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What people say

Jon Hansen You have given words to a process that defies words. And you’re constantly in a position to help me continue to hone that, deeper and deeper and more and more resonantly, who I am and what I offer, which is truly invaluable. — Jon Hansen, The Remembering Room, Richmond, Illinois
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Jenn Whiteford Givler I love the way you take the energetic and esoteric aspects of business birthing, and tell us how we are going to bring them into the physical. People like us — we see the vision, and we know that’s our subconscious telling us that’s where we need to go. But it’s not always easy to get from the esoteric to the physical. You are BRILLIANT at that. This work is amazing, and I’m so glad we’re working together!
— Jenn Whiteford Givler, Blended Yoga, Cain Township, Pennsylvania
Daniel Stone Working together was absolutely key, and I think that’s what made it such a great experience. I felt like you were my partner in this. I felt like my success was your success. To me, someone who has that attitude and the skills to go with it — that’s an unbeatable combination! — Daniel Stone, www.danielstone.com, Washington DC, New York City, Delaware, South Carolina, and India
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Bev Dwane I have a website I’m proud of — but for me, the hugest benefit has been increased self-confidence. Because of the process we went through, and the validity that came with the process, I trust what I think and I trust myself to speak about it. I have greater confidence and clarity in my message about who I am and what I do. — Bev Dwane AICI CIP, www.bevdwane.com, Durham, North Carolina
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Eric Klein If someone’s looking for a thought partner, not so much an expert to tell them what to do, but someone who can help them think more clearly and more completely so that they can take action, then I would say that you’re a good choice. If people want to work at a deeper level than simply tactics or strategy, if they want to be connected to a sense of purpose that goes beyond the cognitive, your process is really powerful. And it’s simple. Anyone can do it, and it gives immediate access to the generative, creative energies that are often untapped.
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Stories and meaning: being human

There are people who say we don’t need to know or understand our stories in order to heal from them, move past them, and get on with what we want to do.

I disagree.

We humans are story-tellers and meaning-makers, searching for understanding, finding strength in knowing our stories and in using those stories – our histories – as a foundation for building a legacy.

The parallel truth is that understanding helps us heal. We have a hard time letting go when we’re baffled by why we feel the way we feel or confused about the ways constrictions are locked into our habits, emotions, and bodies, keeping us from doing what we want and even need to do. The meaning-making, sense-making part of us keeps circling back, trying to find some sort of rationale to explain our experience.

There are many gray areas in this. For instance, I’m not trying to say that we have to find the story behind every single thing that happens. That would mean, as the spiritual teacher Adyashanti amusingly points out, chasing endless irrelevant lint-balls.

Nor am I saying that we’re victims of our experience, constantly spinning on our struggle or our pain in what Caroline Myss aptly terms “woundology.”

And I’m definitely not saying that there’s some sort of grand meaning in everything (or even anything) that happens. That obnoxious boy didn’t knock our books off the desk in third grade because of some cosmic meaning. And while there may be personal meaning to be found (especially if we’re off track from what’s true for us), there’s no deep universal message in the realities of divorce, being laid off from work, illness, or any of the other painful (or joyful!) things that may happen to us.

Nonetheless, when something has impacted us deeply enough to be held in our emotional and physical patterns of being in the world, it’s worth understanding the story of our experience.

It’s through those deeply impactful experiences that we come to be who we are. Therefore, the more we understand the stories of our history, the more we understand ourselves. We become more unified, and we can present ourselves and our work to the world more completely and joyfully.

It wasn’t until I understood the story behind my own lifelong struggle to be seen for who and what I am that I understood why it’s so important for me to help my clients show up in their businesses with all the unique brilliance they have to offer. And that understanding gives so much more depth and power to my message, and offers so much more motivation to keep going even when I’d really rather take my book and go hang out in the back garden with my knitting and my cat.

I see this over and over again with clients, colleagues, and others who have tapped the power that lies in understanding the meaning of our core stories.

