Goal setting, as I’m sure you’re aware of, is important. And I’m also sure you’ve heard the saying, “Shoot for the moon because at least you’ll land in the stars.” And while this advice is nice, what happens when you aim high and end up getting no where close? What happens when the goals you set end up leaving you like shit at the end of the day?
For the past five or so years I’ve been adamant about goal setting. And not in the “this idea would be nice” kind of way, but in the “I will achieve X by X or else” kind of way. The goals I’ve set for myself have been lofty and measurable, making me a little bit crazy at times. Which, I hear, is a true sign of becoming a successful entrepreneur: other people will think you are crazy.
You will think you are crazy.
And I have to say, this type of goal setting has gotten me a long way. I have found a lot of success over the years and have pushed myself well beyond my limits. But, of course, the path to success isn’t paved or even very pretty. For all of those “hell yes” moments of success, there have been five times more of the “fuck my life” and “I’m such a failure” moments. Moments where I look what my goal was and see how miserably I’ve failed.
In these moments, when your brain starts to sing the lyrics to that famous 1990’s Beck song about being a monkey during chimpanzee times, you want to quit or, at the very least, reset your goals so you can feel good about yourself.
Hey, I know I said I wanted to be making $345 a day this month, but $34 is fine. Let’s go shopping!
This logic is tempting. And, believe me, I’ve done it before. But, if you really want to feel good, this temporary lowering of your standards will wear off really fast (about as fast as the money in your bank account is spent), and you will be worse off than when you started.
So what’s a girl to do?
Ooh, pick me, pick me! (You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand enthusiastically right now.)
1. Set your goals even higher. I know what this seems counter intuitive, but it is one of the best things you can do when you face failure. Not only does it tell your brain that there’s no way in hell you’re stopping, it stretches the limits of your beliefs, making you see things in a totally different light. And, let me tell you, it really works. I started doing this just a few months back after reading the book The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone and in just that short amount of time I have seen myself shatter old goals. Don’t question it. Just do it. (You can steal that one from me Nike, if you’d like.)
2. Set new, different goals. What do I mean by different? Even though the majority of your goals should be measurable and definitive, it’s helpful to have a few goals that aren’t. By this I mean that not all success can be measured by numbers. For a lot of us, success is felt and lived, so setting goals around how you will experience each day can help to keep you on track and be a little boost to your confidence when you need it. For example, I have a goal of starting and ending each day on my own terms (i.e. not doing work or other people’s to-do lists right when I wake up or until I go to bed).
I want you to get out your list of goals for this month (and, if you don’t have one - make it!) Go over each of your goals and ask yourself if it feels a bit scary. Do your goals give you that same excited-nervous feeling you get before stepping onto an airplane? If they don’t, set them higher, push yourself a bit more. And, if you don’t see a lifestyle goal, one that will help you remember what success feels like, not just looks like, then add one or two of those to your list too.
I promise, these two things will change how much success you experience and, the best part, they will help you feel good as you move forward.
Along the road to success, entrepreneurs will find lots (and by lots, I mean shit loads) of roadblocks. You will be bombarded again and again by obstacles that will make you want to throw your arms up in the air and say, “I’m done!”
But, for many, this long, tumultuous journey barely, if ever, gets off the ground.
The reason? Because people (yes, you) tend to be perfectionists, especially when it’s their business, their ideas, their reputation on the line. Do the work for someone else, and we’re fine doing a little bit less than our best. Do it for ourselves? And nothing ever feels quite right, quite good enough.
So many almost-entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs that are moving but just not quite having the success they want, get tangled up in little details, preventing themselves from ever gaining the momentum necessary to get where they want to go. I understand that right now those “little details” feel monumental. In fact, they feel like everything.
But it’s you’re inability to let go, launch, and see what happens that is keeping you from the success you could be having.
I like to think of every iteration of my business as phases. Like 1.0, 2.0, 3.0…
There is not a single business I’ve started, or a single idea I’ve brought to life, that I have not looked back on and have felt at least some embarrassment, some sort of “what-was-I-thinking” moment. But, it’s because of those 1.0 versions that I was able to launch into 2.0 and beyond. You can’t know unless you try. You can’t improve unless you’ve already begun.
Yes, it’s scary to put yourself and your business out there, but holding on too tightly is even scarier, because it means you’ll never achieve the goals you’ve set, those big awesome “fuck-yes!” dreams that make your life exciting.
Wherever you are right now in your business or your current projects, set a date to finish - and don’t make it forever away. Make it so soon that is scares you. And then stick to that date, whether you feel “done” or not. Everything can always be changed. Nothing is irreparable.
