words built my defensive wall and prompted me to quickly delete it without response.

A memory gate opened of past bosses who had obnoxiously done the same thing:
“Please make sure xx is being done.”

There was no room for engagement. There was no conversation giving me room to step up to make that right decision on my own. There was no opportunity to be proactive. So, why try, right? If someone’s just going to tell you what to do and assume you know no better, why step up? No, might as well wait until you’re told.

Such a directive is often a product of thoughtlessness, asserting power, or insecurity in leadership (lacking purpose). Following up on your people, dotting their i’s, and distributing commands can deceivingly feel like necessary work. “Just doing my job.” Unfortunately, these interactions insinuate the absence of intelligent thought or intention. If you double-check someone’s work on a regular basis, her natural standards will decline.

It made me step back to consider how I also may have asked things of other co-workers and direct reports. Have I so carelessly barked commands and belittled their potential efforts and judgment? As a former “control freak”, I’m guilty of wanting things done my way and thinking I know best. I’ve humbly learned the downfalls of these limited and ego-driven actions. Having an interesting, quirky group of people who bring new challenges, fresh ideas, and can critically problem-solve is essential to any company’s (and any person’s) growth. In order to scale, a solo effort will never test the edges enough. Companies need people who move and act, think bigger, reach further, and bring their unique skills to help business grow.

While you can cook according to a recipe and have it turn out as expected, the variations are what make it interesting. Pizza could have been dough, sauce and cheese… Until someone came along and said, hey, let’s add anchovies and jalapeno-stuffed olives. Or what about stuffed crust? A dessert pizza with M&M’s?

Empowering my team to develop intuition, decision-making, and free-form thoughts means the skills they are learning position them for success beyond a typical employee role. I want my dent in the workplace to be a proliferation of provocative, innovative leaders who raise the bars of anywhere they land considerably higher. Development isn’t happening when one is mimicking a how-to manual.

The trust you give in business, is a gift.

Choking independence and depriving your people of their own “wins” deteriorates performance. When people lack the space to do right on their own, a culture breeds of those who do “just enough” not to get fired. Inner office cliques form as a result, as people seek commiseration and shared identity.

The future leaders of the company then only emerge out of tenure or with those who always colored inside the lines. Business stagnates. Like parenting, the upcoming leadership teams parody the actions their managers showed them. The cycle continues.

In an article by Mayim Bialik, I felt inspired by her approach to parenting in giving her kids a chance to develop, stroking their natural curiosity, and making them feel comfortable in their own skin:

I have heard people say that those who force their kids to share, be polite, and excel on adult terms are really just creating children who are monkeys, imitating behavior without independently experiencing it or really understanding it. I don’t know if I agree, but I do know that families that don’t force these things have children who grow and develop at their own pace and they all turn out pretty much fine. It is my hope that my children will feel truly understood and safe in their skin, no matter how “delayed” their skin might be.

While not a parent, I maintain a very maternal approach in leadership. I work to equip my team with skills beyond their job description and current path. I view the mark of achievement to be a team member feeling empowered to “leave the nest” of the team I’ve built, ready to attack a position above the “normal hierarchy”. How else do we create ripples and revolutions?

We live in a learned state of “catching someone doing wrong” and the intervention of “higher power” to mediate. Or “if I don’t tell him to do xx, he won’t think of it himself.” To some, leadership is telling others what to do or what they should do. These power plays (intended or not) deceivingly make managers think they are doing their job.

The cycle only ends when we shift how we talk to our people, letting them awkwardly flap their wings, occasionally crash, and eventually soar gracefully. Development happens in these moments of trial and failure accompanied with valuable teaching conversations.

I want to create a team of independent thinkers, who have the same cultural objective, but are motivated to think above their “job title”, without micromanaged details. I want to develop people who are shifting the conversation and bringing caviar to the traditional pizza party.

Give your people the opportunity to do right. Give them the chance to win.

Jean On Tap

 

Always Take the Chance on Love.

denver

I see it in her flashing eyes, the flush that’s radiating through her skin, the insuppressible smile in each syllable. The texture in her voice is overflowing with excitement and vivacity. She’s no longer in the room with me…No, she’s departed to a different time and place, enveloped in the haze and warmth of her new interest. The energy she exudes makes the goosebumps erupt on my skin, transporting me to my own memories of the same.

My friend is in love.

And as quickly as her demeanor, her spirit, and her happiness exalt from her, she quickly retracts.

“I know, it’s too soon. It sounds like I’m moving too fast.”

So familiar is this scenario of a love-intoxicated friend of mine, quickly flipped to cynical, apologetic, and cautious. Familiar because I’ve been there, and likely you’ve been there. As Brene Brown courageously speaks on how we allow fear to steal joy from our happy moments; we ingest the judgments of other’s experiences of heartbreak and scorned love. A voice inside warns us with flashing sirens, and the walls barricading our hearts add yet another brick layer. This taints our optimism and holds us back from being our fully expressive selves.

Is it too soon? What is too soon? What is that so-called “magic number”?

I’ve gone down that careful, logical love path, where timing is phased long enough to prevent the societal eyebrow raise. Go on some dates, take time getting to know one another, let that time build… After an acceptable waiting period, move-in together, adjust. Several years later, get engaged, take some more time. Do the deed.

And sometimes it works… But sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve gone down that radical road, where meeting the first week leads to living together the second. Each step advances fast enough I must formulate the story and reasons my heart has never felt this way, so as not to appear impulsive. He moves to another country, and after only one month of dating, we know love will conquer all. This love will anyway.

But sometimes it doesn’t work out… And sometimes it does.

And I’ve judged. The now happily married friend with 3 kids, who decided to get married after only a month, yet proved my criticism wrong.

I find the “logicalization” of love fascinating. The science, the reasons, the theories. None of those ever sold me. And while there are tendencies, some patterns, and natural biochemistry in it all, there’s nothing that explains the erratic way love can make us feel and act. Or how two people, perfectly fit in every category on paper, just don’t make a match. Or why my perfect marriage failed.

Through all of this, the only thing I have made sense of is… That love makes absolutely no sense. It’s illogical, irrational, gravity-defying, rule-breaking, and generally crazy. It brings the best of ourselves, the worst of ourselves, it carries the greatest joy, it causes excruciating pain, it heals, it hurts.

So, I turned off the equations, the rules, and all the rationalizations I made for others approvals. I removed the checkpoints, the timelines, and listened long enough to hear my inner voice. How does it make me feel? Accepting this has liberated me to follow my heart.

Go for it. Try it on. Be all in. Get a bit wild. Take your friggin hair down.

Is there risk we might get hurt?  Yes.

Because anytime we go for something that means anything, it undoubtedly exposes us. There’s a chance we’ll look silly or be left with our pants down.

That is love. Obnoxious, excruciating, maddening, sweet love.

Tidy, organized, planned love? There’s no strategy resulting in guarantees. Sometimes it fails miserably.

Unabashed, out-of-control, spontaneous love? This, too, may plummet south. It can rip your heart out.

But with this greater risk, comes more monumentous rewards. Love that shakes us, transforms us, and deepens our hearts. Completeness, fulfillment, and awakening of the soul. And if there’s anything to be illogical and radical about, it might as well be love.

Being half-committed will never let us let go enough to wholly enjoy the ride. Apprehension will never allow us to fully show up and be present to meet love. Hesitancy will never give us a chance.

So, to my girls out there (and even some of my fellas), I won’t judge you. Go after it. I’ll be here waiting for your gushy call. And if it’s the 15th time you’ve been wildly in love, and “this guy is different”, or she “could be the one”? I’ll go with it… Because one of these times you’ll be right, and taking that chance is always worth it.

Always take the chance.

kittypillow

 

Choose Your Words Carefully.

IMG_0145

As the leader of sales within a company, you often endure a daily beating. Hero or zero. I’m either on top of the world for good numbers or being treated like revolting fungus if numbers decline.

