Eleanor Roosevelt once advised:
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
My natural instinct, like any scaredy-cat, is to back off and make excuses.
But something tells me that Eleanor is not telling us to jump off a cliff. Those daredevil feats are nothing compared to the fears we’re most afraid to tackle, those that are deeply embedded within the daily decisions we make.
For instance, I was walking down 14th Street and noticed a small sign with pretty typeface, labeled “paragraph”. The design caused me to peer further and read the fine print: “writer’s workspace”
The timing was uncanny. I had just been wondering if there were places to connect in the city with other writers. Perhaps I should take a peek in. I shuffled closer and saw that the door was locked with a buzzer. Alas, a barrier of entry. Should I try buzzing anyway? Nah, I thought. I’m not even a real writer. I begin to walk away, making a note to google ‘paragraph’ later, knowing full well that I would forget and it would never happen.
2.5 shuffles after, I stopped as Eleanor’s wisdom stirred inside me. “What are you scared of, Lynne?” I jumped to defend. It’s not that I’m scared, I just don’t think the place will be open so it doesn’t make sense for me to buzz only to be turned away and that would be a waste of time and supremely embarrassing because…I’m scared.
Fear is not just “running from grizzly bear” fear. Fear, more often than not, occurs in the mundane. There I was in the middle of a bustling street, having nary a conversation with anyone, yet battling the biggest of wars inside myself. One second walking back to the door, another second turning around to escape confrontation with something I was genuinely curious about! Zoom out and it seemed silly, almost comical. Anyone watching me would think I was mad. Finally, fed up with myself and this silly fear of a buzzer, I pushed the button.
A lady’s voice picked up.
“Um, hi, this is….Lynne.”
“Um, Lynne – um, I just stumbled upon your place and wanted to see like, if I could take a look?”
I had ruined it. Clearly, she knew I was an outsider and had no idea what I was talking about.
And then, I was buzzed in.
I climbed up the stairs, a most interesting set, passing by a a dance studio and a bartending school on my way up. Paragraph’s door sat at the top, and it swung open to the sight of an Asian woman beckoning me in. She greeted me warmly, saying her name was Amy. (For a second, I thought she was Amy Tan, then realized it was highly unlikely Amy Tan would be at a writer’s club welcoming me.)
Amy gave me a tour of the facility, the first writing space I’ve seen. There is a ‘silent room’ where absolutely no talking is allowed. It gives writers the focus they need to bang out words. Outside of the silent room, there is a small kitchen where writers converse and eat. The facility includes free wifi, copy machines, all your basic office stuff.
I didn’t stay for long; Amy tried to sell me a membership which I couldn’t afford. Still, I’m glad I went. What I gained from conquering my stupid fear of a buzzer was:
– a cool view of a writer’s working space,
– a realization that fear pervades even the most common of situations,
– a story for this blog post!
Fear infiltrates the tiniest aspects of our lives. If I received a penny for each time I passed over something because “I didn’t have time” or “I knew it was going to end badly”…well, we won’t get into it. Often fear is bundled so tightly in a web of excuses that we don’t even know it’s fear, mistaking it instead for pragmatism or level-headed reason. As the weekend approaches, lean into the fears, whether it be talking to that “unattainable” guy, or trying something you know you’ll be bad at. When we can overcome ourselves, we’ll surely be able to take on any grizzly fear.
My previous post on failure was not the most sanguine, so I’ll flip the page over for something more motivational today.
Everything will not be okay.
But you’ll be alright.
If you have an important decision to make, remember that.
I recently decided that I want to write and edit for a digital publication, maybe even create my own. Behind the ambitious wordage, I already know there’s a good chance my actions will fail, I won’t make enough money, my writing will be deemed mediocre, and that even after persisting, I’ll face more rejection with the possibility of having to return home with fingers over my forehead in that dreadful L shape. Everything won’t end up okay. Should I go forward?
Yes or no is not really the answer I’m looking for. What we really want when we ask that question is reassurance. Reassurance that something will work out, that everything will be okay. However, reassurance is fleeting. Anything that really matters won’t come easy. God tests to see how much you want something. He sweeps a strong current over the linear road. Along the topsy turvy path, there are chances to turn back. Since everything is not okay, you’re tempted.
But here comes the motivational addendum, the one that can save the day. Amid the mayhem, you are alright. If your core self comes from a solid foundation, the wind can be blowing the hair off your head; though everything is not okay, you are just fine.
My motivation for this week is to find the bravery to shun faux reassurance. The changes we make to seek our dreams may not yield the most ideal outcomes. But it’s not reassurance that we should be seeking anyway; it’s courage.
Free yourself from the need for perfect acceptance, and it will be a lot easier to make a decision and launch work that matters.
Thanks to Seth Godin’s tell-it-like-it-is blog for inspiring this post. Thanks also to my good friend Hanh, whose boldness in pursuing her fashion blog dream, pushed me to critically think about my own life goals.
Yesterday, I was dismissed from a great job at a great company with great potential. Six months ago, I was dismissed from a great job at a great company with great potential. Two times in a row, I’ve been rejected, dismissed as “not a good fit” which in some ways is saying, “not good enough”. Startup pace is quick, if not brutal. So today, here I am, back at what seems to be Square One, trailing behind the offshoots of engines that will jet off to greatness without me. By most standards, I’ve failed. But by at least one standard, I am encouraged. Defeat presents an opportunity to grow. Richard Nixon, a man who weathered a lot of turmoil, said that learning to survive a defeat is when you develop character. Scoff all you want about Nixon being the last person to know a thing about character, but he’s got a point.
“Ultimately what matters most is resilience–the ability to quickly rebound from failures, indeed to see failure as a stepping stone to success.”
– Arianna Huffington
That’s not to undermine the shame and embarrassment I feel. Being let go sucks. Being let go twice doubly sucks. When you think about it too much, you go crazy, believing your life is just pedaling against the current: one step forward, two steps back. You descend into all sorts of belittling comments and emotions. Heart-wrenching pain that leads to tears, sobbing, louder sobbing, and mind-blowing cries because heck – – rejection hurts.
But amid all the pain, there is a voice – small, quiet yet certain – that knows this is all necessary. After all, what is good without bad? Happiness without sadness? And success without failure?
The windows in my living room overlook the corner of a busy intersection humming with people rushing to their destination. It’s a perfect encapsulation of New York City. I usually scarf my breakfast in plain view of Kate Moss, whose Rag and Bone ad is plastered on the building across the street. Her frozen smile stares at my 99-cent Cinnamon oatmeal sprinkled with too much brown sugar. Her perfectly symmetrical face simultaneously captivates and infuriates me. I imagine her passing gentle judgment, with my asymmetrically cut strawberries, crumpled shirts, and pants squeezing too tight. “Nothing tastes better than skinny. Get it together, Lynne. Don’t fuck up today.” Perfection can be motivational.
Today, I looked out, expecting her gaze. Instead, I saw an assortment of black flyers advertising a weekend party. One of them had already been scribbled on. How quickly perfection had been replaced! I was reminded of the Augusteum in Rome, once the center of the empire only now to be a collapsed monument waiting for a reconstruction that will never happen.
My ego is bruised but has learned its lesson. Ruin is the road to transformation. Life is chaotic, bringing changes that nobody can anticipate. So, don’t take it all too seriously. Fall, but get back up. A job is a job, and life moves on. Like a fish out of water flopping about, I’ll find another place to swim.
“The Augusteum warns me to not get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough–but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
To the next wave.
Hats off to 2012! Wherever you are, I hope you’re able to reflect on the highs and lows of the year with honesty and humility. Among the many year-in-reviews and recap videos, I found this one particularly gut-wrenching- 2012: What Brought Us Together
With 2013 fast approaching, it’s list time. I love these handy things. They’re the most basic tool to getting organized when one actually keeps track of them and checks consistently. While charting course for the New Year, I’ve started to think about the ways I can make 2013 better – more authentic, challenging, and meaningful – through…you guessed it!…lists.
Charlie O’Donnell, partner and founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, writes a weekly newsletter about tech events in NYC. (Sidenote: If you are new to the space and want a quick way to get acquainted with NYC tech, ‘This Week In NYC Innovation‘ is a great place to start.)
Last week, he included a compilation of list topics to think about for the new year, which I found very useful:
- Three people I’m actually friends with that I would like to be better friends with.
- Ten people I should know, but don’t.
- Five people I’d like to help be successful.
- Three things I’d like to learn.
- A physical goal (a time, a measurement, or just being able to be more bendy, less creaky, etc.)
- An emotional goal.
- Something you’d like to close the book on and move on from.
- Three ways you’re going to try to get more sleep.
- Read a book a month…list the first three you’re going to read. (Might I suggest re-reading the Great Gatsby before summer.)
- Five people you feel like you’re supposed to be friends with, but really don’t like, that you’re going to unfriend/disconnect/ignore.
- Three things that you’ve been procrastinating on that you’re going to get done.
I like this list for its holistic approach. It takes into account practical, emotional, physical, and educational goals. There’s also heavy emphasis on improving relationships, while understanding that not all interactions are created equal (ie. friendships vs. idols vs. mentorships, even un-friendships are included).
I’m sharing a few of my goals from this list because I firmly believe if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Here’s to accountability!
3 Things I’d Like to Learn This Year:
- How to cook (I’m keeping a list of my favorite dishes and recipes to learn – open to additions!)
- Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator – open to help!)
- Bible Literacy (open to fellow faith buddies)
A Physical Goal
- Be able to do this without sounding or looking like a gorilla. (Getting rid of the pooch would be nice too.)
3 Ways to Get More Sleep
- Having a set bed time. I’m setting it for 11:30 – 7:30 (for now) which gives me a healthy 8 hours.
- Completely turning off an hour before bed. That means, winding down and turning off the computer/TV by 10:30 pm.
- (Hm, I can only come up with two.)
2013 Book-a-Month List (in no particular order; open to other good reads)
- The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo
- On the Road, by Jack Keruoac
- The Education of Henry Adams, by Henry Adams
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
- Ulysses, by James Joyce
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
- The Influencing Machine, by Brooke Gladstone
- Change by Design, by Tim Brown
- Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
- St Paul Trois Ch Teaux, by C. Joybell C.
- The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
3 Things I’ve been procrastinating on that WILL get done
- Submitting to Thought Catalog
- Calling a loved one..because in this day and age, it doesn’t happen enough.
The full list of notes are currently scribbled in my TextEdit, and I’m well aware many will remain unfulfilled. Life tends to begin (how dare it), pushing these goals to the dusty, untouched crevices of the mind. Hard to say which will stick and which will be thrown to the wind. Life is unpredictable. Either way, it’s here for the love of lists.
“You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”
– C. Joybell C.
Happy New Year! I wish you all a fruitful 2013 with many healthy happenings.
Ideation is like a breezy joy ride along the Pacific Coast Highway. With all the smiling possibilities and wind-in-your-hair serendipity, the drive is exhilarating.
I can spend hours bouncing ideas. Things usually end on a high but eventually, like a joy ride, I have to get out of the car. Make moves. Get shit done.
Oh, how I often yearn to stay in the car. After all, who wants to stop and park on a windy road high on the cliffs when the view is just so perfect behind closed doors? But it is all just a sight – or a very good brainstorming session – if you never get out to explore what is actually possible given the surroundings.
Ideas are a dime in a dozen. A good idea that can actually happen takes discipline and a neurotic focus on the “how”.
I have yet to actually drive the Pacific Coast Highway. But I imagine that when I do, the wind will blow my hair into an effortless tussle amid the mind-blowingly beautiful backdrop. I’ll laugh endlessly with the love of my life as we beat on in a red Mustang, not a care in the world, all the while wondering what the crashing surf below is like. Maybe we’ll stop the car and actually hike down. I hear the beaches are inaccessible. Even better. Once there, we’ll build a sand castle and claim territory.
Of course, this is all imagination. I’m a dreamer. I have no idea where to park, how to get down to the beach, or who this hypothetical partner-in-crime would be. Dreams are grand, yet far too easy.
Always dream. Thereafter, execute. Marry inspiration with pragmatism. It’s the only way anything will happen.
It’s tempting to turn cynical in an age when we’d rather send a text than pick up the phone to say thank you. (myself included) Should I even mention the Middle East turmoil, lackluster economy, and our own personal heartbreaks? Life sucks and yet, the world is still a beautiful place.
Sunset in Bali, September 2009
It’s become tradition for me to list the things I’m grateful for on Thanksgiving Eve. Life isn’t rosy, but we still have it good. It’s not that I hope we turn a blind eye to the woes of the world. I just hope that on a day like Thanksgiving, we celebrate the places where these woes are absent, enjoying dutifully and in good taste what we have. If for any reason, because that’s what the damn day is for. (Strong language for a genuinely good holiday – I mean it!)
Pray that peace comes to the Middle East and other war-torn regions, that basic necessities reach those who are starving for these things, and that we may each become a version of our best self. Then put those woes aside and enjoy a nice meal with loved ones. (If you can’t, maybe order good Chinese takeout?)
To whoever is reading this, thank you. Your readership- however distant, frequent, or haphazard – creates a kinship that the most untainted part of me can only believe stems from something true and pure.
Without further ado (and before I turn too Zen)
23 Things I am Thankful for on my 23rd Thanksgiving
1. Me. You. The world. Creation.
2. The number 2. Not being the leader, but the first follower. It is by being the first follower that the lone nut is transformed into a leader.
3. My family, without whom, I would certainly be starving, poor, and (likely) dead.
4. My friends, for without whom, I would certainly be depressed, less interesting, and (likely) dead.
5. Humor, all forms.
6. Unconditional love.
7. The ability and right to think.
8. The ability and right to communicate.
9. God and His unending grace.
10. Food (special appreciation for all things wine and cheese).
12. Good beats, rhythm, and dance.
13. Danza Kudoro– 175 plays and effectively the most played song on my iPod since I danced to it on the streets of Italy last summer. I listen to it almost everyday and am still not tired of it. I’ll be grateful until the day I am.
14. Technology. Love it hate it, you wouldn’t be reading this without it. (so you better love it)
17. New York City. Waking up and seeing the Chrysler Building from my window keeps my head justifiably in the clouds.
18. Beauty, seen and unseen.
19. First-responders, technicians, janitors, EMTs, transit operators – you make our world work.
21. The person who brought my passport to Lost & Found that time I was scrambling to find it 5 minutes before my flight from Singapore back to the US,
22. The fact that ‘itis happens to me on a regular basis – gluttonous proof of my excessive well-being.
23. The future and all it holds. There is much more to learn. Hope abounds and that cannot disappoint.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica McCarthy, actress, producer, and founder of Show & Tell Stories Productions, a boutique video production company based in NYC that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, artists, and organizations share their story. I talked to her about the importance of storytelling for InnerGap (an upcoming interviewing platform for HR professionals and recruiters), for both those being interviewed AND those asking the questions.
Why storytelling? It’s a buzzword these days, but why is it especially important for those on the job market?
M: It’s important these days for anyone who’s trying to get their message across because these days there’s so much information out there with social media. If you’re just spitting out facts it just gets lost in the deluge of information. So, it’s really important when you want to be able to express something that’s unique to you and why people should be listening to you. You need to have a story.
InnerGap caters to HR professionals and recruiters. How can they ask the right questions to draw out people’s stories?
M: One of the main things that I would say for interviewers is that you’re looking for connection. You already have the person’s resume. One mistake that a lot of recruiters make is that they’re taking time to ask questions that they can get the answer to on the resume (ie. Where did you go to school? What was your major?) Instead they should be using the resume as a starting off point…What they’re ultimately trying to do is to get more information than just a fact on a piece of paper.
Recruiters should also ask questions that don’t require just a yes or no answer. Recruiters usually have a set criteria of questions they’re going to ask, but they shouldn’t be afraid to be present in the moment. If someone says something that is very intriguing, feel free to follow up with that. You don’t have to stick to set questions. That way, you can really find out more about that person.
For those being interviewed, how should they respond to more spontaneous questions that don’t directly relate to their skill set?
M: When you’re being interviewed, you actually have a lot more control over the interview than most people think. Celebrities and politicians are great at this. Several things to note:
1. Be empowered.
2. Know ahead of time what your talking points are.
3. Do your research on the company. Preferably find out who will be interviewing you because again, it’s about the connection…don’t be afraid to show some of your human connection.
4. Yes – and (borrowed from the improv world) Don’t give a yes or no answer, even if you’re asked a question that just seems like yes or no. It’s always, ‘yes’ and then add a piece of information. That really keeps the conversation going and again spawns that connection between two people.
Be sure to check out Monica and more of her storytelling tips at showandtellstories.com!