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.

The Courage to Confront

My dad and I had the opportunity to celebrate our birthdays together for the first time in many years. Twelve days late for me and two days late for him but, nonetheless, totally worth the wait. When we get together, I can feel the power and purpose of generational learning (our ability to tell our stories and pass them down to the generations that come after us) in such a strong way.  He has the ability to set such a strong example of strength and selflessness at the same time…excellent qualities in a leader and a dad.

When we take the time to tell our stories, they have the chance to impart to younger generations what we have learned through life’s ups and downs. This is only part of the benefit of storytelling though because there is no guarantee that the knowledge sinks in, as so much in life is learned through our own experiences. However, one of my greater realizations about telling our stories is the ability it gives us to work through our own feelings from our life circumstances and sort through the effect they have on us. 

It can be difficult to process our perceived  negative emotions such as anger, sadness or rejection but, when we push these experiences away, they end up causing us even greater pain that manifests in addictions and insecurities. We almost always end up passing that pain on to other people.  You’ve heard the quote: 

“Hurt people hurt people.”

That experience has been proven to be true in so many circumstances in my life.

I watched this TED Talk 

https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage/transcript?language=en#t-21778

on “bad emotions” and it made me think deeper about what it means to be real about the difficult situations that life presents and yet keep an optimists lens on life.

As an optimist and growth mindset believer, I believe in our ability to reframe occurrences in our lives that seem negative or bad, into opportunities to learn and grow. As we move though our lives, we encounter heartbreak, loss and other pain that comes with the experience of a full life. When this happens, we can choose to dig deep and wrestle with the discomfort, or let those lessons become blows to our ego and security and give them the power to take over the best parts of us.  When we choose the route of avoidance, we become cynical, negative, or even look to criticize or belittle others, in an attempt to put out the flame of our own insecurity.  We become easily threatened by other peoples points of view and our world begins to shrink..a sad fact being that we all have so much to learn from each others perspectives. Little by little, comments sneak out and soon we are scratching away at the people we love the most, often because they are loyal and will take it from us.  In fact though, these are the very people we should be honoring with our words and deeds because of their unwavering loyalty.

It takes courage to process feelings instead of stonewalling, which only causes us to become more calloused and less vulnerable (which means less of the connection that we as humans are wired for) every time we decide to sweep something under the proverbial rug.  These days my ability to be transparent about my emotions is something I consider very important, whether in the form of tears, words or any other respectful communication. When we fail to deal with our feelings and emotions honestly, we create a situation in our own life where mediocrity is accepted and our ability to be transparent and know ourselves declines. Since self awareness is a top trait for a meaningful life, we leave ourselves in quite a bind.

I know that the only way I can teach my kids to handle their lives with honesty and connection is to tackle my own insecurities head on and stand strongly on my own two feet. Better out than in I tell them…we certainly aren’t there yet, but this is a topic that won’t fade for me, and I hope that future generations of my family will be able to thank me for it.  Clarity, courage and respectful confrontation…good goals to have for 2019. 

Why Not Be An Optimist?

“Let’s dig into the fresh bucket of optimism and if we fail we fail.” - Casey Jennings

Optimism has been mentioned in every podcast I have listened to lately. Whether it’s Bobbi Brown on Finding Mastery, Kai-Fu Lee on Impact Theory, or Casey Jennings on The Net Live, it seems the world is in need of an optimistic lens. In the first few pages of pro beach volleyball player Travis Mewhirter’s new book, We Were Kings, he too talks about the benefit of optimism in sports and life. It is even the message in my younger kids flag ceremony at school today. 

There is joy in being an optimist, but to remain one throughout life’s ups and downs, or to transform our outlook to become an optimist, our days must be grounded in discipline and hard work. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy yourself, or even take a day off once in awhile, but on the whole, we must define and honor our unique process. The process is what sets real optimism (which some like to call realism, I disagree) apart from just wearing rose colored glasses and believing that everything will just “work out” no matter what.