It’s a battle I’m used to being in and have built a callous-of-sorts against. But I’m still a human.

So, after a series of lower sales weeks (completely predictable for this time of year), I began to diminish my own feelings of success and value. While logically I knew I was doing the right things, the daily/weekly questioning began to take its toll.

After seeing the sales numbers this week (which are coming in exactly as I predicted), a fellow non-sales colleague replied to my email: “Good to see the numbers move. Let’s keep it rolling”.

Yes, because that kind of statement is helpful and motivating.

My sarcasm is intentional because that type of statement is better left unsaid. It’s almost patronizing, really. Obviously, the goal is to always keep sales “rolling”.

As I sat in irritation of what I viewed as an annoying comment by someone who clearly knows nothing about motivating sales efforts, I realized how often we can do that to our own teams (sales or otherwise) and those around us.

Back in my naive management days, I painfully wince at the ways I chose to recognize my sales teams. We think recognition alone is the formula because we’re told it works. So, we obnoxiously chirp: “Good job! High Five! Keep it up! Woo!”

We are creatures who crave attention, recognition and acceptance. We’re a culture that’s starving for spotlight, validity, and kudos. Look at every TV station. Look at your FB feed: “Hey, look at me, look at what I did, look at this person I know and the awesome thing they did!” Look at your Twitter: “Hey, I just re-tweeted some nice thing someone tweeted at me so I can show it to you all!”

Look. At. Me.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting recognition, but the lengths I see people go in order to achieve it highlight just how famished we are of words that make us feel validated.

Because we don’t get enough. Because the recognition we got wasn’t wholesome, helpful, or genuine. Because we long to feel worthy.

So rather than a “Let’s keep it rolling”, think about the opportunity you have to impact a co-worker, a direct report, a friend, even a significant other.

The power we have to make a monumental difference with just a bit more effort and care with our words and interaction is a responsibility we can choose.

“I’ve noticed the momentum the sales team has been gaining…I know you’ve been working hard for that. If somehow I can support, lemme know. Send your team my congrats.”

How different does that feel?

Instead of telling your top salesperson “Hey, good job”, think of what the words “The way you have stepped up in your results this week is being noticed and is inspiring to others on the team. You’re making a difference here, and I want you to know I appreciate it” can do for them.

Because recognition that empowers isn’t:
Exclamation points
Feigned enthusiasm
Higher octave voices
A half-assed “Good job”

Re-evaluate what you define as “recognition” and look at the opportunities to express more meaning and ignite the spirit of those around you.

Think about the last time you interacted with your significant other when something exciting happened to them, “Good job, baby!” I’d almost rather receive no recognition than generic phrases that feel forced.
Instead: “This is a big deal, and it makes me so happy to be able to share it with you. You worked to deserve this, and I’m proud of you.”

This takes more effort, but the results and responses you get in kind are worth stepping back to lovingly formulate meaningful thoughts. The impact you will have on someone’s day or mental state can carry someone those extra miles and make them shine.

Next time, think about the words you use. Think about the power they have to condemn, to uplift, to crush, to inspire. Choose them carefully.

photo 1.2

 

The Fairytale Isn’t What You Thought

tree

If there’s one thing that my toggled relationship status has taught me, it’s that love takes incredible effort.

Maybe it was naivety. Maybe it was wishful thinking. But that fairy-tale seemed so real. Every Disney princess movie, romantic comedy, and steamy novel– Someday a man will rescue me. He’ll whisk me away to a new life, one where flowers are pinker, worries vanish, and it all just works. Love alone will change everything.

And no. I’m not a love cynic. I believe in crazy, consuming, I-can’t-live-without-you love. I believe magic is real, that love is worth every puncture to the heart, tear shed, and enduring an occasional psycho.

But no matter how fluffy the initial bliss, the bubble-gum scented sticker fades. The pink haze and firefly radiance dissipate. While we sit in post-buzz and see each other in the harsh light of the morning, every fault and flaw is apparent, and every open wound is seen.

The little things we ignored while in honeymoon love start to build into daily annoyances. Once a slap on the wrist now becomes a full-fledged argument. More likely, we begin to let our standards with each other slip.

The day comes where she didn’t get enough sleep or he had a rough day at the office, and explosive words emerge… Words that are hard to take back or be forgotten. The foundational rock that once stood beneath suffers from erosion.

Relationships disintegrate because we don’t speak up when we should. We let things go. Carelessness becomes neglect. Instead of the healthy conversation when we’re in the right head-space to express constructively, we avoid. Resentment, irritation, and eventually anger build. Compressed feelings bubble until we have no choice but to explode.
“Why do you always?”
“Why didn’t you?”
“You never…”

While watching the movie This is 40, I found myself wincing as callous, cutting words were recklessly thrown between two people who must have once been madly in love. It felt too real. So often have I seen this scene replay itself in my life and others. How do we get here?

As beautiful as life is, it is woven with hardships, traumas, and tragedies. Most of these trials aren’t easily seen nor can they be predicted. Once the rose-colored lenses lose their tint, the realization sets in that stating our vows in front of our friends doesn’t make us immune from the inevitable woes life delivers to us.

Regardless of life’s curve-balls and strike-outs, what allows a relationship to survive and even flourish is keeping each other sacred. Taking care with the words we express while holding each other to a higher standard. Even in our weakest, most vulnerable moments, the delicate way in which we interact with our partner should always upheld and revered.

In jobs, we put effort in. We study, put extra hours, sacrifice. We turn ourselves inside out, give the best of our energy, and strive… For a paycheck or recognition, something so easily replaceable. Yet, we forget the gift that is love requires as much or more of this attention. It deserves it.

Love takes effort.

White-gloved tenderness. Diligent nurturing. Intentional preservation.

It takes the little things and deliberately holding them as standards. Even when we’re tired.

Holding hands (even when it’s hot), biting your tongue when he’s watching that show he loves and you hate, flowers, napkin notes, taking her to that place she’s never been, locking eyes in a crowded room, thanking him for unloading dishes, dancing in the street, reminding her she’s beautiful, spontaneous Hollywood kissing, rooting for her college team, doing the extra without keeping tallies.
Humoring her oddball love of zebras.
Sharing. Surprises. Love-festing.

Love is winning each other daily.

denver

To love is to fight our natural instincts of the “game”, the need to be right, the tests to determine proof, the unnecessary punishments. This is looking at another human, and wholeheartedly desiring their happiness, their joy, and their fulfillment. I liken it to looking at a newborn baby and thinking how much you want the world for them. When I look at my love I think “How can I continually make your world better?”

It’s desiring to make another’s life abundant and complete. It’s wanting to be better and bring your whole self to each moment. Love requires continual cultivation.

This is not an intent to spoil the party or be harshly realist, but I believe if we’re prepared; if we accept the challenges; if we are aware of what the journey entails and take it on with all its potholes and detours…Rather than anger and criticize one another, we can lean on and walk through the fire together.

This is the love story you live. Yes, you will cry. There may be unsettling moments where the sound of their breathing makes you want to scream. There will disappointments and failed expectations.

But I don’t want the old fairytale anymore.

I want the occasional fight, the jealous pang, the misunderstanding. Not in a masochistic way, but through these confrontations and subsequent pillow-talks, we’re pushed to discover ourselves more deeply. What is the root that causes this action or reaction? And how can we help our partner to heal from something in their past? What can we do to understand and love each other more fully? To accept ourselves better and grow? But this is not cupcakes and fairy sprinkles. It’s not knights with horses or white fence-posts or a man flying across the world to profess his undying love.

This comes from working through obstacles as a team. This stems from opening difficult conversations and asking tough questions. This grows from knowing someone so completely, and loving their inner being so unconditionally that you yearn to cherish and nurture their soul, because of what you know (not in spite of it).

