Don’t Push Rocks Uphill (and other ways to ease the angst)

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we want something and it is just so hard to achieve it.

Maybe it’s a job or a business or a relationship.

You study up, work hard, try all the things the “experts” suggest and it’s just damn hard.

Sure, there’s baby step progress, but then you slide back. It sucks.

It feels like pushing rocks uphill.

So what’s easier?

Unless we are masochists, there are some areas in life where things aren’t so hard.

Maybe it’s really easy for you to knit a sweater or make kick-ass cupcakes or every accounting job you apply for is your for the taking.

Do more of what’s easy. It makes life much more fun.

“But I want to be a DANCER!”

If I could do any job in the world, it would be that of a professional modern dancer.

The reality is, however, I am not a good dancer.

Sure, I can keep the beat and clap on 1 and 3, but dancing with someone counting out eights and following  choreographed steps…not so much.

I could have studied with the best dancers on earth and just not made a go of things.

So the dream of professional modern dancing had to die.

The Easy

Working with children in a role as counselor/psychologist has always come easily to me.

The work is fun most of the time. It’s intuitive. Kids and I get each other. When I look for jobs in the role as child therapist, I get the jobs. No effort, no angst. I was once 30 minutes late for a job interview as  a school psychologist and got the job. That is crazy when you think about it.

I imagine, my auditions for the Mark Morris dance company would not go as well.

Sometimes we undervalue what comes easily for us. We think, “This is so easy, anyone can do it!” And we seek out challenges. We look for rocks to push uphill.

I can’t dance, I can’t knit and I’m a mediocre cook. I’m so impressed with people who can do those things and I bet a lot of them think their work is no biggie that “anyone can do it.”

If you find yourself living in a state of “hard,” consider pursuing the stuff that is easy. Why push rocks uphill? Running down is so much more fun and rewarding.

Where to Put This Facebook Angst?

Back in the day (2010) I was a Twitter fan and had no use for Facebook.

Over time, my friends and family started using Facebook for all things social, sharing pictures, party invitations, requests for homework assignments. I friended some business colleagues, I shared some of my life and business, too.

But lately, Facebook feels ick.

The combination of endless Ebola updates, talk of crisis and heartache world wide and the endless selling, bickering, debate and disagreement is just too much to bear.

Even something as harmless and potentially helpful as the #icebucketchallenge for ALS has haters.

Actually people I thought were cool and supportive of those in need have hated on this viral project.

And it brings up in me these ambivalent, eye-rolling kind of feelings.

I find myself saying out loud more than I want to admit, “Really?? Really?!”

Because if you can’t take something fun like a charity fundraiser in stride, something isn’t right.

But, that is *my* opinion, I suppose.

And there is the crux of weirdness on Facebook. Everyone is entitled to an opinion that they state out loud.

Now we all have a platform to voice our every thought, sunset experienced, lobster eaten, dog walked, baby laughed with, shoes bought,.

It’s exhausting. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own life, never mind processing others’ moment-to-moment joys and sorrows.

Through it all, I think we lose a precious opportunity to spread useful information, share our deepr insights and original thoughts, advocate for causes that matter.

Rather than lift each other up, we exist in a parallel process for validating attention for the minutia in our life.

But this is how we are, we humans.

We look at the world through out own unique lens and the focus of all the snapshots are of ourselves.

This is just a fact, not a judgement, nor a calling out. I do it, too. We are self-preservationists. It’s how we survive as a species.

But if we are always trying to manage other people’s problems and vicariously live their special moments, we don’t tend to our own joys, nor care for our own needs.

Early research suggests that teens who spend a great deal of time on Facebook are more depressed than those who spend less time plugged into the platform. Some hypothesize this is due to comparison fatigue. I suggest it may be due to simply exhausting our brains in trying to process too much social information that is irrelevant to our own survival or needs.

After being on Facebook, I’m exhausted, numb, neither happy nor sad. My brain is just fried. What does it mean that so-and-so is on a boat in New Hampshire and who-and-who has a health emergency? What role does that play for me, what role to I play in that reality? I can send a thumbs up. I can offer virtual hugs. But after processing the “other” life experiences for awhile, my brain just can’t keep up.

And I’m over the “debates” from people who just need to disagree for disagreement’s sake. Life is too short for petty, I’m sure we can all agree. Yet somehow, we all take the bait (or set it) once in awhile.

The piece I can control is how much time I spend on Facebook and I have dialed back my time a great deal. I’m not sure how much adding my life to the mix is helpful to any of us.

