A Woman of Influence

If you and I are Facebook friends, you might have heard that I was nominated for an award a few weeks ago.

It’s a cool story actually. I was out in my neighborhood walking the dog and having a little chat with God (Reba is my channel!), when the topic of success came up. God asked me a bunch of questions (or I asked Her…. It’s all the same, really) and by the end of the walk, I’d become ready to embrace a new level of success.

The fact is, I’ve been putting certain limits on my success for a really long time. If you look at my professional progression over the course of my adult life, even across multiple careers, you’ll see a very clear pattern: long stretches of contraction punctuated by occasional, meaningful success.

That’s what the conversation with God was about. Lots of questions about why I was doing that, what I got out of it, and whether or not it still served me.

Well, by the time Reba and I made our way up the ramps leading to our front door, I’d decided it didn’t. And standing outside the door, with God (and Reba) as my witness, I made a new choice, a “next level” choice. I declared my readiness for greater impact, higher service, and more success.

Felt good. Right. And now it was in the hands of God. How lovely.

Reba and I went inside; I took off her gear; she hightailed it for the water bowl (Reba is the loudest drinker in the history of canines); and I opened my computer.

There in my Inbox, where it hadn’t been 30 minutes before, was an email from an organization I’d never heard of, in a county not my own, congratulating me on being a “final nominee” for a 2016 Women of Influence Award.

Blink. Blink.

I’d been nominated by an old friend of Dean’s whom I’d not seen or talked to for more than ten years.

Wow. Way to say you heard me, God!

Well, today was the awards luncheon, and though I didn’t receive the actual award, it was still kind of a big deal. More than 200 women were nominated for 10 awards. About half of us made it through to “final nominee.” And as far as I can tell, I’m the only one of those hundred who was a final nominee in two categories. Plus, we got lovely certificates of recognition from both the California State Senate and the State Assembly. I truly feel honored.

There are many more levels to this story which I’ll tell you about another time. But for now, I’m trying to just breathe and receive.

Breathe and receive. 🙂

Meantime, perhaps you’ll enjoy this:

As part of the process, I was asked to answer some questions. I truly appreciated the opportunity, and many of my answers reflect the conversation I’d been having with God. Maybe they’ll hold meaning for you, too. (Anywhere you see the word “business” in a question, you can substitute “life,” if you like. They’re pretty much the same for me.)

Cheers, everyone!

*The best piece of business advice you ever received and from whom?

“Your deepest truth, artfully articulated and authentically offered, will change the world.”

— God, about two months after I was paralyzed

 

*Please finish this sentence: “To be a woman of influence you must……”

… embrace your inherent value, then consistently place that value into the world.

 

*Name one trait or behavior that you feel has helped you succeed the most in business

Courage. Nearly everything scares me. I just do it anyway.

 

*What are the top three tips, strategies, or pieces of advice you would give to other professional women as they try to make their mark, be a leader and succeed in business and industry?

  1. Release your attachment to what other people think of you and your ideas. Concerning yourself with the opinions of others will, faster than anything else, make you smaller than you are.

 

  1. Break up with “not good enough.” If you want to make an impact and truly lead, you have to end your love affair with this old story (and sacrifice everything you gain from it).

 

  1. Get more honest with yourself. If you’re actions (procrastination, indecision, obsessive doubting) don’t match your intentions (success, wealth, impact), it’s time to own that you have conflicting desires. Actualizing your dreams requires taking Radical Responsibility for everything you’re creating. (BONUS: And please stop judging yourself. You’ll never get honest if you judge everything that’s true!)

 

 

, , Leave a comment

“Balance” is king — Or is it?

It’s the beginning of spring… technically, anyway. Truth is, it’s been spring in Los Angeles since the start of February. So I have to say, I feel a little discombobulated. This is made only worse by the start of Daylight Savings Time. What is supposed to be a gradual lengthening of daylight hours, a gradual awakening to the sun’s generative power, is being experienced much more like a flip of the light switch. And I feel similarly disoriented to being woken too-early by a beeping alarm clock.

In all honestly, I really resent Daylight Savings. I get crabby about it every year. It takes my kid weeks to adjust, which disturbs his sleep and disrupts our normally easeful routines. And I resent not being permitted to experience the natural cycle of the seasons. It’s like having my farm-to-table dinner replaced by a frozen pizza.

