Only Connect

John with Finn in January

Today is the first day of the year of the Wood Horse.  A marked difference from last year: The Snake.

Last year I felt much more snakelike—hidden, slithery, undercover, shedding. The Horse is about power, decisions, movement, action. The Snake… well, not so much. I want to be more like the horse.

When I created a theme for life and business in 2014 I picked these words: Dare, Connect, Magic.

So far, there has been a lot of all three.

On New Years Eve, my beautiful old dog Finn collapsed. A mass in her spleen had burst and the vet told us she might last a few hours or a few days.

We took her her home.

Almost 11 years ago, she jumped into my arms at a shelter and she saved my life a thousand times since. Finn was one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs…. at my side for breakups, our wedding, hiking, kayaking, step-parenting, every single errand I made, miles and miles of skiing.  Being abandoned once meant she stayed close to me all the time.

Elegant and attentive, Finn resembled a dog that might sit next to an Egyptian queen. But she had a way of shapeshifting. One day years ago, someone asked me if she was a Chihuahua and the very next day another person wondered if she was a Great Dane.

Despite the fact that she could not control herself around gas station attendants, highway workers or certain other female dogs—God, she could bring me to my knees with her alpha moments—I adored her.

John and I took turns sitting with her for five days. We cried into her fur and thanked her for doing such a good job caring for us and teaching the new puppy all she knew. We told her all the stories of things she’d done, great moments she’d had, the wonderful day I met her.

As she sleeplessly watched with her giant brown eyes, I felt like she was taking in her humans to remember forever. Or that she was teaching us to be ready for her to go. She grew more and more ethereal.

Magic moments started to happen. One afternoon, a crazy bird noise broke out. I went outside and dozens of crows were circling our house. I’d never seen one crow in these woods before… and for about 15 minutes tons of them flew round and round, perching in trees and cawing, and then circling more.

Finn couldn’t move but her ears flickered wildly as she listened from her spot near the couch. I swear the crows were calling her.

On her last night I carried her outside and waited with her, but she didn’t pee. She just stood, wobbly, with her head pointed up. It was a starry night and the coyotes were loud. I felt like I was watching a very intimate moment as she stared at the stars, all the howls echoing around her.

Sunday morning her eyes focused more in the distance than on us and her breath grew raspy. She hadn’t eaten in almost a week and her muscled body was all ribs and knobby spine. John dug a grave out under a fir tree.

When my vet friend Kath arrived Finn wagged her tail and tried to get up. We laid her on her favorite blanket and Kath found a vein. She said she had never seen an animal die so calmly.

We buried beautiful Finn with a note from each of us and her favorite bone.

The next morning at 4 a.m.I left for Mexico. A couple weeks earlier, my old friend Joanne had asked me to join her and her daughter for 9 days there. There was no possible way I could afford the trip or the time away.  So of course I booked a flight.
I went for Chinese food that night and got this fortune: Take a trip with a friend.

Joanne was diagnosed with cancer 7 years ago—and has survived longer than her doctors thought she would. Breast. Bones. Liver. Stage 4 now. A few months ago she felt a little better than she had in years. Enough to decide to take Manami, home from college, on an adventure.

Each morning I went out when the sky was still dove gray to get a coffee from Armando.

“How is the Mama?” he’d ask.

He fixed green juice and ginger tea for me to bring her.

Our last day there, he kissed Joanne’s hand and said, “The only thing that matters is here,” holding one palm to his big barrel chest and putting the other on hers.

One night at dinner I told Manami stories about Joanne zooming around Boston on her 10-speed, in a dress with her blonde hair flying.  Skinny dipping in Vermont waterfalls and dancing at blues clubs without spilling her Rolling Rock. Learning to drive a stick in my VW Rabbit, smoking a Camel.

Tears rolled down Manami’s face and I asked her if she wanted me to stop. She said, “No, I just wish I knew her when she was like that. Keep telling the stories.”

Joanne hobbled out to the balcony to watch as Manami and I body surfed. I looked up to see her little hunched-over form, waving her cane at us. I asked her about it later—if it was hard. She really loved swimming in the ocean. She was always, always, always in motion.

She said she actually feels glad now to see others being happy and doing things. That it was a little hard to describe, but she was not full of yearning or self-pity or envy as she watched us or heard the stories of people’s lives—she just felt happiness.

Joanne, Manami, me with jugo verde.

Like I did with Finn, I felt I was watching someone become a master.

It is only 30 days into this new year.

Death. Life. Sun. Stars. Ocean. Release.

Dare. Connect. Magic.

E.M. Forster wrote, “Only connect.”

Only only only connect.

Joanne’s back in San Francisco.
Manami is at college. John strung lights
in a tree at Finn’s grave and they twinkle in the rain tonight.