I do enjoy updates on friends and family, kids and pets, so I won’t disappear from Facebook entirely. But my days of socializing there are shortening and I’m moving all the important updates to share with people in my real life orbit.

I can either focus on life on the screen or life here in my 3D world. I like the real stuff. The hugs feel better.

Consider doing the hard things

Today, Allison and I sat down and discussed a trend we are seeing in our referrals to Child Development Partners.

We get inquiries from families of older teens who want to be more independent, but whose executive functioning life skills are very weak. At the ages of 17, 18 or 19+ these young people struggle to get out of bed on time, do homework, dress themselves appropriately.

Many have had IEPs for years. Many have been placed in special schools. And yet, as they plan to transition into the next step of their development, they are ill-prepared.

Some of this may be due to their neuropsychology. Some may be due to to enabling systems around them.

It doesn’t matter the cause. The bottom line is, they (and their families) are in a tough spot and are asking for our help.

The hard work

When we are asked to coach a young person struggling with basic life skills, we are aware that a 50 minute meeting once a week isn’t going to cut it. Executive functioning training can be painstakingly time consuming and intricate. Knowing what to do and doing it consistently are a constant struggle. Rewiring the brain to work in synch with schedules and routines can feel like fingernails on a chalkboard and we all need big support when we are trying to make that much change.

Clearly, there is a need for folks to help these families navigate the important transition to independent adulthood. And right now, those helpers are few and far between.

So Allison and I are considering if we can be those people. We know we are capable of the work. The decision is whether we want to do the work.

After our meeting, I read this from Seth Godin, in which he asks, ““How do we do something so difficult that others can’t imagine doing it?” (We think Seth may be stalking us…)

Seeing the easy road makes it harder

The truth is, Allison and I don’t have to tackle this problem. There are many less complex cases we can take on, make a good living and leave the complicated difficult stuff to someone else. Except, everyone else thinks the same way. Nine out of ten of us will take that easy road, because why work so hard?

While one reason is to help people in need, if I’m honest, that isn’t my main motivation. All of our work helps people in need. Doing this hard(er) work requires more motivation that that.

For me, to take on this complex challenge meets the following needs in my wheelhouse:

1. A chance to develop something new and innovative.

2. An opportunity to be the “go to” people for a very specific presenting problem.

3. An awareness that this is a ‘ground floor’ opportunity to build our business offerings to an underserved population.

At the intersection of helping and business growth

I’d like to point out that what we’re doing is considering both sides of the professional coin as we consider doing something hard. We are compassionate and caring and want to be helpful. We also are looking at this from a return on investment lens.

The truth is, for families this process will be a significant investment in time and money. We will also invest a great deal of time and expertise in developing customized programs and coaching people up to 5x a week so they can develop the skills they need.

Allison and I have to do our due diligence and consider:

  • Is there a viable need?
  • Will people invest the time required?
  • Will they pay a fair price for the customized intensity of the program?
  • Will the outcomes validate the investment (for us and the clients)?
  • Is it worth our time to even plan this process before we pilot the program?

This is the hard work. It’s more than just setting up a website and marketing for clients. It’s going out of the boundaries of what we’ve been taught our work is and expanding into an area of what it can be. And this is why most people won’t even consider it.

The risk is–it could be successful and lucrative…or not. If we take it on, we risk wasting time and some money (not lots) as we explore the possibilities.

We already know our next steps. It’s meetings with other professionals and parents and asking all the questions we have about viability. As introverts, this is hard work, too.

My hunch is, this becomes a win-win for our future clients and for our business growth.

We’ll just need to take a lot of deep breaths and dig in with all we got.

Building something new from the ground up sure isn’t easy. But the ride is never boring and the payoff, personally, emotionally and financially can be bigger than we imagine.

 

 

Pushing to Play Up

My son is itching to play more baseball.

Since our town doesn’t offer a fall baseball option, we’re registering him in a neighboring town that does things a little differently.

As a 5th grader, he can play up with 6th and 7th graders. Or he can plan with mainly 4th and 3rd graders.

Alex is a good athlete. We are pushing him to play up.

This means (and we have told him this) he will be a lesser skilled player on a team. He probably won’t pitch as much as he did in the spring. In fact, he may be the “little kid,” in addition to the “new kid.”

This position will be new for him. He’s always been one of the oldest in his class, and with the extra time to grow, also one of the better athletes.

On this new team, he’ll need to stretch. He will be out of his comfort zone. He will have to prove himself.

And, while I never want to make things hard for him, I’m glad he will learn to navigate playing up.

