Category: life advice

Your Corner Stone of Awesome

Friends, I’d like to share something impressive with you.
When I was 25 and living in Taiwan, I negotiated the terms of my lease in Chinese.
What?  Yes.
(Or, perhaps more accurately, Google Translate and some very decisive body language negotiated my lease.)

When I was 26, I got myself from Santorini, Greece to San Remo, Italy via six different pieces of transport (ferry, train, plane, subway, train, taxi).  I did it alone, without speaking Greek or Italian and I only got lost once and that was because I fell asleep on the train.When I was 27, I moved to New Zealand with a dude I’d been dating for three months.  I earned my M.A. in 18 months while working two jobs. (P.S. I would not necessarily recommend doing this.)

When I was 29, I went through an awful break up that necessitated starting my life over.  I was so broke I took a second job and blogged from my work computer because it took my three months to save enough money to buy a $200 netbook.
I’m not really telling you guys these things to impress you so much as to remind myself of what I am really, actually capable of.
When I’m feeling malcontent.
Or intimidated.
Or nervous.
Or overwhelmed.
I remind say to myself  “Self, you’re the same person who negotiated a lease in a second language. You slept on the floor of a ferry to get to Italy and teach at a summer camp.  You rebuilt your life from scratch – and the second version is way, way, waaaaay better.  This thing?  This.ain’t.shit.  You got this.”
We’ve all got those cornerstones of awesome.  Those amazing/hard/crazy things we’ve accomplished that we can look back on it wonder.
Next time you’re feeling less-than, look back at your awesome and remind yourself that if you can do THAT?  You can totally, totally do THIS.
What are your cornerstones of awesome?  Where can you draw inspiration from yourself?

You Are Not Defined Exclusively By Your Relationships With Other People

 

A few years ago, a close friend was going through a rough time.
One of those this-is-an-era-of-terrible-that-will-mark-my-life rough times.This friend is slightly outside of my age group – a homeowner, a minivan driver, mom to a very, very challenging teenager.  Said teenager was in the midst of making a huge mess of his life.  There was addiction and lying and fleeing and a heaping helping of blame.All this despite very, very good parenting.

Her son’s shenanigans had been going on for years and of course (of course!) my friend and her husband felt terrible.  I’m sure there were lots of late night conversations and a lot of “what could we have done differently?”

But when I talked to my friend about this, she told me something insanely, mind-blowing zen.

“You know, I don’t define myself exclusively through my relationships with other people. I’ve loved being a wife and a mother.  And I take those roles very seriously.  But there are other things in my life that are important to me and other things that I did before I became a wife and a mother. Someday I might be a widow and someday my parents will die.  But I’ll still be here and it’s important that I have other things in my life that I love.”

(at this point I think I probably put my hand on her arm and asked her if I could be her when I grew up and how, in the name of all that is good and holy, did she become so wise?)

And she’s right, of course.

Our friendships and families and partnerships are incredibly important.  And they should be.  But they’re not everything.  Your interests and hobbies should be part of the picture.  Your political views.  Your career.  The things that excite and inspire you.

When we put all our proverbial eggs in one basket, we’re giving an awful lot of power to that one aspect of our lives.  If I only define myself by my career, what happens when I get laid off?  If’ I describe myself as a ‘mom’ first and foremost, what will I say when my kids are 25 and living in other cities?

We’re all clever, interesting, complex humans.  Let’s define ourselves as such.

image via ARROW

Happiness Secret: Upgrade Your Bum-Around Clothes

This is such a small happiness hack but it totally works: upgrade your bum around clothes! Get rid of the stained sweats and the stretched out t-shirt. Buy yourself a few things that are comfortable AND cosy!

Not very shocking confession: as someone who works from home, I can frequently be found in stretched out yoga pants and novelty t-shirts, a top knot, and flip flops.

It’s comfortable and nobody is the wiser because anytime I’m in public I wear (slightly) nicer outfits of skinny jeans, boots, flowy tops, and scarves.

Well, nobody was the wiser till I told the internet.

But lately, I’ve felt like all schlumpiness has been taking it’s toll. It’s hard to take yourself seriously in unflattering yoga pants and I’m constantly running into my neighbors in the laundry room/mail area/recycling bin area while wearing an old Mailchimp t-shirt.

As such, I’ve decided to upgrade my bum-around clothes. Because you know what feels just as comfortable as yoga pants and a t-shirt? An over-sized sweater, a pair of silly leggings, and some fancy slippers?*

But the latter feels just slightly more adult-ish! When you’re wearing cute bum-around clothes you feel smug and put together!

*I realize that there are thousands of people who view leggings + big sweater as a viable outfit.  I am not one of those people.  I don’t feel like I’m public-ready when everything I’m wearing is stretchy.

Behold! Outfits that are totally comfy and perfect for Sunday morning lounging and Target-run appropriate!

 

This is such a small happiness hack but it totally works: upgrade your bum around clothes! Get rid of the stained sweats and the stretched out t-shirt. Buy yourself a few things that are comfortable AND cosy!

This is such a small happiness hack but it totally works: upgrade your bum around clothes! Get rid of the stained sweats and the stretched out t-shirt. Buy yourself a few things that are comfortable AND cosy!
This is such a small happiness hack but it totally works: upgrade your bum around clothes! Get rid of the stained sweats and the stretched out t-shirt. Buy yourself a few things that are comfortable AND cosy!What do you wear when you’re bumming around the house?  Have you ever tried wearing cuter bum around clothes?

Track Your Efforts, Not Your Accomplishments

Looking for productivity tips? Or to-do list ideas? Before you get started, you need to make peace with tracking your efforts, not your accomplishments.
Almost all of us want to be happier at work.

No matter where we work, no matter what we do, no matter who we work for  – most of us most of us believe we could be happier. More content. More satisfied.

I hear this from my clients all the time! We talk social media. We come up with ideas for info products. We wax philosophical on the merits of traffic-driving posts versus personal essays on important, thought-provoking topics.

Regardless of the client or topic, one questions almost always comes up:
“How much traffic/followers/subscribers do I need before I can  ________________?”

And while I do have a pragmatic, number-based answer to that question, I also have a much healthier, sanity-saving response.

You will be a lot happier if you track your efforts rather than your accomplishments. Click To Tweet

This is true for many reasons.

1. As with most things in life, the only thing you can control is yourself

You can’t control if something you write goes viral. The biggest traffic spike this blog ever received was when Reddit thought I was the Ermagerd girl.  Shockingly enough, I did not build ‘be mistaken for internet meme’ into my marketing plan.  You can control how often you post.  You can control how much time you spend on Twitter befriending awesome people.  You can control the topics you write about.

You can’t really control who links to you, who retweets you, who likes your funny cat photos on Facebook.   You can make it significantly more likely that people will link to you and like your stuff, but you can’t really make anyone do anything.

2. Most goals are reached really, really slowly with a lot of hard work

About 12,000+ people read this blog every day.  Which is great!

But.

I’ve been getting paid to write since I was 20 and I’ve been posting seven days a week for five plus years.  If I’d been working towards the goal of 12,000 daily readers when I started my blog, I would have given up seven years ago. (Also: I would probably have drowned myself in a sea of noodles and butter but that’s beside the point.)

3. Most accomplishments probably don’t feel the way you’d expect

When you’ve been working towards one goal for months and months (or years and years) you might just come to hate that goal.  Or by the time you reach it, you’ve seen it looming in the distance for six months and it’s not particularly surprising or joy-making.

When I handed in the final paper for my M.A. I felt super glad it was over.  And then I went out for pizza with my boyfriend. When I signed with a literary agent, I felt nervous and all “Welp, I guess this is what I’m doing with the next two years of my life.  So that six-week trip to Russia and Mongolia is out of the picture.”

4.  You’ll have a lot more efforts than accomplishments – so you’ll feel happier when you track them

Two scenarios.

What you say: “I’ll keep track of how many new clients I get!”
How you feel: “Sooooooo, three months and I’ve only landed one new client.  I’m a failure, I hate everything, and I should go drowned myself in a pool of butter and noodles.”

What you say: “I’ll keep track of how many potential clients I pitch!”
How you feel: “Wow!  I pitched five potential clients this month!  I’m about a million times braver than I was last month and my presentations are heaps smoother.  I’m getting better at dealing with rejection and my pitches are getting tighter and smarter each time.”

See the difference?

Lastly – and most importantly obviously – regular efforts lead to accomplishments.  If you focus on little, day-by-day steps the big stuff will take care of itself.

P.S. How to enjoy work even if you’re really busy and kind of overwhelmed

photo by Melinda Pack // cc

3 Tips To Help You Focus (That Don’t Involve Coffee)

My days are frequently an exercise in wandering-mind-management.
“I should really be working on that new fashion ebook but I can’t forget to write a birthday card for my aunt. And oh! I need to print/sign/scan that NDA! But there are dirty dishes in the sink. AND OH WAIT I OBVIOUSLY NEED TO RESEARCH FLIGHTS TO NEW ZEALAND RIGHT NOW.”
There are plenty of ways that I manage this foolishness. I swear by lists and goals and Google Nanny and the Pomodoro method. But those tricks just force me to do fewer ridiculous things. They don’t actually help me focus on doing awesome things. And since I’m trying to limit my coffee consumption to, um, a non-insane amount, I’ve been trying other things to help me focus.

Here are three tips that really help me focus

Focus Tip #1: Take a 30-second cold shower

Wait. What? I can hear you scrolling past this and mumbling right now. But hear me out! When you’ve spent the last hour and a half falling down an internet hole, refreshing your RSS feed every two minutes, you need something that’s a shock to the system and a reset button of sorts. Of course, this is about a million times more doable if you, like me, work from home, but I so, so highly encourage it.
Strip down, jump in, turn around in that freezing water while you grit your teeth and question why you followed this advice. Then get out, feel a million times more awake and focused (and then feel bad that you doubted me.)

Focus Tip #2: Legs-up-the-wall yoga pose

So easy, so helpful. Scoot your butt as close to the wall as you comfortably can and set the timer on your phone (choose a sweet, non-confrontational alarm sound) and calm your mind. You (probably) won’t fall asleep, but your mind will stop racing, your legs, feet, knees, and back will feel a million times better, and you’ll finished feeling refreshed and focused.
Note: this is significantly less calming if you have a needy cat who insists on begging for pets and eating your hair when you lie down. 

Focus Tip #3: Take a dance break

Yes, really. Who cares if you’re not a good dancer? You’re just dancing some of that antsy energy out of your system and doing something other than sitting in front of a computer. Just choose 1-2 of your favorite, can’t-sit-still songs and twerk around your apartment (or, um, in your office with the door closed) for five minutes. I’m currently dance breaking to thisand this.
If all else fails? Walk to the coffee shop and buy an overpriced ice latte and flirt with the barista.

How do you stay focused? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. How to restart a bad day

photo credit: annie spratt // cc

7 Cool Magazines We Should All Be Reading

Looking for some cool magazine recommendations? Something other than Real Simple and Oprah magazine? Click through for 7 magazine recs you've never considered!
One of my absolute favorite pastimes is hanging out with my mom, on a deck overlooking the lake where I grew up, drinking terrible made-from-powder instant ice tea, reading magazines.

Clearly, I’m a woman of extreeeeeemely expensive tastes.

While I lovelovelove reading blogs it’s so lovely to pull something glossy and gorgeous out of your mailbox and flip through it on the sofa or in the park.  I love dog earring pages and ripping things out for future use and bulletin board-pinning.

Also?  A yearly magazine subscription frequently costs less than $20.  That’s the same price as an entree and a drink and those won’t bring you joy once a month for a year!

In addition to all the obvious magazines (O, Real Simple, etc) here are a few of the magazines that I love.

7 cool magazines we should all be reading

Frankie
(Australia)
Remember Sassy magazine?  The best magazine that’s ever happened?  That’s what Frankie is like. The current issue includes an interview with funny writer and feminist icon Caitlin Moran, a recipe for mulled wine, a little look at how to raise chicken in the city, a quick trip to Seoul and a refugee’s tale that includes pirates?
Oh, and an in-depth look at the history of big hair, a load of snuggly new winter fashion, and a hard-hitting report on the life of a crazy cat lady. What? Yes. The subscription is expensive but totally, totally worth it. It’s also stocked at select retailers.

Lucky Peach

What’s the deal with Lucky Peach?  It bills itself as “a quarterly journal of food and writing. Each issue focuses on a single theme, and explores that theme through essays, art, photography, and recipes.”
Fancy, interesting, important people contribute to it – Rick Bayless talks about the ins and outs of street food, Anthony Bourdain talks about the movie Deliverance, and Jason Polan visits the most beautiful Taco Bell in the world.  Into it.

Mental Floss

I think that smart is sexy, so I obviously think that Mental_Floss is the sexiest magazine out there. Here’s what they say about themselves:

“Mental_Floss is an intelligent read, but not too intelligent. We’re the sort of intelligent that you hang out with for a while, enjoy our company, laugh a little, smile a lot and then we part ways. Great times.

And you only realize how much you learned from us after a little while.Like a couple days later when you’re impressing your friends with all these intriguing facts and things you picked up from us, and they ask you how you know so much, and you think back on that great afternoon you spent with us and you smile. And then you lie and say you read a lot.”

The Intelligent Optimist

Isn’t that an amazing name for a magazine? They focus on “people, passion and possibilities changing our world for the better. We celebrate people making a positive difference in their communities, their countries, their businesses.

Our philosophy is to embrace the passion behind new ideas that inspire innovative solutions to some of our greatest challenges. The Intelligent Optimist explores the possibilities generated by fresh perspectives on everything from technology to health and the human spirit. We present intelligent optimism as a path to happier, healthier lives in a better world.” Lovely, right?

National Geographic Traveler

Honestly, when I ‘read’ National Geographic I’m usually just looking at the pictures and wishing I was there. This magazine covers travel gear, unknown destinations, cool personal essays, and heaps of helpful travel tips.  Annnnnnd the awesome photos that make you wish you were there.

Garden & Gun

Isn’t this name hilarious? When my BFF and I were in Nashville last month we discovered this little gem and picked it up, thinking it was a joke.  It’s not.  It’s gorgeous and interesting. I

t’s bursting with South-specific recipes (a sweet tea granita or local cheeses), interview with Southern musicians, artists, and writers, tours of breathtaking historical homes, and tips for travel destination in the South.  I’m a third-generation Minnesotan and even I’m into it!

Cat Fancy 

JUST KIDDING!  (or am I?)

Do you subscribe to magazines?  Which ones do you love?

P.S. Why you should read, watch, and listen outside of your comfort zone

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash