It could be different. Anything. Everything.
And also, wouldn’t it be more interesting to find out rather than just to wonder?
This is what happens when you spend an incredibly full day going back and forth across town, going to meetups on radically different topics and having conversations with all sorts of people you’ve never met before. You don’t have the time or attention span to focus on any one of the quotidian annoyances that normally eat your mental bandwidth. Instead you’re just learning and listening.
Then it strikes you, hey. Things could be different.
Talked to a guy today who found out in mid-meetup that he had been laid off from his day job. (Probably specifically because he dared to use his vacation time? That’s my guess). Not only did he seem quite relieved and perked up by this sudden news... within minutes he had a startup idea going with a couple of guys he just met. “WDS magic,” someone called out. Boom, different slipstream.
Here was my day.
Opening party. Not my jam. It’s a field day/gym class theme. Are you kidding us with this? I felt that I Don’t Want To Go and that That’s Fine and that I Would Be Cold Anyway and that We Really Need the Sleep. I even told people that we wouldn’t meet later because [I am a boring naysayer]. Then I found out that my roommate/lawfully wedded husband totally planned to go. We had dinner and headed up there. I was physically shaking with cold.
Then... It was warmer over on that end of town for some reason. THEN... we walked into the stadium and... there were a ton of cool toys scattered around. I realized that my absolute social dread/threshold anxiety/lack of interest/major emotional baggage from 80’s gym class had vaporized in the presence of all these hula hoops.
You know what’s fun? When you can teach something exciting to someone else who is really curious about it, and then watch their face transform with wonder and delight as they realize they are actually doing it! First, another lady taught me a new hula hoop trick. I made half a dozen super dorky looking failed attempts. Then... I DID IT! I was running around spinning a hula hoop around my foot and laughing like a loon when I looked up, and there was my husband, staring at me. I know he’ll never replace me with a younger woman because I’m quite childish enough to remind him what that’s like... After that, I spied another woman my age, her eyes as round as saucers. She said she had never been able to hula hoop before in her life, and “Now I can’t stop!” I knew precisely how she felt. I couldn’t spin a hula hoop until I was 35, and when I finally learned how, at a friend’s baby shower, I came straight home and demanded that we go directly to the toy store. That was really my entry into fitness, and what led me to the marathon. Anyway, I seized the opportunity and taught her how to spin two at once. On her first try, she did it about five times longer than I did. Contagious joy.
I finally found a fun way to move my body that interested and challenged me, something that felt silly and lively. Something I wish we had had in P.E. There are so many of us who need this!
Then I found another woman who taught me the steps to get into a headstand. (One of my bucket list “extremely specific physical goals”). I can balance my knees on my elbows and sort of get my legs in the air. It feels like, if I keep trying this every day, soon I’ll get it!
Then I got strapped inside this giant inflatable hamster ball and rolled around for a while. Yup, there’s video.
Then, suddenly, as I was standing there in this giant ball, a guy popped up with some notes about my meetup. I kept waiting for the critique, but he really just wanted to emphasize what he felt were the most important takeaways. So: whoa. How kind and generous of him to take the time to do this during a party!
The obvious lesson for me is that my default feeling is to never want to do anything. Yet, if I kick myself into gear and physically commit my body, I start really having fun. I make new friends, learn new things, and get some great photos. Then I have to ask myself, if I hadn’t shown up, what about the lady who never would have learned to spin two hula hoops at once? How could I let her down? Show up to things, is what I’m saying. Just show up and allow yourself the opportunity to escape early if you want. Find out what might happen, because you can never know if you don’t go.
Everything could be different by this time next year. A book deal? An improv group? Hugging dozens of people I haven’t met yet? Doing a handstand and walking on my hands across a field? All of the above and more?
What could be different for you?
I did my second-ever meetup at WDS. Remember how I started forcing myself into public speaking two years ago because I was so petrified by stage fright that I could barely stand up to speak my name? I have to keep reminding myself how far I’ve come in such a short time, because I’m being eaten up by what Michelle Barry Franco so aptly calls a “vulnerability hangover.” This is why I’m sharing, because I suspect it’s a natural part of the emotional arc of learning to inhabit a stage presence.
Our Thursday was all about public speaking and storytelling. Our first academy of the day was “Make Instant Friends and Raving Fans” by the inimitable Marsha Shandur. We had the great luck of getting into her sold-out storytelling academy last year, because we were fast and decisive. Until they manage to generate an AI avatar so there can be two Marshas, or we can get her to bilocate, her raving fans are going to have to be pretty fast on that reservation button! Today’s topic was a matter of serious study for an awkwardly shy person like myself. My “dork goblin” isn’t a separate version of me, it simply IS me, only realizing I bumbled my opportunity for a conversation in retrospect. “Hi, you’re amazing, please allow me to tell you a completely pointless and boring anecdote about myself and then forget why I was telling you.” Hours fly by. I believe Marsha’s claims to have once been shy and awkward, although they do seem tenuous; if true, then maybe there is hope for us all.
We had a lunch break and came back to the same building for our afternoon academy, “Speak So It Matters” by Michelle Barry Franco. She is a highly accomplished speaker and captivating in her own distinct way. While Marsha’s focus is more on forming a personal, emotional connection through storytelling, Michelle’s is more on clarifying a message and using public speaking to get traction on it. She had specific tips on how to find an audience - like physically find them - and create your own public speaking career. We broke into groups, and my hubby and I were very fortunate to click with a pair of podcasters who each already have a clearly defined audience.
I walked out of that academy with half an hour to get to my own meetup, Wishing Permission, feeling excited and focused and empowered. It’s hard to believe for anyone who is physically overpowered by stage fright, but it is indeed possible to get over that stage fright and anticipate a speaking opportunity with excitement. It is! It does take time, because what’s involved is reframing, neurohacking that physical anxiety response, stress inoculation, simple practice, and learning specific, straightforward presentation skills. If you have something you want to say badly enough, and you can push through the first couple of months, you too can be free of stage fright.
I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve improved, it’s easier, it’s easier, it got better, because right now I’m still in that mopey, limp rag of a state that I get in after a presentation. Beforehand I’m so excited about everything I have to say. During, I just talk really fast. I was proud that I started exactly on time and ended on time, from 5:00 to 6:01. Good job, me!
Afterward I felt small, homely, useless, pointless, boring, wrong, confusing, drained, sagging from sleeping only four hours, and that surely any rational person would abandon any idea of ever doing that again.
Same exact thing that happened last year.
It’s like when an elephant seal has her pup, and the pup gains its weight by effectively consuming her accumulated body fat reserves, pound for pound, until it’s grown enough that she can go out to get some fish for herself. The speech comes out of me, depleting my life force, until I’m a pasty imitation sock puppet version of myself. Flopped over with its sock mouth hanging open derrrrrrrrp.
Then the feedback starts coming in. I had people who had attended my Curate Your Stuff meetup last year, who still remembered everything I had to say!
Then I got this: “...I’d love to talk to you more about this wish stuff, I feel like you’re really on to something.” AHA!
What I’m sharing is that when we have an idea, an invention, an innovation, or an artistic creation, it becomes an entity in its own right. It deserves to enter the world of reality. We are not able to judge our own work; we can’t possibly know where it will find its audience, or when. It doesn’t belong to us at that point. It belongs to the world. We can’t let emotional foo interfere with the creation of the work. My feeling that “I am a terrible public speaker, my ideas are ludicrous, I’m funny-looking and nobody wants me” is a direct reaction, a physical letdown from the adrenal buildup of anticipating the event. It’s very much like every marathoner who reaches the finish line and then never runs again. One day, with practice, this will just feel like an ordinary thing that I do, and I’ll be more skilled at recognizing the emotional ebb and flow. Until then, I have to keep reminding myself that if even one person benefits from my work, then I can’t not work.
Hey. HOW DARE YOU not give us your project? Who the heck do you think you are, to keep your ideas for private entertainment and not release them?
What both Marsha Shandur and Michelle Barry Franco had in common was that they both emphasize: they are not naturals at this. They worked at it. It was contrary to whatever they were doing up to that point. “Doing what comes naturally” was not going to lead either of them to a public speaking career; they got there by NOT doing what comes naturally. We can trust by their example that the path is there. We can respect that it takes years of steady effort. We can hold the line when every instinct in our bodies says to run away and quit doing it. We can believe that with dedication and focus, we can learn to captivate and get a message across. We just have to be willing to be dorky the first few tries.
That question again! Here we are at World Domination Summit, and the event brochure has space to write “Why I am Unconventional” as well as “Why I am Remarkable.” I find that the first is easy to answer while the second is imponderable. At a different convention a couple weeks back, we partnered up and were supposed to tell each other “what makes me great.” I vapor locked and couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Is this easy for anyone? Yet how can we live up to the premise of WDS otherwise? “How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?”
I turned to my husband, someone who really is quite remarkable, and said, “What’s great about me? I can’t even ride a unicycle!” He snorted.
It always seems so easy to notice the remarkable in other people. Gassing people up is one of my main talents. Sometimes I meet people who seem never to have been complimented or thanked for anything for years on end, they’re so surprised and pleased. It’s a skill that can be learned, for instance by doing a lot of evaluations in Toastmasters. Give someone an accurate and highly specific compliment and you can not only make an instant friend, you can even reframe that person’s self-concept entirely.
You know you’ve caught them agreeing with you when their mouth starts to twitch.
Last year, I went to a meetup I particularly enjoyed, and I wanted to give feedback to the woman who came up with the idea. She did the whole feminine thing of resisting any and all perceived compliments. I looked her dead in the eye and said, “That’s not a compliment, it’s an objective fact. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone else at this event. Look at how much fun they’re having! You’re good at this and you should own it.”
We’re supposed to be modest. That’s true in some cultures more than others, but bragging is frowned upon. We’re not even supposed to admit when we’ve given to charity, as though keeping it a deep dark secret were somehow the most effective way to support their cause. We’re especially not supposed to be ambitious (doubly true if “we” are female), admit to being good at anything, or show an interest in money. This is why it can be so hard to find out that the people in your social group have so many special talents!
Has this happened to you? You bring up a random topic in conversation with someone you’ve known for years, only to find out that they can play piano/speak a third language/have a black belt/ran a marathon/lived overseas/served in the military/rode an ostrich/survived driving off a cliff. Why didn’t you tell me?? A very weird example of this happened when I was married to my first husband, we bumped into an acquaintance of his at a bus stop, and they started up a rapid-fire conversation in American Sign Language. I had ZERO idea that my lawfully married mate knew how to sign at all. What, this wasn’t interesting enough to you to share with me?
We come to a place like World Domination Summit attracted to the concept of dominating the world. In some way. In some group probably? It can’t be done while hiding our talents and rare gifts, awkward as it might feel. When we go to Mars, someone has to be the captain and someone has to be the engineer and someone has to be the geologist. When we start our own band, someone has to sing and someone has to play the tuba and someone else has to play the piccolo. Step up and state your skills.
This is easy for tiny kids. Who is a good singer? MEEEEE! Who is a good dancer? MEEEEE! Who can draw a picture? ME ME ME PICK ME! Then we start to grow up and be realistic and practical and all that jazz. In other words, pick up our share of the burden of conventional, ordinary, mundane, boring old regular daily life. Clean out the lint trap - but don’t sculpt it! Wash the dishes, but don’t reinvent the dishwasher. Fold that fitted sheet, but not into origami. Turn in your taxes, but not in the form of interpretive dance. (Pennies, though).
It started in line, waiting for registration to open for the afternoon. My hubby and I struck up a conversation with the other people in line. In under five minutes, we had invented something ludicrous and everyone was laughing. I don’t want to say what it was because I want to use it in a movie, but I will share that it led to another idea, an automatic treat-launcher for dogs. Sort of like an aggressive toaster. I can say freely that this is something remarkable about WDS, the way that any combination of people in any size group can instantaneously morph into a conga line, improv comedy, a brainstorm, a singalong, or a heady conversation.
The first meetup I attended, Make Friends with the Lens, was about learning to overcome fear of being on camera. I looked around at all these gorgeous, fascinating people, and I recognized everything they had to say about feeling awkward and self-conscious, and I thought, WHY? What are you worried about? Just keep talking! Then I caught myself in my familiar old thoughts about my own physical appearance: Asymmetrical, frizzy, unfashionable, et cetera. On playback, I was astonished to realize that, while I think of myself as speaking in a high, squeaky voice, I actually spoke in a low register. I have work to do as far as feeling confident on camera, but I did walk away believing that I will sound perfectly fine when I launch my podcast this year. There’s an audience for everyone, and it’s variety and uniqueness that draw the response, not plasticity or conformity. Why follow multiple shows that all look and sound exactly alike?
My hubby and I are leading two meetups of our own this year. Whatever about us that is remarkable enough to teach, we’re putting it out there. Isn’t that our job as humans anyway?
It’s that time again! If you’re going to World Domination Summit this year, flag me down and say hi.
This is going to be our third year. As in previous years, I’m reporting back each morning rather than filling the time with auto-scheduled posts in advance. That’s because WDS is one of the most interesting things I do. Each day, it feels like so many insights are popping up and so many things are clicking into place, it’s all I can do to keep up.
This is one of the two times a year that my husband and I pause our normal routine and go for an aerial view of what we’re doing and how it’s working. New Year’s is the private, contemplative, wintry time, and WDS is the social, busy, summery time. At the New Year we’re asking: What are we doing that is working, and what are we doing that isn’t working? Editing and assessing are the mindset. At WDS, it’s more about: What are other people doing? What ideas and trends and innovations can we pick up? What is something radical we never would have thought of on our own? What can we spontaneously create or invent with new friends?
The people are the main reason to go to WDS. It seems like the more years someone has attended, the more it affects them. You can almost guess the moment you meet someone. Veteran attendees tend to be better listeners, more open and curious, caring, more likely to laugh and give out free hugs. They’re also more likely to be doing something daring and interesting, because, well, that’s what happens.
After our first WDS, my hubby and I came home and decided to work toward financial independence. We’re up to saving 40% of our income. We got rid of almost all our stuff, and now we live at the beach. It seems so simple in retrospect, and yet it had never crossed our minds that this was a possibility before.
After our second year, my hubby filed his first patent.
What’s going to be different after this, our third year? That remains to be seen.
So many things that we worried about the first year are just non-problems. What to wear? Pfft, who cares. How to strike up a conversation? Turn to the nearest person and ask what they’ve been up to. Where to eat lunch? Food carts, of course. When to sleep? After we go home again.
The only significant problem we have now is what to do about the FoMO of wanting to go to five meetups that are scheduled at the same time. The answer to that is that it truly doesn’t matter. Wherever you wind up, you find someone interesting to talk to and you pick up new insights. Chances are, you’ll wind up meeting someone who went to one of the events you “missed,” and they’ll tell you all about it.
We have a strategy of comparing schedules and deliberately going to separate events as often as possible. That means we get twice as much information and we meet twice as many people. Then we “download” as much as we can during meals and our bus ride home each night. Being married is almost like having a second brain...
...while being at WDS is like entering a hive mind consisting of hundreds of fascinating people. Any and all of them are primed for ideation, serendipity, and adventure. We all woke up one day and realized that life is so much more interesting once you decide to replace anxiety with curiosity, once you realize that other people are trustworthy.
This would be a great trip even without WDS, even if the weather winds up being cruddy. Portland in summer can break your heart. The river, the Rose Garden, the food, and of course Powell’s Books - how could you go wrong? I have the added benefit of being able to visit my family. We’re going in with high expectations, while also not attaching too much to demands that every moment will be perfect. That’s because each moment is already perfect, just as it is, and if some moments lead to more opportunity than others, that’s only because we recognize that the opportunity is there.
We’re leaving for a trip tomorrow. There are three ways to go about this.
Freaking out is a common reaction. Most people manage their anxiety about change and transition by trying to over-plan and overpack. Just bring everything you can possibly carry, and most eventualities will be covered, right?? This attitude guarantees that you’ll have the maximum weight and bulk to drag around, which multiplies the hassle and planning time that you’ll need. The longer you spend worrying and fretting about what to bring, the more ideas you have of more stuff to cram into the suitcase.
The way I used to pack was basically, Look around at every single thing I own, exclude as few things as possible, and try to bring it all. Like, okay, I probably don’t need to bring the furnace but maybe it will fit? Do they have ovens where I’m going?
Harness this overthinking energy. It’s a rational, logical way to deal with uncertainty, and that rationality can be used more efficiently.
Start with the minimum. What if I just went in the clothes on my back, and all I had was my wallet and phone? Worst case scenario, my outfit would get smelly. Maybe I’d wash it and I’d have to borrow a towel to wear while it was being laundered. Second worst case, maybe I’d have to stop somewhere and buy a new shirt and pants. If that happened, I could bring the new clothes home and install them in my regular wardrobe rotation.
My hubby once grudgingly spent $80 buying a simple fleece pullover at a gift shop on a motorcycle trip. It was LUDICROUSLY overpriced. He loves it, though, and he’s still wearing it nine years later. It’s amortized down to less than $9/per year of ownership, and it still fits and looks great.
All we’re doing is taking that “WHAT IF?????” feeling and welcoming it, taking it seriously. Okay, what if?
What won’t happen is that we won’t vaporize or suddenly find ourselves in the eighth dimension. We won’t swap personalities and find ourselves suddenly in a different body. We won’t forget the names or faces of everyone we’ve ever known. All that happens is that we go somewhere else for a while, sleep in a different bed for a while, meet some new people, and, if we’re lucky, eat some different food a few times.
This is my method.
Pack four outfits and one extra pair of shoes.
Literally, that’s it.
I don’t fold them or roll them, either. I lay out the four distinct outfits on my bed, so I make sure that they match and I have the correct undergarments. In the past, I’ve often forgotten to pack socks, and this “stack for each day” method has helped with that.
Next, I take one garment at a time and lay it in the suitcase, matching the shoulder seams and waistbands to the edge of the bag. Pant legs, skirts, et cetera, are laid out flat, stacked one on another. When they’re all matched up, I fold over all the legs and skirts. Socks, underwear, and swimsuits get stuck in the corners and along the edges. Then I zip it closed. The extra shoes and my shower kit go in another compartment. It takes five minutes.
I’m able to do this because I just pack my regular wardrobe. These are the clothes I wear all season long. I know they go in the washer and dryer. I know they fit. I know they mix and match because I plan ahead and buy things that go together. I don’t tolerate singletons and I remorselessly ditch any odd garment that isn’t earning its space in my closet. My clothes serve me, period. I’m not a museum curator and I don’t run a boutique. I don’t owe a piece of fabric anything, anything at all. I’m not going to be the defense lawyer for something if it isn’t already obvious why I should bring it. No threes, no maybes, no almosts. Just four outfits.
If my trip is longer than four days, then I simply do a load of laundry during the trip. I’ve done it at hotels, I’ve done it at campsites, and of course I’ve done it at my parents’ house.
I have had a couple of trips over the years where the weather suddenly turned, and it was much hotter or colder than the forecast. The way I deal with that is to allow one extra garment for the off chance, like a tank top or a layer of thermal underwear. It’s not the end of the world.
What about all the other stuff? All the special travel gadgets and pillows and what-not?
I like to buy travel doodads for the same reason that I like to buy kitchen utensils. They look cool! Then I inevitably realize that I don’t need them and I never use them.
My priority when I travel (and remember, priority is singular) is to bring only one bag that fits under the seat.
To that end, I bring only what I feel that I really, really want during the flight. I wear a heavy cardigan because I always feel cold on a plane. Wallet, obviously. Phone, tablet, charger, backup battery, headphones. Light snack. Hand lotion and lip balm. That’s it. Why would I need more than that?
The thing to remember is the reason for the trip. MY STUFF is never the reason for a trip! I’m traveling to be with specific people and to go to a specific location. I’m only there for a limited window of time. I can worry about MY STUFF when I’m home again, assuming I want to spend my precious life thinking about and stroking material objects. I want to channel my feelings of elevated adrenalin and remember, That’s excitement!
Now it’s time to chill out and pack. Remember, everything can be bought 24/7 and objects are consumable. Bring the minimum, remind yourself what you’re doing on the trip, and, yes, chill out and pack.
We’re going to World Domination Summit for the third time. At our first event, we had the opportunity to buy tickets for 2017 while we were still sitting in the auditorium. We took one look at each other and launched. Now it’s a core part of our vacation planning. This is a life philosophy thing. Plan your desired vacation first, then your desired retirement, and build the rest of your lifestyle around those poles.
How do you afford that vacation?
There are tricks to it!
The first thing is to focus on what you personally enjoy doing, and to realize that this may not look anything like someone else’s dream vacation. For instance, my husband and I usually go somewhere rainy on vacation, because we live on a Southern California beach where it’s summer nearly every day. Why pay more to go through TSA and fly to an island with lots of sun and sand when we can just do that at home? We’re willing to ride a bus and camp out in a tent in the rain because it enables us to travel longer. We like going to museums, exploring local grocery stores, and visiting historical sites. We don’t spend money on booze or dance clubs or shopping because we don’t care about those things.
On this particular vacation, we’re staying at my parents’ house. We’re able to roll WDS into a family visit. Granted, we’re almost never there, but there really is something special about being able to hug your parents in their kitchen on a regular workday.
We paid for our plane tickets with reward points. This comes about because our first financial priority is to maintain good credit, and because we systematically earn and burn those travel miles.
Here’s the thing. None of that constitutes a ‘trick.’ Anyone can fantasize about the perfect vacation, learn how to use points and miles, or cajole a friend or relative into playing host for at least a little while. The tricky part is that whole thing about building your lifestyle around your vacation.
We save 35-40% of our income.
That’s part of it. We simply refuse to spend money in ways that we find boring, unfulfilling, or unnecessary. We live in a studio apartment and we don’t own a car. The money we saved the first two months of car-freedom more than paid for this WDS trip. That doesn’t even begin to include what we saved by lowering our rent and utility bills for the year. I don’t spend money coloring my hair, getting manicures, or going for “retail therapy” because I see that as stealing from our vacation fund. We both went to Morocco for a day for $65, money that I could have easily spent on a single pair of shoes or pants that I never even wore.
Another part of “affording that vacation” is to build the idea into your life and make it a part of your identity. Travel is part of what my husband and I do as a couple. We decided to define ourselves that way, and make sure that other people see us that way. It’s fun to teach other people how to travel on a budget. A lot of the things we do on vacation have filtered into our daily life, such as our habit of having strategic planning meetings at breakfast. If more of your ordinary days feel like vacation days, then eventually it feels like you’re on vacation all the time. What that means is that you’re creating an intentional life. You see the potential in each day and the special things about your current location. You look at the world with an attitude of open wonder and adventure.
That’s what makes money and savings feel somewhat irrelevant.
I don’t feel “deprived” by not having cable television or a wine budget because those things don’t interest me, especially not in comparison to the awesome things that money can buy on vacation. I love the sense that we’re nearly always in vacation planning mode, that we always have a new trip to anticipate and research and plan. What amazes me is that people feel like they can “afford” routine daily and monthly expenses that I see as both extravagant and dull.
The other thing about “affording that vacation” is that it gave us the ability to make a radical decision. We live in a studio apartment that is, in point of fact, smaller than some of the hotel suites where we have stayed on vacation. We jokingly refer to it as “going back to the room” to remind ourselves that it’s temporary, and that it’s a choice. We deliberately live a minimalist lifestyle full-time because it provides the leverage for more interesting things. All we really do at home is to cook dinner, sleep, shower, and store our stuff. Why pay for the biggest, fanciest place we could possibly stretch to afford when we’re gone most of the day anyway?
What we want to be doing, as often as possible, is exploring the world. We like to be close to nature, watching the sun set or watching a crow toss food wrappers out of a trash can. We love the feeling of having hours to lounge around, deep in conversation, and we do that most weeknights. All of these are cost-free; they’re mindsets that anyone can adopt and fit into any lifestyle. Peace of mind, close connection, a feeling that the clock is turned off and that the next moment is full of potential. You can afford all of that if you choose to look at it that way.
“Don’t die with your gifts still inside.” Amber Rae’s book starts here, and for me at least, it was like a mallet ringing a huge gong. Whatever else we’re worried about, it should be drowned out by that imperative, that we fulfill our purpose during the time we have in this world. What is it about worry that it always manages to claim our attention? Choose Wonder Over Worry invites us to explore other ways of relating to our anxieties, ways that made me feel like someone had been reading my own personal diary. I couldn’t get enough of it.
First, Rae differentiates between toxic worry and useful worry. Useful worry helps us to figure out how to solve our problems, strategize, and make plans. Obviously keep doing that. Toxic worry, on the other hand, creates resistance and blocks us from living a full life. We tell ourselves stories about events and react based on negative feelings like shame and envy. While this may seem self-evident, it’s here that the book really starts to take off.
Some of the best elements of Choose Wonder Over Worry are the artwork and the journal prompts. There were a couple of these that I could really use in a poster format! For example, page 77 in its entirety. I do quite a lot of journaling, and even with that background, there were several prompts that made me nod, wince, jump up in my seat, or otherwise physically react to their strength and insight.
I didn’t know anything about Amber Rae’s work when I discovered this book. Choose Wonder Over Worry made me into a fan. This is a book to savor, to engage with care and attention. I’m still mulling over questions from these pages, and it’s very much on my mind. This book is on my top ten for the year so far.
“Worry is useful only when it’s within our control and empowers us to act.”
Where in your life do you not feel ready yet? What small step can you take today?
You need to learn how to start saying no to things you DO want.
If criticism and judgment didn’t matter, what would you do? Say? Focus on?
Make a wish. Why not?
Whenever there’s something you want, ask yourself, Why not? Why shouldn’t it happen? Why shouldn’t I get it?
Almost always, the answer is, Go right on ahead. Nothing is stopping you. There really aren’t any reasons why you shouldn’t have something.
Wishing feels selfish to many people. They ask, Why SHOULD it happen? Why SHOULD I get it? Why me? There are lots of great answers to these questions.
Say you wish for a job, and you get it. If you get the job, it means you were the best applicant. People more experienced than you interviewed several people, so if they chose you, then you can feel confident that they knew what they were doing. You’re the best. You’ll be the one who commits and does the best job. That makes your boss’s life easier, helps the company to run more smoothly, helps your coworkers to get their work done, and ultimately helps your customers. When you wish for a better job, you’re really wishing to give more to more people.
Say you wish for a nicer place to live. You apply for an apartment or you buy a house, and you get it. You’re the best tenant and the best neighbor. You’re happier there than you were at your old place, and because of this, your very presence improves the neighborhood. You take care of your home and the area around it, and you look out for everyone around you. When you wish for a nicer place to live, you’re making the world a better place just by being there.
Say you wish for romance. You meet someone and you’re irresistibly drawn to one another. You get to know each other, and you realize that everything is just better when you’re together. Your appreciation of this person, your delight in their presence, makes them feel loved and wanted. They can’t believe their luck, that they would meet someone like you who would be so pleased to be with them. When you wish for romance, you’re beaming more love into the world.
Where are the flaws in these examples?
It doesn’t work if you want the results without giving back.
If you wish for a job where you get a lot of money for complaining, procrastinating, being rude and impatient with customers, and spreading negative gossip about your coworkers, well, good luck with that.
If you wish for a nicer place to live, but then you pay your rent late, don’t do routine maintenance or communicate with the property manager, make a lot of noise, leave a bunch of junk and trash around your yard, and fight with your neighbors, well, then it isn’t really a nicer place to live anymore, is it?
If you wish for romance, but what that means to you is that someone nicer than you in every way waits on you hand and foot while you criticize everything they do, well, we shall see.
What makes it work is that you are ready to give. Give first and give lavishly.
Wish for a career that challenges you to live up to your full potential, something that brings out more in you than you realized you had. What would it feel like to have a job that you didn’t hate, that wasn’t drudgery, that you didn’t dread morning and night? What would it feel like to actually love what you do and feel fascinated with it? Bring that feeling to work with you. When you do, doors magically start to open, because this attitude makes you a dream employee.
Wish for a home where you feel safe and comfortable, a place where you love to come home and spend your time. When you really love where you live, you’re inspired to make it beautiful and welcoming, to yourself and others. This adds charm to your street and inspires other people to carry that feeling back to their own homes.
Wish for a relationship filled with mutual delight and appreciation. When you find someone you simply enjoy, someone you like and respect, you show it. Your positive regard comes through when you’re a good listener and a good friend, when you demonstrate your affection by doing nice things and being emotionally present. The conversation flows and you develop into companions. There’s a certain peace in being with someone, when you trust and understand one another. It helps you both to be better friends to other people whom you know more casually. It can also help you both to provide a sense of solidity to family and others in the community. Show them how it’s done.
Wait, it can’t be that easy. It can’t! I can’t just have all my wishes come true, can I? That doesn’t even make sense! What about my selfish wishes?
Why not? Why wouldn’t you be willing to step up and be the best employee or the best boss, the best tenant or the best neighbor, the best wife or husband or boyfriend or girlfriend? Ask yourself that first.
What about the selfish wishes, though? I have so many!
It isn’t wrong to wish for things. It’s neutral.
If I wish for a stack of pancakes, I can make them, which doesn’t bother anyone, or I can suggest it and someone else in the house can make them, which I can receive as a gift of love that I then gratefully reciprocate at a later point. (Maybe by cleaning the kitchen afterward). I can also go out and buy a stack of pancakes, which provides someone else an opportunity to make a living selling those pancakes. (I hear they’re selling like hotcakes). I could perhaps also steal someone else’s pancakes, which would cause trouble for me, pointlessly. If I was really that hungry, I could offer to make the pancakes for someone else: You supply the kitchen and the ingredients, I’ll do the cooking and the cleanup. Maybe my obsessive desire for hot fresh pancakes turns into a beloved breakfast cafe and I can be surrounded by them all day long.
It’s really hard to make a true wish that doesn’t benefit multiple people along the way.
Wishes have a way of rippling outward, turning into bigger wishes that then trigger yet more wishes. Along the way, these wishes ignite new relationships and generate economic activity. Why not? Why not wish for anything you want?
Functional fitness is my thing. I don’t give a rat’s [censored] what I look like or what other people think about my body. Ha, if you have a problem with how I look, then wait until you hear me talk! All I want is to be able to do awesome stuff and not be distracted by my creaky, wheezing, lumpy old physical vessel. This is why I find myself making extremely specific fitness goals.
Sometimes what I want is something crazy, something I didn’t even know was possible for a human body until I saw someone else doing it. The first time I felt this way was when I saw another kid doing a backflip. The second time was when an older gentleman came to our middle school to do a martial arts demo, and he chopped a board in half with his hand. The third time was when my brother casually mentioned that he had gone for a five-mile run. After that it was a show at the Oregon Country Fair with ribbon aerials and a genuine contortionist.
Tell you what, if I could wake up tomorrow and do any of those things I’d laugh the entire rest of the day. Then I’d go out the door and stop everyone I saw and demonstrate all my stupid human tricks.
Why would I NOT want to be able to do contortions or chop through a board??
The other night, I read about an elderly man who does “wall push-ups.” Oh, that’s kinda sad, I thought, just wall presses? What I was visualizing was something I’ve taught, where you stand facing a wall, put your arms in push-up position, and push back and forth with the wall for resistance. Sure, it works for someone who is building up from chronic fatigue, recovering from surgery, or in physical therapy. Ah, but then I kept reading. What he actually meant when he said “wall push-ups” was that he would do a hand stand against the wall, and then push himself up and down with just his hands. Like an upside-down human pogo stick! OH MY DOG do I need to do this. If this older fella who is in fact older than my own father can do this, then why can’t I? I’ve always wanted to do a handstand.
Then it occurred to me that I have a mental bucket list of extremely specific fitness goals, but they’ve always floated around as unformed pseudo-intentions. Not even a wish, much less a goal. I’m very very good at wishing and goal-setting and making my goals into reality. Why, then, had I never made a real list of these extremely specific fitness goals?
I enrolled in a martial arts academy as my personal challenge for 2018. The warmups wipe me out. I’m already at the point, though, where I’m doing things I never believed I could. Thirty push-ups! Planks for a minute or more! One-armed push-ups! Roundhouse kicks! Box jumps! Using an ab roller without falling on my face! More than one burpee! I appear to have put on ten pounds of muscle already, and my goal for the year was fifteen. As I sit here, I am realizing that any extremely specific fitness goal is within my reach, definitely One Day, probably by the end of the year, possibly by the end of the month, and MAYBE something I could just do later today!
Stuff I’ve never done but always wanted to do:
Riding a unicycle
Juggling six balls
Walking on my hands with my legs in the air
Push-ups with a clap in between
Completing a triathlon (except I kinda can’t swim)
Two pull-ups in a row
A muscle-up (something my parrot does many times a day)
Getting electrocuted and swimming in ice water in the Spartan Race, cuz YOLO
Wrestling an alligator (which my husband has expressly forbidden so I should probably wrestle him first)
There are some other things that petrify me, but that I would immediately do if I ever woke up and Felt No Fear:
Breaking a board with my hand
Kicking down a door
Learning to sail and then sailing to Hawaii
Hmm. Why am I more afraid of snorkeling than I am of wrestling an alligator? Probably because I know quite a lot about animal behavior and circus tricks, more than I do about swimming? I also think of knife fighting as within my reach because they teach a little in the advanced classes at my martial arts school. Eh, I’ll get to that next year.
I don’t need to do any of my extremely specific fitness goals. In fact, most of them I would probably have to keep private, either because they would scare my mom or because everyone loves to bag on people for sharing their workouts. (Quit trying to tell me about TV commercials all the time and it’s a done deal). I’ve found, though, that goals make life more interesting. My goals make me notice what other people are up to and they make me more genuinely curious and attentive in conversations. It turns out that most people are up to all kinds of crazy stuff that they don’t think to mention.
Forty-two is that cliche midlife crisis age, and I’m totally there. I’ve decided to give myself my dream childhood. Why shouldn’t I? I’m not hurting anybody, or at least if you’ve had a problem with my hula hoop then you were in the way. I’m out earning ribbons for public speaking and stripes on my belts in martial arts and medals for running footraces at a very slow pace. Maybe soon I’ll be cartwheeling and backflipping across the grass.
If you ever hear about me wrestling an alligator, look for me at the marina, because I’m going to be needing that sailboat to Hawaii once my husband finds out.
One of the consistently humorous moments in my work with chronically disorganized people is when they find stuff in their homes, and they can’t figure out how it got there. Whose is it? How long has it been here? Where did it come from?
Sometimes they don’t even know what it is!
We’ve been in situations where there is an entire box full of random items to redistribute. Whose are they? Former roommates? Friends from gaming night? Gremlins? The best we can do is to put that box by the front door and try to remember to ask people to check inside the next time they come over.
This issue of infiltration by random items comes from a lack of situational awareness. It’s cute and charming and funny, but it can also be... a little dangerous?
Not noticing your surroundings can lead to all sorts of problems, from spilling coffee to tripping and falling downstairs. I had a client who couldn’t find an actual dead rat for several days! It’s worse than that. The rat was in plain view. In the living room. And the pet dogs didn’t notice it, either. I’m like, your dogs are fired. But then, my personal dog is a rat terrier, so maybe it’s unfair to compare other dogs to him in that regard.
The simplest way to grow into greater situational awareness is with a focusing exercise that I call Perimeter Check.
Simply put, Perimeter Check means walking through each room and looking around. Many people learn to do this at work, using a checklist and doing routine tasks like closing out the till, taking out the trash, or setting the security system. There are few things more common than my people using a skill at a high level on the job, and then failing to use that same skill once they get home. That’s because there is no built-in accountability, no negative consequence for not doing it. We try to see Perimeter Check as a quick, easy thing we do for ourselves and our friends and family.
Perimeter Check can be done in mere seconds. Every time you get up, whether it’s on a bus seat, leaving work for the day, or at the movies, just glance around and make sure you have all your stuff. My hubby and I are both notorious for having to go back for stuff. I made up a little rhyme to try to make this something funny, rather than annoying:
Wallet, phone, glasses, keys / I don’t like mac and cheese
In a hotel room, Perimeter Check can be done in about a minute. I’ve been conditioning my hubby to perform it with me as a redundantly duplicate act of redundancy. We both open and shut every drawer, look in the closet, and check the shower and the bathroom counter. Before we started doing this, we had something of a track record of losing things in hotels, including the earrings I wore to our wedding. It would be nice to live in a perfect world where these left behind items are returned to Lost and Found, but in practice that has virtually never happened. It’s our responsibility to look after our own belongings, and with a sixty-second Perimeter Check, we do.
Around the house, Perimeter Check depends entirely on how many rooms there are and how much stuff is in each room.
We live in a studio apartment (technically a “junior one-bedroom” but it does not have a bedroom door, or a wall, or... a dishwasher or a washer or dryer or air conditioning or... ). Optimally, a Perimeter Check should only take us a couple of minutes. Due to the nature of living in two rooms, almost every single thing we own is in open view at all times. Even the closet doesn’t have its own door, so you can stand in the bathroom and see all our clothes, luggage, sheets, towels, shoes, laundry soap, etc. Obviously we can’t have a huge amount of personal items in a 600-square-foot apartment, but there is that issue of dozens of things in multiple colors and shapes and sizes. It’s like a “find the hidden object” puzzle. Without systems in place, it could be challenging.
What are the systems?
Everything has to justify its existence in our home
One in, one or two out
A place for everything and everything in its place
Never put something big in front of or on top of something small
Clear surfaces except when in use
Paper-free whenever possible
Basically what this means is that the kitchen counter, bathroom counter, floor, couch, and desktops need to be kept clear. If something is sitting on one of these clear, flat surfaces, that means it’s an intentional signal to do something. (Mail it, replace it, repair it, bring it with you).
Perimeter Check happens as a routine a few times a day. My hubby does it every morning when he leaves for work: Feed dog, walk dog, put dog in crate, grab backpack, grab bike, lock door. After that process, the only objects left on view in those areas should be things that belong there, like the dog leash. I do almost the identical routine when I leave, and then we both reverse it when we get home. This gives us ample opportunity to notice when the dog food bag is getting low or when he needs his prescription filled at the vet. The vitally important area around the front door is constantly being checked and cleared. At bedtime, it takes just a few seconds to check the locks, turn out lights, and gauge the levels of the laundry basket, toothpaste tube, dental floss, etc. There are a thousand tiny cogs in the machinery of daily life, and it can be a lot, but doing the routine Perimeter Check is a way of keeping everything running smoothly without a lot of extra mental energy.
Our home is for us, not our stuff. A house should serve the people and animals who live there. We should be able to sit on the couch, eat at the table, cook in the kitchen, sleep on the bed, and get ready in the bathroom. If there are any mysterious objects floating around, how did they get there and why didn’t we notice them? A stray tennis ball wound up in our yard one day, and believe me, our dog noticed within hours, if not minutes. A Perimeter Check is a way of fully inhabiting our home and, even more, our mental space.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.