Answering His Call

I have always been a sensitive soul – (I know, many of you would recommend that I don’t share something like that in such a public way) easily hurt, idealistic and passionate about the entire human experience. Longing to feel connected, valued and understood. Often feeling far from all of these.

Feeling ALIVE has really been the only goal I have known.  Most of the advice I was given growing up was to “toughen up” “stop worrying about what other people think” and “your skin is too thin, the world will eat you alive.”

At times, I felt like I wasn’t meant for this world. If I was going to succeed, I would need to change who I was – and that seemed like selling out and, well, pretty impossible.  So, I have continued to fight the good fight – claiming my space in the world and continuing to do everything I can to be human, in spite of the vulnerability and risk that brings.

Ironically, as I have become more comfortable with my thin skin, and by claiming and accepting my vulnerability, I have become stronger and more confident. I have also learned to use it as my shield against negativity and cynicism, I have discovered along the way, that there are many other people like me, who appreciate humanness. We are a growing army, and I love feeling the energy of all of you who shine your light on me with your kindness, and acceptance, love and appreciation of who I am.

This has been the greatest reward of being myself. To be met with the opportunity to connect and grow with you, my fellow journeyers – and that was why, initially, I embarked on my quest. To find you, and, if you existed, to connect with you in a very real, meaningful way. Because these connections make me feel alive, which is the only thing I have ever truly wanted!

This is exciting!  And yet, the most unexpected result of all has been to achieve success. To become a leader of a company, was never something I would have been able to envision. And yet, here I am. And doing a darn good job! 🙂

My journey has been – and continues to be – filled with challenges, which is to be expected. But I’m often struck at moments like this with amazement and awe of the person I have become.  And each time I allow myself an indulgent moment to pause and reflect, as I am doing today, sharing this message, I realize that God is here, shining His light and encouraging me to answer His call. He’s been doing this all along. My resistance to the idea that I must change who I was in order to succeed, has been Him. The voice in my head has been Him whispering; encouraging me to be myself and to lead with courage, confidence and openness. To listen and learn. To always love, in spite of the ugliness, and hate that fills the world, He has been nodding and smiling, encouraging me to keep being me. And today, I humbly and happily accept His request.

If there’s anything I can offer to you, the reader, it is this.  By shining your light, and sharing your love with the world, you welcome and embrace people like me. Love is magnetic. It pulls out others who love, and gives them permission to be themselves; to give their best; to forgive; to accept; to be human, and to embrace all that it means to be a child of God. So, please be that person.  Even when it seems like it’s not “right.” Even when it seems like you should care less.  Care more. Because that is what we need today.  It’s what we have always needed. We can’t give in. We are ONE.

Welcome to the Light

Every day that I wake up and get out of bed is a victory.

Inexplicable darkness is worse than monsters in the closet… at least when there are monsters in the closet, you can close and barricade the door.

Inexplicable darkness is that shame, guilt, sadness that you can’t explain – and when you try, no one understands.  They try…. but you know they can’t feel your emptiness, and their solutions aren’t going to come close to filling the holes that only you can see.

Inexplicable darkness means you have to pretend or stay home.  If you go out, you can’t talk about the pain and there’s nothing else that exists in your mind other than the pain.  So you stay home.  You self-medicate, you cry, you sleep, you stay away from those who love you because you don’t want to hurt them any more than you already have.  You can see the pain in their eyes and it makes your pain even worse.  They think you are making excuses, they believe you should be able to cope the way they, and everyone else does.  But you can’t.  You Can’t.

You know – you believe – it’s a FACT that you are mad, crazy, dramatic, overwhelming, exhausting, poisonous, draining – useless.

Success is believing in the Process, even when you don’t believe in yourself.

It isn’t perfection. Not even close.

Success is changing the dialogue you have with yourself.  Success is getting up and going at it, whether or not you want to. 

It’s doing it, even if you don’t know why, or if it will work. Success is proving to yourself that you CAN, because you DID.

