Stoop Sittin’

If you do a quick perusal of anything I write about or share, it won’t take you long to figure out that I’m a big fan of dogs in general. And I’ve got what some have called an “unhealthy obsession” with my own dogs. Or, as my neighbor once put it, “I’ve never seen a human love her pets as much as you love those dogs.”

And it’s true. They’re perfect light creatures meant to bring nothing but happiness and companionship into this world. So, yeah, I’m pretty obsessed with them.

But it’s not just their doe eyes and floppy ears that I love. I’m constantly learning from them.

Okay, listen. I realize that people saying they learn from their dogs is as innovative and refreshing as people saying “boy, men and women are really different, aren’t they?” So let me be clear that I understand that I’m not breaking new ground here. I’m not trying to. I’m just trying to further fertilize ground that has been broken for years so I can plant a new seed for this current season.

I’m not totally sure but I think I really like that metaphor.

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Anyway, I want to tell you a little about one of my absolute favorite activities my dog does that is the best lesson in the world for me.

Clyde (my younger pup aka my Tasmanian Devil with a heart of gold) has a lot of quirky personality traits. But I’ll be damned if there has ever existed a dog more happy to be alive than that little hooligan. His favorite thing in the morning is just to go outside and sit and smell the fresh air.

Though right now we only have access to a balcony for them to enjoy the breeze without going on a full walk, he and my girl Bonnie don’t care. She likes to sit outside and watch over her kingdom (aka the apartment complex) and yell at intruders. And my Clyde likes to just look and smile. He just sits outside, takes in the smells, and is more present in the moment than any zen monk who ever meditated for hours.

My in-laws joke that first thing in the morning, Clyde likes to get up and just sit outside by himself. He smells the early morning air and listens to the birds as the world awakens. It drives them crazy because he wants to be outside at least an hour before sunrise to really take it all in. But he’s more than happy just enjoying it on his own without any distractions.

At home, he sleeps in and enjoys morning cuddles. But you’d better believe after his day has started, all he wants to do is enjoy the fresh air on the porch and feel the cool breeze on his perfect golden mane.

My absolute favorite thing he does, which is what I titled this piece after, is when we walk back in from a walk and he just wants to sit on the stairs of the apartment complex by our entrance. The first time he did it, he just sat down and looked at me, basically beckoning me to sit by him. At first, I thought we didn’t have time for this. But I quickly realized that he just wants a couple minutes to soak in the beauty around him with someone by his side. So for such a worthy cause, there’s always time to be made.

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Now, when we walk in  and he’s in the mood for “Stoop Sittin’” he just walks right up to the step and sits down with his little cute face turning around to me asking to join. When I sit next to him, he often puts his paw on my knee and smiles his big dopey smile. And I get to scratch him while we simply smell the air and listen to the leaves and watch the hummingbirds fight each other over the apartment feeders.

It’s bliss.

I have a tendency to move fast. I like to be productive and get going. I like to be active and get my energy out. Funny enough, both my dogs have similar tendencies – especially my sweet little psychopath boy. But if he can insist on finding time to simply be in the present moment and enjoy the world around him, I certainly can, too.

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Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 96: FEAR & FLOPPY EARS

img_1173Let me apologize in advance. This episode centers around a story that involves my dogs, therefore you’ll be getting a lot of dog pictures in this post because any time we talk about my dogs, I feel it’s incredibly important to show you just how cute they are.

 

 

Seriously, though, look at them. They’re so precious.

 

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Anyway, this podcast features a story about how a lady was terrified of these dogs.

Yes these same cutie cherubs sitting right here, cuddling in their floppy softness with each other.

The whole podcast is really about fear, and how this one random lady’s fear was a great learning lesson in both patience and empathy. And how her physically paralyzing fear is a lesson for all of us.

Spoiler alert, she was somehow scared of these cutie patooties.

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Pretty ridiculous, I know.

Anyway, the podcast is available today along with a bunch of other archived ones if you subscribe on iTunes.

Now two more pics for good measure.

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For Brittany

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I used to be a pretty petty, jealous person. Hopefully by being self aware enough to see how much of this type of person I was in the past, I can truthfully say that I’ve grown. I’m usually able to see when these old patterns and thoughts creep back up and keep them at bay. But that skill has taken years of work and practice. It used to be second nature for me to judge and dislike people, especially those who were really similar to me.

