Are you in this job solely for its badassery?

badass

Ok, so “badassery” may or may not be a word I made up. But in this case, it’d be defined as such: badass

Bad-ass-er-ee | badassery: the extent to which something (or someone) appears like a badass; the epitome of “cool” or the like; 

There’s an extent of badassery to almost every job. Some have more of it, while others don’t lend themselves as readily to it. And many times, the more seductive the paycheck is, the more it lends itself to archetypal images of badassery.

Another way of measuring “badassery” is how Facebook-ready it is: a great lunch with the boss over-looking the beach, prepping a photo shoot, hanging with celebs, or having fun dressed up with colleagues in front of your company’s logo backdrop at the latest company party, etc. All these things may be legitimately “fun” and great perks for the work you do, and I know first hand that many of these aspects kept me feeling fulfilled for a while when I was knee-deep in it.

But later, when I would get home and finally lay down to sleep, I still had to face the truth that I knew there was more to me than this “job,” and even after some of the larger events I planned—even though they were successful both for me personally and for the brand at the time—I’d find myself lying awake wondering if this was all there was.

Those are the moments that echo the quietest. Because when you really know you’re not giving your best, it’s usually the ego that is keeping the whole charade going, since to everyone else you have an exciting job and a “picture perfect” life. But at the end of the day, is it enough to have the significance and not the fulfillment?

Say Yes to Solo Time

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(A re-post from my round-the-US road trip in 2012) I was with a friend of mine yesterday, who recently had a baby and we got to talking about the practice of letting a baby cry it out (after making sure she’s been fed and changed, of course). The main idea was that it allows the child to learn how to search for their own answers, instead of relying on others to solve every problem that arises.

 

After our conversation, I realized that she was instilling in her little one the exact principle I’d been thinking about on my road trip: alone time is GOOD. And there’s no better place to realize that, than on a 17,700-mile road trip by yourself. And I can tell you, some (if not the majority) of my biggest ah-ha moments have come during times when I’ve been solo, and have found answers within myself.

 

I love being by myself and alone with my thoughts. Heck, I don’t just enjoy it--I need it periodically in order to be my full, happy self. It can be time spent journaling, going on a run by myself, dancing around my kitchen alone, driving by myself (which also usually includes a solo-dance-party, too), or just enjoying a stolen moment in my day when I find myself by...myself.

 

Being alone is the gift you give yourself in order to find out more about who you are, explore your thoughts, and to ask questions of yourself; and ultimately--it should move you towards loving yourself more, instead of wishing you were someone else.

Try it: put the phone aside and just be with you. Is it scary? Is it boring? Is it quiet? Maybe, then, it’s time to spend a bit more time cultivating your relationship with you. 

 

One of my favorite ways to utilize my alone-time is to journal. The simple act of taking all the thoughts swirling around in my noggin, and getting them down on paper allows me to better assess all that’s going on, release anxiety over that which I have no control, and then strategize an action plan to change that which I can change, if need be.

 

Other times, I just need to get everything down on paper to free up my “mental real estate” and let me charge forward in my day without extra baggage weighing me down. I call this process “spill time” in my journal. There’s something incredibly cathartic in the process of handwriting my sorrows, my fears, my anger, my gratitude, whathaveyou, and leaving them on the page. If you haven’t tried it, do.

If journaling isn’t your thing (us compulsive journalers are a rare breed), perhaps driving alone in your car with no music, or taking a run/walk in the park with no music, or even just sitting on a porch for a few minutes. There are so many ways to snag some alone time. But the point is, to actually snag it.

 

I had a great soccer coach in high school and since I graduated, we'll grab a breakfast together to catch up and chat. He is one of the wisest men I know, and I can remember one specific coffee shop conversation we had when he told me this (I’m paraphrasing here):

...without having time alone with yourself, it’s like being a boat without a rudder--you’ll go anywhere the main stream is taking you. But having time alone allows you to get to know yourself and know your likes and dislikes, which start to act as filters, or a rudder, in this case. There’s something to be said about getting to that point when you know who you are and can humbly say, ‘yeah, I think I’m pretty cool.’  And people are attracted to those people who feel good about themselves. 

Thanks, Coach Leavoy.

 

This process of diving into your thoughts and doing some “mental excavation” also gets you to a more honest place, where things aren’t perfect, and sometimes (read: all the time) I’ll find that I don’t have it all under control. And that’s ok. The point is, when I take the time to be brutally honest with myself, it also lets me turn around and be more honest with those around me (which is never a bad thing). Even if it means having a hard conversation with someone else as a result of this mental digging--either way, it’s a beneficial process that forces us to learn more about ourselves and grow past our comfort zone and expand who we are. And to be sure, some of this “digging” may uncover parts of yourself that you’re not fond of (I certainly know that’s the case for me, anyway), but it also leads to the parts you can really enjoy about yourself.

 

Driving for the past month and a half has invariably shown me that I can have a darn good time being on my own: I listen to audio books, I “journal” by recording voice memos of the things I’m thinking about, I dance super silly and have even made myself cry from laughing so hard. How else could I endure a 9,500 mile road trip if I didn’t like hanging with myself?

 

But without that time alone though, how do you know who you truly are, apart from the influences of the media, your job, your family, your friends, or even apart from your intimate relationship?

 

Do it:

If you think you don’t have time to spare, here are a few ways you can grab some alone time and begin hanging out with yourself a bit more:

  • Take 30 minutes to go on a walk or a run by yourself without music. Don’t go through your to-do lists mentally. Give yourself the gift of letting go of any agenda and just listen to yourself think.
  • Drive to work without turning on the music. Listen to your thoughts. Give gratitude.
  • When you are by yourself, pretend you’re on a talk show and interview yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask yourself a question you don’t think you know the answer to.
  • Allow yourself to spend a little time being vulnerable. or weak. or sad. or angry. or any other emotion that you don’t usually let yourself feel.
  • Have an impromptu car-dance-party. You know you want to [cue: Call Me Maybe].
  • Let yourself be silly. Talk to yourself in an accent or your second language. Answer the phone that way (my brother can tell you I do this all the time).

 

Now, I want to hear from you. Tell me in the comments below one of your favorite ways to grab some alone time and one of the new insights you gained from having some time solo.

Thanks for stopping by, and if you liked this article, please share it with your friends!

It's ok to ask for help

helping-hand

I haven’t talked much about my few years in corporate. And please note that it wasn’t awful, I can assure you. It was actually an incredibly rich, rewarding, and educational experience, and one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I dive more into the merit of my job and what I gained there, but how I also came to the conclusion that it wasn’t my ideal professional path in my upcoming book. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt about the merit of asking for help (in any job, career, or relationship, for that matter, too):  helping-hand

 

Asking for help is something I haven’t done too much of in my lifetime, though I'm working on doing it more. Back in my days at corporate, it was the farthest thing from my mind when it came to strategizing how to get everything done. I thought that asking for help portrayed weakness, or that I couldn’t handle the workload, or that it would somehow communicate the idea that I didn’t know everything already (cause obviously that would be a crazy thought).

However, there’s nothing like a large list of tasks to go through that are all categorized as “important” AND “urgent” to make you do crazy things like subsist on almonds from your desk drawer for meals on end, because you forgot to bring a lunch and you don’t have time to go get anything, or even starting to drink coffee everyday to stay awake when I’ve never liked the taste (that actually happened in May of 2011 for me, but didn’t last longer than a few months after which my workload lessened and I realized I still didn’t like the taste. But I digress…), or heaven forbid…ask for help:

It was the Fall of 2010…

I was almost at my breaking point. After a few too many consecutive weeks and weekends straight of working, I was completely stressed and drained of all energy (not a good combination). I could hardly talk about it, too, given that as soon as I would start to explain how close I was to crumbling, on would come the water works. And the last thing I wanted to do right then was cry in front of everyone and make them think I couldn’t handle the work. But I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace anymore and also maintain my sanity.

So I after everyone had left one evening, I went into my boss’ office to finally talk it out with him. “Stuart, I’m struggling…a lot. I’m prepping for this event and there is so much to do, on top of finishing designing the catalogue, and all our sales materials, too…I honestly don’t know how I can get it all done (cue: tears starting to squeeze out of my eyes. Push em back, push em back, Mol, keep it together!).”

Now, I respected (and to this day still respect) my boss very much, and in that moment I looked to him to somehow make my load lighter, or at least give me encouragement that somehow it would be ok, and I would survive.

He paused for a moment, looked at me and in essence replied, “I know. We’re all working more than we’d like to, but this is the nature of a small business. I don’t know what else to tell you other than it’s hard on all of us, and we just have to keep working. Just take it one item at a time, 'cause you can't do a whole list at once.”

I nodded, and wiped away the few tears that had made their way down my cheek. That was it, though. He couldn’t make my work go away, and he certainly wasn’t clocking out any earlier than I was. “Welcome to the real world” was probably what he should’ve said (though it probably only would’ve made me cry harder). As much as I looked up to him, he couldn’t carry my load for me. Only I could.

That’s when I really realized for the first time that this wasn’t supposed to be, nor would it be easy. Maybe I wasn’t so much clocking in for work each morning any more, but rather, I’d be clocking in for battle. And although I didn’t get the “help” I thought I needed in that moment, the actual practice of communicating my needs, and feeling supported regardless of the outcome, was much more valuable than I had initially expected.

Although my load hadn’t gotten lighter and nothing had changed externally by having that conversation, my view on my work, my company, and my co-workers did change that evening. I started to view my co-workers as teammates in the push towards a common goal, and wherever we could, we had each other’s backs. We were trench mates in the war of sales and profits. And like they say, there’s nothing like adversity to foster solidarity.

"I'm fine." Yeah right.

It breaks my heart to hear people talk about their work with a half-hearted response of “it’s fine.” That’s not to say that everything always has to be “AMAZING!” And even an over-enthusiastic response can become rote as well. The point is, that through hard patches and great patches, there should be an underlying sense of satisfaction, purpose, and dare I say it…joy in your work. I love this quip by stand-up comedian, Louis CK, as he talks about smoothing over life’s hardships, particularly in parenting and marriage, with the age-old-short-answer of “Great”** (definitely NSFW [explicit]…or home, if children are in the vicinity):

(Starts at 0:52)

“We don’t complain. When you ask a parent, ‘hey, how’s the family?’ We go, ‘Great!’ That’s all we ever say. It’s never f*in ‘great.’ But we say ‘great’ ‘cause we’re not gonna tell you, ‘Well, my wife assassinated my sexual identity, and uh, my children are eating my dreams.’ We don’t f*in bother you with that! We just say ‘great.’” http://youtu.be/x81M3g3zjXc

 

Like Louis pointed out, many times we just reply "It's great" to avoid having the real conversation. It’s hard for me to believe that if everything’s “fine,” that someone is actually truly fulfilled and happy. I think there's a certain level of happiness that they might be achieving in that moment. But if they're honest with themselves, it’s because they don’t ask for anything more. Perhaps good enough is good enough for them. But I have a feeling that the mere fact that you’re reading this post means that you want more than just a job (and a life) that’s just “fine.” You want something more than punching the clock, day in and day out.

For those who just say that work is fine and their life is fine – they’re missing the light of enthusiasm, and that’s what I mean when I talk about being engaged in your work. When someone’s alive with that spark of energy, there’s a difference in their voice, their walk, the way they wake up, in the way they attack life.

There’s a difference in their overall demeanor, because they’re alive with a light of passion that drives everything they do when they’re excited about their work. I believe it's our duty to find out what that is, and it's unique for each one of us, and to go about doing it.

 

I'm curious, have you figured out what that is for you yet? Leave a comment below and let me know.

 

(**Side note: if you have kids, dependents or if you are in a position where someone is dependent upon you for their livelihood, for feeding them or clothing them—there are times when you do have to go to work and just have to get the job done. Whether or not you like it, that’s it. But hopefully this blog and my upcoming book will be able to help move you towards enjoying a job you can’t escape too—by creating a bigger meaning for what you’re doing and allowing that to shine through your work. Stay tuned for more posts about this later.)

