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Sarah Lee

By Megan | October 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

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,

Megan

The Gift In Unwanted Adventures

By Megan | September 11, 2015 | 0 Comments
What unwelcome adventure challenged you to become a better version of yourself?
For me, it was my time living and working in The Big Apple. The photo above shows me on my first day as a Manhattanite. Think that’s a shot of a savvy, collected woman about to start her new life? Think again.

I snapped this photo after my first visit to Macy’s in Times Square. It was noisy, crowded, and completely overwhelming. After less than 24 hours in New York City—a place I’d never thought I’d live—I wanted to get the hell out.

You see, that’s my instinct when I’m WAY outside my comfort zone: To quit. To run. To get as far away from the uncomfortable situation as possible. In other words: I head straight back inside my comfort zone where less learning and growth are possible.

In Accomplishment Coaching, we say people do one of three things when confronted with a huge challenge: attack, suffer or quit. We do these things to protect ourselves. We don’t see how it is possible to persist, and so we go back to what we know—even if it doesn’t serve us.

But what’s possible if we learn to be with our emotions in a confronting situation? If we can notice what we’re feeling and choose to stay right where we are?

For me, incredible growth was possible. A year later—after countless more confronting moments in the city–I knew myself to be a more powerful person. I knew I could create what I needed to thrive, more openly express and own my emotion (ever tried to find a private place to cry in Manhattan?), and manifest opportunities for artistic expression. I better understood the BIG things I was capable of because I stayed put!

What do you do when you’re confronted? Do you attack, suffer or quit? And what are you missing by allowing this to be your M.O.? Closer relationships with those who support and love you? The ability to understand your emotions and heal completely? New insight about your power and potential? An opportunity to re-create a relationship?

Take a second and think back to some of the most difficult situations you experienced—situations where you stayed in the game. Was the gradient of learning equal to the gradient of pain?*

While it’s not easy, it’s immensely valuable and a noble pursuit to learn to be with our emotions when we feel challenged. Wondering where to start? Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Figure out if you attack, suffer or quit. Where have you seen that come up in your life? Where is it coming up now?
  2. Notice when the urge to “do that thing you always do” comes up and acknowledge it. It’s not bad—it just means there’s a new challenge! You are on the edge of your comfort zone.
  3. Give yourself permission to feel all the emotions: Fear, sadness, anger, resentment and many other feelings are a natural response to pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.  And these emotions are excellent teachers.
  4. Seek support from friends, family and your coach: Dare to be fully authentic and share exactly where you’re at. You are digging into this situation in service of a breakthrough—a new way of being that can allow you to have something that is currently inaccessible. This is also a great opportunity to ask for exactly what you need. Do you want more hugs, a home cooked meal, space, or something else?
  5. Decide not to stop: This is a choice point. Will you declare that you’re going to push past your normal limits in service of something more?
  6. Actively imagine the possibilities you can create from this new place: Write out the lessons that you might learn from this situation and your emotions. Where is this situation guiding you? What huge things are possible if you persist in the unknown and allow yourself to be fully present there?

Our limits and our triggers highlight some of our biggest areas for growth. To be with them fully is an incredible opportunity to step into your greatness.

Be present, beautiful friends!

With lots of love and happy feet,

Megan

*This addresses personal confrontation about things we find challenging, not situations relating to physical or emotional abuse. If you are in one of these situations, please seek professional help as soon as possible.

How to Turn Personal Goals Into a Team Effort

By Megan | September 4, 2015 | 2 Comments

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,

Megan

A Whirlwind Love Affair (Disaster)

By Megan | July 24, 2015 | 0 Comments


Our email this week starts like many of the best (and worst) stories—with a whirlwind love affair.

A month ago, I met a man that lit me up—he was romantic, engaging, and affectionate, and we shared many of the same life experiences. Less than five days after our first date, he asked me to be his girlfriend and I tentatively agreed to commit to him. While my intuition told me to take it slow and be careful, my passion insisted I go full steam ahead.

Following my passion, I rushed into something that wasn’t quite right. Unfortunately, that energy didn’t create fireworks, but instead a nuclear meltdown.

As I sat with and processed the pain of my breakup, I received several serendipitous tidbits from my colleagues in the coaching community. My favorite was this message from Christine Hassler:

“Open your heart, but do not let your brains fall out.”

Passion is an important part of life—it can add zest, energy and drive to situations ranging from starting a company to starting a relationship. However, when passion is not balanced with intuition, it can cause trouble.

People say passion is blind. Without our inner knowing to steer the energy of passion, we may find ourselves running in the wrong direction.

As I processed my experience, I also noticed the role of fear in the situation—fear that if I didn’t agree to commit to this man that I would lose him.

So I began to think more about how to distinguish passion, fear and intuition, and how to leverage them to make the best decision possible in the future. The starting point, I realized, was to train myself to distinguish between them.

What did each one feel like? How much energy did each contain? What visuals or colors did I associate with them? Where did they reside in my body?

When I looked at my recent experience, here is what I distinguished:

Intuition: A whole-body sense of knowing; calm, persistent energy; colors: green, blue and orange
What my intuition said about this situation: Don’t rush it. See where this goes. Allow this to flow and enjoy the love you are experiencing.

Fear: A feeling in my heart and head; low energy; feels like dread, a blockage or like I’m about to fall off a high platform; color: black
What my fear said about this situation: Commit now or you will lose this man forever. Don’t be honest with him about how you feel or exactly where you’re at.

Passion: High energy; urgency; lives in my chest and my stomach; senseless momentum or direction; feels red
What my passion said about this situation: You are falling in love with this person. You must go all in!

When you learn to recognize the difference between intuition, fear and passion, you can decide where you want to choose from. You can also choose the leverage the best of all three—the excitement of passion, the peace of intuition, and the courage required to face a fear.

Had I put myself at choice, I would not have made a decision to commit. Instead, I would have listened to the little voice that suggested I take my time. Coming from a place of honesty and authenticity, I could have shared with this man how I felt about him, the reservations and fears I had, and the vision for what I thought was possible. I might even have enrolled him in a plan to relax into the relationship and wait until we could make a decision to be together from a place of absolute peace, trust and freedom.

Looking back, I have no regrets. In fact, I believe this heartbreak and its ensuing insight made me better prepared to find the love of my life. Sometimes, we don’t know why people or opportunities come to us until later on. I believe this was an important stepping stone in my love journey.

So, dear reader, where will you choose to come from in your decisions this week? And, if you have any insights about the differences between fear, passion, and intuition, please send them along!

With lots of love and happy feet,

Megan

Be the Leading Lady

By Megan | July 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

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,

Megan

Whatever You Can Imagine Can Happen

By Megan | June 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

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.

Here’s why:

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,

Megan

When did failure become a bad thing?

By Megan | June 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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,

Megan

 

Why You Should Trust Your Intuition

By Megan | June 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

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.

A Hard Week And An Honest Email

By Megan | May 25, 2015 | 2 Comments

vulnerabilityDear Readers,

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:

At Work:

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.