Work Hacks and Other Thoughts

This week I was on a conference call with a client. I wasn't bored, but I wasn't engaged. And as a consultant, there are few things I hate more than inefficiency, wasting time. My time matters. My time is important. So I went into the bathroom, put my phone on mute, and put on some lipstick.

Then I fixed my hair. Washed the lenses of my glasses. Plucked my eyebrows. 

A couple days later I was talking to a friend. A dude working on a new podcast (that I can’t wait to tell you about!). We were talking about ideas. About what it takes to bring ideas to life. About where ideas come from and what to do with them. That’s when I mentioned to this dude that I get my best ideas in the bathroom. 

I get them when I'm brushing my teeth. I get them when I'm washing my hair. I get them when I'm putting on mascara. And I get them when I'm plucking my eyebrows. And I told this dude I feel bad for dudes because they don't do a lot of these things. Because bathroom time is think time is creative ideas time and dudes: you’re like totally missing out.

It reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a mentor of mine. Another dude. He's just released his first book and has been doing this podcast on marketing and leadership. And he told me that for the first time, he's scheduling time to…wait for it…just think. In a moment of reversed roles, I told him I thought this was a really good idea. 

Ideas need space. They need room to breathe, to move, to become. Because they start out gooey and juicy and delicious and they sort of flap around with open wounds, begging you to rescue them. Or something. And it's uncomfortable. It is. Because you don't really know whether or not to take them seriously and you’re questioning their motives, etc..

And I’m so here for this. I’m here for this processing. This sorting. This act of bravery to entertain these slipperly little wonderful beasts.

Steinbeck said, “ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." It’s true. Ideas beget ideas. And I want to not only give space for my own fur balls, I want to process through that with other people, too. I want them to see their bunnies multiply.

If I can be that for you, let me now. Let’s make sh*t!

Readiness Required

It rained all night in my little town of Ojai, CA. “Be ready for the storm,” they say.

What I wasn’t ready for was waking up to sunny skies and snow.

Storms hold the potential for danger. We should be ready. Our survival depends on it. But does our wellbeing not also depend on being ready for when the sun peaks through the clouds and the clouds part like curtains on a stage to display snowcapped mountain tops, here for a few hours and then melted and gone?

The good things in life require our readiness, too.

Blink and you miss.

Go For The Jugular

I'm not a violent person. Not even a little bit. I can't even watch violence on TV. It makes me physically ill. I think people would describe me as gentle. A ball-buster, but a gentle one. Oh but I would indeed hurt a fly, so there's that. 

Before I moved from the Bay Area to Ojai two months ago I was thinking about new habits I'd like to form in my new city. Moves are good for that, aren't they? Something about an environmental change that helps spur on other changes. I'm sure there's a science to this but alas, I'm a writer. 

One of these changes I was thinking of has to do with being on my own team. Yeah. Like, advocating for myself. Listen, this is something that's taken me over 30 years to learn: no one else is going to advocate for you like you. I kind of hate this. Not because I don't want to do the work but because I wish we were more connected than this. I wish we could read each other's minds sometimes. 

But that would be weird on more occasions than not and so being relentlessly on my side is the thing I need to work with and I'm working with it.

And the more I bring this into my awareness, the more aware I am of how many times I'm not on my team. Take this weekend, for instance. A woman connected with me on LinkedIn. I'd like to call her out so you can all fawn over her like I did, but I respect her privacy. Suffice it to say, she started a magazine I absolutely adored and now works for a company I also very much adore. 

I wanted to learn more about her so I asked if she would be up for meeting in person or talking on the phone. She turned me down for good reasons that I very much understand but it left me with a feeling of "now what?" 

I was *this* close to writing her back, telling her I understood and leaving it at that. 

Instead, I went for the jugular. 

In Natalie Goldman's book, Writing Down the Bones, she lists out her rules of writing. There are six and they are all wonderful and number 6 reads as follows: 

Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy to it.)

As with writing, so with life, yes? 

I wrote this woman back and I got...naked. I told her how much I admired her work, that it's not every day I come across someone whose experience is so inspirational. Then I took it even further, telling her a bit about me. Who did I think I was?? 

