Know Your Why

Riding home from Luke’s game last night with my friend and volleyball partner, we got to talking about volleyball, and aging knees and how long we will get to play this game that we love to play so much. To be out on that beach, with dolphins jumping in the water, with other moms that have at least a dozen kids between us, it’s a feeling that is pretty hard to beat. It’s hard to imagine it not happening every week..multiple times.. 

“Do you ever have that thought, when you watch the pros playing next to us, ‘I’m never going to do that’? And it makes you feel kind of shocked.” Vanessa asked me.

“Yes.” I answered immediately, because I have had that feeling. “I call it the ‘I’m never going to win Wimbledon’ phenomenon.” 

I coined this phrase many years ago, it’s not necessarily a sad feeling, I actually noticed it because I was trying to find my own thing…what it was that filled me up, my why…and, besides being a mom, I knew I hadn’t found it yet. In this search, I realized that as much as I loved sports and watching Wimbledon, I was never going to hoist that shiny trophy over my head, so I crossed it off the list and kept seeking, with the realization that I was looking for a level of greatness in my own right. I think this feeling is natural for passionate people to have as we observe our own lives, and realize how much we enjoy them, and how quickly time passes. 

Every week I get a take away that sticks with me from one of the many podcasts I listen to.  This week’s comes from Impact Theory’s interview with best selling author, Mark Manson.  CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

One concept that I found intriguing in this interview was how figuring out our why, our calling, or whatever you would like to call it, isn’t always easy because it comes naturally to us. We don’t recognize it because it’s just normal. We enjoy it so much, we get lost, and logging time towards our progress isn’t a conscious thought, we just flow.  Now I get it, because when I’m writing or speaking to the next generation about the lessons I have learned, time just slips away.

This week, I was fortunate to speak to a group of female athletes in Fresno, my hometown. We talked about leadership, some of the challenges we face as female leaders, and what qualities are most important for us to have if we want to lead.  If you would have said to me five years ago that I would be seeking out speaking opportunities I would have said you’re crazy. What I have come to understand though, is that generational wisdom, imparting the lessons I have learned through my experience to girls, who on one hand I still feel so much like it brings tears to my eyes, but then quickly realize all I have learned over this quick 44 years of life, it just flows. I could have talked for hours.  After the event, to have one of my early mentors, a coach who taught my timid, soft hearted self, to be tough, tell me that people lean in and want to hear what I have to say, I’m humbled…and I’m hooked…because while not everyone’s opinion matters, there are a trusted few, people who have earned the right to weigh in, who mean a lot to my progress.

Although there are so many qualities that are important for a leader to possess, I am big on the concept that as leaders, we need to be self aware.  Knowing ourselves, taking time to reflect, so that we know our strengths and weaknesses, when to listen to our own voice, and when to defer to another trusted voice that can possibly teach us more, all of these things are part of being effective as a leader.  Self awareness also helps us discover our why.

The cool thing is that this world is in need of so many different whys, different missions, we don’t all have to solve every challenge that is out there, but a good life is definitely spent working on at least one of them.  We need to know ourselves to know where our assets can best be put to use…and then we can lead. 

As a female leader, I talked about the burden that women carry, the expectation that we can do it all, balance domestic and professional life, while staying in shape, making home cooked healthy meals, and emotionally supporting every family member, friend, child, and even animal in our life.  That expectation can overwhelm and exhaust us, and I know that firsthand.


“You can have it all, just not all at once.”  -Oprah Winfrey

These are wise words that teach us there is a season and a time for everything.  When I was 27 and giving two babies dinner and baths every night, before my next two were even born, and my sister was working on Capitol Hill, I wondered what I could ever accomplish outside my four walls, not realizing that the answer was coming on a schedule that allowed me to immerse myself in the task at hand, being the mom of four amazing babies…all in good time. Today, I realize what a gift that was.

Enjoy where you are right now, do the job in front of you well, and the way forward presents itself. 


What I also didn’t know at that time was that, more important than any book or article I read, the voice in my head was the loudest and most convincing voice out there. That voice is so influential, it shapes our thinking, and then our path. It tells us what is possible, what we can and can’t do, and for a long time I realize that my voice told me that there were certain things and levels of success that were reserved for a chosen few.  What I thought was humility, was really insecurity and a fear of claiming what was available to me, and to anyone really willing to work consistently hard enough to claim it.  So, I looked out at these hopeful young athletes, and told them about that voice.

“Make sure that voice, the one in your head, is your biggest fan, best coach and most loving mom all in one.” 

It’s yours for the taking, it might not be Wimbledon, but it’s great and it’s meant to be shared with the world.  We’re counting on you.   

The Voice That Matters Most

Matthew turned 12 this week. There’s not a birthday that goes by that I don’t thank God that he’s here with us and take more than a minute to celebrate how far he has come. We spent his birthday evening at his brothers volleyball game, but on the way there, through the always hellish LA traffic we watched, (I listened) to videos of him from when he was little. Even our Czech born au pair Tereza, who saved my sanity when she arrived after Matthew’s accident in 2009, literally to follow him around while I got the other three ready, and who is married with a baby of her own now, came with us to celebrate. Such amazing love and connection born out of so many simple memories, carpools, swim practices and snack bags. We laughed all the way to Loyola.  

As i watch how far Matthew has come from that little guy that I worried so much about to the kid he is today, I am so proud of the progress he has made.  So much speech, OT, PT, diet, doctors, supplements, all sought out with love, not because I believe he needs to be fixed, but because there aren’t many mom’s out there who don’t work to make their child’s day better…and judging by his days at school and even his report card, his are on the upswing.  Some people would be frustrated because it’s impossible to know whether there was one thing that helped the most in his progress to date. What I know is that while there has been no silver bullet that completely alleviated all of his struggles, I won’t leave any stone unturned and, because of that, have meet some amazing world changing people that are a part of our tribe forever. 

There are things about him growing up that I wish I could change, so I have to teach him by the way I live my own life, and nothing inspires me more to make good decisions than teaching my kids. Last week, I watched Matthew while he was in a volleyball lesson on the beach lose focus and begin to watch the guy walking toward him, and I saw his self consciousness take over. He’s still a beginner in the sport (watch out though, he’s supposed to be 6’8 so when he said he wanted to try beach volleyball, I wasn’t going to say no). During his lesson, he will say things like “I’m not good at this.” or even worse “why do I suck?”  He’s just starting, and the thing that matters far more than the way he is passing or serving today, is the way he decides to work and his attitude about his game. The way we talk to ourselves is so important, it gets in so deep and affects the way we feel about ourselves. If that voice in our head isn’t kind, as in Matthew’s case on the beach, we can end up severely limiting our own potential…just with our thoughts. So it breaks my heart to hear him talk like that…on the never-ending to do list is to help him cultivate his own positive self talk. 

The other thing that bothered me about Matthew’s moment that I noticed on the beach was how his focus and discipline were affected when he thought someone was observing him, maybe even watching him critically.  It made me think: How aware are we of other people’s observations of us? If we are aware, are we right about what we think those observations may be? Do other people’s opinions and observations have a role in the way we make our decisions everyday? These are questions that I think about a lot, that I have coached myself through, as I work through the choices that this challenging and beautiful life presents me. Whenever I am choosing, I seek that calm feeling I get when I make a decision that is aligned with my true self. To paraphrase Daniel Amen from the On Purpose podcast by Jay Shetty I listened to this week, 

CLICK TO LISTEN

“when we are 18 we make decisions based on what other people think, when we are 40 we decide we don’t care what other people think, and when we are 60 we realize that other people were never thinking about us that much anyway.”  

What gives us the courage to not care about what other people think? To start with, I don’t like the words “not care” because I find it hard not to care about just about every person that crosses my path, so I prefer to say not let other’s opinions affect my decisions for my own life.  What has changed in my thinking though, is my understanding that we are all operating from our own viewpoint, managing our own ego, and that our opinions are relative to our own situation. So, why should I make a decision based on anyone else’s opinion when it has little, if anything to do with my life, and is generally a function of what is going on in their life. I can have compassion and understanding without letting their opinion about my life be bigger than my own. With this decision, I have had the confidence to live my life as as the truest version of myself today and, instead of aiming to please everyone, which left me drained, I’ve learned to just be me and end up pleasing the right people, those meant for my life, on this day. This way of thinking comes with heavy responsibility. For success to happen we have to keep seeking the truest version of us, wrestle with and admit our struggles, and emerge stronger because we did the hard work. The more time we spend understanding ourselves, the more we understand what decisions are in our own best interest and the less time we spend feeling self conscious about our lives, our abilities and our choices. That battle can be tough, for me it’s come in the form of putting my voice out into the world, learning to set boundaries, and having the courage to show up as the truest version of myself.  Not a day has gone by though, even when I’m feeling uncomfortable, that I don’t get the deepest satisfaction from the growth I know I’m experiencing my putting my real self out there. Day in and day out, I hope with all of my heart that my example sinks in with my kiddos. 

