Category Archives: Inspiration

Holiday Wit & Wisdom – 2012 Edition

 surrender

Everyone collects something – vinyl records, microbrewery pint glasses, Facebook friends.

I collect quotes.

They’re splashed all over my home and hundreds of them are stashed in a running Word document on my laptop. They span the breadth of great philosophers like the 17th century’s Blaise Pascale to our modern-day Alain de Botton. There are wise words from Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, e.e. cummings, Thomas Edison, Leonard Cohen, Helen Keller, Anais Nin, and Clay Shirky. And where would we be in 2012 without a few choice musings from Carrie Bradshaw, “thirtysomething”’s Miles Drentel, and of course, Ron Burgundy.

Maybe it’s this whole being-a-writer thing, but these words of wisdom and revelation help ground me. They serve as a muse when it’s time to sit in front of a blank page. And they’re also a diary of sorts; I can scroll through the document and see the lessons I was learning at different points in my life: self-discovery, independence, creative struggles, love, connection, happiness, motivation.

As many of you know, this has been a big year for me – filled with change, adventure, and uncertainty. Such is the drill when you meet an amazing man and, nine days later, he learns he’s being relocated to Montreal (details here). That whole experience + turning 40 (!) + a painfully slow first six months of the business year = a sizable chunk of time spent reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past four decades, and the lessons I want to carry with me into this next phase of life. Without a doubt, the most significant is the one at the top of this post: “Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”

Throughout 2012, I’ve often sat down to sift through the quotes, add a few more to the list, and think about what I’ve learned. In doing so, I also started jotting down quotes of my own – words that have tumbled from my lips in conversation, leapt from my fingertips in blog posts, and illuminated my brain during personal light bulb moments. Some of them were fairly quick and simple revelations that struck me out of the blue; others were gleaned through painstaking, lengthy, sometimes-heartbreaking experiences whose lessons didn’t register for years.

I believe one of the greatest gifts is that of story and wisdom gleaned from a life lived. So in this season of giving, I’m passing along my “40 Things I Know at 40.” Although all those philosophers and visionaries and whatnot are inspiring, these are my own words. My hope in sharing them is that you’ll think about your life lessons and pay them forward – to lift someone’s spirits, soothe them during strife, encourage them to step back, or inspire them to push forward.

Wishing you love, laughs, wit, wisdom, and many blessings this season and in 2013,

