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Failing Sucks

August 12th, 2009

We’ve all heard it from the guru’s right? “Take big risks!” “Fail early. Fail often.” “When you fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.”

And for the most part, I agree with these sentiments. The only problem is, no one ever talks about how much failing SUCKS and what to do about it so you CAN pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

Here’s the thing: as entrepreneurs we pour our hearts and souls into what we do. Of course we are risk takers – how could we work for ourselves if we weren’t? So when we take a big risk – everything in us is on the line. Which works out great if the risk pays off.

But what about when it doesn’t pay off?

I recently lived through this experience and I am here to tell you it can be gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. I wanted something very very badly. I thought I had my bases covered. I put all my chips on the table – my smarts, my heart and my soul – and I hoped for the best.

But it didn’t work out. Not only did it not work out, it blew up spectacularly in my face. And it felt horrible.

Prevailing advice is that I should have been able to shake it off, get up and keep on trekking. And I’ve been able to do after many failures – trust me.  But this time I just couldn’t. My heart was too heavy and my spirit was busted. But I also knew I had to choose between moving forward somehow and throwing in the towel.

Walking The Grid

Photo by Simon Scott

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but when I find myself in situations where I really don’t know what to do next, where I feel like I am grappling in the dark, where my heart just isn’t in taking one more step, the phrase “just walk the grid” always comes to mind

I have a feeling that I’m not the only person out there who struggles to find a foothold after failing and I’m hoping this idea might offer some help.

The whole premise of walking the grid is based on two things: 1) some structured routine and 2) keeping things very very simple. Each person’s grid will look different, but here are some pieces of mine to give you some ideas:

  1. I walk – every single morning. Whether I feel like it or not. In fact, the less I feel like it, the more insistent I am about going. 30 minutes minimum – longer if I can.
  2. I check in with a trusted friend or colleague every day. Not the same friend or colleague every day because I want to keep as many of those as I can. Sometimes I talk about what’s going on with me; sometimes I can bring myself to actually inquire about them (when I’m walking the grid, I can be kinda self-centered).
  3. I reduce my commitments as best I can. Getting back to full speed takes time and energy and I want to give myself as much of that as I can.
  4. I write first thing every morning. Dumping out what’s bothering me onto paper helps keep it from eating away at me all day. (And a side benefit is I usually get a really great NEW idea while I’m writing – eventually.)
  5. I try to eat well and not survive on coffee alone.
  6. I give priority to working on the projects that make me feel really good, really smart and really talented. Same goes for people I talk to.
  7. I read books by authors who make me feel better. My favorites when I am walking the grid are Julia Cameron, Martha Beck and Anne Lamott.
  8. I nap a lot. (Ok – I nap a lot anytime I can. Walking the grid just gives me a really good reason.)
  9. I cry. Yes it’s true. If the experience is heart-wrenching enough, I’ll probably cry more than once. And don’t say it’s just because I’m a girl.
  10. I take small actions. As soon as I can I take small baby steps toward something that feels like it might be right. Baby steps feel simple and doable. As they accumulate, though, I find myself creating forward momentum once again.

Sometimes I can zip through walking the grid in a couple of days and I’m good to go. Other times, it may take me weeks or even a few months of walking the grid to feel like I am on solid ground.

Failing isn’t permanent and the fact that I failed to get something I really wanted doesn’t mean that I am a failure. But taking the time to acknowledge that the experience was painful is a gift of respect I can give myself.

What are some simple, structured ideas you would add to The Grid?

Guest Video Post: Elizabeth Potts Weinstein

August 10th, 2009

Today, my friend and colleague Elizabeth Potts Weinstein (@ElizabethPW on twitter) launches a very cool and very free project called Live Your Truth. She interviews 24 entrepreneurs (I’m one of them) about living and working in full truth and authenticity. I’ve already gotten access to mine the morning and am super excited about learning from every one of the rockstars she interviewed!

As part of the Kick-off celebration, I asked Elizabeth to put together a guest video post on her vision for Escaping Mediocrity. And, in true Elizabeth style, she knocked it out of the park!

You Were Not Born to Be Mediocre by Elizabeth Potts Weinstein:

Starting Your Escape

July 27th, 2009
One of the questions I’m getting frequently via email and DM is a variation on “How do I know where or how to start escaping mediocrity when I’ve been living with it for so long?”
Reading map by Andreas Solberg.