The true definition of “entrepreneur” is “someone who undertakes risks” …so push “go”, make mistakes, and then get out there and solve them! I believe in you! Do you?
Let’s face it, there’s that moment every entrepreneur faces when they ask themselves, “What the hell am I doing?” Late hours, impossible deadlines, endless ideas that keep you awake at night. For many successful entrepreneurs, life is even more hectic than it would be if they were working a fast-paced, high-paying corporate job. And, as we all know, there’s a reason for the madness. Rather than working for someone else, we’re doing it for ourselves. For most of us, we’re doing what we love, working on what we’re passionate about. Our purpose is so much bigger than it would be if we were just another cog in someone else’s wheel…
This passion is what gets us through the late nights. It’s what helps us to wake up early, to work until it feels impossible, to achieve what others write off as crazy.
And yet, if we’re not careful, the stress creeps in and we are left feeling depleted. Utterly exhausted. And in those moments, we get tempted to leave it all behind. To find something easier, more sane. These are the times when entrepreneurs give up. The exact moment that they fail.
Which is why learning how to sideline stress is so crucial. Yes, we need to be able to push ourselves, but, if the tank is empty, no matter how hard we push on the pedal, our car isn’t going to go anywhere.
Here are three ways you can start reclaiming your life now. (And, no, they won’t make you any less successful. In fact, they’ll do the opposite! I promise.)
1. Vary Your Schedule. Success is nothing more than focused repetition, being so determined to get what you want that you stop at nothing to get it. For many entrepreneurs, this means setting a rigid schedule and worshiping those preset times day in, day out. And while having a schedule is undoubtedly important, equally important are those days when you ease off a bit. One of the perks of being an entrepreneur is that you are the boss. It’s okay to sleep in on a Tuesday if you need to or if it makes you feel good. Take that lunch date with your friend on a Wednesday and work your schedule around it. Pick up that yoga class on Friday morning, because you can! Learning how to get what you need to done while enjoying every day, making the most of your self-employment, will give you the motivation you need to push when you need to.
2. Unplug With Purpose. As entrepreneurs, we can feel like we need to be hyper-aware of everything, not only within our own business but also what others are saying and doing. But staying plugged in, responding to every message, reading every email immediately, is exhausting - and, in reality, impossible. You will get so much more done if you turn off your phone and reminders, sign out of emails, and keep off social media. Commit to doing one thing and don’t “plug” back in until it’s done.
3. Don’t Forget To Dream. It’s easy to get caught up in the work. So much so that you can completely forget about why you are doing it. What is the purpose behind it? What are those wonderfully, seemingly unrealistic, dreams that keep you going? Every day you should be reminding yourself of your purpose and your dreams in whatever way you can. Those little parts of your dream life you picture doing regularly when you’ve finally “made it”? Start incorporating them into your weeks as much as you can. Help your brain understand what it will feel like when you have “arrived”. Don’t wait! And those bigger things that make up your dreams? That’s what dream boards are for!
Stress is a part of normal human life. For entrepreneurs, it’s even more so. And while stress is undoubtedly necessary and helpful for getting things done, we must remember that too much is depleting, both mentally and physically.
Push yourself yes, but, for fuck’s sake, take care of yourself. We need you at your most awesome self in order to do what you’re meant to do.
On occasion I find myself having a bad day. And while these days don’t come around very often anymore, the complaining, short temper, and overall lack of motivation and happiness sneaks in and, before I know it, has taken over my day. Our minds are a powerful thing and, when given the freedom to do as they wish, they like to do one thing consistently: find the easy way out.
Our brains are wired to circumvent issues, despite the feeling we sometimes get that we are dwelling on something in particular. This obsession with an event or a person stems from a different part of the brain and is a different beast to tackle entirely. But the practical part of the brain, the one that makes lists and solves problems, is always looking for the easiest possible way to accomplish whatever it is that is set in front of it. These shortcuts aren’t always bad - at the end of the day, they are what help us get shit done.
However, these cranial shortcuts cause a really big issue in the majority of people’s lives - they cause us to pass responsibility to someone or something else. Our brains, as taxed as they are these days, want to shorten their lists of burdens as quickly as possible so they can focus on other seemingly more pertinent things. The fastest way to shorten the list?
Give the responsibility to someone else.
Pass the buck.
Blame some other sucker.
What’s the harm in this, you ask? The more you start to hand personal responsibilities over to others, the less control you have over your life. You start to feel powerless. You begin to complain - constantly. You find yourself living a life that no longer feels like your own. Your life begins to feel like a giant shit show, everything happening to poor little you, the innocent victim sitting with a broken umbrella on the curb during a massive rainstorm.
I say, fuck that.
A beautiful thing begins to happen in your life when you start taking responsibility. And I don’t just mean for some things. I mean for everything.
That jerk that cut you off in traffic? Your fault. That meeting that ran long? Your fault. Your current income? Your responsibility. Your inability to land that dream job? Yep, you're to blame.
And I know exactly what you are thinking right now. How can everything be your fault? How can your life dramatically improve just by taking responsibility for things that seem out of your control?
I didn’t believe it could work either when I first started doing this a few months ago. But I was eager to find a way to overcome this wall I felt like I couldn’t get over. My life was good, but it didn’t feel great. I was generally happy, but I would find myself complaining regularly throughout my day, feeling defeated before I even began my work. I had lofty ambitions and goals for my life (both business and personal), and I simply wasn’t achieving them.
It started with a simple challenge: Stop complaining and start taking responsibility. I challenged myself to try this for a week and to see what changed.
With no exaggeration, literally everything in my life changed. I started being proactive when it came to my work schedule. I began waking up early to ensure that I had time to do everything I wanted and needed to do. I stopped seeing work as “work” and started seeing it instead as an opportunity to serve and to help others. I practiced more yoga and meditation, knowing that these things helped me to stay calm and focused. I read more and stopped making excuses for why I didn’t have time. I planted seeds for my business that I was too scared to even think about a month earlier because I took away the “what-if’s” and the fear.
In short, I made sure I did everything I wanted to every day. No excuses.
Taking responsibility for your own life and your happiness is empowering. You rediscover just how incredibly powerful you are and you stop letting others limit you.
I challenge you to try the same challenge I did for a week and see where it leads you. Rather than allowing your mind to slip out the backdoor while giving the world the middle finger, teach it to hold its ground. To stand up for itself and for the life you really want.
Your happiness is yours to claim. Are you up for the challenge?
Do you ever find yourself questioning what you’re doing? I don’t mean the smaller things in life, like Why am I eating a third donut? I mean the big things. Like Why am I still working at a job I don’t like? Or Am I sure I’m making the right decision about doing __________? Fill in the blank with any big life decision - moving, getting married, starting a business, having kids…
It’s human for us to question. It’s a good thing, really. That little voice in our head that can start to nag and sounds strikingly like our mothers can keep us accountable and prevent us from doing a lot of stupid things. Unfortunately, that same voice can destroy our confidence. It can paralyze us and make it impossible to accomplish anything. And, on the chance that we do accomplish something, it leaves us with feelings of self-doubt. Maybe even unworthiness.
I think it’s important to remember that we are all born with an intuition that guides us. We all deep down know what is right. As kids, we weren’t concerned about doing what we wanted to do, questioning our every move. We jumped in that sandbox feet first.
As we get older, we start incorporating all of these other voices into our lives. We start worrying about what others will think, how we will be perceived, and what will happen five or ten years from now because of the decision. We lose track of our own intuition and start listening to the low-budget talk show that is taking place in our minds.
I know not everyone loves The Alchemist. And I know referencing it might make you think, Wasn’t that so eight years ago? But, I’m going to ignore those little voices telling me to cite something more current and TRUST MY INTUITION.
In The Alchemist, Santiago, the main dude, learns to follow his “Personal Legend” by talking with his heart. By learning the language of his heart, he is confidently guided from one place to the next, listening to it rather than his mind.
The mind isn’t bad - it’s just loud. It talks over your heart and bosses you and it around. Your heart has a lot to say. And it’s in your heart that intuition lies.
When you find yourself questioning a decision. Or when you discover that your inner-dialogue is turning into negative bashing (the kind you would see on Jerry Springer), it’s important to make it stop. And fast. When I’m feeling lost or like my mind is taking over, I take a deep breath and step back from the situation to observe. I like to find a quiet place to sit in meditation and I spend five or ten minutes sitting, hands on my heart, waiting for it to get the courage to tell me what it thinks. Sometimes it’s helpful to take whatever decision or issue you are questioning and to reframe it as a positive statement to see how it makes you feel. For example, if I’m questioning whether or not I should take on a new project, I repeat to myself (a little mantra of sorts), “I am capable of doing this project. Doing this project will make me happy.”
This type of mantra usually cues your heart to start talking. It will either leave you feeling amazing at the end of your meditation - a good sign that it is what you’re supposed to be doing. Or you will be left with a clearer, calmer answer, like Yes, you could do this. But you are already busy and you need to take some time to be with your family.
Your heart never speaks to you negatively. And, even if it asks you to do something you are fearful of, it should feel like the kind of fear you have before stepping onto a plane to go to a foreign country. It should feel exciting.