When you really let someone into the depths of who you are:

-When the facade of “I’m always strong” or “That doesn’t bother me” can be real conversation that reveals our insecurities, our sadness, the story that got us to today…
-When another soul loves, accepts, and wants to soothe that hurt…
-When the comfort another creates by holding your hand in knowingness, and you gain energetic power through their support…

This type of love sets you free. This love gives you strength to face the absurdities, the failures that have held you back, and the difficult steps you have to take forward.

When you care deeply for another being, your vow to them includes the effort to speak when it’s hard, to try when you’re tired, and to always hold tenderness around the fragility that love goes through at times.

I believe we each can write our own love story. I believe in happily ever after…

We just can’t stop trying.

flower

 

Thank You

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I find myself constantly in the place of zero. Starting over.

No matter how much I reflect on a day/week/lifetime of achievements and victories, I wake up some days afraid… “Maybe it all went away.”

And while that’s clearly ridiculous, our sometimes irrational minds can play some interesting games with us.

Still, there are times of my life where I question how I ever got where I’m standing, and if I can do it again. Will I succeed at the next thing, or perhaps I lost the magic?

I reflect on the people that have had impacts on my life. Friends, mentors, loves.

People who taught me skills. People who paved the way. People who gave me a chance. People who have appreciated me. People who gave me a moment of belief when I lost it.

People who loved me for being… Me. Even at those times I felt most unloveable.

Yet, in our self-focused existence, we can forget these thumb-prints on our lives. I realize I am largely a culmination of the read written essays, experiences, and deep soul talks in my life. With those, I’ve been influenced and my perspectives have been shaped.

Today I realize how important it is to say thank you.

To those who sent an encouraging note
To the guy who told me I was beautiful and meant it
To the new friends who openly shared their hearts with me
To the heroes who believed in their dream and went after it, and I benefited from
To the writers who poured their soul into their stories and had the courage to share
To the girls who brought me into their group and accepted me
To the guy who artistically challenges me daily
To the group of people who boldly showed their vulnerability and broke me open
To the guy I grew up with
To the mentor who gave me the foundation of my career today
To the colleagues who made mistakes and showed them openly
To the girl who walked up to me and started a beautiful friendship
To the friends who never give up on me when my life begins to swirl
To those who read my writing
To the one who tells me not to stop
To the best friend who I can be ridiculous with and never stop laughing
To the man who loves me in a way I never knew love could be experienced
To the rep who told me I changed his life
To the leader who always knew I had more to give
To the friend who doesn’t care if I have a title
To the parents who gave me a second chance at life
To the people who sacrificed before me and made the path
To the guy who broke my heart
To the one who breathed life back into me
To the girls who taught me to just dance it out after
To the person who told me I couldn’t
To the ones who show me I can

Thank you.

So I implore you… Who has shaped you, touched you, affected you? Who took a gamble on you? Who brought you up that day when the world seemed bleak?

Say it to them. Tell them thank you. Let them know what they did, no matter how big or small.

You never know who might need it. Whose life your words can shift. We forget the power of our words… To uplift, to heal, and to inspire.

Call them. Write a note. Walk up to them. Tell them often. We can all use the reminder of the magnificent things we do in this life and the way in which we touch others lives.

 

The Things We Didn’t Do

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One of my biggest motivators in life is porch swings. If you travel with me through any residential neighborhood, you’ll find me peering into every front deck to find them. And it’s because of this vision I have of being 80 years old (of course, I tell myself I’ll still look the same as I do today) holding hands with my eventual partner in life, able to reflect on the amazing journey I’ve been on.

This visualization shapes how I make decisions, motivates what I go for, and drives how I act. I want nothing more than to look back on my life and be proud of what I’ve lived.

My largest fear? Regret. Of not doing, not saying, and not going for. So when people ask me where I think I’ve developed my audacity and the way I run towards things or how I conquer rejection, it’s in being scared of having to say “I should have…”

We have chances. We encounter opportunities. And we have choices that we make to do… or not to. Most of these decisions are difficult, as is anything with any real meaning.

So why do we hold back?

Because it’s (sorry, mom) fucking terrifying. Putting yourself out there is excruciating. Enduring the pain of not achieving and the shower of self-doubt seems unbearable. Loving someone so much to then have your heart ripped away leaving an empty hollow pit in its place is devastating. Taking the risk to go for something uncertain and for public failure to mark you is humiliating.

These are real feelings in play, ones that choke your heart and paralyze your mind.

So we create excuses:

“I’ll quit you first.”
It sounds petty as I read it back. And while not a conscious thought, it was a conscious action. Maybe it was a job, maybe it was a friendship, most often it was a relationship. It’s easier to pretend you don’t want it so there’s no chance it can’t choose you. In this way, you remain in control, and you diminish any risk of being rejected.

Whether or not it’s the outcome I wanted, I did it to shield myself from any heartache that not being wanted might inflict. The second I sensed any perception of pull-away (real or not), I would walk. “I’m strong, I will not be broken,” I would tell myself. And so I flitted around, never getting too deep with too many so as to protect. At least I could never get hurt that way.

“Why start?”
I wanted to be a singer. I spent my childhood singing every available chance, waiting for days when my parents would leave the house so I could indulgently sing on the bathroom mirror stage. I fantasized as I stood at the front of my empty church of eventual stardom. Watch out world.

After my acceptance into All-State Choir and being exposed to hundreds of other gifted singers, my reaction to such an honor was to return home and permanently give up singing.

I couldn’t face the thought that I wouldn’t make it or that others were better than me. How could I stand a chance? Rather than not be chosen, I never even started.

“Who am I to…”
Speak? Paint? Act? Ask? Insert your desire here. The stifling question where it’s easier to mark yourself as undeserving or not good enough. Who was I to walk across that stage, or ask for a raise, or start this company?

Why do we do this? Scars, deep wounds and emotional bruises teach us to wrap ourselves in layers of bubble wrap. We put pockets of space around our hearts. Like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story, we allow the need for safety to pad us with full-body jumpsuits. This insulation camouflages our true selves, stifling us from moving and even being authentic. We allow this question to paralyze us and hold us back, but at least we can’t fail.

You don’t leave the safety of your job to take the big chance because you convince yourself it won’t work.
You don’t tell her how you really feel because exposing your vulnerability is something you just don’t do.
You don’t ask for what you want or say what you think because the fear it gives you stifles your ability to say anything at all.

And it haunts you. Over time, you can push it down. Distract yourself. Tell yourself “it wouldn’t have worked”. But deep down, it stirs.

As I’ve worked over the years to succeed in sales, be bold, and walk confidently, I’m sometimes questioned: “How did you get rid of your fear?” And the truth is, I haven’t.

I think I’m always afraid. Even of silly things, things that I actually think others are not fearful of. I fear writing this. I fear pursuing my next dream. I fear I’ll die alone. I fear birds.

But by practicing little tiny instances of facing it, I’ve been building my familiarity with my fear. The more I accept the feeling, the less discomfort I feel with it. The more I identify and vocalize what holds me back, the more it sets me free.

I know that what I want and the possibility is stronger than the unknowns that gate me.

Re-framing what that palpitating feeling means, I tell myself I do what others aren’t. I say the what if is worse than the did. I intentionally surround myself with those who won’t let me stop.

I work to appreciate my fear. It was built within me to protect me, instinctually… From danger, from hurt… But over time I accepted this false radar and the limitations it enforced on me. Now I become familiar with my fear, acknowledging it, thanking it, and then using it as my compass.

You’ve handled kicks. You fell down, you pulled yourself back up. You failed, you eventually recovered. You loved, lost, loved again, and still made your way to today.

You exist as proof that you can overcome.

Whatever ignites that spark of courage, whatever push that helps you take a step, the song or the quote or the story, a compelling dream board, the right soul talk… Seek it, discover it, make it, repeatedly use it.

Can you feel that tingle? I do. It’s the I want to, but I really just can’t that creeps its way in. When I encounter that feeling… I close my eyes, move fast before I lose the millisecond of nerve, and head-butt it.

