I recently had the privilege of working with one of the top financial advisors in the country. She wanted to rebrand her firm, and with good reason: It didn’t reflect who she really is, and what she and her team really stand for. Common problem.

And who could blame her? She’s a little too busy running her company and managing millions in assets to worry about her website!

She had, until now, looked at her website the way most people do: A cross between a file cabinet and a billboard.

On one hand, a place to simply put all your stuff, in case anyone wants to go rifling through it (they don’t).  

On the other, a digital sign that says to all the world, “Hey, here’s my file cabinet, in case anyone’s looking for it.”

Unless you’re conducting business online (selling merchandise or online programs, for example), the purpose of a website is still kind of unclear for most people. What should I put on there? What should it say?

After we had deconstructed and reconstructed her messaging, and crafted a fresh approach to how she presents her brand online, this client said something I’ll never forget.

“You approach a website differently than I’ve ever seen,” she said. “You approach it as, well, a love letter.”

She’s right. I do.

Think of the last time you received a love letter.

I bet you hung on every word. I bet you read it more than once. Why? Because it was to YOU and no one else, and you knew it. Those words were written expressly to connect with what you needed and wanted to hear, and most importantly, the person who wrote them, meant it.

Can you think of a better way to treat your website? Your brand? All the tiny touch points of it—the emails, blogs, the freebie pop-ups?

This is what’s missing, I believe, from most websites. You know, the ones that feel wooden or flimsy or a little too slick. They may have cool logos and graphics, flashing, moving parts. But what are they saying? What do they mean? Why do I care?

Here’s how to use the love letter approach for creating more powerful, compelling messaging on your site (and everywhere else).

Ask yourself:

Am I a bad date?

Most people’s websites are like terrible first dates: They’re all about THEM, and how great they are. They never ask you a question. They never show an ounce of concern or even mild interest in you. (Trust me, I’ve been on a few of these this year.)

I tell people that their websites shouldn’t simply be mirror images of themselves.

No one’s coming to your site to watch you preen in front of it. They want to know what you have to offer them. Simple concept, hard to execute on, especially if you’re not sure yourself.

Think of it, instead, as a way to connect with the person you’re looking to attract. What are his or her concerns, fears, struggles? Where are they at right now, and how can you help? The real skill is in being able to make a reader “heard” when they’re not even the ones doing the speaking.


(Psst…want to find out how to approach YOUR content? Check out my free training, Rekindle Your Content: Fire up your creativity and fuel your marketing efforts.  And discover how to think about content in a way that doesn’t make you die inside.)

What do I most want to do for this person?

And please don’t tell me to improve their lives, because that’s a given. Unless someone out there is publicizing their efforts to ruin yours, you can assume that most people, whether they’re bookkeepers or coaches or personal trainers, are always trying to help.

I’ll add that there’s a kind of mealy-mouthed aspect of this that I can’t stand, and it’s when someone wants credit for wanting to help. That is your job.

If you weren’t purporting to solve a problem for me and in so doing improve an aspect of my life, then you don’t have much of a business. So get past this and instead focus on what you can do for me, your one true love. Haha.

Do I actually love them?  

If you don’t love the person you’re trying to reach, good luck getting and keeping their attention. Seems obvious. But if down deep you’re annoyed at, judgy of, or otherwise impatient toward the people you want to help (for instance, if you think they’re stupid and that’s why they need you), trust me, it will show.

I remember an interview with the actor John Goodman about his role in the film 10 Cloverfield Lane, in which he plays a conspiracy theorist-slash-survivalist living in a bunker. He’s a terrifying, loathsome character—and Goodman said that the only way he could face playing him is if he found something, anything, likable about him. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know he basically nailed it.

Now, you aren’t terrifying or loathsome, and neither is your audience. I hope. But when you think about what you truly want to do to help these particular people and why, connect to that part that appeals, that draws you in, that makes you excited to help.

Because if you don’t love them, at least some part of them, you by definition won’t have a love letter. Just…a letter. And that’s no fun.

Great branding, website, copy, all of it, should do one thing: Connect. And so yeah, there’s a little romance involved. And by romance I don’t mean “sexy”; I mean the kind of romance that draws you in, makes your audience feel wanted, and heard. That kind of romance.

Your job is to create meaning and value for the person whom you can most successfully serve. If you can do that, over and over, you’ll get the best kind of response from fans and prospects that you could hope to: “Tell me more.”