Confidence grows with time. The more you practice trusting your intuition, the less you’ll be concerned about whether you are doing the right thing. You will just know. And knowing makes you a whole hell of a lot happier.
Something happened this year and it has changed everything. My days, my life, my attitude, my vision, EVERYTHING shifted. I can’t stop saying “I’m happy!” And the best part is that I really, really mean it. I am truly happy and it’s all because of one not-so-little thing:
I finally found what I am meant to do.
The funny thing is, that for the last ten years I was convinced that I was doing what I was meant to do. And, although not entirely off base, I found myself pushing and pulling, needing to reassure myself at every turn, forcing myself to do things that I honest to god did not want to do. Yet I still thought I was doing what I was destined to do.
Hard work is part of success. But how hard should the work really feel?
These past three months I have worked harder than I have in a long time. I have put in more hours, struggled with juggling a full-time work and full-time mom schedule (praise for the grandmas out there!), but I have enjoyed all of it more than I ever thought was possible. Again, even though I’m working my tail off, I am so ridiculously happy and having so much fun.
So how did I get here? And why did it take me so long to figure it out?
I think a lot of it comes down to us believing what we want to believe. We tell ourselves stories over and over about who we think we should be, what we should be doing, what our lives should look like and we start to believe them as truth. These stories aren’t always bad. They can lead to some pretty spectacular experiences and lessons, but when these stories become more prevalent in our subconscious than what our hearts and lives are trying to tell us, they can lead us down the wrong road, one that, once you’re far enough down it, can seem like there are no other paths to be on.
I fell in love with the practice of yoga when I was seventeen. I loved the physicality of the practice, the challenges it presented me, but I also loved the spirituality, the quiet space, the focus on breath. I became hooked after just a few classes, diving into every text I could get my hands on, dedicating all of my free time to studying and practicing.
This kind of passion, I thought, must mean something! It must mean that this is what I’m meant to do! I invested money, completed training after training, and began teaching. My love of the practice and of the yogic tradition overshadowed my dislike for teaching - FOR TEN YEARS! I dreaded every single class, wishing that no one would show up so that I could just practice alone. I cancelled classes constantly and gave up opportunities to teach often. But then, driven by guilt and my passion for the subject, I would persist, committing to new classes, new students, new trainings.
The problem was that I didn’t hate all aspects of teaching. I loved the preparation, creating my class plans, weaving in theory and philosophy and I loved the community. I cherished my time after class visiting with my students, hearing about their lives, connecting with them on a deeper level.
And it’s because of this, I think, that people like me too. It wasn’t that I was an exceptionally talented teacher, it was because I cared about them and took the time to create classes that had purpose (and that felt good too!) So these students, and my belief that this was something I was destined to do, kept me doing something I didn’t like. I ignored my anxiety, my displeasure, the pain of actually teaching a class and persevered for the good parts. I even took on week-long retreats in Costa Rica! My husband can vouch for the months of anxiety these events caused and how long it took me to recover after the event was over (who would have thought a week in paradise could be so draining!)
The point of all of this is that people do this ALL THE TIME in their own way. We tell ourselves things like, “But I like this so much!” or “I’ve invested all of this time and money!” or “I’ve already come this far!” or “It’s what people know I do!” and keep going down a path that really isn’t at all what we’re destined to do.
Because, now that I’ve seen what following your destiny really feels like, I can tell you that the deep pain and anxiety experienced so frequently does not come when you are doing what you’re really meant to do (not just what you think you should be doing!)
A year ago I came across the concept of Eulerian Destiny (I think through Tai Lopez) … he presented the idea and, at the time, it seemed so simple. You answer three questions and then find where your answers intersect. Ta-Da! You have your destiny, the thing that will not only make you happy, but that will also bring you money and success. Easy, right?
Well, a year ago I answered all of his questions and came up with my “destiny”. The huge problem was that I went into the process believing that I knew what my destiny was. So, much like playing with a Ouija board when you’re in middle school, I made the pieces line up how I wanted them to. (This is also how you get the Ouija board to spell the name of the boy you have a crush on when you ask it, “Who am I going to marry?” The power of belief!)
So, following my “destiny” I dove deeper and deeper into a hole, believing that somehow I would end up on another side, miraculously happy, successful, and fulfilled. I crawled deeper and deeper into the dark until I broke. Sad, exhausted, stressed - I was done!
But it was in this state of overwhelming hopelessness, a complete and utter “Fuck This!” state, that I returned to this idea of destiny. Ready to do anything to get myself out of this hole, I found myself open-minded and willing to drop my ego and all of the lofty ideas it had created over the years.
I asked myself the three Eulerian Destiny questions again:
How have I made money for the past 5 or 10 years?