Which brings me lovingly back to my youngest boy. You are comparable to no one.  You have proven how hard you can work, keep working for that consistency.  Know that excuses and blame get you nowhere, I have so much hope and commitment that you will never see that from me. There are so many great waves, games and summer days ahead of you, however they present themselves…go after them with confidence and yes, there will always be a mom who has your back. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there…hardest and best job in the world.

My People

As an introvert, I like to hang out by myself...a lot. But the flip side of that coin is that I love human connection. I’m not one for small talk, I prefer deep conversation, or else silence between two people can be so calming and easy. Growing up, I was never in the “popular crowd”, my sister was three years younger than me and when she got to high school, people would ask me “Are you Andrea’s sister?”...I was a senior!  Despite all of this, I get such joy from the relationships I have built over my lifetime because, the ones that stick, which by this point are adding up, make my days joyful and provide strength in the tough times. 

A good friend of mine says I call these friendships “my people” quite frequently, and, although this isn’t meant to be an exclusive term, it got me thinking. What are the qualities that sustain those relationships, people I return to no matter the miles or experiences between us? 

My people...

  1. They create connection. Probably not a big surprise, but my people aren’t small talkers either. They ask the big questions, we don’t really talk about the weather, but about dreams (at this point for ourselves and our kids), goals, and how to solve the issues of the day...and there are lots of them, so one on one, we could go on forever.  This doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, just that we have the desire to sink in a little deeper on what makes the world go around…and that conversation is so much bigger than our own experience in our neighborhood.

  2. My people love and encourage growth and change. I’ve discovered as I have gone through challenge and change that my people will provide support when I’m down, but the ones who are really special want to see me rise out of it...and my goal is always to do the same for them.  I think most of us are wired to help when we see struggle, but to honestly help someone and then, when they rise, in part because of the help that you offered, be genuinely happy for them, is a testament to how we keep our own values and ego in check. There is comfort in knowing that someone is the same person you always knew, but the best life is always transforming us and my people support that beautiful change.

  3. My people are feelers, and they use what they feel to figure out their passion and the meaning in their lives.  They use what moves them to create  change in this world on the myriad of challenges we face. You may never hear their names in the news, so many good people are out there every day teaching the next generation with action that will never be celebrated by society, but they are touching lives, healing hurts, and creating change where it’s needed. The people they do come into contact with have their days, and sometimes even their lives changed forever. From inclusion in schools, to raising up the next generation of leaders, to changing lives by expanding their families through adoption, to working on sustainable natural resource policies, they pick their issue and go at it with all of their heart and mind in a way that is so inspiring to me.

  4. My people focus on themselves. They believe that the change they want to see in the world starts with them and their next right choice...and the example inspires a chain reaction. We support each others happiness and trust each other’s judgment. Like attracts like, no excuses. 

As life continues to grow, flow and change, I couldn’t be more grateful for the people in my corner, loving me, encouraging me, and inspiring me with the way they live their days. My greatest hope is that I return the favor to them on a consistent basis. Thanks for being my people. 

The Wisdom in The Lyrics

I love singers and songwriters because their lyrics drift through my life on a daily basis. Music has a profound impact on our brain. It’s Prom, graduation AND birthday season in my house. My youngest will be 12 in less than two weeks and my oldest graduates from high school in less than a month. There has been one Prom and about to be another as my high schoolers go to different schools. I’m headed for a weekend at Stagecoach with one of my oldest and dearest friends and three 18 year olds, so I’m bouncing back and forth between Fast by Luke Bryan and Keep Yourself Alive by Queen. 

There is a scene in my head that I flash back to frequently these days, the sky was on fire with one of those almost summer sunsets and I was riding around in the back of a truck around Woodward Park probably 10 days before I graduated from high school with a bunch of friends. It was as if God told me to time stamp this memory for later, a simple moment I would want to come back to, my old soul knowing for some reason that life wouldn’t be this easy again. 


I was a late bloomer. I didn’t drink or smoke in high school, didn’t have sex, didn’t sneak out, or try to do any things that are so normal for the teenage brain to flirt with on a daily basis. It’s a time of exploration, of feeling grown up, but I wasn’t a risk taker, I was a pleaser and the idea of getting in trouble scared me to death. All of our brains are wired so differently, I don’t judge a single kid (or try really hard for not anyone), as humans we all have impulsive moments and are capable of the greatest triumphs and the worst choices. And then there’s the stuff that is just outside of our control...which is a lot. 

Now I’m raising teenagers of my own and there is so much compassion in my heart for what goes on in their days and the choices they are faced with at every turn. I’m trying hard to be faithful, graceful, and not let it be such a scary place, knowing that this is their time to figure out so much about the freedoms that they feel, but wanting to hold tight to the boundaries that I have always put up for them as I still try to communicate those messages on a daily basis when they fly past me. I can see the time on the horizon where we will be friends, because they are capable of such amazing conversation, and I can remember being their age and feeling so grown up, but we aren’t  there yet and my job isn’t done. I’ve got more than a few thoughts as I watch my kids take in these rites of passage that are still so fresh in my own mind that I can see my own graduation cap flying up into the air. 

Like yourself, lead yourself.

Sometimes it’s a tall order at this age, especially today in the land of 24/7 likes, knowing what everyone else is doing (or at least thinking you do) and a lack of time to be by yourself unless you exert the extreme discipline it takes to make that a reality. It’s tough to know yourself, which is a must for liking yourself, and to start to get your feet set on your own path.

Know that you are enough, just as you are today, without trying to conform or impress. 

Pushing limits is a hallmark of the teenage mind and heart. Even today, I’m a bit envious of that sense of freedom, unattached to our own numbered days...that feeling that life will go on forever that comes with being a teenager. Remembering that feeling makes it scary as hell on the parenting side. But it’s also a tough age to feel comfortable in your own skin, to be who you want to be for yourself, not to impress anyone on either end of your world, be it friends or parents…fitting in on one end, expectation on the other. It’s not about either, being true to yourself, is the key.

Don’t let the story you put out there separate too much from the from story behind the scenes. It’s a raged and exhausting race you don’t want to keep up with.

You can never go back and life gets complicated fast. Things like addiction, the dangers that lurk in this world, especially when your consciousness is altered, are a parent’s worst nightmare. Let sleeping dogs lie for as long as you can. Yes, experimentation is normal, but you will either find out that altered states get old pretty fast, or end up having to reverse course down a road you really never intended to go down. Scary things that can’t be taken back happen fast to the best of us...and yet teenage brains aren’t developed to feel these feels yet. It’s why we as parents sound like broken records. It’s never about judging “good kids” and “bad kids”, because we have the years to know that we are all one decision away from our next greatest or worst moment.

Trust that there is no judgment, the greatest thing about being a parent is knowing that you couldn’t love a being any more, no action required. There is no expectation of greatness, my most sincere wish is just to keep you breathing and safe and watch you take it from there. With all the love in my heart, finish this season strong, there is so much good ahead. And Matthew...I may want to stop you at 12 for awhile.


Faith, Presence & Solitude

Overwhelm: (v.) To bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

I looked up this definition because it’s a feeling I have been experiencing a lot this week and wanted to see what Webster had to say about it, and it ended up hitting pretty close to home. To drown, a sight and experience that I wish I didn’t have such an intimate and vivid picture of in my brain. Breath keeps us from drowning. I know what the absence of breath looks like, it’s very scary. I have learned on so many levels, whether it was seeing my youngest child deprived of it after pulling him out of our backyard pool almost 10 years ago, to the life I feel when I take it in on my yoga mat and know that I am not drowning under the pressures I put on myself, and simply need to slow it down and stay present. I have seen and experienced life at both it’s fullest and most fragile edges, and it has given me a perspective that benefits me every day. 

Sometimes we have to walk through the worst to come to the

realization of what is great in life.

Nonetheless, overwhelm is a real feeling  and one of the first signs of anxiety. When it hits you, even when we set goals with the greatest intentions, and action needs to be taken to get there (as is always the case), the feeling of where do I start or go next can be crippling. I used to mistake overwhelm for laziness because of that feeling of shutdown, but I understand now, that it’s time to break down things in small bite size pieces and attack them one at a time. I have found that multitasking is actually the killer of efficiency and quality work, and only adds to my feelings of chaos. Presence, rather than letting my mind think too far ahead, beats back the overwhelm.

The antidote for overwhelm…faith, presence and solitude. 

I’m grateful that I learned from a young age that solitude was a great calmer of my spirit.  I remember even when I was young, wanting to retreat to my room to be alone, not in a depressed way, but to slow things down and give me time to figure them out.  I was also always the first one up at a slumber party as a kid, and had to be super quiet with slumbering roommates in college.  But thankfully those situations sent me outside where it was quiet and I discovered the pink light, the peace of the morning, and the almost immediate relief of any feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.  Being outside also brings my mind back to a more awefilled, child like state, which is one of the quickest ways to shake off some of the heaviness we put on our adult lives. To me, there is no better feeling than when the world is still quiet.  In the morning, anything is possible. 