Uploaded on March 3, 2007 by Andreas Solberg

While all the pieces of the Escaping Mediocrity Blueprint can be a place to start, one of my favorites is “Pay Attention”.  The reason I like this one so much is because by asking myself to do that – pay attention – I am asking myself to break out of autopilot (a hallmark of mediocrity) and actually notice what is around me.

Here’s what I mean: paying attention means we actually SEE what is in front of us. We notice how we feel and what we think when

 

we look around at our world. Sounds easy enough I know, but my thinking is we don’t actually do this very often.  We zone out or overload our senses so that we can’t – or won’t – engage.

(Think I’m wrong? How often do you take a walk without another person or your Ipod so that you can actually hear and observe the world you are walking past?)

Once I can “pay attention” and decide how I feel about certain aspects or my life or my business – THEN I can start making small shifts and changes that will move me out of mediocre working and living.

I’ll give you two real life examples:

1) My bookkeeping
Since I started my businesses five years ago, I’ve managed what could loosely be called “my bookkeeping” myself. Which meant that whenever tax time rolled around, I had to scramble to get all my paperwork together- which took days and thoroughly irritated my accountant. AND during the rest of the year, I was always stressed out about the bookkeeping that wasn’t getting done. It was like having an application running in the background on my computer – sapping my limited RAM.

When I finally started to “pay attention” and ask myself question about what was draining me in my business (and keeping me from doing what I loved) – this was the first thing that popped up. Notice I had to consciously ask myself the question, even though it was so clearly an energy suck.

After tossing around different possible solutions, I realized I could just hire a virtual bookkeeper to handle it all for me – what a concept! Yes, it required some (okay – a lot) of work from me on the front end but what  huge RELIEF!

Now I no longer have mediocre books for my business AND I no longer have to focus my energy on what I consider to be a mediocre task.  What a concept.

2) My towels. All of the towels in my house are over 10 years old – and some of them are even older than that. I just realized this about two weeks ago. Why did it take me so long to notice that the towels I use every single day are faded, fraying and in need of replacing? I have no idea.

BUT, now that I know – I am on the hunt for GREAT towels. I get to pick the color that I like, the size(s) that I like and the softness that I like.

And…now that I am looking (and noticing) great towels, I’m thinking I might just repaint both bathrooms, too.

Now I know both of these examples seem small and not very adventurous. But I’m accomplishing two things:

1) I am exercising my ability to “pay attention” which means I will get better and better at it.

Uploaded on September 27, 2007 by nickherber

2) I am executing a series of small shifts that will add up and/or lead to BIG shifts down the road.

passing the QM2 at sea by nickherber.

Uploaded on September 27, 2007 by nickherber

One of my favorite analogies does a much better job of illustrating this than I ever could.

Do you know how those great big ships turn around in ocean? Yes, they have enormous rudders that will turn it, but the effort and pressure required to push such a large object against the ocean would be nearly impossible. So, someone very clever figured out how to put a bunch of very small rudders all along the big rudder. So, turning that big ship begins by shifting those small rudders – a few at a time.

Neat trick, huh?

Ch-Ch-Ch-CHANGES!

June 11th, 2009

Some of my loyal followers may have noticed that it’s been awhile since I posted anything here at my blog. Believe me, it’s not because I’m not thinking about it – or you!  I’ve just been in serious “thinking mode”.

See, here’s how it all got started: Chris Guillebeau’s latest Manifesto 279 Days to Overnight Success somehow found it’s way into my tweetstream the day it launched in mid-April. If you haven’t read it, nothing I say here can match it, so go get it and come back here later.

After reading Chris’s manifesto, I suddenly got smacked in the head by the fact that I am still uncovering my unique voice in this world. What is it that only I can offer (one of his biggest questions)?

Combine this with my total frustration with the fact that the noise in social media is getting SO loud and quite honestly absurdly ridiculous. Gurus are buying friends and followers – or worse – gaming the system to rapidly increase their “apparent” influence. They know who they are and I know who they are. Not my job here to expose them.

As one of my mentors, Andrea Lee said in her newsletter recently – everyone’s newsletter (and sales pages and websites and autoresponders) all look the same! Why is that?! Do we actually think there is only one formula for success? Do we actually think we can “buy” a model for authentic communication?

