Lesson(s) Learned

If we’ve learned anything in the past six months, it’s that very, very, very little is in our control. We’re all helplessly embedded in the fabric of cities, towns, counties and countries, dependent on our neighbors near and far, and completely incapable of operating on our own.

I always considered myself a fiercely independent person, and sank deeper into that identity when we started our first business. I felt like I was operating outside the status quo and outside of the fluctuations and financial ups and downs that hit a lot harder when you’re in the back of the caravan instead of in the driver’s seat.

COVID-19 absolutely shattered one of my favorite parts of myself – my independence. I realized overnight not only that many things well beyond my imagination were possible – correction, currently happening in real time – but that those external things had near-complete control over my life.

Within a few days, our income was cut down over 90%, we were on full lockdown, and our island was shut off from the outside world. There was no timeline, no hints, no warnings. And the interim – of not knowing when we would reopen, when we could make money again, when things would go back to normal – has lasted for six long, painful months.

We didn’t know what to do, so we focused on what we could do. We could rearrange our business to bring in income. We could apply for the SBA, PPP and local grants and wait out as they ran out of money (twice) before ours got approved. We could speak to our clients, let them know our plan, and keep them updated as things progressed. We could keep our cool and put one foot in front of the other. So, we did.

It’s important to note that most of these changes were very uncomfortable, scary, risky, brave, bold, painful, laborious and miserable. There were days I woke up and just told myself to make it through today, and try for a better day the next. There were tears, panic, loss, loneliness, struggle, lost sleep, anxiety, mental breakdowns and panic attacks. There was all of it, but somehow we just kept moving forward.

And that, at least for us, is the lesson of it all – we just have to keep moving, that will always, always, always be enough. That’s something we can always do.

We’re Supposed to Change

As I’ve navigated the first few months of being 30, I’ve noticed a constant dialogue surrounding the idea of change. Our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our old hometown/high school acquaintances – I’ve encountered the same old phrase consistently: “wow, you/he/she has really changed.”

This is usually commented in an off-hand, slightly negative way, with the underlying meaning seeming to be, “wow, you’ve let life change you. wow, money/success has really changed you. wow, you’ve lost your way to yourself because of a/b/c.”

My reaction to this type of comment is usually, “what do you mean by that?” to which I almost never get a response, since people don’t tell you that you (or someone else) have/has changed as a compliment. What they’re doing is trying to say something they don’t feel comfortable saying without actually saying it, and assuming you’ll understand the meaning so they can wipe their hands clean of their intent.

I’ve never understood our cultural resistance to change in the first place. When someone states, “wow, you’ve changed!” my internal response is “you haven’t?” We should change in significant ways over decades of time. We should learn and grow from our mistakes and heartbreaks and mishaps – that’s the whole point of living a life in the first place. If we’re not changing over time, than what on earth are we doing?

In theory, change should be a fluid and celebrated part of life. We should ebb and flow on our way to who we really are, learning lesson after lesson as we encounter mistake after mistake. I realize that people usually mean “wow, you’ve changed!” to indicate that we’ve somehow betrayed ourselves; by changing our political views, our values, integrity, personality, or what’s most important. But I’ll argue that those things too, should be subject to change as we change as people over time.

First of all, the only person that knows our internal values, morals, items of importance, etc. is us. Ourselves, only. Not our friends, or peers, or co-workers or even family members or parents. No matter how we are raised or what values are instilled in us, we are still individual human beings that have a duty to uncover those gems for ourselves.

Secondly, if we are not supposed to change the big-ticket items, who is determining them? Where do our unchangeable morals and values come from? We start off as children and are taught those things by our parents, teachers, friends and society. We should not be beholden to the values of other people that we were instilled in childhood, and never be able to think critically enough to decide them on our own.

Lastly, we are changing, whether we want to recognize it or not. Over time, your cells are changing. Your brain is changing. Your hormones are changing. Your body is changing.

Just like they do for every. other. species. on. planet. earth.

Even at just 30 years old, I’m changing rapidly. Being a business owner – especially during a pandemic – has been like an internal-change pressure cooker. We’re learning so much and learning to deal and endure so much that it is logistically impossible for us not to change. Change is still scary, but so is everything else. We have to learn to deal with fear and change in order to move towards a better world.

The next time someone says, “wow, you/she/he has changed!” I’m inviting myself to openly answer, “of course I/they have. That’s life. We’re supposed to change.”

The Point of the Storm

quotestormI used to watch  The Walking Dead and wonder how people could possibly be stuck in a high-rise apartment or suburban house with zombies roaming about below or outside, respectively.  Like most people, I thought,  Why didn’t they just run for the hills? How stupid are they? I never considered that society doesn’t go from normal to the END overnight, or even over the span of a week. I don’t think anyone watched post-apocalyptic shows or movies thinking about the in-between; when the world has stopped, but not yet collapsed.

Yet in 2020, we’re locked in an awkward in between – schools are closed, businesses are failing, and national and global markets teeter on the brink of collapse. Families of all classes across the world are struggling to put food on the table or pay their rent or mortgage. People of all ages and nationalities are dying and falling ill. Essential workers are forced to weigh the possibility of infecting themselves and their loved ones against a steady paycheck. We’re not at the end of the world – in fact, it really shouldn’t end at all – yet we’ve got a small taste of what a slow descent feels like.

If i were to put on The Walking Dead or Outbreak now, I’d view the characters within those stories with much greater compassion. How could they have possibly known this would happen? I certainly never predicted COVID-19 or its effects, and I’m an overly cautious person. It’s clear our world and business leaders didn’t exactly predict it either. How could they know? How could we have known?

We’re still in the midst of this crisis, but it is finally starting to feel like there is an end to this tunnel, and at least a glimmer of light at the end of it. We’ve lost lives, we’ve lost money, and a lot of us may have lost faith. Yet, I am fairly confident we will not be the same people and countries and businesses and governments and communities we were before this crisis as we will be after it. We will likely be more compassionate, more cautious, more aware of our humility and smallness and less wrapped up in our egos. I would never wish the loss of a human life for any reason, but I do believe that there is some silver lining here.

Haruki Murakami sums this up perfectly in his beloved work, Kafka on the Shore. He writes,

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

That, my friend, is the point of this storm. The point is to change us, collectively and individually, on a million different scales. The universe has its own checks and balances, and perhaps this one is directed at us all. Perhaps, it’s even deserved.

Regardless, we won’t be the same when it’s over.

And that’s probably a good thing.

LEMON

lemon-tree-drawing-14Briefly she
Was a part of me,
And a part of her
As an individual being;
I dreamt of her toes
As they roamed this earth
One day
On their own accord;
I imagined her teeth
Peeked through a grin
At a joke her father told;
I heard the strength of her voice
Speaking out
Against some or all of the wrongs
She’d encounter in her life;
But just briefly she
Was a part of me,
And a part of her
As an individual being
Or so I had thought,
But I’m now unsure;
I do know she craved lemons
Both sour and sweet,
Just as I do
And just as she was;
But briefly she
Was a part of me
The first thing that me consider myself as a mother;
But briefly she
Was a part of me
The first time I planned out an entire future
But so briefly she
Was a part of me
The quietest joy I had ever encountered
But so, so briefly she
Was a part of me
And a part of her
As an individual being;
That part I’m not so sure,
But I named her Lemon
Just in case.

Coconuts on the Beach

 

IMG_9107

In our culture, we are always looking forward – towards our goals, dreams, aspirations. We work each day in the hopes of achieving specific outcomes: climbing the corporate ladder, owning a home, paying off debt, having a family and marriage.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working for the future, but the problem is that we are so preoccupied that we forget to enjoy the journey.

Consider your path as a timeline; our end goals are just a blip, while the journey to get there stretches out as far as it needs to. We suspend our joy, presence, light and love for 90% of the process. Do we want our joy to be on the straight line, or just a single dot?

Coconuts on the beach

A lot of our culture is fixated on the results of hard work – the instagram photos, highlight reels and coconuts on the beach. But, we forget that life is supposed to be the journey. The process IS life, in itself: growth, change, joy, sorrow, challenges.

Life is not the vacation. Life is every single day before and after it, and also the vacation, each given equal presence and attention.

I have nothing against coconuts on the beach, but it’s not the remedy for life’s challenges. Embrace the journey and remember to enjoy it. After all, that straight line is where you’ll spend most of life anyways

Entrepreneurial Thoughts: Saying NO

Entrepreneurs are generally thought of as ‘Yes’ people. They saw an opportunity, they said yes, and followed through to self-made success. Even in speeches and webinars and books, that first ‘yes’ is always referenced as ‘the beginning of it all’. If I hadn’t said yes…

You get the picture.

For us, we said yes many times in the early days of our business. We said yes to our opportunity, we said yes as we opened corporate bank accounts, filed for a state tax id, met with a (free) lawyer and designed our logo. We said yes to tough questions from those around us, too.

Are you sure you want to leave this job? You have a real future here… 

Are you sure this will work?

Do you have any idea what you’re doing? 

Yes, yes, and yes. Yet, as we progressed as a company, we found ourselves saying ‘no’ much more than yes. We had old friends we barely spoke to that wanted to be a part of our business; acquaintances that wanted to help; companies that wanted to purchase our little seedling of a business before it had a chance to blossom. We said no to professional ‘small business advisors’, to corporate bank loans, to people, to other opportunities, to new accounts, to sizeable amounts of money that would cost us any potential we had. No, No, No, No, No.

Every No is what shaped and strengthened our business into the small, albeit strong fortress it is today. Every no was us standing our ground, defining our business under its own terms. Those No’s define what services we do and don’t provide; what we are willing and aren’t willing to do; the kind of clients we want to work with; how we handle conflict; and who we are as a company.

Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, you have so much power in the word ‘no’. So many people in each of our lives – especially those that know us well – often ask questions in full expectation of a yes. But no matter who is asking or what they’re asking for, you have a divine right to say no.

No, this doesn’t serve me. No, I can’t do it. No, my plate is already full right now. No.

You deserve your own boundaries, space, and peace – entrepreneur or not.

PSA: Instagram is Not Real

How often do you see photos like this on Instagram? Big booty, tight waist, strong arms – but is it real? As someone that’s been hardcore into fitness for 5+ years, I couldn’t understand these images that  kept appearing on my feed – until I played around in front of the mirror and realized its just posing. Booty popped, an awkward twist in the waist, good lighting and a little bit of dehydration and BAM – insta-model approved.

I didn’t grow up in the age of Instagram, so I worry so much about the women and girls that see these images and believe they’re real life. I would never stand, sit, pose, squat or appear this way in person,  so while the photo is me, it is not TRUE TO LIFE. In simple terms, it’s not real.

Instagram can be a great place to showcase and normalize all kinds of bodies, which is why I personally choose to show photos of mine. But when you’re scrolling through your feed and come across an image that seems unachievable, keep these key points in mind:

1.      No two bodies are the same. Even if you eat, sleep, and train exactly like the girl in the picture, it is physically impossible for you to achieve the exact same results because of your (and her) unique size, shape, genes, body composition and metabolism.

2.      These images are often the result of perfect lighting, careful posing, angles, retouching, and even photoshop – not perfect people.

3.      Most of these people are professional models/bodybuilders/personal trainers, whose job is to be fit and look the part. You wouldn’t compare your ability to cook to that of a professional chef, right? So you can’t compare your body to someone who’s full time job is fitness.

4.      Most of these images are selling something. They are carefully curated to represent an ideal that’s unlikely (or impossible) to achieve in order to promote the protein powder/leggings/detox tea/personal training services being offered.

5.      Instagram is a highlight real. It does not, and cannot, depict real life.

6.      Everyone can physically, mentally, and emotionally benefit from exercise, regardless of their weight, size, shape, age, gender, ability, etc. Do not let the images on Instagram deter you from doing something great for you and your body, if that’s what you chose.

7.      Let me repeat it one more time: fitness is for and benefits EVERY BODY.

Okay, rant over.

 

You Don’t Need a Makeover: Food Freedom Friday


You don’t need a makeover.
Yep, you read that right – no matter your weight, size, shape, gender or age, you DON’T need a makeover. The fitness/diet industry does. 


Imagine if you had a store that sold a single size of clothing – or offered a single, specified entree – or if Jamba Juice offered ONE smoothie?

It’s illogical to sell one specific item because we all know people are different. Some people like berries, some people like citrus fruits. Some people are short, others are tall. 

Yet, the diet and fitness industry gets away with selling us a single ideal per gender – a tall, muscular, chiseled and well portioned man, coupled with a slender, yet muscular, yet still distinctly feminine woman. And they make billions of dollars a year on the mere fact that the majority of the population is physically incapable of achieving the image they’re selling.


If you sell an unreachable image, customers will never stop buying. If we all looked perfect, why would we buy powders and pills and capsules and workout programs? There’s no money in the achievement; there’s money in the chase. 

So no, you don’t need a makeover. Healthy eating and exercise do yield a wonderful breadth of benefits, like increased energy, deeper sleep, higher dopamine and serotonin levels, better focus and cognitive function, improved digestive health, and the list continues. But being healthy looks different on every. single. person. Be you, and be healthy if you choose – but don’t let clever marketing and photoshop make the choice for you.

Wednesday Wisdom: Life Happens for You


In the darker times of our lives, we all ask ourselves the same question: Why me? When everything falls apart, when tragedy strikes, we ask the Universe: “Why is this happening to ME?”

Somehow, in the best times of our lives, when we’re faced with love and abundance and the opportunity to achieve our dreams, we ask the same thing: “Why would this happen to ME?”

Light or dark, abundance or despair, why things happen TO us. But things don’t happen to us at all: they happen FOR us. Tragedy gives way to growth, challenge inspires breakthroughs, and even the deepest cracks allow the light to shine in and through.

When awful things happen, we grow through them and become stronger, smarter, and ironically, more open and honest versions of ourselves. When we’re just  so.over.it., we become more authentic and loving and are able to live true.

The reason bad things happen to good people is to make them even better. To prepare them for what’s next, and create a soul capable of giving more of themselves to the world and encouraging those around them to do the same. There’s a reason the most beautiful, open, loving, and courageous leaders were bred from hardship, hatred and turmoil; it made them better.

Whatever is going on in your life, embrace it; you are growing. Your are being prepared for what’s next, and becoming who you’re meant to be.