So don’t believe the people who tell you that the story isn’t important, or that it’s “just a story” and therefore shouldn’t be listened to or believed.

Discover your history, but don’t get stuck in it. Honour it, learn from it, heal from it if necessary, and move on with all the power and strength and certainty that gives to you.

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Ask more, hope less

(Note: this post is part of the More and Less series; you can read the introduction to the series at “More and Less: an introduction,” which opens in a new window so you won’t lose your place here.)

Ask more, hope less.

I fully expect that to raise some eyebrows; it’s not common for anyone to suggest having less hope.

Hope sounds enlightened, new-age-Law-of-Attraction-y, and even spiritual.

But let’s take a look at some of its unintended effects.

The title of a 2003 book on sales says it all:  Hope is Not a Strategy.

When we think things like, “I hope this person will sign up to work with me,” or “I hope they’ll register for my workshop,” we become passive.

There’s no action to take. We simply sit there and … hope.

Because hope tricks us into staying quiet, waiting, hoping for something to happen, we hardly mention the program we’re launching at the end of the month. We worry about over-promoting the workshop we’re trying to fill, and we hesitate – forever – to ask for help from friends and colleagues.  

Instead, we hope.  We hope people will sign up. We hope someone will notice that we’re struggling and offer to help.

I’d started noticing how much I do this. And when I thought about why, I realized it was because I was reluctant to take action and ask.

Asking requires me to do something, to be actively involved with and in the results I want to experience.

And yes, it requires me to be vulnerable enough to take the risk of hearing no. But if I want to succeed, if I want to get my work out into the world in the ways I believe (know!) it deserves, then I have to be willing to take that risk – for the sake of the work, if not for myself.

Ask more, hope less.

It’s amazing how this has shifted me towards action, getting out into the world in a bigger way, and gaining greater clarity about what I want and how I plan to create the conditions for my success.

How about you? Could you use more asking and less hoping in your life and business?

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Trust more, worry less

(Note: this post is part of the More and Less series; you can read the introduction to the series at “More and Less: an introduction,” which opens in a new window so you won’t lose your place here.)

“Stop worrying. It’s all okay.”

Easy for someone else to say, right?

But we usually can’t flip a switch and turn worry off. Instead, it’s more like a garbage disposal stuck in the permanent ON position, grinding away at our self-confidence and our ability to be creative and productive.

For me, worry tends to arise out of too much focus on any area of my work or life that I feel isn’t going “right” (whatever that means!). I start telling myself fear-and-anxiety stories about that specific detail to the extent that I don’t even see all the other things that are chugging along quite nicely, thank you.

A few weeks ago, as I was beginning to develop my ideas around the More and Less concept, I realized that I was stuck in worry mode over a few things that weren’t happening the way I thought I wanted them to.

And since I use the tools I develop (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I develop the tools I need to use!), I started to think about what I wanted more of to fill the space created by less worry.

Trust.

Trust more, worry less.

Trust that I don’t know what will happen next week, tomorrow, or this afternoon. Trust that the next client with the next project will appear. Trust that I’ll figure out the projects for my current clients. Trust that I’ll get things done by the time they need to be done.

Trust more, worry less.

Repeating it to myself, I can feel the tension subside and the space open up. I can feel my focus going where it needs to go: on putting my work out into the world, on doing the best possible job for my clients, on doing the next obvious thing to be done.

And I also notice a real sense of gratitude for the things that are going well, simply because my perspective is now broad enough to see that they’re there.

What about you? Does “trust more, worry less” ring a bell for where you are now? Or is there some other More and Less mantra that you’re working with?

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More and Less: an introduction

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say “Wag more, bark less” and “Purr more, hiss less”?

They got me thinking about this idea of “More and Less” pairs, particularly as it relates to business.

Many business coaches, consultants, and gurus like to lay down mandates about choosing between two apparently contradictory feelings.

For instance, they instruct us that it’s “love OR fear.”

Really?

