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Burn The Ships!

December 14th, 2009

So I was on a coaching call with my amazingly fabulous coach Andrea J. Lee and we were doing our typical stuff “I’m, working this….I needs help with that…” when suddenly, in true AJ Lee style, the conversation turned to the stakes I am playing for.

First she asked, “What would you let stop you?”

I felt so smart and smug, “Well Andrea, my post last week called “What Stops You” talks about that. I listed all the scary things I’m really afraid of out in front of god and everybody.”

Score one for the good student. I thought.

“Uh huh.” she says. “Let me ask you this: are you playing to win Sarah or are you playing not to lose. Because it sounds like you are playing not to lose.”

Crap. She’s on to me.

“What would it look like for you to be ALL IN with no way back? How do we burn your bridges? Orbetter yet, burn you

burning-ship

r ships like Cortez?”

“Uhhhhh……”

I couldn’t answer the question.

So I got direct kick in the ass instructions and this post is my starting point.

I am terrified to burn my ships. I want a safety net. And yes, I am afraid I will fail and look ridiculous in front of people who so matter to me.

But just saying those things isn’t enough. In fact, saying I’m afraid is a cop-out. It makes me feel like I am doing something big and daring when actually I’m not. I’m doing something that I hope YOU will think is daring. Because I’m all about what other people think.

What is daring is saying this: 2010 is my make it or break it year. Actually the first quarter is my make it or break it window. All my chips are in. And if I don’t make it, I am PACKING IT UP.

What does packing it up look like?

This: shutting down my blog, ending my social media engagement, giving up my coaching practice. It means getting a job, working for someone else, possibly putting my child in daily after school care and not seeing him between 7:30 and 6pm ever day, leaving behind the tribe I’ve finally found, forfeiting the way of life and the way of work that I have come to cherish during the past five years.

Would I survive all that? Sure I would. Do I WANT to survive all that? Just thinking about a life like that makes me want to throw up. No – it makes me want to curl up in a ball in my bed and stay there.

But that is my future if I don’t pull out all the stops, play to win and DECIDE I am burning my ships.

(And just so you know, for me burning the ships means more than just saying there is no Plan B. It means eliminating Plan B and C and D altogether. )

I’m no longer willing to be afraid of anything I listed in last week’s post.

-If I embarrass myself and look so horrifically foolish in the first quarter of 2010 (so foolish I don’t want to show my face on twitter or in public for fear of the ridicule), I still have people who will love me and hold my hand and step back out again with me.

-If I say something that pisses off you, my tribe, or anyone else I think highly of (so much so that you slam my name all over the web and in the real world), I can either a) apologize if I am wrong or b) realize that I am not going to make everyone happy all the time.

– If I splay myself open and find out someone doesn’t care (which will break my heart into a million pieces), I will remember that the important thing is that I told the truth – my truth – which all I can ask of myself in this life. This won’t stop my heart from shattering, but it will give me something to hold onto while I am picking up the pieces.

– When I am afraid that there is not enough love, or money, or recognition or success to go around (there is a part of me that still believes that more strongly that I want anyone to know considering what I do for a living), well….I’ll just have to work on my scarcity mentality.

-And if that super influential, important person decides they don’t like me (and that opinion matters WAY more than I want to say out loud), well all I can say is FU because I am awesome.

-If I make a mistake – and I am certain I will make many of the kind that make me feel stupid, fraud-like, embarrassed and ashamed – I can apologize, make things right, re-group with my nearest and dearest and keep on going.

– When I don’t know the endgame, and I don’t and I won’t (even though I pretend I do to keep myself from feeling so untethered that I might fly off the planet), I can take the next indicated step or leap and remember that “action is the middle finger to doubt” (thank you John Haydon).

– And when I avoid pain (the heart-wrenching, rattles my core, puts me under the bed kind)  I can remember that my greatest lessons have come from feeling extreme pain (and I can call on my BESTEST friends to hold on to me while I get to the other side of it – which is way better than remembering some dumb lesson).

So, to begin setting my ships on fire (I still have more to do), I flashing a giant middle finger to EVERYTHING I am afraid – no – everything I am physically, to-my-core, in a caveman survival kind of way – TERRIFIED of.

I’ve lived through worse than anything you can dish out.

And you, my tribe, are bearing witness to my declaration. This game is on!

(Ready to burn your ships too?! This is as good a time and place as any to make your declaration!)

So What Stops You?

December 9th, 2009

Wow. The questions you all are posing in response to my Escaping Mediocrity Self-Test post are incredible. (If you haven’t added yours, take a minute, go here and do that.)

