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The Artist (is) Inside

What are you craving? That tugging in your heart isn’t going to go away. You know it, I know it. The thing you’ve always wanted to do, but dismiss as impossible? That’s The Muse. Your Muse.

Everyone (Yes, even you) has art inside them. You might have a desire to write, or sing, or grow vegetables in your garden. Maybe you make things, or you take things that are already made and make them different. Maybe — just maybe — it’s peacemaking, or hand holding, or listening. Strategy, logic, fact finding, cheerleading. In fact, I am willing to bet that whatever Your Muse suggests when she visits you, is currently peeking into your  thoughts right this minute. THAT “thing” is your ART! 

Everything is art. And everyone has an artist inside.

I know, for some of us, it’s hard to believe. We tell ourselves (or maybe we’ve been told) not to be foolish — that Artists are painters, musicians, actors, and authors. We might even acknowledge the work that doctors and lawyers do as “art.” It took a long time for me to accept this myself, but that realization — that acknowledgment that the passion in my work was art — was a liberating process. It was a process. Initiated, at first by a suggestion from someone I barely knew — kind of like me, telling you this today.

A bug in my ear, and an opportunity to look at myself differently — to see me from the outside. And, it was this suggestion that started the conversation that led me to writing this. That led me to believing the Muse.

Saying “Yes” to the Muse

In the moments that you feel that craving, when the Muse nudges you with an idea, or something you’ve always thought you’d like to do — but, then, right after that moment, more quickly, and less subtly, “No” comes slamming in to your brain with the authority of a giant. You might not even realize it’s happening.

Until you start paying attention.

That’s what happened to me. By the sheer suggestion (there are no coincidences) of that acquaintance, I started to listen to the Muse. And I considered “Yes” — but just for a moment. I took inspiration out of the box, and held it in my hands for a moment. I might have even cried a little at the complete beauty that I saw, for the first time. But, I quickly put it right back, afraid of what it might mean. Considering “Yes” for the first time might be terrifying. We analyze the possibilities and we question our sanity. And, these thoughts — after our initial consideration result in “No.”

Don’t worry, most people say no. We tell ourselves someone else is already doing that, or we don’t have time, or we’re not ready, or…. And all of those thoughts are absolutely true! There is always an absolutely perfect reason to say no. There will always be a counter-operative to your inspiration.

You might want to give her a name. The Resistance is what Steven Pressfield calls it in The War of Art. And Seth Godin call it the Lizard Brain in Icarus Deception, but you can call it whatever you want. The most important step, is identifying and accepting yourself as an artist. Because as soon as that happens, Magic Starts:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

— W.H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

When I read this quote, in The War of Art, I knew I would be coming back to it. My artist inside connected with it, maybe there’s something in this post today that your artist connects to — maybe today is the day you consider saying “Yes”?

What’s the Nugget in your Day?

 

We all know what a perfect day looks like, right? When everything goes exactly the way you planned, when all the details fall into place, and when you are able to communicate exactly what you meant to say, without a single misunderstanding. No one says something ridiculous, you don’t get your feelings hurt, you get everything you wanted, exactly the way you wanted them. Ah, the satisfaction that comes with perfection!

Wait, What? You’ve never had a perfect day? How is that possible? You’ve been practicing perfection for 15,466 days! How in the world haven’t you managed to figure this out yet?

At this point in my life, I have accepted that perfection isn’t the point. We’re not racing to figure out how to be perfect. We’re racing to figure out how to live a life of meaning. And, if that’s not what we’re here for, I am afraid we might discover a disappointing result.

Measuring Meaning — I Should Have Been an Amazing Mom

We all have a different way to measure meaning. And, it likely will shift as we grow older. When I was first navigating the world of #adulting, I thought my purpose was to be a mother. I wanted 6 kids. I wanted to have play dates, and snuggles on the couch. Perfection was a happy marriage with doe-eyed cherubs, and the feeling of little sweaty hands reaching out to me for one more bed time story.

But that wasn’t in God’s plan. And it took me many many years to come to terms with the path that my life was going to take. Whether or not I was a willing participant. Much like the path of a hurricane. We can try and prepare for what we want to happen, but we’re not in control of what will actually happen. And, that’s the hardest lesson of all. Please don’t worry about me today. That dark period is well behind me. But it didn’t happen on its own. And, today, I choose to be happy, content and completely accepting of the path that God has chosen for me.

Rerouting

But it wasn’t always like that. It took what seemed like an eternity to come to terms with the GPS signal that I kept trying to re-route.

No, I thrashed, and fought and cried foul. Raging against my misfortune, my guilt, my shame, my loneliness. I chose to let my failure to conceive define me.

Perfection is a Myth

Until I let go.

And that is when I realized that perfection was a myth, and the world I lived in was going to go on with or without me. I could stop playing the victim, and letting depression suck the purpose out of me, or…. I could rise.

I had that choice — I still have that choice. Every day, I make that choice. You have that choice too. But the choice to make a difference is one that requires work, sacrifice, and accepting that you might be called in a different direction than the one you’re pining away for. Sometimes, it is just easier to hate. You can hate for so many reasons. And they are all legitimate reasons. We can justify our pain, and we can always find someone who will let us feel sorry for ourselves.

Get off the Roller Coaster!

The roller coaster ride that describes my life before I let go of my desire to control it wasn’t one I was proud to claim as “My Life.” But the person I am today, is. And, the nugget out of that mess was that I found something to live for. I stopped blaming and started loving — myself first, and then you. I love because it’s a gift I have been given by those around me, but like their love, my love isn’t perfect. I get my feelings hurt — more often than I would like. But the sensitive, wounded heart that felt so bitter when I was in my 20’s warmly admires the woman I discovered I was capable of being in my 30’s.

And, when I started to see the Nugget in each day, each day became a little brighter, and my focus on MY way, turned to a focus on letting my life be what it was designed to be. If there’s a lesson in all of that turmoil, I know my path is to help others out of that place, and to see what greatness exists in the world.

Those who don’t know me, might think I am crazy. Might think I have no handle on reality. Might even judge my idealism. But that, is not my concern. Today, my concern is the person I see in the mirror. And that woman, makes me cry tears of joy, instead of tears of shame.

Finding your Nugget

And, every day I rise, I am blessed with the nugget that I have the strength and the fortitude to carry whatever burden I am given, and choose to move forward. What is the nugget in your day? If you’re stuck in the darkness, I understand. But I am not here to shame you for your pain. I only wish to encourage you to start looking for that one thing that will help you get beyond it. And, once you have, let that be your nugget.

PS: There is ALWAYS a Nugget, as long as there is a desire to see it.

Separate Yourself – A Suggestion for Changemakers

Doing good comes with a downside. Maybe that’s why so many people just give up and stop trying. The reason we surround ourselves with the people we do, is because they “get us.” They know our heart. But we cannot live in a bubble. If we just surround ourselves with the people who understand us, there’s little chance that the change we want to make — the good that we want to do in the world, will ever come to be if we choose to just play it safe in our little world of like-minded people.

That doesn’t make it easier to deal with when we’re asked to prove our integrity, or when we’re questioned about our motives.

Remember, Pressure is a Privilege (I wrote about this recently, and I still need to remind myself of this regularly — and that will continue to be the way it is, so long as we continue to choose to fight the good fight.

I recently received a message from a close friend who shared his frustration about the dialogues in our city about a Confederate monument and the social divisiveness it has created in our community. He followed this message with — “I am only sharing this with you, because — you know my heart.”

The world is filled with so much negativity, that a person who has their heart in the right place is just completely vulnerable to the hatred — and this makes it harder and harder to keep at it. The noise, the voices of the people who believe there’s probably a hidden agenda, or some dirty dealings, or simply are unwilling to consider that there is another side — make it difficult for people who want to make a difference to keep trying.

