Are you made of win?

A few weeks ago, my friend Jenn gave me an awesome compliment. She said I was “made of win.” I have since passed the compliment on to others who I think are made of win.

I made this happen. No one pushed me here.
I made this happen. No one pushed me here.

I didn’t ask Jenn her definition, but here’s how I see it: People who are made of win don’t back up when things get scary. They take a deep breath and another step forward. They know that living means taking chances and pressing on when things don’t go their way. They don’t wait around for someone to do it for them or with them. They say, “hand me the hammer” and go in.

As promised last week, I read “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  As you know, the one wish I have for my nieces and nephews is that they live confidently. I’d love for them not to waste years of their life wishing they were brave enough to do something. So I read this book mainly with my nieces in mind, but I have some good takeaways for all of us:

1. The best gift we can give is to compliment effort. “I’m so proud of how much effort you put into coloring that picture/studying for the SAT/practicing for your recital.”

If we just earn praise for the end result, we learn that we have to be perfect. I remember as a kid, giving a speech (or maybe doing a reading – something that required me get up and use the microphone) at church. My mom told me she was so proud of me for doing that. She didn’t say it was the best speech she ever heard. She praised me for having the guts to stand up there. That stuck with me.

  1. Gaining confidence comes from trying things. We don’t wake up one day confident, we have to practice. Confidence “requires hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence and sometimes bitter failure.” Ideally, the authors say, we start enduring a few hard knocks early in life. That’s the fastest route to confidence. We also learn to build on our success. So I successfully spoke in front of the crowd at church as a kid, later I could give a sweet toast at my sister’s wedding without fear. The feedback I got was not that it was the best toast ever, but thank yous for sharing my story. When my brother got married, I didn’t even plan my words, I just took the microphone and started talking. That’s how I learned that I can wing it in other situations. Speak with confidence from the heart and you’re gravy.
  1. Men shake off failures much faster than we ladies do. They often attribute misses to outside factors. For example, my friend just applied for a job and didn’t get a response to his resume. His explanation was that he applied online. “They never saw it.” I would have internalized that. “If they didn’t call me, it’s because I wasn’t right for this job because XXX.” It’s much easier to shake it off and try again, if he hiring manager never saw your resume than if you think the hiring manager didn’t like what she saw, right?
  2. You think Team Spirits quit because we lost a couple games? Hell no!
    You think Team Spirits quit because we lost a couple games? Hell no!

    Studies show the most effective way to practice confidence is in sports. We learn that with practice, we improve. We learn that a loss is no big deal. Come back and play again next week. We don’t quit the team because we missed a goal or even because we got injured. Shake it off.

  3. Women don’t have to behave like men to be recognized. Female members of Congress get significantly more legislation passed and work more often with members across the aisle, according to a Stanford University study cited in the book. Clearly they’re doing it right.
  4. Don’t underestimate that you make things happen. You can go with the tide, or you can be proactive. When people ask why I moved to New York, my standard answer is usually something along the lines of “my company had a job open in the New York office, so I took it.” This makes it sound like the current pushed me to New York when in fact, I knew a job with more responsibility was opening, and I asked my boss if I could move, and have this better job. One of those scenarios takes confidence, one takes not kicking hard enough to get out of the current.

Work it

Years ago, my aunt, the massage therapist, told me that your muscles are like Play-Doh. When they’re not worked, they get stiff. If you start massaging them and moving them, they become soft and pliable again.

I have a desk job, which makes it really hard not to get stiff. I make a point of walking to the kitchen or bathroom (each trip is 250+ steps round trip). I also go to the gym or workout about four times a week. On days I don’t hit the gym, I like to compensate with extra walking. I like to end the work week with a Friday night yoga class.

I just know my body and how it makes me feel. I also know how crabby I get when I haven’t gotten my move time in.

And I admit to typing this with a bag of peas on my lower back. I took a long break from running. I just decided I don’t like it that much, but three weeks ago, I started taking Run, Yogi, Run, a class at my gym that includes running intervals and yoga. I love the class! I feel so powerful after running the intervals.

Screenshot of "23 and 1/2 Hours" from Evans Health Lab
Screenshot of “23 and 1/2 Hours” from Evans Health Lab

I was very interested to see this headline on NPR today A YouTube Video Is Doctor’s Secret Weapon Against Back Pain and wanted to share it with you all.

Check out the 23.5 hours video. I found it amazing. Think of all you can do in 23.5 hours a day!

I can’t wait to tell you what I’ve been reading

24 percent of adults didn’t read a book in any format in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center. The typical adult read or listened to 5 books in the last year. This isn’t a significant change over recent years. But man, those adults are missing out!

The Moth
The Moth

I’ve been reading like crazy lately, and I love it! Some of my favorites recently have been I am Malala , The Moth and Wild

I’d like to start a virtual book club, where we can discuss our favorite reads. I’m not talking beach reads, though those are fun, too. What I’m really interested in the inspiring books that really touch you, and you can’t wait to talk about. If anyone wants to guest post, hit me up!