Even the dog gets thrown off. Aaargh, I tell you. Aaargh!

One thing humanity can’t and hasn’t messed up (unlike the weather and the time), is the proportion of daylight to darkness. No matter how early or late the weather shifts, no matter how we arbitrarily assign time, the spring equinox ALWAYS exhibits a perfect balance of daylight and darkness. On that one day, the two enjoy an equal share of the day’s minutes.

Mind you, it’s fleeting. The very next day, the balance begins to tip in favor of daylight, reaching its most extreme imbalance on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (when it suddenly tips in the opposite direction). But for one day (well, two; it happens again on the fall equinox), we are in perfect balance.

Daylight Savings Time makes it harder to perceive this perfect balance, but it’s still there. And though technically, it’s only around for one day, the growing imbalance doesn’t become easily perceptible until the beginning of May. So we have the next few weeks to engage especially richly with the idea of balance and how we experience it in our daily lives. We can consider all this at any time, of course, but for the next few weeks (then again in September), the natural world is supporting that investigation in a way it’s not at other times.

Thinking about balance today, I notice I’m uncomfortable. And I wonder if it might be true to say that I don’t particularly like balance.

I know that sounds a bit crazy… Aren’t we all supposed to be craving better balance? Between work and play, rest and action; among the many activities we enjoy; in our emotions… Many schools of thought value even-tempered emotion with only small fluctuations on either side, right?

But I think I prefer the edges of the spectrum. Maybe not the farthest reaches… I’m generally not prone to fanaticism. But I like intensity, passion, deep dives. When I hurt, I hurt deep. And when I feel joyful, I’m exuberant. Hardly seems the way of the Masters, I know, at least as they’ve been portrayed to me. But the way of the Masters seems really… boring. I mean, Zen… What a yawn! 😉

One thing I love, though, is that I get to choose. When the edges wear me out – and they do – I can head toward the center and hang for awhile at the balance point. I can float… weightless… experimenting gently with how far I can lean in any direction while staying on that balance point. It feels like a regenerative place, a healing zone. And when I get bored – because, I will – I can head out again, go splash in a bright pool or lay around in the mud.

The other thing that feels important is knowing all this about myself.

I have definitely heard myself complain about the intensity in my life. And I have, at times, thrown my arms up lamenting a certain lack of equilibrium. But knowing myself reveals that there’s a bit of a lie tucked in there. Because, who am I kidding? If I’m really being honest (as I was three paragraphs ago), I like the areas left and right of center. So, if I’m complaining or lamenting, it means I’ve forgotten that I’m the one creating the experience. It means I’ve disowned some of my truth and my choices have become unconscious. And that is the epitome of disempowered. It’s the ultimate evil in the Shero way of life.

On the other hand, recognizing (and admitting!) that I kinda like the stuff I’ve said I no longer want is an act of power. It makes my choice conscious again. No longer the victim of circumstance, I can admit that I’m served in some ways by this thing I say I no longer want. And I can decide, in any given moment, if that service is still valuable. From that place, I can see that my complaining probably indicates I require a different choice for awhile. It means a significant part of me is craving some time in the center. And that makes it much easier to just scoot over. No muss, no fuss.

The trick is not to judge.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that it’s impossible to see ourselves truthfully if we are constantly judging what we see. We will, by nature, protect ourselves from that judgment by altering our truth in some way. And if we can’t see ourselves truthfully, we cannot be empowered. It’s as simple as that.

But — and it’s happening in this moment — when I stop judging myself long enough to see the truth – PHOOMP! – I land right back in my power, armed with choice, and the awareness to make it consciously.

Clearly, I’m practicing that with you today. It does feel a little strange to buck the common wisdom exalting balance. And I suppose it’s also a little vulnerable to admit that, hey, I like a bit of crazy. But I’m willing to risk it in service to owning my holistic truth. Empowerment is always my highest aim… for me and for you.

So…

What’s your holistic truth about balance? Where do you like to sit, really? While the days are still mostly holding that experience, what can you learn about how balance does – or doesn’t – serve you?

