generosity, happiness, impact, kindness

Beginning: The Secret to a Happy Life is to Be Good And Do Good
“Aim above morality. Be not simply good. Be good for something.” ~ Henry David Thoreau via Tiny Buddha

This week I’ve been preoccupied with and writing about a mission-driven life and the power of making our own personal missions the center of our work. A fulfilling, meaningful life requires a cause, a passion, a center. It’s important to be a good person – to be kind and generous and grateful. It’s equally as important to do something powerful with that goodness – to be helpful and inspiring and gracious.

I was on an elevator recently and someone gave my yoga mat bag a funny look. “Is that a weapon?” the man asked me. “Yes,” I replied. “It’s a weapon for goodness.” And it is.

The goal of my teaching is to help everyone I ever come in contact with, on and off the mat, to become the very best version of who they are. I’m at my best when I’m teaching yoga. There’s a certain ease and gladness that fills me up when I have the opportunity to pass on a gift that has been passed on to me by many patient and loving hearts. The very least I can do, in their honor, is to offer up the same gift to those who need it most.

Teaching yoga is my do good moment. What’s yours?

change, choices, commitment, determination, Fast Company, impact

Beginning: Be a Positive Disruptor

“Look back and say, at least I didn’t lead no humdrum life. ROAM FREE.” ~ Wyoming Office of Tourism

The technology field helped restore dignity to the word disruptor. For too long “disruption” was equated with “distraction”, “bother”, and “nuisance”. Now the title of disruptor is sought after by every entrepreneur out there. They are upending markets and industries in the name of innovation and giving the people what they want. Authentic, creative, and endlessly optimistic, disruptors are the people whom I want to surround myself with; I like to think of myself as one of them.

The key is to be a positive disruptor with a focus on making everything you touch better than it was before you showed up on the scene. Luke Williams put together this piece for Fast Company on disruption that creates positive change. He implores you to become a part of it. Here are a few of his steps that particularly resonate with me, as well as some of my own personal examples in relation to Compass Yoga.

1.) Figure out what you want to disrupt, meaning what do you want to fix. Take a look around you – what gives you pain, what makes you angry, frustrated, sad, and confused. These emotions are great motivators to spur you to work for change. I was motivated to start Compass Yoga because so many yoga studios are inaccessible to people with serious health concerns, physical limitations, and little disposable income.

2.) Discover the clichés in your chosen area. This requires the ability to go from asking “why?” to “why not?” Why did yoga studios have to be so expensive? Why couldn’t people with physical limitation, the very people who need yoga the most, have access to top-quality classes? And why do so many yoga studios and instructors focus on exclusivity instead of acceptance?

3.) Bust up every cliché in your area.
Now, the fun begins. This is your chance to be and build the change you want to see. Why couldn’t yoga be made affordable to everyone who wants to try it, whether that’s in a group class or a private session? Why couldn’t people with physical limitations take part in a comfortable setting? Why couldn’t yoga return to its roots of acceptance, generosity, and support for all people regardless of where they are along their own paths?

4.) Now scale. You are rare; so rare that there is no one else exactly like you. Your gifts and talents are incredible, valuable things. And honestly, you owe it to the rest of us to share them with as wide an audience as possible. Figure out how to get your work, products, and services to as many people as possible. You never know what it will inspire in others. The more people you can inspire, the more change you can create, and the more this world will begin to be a place you are abundantly proud and grateful to live in.

And here’s the best part – being a positive disruptor is a blast. Truly. You’ll have so much fun crafting your own path forward and you can revel in your own unique perspective. You’ll meet and connect with amazing people who will spur your creativity. You’ll do things you never even imagined were possible. Your energy level will go through the roof. As a positive disruptor, you will know how it feels to be truly alive.

creativity, ideation, imagination, impact, product development, SXSW

Beginning: Win By Being Open Source

“If you free your data, people will come to you.” ~ Deb Boyer,

I heard this quote at one of the last panels I attended at SXSW Interactive, Innovating and Developing with Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Deb Boyer was part of a panel that discussed innovations that are happening within libraries, archives, and museums. Those institutions wrestle with the options of if, how, when, and to whom to release their extensive and rich spectrum of data and information. Do they charge or make it free? Is there a limit to how much someone can use? How should the information be delivered? Deb encouraged open collaboration between institutions and most certainly for anyone interested in partnering with libraries and archives. She believes being open source is the only way to win influence in our interconnected world; but yourself off from anyone interested in your brand by creating complex business models around the content and your influence rapidly diminishes.

At a conference buzzing with a million and one phenomenal ideas, the questions of intellectual property and ownership of ideas comes up a lot. In panels, hallway conversations, and key notes. Someone has a great idea and needs others to bring it to life. Does that mean that they run the risk of losing the idea by sharing it a la The Social Network? Maybe. Though Deb Boyer argued on her panel that there is no other choice. If the goal is to share what we know and bring our visions to life, we have to put it out there and see what comes back to us.

Gary Vaynerchuk talked about something similar in his keynote on The Thank You Economy. He gives and gives and gives and doesn’t worry about what he’ll get in return. In his very straightforward, and slightly crass, way he argued that if we’re generous first, others will follow in ways and quantities that we could never possibly imagine. Karma, baby. Karma.

SXSW is an incredibly generous environment. Sure, people are being provocative and forthright. They’re asking tough questions that have messy answers or no answers at all. They’re putting themselves and their ideas out there in the hopes that others will join them in their creative pursuits. They’re giving away what they know to anyone who’s interested in what they have to say and willing to take the time to listen. They’re all doing exactly what Deb and Gary advocate for. As Gary so eloquently stated, “Forget about having your ideas stolen. Just out care the competition and you’ll win every time in any industry, in any market.”

art, choices, decision-making, impact

Step 238: Virtuous Feedback Loops and Doing What We Do Well (and Love)

“In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for “finding himself.” If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence.” ~ Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, poet, and author

My Uncle Tom sent me this quote just as I was online researching virtuous feedback loops, an operations term that describes a system that is built to educate itself by doing the very act it was created to perform. (There really is no end to my nerd-dom.) With virtuous feedback loops, a system constantly learns and improves. It’s a technical paradigm that at its core supports the old adage of “practice makes perfect”, at least “practice makes better.”

I thought about how we build systems into our lives that function as virtuous feedback loops. Certainly music, sports, the arts, and cooking are examples of these loops – we improve these skills just by practicing them, learning something from each new shot we take at it. Except when we hit a wall. Improvement ceases, we get stuck, and then grow to hate the activity altogether.

I was a saxophone player when I was in school, and I was truly mediocre. I would practice and practice and practice and really never make any great strides. I finally got so frustrated with the lack of progress that I decided to be a jazz fan and turn my artistic energy toward writing, design, and business (which, yes, is most certainly an art). It was a wise choice on my part. I’ve turned out to be a much more productive and happier writer, designer, and business woman than I ever would have been a jazz artist.

We have only so much energy and years to while away on this planet. Thomas Merton implores us to take a look at our lives from our own perspective, not anyone else’s. Take stock of what really matters, what we love to do, and where we can be useful, and action against that. Build virtuous feedback loops in our lives that do what they’re meant to do – help us get better at something we’re meant to do. I wasn’t meant to be a saxophone player. And as disappointed as I was to realize that at the time, I’m glad I didn’t spend years trying to hack away as a mediocre musician.

That move took some serious serious self-analysis and more than a little humility. I had to let go of what I loved but couldn’t improve so that I could find a new happiness and passion. I had to quit to succeed. Sometimes that happens, and it’s okay.

So if you find yourself stuck in a rut, working at something that just isn’t improving and that you’re actually growing to dislike as a result, then maybe it’s time to find a new passion, one that you can improve upon as you practice. Just make sure that if you do get a new dream, you’re the one making the choice. This is your time after all, and you only get one chance to be you.

commitment, community, community service, impact, inspiration, movie

My Year of Hopefulness – A Hero Arrives

Today I watched The Tale of Despereaux, a movie adapted from the book by Kate DiCamillo. The movie chronicles the the adolescence of Despereaux, a brave little mouse in search of adventure and harmony between disparate parties. He is someone who does not want to be defined by others, regardless of the consequences for being who is naturally born to be.

Very early on in the movie, there is a line that really struck a cord with me: “A hero shows up when the world really needs one.” I can think of no better time than now for heroes to rise up and be counted. The world has some very large problems today – far larger than I think we even know. And these problems are in every city and town, of every variety and every magnitude. No matter what contribution you would like to make to the world, in whatever field you choose, wherever you live, there is a way to make an enormous difference if only we have the courage to put ourselves out there and the desire to be responsible and accountable.

Thomas Friedman gave the commencement speech at RPI in 2007
. Recognizing the desire and energy of young graduates to have an impact on their communities, he threw down the gauntlet to them in no uncertain terms. “If it’s not happening, it’s because you’re not doing it,” he said. “There is no one else in the way.” Technology has vastly our ability to communicate and influence with ease if we have a convincing, passionate story. It’s easier to be a hero today than it has been at any other time in history if only we see ourselves in this light.