I don’t know why. Then again, we never really know why we make the choices we do, do we? Especially when they end up making us unbalanced, unsatisfied, and unhappy. Those are always the most confusing of the choices. I heard once in a movie it’s because humans are self destructive by nature. But that movie was fiction so I refuse to believe it (even though there might have been enough truth in the statement to make me at least remember it years later).

I got thinking about how silly this pettiness is recently when I heard a girl I knew (who I used to be jealous of) took her own life.

I’ve always known life is short and precious. And I’ve usually at least attempted to keep a positive perspective and to recognize that we are all on our own paths. But when I met Brittany, I was in a much more insecure internal place and it was in an insecure external environment. I genuinely liked her. And I admired her work. I thought she was funny and talented and really nice. But I was jealous because she was younger than me and I saw her as a threat. I thought there can only be one adorable, young, funny, talented midwesterner in the room. How dare she take that throne from me. How dare she be better at some of the creative exercises we were doing. How dare she smile so much and be so friendly with everyone.

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How gross this all feels to admit it later.

I got to know her throughout the course of our class and became aware that she was actually as nice as she seemed. That let some of my jealousy dissipate. Of course, it didn’t help that the class was set up as a cut-throat pass or fail style course that made you feel like everyone in the class was your competition (even though that’s not how either comedy or life actually works).

Anyway, we were Facebook friends for a while and pleasant acquaintances. As I distanced myself from the theater that had made me so competitive and worked a bit on my own perspective, I became more supportive and excited for her when I saw she was working. I’d see her in commercials or stuff would pop up on social media. I realized that I had a lot more in common with her than I ever had to criticize, and began quietly cheering on her successes.

Several years later, a group she was in hosted a comedy night and invited me to perform. It was actually a friend of hers in the group who asked me to come, but I was pleasantly surprised when Brittany was at the show. They called it a “House Party” and spent the first hour of the show pretending their parents were out of town and they needed to drink like high schoolers. I walked in on Brittany chugging beer in flip cup and laughing while cheering the rest of her team on. She gave me a hug and was as happy to see me as I was to see her.

After the show, which was a lot of fun, she gave me a ton of compliments on how my style has grown and changed and strengthened since we last saw each other.

She was a genuinely nice human being. And this past fall, she took her own life, losing an ongoing and open battle she had to depression.

Just a couple months before, she had staged a one-woman show that gave all its proceeds to suicide prevention charities.

The news hit me hard not because we were close, but because I realized that a bright light had been extinguished from the world at a time when we need all the light we can get. And I kicked myself for ever having wasted any time or energy being “jealous” of this incredible human. Every moment I spent quietly stewing could have been spent being grateful to be around someone so inspiring.

But above all the personal stuff, the news hit me hard as a reminder that you simply don’t know what’s happening in someone’s personal life. Though Brittany was open about her struggles with depression, even championing causes to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She was smiling and seemingly happy. Yet she fought hard against her mental illness, eventually losing the battle.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have brains that don’t rebel on such a massive level on a daily basis, we can’t fathom what it must feel like to feel so low that you just want it to be over. And yet, as humans, we all need to have empathy and recognize each one of us is on our own journey, fighting our own battles, and here on this earth for a blink of an eye.

So there’s no need to waste any of that time looking at your fellow soul-travelers with envy. See them for the bright shining lights they are and know that every little bit of light can help illuminate someone else so they can see more clearly. And they, in turn, can help illuminate your path when you’re fighting your own darkness.

Brittany will be missed intensely by those who knew her well. And as for people like me who only got to know her in passing, she will continue to be a beautiful inspiration and a reminder to be kind to everyone because, seriously, you just never know.

Mother-bleeping Discipline. Learn It. Love It. Get Some.

At the end of last year, I went on a discipline binge. I got introduced to Jocko Willink through some general “research” about early risers I was casually doing on YouTube (aka I was going down a productivity rabbit hole) when I saw this motivational speech by a man who looked like a freaking statue of Hercules come to life.

I started listening to more of his stuff and I was soon hooked. I bought his book on Audible, Extreme Ownership, and found it really motivating to listen to while I ran. I heard stories of modern warfare and these incredible physical feats overcome through drilling and discipline that helped me convince myself I could go one mile longer on my little fun run in paradise. I started talking about Jocko to whoever would listen. On film set I was on, it even became a joke among the cast and crew to “Get Some” (one of his favorite phrases) when you were feeling tired or low energy.

Though I had gone through plenty of phases of being an early riser before, something about reading that book and listening to that information at that time became a huge transformative step in what has been a wonderful past few months for me.

Here are the main lessons I’d like to remind you, now that we’re a few weeks into the new year and people’s motivations are likely waning.

First, discipline starts right when you wake up. You don’t judge what you’re doing as good or bad. You just do it. If you don’t want to wake up, that doesn’t matter. Discipline means you just choose to do it anyway. And when you do, it builds a tiny little muscle that can become a foundation for a much stronger muscle. Discipline isn’t some big choice you make every day. It’s not bench pressing 1,000 lbs when you walk into the weight room your first try. It’s showing up every day and slowly but surely increasing your strength and your confidence so you can eventually achieve what seems like superhuman strength. When, really, anyone could do it as long as they give the amount of work and discipline required. Don’t judge. Just do.

Well, maybe everyone can’t bench 1,000 lbs in their lifetime, but you get my point.

Oh and Jocko for sure can. I have no doubt. He probably does that as his warm up before eating an entire farm for breakfast. He’s a beast.

Secondly, there’s no point in complaining. It’s fine to get something off your chest. And it’s wonderful to be in touch with your emotions so you become aware when something isn’t serving you or when you may be in an environment where you need to make a change. But complaining doesn’t help fix anything and it wastes precious time and energy on absolutely nothing.

If you need to communicate something happened, communicate it. You don’t need to put all the judgements on top of it being good or bad. Zen philosophy would argue that nothing is inherently good or bad anyway, so the time you spent judging or complaining about some thing that happened is a total waste and doesn’t serve you at all.

If something happens to you, spending your energy complaining about it not only wastes that energy, but it can feel disempowering. Rather than realizing you have the power to do something about it, you act like you’re being productive when you whine and moan. Either you can do something about it to improve the situation for you – in which case figure out what it is and do so immediately – or you can’t – in which case you can’t so simply accept your new circumstances and figure out how to make the most of them. If something happened because of actions you took, own them. Blaming someone else or complaining about someone not stepping up again disempowers you. You are in control. You have power. You are worthy of being in control and having power over your life and how you approach the circumstances within it.

Things just happen. That’s what things do. There’s no need to waste your energy complaining. Once you accept this, you can reallocate that energy into fixing problems around you so that you can live a smoother, more productive existence. Until, of course, the next thing pops up. But deal with issues as they appear. Don’t worry about them or what might happen in the future. Understand that your current actions have repercussions down the line and everything that happens just is. It is what it is. No use in complaining about it so spend your precious short time on this earth complaining.

Jocko’s head is shaved like a monk. I don’t think that’s the look he was going for when he did it, but it’s the look I see. He’s a zen beast.

And finally*, you’re capable of so much more than you may currently believe.

I’m not sure this was a lesson that was outright stated in any of Jocko’s writing, but it’s definitely something I saw directly in his work and his stories. People who are willing to teach themselves intense discipline practices and who spend their time and energy devoted to bettering themselves and their world without complaining or blaming tend to start creating some pretty awesome lives. They slowly but surely start discovering that the world is more malleable than they may have previously thought. They begin believing that anything is possible and that they can achieve incredible new heights in their life, goals, and career simply through constant and consistent application of these efforts.

Our brains are conditioned to be a little lazy. It’s not their fault – it actually usually helps us as humans. We want to stay safe and we want to do whatever will require the least amount of output. If our brain had to exert a lot of energy in order to consistently do the involuntary actions it does to keep us alive, we wouldn’t have much brainpower left to thrive.

The second our brain wires something in as a habit or a learned trait, it becomes part of our hardwiring so that the next time we want to do it, it’s already ingrained and easier. This usually works in our favor. But when it comes to creating new habits – healthier ones to replace the old ones no longer serving us – it can get frustrating. Your brain will want to revert back to what it’s always said, thought, and done. It’s easier. Maybe at first the new habit will be easy because it’s novel and fun. But eventually, when your brain realizes it has to do some work to break the old synapses and replace them with new ones, it will rebel. It will begin to fight back to keep the old synapse alive so that it doesn’t have to do work to create the new one. That’s when you need to be aware and fight it.

A couple weeks into the new year, your motivation may be failing and you may or may not have cultivated the right mindset to have the discipline to follow through on whatever your ambitious resolutions were. And your brain is most definitely putting up a fight not to replace the old habit because that means it has to work harder than it wants to.

Fight back. Recognize what’s happening and recommit to the you you want to be. Don’t settle for the you now if it’s a you that isn’t satisfying. You don’t need some major external change to make a minor internal one that can lead to more dramatic future changes. You just need to know, and maybe sometimes be reminded, that you are capable. Resistance is natural. Choose to commit.

As a dedicated yogi, I have to throw in that it’s totally fine to listen to your body. Nobody is asking you to go to incredible extremes immediately. Even though my beloved Jocko is all about the word “extreme,” I do believe it’s totally fine if your body is telling you it cannot to listen to it. But I would encourage you to have a conversation with it. Get honest and get in tune. Is it telling you to stop because it doesn’t want to? That’s different. Is it telling you to stop because it’s scared? That’s different. Is it telling you it wants to stop because it’s not ready and you’re going to break something? In that case, listen to it and learn how to improve so you can get a little closer to your goal in the future.

Get in your own version of Beast Mode, whatever that may mean, and make Jocko proud.

Oh also sometimes I call him my best friend and life coach. He would hate that if he found that out. I’m not doing it to make him hate me, I’m simply trying to manifest someday meeting him and having a positive interaction. Shoot for the Jocko moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the Seals.

Now quit reading and go out and get some.

*There’s plenty more that I discovered and glean (and continue to glean!) from his book Extreme Ownership and his podcast, Jocko Podcast and his various interviews (not to mention his Ted Talk). But these are the few I boiled down for simplicity sake. Jocko says simplicity is the key to good communication (another thing you’ll learn from him!). So as part of a my tribute to him, I’m keeping this short and sweet in three simple main lessons.

 

 

Femoir the Podcast: Episode 94, “Season 3 Introduction” – Show Notes

Boy if that title didn’t explain what you’ll be getting here, I don’t know what will.

Ye olde Femoir: The Podcast is up and back in action. If you’re not already caught up (or subscribed – wink wink, hint hint, nudge nudge) check it out on iTunes!

In this episode, I basically let you know you that I missed the crap out of creating this thing, so here’s what to expect from this upcoming “season.”

We talk about adding to the noise, figuring out that whatever you have to say is valid, GOAL-ing HARD, and how too many possibilities can lead us into doing nothing.

And I mention my dogs, of course.

Enjoy!

A Bear in the Sensory Depravation Chamber

As I stared up – or was it sideways? – while floating for an undisclosed amount of time in what I can only imagine my mother’s womb probably felt like, I felt the presence of a terrifying grizzly bear I hadn’t interacted with in years. And I was absolutely trapped and unable to have any sense of what direction in might come from to attack me. For a few moments – or was it hours? – I was convinced he would finish the job he attempted to so many years before in the Smoky Mountains.

Let me give some context here.

A couple years ago, my husband and I decided to try a sensory depravation chamber. As with most experimental holistic decisions, we did so with a Groupon. You know, to make sure we were getting top-of-the-line service with the people we would soon be trusting to keep us alive in a scenario where we would have absolutely no way of calling out for help…but on a discount.

As we prepared to go in our separate chambers, I was anxious. I had heard and read about sensory depravation before. And I’ve been meditating off and on long enough to know how to breathe through some intense monkey mind complaining. But the idea of floating in an underground chamber in a small bit of water with absolutely no way to see or hear anything happening in the world around me made me, understandably, anxious.

I considered not going in. I live in LA, after all, and “The Big One” (aka a catastrophic earthquake that everyone in LA is constantly hoping will wait until after their lifetimes to hit) could happen at any time. What if there’s a terrible earthquake while I’m in the chamber and I get locked in and I’m stuck there and I suffocate and that’s how I die?

Or what if I have a heart attack or an anxiety attack and I can’t call out for help and my body rebels and I lay there and they don’t know it until they find my body two hours later?

Or what if [insert any real or imagined catastrophe] happens and I [insert any real or imagined physical ailment of any degree] and that’s how I die?

My mind was already resisting, which is why I knew I needed to press on.

I did it. I got in the chamber. I closed the doors. And I floated in my own thoughts, eventually resigning myself to the fact that anything in the external world might happen at any time – including some major catastrophe. And, as fun as it was to worry about, I am generally powerless to do anything about it anyway so I might as well live life on my own terms and choose to face my challenges whenever I can. My first little zen moment of serenity.

Of course, I didn’t count on that damn bear showing up and haunting most of my experience.

More on him in a second.

If you haven’t experienced a sensory depravation chamber, it’s a fascinating challenge for your brain. I don’t want to say it’s good or bad because those are arbitrary judgments that mean nothing anyway. And I don’t want to outright recommend it because everybody is different and what works for one brain may genuinely be awful for another.

But, assuming you’re a pretty normal human living in this loud and distraction-filled world, it’s a fascinating way of shutting it all out and getting deeply in touch with the abyss of your creative mind.

The tank is essentially set up so you float in a shallow pool of body temperature salt water (so you float easily) without the ability to see or hear any element of the outside world. And you do that for some pre-disclosed amount of time. Basically, you want to feel like a floating brain completely unaware of your external surroundings. They come in and knock on the door when you’re done and then you sort of float around to find the handle and reenter the previous world, a little more in touch (hopefully) with some truth about your own self or your own mind. Or, you just got a refreshing two hour nap in a weird underground tank. There’s no right or wrong to the experience, just that you experience it.

It took me a minute to adjust to the fact that I had basically lost my body and was more or less just a disembodied brain. It felt sort of like en episode of Black Mirror where my conscious was present but I couldn’t figure out where my body went.

And then, you guessed it, that damn bear showed up.

Okay, pause again, I want to take you even further back in time so this makes a little more sense.

When I was in fifth grade, I went on a school field trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The two most memorable parts of that field trip, for me, were the scat scarves we all got that told us how to identify all sorts of woodland creature poops and the mile-long solo walk we went on to get in touch with our own minds.

All of us in my small class would all take part in this half mile-long solo walk. It was an easy enough, clear path we were told not to stray from at all. A teacher went first and chaperones were periodically placed in the line up. They’d have someone go, you’d wait a few minutes, and then the next person went so that you couldn’t see who was ahead or behind you. It was a very awesome way to experience nature quietly with none of the usual distractions.

I remember I went after John Loser. Fun fact, his younger sister would go on to marry my older brother. That has nothing to do with the solo walk, it’s just funny how life works out like that sometimes. Anyway, he plays a tiny little role in this so I figured I’d mention it and throw in that fun aside because why not. You’re still reading aren’t you? Okay, great.

So I started my solo walk and I did my best to stay calm. I was nervous. I’m an extrovert and like being around people. I’ve always been someone who enjoys having people around. Though my active imagination and general love for the outdoors combined with my brother’s introversion and preference for video games meant I often played outside by myself for hours, I generally liked to experience life with other people around. A solo walk was way outside my comfort zone.

Combine that with the fact that, as a girl, I have been reminded from a young age that if I go anywhere by myself, I will probably be hurt, robbed, or swept up into some horrible underground life, I wasn’t exactly comfortable chilling by myself.

But even in fifth grade, I understood that I was probably safe enough in the constructs they had provided for this solo walk. After all, plenty of middle schoolers before me had done it and none of them had been hurt or sold into human trafficking, so I’d probably be okay.

I tried to walk slowly but my normal pace is pretty fast. So I made a point to breathe and go way slower than felt normal just to enjoy the beautiful fall surroundings. I remember thinking how cool it was that it was so quiet and that the leaves were so bright. I remember thinking the crunch of the leaves below my feet into the muddy ground combined with the gorgeous views off the side of the mountain made me feel pretty lucky to have the experience.

All that lasted probably just a few minutes before the damn grizzly bear made his first appearance.

Let me be clear, I never actually saw the bear. But I knew he was there. All of a sudden, in my anxiety, I realized that I was alone and anything could happen and that I didn’t trust myself to know what to do if something out-of-the-ordinary happened and what if I’m going to slow or too fast and they leave me behind and I’m stuck out here lost forever and it turns to winter and I’m still out here and I freeze to death? All of those terrified, insecure thoughts rushed through me. And, though I am grateful for my imagination, I didn’t yet understand that sometimes an active imagination can work against you when combined with primal fear.

So as those thoughts began ringing through my head, replacing the gratitude and enjoyment I had been previously feeling in nature. And they manifested themselves in the form of an unseen grizzly bear I was absolutely convinced was stalking me. I knew for sure that I wasn’t safe, I shouldn’t be alone, how dare I enjoy nature on my own when there are so many dangers out to get me, and I’d better speed up so I can make sure I’m not on this journey anymore by myself or at least so someone can hear me if that grizzly decides to pounce.

I picked up my pace. My heart rate and brain terrors picked up with it. No matter what I did, that damn invisible grizzly continued to watch me from the forest above, waiting for his chance to come attack me.

Eventually, I saw John and became comforted by the fact that another human was nearby.

The immediately realized that I was no longer experiencing this immaculate nature alone and now I had to share what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience with someone else when I could have had it alone.

I may have been young, but I always held some regret about how quickly I let my anxiety take over my brain that day and how I squandered what could have been a transformative experience. And all because of being convinced of my own pending doom in the form of a stupid grizzly bear I never even saw.

Okay, now fast forward again.

Maybe the bear showing up makes a little more sense to you now. I didn’t see it again. But I felt it. I felt my anxiety start to bubble up. I became convinced – absolutely convinced – that if I didn’t get out of the chamber right then, it would attack me. It had waited all these years for the perfect moment when I was completely alone and vulnerable again. And it would finish the job it started back in the day.

But I was older now. I knew that the stupid bear only had the power I gave him. I knew that I technically could get out of the chamber at any time. I could end the experience quickly and just wait around for my husband to finish his time while I continued to be distracted by my phone or any other external distraction my brain knew and loved.

Instead, I stared that bear back in its invisible face – or maybe it’s butt? Again, I had no sense of direction in there – and I told it to back off. I told it that this time, I was going to finish this experience. I wasn’t going to rush it. And I wasn’t going to let its fear keep me from being present and breathing calmly. Eventually, it went away.

I have no idea what the end ratio was of monkey mind wild thoughts to eventual calm brain after my chamber experience. It could be that my brain was insane for an hour and 50 minutes, and crazy calm for the last 10. Or maybe it was insane for 10 and crazy calm for the rest of it. I do know that after I stared down the bear, it started a quick chain reaction that eventually led to me being so in a calm zone, I was shocked to hear the eventual knocks to let me know my time had passed. I know that when the knocks eventually came, they brought me back from somewhere between awake and sleeping that helped me better understand the nature of myself and of reality as I know it.

I loved my depravation chamber experience despite the safety failings that allowed a bear to join me for a short – or was it long? – time. I also know that the bear will be back again. He shows up whenever I’m out of my comfort zone and getting in deep touch with myself. He remind me that danger could be around every corner. But now that I beat him in the chamber using only my mind (seriously, I couldn’t find my body, I had temporarily misplaced it), I know that I can handle him whenever and wherever he shows up next. Maybe it’ll be next week, maybe it’ll be next decade. But I beat him once, I can beat him again.

Hey, but if you see a grizzly bear for real, please don’t try the stare down technique. It only works for metaphorical bears.

Just Asking

Sometimes I’m able to pull off cool stuff (with the help of friends, of course). Over the years, I’ve been consistently surprised at the number of people who are shocked by whatever shenanigans I’m able to put together. mother may i

But I live by a very simple policy that often allows me cool opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. That policy is this: Just Ask.

Years ago, even though I had already implemented this policy in many different projects, I was working on something important to me. And I was nervous about inviting important people to see my important project. I felt like maybe they were out of my league and maybe I’d be overstepping boundaries by inviting them. I’m not big on “frontting” as the kiddos say, which sometimes means I don’t invite people to things they’d be more than happy to come to.

But a very close friend at the time put a very clear insight on why it’s important to “just ask.” He said, “The worst that could happen is that you ask and they say ‘No.’ But if you don’t ask, they’re already saying ‘No.’ And there’s a chance, when you do ask, that they might actually say ‘Yes.’ So you really can’t lose.”

Articulating this so specifically helped me solidify how important that policy really is in my life. Though I had an intuitive feeling for that idea, I can remind myself of that simple idea whenever I feel myself hesitating. By not asking, the answer is already “No.” So I might as well take a chance that I’ll hear a “Yes” and ask.

That’s probably why I hear more Yes-es than the average bear. I do a whole lot more asking.

A Year Ago

back in timeA year ago, I got some news that surprised me. Someone tried to tell me I wasn’t good enough for something. Well, the truth was, they did tell me that they didn’t think I was good enough for something. He basically told me I didn’t make the cut.

After I got over the initial shock since I found the assessment completely unfounded, I thought about the deliverer and I thought about the actual outcome of this news and its impact on the rest of my life. I realized that the deliverer wasn’t someone I admired who’s opinion I needed to listen to and the outcome I thought I wanted was absolutely unnecessary to the goals I had in my own life. Another outcome would have allowed me to check off a box that didn’t need checking in order to prove I live up to arbitrary standards of a system that’s becoming more archaic daily.

But rejection is never fun no matter what perspective you can later spin it into. It can bother you. And, despite the fact that I am now more relieved and well-aware that world is not one I want to be a part of, this one still bothered me for a while.

I mean, you want to get in an invite to the party even if you have no intention of attending.