My hope is he’ll learn to watch and listen. Learn from the kids a few ticks better, a few steps faster, a few years wiser.

He’ll see what it’s like to earn a place, rather than expect it held for him.

And, he’ll hopefully get a reminder that friends can be the guys you play with, not always the guys who live next door.

The lessons aren’t about baseball.

The lessons are about rising to the occasion, not sitting on stale laurels, empowering oneself to try something new and risk not being the best.

It will be interesting to watch him navigate these new waters. Will he dig in and play up or will he sag with frustration?

I imagine, at 11 years old, he’ll do a bit of both in turns. My heartfelt wish is when he digs in and ups his game there’s a nice reward–a high five,a run scored, a cheer from a new friend. That way, he’ll learn that reaching feels good and he’ll do it again and again and again.

In life, we all have the opportunity to play up. It’s not easy and always a bit uncomfortable, but given the alternatives, I hope you give it a try again and again and again.

Opinion as fact…Don’t let them get away with it

One of the brilliant parts of social media is we can vet people before we agree to work with them (which is why I don’t trust any professional without at least a website).

I want to know what my providers do, how they do it, why they do it and if we share a world view.

I want to see if people work from a place of informed, educated expertise or are just winging it with self-determined confidence.

In other words, does what they say and do actually help, or are they just telling me it works based on their beliefs?

We live in a culture where opinion and fact are constantly blurred.

Science shows us we are in the midst of global climate change, yet a subsection of people ignore the facts, even when their state has unprecedented drought, fires and live stock dying by the thousands.

I understand we all suffer from our own version of confirmation bias. We see what we believe. Everyone is entitled to live by their opinion, rather than react to science and research.

That is, until I’m paying them to help me solve a problem.

Do you want your surgeon to wield a scalpel by intuition? Would you like your physician to diagnose your cancer based on a hunch? Would you prefer the civil engineer ignore the rules of physics when he designs the bridge your car drives over every day because “it feels right?”

Of course not. So when people who are in less-than-scientific fields (like therapy and coaching) tell me they are winging it based on an opinion and ignoring facts, I call it a cop out. Why do we hold ourselves to a lesser standard than the engineer and the diagnosing MD? Isn’t that asking to be dismissed as less-than? For me, it says this person has a word bubble over their head saying, “I’m too lazy (or unintelligent) to critically consider facts/research and don’t care enough about my clients to be open to new data that may help them.”

We have research that supports Reiki and energy therapies and other metaphysical phenomenon. I’m not saying we have to stick to only observable science. What I am saying is that when an intervention is shown over and over to NOT be effective and professionals insist it is so based on their opinion, we’ve walked down the road of weakening our authority and professional expertise.
Worse is when said professionals offer to “discuss” the science vs hunch issue and then take data and simply ignore or dismiss it as not relevant “because in my experience it’s helpful.” Again, they are seeking confirmation bias and anything that negates their view is deemed not admissable to the discussion.

The scientific method exists because the experience of ONE doesnt’ mean it a result of the same experience of many others. For example, eating a certain mushroom may make me grow bigger, but when given to 100 other people, they only got sick. If I go around telling people, “in my experience this mushroom makes you grow bigger!” and they eat it and get sick, I’ve hurt a lot of people based solely on my experience and ignoring data that challenges my worldview.

Opinions have a role. Theories have a place. Honest professionals will tell us when they are working from an opinion and when they are working on a data/research based platform.

But be cautious of those telling you they have facts when what they are telling you are opinions and personal experiences clothed as scientific data. “This has worked for me,” is  a horrible testimonial.

If we want respect and a voice in impacting how people get support and help, we need to respect the people we serve. While data may fly in the face of what “I know to be true,” at some point we need to acknowledge either we are doing our work to confirm our own worldviews or are  open to being available to information that may improve outcomes for the folks we care about.

So, let’s do our work with integrity. Let’s do our due diligence and offer services with a record of being helpful to more than a few, with replicable and valid outcomes. And don’t give your time or money to people who are selling a promise based on an n = 1. If someone is using intuitive work with you, that is cool if they are honest about their approach and authentic in that work. But mixing metaphors of evidence vs personal opinion is the slippery slope that muddies the waters and ultimately confuses our clients who need our focus to be on what we know will work for them.

 

 

 

 

Be So Good We Can’t Ignore You

Often marketers get it wrong.

You need to have something a value to market before marketing can work.

In fact, some awesome people and products barely market or advertise at all and still get great press and many customers.

Why? They’re so good, we can’t ignore them.