What do strangers compliment me on/what was I good at as a child?
What do I find interesting? What do I like, but don’t LOVE?
I started journaling. I spent time really trying to dig to find the actual answers to these questions. I talked to my mom. I found old projects from elementary school. I committed myself to figuring this out, being completely open to the idea that my life could be destined for something I would have never, ever dreamed of. (Plumbing school? Where do I sign up!)
Turns out that WRITING is the common thread for me - NOT YOGA. NOT TEACHING. And now, committing myself fully to this new adventure (which really isn’t so new but never before was my focus) I have finally found my destiny. And I know it will get a lot more specific as time goes on. And a lot of pieces will change over time. And I’m grateful for that!
The consequences of ignoring what you’re meant to do are serious. Not being open to changes, not being open-minded in general, steals happiness and fulfillment from your life. In these few months of focusing on writing, building a new business, taking on new roles, have been more wonderful and FREEING than I ever could have imagined.
Yes, life can really be that amazing.
So, what’s your destiny? What are you really here to do? What will bring you more fulfillment and happiness? The answers won’t come to you over night, but, once you start the process, you’ll start seeing connections, putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and, I promise, discover something that truly lights you up.
Hustle. In a momentary lapse of judgment, I almost got it tattooed on my wrist. (No offense if you have said tattoo… I’m still deliberating “LEGEN” on one wrist and “DARY” on the other…)
Whether it’s permanently inked on your skin or not, “Hustle” is a word that most entrepreneurs know well. It’s what we remind ourselves of when our alarm clock goes off at 5:00 and when we’re still staring at a screen at 2:00. “Hustle” is what we say when we are explaining why we can’t make a friend’s party or a kid’s game or a parent’s anniversary. It’s the word we use to drive us to do more than everyone else, to keep going even when we want to stop. Hustle, we are told, is what separates winners from losers, success from mediocrity.
But what happens when HUSTLE takes over your life? When does HUSTLE become TOO MUCH HUSTLE?
As a yoga teacher and student, I am constantly talking about finding balance, which seems to contradict so much of what is taught and respected in the business world. As someone steeped in both realms, it can be tricky to navigate daily life and all of those schedules. I find myself feeling guilty when i’m taking a break, that inner voice yelling, “HUSTLE!” And I feel guilty when I’m doing the hustle (work not the dance - why would I apologize for that!?), my peaceful little yoga voice saying, “Breathe. Take a break. Wouldn’t a savasana feel nice right now?”
Add that guilt in with mom guilt, wife guilt, and female guilt and you’ve got yourself one fucked up person. Which might make you wonder right now, “And this person wants to give ME advice???”
Yes, yes I do.
Because over the past five years of balancing self-employment with motherhood, marriage, and that inner yogini - I’ve learned a thing or two.
First of all, yes, hustle is required in order to have success. I have yet to meet a single self-made successful person who doesn’t have stories about the sacrifices and hardships they endured on the way up. As much as we’d like to think it’s fine to take your time, success really does like speed - and if you’re not going, you can guarantee someone else is. And that “someone else” will be the next successful person you read about. There’s no way around hard work.
But, for me, “hustle” has come to mean something different than just hard work. Hustle is strategic. It’s very focused energy on work you care about. Hustle is knowing exactly what you want and, most importantly, how to get it.
Hustle is a very good thing when it’s done right. But…
You have to keep it in check. Hustle very quickly just becomes work. And work, we all know, gets old fast. That guilt I told you about earlier? Well, it’s something all entrepreneurs seem to suffer from. We have been taught somewhere along the way that we have to work non-stop. That we aren’t supposed to sleep. That the work is never done.
I call bull shit.
This is the reason why so many entrepreneurs AREN’T successful. Why so many either burn out or turn into giant assholes.
Hustle and working for the sake of working are two very different things. One will get you where you want to go and the other will drain you until you’re lifeless and broke. The secret sauce to success is balancing your hustle. It’s working strategically every day, but knowing how to also take care of yourself (and your family and your partner and your dog…)
Any success you gain at the price of your health, sanity, or relationships is never worth it. (And if you think it is, see the giant asshole reference above.)
As entrepreneurs we need to plan our days. We need to hustle as much as we need to rest. We need to focus and work as much as we need to stop and enjoy life (yes, go smell those fucking roses!)
Personally, I have found that lists give me super powers. I have two different ones I use every day: BOSS LIST and THE THREESOME LIST.
BOSS LIST: This consists of five daily habits that you need to have to be successful in whatever it is you are doing (Ex: contacting X amount of people, writing X amount of hours, studying X, etc.) These things are things you know you should be doing, but struggle to get done. They are not habits yet. You cross these five things off your list every day until they become second nature… and then you update your list and continue to grow.