, Leave a comment

You, me and the Green Ninja…. We’re all the same

My son has a new toy. It’s a Lego set from the Ninjago series and he’s not put it down since building it. He takes it in the car on the way to school. He takes it into the tub. He takes it to bed… Every single night.

In case you don’t have a five year-old child, Ninjago is a television show about an imaginary place watched over by a group of young ninjas, and the story lines are steeped in “ancient” codes of wisdom, magical abilities, martial arts, mysticism, and fantastical heroes and villains in the tell-tale, square Lego style.

One of the main story lines is the emergence of the Green Ninja (the centerpiece of my son’s new toy). Prophecy has said that a Green Ninja will rise up and destroy Lord Garmaddon, a big-time bad guy with four arms. So for months, the young ninjas are obsessed with the possibility that one of them is destined to become the Green Ninja, and they spend a lot of time trying to prove their worth.

But in the end, a younger, pest-y, wanna-be bad guy named Lloyd (who happens to be Lord Garmaddon’s son) turns out to be the destined one. And the others become his teachers.

Well, the other day in the car, we were discussing the Green Ninja (we discuss the Green Ninja A LOT), and Dean said something about “before he was the Green Ninja.” Aidan immediately corrected him: “Lloyd was always the Green Ninja. He just didn’t know it yet.”

I nearly jumped out of my seat. “Yes! That’s exactly right!!”

I don’t think Aidan knew how profound a statement he’d just made.

When I was in my early 20s, right after graduating from college, I moved to Paris, France. I wanted to study theater in a particular style and, based on no actual research, decided I could find that style only in Europe. It wasn’t entirely foolish; the founder of the style was Polish and ran a theater lab in Italy. But since participation at the lab was heavily restricted, I had to pick somewhere else to study and for mostly imagined and unrelated reasons, I chose Paris.

Once there, it took almost a year to find an appropriate training company and in the months before I did, I was pretty distraught about my career. I wanted so much to perform, to do good work on the stage, to be a successful actress. And living as an ex pat in Paris, working as an au pair, doing exactly no theater, with no obvious access to theater work, I just couldn’t see how those dreams would come true.

Well, I had a great friend in Paris, an American man I’d met in France, who was Head Show Writer for the then, under-construction Euro Disney. He was older than I with significant success under his belt and a load more life experience. One afternoon, sitting in his lovely apartment in the Marais, overlooking the rooftops of old Paris, I shared my deep anxiety over my seemingly hopeless dream. And he said, “You already are that successful actress.”

“What are you talking about?!” I demanded indignantly. It actually felt insulting to be called that given the life I was experiencing. By what stretch of the imagination could a woman who’d never made a dime acting and who hadn’t performed in over a year be called a “successful actress?”

“You’re the successful actress when she was young, living in Paris, without opportunity, and scared about her career,” he answered.

Well, that stopped me cold. I could actually feel the synapses reorganizing themselves in my brain.

To get this straight, I was the me I was becoming before I had become it. Just like Lloyd was the Green Ninja before he, or anyone else, knew it.

It’s possible there is no more radical an idea.

In the moment, in my friend’s apartment, two particular things struck me. One is that the truth suddenly got bigger.

That I wasn’t performing, wasn’t training, was barely supporting myself in a place where there appeared little to no opportunity for advancing my career was suddenly simultaneously true along with being a successful actress. There was no contradiction and, more importantly, the former was no longer evidence that the latter was untrue.

The other is that everything I might do or experience from that moment on, no matter what it involved or how it looked, could end up part of the path to my dream. In fact, as long as being a successful actress continued to be my interest and intention, no moment of my life could escape being part of that path!

So, for instance, if I… found an appropriate group with which to train only to have the group disband months later; and then I returned to the US broken hearted; and then I descended into a deep psychological crisis that fairly well disabled me for nearly two years; and I worked a simple, part-time clerical job just to pay for therapy; and then I officially quit acting and became a teacher; and then I got a Master’s Degree in Human Development; and then after five years, I quit teaching; and then I did my first play in forever, for free, in order to work with a director aligned with my training; and then I went to work full time for an insurance company; and then I was invited by that director to co-found a theater company; and then I worked a part-time job while doing productions with our now award -winning theater company (mostly unpaid); and then I fell out of a tree and became paralyzed; and then everything stopped while I spent months in a hospital; and then I lost my interest in fiction and quit my theater company; and then I informally shared some stories about my paralysis experience from a stage; and then I spent more than a year making no money, getting nothing done, and freaking out about my questionable ability to create a full length, one-woman show… it could all be part of the path to becoming a successful actress!

