Reverse engineer some self-admiration

Last week I talked a lot about trolls and the how to turn around the inner voices that shut us down.

This week I’ve been thinking about building up the voices that encourage us, that believe in us, that urge us forward. I call these voices our champions.

It’s hard to ask for what we’re worth. It’s hard to know what we’re worth, much less ask for it. We’re conditioned to devalue, minimize, deflect and downplay our thoughts, our ideas, our bodies, our selves. The worst thing we could be is FULL OF OURSELVES.

Noticing our own value and saying it out loud feels alien to us: no idea what it is or how to do it and vaguely terrified by the prospect of coming face to face with it. So we take that idea and stuff it in the closet.

I’ve been playing around with ways to coax out that idea and make it feel more comfortable. Maybe pull out some feather boas and fuzzy bathrobes to wrap around that tiny spark of self admiration and breathe it into a nice healthy campfire of love and approval.

Is this metaphor working for you? Is your idea of self approval looking like this right now?

ET

 

I’ve got a simple exercise for reverse engineering self-admiration:

  1. Think of someone you admire. Maybe someone you’re jealous of, someone you imagine surrounded by golden shimmering light who is a different better kind of human than you are. Maybe it’s someone on the national stage like Emma Gonzalez, maybe it’s a friend who moves through the world with a grace you wish you had. See them in your mind.

2. Draw a picture of them. I drew a picture of my friend Kate!

Shameless optimist

3. Write a list of their traits you admire:

Kate is good at business

Kate is fearless about finding mentors

Kate is an incurable optimist

4. Look at your list and replace their name with “I”. Write out each trait with I:

I am good at business

I am fearless about finding mentors

I am an incurable optimist

See what comes up for you when you write each of these down. Maybe you have deep resistance – that isn’t true at all! – or maybe you feel a thrill of deep resonance.

5. Circle five words that stand out to you, and turn them into a poem. Write them down. Try them on. For me it was:

Fearless hustler flair, I’m a shameless optimist

6. Stand up and speak your list out loud. I am in incurable optimist. Speak your poem, repeat it like a mantra. Move around like the person you admire. How do they stand? How do they dance? Find a song they would dance to and practice moving like them. Try it on!

If any of this seems ludicrous, that’s okay. You can laugh with yourself. That doesn’t mean some part of you doesn’t believe it’s true.

I would love to hear what you learn! And because this is what a shameless optimist hustler would do, I gotta tell you that if you dig this kind of fun inner self work/play, this is exactly what we do in the Creative Magic Workout which is open for registration now! It’s a lot easier to champion yourself when other people are championing you too.

Take care of yourself out there, dreamer!

 

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Dancing with your trolls

I’ve been getting a big response from my last video, Dancing my Question, so I thought I’d try dancing with my trolls.

Trolls are what I call those negative thoughts that go on a loop, those critical inner voices that start in on you and won’t let up. I call them trolls because they are stubborn, they have that dogged ability to not let up or leave you alone. I’ve got lots of different creative ways I work with trolls (which I’m going to be talking about in my free webinar, FREE YOUR TROLLS, and which we spend a lot of energy on in my creative magic workout) — but this was a new idea for engaging them, so I thought I’d make this quick video about it and share it right away: karaoke with your trolls!

Something I’m struggling with lately — there’s this little troll that’s like ewww ughhh nobody likes me, nobody’s helping me – it curls inward and projects all my insecurities about what I’m doing or not doing onto everyone around me – so when I drop off my kids at school this troll is saying, they all think you’re a bad mother because you’re dropping your kids off late, ooooooh! It’s this little Gollum-like troll.

If I’m going to work out with this troll using the life changing magic of karaoke, what song makes sense? The song that floated in my brain was “Tears of a Clown”… and honestly, when I worked this out for the first time earlier today, this song showed me SO MUCH about my fears and what’s going on with me and that troll. So thanks, subconscious!

I invite you to try this yourself: Identify your inner troll (I like to draw it and name it but it also works to just notice it) and ask them, what song would help me work out what’s going on? And see what floats into your brain.

Are you ready for me to work out “Tears of a Clown” with you? Let’s see what happens.

[Dancing / singing like a fool]

I’m kind of performing this but I’m also having some genuine insights here. I’m so surprised to realize that the flip side of this hidey nobody’s taking care of me feeling is, this pressure to only share a shiny happy face – I’m not comfortable with anyone seeing my sad face! I don’t feel like I can share my tears, even though I’m someone who talks all the time about crying and sharing your vulnerability. I’ve still got a sad little clown inside me who has to wait until there’s no one around to be real! I sound like I’m joking but this is genuinely helpful for me… and I have some trolls right now who are telling me, this is pretty self indulgent… which is another frequent troll for me. But I’m sharing because I wonder if some of you have those trolls, maybe the horror of self indulgence, or little sad Gollum who feels like he’s supposed to be Flashy McFlasherson?

If so: work it out, see what comes up for you!

 

When you encounter a troll in the shower

We’ve been working with our trolls this week in the Creative Magic Workout, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Trolls are what I call the critical thoughts that divebomb you when you’re trying something new or creative or risky or, you know, taking a shower.

That’s what happened to me this morning! I was in the shower and the thought popped into my head: “You should have figured this out five years ago.”

(“This” being “how to balance motherhood and making enough money and having a career that makes everything you want in life possible.”)

And I almost let that thought slip by unnoticed – it’s a thought I have often — but because we’ve been working with trolls, I did notice. I stopped and went, wait a minute, what was that? Is that a troll talking?

You should have figured this out five years ago.

So I did a transformation spell. This is what I call the process of considering, questioning and turning around those critical thoughts.

I considered it: is it true, that I should have figured this out five years ago? Do I agree?

Well, not really. I wish I had figured it out, but I also don’t know how useful it would have been. Or how possible. My life was totally different then, and I’m not sure I could have even imagined how it would change, much less figure out how to respond to that change.

I questioned it. What would be different now if I had “figured it out”? What does figuring it out even mean? Is it possible to figure it out? What is the benefit of figuring something out in advance – wasn’t I figuring things out then that were useful then? Aren’t I figuring this out now? Are there other women I can think of who have figured it out? Honestly, I can’t think of a single mother who has figured it all out. Everyone’s struggling with something.

And I turned it around, which means, I came up with opposite thoughts that are also true.

I should not have figured it out five years ago. In fact, it would have been ridiculous and impossible and kind of miraculous if I had.

It is a waste of time to try to imagine what your life might need in five years. It would have been a waste of my time then.

I am figuring this out now and that is the best use of my time and energy.

I did figure this out five years ago! I figured out some of it, anyway.

Once I went through all this – which was less than five minutes, tops – I was able to laugh at that troll. I wasn’t wrestling with it or struggling to shake it off. It stepped away of its own accord.

Later when I was out of the shower I thought: who is this troll, exactly?

And what came to mind were associations of impatience and wanting to know everything in advance and being very annoyed when things don’t go a certain way. I got an image of the classic rom-com business woman protagonist who falls in love with a laid back handyman and learns to laugh and not take herself so seriously.

So I sketched a picture. Here it is:

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Do you want to try it? Notice your critical thoughts as you go about your day, and when you have a couple minutes, jot down associations with that critical voice, sketch a picture, and give that troll a name.

And then do a quick transformational spell.

  1. Consider the thought
  2. Question the thought
  3. Turn it around

And see if the troll doesn’t soften, stand back and let you cross that bridge after all.

The kind of magic I believe in

Two weeks ago, I finished up the first round of my new solo show / creative expedition. It was incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, which is funny, because at every step along the way, I had doubts about its worthiness as a project and my ability to pull it off.

I can’t tell you how many times I almost cancelled it. And each time, the question came down to — is the risk that this will be a disaster a risk I’m willing to take?

And each time — BARELY — my answer was yes. So I did it. And lo and behold: it was not a disaster. It was wonderful! We performed a ‘What If’ spell to imagine a world where we have what we want. We named the trolls in the room and charmed them into helping us. We summoned champions and felt their energy. We dissolved toxic spells and enacted an ‘As If’ spell to imagine ourselves engaged in a beloved community.

Someone asked me after the show: well, do you believe in magic?

I was a little taken aback, because to me there’s no question. Are my feelings not clear? Am I communicating something subconsciously, some doubt, some deep lingering hesitation?

But then again, the reason I am working on a show about believing in magic, the reason I’m building a creative workout program around it, is because I frequently forget about it.

It’s easy to find yourself lost in a fog of forgetfulness about what magic feels like and how it works. To feel adrift, floating along at the mercy of elements you don’t understand or control.

For me, when I’m lost in that fog, the way back to magic is through magic. It’s like self care: when I get busy or tired or stressed out, I stop taking care of myself, stop paying attention to my self-talk, stop drinking enough water, give in to the desire to eat starbursts instead of eating actual fruit. I stop drawing self-portraits in my daily dream journal. I forget how important it is to check in with my friends.

And it starts to feel all or nothing. It starts to feel like what is required to get me back into alignment with myself is something huge and insurmountable. When in fact, the way in is through small gestures, small tokens, small footsteps. One drink of water! One drink of water is all it takes for my body to remember what being refreshed feels like. One text to a friend is all it takes to set a time to get together over coffee. Five minutes of sitting with a pen and a blank page of my dream journal is all it takes to draw a self portrait and feel that rush of recognition. Five minutes of walking outside to give all my attention to a tree is all it takes to see some magic at work.

Does that sound silly? I am serious: go outside right now and look at a tree. Or a plant or a flower or a bug. You start to notice things you didn’t see before. And in that noticing, magic starts to creep back in, possibility creeps back in. The awareness that the world is much bigger than you can imagine creeps back in.

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The key for me is this: magic isn’t a THING. You don’t snap your fingers and it’s there, easy to digest. It’s not a pill or a trick or a simple set of directions. It’s a state we can enter, an energy we can feel and a power we can sense.

 

It’s a process and a practice. Magic is both what we are trying to summon, and the way to summon it.

For me, for many years, the practice took the form of live theatre, which uses all the elements of true magic: you create a space. You dim the lights. You invite people to sit in silence. And then you enact a ritual within that silence. You spellbind. You cast spells together. You tell stories. You take people on a journey in their mind.

These days I’m still fascinated with these tools, and with what we can do with them, in or outside of the theatre.

Because I know that in my life – incredible things have happened since I’ve switched the focus of my creative work.

I’ve talked before (here and here and here) about the radical change that came about when I stopped thinking of my life as a vehicle for my creative projects, and instead turned my life into a creative project.

The transition into motherhood 3.5 years ago was a rough one for me, and in order to find my footing, I had to use all the creative tools I could think of to survive. I drew pictures. I wrote poems. I wandered into a zumba class down the street from my house. I made up little songs to sing to my baby son to try (vainly) to get him to sleep.

All these things helped me survive, and the big surprise was, I came out of the transition stronger. For the first time since I was maybe 9 years old, I felt comfortable in my skin. I felt comfortable with my taste and with voicing my ideas, no matter how corny or naïve or half baked they might be. Because for the first time, I wasn’t pursuing them to please or placate or impress anyone but myself.

Since then I’ve become passionate about helping other people do this, because I’ve become more and more aware of how desperately we all need creative work, and how little room we’re given to pursue it. When you’re left to your own devices, it can be hard to pursue – because as soon as you do, trolls start jumping out from under bridges and dragons rise up out of your nightmares to frighten you out of your wits. There are a million ways to sedate that creative urge and not many ways to step into it.

So to answer my friend’s question: that is the kind of magic I believe in. The magic of the creative urge, and what happens when you follow it. It’s there if you start looking for it. It’s there if you take one small step towards it.

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(And if you want to join a Creative Magic Workout, we still have open spots! Heed the call, friend).

What if where you are is exactly where you need to be?

Hello everyone! How was your summer? Mine was a glorious mess of contradictions, so most of the time I was days behind in my creative self-work, sorting through the various stressors that had hijacked my nervous system.

When I did have time to catch up with myself – to dance around with my kiddo, to sit down and draw and write in my journal and ask questions and breathe – the knot would loosen enough for me to remember: OH YEAH.

Oh yeah – there’s no such thing as doing it perfectly.

Oh yeah – I am a human being and it’s okay to mess things up.

Oh yeah – that’s how I learn: by messing up. It’s okay for me to be honest about it! That’s the only way to learn from it.

Oh yeah – When I don’t have childcare, things go nuts. Right! I’ve been here before. This happened last summer. I can figure this out.

Oh yeah – what works for someone else might not work for me! That’s not because I am a FAILED HUMAN. This isn’t a contest. No one is winning the Best Mom Award.

Oh yeah – I don’t have to be hard on myself! That’s a choice. I can choose to be gentle and loving. When I do that, it’s easier to be gentle and loving with those around me. Especially my sweet little 3-year-old monster who is figuring out how to be a human being too.

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We relearn the same lessons over and over, don’t we? And then get mad at ourselves for not learning it the first time, even though of course we didn’t learn it the first time. Learning is circular and repetitive!

Look at how much you are learning right now. Look at how far you’ve come. Think of where you’ll be a year from now. What if what you’re doing right now is exactly what you need to do to get there?

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That question is a big one in my life.

I first heard it ten years ago, at a workshop led by an Australian performance artist named Margaret Cameron. The workshop was part of an international festival for women theatre artists. I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choice to fly all the way to Denmark to take part, but here I was, in a workshop led by a woman wearing (in my memory anyway) a flowing muumuu and turban.

I tried to be open-minded but she seemed to be making it up on the spot, leading us on a ridiculous journey across the stage like we were children. I was jet-lagged and grumpy. What am I doing here? What am I supposed to be learning? What is she training us to do exactly? My inner teenager rolled her eyes HARD.

And then something happened. She asked several questions:

What if this is exactly where you need to be?

What if what you’re doing right now is exactly the right thing?

I know it’s not – but what if it was?

What if you are doing exactly what you need to be doing?

Something about these questions made me stop and notice that I had a running commentary in my head of this is dumb, you shouldn’t have come here, you’re not doing this right…

These were familiar thoughts. I realized that in most moments of my life, my brain was buzzing with this refrain.

And how liberating would it be to imagine – not even to believe, but to CONSIDER – that I might be doing some things right.

It felt radical and dangerous and ridiculous all at once. And in that moment, everything shifted. My energy shifted and suddenly this workshop was blowing my mind. Suddenly Margaret Cameron wasn’t some kook, she was a fucking genius.

I remember thinking, I wish I had the courage to do what Margaret Cameron does. To share my silliest, scariest, most heartfelt ideas and not care whether anyone thinks I’m a fool. To patiently wait for people’s resistance to fall away, or not.

Her blithe confidence seemed absolutely alien to me. I thought, maybe when I’m 80 I’ll be ballsy enough to do something like this.

Today I was thinking back to that time, and I realized: holy shit – not only was Margaret Cameron’s question a great exercise in shifting perspective – it was RIGHT.

I was exactly where I needed to be in that moment. I was doing exactly the right thing. Every single thing was the right thing, even the parts I thought I was doing wrong. They all led me to where I am today – a place I couldn’t imagine ten years ago.

I thought I could never be brave enough, confident enough to risk looking like a fool. But here I am!

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Where will I be ten years from now? I can only imagine, and experience tells me the reality will be wilder than my wildest vision.

So what if it’s true for you? What if everything you’re experiencing now is preparing you for where you’ll be in ten years?

Does anything shift when you ask yourself that question?

My daily ritual for centering & questioning

This is my daily ritual.

It’s not set in stone. And I don’t do it every day.

But when I do, my day goes smoother, my life feels grounded and my sense of humor is quick to the draw.

And when I don’t, my frustrations snare me quicker, my doubts creep in faster and life feels overwhelming.

Funny: knowing that, you’d think that when I start to feel overwhelmed, this ritual would be the first thing I turn to.

But often if I’m overwhelmed it’s too late — I am deep in forgetful mode.

I forget that my daily ritual will help.

I forget that it’s not hard to do.

I forget that life is one thing at a time, one moment at a time.

I forget that the past is the past and the future is the future and both exist mostly in my imagination.

I forget that no matter what is going on I have the power, right now, to take a breath and listen to my body, my mind, my voice.

I forget to listen to that little voice that says, hey, when’s the last time you checked in with me? Why did you stop doing your morning ritual?

For a while, anyway. Until I slow down enough to hear it, and listen to what it’s telling me.

That’s why I try to do this every day. So I can keep from getting to that overwhelmed, stressed out, frustrated place. Because it seems so small but doing my ritual for five minutes every day is what keeps me grounded, calm and light on my feet.

I’m calling it MY RITUAL like it’s a big fancy thing but my ritual is basically just taking deep breaths, listening to my thoughts and sitting with them.

I do this different ways depending on my mood. I can sit in a quiet spot, or go for a walk and do it on my feet. I can end with 2 minutes of dancing to Cyndi Lauper. I can write down words I want to remember in sharpie and stick them on my wall. But it usually goes something like this:

  • Stop what you’re doing
  • Put your hand on your heart
  • Close your eyes
  • Take 3 deep breaths
  • Ask yourself: what is stressing you out?
  • Write down one thought that is stressing you out
  • Breathe with that thought and let some questions in. Don’t fix it, don’t solve it. Sit with it and let questions come: is it true? How do you know? Are you sure?

And honestly, if all you do is the first four steps, that is the most important part. Giving yourself a moment to take three deep breaths with your hand on your heart. Trust me: spending a moment doing this will get you so much more than two minutes of scanning the New York Times or scrolling through Facebook.

I’d love to hear what your daily rituals are! And if you don’t have one, steal mine, or make one up yourself.

 

 

What do I do? (A primer with fart sounds)

When I tell people I’m a Creative Guide, the next question I usually get is, what is that?

Or, so what do you do exactly?

They’re good questions. What DO I do, exactly?

I tell people that I “use creative tools” and “help people get in touch with their imagination” but this doesn’t sound very tangible. And in fact, the work we do often IS tangible. As in, perceptible by touch, palpable, real, and substantial.

I thought the best way to get this across would be to take a page from my own toolbox (my toolbox is FILLED with pages) and take these three steps:

  • name things
  • write the names on cards
  • arrange the cards on big paper

So that’s what I did! Here it is:

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My approach comes down to 6 principles:

  1. Ask questions
  2. Experiment
  3. Paradox: mess with binary oppositions
  4. Radical empathy + honesty
  5. Slow down, look & listen
  6. Do it badly

And I guess there’s a 7th wild card principle which doesn’t get a card because it pervades everything: go deeper by not taking things too seriously.

Or: take everything to heart while laughing your ass off.

An example of the wild card principle in action: one of my go-to exercises when I’m first working with people is to look deep into each other’s eyes while making fart sounds.

It sounds so stupid! And it is! We’re open and receptive, and we’re giggling like kids. An excellent place to start.

My point is, these principles might sound airy, but they are all about action that you can take, starting now, that shift your perspective and shift your world.

I’m going to talk about each of my guiding principles (god, hopefully I come up with a better word than principles… guiding lights?) in the weeks to come, and if you’re worried that it will be boring, I vow to include videos and dumb things to make you laugh.

In fact, I’ll start now! Let’s do the fart exercise together! I know we’re not actually in the same room right now, but let’s pretend we are and make fart sounds for 30 seconds. I bet you can’t do it without laughing, but if you do, you win a SERIOUS FART SOUNDER award (email me your address and I’ll mail it to you, for real.)

SFS Award

Ready? Let’s go. I’m going to say my name and title so I sound super important, and then I’ll pause to give you time to say yours, and then we’ll make fart sounds. YES!

I Don’t Trust a 100% Guarantee

… part of my walking-talking manifesto in progress, on the theme of I Hate Positive Thinking…


One meaning of ‘positive’ is 100% certain.

 I AM POSITIVE THAT THE THING I OFFER WILL HELP YOU.

 I guarantee if you use this system you’ll have massive breakthroughs in the next month.

 You’ll be making six figures in no time if you take these three steps. I promise.

 If you’re experiencing [random thing], I can guarantee that the problem is [something I can solve].

I’ve come to realize that I never trust anyone who 100% guarantees a result.

the power of positive thinking

To me, it’s an automatic bullshit detector. But it’s hard to avoid, because it’s tied in to the language of buying and selling. And because coaches and practitioners and healers are offering something intangible – a service, not a product – there is a temptation to make it feel more tangible by guaranteeing results.

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This is one of the reasons I avoided entering this field for so long: I can’t stand seeing the realm of the unconscious reduced to being bought and sold like a product.

But can you be successful without doing that? This recovering life coach thinks you can’t, but I’m hoping you can. I’m heartened to see examples of coaches, counselors and mavens who offer great services without false guarantees or manipulation disguised as positive thinking.

And I think, if their honesty and humanity and humility is something that attracts me, then it can attract people to me too.

Because I think most of us would rather hang out with someone who’s being honest and real than giving us a line we want to hear.

So I’m not going to tell you that my approach is 100% GUARANTEED.

I’m not even going to tell you I have a foolproof, rock solid “approach,” as if it were a product I hammered out that sits on the shelf, gleaming and perfect. Nope.

What I have is a way in, based on years of working creatively with my own mind and body, and with other people. It is born out of the particulars of my circumstances – particulars that I think a lot of people share. It works for me, and it works for other people. But it is constantly evolving and doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

I could give you a pencil and the chances that you’d write something with it are high, but I have no idea. Maybe you’ll chew it. Maybe you’ll draw on the table. Maybe you’ll throw it across the room. Maybe you’ll break it into tiny pieces and fashion a miniature beaver dam.

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The possibilities are endless, and that’s what I love about this work.

I give you tools, show you how to use them, and guide you through the process. Then you do the work, and see what arises. If you have a breakthrough, it comes from you and your life, your passion, your abilities – not some magic pill I conjured up for you.

That’s what I offer. A process that grows and changes depending on who is using it, when they use it, and how they use it. A process that I think is kick-ass, and which usually leads to insights, aha moments and shifts in perspective. It’s like a chemistry experiment: powerful things are bound to happen, but it’s impossible to predict exactly what.

That’s why we experiment: to find out what will happen. No guarantees, no promises, no bullshit.


Want to work on your own manifesto? Come to my free workshop on June 14! 

Living in an alternate world

I am a big fan of speculative fiction — and I could easily write a long, long post about the rabbit hole of internet fascinations that appear when you google that term — but long story short, it’s because books and films and television set in another world or time give us a chance to step out of our actual lives and engage our imaginations. When we do that, we open up to possibilities in our present, actual world that we could not see before.

“God damn you all to hell!”

Or, as TV Tropes eloquently puts it:

One of the greatest strengths of Sci-Fi and Fantasy is that they can convey real-life situations in a new context by showing everyday problems, humanity’s greatest challenges, and even social commentary that’s ostensibly free of the prejudices and preconceptions that weigh them down in Real Life, giving us a more detached view of a given problem… as if we were aliens visiting Earth, or rather Earthlings visiting World of Weirdness.

In a way, it’s similar to why I got into acting when I was a kid. I was shy, but when I stepped onstage I could step into another persona (for instance: this one), and access parts of myself that had previously been unknown. That’s something any actor does: they put on a costume and do their hair and step into a heightened space, and become someone else for a while. I think this is something we could all benefit from doing.

In fact, we all do it a little bit: we get a radical haircut to jumpstart a big change in life, we apply darker, bolder makeup for going out at night, or we step into one persona for work, and then another one when we get home and change out of our work clothes.

I thought it would be fun to take this a step further, to stretch our brains and bodies and see what might be hanging around in our unconscious. So on Sunday I’m leading a workshop exploring alternate worlds and alternate lives. We’ll draw pictures of our alter egos, imagine our superhero and supervillain selves (and more importantly, their outfits), recreate/revise a seminal moment from our past, create a new world, and apply sci fi tropes like “gone horribly right” or “the [adjectival] man” to our personal lives.

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I am very curious to find out what happens. It raises so many questions and I can’t wait to see how we answer them on our feet: if you could invent a new world, what would it look like? What keeps us from inventing that world now? What can you learn by embodying your opposite self? What can you learn by embodying your worst or best traits, by taking them to their furthest extreme? If you changed one thing in your past, what else might change?

Come by and find out with me! Details are here.

How to Fail, part 2

We had our workshop last Sunday and it was a great success. Meaning, we failed fantastically. Here are some of the things we did – and good news, you can try these at home.

WORST FEET FORWARD

We picked our least favorite body part, and instead of hiding it, we drew attention to it. (Interestingly, for most people the body part of choice was their belly. I know for me, it felt cathartic to stick my belly out instead of sucking it in, to take pride in its softness). Try this when you’re walking around your house by yourself – emphasize the body part you usually hide, and see how it feels to show it off.

I APOLOGIZE

We apologized to the group for everything we had done wrong this week, big or small.

I think this exercise is especially powerful for the ladies. If you’re a strong, smart woman, I bet you spend a lot of energy stopping yourself from apologizing. It’s good to stem the tide of reflexive apology, but it’s also nice to give yourself room to go the other way. Clearly we have a great need to apologize, so why not get it out of the way? Apologize for everything, even if it’s not your fault! Apologize profusely, apologize way too much, apologize from the bottom of your heart.

To do this on your own, try this: get some paper and write down everything you did wrong this week. Made the coffee too weak? Forgot to call your Mom back? Snapped at your partner? Felt like the vibe at work was weird and maybe it was because of something you did? Write it all down. You can use this format if it helps:

I apologize for _____.

I [wasn’t thinking / didn’t prepare / got angry…] and I [messed up / bungled the presentation / hurt your feelings…].

I apologize about that.  

When you’ve filled up a page, read them out loud. Add in “I am so, so, so, so sorry” or “please forgive me” when/if appropriate.   Then rip it out and throw it away. You’re done! Apology accepted.

BAD POETRY

We wrote bad poetry, which included odes to phlegm, folding chairs, red leather chaps and the winning entry:

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If you want to write bad poetry, it’s easy: pick a thing (could be something abstract like love, or mundane like a granola bar). Write ODE TO [THING] at the top of a sheet of paper. Now write the worst poem you can about that thing.

Some techniques to try: bad rhymes, going on way too long or not long enough, stating the obvious, reveling in self-indulgence, making bad jokes, using “I” as much as possible, dragging a metaphor into the ground… there are SO MANY WAYS! Start and find out what your personal worst is.

BIG PROBLEMS / STUPID SOLUTIONS

We brainstormed stupid solutions to big problems, like racism, climate change and feeding hungry kids.

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You can try this too, with either a big global problem or a problem in your life. Pick the problem, set the timer for 5 minutes, and come up with as many dumb solutions as you can.

Here’s an example from my life: a problem I’m experiencing lately is how to get my 19-month-old son to sleep at night. Here are some stupid solutions:

  • I could write a 5-page essay on the merits of sleep and read it aloud to my son
  • I could perform an interpretive dance every night called “Bed Time”
  • I could walk outside in the middle of the night and cry to the heavens, “WHY?!!!!”
  • When he wakes up in the middle of the night, I could just cry with him
  • I could give him a shot of whiskey [remember, these are STUPID solutions, not things I would actually do!]
  • I could play him these ‘power of positive thinking’ tapes someone gave me
  • I could find a boring financial podcast and play that on repeat
  • I could post a question about it on facebook [full disclosure, I know this is a stupid solution because I have done it]
  • I could make flyers that say HELP ME GET MY SON TO SLEEP and post them around town with my phone number

You get the idea.

FALLING

We practiced falling, and then practiced doing a big confident walk across the room with a spectacular fall in the middle.

If you want to fall right, here’s how: count to ten, and do a slow motion fall so you’re on the ground by the time you get to ten. Then count back from ten to one, and get back up on your feet in slow motion.

Do it again, but with a five-count. Now do it to a count of 3. Look at that! You’re falling!

BAD ELEVATOR SPEECH

We ended the workshop with super awkward, meandering, oddly confrontational elevator speeches.

Want to try? Imagine someone you deeply want to impress. Someone you would love to meet and get a chance to talk to – maybe it’s a leader in your field, or the boss of your boss, or the hot guy you keep seeing around town.

Now imagine that you walk into an elevator in a building, and GET OUT OF TOWN. They are standing right there. Now is your chance!

Imagine what you would like to say to them in the two minutes you have in the elevator – the words you would use, the way your body would move, how they’d look at you.

Now stand in front of a mirror, and do the opposite of that.

Say exactly what you would NOT like to say, using words that you would not like to use, doing things with your body that are embarrassing or awkward or weird, and imagine their face looking back at you in horror.

Bonus round: do your best confident walk, and say the best version of your elevator speech, but halfway through launch your spectacular fall.

There! Doesn’t it feel good to get all that out of your system?


Hey! Want to work some of these ideas out in person? I’m available to do one-on-one sessions, or you can hire me to lead a workshop for your organization!