MA'AM, STEP AWAY FROM THE SUFFERING

This is a re-post of an older blog entry. This past week, this was a theme that came up over and over again with both clients and friends. Felt it was time to put this one out in the universe again... I am super passionate about ditching struggle!

Got your own business?

Then networking and getting out there is a non-negotiable part of your agenda. Knowing this, a few years ago I set out to a women’s entrepreneur event – super casual at a pub in midtown Toronto. I was all excited to get inspired. “I’m gonna put myself out there and it’s gonna be awesome!” I told myself. I didn’t know anybody in the group, just the one woman who invited me. I figured sometimes that is when you actually have the best time at an event - no expectations, no preconceived notions, just a willingness to connect with others.

At the time, I went to this event I really didn’t know what to do with my design business. I didn’t want to continue just being a graphic designer/art director, and I had already pursued some other entrepreneurial ideas that just fell flat. I was definitely lost and looking for ideas, motivation – anything, really, that would get me into a positive headspace.

I sat down with about twelve other female business owners and after just a few minutes, I wanted to barf. I was honestly not confident my pinot grigio would stay down.

Here I was in a room of super-talented, visionary ladies and all I kept thinking was “omg, get me outta here!”

I was nauseous not because I felt like an outsider, or couldn’t relate to what these smart women were talking about. No, I could relate really well. Too well.

I was surrounded by women addicted to struggle. They jumped at the chance to talk about how HARD it was to run their business, how they had no life, how they never slept, and were always exhausted. How they ran around like mad dogs for crazy clients and could never find enough time to get everything done. And sadly, from the sounds of it, most women were barely making ends meet.

I, too, had lived the life of owning a business and working 24/7. As well as running my design company, I also once owned a greeting card company and did all the schlepping around town that came with craft shows and retail sales. There were many all-nighters. I also owned an Etsy shop that consumed more hours of my life than I care to admit. I have gone through phases of working full-time, freelancing, teaching night school and selling skin care – all at the same time. While I thought I was just doing what I had to do to make income and satisfy my multipassionate personality, in retrospect I was devoted to struggle and living a hard life. I was choosing to live in chaos. I felt happy knowing I was working myself to the bone.

It was at this event that I first became truly conscious that I no longer to suffer and struggle in my business.

I love to work hard, I do. And I know we have to make sacrifices at times to run our own business. There will be days that are so tiring you can’t even brush your teeth at night. Yes, those moments will test you. But should we stay in a constant state of struggle and hardship? I do not believe so. The trick is discerning the difference, and this has been one of my biggest lessons in life.

For me, hard work leaves you feeling tired but satisfied, challenged but proud. In contrast, struggle leaves you feeling angry and resentful, depleted and invisible.

That evening I walked away from the event feeling very grateful. I knew more of what I DIDN’T want in my life. There was an energy to that group that I just did not want to be a part of. And recognizing that made me feel like I was stepping into my own. I may not have gotten what I thought I would out of that event, but wow, I am so glad I showed up.

CURIOUS SIDEBAR :: One woman from that event has since become a massively successful jewelry designer with an international following. I noticed she was the only person not relishing in stories of woe and anguish. She had an ease and elegance about her that was captivating and oh-so impressive. Yay, her.

My spinning journey

I never thought I would be one of those people.

You know, those spin class people. Those intense Type As who sport shiny lycra from head to toe and obsessively show up to workout on a bike that goes, well, nowhere.

And while I keep my lycra to a minimum, as of January 2019, I am one of those people.

This is not a story about the benefits of spin and exercise. Rather, this is a story about resistance.

As much into personal development as I am, I am spectacularly good at resistance. For some reason, I like to shut things down right away and I make the call that ‘Ya, that isn’t for me’. Usually this is a fear-based reaction. I also got into the habit of doing the opposite of what everyone else was doing very young. I figured if I didn’t participate and try, then I didn’t have to risk failure, and then I could be safe. Fortunately, because of all the personal development work I have done, I see my transparent ways and realize this kind of behaviour does not actually serve me.

In May of 2018 a good friend of mine, let’s call her Maggie, asked me to to go a spin class. Of course, my immediate reaction was ‘Umm, no....’, but then I realized it was a great way to hang out with someone I adore, and oh ya, my sports med doc kept telling me to try spinning. I believe the doctor/patient convo went a bit like this:

Doc: I think you should try spinning.

Me: No, that doesn’t really appeal to me.

Doc: I think you should try spinning. It will be really good for your knee.

Me: Um, no… it looks really not fun.

Doc: I think you should try spinning. You’ll build the muscles up around your knee and it will help reduce pain.

Me: No… I don’t think so. When should I see you next?

Everytime I said ‘no’, I was in a state of resistance. I knew nothing about spin classes, but I was making the call it was not for me to protect myself from failure. I pictured a class chock full of judgmental super-athletes and then me: the out-of-step Amy Schumer of the class destined for Loserville (ouch - harsh, I know!). I just could not picture myself pulling Lance Armstrong moves and fitting in. Ironically, I was the one being super judgemental

And I was also seriously wallowing. Because of a torn meniscus in my left knee, I couldn’t do the exercises I loved to do: skating, trampoline aerobics, boot camp and power walking. I kept focusing on what I couldn’t do, instead of finding out what I could do. More resistance.

When Maggie finally dragged me to a spin class and I actually loved it, no one was more surprised than me. Of course, Laura knew I would enjoy it - don’t our friends know us better than us sometimes? - but I was shocked. I didn’t expect it to be such an amazing stress release and to feel an almost meditative/grounding effect after each class.

And it turns out, spin classes have participants of all fitness levels. Not everyone dresses a la Tour de France and you can make the class as easy or difficult as you want. No one really cares about your performance because they are so fixated on their on own.

And my knee? My pain has reduced between 50 - 75%. I literally feel like a different person. And miraculously, I have been able to ditch the hideous knee brace I used to have to wear in class that made me look like RoboCop’s wonky cousin. Woot!

The simple experience of trying spinning has made me examine where else I have let resistance creep into my life. I’ve asked myself these questions and I encourage you to do the same:

What am I always saying no to?

Why am I shutting out potential new experiences?

Where have I decided I can’t do something, won’t do something, or shouldn’t do something?

It is super easy to tell yourself something ‘doesn’t resonate’ with you, but is that always true? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Chances are it is a fear factor at play:

fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, or even fear of success.

It is a New Year. Now is the perfect time to ditch some resistance and open yourself up to potential joy. Why not let yourself be surprised at what transformative experiences are waiting for you?

To your brave success,
Alana


I DISAPPEARED. HERE'S WHY.

It has been about 9 months since I last wrote a blog post. I kinda fell off the map. I pushed me coaching business aside and here is why.

In April of 2018 I accepted a freelance Art Director gig which involved a heavy commute and long hours. From the get go, I knew it would be insane. I was warned by people who knew the inside scoop. I also had that gut feeling that yup, this is gonna be a gong show.

BUT I also had this feeling that I HAD to take it. Not only did it pay well and didn’t require a contractual commitment, but I knew it was something that would serve me in ways I didn’t understand yet. It was for a media company I always wanted to be a part of, and it was almost a bucket-list kinda thing to check off.

So I accepted the ongoing gig and braced myself for intense corporate pressures and red-tape shenanigans.

What transpired was a 3.5 month tsunami of stress that left me beaten, battered, and completely LIBERATED.

First, the beaten and battered part.

Within those few months every part of my life went on a steep decline: health, self-esteem, relationships, and mindset. I had absolutely no work/life balance and was cranky AF every night. I would begin to demonize around Wednesday, and by Friday, whoa, look out, because I was on a war path.

My health went downhill the fastest. I developed crazy blood-sugar issues and found myself literally seeing stars some days. I was so tired I felt nauseous and I was eating junk food without a second thought. The vending machine outside the Photographer’s studio started calling my name - daily. An Oh-Henry bar? Don’t mind if I do. Ugg. Combine too much sugar with extreme stress and it is no wonder my body started to revolt. I also wasn’t sleeping most nights and my anxiety was bubbling up to an unmanageable level.

And my finances took a hit - though I was being paid well, um, I actually wasn’t paid for over 2 months (freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart). And because I let my personal business slide (I didn’t have an ounce of energy left for it) I found myself super stressed about cash flow. And then I was SUPER angry because I know better than to rely on one source of income! Gotta have MSI (multiple sources of income), people! So then I felt even more angry, frustrated and like a total failure.

On the upside, although I was experiencing all of this stress, the actual work was creative, really challenging and some days, I dare say, were super fun. I worked on photo shoots all day long and saw behind the curtain of the whacky world of television. And I met some amaaaaazing people and learned new skills that I will literally use for the rest of my life. Indeed, many wins were gained.

But the job had ridiculous hours and demands, the place was grossly understaffed, and most importantly, I didn’t feel valued by many people at the company. And since I have spent years working on personal development and feeling strong, I was like, no, not staying in this situation. I value my SELF too much. Time. To. Leave.

That leads me to the LIBERATED part.

The part of this story that has me literally thrilled to the bone is that within a couple of weeks of taking on this gig, I was planning my exit. If I had been in this job 10 years ago, I know I would NOT have tried to leave so soon.

I would have felt an obligation to stick it out, prove I can do this crazy job, and suffer daily to establish a sense of self worth.

I used to be completely addicted to anguish and I didn’t understand the difference between hard work and suffering. Now I absolutely do. And I will not continue to participate in anything that brings out my worst self and leaves me feeling like garbage. Not only is life to short for that crap, there are BILLIONS of other options out there for work that can serve you. It is your job to find the one that works best for you. Don’t sit and suffer, don’t just wait it out. MOVE ON, mavens!

Even though I was beyond exhausted, I worked to find a new contract. It took a few months, but eventually I landed on my feet like Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympics. How did I do it? Aside from obvious networking activities, every day I diligently wrote out my intentions to leave, visualized something better coming my way, and focused on a life of balance and joy. It was such a cool experience I promise to write a blog post about it. I am now working a contract that leaves me creatively satisfied, provides financial empowerment, AND allows me to return to coaching and mentoring. From where I’m sitting, it feels like a perfect 10.

Soooo… I’m back. It has taken me a while to recover, but I am feeling better than ever! Hope to see you here again every other Wednesday.

To your brave success,
Alana

Know your VALUE

Some years I tend to be a HUGE reader, and some years I tend to only get through a handful of books. This year, I am on an official reading binge. I cannot seem to get enough words into me - via reading actual books and also by listening to audiobooks. And whoa, have I have stumbled across some good ones.

One of the best in my 2018 pile is Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski. It was excellent. LOVED it. Not only does she share her own harrowing story of moving up the ranks in the television business, but she covers the stories of other business mavens such as Sheryl Sandberg and Susie Orman. This book does not serve up fluffy, happy-go-lucky, just ‘put-your-mind-to-it’ stories. No, this book goes into the nitty gritty of negotiation, career strategy and rising up to your potential even when everyone else is trying desperately to bring you down. It is meaty goodness served up with a side of brass tactics.

Important warning: the book does have a ridiculous Q&A with Trump - before he was prez - and knowing what we know now, it is even more offensive. But it does not take away from the awesomeness of this book. Just roll your eyes, ignore and move on.

I really knew nothing about Mika Brzezinski. I saw the title while scrolling through the online library listings and just grabbed it. I knew there would be something in it for me. I still have never seen her show Morning Joe, and likely I will never tune in, but if there is a woman out there who has risen to that level of success, I want to hear her story.

There have been so many times in my career - especially working as a graphic designer in the highly toxic and competitive world of branding - when I just did not see the value I was bringing to the table. I under-quoted and under-charged so many times, it still amazes me I was able to hit six figure years. But I did - by working more and more and more and… big breath… more. It was so bad on so many levels. I was tired, burnt out, cranky, and pissed off all the time. I was definitely driven by some subconscious belief that I was only worth so much, and whatever I was worth had to be earned by working hard 24/7.

But now I am older, wiser and I definitely have a better sense of my worth.

It feels good.

One thing I do now, before I put any quote together or list a new product or service, is I ask myself, “What would Laura* do? What would Laura charge?”

Laura is one of my bestest friends and she is a total SuperMaven.

Most of us know of at least one bad-ass, super successful person in our life who takes no bullshit. They know their value, they step up to the plate and they ask for what they want. They are not afraid to ruffle feathers. They don’t worry about what others think. You need to think of that person when you are negotiating a deal or contract.

Because that SuperMaven is someone you RESPECT. They may not be liked all the time by everyone, but you can be sure as heck they are respected. And that is what you want for yourself. Respect leads to value - which leads to being paid what you are worth.

And if you don't have someone in your life that is a SuperMaven, think of Ellen or Oprah or someone else who inspires you and leads a life you think is effing fantastic. Think of them, and push aside that little voice inside of you that says “Maybe I am asking for too much”. Tell that voice to SHUT UP.

Because then YOU will become the SuperMaven. Then YOU will be the one to inspire someone else to level up, power up and embrace the glory.

And the world needs more SuperMavens.

To your brave success,

Alana

*Not her real name. Protecting the somewhat innocent lol.

Nothing is Expensive

Full disclaimer - I am not a financial guru.

But I do consider myself a mindset maven.

I believe your thoughts become your feelings, which create your reality.

I believe what you you think about all the time shows up in your life. Especially when you add an emotional charge to it.

I believe if you spend time thinking about what you DON’T want, that crap will manifest into your life faster than you can say, “Get that crap away from me.”

And so, for that reason, I believe it is imperative that one word be completely banned from your life:

Expensive.

If you are someone who complains all the time that things are expensive, then chances are you are frustrated with your financial situation.

Because every single time you say something is ‘expensive’, what you are actually saying is, “I can’t afford that”.

And every time you say, “I can’t afford that”, you are repelling abundance and all things good from coming into your life.

You are telling the universe that yup, I am poor and can’t have that. Even if that isn’t at all true on paper.

You will never be a SuperMaven if you see things as expensive vs cheap.

Never, ever, ever say something is expensive.

Because it isn’t.

Every item has a monetary amount attached to it, and it is not expensive or cheap or fair. It just is.

Whether you choose to spend money on it is another matter. It depends if the product or service has enough value in it for you to fork over the cash.

See how you can shift the mindset around it?

When I see a $250 bottle of wine, I don’t ever say, “Whoa, that is expensive!". I just choose not to buy it. Because it doesn’t hold enough value for me to spend that quantity of money on it. It doesn't bring me a lot of joy. I am very happy with my $15 bottles of pinot prigio (the one with the dachshund on the label).

But someone else - like a sommelier - might find a ton of happiness in that $250 bottle. They might feel totally fulfilled and excited with the purchase because it is of true value to them. If they hand over the cash with joy, then it is a win win situation.

Saying something is expensive is, for many, a hard habit to break. I believe this is because many of us have a deep-seeded need to remain poor (poor people are more altruistic and who doesn’t want to be like Mother Teresa?! MT was totally rich btw), and it helps us bond with the masses.

Here is a simple trick to combat that negative reflex reaction of claiming something is expensive.

Instead of responding with “That is too expensive!” every time you pick up something with a fat sticker price, just say:

“Wow, isn’t that interesting”.

Approach it with curiosity.

Curiosity has a more positive charge, and it doesn’t suggest you can’t have it, or deserve it.

Saying, “Isn’t that interesting” also removes all judgement from the situation. And money loves to gravitate towards a judgement free zone, mavens!

This will create a HUGE shift in your money mindset.

I literally shudder every time someone says something is expensive. It simply isn’t true.

Try banning expensive from your vocabulary for a month and see how much better you feel. Don’t be surprised if more cash finds its way to you, too.

To your brave success,

Alana