And, in my case, all of that exactly was. After it all, I finally stumbled into developing my show, launched it to sold out crowds, gorgeous reviews, multiple extensions, devoted fans, speaking opportunities, touring opportunities… et voilá: successful actress.

But do you see what this means??

It means that YOU can become anything from exactly where you’re standing right now.

It means, in fact, that you are already that thing. It’s just that you’re her at the time in her life when being “her” looked really different or, even, impossible.

So… You’re the philanthropist at the time in her life when she couldn’t consistently make enough money to pay the bills each month.

You’re the successful entrepreneur at the time in her life when she was working a 9 to 5 and doubting her ability to make it on her own.

You’re the joyously married woman at the time in her life when she was so sick of failed relationships and the seeming lack of “good” partners, she was ready to give up on love altogether.

And you’re a healthy, vibrant woman at the time in her life when she was sick, tired, and overweight.

It’s true, the Green Ninja is fantasy. And I have a very complicated relationship with “destiny.” But I’m not fantasy at all. And the crazy path I took to my dream is very real. If that path could include years of not living the dream, tons of doubt and struggle, mental health issues, lack of opportunity, not enough money, quitting the dream, spending years on a seemingly different path, and PARALYSIS, what could you have going on that might have more power to extinguish your dream?

I hope I don’t sound dismissive or diminishing; I don’t intend to be. I only hope to suggest that nothing – no matter how contrary it looks, how crummy it feels, how powerful it seems – is inherently a deal-breaker. You might not believe me — there were many years on my path I wouldn’t have believed me – but it’s true.

We are all exactly who we are becoming. You, me, Lloyd… We’re all the same.

So don’t be fooled by what life looks like today.

And, please… Don’t give up.

 

, , , , Leave a comment

I was almost kicked out of honors English (or… The dangerous dance with “unearned” support)

Last week, Cheri wanted to reach out to everyone who supported her campaign and found that she was having trouble. Words were scarce, emotions jumbled, and her gratitude, which had been soaring, was suddenly fighting for lift against a thousand little weights clipped to her clothes like leaden ornaments.

As we worked to sort out the jumble and drop the weight, I kept thinking of the summer before my junior year of high school.

I was particularly miserable that summer. My grandmother had recently had a heart attack, and after open-heart surgery, had come to recuperate with us. My mother was working all day, my sisters grown and gone. So I was expected to provide my grandmother’s care during the day.

I loved my grandmother, but I was extremely intimidated by caring for her. Her frailty scared me, and that was on top of the language and cultural barriers that already made our relationship awkward.

Plus I was depressed, at least chronically and maybe clinically. I didn’t want to do much of anything but watch TV and eat. I certainly didn’t want to do something that made me deeply uncomfortable. And since I wasn’t being given a choice, to my depression, fear, and discomfort was added resentment and general sullenness. (Ah, to be a teen!)

Given all that, you can probably guess how little I wanted to do the mandatory summer reading for honors English!

I’d been in the honors program since the start of high school and I’d always struggled. English was never my favorite subject; I rarely studied, always procrastinated. And the previous year, my sophomore year, had been particularly bad. I was especially unmotivated, turning in late and incomplete assignments, doing very poorly on exams, zoning out in class. I was in a lot of pain, though I wouldn’t have known to call it that and wouldn’t have thought to tell anyone. And I hated my teacher. On the last day of school, I’d walked out of her class and whooped at the top of my lungs like an inmate finally freed from jail.

As the summer dragged on, my mother would periodically ask about the reading and I would generally blow her off, saying I’d do it or that I already was (because if you read a page from time to time, you’re doing it, right?). My mother’s nagging didn’t have much effect. Just noise in my background.

