After four days on Africa’s highest mountain, we were nearly at the summit. Somewhere over 15,000 feet, I collapsed into my sleeping bag for four hours’ rest before the final push to the top of Kilimanjaro. I checked my resting heart rate: 175 bpm–a level I normally achieved only through my hardest workouts.
So how did I–someone with no mountaineering experience–end up here?
While volunteering in Kenya in 2009, I became fed up–fed up with running out of food, fed up with the sand flies that bit me constantly, and fed up with being on an itty bitty island in the Indian Ocean. So, I decided to take a short vacation. And, because I wanted cooler weather and some exercise, I thought I’d climb Kilimanjaro.
I’ll let you process that for a moment.
Yes, this was honestly the extent of my consideration, simply because I knew so little about the mountain.
It wasn’t until my expedition was booked that I borrowed a fellow volunteer’s guidebook to climbing Kili. And, over the next few days, I became progressively more terrified. One of the Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro stood 19,341 feet high and had a summit success rate of just 66%. I had never hiked above 9,000 feet, had asthma, and was terribly out of shape from sitting around for three months eating chapati. Yet, somehow, I was about to take on this mountain.
Indeed, climbing Kilimanjaro was one of the easiest decisions I ever made…but only because I had no idea what I was getting into.
This post is not about my climb, however, so you don’t need the details (although I will say I made it to the top! Hooray!). All you need to know are these two things:
1.) Reaching the summit of that mountain was one of the top three experiences of my life and
2.) Had I understood what I was doing when I signed up, I might not have done it at all.
How does that sit with you? Are you missing out on something that could be the best experience of your life–climbing a mountain, starting a business, or asking out that person you’ve had a crush on for the last five years–out of fear?
Well, I get it, but I won’t affirm your choice to stay in that idle realm of non-possibility. It simply won’t reap the meaningful experience (not to mention potential rewards!) of action.
It’s true that, most of the time, we are more aware of what a huge challenge will entail and fear is a natural result. So how do we overcome our fear in service of becoming more awesome?
Climbing Kilimanjaro taught me that avoiding a desired experience out of fear is not an option. So, I have intentionally developed effective ways to deal with the stress and anxiety that come with big, juicy goals (like quitting an awesome job to pursue my dreams or performing in front of lots of people!).
Here are my techniques:
I outline my plan: Coaching taught me how to clearly define my goals, as well as their related action items. By breaking down my big ambitions into manageable chunks and setting deadlines, I have a clear path to success and can take those scary first steps. Often, our survival mechanisms sabotage our efforts even before we start. One of my most present survival mechanisms is to freeze and do nothing (except perhaps complaining about my current situation)! By outlining my plan, I can shift into movement. I work with my clients to do this, as well and am so inspired by the progress they make once the path is clear.
I turn to my support network: I need friends, family, and my network of fellow visionaries to keep me moving. Most importantly, I work with my life coaches to build and execute my vision. My coaches are the people who most embrace possibility, support me without a subconscious or conscious agenda of their own, get excited about my big ideas, and nurture my dreams in a positive and loving way.
I write out my fears every day: For eight years, I let my fears sabotage my dreams. Now, I am often still present to those fears. Rather than letting them stop me, however, I get them out on paper. Immediately after waking, I write three pages in stream-of-consciousness fashion (as taught in The Artist’s Way). What comes out on that page is often ugly–my concerns, my limiting beliefs, the worst-case scenarios, profanity, my urge to quit. However, by the time I finish writing, I have often found answers to my pressing questions and feel a catharsis that makes moving forward possible.
I clear: Throughout the day, additional concerns sometimes emerge that make it difficult for me to focus on my work or my clients. To stay present (and thus be my most productive and best self!), I use an exercise I learned through my Accomplishment Coaching program. Clearing allows me to define my fears, concerns or complaints, as well as my judgments around these things. Finally, I put them back into context. In this way, I gain perspective on those runaway thoughts that make life feel out of control.
Fear is not a reason to postpone our goals and dreams. It is an opportunity to evaluate our situation, find our limitations and then develop the practices and call on the team we need to push through.
If we are to reach our goals, we must show up despite our fear. Potential lies in the space of uncertainty.
As a result, you may end up running your own business, finding an amazing romantic partner or hiking just a few feet away from Africa’s last glaciers. And, much like the view from the top of Kilimanjaro, the result may be even more beautiful than you anticipated.
Each choice we make can build our power or drain it. I saw this play out last weekend at my team coaching workshop in Washington, DC.
On Sunday, half the group trickled in late. Being the insightful coaches we are, we saw an opportunity. Instead of arguing about the rules or allowing ourselves to feel annoyed or resentful, we asked the bigger question: “What should we show up early for? What is arriving on time in service of?”
The answer: Being in our full power.
Have you ever noticed what happens when you show up late for a meeting or appointment? Does your heart pump faster? Do you feel edgy? Are you more focused on what other people are thinking than what’s going on around you?
By arriving late, we create a power leak that detracts from our ability to be fully present and to make our most significant contribution.
Power leaks show up in many different forms. Some may include:
-Eating unhealthy foods that make you crash mid-day
-Investing time in toxic relationships
-Extensively dwelling on the “how,” rather than taking action
-Staying up late drinking when you wanted to wake up early and work out
Check in: Do your choices and your lifestyle support your goals in business, relationships, self-care and other areas?
If the answer is “no” and you’re ready to step into your full power, here’s what I recommend:
1. Write down all the power leaks you see in your life
2. Journal about what would be possible if you could cut them out
3. Design practices for this week that minimize or eliminate each leak you identified
4. Enroll your friends, your coach, or other support networks in keeping you accountable
In this way, you can best set yourself up for success.
Now go get ’em! And have a great weekend!
With lots of love and happy feet,
You know those people who make you take a second look at your life?
Sarah Lee Parker Mansare is one of them. She’s a powerhouse of a woman who created a unique career teaching African dance, leading trips to Guinea with her husband Mamady, and otherwise sharing African culture at every other possible moment.
I took African classes with Sarah Lee in Seattle when I lived there from 2004-2010 and traveled with her to Guinea in 2014.
In the interview below, Sarah Lee shares her experience as a woman of possibility, a cultural ambassador and the founder of One World Dance & Drum (OWDD).
Megan: What most inspires you about teaching African dance and leading trips?
Sarah Lee: In the same way that diversity in genetics serves a species, diversity in thought serves humanity. Most everything we do with OWDD is about opening people up to new ideas, new ways of being, and the culture of Guinea. My experiences in Guinea continue to give me new perspective on community, family, God, money, responsibility and satisfaction. I’m most inspired when I see Westerners engage with this diversity and walk away with a new perspective. I’ve had a huge number of people say traveling to Africa was their most life-alternating and transformational experience.
Megan: How did you move from your day job to full time entrepreneur?
Sarah Lee: It was little by little. I liked my day job, and I organically found more and more opportunities to teach African dance and share African culture. When I saw it was possible to make my living this way, I made my passion my full time job.
Megan: What most surprises people who visit Guinea?
Sarah Lee: People are really surprised by how happy and generous Guineans are—that they have so little, but they’re willing to share. They’re also surprised that life there seems simpler and that they often find themselves happier.
Megan: What do you wish you’d know about entrepreneurship when you started out?
Sarah Lee: I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. I just wanted to make a difference for people in the world. I believe entrepreneurship is way more empowering and successful when you’re led by something you’re committed to. It’s not something I did to make a bunch of money or be free of a boss. When I’m in touch with my commitment, everything in my business is more enjoyable, fulfilling and effective.
Megan: What has been your biggest mistake? And what was the lesson learned?
Sarah Lee: Trying to do everything myself. In the years I’ve enrolled a team to support me, I’ve felt more present to my purpose, happier, and more focused.
Megan: What has been your biggest win? And what was the lesson learned?
Sarah Lee: My biggest win is sticking with this work over time. I tend to be a passionate, go-for-it person who expects fast results. Running One World Dance & Drum is different. It grows at its own pace and evolves organically. Because I am so committed to what we do, I’ve allowed myself to shift. I can watch the business unfold, while staying present to my greater commitment to change people’s lives. It’s this way that I’ve created a life full of incredibly meaningful work and relationships.
Readers, what do you hear in this interview for yourselves? What ideas can you apply to your own life?
A special thanks to Sarah Lee for the incredible work that she does and her participation in this interview! If you’d like to know more about OWDD, click here. If you’d like to travel to Guinea in December, January, or February click here.
With lots of love and happy feet,
When undertaking any personal or professional venture, our amount of accountability and support must be greater than our resistance. Resistance can show up as fear, waning willpower, procrastination or anything else that sabotages our efforts. To reach our goals, we must break through it.
The facts show it’s not easy: Roughly 90 percent of startup businesses fail and, as most of us know from past New Year’s resolutions, personal commitments are often equally as tenuous.
To set ourselves up to succeed in any goal, we need more than just a plan–we need a carefully enrolled team.
In his recent TED Talk, entrepreneur Derek Sivers shared how disclosing your goals with others may actually prevent you from achieving them. So how do you create a team without sabotaging your efforts?
I recommend you take two steps:
1) Brainstorm your dream team and each person’s role
2) Enroll them in your efforts
Brainstorming Your Team
Think about one of your big goals–something that seems scary, exciting or outside of your comfort zone. Now, make a list of at least 10 people you know who can be a resource for you. Here’s a few examples if you’re starting a business (the names below are invented):
- My mom: Moral support & encouragement
- Charlie: Legal advice
- Sara: Marketing tips
- Audrey: Advice on how to set up an LLC
- Gene: Communications tips & email list setup
- Sam: Web design
- George: Introductions to venture capitalists
- My neighbor: Pick up the mail when I’m out of town for business meetings
- My life coach: Accountability toward my goals and working out stuff that gets in the way
And here’s a few examples for a personal goal of losing 20 pounds:
- Audrey: My running partner
- Bethany: Nutrition advice
- Michael: Teach me how to prepare nutritious meals
- Personal trainer: Holds me accountable and creates tailored workouts
- Boyfriend: Plans athletic weekend activities
- Best friend: Personal encouragement and can remind me to stay healthy when we’re out on the town
In this way, you can develop a plan for how to be supported and know what request to make of each person. This is also a great way to identify if there is any additional support you will need. If there is a gap, identify someone who can fill it.
Enrolling Your Teammates
Rather than simply sharing your idea, enroll each person in your vision and the role you’d like them to play. Tell them why you have this goal and why it’s important to you, and request their support. A key part of this process is sharing how they can benefit, too–Is it a thank you gift? Payment for their services? Will you send referrals their way? Will you be an accountability partner for them in their unique goals, too?
By sharing our vision with others in this way, we can harness the power of team and create the support to overcome our resistance.
So here are some questions for your long weekend: What value do you see in enrolling a team in your big goal? Where do you currently resist team? What would be possible if you were fully supported?
Wishing you a lovely long weekend!
With lots of love and happy feet,
Last Saturday, I walked into a small Thai restaurant in Manhattan to meet my friend Skye Bronfenbrenner for dinner. Catching up with this gorgeous, energetic, and wildly talented woman dedicated to her acting career is always one of my favorite parts of visiting New York.
Skye was already at our table when I arrived. As I approached, I perceived something new in her—a quiet refinement and confidence.
“I have amazing news to share,” she said as I sat down. “I just got my first leading role.”
Previously, Skye’s experience was the all-too-familiar story of many New York City-based actors. She’d worked a couple national tours as a chorus member, but often found herself with long stretches of time in between shows. During these months, she’d work a job to pay the bills while squeezing in as many auditions as possible.
After her most recent tour, however, Skye’s mother shared some critical advice:
“If you don’t start treating yourself like a leading lady, no one else will.”
For years, Skye considered herself a chorus member because that’s what people told her she could be. At auditions, she looked and acted like the other women trying out for the chorus: she donned curly hair and a sun dress and sang standard audition pieces.
Even though Skye deeply desired leading roles, her state of being got in the way.
Skye knew she mother was right and (to her mother’s surprise) even said so. She applied this feedback immediately and took a new approach. For auditions, she pulled her hair into a tight bun, put on her finest pencil skirt and blouse, and sang whatever made her feel amazing. She also committed to attending more auditions than ever, dedicating herself to the belief that she would land a leading role.
Skye changed her way of being and quickly realized that, when she showed up powerfully, that is exactly how she was perceived.
Within just a few weeks, Skye was receiving more call backs than ever before. She also felt a renewed excitement and empowerment about her career. This was an amazing breakthrough for her. All it took for her to create a new reality, she realized, was to choose a new way of being and act according.
Once she made this commitment, change happened surprisingly fast.
Not long after, Skye turned down an offer for the national tour of Mama Mia to accept a job as the lead actress in It’s A Wonderful Life (you can see her at The Fireside Theatre in Wisconsin from October 29th-December 27th).
So here are the questions for you, my dear readers (and please let me know your answers!): Who are you being in your relationship to your goals? How is your way of being accelerating you or holding you back from your dreams? Who could you be if you completely trusted in your greatness?
Are you ready to shift into possibility and own your power? If so, make the leap. As cliff jumper and writer Ray Bradbury said,
“Go to the edge and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.”
Have faith, take a deep breath, and–like Skye–launch yourself into a new reality.
With lots of love and happy feet,
In my former life, I was a journalist—a job I loved because it gave me an intimate look into people’s lives.
Over several years, I had the honor to hear and share many incredible stories. I wrote about a man who transitioned from a life of poverty to CEO of a multi-million dollar social enterprise, a woman who researched neurology at Harvard after a childhood in the Middle East where she could not study science, and many others.
The takeaway from these tales was this: Whatever you can imagine can happen—even if you have no idea how.
As I started my dance and coaching business from scratch, I thought a lot about these amazing people and wondered about how my own life would unfold. I also realized I wanted to have a more active role in designing the outcome.
Through a practice I’ll share with you today, I gave myself the opportunity to do just that.
This practice of writing a Future Story was so effective that I continue to use it to this day. Whenever I work with clients on setting goals (or begin working on a new goal of my own), this Future Story is a critical first step.
The Path Becomes Clear: Sometimes we want something so badly that our minds become cloudy or we become overwhelmed when we try to imagine it. By creating a clear vision, we prepare ourselves to move in the right direction (and often reach our goals sooner than we thought!). We can also more easily recognize our successes when we reach them.
It keeps you going when the goin’ gets tough: Anytime you build something new, there are setbacks. When you feel discouraged, reading your beautiful Future Story and feeling fully present to the new life you are creating can raise your morale and restore your motivation.
Your vision allows people to rally behind you: When you have a big, beautiful goal for your life that aligns with who you are, people can sense your enthusiasm and your clarity. In fact, it’s contagious. By knowing where you’re headed, you can also be clear on the kind of support you want. How would you like your parents to support your vision? Your best friend? Your roommates? Your Future Story allows these people to be informed allies.
You have a guide for decision-making: By getting in touch with the new reality, you can identify the choices that will take you closer to your goals: Does accepting that new job offer in Michigan align with your goal to be a globe-trotting entrepreneur? As motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
Are you ready to write your own Future Story? It’s simple!
Step 1: Choose a measurable goal and a hard deadline (preferably a year or more from now). Do you want to land a big promotion? Teach your first class in Paris? Book your first solo vacation to the Bahamas?
Step 2: Write about the day that your goal is complete. Are you sitting in your new office? Unwinding with a glass of pinot noir after your workshop in France? Sitting on a gorgeous Bahama beach drinking a pina colada? Write about everything you are experiencing in the moment—what you see, what you feel, who is with you, what you are present to. Challenge yourself to write a whole page and make this vision feel as real as possible.
Step 3: Hang it up somewhere you can see it (and share it with me if you’re inspired to)!
As I mentioned, this is one of the most important steps I use in a goal-setting process. To quote the famous feminist journalist Gloria Steinem:
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”
Have questions or want to know more about Future Stories or the goal-setting process? Just let me know!
With lots of love and happy feet,
When did failure become a bad thing? Was it when we entered school and heard about the dreaded “F”? Or when we missed that shot in our first soccer game? For most of us, there was a moment (or several) when we decided failure was something scary, negative and better avoided.
As a coach, I often see people resist failure–and particularly failure related to the things they care about most. When you are committed to something you deeply love–whether it’s a hobby that lights you up, your dream job or taking care of your family–failure stings more deeply and becomes more terrifying.
And, yet, we miss out on so much if we play it safe!
When I started my business, I had a serious wake-up call. If I wanted to grow beyond my current capacities, I would need to put myself out there in a new way. This surely meant I would fail–probably often, and most likely daily. To thrive, I knew I needed to adopt a different perspective. Once I did, failure became less intimidating (and sometimes even a little fun!).
If you’re ready to make big shifts in your life, check out my top recommendations for overcoming resistance to failure:
- Keep it in perspective: Failure is a natural result of action, and action is key to success. If you experienced failure this week, I want to congratulate you! Great work! If you didn’t–why not? What have you been unwilling to try that could be your next step to success? There’s a reason “Fail Faster” became a catchphrase in the Silicon Valley. We learn from each experience.
- Make Failure a Game: In this TED talk, Jane McGonigal speaks about turning goals into games. By creating a culture of play in our challenges, we can eliminate the intensity and seriousness that takes joy out of building something new. I try to fail 10 times each day. I set this goal to encourage myself to try more awesome things, speak to more interesting people, and implement new and potentially rewarding strategies with less resistance. This mindset allows me to own failure, rather than letting failure own me.
- Don’t let failure mean anything about you: Often, failure stings because we take it personally. When you feel this all-too-familiar twinge, ask yourself “What am I making this mean?” The answer may surprise you. In the past, I’ve let failure mean that I was a bad coach, unlovable, or a disappointment to my family. Once I understood these beliefs, I was able to see them for what they were–stories that were simply not true.
- Celebrate your failures (and successes!) with a trusted contact each week: Both failure and success are signs of action–a critical component for creation! Reward yourself for your efforts, and consider what you learned. Ask yourself: What did failure allow me to access this week that I could not have accessed otherwise? I suggest tracking lessons learned so that you can revisit them as you move forward. This is a great way to refine your strategy for success, as well as to track your progress.
If you are failing, you are doing something right. Embrace your experience, learn from each move and have faith in your abilities as a powerful creator. Oh, and don’t forget to smile 🙂
Embrace the Adventure,
To prepare for this post, I researched reflections, scientific studies and musings about intuition. My assessment? Go with your gut. Here are a few reasons why:
1. People out there take intuition seriously: The U.S. Navy studied it, Myers Briggs incorporates it into its popular personality testing used at top business schools, and Steve Jobs says it’s “more powerful than intellect.” Indeed, there’s a lot of potential value in using your intuition. For instance…
2. Intuition allows you to access the power of your unconscious mind: You’re more observant than you think. Throughout the day, your unconscious mind takes in thousands of bits of data, including sounds, smells, body language, and information on our interactions with the world and people around us. This data is not stored or available to us on a conscious level, however it’s available to our unconscious mind to guide us. Dr. Massimo Pigliucci—Professor of Philosophy at CUNY-City College, co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast, and the editor in chief for the online magazine Scientia Salon—put this beautifully in a blog post for Tufts University.
“Rather than being opposed to each other, intuition and rationality are strictly interdependent,” he wrote.
Indeed, some people attribute Isaac Newton’s big breakthrough on the universal law of gravitation to his intuition after he saw an apple fall from a tree. If it worked for Newton, it can work for us, too.
3. Following your intuition is a practice in living in possibility: When we let go of our need to control or to understand the why, we allow more space for creativity, peace, opportunity, and dancing in the moment. If we go with our intuition and commit to make the most of the situations that arise, we learn to be fully present creators. Often, when we commit to achieving something bigger—something beyond our knowing or what we have done before—we are not sure how to create it. The how is not up to us. We must simply listen to intuition, decide, take action and watch how things unfold. Often, opportunities arise that we never could have imagined.
Vulnerability: where do you feel vulnerable right now?
For me, writing this email was a lesson in vulnerability. This week was extremely confronting–a family I love suffered a terrible loss, I jumped from part-time work into full-time entrepreneurship, and I prepared to open a new venue in Washington, DC. I faced a lot of uncertainty and many different emotions, including fear, grief, joy, gratitude, and inspiration.
When I sat down to write this email, I realized I wanted to appear a certain way, rather than be vulnerable and authentic. And yet, in recent months, I’ve learned that vulnerability can foster one of two things. By running from vulnerability, we isolate ourselves. By opening to it, we build our bonds with others.
In the last few months, I’ve chosen to get messy with vulnerability–to get in the ring and duke it out when necessary–and I’d like to share a few short (and humbling) stories of the results:
When I decided to quit my job, I dreaded telling my coworkers. I thought they would feel betrayed and angry. Instead, when I shared the news, my boss asked, “How can we support you?” Each person in the office understood my need to follow my dreams. And, once I was completely open with them, I felt my relationship with my colleagues flourish. In this case, vulnerability gave me access to authenticity and the space to pursue my calling.
With My Friends:
Death often intimidates me. As an empath, the sorrow I feel in the people left behind can be overwhelming. When I heard the news of my friend’s son’s passing, I wasn’t sure if I should reach out. What if the family felt I was intruding? What if they wanted to be alone? What if I cried during the visit and it seemed inappropriate? Instead, they welcomed the support from me and other friends. At their home, we met the extended family and were inspired by their love, strength, and openness. In this case, my vulnerability allowed me to serve my friend in his time of need and to grow closer to him.
With My Family:
As I prepared to leave my job this week, I had a tense conversation with my mom. I noticed I was short with her. I noticed I felt angry at her for no reason. I noticed I did not want to share all of the hopes and fears I had about my work. Instead of digging in my heels, however, I allowed myself to get vulnerable in an email:
“This adaption period is rough,” I said. “If I ever sound like a bitch, call me on it. Tell me to get real. Ask me to be honest with you about how I’m feeling. I may get angry or I may cry–those are both important parts of my processing right now. I know my coping mechanisms are to get passive aggressive or hide what I’m doing. Obviously, neither of those works well for our family or for my business. Thanks for understanding and for being as committed to my dream as I am. It means a lot to know that you are on my side.”
By getting vulnerable, I was able to enlist my dearest support network (my family) in my transition. Rather than reinforcing negative patterns of communication, I introduced a new level of intimacy. The result? Beautiful words of encouragement from both my parents.
So many times, we resign to make the journey into the unknown alone. But why? We fiercely protect our independence at the expense of the opportunity to transform our closest relationships.
As Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.” She’s right–whether it’s in love, our career, our self-care, or any other area of our lives.
So, let’s come back to the original question: Where do you feel vulnerable right now? This weekend, I invite you to consider the following questions.
What does it look like when I am scared to be vulnerable? (In other words, what do you do or how do you act when things feel out of control?)
What are the benefits of avoiding vulnerability?
What are the drawbacks?
What would be possible if I could put my fear aside?
When you study and nurture your vulnerability, you find your largest areas for growth. When you learn to work with your vulnerability, you can create a new reality.