The first few weeks of this year have given me an urgency to connect. And a rekindled belief in the magic of our stories.

Like a horse who can’t bear not to run, now is the time and we must get going.

It’s not too late to say what is most true for you and your work. Because your story means something. Your story means everything.

And your story’s not too tangled or too long, nor has the time passed for you to tell it.

Only connect.

I would love to talk with you about your story and your message—and how we can work together to share it in a way that’s all yours. Because now is the time.

Just hit reply if you’d like to schedule a complimentary clarity session.

Happy new year.

 

 

 

 

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

On a camping trip to the hotsprings a couple weekends ago, I thought I’d give myself a little challenge.

A challenge NOT to say “I’m sorry…” unless I was really sorry.

I had just heard my brilliant client and friend, Lea McLeod, describe the “Sorry Syndrome”—in which women undermine their communication by overapologizing.

I knew I had the Syndrome, but figured that because we were far from many humans (to whom I would be tempted to apologize needlessly), I had this in the bag.

I didn’t.

What happened is that the trickster universe pulled out all the stops to get me to utter those two little words.

It started immediately.

1. Stopping at the registration shack, I pull out $20 to pay for a campsite. “It’s 20 bucks a PERSON,” the grumpy guy says. “Whoops!” I say as I dug out another bill. Close, but no cigar.

2. We set up camp and I’m basking in the isolation when Bodhi, our puppy, slips out of his collar. He’s small and very fast, and begins running through campsites and tents, grabbing towels and pot holders and licking whoever he can.I sprint after him in bare feet over the stubbled desert grass.

As he dashes right into one guy’s tent, I call out, “Hi, could you grab that dog?” as nicely as I can.

“No!” the guy shouts back. “I don’t like dogs. I don’t like touching dogs.”

But I don’t cave…

“That’s OK! I understand!” I yell back.

After following Bodhi through a few more campsites, I come really close to reverting to old form. I’m almost out of substitute phrases: “Excuse me!” “Excuse him!” “Oops!” “Whoops!” “Hey, thanks for your patience!”

A woman catches him and hands him to me. I want to apologize so much I’m bursting. “Thanks for being so cool!” I say instead.

3. That night there are coyotes close by and the dogs don’t sleep. I’m out walking them in the morning and pass a bleary-eyed woman, sitting by her fire, nursing a mug of coffee. “Are those the dogs that were howling all night?” she asks.”Yes, these are the ones,” I mutter, feeling like a total jerk but managing not to falter: “Thanks for being so patient with them.”

4. I  stop by the porta pots on my way back. I pull open an unlocked door to reveal a horrified man, sitting on the john, pants around his ankles. “Whoops!” I say and slam the door shut.

I could go on to describe several more of the tempting opportunities I was given, but doing this super-challenging challenge got me thinking.

It’s no secret I’m a chronic over-apologizer—all my life I have begged forgiveness for everything from harmless, normal day-to-day goofs right on up to the major  stumbles and fumbles I’ve made. I get that. But a few days of not saying “I’m sorry” made me see something bigger.

I have been apologizing for me. For being me, and taking up space.

When I was little, I’d get into arguments with my brothers and say, “I’m sorry for BREATHING!”

Well, I think I’ve actually felt sorry for breathing. (Not easy to admit.)

And it has come through how I write and how I share my story.

When you get emails or read sales pages or people’s bios, do you ever feel the silent “I’M SORRY” behind the words?

We all see those multi-exclamation-point-apologies sent out when someone includes the wrong link in an email or hasn’t sent their newsletter for a while. But what I’m talking about runs deeper.

And it happens when you haven’t woven your story fully together. When you haven’t owned that thread that connects your mistakes, your triumphs, your funny stories, the things you love, the things that make you cringe, and the things that you don’t want any more of ever. I call that the Golden Thread.

It’s really (really) easy not to own it. Because it takes some work and some digging… Because it can be pretty hard to find it and follow it on your own… And because it’s really a lot easier to hide and not be seen for who you are and what you stand for.

But when you find it, things come together. (It’s a thread, after all.) You feel visible and on purpose and safe in a different way than you thought possible. And you realize there’s nothing about you that you have to apologize for.

If you want to find and unravel your Golden Thread, schedule a free 30-minute clarity session by clicking here.

 

Freedom + Alchemy

Last week my husband and I moved. And I got a PhD in Magic.

 

For the past six years, we lived in a magical spot: a log cabin nestled in a cedar forest alongside a roaring creek. We had found the house in a “magical” way. Our mortgage person told us she’d done some “magic” to get us approved (back at the tip-top of the market). We had big magic dreams for all the retreats and gatherings we would hold on this land. We built a sweat lodge with friends. People described the house and its setting as… yeah, you get it.

