Tag Archives: inspiring people

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Lately, I’ve been very aware that I am in a period of recapitulation. I’ve been in this place before, but mostly I just reeled against myself in resistance because I couldn’t stand the uncertainty that comes with the territory.

To recapitulate something is to summarize and restate again the main points. In terms of growth and development, it’s a period of introspective evolution — an expansion of consciousness, if you will.

I admit at times, it’s damn uncomfortable. It’s also very sweet and this time around I’m savoring the sweetness of it and being ok with letting things inside of me germinate at pace slower than to my liking. It’s actually kind of peaceful.

As most everything in life needs a period of “rest” after it’s been worked (soil after it’s been tilled, dough after its been kneaded, our bodies after a good work-out and our souls after a challenging period), all of this comes on the coattails of three very challenging years.

In 2011, I walked off a cliff and started a music festival–a blues music festival to be more precise. I also publish a magazine. In this latest issue, I wrote about my experience starting this Festival, which was a totally harrowing experience, and one I wouldn’t change for the world. The journey of the last three years inoculated me against everyday fears that frequently plague all of us. It shined a light in the dark corners where these fears hide and exposed them for the frauds they really are. Where I was once blinded by darkness I can now see, and I am fortified with some truths that I might never have known any other way.

As I look at my blog, I’m realizing the extent of my neglect has been almost a year. So it’s time…time for me to share with you what’s been keeping my attention. Here I share with you my story of starting something new and how that helped me to cultivate authenticity. Starting Something New: The Birth of Tall City Blues Fest

The Satya of My Agraha

The Satya of My Agraha

“Satyagraha” is the priceless gift of “focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way”; the art of restraint, of picking battles wisely, of discerning between bait and conviction.

I found this quote in a book by Susan Cain called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”. I’m finding it a fascinating read, I think mostly because I am innately curious about people and what makes them tick. But this quote above stopped me in my tracks; it was exactly the medicine I needed at exactly the right time.quite-book

The entire purpose of the book is to explore the quiet strength of introverts, something we often dismiss and overlook in a culture chock-full of extroverts. Having practiced being an extrovert most of my life, I have a tendency to think that I need to react to every criticism, defend every attack and fight every battle.

Over the years, though, I’ve been slowly learning to actively choose where I put my energy rather than impulsively getting drawn into a “skirmish” and then wondering how the hell I got into a mess. Apparently, this discernment is innately an introverted quality, meaning introverts do this much more naturally than extroverts.

To the extroverted side of me these “skirmishes” are attractive, presenting me with opportunities to prevail and triumph; however, they are exhausting to the introverted side of me. And quite frankly, sometimes they are just bait. Not because the initiator is purposely trying to bait me (although sometimes that may be true), but more so because if I participate it will be less conducive to achieving my goal than if I don’t. It may appeal to my ego in the moment, but really it will be diverting energy away from ultimately achieving my goal.

In Sanskrit, “satya” means “truth” and “agraha” means “soul force”. As a self-sovereign being, I am wholly responsible for the “satya” of my “agraha”, or the truth of my soul force. I can choose to temporarily divert my energy and take the bait of the battle or I can choose to more thoughtfully pause and contemplate my response, which may or may not be audible (or visible).

Certainly, there is value is being able to make a quick decision (a primarily extroverted quality), but not every situation warrants a quick decision or reaction. And certainly not every encounter is bait; some circumstances do require being addressed head-on. It is being present in the moment, being in the flow and being fully conscious that determines whether I can make this distinction. Because let’s face it, life doesn’t come neatly wrapped in a box with nicely creased edges and a bow on top; rather it is full of hairpin turns, steep cliffs and curve balls. Situations that require making this distinction happen spur of the moment and often without notice.

So this means that presence of mind becomes all the more paramount to my success and to my ability to ultimately achieve my goal, whatever that may be.

To peek inside the “Quiet” book, click here.

Little Bee

Little Bee

bee_paperbackTold in the alternating voices of two very different women, Chris Cleave skillfully unveils a story of both tragedy and triumph in a way that only a master storyteller can. The plot is engaging all the way through and realistically reveals the nature of human foibles illustrating the inter-connectedness of of all of our lives, even when it’s not seemingly apparent. The story is both thought-provoking and endearing.

Click here to preview this book.

My Most Ecstatic, Realized Self

My Most Ecstatic, Realized Self

I was recently presented with the idea that Life is here to serve us; we’re not here to serve it. I think I’ve spent most of my Life living this idea backwards. Having this notion is like now having a new pair of glasses to see Life in a totally different shade…now I wonder how I can fully experience my most ecstatic, realized self by allowing (not expecting) Life to serve me!

To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

I’ve been thinking lately about writers and the thought occurs to me that as writers, particularly aspiring writers who are not already getting paid for our work, we’ve really got it cush, yet we think we’ve got it tough.

