As a rule, I’m a woefully impatient person. Put me behind someone on their first day of TSA precheck, and I will very possibly lose my cool. Someone blocking the exit at 42nd St. on the 2 train? Jesus, take the wheel. 

And yet. 

I’m built for quarantine. I just am. 

I get that not everyone is. But as an introvert Gen-Xer who grew up with four channels, five TV shows, and didn’t have email until after I could legally purchase alcohol, I believe I’ve trained my whole life for this.

Still, the reason this is weird and hard is because a) we have no power to change what’s happening out there, and b) we have no way of knowing what will happen next. 

What’s funny? That applies to everything, all the time. Pandemic or no pandemic. 

Since when did we have the power to change what’s happening? When did we ever know what was happening? 

One woman wrote to me that she wanted to be part of this Six Week Sprint program I’m offering for people who want to really dig down into their work, their writing, in a creative, interactive environment…but that she worried that now wasn’t the time because things were so…unpredictable.

Financial struggle is REAL right now. No doubt. 

But it raised a question: Were things ever predictable? 

The pandemic doesn’t in and of itself make things unpredictable; it serves as a potent reminder that life always was. 

That’s the mean trick of unpredictability: It gets us just when we think it’s a regular Friday. 

Now that we know things are unpredictable, are they? Because in fact, much of our life, for the foreseeable future, just got REAL predictable. 

And if we ever thought anything was totally under our control, we were dreaming. 

I’ve been reading The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Was Letting Go Can Empower Your Life by Judith Orloff, M.D. She’s fascinating—a conventionally trained psychiatrist AND full-blown intuitive empath. 

The concept of surrender is fairly foreign to me, as I like to take action, and sometimes, pick fights. (It’s not my best quality.) 

But she reframes surrender—not as a weakness, failure, or capitulation, but as a source of strength, because you can stop muscling through and actually put yourself “in flow” with something larger. 

The effect of surrender? Calm. Clarity. Strength. Yes. Sign me up for that. 

Logic and reason are often cold comfort. Times like these, we need to lean on that steady, internal rudder, our intuition. 

This line of Orloff’s stood out: 

“The only thing that stands between you and intuition is the incessant chatter in your brain.” 

To find any peace, we need to stop the chatter FOR A SINGLE GODDAMN MINUTE.

Problem is, we feed it with a steady diet of bad news. 

But what if you fed that other part of you, the part that’s, well, wiser, clearer, calmer? You can. It requires a blend of focus and freedom. 

Next week for five days straight (am and pm), I’m going to help feed your intuition, via a series of prompts and live, timed writing sessions, that we’ll do together, quietly and collectively. 

It’s called the 5 Day Live Challenge. 

Doesn’t matter if you’re a writer; that’s not the point. The point is to use the act of writing to tap the part of you that isn’t panic-eating while watching Lester Holt. 

Through this very specific approach to writing called the Gateless Method, you’ll get a taste of how it feels to feel free and focused doing one of the most productive things you can do with your time: WRITE STUFF DOWN. 

Nearly 200 people have already signed on to do this, together. (If it speaks to you, great, if not, fine!)

But if it whispers to you in any way, join us. It’s five days and it’s free—and you can come whenever you damn please. 

Here’s a video where I talk about it. 

P.S. This is great for ANY age–have your kids, cousins, neighbors’ antsy teenage boy join us. My 12 yo niece will be on! JOIN US.

At a business conference in Orlando a few years ago, we were given after-hours access to Epcot’s mission:Space ride.

I squeezed into a space vessel the size of a bathroom stall alongside three women whom I’d just invited to connect on LinkedIn.

Inside was a 3-D monitor, a control panel of blinking lights, and a set of branded barf bags. The door sealed shut and I grabbed the arm of the woman next to me, a project manager from Sacramento.

“Carolyn, please tell me we’re not really going into outer space.”

She peered at me through her Warby Parkers and spoke very slowly. “We’re not going anywhere.”

But tell my brain that.

Because based on what my brain told me, I WAS 100% CATAPULTED INTO OUTER SPACE.

Thank God for Gary Sinise, who guided our mission safely back to Earth seven minutes later. After which, I wanted desperately to lie down.

What we’re experiencing right now is no amusement, nor is it a simulation. And it’s not a short ride.

The mission:Space ride is in some ways a fitting analogy for what this feels like:

We’re confined, and yet hurtling out of orbit. We’re home—and yet, far from home.

Depending on your line of work, you might be very stressed—or you may be feeling stalled and unproductive. Or both. However you define it, the coronavirus has launched us into the vast, dark unknown.

But it’s also hit the RESET button—and given us an invitation to reflect, to consider, to explore.

This opportunity may be whispering to you in different ways: To explore new skills or hobbies, new job opportunities…or maybe a new line of work altogether.

A friend of mine started making friendship bracelets. A lot of friendship bracelets.

What if you dedicated just 30 minutes a day for five days to your own self reflection in a productive and empowering way?

I’d like to invite you to join me for a FREE 5-day live challenge, starting next Monday 3/30.

We’ll meet each day for 30 minutes (am and pm sessions available), and I will give you a prompt and set of rules in which to safely explore your own stories, ideas, thoughts on the page.

…You don’t need a special skill set or training.

…You don’t need any specific degree or qualifications.

…You don’t need to know what you want to do or focus on.

It doesn’t matter what you majored in or what work you do.

All you need is:

To show up with an open mind and a blank page. And something to write with.

Learn more about the 5 Day Live Challenge—and join us, for free, right here.

 

The other night, as we all hunkered down in our respective homes away from COVID-19, a friend told me she was going to stay in and “do some writing.” 

Wait, what? 

This woman had never, not once, expressed an iota of interest in writing! 

As an office manager, she doesn’t have to do “content” for her job. But she feels called to write. 

I love this. And, while I’m surprised, I’m kind of not. 

Writing isn’t just a job—it’s an act: A powerful way to tap your creativity, but also to take back a sense of control. 

And when so much feels out of our control, writing empowers, grounds, and pushes back against fear. It’s an exercise in sovereignty and sanity. 

I think of it like running. 

I run, but not because I’m good at it. I’ll never be the best at it, I’ve never won a race, and that’s not the point. 

The point of running, for me, is to run—because of how it makes me feel, because it reminds me I have a capable body and one that feels best when it’s used. 

That’s what writing is like. 

It feels good to do—but not when the goal is to win a race or a contest. Yuck. It feels good when it makes you recognize what YOU are capable of. 

Since no one is going anywhere, anytime soon, what if you took some time to do some writing, too? 

On Thursday, I’m going to be holding a free workshop for anyone who feels the itch to write—either because they have to or because they want to. 

It’s called “Rekindle Your Content: How to Fire Up Your Creativity and Fuel Your Marketing Efforts.” 

We’ll meet Thursday 3/19/20 @ 12pET.  

⇒ REGISTER HERE for “Rekindle Your Content.” 

Come if you have content you have to do. Come if you don’t. 

Come if you’re looking for a creative outlet, and a way to share and connect with the world, to feel empowered in ways that require more hitting “share” a headline (and yes I do that, too). 

Let’s reignite the part of you that WANTS to connect — and yes! We’ll actually do some writing THERE on the call. 

More on what we’ll cover here. 

How do you feel about the word “cute?” 

Maybe it makes you think of babies or puppies or Hello Kitty backpacks. Small, harmless things. Or, miniature replicas of larger things. 

Maybe “cute” to you is just shy of pretty and a few blocks from gorgeous.

My friend, writer Becky Karush, believes cute is underrated. 

Becky hosts a refreshingly different podcast called, “Read to Me,” where each week she reads a short literary selection and shows us how to listen for what we love. In a recent episode, she read a children’s book by Juana Martinez-Neal and said:

“There is a place for cute,” she says. “It’s undervalued, I think. Sort of commodified as a way to sell things or devalued as just a girl thing. But the sincerity and passion inside cuteness, there’s a real thing there. Someone should write an essay about that.”

Ok.

Cute, at first glance, is … is appealing, attractive, approachable. But the closer I look, the more there is to it. Because what’s most interesting about cute is that it doesn’t know that it is. 

Trying to be cute? Not cute. Humble brag? Not cute. Self loathing? no. A little self deprecation? Sure. A blush of self-consciousness? Yes. 

True cute isn’t self aware. It doesn’t know it’s cute, which is, of course, partly why it is so damn cute.  

It’s why cat videos dominate online: Because cats aren’t trying to be cute. They’re going about their business quite seriously—and it’s very adorable. 

And: Cute is everywhere, if you know how to spot it in the wild.

Catching someone in the moment of cute is to see someone being so fully themselves, so unguarded and rapt, so sincerely present to whatever they’re doing, that we kinda fall in love with them (but not in a creepy way). Which is why someone can be cute when they’re eating…or raving mad. 

I’m lucky because I get to see people at their absolute cutest—a lot. 

When I work with people (in a workshop, in a private session) I give them spill-proof conditions for their sincerity, creativity, vulnerability, and strength to safely emerge. 

They take great care in writing their ideas down, then read them out loud to me and each other. 

No one is trying to be cute. But it is a very real side effect. 

Here’s why: There is, in cuteness, an inherent trust. When someone’s being cute, they’re showing you who they are, trusting no harm wil come to them. There’s beauty and vulnerability in that. 

Now—contrast that with our modern culture and its reflexive snark, its snorting and eye rolling, its irony and indifference—all of it a coping mechanism for mounting despair.  

Cute brings us back from the edge of being “over” everything, and helps us reengage in a fresh, vital, even innocent, way. 

You can’t aim for cute. But I do think that kind of un-self-awareness, the ability to be open and to trust and just be you without trying to be any other thing. That is undeniably cute. In fact, it’s something to aspire to.

…I have created a place where people can be cute and disarming and 100 percent themselves, and it’s in a gorgeous, sprawling ranch outside of Austin, Texas. 

And a few of us cuties are going to spend a long weekend there April 30-May 3, 2020. 

Want to join us? Learn more about The Intensive, a 3-day retreat for people dying to get their big ideas down on paper, and the work out into the world. 

Come be yourself. Because you’re kind of adorable.

People seem to have no problem voicing their desire to buy a good pair of jeans or go bird watching. 

I detect zero self-consciousness from the person who tells me she wants to go see Mean Girls on Broadway. Or enroll in improv classes. 

But.   

When people want to write, they don’t say it loudly; they whisper it to me. 

They say it quietly, as an aside. They send me a note from their personal, not their business, email. They’d like to write. They used to, and want to do it again. But. 

Always a but. 

BUT…

…they worry they wouldn’t be any good at it. 

…they aren’t sure where to start. 

…they don’t have time. 

You know the excuses. The thing I find curious though is that whisper, that urge, that desire to do it but also be quiet about it. 

What’s that about? 

I believe it’s because writing speaks to something kinda sacred, and so incredibly personal. 

I don’t think you have to be special or an A student or even particularly gifted to make good and powerful use of writing in your work. 

Far too many of us are stuck (not to mention wounded) by the experiences we had in school. Those red pens left scars, and made us think we should be careful instead of creative. 

That’s a damn shame. 

This is precisely what I designed The Intensive for: People who want to write, to reengage with their work in a fresh, exciting, and fun way, without feeling bad about themselves. 

And having three days away with a small group, in an environment specifically set up for tapping your creative genius can change everything. 

April 30 through May 3, we’ll be hunkering down in a gorgeous, sprawling ranch just outside of Austin, Texas. And if this sounds like it could be a fit for you, I’d love to talk to you about it. 

⇒ Extended early bird offer – Save $1000 on The Intensive for a limited time

This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about The Intensive from me. But it may be the first time you’ve really HEARD it. In a way that makes you think, “Hmm.” 

I’m looking for people who feel that impulse to write, to go deeper into it and emerge with thrilling new insights. Who are tired of ignoring that urge to express themselves and want to do it in an incredibly safe and supportive space. 

Sound like you or someone you know? 

Go ahead. Whisper it to me. 

P.S. Wondering what it’s like? Take a look at the video and see if it appeals.

 

Two things I love about my friend Jenn Lederer: She’s got an open mind and sharp opinions.

She’s cool with whatever you want to wear, do, pursue. “You do you, girl,” she says, waving her hand at everyone and no one.

But don’t get her started on footwear.

“Wedges? Fine. Clogs, cool. Tennis shoes ok. Rock a 4-inch heel if you want. But—” and here, the chin drops, eyebrow lifts, a long finger slices through the air like a blade.

“Do not come for me with your kitten heels.”*

It’s not just that she doesn’t prefer that shoe. Oh no. It’s much more.

“They enrage me.”

It will not surprise you that Jenn is, among other things, a comic, and so taking issue with harmless inanimate objects is part of the gig.

The problem with kitten heels?

“They put the heel at the center of the heel, not at the back—the most painful and annoying place to put a heel. It’s just an awkward way to walk for no reason at all. Though watching you walk toward me at full speed in them will be hilarious.”

Oh, she’s not done.

“They’re noncommittal,” she says. “It’s not a flat, it’s not a wedge, it’s not a heel. I just don’t know if I can trust your judgment if you wear this shoe.”

Ah! And there it is.

Pain. Awkwardness. The fact that they’re “noncommittal.”

THAT is what she ACTUALLY hates! Those qualities: undue pain, half-assed-ness.

This tells me about her values, and one of the things I admire about her—and I like to think we have this in common—is that we don’t half ass things. We go ALL in on what we do.

People who go full-tilt want that same commitment from others…and where that trust comes in is fascinating: Because she does not feel she can trust someone who won’t do the same. Shoes or no shoes.

I bet you didn’t think of that as the lesson here, and neither did I—until I started to unpack it.

Is there anything, literally ANYTHING you want to do (and really want to do, not just feel you “should”) in your life or your work that you can get by being half-committed?

NOPE.

Yeah, going full tilt means taking a full risk. But going halfsies on risk will yield about as much reward.

And one thing I’m sure we can agree on, tastes in shoes notwithstanding:

You do NOT want a kitten-heel version of your best work, your best ideas, your best anything.

Maybe you think the kitten heel version is…safer, because it’s lower to the ground, or more practical, or more comfortable. But in fact, they’re not! They’re just a smaller, less interesting version of an actual heel.

What would things be like if you chose the best version of what you want to do, instead of the safer version?

Now, God knows we can’t stomp around all day in stilettos. But at least a sneaker isn’t trying to be anything but a sneaker. A clog is like, Yo, I’m a clog. Not trying to hide it. Wear what you want! But wear it.

(Fact: I have had more than one kitten heel in my life. So, no judgment from me if you’re curling your toes inside a pair right now.)

I think you get my point.

The hard part isn’t doing the thing. It’s committing to doing it in a real way, not a safe, side-steppy, cute way. Half-assing isn’t cute.

Decide you’re all in. Don’t pamper yourself with excuses. Don’t tell yourself you’re too busy. Excuses are the kitten heels of life.

And please. Do not COME for me in your kitten heels.

…One way to go all in?

Join me for The Intensive, my 3-day, all-in retreat April 30-May 3, designed to help you access your best, most meaningful work—in a criticism-free, distraction-free environment. (Watch the video!)

We don’t wear kitten heels on retreat. Or any heels. We barely wear shoes.

But the reason the event is so transformative is because we take the risk in that room to bare our souls/soles (sorry couldn’t resist) in a room with strictly defined rules that keep us focused on energy and craft, NOT on what’s wrong with you or your work.

So you can let your most creative, brilliant self run free, and not hobble awkwardly along.

What’s it like? Well. We will:

  • Share a supportive, creative, critic-free atmosphere where you can focus on generating exciting new work
  • Do a ton of writing that feels FUN, not like work
  • Take your work leaps and bounds ahead—and produce meaningful content in just a few days
  • Quiet the critic so you can gain momentum and flow
  • This is an intimate, high-touch event, and so spots are quite limited. Right now, we’re offering an Early Bird Special—save $1000 before 3/1!

=> Apply here. (No fancy requirements; we just want to make sure it’s a good fit.)

*(A kitten heel is a short stiletto, from 1.5” to 1.75” high, often set in from the back of the shoe with a slight curve. Shown above.)

P.S. Want to try this vibe out first? Come to my one-day Pop Up Salon on Mon 3/2 in Columbus, Ohio! It’s like a very mini version of retreat, and if you register for it, I will apply your investment in the pop up TOWARD the retreat. Boom! 2 for 1!

The Zen Buddhists talk about beginner’s mind. Maybe you’ve heard it as ‘child mind.’ It sounds enlightened, to come at this with a clean slate, to adopt a beginner’s mindset in order to gain new insight. Cool.  

But what about being … an amateur? 

Oh god, we hate that. Please! We’re professionals! We’ve been doing this a long time. Who exactly are you calling an amateur? How dare you. (I’d argue that Imposter Syndrome is simply that: The fear that someone else will think you’re an amateur.)

And yet. 

In his book “Show Your Work,” Austin Kleon says we should all be amateurs.

Why? Because an amateur does a thing for love, not because she is paid to do it. And because the love of it is first, the amateur isn’t afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.

You’ve probably also heard someone (who was it again?) say that if you’re the smartest one in the room, time to find another room. 

For all our talk about being “vulnerable,” we actually are loathe to let go of our professional status. We use it as a shield. But you know who’s real vulnerable? The amateur. 

The amateur acts without knowing exactly what to expect or how it will turn out. She lets go of outcome or expectation. She may do something dumb. Who cares. She is alive with the potential and excitement of it, rather than dulled by the expectation of a certain level of “excellence” (eye roll). 

“That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”  — Charlie Chaplin 

When was the last time YOU felt like an amateur—and what was it like? When did you last feel really alive and at risk as you tried to figure a thing out? Most of us feel a little like that all the time. And that sounds ok to me. 

I’d rather be an amateur who does a lot of things that I love than a professional who only does one thing because I get paid to do it. 

The minute I stop trying to figure things out, I think I’m just done. 

Last Friday I hosted a Pop Up Salon (I told you about it) in my home with 12 brilliant people. They were pros from everywhere: health care, data, law, business, leadership, marketing, visual arts. 

They didn’t come because they all have book deals. They came because they felt the pull of the page.

They didn’t know quite what would happen in that room, but they knew better than to ignore their creative impulse, because they know that’s where the next exciting thing is starting to sprout roots and leaves. And they’re right. 

Oh trust me, everyone was a little nervous. They knew they were going to be writing and sharing what they wrote. They told me in advance they “weren’t really writers” or that they’d be the “only non-writer in the room.” Or, they simply hadn’t written in years.

Once that fear was dispelled (and we dispel it quickly there so we can get to the business of writing), my god, what emerged was fantastic.

They surprised themselves with their own complex and rich ideas, they way moments in their own stories threw light around really big issues like power, challenged their own ideas about them. 

And it’s not like they all left feeling “cured” of their amateur feelings and fears. 

Instead, they were inspired and excited about the newness of it all, how free they felt now, instead of bound by old, ill-fitting suits they thought they had to wear. They walked out feeling seen, heard, with a new, insatiable appetite for all the things they absolutely must do. 

Imagine if every day felt like that.

…Psst! I’m doing another Pop Up Salon, just like this one, in Columbus, Ohio with my co-host, the lovely and talented Bevin Farrand. (Here’s how to get more info and hold your spot.)

 

 

After I got laid off, I decided not to get another job. I just…didn’t want one. Simple as that. I decided to work on my own, from my couch. As a natural introvert, I was in heaven. 

And yet—it became clear I had to get out of the house. So I signed up for an improv acting class, which I’d always been meaning to do. 

You know how it works: You’re thrown into a scene with a partner with little more than a suggestion (“banana,” “circus,” “houseplant”) and…go! 

You don’t strategize. You simply start peeling an imaginary banana. You make it up as you go. It’s one part terrifying, one part mortifying, but five parts fun, so the ratio works.

Another thing you don’t do in improv class? Introduce yourself, spout your resume, talk about your big goals or your background. So, in the spirit of improv, you don’t have a lot to go on. 

We bonded fast in that room. Why? Because we were busy making something, instead of comparing ourselves. It’s been eight years since that first class—I took them for two more years with that same group—and I count them among my closest friends. 

I’ve long known that my friendships are no extra curricular activity; they are a critical part of who I am as a person, and how connected I feel to the world. 

And while research on relationships has long focused on family and romantic partnerships, scientists are starting to look at friendship a lot differently. 

A new book about the science of friendship reveals that friends aren’t just a “nice to have,” but play a critical biological role, too.

Science journalist Lydia Denworth, a woman I’ve gotten to know and work with over the past few years, has just released a breakthrough book that will change the way we see friendship. 

In Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, she investigates the biological and evolutionary foundations to friendship, diving into the literature and her own life in an accessible way, and it’s fascinating. 

Lydia, in fact, was one of the people who participated in The Intensive last fall, a three-day writing retreat I run designed to tap your creative genius. Just like in improv, we don’t announce our resumes; we dive in and start making and sharing right away—which goes a long way to turning strangers into friends very quickly. 

Lydia, by her own admission, had doubts when she first walked into that room full of strangers. But she left with 9 people she now counts as friends. And I count her as one of mine, too.

In fact, one of the people at The Intensive is hosting a book launch party for Lydia next week! And of course, we will all be there. 

…As for improv? I never had designs on “being” an improv actor. But I learned a TON from doing it, and still use it.

What improv teaches you in approaching a stage, I have found useful in approaching the page. You need less in the way of plans, and more in the way of trust—which, as a matter of fact, is true for friendships, too.

You’d be surprised at what can happen when you follow your creative impulse. 

Where is that impulse taking you today? 

 

P.S. And yes, we have opened the doors to the Spring 2020 Intensive! See if it’s a fit for you. 

 

When 20 of the nation’s top advisors walked into the room that morning, they probably thought we were about to debate the merits of logos and taglines.

Nope.

I told them to take out a pen, and I gave them a prompt:

Write about a time when you realized that what you’d always thought was true, wasn’t.

Then I said: “You have 10 minutes. Start writing.”

(I’m leaving out the part where I lay down a set of rules designed to make it a safe space—no room for criticism or judgment—and how to approach writing to the prompt. But I digress.)

“Ok. Time’s up. Who’s first?”

One by one, they started reading their work. The room went still as stone. They could have written about ANYTHING at all. They could have phoned it in.

But they didn’t.

They wrote about unemployed fathers and unhappy stepmothers. The time they couldn’t afford a baseball glove.

They shared near misses and devastating losses; the moment they realized that despite it all, their father was a good man.

At the end of it, we sat there, stunned.

Attendees approached me afterward—in the ladies room, in the hallway, later, on the plane buckled into seat 12B— “What WAS that?” “That was amazing.” “How did that happen?”

It wasn’t magic.

All they needed was to be given the space (sturdy, safe, shared) and prompted to fill it in a way that mattered to them.

What they walked away with were powerful insights into their work—and ideas for communicating it to the people they want to serve (including their team).

The process I use—informed by a specific set of rules—changes the way people think and talk about what they do.

When you give people the space to share their stories in a positive, nonjudgmental light, it shifts the dynamic of the group and helps everyone feel connected to the story of your brand.

And without story, there is no brand.

These advisors didn’t even know what they were in for! Imagine what it could do for you.

I’m often brought in-house to work with groups and teams. But I also host my own salons (that’s what we call these workshops), and I’ve got one coming up in New York City on Feb 7th.

Want to come?

Doesn’t matter what you’re working on, what line of work you’re in. I’ve had advisors, painters, journalists, entrepreneurs, comics—even a woman who works for the energy industry.

During this full-day Pop Up Salon, we’ll focus on YOUR work—in whatever shape or form you want to share them—and you’ll get the kind of feedback you have been hungering for your whole life.

⇒ Learn more about the NYC POP UP on Fri, Feb 7, 2020!

There IS limited seating, so reserve your spot right away!