 

Magic was a word that got bandied about a lot these past few years…

 

Fast forward to this past January. After a lot of stuff happened–from stepping into my business full-time to not being able to sell a piece of land or refinance, from a few expensive medical crises to two layoffs, we’d tapped out everything in order to keep our magic house afloat. Though we kept trying to make it work, it was slowly choking us.

 

And yet for all these years, I had kept believing that there would be some magic solution. That something amazing would happen.

 

After all, the signs pointed to that, right?

 

A piece of me stopped living in the real world and started living in this world that would begin when my ship came in, when the lottery paid out, when an unexpected inheritance landed on our doorstep. Magically.

 

Exhausting, constricting and unsustainable, you say? Yep.

 

So… in January we got real. We decided to sell the house and land.

 

Then, weirdly enough, it was like the magic did start to happen.

 

We created a vision of the people we wanted to buy the property, and two weeks after it went on the market, we had a full-price offer… from a family who seemed to have every quality on our list.

 

I mentioned (to just one person) our desire to find a small house or cottage where we didn’t have to sign a long lease… and she just happened to own such a cottage. And that’s where we are living now.

 

While packing, I found all kinds of stuff I thought was long-gone, including that little “Freedom” bottle in the photo. Someone gave it to me long before we bought the house. It was almost like I had tucked away my freedom all those years ago–and then found it again… just in time.

 

So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, for a while now I’ve thought about my work as a kind of alchemy. It’s about taking what you are and what you’ve done and where you’ve been–as leaden as it might feel–and turning it into your gold.

 

This alchemy transforms what is real about you, your shadow, your story–into something you work with, instead of hiding. And in doing so, you release the burden of hoping and praying that people hear about and like you. You give up the glued-together-popsicle-stick, fingers-crossed version of doing your business–and get REAL about what your foundation really is. You put an end to doomsday thoughts like, “If only I had a masters degree” or “If only I hadn’t married my first husband” and instead see how all the threads of your story and your life matter and have prepared you to be exactly who you are and serve the clients only you are meant to serve.

 

Then and only then, so much clearer and lighter, are you FREE to experience the real magic…  Putting your message out to the world. Doing the work you are meant to be doing. Experiencing freedom.

 

That’s alchemy. And it can’t begin until we put away all that old magical thinking.

On Being Seen

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
—”Anthem” by Leonard Cohen


You know when someone takes a picture of you when you’re not looking? Then you see it and you don’t recognize your grim face or your giant upper arms?

Or maybe you catch a glimpse of yourself in a restaurant mirror while you’re eating… Or ruining your mascara at your oldest friend’s wedding.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as it relates to how we position ourselves in our business.

We are so accustomed to positioning ourselves that we don’t recognize the “candid” shot. Or worse, we just automatically hate it or reject it because it shows those cracks. But the candid shot really is how people see you… sometimes. It’s how you look and how you are.  They still love you in spite of it. And quite often, it’s just downright beautiful.

What I’ve come to learn after talking with dozens of entrepreneurs and business owners about their story is that they believe that expressing who they really are in business (showing those cracks) is a weakness. That if they reveal who they really are, they will lose their potential client’s respect or their own credibility in the marketplace.

I think the opposite is true. I think when you show that crack, whether it’s sharing an aspect of your “mess” that you’ve always hidden—how you flunked out of two colleges or went bankrupt at age 40 or realized after 10 years that you weren’t cut out to be a lawyer—or just being bold enough to take a stand on something you really believe in, you actually make a deeper connection with your ideal client.

Look at that woman in the photo above… Would you feel more drawn to her if she was smiling in the standard group wedding portrait rather than here, wiping away her tears? I think she’s luminous.

I believe the light gets in and the clients can find you even more easily when you let the crack show. So forget your perfect offering and just show up.

If you’re interested in telling your story, cracks and all, please check out the  Golden Thread Session.

Getting Real

My blog, until today, has been like the shoemaker’s child.

So, I’ve got to admit something horrifying. Horrifying to me, at least. I write blogs for other people–and don’t write my own. OK, there it is. In order to stop this trend, I’ve signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge and am going to (Am. Going. To.) write a blog a day each day in April.

Tonight, I’m also getting ready for my interview tomorrow with Darla LeDoux for her Truth Summit--and the two events are definitely connected. On the telesummit, she’s talking with 20 entrepreneurs about how powerful it is to design your business model around what you actually believe. For me, telling the truth is all about having enough–being enough–not waiting for there to be more–of whatever–before I start sharing.