As aspiring writers, we inadvertently sabotage ourselves, or at least hold our potential at bay, because we have both a wishful desire to get paid as a writer, and at the same time, we privately wonder why anybody would pay for our writing. What is profoundly insightful or insatiably intriguing to others, to us may seem commonplace. And we fall into the trap of thinking that if we thought of it, then anyone else can think of it too….so therefore our thoughts are not remarkable…and therefore our words are not worth money….and because they are not worth money, of course no one will pay for them. And voila! We’ve conveniently justified not writing. Because why bother anyway? Only people that are already getting paid for their writing, get paid for their writing, right? Wrong!

This is a classic case of a thought thread beginning with a statement of truth, but very quickly veering off track into a self-deluding lie, albeit one that tastes palatable and so therefore must be true. It’s too easy to assume because the seed of our thought started with a truth that the end conclusion will also be a truth. But that just isn’t the truth!

Herein lies the flaw: Just because anyone else can think of your same thought doesn’t mean they will, and even if they do, it doesn’t mean they will do anything with it, and even if they do do something with it, so what? Is your take on the same motif going to be EXACTLY the same as someone else’s? I hardly think so! But, by far, the biggest lie in this line of thinking is assuming that our thoughts are unremarkable and unworthy of monetary consideration because everyone else has the same thought potential as we do.

So that’s true: everyone else does have the same thought potential. But potential is where the truth ends. If we don’t turn that potential into writing that someone else can read, it remains just that–potential. And how much money do you think potential alone ever made anybody? Zero! Potential has to be turned into something. This is what distinguishes writers from thinkers. And the ‘something’ it gets turned into may or may not command money in the marketplace. But that doesn’t matter.

When you’re a writer (that’s not already getting paid for your writing), you can’t use whether or not your writing is going to get you paid as your impetus for starting to write in the first place. You just have to write and let your stuff get filtered thru the universal sieve of the marketplace. We all know that people get paid for crap writing all the time, but crap is subjective. If that crap is generating money for its author, then it is withstanding the test of the marketplace, period! The only difference is degree and as an aspiring writer, we can’t afford to concern ourselves with degrees; we should instead be concerned with breaking the barrier from not getting paid into getting paid, assuming of course that we are writing in the first place! And even after we break the barrier and start getting paid, degrees still really don’t matter, at least degrees relative to other writers. The only thing that matters is our results relative to our desires. And for promotion and marketing: they’re a numbers game. Promotion and marketing are a hedge, that’s it; nothing more, nothing less. We still have to write.

It’s like this: We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, and as a writer we have to take the shots (i.e., write the stuff) regardless of what we think the outcome might be. One of two things is going to happen: We’re either going to produce stuff that people will pay for or we’re going to learn a hellava lot in the process, presumably about ourselves and about writing. And besides that, writing is an art and art works by working on its creator. The more we create (write), the better our (art) writing becomes. So who’s to stay that what we are writing now that no one is paying us for won’t pave the way for us to write something that someone will pay for?

The point is this: Write. Just write. Write regardless. Write with abandon. Whatever happens, it’s a win all the way around.

Money or no money, as writers, we have to be willing to put ourselves and our writing out there. It’s a requirement for the job!

P.S. Please excuse my several instances of prepositions at the end of sentences. If it makes you feel better, think of it as post-positioning instead of pre-positioning!

The Death of Idealism

The Death of Idealism

I read this this today in Seth Godin’s book ‘Poke the Box’, which is a term he uses to describe innovating, initiating & starting something new. I thought these words very profound & worthy of sharing.

Sooner or later, many idealists transform themselves into
disheartened realists who mistakenly believe that giving up is the
same thing as being realistic.

When they start out, the idealists believe that doing something is far
better than doing nothing. They understand the system, the process,
the way it’s all set up to work. They want to fix it, change it, or least disturb it.

Over time, these politicians, entrepreneurs, or activists discover that
as they get more leverage, they seem to give up the very thing that got them into this position in the first place. The people arguing on behalf of accepting the status quo are the ones who, years ago, set out to change it.

For so many people, this transformation is preventable.

As disillusionment set in, people stop poking. They find themselves
slowing down, dissuaded or disheartened, so they start to accept the
status quo. The irony is that the act of creating and shipping
remarkable ideas is the very thing that can change the status quo.
Yelling at the cable TV anchor never changes anything. Yell long
enough and you’ll merely end up hoarse.

Click here to read more inside the book.

Intentional Life Legacies

Intentional Life Legacies

I spend a great deal of time thinking about the impact of my life. I once had the very powerful experience of writing my own funeral eulogy as a coaching exercise and it was unforgettable. At first blush that may sound morose, but the point is to project what you would want people to say and feel about you, how you impacted their lives when you still had clay feet; and to let this be a governing light by which you can live your life now.

I’ve also heard it put another way, which is to write a 200-year life plan. Again, at first glance, this seems ridiculous; the vast majority of us don’t live to be 100, let alone 200 years old! But that is precisely the point—the impact of our lives reaches well beyond the limitation of our physical existence.