Good is the Enemy of Great

 

I’m sure we’ve all heard this quote. Maybe from a coach yelling it at the team in the middle of basketball practice, or from inside your head when you know you could give a little bit more.

As cliché as it the saying may be now, there’s a clearly reason for it. Don’t allow the feeling of being comfortable, or that things are good enough keep you from wanting and going after the next level. Evidences of this come out in ways that sound similar to these:

"Yeah, my job's ok. It pays the bills."

"It'll do for now."

"It's not that bad (yet)."

"Meh. I just don't know what I want to do yet, but I have time to figure it out." (aka, I'll think about it later. And later then turns into much much later...)

This definitely applies to your job, but it doesn’t end there. It also applies to your health, your financials, your creativity and even in your intimate relationship – in any facet of your life. The minute we get complacent is the moment that we concede the chance to see and explore a deeper level of ourselves and what we’re capable of.

Caveat: Some people retort at this point, “But are you basically saying then that we should never be satisfied with what we have? Isn’t that a recipe for disaster in and of itself?” Touché. And they’re exactly right.

There’s a fine line between always wanting more, never being satisfied, and enjoying where you are. I’ve found that a happy medium lies between taking consistent action to improve (and enjoying that process), while also periodically pausing to take a look around and be grateful for all the good that's already around me. Not that this fine-line-walking is easy, by any means. I know I don't always execute it perfectly, so please call me out on it. But hopefully we can help each other not get stuck in either place (over-striving or complacency) for too long.

Say No to the Status Quo

keep-calm-and-say-no-to-status-quo

There seems to be a general consensus that it’s okay to be unsatisfied and unhappy in our work life. Some of us wear it as a kind of a badge of honor, to go into a job we hate and to battle it out each day, martyring ourselves in hopes that it fulfills our need for feeling significant.  

For others, it’s an epidemic of the doldrums and a overriding dreariness that has been accepted as “normal” within the workplace. If we took a large scanner and grabbed an average sample from the domestic US, I believe we’d see extremely high levels of boredom and dissatisfaction in the workplace. Who is that truly helping? No one.

 

Boredom, stagnancy, and routine may get the baseline level of work done, it’s true. But what company is satisfied with mediocre level work, and mediocre level profits? Dare I suggest that you shouldn’t be either, then?

 

I recently visited a beauty salon and asked my esthetician if she liked her job. To which she replied, “It’s easy.” Let’s not get hypnotized into believing that having a job that’s “easy” or one that just “pays the bills” is good enough.** I believe that all of us have more to contribute than what’s on our résumés. And I believe that you’re more than the 9-5. If the questions have started bubbling up from inside of you, they’re not to be dismissed.

 

Start listening to those desires and the questions that arise from within. Those questions are the sign of life, of a life unlived. It’s been said that the quality of our lives is directly related to the types of questions we ask ourselves. What if Madonna had settled for her job at Dunkin Donuts and given up on her dance career, early on?

 

What if it wasn’t actually “normal” to hate your job? What if it were possible to wake up more often than not, excited to be doing your work?

 

I’m here to tell you that it is possible. Not only because I’ve experienced it, but I’ve witnessed many others who have. And once you know that it’s possible, it’s hard not to want to create it yourself. But this is not the path of the majority, and it is not the easy path. The majority has accepted the routine of mediocrity and one of drudgery. If you want to be a part of the few who are invigorated by their work instead of drained by it, it takes guts.

 

And it starts by saying No to the status quo.

 

**[I will say, however, that there are times in life when a “bridge job” is necessary.  Heck, I happily worked in a cafe serving salads for six months this year to pay my bills while I worked on my projects in the background. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot more you can get done after your “job” is done,  by putting in time from 7pm-12am instead of plunking down and watching 4 episodes of Breaking Bad each night. If you want to hear it from someone other than me, then listen to Gary Vaynerchuk here. (explicit)]**

The Truth About Writing a Book

I’ve been swimming in a sea of self-doubt and nursing my insecurities about this book (and myself) for far too long now. Although I’ve had bouts of “I can do this!” moments, they’ve been few and far between, and have afforded me very little forward movement in terms of my book.  I’ve learned that you can’t rely on those rare spurts to fuel an entire book. Warning: not a sustainable fuel source. So, I’ve decided to come clean and fess up about what writing a book is like (at least for me... so far...):

 

1.) I’ll be honest. It’s f*$&ing hard. 

Even for someone who loves writing as I do, and can’t function optimally without periodically doing a brain dump in my journal--writing a book takes the writing process to an extreme level.

“Wait, you mean I have to write every day? on topic? coherently? with structure?” Yeah. And that's just the beginning of it.

The last few months of minimal work is evidence of the power of Resistance on work that I actually do enjoy--and yet...my book still sits un-worked-on, gathering digital dust.

 

2.) It’s scary. 

Now, I don’t know if every writer goes through this, but if you ever want to face your fears, writing a book is a great vehicle for just that (you masochist, you).

On more than one occasion, the process of writing this book has found me curled up in a crying heap on my bed, alone in my apartment, paralyzed by fear and wondering why in the world I was choosing to do this. Because of this book, I’ve now hung out with some of my biggest fears, conquered some, and discovered others.

Here are a few of mine that arrest my progress on almost a daily basis:

Feel the fear

“Who am I to write about XYZ?”

”It won’t even be that good, why should I even try? I should just go get a normal job like everyone else and give up my delusions before somebody gets hurt.”

“As soon as I put it out into the world, someone will figure out I’m a big fraud, and shoo me back to a cubicle where I belong.”

or insecurities like these:

“I’m not a good enough writer.”

“I don’t even know who I am yet, though. I thought I knew, but now...”

“What if I my book doesn't actually help anyone?”

“I wasted another day without being productive. I might as well just give up now. It’ll never get done.”

“Someone will be able to poke holes in all my arguments/beliefs...”

and on and on it goes...

 

Not to mention, I’m writing about some of my highest highs and my lowest of lows--and even after only a couple hours of digging around in there--wrestling to get the right words out in a way that accurately and articulately describes all of me and what I’ve experienced and have gleaned from the process... in the wise words of Taylor Swift,

“This is exhausting.”

3.) That said, it’s also incredibly rewarding. 

Like any healthy relationship with something you love, it challenges you, it makes you grow, and you learn more about yourself and what you’re truly capable of. The process of writing this book has pushed me, refined, and changed me. And I still have a ways to go.

Regardless, one of the aspects that I love the most is that even through the many days that just plain...suck...when the words aren’t coming out right or I waste another afternoon and hate myself for letting Resistance get the better of me... Even through all of that, I love this.

I love the struggle. I love the triumphs (big or small). I love it because I chose to be here doing this. I love it because it’s teaching me the need to show up consistently and do good work. And I have faith that truly satisfying things take time to build, and that’s ok. It’s worth working towards and worth waiting for. And for each day that I write, I win a battle and prove my inner-nay-sayer wrong...and that, my friend, feels f*$%ing good.

 

I know there will be critics of my work.  I've heard it said that we can safely assume that at least 10% of all people just won't like you, and that "there is absolutely no work beyond criticism" (-Liz Gilbert).  Some might find my beliefs to be wrong, and silly, and filled with froufrou non-helpful “advice."

But...

What if I didn’t let that stop me?

What if I said, “Screw you” to my fears and shipped my work anyway?

What if my work wasn’t perfect (gasp!)?

What a gift to myself it would be if I did what I set out to do--and built my self-esteem on a firm foundation of hard work and passion, instead of the frail and fleeting efforts of a “dabbler”?

What if by finishing the book, I freed myself up for future opportunities? And what if, then, I didn’t have to look back and wonder “What if I had written that book?/devoted myself to that skill/tried to get into ____school?/finished that screenplay?/started that business?/etc.”

 

The Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt

That way, I’d never have to wonder.

That way, even in defeat, I'd know that at least I was in the arena and not just on the sidelines of my life.

That way, I’d never have to look at my future husband or down on my future kids playing on the floor and resent them for being an excuse as to why I couldn't follow my dream(s).

That way, I know I’ve done my part to show up in this chapter of my life. And I’ve subsequently created the space for my future-self to fully engage in each succeeding chapter of my life and not wish I could be doing work I should’ve been doing when I had had the opportunity (I’m not sure that last one made sense, but hopefully you catch my drift).

 

 

This book is not just about me writing a book for a book’s sake. It’s about stretching myself to step into the woman I want to be, and the woman I really am by doing work that I love, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same for themselves.

 

Like Liz Gilbert (world-renowned author and one of my favorite TED speakers) said in her book talk last night, “Always, always, when given the choice, choose creativity instead of fear.”

Getting to meet Elizabeth Gilbert at her book talk in Dallas, TX

 

 

 

For a recording and transcription from the talk last night in Dallas on “Getting your work out there,” click here.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Getting Your Work Out There

Click to listen to the audio (I apologize for the rustling and whispering in advance): [audio m4a="http://mollyking.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Liz-Gilbert-on-getting-your-work-out-there.m4a"][/audio]

 

Loved getting to meet Elizabeth Gilbert at her book talk in Dallas, TX.

One of the themes that I wanted in this novel is this idea, almost a cautionary tale, of the way that women hold themselves back in the world. And I was talking about this recently, it’s the last wall that we have to ascend as women. Sorry, let me be clear, there are still some very real social obstacles to women and women’s lives, and certainly in other parts of the world a great deal more. But let us just base our conversation here on the assumption that there has never been a better time in human history than in contemporary Western society. It’s your best shot, basically, that women have ever ever had for so many reasons. And there are a lot of obstacles that have been removed, and what I see and what I fear I see in the lives of a lot of the really creative and powerful women that I know is that they haven’t quite jumped that last ditch, which is their own perfectionism.

 

And I think that if you’re a woman, it’s particularly difficult because we do live in a society that is constantly letting you know that you actually aren’t good enough. So you’re kinda getting that all the time, you’re getting those messages and you’re absorbing those messages. So it’s understandable that there would a part of you that would absolutely believe that, and internalize that. And then just withhold your work because you’ve decided, already in advance, that it’s not good enough.

 

There’s also a fear of being criticized. And a lot of times, I think people want to make work that is beyond criticism. And I can assure you, there is no such thing. There is absolutely no such thing as work that is beyond criticism. The second it is put out in this world, somebody will hate it, and they’ll write you a long letter letting you know why. And it doesn’t matter how much you try to protect yourself from that by having it be immaculate.  It’s subjective. Somebody’s gonna criticize it.

 

We’re also taught as women, not to thrust ourselves forward. We’re supposed to be a bit retiring. We’re supposed to be polite. We’re supposed to be sweet. All of those things are contrary to the impulse to raise your hand, or ask for the promotion, or demand that it be your idea that be put into play. And something that I constantly find myself telling young creative women, especially, is Don’t wait until you feel that your work or your idea is perfect before you ask to be included. Because having an idea that is not quite perfect never stopped men from putting all kinds of stuff into the world. Don’t let it stop you! 

 

I actually think it’s kind of a gift to be like, “I’ll try!” You know, “Well I’ve never blah blah blah before, but I’m sure I can do it!” And for a women, it’d be like, “Well I’ve only done it 20 times before, so I’ll wait and hold back because I’m not sure.”  And I think we kind of have to take a lesson from that playbook. Because at this point, at this moment of history, given the advantages and the opportunities and the dismantling of obstacles that we’re faced with--if we’re still subjecting ourselves to a kind of oppression, then that’s on us. That’s on us to fix. And we’re the only ones to kind of person-by-person, woman-by-woman fix that. And it’s frightening, but there’s also something really exhilarating.

 

And the other thing is, at some point, if you have a project that you’ve been holding to your breast for so long because you’re afraid to release it, at some point you gotta put that kid on the school bus. That’s the feeling I have a lot in my work too.

 

Like this book that I just wrote is not perfect, and I can tell you where it isn’t, because I know it really intimately. And I know--you know friends who were really terrific novelists wrote me critiques about the book and how I could fix it and I was like...

 

“Eh, yeah, fuck it.” Really.

 

Cause I was like, I’ve been working on this for four years and it’s good enough. It’s pretty good! And I would ask them, “Do you think it’s pretty good?” and they’re like, “Yeah, it’s pretty good.” And I’m like, “That’s good, that’s what I wanted.” And I’m not about to start dismantling this thing now because then that’d be the last book I ever write, and I’d do that for 25 years!

 

There’s a wonderful column by Sherry Holds about putting her son on the school bus when he was six years old, and the panic that she felt as the school bus approached and she thought she only had five minutes to tell him everything he needed to know about life. But then she realized, anything that he doesn’t know, he’s gonna have to find on his own. And anything that he does know will help him find it. And that’s all I can do, he’s gotta get on that bus.

 

And I feel like that, with all of our projects, you don’t want your adult child living at home til he’s 40 because you didn’t let him go into the world. And it’s just when we start to think that’s the danger of creative people thinking that their work is their babies, is that you don’t want your baby harmed and bullied and teased and attacked in the world. But actually, it’s a misconception. The work is not your baby. You are its baby. And every work of art and creativity that I have ever done has grown me and raised me and made me who I am. And it mothers me by making me stronger and forcing me to work.

 

And so it’s not it that needs to be protected. It’s fine. It’s just a story. You have to put it forward. You absolutely have to. And you also have to tell your part that’s the scared part of you--which is the youngest and most fearful part of you--you have to talk to it kind of like it’s a toddler. And you have you say, “You know what? There’s some things that mommy really wants to do with her life and if you, Fear, don’t step out of the way, she’s never going to be able to do that. And that’s going to make her really sad, cause her human life is really short. And there’s some stuff we want to get out there and done. So...skootch over.” And ultimately, to put it in one phrase, Always, Always, when given the choice, choose creativity over fear.

A Story Worth Telling

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journal I love hearing stories of others who’ve veered away from the conventional path and have blazed their own trail—whether it’s something in the arts, business, or even the adventure that calls them to buy an ice cream truck on a whim and see where it takes them.

 

I distinctly remember the idea that the founder of TOMS Shoes, Blake Mycoskie, talks about in his book, “Start Something That Matters.” If you’ve ever seen pictures of Blake, many times he’ll be wearing two different shoes. In his book he explains that he did this because invariably someone would ask him about his shoes, and it’d open the door, so to speak, for him to tell his story. But he also knew his story had to be a one worth telling, and a story that he wouldn’t mind telling over and over—since it was going to be his “elevator pitch” of sorts.

 

So as I set off on my 6-month road trip around the US, I also knew I’d be telling my story many times along the way, and I knew I better be proud of whatever that story would become (and thankfully I still am, so far).

 

At each house/apartment/condo/double-wide I stayed in (and I stayed with over 80 friends/family/acquaintances along the way), it inevitably turned into an interview:

 “What made you start this trip?” “Why’d you leave your job?” “Why would you leave Santa Barbara?” “Don’t you ever get tired of driving?”

And what I loved about the road trip is that each time I sat down to dinner with a new group, and the questions began, I genuinely didn’t tire of sharing my process and what I was doing out on the road. It was a story I chose, and one I am still happy to be telling when given the chance.

 

The point is, though, even as I’ve been figuring out my way out of the job, onto the road, and transitioning back into a seemingly-normal life (my friends still joke that Dallas is just my hub, like it is for American Airlines)—I’m still cognizant that I have to enjoy my own story. The story of my journey. And if at any point I’m not proud of it, of who I’m becoming, or where it’s taking me…I’m the only one who can change it.

 

So what’s the script you’re crafting with your life? How would it make you feel to hear the "elevator pitch" of your story?

Happy New Year! (June remix)

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It’s been one year (to the day) since I left my job in Santa Barbara, California. One year ago this week, I'd sold most of my things, said goodbye to my team, my apartment, the ocean and the mountains, the friends, the steady paycheck, the certainty, the routine… Here are a couple excerpts from my journal one year ago, and my journal today:

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June 1, 2012:

[It's 9pm and I just left the office after my last day after three years at Deckers/MOZO, a 12 hour day, sitting at Starbucks now, finally breathing and feeling where I am for the first time in a long time]

Today was a busy day, just like any other, with the difference being that when I walked away from my desk and my cube this evening--I walked away from it… hopefully forever (whoa… "forever"...that's a big word). As much as I've loved what I've learned these past few years, the people I've worked with, and the connections I've made, I'm excited (and let's be honest… scared sh*tless) about designing my life from here going forward. 

I feel as though I'm not just stepping out of my comfort zone by leaving my physical trappings of a corporate job and all that it entails… but I'm stepping out and away from my old self who was satisfied with "good enough" and the status quo, when I know that ultimately, I have more in me.

From now on I want to play full out, engage with the world full out, and think + question full out. And I can't wait to get started! Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I've never been happier not knowing where this will lead me. ___________

June 1, 2013 [today/one year later]

It's absolutely incredible how much has happened in just one year. I made a list of just a few of the things that have gone down in the last 12 months.

Since last June 1st, I…

- Drove 17,767 miles solo around the US - Stayed with over 80 friends/family members along the way - Experienced new peaks (and new valleys) ...literally and metaphorically - Wondered "what the hell am I doing?" More than a few times… But have kept on going - Experienced tons of personal growth and insights about myself - Found myself, lost myself, found myself again - Surrendered to spontaneity - Spent much of my savings (In what I feel like is more of an investment than actual spending) - Met my two new nephews! - Advanced out of novice in West Coast Swing - Reconnected with so many friends and made new friends along the way

- Moved to a new city with no apartment, no job, and no set plan - Found my apartment (complete with a pond and a swan!) within the first week being in Dallas  - Designed my apartment so that I absolutely love it - Am living by myself for the first time (for real) - Found a job that I'm excited to do for the time being, and which pays rent - Decided to write a book and have started writing it (hitting the interwebs near you: Fall 2013) - Hired my first coach to help me finish said book - Now feel my sense of direction pulling me - Am forging my own path (definitely not easy, and can be rather scary at times, but definitely worth it) - Am establishing a sense of pride and trust in myself and my heart, which continues to grow each time I do what I say I'm going to do - Am feeling alive and excited to greet the mornings (including Mondays) - Am reconnecting with my faith and am actively learning more and questioning to find answers - Am getting to spend many of my days now "in flow" as I write, finding that time just slips by and I sink into something that pushes me, inspires me, and constantly surprises me

I'm so incredibly grateful that I jumped on this chance when the window of opportunity presented itself. I've felt incredibly led/guided this whole way, so even in my darkest moments of "what have I just done?" there's something there letting me know that things will be alright as long as I just. keep. going. 

I am also so grateful for my family's support along this way--not to mention the countless friends, too. I feel directed for the time being, and I'm eager + willing to see where this will lead me. Loving the dance. 

Amazed at the last 12 months-and eagerly anticipating what's around the corner in the next 12! Cheers! *clink*

Leaving St. Louis

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Ever have to get something done (i.e. write a blog post and pack your car), and instead it ends up looking like this?

"Oh! A new photo on Facebook!" "Wait, I'm hungry." "I need some candy." "I think I'll take a nap first." "Ew, I stink. I'll shower before I tackle that thing I have to do." "A cup of tea would be so cozy right now." "Oh, I'll Instagram that!" "Cozy cuppa tea on a rainy afternoon. #instatea #cozy #I'm secretly procrastinating by posting this photo # # # #####" "Oh! Another new picture on Facebook! *click click click* What do their Halloween costumes look like?" "I need a Halloween costume. What should I wear?" Googling: "best homemade cheap clever and potentially yet inadvertently sexy costumes" That should do the trick. "Bingo. All I need is a trash bag, a pair of scissors and some duct tape. Classy." "I still want an apple." "Maybe I'll just check to see if there's anything new on YouTube in the last four minutes." 4 hours later... 

What was it I was supposed to be doing?

Oh. Blogging. Right. Well, tonight's my last night in St. Louis before I start my last 1,500(+) miles back to where I started in California. And I promised myself I'd write more on this last leg of the trip. Because, let's be honest, I haven't done such a great job of keeping my blog going these past few months.But that's going to change! Why? Because today is a new day!! (Or actually, it's still night. But it's going to be a new day at some point soon.) And that means that this whole, "I'm too scared to write, and edit, and post a blog post" thing is going to stop right now. Who says I even have to edit this? It's my blog anyway. Stop making it so difficult in your head, Molly, and let's get down to business:
So here's the rundown. I've been in St. Louis since mid-September, with a quick two-week stint in FL for a friend's wedding in Jacksonville and to volunteer at a Tony Robbins seminar in Miami. Both great events. While in St. Louis, though, I've been able to see old friends, family, and compete in yet another West Coast Swing competition here in town. OH! and the whole reason why I stuck around for this long, was for him:

This lil guy!! We were expecting him to come mid-October, but he wanted to hang with his mom a bit longer before joining us in the world outside the womb. I don't blame him. But he timed it right, and made it just in time for Halloween with all the fun that entailed. Good work, my man!

There are quite a few entertaining stories that have transpired in the past few weeks, but I'll save that for another post. Another time. Another day.

Tomorrow I head to Kansas City, then off to Colorado and the Rockies! Bring on the snow.

 

8 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Local-food-dinner

I've been getting some questions about how to eat healthy on a budget and thought I'd share this one with you, along with my response in the hopes that someone out there might also benefit from this interaction. Here's the question from Cara:

I know you know everything about eating healthy so I wanted to ask your advice on eating great food on a tight budget. I'm on a starting teacher salary right now and can't afford to spend much, but I really do care about eating organic stuff and things that are natural and not packed with chemicals. any advice? I can be frugal with resources but I also want I make sure I'm buying smart not just cheap!

Well, I'm not sure if I know *everything*, but at least I know enough to be dangerous, and sounds like we're on the same page with getting chemicals out of what we're putting in our bodies. Check check.

Here are a few tips and resources I've found in my search for not breaking the bank:

1.  Eat fruits and veggies that are in season. (Here's a link to a "what's in season" chart for your specific region.)

2.  Be mindful of what's in season and try to focus on using those ingredients for your main portion of your meals. When you want a vegetable that's not in season, head to the frozen section. And although they're not as primely ripe and nutritious as if you'd picked it off its plant, it's a good compromise. I always hate realizing that I picked up some fruit or veggie that's out of season and I end up paying $10 for a bag of grapes. Ughhh, rough.

3.  Visit your local farmer's markets if they're still open.

4.  Right now, we're about to end summer squash season and head into winter squash season: spaghetti squash, butternut squash, acorn squash--for $3-5 you can make a recipe with a squash base that can last you at least 4 meals. Last night I made my own recipe of "baked spaghetti lasagna" using spaghetti squash and threw in a bunch of chopped veggies, marinara sauce and pesto and some cheese. It was amazing. And made a ton of leftovers...double bonus!

5.  Meat is expensive. Since April, I've become a vegetarian, with the exception that I'll eat grass-fed non injected meat on occasion. Cutting down meat consumption can make things less expensive overall.

6.  Cook at home. I'd say it's 95% of the time cheaper to cook at home, and any leftovers, then, are all yours for the saving. (Side note: 98% of my statistics are made up.)

7.  When I have the chance, I cook a large quantity of food all at once (usually on weekends, because I have no life), and then eat those meals throughout the week. I have no qualms about eating the same thing for 3-5 days straight at lunch, which I understand is not normal for most people. Good thing I'm not normal.

8.  Just so you have a ballpark... when I was living in expensive California and cooking at home, I'd spend an average of $300-$350 a month on groceries. It may not be that expensive where you are, which would be nice. But that was a cost I was comfortable with, given I knew that I was investing in myself and not in ugly chemical foods.

For some good healthy recipes, I've started collecting them on my Pinterest board, cleverly titled, "Feed Me".

Also, for good recipes, I've loved referring to this site by the wildly candid, witty, and sometimes inappropriate Juli: http://paleomg.com/

If this was helpful, feel free to share this with your friends. Have a great weekend, everybody!

Healthy (and quick) Avocado Deviled Eggs

Who doesn't love deviled eggs? I mean, really. However, with a large slab of mayo plopped in the mixing bowl in the traditional recipe, I'm more inclined to keep my distance. But there's hope! With all of 4 main ingredients, you can be sure that this one is making it into my go-to list for parties and pot-lucks. It can't get much easier than this:

 

 

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  • Hard-boiled eggs (Here's an entertaining egg timer for you, too)
  • Avocados (about 1 per every 6 eggs)
  • ~1 T Lemon Juice
  • A dash of paprika
  • Some salt n' peppa[/box]

 

 

Instructions:

Peel the hard boiled eggs, and slice each one lengthwise. Pop out the yolks and put in a bowl for later use.

Add in the avocado (I usually just taste the ratio of yolks to avocado until it's at a flavor I like), and stir with a fork until mostly smooth.

Mix in the lemon juice (again, 1 Tablespoon, or just to taste) and some salt n peppa.

Spoon the yolk/avocado/lemon juice mixture into each egg. Feel free to go Jackson Pollock and let the mixture lay as it falls. Or feel free to get out a plastic bag, slice the corner, and squeeze the mixture into perfectly formed deviled towers of goodness, that would make even Martha jealous.

Sprinkle the paprika on top, again a la Jackson Pollock.

 

Savor each bite... mmmm.

 

Melting in AZ

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The moment I started driving away from San Diego, on my way to Arizona today was a moment I had been looking forward to for a while now. Visiting LA and San Diego were both great, but leaving California marked the "point of no return" as it were. I knew it would be a big moment, and it was.

It was the moment when the full weight of what I was doing finally hit me. This Thursday morning, instead of being in the office sitting down to emails and a day of meetings, was the day I headed East, squinting into the bright day before me. Knowing that life would never be the same again. I breathed deeply the last few moments in California, savoring each inhale as it'd be at least six months before my return.

As anticipated as this instant was, after all the nights of prepping my things, selling my furniture, and envisioning what could come down the road, what I wasn't prepared for... was the heat.

If there ever was a place where heat was invented, I firmly believe that it would be Arizona. No contest. If I weren't so caught off guard, I probably could have been in awe of its all-consuming power. But instead I almost melted the moment I opened my car door to take this picture. Thankfully I had my A/C fixed the DAY BEFORE I left Santa Barbara by a great company, because I couldn't have been more grateful to climb back into my Igloo-on-wheels that day.

Here's the video I took at the Arizona state sign, and I think it portrays my sweltering shock adequately:

<iframe width="480" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TI-CSONti8M" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

How to plan for a six-month road trip

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I spent many many hours planning before this trip began. Not only did I have to formulate the overall idea and its (many) components, but I had to sit down and figure out how I could actually make this happen monetarily. Here’s how I did it:  

  1. I outlined all my current monthly expenses that would continue during my trip: phone bill, gas, insurance, and food.
    1. I then sketched those out to see what my monthly expenses would be, and figuring I’m on the road for about 6 months, multiply my monthly cost by 6
  2. Next I figured out how many miles this would be. Then, how many tanks of gas would that be? How much is my average price per tank? What if gas prices were $4.50 the entire time? Would I be ok with that total?
    1. I ended up figuring out the cost of 9,500 miles with gas prices anywhere from $3.80-$4.50, and I was ok with those totals on both ends. So green light ahead.
  3. Then I added in the expenses I’d have along the way: audio books,the cost of going dancing several times a week, private dance lessons, any yoga/bar method classes, storage for my belongings back in CA, any coffee shop expenses
    1. And I gave myself limits on some of these, so I have my budget for those per month
  4. I also had expenses before I even left: the online business course, getting my car completely fixed (timing belt, water pump, new CVs, spark plug check, and get A/C fixed), continued cost of web hosting, blog theme
    1. And from there I could ask the questions of “should I or can I get a new computer?” “Should I get an AC powered cooler for the car?” “How and what do I need to get to organize my car?”  How much would those cost? Can I afford those, now that I have an idea of my budget? Where do I say “no” or “not right now” or “after a month, see if I still need to have that.”

 

Put that all together, and you have an idea of what I went through to structure my budget for this trip. I’m certainly not spending all that I have. I’ll allow my trip to extend to the limits of my budget/time constraint; but it’s also possible that I’ll have opportunities for income along the way as well, which I can take advantage of.

 

Ultimately, the goal is to find a way to sustain a way of life that fits me and my values/priorities (mobility, control over my time, continuing to follow my passions) and the gifts I can give to others.

Stop #2: Jack & Jill O'Rama

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Jack & Jill O'Rama: A West Coast Swing Competition Weekend
What is West Coast Swing? Watch this to find out.

My next stop on my journey took me all the way to...wait for it...Orange, CA. About a 30-minute drive away from my first stop. Dance, and especially west coast swing (WCS), has become a big part of my life. If you look at the six basic human needs*, it fulfills just about all of them. So it's no wonder it's become something of a happy addiction for me in the past three-and-a-half years.

Seeing as I'd put it on the back burner since the New Year to save money and focus more on work, it seemed only right to kick off my journey with a weekend filled with dancing now that I had the ability to do so. I'll write more about what makes this dance unique, so much fun, and meaningful to me later. But suffice it to say, that it was a perfect way to start this journey.

Since one of my main criteria for this trip is to "play full out," dance plays in nicely with that goal--as I can't help but be my full happy self when I'm on the floor. It's a safe-haven of sorts, as it's almost impossible to have a bad attitude when you get to spend all day/night being active, interacting with good friends, dancing with a sampling of quality gentlemen, and getting to express myself through the art of dance (aka: busting a move to Call Me Maybe).

 

The one challenge with weekends like these is that it makes it very difficult to eat healthy when there are workshops all day, competitions in the evenings, and dancing until 2am, 3am, or even 5am in the morning for three straight days. I typically bring a cooler filled with the following (sorry I forgot to take a picture of my standard dance weekend cooler, but I'll do that next time): almond milk for my protein shakes and chia drinks, carrots/tomatoes/peppers and hummus for dipping, roasted veggies for munching, apples, peaches, almonds, and paleo cookies. If I'm not prepared for the weekend with my own food, it can be quite the struggle to find something decent, with the standard offerings of Starbucks and chain fast food restaurants at arm's length.

 

 

That said, it was a great weekend of competing, social dancing, and visiting with my favorite CA dancers before I leaving on my trip. Next stop: south to Encinitas, CA.

 

*The six human needs are explained at this link. But briefly they are the need for certainty, for uncertainty/variety, significance, love/connection, growth, and contribution.

 

 

"Hippie Granola"

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My first night on the road was spent with my friend (and former volleyball coach), Kerstyn in Corona del Mar, CA. I walked down her lane to her front door, and could already smell the wonderful wafting of this granola as it filled the evening air outside. It was heavenly. She knew I needed something clean and healthy for the road and thoughtfully made a double batch for me to take along with me--even though she was leaving at 5am the next day for her own journey to Peru. I couldn't have asked for a better way to kick off my road trip than with her.  

I'd just finished packing up the last of all my belongings into my 5'x10' storage space up in Santa Barbara, and I chowed down on the warm granola as it came out of the oven. Without any further adieu, here's the recipe hot off the... her text to me:

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  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried fruit (Kerstyn used Craisins, but any dried fruit will suffice)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes (Kerstyn didn't use these, but that was fine with me)
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil or olive oil (we found you don't actually need this, if you don't have it. It still turns out ok)
  • 1 tsp real vanilla
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup real maple syrup or honey (I go with 1/3 cup, but I like a lightly sweetened flavor)
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten (<--the key to clumpy granola)[/box]

 

  • Preheat oven to 300°
  • Mix together: oats, cinnamon, salt, fruit and nuts in a big bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together maple syrup, oil, egg whites, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir, making sure all dry ingredients are well coated. Split mixture between two oiled baking sheets. Spread evenly and press down firmly into a thin “donut” shaped single layer with a spatula. (This prevents an uncooked middle.)
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until granola is golden brown and crisp at the edges. Do not stir while baking. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on baking sheet before breaking into lovely, clumpy, clusters.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks, if  it lasts that long.
Recipe adapted from the Frantically Simple blog.

First Stop: Corona del Mar

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After successfully cramming the remainder of my belongings into my storage space up near Santa Barbara, vacuuming thea-p-t, and getting situated in my car with my stash of clothes and things for the next six months, I started my engine and headed all the way down to... Corona del Mar! A whopping two-hour drive (I know, I'm such a go-getter from the get go)!

 

I made my way to my first stop for the night, parked my car, and followed my nose up the sidewalk to the house with the homemade granola smells wafting out into the warm night air. There, not only did I find the crunchy sweetness I had smelled, but I also found my former volleyball coach from college, waiting with her energetic black lab, Pepper. She had whipped up a double batch of what she calls "hippie granola" for me to take with me on my trip (I've already made it again once, and it's amazing. And great for traveling!).

 

My coach, Kerstyn, and I were fast friends from the first time we met. Although she was my coach, we bonded over the sport as well as carving pumpkins and watching movies with our team. Now that we're full-fledged adults (supposedly), and with us both in California, we enjoy getting together and catching up when we both can.

 Hippie Granola

While munching on the fresh batch of granola from the oven, we covered all the requisite topics from jobs, to living with passion, to relationships, to future plans, and favorite healthy recipes. And even with an early wake up call for Kerstyn to head out for her trip to Peru, we still enjoyed a few hours of reconnecting before hitting the hay for a quick sleep.

 

With the dog in tow the next morning, Kerstyn set off for her trip, and me on mine--with my homemade "hippie granola" packed by my side, I couldn't have asked for a better start to my trip than this. Thanks Kerstyn!

Next stop: Jack & Jill O'Rama

Farmers' Stands

A great source for quick and healthy food is your local farmer's stand. In Santa Barbara, they would set up shop on the side of the road at an intersection. Now that I've been on the road about a week now, there are fewer to be seen. But I know they're out there! I'm on the hunt for 'em now!

Paleo Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies (my favorite)

If I come by your house, and if you like cookies, it's very possible that I'll make these for you. They're my go-to for when I want a baked treat, but don't want the killer combo of sugar, butter, and flour. To me, they taste like mini dumplings of chocolate-chip-banana-bread-heaven. I used to make them and bring them to work, back when I had an office job. Now I like to make them for my hosts as I travel the country. If I don't make it to you, whip up a batch for yourself and see. When it comes to ingredients, I LOVE Justin's almond butter even if it is more expensive. Also, feel free to use real chocolate chips if you don't have any qualms with them. I took the suggestion from the recipe and found "Enjoy Life" chocolate chips, which are soy-, nut-, and dairy-free. The ingredients are all "real" ingredients, too, just evaporated cane juice, natural chocolate liquor (non-alcoholic, for the children), and non-dairy cocoa butter. Aaaand they're called "Enjoy Life" chocolate chips, so obviously, when you eat them, you naturally "enjoy life" more. As a professional life enthusiast, these were clearly made for me.

I've gotten prep time down to about 10 minutes (though if I were timed, I bet I could shave off 5 minutes for a PR). Here's the recipe for those who can't wait any longer (and I snagged these with the help of Pinterest, and added my own adaptation with the drizzled honey):

 Paleo Banana Chocolate Chip Cakies (adapted by me :) 

1 cup mashed ripe bananas, about 1 large banana ...or more. I like to taste more banana, so I add more sometimes

2 tablespoons creamy almond butter (Use Justin's... it's amazing.)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon or more. I like me some cinnamon.

Pinch of Salt

1 ¼ cup almond flour/meal (I get mine in the bulk section for about $5/pound)

¼ cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free – delicious)

And drizzle some homemade honey from your sister's family bee hive on top--or just some good quality honey of some sort, for that finishing sweetness.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (very helpful, so they don't stick).

With a hand mixer, blend together the banana, almond butter, vanilla extract, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Add in almond flour and chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Scoop dough into even scoops and place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 9-12 minutes or until cookies are slightly golden on top.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.  They can be somewhat crumbly, so be careful when they're still warm.

Recipe adapted from the Multiply Delicious blog.