My current Boss List looks like this:
1. Contact 20 potential clients
2. Update finances and receipts
3. Read 60 minutes
4. Get outside (no matter how cold!) for 30 minutes
5. Study 30 minutes and implement on current work
(Remember: these are done daily!)
THE THREESOME LIST: This is so simple but helps me get SO much done! This list is simply my top three priorities for the day. I make this list the day before, which helps me get focused the next day on what’s important and helps me stop working when it’s time to clock out. When you are able to knock three huge things off your to-do list before 9:00am, you feel so good! And have so much time to do those little things that give you an edge (like working a little more or, you know, getting a massage…)
Hustling is actually fun when you do it right. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) make your life miserable and it will bring you success. The key is to be constantly observing it, knowing when it’s helping you and when it’s starting to hurt you. Hustle that ruins your life, makes you sick or angry, and makes the people around you resent you is stupid. Really fucking stupid. And that is something you, my friend, are not.
This morning I woke up early. I made it to the living room without waking up the kids or my husband to have some time to fit in my daily yoga practice and meditation. I stretched and moved as the early rays of the morning light began to stream through the windows. My meditation, cut short by my four-year-old son wanting to snuggle on the sofa while watching the morning's episode of Curious George, was plenty to get me mentally grounded and energized for the Tuesday that lied ahead. Minutes went by on the sofa, but never once did I check the clock or feel the urge to interrupt my time with my son in order to start working on today's tasks. Instead, I sat side-by-side my son as he delighted in my presence and one little monkey's curious antics.
My days are busy, but, unlike so many other people I know, I choose when to work. I choose when to plug-in and when it is necessary for me to check out. That is just one of the many reasons I choose to be an entrepreneur. One of the many reasons I’ve learned to let go stressing over the small (and not-so-small) challenges that are created by going against the grain.
Today I have $331 in my bank account. I’ve recently had much more and also much less. Money used to scare me and days like this, days when I felt like I had very little, would send me into a whirlwind of anxiety. But over the years I’ve learned that money is just energy. It’s abundant and limitless. It comes and it goes. Some days you have more and some days you have less. Coming to terms with this has afforded me the freedom to actually focus on the things that are so much bigger than money.
My days are created around the idea of family and fulfillment. Around doing things that are meaningful and helpful to others and the world around me. Around doing things that light me up, challenge me, and make me grow.
Entrepreneurs are running an entirely different race than everyone else. Our eyes and our minds are focused on something much bigger than a salary, benefits, or the rungs of someone else’s ladder. While everyone else is running circles on a track, we are in the woods, discovering the beauty of nature, climbing hills that seem too big, and being mesmerized by the view on the way up. Sure, our times might be slower in the race, but I’m willing to bet that what we learn is far more important than metaphorical numbers on a stopwatch.
Entrepreneurs invest their money. Sometimes these investments pan out and other times they don’t. We take risks, we calculate our odds, and we lay down our bets - all in the name of doing something different, something that maybe no one has ever done before.
Sure, our bank accounts might be smaller ow, but our life accounts are accumulating wealth every single day. And my bet is that, with a lot of focus and persistence, one day our bank accounts will reflect all of the hard work and sweat that have been poured into them.
And, if they don’t?
Well, I’ll be the happy one at the bar, drink in hand, sharing all of my bad-ass stories from the wilderness.
Maybe I sound like a broken record. Of all the articles and blogs I’ve written lately, a good 92% of them have to do with perfectionism, not caring what others think, letting go, etc. But I honestly feel like I have just discovered how much I have let all of the above dictate my life. It was a fucking huge realization when I finally understood what it feels like to not do something just to seek approval. To make decisions based on what I want, or what’s best for my family, husband, dog, instead of being obsessed with how others will perceive my actions, decisions, etc.
Am I the only one who was completely unaware that this is how I was living my life?!?
I have spent decades striving to get that gold star of approval. Trying to ensure that I was the best, coolest, funniest, smartest, most attractive thing in any given room. I would even go so far as to sit uncomfortably on a beach all afternoon so my thighs would look perfect just in case anyone walked by and decided to judge my legs (the secret is to not let them touch anything - ground, each other, etc - they have to float and rotate like Heidi Klum would if she were Tinkerbell…)
And what for? WHAT FOR?!?
In all honesty, I think that until recently I thought that’s what people wanted. That they wanted to know, be friends, date, have dinner with someone that was perfect. I wanted to impress and seek approval because I feared that if I didn’t I would suddenly be left out or that my thighs would be talked about as soon as I left the room. “Did you see that dimple? It’s so gross. She’s awful. I can’t imagine ever being associated with old dimple thighs. Let’s ditch her and stick her with the check!”
I just finished reading one of my new favorite books, Approval Junkie by Faith Salie. I had never heard of Salie before but her gold star studded cover made my inner fourth grader hyperventilate and buy impulsively.
She is hysterical. And honest, witty, interesting … let’s just say, she has my approval (not that she’s seeking it - she’s kicked the habit).
Like usual, I find it impossible to read without taking notes in the margins (I think I really enjoy it, but maybe it’s residue from my wanting people to think I’m super intelligent - the girl at Starbucks with her big hip glasses so engrossed in Greek mythology that she can’t stop writing about all of the revelations she is having…) So as I read my margins grew and I realized a few key things, which I am laying out for you below in case you, like me, need some help to stop giving a flying fuck about what others think.
The 5 Life-Altering Lessons Learned From Approval Junkie
1. Don’t Let Other People Possess You - Exorcise Those Mother F’ers!
Every person you allow to enter your psyche, those people whose words and thoughts weigh on you, is possessing you. It’s subtle and usually takes time, but people worm their way into your thoughts and life, making you feel guilty and responsible for their shit. People will pass on their baggage in sneaky ways, trying to get you to do things that make them feel better. DON’T LET THESE BASTARDS IN! Learn how to possess yourself and your entire life will change.
2. Being Interested Gets You Further Than Being Interesting
Take the pressure of yourself and relax! This is a huge part of learning how to stop jumping through hoops for other people. Learning to listen not only makes other people like you more, but you learn a ton about yourself and others. Next time you feel the need to impress, stop and listen. Take your time before you talk (or dance on the table or volunteer for karaoke) and you’ll start to realize that people will begin to try to impress you. (Such a better feeling!)
3. Slow Down, Listen, Learn
Approval junkies are quick to volunteer, quick to speak, and quick to pass judgment. SLOW DOWN. Be all in wherever you are. Give other people your full attention. Don’t be so frenzied that you miss out on what others are saying or doing. The best moments in life take place when you stop doing, start moving slower, and enjoy observing what’s going on around you.
4. Don’t “Act In” Just To Spare Someone’s Feelings
Acting “in” is the opposite of acting out. When you are constantly seeking approval, you wind up repressing things (you know, emotions) in order to make other people feel better. Don’t take this as license to be a crazy bitch whenever you want, BUT do realize that how you feel is important. If someone or something is really irritating you, hurting you, or making you feel like shit, you should say something. Even if it makes the situation worse for a bit, it will make everything better in the long run.
5. You Are Funny, Awesome, And Smart - Don't Give A Shit If Other People See This
You can’t be on all the time. And, when you are, you can’t expect that there will be a crowd anxiously waiting to applaud. Sometimes that perfect comeback comes to you in the middle of the night and you are the only person there to appreciate it. That’s life. People are going to get different impressions of you on different days. People will miss out on certain things that make you awesome. IT DOESN’T MATTER. Are you awesome? YES. Smart? (I THINK SO?) Funny? HELL YES! You knowing that is really all that matters. The important people in your life will get it. If your waiter at the restaurant misses out - it’s his loss (so refrain from telling that joke about semen on your pants just to prove you are funny and irresistibly irreverent)…
At the end of the day, all of those people you are trying to impress don’t even realize it because they are trying to impress you. Let go and be entertained by the people around you. It’s much easier on your brain and your thighs…
Group projects were the bane of my existence growing up. They were the source of anxiety and an early cause of my deep mistrust towards blonde girls and boys named Matthew or Michael. I struggled with two things as our group would form around a small table or shove our desks together to “brainstorm” (in high school “brainstorm” was code from our teacher that she didn’t care what we did so long as we were relatively quiet and there was no obvious sign of bleeding…)
Number one: I was a perfectionist. Anything other than the best, the project chosen to be “an extraordinary example” for all future students, the one every kid would look at and say, “DAY-UMMMM (or whatever the equivalent was in the 90’s before Daniel’s shoes made us all rethink how we compliment each other) - anything other than that would send me into a self-deprecating death spiral that I could only recover from by talking to my teacher at length during recess, eyes filled with tears, explaining that I would fix everything if she would PLEASE give me an A+ and remove all of those remarks and critiques.
Number two: I was a people pleaser. Seeing my group mates stress about their assignment, complain about the work, or, worst of all, clearly not understand what it was exactly we were to be doing to get the above-mentioned A+, would force me to smile and quickly say, “Guys, don’t worry. I’ll do it.” At which point they would say I was awesome, throw their feet up on the desk, recline their heavy little heads into their clasped hands, and talk about boobs (who was getting them, who had them, whose were biggest, who had felt them … seriously, elementary school through high school, I did some of my best work while listening about nipples and the mounding flesh under them.)