After I had my second child 17 years ago, I would wake with a racing heart, sure something bad had happened or was about to, and found myself walking the hallways, checking on my two little ones incessantly, until that pink light would come over the horizon and the feeling would almost instantly fade away.  Morning brings on a newness and a peace that is different than the fullness of the rest of the day. It’s the time to get set, breath, and focus on what lies ahead.  Morning routine for me is tea or coffee, fresh air, deep breathing/meditation/prayer and exercise.  Then the day goes on from there, and I’m ready to take on whatever comes my way.  Maybe this is why I’m flying through this new book The 5am Club by Robin Sharma I’m halfway through after buying the book after listening to the author on this podcast, and already consider it a must read for anyone interested in personal growth and improving the world around them.  

Last but not least, last because it ties it all together, faith…my other great reliever of anxiety and overwhelm. My faith gives me the knowledge that there is something greater than my own experience, that wants me to seek and be fulfilled, and yet loves me just as I am today, gives me the freedom to swing for the fence and miss, or hit a home run and know that I am enough either way. As long as my intentions are good, and the work I put in is honest and diligent, I just need to be myself and go for it with my best judgment and the rest isn’t mine to hold. The world is full of variables that I can’t control, but I don’t have to because it’s being handled by a power far greater than me.

It’s Easter weekend, and I am so grateful for this faith that has brought me through painful moments and transformed me from my most afraid to a stronger and brighter person that can bring optimism and hope on every day, not just the shiny ones. I talk often about faith being different than religion. Faith is personal, between you and a higher power, based on your exposure and upbringing.  I long ago stopped trying to answer the questions of who is going where and who is right, knowing it isn’t up to me to judge. I know that the judgment and imperfections of people can get in the way of how we experience our own faith, I’ve felt it firsthand so many times and it makes me momentarily uncomfortable.  But the beauty, grace, and strength that my faith has given me comes from a source so much deeper than the imperfections that come with being human. My faith is the pink light on the horizon telling me, this world may not be perfect, but it’s yours…slow down, enjoy what I have created for you and help make it better one moment at a time.  No need to feel overwhelmed, I’ve got it handled.  Happy Easter! 

To Learn and Teach

I sit here with a cat lying on my computer, which is often the case, so I have taken to writing blogs on my IPhone, both because of the cat’s affinity for the keyboard and, because I can write and collect thoughts on the go. 

The deeper I sink into this writing life, and my experiences become writing material, I’m trying hard to walk the line of being present and taking it all in, and remembering the feels from brief notes so I can take them deeper when I finally arrive to a quiet creative corner. I wake up in the night, jot down an edge of consciousness thought that snuck in before I fully awoke, and fall back asleep. 

Writing has helped me in so many ways. It has built my confidence, helped me sort through deep feelings and, in short, given me deep gratitude for my life. Journals are my favorite way to go back and see how far I’ve come with my mindset and abilities, which keeps me striving forward when my energy is waning. I truly believe we never “arrive” and are meant to enjoy the ride, learn from it, and keep moving ourselves forward. 

As I get ready to launch a Life Design Coaching business, I have been thinking a lot about how I went from:

“Life coaching?  What the heck is that?” 

to 

“Using my story to help myself and other people sounds pretty cool.” 

Even when I was younger, all the way back to hating nearly every day of junior high that didn’t have a game that would get me out of class early to play, I knew how to make my days better. It was always, music, alone time, sports, one or two good friends, and my cat that would bring me back to that place where I could say,

“tomorrow is going to be better.”

So basically, nothing has changed. I’ve just learned a few more lessons along the way that have made my life a much more sustainably happy place and it’s good to take inventory on some of my favorite realizations.

I am happier today because:

  1. I stopped trying to fit in.

    In this world, it’s common for any of us to judge a book by it’s cover, even though we never really know the full story. Maybe we go as far as to read others like a picture book, but rarely like a novel, which leaves us with huge gaps in knowledge, making assumptions and affecting the way we relate to each other. That’s why I’m thankful today to not be afraid of the work that it takes to truly know myself…flaws, triggers, and all the good stuff. Everyday, I use this knowledge to drive myself forward and then, the rest of the world, and what they think, do, or say fades away. Sometimes things still hurt, but I know they can’t change who I am unless I let them, so I just keep the focus on my own improvement and let the rest fall away as best I can, knowing that no one feeling or situation lasts forever. We all have different stories and, in the end, we earn connection with being real, not changing ourselves to fit in.

  2. I learned to trust myself.

    As humans, we all make mistakes, and for a long time, I would beat myself up pretty bad over even the little ones. This habit made me feel less than, and held me back by crushing my energy before I could set and accomplish big goals. This mindset kept me treading water instead of swimming forward, even though I knew there were greater places I wanted to go. When you don’t trust yourself, the other voices are louder and make those goals and places feel so far away. They can also make you question situations that make you happy. Today, I can take one step at a time, and avoid the overwhelm that comes with the opinions of others, because of the trust I have built in myself. I have a deeper understanding of what is best for me, and there is a much smaller circle that I allow to weigh in on that.

  3. I breathed deeper, reacted slower  and accomplished more.

    Basically, this is my thank God for yoga point. Deep breathes literally stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and bring a state of calm to the body. I don’t think I had ever felt the depths of that calm before I started my yoga practice. In that place, urgency and overwhelm fade away, and I can slow down and know that not everything that crosses my path should get a reaction from me. What I learned on my mat, I have taken off, and the most amazing thing about it is that in this stillness, I accomplish more. No more running around, giant to do list, feeling frantic. Just fulfillment in what is accomplished, and a calm plan of how to work through what lays before me. With this understanding, I can roll with what comes at me and build confidence as I realize that I am far stronger than I once thought. This calmness leads to productivity and cuts away the anxiety that comes with second guessing and taking in too many other opinions. We are the writers of our own stories and need to experience both the joy and the responsibility of that fact.

My entire life, I have enjoyed being coached. I’ve used the wise words of others and their drive to inspire me and teach me toughness that I didn’t think I had in me. I’ve also learned a lot spending years listening and pushing other people forward to achieve their goals when I was afraid of the spotlight. We all have things everyday that we can work on to be better and inspire ourselves and those that we love. We all have times we need to ask for help or can be the one who lends the hand to someone else. More acceptance, less judgment…something I am focusing on every day. I am energized by the thought of a world that works like this.

If we do the work, and ask for help when we need it, this journey has no limits for any of us. What would add to your happiness? What stands in the way of that? I would love to help you answer these questions and more if you are feeling stuck. With solid listening, complete trust in your abilities to handle what comes at you and no drama, I have the ability to help you see life circumstances in new ways. In the end, learning and teaching are not so far apart and together, if we use our experiences to find our truth, we make our own story great.



Coming Home



“We should have these conversations in front of people,” he said.

The first time I heard that statement, I 100% thought he was crazy.

“No pressure, just tell me when you are ready.”

And the talks would continue…about life, coaching, parenting, leadership, principles and reality, values and vision. From the first time we spoke at “The Way GRV” book booth in Dallas, Texas almost 3 years ago, Coach Chris’s and my perspectives, although very different, seemed to bounce back and forth with ease, which seems to be a rarity in this world today. Society, seems to find many ways to label and try to segment us off...age, race, gender, political party, sexuality and the list goes on. But I believe in the human ability to relate and learn, if we find the courage to listen and admit that we have the potential to be changed by another. We are so much more alike than different.

I have experienced a great deal of growth from both challenging my beliefs, and standing my ground. I can be equally inspired by what a chip on your shoulder can do for accomplishment, and yet believe so deeply in the ideas that I reserve headspace for, that I have the ability to speak up when I don’t agree; not too long ago that wasn’t the case. I know that being real is at the heart of my expression and that the better we understand ourselves and how our life experiences relate to universal truths like love, forgiveness, courage, and intuition, the easier it is for us to find sustained happiness and help others along the way. I operate from the premise that we are all works in progress doing the best we can. It’s optimistic for some, but it works for me. The more we focus on the way we play our hand, instead of whether the guy next to us is bluffing or has a royal flush, the better our days will be, and the greater ability we give ourselves to maximIze our potential.

These are some of my truths that come from a lot of soul searching since that Dallas meeting in 2016. My opinion and ability to challenge my comfort zone changed for the better since then as well. So last Tuesday night, The Optimists Journal, my generational learning, storytelling venture, held its first speaking event in my hometown, Fresno. Even though I’m a introvert, life for me is about the connection I feel with people and those moments when we are all feeling understood. One of the good things about getting older is feeling the gratitude i have for the relationships built with others who have helped strengthen and support me throughout my life. From the closest relationships like my parents, children’s godparents, and friends of 20 plus years who have taught me the meaning of loyalty and trust, to my high school coach who taught me about grinding and being tough, and even the pharmacists who would ease my mind with their knowledge (and home delivery, thanks Bullard Pharmacy!) when one of my kids was suffering from their 30th ear infection, Tuesday night filled my heart with so much joy for the connections we share.

There were so many high points to this conversational experience, my favorites among them were the questions asked by the audience and the engagement I felt with them, especially when they said they didn’t want an intermission! But, as with any first event, there are also things to learn from that I want to improve as we go.

Tuesday night was my first conversational experience with an audience, and, although Chris and I have a lot of words between us, there was little to no rehearsal because I want my talks to reflect the flow of life, and…

life is not a rehearsal.

My writing, and now my talks, are about greater universal truths...confidence, forgiveness, self love, and so many others. That being said, there is no single situation or experience that I am trying to shed light on through my conversation. One of the things I have learned is that we each create our own destiny and for me to have an opinion about what is anyone else to own, does very little to change anything. And the truth is that we rarely have enough information to make an accurate judgment anyway.

I have done hard work to understand why I stand where I do today. Themes of fear, unworthiness, and lack of self confidence are among the things I have worked on to improve my own story. With the growth i have made in these areas, they are among my favorite things to write and talk about in hopes that it can help someone else on their journey.

From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank you enough for showing up, engaging, listening and helping me grow in my journey Fresno. You’ve always been there before, but it feels so good to know that nothing has changed. Best people, love of my roots.

Would you do me a huge favor Fresno? If you were in the audience, send me your feedback! Things you liked, areas for improvement, more that you want to talk about? Tell me everything, I can take it!

CLICK TO TAKE THE SURVEY!

Thanks for listening and being a part of my story.

The Boy of Yesterday, The Man of Tomorrow

My second born, Luke, turned 17 this week, as the world sees it, the last year of childhood. The irony of being someone’s child is that you will never know how much you are loved until you aren’t that child anymore.  As a kid, you don’t understand why your mom can remember the exact time of your birth, or how it caused such stress because you used to choke on everything she put in front of you. As with most any mom, it’s impossible for me to look at my 6’6 inch man-child without seeing my Thomas the Train obsessed little guy…the calmest, easiest kid.  You could take him with you anywhere from day one, no problem. In his middle years, his favorite line for me has been

How is stressing about it going to help mom?”

I think junior year may have altered his thinking just a little, but his blood pressure is still shockingly low. 

It’s a heavy realization that I have a boy, who is almost a man. I have been thinking a lot about how a strong woman can raise an equally strong man, when strength is perceived and valued so much differently between the sexes. I don’t get lost in small things like who opens the door (even though I still teach him to do so, because I still value a gentleman) or who pays, because financial independence is crucial to anyone’s confidence and self sustainability no matter who you are.  But, I do have a few ideas that I feel have positive impact that I hope don’t get lost in teenage translation and the business of everyday life…even if it gets me dubbed “philosopher mom” sometimes. 

  1. Understand that you were born into a power position in this world. Of course this is nothing to feel guilty about, but find gratitude and be wise and compassionate with what you have been given. From day one, you have had things that others work entire lifetimes for, and yet most may never have what you have today.  You have already walked the halls of incredible educational establishments and I am confident that will continue.  Allow that knowledge to build your perspective and connect you with those who have not had the same experience as you have.  Don’t let it separate you or cause you to look down on anyone.  Recognize the struggle that others experience that you have been spared just based on your birth, and try to put yourself in their shoes instead of just walking in your own…it will enrich your life in ways you can’t even imagine. Above all, be a leader who never abuses the power that sits naturally on your shoulders.

  2. Feel all of your feelings. True peace comes when we know how to wrestle with our more difficult feelings because a stronger and better version of ourselves is on the other side. One of the best parts of life as we get older is to continue the learning process when it’s not a mandate. Be an observer, and even a believer, in life’s twists and turns. Even when they seem unpleasant, they are leading us to our destiny. Never turn to any substance that dulls your senses instead of feeling things, trust that you are strong enough to handle what comes at you in your God given natural state and you will be. When we work to know the root of any sadness that we encounter, we discover how to be simply and sustainably happy.

  3. Learn how to manage conflict, not everything fits neatly in your plan. There is always struggle in a big life and moments of conflict give way to deeper relationships and understanding if we have the courage to navigate it with strength and respect. Great minds do not always think alike, and learning to value their differences brings so much beautiful contrast and more amazing ideas into this world. If you think you are right all the time, please start to wonder.

    My favorite thing about the passing of this birthday was what I realized as I was searching for pictures I wanted to post to celebrate. Luke you are a natural protector, and it makes me so proud. The safety you can offer with your gentle spirit in this world is so deeply needed. My hope is that you always protect from a place of confidence and in a way that makes your world and that of those around you a bigger, brighter place.  I love you to the moon and back, keep hugging, jumping and leading the way you do, you have an amazing ride ahead of you.


MY ELEPHANT JOURNAL BLOG - How A Fortune Cookie's Simple Wisdom Led To My Happiness Contract

My latest fortune cookie was full of simple wisdom: “Don’t pursue happiness, create it.”

It’s only the second time I’ve ever saved a fortune—and the other one (prominently displayed on my bulletin board) says: “You will write a book.”

Tying those two together, I wanted to get some words down to continue to train my craft—and also to have something to reflect upon on a day when perhaps life isn’t looking quite so rosy.

1. I will slow down and be grateful. I have learned that even through hard times, I can always find something to be grateful for. When I count up and concentrate on these things, I can’t help but smile. Being grateful stops the question “why me?” in its tracks. If I move too quickly, it’s easy to lose track of the small things that deserve big gratitude.

2. I will never compromise my position as the leader of my own life. I will make choices and put in the work that leads to my happiness. My happiness will enhance the lives of people around me. Other people matter, but if I put them first, I get lost.

3. My actions will speak louder than my words. If I am speaking the words, but not following them with actions to reinforce or achieve my goals, the void that is left between the two creates a desperate battle with my ego where happiness cannot exist. My ego stays healthy when it is humbled by the work that needs to be done to create lasting happiness.

4. I will handle conflict with honesty, respect, and understanding. But, I will not compromise for the sake of agreement. Happiness comes with the confidence of knowing and trusting myself. Escaping the need to have people come alongside and agree with me allows me to live freely. My freedom and happiness are inextricably linked.

5. I will seek the place where my mind, body, and spirit connect. I will critically select content that has the power to expand my mind. Podcasts,books, articles, and even movies can elevate our thoughts and develop our minds. Selection is key, so don’t cram—and by all means, choose things that won’t set you back. Adequate sleep, healthy food, and exercise set my body on track for maximized happiness. Without these, I am foggy and unable to manage complicated situations and emotions. My faith and freedom allow me to be myself, which feeds my spirit and guides my intuition. My biggest steps away from lasting happiness happened when I’ve silenced my intuition and didn’t listen to my own gut.

5. Most importantly, it is no one else’s job to create happiness for me. No friend, partner, or child in my life is responsible for helping me find or sustain my happiness. Creating lasting happiness is not about keeping my ego fed with compliments or pats on the back reinforcing that I am doing the right thing. True happiness comes when my insides and my outsides are a genuine reflection of each other. It takes courage to find that place—and I will seek it every day.

CLICK HERE TO READ MY BLOG ON THE ELEPHANT JOURNAL SITE

Blending Life

I have two Instagram accounts, my personal one is called @faithinthejourney, I changed the name from something way more generic when my life shifted and it has become a family tag line…”oh watch out, you’re about to make faithinthejourney” one of my teenagers will joke.  The truth is, those words mean a lot to me because my faith is what sustains me and fills me with the deepest sense of gratitude for all of the beauty in my life and always grounds me in the knowledge that things that happen are so much bigger and far reaching than my own experience. The other one, my “business account”, is @theoptimistsjournal. It’s intended to cast a bigger net into the blogosphere, definitely still the real me, but lacking on the more minute details of my life.  It’s where my perspective meets the universal truth of this world and an outlet for my philosophical mind. 


Today, a close friend of mine posed a question about The Optimists Journal, after I finished an interview that I can’t wait to post. I had the best time having this amazing conversation with Dene Logan Selkin, an absolutely golden yoga teacher and therapist. about relationships, being a mom, yoga…some of the best things in life. But back to the question my friend asked:

“What’s your goal [with The Optimists Journal] ” he asked. 


As I pondered the answer to this, so many things ran through my mind; is it to spread a message, to help people, to make money, to have a voice and an outlet in this noisy world? There isn’t a right answer, but there is my answer.  

What I have learned since I started this journey, is that it’s ok for answers to evolve as we grow and learn. There are so many human factors that fit into the equation of conceptualizing and achieving  goals.  For me, I want to tell stories and connect with people because I feel on such a deep level that it’s the reason I am here on this earth.  I sense it in the moments of understanding I have with others everyday, especially when I take the time to slow down, ask questions and look people in the eye.  But close behind are thoughts about self confidence, privacy, comparison, and freedom sift through my brain like those card shufflers in Vegas.  I’ve done enough self reflection to realize where my hot button issues lie…and yet I also know that my issues aren’t much different than so many other people (back to that universal truth again) and so I move forward…some days with accents of my old trademark timidity. More often now, I move with growing confidence that I am here to hit a long ball, not achieve something overnight with one post, story or interview. But every word I write or conversation I get to have about knowing ourselves better so that we can be get the most out of our lives and be of service to others just raises my energy levels to higher heights.

My goal of creating more meaning in my life with each idea and endeavor and also a business are not at odds. It is going to take sustained confidence, discipline and patience though. The cool thing I know now, is that those qualities have been in growth mode for a long time, I just didn’t realize it.  