Today, let’s talk about Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. When Cheryl Strayed (a Minnesota girl!) lost her mother, her marriage fell apart and she had to drop out of school. She was suddenly lost. Without any real hiking experience, she decided to spend the summer hiking the little-known trail from Mexico to Canada.

Strayed is a fantastic writer and she doesn’t hold back on some of the life experiences she maybe didn’t want the whole world to know. But her honesty and bravery sucked me right in. And also my friend Tara, who is reading it now.

Without spoilers, the time alone in her head helps her figure out who she is.

I could relate to that feeling. I moved to New York two-and-a-half years not to find myself exactly, but I sure got to know myself better. While my journey included regular paychecks, showers and calls to my mom, I had no idea how much I’d figure out. I feel waaaaay more confident in myself and my abilities than I did 3 years ago. I like being in my own head. But, like Strayed, I don’t regret any of the things that got me here.

Anyone else read it? What did you take from it? I can’t wait for the movie! Tara and I already have a movie date planned, but you can come, too, if you want.


Next up:

My friend Pam recently told me about The Confidence Code, which I just got (and figured out how to download) from the New York Public Library. I started reading it last night, and already told three people about it.

I highly recommend checking out the website and taking the quiz. If you’re feeling so inclined, read it with me! I’m already thinking I might need to buy this one, so I can highlight my favorite parts and refer back.

My ass is going where my heart wants to be

In my daily search of job listings yesterday, I found one that looked interesting, challenging, paid really well, but was not for me. I sent it to a friend/co-worker. This morning I had an email from him, saying it looked interesting, but why wasn’t I going for it.

My answer was simple: It’s not something I’m passionate about. In my 11 years since college graduation, I’ve done some jobs for the paycheck. I’ve also worked for free because it was something I was passionate about. Now I’m in a place where I want to feel fulfilled at the end of every day.

I mentioned reading Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” A friend gave me a heads-up that he was on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday last week (How much do you want to be on Maui with them right now?).  I just watched the video over Saturday morning coffee and waffles. The interview confirmed my decision not to go for that job. It confirmed my decision to “turn pro.” To overcome resistance and “put my ass where my heart wants to be.”

We all know that the hardest thing is starting. Whether we’re getting out of bed, going for a run or writing the next “Great Gatsby.”

I am taking a couple days off my paycheck job next week. But I am committed to using at least one day of it to put in a full 8 hours writing. Not working on freelance jobs or homework for class. Writing my passion project.

After all, as Pressfield says, “The pain is worse not doing it than doing it.” It’s time to “move from a petty, narrow, ego-based point of view to something grander.”

Look for me on the bestseller list next year. Quyn, will you shoot the cover photo?

Another great article/video:

Award-winning author shares personal struggle to write

A few good men

  • When I was looking for apartments, I found an otherwise perfect one – except it was on the first floor. My then-boyfriend said he would have considered that a convenience, not a safety issue.
  • I walk a block out of my way to my nearest subway station to avoid a man who openly harasses women from his stoop.
  • I once explained to an ex-boyfriend why I wouldn’t walk down an alley as a shortcut.

I’m not alone. I think every woman on the planet goes out of her way to protect herself.

In fact a college class was asked to write about what they do to stay safe. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, which also limited their access to the world. The women essentially thought about rape all the time, according to “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit.

The men in the class were reportedly astonished, like the two ex-boyfriends I explained my own precautions to.

A few chapters later, Solnit tells of a university where male suspects raped female students. In response, the university told women not to go out alone after dark – or not to go out at all.

Some pranksters turned the tables by putting up posters, saying that men shouldn’t go outside after dark, so the women could walk without fear. After all, men were the suspects, why should the women be limited?

Of course the men were shocked at being asked to “disappear.” But the other way around seemed perfectly reasonable.

I don’t have the answers for how to end this. I also have a feeling I won’t after reading the last 20 pages of this book.

My dad and me
My dad and me

But on Father’s Day, I find myself especially grateful for my dad, my grandfathers, my uncles, brother, brother-in-law, cousins and friends who helped make me the woman I am today. I’m thankful I have role models who taught me how real men behave and what a lady should never, ever have to put up with.

My brother, the fun uncle and dad.
My brother, the fun uncle and dad.

My dad taught me to read a map, change a tire, hang sheetrock, tile a bathroom, balance my checkbook and more. My brother, Domonic, and big cousin Tony tricked me every way they could think of, so I wouldn’t fall for anyone else’s tricks.

Don’t get me wrong, the ladies in my life: My mom, grandma, aunts, sisters and friends are also strong, confident people who can clean a fish, cook Thanksgiving dinner and raise intelligent, respectful, caring sons and and daughters.

But it’s Father’s Day, a day to honor the men who were there for us. So thank you, Dad, Domonic and all for teaching me to be cautious, but not live in fear. Thank you for giving me the tools to walk confidently and not take anyone’s crap.

And while we’re at it, we can shame the jackasses who force us to subconsciously make those intricate plans to stay safe.

PS.. Please read the book, so we can discuss it.

Just serve it with a smile

It takes courage, confidence and practice to flip a pancake, Julia says.

“You should never apologize at the table. People will think, ‘Yes, it’s really not so good.’”

Julia Child famously wrote this line in her autobiography, “My Life in France” (and one of my all-time favorite books). I think it’s such a great life rule. If you set something up with an apology, your audience will think it’s not so good. Whatever you make, serve it with confidence and a smile. Let your audience decide for itself.

“I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes,” Child wrote.

I sometimes need to remind myself of this. I was recently applying for a magazine job. In my cover letter, I wrote, While I don’t have magazine experience, I’ve used a similar editing style …

Luckily I had a friend read over my letter who told me not to write that. Never use “not” or “don’t” on your resume or cover letter. Present your experience without apology and let the hiring manager decide if you’re a good fit or not.

Today, after the gym, I stopped for a few groceries then was walking home. A man approached me, started his spiel with “you’ll probably tell me no, but …” then started telling me he and his daughter were staying at a shelter and needed food. I didn’t have any cash on me since I just brought my ID and debit card to the gym, but I handed him some bananas. So clearly his approach worked, but I left thinking about how if he hadn’t started by giving an out, more people might help him out. (Though I knew I was going to help him when he talked to me rather than shaking a can at me. I hate that.)

I’m declaring this Great Advice Week on the Living Life Big Blog. As a rules follower, I love carrying little tidbits through life with me. If you’ve heard some great advice in your days, please, please share. I’d love to hear.

Julia Child also says the first pancake never turns out. I like to keep that in mind.

More links you might like:

Some great advice

More good advice

Cluff’s rules

My favorite book

I have a book I’ve read dozens of times. I’ve purchased several copies as gifts (spoiler alert to my journalist friend Magdalene Perez). I even improv my own words from time to time.

My niece loved the book when she was little(r). She called it “top side, bottom side” because it went like this:

I love your top side and your bottom side.

I love your inside and your outside.

I love you walking and talking.

 I Love You Through And Through Board book by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak (Author), Caroline Jayne Church (Illustrator)

I Love You Through And Through Board book
by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak (Author), Caroline Jayne Church (Illustrator)

See how I can make up my own lines? And you thought I was a genius. I still like to read this one to my littles at night, you know, after the pony and superhero books they pick as bedtime stories. “I Love You Through and Through” is clearly a baby book. It’s durable hardback that little kids can crawl over, chew on and maybe even drop in the tub. My littles are a little too big for it, but that doesn’t stop me.

I love you swinging and climbing.

I love you baking and snacking.

I love you crabby and whiney.

But the last line is always the same:

I love you through and through, yesterday, today and tomorrow, too.

American emptiness

When did our lives become so empty? When did we start filling ourselves up with and defining our worth with things? It’s depressing.

I’m currently reading “Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds Why Going Bigger Isn’t Going Better” by Sarah Z. Wexler. I finished chapter 6 on my way home from work – a depressing day at that, reporting on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack – and got even sadder. The chapter featured DeShawn, a teen who chose a Wal-Mart shopping spree for his Make-a-Wish day. DeShawn’s reasons for wanting things make sense. He is mainly confined to his bedroom, so the tech-loving young man wanted to make it a cool place to be. He bought a computer and system for music creating and editing.

Still, the chapter made me sad. He didn’t pick out anything for his parents or the siblings who accompanied him on the shopping trip. I don’t mean to judge the kid. He’s facing something I haven’t faced and what he wishes for is his business. It just got me thinking about how we consume (that is the whole point of the book).

A favorite game of Americans is to fantasize about winning the lottery. I don’t need to win millions in the lottery or anything, but winning a grand would be awesome. I’m on a tight budget. That would make a difference. I could afford to buy some furniture for my apartment. With $5,000, I could pay off my student loan and be done with that once and for all. With a million, though, I could start a scholarship fund. I’d love to do that. And buy a Chelsea apartment with in-unit laundry. Heaven!

But I don’t need these things. I have everything I need in life. I have a job that allows me to live in Manhattan. That’s not nothing. I can admire the blooms and appreciate a sunset in Central Park for free. I can enjoy a conversation with any one of the 8 million interesting people in this city.

Yet, the allure of consumption is always there. Am I right? My friend AJ and I were chatting this weekend. He said, “the only reason TV exists is for the commercials to sell things.” I’m not quite as jaded about TV, but it’s a weird thing, isn’t it? It’s a way to fill up our lives, but it means nothing. It’s an escape. Some of it it fantastic literature played out (even AJ can appreciate that). Lots of it is crap.

Food for thought on a sad day.