Gut (Reality) Check

As long as there are people who strive to make a difference, there will always be people on the other side, bringing their negativity, “snarkiness” and even accusations to the table.

When we are faced with these challenges, it’s easy to consider just pulling up the cords and walking away. And allow our thoughts to go something like this: This work doesn’t really matter. I am

not making a difference. Maybe they are right. I am done with this BS. We’re supposed to ignore sunk costs — maybe that’s what this is — another sunk cost. Time to walk away.

But this when we absolutely must strengthen our resolve. We need to put on our “big girl panties” and carry on. And, we need to find a way to separate ourselves from the negativity.

Here are some things to remember when you’re feeling the affects of the negative energy that inevitably will surface.

  • The toxic energy that surrounds you is not you.
  • Their negative interpretation of your actions is not you.
  • The rude, insensitive responses to something good is not a reason to stop — it is a reason to keep going.
  • You will never know the pain that they are enduring — and this means you must not let their pain be your pain.
  • Fortify your soul and refresh by taking a good, long break. Staying wrapped up in the negativity will eventually wear you down.
  • At times like these, take a long, hard look at the work you have done. Don’t let the single heckler in the crowd distract you from seeing the good you’ve been doing — The results of your work should always be louder than that single voice.

Showing up to do the work you are being called to do requires GRIT. And, in order to stay positive, work through the challenges and keep plugging away, you have to know where you’re going. This might be a great time to write it down. So that when the next wave of negativity comes, you can remember what you told yourself:

Here are my favorite quotes to help me through these days.

Look for The Helpers: A Reminder Before Irma Arrives

Look for The Helpers: A Reminder Before Irma Arrives

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’

To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers


I heard this quote by Fred Rogers a few years ago, and as we await the arrival of Hurricane Irma, I am wondering, what will your children see?

As a 17-year-old, in Miami after Hurricane Andrew, I remember a lot of specific details.

Yes, there were houses with spray paint that said “Looters will be Shot.” There was devastation, and loss.

But the immediate memories that I recall had to do with the Helpers.

My most vivid memory is the one of my dad, arriving from 4 hours away — a drive that took him almost 7 hours to make — with brand new chain saws that were unavailable in Miami for weeks after the storm had passed.

Our street was completely blocked — and not a priority for disaster relief. If we’d waited for them to come, it would have been weeks before our neighbors could have returned home.

My dad brought the chain saws, and I remember vividly the joy I felt when he taught me how to use one, so I could help. Maybe I wasn’t responsible for clearing much of the trees blocking the street, but I was there, doing something — helping. And that gave me a feeling I hadn’t known before — purpose.

Yes, helping gives us purpose — meaning. In spite of whatever stress is surrounding us, in helping, there’s an incredible gift to gain.

That’s why, when there is any kind of disaster, you will always find people volunteering to help.

Just look around. And, when you see someone else stepping forward to help, join them — you can always find a way to help.

Even if it’s just to offer someone a reassuring smile, or to give them one of the last loaves of bread on the shelf, or to bring your chain saw to help them clear their driveway.

Getting outside of your own frustration and helping someone else solve their problems, will lead you to something really profound — the only thing more meaningful than you helping your neighbors, is teaching your children the power in the actions of helping their neighbors.

As we recover from the aftermath, whatever that might be, I believe the greatest stories will come from helping. 24 years from now, what will your children remember about their experience after Hurricane Irma? The frustration of no electricity, no Internet, no hot water?

Or the feeling they might get from helping?

Pause, Breathe, Stay Positive

 

I took a break from my 30 Day Challenge last night. I didn’t have anything productive (or positive) to say. I was exhausted in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and, while there is a lot of destruction, it could have been so much worse.

But it’s still a mess. And the people are not helping it feel any better. Actually, it seems that while there are so many amazing stories to tell about wonderful people and neighbors, helping neighbors, there are a lot of people forgetting their manners.

I am not proud of what I see happening around me — it makes me want to stick my head in the sand, and just quit trying. I can’t imagine how the employees, on the other side of the complaints, are feeling. They are responsible for providing all of the power and all of the answers, and it’s never going to be good enough. Even when what is happening is close to miraculous.

Just in my city alone, there were 78,000 buildings without power when Irma left our area. That was on Monday morning, when everything was still total chaos, and our municipal employees were not working. Within 24 hours, they had assessed the damage and deployed the linemen to get to work, fixing — working toward normal.

That’s what has occurred to me since Monday — We’re constantly working toward something we don’t have — what is normal? Is that what we want? Or, could we have something better? Couldn’t we strive for being better?

Today, is Wednesday, and there are approximately 25,000 houses remaining in the Lakeland Electric service area. That is about 50,000 people who are comfortable, safe and celebrating the hard work and efforts of the electric company.

I assume this is probably the same across the state. Duke Energy, TECO, FPL. Over 10,000,000 customers throughout Florida woke up without power because of the mess Irma left behind.

This is the question that is on everyone’s mind — mine included. I don’t have power yet either. And yet, my mind isn’t on when power at my house will be restored. I have the good fortune of being able to crash at the house of some wonderful friends. So, yes, I am a little inconvenienced, but safe, and cool, and well-fed. For me, that is all I can ask for. I know I will have power eventually. And that is enough for me.

But out there, it’s not enough.

No, the fact is, and will continue to be that many people will not accept anything that “forgets” them. They insist that they are the most important, and they don’t care that there are 24,999 others in the same situation. They want to know when their power is going to be turned on, they need answers to their questions, and they aren’t going to stop until they get their answers — until their problem is solved. At that point, what will happen? Will they still be concerned about their neighbors? Or will they just be satisfied that they have what they need and stop complaining?

I didn’t write a post yesterday because I didn’t want to be critical of the ugliness. But I believe we have a responsibility to speak the truth.

I am grateful to the workers who are spending 16 hours each day trying to restore power to all of the city. I am grateful for the communication that I am receiving from local leaders. I am grateful to all of the positive, caring people who are helping.

But I am ready for the ugliness to stop. I am ready for the negative attitudes and the accusations to end. I am ready for those who are without power to look beyond themselves and see what is good in the world. To appreciate the gift that we did not sustain more damage. To stop hearing that there is more that could have been or should have been done. That 72 hours after the storm is gone, more people should have their power restored?

I am ready for more people to begin asking this question?

What in the world can we do to make things better?

I hope this helps, but I am sure it won’t. But that’s not going to be a reason to stop trying. Just like those linemen — busting their assess to bring power back to the remaining homes. It’s not ever going to be enough, because the ugliness isn’t going to stop. But they are not going to stop. And neither am I.

Come on, people — Pause, Breathe, Stay Positive.

You are the Village

 

Climbing. Climbing. Climbing
Reaching. Reaching. Reaching.
Hoping. Hoping. Hoping.
Praying. Praying. Praying.

 

We’re all in this together. And, the only way out is through. As tensions mount, and the communities prepare, I see something beautiful in front of me. Do you see it too?

As the entire state of Florida awaits a natural disaster, I anticipate we’re going to see so much love and generosity as we come together, find the helpers and survive this historic storm — together.

Storms don’t pay much attention to the things we’re constantly consumed with. They are the great equalizer. And, they remind us of what actually matters in this world.

I actually heard a man say he was afraid on the news today — and he said, “we’re all afraid.” And no one argued with him.

When terror gripped the country on 9/11 in 2001, fear gripped us all. We came to a realization then that nothing was sacred, and that safety is something we take for granted. We shared a common enemy then, and we share the same enemy today.

