Weekly Roundup: April 25th-29th

Hello, all!

We opened the week with a retrospective of Prince and what he can inspire all of us to do.

Wednesday brought a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, about the fear of failure, and why that is 1) such BS, but also 2) such convincing BS.

Aaaaand on Friday, we closed out with a few new faves.

Some great stuff from around the web this week:

How’s everyone’s weekend going?

-M

A few new faves

this single serving cookie filled with sprinkles. Because sprinkles.

this list of reasons movies can go sharply downhill (works for books, too!).

…Spring! Loving Spring!

…stretching in the mornings. You’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes.

this memoir filled with honesty and inappropriate humor

…spinach, coconut milk, mango, and raspberry smoothies. 3/4 cup spinach, 1/2 can coconut milk, about a cup of frozen fruit. Good gracious, it’s yummy.

this line of sparkling water. I’m informed that not everyone knows about this. Ignore the packaging. The grapefruit is divine, and the coconut is also surprisingly good.

this photo set of Biblical figures using actual, you know, people of color instead of white people with makeup.

this stock photo that makes me want to write a thousand stories. (Also this article.)

…any candles scented like pine. I’m on a pine kick, no idea why.

this sparkly nail polish. I’m an adult.

…the painting I found and hung up in our bedroom, where it’s one of the first things I see everyday.

What are all of you crushing on?

 

Building Your Perfect Life: the Fear of Failure

There’s a lot going on in today’s post, including the underpinnings of our fear when we strike out on our own, AND a solution that works really well for me. Before you read, however, take a few minutes to watch this absolutely incredible speech by Jim Carrey. If you don’t have time to watch it now, bookmark it to come back to later – it’s worth it. It carries a powerful, if heartbreaking, message: if you refuse to put yourself on the line, if you shrink back from your most deeply-held dreams to protect yourself, you can still fail.

Why is this important?

Because the fear of failure governs us. We are social creatures, a fact that is not given the true weight it deserves. Humans often quite literally prefer violent death to losing face in front of one another, and when it comes to failure, however small, that instinct sinks its hooks into us and won’t let go. We won’t try, because we don’t want to fail.

Failure Quote 1

When it comes to striking out on your own, you may find yourself – as I did, and still often do – avoiding working on your own projects. It’s really remarkable how good you are at doing this. Your brain likes to avoid uncomfortable thoughts, so it rarely feels as if anything is happening when you’re avoiding your work, except that it’s then the middle of the afternoon and you have not done a single piece of work (you have, however, checked your email, played a round of something on your iPhone, stretched, checked your email, gotten more tea, played another round, stretched, responded to a few more emails…you get the idea).

The truth is, whether you articulate it to yourself or not, you are terrified that you have struck out on your own, only to fail at the thing you want most. If you don’t try, you can’t fail – or so you tell yourself. Better not to have the world see you fall flat on your face, right? You become so overwhelmed with the possibility of failure that you are completely paralyzed.

Failure Quote 2

So I’ll take all of the uncertainty out of it for you right now: you’re going to fail. You’re going to fail a lot.

What do you mean, that doesn’t make you feel better? Okay, okay, I get it. Your cursor is now hovering above the “close tab” button on the screen and you wish you’d never found this page. You’re rethinking this whole small business plan. After all, who wants to play a game where they lose all the time?

So…let’s reframe it: if you do everything right, you’ll end up failing a lot.

Failure Quote 3

How’s that, now?

Much like the road to hell being paved with good intentions, the road to success is paved with good intentions, wild optimism, and a bonus of failed projects. If you want to run a small business in this day and age, you’re going to have to build a website; create a social presence online, in your community, or both; handle accounting; have occasional meetings and business correspondence; manage to keep yourself fed and clothed; do whatever it is you need to do to make ends meet while your business gets up to speed; and, oh, yes, do the thing your business is centered around. It is absolutely, completely inevitable that you are not going to do every one of these things perfectly on the first try.