Nicole

40 Things I Know at 40

  1. If you have your health, people you love, and meaningful work that brings you joy, you have the cake AND the icing. Everything else is just sprinkles.
  2. Surround yourself with authentic, positive people. But first – cultivate your own authenticity and positive outlook. Then you won’t depend on anyone else to define your life direction or mood.
  3. Whoever you’re with, whatever you’re doing, make it the center of your world at that moment.
  4. We can’t control the behavior of others, but we have the power to tell them what’s bothering us. It’s up to them if they want to change – and it’s up to us if we want to wait or walk.
  5. It’s much scarier – but far more rewarding – to blaze your own trail. As Elle’s great E. Jean Carroll says, “Never look for a job when you can create a job.”
  6. Chasing prestige guarantees you will always feel empty. Instead, chase what feels good, brings meaning, makes you lose track of time, and makes other people smile.
  7. It’s better to be alone than be with someone and feel alone.
  8. Wheat, dairy, and sugar hate pretty much everyone’s guts.
  9. If you find yourself feeling hopeless, rattled, pessimistic, or drained in someone’s presence, stop spending time with them.
  10. Whatever you imagine will happen, often will. Be aware of the worst outcome, but assume the best one will occur. Nothing is foolproof but it certainly feels a hell of a lot better to believe the future warrants Ray-Bans.
  11. Always take the risk. Failure is better than forever wondering “what if.” And success never sucks.
  12. If you’re alive, it’s not too late.
  13. Always make time for rest and fun. Burnout is real and will slowly kill you.
  14. Learn to love your own company – hold court at a table for one, take solo vacations, attend concerts and museums and movies alone.
  15. We actually control very little in our lives. Almost everything is a transaction, and thus dependent on the action of someone else. All we can do is get out of bed and try. The rest is up to the world.
  16. The certain past often seems less daunting than the uncertain future, but going backwards is rarely the answer.
  17. Be a dabbler. Try new things, try lots of things, even if you’re just sticking your toe in the water. Life is really fun if you’re a jack of many trades AND a master of something.
  18. Success on anyone’s terms but your own is not success.
  19. There is great power in vulnerability. Only when you make yourself vulnerable – and make your needs known, even if the anxiety of expressing them makes your knees buckle – can you get your needs met and make progress in your relationships.
  20. Just because it worked for you doesn’t mean it will work for somebody else. (That goes for this list, BTW! Take or leave any of it…no hard feelings. :->)
  21. Everyone is worthy of love and kindness. Other than that, no one owes you anything.
  22. If you’ve been knocking on one door for a long time – to the point where you’re taking an axe to it – you’re probably missing dozens of open doors behind you. At least one of them probably leads to something much better than what’s behind the closed door. Put down the axe and turn around.
  23. Learn the difference between your gut instinct and fear – they feel eerily similar.
  24. Forget the expectations you had last year or five years ago or when you graduated college. What do you want based on who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow?
  25. Life scripts are boring, and well-paved paths are the best way to get stuck in a traffic jam.
  26. Strive to be a whole person – embrace and express all sides of yourself.
  27. Having it all depends on how you define “all.” Figure out what that means to you.
  28. Whether in life or behind the wheel, detours are fun – and often lead you to places you never imagined.
  29. Life is not a case of “either/or” but of “yes AND” (props to my improv training :->)
  30. Busyness is not a virtue. It’s usually an escape.
  31. Sometimes you have to let go of what you want and love what’s on your plate.
  32. Constantly striving for the next thing – job, relationship, whatever – and assuming that THEN you’ll be happy is bullshit. Stop moving the goal posts and find a way to be happy now. The rest will take care of itself.
  33. Define what you want – visualize it, write it down. As clearly as you can. Then let it go. Some people will tell you to do one or the other…do BOTH.
  34. Focusing on what’s wrong just begets more of what’s wrong.
  35. Hatred, judgment, and intolerance are never the answer. Try love, compassion, and kindness instead.
  36. It’s not anyone else’s job to take care of our feelings or make sure our needs are met.
  37. “Life is short” is not an excuse to behave irresponsibly.
  38. The first thing we do to take care of ourselves is put a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs, and money in the bank. If you’re not meeting these essentials, everything else you’re doing to “take care of yourself” is extraneous.
  39. If you can learn to forgive yourself – and be gentle with yourself – you’ll find you have more compassion for others. And it improves your interactions with everyone around you.
  40. We often hear, “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” But there’s actually no destination. Life IS the journey. When the journey’s over, you’re dead. So enjoy it, embrace it, squeeze the love out of every minute.
Advertisements

Holiday Wishes and Wisdom

Holiday greetings, tidings, and well wishes to you, dear family and friends! I hope this finds you healthy, happy, and looking forward to the new year.

After seven years of major metamorphosis – divorce, two cross-country moves, performing on various stages, selling a home, buying another, starting a business, growing a business, stabilizing a business – 2011 marked a slowing of change in my outer world. There were, of course, highlights: bidding adieu to clients I’d outgrown (no offense, Microsoft); welcoming new clients – including HTC, where my friend and former colleague, Michele, is creating the internal communications function from the ground up, and has enlisted me to help her in this exciting endeavor. There was also a fair amount of travel: Palm Springs, NYC, Maui (photos here), Lake Chelan – mostly with cherished friends, as well as some rejuvenating solo time. And I awoke my dormant performer by joining the Seattle Ladies Choir for their premiere season. Given that my last forays onstage were of the improv / comedic nature during my time in NYC, it was wonderful to exercise the lungs through song – for the first time in 25 years.

But perhaps the most interesting development of 2011 was the realization that many people are in periods of significant transformation. Over the course of the year, a number of them found their way to me – either through mutual friends or just as we got to know one another better – and I found myself repeatedly being asked, “How did you do it?” How did you recover from the loss of a 15-year relationship? How did you build a successful consulting business, doing what you love? How did you buy a home and create financial security when you’re single and self-employed?

When people ask these questions, I sense they’re seeking a clear answer, a sage bit of wisdom that will help them find their way through the dust clouds, fog, and cobwebs that life repeatedly throws our way. But our lives are an amalgam of the many choices we’ve made throughout our journey – thus, no one move someone makes, even if it was revolutionary for them, will cause the same effect in another person’s life.

What I can offer, however, is this: all too often, when the dust swirls and blurs our view of what’s ahead, we freak out and start looking for detours to escape the uncertainty. But compare this to driving when visibility is so poor even the fog lights don’t cut it – panicking and detouring could send you off the road and into a ditch, or over a cliff. Instead, you’d be wise to stop and wait for conditions to clear, for the road to reveal itself. And the same applies in life: stop, breathe, tune into your inner voice…and let it show you the way.

That’s the best piece of advice I have, the one I credit most for helping me get to this point. But it really pisses some people off because they want something concrete, some step-by-step guide to barreling through the unknown. Believe me, I’ve been there. It’s unnerving to just pull over and get quiet for a while. And allowing that inner voice to come alive and guide you requires a lot of time, a lot of soul searching, a lot of brutal self-honesty, a lot of risk-taking, a lot of courage, a lot of tackling life alone, a lot of tears, a lot of teeth-gritting, and a lot of letting go. When that inner voice narrates the GPS of your life, you have to be ready to accept that it’s lonely out there on the road paved by choices all your own. You’ll veer away from some of your relationships and activities as you make room for new people and opportunities better suited to who you really are – and, more importantly, who you’re becoming.

So – if you have an inner voice you suffocate with a pillow, stop it. And if you think you don’t have an inner voice, you’re wrong. It just got so sick of you not listening, it finally gave you the finger and went into hibernation. Either way, you can jab an IV of Jolt Cola into its jugular by asking yourself this question:

“If I had only six months to live, what would I at least try to accomplish?”

Close your eyes and really imagine a doctor giving you this jarring prognosis. What comes to mind arrives courtesy of your inner voice – these things are your passions, your purpose. Sure, there’s bucket list stuff like skydiving and traveling to India and riding naked on a Harley (no judgment). But then there’s the real stuff, the Six Months to Live list. We’re talking going to medical school, figuring out how to sell your art, boot-scooting your mega-yum cookies out of the kitchen and into the cases of your own bakery. Remember, you only have six months left – you may not actually get your M.D. or see a painting sold, or proffer that first double-chocolate-cherry-macadamia bite of sinfulness, but you’ll literally die trying.

My wish for you in the coming year is that, even with the hustle and bustle and electronic madness of modern life, you’ll carve out some quiet time to listen to your inner voice. And that you’ll start letting it guide you – from the bucket list stuff all the way to the real, Six Months to Live List stuff. I also hope you’ll keep in mind that no one ever “arrives” or is fully enlightened. We’re always evolving on this topsy-turvy ride called life, though I believe we arrive at certain mile markers along the way that indicate our preparedness for various challenges – relationships, career success, children, unearthing our unique gifts and giving them back to the world. Because there is something you can do better than any other. Your inner voice knows what that is and, if you obey it, you’ll do it – before the ride is over.

Blessings, peace, health, and happiness to you and those you love – this season and throughout 2012.

With much love,
Nicole

Wisdom

I’m having yet another approaching-birthday crisis. But this year, much enlightenment has ensued as a result. Intentions are being set, first steps (and big risks) have already been taken, and let me tell you – come this time next year, this life o’ mine will look a lot different.

More to come in a fuckass-long post very soon. Meanwhile….a palate cleanser:

My bicoastal tendencies are stirring

Dang, NYC! This is the stuff I miss about that great city. I guess I’ll have to figure out a way to bring this sort o’ fabulousness to SEA. Or just bunk it part-time in Brooklyn so I can get my fix.

Feelgood stuff for right now in this very moment

From these guys, who always proffer lots of peppy word stuff:

To remind us all to set our egos aside because shockingly (and thankfully), the world does not revolve around us: “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally – nothing other people do is because of you. It’s because of themselves.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

FTW!!!! “Don’t believe the saying, ‘You complete me.’ No other person can complete us….but we CAN complete ourselves. Look no further than yourself. We just need to believe it.”

And now for the image-oriented (thanks, CD):

Daily irony: J.K. Rowling talks failure to Harvard grads

Attention all comedy folk who have been overrepresented as commencement speakers in 2011: *This* is a real story that’s actually moving and thought-provoking. *This* is what we’re looking for on graduation day. Not 15 minutes of jokes and self-promotion, followed by five minutes of tawdry pseudo-inspirational life lessons.

As much as I love you all for your televised comedic gold, I’m talking to you Conan, Colbert, and yes even you, Poehler (despite my earlier post).

A few choice excerpts:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.”

“Happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.”

“Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.”

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”

And now – without further adieu.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In honor of grads, dads, and all that

Say what you will about Sir Jobs. This is still my favorite commencement address of all time.

Though the divine Ms. P. knocked one outta the pahk at Hahvahd last week.