As I push this passionate storytelling project that is The Optimists Journal down the road, I realize how lucky I am to be able to blend my passion for writing and connection with a beautiful and blessed life. On this journey, there have been some amazing takeaways that make me feel comfortable in my own skin in a way I never thought was possible.  The feeling of connecting with your bravest, truest self, even just in glimpses, gives the greatest sense of freedom and discovery that I hope every human being gets to feel in their lifetime.  It’s the concept of flow and knowing myself that I seek now on a daily basis, even as it draws tears, chills, struggles and then triumph.  It presents it’s moments of truth that are challenging, but the rush of knowing that I get to spend each day of my life living this story, and that I get to write it with my own brand of optimism, hard work and discipline is more exhilarating than I ever thought possible. To press on towards my goal means I get to know myself honestly, to help others along the way and create a business doing what I enjoy. My brain is full, but it doesn’t feel like work. Maybe some learn this stuff at a much younger age (I do call myself a late bloomer) but in the end, I’m learning that even a day spent in this sweet spot is enlightening and once we feel it, it’s a pretty tough place to want to leave. 

Choose Your Energy

I’m processing a lot of learning in one short week. It started out at Brigadoon, a fantastic conference of 50-60 attendees in Sundance, Utah where I got to talk about optimism and my book, 365 Days of Optimism, alongside other topics like Artificial intelligence, living fearlessly, and U.S/China relations (variety is the spice of life) and, am ending it after a whirlwind 24 hours at Wisdom 2.0 in San Francisco with 4000+ attendees discussing the intersection of technology and matters of the heart, mind and human potential. Both environments were beyond welcoming and stimulating. There are so many amazing thinkers and doers out there making things happen that don’t always show up on the front page and I am feeling so connected and encouraged. I have more notes and content than I can possibly process in this short week, that I want a little more time to digest, but there is one easy takeaway from this amazing week…

We get to choose our the energy we spend and the energy we surround ourselves with, and how we do that makes such a difference. This week, I choose well, and am reaping the benefits as my heart and mind are full of the promise of what is possible in life.

As human beings, we are wired for connection. On almost a primal level, we want to be part of each others experiences and lives. Some of us are so sensitive to each other and our experiences it almost hurts. When we begin to understand our purpose, whether that’s at eight, 80 or somewhere in between, we encounter serendipitous moments with others and brand new connections. From there we can build relationships that run far deeper than that. We all want to be understood, and even look for others to come along side and support us in our life story, and that is undoubtedly one of the most wonderful feelings. What I have realized though, is that until we can stand squarely on our own two feet, feel different, even unaccepted, and still know that we are living our own unique truth, we can’t relax into the moment and know that we are ready to face whatever life throws at us. And then the best relationships and connections come after that.

Our lives create so many stories, sometimes they seem to just happen to us and we have to confront the question of why, or worse, why me? But as the saying goes, life is 10% what happened and 90% how we react to it. This has been an empowering statement for me because discovering my own resiliency has proven to be a major catalyst for growth in my life, but this week I am seeing another side to it.

There will be stories in our lives that we wish didn’t happen the way they did. There will be growth and healing that come from those stories. Often, there will be human interactions that wound us deeply, and our challenge is not only to recover, but learn to live with more passion and meaning because of it. When we live through these experiences though, we begin to uncover the beauty that is discovered when we boldly write our own life story and choose the energy we feel best around. We get to seek it and surround ourselves with that energy, and then make life a beautiful place again despite our struggles. This is something I work on everyday, because I understand the energy that makes me feel capable, valued and alive and my highest calling and best example flows from there.

This week, I am so excited to announce a partnership with a dear friend of mine, Lori Kirk, who has brought so much support and good energy into my life over the years in so many different ways. Lori has used the adversity she has encountered to discover her passion, transforming her health after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 52. Come visit the new Collaboration Corner at TheOptimistsJournal.com this week to hear more about Lori and see how we can make your life and home a healthier (and therefore happier) place to be!

Honor Your Path

A lot of my thinking these days includes concepts that seem to have levels of contradiction. As we move on in this life, it seems that so many experiences can’t be deemed all good, or all bad. There is a lot of truth in those shades of gray (and I’m not talking about the book, never read it.) Nothing has taught me this lesson more than experiencing the pain of divorce, but knowing that I have four children who are exactly who they are meant to be. Little by little, I let go of the idea of what I thought had to be right, and see what is healthy, satisfying, and free. 


There was a time when I said that as long as I could make a difference around my own family dinner table, that was my highest and best use.  Although I believe that the dinner table is a place where so many of the world’s troubles can be minimized, I think that was also a story I told myself because I knew that the more ambitious dreamer in me couldn’t be fully seen and still have a happy home life. There is so much that goes into building a platform like The Optimists Journal and, the more I am out there doing that, I see a world of people seizing the day and following their dreams…despite the questions, fear, and intimidating circumstances that anyone attempting to do something on their own will encounter.  Everyday I push a line between a new big, strong minded world, filled with things and judgments that both scare and challenge me, and a small world filled with short term comfort, but that is followed by the let down that I feel when I choose not to challenge myself. When I have the courage to push my storytelling platform forward by asking for the interview, talking about my book, 365 Days of Optimism , shoot video (something that would bring tears to my eyes just months ago) or set up for a new speaking event, the exhilaration I feel is unparalleled.  Along this path, there is always the sting of rejection, because my vision doesn’t always translate to everyone on the first meeting or conversation (or maybe ever) but I’m getting so much better at not letting that derail my belief in deciding what I feel is crucial to deliver with The Optimists Journal content.

I am so energized as my new endeavors cross over with my regular life, like today, when I got to play eight games of volleyball with friends, enjoy the sunshine and dolphins jumping just west of the courts at 16th St., and then shoot some video about gratitude, optimism and this beautiful life that is here for all of us to seize if we only have the courage to listen to our calling.

One of the ironies of the human condition is that we want so much to belong to a group, to fit in, but we are the most energized when we are being true to ourselves.

This is something I feel the pull of on a daily basis, but have come to learn that the only way forward for me is not to shrink back into comfort and look for approval from other people, but follow my vision, knowing that I am the same person I have always been, only stronger and more independent minded today…something I am grateful to have the strength to keep challenging.

I believe in my vision for The Optimists Journal because I know that our ability to tell our stories and self reflect has a direct effect on the quality of our relationships.  Self reflection is brave, telling your story is scary.  So many of our stories are marked by imperfection and we judge ourselves so harshly. I don’t believe that any choice is unforgivable, but that learning from those choices is invaluable to our growth and the patterns that we create in our relationship with ourselves and other people. As I wrestle with my own imperfections and missteps, and learn to have strong healthy boundaries, the compassion I feel for other people continues to grow, and from there I am open to learn so much more.

Our capacity for self reflection is also important because it gives us the ability to regulate our emotions. We learn that our experiences are fleeting, and pass so quickly, that not every emotion needs to be acted upon.  When we learn to feel but not act, we reach a level of maturity that adds a freedom and calmness to our days and provides a grounded nature that no one can take away.  I continue to hone that skill daily and, although far from perfect, I work on it because I have felt the satisfaction of not being knocked off course by the emotions that rise up within me.

As humans, each of our paths is unique, meant especially for us to walk.  They are distinctly different and deserve to be honored.  Don’t let the fear of judgment and the need to fit in pull you off of your path, the lesson is the same at 13, 44, and beyond.  It can feel lonely at times to honor the path we were born to walk, but it has been my experience that just when that path is feeling especially dark and quiet, we find the right connections that help light our way.

Stay tuned for some exciting announcements next week about a partnership that will bring valuable information to The Optimists Journal to make your home a more healthy place in a seamless and easy way. It’s fun for me to bring relationships that I am grateful to have, despite the miles and experiences between us, into the growth I am experiencing here.


Bolder Today

I would definitely consider myself a creature of habit, one who thrives on routine, and enjoys little things like choosing my coffee mug every day and counting my blessings for the roof over my head and the computer that I have to do my writing.  Based on the standard, my life, even with its crazy ups and downs is seriously above average. The ups and downs I speak of are what have caused me to do a lot of seeking, contemplating, and work, to understand myself and why I am here on this earth. My whole life I have looked for patterns and meaning but now, as I get older, I want to know how it all adds to my path and what actions I can take to create my best possible life and hopefully help others along the way too.  

I was visiting with Neda (check her out on IG @nedaheals), the amazing energy healer in Redondo Beach, who I did an interview with (click link here).

While I have always considered myself somewhat timid and definitely shy, she pointed out to me the other day that, as I walk this new path of single motherhood, independent life, and needing to be both nurturer and producer at the same time, my choices for how I am setting up my goals for The Optimist Journal march straight into the path that I am most afraid of.  It wasn’t something that I had considered before but, as she spoke, I saw that she was right.  

The path of creating a blog and website to help people tell their stories and learn from mine, and other healers that cross my path, puts me directly in front of the things I have feared most. Not only do I have a new book to promote, (as I said before, the writing is the fun part) I am stepping out of my comfort zone and announcing two speaking engagements as well.  The first I will do at Brigadoon 2019 in Sundance, Utah, on Feb 26. One of the slogans for Brigadoon is “No PowerPoints, ever.” Boy is that right up my alley, no technology, just a conversation on my topic of optimism and my new book, 365 Days of Optimism…easy enough for me because it feels so organic.

The second event is in my hometown of Fresno, on March 26, where I will have an original, one on one conversation with Coach Chris P Austin,  two-time NCAA Champion, about how we as humans learn from both the principles we apply to our lives and the experiences that we encounter and create along the way. Do principles or experiences serve us best? Is it a combination of both? How do experiences and our principles affect coaching and parenting kids today? How do they affect our relationships and our own heroes journey that every human has the gut instinct to seek? And those are just a few of the questions we will talk about in our conversation. I promise this conversation will be nothing short of interesting, relevant and valuable.

Flyer Page 1

Flyer Page 2 

Back to Neda and what she noticed in me, that actually helped me see myself as braver than I believed myself to be before our talk. She showed me that in laying out my plan to create The Optimists Journal and help people heal generational pain, I dove headlong into confronting my biggest insecurities and the things that scare me most. 

  1. I am afraid of being seen.  I have stood up in front of crowds and forgotten what I was supposed to say, it may have been fourth grade, but it hung with me. Then as I got older, being noticed caused me a lot of trouble in my relationship.  If I did something well, there would be a moment of recognition for whatever I would accomplish and that felt good, but too quickly it would turn into defending myself for whatever attention was given, which created a pattern of shrinking back and not fulfilling my purpose.  It felt like being a turtle who sticks her neck out only to have something scare her quickly to make her retract into her shell.

  2. I am not an expert in anything. There is no Dr. before my name and my degree from Cal Poly SLO has absolutely nothing to do with this creative endeavor. The more I live though, I am convinced that as long as I am an expert learner and my mind stays open, the things I gather as a student of life give me great human credentials. No book is shut, no idea fully developed in my line of thinking. There is always room to improve, learn something new, even change an opinion or two if the right argument is presented. Raising four totally different humans beings, learning from love, loss, sports and everything else that each day of my life has brought forth is reason to celebrate, share and speak up…especially if its exactly what scares me most. 

So as I was reminded tonight as I read the weekly newsletter, The Long Game,

https://www.getrevue.co/profile/taylor-somerville/issues/the-long-game-issue-100-159336

written by Taylor Somerville, a guy I met when I took part in an XPT Life Experience in Malibu,

https://www.xptlife.com/product-category/experiences/fitness-vacations/

who is boldly carving his own path as well, I will focus on my process and my work and let the expectations, the thoughts of others, and even the results fall away. If I can achieve that in my head and heart, success is not just a potential but a guarantee.

Big Dreams, Small Steps

Have you ever felt yourself standing on the edge of the neat and organized world where everything appears to make sense from the outside but it feels small, like you know there is something more out there that just won’t stop calling? The line between the big, strong minded world, and the small thinking, scared world looms large for me these days.  These worlds are both right at our fingertips.  I see them distinctly in almost every decision I make…sink back into comfort or charge forward into the kind of unknown that is both exciting and makes my heart pound and my brain hurt most days. Perhaps that has something to do with growing my own vision and knowing that for my heart to be content, I need to keep striving to push it forward.  There are a few rules I have realized that have helped me in these tougher moments of self doubt when the big world is calling but the fear is real.  

Rule #1 - THE BIG WORLD WILL NEVER BE PERFECT

One of my dearest friends put it best -

“If I can’t start with everything in place, I can’t start yet.”

I don’t think I’m blowing a big secret here, but in case you haven’t noticed, EVERYTHING IS NEVER IN PLACE! Not since I was 20, rented one room, and did only my own laundry, could I fall into bed with that wonderful feeling that everything was finished, and done the way I liked it. Don’t let your quest for the ideal keep you from the daily grind that will get you where you want to go (eventually!).  Perfectionism actually makes us think small, because it is so hard to have anything in this world be perfect, we are doomed before we start… so we convince ourselves, why start? Then, with our lack of action, that sense of overwhelm comes along, self doubt kicks in, and we have no energy to take the small consistent steps that can lead to our greatest accomplishments, not to mention we miss the beautiful journey along the way. This journey may or may not include some roughly folded towels and undone dishes…but that’s up to you to decide.

Rule #2 - CONSISTENCY IS THE NAME OF THE GAME

Consistency has always been, and will remain, the key to growth & success.  We live in the time of instant gratification.  We can order almost anything and have it on the doorstep in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes.  We can have our questions answered in seconds.  So what does that do to our attention span and ability…to wait?  Anything worth keeping takes time to foster and grow.  Small steps can be tedious, even trying at times, but if we let ourselves see slow growth as lack of progress, we don’t sustain the energy to see our goals to completion. 

Judgment and jealousy will not lead you into the bigger world. Don’t spend your time thinking about what other people are thinking, or allow their day to day to become your concern.  Goals are accomplished when we use our inner strength to make things happen, and then back it up with our consistent efforts.  Sure we can have cheerleaders or a connection or two, but that will never be what gets us where we want to go. I have had people in my life that if I concern myself with “what would they think” would stop me in my tracks. Over time, I’ve learned to take back that power. 

My vision, my decision. 

Big visions look small to the outside world when they are only being seen out of one persons eyes. But you won’t get the sustaining energy to accomplish your dreams from anyone but yourself.

Rule #3 - JUDGEMENT MAY BE NATURAL BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT IT

This could also be called the 1% rule…and I’m not talking about the highest earners in America.  What I have learned is that other people understand about 1% of what is going on in our lives, and we know the same about them.  Only a small inner circle really gets to know our heart and mind.  If we let the perception of the other 99% affect our reality, our world feels small and closed off. It takes confidence and courage to bring our dreams to fruition…and that can be a lonely road at times, but I have felt the rush of energy, even flow, when I am being brave and living my own dream, no matter what anyone else thinks. Once you’ve felt that a few times, the bigger world looms much larger on the horizon.  

It seems that we will never know which small step was the game changer, but slow and steady, the path to success becomes apparent. Have faith that each small thing plays a role in the the big picture…and don’t wait another day to take that first step.

Force vs. Flow

In a conversation this past week about life and the goals I am trying to achieve with The Optimists Journal, my wise and close friend said to me, 

“it’s already in your heart, it’s making its way to your head, and then it can flow freely through your voice”

It made immediate sense to me, and I’m working on it. I think that’s a big part of why I like writing so much, it’s a conduit that gives me time to move the words from my heart to my head. I learned so much about that process writing and publishing 365 Days of Optimism. As I move forward sharing my book and new ventures for The Optimists Journal, sometimes the patterns from past life experience chime in, there is excitement and enthusiasm and then all of a sudden a gripping sense of self doubt that feels almost paralyzing. The scar tissue and triggers born from some of life’s tougher moments rear their ugly heads, and I feel myself take a step backward. Doing new things is scary, there is no way around it. I push forward because I have a vision of something great, that elevates the level of social media and the vast amount of informational space that is the internet, but in the very next moment, I am longing for that comfort of what I have always known in my life…complacency speaking loud and clear. 

That gap between comfort and becoming, is the difference between surviving and thriving, baseline and best life…and I think I am just rounding the corner to allow myself to envision maximum potential.

Often it seems we have to sustain one of life’s disappointments or even devastations to shake us enough to contemplate what that best life looks like.  Only when we are brave enough to seek next level awareness, can we heal our wounds and slowly but surely lower the stress on our nervous system enough to process life in a way that achieves calm and flow. I still, even just this past week, experienced setbacks on this path, but thankfully, the adjustment back to the higher and clearer mind comes quicker these days. 

So often, I feel the pull between the big bright world of thinkers and doers, the place where I want to live and achieve my goals, and the small world of judgment and scarcity, as if there are finite amounts of confidence, generosity and kindness out there that we have to fight to receive before it’s gone. I am grateful that as the weeks and months go by, and I am brave enough to stick my neck out there, although there may be criticism and doubt, I get to sit in the presence of calm, present and open minded people that know there is enough space for everyone’s success in this world. With these minds, there is no gaming or territory to protect, just good conversation, action and a commitment not to force but to flow. Check out this interview with Cassidy Lichtman, Stanford All-American, former USA National Volleyball Team Member, currently working for Shift7 in Washington DC helping to create solutions that move society forward for the an example of one of these conversations.

INTERVIEW WITH CASSIDY LICHTMAN

Although force can be goal oriented, it is ego driven. Force always tries to act fast, sometimes before we have the full capacity to feel. Force compares accomplishments and keeps track of the imaginary finish line. Force makes us tired and then looks for validation from the outside to sustain the our energy.  In short, force is always calling for backup.

When we evolve enough to find even brief states of flow as we work toward our goals, we can be patient, because the process itself is so enjoyable and worthy. Flow attracts believers and like minds. Flow always propels us forward.  One of the most interesting things I learned about flow just this week is that the requirements for finding flow are different for everyone, based on our character traits. As part of the Catalyst Coaching Intensive, a life coaching course I am participating in, we took the VIA Character assessment and discovered the makeup of positive psychology personality traits that make up each of our personalities. For any individual, the top five traits in our personality must be in play to for us to achieve a state of flow. If you are interested, you can take the VIA here:

VIA CHARACTER ASSESSMENT

This deeper level of understanding of ourselves can add so much calm and clarity to our lives but also adds more work. Once you have experienced flow, even for a brief amount of time, it’s easy to feel why that work is only something to be grateful for.

Stay tuned in the next week for some exciting announcements about fun and engaging long form conversations that I am taking on the road, first to my hometown of Fresno, that aim to bring more flow and optimism to our lives.

Writing for Regeneration

She said, “ I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have a pain, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

This Maya Angelou quote, in a beautifully rugged wooden frame, was the first thing I bought when I started decorating for myself.  It hangs at the top of my stairs and I read it every day.  There are few writers whose words have a greater impact on me than hers…Ann Lamott might tie for influence in linking the universe with our beautifully imperfect lives with quotes like:

“The most profound thing we have to offer our children is our own healing.”

Maya’s words inspire me to consider every day the impact I have on other people, Ann’s challenge me to stand squarely and believe in the the hard fought wisdom I have gained in my 44 years. We all have different gifts, different ways of being and connecting, and one thing for certain is that the only truth we have a full understanding of is our own. We only get small pieces of the life stories going on around us, and they only get small pieces of ours, so learning to stand strong in our own truth and have confidence in ourselves without outside validation is an integral part of learning to live freely. I wrote my book, a series of quotes than strengthened my resolve to love myself more, and become more courageous and confident.

As a writer, quotes are a roadmap of consciousness for how to leave the path that I travel better off because I walked it.

Being a writer is something that I am just beginning to consider myself. I’m proud to say that I don’t hesitate or qualify my response anymore if someone asks me what I do.  

“I’m a writer.”  

It’s a vulnerable statement. It feels much more vocation than profession most of the time.  Can I support myself with my talent?  Do I have an area of expertise?  I used to think all of these questions needed to be answered before I could claim the title. My book, 365 Days of Optimism, CLICK LINK was published almost two weeks ago and so many people have commented to me, “now for the fun part!”. But one of the ways that I know I am sinking a little deeper into a writers shoes is because those words for me can’t be farther from the truth. The writing and creating is what frees me, the promoting… well, lets just say I already want to write another book.

But as I climb my stairs every day and read Maya’s words, I know that my words can affect how I make people feel. Hopeful, inspired, loved, accepted, optimistic. This is my aspiration.  If I can affect the emotions,  awareness, or positively influence the journey of even one reader with my words, the effort is well worth it, and a lot of the time, that reader is me. Sorting through my thoughts and emotions through my words has been the best kind of healing. If you are (and I find we almost all are) going through something, I highly recommend pulling out a journal or opening a new file, even if its just for you. Clarity flows through both the pen and the keyboard.

Writing is how I communicate best.  The calm in being able to think things through and pour them out into words and the ability to connect the greater universal truth with the specific experiences of life is blissful.  Creativity is a two sided coin, one side freedom, one side discipline.  It seems to me that the best writers master both.  Sometimes the various thoughts swirl and the connections between them don’t come as easily, but writers write anyway, and eventually we discover them again. Exercising the freedom to express your truth takes bravery, but the next step, the part that makes my writing come alive, is the courage to back up my writing with the actions in my life.  Even when other people don’t see the whole picture, or operate from a different mindset than me, I have learned that the way I sleep best at night is when I am standing on my own two feet and being uniquely and unapologetically me, believing in my own mission and purpose. That’s when people feel my calm, a gift I know that I have to give when I’m in the right heart space. I’ve spent a lot of years having my judgment questioned and my confidence has finally risen to a level that I don’t sway with the wind of other peoples desires and opinions. I’m willing to listen and learn, but I am content these days having my feet squarely on my own path.  My faith assures me that I am but a small piece in a huge picture, and this further helps the self doubt to move into a smaller corner of my brain. When I am operating in this space, the sky is the limit, it’s where flow is born.  

I’ve spent the last few years learning to hear my intuition clearly again.  It’s been a daily slug fest with self doubt and worthiness that has been intense.  If you are in this place too, keep fighting through.  There is nothing more rewarding than discovering the deeper layers of ourselves. It can be a gut wrenching process, but there is room for each of our perspectives in this bright and complicated world, don’t be afraid to add yours.

One of the greatest insights I’ve gained through this transformational experience, is to better understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Sympathy was there to greet me when I was at my lowest, but empathy is what stuck around, cheered me on, pushed me and wanted to see me grow.

I’ve found that sympathy often wants to swoop in and save me, but on terms or conditions that are not authentic for me. That looks different to many who were around before I found my way closer to my real self. There is always room for more growth, that is what keeps this one journey we’ve been given fresh, interesting and always moving forward, even through the messiness and missteps. But there is no freedom making choices to solely please others and losing yourself in the process. Even if my circle is smaller and path less populated with fans, I will take true understanding of myself and my experience any day of the week. if you find yourself in the position of having to start over again, believe me, the desire, and hard fought ability, to do it on your own terms is a silver lining…and I am always looking for those.

Cultivating Growth

What am I good at? What do I know? What do I do? Not even a year ago, these questions would bring tears to my eyes because I felt such a deep sense of not knowing, even inadequacy, that the lump would immediately rise in my throat. The incongruent angles and lines that are my life are not easy to make sense of at this point. What I thought I knew continues to shift and change. I know a little about a lot of things, and that left me feeling less than confident. Today I can say that I have been staring down that feeling of less than for the last year and, as I try to do the next right thing on a daily basis, that feeling is fading away.

Today I brought my everyday best friend, volleyball partner (and partner in so many of life’s good things) to spend time in Fresno, surrounded by people from my childhood and my high school years, to celebrate the life of Nancy Taylor (who i wrote about here). 


https://theoptimistsjournal.com/blog-2/2018/11/20/the-paths-that-lead-us-home

The celebration of her life brought the most wonderful people together to tell stories, and to laugh and cry together. We even had those moments where generations confess the crazy stories of the past. As I sat and listened, I realized what I’m good at, and how much of it is a part of upbringing. 

I know how to make things grow.

That’s what we do where I’m from. You pass the signs: “Raisin Capitol of the World” “Cantaloupe Capitol of the World”. You name it, I know someone who grows it.

We are proud to tell you what we grow and show you how we do it. But then, I realize it runs so much deeper than that. It’s generations of people, figuring out what grows in what soil, how to take care of things to make them thrive, how to weather hardships and storms when your livlihood is on the line because no year, let alone a life, is perfect.

I was taught by people who know that growing things is not about perfection, but persistence. It’s about showing up when the conditions are less than perfect, and making the best out of situations you cannot control. Growing is even about getting stuck in the mud and figuring out how to get the heck out of it. It’s knowing that someone may have better soil or a bigger crop than yours, but that you are going to make the very best out of what you have made. It’s about having patience because everything good takes time to grow, and intuition to know that every living thing is going to take a little something extra or different to thrive...and then figuring out what that special ingredient is and taking care of it. 

I am so grateful that even though my feet are in the sand today, my roots were planted in heavy soil, so no matter where I go, I am strong enough to hold on and weather the storms that come my way. It’s what gives me the courage to put my work out there and let it be seen and to embrace this crazy journey that is mine. From good roots comes strong growth and the best way to learn and teach is by doing.



The Truth In Our Hearts

“Your heart will tell you things that your head never will, it’s important to listen.”

This was the last quote I put in my book, 365 Days of Optimism, and I’ve enjoyed the dialogue it has produced. I think it has drawn more comments from readers than any other quote I’ve posted and comments allow me to look at things from different angles. My quotes come from my own life experience and philosophy which I hope is always growing and not afraid to confront new ideas.  I have a true appreciation for the way other people think and enjoy running their thoughts up against my own.

As I was working on this blog, I picked up a new book that I was drawn to because of a post from @theangrytherapist, called To Love and Be Loved, by Sam Keen and within the first few pages my philosophy was pinging with his thoughts.

“But probe beneath the secular surface and you will find a spiritual intuition alive and well - but shy.” 

My heart is so intimately tied to my faith that this quote resonated with me. Spiritual intuition - such good words to describe the wisdom that lies in our hearts, and for so long I was afraid to listen to mine. I’ve discovered that it is where the truth of my own self worth lies, and listening to my heart has revived my belief in myself, challenged me to look honestly at my life and my patterns, and take responsibility for my choices.

I get it, being completely led by your heart, without the rational mind, can sound reckless. Freedom comes with a lot of power though, and human beings make mistakes. We don’t get a free pass from their consequences and have to learn how to move through and grow from our mistakes. But if given the choice to live a buttoned up dutiful life that doesn’t take in the quality of our free spirit, or live freely and learn from our mistakes, I choose the latter. I wouldn’t trade freedom for the myth of perfection any day of the week.

In my mind, we can still be successful, make a positive impact on our world, and follow our hearts if we rely on two other things that ultimately keep our head in the game too: 

  1. A set of core values that are cemented firmly in our hearts, but that are so embedded our brains we automatically believe them to be true. 

  2. The desire to keep perfecting the craft of living - even though we will never get there, the pursuit will lead to better days. 