The rare occasion that I would allow someone else to do any of the group work or the teacher would demand that the work be divided up evenly (bull shit), I would sit nervously at home the night before the project was due, momentarily fighting the urge to do the entire project at home myself, only to give in, staying up to the voice of Jay Leno and Star Trek reruns forging the pieces assigned to my classmates, trying different styles of handwriting, being as sloppy as the perfectionist in me would allow when cutting construction paper silhouettes so, you know, the pictures of Hitler would really pop. I would hide all of this in strategic places around the school yard, being able to, at a moment’s notice when Matt C. or Matt F. or Matt G. declared that they “like totally spaced it”, excuse myself from my desk, run to the secret location picking up my forged diorama or screenplay for the Holocaust telenovela I wrote for extra credit, and sneak it into the desks of my irresponsible group members. TA-DA! I will take my A+, please and thank you.
It was as exhausting as it sounds. Stupid, some of you might say, but I would go back and do it all over just so I could be assured that my brilliant remake of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream is still held up in front of a class of dim-witted students by a teacher who, decades later, sighs at the memory of her most brilliant and talented student.
College was like a breath of fresh air. Set free from group projects, I would frolic through assignments, giddy almost. Thankful to work for me and only me, I quickly became bitter about all those peers of mine who I allowed to coast on my top-of-the-class coattails. When given the chance in college to work alone or in a group, I opted for masturbation over orgy. I could get things done better myself, the way I wanted it done, without having to compromise or carry anyone along.
Everyone was competition. I was out to win.
I got straight A’s through college, but, as you can imagine, I wasn’t necessarily viewed as the “fun” girl. Thankfully, I had a boyfriend, who would soon become my husband, so I didn’t care about what anyone thought.
The perfectionism stayed. The people-pleasing morphed from wanting to please others to only wanting to please myself.
I was intense but successful.
Two years after graduating Summa Cum Laude I pushed out a baby and quit my job. I suddenly didn’t care about competing with anyone, I was busy keeping two humans alive, myself and my son. As anyone who has had a baby knows, it takes a long time to get back to “normal” after bringing a baby home. I say “normal” because the old definition of that no longer applies.
For me, “normal” meant taking regular showers, getting dressed, and finding a project to work on other than rearranging furniture in my house on a bi-weekly basis. I poured myself into my business, an online company my husband and I had started together, tackling it, as I had gotten used to doing everything else in the past, alone.
I did everything - web design, marketing, writing, publishing, editing, graphic design, customer service, team management, CEO, CFO. In a matter of months I had published over 80 books and was the #1 author on Amazon in Health and Fitness. Funny, because I wasn’t healthy at the time. I was exhausted and angry and cried quietly a lot on the floor of my apartment at two in the morning so I wouldn’t wake baby. For the very first time in my life I couldn’t do it all on my own.
It took some time, but I began to recover from a lifetime of individual competition. I slowed down and hired some much needed help. I’ll admit, it’s hard to let go of the reins. I found myself relapsing to my school days, preparing the work I had hired someone else to do just in case they didn’t deliver or in case they did and I didn’t approve.
But then I had a second baby.
As expected, life got twice as busy and I began caring less about perfection and more about completion. I started to discover that life is so much more than trying to stand above the crowd. Really, it’s about standing in the crowd and enjoying the company.
Time is the most valuable thing we have as humans and, looking back, it’s crazy how much time I wasted caring about little things I don’t even remember today. When I get to choose between doing something perfectly on my own, exhausting my personal time resource, or working with a team so that we all get things done and still have time to, you know, actually enjoy being alive, well, it’s suddenly very clear when I put it like that.
Unexpectedly, choosing collaboration over competition hasn’t just changed my business life (which, by the way, I enjoy my work so much more and I’m much more successful than I was four years ago), but it’s changed every aspect of my life. I say yes to people wanting to help me carry my groceries to the car. I say yes to teaming up with other people because we really do get more done (and, when Sangria is involved, it’s way more fun and socially acceptable!) My yoga practice has gone from being reclusive and private and competitive to being relaxed and open and collaborative. I no longer go into things with the “I’m better” mindset. Instead I think, “What can I learn from this.”
Life, it turns out, is a whole hell of a lot more fun when I choose to opt in. Letting go of perfection and competition and replacing it with good, old-fashioned collaborative team work brings out the best in everyone involved, not just me. And God knows the world could use a little more fun. (But, no, I’m still not ready for that orgy…)