In my kitchen last night sat my daughter, less than one year out from being a college beach volleyball player, chatting with her friend, home on break, who is a current college beach athlete. In walks my son from practice, who, despite his effort and love for the indoor game, told his sister, “you guys are so lucky to have the beach opportunities you do, I love playing beach, it’s so fun.” I can’t help but wonder if part of the joy of beach for him is that it sits far away from the pressure of recruiting and grades and rosters that may or may not have your name on them. All of these things make us tougher and are part of what we learn as athletes when we rise through the ranks of our sport. Most athletes don’t forget the day they learned that there is someone out there better than them, whether that’s in 8th grade, at the Olympics, or somewhere in between. It’s real, we learn it, hopefully work harder, and move on. But real joy and love for any game is intoxicating and sits far apart from medals, accolades, recruiting, and the pressure that I see so many young athletes experience. I say that, and this is not negative self talk, because I have gained so much joy from sport, and don’t have any major accolades to speak of. I’ve learned so much about myself when I’m trying to race to the wall and want to take one more breath, but don’t. The adrenaline I get from a good block or kill, the conversations that happen in between races and games uncover some of the best, tough minded, dig deep realizations; I’ve discovered all of this without having even a dollar on the line. Now I’m 44, past my prime, but far from giving up what i love to do. Play volleyball, swim, do yoga, be active. Endorphins lead to optimism too.

The world my kids are growing up in is full of first world problems, privilege, pressure and instant gratification. It’s about SAT scores, medals and GPA’s, not whether there is food on the table or money for gifts at Christmas. They have been blessed with talents and resources, but it’s their reality, they don’t know any different, so it’s from that vantage point that I teach them. As a parent, the reason I have always come back to training character is because character isn’t relative. The fruits of love, kindness, resilience, forgiveness and yes, optimism translate no matter what life situation is in front of us.

Watching p1440, Kerri Walsh Jennings and team’s professional volleyball/health & wellness tour, role out their inaugural season is a lesson to younger generations of athletes and entrepreneurs on how to dig deep, learn as you go, and use the spirit of optimism to chart a strong course to success. I was one who downloaded the app, watched the live stream, and attended events. None disappointed. Is there room for improvement? Always...and they’ve asked. Do good business people make choices based on market conditions and what they learned from each event held and opportunity given? Yes, that’s what gives them a chance to survive and thrive. Adapt or perish, it works in business and in life. 

I don’t live like Kerri, I live like me. But I look to learn from people who have reached the top of their game, whatever that game may be. I ask them questions, see what they intake and include in their day, and it has helped me rise through my own personal struggles. I also understand firsthand what it’s like to be part of a start up, and want to see it succeed more than anything. I’ve been blessed to see that success happen once in my life before, and understand the blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights that are part of turning a dream into a reality. When you are in the zone, risking capital and hours of sweat equity, there is no room for naysayers, they suck your energy...action and optimism are what give the goal a fighting chance of being accomplished. 

The knowledge I have taken in along the way is not always from famous people. There are plenty of everyday hero’s that none of us will ever read about in any large scale format that I learn from everyday...like the one that a friend of mind quoted in a birthday card she sent to me this week that came from a retired army sergeant:

“I learned through experience that adversity doesn’t create character, adversity reveals character.”

Truth. I love that my mindset attracts friends who will write me cards like the one that included this quote.  Growth mindset allows the playground of life to have infinite space for anyone who wants to work and risk failure. What I have learned from the masters, and choose to incorporate into my own life, has made the world a much bigger and exciting place. There is always more to learn and so much to experience. My take away is this...the thoughts of leaders matter, so if you consider yourself a leader, choose your words carefully, because they have influence on so many. If you don’t have the inside look and a deep reason to disbelieve, why not be an optimist?

The Paths That Lead us Home

It’s typical in the human experience to seek what we know.  Traditions, habits and patterns are part of a successful journey and, when we pick good ones, they set us up for success. But as this imperfect life would have it, we can also be prone to seek out patterns that, although might be comfortable, aren’t setting us up for our best life.  Usually, intuition is there to help us know the difference, if we have the strength to trust it when it speaks. Luckily, I was smart enough this time to listen to my intuition, at an incredibly chaotic time in life, to take a drive up the coast to visit some of those voices and faces that keep me grounded on my path.

The Taylor family has welcomed me with open arms since I was 16 years old and for that I could not be more blessed or grateful. Last night, I parked my car in front of my friend Elizabeth’s house and walked in the gate. As I made my way down the path toward the front door, listening to the sound of the ocean, I could have been 17 again, being dropped off by my mom for a week at the beach with my friend and her family.  Same house, different kind of freedom than that summer when Agassi won his first US Open title…the memories flood my mind.  I’ve been coming to this beach for over 25 years, as a teenager, college student, with babies strapped to my front and back, married with kids and divorced on my own.

