business owner

What Happens When the Truth Stinks

I woke at 3 a.m. yesterday to a woman screaming under the bed. I soon realized it wasn’t a woman—it was Simon, the skunk who’d been living beneath our house the last few months.

The peaceable arrangement we’d enjoyed with him seemed to be over.

And, the story, as I liked to tell it, was over, too.

Here’s the way I liked to tell it: 

We tamed a skunk! He eats from the same bowl as the cat. He waddles over when we shake the kibble bag. He stands still as we pass him on the way to the car.

He’s SO amazing!

 

 

And here’s the way it actually is:

Twice now, we’ve burrowed under the covers as an oily, eye-burning, stomach-wrenching cloud seeps into the bedroom. Simon is just doing what he does when under duress. As for me (also under duress), I’m not quite clapping for a dancing skunk. I’m washing the floors with vinegar, burning incense, and hanging our clothes outside in the trees.

 

Part of me still wants the story to go a certain way.
(We tamed a skunk! He’s awesome!)

The truth is, though, I’m sleeping with a lavender-doused bandana wrapped around my face while John loads peanut butter and cat food in the Have-a-Heart trap.

I love this line from the author David Foster Wallace:

“The truth will set you free,
but not until it is finished with you.”

If you’re like me, there’s a way I WANT to tell a story, but then the truth of it ends up to be a very different matter by the time it’s finished with me.

One of the most common things I hear from
business-owners who want to share their story,
is that they don’t know where to start.

So, here’s a handy little exercise, inspired by Simon,
as you’re working with yours.

What’s a story you wanted to tell one way… then the truth kept coming around and telling you something different?

Take a peek at your relationships, career, or just your long-held-onto-expectation that something in your life was supposed to be a certain way, until it was clear that it wasn’t that way anymore.

I promise, there is some good juice in there.

And if you’re ready to learn more about what to do when you’ve got it, just click here to sign up for a 30-minute complimentary clarity call, so you can see how this story relates to your business and your message.

Here’s to the truth, no matter what it smells like,
Madeleine

How do I get out of this?

I just read the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. What a perfect book. He writes about Resistance, something at which I consider myself an expert. Hand me a great topic to write about that would move me forward, and watch me run outside to rake leaves or vacuum the car.

But it’s been my desire to work on the issue, and this year, life doled out a few experiences to do just that… and the book got me thinking about what it all means.

Here are a few moments from my resistance highlight reel:

Resisting jumping into the jungle. In January, I went to Mexico with my good friend Joanne and her daughter, Manami. Joanne was in the final stages of cancer (I was really resisting that) and this trip would be her last.

Manami and I went zip-lining one day. We hiked a few miles, then from high on a rickety platform, we peered down into an endless and dense jungle.

Monkey-mind starts Ziplineworking: This is so high and so rickety. I am so going to plunge right into that jungle. There’s no way in freaking hell I’m going to be able to do this. This was a huge mistake. How do I get out of this?

Mind you, I was standing in gloves and helmet, tied to the cable, with a line of people raring to go behind me. I wanted only to sit for an hour, getting ready to get ready, but could only resist so long. I closed my eyes and jumped. Gravity took care of the rest. It was really fun and so free. And every successive (12 of them) jump was fine.

Resisting writing a eulogy, part 1. Joanne asked me to speak at her funeral. I really wanted to show her what I was going to say before she died, but it wasn’t finished. OK, it wasn’t even started—I was totally resisting writing it. The memorial service got closer and closer and I knew the story I wanted to share, but something was missing. I wrote in the car on the way to California. Not it. Not yet.

JoOn the morning of the service, I still didn’t have it done, and went walking by the ocean in San Rafael. I found a trail she’d once shown me.

Oh, hello, monkey mind: What the hell am I doing going for a hike? There are going to be a TON of people there. This has to be something she would love. Help me, help me, help me. OMG, I am so not the person to do this at all. This was such a mistake. How do I get out of this?

I kept walking into the mounting panic. Then a poem I read when I was in my 20s dropped into my head. I got back to the hotel and Googled it. It was the perfect missing piece. I put it in.

Before I got up to speak at the service, my heart was pounding so hard the friend sitting next to me said he could hear it. Then when I was up there, Jo smiled down from her big picture on the screen behind me. It all went just fine and felt so good to talk about our long friendship. And I think she would have gotten a kick out of it.

Resisting writing a eulogy, part 2. Two weeks after Jo’s service, my dad died unexpectedly. We had a complex relationship and part of me had already been PRE-resisting giving his eulogy for years.Dad

Though writing the obituary (thank you, newspaper deadline) and sharing stories about him was a good warm-up, on the morning of the funeral I still didn’t have a clue what I was going to say.

Cue ol’ monkey mind chorus: There must be some mistake. Who am I to do this? How do I get out of this? Blah-dee-blah–dee-blah.

Then, in the shower, the whole thing just dropped into my weary brain. Four qualities, four stories about him that showed the gruffness that covered his generous and tender heart. Complete.

And again, heart pounding, I stood up there with my prompt words written on an index card—and it was fine. I think he might have liked it, too.