And here’s where the truth is, really. It’s that you don’t just get one try. The vast bulk of life is second (and third and fourth and tenth) attempts at things. I beat my head against the same projects for days at my corporate job and never thought less of myself for it. Suddenly, however, working my dream job as an author means that I expect my books to come out perfectly. On the first try. Not only that, I harbor the secret hope that they will be all things to all people: deep and profound, sarcastic and irreverent, filled with lush, gorgeous prose but not too over the top…

How can I possibly live up to that? I can’t.

Failure Quote 4

If you’re running a small business, if you’re living your dream life, you are sending yourself through a veritable gauntlet of first attempts – or, if you want to remember the way you felt when you first contemplated starting on this journey, a wealth of new experiences. You’re going to fail. You’re going to fall flat on your face. But that’s because really cool things, the very coolest things, can’t be done in one shot.

Keep going.

Uh, but how? Moira, I am seriously terrified, maybe you don’t understand. I swear to you, I do. I spent all of a recent day huddled in a little ball, trying to drag a single sentence out of myself to try to salvage a week of working on my manuscript and getting nowhere. Telling myself to ignore the fear did absolutely zip.

What did work was trying a technique from The 4-Day Win (sooooo much more than a diet book; highly recommended!) – I gave up on trying to write three chapters, or even two, or one. I didn’t even set a number of words. I made my goal so easy that I could pretty much do it accidentally by tripping and falling down: all I had to do was write one sentence, and then I could go upstairs and put on my favorite perfume and have the rest of the day for other projects. All I had to do was be brave for as long as it took to write one sentence.

And it worked. One sentence isn’t scary. A few days later, I upped it to 50 words. Probably about a paragraph. One paragraph became two, which turned into 1,000 words, and now my brain has come to realize that it doesn’t need to be terrified as hell when I start working on my own projects.

So, today, if you’re paralyzed by your own goals, give yourself a little break: make an absolutely teeny-tiny goal, give yourself a reward after, and spend the rest of the day on work that doesn’t terrify you. Build up. Don’t expect to go from 0 to 60 in nothing flat.

Prince: a Retrospective

The thing about Prince, the thing I am seeing mentioned over and over and over again, was how much of a consummate musician he was. He played 16 instruments (or possibly more). There are a series of interviews with other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Dave Grohl, wherein they are asked about their music skills and point the interviewer to Prince instead. Prince was a regular at one of the best-known record stores in the Twin Cities, where he came to browse and buy and astonishingly eclectic assortment of music. He practiced. He experimented.

I cannot discount the value of sheer willpower, and the fact that Prince must have had one of the strongest characters around to triumph over the life he had and the prejudice he faced, but one truth we cannot discount is that Prince loved what he did. He lived and breathed music. In the face of success that could have dragged him down a path of chasing accolades, he continued to make it about the music.

Perhaps it won’t support you. Perhaps you won’t win awards like Prince did – in fact, take comfort that the odds simply aren’t in your favor on that one and just throw the expectation out the window. Perhaps it will be a secret, something only you ever know about yourself. Whatever it is, I hope you find what Prince had: the absolute love of a topic that makes you dive into it headfirst and devote a “crazy” amount of time to it. Could be yo-yos. Could be figure skating. Could be poetry.

The thing is, Prince touched people with his music. His music was scandalous, freeing, and more. But he also touched people because of who he was, and who he was would have been very different if he had not pursued his music. Please: for you, and for the world, try to find whatever is your equivalent of that. And if you’ve found it, and you’re too scared to pursue it, please consider this Monday an excellent time to start off on a new foot.

Weekly Roundup: April 18th-22nd

What a week!

We started out the week with a gorgeous poem.

Tuesday brought an impromptu post about why millenials are leaving the workforce (no, it’s not laziness).

Wednesday’s guest post was from legal strategy consultant, stay-at-home father, and all-around awesome Christian from Catamount Strategies.

…aaaaand we wrapped up the week with a look at why we’re so freaking terrified to have kids.

Other great things on the web this week:

  • It wouldn’t be a proper round-up of the week without an acknowledgement of the artist we lost this week. As a transplant to Minnesota, I was fascinated to hear so many stories from people who ran into Prince in coffee shops, record stores, and more. First Ave, the club Prince truly lifted into the spotlight, held a series of all-night dance parties from Thursday through Sunday.
  • Artists have a profound impact on our lives, and Prince had a particularly profound impact on many black youth. Recommended reading especially for those, like me, who saw themselves everywhere in the media growing up.
  • Please, please, please, if you are considering a traditional publishing deal, know your rights.
  • I went to the loveliest birthday party today. Every year, my friend makes some appetizers, buys some bubbly and some club soda, and has her friends over for a no-gift afternoon of mingling. If you’re feeling like you have too much stuff in  your life, this might be a great way to celebrate!
  • I enjoy kale, but many people do not. I’m going to keep offering tasty kale dishes I find, though, because in my experience, the easiest way to convert people on food issues is to give them tasty thing. So how about this lovely kale caesar salad?
  • …or make a cake of crepes. (I love this blog. I love it, I love it.)
  • Reading this week: Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It (I still haven’t read Eat Pray Love, but the stories are fascinating); Help Thanks Wow; and The Wildwood Way.

What is everyone else reading/enjoying/looking forward to?

-M

Reasons We Can’t Have Children

Screw this “no one feels ready to have children” thing. Seriously. Apparently, people younger than us now have multiple children, and I have no idea how they’re doing it. First of all, we have enough trouble with the puppy. My god, what he can get into. He wants to follow us everywhere. He wants to be involved in every thing we do. We love him, but occasionally it gets excessive, like when it’s 2AM and we need sleep, so we do that thing where we shut him out of our bedroom at night.

Yeah, he doesn’t have thumbs. Kids do. They can open doorknobs.

grantraptor

Like that scene in Jurassic Park. They LEARN.

I don’t know how you fight that.

Also, let’s be honest: I usually can’t manage to put on matching socks. If you think it stops there, you’re living in a fantasy world. I not infrequently skip meals, or delay them by several hours because I’m working on something (always working, never on social media) (never). I swear. A lot. I drop things all the time. We barely get the laundry folded as it is, and when I say barely, I mean sometimes we don’t. I get my hair cut about once every year and a half because I forget to schedule appointments. I didn’t go to the dentist for ages. I don’t have my shit together enough to have a kid.

And we’re kind of keenly aware that we’re adding an effective sociopath to the mix. Small children don’t have empathy. They literally haven’t developed that part of their brains yet. And – AND this doesn’t even mean they act in their own self interest, either. They run out into traffic. They try to drink rubbing alcohol.

I don’t know how you fight that, either.

I mean, I get it. They’re also sweet and amazing and we’re going to love them more than life itself, and I’m not being sarcastic at all there, I’m really not. I’m just…taking it on faith that it’s worth it, like that time people told me high school wouldn’t last forever. That one turned out all right. We both want children. Some part of me even looks forward to running after them yelling things like, “Don’t try to pick up that hedgehog!” People might judge me less for having stains on my clothes, too, like that time we got married and people stopped expecting us to go out places and do things, which was a huge relief. I’m looking forward to reading them bedtime stories and watching them learn to speak and walk and ride bikes – though B is going to have to handle that last one, as I’m terrible with bikes. I’m genuinely looking forward to it.

It’s just scary as shit, that’s all.

 

Wednesday Guest Post with Christian of Catamount Strategies

Moira here! When I first contacted Christian about doing this post, he was a little reticent – unsure that his experience really fit what I was trying to convey. The truth is, he’s one of the people who’s most inspiring to me. He’s very clear not only on his priorities (both family and career), he’s tried multiple ways of making it all work, and been courageous enough to take the leap and embrace it all. I hope you’re as inspired as I am by today’s post! -M

***

I first began working for myself during my third year of law school, launching a website and planning to be my own one-man consulting firm as soon as I graduated. It was a strong start and I landed my first client almost immediately. When my wife and I contemplated starting a family, however, I felt irresponsible not bringing in a consistent income and not having a “normal” job, so I took a position at a small law firm. I earned a bi-weekly paycheck, and with it the feeling of conformity and comfort I thought I needed in order to have a child.

The paychecks were consistent, but after our son was born, my wife felt constantly stressed and isolated while I was away from home doing my time on the treadmill. To add to the stress, we were far from family, especially on my wife’s side. I myself discovered a new level of misery as I took the safe route in my career before even giving my first choice option a fair shot. In an attempt to be a good husband and father by having a “normal” job, I lost out personally and professionally, too miserable from work to be emotionally present at home.

In a spontaneous conversation that began one evening the moment I walked in the door, my wife and I decided that I was done with that job. Still, it took many months of job searching after that conversation took place for me to realize an absolutely inescapable truth: the only job for me was the one I had created for myself almost four years prior. Even in job postings that promised the experiences, goals, projects, and schedules that appealed to me, nothing came close. Before Christmas, I had filed my LLC and launched my new website.

I have taken this path because I have a very specific vision for my future and an uncompromising need for total autonomy. As someone who doesn’t believe in moderation when it comes to work, I need to be able to work day and night when I am “on”, but then be able to take extended time off for family time or to pursue other interests.  Working 9-5 barely permits me enough time to get in “the zone”, and frankly the idea of working set hours every day for 49 or 50 weeks out of the year is madness. It’s not moderation, it’s mediocrity.

The same goes for personal time. In a typical banking-hour job (or worse, a salaried “9-5” that really ends up being a 7-7) there is adequate time for family, except that it is broken up into tiny increments at the end of each day and week. That’s not relaxing, and it makes larger family responsibilities like hosting relatives from out of town or visiting an ailing grandparent extremely difficult to undertake.

The flip side of working like crazy when I am working is that now I can spend an entire sunny afternoon helping my one-year-old son to walk and run outside instead of working at something of questionable importance just because the clock told me to. For someone like me who is used to a work-centric life, this can sometimes feel like I’m doing like something I “shouldn’t” be doing. Because I have been at home with my son since he was four months old, however, I witnessed his first time crawling and his first steps, and he has been learning two languages at home years before ever setting foot in a classroom.

Starting my own firm has been awkward, irritating, and downright embarrassing. The strange thing though is that if you are willing to endure even just a little of this temporary alienation, you gain respect from the countless people who wish they could do what you are doing. Even before you start generating your income, you may be surprised to find that people – even those completely outside your field – will gravitate toward you and see how they can help you out, simply out of the respect they have for what you are doing for yourself, family, and community. The fun also may start earlier than you would have predicted. Once you are doing what you want to be doing, it’s amazing how you suddenly start building new friendships and having fun experiences centered around your chosen field. Whatever you do, do not give up. On your worst days, just remember how bad it used to be and keep on moving. Turning back is not an option.

***

Moira again! Christian points out something beyond work-life balance here (though he does a great job of showing that having a good work-life balance in no way means you’re slacking off). Namely, he mentions how many people are excited to see you succeed when you do this. You may think people will be angry or try to tear you down. I’ve experienced the opposite – it was just something I never thought to mention before this!

If you’d like a weekly roundup of posts (including a post like this one every week!), you can sign up for the mailing list here. No spam ever! -M

Millenials Are Leaving, and Employers Are Noticing

Last week brought work-life balance articles from two disparate industries: investment banking and video game development. In the first, the Wall Street Journal tackles the problems faced by Goldman Sachs and other banks as millenials leave the industry in droves. In the second, a game developer responds to this article, bemoaning the rising “wage slave” attitude and the expectation of employees that they not work double-time for months on end. (I’d really suggest reading this in-line response instead of the original article.)

I’ve seen an awful lot of articles about the problems of millenials in the workplace. There was this incredibly insulting article, among others. Articles and op-eds usually center around one of two problems: first, that millenials aren’t willing to put in the requisite work to prove themselves; or second, that we want to be congratulated and patted on the head for everything we do.

They don’t get it. In fact, Rami Ismail and Dean Takahashi are the first two I have seen understand this “problem.” So, business writers, if you’re listening (doubtful – I’m just hoping you might), here’s the deal: we’re not too lazy to accept a delayed gratification model. We’re making the determination that the present payoffs aren’t worth the cost. That’s it, that’s all. And it’s not lazy or foolish – it’s a value judgment.

Before I dive into that, I do want to highlight another issue that’s been overlooked: millenials, by and large, have never experienced the work culture of extended lunches out, free happy hours, merit raises, and extravagant bonuses. (Oh, we have “merit raises” – it’s just that the ones you earn through great work are slightly less than inflation.) Unlike other generations of finance workers, today’s office workers don’t get that pampering, and more to the point, we can’t even remember it. Post-recession work isn’t a blip on the radar for us, it’s all we’ve ever known.

So. Back to the value judgment. Let me show you the sort of things millenials are experiencing and finding “not worth it.”

  • A top-rated end of year evaluation that was downgraded to average because the millenial in question insisted on not working unpaid overtime
  • A new father who was told to pull more overtime because “you see your baby enough, get over it”
  • An employee expected to stay in the office until 10PM regularly despite the fact that there was never any work to do past 5PM or so
  • Employees put on mandatory 5-10+ hours of overtime per week due to chronic understaffing because “we need to cut costs,” while the raise in executive bonus for that department that year more than erased any savings the department might (after the overtime costs) have gotten
  • Looking up the ranks and seeing that the highest-paid employees in their departments, the ones experiencing the payoff for which these millenials are expected to strive, are in the office before anyone else and leaving later than anyone else, so scheduled that on work trips they have conference calls scheduled between when they get through airport security and when their plane boards
  • Playing the constant game that starts with, “employee X quit, can you handle their workload until we find a replacement,” and ends with, “actually, we won’t be hiring a replacement at all”

(Now, first, a side note: while it was very easy for me to accept the concept of burnout in my day job and rail against the expectations of long hours, I do want to admit up front that I fell into exactly the same management trap when I first started freelancing, and kept pushing myself through 60-65 hour weeks. I get it. It’s weird being a manager. That said, while it’s perfectly possible to get swept up in a project and spend more time than usual for a bit, it’s also unhealthy to try working that much as a regular thing. If you don’t believe me, ask Arianna Huffington.)

Now, to return to our main question: why would millenials not want the payoff in terms of career advancement and potential millions of dollars?

Let’s look at the list above. First, that it’s a rigged game that doesn’t actually reward just achievement, but also arbitrarily-derived ways of “showing dedication.” Second, that these people want to spend time with their families; given the general bemoaning about how the American family is in decline, you would think older generations would be happier about this one. The third, I think, speaks for itself. The fourth shows an underlying problem of lower-level workers playing a rigged game wherein they are expected to work extra hard (remember, without a commensurate raise) to compensate for the cost-cutting measures of an executive whose bonus will eclipse all money saved. The fifth shows that even when you “make it,” you still won’t get time with your family. The sixth shows that, again, you will be expected to work multiple jobs – only exacerbating the problem of, “you can’t take PTO, there’s no one to pick up the slack.”

It’s very easy to say that millenials are lazy and foolish – especially when you consider that this is a charge made by every generation towards the next. (I wonder what millenials will cite as the problems with their children…) It’s especially easy to be angry when you watch young people simply walk away from sacrifices that others have chosen to make (though not all of these problems have existed for generations, the expectation of long hours has in many cases). It’s easy to blame millenials for work conditions that other generations sometimes don’t see, or, if they do see them, perceive as a deviation from the norm rather than the norm itself.

It’s easier to blame millenials for being lazy than it is to accept that they are rejecting the status quo. It’s easier to blame us than it is to accept that unless there’s a change, industries won’t have enough people rising through the ranks to keep their businesses going the way they are. It’s easier to shoot the messenger than it is to accept the message.

We aren’t telling companies that they have to change. We aren’t forcing anything on them. All we’re saying is that we value time with our friends, with our family, for our hobbies. We’re saying that we’re willing to sacrifice higher paychecks (or the promise that we’ll be in the running for higher paychecks) in order to live the life we want. Perhaps it’s scary that money doesn’t seem to be a good carrot on a stick anymore; certainly, people who set boundaries often face backlash. But I, for one, am glad to see more and more people rejecting monetary payoffs in lieu of pursuing lives well-lived.

Poem: “To an English Friend in Africa” by Ben Okri

I found a fragment of this poem in Steering by Starlight, and I adore it. It reminds me of one of my absolute favorite poem fragments:

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night

(From “The Old Astronomer to his Pupil” by Sarah Williams)

“To an English Friend in Africa”

By Ben Okri

Be grateful for freedom
To see other dreams.
Bless your loneliness as much as you drank
Of your former companionships.
All that you are experiencing now
Will become moods of future joys
So bless it all.
Do not think your ways superior
To another’s
Do not venture to judge
But see things with fresh and open eyes
Do not condemn
But praise what you can
And when you can’t be silent.

Time is now a gift for you
A gift of freedom
To think and remember and understand
The ever perplexing past
And to re-create yourself anew
In order to transform time.

Live while you are alive.
Learn the ways of silence and wisdom
Learn to act, learn a new speech
Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit
Learn to free yourself from all things that have moulded you
And which limit your secret and undiscovered road.

Remember that all things which happen
To you are raw materials
Endlessly fertile

Endlessly yielding of thoughts that could change
Your life and go on doing for ever.

Never forget to pray and be thankful
For all the things good or bad on the rich road;
For everything is changeable
So long as you live while you are alive.

Fear not, but be full of light and love;
Fear not but be alert and receptive;
Fear not but act decisively when you should;
Fear not, but know when to stop;
Fear not for you are loved by me;
Fear not, for death is not the real terror,
But life -magically – is.

Be joyful in your silence
Be strong in your patience
Do not try to wrestle with the universe
But be sometimes like water or air
Sometimes like fire

Live slowly, think slowly, for time is a mystery.
Never forget that love
Requires that you be
The greatest person you are capable of being,
Self-generating and strong and gentle-
Your own hero and star.

Love demands the best in us
To always and in time overcome the worst
And lowest in our souls.
Love the world wisely.

It is love alone that is the greatest weapon
And the deepest and hardest secret.

So fear not, my friend.
The darkness is gentler than you think.
Be grateful for the manifold
Dreams of creation
And the many ways of unnumbered peoples.

Be grateful for life as you live it.
And may a wonderful light
Always guide you on the unfolding road.

Weekly Roundup: April 11th-15th

Hello, all!

The week started off with a post about anxiety and depression. To quote Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half, in a post I cannot seem to find, it may seem really uncomfortable to laugh at some of the things I say in that post, but I hope you do anyway. Depression is serious, but, much like Kim Jong Un, it hates when you laugh at it.

We continued on with a lovely guest post from Emily of Em Bakes. I really, really suggest reading (or re-reading!) this post. I really think that we approach hobbies in a strange way, very all-or-nothing, and this can hold us back from getting involved and having the simple pleasure of a life filled with things we enjoy. I want to showcase people here who have identified their priorities and are living them!

Finishing off the week, Friday’s post had a list of things I’ve been reading. Enjoy!

A few scattered things from life and around the web:

  • I’m having an all-out brawl with website coding right now, so if you’d like to sign up for the mailing list and just get a weekly digest emailed to you, there’s…not a widget for that. You can just follow this link, however!
  • This is the summer I’m going to learn how to cook with greens, I swear. Not just kale and collard greens, either – carrot greens, leek greens…tons of things! Send me your favorite recipes!
  • Some of you may know that one of the things I’m writing right now is…a video game! Holy crap. And we have a Kickstarter. AND IT’S ALL FUNDED. However, it’s still running for 20 days, so if you want to pick up an early-access key on Steam, or any other awesome add-ins (signed books! Posters! Hoodies!) head on over to check it out!
  • For authors who follow Blake Snyder’s story beats from Save the Cat, there’s a delightful, colorful new visualization for you to fill in!
  • For those of you who love storytelling and/or Star Wars, I highly recommend that you watch the special features on the Force Awakens DVD. Every person in there just oozes with appreciation for the impact that stories have in our lives. Not only that, every one of them is hands-down an amazing, dedicated artist. Very inspiring!
  • New faves? My Cullen Rutherford tea – an amazing birthday present!

Hooray! Happy weekend!