This time, the memories of Elizabeth’s mom Nancy, one of the most fiercely loving and wise women I’ve ever known, (and who is undoubtably making the sun shine on us today) has moved on to eternity. She is keeping the good bumps on my arms and a few good tears flowing the last few weeks. It’s hard to beat a woman who can cook, teach, and tell stories with wisdom woven through them at the same time. These are the matriarchs that shape our world in the most special ways.  I’m sure that the ripple effect of their dinner tables are what the world is surviving on today…Nancy was one of these and has the family to prove it. 

Life is constantly changing, and we have to be adaptable to make the adjustments that keep us healthy and free.  The circumstances are not always as we would draw them for our perfect picture. They certainly weren’t for Nancy, but I never saw her for a moment when she wasn’t living life to it’s fullest. Independent, strong and yet gentle enough to care for anyone in her path (and she has thousands of students and friends who would attest to that). She held the keys to her own happiness and taught others that same beautiful lesson throughout her entire life. You can see it in the faces of the people she loved most. The lessons and actions just flow as if she were standing in the room still teaching them.

Life gives us people who return our feet to the grounding paths and have a way of gently leading us, whether we are physically with them or not. 

I’m so thankful today for those people and places that live in my heart that I can go back to time and again and lead all the way to eternity. Love you Nancy, thank you for this beautiful family that I get to go hang out with until the sun goes down:)

Fields to Beaches (and everywhere in between)

Almost every time I descend the grapevine on the valley side I start to cry.  I think there are many reasons for this; maybe a sense of loss, maybe because I see so much wide open space it overwhelms me, maybe out of a sense of wondering where I belong.  For the most part, I’m able to let the tears fall and move on, but when it happened on Tuesday as I was driving to Exeter to Lauren’s volleyball game it really got me thinking.  I’ve been a part of so many communities by this point in my life…so many different ways of thinking, value systems, and community involvement on different levels. Sometimes there were activities that resonated with my soul and others that I felt I had an obligation to fulfill. 

I believe so much in giving back, but have learned, that we each have our own way to do it. When we find the way that is right for us, we are able to give infinitely more.  We find the flow in giving and nothing could be better for our spirit or the world.

My thoughts then went to the idea that communities get set in their ways.  We think that we see it all, when really what we see is our tiny space in this big world, and our perspective is one of millions. We think we know the way things should be done, who certain people, or even groups of people are, and we allow certain circles in each community to be the ones that get things done…and the hierarchy forms.  It’s the classic alpha/beta scenario in some ways, which isn’t something I am trying to argue against, but we do have a choice as to how we play our role in that timeless system.

What I realize today is that we choose who we are. We can choose to let that be dictated by our circumstances, positive or negative, or we can develop the constructs of self love, discipline and confidence that can transcend both our highest and lowest experiences, allowing us to balance it all out and become the best versions of ourselves. To be honest, I’ve never felt like I belonged in the hierarchy in any of these communities where I have lived.  I’ve felt welcomed enough, but there was something in me, that kept me from feeling like an insider. The other thing I know now, is that I feel most comfortable in my own skin when I am bridging the gap between people who I understand, but may not understand each other.  Maybe that’s what has given me the ability to have such diverse experience in life; growing up in political life, living far out in the country…rural America so to speak, experiencing financial success in business and then running in the circles that come with that, faith based communities that helped solidify my values and taught me about grace and mercy, and beach life and the athletic experiences that come with living in the training grounds for a sport that I love. There are so many differing points of view and a lot of perspective in all of these life experiences.  What I want to do with all of this vision, generational teaching and storytelling is bring people together, to see perspectives that they may not have had the chance to see, in hopes that they might discover there is nothing to be threatened by. There is not one right path or one right answer.  When we lead with good intention, hard work and kindness, everyone learns and broadens their perspective and we are all so much better off trying to connect the bigger picture than trying to protect our own little piece of the pie. 

Live and Learn

I was blessed to spend the weekend with a pack of kind, loving and fiercely strong females.  We shared the court almost 30 years ago. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long. Back then, we were all going through awkward teenage years, afraid or uncomfortable about small and big things, by who we were, and who we were going to become. 

It turns out we had nothing to worry about.

The irony of that goes even further because we have each dealt with some things that our teenage brains couldn’t have even contemplated back then.  As each story was told, in different conversations, over music and dancing, college football and amazing home cooked dinners, I couldn’t help but think, I never thought it would turn out like this…and yet this is some pretty amazing stuff.  Collectively, we have weathered storms that brought more than a few tears to our eyes, impacted our kids (nothing worse, and yet we will work the way we always do to make them wiser and stronger for it) and made us come to terms with some of the most formative relationships in life. We have learned some of the hardest lessons about love and lose that this lifetime will ever teach.  You could easily say that we have each been given more than one chance to test our resilience, and yet here we all are, pushing past and through, stronger and happier together that I could have ever imagined. 

Either no one told us back then, or, because real life experience was determined to give us the tools just as they were necessary, and show us one day at a time, that everything is going to be ok, even when the life event isn’t, we had to learn some things the hard way. We’ve learned to cut through the awkwardness of introversion, learned how difficult it is for so many of us to ask for help, we’ve let go of judgment, shame and other peoples expectations, so we could show up this weekend as the real deal and be able to come together as if no time had passed at all.  If we can pass that on to our girls, we are winning. Through our experience we have learned both what we do and don’t want out of life and, from what I saw, we are killing it when it comes to seeking the real experiences that make up a full life. Sometimes we learn by examples that show us what we want to do and how we want to be, other times, our experiences teach us the exact opposite.  We all are observant enough to know the difference. To be ourselves, to be comfortable in our skin, to not have seen each other in so long and come barreling in real and raw is a testament to who we have become, and we’re not even close to done.  

Now…who was it that mentioned the screenplay?? I’m in, we have a great story.

Be "Good"

I let go of anger and shame bit by bit, sometimes it rises up in my day and I have to figure out why and what to do with it.  At least I notice now.  It shows up in my volleyball game when I can’t stop saying “i’m sorry” for my play when it’s less than what I think it should be.  It shows up in my hips which are locked so tight that they prevent fluid movement and hinder my performance and enjoyment of exercise and life. These days though, the deep stuff is coming closer to the surface because I started dealing with the surface level a while back. I’m able to clear it faster because of the time I spend seeking and being blessed by connections that seem to just appear in my path. Like Neda, the energy healer I wrote about in this post,

and my friend Teal, the water PT, that I wrote about here:


Over the last few months, I have been putting together a specific healing path which could be baffling to many who haven’t felt physical and emotional trauma show up in big ways in their body. I consider myself to be pretty tough, I have a high pain tolerance and can grin and bear it, or even laugh through my tears, so I hadn’t realized that I had gotten to a point that the tension I was holding in my nervous system were really taking a toll on me.  My sleep was off, my hormones were out of whack, I was basically feeling like a pretty big mess on the inside and still pushing through my day.  This violates one of my basic tenants of happiness because  my insides were not matching my outsides…and when this is out of whack for too long, it sets me down a less than desirable path.

On top of the body and energy work I have been focusing on, I have been putting the finishing touches on my book, 365 Days of Optimism, and listening to some amazing podcasts that are furthering my growth and blowing my mind, like this one…it’s an absolute must listen!

https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/rss.art19.com/episodes/03cdccb9-b535-4c1f-9725-b93f5f8e2795.mp3


With seeking and exposure comes wrestling with the big issues, so here are a few of the concepts that have reared their head in the past week or so based on my experiences:

It takes a great deal of self awareness to tackle the problem of unworthiness and the ego at the same time. 

As I walk the path of creating The Optimists Journal and 365 Days of Optimism, I confront some of my biggest insecurities.  So much doubt can creep in when we are vulnerable and put ourselves out there with the stories of our lives.  I realize that I struggle to accept the truth that I am enough on my own, that I don’t need a bigger platform or other people to help define me…I have been out there doing some significant living and I take this student of life thing pretty seriously.   I believe so deeply in generational learning and healing and the stories that have to be told to achieve that level of understanding for relationships and families to heal, that I am willing to go farther on my own than I ever have before.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not scared sometimes, but my core belief is making me braver than I have ever felt and giving me more confidence and a relaxed security comes with that…man, what a great feeling.  Here’s the catch though, I am still trying to figure out the prescription of knowing my value and using that value to help others, while letting go of my ego.  My ego can get offended so easily when it’s met by someone who doesn’t trust my intention or value my time the way I think they should. There’s some more work for my soul in that equation that I haven’t completely figured out the answer to yet.  For now, I will keep working and trust that the big picture, with due diligence, is going to come out right. 

Learning to judge what’s good from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, is hard. 

I am a rule follower and for all of my life have had a very rigid sense of being “good”, something that I realize was a judgment that I would let other people make for me and then apply their assessment to my own life.  Basically, if you watched me and based on the actions that you perceived of how I was living my life, you decided I was “good”, I thought I was winning when really what I was doing was giving up my power and identity. Other people don’t know the circumstances of our lives, how would they know what is innately good for us and by us. As my confidence rises, I am able, more and more, to trust my own instincts on what is “good” in my life rather than let someone else define that for me, and then try to feel satisfied with that approval. 

Letting our goodness shine is what the world needs. isn’t it cool that we each have our own brand of goodness that will attract what we are meant to find in this life? I am more and more ok with other people’s judgment…I trust the goodness that is coming from inside me and the choices that it helps to create. Beyond that, the calm is coming from a deeper place and, for me, calm is the root of real goodness and prosperity will come from that newly found safe and stable place in my heart.

Aqua Healing

I write often about my life being a work in progress, being a late bloomer, an optimist, and framing the less the favorable situations in life in a way that allows for the greatest amount of growth and learning so that we can continue to become better versions of ourselves every day.  I feel like I have a good hold on the concept of resiliency, I have come through some pretty tough times and not only am I still standing, I am stronger and understand myself better than ever. Now that I have a grasp on resilience though, this healing process continues to teach me what I need to work on next, like not second guessing myself, trusting my intuition and, for lack of a better phrase, staying in my own lane and not taking away other people in my life’s chances to learn by trying to “fix” the issues that come their way. I notice almost daily that healers seem to show up along the way to aid this process.  They come in the form of friends, family,  and mind, body and spirit guides.  They have shown up at yoga, and daily on my Spotify account…music is healing as they say.  

Last Thursday, I played five games of volleyball and every single step hurt.  I have been on a somewhat scary path since last year when I hurt my knee and my lower half just hasn’t recovered the way that I would hope it would.  I’ve done PT, soft tissue work, consulted Youtube on how to get better…pretty much anything to keep me playing but my mobility just hasn’t come back as strong as I would hope…I’m not giving up of course.  

As my good fortune would have it, my friend happens to be a water PT (which means she works out of the pool, one of my favorite places) and she reached out last week to see if she could try working with me.  Friday morning, she strapped some flotation devices around my neck and legs and I sank into that blissful chlorine heaven of my childhood ready for her to do her work.  As a kid, the swimming pool was always one of my favorite places to be, under the water looking up and wishing I could breathe under there so I could stay down, is still one of my most vivid memories.  I turned that feeling into a love of racing and some of my happiest adult memories are swimming with the Fig Garden Masters in Fresno before I moved south.  Clearly, I’m not one to have trouble relaxing in the water. As Teal pulled me around in the pool, and my weightlessness allowed my nervous system to enter a more parasympathetic state, I was overcome because I could feel my younger body making its way back through the haze of trauma and trigger points.  I’ve written before about how much we store physically in our bodies, and, I believe that in some part, is why I struggle in my recovery (and yes, I have a copy of Paulo Coelho’s new book “Hippie” sitting right here). After that zen-like hour, I came completely above the surface. Teal was smiling and the words she spoke added her to my list of healers. As I told her how amazing the experience was and how I felt better already she said…

“You knew what your body needs on your own, I just supported you. For you, it’s more about letting go, than strengthening.”  

Uh…not sure truer words have ever been spoken. Once again, the message I’m learning to relax, have fun, worry less and let the pain go. Just because you are strong enough to shoulder it, doesn’t mean you should. This is what real healers do… they heal themselves first, then they can support and empower others to do the same. Thanks Teal for helping me learn to stop second guessing myself because I intimately understand how to heal, I just have to trust my voice and relax into it. I can’t make things perfect for my kids but at least I can show them how to heal. Once again, my body is teaching me about my mind and spirit…another reason to get out and get moving today.  Hope you do to!