What happens when we can’t choose love instead of fear? What happens when the fear persists, no matter how hard we try to “choose love” instead?

When we make our emotional experience black-and-white, either/or, we create struggle as we try to get rid of our resistance, fear, insecurity, anxiety, or whatever might be coming up for us. And when those feelings won’t go away, we add on guilt and inadequacy, as if we’ve somehow screwed up because we can’t “let go” of the fear and “choose love.”

We’re human, and being human means we feel many things, often at the same time. Then we label some of those feelings “bad” and wish we didn’t have to feel them. Because we recognize that these uncomfortable feelings tend to hold us back from doing what we deeply want to do, we believe we have to feel something “better” before we can move forward.

It would be delightful if we could always “choose love.” And sometimes it can be that simple, but more often it just seems impossible.

On the other hand, more of something feels attainable.

And less of something creates space for the more without making us feel wrong, guilty, or inadequate.

So instead of sternly telling ourselves to “choose love, not fear,” we can gently ask ourselves to “love more, fear less.”

To me, that feels spacious. It feels as if there’s room to breathe, to be with all of my experience, while shifting the focus away from what I don’t want and toward what I do want.

So I’m introducing a series of “More and Less” blog posts in which I’ll explore more-and-less pairs that have meaning for me, and invite readers to submit guest posts on pairs that have helped them.

And that’s an important point: you need to create your own pair. These are highly personal and subjective; what works for me in this moment isn’t necessarily what will work for you!

So post your “more and less” pair in the comments – or post your questions – I’m always happy to help!

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Setting yourself up: failure or success

A week or so ago, I posted this on Facebook:

If you know how to set yourself up for failure (and most of us do!), then you also know how to set yourself up for success.

In answering the many comments this inspired, I noticed how much the idea surprised people. (It certainly surprised me when I first noticed!) And I was delighted to see what happened when people really clicked on what it means.

Let’s start with the reality that most of us are very good at setting ourselves up for failure.

I don’t mean that as a judgment; it’s simply a statement of what I’ve done myself, what I see others doing, and what my clients tell me about their experience.

If I were to go into the reasons for it, I’d end up writing a book instead of a blog post. Instead, I’ll just say that it has to do with what we’re taught about ourselves, what we believe we deserve, and how we work to achieve that.

Not how we work to achieve what we want.

How we work to achieve what we believe we deserve, even if that’s not what we actually want.

Most of the time it’s unconscious, and therefore maddeningly frustrating. We love what we do and we want to get it out there, yet “something” keeps tripping us up and preventing us.

When we pause, look more closely, and start consciously observing, we become aware of the little things we do that create the small failures that develop into big tripping-points.

Sometimes setting ourselves up for success is as simple as stopping the little things that create those small cumulative failures.

More often, it takes more work than that. More often, we need to go deeper to understand the root causes of our need to keep proving that the messages we’ve absorbed are true – you know, those messages about how we’re not good enough and we don’t deserve to succeed.

I promise you that those message are not true.  We all deserve to succeed.

You are good enough to succeed.

And when you know how you create failure for yourself, you’ll also know how to turn it around.

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Containers, continued

Last week’s post on Outgrowing your containers brought many comments (mostly on Facebook, a few privately through email) that showed me two things.

Thing One: this is important!

Thing Two: there’s more to be said.

This concept of containers applies to much more than what I covered in that first post.

As one person noticed, ideas, approaches, and priorities are also containers, and also tend to be outgrown.

But ideas, approaches, and priorities are abstract concepts, not anything as tangible as a community we belong to or as structured as a service we offer. How can they be containers?

Here’s how.

An idea affects how we look at the world. We might have an idea – many business owners I talk with do – that our work doesn’t change the lives of our clients. As long as we stay within the confines of that idea (that container), we’ll present our work in ways that downplay its importance. We may not do this downplaying intentionally, but the idea “my work doesn’t change lives” is a container that holds and therefore shapes our messages about what we do.

