Failing = Awesome

Recently, one topic has been popping up again and again in front of my face.

The necessary and often positive outcomes of failure.

The topic seems messed up, but upon further inquiry, it’s totally dead on.

My first intro to the idea of success through failure came from Barbara Corcoran’s book, If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons On Your Pigtails, in which she describes her turbulent, funny, disastrous, and random path to outrageous real estate empire building success.

I’m not sure she actually writes: failure = success.  But I’m pretty sure, looking back three years, when I first read it, that that’s exactly what I got out of it.

Or to elaborate: although the paths we take may not always seem to lead to the proverbial pot-of-gold, it’s the dead ends, unclear choices, and “failures” along the way that lead us to the outcomes we seek.

I had been thinking about the topic since the New Year began, and then stumbled upon Failing Well, an article Barbara happened to write on January 9 of this month, recounting the time she blew her first profit of $71,000 on an inspired idea to make real estate video tapes, so people could look at apartments for sale from the comfort of their home (what a crazy idea!!!).

It failed.

Apparently, no one wanted the video tapes.  And it seemed like a total waste of funds.

Except that a little while later, this thing called the I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T came to be, and Barbara was the first to put her videos’ contents online and eventually make a killing.

Seems like failing is basically inevitable.  What’s not inevitable, though, is our attitude.

And the more I think about my path to where I am now… the more things become clear.

  • Would I have found the job I have now if I hadn’t left the last one abruptly after the company went through an unfortunate restructure?  Probably not.
  • Would I have found my field of work, a small niche that I am passionate about, if my first job out of college hadn’t sucked / fallen apart during the economic plummet of ‘08?  Probably not.
  • Would I have been a founding member of a new sorority in College, if I had not fallen through the cracks and was not accepted by the sorority of my choice?  Probably not.
  • Would I have switched figure skating clubs and coaches and become the skater I am today if I didn’t fail at that competition and my earlier coach hadn’t lost faith in me?  Probably not.

Out of failure comes success.

I can’t wait to fail in 2014.

Awesome.

The Main Thing on My to-do List is Attacking My to-do List

photo (94)

This week, my friend Irene (below) – the one who is always providing the food for thought that I incorporate into this blog – (I think her Internet is different than mine) – shared a posting by Jon Bell entitled McDonald’s Theory.

friend

In the post, Jon shares with us a personal experiment he enjoys conducting with his co-workers:

  • When the idea pool for lunch spots is empty, he suggests going to McDonald’s.

According to Jon, this suggestion is always followed by strong reactions to the preposterous nature of this idea and suddenly like “magic” the group’s wheel’s start turning and they come up with a slew of creative ideas.

Anything to keep from going to McDonald’s. (I hear ya guys).

The main idea behind this brilliant experiment lies in the fact that in order to accomplish something, you have to DO something.

Ground-breaking, I know.

Hear me out for a second though.  I’ve been mauling over this idea all weekend and it’s kind of inspired me.

As Jon puts it:

“There’s no defined process for all creative work, but I’ve come to believe that all creative endeavors share one thing: the second step is easier than the first. Always.”

Quite simply: get off your ass and do something.  Anything.  You’ve been meaning to start painting again?  You bought canvas and painted an oil-paint version of a stick figure?  Congrats.  You’re now at step 2.  You’re working on your process.  You’re somewhere that isn’t ZERO.

Recently, I’ve felt like the occupant of a giant entrepreneurial rut.  The creative facilitation of all the things I would like to accomplish has seemingly been stalled.

I have the to-do list.

Every week I tell myself I’m going to tackle that new activity/project/endeavor.

And every week the days escape me and by Wednesday I’m just hoping to squeeze in a nap after work.

Not.

Acceptable.

“Anne Lamott advocates “shitty first drafts,” Nike tells us to “Just Do It,” and I recommend McDonald’s just to get people so grossed out they come up with a better idea. It’s all the same thing. Lamott, Nike, and McDonald’s Theory are all saying that the first step isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. Once I got an email from Steve Jobs, and it was just one word: “Go!” Exactly. Dive in. Do. Stop over-thinking it.”

Starting this week, I’m inspired to push myself forward on all those things I’ve been meaning to do.

I’m going to:

  • Write that e-mail to that non-profit I’ve been meaning to get involved with and find time to volunteer
  • Call the ice rink and figure out the schedule for the new season so I can finally skate again (post wrist fracture situation)
  • Figure out the yoga schedule so I can get my ass in that studio regularly
  • Google “Road Race” Chicago
  • E-mail those friends I haven’t seen in 3 months who actually live 10 minutes from me so we can get together and not be those people that get too busy for their friends
  • Read the first page of that book
  • Find one person at a local newspaper and ask them about guest writing so that I can fulfill my dream of contributing to a local paper

I’ll start with that.

I hope you’ll tackle those projects hanging over your head by taking any step forward.

I don’t want to be the only one drawing stick figures.

Time to make an Awesome dent.

Note: I never thought Nike’s “Just Do It” would make it into one of my posts.  On the other hand, I think I just figured out the genius behind that innovative marketing.  Obviously this will cost me hundreds of dollars in spandex, but hey, anything for forward-propelling inspiration.

Dear Millennials and People of All Ages: Write a Reverse Bucket List

greece

These days, everybody’s got advice to give, it seems.

Just this morning, someone at work forwarded a list of the top 10 BEST pieces of advice according to some dude named Dan Schawbel (and Forbes, apparently) for all millennials.

According to Dan and the popular media of the world, we should never settle for a job we’re not passionate about, make a big impact IMMEDIATELY at a new job (haha), take risks early and often, spend more time with people, measure your work outcomes and SACRIFICE today to position yourself better for tomorrow.

Sure thing, Dan.

I’ll pencil this in for Thursday.  Wednesday’s already filled up it looks like……I’m uh….oh hmmm YEP, Wednesday I’m settling from 8 – 6:30.

Sometimes advice from every imaginable expert on success makes for great lunch-time reading.

Sometimes you just don’t want to hear it.

Here’s some Tuesday advice: take a break from world domination plotting and wondering what more you could be doing (I’m speaking to myself as well here) and write a reverse bucket list.

You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

Just so happens that in the same hour that I was blessed with this life-changing advice, I also read a blog post from this Awesome woman who cleverly wrote a bucket list in reverse.

This inspiring Millennial, Amy, “[took] stock of all [she has] accomplished thus far” on her milestone birthday.

My advice is to take half a second to think about the things you’ve already accomplished in your young, medium, more medium age and revel in it for a second.

Swish it in your mouth.

Enjoy the moment.

Get some perspective.

As Amy puts it, “once you start recalling all the amazing things you’ve already accomplished in life, those looming items unchecked off your bucket list don’t seem too daunting, or out of reach.”

What follows is my reverse bucket list.

  1. Learn a 3rd language
  2. Visit Cuba
  3. Work for a Fortune 500 Company
  4. Compete in a National Figure Skating Championship
  5. Share my passion for figure skating with others
  6. Zip-line in Costa Rica
  7. Take my little sister to see the Statue of Liberty
  8. Cook for my grandfather in my NYC apartment (he flew in!)
  9. Shop in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
  10. Win a medal in the school district’s Optimist Speech Contest (I was 13)
  11. Swim on a swim team
  12. Experience high tea in a castle in London
  13. Take a cruise with my mom
  14. Drink a beer at Oktoberfest in Munich
  15. Have a spa day in Bath, England (the historic site of the Roman Baths)
  16. Connect with a stranger on an international flight
  17. Ride the Maid of the Mist under Niagara Falls
  18. Camp on a deserted island
  19. Celebrate my birthday on a beach
  20. Climb Sleeping Bear Dunes
  21. Ride a roller coaster with my little sister
  22. Graduate from a top university
  23. Live in Mexico
  24. Sail in Greece
  25. Be inducted into my university’s athletic hall of fame
  26. Play in a recreational league (softball!)
  27. Watch the sunrise from an old fishing boat out on the ocean in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
  28. Study in Madrid, Spain
  29. Write letters to a friend in another country
  30. Live in New York City
  31. Go prom dress shopping with my mom
  32. Run a half marathon
  33. Join a book club
  34. Sit front row at a broadway show
  35. Dance all night in Florence on New Years Eve
  36. Volunteer at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge
  37. Eat home-made Moussaka in Mykonos, Greece
  38. Ride an ATV
  39. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s former home
  40. Attend a wedding in Europe
  41. Go tubbing on the Aegean Sea
  42. See Santana live in Mexico City
  43. Ski a black diamond trail
  44. Take a boxing class
  45. See the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
  46. See the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC
  47. Be a guest on a daytime talk show
  48. Take the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour
  49. Try wakeboarding
  50. Live in Chicago
  51. Start a personal blog

Thank you, Amy, for this wonderful idea.

I have 50 here (and 1 as the cherry on top).  I challenge everyone to write a reverse bucket-list.

It reminds you of the Awesome in your life.

Inspiration Fridays

I kicked off this week by sharing with you all this note my friend wrote me.

why i like you

It was unexpected and Awesome.

Today, I’d like to end the week keeping with this theme.

Shortly after I posted Sometimes, the following link/experiment was brought to my attention.

It’s called The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude, which states that showing and giving gratitude raises our happiness levels exponentially.

In order to prove this, the people behind Soul Pancake decided to bring in a group of individuals to try this theory on and well, embarrass wholly for our benefit.

These individuals took a test regarding their current happiness levels and then were asked to write a short essay about the person that influences them the most.

And then they were asked to call that person.  And read their letter aloud.  On video.

The video is here.

It’s worth watching it for yourself.

Today I decided to try the experiment for myself.

I wrote a short letter about my dad.  Then I called him at work (he’s a consultant) and asked him to step out of his meeting.

…..Papa – Thank you for always listening to me and hearing out any issues I’m having – no matter how crazy they are……..I appreciate all the advice and love……When I was super little you always told me to stand tall and encouraged me to go out and be my best. And you still tell me that all the time.  And I still need to hear it. All the time………… I know you don’t hear this enough, but… thank you……  I love you.

me happy thankful gratitude

Pretty sure dad was utterly shocked and scared for a good 30 seconds. (WHAT. I can be sweet!)

And then I’m pretty sure there were smiles on both ends of the phone line.

Even if you don’t try the experiment yourself, watching the video will make you smile.  Promise.

Awesome.

Tragedy and Comedy

chicago ideas week

This week a comedian had a profound effect on me.

This remarkable woman was a speaker during Chicago Ideas Week – a 7-day inspiration marathon – during which hundreds of the world’s entrepreneurs, survivors, authors, politicians (ehhhh), comedians and start-up geniuses are flown to Chicago to bestow their ideas and lessons on the general public.

i.e. ME.

This Monday, I was sitting in the gorgeous Cadillac Palace Theatre in downtown Chicago for the Ideas Week kick-off and thinking 5 things:

  1. Can Malcolm Gladwell speak already?
  2. When can I get a snack?
  3. Who are these other people?
  4. What kind of an event doesn’t have food??
  5. What kind of name is “Tig Notaro???”

5 speakers took the stage one by one.

The founder and CEO of Change.org spoke about his awesomeness.  Catherine Hoke, the founder of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, gave us her life story and how it randomly led her to pioneer a program that uses the entrepreneur savvy of convicted criminal gang members and murderers (YEP) to mold really successful businessmen.  Josh Kilmer-Purcell had us laughing our asses off about life’s lessons and how they’re… mostly useless.  Malcolm Gladwell entertained us with underdog lessons from the bible (still confused, Malcolm).

Then Tig Notaro took the stage.

For this part of the evening, Ben Rattray, the change.org founder mock interviewed the writer/comedian.

He asked her basic questions regarding the life events that led up to an unforgettable stand-up performance that made her a household name (except in my household, apparently) and an inspiration to millions.

It’s all pretty simple really.

In the summer of 2012, Tig Notaro had a series of minor mishaps.

She became ill with pneumonia, almost died from a digestive track eating bacteria, watched her mom die suddenly, ended a relationship with her significant other and was diagnosed with invasive stage II breast cancer in both breasts.

In the span of 12 weeks.

She was told the extent of the cancer diagnosis a day before she was to do a stand-up act at an LA club.

And she went.

And she got up on stage with the task of making people laugh.

And she spoke for 31 minutes about the trauma in her life.

And people laughed and cried and thought she was legend that night.

This week, Tig Notaro took Chicago through that time in her life again.

I laughed and cried the whole time she was on stage.

A part of me related to the feelings she described in regards to losing my mother.  A part of me felt ashamed that I was relating.

Losing a loved one, experiencing the loss of a significant relationship or being diagnosed with an illness is pretty traumatic individually.  Together, I can only imagine these events are life blinding and leave one incapacitated to move as they once did.

After hearing Notaro speak on Monday, I wanted to hear this reportedly infamous comedic standup for myself.  I wanted to gather up her perspective and immerse myself in it.

I found LIVE on iTunes for $5.

I bought it.

I listened to it.

Twice.

I loved it.

I recommend it.

If you have 31 minutes, I would laugh at traumatic shit with Tig Notaro.

It’s quite Awesome and it sure as hell is therapeutic.

Note: As always, none of these people know/knew that I was going to write about them.  Maybe someday :).

Sometimes

Sometimes you have an emotionally draining week.

Sometimes you’re fatigued and need a push.

Sometimes you’re feeling disorganized.

Sometimes you feel like there’s too much to do and not enough time.  So you do nothing.

Sometimes you feel like everything is a bit out of your control.

Sometimes you need something to bring you back to center.

Sometimes your friend gives you this.

why i like you

And you smile.

And you feel better.

And you breathe.

And you get excited to find out what kind of Awesome lies beyond Sunday.

*Note: Baking.  Not my thing.  I rather spend hours stirring milk curds to make cheese.

*Note 2: The “why I really like you” list might need to be paid forward.  Kind of a genius idea.

Inspiration Fridays

inspiration

That time has come upon us.

It’s Friday.

The first day of the weekend.

Time to reflect on the week and plan weekend adventures.

Today I’m getting listy.

Here are the people, in no particular order, that are inspiring me this week:

This Amazing Old Guy

Harry Rosen is 103.

He eats out in New York City’s trendiest restaurants every single night. He gets his usual corner table and he eats by himself, often striking up conversations with people.  He says it “lifts [his] spirits.”

He’s not your typical 103-year-old.

He’s living life and he’s doing his best to enjoy it.  He’s eating out and he’s even trying to date.

He enjoys the simple pleasure of being out among the people.  It helps to be out, since his wife of 70 years passed a few years ago.  Since then, he’s even tried participating in singles groups.

This guy’s enthusiasm makes me want to get up in the morning, throw back the curtains, and declare in one magnificent gesture, hands on hips – like I imagine Tarzan, naked in a loin cloth – TODAAAAY WILL BE THE BEST DAY EVER!!!!!!

He’s also freaking adorable.  And everyone from my 20-something friends to friends’ moms to my grandma want to be his dining companion (I’ve taken a poll).

I think this has something to do with the fact that people tend to be drawn towards the positive.  And Harry – you’ve got it down.  I can only hope to make it to 103 and have half the spirit and drive you do (Rosen says the secret is sleeping on your back).

Absolutely amazing.

A Neighbor

I received some 8AM inspiration from a new neighbor this week.

I overslept one morning and decided to take a cab to work (low point, I know).

While I was waiting, an older gentleman happened to come down to head to work as well.  And we struck up a conversation in my building’s lobby.

This man (probably in his 60s) told me (in the span of 20 minutes) essentially his entire professional life story (I asked).

He told me about the teams he used to work on for automotive clients, dreaming up new inventions for cars (silly things like windshield wipers).  He told me about the 150 patents he penned in the U.S. and abroad.  He told me about how he keeps working now well into his retirement because he loves it.

To quote my new friend Eric: “It’s not always giggles, but I’ve loved what I do for decades.  Life’s way too short not to love what you’re doing.”

This Spunky Personal Training Entrepreneur

My building invited a Chicago personal trainer/life coach to train residents in Yoga and Pilates.

I couldn’t make the classes previously, due to my work schedule, but had the opportunity to attend the last couple.

I love her class – and I love feeding off her energy!

I’ve had some opportunities to chat with her since then and I’ve been pretty inspired.

Stephanie Mansour started her own business in her early 20s (Step it Up With Steph) and five years later is well on her way to building her own personal fitness empire.

I look forward to her blog articles and her advice.  Why?  Because she’s honest.  And anyone who blogs will tell you that being honest is key.  Putting yourself out there is HARD and blogging or sharing your life takes guts (that I’m slowly finding).

Steph believes that her business is “not JUST about exercise and eating right – it’s about emotions and the connection we have to ourselves and others.” (from her blog) – I couldn’t agree more.

She is equal parts inspiration due to her entrepreneurial skills and her attitude about life.

——–

Thanks for the inspiration ya’ll!!

And HAPPY FRIDAY.

Awesome.

Note: None of these people knew that I was going to write about them.  Although, I do wish Harry Rosen knew.

Note 2: Somehow another photo shoot happened this morning.  If you haven’t tried putting on ridiculous things from your closet and being expressive for no reason, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I also recommend dancing around your home/apt/living abode by yourself to music in said outfit.  it’s AWESOME.