I learned a new word today, “atelophobia,” from the Greek for “imperfection” and “fear.” It is, according to Wikipedia, an anxiety disorder that “makes the person afflicted feel like everything they do is wrong.” From what I see in my clients (and myself) this is what keeps us from blogging or from putting our true message out there in the world. Not being enough, not having anything worthwhile to say, and feeling like anything we do say is just going to be wrong anyway. God, I’m a damn atelophobe.

My business is all about helping entrepreneurs get clear on what they have to say–and finding powerful, meaningful, authentic ways to say it. It’s all about the truth.

So here goes. With the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I feel a new day dawning. 🙂

Hello, world. Hello, shoes. Goodbye, atelophobia.

The Siren Call of “Everything”

We’ve had a cool 18-year-old kid staying with us on and off this year. He and I share my desk and many mornings I find scattered stickies with his girlfriend’s name penned in his elegant script.

The other day, I found this list, titled “I do everything!”

[Spelling is not one of the things he does, so here’s a quick translation: ukelele, guitar, magic, cook, art, calligraphy, agriculture, Ultimate Fight Club, science, poetry, romantic.]

All of it’s true… so that’s not my point. He’s got a lot to offer—and, as he’ll tell you, a whooooole lot to offer the ladies. Like it says, he’s romantic.

My point is that this desire to be everything is natural when you’re 18. But when you’re in business, your clients aren’t like a teenage girlfriend (or maybe they are, but this will still hold true for them, I promise.)

Your clients wants to work with someone who gets them, who understands them quickly, who makes them a specific offer. An offer that’s clear, definite, and confident.

If you are like my young friend (as so many of us are), you’re good at many things. And that’s great. I like to do it all, too, and I know it’s not easy to pick just one.

But if you want a website that hums and gets you clients, you’ve got to get specific.

When I work with someone on website copy, the first thing we do is narrow down “everyone” to their most ideal clients. And, believe me, almost all my clients initially say, “Oh, seriously, I DO work with everyone.”

But, think about it, if you’re a 40-year-old woman who’s never worked out and is desperate to get fit, but uncomfortable going to a gym, who would you rather work with?

Fitness Trainer A who works with “everyone”

Fitness Trainer B who works at home with women, 35-45, who are sick and tired of feeling out of shape and intimidated at stepping into a health club.

Being everything to everyone is good for your ego.

Being very specific about what you offer the person who really needs you is good for your business.

 

Put Your Hands Together, For You

This past winter, I was heading back east for a visit. As everyone was buckling seatbelts and settling in for a long winter’s flight from Dallas to Boston, the pilot came on. But he didn’t mumble through the usual announcements of flying time and altitude. Instead he gave a welcome—to the 11 members of a Massachusetts infantry regiment who were just boarding the plane. On their way back from Afghanistan, they’d be home in time for the holidays.

At that, the whole planeload of weary, knees-in-their-chest air travelers transformed from their dull, quiet misery into a rowdy group, thunderously clapping and hooting.

It made me cry.

Because God only knows what kind of frightening, traumatic events these guys had seen and survived.

Because, no matter what you think about our war, they deserve to be acknowledged like this everywhere they go for the rest of their lives.

And because we live in such an anonymous world, it’s unbelievably tender when we just, simply, notice each other.

I got thinking of people I know who could use a little noticing.

The neighbor whose house has been for sale for nearly four years while he’s working hard in another state to pay two mortgages.

My old friend who did not get the news she had prayed for at her last oncology appointment.

And everyone who has received an unexpected diagnosis, an unpayable bill, unbearable news or no news at all.

I imagined the pilot welcoming them:

“Ladies and gentleman, today we have on board Bill, who currently works for less than half the salary he made last year just so his family can have health insurance. Let’s give him a hand.”

“Please extend a special welcome to Jane. Ten minutes ago, Jane’s 16 year-old-daughter texted her to say she is pregnant.”

“And let’s send out a little love to Cindy in seat 21A. Today Cindy is on her way to her dad’s funeral.”

Yeah, I thought, each of us deserves a little spontaneous applause.

So today, stand up and take a bow. Yes, you.

The one who habitually over-commits to committees, bake sales, silent auctions and car washes.

Who always checks in when you haven’t heard from your best friend in a few days.

Who asks the chemo nurse how she’s doing.

Who enthusiastically listens to the five-year-old neighbor tell the same story for the 1000th time.

Who smiles at strangers and chats with cashiers even when you have a pounding headache.

Who always picks up McDonalds bags and Budweiser cans from the roadside and carries them home in your jacket when you’re out on a walk.

Who gives a dollar bill to the homeless woman when you don’t have quite enough for your own groceries.

The one who shows up and shows up and shows up.

Thank you for your sacrifice and your service.

Because without you, what would we be?