Until about a month before the start of school. That’s when it became clear to my mom I wasn’t getting it done and, in a seemingly sudden burst of extreme frustration, she told me this:

After final exams, Mrs. Stevens, my English teacher had petitioned to have me removed from the honors program. She claimed I was unmotivated to succeed and unprepared for the rigors of honors programming. As a student who routinely refused to study, performed poorly on exams, and required multiple extensions on assignments, I clearly did not belong in an honors program and should be reassigned to the regular track.

I was stunned. But then it got worse.

The head of the English department, having never met me, had consulted with my guidance counselor, Mr. Hooker, who rose resoundingly to my defense. Seeming to understand that I was teetering on the edge, he told the head that I was exceptionally bright and in danger should I become bored. “If you drop this kid,” he warned, “we’ll lose her.”

The head of the department had been moved by his plea, and I was allowed to remain in the program. All unbeknownst to me, until my mother dropped the story in the middle of our kitchen.

Hearing all this, I was mortified. I had no idea that Mrs. Stevens saw me as unfit, nor that Mr. Hooker had gone to bat for me. And in that moment, I couldn’t say which shamed me more.

Mrs. Stevens’ description of me as unmotivated and underperforming was completely accurate. And that mirror in my face, particularly attached as it was to rescinding a privilege, was both humiliating and humbling in the worst way. I’d not only been seen, I’d been called out and catapulted toward consequences I’d never even imagined possible.

But, in the end, the shame of that was nothing compared to how I felt having a kind man defend me when I didn’t deserve it. That was how I saw it. And it makes perfect sense. How else could I have seen it? Mrs. Stevens’ observations had been patently true.

I felt sick that Mr. Hooker had stood up on my behalf, like I’d been given a prize for an essay I hadn’t written. The fact that I was capable of writing it wasn’t good enough. Only the real thing would do. So now, I owed a debt. I’d have to write the essay and earn the prize, retroactively. I’d have to become worthy of his support, after the fact.

The upside is that it totally kicked my butt in gear. I was determined to live up to my counselor’s view of me and, sure enough, first quarter of my junior year, I was one of only two A’s in my honors English class (taught by the department head, no less).

But the down side… I became bulimic that summer, that week in fact. My shame wasn’t contained to my lack of performance in English class. I was disgusted with myself on the whole, and imperfection would no longer be tolerated. I would earn my worth across the board, starting immediately with my weight and size.

I don’t think there is one among us who hasn’t struggled at some time to receive good coming our way. But “struggling” doesn’t always look the same. Some of us outright reject or sabotage the good. Others demand of ourselves a sacrifice. If something good happens in one part of life, we secretly expect and accept that some other part of life must suffer. Last week, my struggle looked like suddenly being unable to own that I had anything to do with the good. And the summer before 11th grade, it looked like feeling unworthy and, therefore, indebted, striving to somehow earn what had already been given.

The problem then was that Mr. Hooker’s view of me was deeply contrary to my view of myself. He saw me as exceptional, full of potential, struggling, and worthy of a helping hand. I saw myself as insufficient, arrogant, a fuck up, and worthless. Given the discrepancy, the only way I could accept the gift of his support was to do everything in my power to become the girl he saw. I missed completely that I was already her.

And this brings us back to Cheri, because I think it was the same for her last week.

By participating in her campaign, more than 100 people demonstrated their belief that Cheri is worthy of love and support, and that is deeply contrary to the view she has historically held of herself. She’s working to reorganize that, of course, but in the face of such a huge outpouring, it was hard to feel deserving. The discrepancy loomed large, the indebtedness crept in, and suddenly 100 donations turned into 100 tiny weights.

And just like my teenage self, Cheri was missing completely that she already deserves.

Here’s the truth: Simply because she exists, Cheri is worthy of love and support. Every human is worthy of that – everyone — from birth. It’s only because some of us don’t get it that we become the assholes who don’t appear to deserve it. But we were all born inherently deserving love. It’s not something we have to earn.

It took me years to figure out that I deserved my counselor’s support. It was an honor to hold that truth for Cheri last week.

If you’re curious what Cheri finally had to say to her community of supporters, you can read it here.

, , , Leave a comment

We did it!! And I’m having trouble believing.