I'll tell you who. Someone who's actively turning over a new leaf. Someone who is not about to let life pass her by and is putting it all out there. Someone who's fearless and focused. Someone who is diving right in. 

She hasn't written me back yet and that's not the point. The point is, I decided to be on my own team. And as far as I'm concerned, we (me and me) are winning. 

 

Space To Just Think

Yesterday I was talking to a mentor. He’s recently started a new consultancy practice. He’s busy with a podcast and putting out a book and booking speaking gigs. He mentioned to me that, amidst the chaos, he’s learning to calendar time to “just think”.

Another creative partner emailed me this week, an artist, telling me that everything was good but that she hasn’t been prioritizing her “real work”, her art, and that not doing so leaves her feeling off balance. “Grosser and grosser” was actually how she put it.

This week I’ve been reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown. As someone who is interested in basically everything, the discipline of discerning what is absolutely essential to my life and discarding the rest is provocative.

I get why his book is a bestseller. You don’t have to look far to see that this is something we all struggle with. And I have to wonder if it’s because so much of the time we forget we have the power to chose. To calendar that time to think, to work on our art, to say “no” to that meeting, to go for that walk in the woods.

Take care of yourself today. Determine the essentials. Carve out space .

Mindmap Yourself

This morning I came across a post from the IDEO blog, The Octopus, in my inbox. I subscribe to their newsletter and I highly recommend it. 

The post this morning was about building your creative confidence. It's no secret that I am obsessed (I use this word in it's truest sense, not in the way a millennial will use it to describe their boyfriend, the ramen they had for lunch, their new shoes, and Fleet Foxes) with creativity. 

Creativity, in a lot of ways, is the undercurrent of my life's work. Exploring my own creativity is much of what has motivated me to make art, to tell stories, to put out records, to come alongside other creators. I've read more books on creativity than any other subject. I'll probably write my own book on creativity one day. 

But, uh, back to the lecture at hand.

This IDEO post talks about mindmapping. I love a good mindmap. If you don't know what one is, IDEO describes it like this: 

From coming up with ideas for a family vacation to identifying home projects to tackle over the weekend, mindmaps can be used for all sorts of problem solving. They help you chart the recesses of your mind surrounding one central idea. The further you get from the center of the map, the more hidden ideas you can uncover.
image via  ideo.com

image via ideo.com

Yes. You guys. It's so easy and so fun. So good for brainstorming any kind of project.

And this post reminded me of that time a couple of years back I sat down and mindmapped myself. I was at a crossroads in my life. I had fired my biggest client ever (for reasons I won't get into). I didn't know if I wanted to keep doing what I was doing but I also wasn't sure what to do next. So I drew a circle in the middle of the page with my name in the center.

And I mindmapped myself. 

Because just like creative ideas, sometimes our truest selves are hidden. Steven Pressfield refers to this self as our "superconscious mind", more commonly known as the subconscious mind. It's super and not sub because it's the place creative ideas are born out of, it's the wise voice inside, it's the You that's the best version of You. 

This place is can be hard to access. But a simple/fun tool like mindmapping can really help. It can break things open, it can help you visualize and, thus, step into new versions of yourself--things that have only existed beneath the surface or as fleeting thoughts. 

And I'll say it again: it's so fun and so easy. 

And I will also say that in my own experience of doing this, there was something very potent about the excercise. As if putting my ideas and dreams to paper gave them legs to stand on, somehow transforming them from ideas to realities.

Pretty cool, right? 

Don't Indulge the Crap

Yesterday I was in bed all day with a migraine. This is my life since I was 13. Migraines. I spent a long time fighting it, battling it. These days, I'm in the process of just accepting it as part of my life, doing everything I can to take care of myself and swapping out self-pity for self-compassion. 

Baby steps, right?

Since I lost a day yesterday, my impulse is to kick it in overdrive today. Make up for lost time. But part of this whole acceptance thing is making sure I take it slow the day after a migraine. My body is recovering. I need to make space for that. 