These two rules take me out of a purely pleasure seeking state, which is what I believe can be the real danger in following just your heart.  As we grow, we have a choice as to how we wrestle with the big self-actualizing stories of our lives, and we have to be brave enough to figure out why we are who we are, and to confront the why’s and how’s of what leads us everyday. If we don’t our pain will follow us and manifest in the form of things like addiction and anxiety that hurt us and those around us and never allow for our best life.

For me, that’s where the heart comes in. As a historically timid rule follower with a traditional set of values, I’ve found that my heart will tell me the truth, while my head tends to conform to what is going on around me. While I need to use both, it takes more courage for me to listen to my heart. It’s the battle of being an original, allowing myself to be different, and being brave enough to stand on my own two feet when it looks different than everything around me, that has given me the most trouble in finding my real truth. It’s about finding that worthiness and knowing that it isn’t tied to conforming. When we don’t feel worthy, we don’t ask for what’s best for ourselves out of this life. Even with good habits and hard work, our spirit gets ignored. When I ignore my spirit, anxiety rises up in me like a scared cat with the fur standing straight up on her back. For more on that feeling, read here, I really enjoyed this article.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/01/why-empaths-highly-sensitive-people-suffer-with-chronic-anxiety/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Daily%20Mindful%20January%2012th%20-%20MUDWTR%20Banners%20%20Silver%20Fern%20Editorial&utm_content=The%20Daily%20Mindful%20January%2012th%20-%20MUDWTR%20Banners%20%20Silver%20Fern%20Editorial+Version+A+CID_492575e5f6107cad933d2427ead04ff8&utm_source=Email%20Marketing&utm_term=Read

For a long time I thought I could muscle through anything, but when I started listening to my intuition, that’s when I learned how to flow.  The heart is a muscle, and I have been open to a lot of training for mine over the years, both spiritually and physically, and am thankful for all that I have learned. I will keep training everyday and I look forward to a more free and compassionate life because I have learned to listen, in some of the scariest and most challenging times, and know that the truth in my heart is what has brought me through.



Brave Heart

Bravery is the focus of the new year for me. As I write this, I’m eating chocolate on a train through the Swiss Alps with one of my oldest and dearest friends who gets me completely (what a gift), taking in a view that I’m so grateful I get to see it brings tears to my eyes. Reality check, pinch me...creation is a miraculous thing and life is feeling pretty great.


As I waited at the train station before I got on, I caught up on some of my reading and, amazingly enough, the Wall Street Journal led me back to my faith. Peggy Noonan writes this week about political correctness and the arts. It’s a good read of course, take it in and let me know what you think. 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wsj.com/amp/articles/baby-theres-a-chilling-effect-outside-11546559097

As she talks about the experience of the artist she says:

“All artists are meant to be free and dar­ing. Their job, whether in drama, com­edy or mu­sic, is to ap­proach the truth—to ap­pre­hend it, get their hands on it and hold it up for a mo­ment for every­one to see. That’s a big job, a great one, and you can do it only if you’re brave.” 

Now, brave is not something that I have ever considered myself. In fact when I took the VIA Character assessment, (try it here- it’s fun and interesting) 

https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register

it didn’t register high on my list of character strengths…my top two were fairness and forgiveness. The cool thing about positive psychology though, is that every trait can be improved with dedicated work. The more I write and explore my faith, the braver I get. I have the heart of an artist, a writer in my case, and the pull of my intuition is not something I can ignore. If I do, it leads to the worst feeling of stagnation and deep dissatisfaction. 

Pope John Paul II, in his 1999 Let­ter to Artists, noted some­thing that, when I read it in Ms. Noonan’s column, struck a deep cord of understanding in my heart, and prompted me to read the entire letter. 

Here it is in - just in case:) Pope John Paul II is one of my heroes from as far back as I can remember. He had such a gentle way with wisdom and power.


http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_23041999_artists.html

“The artist faces a con­stant sense of de­feat. You’re work­ing, you’re try­ing, but it’s never as good as you wanted, as you dreamed. Even your most suc­cess­ful work only comes close. Artists are look­ing for “the hid­den mean­ing of things.” Their “in­tu­itions” spring from their souls. There is an “un­bridge­able gap” be­tween what they pro­duce and “the daz­zling per­fec­tion” of what they glimpsed in the cre­ative mo­ment. They forge on any­way.”

Oh my gosh, yes. That feeling of never quite good enough and always looking for the hidden meaning…every single day. I love it when something that I didn’t know was “a thing” is so brilliantly articulated. But despite any frustration, the infinite possibilities keep pulling me back to the vision...like “A Million Dreams” from the Greatest showman. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSQk-4fddDI

What I have discovered in my soul searching adventure, is that while I’m not wild, I am free, and free looks wild to many. I think what causes this perception, is when we don’t allow our own souls to be free, and we resort to judging others out of dissatisfaction with ourselves. We all have the ability to be true to ourselves and focus on our own best self, if we are brave enough. That’s the life I want, and the example I want to set for my kids. 

We hold ourselves back from our fullest life for so many human reasons.

My top three:

  1. Afraid of the judgment of others

2. Afraid of failure, which comes in more forms than I can count - broken hearts, financial loss, lost relationships, being misunderstood…(Big scary stuff that only faith can conquer for me)

3. Making the call as a parent that doesn’t produce the smile in the moment, but wisdom and intuition tell me is the right choice for the long haul (so much harder with teenagers than when they were little).

I experience freedom though, as I confront and work through these things, and the experience is equal parts exhilaration and deep contentment and, as always, mixed with a little fear.  As I walk the path, the truth beats the fear when I am brave enough to confront it. Wishing you the brightest and bravest 2019. Here’s to the accepting the challenge of staying brave.

Growth Minded Patriotism

I’m re-engaging in the political process after taking a long break since the last election cycle. Over the last couple of years, I switched from being a lifelong news junky who wrote letters to the editor frequently, to a podcast fanatic who was trying to figure out her own mindset and how to go forward in the midst of personal crisis. This happened because, more often than not, the news of the day didn’t help me maintain my usually optimistic mindset, and I had enough pulling on it already.

There are times when the micro of our own lives takes over the macro of the bigger world.

I have certainly been through that scenario over the last few years. But, i was raised to care, to participate, and to give back. Lately, I have found myself in some interesting conversation and debate and am feeling the pull back into the orbit of public policy. A big reason for this is because I believe that just because something is less than perfect or even has some glaring flaws, it shouldn’t be abandoned by people who have the capacity to improve the situation. I also believe that because my free thinking self does not paint party lines or come down on the anticipated side of every issue, my mindset is helpful in the modern day policy arena. As with a lot of things about me, my answers about many issues could surprise more than a few people. I’m also a believer that discourse sharpens our minds and gives us the ability to learn from new perspectives. I was raised in a home where opinions didn’t offend the way they do so often in the world today and am continually grateful for that.

The quest for power without a moral consciousness creates a void in leadership.

When I attended John McCain’s memorial service a few months back this was my thought regarding what we are dealing with in Washington today. As far as the leaders we are looking to today, I can’t think of any with a character defining story as heroic as Sen. McCain’s. In short, we don’t know where our leaders are coming from and what led them to want to govern?

As I listen to podcasts on leadership and growth mindset, I can’t help but think that our elected officials could benefit from some of these words and I have hoped I might find at least one or two of them sharing their wisdom over these particular airwaves. When I can’t, it makes me think that the skill set to rise in the political world today isn’t grounded in the character or mindset that I believe produces the best results. Newscasts shell us with information, but wouldn’t it be interesting to get the backstory and thought process on important votes or decisions? Tell us elected leaders, what inspires you, what are your guiding principles? I would be interested in the answers regardless of political party, or whether I agreed with the opinion. Give us something to bridge the gap that feels so wide between the elected and the electors.

As I freelance through my interests, looking for interesting interviews and story lines, politics is a glaring void because it feels almost impossible to generate an authentic story. People aren’t willing to open their mouths and share without a lot of conditions and understandings up front. But voting citizens would be well served by a leader’s transparency. We want to see that your goals are bigger than your own personal ambition, that they are for us and our normal lives. That was my example growing up.

Over the last couple of days, I watched the movie, Mary Queen Of Scots (highly recommend to any adult for a movie going experience) and read this essay from the Niskanen Center that is embedded in this article by David Brooks, one of my favorite columns as of late.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/opinion/centrism-moderate-capitalism-welfare.html

The movie made me think about why our democracy was born and, while far from perfect, how grateful I am to live in a country where power is not defined by lineage, marital status, religion or the ability to have a child. I do wish that I got to ride a horse up the cliffs of Scotland like that though.

The essay I read dissects, in a very intelligent and logical way, what we can do to bring our process from the more fanatical views of today to a more pragmatic approach that challenges our ability to think critically and not be so dogmatic in any of our judgments. I highly encourage the read if you have a political mind...the rest of you may start it and see what a political geek I really am. 

As I see it, our country is only as good as the sum of it’s parts, and I see myself as a strong one. To borrow an old phrase from back in the day...think globally, act locally. I have no desire to go to Washington, but every intention of making my own corner of the world as good as it can be, and let it grow from there. Here’s to tuning in and applying growth mindset to some pretty formidable issues. At least there is a lot of ground to gain in front of us.