So I was going to write a whole article in response going into detail about all the things I’ve done in the year since this day. But when this day neared, I lost my edge to write a vengeance-filled post bragging about all my accomplishments. First of all, it’s not really my style. And secondly, I just didn’t care enough. The truth is, this mattered so little to me by the time the day came and went, that I just let it go and forgot about it. I was too busy actually doing the things that I love to take time out of my day to focus on telling people that I’m doing the things that I love.

And when I realized I missed my chance for my year-later response, I couldn’t find a shred of me that really cared. It all felt so long ago and my life has been progressively getting better, more fulfilling, and happier since that day.

When the issue comes up, of course I’m candid and honest about how I felt about the whole situation. But the underlying truth of the matter is that I care about it a lot less now that I thought I would. Which, for the most part, is liberating. But a little part of me still wishes I were angry so that I could let their rejection continue to fuel me.

But I’m not angry. While initial frustrations and rejections can make for good tinder for a fire, they ultimately cannot sustain the flames. They can provide a little help making it burn brighter, but they flare up and burn out quickly. It’s the thick logs and constant care that keep a fire burning. For me, those thick logs are my own passion for creativity and storytelling, and the constant care is the diligence and consistency with which I approach turning my passion into a daily, viable reality.

To put it bluntly, I realized that the best way to show ’em up is to show ’em you don’t even need ’em. Cuz you don’t.

Show Me The Goodies

Listen, I’m open, people. I love new ideas and get extremely excited about the possibility of working on all sorts of new and enticing projects with passionate people.

But I’m at a point in my career (and life) where I don’t have time for empty promises. I don’t dislike people who make them, because I know most empty promises are not made by people who realize they’re empty. And many times, they may not be.

show me the moneyBut a whole lot of times, they are.

My point is simply this: Let’s be reasonable with each other people. If you’re going to ask me to take a meeting with you, and you pick the date, place, time and venue and are pitching your idea to me, I need to see some goodies that I get out of it before I’m enticed. That’s not because I’m selfish or an asshole. That’s because I’m busy and it’s human nature.

I’ll probably love your idea. I love most ideas because I’m just generally a fan of ideas.

But if you don’t have anything in place- no structures, no commitments, no tangible way of making the idea into a reality or not even a blueprint for how to get started- why should I care?

Again, not because I don’t care about you… but because I’m busy and have lots of ideas of my own. Because we’re human. And we need to know how something will serve us and make us as individuals better or more fulfilled. Otherwise, I’ll feel like you’re wasting my time. And I don’t have the luxury of time to waste.

So if you want someone to be as excited as you are by your project, actually show them something what they’ll get out of it. Show them what you’ve done, what you’ve already got in place to make this idea a reality, or show them your enthusiasm for having them on board and why it’ll be so good for everyone involved.

And for god sakes, pay for their coffee/meal/drink. If they’re giving you time to listen to your idea, have the courtesy to show them that small respect for their time.

Otherwise, they’ll walk away and be like, “Cool. That was an idea someone else had about a project they’re obviously really excited about and I don’t know why I should be too and not sure why I left work and drove 45 minutes to pay for my own lunch and listen to someone else’s idea and don’t know why I should be involved at all.”

Believe me. I know from experience.

Stay In Class

happy-studentI love learning. I’m an advocate for life-long learning. I download audiobooks for fun on all sorts of subjects. I get excited by the prospect of learning something new. I love being in learning settings with like-minded people. I often don’t even care if I’m going to ever apply or need the knowledge. I’m ok with just learning what someone thinks about something.

Like I said, I love learning.

I also love criticism. I love being evaluated. Of course it takes pretty tough skin because it’s hard to always divorce your ego from whatever evaluation you’re getting. But once you learn that what someone says is just their opinion and how they view a situation, you can learn more about both yourself and whoever you’re getting criticism from in the process. Once you see criticism as a valuable tool for gaining perspective on how the world sees you or your product- rather than something that should be avoided or something that always needs a response- you get to enjoy being critiqued and you get more opportunities for constant growth.

And growth means more chances to learn. And like I already said, I love learning.

But not long ago, I took a short “class” wherein we were evaluated afterwards. I put “class” in parenthesis because it’s not really a course. It’s what’s called a “learning opportunity” where you can get in front of individuals who may or may not be able to help your career and they give you feedback. It’s a little tongue and cheek because of some laws involved, but I’ve found a lot of success in these “learning opportunities” and have no real problem with them. One night, I had the chance to do a short scene in front of five different people. You only get a couple minutes or so in front of each one, so it’s not like there’s a ton of time to get to know someone. So I like using the chance to learn how I come across in an audition setting with other people. My feedback usually involves what type they see me as and some relevant or irrelevant descriptions of how I did.

