Category: life advice

Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? You can’t always be both.

Do you want to be happy? Who doesn't? I bet you also like being right. Click through for a happiness tip most people won't tell you.
For the last three months, I’ve been engaged in a (quiet, polite) battle of wills.
It’s been me vs. parking lot ice, me vs. the building manager, me vs. sand + salt almost every day since the mercury dipped below 32 degrees.

I live in an adorable apartment, in an neighborhood worthy of a Nora Ephron movie. The rent on said apartment is $300 below market value. Why? Because the management is … spotty. At best.

For much of the winter, the back entrance to my apartment building and our parking lot have been caked with ice and packed snow. The path to my car was literally three inches of so-shiny-you-can-see-yourself-in-it ice for months.

This is, of course, Not Acceptable.

I tried to be sweet and subtle.
(Hey, Chris! I’m sure you hadn’t noticed because you don’t park back there, but the parking lot is pretty icy. I bet everyone would love it if you could toss some salt down.)

I tried to be direct.
(Hey, since it snowed I’m really having trouble getting in and out of the parking lot. Could you put some sand and salt down?)

I tried being legal-y.
(The parking lot is super slippery, Chris. It’s incredibly dangerous for all the tenants to be walking around on all that glare ice. If anyone falls the owners of the building are liable for all their medical bills. So.)

And do you know what happened? N-O-T-H-I-N-G.
Or rather, I was told that (by some miracle of physics) the salt he was buying simply wasn’t effective at melting that ice! Go figure!

So I did a little math.
Time spent walking gingerly and slowly because I’m afraid of the ice: a lot
Time spent trying to politely, diplomatically get someone to do something: a lot
Time spent complaining about parking lot to other tenants: at least 20 minutes

And do you know how much a bag of salt costs? $5.

And do you know how much I charge per hour? More than $5. So I bought some salt, threw it around the parking lot, stopped slipping all over and stopped thinking mean thoughts about my building manager.

And the thing is? I’m totally, 100% right. My building manager is legally required to remove the ice and snow from the property and provide us with a safe place to park our cars. I could have spent so much time being right. I could have emailed the owner of the building, emailed tenancy advocates, rallied the other tenants to complain.

But it was way easier and faster to just buy some ever-loving salt.

I would never, ever suggest that you accept injustices or slights as a matter of course. Or that you should roll over and accept abuses and allow people to take advantage of you.

But next time you get your proverbial undies in a bunch (which, if you’re me, happens like three times a day) it might be time to ask yourself

Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? You can't always be both. Click To Tweet

If you dig a bit deeper, there might be a $5, I’ll-let-this-one-go solution that will lead you back to friendly neighbors and sure footing.

When have you chosen ‘happy’ over ‘right’? Was it hard?

P.S. A 4-step plan to feel better and You’re awesome. So then what? 

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash

Hardwood Grows Slowly (A heavy-handed metaphor about growth + change)

Now you know how awkward I was as a child. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, INTERNET. 

Rather bizarrely, I spent a large portion of my childhood thinking about wood. 


I grew up in rural Minnesota, eight miles outside a town of 2,000 people. We ate fish my dad caught, vegetables my mom grew, and heated the house with wood my dad cut down, chopped, and piled (meticulously and perfectly) in the driveway.
Every summer I’d help pile it in the driveway and then, every winter, I’d help re-pile it in the basement. I also spent huuuuuge amounts of time complaining that I was missing Saved By The Bell because I was stacking wood.
By the age of 12, I knew how to start a fire in the furnace or fire pit. I knew which wood you used to get the fire going (birch), which wood burned fast (pine), and which wood burned hot and slow, keeping your house warm so you don’t have to get up in the middle of Family Matters and throw another log on (ash, oak, hickory.)
Why did those specific types of wood create more heat? Why did they make a better fire? Because they’re hardwood; they grow slowly
Now here’s where that heavy-handed metaphor comes in:

The good things in life
a career you really love
a loving, supportive relationship

emotional security + stability
or, in this case, a crackling fire and a warm home
are often the direct result of very slow, deeply unglamorous work.

There aren’t really any shortcuts to getting the good stuff. Discovering your talents, polishing them till they shine, and finding out how to make a living from them? That takes years (or 10,000 hours.) Trying things, failing, trying again, learning to cope with tough stuff, and emerging a smarter + better person? That takes years, too.

So you haven’t landed your dream job yet.
Or you haven’t amassed that 401k.
Or your writing skills aren’t where you’d like them to be.

Be patient. Be gentle with yourself. It takes an oak tree 20 years to produce its first acorn.

You’ll get there, slowly but surely.
And – cheesy as it sounds – you’ll burn brightly when you do. 