So in order to feel good about slowing down, I'm calendaring out my day. This is a new habit I've started. In the beginning of each day I look at the day and I parse it out. Like, I really break it down for myself and stick to the schedule I create. Today it looks like this: 

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 10.27.53 AM.png

See? I'm in the writing portion and I'm writing. (I love how this works.) 

And the point of it all is: don't indulge the crap. Migraines are crap. And like having a crappy boss, I am managing up. I'm being the most effective no-migraine-Jocelyn I can be so that when one comes, which it always does, I don't have to fight it. I can just move through it and not feel sad or sorry for myself or feel like I've lost out on something.

I can just get on with the day. 

 

Cut It Off

Yesterday I mentioned something offhand to a friend. A thing that has been on my heart and mind but that I didn't realize was on my heart and mind until I said it out loud. Sometimes that happens, right?

I moved about a month ago. Big life changes. One of them: work changes. I'm returning to a world of freelance work after being away for years. And this is taking courage.

I've always been a go-with-the-flow type. I like to move through life following my passions and staying open to what life has for me. This has meant going down roads I never saw myself going down. Working jobs I never planned on working. 

For the most part, this has been good--great even. I've experienced so much, learned so much, met so many people. My worldview is definitely better for it. And yet there's been pitfalls, struggles.

Fuck it: there's been massive heartbreaks.

And right now I'm dipping my toe back into those waters. I'm returning to a world where I've been burned, a world that's been toxic for me. And yet, a world I feel called to. So I'm excited to be there and I'm encountering fear in places I haven't encountered fear before. 

I guess it's like a bad break up.

You know, the break up that uproots your life, that's so hard to bounce back from. It takes so much more courage the next go round to do the things you did before with ease because you've been hurt. How frustrating is that?

So.

People are like, "just let it go, let the pain go." Um, what? This never made sense to me until I heard Thich Nhat Hanh explain it. He likens letting go to a "cutting off". Letting go is so nebulous, isn't it? But cutting off--that's visceral. It honors the pain. It honors the process and the courage it takes to set ourselves free from the things that hold us down. 

Like, you need a big knife for that. You do.

My past experience was a painful one and it doesn't define my future. My past is a teacher that will help me move forward with new confidence and a new capacity to make better decisions and do better work. 

And what doesn't serve me, well...KNIFE, PLEASE! 

Creating Community as a Freelance/Remote Worker

I've been thinking a lot about freelance/remote work lately. And I mean both freelance and remote. Some folks are just freelance, going into companies on contract. Some folks are just remote, working full-time gigs with companies only from a remote capacity. 

I'm talking about being both freelance and remote. 

It's kind of a big deal. Like, a hard, big deal.

I've been thinking about it because last week I was approached by a CEO of a startup whose app had just launched who needed an app tutorial by Monday. It was Friday when I found this out. I don't work weekends so sadly I couldn't help the guy. 

And the other bummer: I didn't have anyone to pass the project along to. I don't know a lot of folks who do what I do. 

This got my wheels spinning. How can I create a community I can not only refer projects to, but one I can call upon when a project maybe isn't totally in my wheelhouse? One where I might be able to help someone else with a project that isn't totally in theirs?

Is there a freelance/remote workers tribe out there?  

Like any breathing human, I Googled it. And sure enough I found some folks who are working towards these ends, to create community in the freelance world. To create opportunity, partnerships. And I'll likely delve into those groups soon. 

And I'm also very interested in making this a more personal experience. So I'm going to be thinking about that, trying some things out, and reporting back. In the meanwhile, if you have ideas, holler. 

The Key to Success

The key to success is your capacity to cultivate happiness, understanding and compassion.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Right now I'm reading The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is totally kicking my butt. I've always felt that success is an inside job. I grew up in the Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs was my neighbor. I knew people (and mostly the kids of people) who were and are wildly successful. 

And I knew that it didn't bring happiness. That money didn't equal happiness. That power didn't equal happiness. 

It's not hard to find this truth today as an adult. We've seen a lot of celebrity deaths--suicides--and asked ourselves, why? Why would a person who has everything want to do that to themselves? 

Well, happiness. 

Mental health is real and help for dealing with mental health is real. But you have to choose it. You have to work at it. This is sort of counterintuitive. As if being happy should just be natural. And it is for some more than others. I don't know why, it just is. Like so many things in life, I don't understand it. 

But I do know that so much of what the world pushes at us doesn't lead to happiness. It leads to greed. It leads to division. It leads to competition. They are lies. They are not paths to happiness. 

Something that makes me happy? The ocean. Nature. The warm sand on my feet. Children laughing.

Okay that was several things. 

What makes you happy? And are you committed to it like you are your finances, relationships, and so forth?  

We (especially women) often don't think of our own happiness. But it is so, so important. The key to success, perhaps. 

Celebrate the Small Stuff

They say "it's all about the little things". They're totally right. And because the little things are little, sometimes they require more deliberate attention to notice and celebrate.

Today I was having email issues. I had to get a new address hooked up to Mac Mail and there were problems. This is something I'm capable of handling but doesn't necessarily come easy to me. There was a lot of googling and sweating and trips to the fridge for just one more chocolate chip. Apart from the chocolate, we'll just call this little scenario my own personal hell. 

And yet right in the middle of it a voice popped up in my head. It was like, "when you figure this out, you're having a dance party." Yep. Those were its exact words.

First of all, can we just talk about how confident this little voice was? Holy crap, it had no doubts that I wouldn't figure it out. More of that, please wherever that came from!

Second--guess what? Yeah, you guessed it. I just figured the email thing out. It's all set up and humming and I am basically an IT genius. 

I guess you know what that means. Time to DANCE! 

 

 

Nothing Good Gets Done Without Heart

Why do I do what I do? Sometimes I want a more logical explanation for the fact that I want to write and create and build a business. Or two. But the only conclusion I can ever come to is: 

These are things that keep me alive. 

And I really want to stay alive, so I do them.

I believe the things that are in us are there on purpose. Not all of it, of course, because these days there are so many voices vying for our attention, parading around our brains as if they are us. And, holy crap, no one needs a masquerade ball up in there! 

Getting clear on what's in our heart is hard.

But only because it takes time. And discipline. And faith.

It's not hard because it's hard to distinguish our own voice. We know our voice when we hear it. We feel it. It vibrates with our whole being. It's the one that gently prods. It's not pushing, angry, or overbearing. It's like that neighbor that sometimes leaves a bag of lemons from their tree on your doorstep. They do it because they know you like lemons. They don't want anything from you. They just want to give you something you love.

That voice inside your head is this. It is love. And it is trying to help you create and move toward loving things in your life. It is only trying to give you what you love. Everything that is not love is bullshit and deserves none of your attention. It might even need a reprimanding. Like, "yo Bullshit, stop your bullshit." Something like that. You can improvise.

Remember: fear is truly an illusion. It's a fake thing trying to keep you from a very real thing. 

Your heart. 

And nothing good gets done without a shit ton of heart. 

 

*inspired by do it because your soul demands it

Get to Know Your Magic

"What are you doing that people believe only you can do?" I love this question from Seth Godin. Provocative, yeah? I've been wondering about how it relates to self-awareness, other-awareness, and our -gulp- purpose. 

We like to talk about purpose. We can thank Rick Warren for that. His book "The Purpose Driven Life" clearly touched upon a collective nerve. We ask: What's the purpose of life? Why am I here? What's it all about? What can I do that only I can do? What's my magic?

Did you know Warren's books begins with "It's not about you"?

Wait. I thought it was about me -- my purpose, my magic. Who is it about then? 

I've found trying to fit myself into the puzzle of life to be challenging. I think "what's my purpose?" and I get pretty much nowhere. I feel there are multitudes in me, that I could never boil myself down to one thing, pin point where I am on the map, have one purpose. 

Maybe I have purposes, plural. Or maybe it's what Rick said - that it's not about me at all. Maybe my magic is actually Magic, something we're all stewards of. Maybe our real purpose is to recognize and cultivate Magic in us and around us and to enjoy the living crap out of it. 

And being a magician? That's sounds like as good a purpose as any.