The enemy is hatred. And, it’s around us every day. Confederate monuments, bigotry, racism, and disrespect are still rampant, even though we said We Will Never Forget.

The country came together then, as I know will happen again after Irma, and as it is happening in Houston, as well. And has happened every single time there has been catastrophe and disaster throughout our history.

What is responsible for what happens when we put our differences aside, and see past the disagreements?

Love.

The village is responsible — not for our safety, as that is never a guarantee. No, the village is responsible for the love that emerges when we begin dealing with the circumstances, and getting past the tragedy, the loss and the hurt that comes when we cannot hide from our vulnerability.

You, are the village. Not just today, and tomorrow and in the aftermath of a hurricane. You are the village every single day.

Your judgment of those who think and act and believe differently goes away, and you look at your neighbors and strangers, with different eyes when you know that we are all going through this together. Let us all remember this when we’re on the other side of this storm, and we’ve distanced ourselves from the fear.

Please don’t forget, we are all the village. And, it takes a village.

Want to Be Heard? Listen

I work with many different people. All of them have something important to say.

All of them.

My favorite part of my job is to listen, encourage, coach and ultimately help my clients understand why they need to get really good at telling their story. And why no one else can tell it as well as they can.

That’s where the trouble begins.

Today, there are millions of people clamoring to be heard. Together, we’re all looking at this mosh pit of thoughts, and we’re terrified of throwing ourselves into it. The fear comes from unknown sources. Most of the time, it’s not even identified as fear.

It’s described as too difficult to learn, or not important enough to warrant the time, or too time consuming.

You’d rather someone else do it for you. And, if you ask enough people, you might find someone who will do it for you. But then, it’s not your story. It’s their version of your story.

So what’s the solution?

Maybe this is a simplification, but I don’t think so.

  1. You need to understand the power of your voice.
  2. You need to leverage the relationships you have now.
  3. You need to listen to the stories of those around you.
  4. You need to care about their stories first.

You’re a human being, first and foremost. And, no matter what you say, the studies reveal that your most basic human need is connection. Without this, we cannot thrive. It’s no different in your business. You need connection in order for your business to thrive.

The trouble is, there’s too much noise pollution, and for some reason all of the good and decent messages are being throttled down by the gimmicks and the lies. You, know that feeling you get when you’re running close to your allotted data with your service provider, and nothing seems to work well? That’s called throttling your data. What if we could throttle up the good stuff? I believe we can.

Your voice is worth sharing.

If more of us believed that, maybe we’d be able to throttle down the noise and we’d eventually be where we all want to be: valued.

But the deck is currently stacked against you. If I told you to go out and start writing your brand story, and you took that blog section of your company website — the one that you’ve been neglecting for 5 years, and went to town, that would be an excellent start. But I would be willing to bet all of my marbles that it wouldn’t last. You’d only have half of the point.

You’d come out of the gates on fire. “Excited! Yes, it’s time to tell my story. I have so much to say, people will want to hear my message. The story is so good!” And you’d write. One post, maybe two posts. If you’re really motivated, you might write a week, or even a month’s worth of posts. And, you’d share them with your friends and your family.

“Hey, check this out, I wrote this. Can you give it a look, maybe a comment, or a “like” or  a ❤?”

But no one would really be that interested. Sure, your mom and dad, your employees, your friends (the really nice ones), would take a look at one, or two of them, until you’d be just another voice in the crowd, another distraction among the other thousands each person must deal with each day.

The point isn’t in just telling your story, it’s in making your story worth hearing.

While your voice is important, and your story matters, the real way to be heard is to start by listening. Answering questions, letting other, important voices be heard too — lifting the voices that matter above the noise and sharing a glimmer of what’s important in this world filled with click bait and fake news. Giving a little, gets you so much further today than it ever has, because, quite frankly, we’re all wanting the same thing, and the ones who are going to get what they need, are the ones who step forward and give it to others first.

I don’t suggest that this is easy. But I do suggest that it is necessary.