Ask if she wants to buy it. Ask him for his number. Pick up that phone and dial. Say I love you. Confront the elephant.

Sometimes it’s a blurt. Generally your heart will race. A minute longer can make you reconsider. But what if…

What if the answer is a yes? What if you get everything you ever wanted? What if you fall in love?

Emerson said, “Do the thing and you’ll have the power.”

Rip off that band-aid, go after that thing. I’ll do it with you.

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Porch swing: photo credit: Mr. Greenjeans via photopin cc

Elephants: My travel to India

 

We Should Talk to Strangers

IMG_8148“Don’t talk to strangers…”

That is probably one of the worst pieces of advice handed down from our parents.

Yeah, they meant well, but over the years we’ve learned how to keep our eyes down…Don’t make eye contact, if I don’t look they won’t see me.

Yet we all want to be seen.

Months ago, I injured myself in a joyous leap (really, I tore my calf muscle in excitement). After weeks of frustration hobbling around slowly, I stopped to contemplate what the universe could be telling me.

Slow down. Find this moment. See people.

In our hurried rush to get about our days, the joy that the momentary connection with another human, someone who is equalized in their similar fears and dreams misses us. We move too quick and judge too harsh.

Taking my time to limp about the city, the compassion I have found in others and their willingness, no their starvation, to engage was apparent. Like dry roots absorb water, when I took a slow enough look to find it, hands easily reached out. Doors swung open. Smiles rang forward. It was like the first time they’d been seen all day.

By reaching outward, we invite surprising gifts. Not everyone summons the courage to break down the invisible barrier, but we can take the first step.

On a trip back from Costa Rica last winter, I connected through Houston. I found myself sitting across from a gorgeous man with piercing blue eyes. In my faded make-up, travel clothes, weary-eyed, hair-in-bun state, the last thing I wanted was small-talk with a guy. I sat submerged in the snowy Packers game playing above. I glanced across and made eye contact just long enough to muster a quick smile.

“You live in Seattle?”

I nod and quickly look back to the screen.

“Football fan?”

Again I nod mumbling, “I’m a Hawks fan, but the Packers are my second team.”

As he prompts me into my reasons for my Costa Rican trip; my desire to write, love for Husky sports and travel, and deep burn to build something quickly emerge. How interesting we got to this depth of conversation so fast, I think to myself.

As I’m called to board, a “It was nice to meet you, have a safe flight” later, and I dash onto the plane.

Something inside of me said to reach out. I was struck by the intense conversation and instant connection. As he walks by my seat, we smile and I thrust my card outward.

“Keep in touch” was all my tired brain could deliver.

One day and an email later, we were set to meet for a basketball game.

There is no ending to this story that we dated for months and had enchanting times. No, I did not meet my Prince Charming. We had an enjoyable afternoon of sports, cheering, and playful banter. We followed with an evening of drinks, dinner, and long gazes. A kiss goodnight and I never saw him again.

His life was to take him to another country (a theme I was well aware of in my past) and pursuing anything other than friendship was never to be.

But for that moment, we danced.

These brief moments in time, strung together, creating what we can fondly look back on as memories, bring new connection into our lives that forever touch us. An imprint, and occasionally… A possibility.

In my very traveled life, the incredible people I have met by asking the man about the book he was reading, offering the guy my expertise of beer and helping him choose, asking the girl to lunch who walked up and said she liked my purse…You could have called these chance meetings or serendipity. I call it my willingness to engage with strangers.

These romances, these friends, these opportunities have now woven into my life as lasting threads… My own butterfly effect.

As I catch myself walking unaware through downtown to work each day, I fight it. My own urge to isolate, to look down, to avoid unfamiliarity pulls me. What happens when we don’t let it? When we reach out a hand, gift a smile, twinkle an eye, and embrace connection…

Friendship? Warmth? Love?… Magic?

Or maybe we just make someone’s day brighter.

It’s time we talk to strangers.

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