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Want to Succeed? Let Go

Photo by Cyril Lookin
By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning. ~Lao Tsu

When I joined my college improv comedy troupe during my freshman year at UPenn, I wasn’t the only newly inducted member in the group. Another guy named Pete came on board with me.

Pete and I were total opposites. Right before a show I was a ball of nervous energy, while Pete was super cool and relaxed.

I worked hard in practice, memorizing the rules of each game and studying what worked and what didn’t, while Pete — always on cruise control — seemed to just wander into practice and wing it.

I didn’t like Pete at first. I didn’t think he was a good performer and didn’t trust him in scenes. He would say something totally random that no one else was prepared for, and the scene would suddenly turn in a completely different direction.

There was just one thing though — Pete was funny. Real funny.

4 Things Good Listeners Do

Photo by Jan Fidler
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~Bryant H. McGill

Some acquaintances and I were hiking together in a new spot. Everywhere we turned there were things to behold — falcons perched, coyotes hunting, altars built — it was an experience I can’t wait to repeat.

Since we were all fairly new friends, we all had plenty to tell each other. There was very little silence, even in such an awe-inspiring place. When I got home I realized that I didn’t remember a lot of what was said. I was embarrassed to admit it, but it seemed I had forgotten to listen.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a good listener; in fact, many people open up to me for just that reason. Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe I was just out of practice (working alone will do that to you) but I decided to revisit some of the things I draw on to listen well. Here are four tips on how to listen:

Your Guide to Finding Peace

Photo by Tristan Duplichain Photography
Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept things as they are. ~Karen Maezen Miller

This morning, as I absentmindedly watched the news while returning hoards of neglected emails and tweeting like mad, a story about anxiety caught my attention.

According to the story, anxiety has become the “most common of psychological complaints,” affecting three in 10 Americans on a regular basis.

The man featured in the story had been racked with anxiety for years, spurred, he believes, by the traumatic experience of attending college and compounding every year since.

For him it almost ruined his relationship with his now-wife and continues to disrupt both his sleeping and waking life every day.

This is typical line of thought for him:

“I am anxious. The anxiety makes it impossible to concentrate. Because it is impossible to concentrate, I will make an unforgivable mistake at work. Because I will make an unforgivable mistake at work, I will be fired. Because I will be fired, I will not be able to pay my rent…”

Reading it now, it sounds like madness. None of it makes any logical sense, yet I recognize the thought pattern.

How I Deal With Depression

Photo by Nicolas Fuentes
Turn my sorrow into treasured gold. ~Adele

Three years ago I was depressed. I couldn’t stop crying over the mistakes I had made, and I was trying to dig myself out of a dark hole. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t go back and the only way I saw out was through death. I wanted it to be over, and I couldn’t see how I was going to live with myself.

I went to a doctor for a checkup because my body was so tired. When I told her my symptoms, she immediately asked me if I had suicidal thoughts.

She saw right through me.

Stop Limiting Yourself & Start Living

Photo by Tyello
The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible. ~Arthur C. Clarke

It’s said that there’s a common, first-year art major exercise where the teacher divides students into two groups and gives each group a different assignment.

The first group must study how to throw a perfect pot on a potter’s wheel and spend one week perfecting the process so as to get the proportions just right.

They are to create one pot and refine as they go, in pursuit of creating one perfect final work. In essence, they are to create systemically, according to a system or plan.

The second group’s assignment is to simply throw a lot of clay on the potter’s wheel, making multitudes upon multitudes of pots.

At the end of the week they are to choose which one is best, of the many they have created. In essence, they are to create “prolifically,” or in abundance.

At the end of the week, the art teacher assesses their work. Guess which group tends to turn out better work?

The group that creates prolifically. Guess which group has more fun?

The group that creates prolifically.

Living Authentically: A Personal Story

Photo by Matteo Paciotti
Whatever it takes to find the real you, don't be daunted if the rest of the world looks on in shock. ~Stephen Richards

About a year ago I left my job, moved up in the mountains far away from family and friends, and started anew. I had enough of crowded places, constant machine noise and a life spent mainly indoors. My way out was to use part of my savings to offer myself a year to find out: “What’s next?”

Until then, I had lived in different cities around Europe, working in offices for many years — a normal western lifestyle with its ups and downs and its hectic and stressful rhythm.

For some time I had been uneasy about it, and as I started searching for other possibilities, I suddenly felt I needed to do a clean cut and find a way of life that really fulfilled me.

Here I had my big chance to review my life, and the main question I tried to answer as honestly as I could was: Did I live according to my dreams, my convictions and the demands of my heart?

Obviously I did not.

3 Tips for Building Wealth

Photo by Michael Sissons
The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future. ~John Maynard Keynes

A while back, my husband and I took a vacation into the southwest deserts of the United States. We were driving through a particularly affluent area when my husband made a sarcastic remark about how much money everything cost.

I was quick to join in, but then I realized that one of our goals was to create wealth like that for ourselves. I asked him, “How can we ridicule something we desire? How will we ever attain something like that when we shun it now?”

It was a big question that stunned us both into silence. Since then, we’ve been working hard to understand our money stories and how we relate to wealth. It’s brought us into some emotional places, but throughout it all, we’ve felt our relationship with our money improve.

4 Questions to Help You Find Your Passion

Photo by Daran Kandasamy
It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live. ~Mae Jemison

I woke up earlier than usual and stayed in bed with the sheet pulled up to my chest thinking. How is it that I’ve come to live someone else’s life? The apartment was quiet. Early mornings were the perfect time to think.

As a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to take pictures of nature and write magical stories. As an adult, those dreams became distant.

I listened to the cacophony of voices around me, and they all knew what I should want. They all knew what I needed to do: go to college, get a stable job, get married, buy a house, have children, work hard until retirement …

I’d listened to everyone else and tried to contort myself to fit into a mold that just wasn’t right for me, leaving a string of abandoned jobs in my wake, each less suited for me than the last. The only joy I found in the nine-to-five grind was handing in my resignation notice.

7 Tips for More Confidence

Photo by AP Photographie
You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are. ~Yogi Bhajan

At the age of 12, after a rigorous audition and interview process, I was accepted into a local art school. While I had taken art classes nearly all my life, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I had talent that could even come close to the artists that this particular school churned out year after year.

I thought that receiving the acceptance letter might be validation enough to convince me that I was capable of doing what I had set out to do — that I had enough natural talent, and now all I needed was specialized instruction.

Instruction, it turns out, wasn’t what I needed. Confidence was.

How to Unlock Creativity

Photo by Gert-Jan Mes
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. ~Brené Brown

I have always wanted to be an artist.

I deeply admired the lives of the painters, the writers, the firestarters, the life wranglers. I longed to be one of them.

I longed to fiercely create, to share my voice boldly, just like they did.

However, for most of my life, I never felt creative.

I remained behind the scenes, insecure in my voice and expression, disempowered. I looked longingly at the ones who shared themselves freely — the ones that created art, who were improvisational, messily graceful and who loved wildly.

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