In all this, here’s what I learned…

Resistance to speaking the truth, taking the next step, starting the new project, etc. is very real. But that Big Moment is also real—the urgency that so many people I talk to seem to be feeling right now. A time of no turning back. The moment when your little zip-line trolley leaves the platform, when the audience’s eyes all lock on you… and there is no stopping. My mentor Heidi calls this “crossing the border” and I think that’s a perfect description.

It goes something like this:

  1. You get the inspiration to create something, share your story, launch that project or just go beyond a previous limit.
  2. Welcome to the border. Resistance steps in. Monkey-mind refrain begins: OMG, how do I get out of this? Get me out of this. This was such an enormous mistake.
  3. The Big Moment. Gravity/stepping on stage/pushing “send.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. It’s happening!
  4. Ahhhhh, ok. It’s fine, I am safe, and this actually feels really good.

Now, I wish I could say that everything has changed since this summer. That resistance is gone and I’m just living in the flow. But that would be a lie. For instance, it’s taken me a solid week of procrastinating to write this article.

Here’s another passage from The War of Art:

Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, there’s tremendous love there too. If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn’t feel anything.

The more Resistance you experience, the more important your un-manifested art/project/enterprise is to you—and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.

Today, shards of resistance glitter all around me. The internet connection is funky. I am second-guessing writing about Joanne and Dad. The newsletter program keeps giving me an error message. I have a ton of client work to do. It’s the last sunny Sunday before the rains and I would much rather hike. There is so much that feels MORE urgent. 

But I know that writing this is part of a bigger dream that I love… even more than hiking. And I know it will be fine once I just press “Send.”

 

Feeling resistance about telling your story?

Podcast2

Just click here to watch a quick video, 5 Ways to Getting To Your Story that will help you move beyond it. This snippet is from an interview I did on the Paycheck to Passion Podcast (which you should definitely subscribe to.)

Easing into Vulnerable

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Being raw. Sharing your truth.
Connecting through your story.

Sounds fantastic, right?
And maybe a little terrifying?

I’m all about being open in storytelling. On the vulnerability scale, I’d give myself a good, solid 5. Honest, but pretty tidy and controlled.

On a retreat last week (with the inspiring Therese Skelly), we worked on visibility and what blocked us. Our task was to tell our raw story. The one we don’t want people to know. The one that is likely preventing us from really being seen because we are working so hard not to tell it.

I shared something I’ve only told a couple of friends and my husband, and managed to get through it in a weepy puddle. It felt good. Then I watched each of the others stand and tell her story. They were so beautiful. Unburdened from the old weight of not telling that story. So clear. So alive. So energized.

The next morning I woke up with what may have been the worst migraine of my life.

A mighty clamp-down after that spacious opening, perhaps? Made total sense to me.

As I lay there for many hours waiting for it to lessen, I felt for the clients I’ve encouraged to tell their most honest stories. It’s so important to do but it can be so damn hard.

How do we navigate this landscape of vulnerability?

Here’s what I came up with:

Vulnerability’s the thing, but it’s a delicate dance. While we are hard-wired to be tender and vulnerable—and to react compassionately when others are being this way, we’re also pretty hard-wired to protect ourselves at any cost.

Showing up truthfully is a good thing in this brave, new Brene Brown world we live in, but most of us didn’t grow up drawing attention to our flaws or insecurities. In fact, we worked over-time to appear like we had none of these:

Jugular. Achilles heel. Soft belly.

They were as well hidden as private parts in my early working days.

Years ago, I stumbled as I was walking past the Executive Director’s office where I worked. Actually, I face-planted on the carpet, throwing file folders and coffee everywhere. He made sure I was OK and that was that. Later that day, he was coming up the stairs as I was going down and I made some kind of half-ashamed/half-funny crack that he should watch out in case I tripped again.

He called me into my office and told me that the key to success was NEVER to draw attention to my errors, and NEVER to give someone the upper hand by admitting I’d made a mistake. Whew. Contrast that to my way, which had always been to bond with others by making self-deprecating comments that didn’t begin to cover up my sense of shame. Not exactly a recipe for wild career success—but a vague attempt at some level of vulnerability.

I was confused, yet I knew there had to be a way to tell the truth without putting myself down.

I thank God the days of shoulder pads and cover-your-ass business strategies are behind me. But that doesn’t mean this more-open world is super easy to figure out. I got a migraine after revealing my truth to just five people, after all.

I believe the world is a safe and kind place–much kinder and safer than I thought it to be 20 years ago. And I am all about sharing the truth as a  compelling and powerful way to connect. That doesn’t mean leaping into the marketplace showing only your soft belly, however.

Here are a few suggestions for easing into vulnerability:

  • Get very intimate with your story. Tell it “raw,” then tell it with the lesson learned or insight received.
  • Work through your emotions to get to the core and truth of the stories you share and why you share them.
  • Trust that vulnerability doesn’t mean you need to share every story  from every stage.
  • Look at the story through the lens of your ideal client and find the thread that reveals the unique essence of you and what you provide them.
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The Golden Thread session is a great way to explore
the raw version of your story so you can begin to craft it
into a powerful signature speech or website copy.

 

 “Wow, there is magic around you! This is super, super awesome. While reading [my Golden Thread] I experienced the curious combination of deep relief, open weeping, and laughter.  That is exactly it!”

—Dr. Heather Clark, www.myvibranthealth.com

Click here to learn more.