I’m actually going to turn the whole thing into a pdf and include your questions along with attribution.  We’ve built something incredibly valuable and I want to share it with as many people as we can.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress with that project.

So now I’m thinking about all the great questions we’ve written and I keep coming back to this: if I know the questions to ask and I’m woman standing on pathpretty sure I know how I am “supposed” to answer them, then…..what freezes me in my tracks?

This is sort of the mirror question to Monday’s post and I am hoping you can help me with this one, too. In fact, I am COUNTING ON your brilliance. Because this question is a lot less sexy really And a lot scarier. It demands rigorous honesty and terrifying transparency. I don’t want to go there alone, ok?!

So, here are some of my reasons:

#1 I am scared sh**less. (pretty much all the rest of my reasons drill down on this petrifying fear.)

#2 I don’t want to look foolish in front of anyone.

#3 I don’t want to make people that I love – or even like – angry.

#4 I don’t want to splay myself open and find out somebody doesn’t care.

#5 I am afraid there isn’t enough…..well….of lots of things….

#6 I want to be liked by the “right” people.

#7 I don’t want to make a mistake(s).

#8 I want to know the endgame.

#9 I don’t want to feel pain.

So, there it is. Some of the very raw, very scary reasons that the prospect of escaping mediocrity stops me dead in my tracks sometimes.

I REALLY want to hear what stops you in your tracks on this journey, too, ok? That way we can hold hands and face whatever it is together. 🙂

An Escaping Mediocrity Self-Test

December 7th, 2009

So I started thinking over the weekend about how we know we are on the path to Escaping Mediocrity. As I’ve said many times, it is easy and even sexy to say “Hell yeah – I’m all about escaping mediocrity!”. It’s quite another to put your shoulder to it and actually start making it happen.

So, I started making a checklist of questions to ask myself. Then I thought it would be a cool self-test. THEN I thought, I wonder what other questions The Tribe would add to make this a kickass self-test?

So here’s what I am going to do: I will list a nine of the questions I came up with. In the comments you can a) give me feedback on them b) answer them or c) add questions of your own. ( I REALLY hope you go for “c”!)

So here we go:

Questions To Help You Decide If You Are REALLY Up For the Escaping Mediocrity Adventure:

#1 – Am I willing to have “beginner’s mind” and not have all (or act like I have) all the answers?

#2 – Am I willing to say what I really think and feel even if it will pi** off some people?

#3 – Am I willing to have my own opinions about how to set up and run my business?

#4 – Am I willing to step away from so-called gurus and trust my own instincts?

#5 – Am I willing to take responsibility for charting my own course to success instead of blindly following others?

#6 – Am I willing to consider that there is more than one, two or even three ways to get where I want to go?

#7 – Am I willing to seek wise counsel from those I admire, respect and trust?

#8 – Am I willing to stay the course during some REALLY tough times?

#9 – Am I willing to drop the mask and be vulnerable in my business and my life?

This list is certainly not complete because it doesn’t include any of the questions you would ask. So hop on into the comments cuz you know I can’t wait to see what you will add. 🙂

Knowing What Is True

December 2nd, 2009

When I was young, I knew what the truth was. I had really good instincts.  But somewhere (early) along the way, I stopped trusting them.

Why?

Because grown-ups kept telling me that what I knew to be true wasn’t true. Or that my feelings were wrong or bad and really needed to be different. And, because I assumed grown-ups knew more than I did, I let them be right.

Here’s an example of what I mean: when I was young, my parents had a VERY strained relationship. They slept in separate rooms.  Arguments and/or stony silence were the norm. And yet, to the outside world, we presented an over-the-top normalcy. I learned early to lie about even the smallest of things so that that the “happy family” picture could be maintained.

But I KNEW it wasn’t true. To my very core, I knew that families did not act the way ours did behind closed doors. When I was at my friends’ houses, the energy was just so very different. I never really wanted to invite friends to my house because I knew I would have to answer impossible questions.

In order to stay sane (and my sanity was quite short-lived but that’s another story), I stopped trusting myself. I let child looking outmyself get into all kinds of bad situations because I cut off access to that part of me that could sense danger or even mild discomfort. And this disconnectedness lasted until I was at least 30 years old.

Fast forward to now. I am watching my seven-year-old son (who is an empath like me) struggle to make sense of a world that tells him that what he knows and what he feels are simply not accurate.  He “shouldn’t” feel angry when a younger child snatches his favorite toy. He “shouldn’t” get impatient when he can finish his worksheets faster than anyone else. He “shouldn’t” try to explain when he’s been falsely accused of misbehaving.

And he isn’t the only one.