While it’s impossible to always live our lives congruently with our own long-term projection of ourselves, that doesn’t mean the projection (or plan) isn’t worth having. And having a plan certainly doesn’t alleviate our lives of friction and conflict. Actually, I’d suggest having a planned legacy might create more collisions, because when we’re working toward (or on) that which is part of our soul work, the obstacles are a necessary and essential part of the process. If it weren’t for the obstacles, we would have no milestones—nothing over which to triumphantly prevail!

I read this recently in an issue of Backpacker Magazine:

We make choices, and nearly all of us start out incubating some grand, youthful ambition. We want to write novels when we grow up, or scale unclimbed peaks. But then we do grow up and we become practical. We choose [paths] that are easier, more conventional. We limit our adventures to what fits in the vacation schedule. (Bill Donahue)

WTH? Personally, I can’t stand the idea of getting to the end of my life (whenever that may be), looking back and living with the realization that I didn’t do anything that mattered, that I didn’t make a difference in the people’s lives that intersected with mine, that I didn’t live my life authentically to the best of my ability, that I didn’t stretch myself beyond what I thought were my limits; that I lived a wasted life, squandered my gifts, skills, abilities and opportunities, and that the only legacy I might leave behind is bitter resentment and bad memories for all the things I could have done better or differently and instead chose only actions in service of myself and my own immediate gratification. Yuk!

This is not to say that I have the expectation I won’t ever violate these ideas in the course of my life, and it’s certainly not to say that I am above situational regrets or having to fight on the battleground of my own frailties and weaknesses; BUT it IS to say that somehow in the grand sum total of my life as I lived it, I want the fact that I had one to have made a difference! And the only way I know how to do that is to have spent some time purposefully contemplating what I want the end to look like, so that I have a guide for the middle.

Living a life guided by an intentional legacy is not an easy life , in fact, it may be harder. But it’s fuller and purposeful. And if my choices are to pay the day-to-day price of a purposeful life now or to live a careless, unguided one—well everything comes with a price and I’d rather pay the price daily than the balloon payment at the end!

Don’t Let the Noise of Others’ Drown Out Your Inner Voice

Don’t Let the Noise of Others’ Drown Out Your Inner Voice

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like this, “If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”

Since then…I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many day’s in a row, I know I need to change something.

Your time is limited…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition…Everything else is secondary.

-from Steve Jobs at the June 12, 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address

Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love

So I just finished watching Eat Pray Love, the movie adapted from the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. It finally came out on Netflix! I cried and laughed and loved and felt loved all within the 2 hour and 20 minutes space of the movie and now I feel compelled to write. That’s how it works for me, I suppose; something causes me to drop into my heart and I want to write….need to write. Maybe it’s because she is a writer and I’ve read the book, but I doubt it. I think it’s more just because I’m a writer.

I forget that occasionally. I get busy with life and forget that about myself. That writing is one of the things I want to do most; that I feel like I was born to do. Writing makes me feel like I’m contributing to the world.

There are seven things in life that really make my heart sing, that which you might call my passions: 1) writing, duh!; 2) reading, I read lots of different types of books, but find that always having a good fiction book going helps me feel more balanced; 3) playing pool, I actually aspire to go pro; 4) riding (and working on, we call that “wrenching”, motorcycles), I’m fond of the long-distance brand of motorcycle therapy; 5) studying, learning and speaking Spanish; 6) photography; and 7) travel, it’s no accident that I can do all of these things while traveling! I like and enjoy lots of other things, but none more than these seven; these rise far and above all other possible activities.

I go thru spurts and dry spells with all of them. Currently, I’ve been indulging my love for the game of pool one night a week. Yes, I know a girl that wants to go pro has to play a helleva lot more than one night a week and, quite frankly, I’m kinda tired of hearing it. Has anyone ever said out loud that it’s really a whipping to be constantly reminded of your potential by others? Don’t do that! It creates barriers. I know why we do it. We do that to those we love precisely because we love them, and it makes us happy to think about them fulfilling their greatest potential. But what if we focused on tending to the fulfillment of our own potential, instead? Then we wouldn’t have to focus on someone else’s as a distraction for our own. We inspire people to seek and indulge their greatest potential by supporting them; allowing them time and space; by loving them as they are, not as we want them to be; and certainly not by minding their business and painting their picture for them or by telling them what they already know.

See, here’s the thing about passions. They are things we feel deeply about and that satisfy a place in our souls for which nothing else will suffice. By definition, they are soul work. I can work out the messiness of my life on a pool table in the same way I can by writing or riding my motorcycle. I get perspective. I have aha’s! Life is one big analogy, but we can’t digest and relate to “one big analogy”. So we have passions. Passions help us relate and see our world and our problems thru a different lens; they give us perspective.

When I’ve made a mess on the pool table because I didn’t play good shape, I’ve got to play it like it lies. And when I stretch myself to formulate a plan to approach a “low probability of success” situation (of my own making), I get reminded that the point was not so much about the success or failure of the immediate next shot as it is about the strategy of the entire game. Life is one big game and our passions give us bite-size games as altars upon which we can learn our life’s lessons….if we’re paying attention.