I watch so called experts tout their “Gajillion Dollar Systems” and people scrambling to fork over enormous amounts of cash and it just makes me sad. Don’t get me wrong. Some experts have GREAT stuff to teach, but much of what I see is what I call Smoke N’ Mirrors. Makes me crazy.

So many of us are willing to settle for being “like” someone else instead of finding and sharing our own brilliance. Authenticity cannot be packaged up and sold. You can’t buy it; there isn’t a system for it.

Where is our sense of adventure? Of play? Of creativity?life is an adventure.... live it! by blue_i's.

Are we willing to trade that for the illusion of certainty, of conformity? Do we really want to be sheep?

Well, I’m about to find out!

You’ll notice that I’ve changed the tag line for The Maverick Mom to read: “Escaping mediocrity one adventure at time”. And that is EXACTLY what I am setting about to do.  See, I’ve bought into the whole “duplicate the successful” mindset from time to time, so I’ve got some work to do! I’d really rather not go alone so I am inviting you to come along with me!

We will explore what escaping mediocrity looks like by talking about:

– Entrepreneurship
– Adventurous Living
– Authenticity
– And any other uncommon topics that might come up.

I know this is not a traditional “target market” definition. But I have a feeling this stuff will resonate with some people. And it is okay that it won’t resonate with most.

Over the coming weeks i will be changing much of the site content, so watch for that, along with some fab guest posts from people I believe truly are Escaping Mediocrity.

I can promise it will be a FUN trip so I hope you’ll pack your bags and come along!!

Artwork uploaded on April 10, 2009
by blue_i’s

Making Room for Something New

April 27th, 2009

Over ten years ago I read about “making room for something new” in a book – for the life of me I can’t remember which one. Perhaps one of you may know and will share so I can give credit where credit is due.

The idea is that is our lives and physical spaces are crammed to the gills with too much, there is no room for anything new to come along. New ideas, opportunities (and even cool stuff) will bypass us because we have no place to put it. We must be willing to create – and tolerate – empty spaces.

Sounds easy enough, I know, but in our hyper-minded western culture where more stuff is a badge of honor and “crazy busy” is a source of pride, tolerating empty spaces in our homes, our lives and in our businesses can be a tough row to hoe. And I oughta know. I’m the child of a child of The Depression. I have a terrible time getting rid of anything or anyone because “I might need it or them someday”.

BUT, I am going through some kind of crazy metamorphosis these days. (As an aside, did you know that when a catepillar crawls up into its cocoon, it doesn’t just sprout wings and antenna. Oh no, it completely breaks down into goo and totally rearranges it’s DNA into that of a butterfly. Pretty amazing visual, I’d say.)

At any rate, I am literally felling sismic shifts happening from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Change is coming – BIG change. Some of that change I invited to the party, I know what it is (and it is huge for me and my family). But there is other, more fundamental change. I can feel my DNA rearranging – into what I do not know yet.

Like a caterpillar following it’s instincts, I spent the entire weekend making room for this new thing, whatever it is. I’ll share my to do list for creating empty space.

1. Cleaned and redecorated my home office. Found bright red burlap and cotton curtain panels on sale. Moved a piece of furniture and cleaned out two file drawers. They now sit empty, waiting for this “new thing” to fill them.

2. Same for desktop surfaces. With the exception of things I need like paper, pens, my phone and my computer – everything else is put away. Empty surfaces are more inviting to new, great stuff I think.

3. Piled up all my clothes that I don’t just love. Clothes I don’t wear; clothes that aren’t just right; clothes I tolerate. Closet is pretty empty. wonder what kind of wardrobe I’ll need for this new thing that’s coming?

4.  Same for shoes. I’ve made many a bad shoe purchase and then felt guilty and kept shoes that I didn’t like or that hurt my feet. They are gone now. I have no idea what kind of shoes I’m going to need. In the meantime, I’ll live with the few pairs I have.

5. Took broken stuff and stuff I just don’t like to the Habitat for Humanity Store, the Men’s Mission and Salvation Army. I would rather give to someone else who wants it and needs it than feel icky every time I look at it.

6. Choose the three criteria an an opportunity must meet if it is to get my attention. These criteria apply to social, family and business opportunities. Keeping my criteria simple helps me make good, solid decisions – and make them quickly. Beats the heck out of agonizing for days and days.

So, that’s what I did this weekend. The trick will be tolerating these new empty spaces and resisting the temptation to fill them with whatever happens along.

I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