The only reason it’s significant that I had several people this particular night is because the first four were pretty standard. I did well, they gave me feedback- some positive, some neutral- and we all went about our merry way.

The last guy I did my scene for was pretty proud of himself. Just in general. I didn’t like his vibe from thecocky-guy moment he walked in, but I let it go and did the work anyway. We don’t always get to choose who we audition for, so I used it as a LEARNING opportunity (see above) and went for it anyway.

His feedback was short and sweet. It was simply “Stay in class.”

That’s it.

Let me pause and tell you three ways to make my blood boil: Be passive aggressive, be consistently lazy, or tell me cocky bullshit like “stay in class.”

So, as you guessed, my blood boiled. I completely forgot about the other four evaluations I had that night (let alone the countless feedback I’ve gotten over the course of my near-decade long career) and wanted to walk back up and get in that man’s face.

It was a lazy thing to say. And a pointless one.

Sure, if you didn’t like what I did- I’m ok with that. But you need to give me a specific feedback if you want my respect. You need to tell me, “Your facial features were too big and unbelievable” or “It felt rehearsed” or even the generic, “I didn’t believe you.” Cool. Fine. I’m totally with you and those are things I get to think about and decide.

But this guy was essentially doing what another teacher did to me several months before that made me almost go on a rampage. The other teacher said, “General note… not enough specifics.” That means nothing. That’s a worthless sentence and serves no purpose. When I’m paying for an evaluation, I expect to be given one. It doesn’t mean I need to listen to you or believe you. It just means I need to be given to opportunity to know how you see me so I can decide within myself if I agree that whatever your pointing out is something I need to work on. I get to be the one to do that. You don’t get to keep that information from me as if I can’t handle it. It’s your job to tell me something you think is of value. And it’s my right to decide whether or not it’s of actual value to me.

But to top it all off, what made me really ticked about the evaluation “Stay in class” was more ideological. Yes, classes are valuable. Yes, it’s interesting to learn more. Yes, I’m obsessed with learning and a firm believer you always need coaching and further challenges and goals for your own growth. But, when it comes to self- expression, classes don’t teach you shit.

We live in a world where our youth have been over-educated (myself included! No complaints and thank you mom and dad!). There’s a class for everything now. And that’s great because classes can provide opportunities to delve into worlds you wouldn’t otherwise know and sometimes give you courage to do something you wouldn’t otherwise ever do. But at the end of the day, you can’t teach self-expression or creativity. They’re inherent. Your voice is your voice and you don’t need something or someone outside yourself to validate that.

And because there’s so many classes and so much available education, people can spend a whole lifetime believing they’re “not ready” or they’re “not good enough” or they “need more education.” Or even as troubling, people can choose to stay in school rather than following their passion because school provides security and following your passion means taking big risks and risks are terrifying. So we stay in school. We don’t venture out. We squash the creative voices inside of us that are begging to be let out to play because they don’t seem to have as much value in the real world. And eventually they get quiet. And they get sad. And you get sad, but you can’t remember why. And it’s because a part of you inside has been systematically shut down.

Fight back. Bring it back alive. People are infallible, no matter how much they pretend to be perfect. Don’t listen to anyone but your gut. If you do choose to listen to a few people outside yourself, choose them wisely. And only take a few to heart. Otherwise, let people’s opinions be just that- opinions. You can learn from them or ignore them. It doesn’t matter. By the time you decide one way or another, they could have changed them anyway.

If you think I’m a “bad actress” as was the case of this particular dipshit, fine. Cool. No problem. But I need you to give me a specific. I need to know something I can work on to get better. I don’t yet have an Oscar or my own sitcom, so I’m willing to bet I’ve got plenty to learn still. But if you’re saying you don’t like my style, that’s a different story. But don’t be lazy and give me shitty worthless feedback like “Stay in class” because not only does that mean nothing, it doesn’t serve any purposes. Classes can’t teach you how to be you. You have to teach yourself that. Then classes become enjoyable because you know what you want out of it, so you’re not attached to any sort of outcome.success kid

So here’s what I have to say to you, you lazy man who wrote “Stay in class” to me:

Stay out of my way.

Because I’m coming. And I know what I want and I know I have a valuable voice that won’t be served by listening to people who are lazy and don’t know the first thing about creativity. I’ve faced much bigger obstacles than you, and I look forward to making sure people know that they don’t need to be told it’s ok to be yourself, even if not everybody approves of who you are.