Random thoughts with a spattering of thoughtfulness.

Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

Nurture Inspiration

Moments of Insight

I am not a very creative person. My first instinct is always by-the-book and I struggle without a clear set of guidelines. Thinking outside of the box is not really my specialty. Mistakes are things to be corrected or erased altogether.

But, I love creatives. I admire their passion and that unique ability to turn imperfection into art. I long to achieve that level of freedom. Of course, I only recently discovered that creativity, like anything else, can be practiced and learned. I’m still not good at it, but I’ve found it comes more easily in the context of things that ignite my passion.

I’ve also found that when I acknowledge moments of insight instead of letting them pass by unnoticed, I invite even more clarity. When we are grateful for everything that is good in our lives, the universe conspires to bring us more good. So it goes with insight, clarity and creativity. When we acknowledge and appreciate it, we receive more and more of it.

Coming Into Focus

In my last post, I mentioned a little seed of an idea that I’ve been keeping warm and safe in the soil of my mind. I’ve been so eager for it to grow that I have been imagining and even planning how I’m going to shape it, but, really, I hadn’t the slightest clue who it was for. I know what I want to do, I know why I want to do it, I was even mapping out the how, but I didn’t know for whom.

A product or service will only go as far as the customer will take it. And I had no clue who “the customer” was. Until my most recent moment of insight, when my “who” finally clicked into place. Any imagining or planning I’ve done up to now has really been pointless because I didn’t have a clear image of my customer, but now I do.

My loves:

  • Communication
  • Training
  • Attitude
  • Engagement

The pieces are coming together. I have the what, the why, and the who. It’s time to work on the when and the how.

TL;DR?

  1. Accept imperfection; use it to make something beautiful.
  2. Be grateful for the good and you will have more good.
  3. The first step to achieving anything is to answer the most basic questions: what, why, who, when, and how.
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The Power of Creative Inspiration

MindBodyGreen.com

I started following MindBodyGreen on Facebook about a month ago and ever since my browser has been overloaded with all the links to amazing articles about health and wellness for your mind, body, and soul.

If you’re looking to learn to love yourself, green your routine, or just be happier and healthier in general, MindBodyGreen is an excellent resource.

25 Questions To Ask Yourself

In early December, contributing author and life coach, Ashley Wilhite, posted the article, 25 Questions To Ask Yourself Before The End Of The Year.

I stumbled across her article closer to the end of the month and decided I was going to go through each of the questions one-by-one. I didn’t get around to it before the end of the year, but did yesterday during my lunch hour. I paid careful attention to each question and answered it honestly before moving to the next.

The question that resonated with me most was, “When did I feel most creatively inspired?” Since I’m not a very creative person I expected this question to be difficult, but it really wasn’t. It was surprisingly simple.

My Creative Inspiration

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, it’s probably no surprise that I’m searching for my passion and a way to live it. It’s been hard though, because I love everything. I want to learn everything. I want to do everything.

How could I possibly pick just one thing to focus on when there’s so much to choose from? How can I find a niche when everything interests me and I know a teensy bit about everything but everything about nothing?

Then, while driving home from the grocery store sometime between October and November, the universe opened up and inspiration sprang forth. What if passion is my passion? What if telling others about the beauty of passion and helping them find their passions is my passion?

I’m not sure I’ll ever achieve excellence in any one thing, but I do know how incredibly passionate I am about achieving excellence. It seems what I love most isn’t something I can necessarily do, but how I can feel. So, I have a little idea.

Less Than A Seedling, A Seed

I don’t have many details about it, yet. It’s just a seed, this idea of mine. It’s still buried in the dark, earthy soil of my mind, but I’m nurturing it. I’m giving it air and light and I believe soon I may get it to sprout. It will be little at first, but, like all things, I believe it will grow.

I’m so grateful for reading Ashley Wilhite’s article and taking the time to mindfully answer her questions. It reminded me of what’s important, what I did well, where I failed, and how I can be better. Most of all, it renewed the light I was allowing to dim; it renewed my courage and my hope.

If you have a little seed of an idea. Shine your light on it, breathe your life into it. Don’t let your light dim and don’t let your idea suffocate. If you nurture it, it will grow.

Learn to Do Anything, Guaranteed!

Practice–It’s that simple
(and that hard).

I mentioned in my previous post that I’m working to learn more about freelancing and online business in the effort to at least generate a part-time, secondary income working from home. I also mentioned, not for the first time, how much I love to write.

So, last night I applied for work as a transcriber with some online transcription company. The application process consisted of a brief test designed evaluate the applicant’s command of the English language. I thought for sure I blew it clean out of the water. Then, I got the results today and “my number of errors was outside their allowable margin for error.” I *gasp* failed!

After traversing several phases of self-talk (failure, doubt, it’s-not-me-it’s-them, etc.), I set my ego aside and decided I must need more practice. Weekly isn’t enough. I have enough ideas, I need to practice daily.

So, whatever it is you want to learn, and whatever level of skill you currently have, if you want to get better, practice. The more you practice, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll get.

Daily–Make time to make it a habit.

As an abstract concept I think we all know practice, especially daily practice, is what it takes to learn and improve anything we want to do well.

Personally, however, I’ve never really had the patience. I want to do something well and I’m a perfectionist, so when I can’t master it in whatever length of time my amateur brain imagines is reasonable, I quit.

To me, daily practice has always been an abstract concept of self improvement. I was either good at something or I wasn’t, period.

Until I made a daily habit of something simple and completely unrelated to anything I wanted to do.

I was among thousands of people who regularly lie to their dental hygienists. She’d ask if I was flossing and I’d reply, “Probably not as often as I should.” Translation: never (or, at best, rarely).

Then, she told me that my family history and personal dental hygiene may put me at higher risk of periodontal disease, so I made a commitment to daily flossing.

Having rarely flossed in the past, naturally I wasn’t very good at it. I used a massive amount of floss and it seemed tedious and time consuming. Not to mention, I had to make the conscious decision every day to take the time and struggle through it.

Then one day, without warning, I realized it wasn’t so bad. It didn’t take as much time, I didn’t use as much floss and I was much more effective at it. I also no longer had to remember to floss, it was just something I did.

That simple task took daily practice from an abstract idea to something practical that I could apply to any task at which I wanted to improve.

I also learned something else about daily practice. You improve without noticing you’re improving. Just like our hair grows and our bodies age, you don’t notice the change until the change is significant. You start out not doing so well and you continue thinking you’re not doing so well until one day, you realize you’re actually good. Then you continue at being good for a while until one day, you realize you’re great. So on and so forth.

Patience–With your progress and with yourself.

You’re not going to be very good on the first day and you’re not going to see immediate results. The most important thing is to remember that’s okay.

    If you want to paint, it’s okay if it’s not a masterpiece. Don’t quit.

    If you want to run, it’s okay if you have to rest. Don’t quit.

    If you want to be creative, it’s okay if ideas come slow. Don’t quit.

    If you want to be anything, it’s okay if you fail. Don’t quit.

It won’t happen overnight, in a day, a week, a month or even a year. But if you want to change, if you want to improve, you have to work. You have to keep practicing.

Let go of fear. Let go of comparison. Let go of anyone’s standards other than your own. Learn what you love and do what you love, because you love it. Accept mistakes as part of the process, as part of your process.

I’m sure for a lot of people this is a “Well, DUH!” post. But, I’m also sure there are a lot of people in the world just like me. Who quit before even giving themselves a chance. Who give up because they think they’re not good enough or it’s too hard or they’ll never make it. Frankly, I’m tired of quitting. I’m doing this.

The Tricky Thing About Fear

A Chain of Events

Recently, I’ve started looking for ways I can generate secondary income.

I have a full-time 9-5, but have always wanted to move in the direction of more flexible, freelance options. So, I’ve started looking for ways to generate at least a part-time secondary income through telecommute freelance work. Like a lot of 9-5ers, much of my weekend time is dedicated to maintaining my household, but last week I decided I also wanted to use that time learning how to build an effective online business, so I put in my headphones and scrolled through the list of podcasts in iTunes.

This is how I stumbled upon Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast. I listened to the first six episodes of the Smart Passive Income podcast while cleaning the house and was bombarded with ideas. I’m working through the podcast episodes in order, but I had to jump to episode 87 posted on Nov. 15, 2013. The episode is titled “Why You Belong on Stage – Pat’s ‘Braindump’ of Public Speaking and Presentation Tips” and with my own newfound passion for public speaking, I couldn’t resist.

In episode 87 Flynn dropped this little gem about fear, “When the resistance, when that fear comes into play, for me that’s a sign that whatever it is I’m trying to do is typically worth pushing through…If you are thinking about public speaking, or you know it’s something you should do, but you fear it, take that as a sign that this is something you should do.”

When I heard this in his podcast, it occurred to me that the thing I fear most is probably the thing I should be doing. I also remembered this wasn’t anything new to me. It was something I had learned years ago, but had forgotten.

A Life Lesson

In 2002, I left my family to spend eight weeks detained on a military base in a small New Jersey town for basic training with the United States Coast Guard. I was scared out of my mind when I got on the bus and the closer I got to Cape May, the more my fear escalated into panic. What had I done?! What was I in for?!

Later, when basic training was a mere memory, I was discussing fear and life events with my younger sister and I remember telling her one thing I’ve learned is that, generally, the thing you fear the most will turn out to be the best thing you will ever do.

Despite the near-crippling fear I experienced as a boarded the bus to Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, I can say with complete confidence, that experience and the subsequent four years was easily the best thing I’ve done with my life to date. I didn’t let fear hold me back and the result was life-changing.

So why am I letting fear hold me back now?

A Debilitating Fear

I want to write. I love to write. For a lifetime I’ve been in awe of libraries which house innumerable resources for any topic I can imagine and I’ve dreamt about contributing to that wealth of knowledge. For years I’ve walked into bookstores, purchased random books on random topics of interest and longed to be a name on those shelves screaming for attention amidst thousands of others.

I have a passion for the written word in all forms, but I rarely ever write and I have never really worked toward my dream of being a “writer.” Why? Because when I walk around a bookstore, when I scroll through iBooks, when I look at the blogosphere–the millions of people trying to be heard–I am overwhelmed with doubt and fear. How could I ever stand a chance in such an over-saturated market?

So, other than journaling, I don’t write. Ever. Or, rarely. I started this blog and let it fizzle out. I wrote a couple articles for a local magazine and let that fizzle out. Despite my passion, I let the fear get the best of me and I fizzle out.

A Time to Change

As I was listening to Flynn’s podcast I realized I wasn’t writing, because I was afraid. And, I remembered my own lesson about fear. I decided I have to write. I have to set deadlines, I have to create more content, I have to practice, I have to get better. I can’t NOT do this.

So what if no one reads it, so what if it’s bad at first, so what if no one cares. I’ll get better with time, I’ll get better with practice. The more I write, the more ideas I will have, the more creative I will become.

So, last week I set my first deadline. I decided I would post to this blog on a weekly basis. I decided I would push through it, make myself write more, stick to my deadlines. Even if this never goes anywhere, I will practice, I will learn and I will get better.

Whatever it is you love, just do it. Forget about what other people think, forget about if you’re good at it or not, forget about the what-ifs, forget about the fear. If you’re afraid of failure it’s because you love something enough to care, so go out there and do it.

Fall Like Rain

Fall Like Rain…How?

A Pseudo Summer Rain

In that surreal space on the edge of sleep one night, an image took shape behind my eyelids. The image itself was nothing spectacular, just my neighborhood street under the low-hanging, soggy clouds of a summer afternoon rain storm. For an instant, I watched the rain fall in my mind’s eye.

What was striking about this particular flash of brain activity right before falling asleep wasn’t the image, but the metaphor with which it came.

In a moment of watching an imaginary rain, I saw life. Each raindrop was a single life. Condensed from seemingly nothingness as a result of atmospheric conditions, released on a particular trajectory with no control over the world through which it passes, and smashed into seeming non-existence as it rejoins the earth and those which came before.

The Rain Storm Perspective

The thought that stuck with me immediately after this little spike in brain activity and right before I fell asleep was, “I want to fall like rain.”

We want to believe we have control over every aspect of our lives, but what if we’re just passing through? We all search for purpose, but what if our purpose is just to enjoy the view and be happy?

This idea, of course, isn’t new. Countless people have put a lot of work into this and similar ideas. Many of whose work is well-researched, published and lines countless self-help bookshelves and who are certainly more credible then some girl spouting random thoughts that cross her mind.

It’s interesting, however, of all the material advising people to just be happy the idea is still scoffed at by the majority. And yet, life, or the universe or whatever, continues to blast us with experiences–like my pre-sleep metaphor– encouraging us to do just that.

Even as a believer and follower of this concept, I often get drawn into the day-to-day drama of my culture and society. There are times when and places where I just can’t seem to maintain my inner-peace. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m sure other people who try to live by similar ideas experience moments when they’re drawn back in to negative thoughts and the control-illusion.

Why is it so hard for us to just let go? Why are we so consumed by our need for control, or to be the victim, or to be miserable, when it’s just as easy to let it go and be happy?

So, what I’m striving to remember since that night is to simply fall like rain and let life lead.

“…you didn’t build that [alone].”

I don’t usually get into politics. I’m incredibly uninformed, which I believe, rightly so, means I have no credibility on the topic. But, right now I’ve got something to say.

Obama’s gotten a lot of flack about the Romney campaign ad that quotes him saying, “if you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that.” And, I got to thinking that doesn’t seem accurate for someone who’s seeking a second term, so I found the source and I’m linking the full transcript of that speech.

As it turns out, the context of that quote refers to the American Dream and how everyone has opportunity. The implied meaning of, “you didn’t build that” refers to mentors, teachers, people who inspired your dreams and pushed you to make them a reality. It’s about working together and helping each other.

The lines leading up to this statement were, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

There is not a single successful person who can deny the truth in that statement. Even if you didn’t have a financial investor, there was someone who believed in you, someone who supported you, or even someone who walked out on you and made you more determined.

“This unbelievable American system” is why every child grows up believing they can pursue whatever they can dream and, for those who have dreams and work for them, this is every ounce of truth. Even if there is some small-business owner somewhere in America with no public education who has earned success with absolutely no help at all, no support, no beliefs, no advice, if you’re a minority (ethnic or otherwise) you, at the very least, had help from a system of government that allows you such freedoms. Your incorporation or LLC forms weren’t denied because of your ethnicity, creed, or sex.

Americans have countless freedoms they, all to often, take for granted. We all have something to complain about. We all look at others and think of how much easier that person has it. But, really, there are a ton of success stories. There are countless Americans who worked themselves out of poverty, overcoming countless obstacles. Children from low-income households who grow up on welfare and work their way through college to become successful entrepreneurs. Single mothers who juggle being mommy with a full-time job and night classes to make a career for themselves and improve quality of life for their children.

I, personally, know of a single mother who worked three jobs to afford any extra-curricular activity in which her, now grown, children cared to participate. She managed three jobs, after-school activities for two children, and a spotless home. That, my friends, is hard work.

In my opinion, (my opinion only, so take it as you will) those of us who take our freedoms for granted are the ones who have never really (and be honest here) had to work for them. We are a generation who view freedom as an entitlement, not a privilege. The American system never promised to MAKE your dreams come true, only to allow YOU the OPPORTUNITY to make them true for yourself.

The Americans who fight for their dreams and who overcome all obstacles to see them to fruition are the ones who truly appreciate the freedom and opportunity this country has to offer. And, I’m sure, none will deny having some help. A friend who believed in you, or gave you a book, or watched the baby at night.

My rant here is not meant to be biased towards either presidential candidate. My goal is only to point out how easy it is to misconstrue meaning by taking words out of context. And, to highlight how important it is to appreciate what we have and what we’re capable of.

For all my friends and family, and to all mankind, I love you, but do a little research and think for yourself before you go hopping on the media bandwagon as it rolls by collecting mindless zombies.

What I Love To Do

To me, the most inspirational part of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 was this, “You’ve got to find what you love…the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

I love to write. And, it’s funny, because for as much as I claim I love to write, I haven’t been doing a lot of it lately. Actually, I’ve been doing pretty much none. I’ve had ideas floating around. I’ve worked on some plot development and some character sketches, even some research, but I just don’t feel ready to actually start the writing process.

I think it would be amazing to weave an intricate and suspenseful story that affects readers deep in the core of their being, inspiring them to be better people. I want to create characters to which readers can relate, but also to act as mentors offering advice for life’s difficult moments. My dream isn’t so much to sell books, or even to be published, just to have a story that will inspire people.

So, I’m tossing around ideas. More accurately, an idea or two are gasping for air in the muck which is the day-to-day activity of my grey matter. These ideas will remain just that, maybe not indefinitely, but for a very long time, I’m sure.

Why? Because I’m insanely intimidated. And, I fear I have no imagination. Or, maybe, just maybe, I’m trying to sprint to the finish line when I’m not even steady on my feet.

Another quote I find very inspiring comes from the renowned rapper Eminem. In the song “Airplanes Part II” by B.o.B featuring Haley Williams and Eminem, he rhymes, “Because he never risked shit, he hoped and he wished it, but it didn’t fall in his lap so he ain’t even here; he pretends…”

I’m realizing that I’m doing a lot of hoping and wishing, but I’m not really working. Just like it wasn’t easy for Steve Jobs or Marshall Mathers (Eminem), it won’t be easy for me. I’m not going to sit down in front of a blank screen and effortlessly churn out 500 pages or so of literary excellence.

Dreams can come true, but only for those who are willing to work for it. So here’s yet another of my favorite quotes. An American entrepreneur just after the Great Depression, Arnold H. Glasow, once said, “Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” I like to interpret his meaning as work. One must endure grueling work to enjoy abundant success.

I’ve tried to set myself on fire a few times. I’ve told myself I’m going to hone my writing and creativity with daily practice. More often than not, I find that the only thing I managed to set on fire was my ignorance. Once that sputters out, so does my determination.

Ignorance on fire. This is a turn of phrase that has stuck with me for nearly 15 years. I first heard this during my, very brief, career as a telephone sales representative—the kind that advertised paid training, after which was about where my career ended. Anyway, as the room of new sales representatives neared the end of a week’s worth of training, the instructor explained that many of us will do very well as soon as we hit the sales floor. He said we’ll make ridiculous sales mostly because we won’t really know what we’re doing. We’ll be like ignorance on fire!

I seem to approach every aspect of my life with ignorance on fire. Once I realize how much work is really involved my determination fizzles out fast. This happens with pretty much everything; writing, relationships, jobs, hobbies, etc. The few things I have completed required some form of outside motivation, typically manifested as financial or contractual obligations. Sometimes, even that doesn’t stop me. I believe I already mentioned how fickle I can be, no need to revisit that topic.

To be honest, although I know I enjoy writing, I really have no idea what kind of writing I prefer or what I want to write about. A large portion of the writing I have done has been dedicated to journaling–probably why blogging seems to be a natural next step, although I was skeptical for a long time. I’ve dabbled in poetry and the occasional short-short-story, but, other than that, not a lot of creative writing. As much as I would love to write the next literary classic, I’m not sure creative writing is my strong suit.

I’ve found that I enjoy business writing, even with occasionally dull subjects, because of the challenge of limited space. I enjoy writing with abandon then having to go back and cut out every non-essential paragraph, sentence and word trying to whittle from 700 words down to 300. Something about editing your own work to such a degree is strangely exhilarating! Of course, this is something I should do regardless because, in really good writing, if it doesn’t add essential meaning, it shouldn’t even exist.