creativity

In the pause: You’ve got to go out on a limb to have adventures

“People who avoid risks are rewarded with their safety. People who take the risks are rewarded with adventures.” ~Andy Crouch, improvisor and Director of Education at the Hideout Theatre

Everyday we have this choice: to stay safe or to have an adventure. My friends often comment to me that my superpower is that I have absolutely no fear of rejection, and therefore have lots of adventures. I think that’s mostly true. Professionally, I have zero fear of rejection. In my personal life, I’ve got a little more trepidation. (I’d do well to start injecting a little more bravery into my personal life. That’s a story for a later post.)

I have been rewarded in my life with many adventures that have had varying degrees of success. I’m grateful for all of them, even for the ones in which I failed magnificently, because they led me to even more adventures. I think that’s really the point of it all: to go out into the world, and I mean as far out there as you can possible get, and see what you find. That’s what I’m doing, and then subsequently what the characters in my books are doing.

Now that my full-time job is squared away and my first book is less than a month from publication, I’m plotting out the adventures that my characters and I will have in this coming year. And it’s going to be one hell of an adventurous year. Stay tuned…

 

creativity

In the pause: You must follow your gut

I want to talk to you about following your gut. We are quick to let our minds take over our decision-making. We go back and forth and back again on a decision. We talk ourselves into, out of, around, over, and through things. We agonize over the right thing to do and why. We have regrets and we consistently second-guess ourselves.

I had a day like this last week, and it was a brutal. Finally, I wore out my brain and all I had left with was my gut decision. I just knew what I needed to do, even if I wasn’t clear on all of the specific reasons. All I can say is that the answer was always deep down in my soul, and it persistently and consistently kept rising until my decision was on my lips and refused to remain silent.

And that was it. Once I made the choice, there was no going back. My mind relaxed, exhausted. And my heart was glad. I will tell you that the decision is not without its fears. It wasn’t easy to make the choice, but I know I made the right choice for me. There’s another long climb ahead, and I’ll begin that journey next week. Now, it’s time to rest, rejuvenate, and rejoice.

creativity

In the pause: What writing my book taught me about how to spend my time

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked to a lot of friends about the concept of how to spend our time. As they say, even Beyoncé only has 24 hours in a day. We all have to make choices. Try as we might, we can’t do everything, at least not all at once.

So how do we decide what gets attention, effort, and time, and what has to fall by the wayside? And how can we be confident in those decisions once we make them? All I can give you is my own experience. I gave up a lot to write my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters. There were many times I didn’t go out and have fun for the sake of writing, rewriting, and editing. I poured myself into that book, and that meant I spent less time on other parts of my career and personal life. I stopped teaching yoga; I took on fewer freelance projects; I spent less time trying to climb the ladder in my business career; I dated less; I made less money; I left my home in New York City to go out into the unknown. All for the sake of a book that I wasn’t sure would ever see the light of day.

You might be asking, “What the hell was she thinking?” and you’d be very right to ask.

I was thinking that if I didn’t write this book, if I didn’t get this story down and work my a*s off to get it out into the world, then I would be left with a profound sense of regret. And I don’t mean the regret varietal that goes something like, “Huh, I wonder what that would have been like.” Nope. I’m talking about the kind of regret you read in articles like Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Want to know the #1 regret in that list? “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Ouch. I couldn’t live, or die, with that. I had to be true to myself now, and that meant I had to write this book. So I gave up what was needed to get it done. And there isn’t a single thing I gave up that I wish I had done instead of writing that book. Not one.

I had the great gift of a fire that nearly killed me at age 33. The 8th anniversary of that fire is about a month away, and every day since then has been gravy in my mind. I was infinitely fortunate to survive. I have tried hard to live a life I’m proud of, even if people don’t understand it, don’t agree with it, and criticize it. I hope I’m around to see 103. Seriously. If our world is this insane today, just imagine the crazy sh*t we’re going to experience in the year 2079! But if that’s not in the cards for me, that’s okay. Really. I wrote this book. It’s the creative act of my life that I’m most proud of. If and when you hold that book in any form in your hands, you are holding my heart. How great is it to be able to give that away in the hopes that it helps some one, somewhere, some time.

That’s what I did with my time here on this Earth in this life, and it was more than worth it. What’s your Emerson? Find that. Pursue that.

 

creativity

In the pause: Comey, Hamlet, and our individual tomorrows

“We know what we are, but not what we may become.” ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet

As I watched the James Comey hearing yesterday, I kept thinking about this quote from Hamlet. Mr. Comey’s testimony showed that he always does what he thinks is the right thing to do given the information he has. He’s a man who sticks to his principles even when he knows he will pay a personal price for following them. He stands for something and therefore falls for nothing. He cares much more about the truth and the law than he does about politics and power. And in Washington, sadly, that is a difficult thing to do. He’s paid the price personally and professionally, and still stands by his decisions. That’s something to be admired, even though I don’t agree with his choices.

Nearly 7 months to the day, Comey transformed from being the person who single-handedly altered the outcome of the Presidential election to someone who may render the Trump presidency one of the shortest in history. It’s unclear if any of that will come to pass, but it made me think about our sense of identity, purpose, and perception.

What we do and who we are right now doesn’t predict who we’ll become or what we’ll be doing tomorrow. One minute, Mr. Comey was the Director of the FBI and arguably one of the most powerful people in the world. With the stroke of a pen, he was returned to private life and sat before a Senate committee to tell the world he didn’t trust the President’s intent and questioned his sense of judgement. All within 7 months. That’s a remarkable about-face to make in his career and in his life.

What I keep coming back to is his conviction and his refusal to do anything less than protect his country in the best way he could. If that meant being fired, then so be it. If that meant enduring endless scrutiny by the public, politicians, and the press, then bring it on. It takes courage to live today so authentically that it may drastically alter our tomorrow. Mr. Comey showed us it can, and must, be done.

creativity

In the pause: There’s only one way to get through challenges

Moving brings up all kinds of fears and concerns. I’ve been facing a few this week: comparing quotes from movers, worrying about the actual packing, saying “see you soon” to friends I’ve gotten used to seeing all the time, and renting a car and packing it up to make the trek back to New York. Every time I would cross something off my list, I’d find that there were two more to-do items to replace it. I started to get nervous that I wouldn’t get everything done in time, that something would make my move impossible. It was keeping me awake and making my mind fuzzy.

I got home last night and took a deep breath. I’ve been here before, many times and not that long ago. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s move and begin again. And if something does come up, some wrinkle in my plan, I’ll invoke my favorite mantra: “I’ve got this and I’ll handle it.” The only way out is through.

creativity

In the pause: The secret of life is knowing that your time is now

Yesterday I turned down an opportunity for a new job. A great job. A job with a wonderful mission that matches my skill sets and would be the next step on the technology-based product development path I’ve been on for almost a decade. I’ve now done this several times in the past month.

“Why?” you might be asking. The opportunities were great, but not great for me. Sometimes the culture wasn’t right. Other times the team wasn’t right. Often the communication wasn’t right, or non-existent. And most importantly, that path isn’t the one I want to be on anymore. It’s been a great decade. I’ve learned a ton, so much more than I ever thought I’d learn when I started down this road. I’m glad I took this journey, and I’m glad it’s over. Like a good long hike, my body’s tired but my mind is clear and my heart is full. The view is spectacular, and now I’m ready to take another road on another adventure.

That adventure has to be heavily focused on writing, communication, and relationship-building. It has to take full advantage of the business skills I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money to hone. It has to be brimming with creativity and the mission of the work has to be to build a better world. I think that these kinds of opportunities will be with a socially driven for-profit company or a nonprofit. And as far as location, I’m looking at New York, Philadelphia, and D.C. I’ve spent my life in this Northeast Amtrak corridor. I’ve gone to school here. The majority of my close friends and contacts are in and around those cities. Nearly all of my past employers are based here. I am by all accounts an east coaster, and proud of it. I’m a New Yorker at heart, and I always will be. Once you know exactly who you, you can’t be anyone else. Authenticity and integrity are everything.

I talked to my friend, Chris, yesterday. We talked about how important it is to align who we are with what we do as the key criteria to a happy career. You can only play a role for so long. Eventually, you walk off the stage, you take off the costume and the makeup, and all you’re left with is the person in the mirror. Bare-faced—scars, imperfections, and all. Now that’s the person I listen to. The heart and the gut I follow belong to her. And her time is now. So is yours.

creativity

In the pause: You are in bloom

“Don’t be so scared. My love, this is how you bloom.” ~ Evan Sanders, The Better Man Project

The process of becoming is uncomfortable, even painful. It requires so much stretching and reaching and growing. In the short-term, it feels safer and easier to keep our dreams and spirits small. Over time, that safety, ease, and comfort have a hefty price tag; they rob us of who we’re meant to be and the goals we’re meant to reach.

I’m in the midst of a big leap now. And though I didn’t choose the timing, I did choose the path. I put the wish out into the world, and the world responded. The response wasn’t what I expected but it did open the way that I needed to make my path a reality.

And so, here we go. Onto the twisting, uncharted road where I can only see just a few feet in front of me. I know the very next step, but not the one after that. Sometimes the fear, uncertainty, and stress feel overwhelming. And at those times, there’s always someone who says, “You’re going to be okay.” So I keep going. And blooming. I hope you will, too.

 

creativity

In the pause: How to make a difficult choice easier

Whenever I have to make a tough decision, I spend about a week living each choice. Then at the end of that week, I reflect on how that choice makes me feel. How does it change what I think, what I do, and how I see the world? This method has never failed me. If you’re in the midst of making a decision right now and the options are getting muddled in your mind, take the choices out into the world and see what you find. It’s worth the time.

 

 

creativity

In the pause: A lesson about listening from Tupac Shakur

“If you let a person talk long enough you’ll hear their true intentions. Listen twice, speak once.” ~Tupac Shakur

Less than two months into my 2017 resolution to pause every day and really listen, I’ve learned a lot. Much more than I expected. It’s fascinating to hear what people really say, and what they don’t say. It’s surprising to me to hear the narrative that plays in my own head during certain situations. These days we are subjected to all kinds of glossy marketing, slick slogans, and catchy soundbites. To really see what’s going on, we have to take a step back. Maybe even a few steps back. Let things come into focus. Listen rather than waiting to speak.

People are very adept at elevator pitches. We’ve got biases, lens of experience that alter our point-of-view, and objectives. That’s part of being human and having this massive cerebral cortex. It’s a blessing and it’s also a curse; we often get in our own way. I’ve found the best way to combat this is to just stop and listen. It’s a highly under-rated and rare skill. Our society doesn’t reward it, but life in general does. When we listen, we make better decisions because we have richer information. When we listen, we increase our sense of focus because our perspective is more comprehensive. And this combination of information  and perspective gives us the confidence to take action. The actions I’m going to take in 2017 are beginning to take shape. They’re exciting and a little bit scary, but I can handle it.

So far on my listening tour through 2017, that’s what I’ve got. I’m looking forward to what happens next.

creativity

In the pause: When has your gut ever been wrong?

Yesterday, I was having a discussion in which I mentioned that I didn’t want my gut instinct to cause me to pass up what seemed like a good opportunity. The person I was talking to paused, and said, “Christa, when has your gut ever been wrong?” Never. My gut has never been wrong. And my biggest regrets in life happened when I didn’t listen to my gut. Sure enough, I did a little more research on the big, shiny opportunity I was considering and it has enormous ethical and financial issues that would compromise my personal values. I’ll pass on it with grace and professionalism, but pass I will. A big thank you to my very intelligent gut, and to the wise person who told me to always listen to it. Always. Message received.