Start Now

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
— Thomas Merton

Yesterday I read an article about a popular graphic artist in which the artist stated more or less that her art began to take real shape once she knew who she was. 

Art, like life, is about discovery, no? It's a journey, an exploration. Our art, our work, is an expression of our journey. It doesn't provide many answers. Instead, if we're paying attention, there are questions. Questions about people, about heaven and earth, about who we are. So many questions.

To hear an accomplished artist say she knows who she is, is discouraging. And, actually, I don't believe her. Maybe she was trying to make this all sound black and white, or pretty. But life is lived in the gray. It's in the gray where real beauty exists, the kind that both breaks and restores you. 

We've all been given a unique perspective through which our lives, our work, flow. We don't have to know who we are to begin. Who we are is there already. We can begin now without having any answers at all. Because, actually, that's the whole point. 

Change As Catalyst

Face your life, its pain, its pleasure. Leave no path untaken.
— Neil Gaiman

It's funny when you come to the end of a road. I've had a lot of those over the last few years. It's like I've been drinking from the fire hose of change. I mind it and I don't. 

Change can be unsettling. It can make you question a lot of things. "Why is this happening?" "Is this right?" "Do I need a new pair of shoes?" I can tell you with confidence the answer to that last question is always, assuredly, "yes". 

The other thing you can be confident in? Change means growth. I think that's why it doesn't feel great. Remember growing pains as a kid? Not fun. But you got taller. And so, growing gets you places. You're not the same person you were when you started. And that's exciting. That's really exciting.

I don't want to be the same person - ever. I want to end each day having grown and I want to wake up each morning wondering how much I will grow that day. And I want to look for the things that will grow me. Actively. Am I asking for it? Absolutely. Do I give a crap? Not a single one. Why? Because where you're growing, there your life is.

Thank God for our lives, right? What gifts they are. What gifts we are. 

The Cocoon and the Butterfly

Raise your hand if you're watching Wild Wild Country. Fascinating show.

I watched the finale last night. Jane Stork (a.k.a. Ma Shanti B) was talking about leaving the commune, relating it to a butterfly freeing itself from its cocoon. What a laborious process that is. How the cocoon doesn't just pop open and the butterfly fly out. How there's wriggling and writhing and it takes a long, long time to free itself. 

And then the butterfly gets all the glory.

But what about its life as a caterpillar? All those feet on the ground, perhaps knowing it was meant to fly? What about the commitment to cocoon itself for the hope of something better? What about the work that took? The courage. What about that? 

As I'm in limbo--between cities, between jobs, between who I was and who I will be, I'm trying to appreciate the struggle. All the effort it takes to get from one place to another. 

It's clear why people opt out of this. Why they choose to stay the same. Why they settle for good enough, rather than strive for their best life. Because cocoons are sticky. And hard to get out of. And when we do free ourselves, we arrive to the world as a new thing. A new thing people may not understand. A new thing we may not understand.

It's just easier to stay the same.

I saw a viral post on Twitter yesterday. About how someone didn't get her dream job, but worked hard and applied two years later and got it. It was supposed to be inspirational, and it was for many people. But not for me. Because it didn't give credit to this in between. The two years this women spent working hard, wriggling out of her cocoon. And how uncomfortable that cocoon probably was. And, in sticking with the analogy, how there was no guarantee she would become a butterfly.

None.

Jobs come and go. Dreams do, too. But the capacity to move through it all, all the uncertainty, to move forward towards the unknown with grace and beauty and fierceness and grit, not to "become" anything but to simply be who we are meant to be today, in this moment, as we are. That's the story I'm interested in. 

Because there are no guarantees. 

And because it takes guts to own the struggle. And I'd like to see us do this more.

And because becoming a butterfly is so not the point. The point is we work hard and we move towards the things we love because it is in us to do that and because we've been entrusted with talents and abilities and it is our privilege and duty to grow and manifest those talents and abilities so that we can give them back to the world. 

This is a radical act of generosity and love. 

And this is what it's about.

Not that you became a butterfly but that you struggled and broke one wing on the way out and you still learned to fly.