Last night, about 7pm California time, the campaign to help Cheri beat cancer reached its $5500 goal. Done. Finished. Final. Complete.

Hallelujah!

We were celebrating quite joyously this morning over on the campaign page, so you can check that out if you’d like.

Right now, though, I have to admit I feel kind of strange.

It started last night. I had talked to the matching donor in Australia, so I knew the fund was about to be fulfilled, and yet, the whole thing suddenly felt unreal. Like I’d made it all up. Imagined it. Like the numbers on the GoFundMe page were just numbers. Like when you’re learning to invest on the stock market and you start with fake dollars and make fake investments just to see how your decision making plays out.

Even this morning when I opened the computer and saw the neat $5500 tally next to our goal number $5500, it felt unreal. Tidy and lovely, but somehow unreal.

It’s kind of surprising, this feeling. I don’t think I felt it even once while the campaign was in motion. Every donation felt like a gift from Heaven. A miracle. Every time I saw the tally go up, I felt humbled and inspired, incredulous and excited. It felt SO real. Like we’d put ourselves out there and been met with so much support. Which is exactly what happened. The way it felt aligned perfectly with the actual experience.

So today feels super strange because, today, I literally have to remind myself that this happened. It wasn’t someone else that woke up to inspiration, who saw this possibility and grappled with the voices of doubt and criticism. It wasn’t someone else whose commitment to Cheri’s potential caused her to risk the boot. And every one of those numbers is attached to a real person, someone who said yes, I believe in you and I’ll stand for Cheri. And one way or another, it was me who reached out to each of those people, who invited everyone to join together and invest in the journey of one woman, to participate in her healing and evolution for the benefit of untold numbers beyond her. Please forgive my incredulity, but that was me!! And it honestly feels like someone else did all that. Someone out there, and I’m just witnessing this remarkable outcome.

Pretty strange, right?

Cheri is having a similar experience. She’s not been following the campaign as closely as I (you know, distracted with cancer and healing and reinventing her life), so when she randomly checked in last night and saw that we’d met our goal, she wept. But talking to her today, she said she was in shock and also used the word “surreal.” I think for her, the campaign has felt surreal all along though. I can’t really explain why I’ve dropped into it so suddenly.

But regardless, we are definitely celebrating. More than 100 people gave money. More than 200 shared the campaign. That’s extraordinary support, any way you look at it. And Cheri is on fire in her work this week. I so wish you all could hear her. She is focused and empowered in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever heard. This campaign has offered really tangible evidence of how life can be, full of love and care and grace. The show of support has put SO MUCH wind in Cheri’s sail. And she is definitely moving with it. It’s super exciting.

And no matter how strange or disconnected I feel at this moment, running this campaign and doing the work with Cheri has taught me some really important things about myself.

First is that I LOVE fundraising. I never would have expected that. But there is something REALLY satisfying about inspiring a group of people to come together in a meaningful way on behalf of someone else. Not only am I more comfortable doing that than I am trying to inspire individuals to invest in themselves and purchase a service, but I’m SO MUCH better at it. It just seems like a much better fit for who I am, how I work, and what I value.

The other thing I’m seeing — and this is far less surprising — is that I LOVE doing intensive mentoring over a prolonged period of time with someone just coming out of the darkness, someone sitting right at the threshold between who they’ve been and who they’re becoming. In truth, we are all sitting on that threshold every minute of every day. We all have at all times the potential to move into our next evolution. But that moment is more pronounced for some due to circumstance. And being able to really invest myself, to offer significant support such that a woman can follow through on radical change, feels…. Do you know? I don’t even have a word for that. I don’t have a word for that…… something.

Given all this, in the coming weeks I’m going to be seriously exploring reorganizing my coaching practice into a non-profit that can dedicate itself to the empowerment of women sitting on the edge. And I’m dreaming of starting a group in the fall, a small group, maybe four women, that I can support for at least six months. That will mean another fundraiser but I’m already a little excited about the idea. Thinking about bringing Caterpillar Soup out of retirement for the occasion.

So a HUGE thanks to everyone who participated in Cheri’s campaign, everyone who shared and gave and held Cheri in your heart. Extraordinary things are happening to both of us and I can honestly say, it’s because of you.

, , Leave a comment