And, at the end of the day, success is being able to say, “I did it today, so I can do it again tomorrow.” – and then doing it again tomorrow. Until you’ve strung tomorrows together enough times that it’s become a week, then a month and then, it’s when you can’t remember the last time you didn’t.

And you cry, because you realized you don’t have to explain the darkness anymore. 

Because you are surrounded by the light.

A Note for People with a Dream – and Those who Love Them

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I’m inspired today thinking about the boys in the movie McFarland, USA. 7 boys whose families
had never been past 9th grade, found a way to college. Their status quo could have swallowed them. Instead, they created a new status quo. With a coach who believed in them, a brand new cross country team from a predominantly Mexican town in southern California managed to win 9 cross-country state championships in 14 years. Totally unrealistic in 1987.

Today, it’s a story worth telling – and believing in.

There’s a scene in the movie in which Tomas is speaking with his father about the possibility of winning the state championship, and that winning a state championship might give him an opportunity to go to college. His father, worn down from hard work and struggling to support his family tells Tomas to forget about college.  He tells him spending time reading is going to ruin his eyes.

It was that moment when things could have completely changed for Tomas (and the team). If Tomas had succumbed to the reality of his father’s words. If he had bought in to the mindset that he was never going to be any more than a “picker,” that may have determined a different outcome for Mc Farland’s cross-country team. But he managed to hold on to hope – an idea that maybe, just maybe running could take him further than his father could see.  No one would have blamed him if he had given up. It was totally unrealistic to imagine their team could ever win the state championship. But they did.

The belief in a dream/idea is so fragile, almost fleeting.

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We all know that not all ideas are great. But who determines if a dream has legs? Only us. To vet a dream is to learn a lesson. By trying, we can learn for ourselves what works and what doesn’t work.  No one can accurately predict the viability of an idea without testing it. The first iteration will be clumsy, awkward, and might be a flop – we’ll probably come in 4th out of 4 teams – otherwise known as last place.  But that process of failing – that is when the idea grow its wings. The courage to show up at the next race and the next. That is what greatness is made of.

As a young girl, I grew up in a family filled with love. There were no barriers to the love, but I felt barriers to my abilities, and, as they say, my perception was my reality. For reasons that don’t matter today, I felt limited in my abilities. My ideas were disregarded as idealistic – and they were, because I was never brave enough to take action, to test my dreams, to shoot for the stars.  Today, I realize that idealists – people with dreams – are special people.  People who are encouraged to try (and fail) are the most creative people on Earth. They follow their heart, even if everyone else thinks they are crazy.

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As a dreamer, I will warn you: To put yourself out there is a risk. People will laugh at you. They will criticize you, they might even call you stupid. But if we dreamers can remember one simple fact, we might get beyond the fear and change the world anyway: If it’s our dream, it’s our job to make it a reality. No one else can – because no one else sees exactly what we see.  Thank goodness for people like Jim White and for the dreamers who are willing to take the risk, daring to be champions.

 “You guys are superhuman. What you endured just to be here, and get a shot at this; the kind of privilege that someone like me takes for granted… There’s nothing you can’t do with that kind of strength – with that kind of heart – you kids have the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. Go win the race.” – Jim White, McFarland, USA


Your Life Called… It’s Waiting For You to Claim It!

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a local seminar series called Yes Yes! YES!.  The topic was Claim your Life.  I had fun preparing for the talk and the experience was both liberating and invigorating.  Today, I have renewed energy to share my passion for claiming the Awesome! that I believe is in everyone.  I wanted to share the high notes with you – in case you aren’t local. I think the message is important and I want to share it with whoever needs to hear it. If you’ve already claimed your Awesome! maybe you know someone who could use a little pep talk!

Are the voices you are listening to saying the right things?

As I prepared for the seminar, I had to take care of some of the negative thoughts that still try to come in and convince me that I am “fooling myself” and not “good enough” that “my message isn’t special” and even harsher, “people will think you are a joke.”  It’s difficult to be productive when you have this noise in your head.  Fighting you and ambushing you when you are in the middle of being Awesome!  No matter how far I have come, I still deal with the voices.  But I now know that I am in control of them and I get to tell them what I want them to say.  So, in the middle of my preparation, I stopped, got up from my desk, went into the restroom, looked in the mirror and said (Yes, I literally did this): “Chrissanne, you are Awesome! You will say exactly the things you need to say because you are Awesome!

And then the thoughts weren’t jammed in my head. Because I stopped listening to the self-destructive thoughts, the thoughts began to flow.  The most amazing part of this though, was that I was relaxed.  If there were any more of the dark side voices, I can’t remember. I wasn’t listening.

As children we listen to the trusted people in our lives.  They want what’s best for us.  Their job is to keep us safe.

Awesome is not safe.  As a child I was very close to my mother.  My mother is beautiful, inside and out.  She was a model for L.S. Ayers in Indianapolis.  I remember (in that cloudy childhood fog of memory) having a conversation with my mother in the car as we were going home from school.  She was telling me how pretty I was.  I didn’t shrug my shoulders uncomfortably as I began to do as I got older.  I believed it when she said it.  I asked her, “Am I pretty enough to be a model, like you?” Her answer wasn’t no.  But it also wasn’t yes.  As I recall her answer was an explanation of the difficulties for models. The expectations, the demands for skinniness and height, etc.  It doesn’t really matter what she said though.  From that moment on, I didn’t think I was pretty enough. Who cares that I never never wanted to be a model!  I was a tree-climbing, rough housing tomboy who loved sports and tackling.  But the seed had been planted.  I was average.  Ordinary. Being ordinary is safe.  It’s average. Everyone is doing it.  But everyone can do more, can be more. If they are willing to be Awesome!

Ordinary is hard to overcome because that’s what society tells us we are.

Growing up, I compared myself to the stars on TV.  The girls that I saw in my adolescent eyes as Awesome! didn’t live in a box like I did. They didn’t feel insecure, or tell themselves they weren’t good enough. They were pretty enough, talented enough. In my mind, everyone was confident, except me.  Everyone knew what they wanted, except me. Everyone was destined for greatness, except me.  If I ever thought there was something Awesome! about me worth sharing with the world, something would stop me.  The voice inside told me it was arrogant to think that about myself. Who was I to believe I was special? Is there anyone teaching us to believe we are Awesome!? Classrooms are filled with budding Awesomeness! But are we encouraging it?  By the time kids arrive in middle school, they are already certain of their fate. (even though it’s not true, they believe this is who they will be for the rest of their lives.) They are either confident and enthusiastic about themselves and they know where they are going; or they have been given too many doses of ordinary and they are lethargic and intimidated by the suggestion that they too have Awesome! within them.  As a teacher for 10 years, I saw their eyes, as they glanced at the kids who “had it”.  Their expressions seemed to say, “I am not good enough.  I am not as good as them.” I saw myself in these expressions.  The oppression of the feeling of ordinary is very real.  And society says, “Not everyone can be Awesome!

I call B.S.  I say HOGWASH!

The messages we hear are not in our control as children.  But they certainly are when we become adults.  The trouble is, that the tapes are already on autoplay in our minds.  We play the same messages over and over.  Believing it’s our fate, buying into whatever messages we’ve heard all our lives.  But I have discovered the secret.  It’s not really a secret, but I agree it’s tough to get out of the habit of telling yourself the same things you’ve been saying (and hearing) for 20 or more years.  There’s only one way to change.  It’s not just changing the voices, it’s changing the actions that we take as a result of the voices. It’s doing something different than the voices are telling us. It’s acting in spite of the voices.

Whatever we are telling ourselves is going to dictate how we act, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves.

I recently wrote about self-help books in a previous post because the autoplay messages were coming from a consistent source that was keeping me stuck.  I was reading books that told me I was OK as I was.  I needed to accept myself and be happy with the status quo. But I was depressed!  Accepting that was certain death!  I needed to break my mental chains and the books I was reading didn’t describe how this was possible. The Self-Help book is a distinctly different book than then Personal Development book.  When I changed the messages I was reading, I discovered what Awesome! felt like.  It wasn’t all at once, and I have had setbacks, but I practiced the principles in the books I was reading.  I listened and became willing to try something different (because what I was doing was not working! The results, as you can see, have been nothing short of Awesome! and I believe anyone, EVERYONE is capable of becoming their own version of Awesome! There are no exceptions.  It’s simply a matter of doing the work it takes to place yourself in a different context.  The people we surround ourselves with, the things we tell ourselves, the actions we take are the fabric of who we are.

How do you eat an elephant?

Nothing happened overnight. Taking the small steps, one step at a time (like eating an elephant, one bite at a time).  I knew I had a lot of work to do, but I didn’t focus on how far I had to go.  I focused on the steps I was taking each day and before long, I realized I had made progress.  I actually had moved from ordinary into a path that created momentum and joy.  It allowed me to celebrate success, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t done yet.  (I am still not done. I still have a long way to go) Actually, the way I look at Awesome! is that you are never done.  The Awesome! road is the road you choose to stay on for the rest of your life.  But you have to get started and I hope you will. When I started, I read a book called the Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.  The principles in the book are not anything you’ve never heard before.  But the changes I made in my life by practicing the Slight Edge Principles are all I needed to convince me that anyone, with the right tools, and the passion to accomplish something will, in fact become Awesome!

The Slight Edge Principles are Powerful.

  1. Show Up – Woody Allen said 80% is just showing up.  Do you know why?  Because once you are there, you can actually beAwesome! You can’t be awesome from your bed.
  2. Be Consistent – When a friend of mine stopped me one First Friday Downtown and told me she admired my consistency, I knew what I was doing had turned into a habit.  I wasn’t thinking about my past patterns anymore.  I had become a consistent person.  Someone people could rely on.Awesome!
  3. Be Committed for a Long Period of Time – If you aren’t ready, get ready.  There will be bumps and bad days.  There will be less-than-awesome people on the road who will be there simply to challenge you commitment. Don’t Let Them!  Be ready to give it everything you have, becauseAwesome! is waiting for you to claim it!
  4. Have Faith and a Burning Desire – Passion. Find that something inside of you that, no matter what you will fight for.  That’s your passion and somewhere around there, you’ll find yourAwesome! You won’t break away from ordinary if you aren’t passionate and if you don’t really believe in it.  Start small if you have to, because you’ll find it when you start looking!
  5. Be Willing to Pay the Price – You’re going to have to make sacrifices, you won’t win every battle you try to fight on the path to claiming yourAwesome! You’ll have to stop listening to people who don’t recognize that there is more to life than the status quo.  People might laugh at you, they might ignore you, they might hate you.  That’s the price.  Be willing to do it anyway.
  6. Live with Integrity.  Ask yourself, “Is this the right thing to do?”  “Will I feel good about this when I am finished?” “Is this supporting my path toAwesome!?”  “Is it going to hurt someone else?” “Can I do this another way that will still accomplish the objective without hurting someone else?” Do I believe in what I am doing?”  If you aren’t living with integrity.  If you’re cheating, or stepping on others, you’ll know it.  And you won’t feel very Awesome! As a matter of fact, you won’t get too far before you’ll wind up back on the ordinary road.

Everything I did was up to me.  It was my responsibility to pick myself up and get myself on to a new path, a new road. And now, it’s such an incredible feeling to look back and see how far I have come.  I was stuck in an ordinary box, feeling unworthy.  But I changed that.  And you can too.

I leave you with a quote because you need to know that the world is waiting for you to claim your life and begin being Awesome!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Making a Strong Case for Starting

In the last few years I have discovered several books that have helped me give myself “permission” to listen to my heart and begin following my own path – not someone else’s idea of what would be the best path for me.  It started when I discovered Simon Sinek and his TED Talk on the subject of “Starting with Why.”  I bought his book Start with Why:  How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. If you haven’t read it, you might want to check it out.  The only trouble I have had with “Why”, is explaining it to other people.

As a result of reading Start With Why, I have found helping people “find their why” has become my own passion, but it has proven to be a difficult task when talking to people who are hung up on “how.” The results are important, don’t get me wrong, but some of the greatest leaders in history would not have persevered long enough to become great leaders if they had been driven strictly by the results of their efforts.  Great leaders are motivated by “why” and that makes all the difference. Sinek emphasizes that everyone needs to have the ability to move from “why” to “how”, but you have to start with “why”.

And then, two different friends told me about another author I had not yet heard of: Jon Acuff and his book Start. Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work that Matters. (Rob Beaudreault @challengeyourfamily, who gave me an autographed copy and John McKee @CatalystJohn who asked me about creating a contest in which he can give away an autographed copy using Facebook and his blog.  We had a lot of fun running that contest!

Start, in my opinion, provides a more practical approach to finding your “WHY.” You’ll find a lot of similarities to Start with Why in this book about escaping average.  The difference is that Acuff refers to Sinek’s suggestion to “find your why” as finding your “Awesome.” It challenges the reader to recall the days in her life when she believed she was awesome. Acuff, like Sinek believes it’s within all of us, but somewhere along the line we lost sight of it.  They both think it’s still there, but as adults, we have to work a little harder to find it.

Whenever I introduce a new concept, I try to prepare for those who will challenge it because it’s unfamiliar to them.  That is what has occurred when I discuss the importance of following one’s passion, or starting with why.  People insist it isn’t practical.  If everyone just followed their heart, and their passions, there wouldn’t be anyone getting anything done.  I think Acuff’s response to someone who challenged him in this way is perfect:

“You’re confusing awesome with a job title.  Awesome is the core of who you are. It’s your heart, your soul, the fabric of what makes you. A job title is just a consequence of you living out of your awesome. I’m not trying to tell people to go out and find new job titles; I’m telling them to escape average.”

Whether you’re living and working in your “awesome” or not, you’ll enjoy reading Jon Acuff’s newest book because it’s real.  He’s in his awesome and he wants you to have the opportunity to do the same.  It’s not unrealistic, and it’s not selfish to consider those things that give you the most joy.  As a matter of fact, Acuff says, “being who you are designed to be always results in in selflessness, not selfishness.

Finding Experts in Your Own Back Yard | Catalyst John – Business Coach

Tell Them What You Really Need.

Are you an entrepreneur?  Someone working hard to turn a dream into a reality? I’ll bet you have 15 books written by experts you can’t talk to face to face, and you have 15 people that you can talk to face to face telling you how *they* think you should do it.  There’s someone in Lakeland, (yes, there ARE experts in Lakeland) named @CatalystJohn.  He has a gift, and he’s sharing it with those who are willing to admit that they don’t have it all figured out yet, but believe strongly in their vision.  People who know they have something great to share with the world, but they just can’t seem to get it out by themselves.

I know how it feels to have a vision for something spectacularly awesome, and I know how it feels to get stuck because there’s no road map.  No clear, proven direction. I have been frozen with fear before. And, while I am not alone (thanks to my business partner Craig), I can imagine how it would feel if there was no one qualified (or not) who was willing to listen, or offer guidance when I let my own thoughts get in the way of my progress – and slow down my momentum.  It’s important that everyone with passion and a strong WHY for their vision has someone capable next to them who can help them hammer out the details of HOW.  Not critics.  Not naysayers, or people who’ll try talk you out of what you are dreaming.  But someone to help you cultivate the dream.  To articulate it, to draw it out and develop a plan to make the vision a reality.  Sometimes, you need a Catalyst who will help you deliver.

Read John’s words on what we (as entrepreneurs) really need:

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