My hairstylist. Ed, is one of those people. He’s never marketed a day in his life. But if I want an appointment with him, I better plan 6 weeks in advance.  All his clients are repeat clients. He makes women look great without a lot of fuss. For me, that’s worth a trip into the city and whatever he charges. (I’m pro looking good and very anti-fuss.)

While I am a fan of being seen and telling people about the value you offer, most often, it’s best to be really, really good to the few people you work with now so they,

1. come back again and again and,

2. tell others about you

No one can pull the wool over clients’ eyes with flashy marketing, but crap service.

That is a very, very expensive and exhausting way to run a business.

Do great work. Tell people about it in smart, valuable, non-annoying ways.

You’ll see great things happen.

 

 

Do You Suffer from Overanalysis Paralysis?

My enjoyment of Facebook is fading.

I see too much naval gazing, self-promotion and overanalysis paralysis.

You know what overanalysis paralysis is, right?

It’s ruminating and second guessing and reading all you can about the whys and hows of procrastination.

Honestly, it’s exhausting.

And it is directly correlated to every reason people are stuck and not as successful as they want to be.

I’m sure diagnosing the whys and hows of our limits has some value. I just don’t give myself the luxury to consider it. Because, if I do give hours to answering the question, “How does resistance show up in my work?” I’m not doing any actual, real, income producing work. See how tricky that is?

The only way around overanalysis paralysis is through.

Here are my steps to getting over myself and doing the work that needs to doing.

1. Set a goal. Just set  a goal. Go ahead. No overanalysis if the goal is “good” or “right” or “bringing me toward enlightenment.” Please, child, set the goal.

2. Commit to the goal. Stand up and state it out loud. Raise a fist if it helps. Repeat until you own this goal and want it more than a hot fudge sundae.

3. Eliminate distractions. No excuses. Shut off Facebook (you don’t need to see someone else’s sunset, Sunshine.), toggle down Twitter. Turn. off. your. phone.

4. Get to work. Go. Now. No, you don’t need ice water by your side. No, you don’t need to meditate first. No, you don’t have to do one more load of laundry, or check in with your guru. Turn off the damn word counting, step measuring, “tell-me-how-I-measure-up” app. Because those suck and make us all feel like failures. Just do the fucking work.

5. Accept that there is no “secret.” This work is awesome and hard and anxiety provoking in turns. Flow with the process.

6. Ride all the waves.

7. Repeat.

No one can do the work for you. No one has the answer for you. No comparison or permission granting or check-ins with a friend to debate the pros and cons of the work will get you to reach your goal.

The only way we reach a goal is to take steps toward it every day.

And overanalyzing the process does no good.

It slows you down and wastes the precious energy you need to rock it out.

Now clear your head and get out there. You have goals to achieve!

On this blog we talk about achieving empowered, authentic success. If you’re down with that and want to learn more sign up for updates below:

 

Let’s Talk About Authentic Success

In my work with young people with attentional and organizational challenges, I’ve spent my career promoting the reality that we all have gifts and challenges and need to define success on our own terms.

A brief moment of self-analysis lead me to understand that, as a teen who grew up in a high pressure, high achievement culture, followed the rules, got into the “right” schools, got the “right” degree none of that stuff made me particularly happy or special.

From an objective standpoint, I’ve achieved what we culturally define as “success.” But the degree, prestige and position never made me happy. Success for me is the freedom to choose. I get to choose how I work, when I work and who I spend my days with. It is a freaking rush. Would I be happier as a VP of a “Big Name Company,” or a professor at “Prestige U?” No way.

I chose Authentic Success

Not so ironically, the idea of authentic success comes from Wilma Bowers, a mom and champion of authentic success. I read about her crusade in this piece in the Washington Post about  the high achieving town of McLean, VA, where getting into Harvard is expected and anything less is scorned.

I remember being that teen in that kind of town and how now, 25 years later, it doesn’t mean much in terms of who is “successful” and who is not.

The key, really, is how one defines success. I see friends from high school in prestigious jobs who are miserable and some who decided to be stay at home parents who are super happy. And visa versa. Right?

I figured out a hybrid. I have my own business that allows me to be home with my child when we want and need that to happen.

No one ever offered that to me as a “success formula.” Some people still think it’s whacky or impossible or not a “real job.”

Eh, I shrug off the doubters. Because I’m happy where I am. What others think or feel about my life isn’t my concern.

The truth is real, authentic success is 100% unique. No one can dictate what makes you feel like a success. Not your parents, not your teachers, not your friends.  And success is subjective. Mostly, it’s a feeling and a belief, not a state of being or a position. Because, as much as we buy into this story, when we say it out loud, “She lives in Weston, which means she must be a success,” we sound shallow and immature.

If you have a degree from Harvard on the wall and need 3 drinks a night to manage your stress and anxiety, how is that success?

The outer stuff doesn’t matter as much as we hope it would.

This is both good news and bad news.

The good news is, you get to create your success and define your happiness.

The bad news is, you can’t blame some external force when things don’t work out or feel good.

You have great power, which brings all that responsibility.

Isn’t that awesome?

On this blog we talk about achieving empowered, authentic success. If you’re down with that and want to learn more sign up for updates below:

 

 

The Looking Outward Trap

When it comes to creating a business or marketing in the digital age, looking at what others are doing is a trap.

The people who attract attention, get the clients/customers and make the money are doing something no one else is doing.

We humans are attracted to the new and the novel. We want to be part of something from the ground up. We all desire to be “cool” no matter what our age. We are always looking to be the first in line.

This is why following a marketing “guru” or using a blueprint, plan or approach that works for someone else is asking for trouble.

If Mary blogs every day about kale juicing and has 100,000 Facebook likes, what are the chances a copy cat blog about kale does as well?

If newsletters work for me at Child Development Partners and then another psychologist comes around writing newsletters about ADHD, we become defacto competitors. Who does that help? Is it useful to the marketer? To the community of clients?

The reality is, copying another person’s format for your business model or marketing is a set up to fail. When you engage the same strategy as someone else, you are competing in their space, on their turf and they got a lead on you.

If you want to use a blueprint model, buy a franchise. I mean that sincerely. The franchise model is all about using a clear blueprint with an already established brand so all of the foundational decisions about how and when to market and to whom are done for you, Of course, you pay for the formula, because those systems and approaches are expensive to create and valuable once they are repeatedly effective.

However, if buying a franchise isn’t your deal, toss all plans to follow the path others have trod before.

Stop looking outward for answers. Instead, look inside.

You are a creator. When you own your own business, you have a big canvas to paint on.

The only way to get noticed. The ONLY WAY to get attention and clients is to be different, to create something new.

And it has to be good. Really good. Half-assed doesn’t pay the bills.

So if everyone in your industry blogs and you don’t love writing, what can you do differently? Can you use video, audio, cartooning, announce a word-inspiration-quote of the day?

And do stuff you enjoy, for the love of Pete! I see people lamenting (read: “whining”) about hating to blog, but they slog through the blog because “people say I should.” Oh please. Let’s grow up. Stop letting others tell you what to do and do what you feel is good and useful.

For example, I know video would be a good medium for me to use in my marketing. But, hot diggity, I don’t love producing video. It’s a a pain in the ass for me. I don’t love to dress up, wear makeup and the production is tedious and boring (for me). You, on the other hand, may love video and if you do, go all out. Video to your heart’s content.

When I write and you do video (or whatever medium you dig), we now stop being competitors. We can collaborate. People can read my blog and watch your video. People who prefer to read over watch video will hang out with me and visa versa. Neither one of us is doing it “right,” and neither one of us is doing it “wrong.”

The tools we have at our disposal for free or super cheap are astounding. It’s a freaking miracle when you think about what people did to get a photograph 100 years ago and what we can do in seconds on our phone to produce content. And rather than use the endless options to create new, awesome stuff, we look around and try to copy someone else because we think they have it all figured out.

Truth. No one has it figured out. Creating something new means experimenting and seeing how it goes. When people hit the right notes and stand out in authentic, vulnerable ways, they get attention and a line at the door.

So rather than spend time and money on the next “trend in marketing,” I suggest investing in blazing a trail. Use you canvas, color outside the lines. It leads to a happier more successful experience in the long run.

On this blog we talk about achieving empowered, authentic success. If you’re down with that and want to learn more sign up for updates below:

What “Doing the work” Looks like

work photo

Today I am knee deep in “doing the work.”

We almost always see the glossy , tidy, pretty end result of the work.

That’s why when we get knee deep in the work, we often feel like crap. We look at the polished outcome of someone else and say, “She’s all gussied up, with make up on and has this gorgeous website and video and admiring fans and I’m here in sweats and empty coffee cups strew about hoping it all pays off.”

That is called “doing the work.”

The glossy brochure was born of the empty coffee cup on the table.

No one graduates from school by avoiding the work.

No one discovers success under a rock.

The picture above is what doing the work looks like in my world today.

What does doing the work look like in your part of the world?

On this blog we talk about achieving empowered, authentic success. If you’re down with that and want to learn more sign up for updates below: