She could not make sense of the things that were meant for her,
but she was drawn to it all.
And when she was alone, she felt like the moon: terrified of the sky,
but completely in love with the way it held the stars.
What I remember most from high school is this:
1) feeling completely out of place in every way possible
2) feeling like everything was a big effing deal
3) desperately wanting to get out of there
I don’t remember being particularly focused on or thoughtful about anything.
As I recall, I showed up, did the work I had to do, and was smart enough not to get caught when I was breaking the rules. Mostly I just thought it was all a giant waste of my time.
Imagine my surprise when a few months ago, while visiting family in Western New York, I pulled out a box of childhood belongings from a closet at my mother’s house and found a stack of loose leaf notebook paper, held together with a rusty paperclip, containing these words:
“The state of happiness that we choose to live will affect every aspect of our lives. Our level of success in the world as working adults will be affected. But more important are the personal relationships which we will have the opportunity to take part in throughout our lives. If we become aware of what we want our of life, those personal relationships will prosper.”
My 17 year old self had written this and read it to a crowd of parents and teachers at my high school graduation on June 22, 1996.
I can only imagine what that particular audience must have been thinking as this tiny little teenager lectured them on the meaning of life. Oy. No wonder I felt out of place. And I was just getting started:
“Only when we are aware of our thoughts, ambitions, and desires can we live full lives. It is impossible for an unhappy person to live a meaningful life; one in which they have an impact on the world and the people around them.”
As I read this sentence, it occurred to me:
The lesson I’ve been learning over and over for the last 20 years is actually something I’ve always known — and in fact stood on a stage speaking to an audience about when I was 17 years old.
No wonder all the teachings of all my favorite speakers and authors resonate so heavily with me. They’re all reflecting my own words back to me.
All along they’ve been nudging me, not to learn, but to remember.
I believe that most of what we’re learning as adults is actually us remembering what we’ve always known. Not the tactical stuff. That will always be changing and evolving. There will always be more things to learn.
I’m talking about the important stuff – the life lessons, what we value, how we want to live.
That’s all stuff we’re born with. Then we get distracted.
We learn how to be in society. How to make other people happy. How to fit in. How to follow the rules. And in the process we forget who we are.
I wonder, if you take a look at the things you’re drawn to now — the books, the teachers, the activities, the work, the relationships — how much of that resonates with who you’ve always been?
What are you being called to remember?
I’ll leave you with my 17 year old self’s words of wisdom:
“There is one thing that I wish for all of you, my friends, to have throughout your lives. It is something that we all deserve and are capable of achieving. My hope is that as you progress through your lives you will take the opportunity to look inside yourselves, at who you are and what you wish to be. It is my desire that you will be able to look at your lives and realize that you are happy.”
Your sister in Pleasure & Profits ™,
PS — I can’t resist including this gem:
“Sources of amusement are readily found in a technologically advanced society such as ours. However, amusement must not be confused with happiness. What we must look at is whether or not we are truly happy when such forms of amusement are absent.”
It was 1996, yo. We didn’t have cell phones yet. Google wasn’t even a zygote. What would my 17 year old self think of the online world we live in now?
Like any well adjusted individual, I had my first existential crisis around age 6.
It was induced by a well meaning teacher who decided we should come to school dressed as what we wanted to be when we grew up. I’m pretty sure I believed this event would determine my entire life’s path. On the table were: doctor, female Catholic priest (yes, I was a 6 year old feminist), painter, gymnast. I agonized. I cried. I tormented my mother. This was a BIG deal, ya know?
Eventually I settled on gymnast with my mother’s reassurance that I could, in fact, change my mind down the road.
So when I found myself at age 19 trying to figure out what to do with my life, again, it was a familiar scenario. I’d been down this path a dozen times. At least. It had become my consistent state of being, marked by ebbs of certainty that I’d found my path, followed by dam bursting flows of feeling utterly lost.
What was my purpose?
What would be my career?
Why could other people show up day after day at the same job while I kept getting bored and frustrated 3 months in?
Why did everything interest me and yet nothing hold my attention for long?
I wanted to do something meaningful and yet everything felt so… so… disconnected.
It was all very Reality Bites — 90’s, brooding, melodrama.
And so it was that I found myself back home after a year of art school. Back in the little ski town in Western New York I’d grown up next door to, working in a coffee shop by day, schmoozing my way into bars at night.
It was during this time that I found yoga, Ayurveda, and a number of books that would shape my life profoundly – Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, The Celestine Prophecy, The Profit.
Over the course of that year I also spent a lot of time snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking and traveling.
And I did most of it alone.
Not because I didn’t have friends. I had plenty.
I had confidants I could laugh and cry with, I had drinking buddies I could throw a few back with, dance on a bar with, or sneak into an unattended hot tub in the middle of the night with.
I also spent a fair amount of time with my mother and her friends. I used to joke that I was really a middle aged divorced woman, living in a 19 year old’s body. The truth was I got those ladies. I was having a midlife crisis too. I was just having mine a little early…
For the most part, my friends were also into snowboarding or skiing, mountain biking, hiking and traveling. They all had the swag and the gear and the lingo down pat. They spent plenty of time playing snowboarding video games and talking about travel.
The thing was though — very few of them actually got out and did the stuff, like, for real.
But I was restless. Always. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to experience life.
It didn’t take me long to realize that if I wanted to have adventures and live an exceptional life, not just sit around and talk about one, that I’d have to go it alone. And that’s what I did. I hit the slopes and the trails and the road on my own. And had some great experiences — and a handful of mishaps — along the way.
Around that time I embarked on my most epic road trip to date, complete with my Rand McNally road atlas and a shiny new copy of Let’s Go USA. About halfway through my 2 month tour around the US in my little, turquoise Geo Metro, I found myself bunked up at a hostel in Austin, TX.
On my first morning there I asked the gray haired, 50-something hostel manager what he suggested I check out while I was in town. He excitedly told me about all of his favorite places and things to do in and around Austin. Clearly he was a fan of the city.
Over the next couple of days I biked around town, swam in Barton Springs pool, hiked Enchanted Rock, lunched in Fredericksburg, went out dancing on 6th street, ate at Magnolia Cafe (pre Diners Drive-ins and Dives fame), and had a beer at a bar/barn in a one-horse town that some country singer had once written a song about.
When I was checking out of the hostel, about to hit the road to New Mexico, the same gentleman asked me what I’d done during my stay.
“Everything you told me to,” I responded.
He looked surprised. “You get the award for the most ambitious traveler, “ he said.
“Most of these kids just sit around here and play cards all day.”
Funny thing was, when I’d spent an hour hanging out with those “kids” they had all had big, big stories to tell about all the things they did and had and were. It was a familiar scenario — lot’s of people talking big, but apparently most of them actually not doing anything.
Almost 20 years later as an entrepreneur, a naturopath, a business and lifestyle strategist, I have found that I still encounter lots of people who are talking big, and just a handful of people who are doing big.
Over the years, lots of people have expressed to me their desire to quit their job, change careers, go all in on their dream business, improve their health, fall in love, try something new.
Some of them have been telling me for years that they want to make a change. But they don’t.
Most of them quietly slip away, back into the old, comfortable, familiar life they claim to desperately desire to ditch.
Ready for some profound wisdom?
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
– Tony Robbins
In other words —
If you want to experience something different, you have to do something different.
And the most important thing you can do? Just show up.
I mean REALLY show up. Fully. Authentically. Messily. Show up.
Be present. Put yourself out there. Stop hiding. Take risks.
Stop sitting around talking about doing things and start showing up to do them.
As far as I can see the most important (and maybe only) difference between people who talk about living an exceptional life and those who actually do, is that the doers show up. They don’t necessarily have a better plan, more resources, some innate ability or learned skill.
They just show up.
They put themselves out there. They try new things. Even if they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Or what the hell they want to do.
They go for it. They risk failure. They risk embarrassment. They risk the discomfort of not knowing.
They put one foot in front of the other, even if they don’t know where the path will lead.
They embrace vulnerability.
They’re willing to risk that they might get lost, they may look foolish, they may waste a few bucks.
They know that opportunity isn’t going to come knocking on their apartment door. Clarity isn’t going to come while they’re sitting on the couch watching American Idol. (Is American Idol even a thing anymore? Haven’t watched tv in years…)
They know their chances of having a great time go up substantially if they get off the bar stool and go dance.
So, where are you not showing up?
If you’re sitting at the end of the bar waiting to be noticed, your chances of meeting the partner of your dreams are pretty slim. If, on the other hand, you’re out on the dance floor living it up, reveling in the enjoyment of who you are and what you have to offer, you’re way more likely to attract an audience. And you’ll have the pick of the litter.
Same goes for business. All the wishing and hoping and waiting in the world is not going to help you find your purpose, clarify your vision, or grow your client base. The only way you’re going to find your way is to put one shaky foot in front of the other and trust that the path will unfold before you.
Get out there and try some stuff.
Take a risk.
Just show up.
Your sister in Pleasure & Profits™,
* I first published a version of this article several years back. It’s been edited, added to, and updated and here it is again, because it’s more relevant than ever.
“You can’t just say that to him,” my brother-in-law scolded me. “Tell her Jess.”
My sister, looking regretful, “yeah… you can’t say that to a guy.”
“Why not?” I asked indignantly, honestly perplexed by their responses.
My verbal transgression?
I had gone out on a date with a guy and… gulp… told him that I liked him and I wanted to see him again.
Like a scene out of a bad rom-com, they proceeded to school me on the rules of dating.
I was 36, a year past divorce and starting to play the field. It had been 12 years since I’d dated. I wasn’t looking for the man of my dreams. I was looking to have fun, go out, meet people and make up for too many sexless seasons.
In the weeks prior they had set me up on all sorts of dating apps. How they knew about these things I have no idea – they’ve been married with kids for years. For sure they were living vicariously through me, looking over my shoulder as I swiped left, then left again, and the occasional right. “Not that guy,” my bro-in-law would say. “You can do better.”
“He’s cute,” my sister would chime in. “You should give it a shot.” Go team!
“That’s dumb,” I responded to their “rules of dating” diatribe.
“Why would I want to date someone who’s intimidated by me saying what I want?”
They looked at me with expressions of utter hopelessness.
Flash forward a year. New city. A plethora of dates under my belt. Pretty sure I’m ready for a real deal relationship. I meet a promising prospect. I roll just like I do – straight up, shoot from the hip, real and raw. He ends it after 5 dates.
I’m ragingly pissed off. I haven’t been dumped since high school. This stings. Big time.
Do I even like this guy? I wonder. Or is my ego just bruised?
I realize it’s all ego and decide I need to get over myself.
I run away to the beach for a weekend and through 48 hours of sunshine, sand, saltwater and the better part of a bottle of tequila I determine that I’d rather be alone the rest of my life than have to pretend I’m something I’m not in order to have a relationship. If me being me freaks a guy out, then he’s not the guy for me. Period.
I make a list of what I want in a relationship, in a partnership, the non-negotiables. It’s a long, long list. It reads like an entrepreneur / personal development junkie’s 10 commandments (except that there were about 30 of them):
Thou shalt be happy with thine own life
Thou shalt not be needy
Thou shalt respect the opinions of others
Thou shalt be invested in thine own self care
Thou shalt get that my work is important to me and that I’m never gonna be a 9-5er
Thou shalt not be made uncomfortable by my emotional, intuitive, woo woo-ness
You get the picture.
I was looking for a partner who would fit into my life, complement it, honor & respect who I am and what I bring to the table.
I wrote the list and then I went back to the real world. And 6 days later I met him.
I showed up fully myself.
I told him that I work a lot of hours and sometimes I work at night, and I love it. I told him that I absolutely must go to yoga, write in my journal, and meditate on a frequent basis… like almost every day. I told him I was training for a marathon and that meant very few late nights and Saturdays monopolized by long runs. I told him that I dance this thing called Qoya that’s about connecting with the divine feminine, that we use crystals and angel cards and that all my friends are super woo. I told him that I travel alot and in fact, I was going out of town for 10 days and I fully expected he’d be seeing someone else when I got back. I told him I was hard to date.
“Okay,” he said. And smiled through it all.
Months later he told me that he’d had the same revelation not long before we met — that if he couldn’t just show up and be 100% himself, if he had to try to make someone else happy, then he wasn’t interested.
A year and some months later, we’re both still showing up 100% ourselves in what feels like a true partnership.
Now, I’m not naive. I realize that a year is a tiny blip on the screen of life. Relationships are challenging and they evolve over years and decades.
I also know this:
Starting with authenticity and alignment is a way, way (way) stronger foundation than anything you could build following “the rules”, showing up the way you think you’re supposed to, trying to meet someone else’s expectations, trying to make them happy.
My question for you is this: Are you showing up in your business like a Cosmo reading, rule following, people pleaser, swiping right for everyone who seems even vaguely promising, like you’re trying to win them all over, whatever it costs you — integrity, dignity, freedom?
OR, are you showing up fully, authentically, 100% yourself, in a way that feels aligned with who you are and what you value?
Are you looking for clients/customers whatever the cost or are you willing to hold out for true partnerships that are built on a foundation of aligned authenticity and sustainability?
Are you building partnerships or chasing one night stands?
Don’t get me wrong… a one night stand can be a lot of fun, and a business one night stand might just be what you need to pay the bills. Today.
BUT it’s not a sustainable way to run your business.
If you’re slapping on lipstick and laughing at someone’s bad jokes week after week after week just to fill up your calendar, that shit’s gonna get old after a while. Before long you’ll be hiding out at home in your pjs with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on Friday night.
And the same will happen to your business. I’ve seen it more times than I can count.
Hell, I’ve done it myself.
Hustling without alignment is EXHAUSTING.
You can only do it for so long before you burn out and want to hide out.
If you want to build a sustainable business, you have to do the alignment work first.
Build a foundation of authenticity. Show up and shine in all your imperfect glory. And trust that you’re awesomeness will attract the perfect clients to you.
If you’re playing the short game – quick cash and out – then by all means, hustle it up.
But if you’re in this for the long haul, then authenticity matters more than anything. It might require more patience, more trust, more conviction, more risk. But do the work. It’s worth it. I promise.
Loving you in in all your authenticity,
Your sister in Pleasure & Profits ™,