And it’s a very different container from “My work changes lives!”

An approach affects how we interact with the world. If our approach is to be sure not to offend anyone (perhaps because we have an idea that our work doesn’t change lives!), we interact cautiously with the people we meet. We’re careful about how we talk about our work. Maybe we stay away from anything that feels too “woo-woo” or we soften our opinions about what we think someone should do – even if this opinion is what they hired us for. Again, we may not mean to do this, but the “don’t offend anyone” approach is a container shaping the ways in which we show up.

And again, it’s a very different container from “I choose to be who I am and do what I do in the best, most complete way possible regardless of what ‘they’ might think.”

A priority affects how we decide what to do next. It seems reasonable to have a priority of staying connected with the groups or communities we belong to. But that may mean we give a lot of time and energy to communities that aren’t truly ours. This is great if we’re learning and growing from those interactions.  It’s not so great if we’re not getting a return on the time-and-energy investment or if we’re inadvertently neglecting other communities where we could have a bigger impact for ourselves and our business. So once again, the priority of “stay connected because I should / because it’s a habit” is a container shaping our choices about how and where we spend time and energy.

Prioritizing what brings us the most joy and spaciousness and offers us the most opportunities to have a meaningful impact is a significantly different container that will shape significantly different actions and therefore create significantly different results.

There’s no judgement intended in any of these examples. I think most of us start out wanting everyone to like us (after all, we think, isn’t that how we get clients?), not being entirely convinced that our work changes lives (especially – our thoughts might tell us – if we’re “just” maintaining websites or doing the bookkeeping), and prioritizing loyalty to groups and teachers who have supported us in the past.

Recognizing that a container doesn’t fit any more doesn’t mean the idea, approach, or priority (or whatever it may be) was wrong.

It just means we’ve outgrown it and are ready to move on into the next phase of our work and life.

 

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Outgrowing your containers

No, I know you’re not a plant outgrowing your pot!

But your business (and your life) has containers, and chances are you’ve outgrown some of them.

Your service offerings are containers, for instance. So is your blog or newsletter, the groups or communities you facilitate, the structures and systems of your business, right down to the ways you handle email and how you set up your teleclasses.

Writing an article for a client, I found myself struggling to fit the concept into the structure (the container) we’d been using for years. It finally dawned on me that the structure wasn’t capable of holding the concept. My client’s work has evolved; the ideas he’s presenting to his readers now no longer fit the format (introductory paragraph followed by three brief examples) we’d established six years ago.

As soon as I realized this and defined a new structure, the article fell into place – plink – just like that.

How do you know if you’ve outgrown a container?

Often there’s a subtle sense of not quite doing your biggest, best work, yet at the same time not quite knowing why.

And it can feel surprisingly weird to notice that the systems or patterns that have supported you for so long are starting to hold you back. I was initially convinced there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t get my client’s article to behave itself. Don’t fall into that trap. Your work is evolving. It’s not your fault, nor is it the containers’ fault, that your work doesn’t fit into them any more.

It’s not a problem. It’s an invitation to grow and stretch!

Also notice that the containers of your work are just one type of container.

For instance, you have other containers within which you learn. Perhaps you’re part of a mastermind group, an online membership forum (paid or unpaid), a book club, or a networking association. We’re all part of communities in our businesses and our lives, and the fact is that we will sometimes outgrow those communities (a.k.a. containers). Again, it’s no one’s fault; it’s simply what happens. As you change, your needs change; what was helpful and supportive six months or a year ago may be draining and confining today.

I know several people who have recently left various communities, online and in person, myself included. We’ve all experienced a positive energetic shift and a greater sense of focus on our work with more ease and joy in what we’re doing.

You might feel as if it’s disloyal to leave a community where you’ve found friends and received help. Don’t fall into that trap either! You can and probably will remain in touch with the people who are important to you. In fact, the ways you relate to those people often become stronger and more supportive when you’ve moved outside the container that’s no longer working for you.