I watch children. A lot. And what I see is SO alarming. Either all of their feelings and whims are over- indulged (which does not lead to learning accuracy) or their feelings and whims are shut down without any attempt to understand them. Only the most tenacious children (read The Young Turk) have to energy to persist and insist that they have a right to express whatever is going on. Most of them realize it is just easier to shut down that side of themselves and maintain the status quo.

Is it any wonder we now have SO much difficulty being real? Or even knowing what our “real” is? Where do we learn how to do that? Who shows us the way? Who gets rewarded – those who maintain the status quo or those who stand up and say “THIS is who I am. THIS is what I know is true. THIS is what I am no longer willing to settle for.”

(And I know it’s easy to say that those who stand up get rewarded, but let me tell you – they also get endless missiles, potshots and shit thrown at them too – and that is hard to take.)

If we can’t teach our children to trust their instincts and what they know to be true, how on earth are they, or even we for that matter, every going to learn how to escape mediocrity. Or better yet, not settle for it in the first place.

As always, I am intensely interested in what you have to say. 🙂

The World Keeps on Turning

November 30th, 2009

So I’ve just returned from a two week hiatus where a lot of things happened and a lot of nothing happened. Some of the things that happened are personal and some of the nothing that happened was very important and I will share in forthcoming posts.

Two weeks is a long time to be almost completely “off the grid”. And I will admit, I had some serious tech withdrawalunplug_Full symptoms and placated myself by spending time setting up my new Droid Eris phone. But without reliable Internet connection and spotty cell phone signals, I was pretty much forced to stay off the grid and unplugged whether I wanted to or not.

I learned two VERY important things:

1) The nothing that happened while I hung out with my seven year old son tops ANYTHING that could have happened if I had stayed on the grid and tried to work while I was away. Because I was fully unplugged, we spent our days filled with safari’s, pirate treasure hunts, riding bikes on the beach, and of course shark’s tooth hunting. (Writing the shark’s tooth post for Liz Strauss was the closest I got to working the whole time I was gone.)

2) The world kept right on spinning without me. My business functioned just fine; my tribe had a ton of fun (though I missed them terribly); and everyone is here to greet me today upon my return. Granted I am ready to dive into the big stuff I am working on for January and February, but I am not behind or in a panic because I was gone for two weeks. Pretty amazing.

So, I highly recommend a full unplug. I know two weeks is totally impossible for a lot of people. But try it for twenty-four hours – or even forty-eight and see what happens.

As always, I am anxious to know your thoughts about what it would take to do a full unplug from your business. What are the risks? What are the potential rewards?

Doing Good

November 9th, 2009

As sort of a follow-on to last week’s post and in celebration of the upcoming Tweetsgiving season, today’s post is dedicated to highlighting so the ways social media is being harnessed for doing good.

If you have not yet found your way to “do good” on the web, I HIGHLY recommend checking these out!

12 for 12k (http://www.12for12k.org).
This “movement” is the brainchild of @DannyBrown and I’ve been involved with it since my earliest days on twitter. The premise is simple. Each month we choose 1 charity and commit to raising $12,000 for them using social media.  Bloggers volunteer to write posts highlighting each month’s charity, others tweet about it and still others work tirelessly to raise awareness AND $$$.  The thing I love most about 12 for 12k is that everyone can do just a little bit and make a HUGE difference.

Tweetsgiving http://tweetsgiving.epicchange.org/story/
This is an annual online and offline event produced by Epic Change (and12 for 12k’s charity for the month of November).  TweetsGiving is a global celebration that seeks to change the world through the power of gratitude.

Scheduled for November 24 – 26, 2009, the 48-hour event created by US nonprofit Epic Change will encourage participants to express their thanks using online tools and at live events. In honor of the people and things that make them grateful, guests will be invited to give to a common cause at events held across the globe.Tweetsgiving

In 2008, Tweetsgiving successfully raised over $10,000 to build a classroom in Arusha, Tanzania in just two days. Proceeds from Tweetsgiving 2009 will, in part, benefit the school, where a dormitory/orphanage, library, school cafeteria and additional classrooms are much needed. In addition, TweetsGiving 2009 seeks to fund new Epic Change partners and fellows in other parts of the world.

It’s super easy to join in this celebration of gratitude. And really, we have so much to be grateful for in our lives, let’s use it to make lives in other parts of the world better. Go here to find out how you can make a difference just by being grateful. 🙂

And no post on Doing Good would be complete without mentioning the work my friend Nate St. Pierre is doing with a movement he is creating called It Starts With Us. The mission is simple: make a positive impact in the lives of the people around us.

Nate emails out simple, weekly “missions” that take all of about 15 minutes and make a SIGNIFICANT difference in the lives of others. For example, a recent mission that arrived in my email inbox was writing a letter to a five year old little girl undergoing the trauma of surgery to remove a massive brain tumor.  If I don’t have time to do that, my priorities are totally screwed up.

I really REALLY encourage you to get involved in It Starts With Us. You may change the lives of others, but YOU will be the one who be changed even more. 🙂 Go here to join “The A Team”: http://www.itstartswith.us/blog/change-the-world/

Other ideas for doing good? This is your open invitation to pimp your favorite charity in the comments of this post. 🙂

Your Corner of the World

November 4th, 2009

When I was a teenager, I thought (as most teenagers do) that the world existed mainly for my enjoyment and pleasure. Being a teenager in the 80’s only fostered that ego-centric attitude. Fortunately for me and those who must live with me, I’ve discovered that doing my part to make this world we live in a better place is much more gratifying than demanding that the world make me happy. Sadly, I know lots of grown-ups who have yet to make this discovery.

The lesson I would like to share with you is that taking this particular personal responsibility can be far more gratifying than anything you could demand of the world. One of my clients thinks this idea has the potential to induce guilt. Please know that that is not my point at all. It’s not about feeling obligated – it’s about feeling joyful. I’d like to illustrate this lesson with a true story that happened to a dear friend of mine.

She was at the checkout counter of a large grocery store. Her purchases exceeded her cash by about $1.75. She had no checkbook and no credit card. And she was in a hurry. As she began to verbally panic about which item to leave behind, a voice behind her said. “How much do you need?” She turned to face a woman whom she swears looked just like a bag lady.

“$1.75,” my friend replied.

“Here,” and the bag lady handed the clerk $1.75.

Now my friend really began to panic. “How can I find you to pay you back?” “Where do you live?” “What is your address – I’ll mail it to you.”

The bag lady surveyed my friend with something akin to pity. “Don’t you know nothin’, lady?” she said. “Just do it for somebody else.” onenicething

Well, aside from stopping my friend dead in her tracks, these words put her on a mission for a year and a half. Every single time she was in a checkout line, she got all excited hoping that someone ahead of her would come up short and she could repay her debt.

Finally, her opportunity came and she excitedly and joyfully stepped up to the cashier to pay the way of a complete (and rather confused) stranger. As my friend said to me “It wasn’t the money I was paying back – it was the life lesson I was given that I was so grateful for – just do something nice for someone else.”

Accepting that challenge and that responsibility will give you, as it gave my friend, the daily joy of anticipation. What can I do today? What small effort can I make that will make someone else’s day?

As is true with all parts of Escaping Mediocrity, this lesson is paradoxical. Though you are the one giving, you will be the one who receives so much more. Don’t believe me? Try these exercises over the next week:

1.Think of five small things you can do for someone else. You don’t have to do them – just think of them.

2.Spend one whole day looking for an opportunity to be helpful to someone else.

3.Look around your community. Is there something you think “someone should do something about”? Could you do it?

BONUS POINTS: Do something nice for someone but don’t let them find out you did it or do something really nice and just don’t tell anybody. If you are discovered, it doesn’t count.

Oh and if you think this lesson doesn’t apply to your business, think again. 🙂

Can’t wait to hear about your adventures with this!

Doing Stuff I Don't Want To Do

October 26th, 2009

So today I have to do stuff I don’t want to do. Yes, I know it is a shocker that escaping mediocrity one adventure at a time involves the mundane business tasks of bill paying, bookkeeping and general administrative tasks that keep me on top of my business operations. And so that I make sure this stuff gets done, I always designate Monday as my Admin Day.

I meet with my staff, pull out the paperwork I need to tend to and generally handle the behind-the-scenes affairs of my business. No coaching calls, no interviews, no distractions.  And for the most part, that works well.

Except when it comes to my bookkeeping. Which I have an incredibly strong aversion to. In fact, I think it is safe to saystuff I don't want to do that I would rather scrub toilets than tend to it.

Ah, but if I want my business to support my adventures, I need it to function. So, tend to it I must.

Fortunately. several years ago my mentor Martha Beck taught me an amazing strategy for dealing with things I don’t want to do. Today I will share it with you – just in case there is something on your list you are procrastinating about. 🙂

Using myself as an example, here are the three questions I ask myself when looking at this most unwelcome task:

1) Can I bag it?
So often I think we have things on our lists that really don’t have to be done – at all. For some reason, we like the feeling of a super-human to-do list, though. So, think about whether or not your task MUST be done or you would just like it to be done. Sadly for me, my bookkeeping must be done, so on to the second question.

2) Can I barter it?
If it must be done, does it have to be done by me? I know two neighbors who trade baking and gardening. Each gets to do something they LOVE and still get both tasks done. In my case, if I were so inclined I could probably trade some coaching for help with my bookkeeping. Because I really don’t want to do that, I AM willing to trade some cash for the help of a professional. In the end, though, there are still some pieces that only I can do. So that brings us to the third question.

3) Can I better it?
Since the task must be done, and it must be done by me, how can I make it as pleasant as possible? Here’s what I do: I keep a special box for my billing paying supplies – a pen I like, envelopes, stamps, etc. so I don’t have to go scrambling for these things. I sit in my very favorite place (today that will be in the rocking chair on my front porch). I play music that I love. I get a fab snack. And I get a reward when I am done ( I learned this from The Young Turk and Pepper The Dog).

I know these questions over-simplify things a bit, but they really help me get a move on the stuff I don’t want to do.

Of course, I’m curious to know how you get the stuff done you don’t want to do, so please share. 🙂

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ingorrr/ / CC BY 2.0

Letting Myself Be Seen

October 21st, 2009

I was thinking last night about what I wanted to write about today (yes – I still write my posts real time instead of writing a bunch and scheduling them) and at the same time was gripped by a sad heart because I was missing my friends from BlogWorld in Las Vegas.

So I decided to write about that. Not necessarily them specifically or feeling sad – more about how important it is to have friends who really see you.  What do I mean by “see”?

My friends see me for who I am and who I am capable of becoming. They see my faults, weaknesses and shortcomings. They see my strengths, my assets, and my talents. They tell me the truth. They call me on my b.s. They see me in the best light – even when I can’t do that for myself. They believe in me. In short, they see all of me and love me anyway.

Pretty good stuff, huh?

Friendships like this a very rare and they require some things of me that are scary. I have to be willing to show up, tell the truth and be incredibly vulnerable. And I have to risk having it all blow up in my face (and yes, that has happened). But I’m willing to run that risk because, truthfully, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without having them in it.

And in case you are wondering, they make my business a  better business for the same reasons they make me better a better me. 🙂

If you already have friends like these, cherish them. If you don’t, I encourage you to find some. Don’t spill your guts too early or all at once – that scares people. Instead, slowly step closer and share a little, then a little more and then a little more. Not everyone while be able to see you. Don’t take it personally. It just wasn’t meant to be.

But I can promise you this: if you take the time to cultivate friendships like the ones I just described, your life will be enriched beyond measure.

This Escaping Mediocrity Thing is Kind of Messy

October 12th, 2009

I had a whole different blog post planned for today. One that would set just the right tone for my new blog/new brand. You really would have liked it.

But, as you are probably starting to see, very rarely do things actually go as I plan them and today was no exception.

Just as I was about to begin writing my mesmerizing post this morning, I realized that there were still a number of things I needed to clean up after the move. Things like fixing my Aweber box in the top right corner which wasn’t working.  Like re-directing the link for Feedblitz over there to your right.  Like changing the feed links I had in various and sundry places all over the web.  Like remembering exactly how it was I set up my blog feed onto Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (spent an hour re-tracing that). Like making sure the comments were visible and working .

Lots and lots of loose threads that needed to be gathered up before we could officially say we were all moved in to this new domain.

Oh – and did I mention that today was a school holiday so the Young Turk was home all day? And that I am preparing to leave for a five-day trip on Wednesday?

There was a time not so long ago when all that would have thrown me into a full tizzy punctuated by an exceptionally bad mood.  I would have engaged in trying to force things to happen the way I wanted them to happen with all the self-will I could muster. Not a pretty sight to behold and I really don’t recommend as a productive course of action – because it isn’t. Productive I mean.

Today, I chose a different way, a calmer way, a saner way. And a way that actually got the end result I was after.

When I realized all that had to be done before I could post, I quickly made two list: 1) Things I had enough skill to take care myself and 2) Things I had no business trying at home.  The first list was a lot shorter than the second list.  So you know what I did? Instead of trying to figure out how to do things that could seriously break my blog (ie inserting html code into a very particular design), I asked for help.help-button-300x225

That’s right. I reached out to the two people I knew who knew how to do this complicated back of the house stuff and asked them if they had time to help me. And guess what? They both graciously agreed to help! Amazing how that works. And now my blog is fully functional (unless something else crops up – which is entirely likely).

The moral of this story is transformation is messy (see the Goo post if you need a refresher on that) and it is a whole lot easier to get through if we ask for help from good friends along the way.

**This post is dedicated to @Lazarus2000 and @tumbledesign – two friends who went way above and beyond the call of duty on my behalf. I am forever grateful.**