Someone Else’s Pain + Struggle Do Not Negate Yours

Your problems are your problems. The fact that other people have different problems doesn't negate yours. Loss and struggle aren't a contest. No one wins the Pain Olympics. Read more here >>
A few years ago I went through an absolutely heart-shredding breakup.
I cried in many, many coffee shops, moved into a tiny apartment, and leaned on my friends a lot. They helped me move all the furniture I bought from Craigslist, listened to my late-night bawling, and baked beer/cheese/bacon cupcakes with me.
Among the various instances of public crying and omg-I-hate-dating, one stands out.

I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, a few months post break up, crying (again) about a guy I shouldn’t have been with anyway. It felt embarrassing to be so broken up and worn down by something like the end of a 2.5 year relationship. I had friends who’d lost parents, who’d gone through divorce, miscarriage, foreclosure.

For Pete’s sake, I was teaching English to refugees who had lost their entire families. And the worst thing that had ever happened to me was the fairly mutual end to a short-ish relationship.

Clearly, I’ve lead a charmed life.
I said this to my friend as I sat weeping at her kitchen table. Her reply?
“Your problems are your problems. The fact that other people have different problems doesn’t negate yours. It’s not your fault that this is your first real heartbreak. Knowing that other people are struggling doesn’t make your struggle any easier and pretending you’re fine serves no one.”
It took me a while to really believe her. I am frequently the first person to wink and mutter “first world problems, amiright?” and I’m a big believer in my grandma’s saying “If the whole world put their problems in a pile, you’d be happy to take yours back.” And I maintain that this applies to problems like spilling Ikea caviar onto your laptop or getting a blister from breaking in your Fryes.
There’s little benefit to downplaying your pain – you can’t get past it that way.
There are people starving all over the world. This does not negate your eating disorder.
There are homeless people in every country. This does not negate the fact that your landlord evicted you illegally.
Millions of people have lost their parents. This does not negate the fact that it’s heartbreaking to have an emotionally distant mom or dad.
Much of the world didn’t have the opportunity to attend university. This does not negate your crippling college debt.
Of course, you should count your blessings.
Of course, you should check yourself if you fall apart every time things don’t go your way.
Of course, you should know your audience. Don’t complain about your boss to your chronically unemployed friend.
But know that it’s okay to be sad.
When things end. When someone you trusted hurts you. When life is, inevitably, unfair.
Take some time sit with it. Stop trying to guilt-trip and bargain your way out of it.

Know that some day, in the far and distant future, this will be one of those character-building experiences your mom told you about.And you’ll be able to write a blog post about it.

Do you ever feel guilty for feeling sad? Do you think there’s any merit in comparing your problems to other people’s problems? Has it ever made you feel better?

P.S. How to be less judgmental + more empathetic

photo credit: oscar keys // cc

19 Tiny Ways To Make The World A (Slightly) Better Place

Want to make the world a better place? Well, that ish is a long road, but we can start with these little random acts of kindness and personal responsibility #kindness #inspiration #motivation

We’d all like to live in a kinder, cleaner, less stress-filled world, right? Well, your mom was right when she said that the only thing you can control is yourself.

And while I fantasize about the day that I’ll levitate with goodness and grace, that day might be a while in coming. With that in mind, here are 19 super doable, non-intimidating, tiny things we can all do (today!) to make the world slightly better.

19 tiny ways to make the world a better place

1. Wipe off the public sink after you use it

Are you using a paper towel? Why not wipe down the sink after you’ve dried your hands? Public bathrooms frequently go hours between cleanings and I’m sure the next person will appreciate the lack of splashed water and soap scum.

2. Return shopping carts to the corral

Last year, my car incurred a $200 scratch thanks to a windy day and one errant shopping cart. And isn’t it insanely annoying when you turn into what looks like an empty parking spot, only be confronted with one very smug and misplaced shopping cart?

3. Save your recyclable trash

If you’re on a road trip, save those plastic bottles and aluminum cans till you get find someplace to recycle them.

4. If you see some (not totally disgusting) trash, pick it up

I’m not suggesting you peel hamburger wrappers off the street, but if you see an empty plastic bag blowing around or a cleanish plastic bottle – pick it up and deal with it accordingly. Nearly 6.5 million tons (!) of litter and garbage end up in the ocean each year.

5. Let people merge and/or courtesy wave

Let’s merge like a zipper – taking turns and letting people in. And if someone lets you in after you’ve been waiting for ages? Courtesy wave.

6. When someone’s good at their job, praise them to their supervisor

This is one of my absolute favorite things. It takes five minutes and it’ll make three days better – yours, the employee, and the supervisor. Win/win/win!

7. Post a thank you note on an event’s Facebook page

If someone took the time to get out of their yoga pants, clean the bathroom, and cook something for you, they totally deserve a thank you. Let’s take a moment between changing our profile photos and stalking exs to write something kind on that Facebook page.

8. Make eye contact with and smile at your barista/cashier/parking ramp attendant/wait staff

We’ve probably all worked in the service industry at some point and it’s a million times more enjoyable when customers take the time to say hello and interact.

9. Report things that break in your apartment building

Are you guilty of doing that thing where you assume someone else has said something? And then you get all annoyed because clearly the management is incompetent? Me, too. 90% of the time when I call my building manager to tell him that the washing machine’s been unbalanced for a week, it’s the first he’s heard of it.

10. Report potholes, abandoned cars, etc to the city

The same as above. We all assume someone else is going to do it, but let’s make a pact to be the person who really, actually does something. Most cities have a super easy form on their website for reporting things like this.

11. When you see something, say something

When you see someone being harassed do this. When someone uses a racial slur, or calls something ‘retarded’ or ‘gay,’ say “Do you think that’s appropriate?”  If you’re a guy and you see another guy yelling things at women on the street, tell him to back off.

12. Offer directions to people who look lost

If someone is wrinkling their brow, looking down at their phone, and then up at the street sign, why not see if you can help?

13. Be nice to people who are older than you

Sometimes I have to take deep, calming breaths when I’m in the express line behind someone who is sorting through coupons and paying with a check. But everyone deserves and appreciates kindness and patience. (I repeat to myself, regularly.)

14. Bring an extra bobby pin/tampon/condom/hair binder/safety pin

You will be the captain of Team Lady if you do this. I cannot count the times my mood has depended on the desire to just get my hair off my neck already! Or the discovery that this top is actually quite boob-y. You will have a friend for life if you help a fellow lady out of a too-boob-y shirt predicament.

15. Put your phone on silent, in your bag when you’re hanging out with someone in person

16. When someone on a dating site sends you an email they’ve clearly put time and effort into, respond (even if you’re not interested) kindly telling them that and wish them luck.

Because haven’t we all experienced that unique heartbreak that comes with slaving over The Perfect Email to someone we’re convinced is our next Someone – only to hear crickets? It’s polite and considerate to acknowledge you got the email, thank them, and wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.

17. Hold doors for people pushing strollers or carrying heavy things

18. Let people with one or two items go in front of you at the grocery store

Retail karma 4eva.

19. Biggest one: Realize that Everyone is doing the best they can with what they've got. When we know better, we do better. Click To Tweet

It is so, so easy (so easy!) to get annoyed/disappointed/straight-up pissed off by humanity at large. OMG WHY ARE YOU DRIVING 40 IN THE FAST LANE? Do you think the ’10 item limit’ doesn’t apply to you? Why are you not holding the elevator, ya dick?

But, ultimately, you never know. Maybe they lost their glasses and can’t read the elevator buttons. Maybe they just got dumped and they’re cry-driving. Maybe they’re about to pitch a huge client and they’re too deep in thought to realize they stepped into the express lane. Most of us are doing our best – in whatever shape that takes.

What tiny things do you do to make the world an ever-so-slightly kinder, better place?

P.S. How to be less judgemental + more empathetic 

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

23 Ways To Unplug (in case you forgot how)

It can be oddly hard to think of ways to unplug or tech-free activities that don't involve a computer or smart phone! Click through for 23 ways to give your smart phone a break!

When I was brainstorming ideas for this post, I was HORRIFIED to discover that I could only think of, like, five activities that didn’t involve technology.

So many of my favorite things – watching dance tutorials on Youtube, road tripping (via GPS), Skyping with far-flung friends – require a laptop or an internet connection. Which is simultaneously depressing and not surprising.

Like many bloggers, I’m completely addicted to technology. I’ve not yet reached the ‘work on my laptop in bed’ point, but I frequently get home from a night out and immediately walk into my office (with my coat and boots still on!) to check my email and social media.

I’ve tried to curb my habit by removing email/Facebook/Twitter from my phone (though I still half-ass Instagram) but I notice a huuuuge difference in my mood when I step away from my screen and into, well, real life.With that in mind, I’m going to wholeheartedly embrace National Unplug Day, March 7-8. (Though I’ve still got a post and social media scheduled for tomorrow for those of you who won’t be ‘celebrating.’)

It’s probably a lot easier for me to unplug than a lot of people – mostly because I can tell my clients I’m taking the day off and then close my laptop. I realize that’s not an option if you’ve got a boss and all sorts of computer-based responsibilities.  But what if you unplugged from 5 pm on the 7th to 5 pm on the 8th? You’d probably be about a million times happier with your weekend.

Here are 23 fun ways to unplug

(print ’em out, eh?)

1. Start a giant paint-by-numbers piece to hang above your bed.

2. Dig through all those cookbooks you have. Find a new, challenging recipe and make it.

3. Make lists: favorite people, yuckiest animals, movies to watch when you’re melancholy, foods you could eat every day until you die.

4. Go buy postcards from a local tourist spot and send them to your friends in other cities.

5. Give yourself (or pay someone to give you) a ridiculous manicure.

6. Go on a photo scavenger hunt. (But with your actual camera! Not your phone/Instagram.)

7. Spend some really quality time with your pet. Brushing and petting until they get sick of it. (my cat Putin neeeeever gets sick of it.)

8. Go to your city’s tallest building at sunset.

9. Declutter and happy-fy your home. Get rid of your ex’s t-shirts, those canned beets you’ll never eat, and that Very Important Novel you hated.

10. Go to a restaurant that serves food you’ve never had before. Ethiopian! Mongolian barbeque! Cambodian!

11. Check out a new class at your gym.  I’m all over water aerobics! (100% not kidding.)

12. Go to a second-run theater and watch a $2 movie.

13. Swap out your framed photos and prints. Here are 7 more cheap ways to update your space.

14. Visit your local library.  I periodically forget about them and then re-remember that you can read hundreds of magazines and books for free! Or attend cool events! Go there and read all the back issues of Cat Fancy.

15. Go for a long walk in a new park or a neighborhood you’ve never explored.

16. Detail your car. I’m not sure words can express how deeply satisfying this is.

17. Invite your friends over for soup, bread, and board games or cards.

18. Make a bonfire. Bonus points for baking potatoes in the coals!

19. Watch a high school sporting event or theater production. Watching kids be sincere and try hard warms my heart every. single. time.

20. Go to a bar and play pool or darts or monopolize the jukebox with a million Britney Spears songs.

21. Hit up your local bingo hall.  THIS IS SO MUCH MORE FUN THAN YOU THINK.

22. Write out your next blog posts by hand.

23. Explore your city via public transport.  I like to call this bus roulette.

Are you addicted to technology? And if you are – how are you dealing with it?

P.S. Do you need 1-on-1 support and accountability living your life more intentionally? I can help with that!

What personal growth actually feels like

What does personal growth feel like? If you're interested in motivation tips, self-help, or personal development, click through for some great insights.

When I was 27, I navigated from Santorini, Greece to San Remo, Italy by myself, without speaking Italian or Greek.

My trip included sleeping on the floor of an overcrowded boat, two trains, a bus, a flight, another train, falling asleep on said train and missing my stop and then taking a very expensive taxi ride at 1 am to get to my hotel.

As I type this from our snug little apartment in Minnesota, this sounds like a grand adventure and a badge of scrappiness.  At the time, it was so, so, so stressful.

When I was in Nepal, I spent two weeks in a refugee camp.  I slept on a bed made of sticks, showered out of a bucket, walked a quarter mile to use an outhouse, and regularly rode on the back of a motorcycle, without a helmet, on dirt roads, through jungles known to contain elephants. Sounds so like the adventure of a lifetime!
And it was.
It was also hot and dirty and I was frequently tired and socially exhausted.
Experiences that are challenging feel challenging when we’re in the midst of them.

It’s hard to sell all your worldly belongings and relocate to a new country. It’s frustrating to navigate buses in a country where you don’t speak the language.

It’s not easy to start your life over after a breakup, furnishing a new life from scratch on one income.

But, at the risk of sounding like your mom, that feeling of frustration?  That’s what personal growth feels like.

Those challenges? Once you make it through alive (which, if you’re reading this, you have) that’s what adventure feels like. This is where you become a smarter, stronger, kinder person. Those experiences are what “Tell me again!” stories are made of.  These are the spaces where we grow. 

Growth doesn't usually happen during the sweetest, rosiest times in our lives. Click To Tweet It’s when things get hard that we’re forced to look at things with new eyes, to try new approaches, to dig a little bit deeper into what we’re capable of and think about what we really want.

So that break up you’re going through,
that lay-off from the job you weren’t that into,
this time in your life when you’re eating ramen or beans and rice,
let’s choose to believe that these experiences really are making us better, more interesting people.As cheesy as it sounds, some day you'll view this as the moment you really figured out who you were, when you finally learned that lesson, when you embraced the adventure. Click To TweetIf nothing else, all this will make for a great story.

What are some of the struggles you faced that made you who you are today? What did you learn from them?

I grew up in rural Minnesota, in a town of 2,000 people which means I a) can entertain myself and b) am not snotty at all.  I also sold my worldly belongings and moved countries five (!) times, which has made me a great packer and very, very unattached to my belongings.

P.S. Life has big plans for you.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash