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Archive for December, 2009

What Starts You Up?

December 28th, 2009

Since I’ve Burned The Ships and am Playing to Win, now it’s time to get this thing started!!

And, to set the mood, today’s post has a theme song (I highly recommend spinning this tune while you continue reading.):

Lots of people have asked me how I get started or what starts me up or how I find a place to begin.  I so wish I had a magic somethin somethin that I could share for how I start, but I don’t.  What I do have are some tools that I use when I know I want to get something underway, but can’t quite figure out how.

I didn’t think up any of these, by the way. I read them, borrowed them and adapted them mostly from Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, and Anne LaMott, author of Bird by Bird – oh and of course my mentor, Martha Beck.

After I list the tools I use, I am REALLY hoping you will add to the list by sharing yours. This way there will be lots of ideas and something for everyone. 🙂

Here we go:

1) I walk/exercise without listening to my ipod. This keeps me from tuning out or what is going on around me and I can pay attention. I notice things, people, color, texture – all kinds of things that engage my brain – that are numbed out if tunes are cranking in my ears.

2) I write something everyday. Sometimes it’s publishable, sometimes it’s not. Finding my true voice is a lot like peeling an onion and the only way I know to pull back the layers is to put my voice on paper everyday.

3) I try things. When I get an idea for something, I try it out in some small way. Maybe I ask some trusted colleagues about it, or I tweet about it or I write a blog post about it. Taking a small action on it keeps it from remaining in my head as “just another good idea”.

4) I ask myself this question (a LOT): “What is the smallest step I can take on this – so small that I know I can complete it without fail?”

5) I just start. I know that sounds simple, but I’m really good at getting ready to start, reading more about starting, gathering my “stuff”, etc. For me, these are just delay tactics to keep me from starting.

And at the end of the day, here’s the one thing I always try to remember: I don’t have to be certain to begin; I just have to begin.

So now it’s your turn (my favorite part!). How do you get yourself started?

I REALLY Want to Talk to You!

December 23rd, 2009

Seriously  – I do. See, I sit and think about all the people in the Escaping Mediocrity tribe ALL the time. And with 2010 fast approaching, I find that I want to know each of you even better than I already do.

So, I’ve decided to do two things to help make that happen:

1) I put together a four question open-ended survey so you can talk to me a little longer than you usually do in the comments.

2) I thought it would be fun to actually TALK to you on the phone for 15 minutes. At the bottom of the survey, you’ll see a place to put your name, email and phone number so that I can get with you to schedule a time to talk.

You all are so fascinating and I cannot WAIT to strengthen our relationship!

Just click here to go to the survey:

YAY! Can’t WAIT!!

Levity Will Save Us All

December 21st, 2009

If you’ve been following along the last few weeks, you’ve probably noticed that my blog posts have gotten quite Ernest, Sincere and Serious (I capitalized these on purpose). It seems that I fell into the trap of “escaping mediocrity is serious business” thinking.

And some days, it is serious. It requires that I be more than I think I can be, make choices I don’t think I can make, and push myself into places I’m frightened to go.

So I sit and think, and write, and ponder about all of this and then…..

My seven year old son asks “Hey mom, can you make Snickerdoodle pancakes?”

And I realize that there is this whole other piece to escaping mediocrity that I’ve been totally neglecting.

It’s the part about having fun. It’s the part about playing. It’s the part about looking up the recipe or the instructions (or making up either of those if necessary) for something I’ve never done before – simply because.

And if the holiday season can’t bring out the playful kid in me, I am doomed.

So, I said to my son, “I’ve never made snickerdoodle pancakes but they sound delicious. Let’s find a recipe and make them!!”

(I tweeted about this on Sunday and many of you asked for the recipe. I found two which are posted below.)

We measured, we stirred, we laughed when the sugar dumped over. We even cut the top off of a squeeze bottle so we could make funny faces and shapes in the pan.

And when we ate them….mmmm…it was like eating a warm cinnamon sugar cookie with butter and maple syrup. And we reveled in the edible masterpiece we created.

And all the capital E effort I can muster will NEVER be able to duplicate that most UNmediocre split-second in time.

I’m thinking this might be the secret gas pedal for my escape plans. Just to make sure, I plan on experimenting with more fun, play, laughter and doing stuff just because it sounds like fun.

Wanna come decorate cookies with me?!

Snickerdoodle Pancakes Recipe #1:

2 eggs (can use egg whites only if preferred)

¼ cup sugar

1 1/4 c milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (to taste)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Beat together eggs and sugar with a wire whisk or electric mixer. Then add the milk and stir.

2. Add vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

3. Stir in flour until batter is smooth and thick to the point that it coats the back of a spoon.

4. Pour onto a non-stick griddle or frying pan.

5. Flip when exposed top is bubbly and the edges of the pancake are drying.

6. Serve with your choice of syrup, fruit topping or as a desert with ice cream.
Snickerdoodle Pancake Recipe #2

2 cups Pancake Mix

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

11/4 cups milk

1 egg

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

In medium bowl, stir together pancake mix, brown sugar, chocolate chips and salt. Add milk, egg, butter and vanilla. Stir with a whisk until blended. For each pancake, pour 2 tablespoons batter onto lightly greased and preheated 375°F griddle (medium heat). Cook 11/2 minutes per side, turning only once.

Invictus – My Brithday Gift to You

December 17th, 2009

As an early surprise birthday gift, I got to see the movie Invictus last night starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela.

The movie is absolutely worth seeing and I highly recommend it.

My birthday gift to you is a poem Nelson Mandela shared with the captain of the beleaguered South African rugby team.  It is the poem that saw him through the darkest days of his twenty-five year imprisonment.

Escaping mediocrity and burning ships and playing to win, while exciting, will necessarily bring with it a few dark moments. Print this poem out and keep it in plain view so it will be there when you need it.

I already have. 🙂

Invictus by William Earnest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

December 16th, 2009

Whew. I am still recovering from setting my ships on fire and watching their smoldering remains slowly sink in the harbor.

My stomach is still a tad topsy-turvy and I feel slightly disoriented. But you know what? There’s no way home so I best got hopping on on my game plan.

Which brings me to today’s post.

See, I’ve written game plans before. I’m very good at them really. And I can fill all the pertinent details and even execute them with precision. Knowing “how” to do something is one of my specialties. I can fill my days, my weeks, my months and my life with executing the “how’s”.

And that is playing not to lose. Let me explain.

(Just for clarity, the rest of this post is about me and my biz, not the work I do with my clients. I push them to the point of insanity. Really. Just ask them.)

I am a small business strategist. It is my job to assess a business goal and build the very best strategy to achieve it. I don’t like guessing at outcomes; I like controlling them. And if I can’t control them or know them ahead of time, I’m not stepping out. Minor risk is ok, but nothing that will liquidate major assets (cash and otherwise) is acceptable.

To make it sound savvy and smart, I’ve called it “calculated risk” (which, just so you know, I think is a wise thing). But I wasn’t mapping out “calculated risk”, I was mapping out safety nets and cautious progress. Just push the envelope a teeny bit here, try not to make too many people mad, try this little thing over here that *might* work. I think  you get the idea.

Why would I do that? Because if I don’t try too hard or care too much, I won’t be heartbroken if it doesn’t work

I was playing NOT to lose.

But now that I’ve burned my ships, here’s what I know: crippling caution will not serve me; it will get me killed.

Yes, I need to read the lay of the land and decide exactly where I am going (which I will finish up tomorrow) and then I MUST strike out boldly. (Remember that saying “Fortune favors the bold.”? I believe it.)

Now is my time for Playing To Win. saban

Let me give you a few distinctions on Playing to Win vs Playing Not to Lose. (And I am REALLY hoping you will add yours to the list in the comments.)

“I’m gonna knock this out of the park!” vs. “Gee, I wonder if anyone is going to like this?”

“Here’s what I have to say about that.” vs. “Saying what I think might make the wrong people angry.”

“I have what it takes to make this succeed.” vs. “I wonder if I know enough to do this?”

“I can slay the field.” vs. “I want the field to like me so I won’t try too hard.”

“I will push all my chips to the center of the table.” vs “I holding a pile of chips back in case I need them.”

“I deeply care about this.” vs. “I think it will sound good if I say I care about that.”

“I dug down and gave it my best.” vs. “Meh, I really didn’t try that hard anyway.”

“I love you.” vs. “I’m not telling them because they may not feel the same way.”

I think you get the idea.

So, as always, I’m hoping I’m not alone in shifting my game from playing not to lose to playing to win. AND, I’m hoping you have a PTW vs PNTL you will share in the comments, too.

Who’s in?!

(And you are feeling a big YES to all this, please check out my upcoming blog series 30 Days to Changing Your Game.)

Burn The Ships!

December 14th, 2009

So I was on a coaching call with my amazingly fabulous coach Andrea J. Lee and we were doing our typical stuff “I’m, working this….I needs help with that…” when suddenly, in true AJ Lee style, the conversation turned to the stakes I am playing for.

First she asked, “What would you let stop you?”

I felt so smart and smug, “Well Andrea, my post last week called “What Stops You” talks about that. I listed all the scary things I’m really afraid of out in front of god and everybody.”

Score one for the good student. I thought.

“Uh huh.” she says. “Let me ask you this: are you playing to win Sarah or are you playing not to lose. Because it sounds like you are playing not to lose.”

Crap. She’s on to me.

“What would it look like for you to be ALL IN with no way back? How do we burn your bridges? Orbetter yet, burn you


r ships like Cortez?”


I couldn’t answer the question.

So I got direct kick in the ass instructions and this post is my starting point.

I am terrified to burn my ships. I want a safety net. And yes, I am afraid I will fail and look ridiculous in front of people who so matter to me.

But just saying those things isn’t enough. In fact, saying I’m afraid is a cop-out. It makes me feel like I am doing something big and daring when actually I’m not. I’m doing something that I hope YOU will think is daring. Because I’m all about what other people think.

What is daring is saying this: 2010 is my make it or break it year. Actually the first quarter is my make it or break it window. All my chips are in. And if I don’t make it, I am PACKING IT UP.

What does packing it up look like?

This: shutting down my blog, ending my social media engagement, giving up my coaching practice. It means getting a job, working for someone else, possibly putting my child in daily after school care and not seeing him between 7:30 and 6pm ever day, leaving behind the tribe I’ve finally found, forfeiting the way of life and the way of work that I have come to cherish during the past five years.

Would I survive all that? Sure I would. Do I WANT to survive all that? Just thinking about a life like that makes me want to throw up. No – it makes me want to curl up in a ball in my bed and stay there.

But that is my future if I don’t pull out all the stops, play to win and DECIDE I am burning my ships.

(And just so you know, for me burning the ships means more than just saying there is no Plan B. It means eliminating Plan B and C and D altogether. )

I’m no longer willing to be afraid of anything I listed in last week’s post.

-If I embarrass myself and look so horrifically foolish in the first quarter of 2010 (so foolish I don’t want to show my face on twitter or in public for fear of the ridicule), I still have people who will love me and hold my hand and step back out again with me.

-If I say something that pisses off you, my tribe, or anyone else I think highly of (so much so that you slam my name all over the web and in the real world), I can either a) apologize if I am wrong or b) realize that I am not going to make everyone happy all the time.

– If I splay myself open and find out someone doesn’t care (which will break my heart into a million pieces), I will remember that the important thing is that I told the truth – my truth – which all I can ask of myself in this life. This won’t stop my heart from shattering, but it will give me something to hold onto while I am picking up the pieces.

– When I am afraid that there is not enough love, or money, or recognition or success to go around (there is a part of me that still believes that more strongly that I want anyone to know considering what I do for a living), well….I’ll just have to work on my scarcity mentality.

-And if that super influential, important person decides they don’t like me (and that opinion matters WAY more than I want to say out loud), well all I can say is FU because I am awesome.

-If I make a mistake – and I am certain I will make many of the kind that make me feel stupid, fraud-like, embarrassed and ashamed – I can apologize, make things right, re-group with my nearest and dearest and keep on going.

– When I don’t know the endgame, and I don’t and I won’t (even though I pretend I do to keep myself from feeling so untethered that I might fly off the planet), I can take the next indicated step or leap and remember that “action is the middle finger to doubt” (thank you John Haydon).

– And when I avoid pain (the heart-wrenching, rattles my core, puts me under the bed kind)  I can remember that my greatest lessons have come from feeling extreme pain (and I can call on my BESTEST friends to hold on to me while I get to the other side of it – which is way better than remembering some dumb lesson).

So, to begin setting my ships on fire (I still have more to do), I flashing a giant middle finger to EVERYTHING I am afraid – no – everything I am physically, to-my-core, in a caveman survival kind of way – TERRIFIED of.

I’ve lived through worse than anything you can dish out.

And you, my tribe, are bearing witness to my declaration. This game is on!

(Ready to burn your ships too?! This is as good a time and place as any to make your declaration!)

So What Stops You?

December 9th, 2009

Wow. The questions you all are posing in response to my Escaping Mediocrity Self-Test post are incredible. (If you haven’t added yours, take a minute, go here and do that.)

I’m actually going to turn the whole thing into a pdf and include your questions along with attribution.  We’ve built something incredibly valuable and I want to share it with as many people as we can.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress with that project.

So now I’m thinking about all the great questions we’ve written and I keep coming back to this: if I know the questions to ask and I’m woman standing on pathpretty sure I know how I am “supposed” to answer them, then…..what freezes me in my tracks?

This is sort of the mirror question to Monday’s post and I am hoping you can help me with this one, too. In fact, I am COUNTING ON your brilliance. Because this question is a lot less sexy really And a lot scarier. It demands rigorous honesty and terrifying transparency. I don’t want to go there alone, ok?!

So, here are some of my reasons:

#1 I am scared sh**less. (pretty much all the rest of my reasons drill down on this petrifying fear.)

#2 I don’t want to look foolish in front of anyone.

#3 I don’t want to make people that I love – or even like – angry.

#4 I don’t want to splay myself open and find out somebody doesn’t care.

#5 I am afraid there isn’t enough…..well….of lots of things….

#6 I want to be liked by the “right” people.

#7 I don’t want to make a mistake(s).

#8 I want to know the endgame.

#9 I don’t want to feel pain.

So, there it is. Some of the very raw, very scary reasons that the prospect of escaping mediocrity stops me dead in my tracks sometimes.

I REALLY want to hear what stops you in your tracks on this journey, too, ok? That way we can hold hands and face whatever it is together. 🙂

An Escaping Mediocrity Self-Test

December 7th, 2009

So I started thinking over the weekend about how we know we are on the path to Escaping Mediocrity. As I’ve said many times, it is easy and even sexy to say “Hell yeah – I’m all about escaping mediocrity!”. It’s quite another to put your shoulder to it and actually start making it happen.

So, I started making a checklist of questions to ask myself. Then I thought it would be a cool self-test. THEN I thought, I wonder what other questions The Tribe would add to make this a kickass self-test?

So here’s what I am going to do: I will list a nine of the questions I came up with. In the comments you can a) give me feedback on them b) answer them or c) add questions of your own. ( I REALLY hope you go for “c”!)

So here we go:

Questions To Help You Decide If You Are REALLY Up For the Escaping Mediocrity Adventure:

#1 – Am I willing to have “beginner’s mind” and not have all (or act like I have) all the answers?

#2 – Am I willing to say what I really think and feel even if it will pi** off some people?

#3 – Am I willing to have my own opinions about how to set up and run my business?

#4 – Am I willing to step away from so-called gurus and trust my own instincts?

#5 – Am I willing to take responsibility for charting my own course to success instead of blindly following others?

#6 – Am I willing to consider that there is more than one, two or even three ways to get where I want to go?

#7 – Am I willing to seek wise counsel from those I admire, respect and trust?

#8 – Am I willing to stay the course during some REALLY tough times?

#9 – Am I willing to drop the mask and be vulnerable in my business and my life?

This list is certainly not complete because it doesn’t include any of the questions you would ask. So hop on into the comments cuz you know I can’t wait to see what you will add. 🙂

Knowing What Is True

December 2nd, 2009

When I was young, I knew what the truth was. I had really good instincts.  But somewhere (early) along the way, I stopped trusting them.


Because grown-ups kept telling me that what I knew to be true wasn’t true. Or that my feelings were wrong or bad and really needed to be different. And, because I assumed grown-ups knew more than I did, I let them be right.

Here’s an example of what I mean: when I was young, my parents had a VERY strained relationship. They slept in separate rooms.  Arguments and/or stony silence were the norm. And yet, to the outside world, we presented an over-the-top normalcy. I learned early to lie about even the smallest of things so that that the “happy family” picture could be maintained.

But I KNEW it wasn’t true. To my very core, I knew that families did not act the way ours did behind closed doors. When I was at my friends’ houses, the energy was just so very different. I never really wanted to invite friends to my house because I knew I would have to answer impossible questions.

In order to stay sane (and my sanity was quite short-lived but that’s another story), I stopped trusting myself. I let child looking outmyself get into all kinds of bad situations because I cut off access to that part of me that could sense danger or even mild discomfort. And this disconnectedness lasted until I was at least 30 years old.

Fast forward to now. I am watching my seven-year-old son (who is an empath like me) struggle to make sense of a world that tells him that what he knows and what he feels are simply not accurate.  He “shouldn’t” feel angry when a younger child snatches his favorite toy. He “shouldn’t” get impatient when he can finish his worksheets faster than anyone else. He “shouldn’t” try to explain when he’s been falsely accused of misbehaving.

And he isn’t the only one.

I watch children. A lot. And what I see is SO alarming. Either all of their feelings and whims are over- indulged (which does not lead to learning accuracy) or their feelings and whims are shut down without any attempt to understand them. Only the most tenacious children (read The Young Turk) have to energy to persist and insist that they have a right to express whatever is going on. Most of them realize it is just easier to shut down that side of themselves and maintain the status quo.

Is it any wonder we now have SO much difficulty being real? Or even knowing what our “real” is? Where do we learn how to do that? Who shows us the way? Who gets rewarded – those who maintain the status quo or those who stand up and say “THIS is who I am. THIS is what I know is true. THIS is what I am no longer willing to settle for.”

(And I know it’s easy to say that those who stand up get rewarded, but let me tell you – they also get endless missiles, potshots and shit thrown at them too – and that is hard to take.)

If we can’t teach our children to trust their instincts and what they know to be true, how on earth are they, or even we for that matter, every going to learn how to escape mediocrity. Or better yet, not settle for it in the first place.

As always, I am intensely interested in what you have to say. 🙂