Containers are important to provide a sense of structure and process, for yourself as well as for your clients. But getting stuck in a container that’s too small is frustrating at best, and at worst can make you feel as if you’re doing something wrong – or even as if you don’t want to keep doing this work of yours.

Where are you feeling out of sorts, cranky, or frustrated with some aspect of your work or the places where you spend your time and energy?

Is there a container that’s too small for your growing business – and your growing self?

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Changing the world

You change the world.

From the moment you were born – from the moment you were conceived, and perhaps even before that, when you were still just an idea – you changed the world. (Anyone who has children knows the truth of this.)

You change the world with every smile at a stranger in the grocery store, every choice to let an impatient driver pull in front of you.

Where you choose to live, how you spend your day, what you buy (or don’t buy), what you make – every decision, every action, has an impact.

On yourself as well as on the rest of the world.

And those of us who choose to be in business for ourselves – well, isn’t it more accurate to say that we’re in business for others, for the people who buy our services or products, helping them change the world?

When we know this, when we get it down into our bones and breath, we begin to see how we can be more intentional about the impact we have.

When I have a decision to make, advice to offer to a client or colleague, or even a comment about something someone has done, I am learning to ask myself: what is the impact I want to have in this situation? And is what I’m about to say or do likely to have that impact … or not?  

I’m making different choices.

This awareness, this question, is changing how I interact with the world.

It’s changing how I feel about the world.

It’s also changing how I feel about myself.

And I suspect it’s changing how I … change the world.

What about you?

With thanks to Sherry Essig at Flow Dynamix for talking through her approach and teachings about impact, and Christine Claire Reed at Girl On Fire Movement Studio for our conversations about the capacity each of us has to create change and make an impact. (Links open in new windows.)

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The real key to writing well

Editing.

Editing is where the rubber meets the road.  Which is a tired cliché that I should probably edit out, except that it’s accurate.

While it’s true that, as the astonishingly prolific author Nora Roberts is reputed to have said, you can’t edit a blank page, the editing process is where your work comes alive. It’s in the editing that you refine the accuracy of your words so they convey exactly the message that you want them to convey, weeding out extra words, phrases, and even stories, if they’re not completely relevant to your point.  And it’s in the editing that you tune the emotional feel of your words so they help elicit the experience you want your reader to have.

Editing is what makes writing worthwhile for you and for your reader.

Editing is not simply punctuation and grammar.  Sure, punctuation and grammar are important, but you can have a piece of writing with punctuation or grammar errors that makes a compelling point … and you can have a piece of writing without a single punctuation or grammar error that fails to make sense at all.

I see so many people struggle to get the right words down on the page in the first draft. But that’s not what your first draft is for. Your first draft is to get words on the page – not the right words, just words. Some of those words will be the right words; some will be the wrong words; and some will be almost, but not quite, right – but will lead you to find the right words.

Editing is a skill, and like any other skill, it can be learned. But as long as people believe that writing is more important than editing, they’ll miss out on the magic that can happen to their written work.

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The “aaack” trap

You know the feeling of “aaack.”

As in, “aaack!  Something’s wrong!”

A strange noise emanating from your washing machine or from under your car’s hood.

A crash from the other room.

Or … that sinking feeling when no one seems interested in the service offering you spent months developing.

“Aaack! Something’s wrong!  Let’s fix it right away!”

That’s the “aaack” trap. Because when we jump to fix it right away, we forget to take the time to understand the problem.

And then we jump to conclusions and apply a fix that may not be necessary, and might not even correct what’s gone awry.

The squeaky belt in your washing machine actually doesn’t need to be replaced immediately.  And your beautiful service offering might just need a little tweaking and a slightly different presentation…or maybe just a bit of patience while people make up their minds to jump on board.

Unless your house is on fire, or you (or someone nearby) is bleeding severely, or some other real emergency is threatening – STOP before you jump into action.

Define the problem before you design the solution.

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