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 time to do some writing?  

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I work with people of all backgrounds and businesses who have something to say and are dying to say it.

They want to do media and launch podcasts, give talks and write books. They want to “put themselves out there.” If there were two words that literally every person says to me, it’s that they want to “help people.” That’s not unique, but it’s a good direction to head in.

There’s another thing they want to do: “inspire people.” In a post-Oprah world, it’s no wonder that this is a common goal. They see authors and thought leaders and everyone else signing copies of their books and strutting around the stage, and it looks like those people are up there with a single goal: to be inspiring.

That might be the effect, but I don’t think that’s why you get up there to begin with.

Inspiring people isn’t a bad intention, don’t get me wrong. But I think when we set out to inspire, we’re missing a step.

I’ve wrestled with this for a while—why it sticks in my craw, why it bugs me, why I feel like even though it seems great it’s the wrong goal. And the reason is this: It presumes I need inspiring, and that only you can fix my lowly, sordid self.

I don’t believe that’s what moves people.

When I teach people to craft their killer talks, I beg them to NOT to try to be inspiring.

Be the opposite: Be vulnerable and honest and self-deprecating and real. Be willing to show how you struggled and messed up and why you’re no different from the rest of us. 

In his (amazing) book, The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Chris Anderson talks about how the pursuit of “inspiring people” is a little too on the nose:

“Inspiration is like love. You don’t get it by pursuing it directly. In fact, there’s a name for people who pursue love too directly: stalker.”

And there it is. The reason “I want to inspire people” doesn’t work (in a talk, but really, anywhere) is because it’s more about what YOU want, not what I need.

And if you assume I need what you want, you’ve jumped a few steps, and you’re no longer leading with message, but agenda.

I think of inspiration as a little like self-esteem: You can’t give it to someone; it must be earned. It’s a byproduct of vulnerability, wisdom, courage. Your willingness to take a risk will inspire us far more than anything you do “to” inspire us.

When I had the opportunity to pitch my TEDx talk idea (“Stop Searching for Your Passion”, hovering up over 5 million views to date) to the event organizer, I never, not once, said I wanted to do it to inspire people. Are people inspired by excellent talks? All the time. The good ones, anyway. But it’s not because people got up there with the sole purpose of inspiring you; they had something they wanted to say, some truth they’d come to, some struggle they’d had, and wanted to share it.

The last thing I wanted to do was “inspire people to follow their passion.” I’d always felt that “follow your passion” was unhelpful advice, and I knew I couldn’t be the only one who rankled against it. I didn’t go in to “inspire” people with my brilliance, but to share how I’d struggled with an idea, and how I’d ultimately come to terms with it. I had the sense I wasn’t alone, and I was right.

So? Don’t go in to inspire. Instead, make it a point in all that you do, whether it’s writing, speaking, leading, managing, delivering, to tell us the truth, to show us the work.

To change the way we see a thing. Share your own contradictions, complexities, and struggle. Take us with you down the path of your own discovery, so we can see how you got there, what decisions, and mistakes, you made.  

That, to be sure, will be the most inspiring thing you can do.


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You have a big talk coming up. So you say to yourself, I’m going to sit down right now and write it.

You type one sentence: “Good afternoon.”

You delete it. You wonder if you’re a fraud. You wonder why you’re doing this. You wonder what to have for dinner.

Then: Oh would you look at that. I just got an email! I better go see what it’s about.

There isn’t a person who’s ever been asked to speak who hasn’t done this dance. Not. One.

Myself included. I also delay, procrastinate, worry. Except I have the best out ever. I can easily avoid prepping my talk—I’ll work on yours instead!

As a consultant who helps people identify their messaging and develop their talks, yes, working on yours is a whole lot easier than working on my own. But I also realize that sitting down to a blank page will stop anyone cold.

For most of us, sitting down to “write a talk” from start to finish just doesn’t work.

You’ve got to give yourself something to work with first; think of it as getting a lot of clay on the table so that you have something to shape.

So here are my tips for working on your talk–without writing it from scratch.

(And if you want a hundred more talk-writing insights, but live and in-person, come to my signature event, Tapped to Speak LIVE, happened April 4&5 in Boston!)

First, do a big ol’ brain dump.

Note, this is NOT the same as “writing your talk.” Fact is, you don’t know what you really think about a thing until you express it—it’s in the cognitive act of putting it into words that you give form to the ideas. You may even be surprised about what comes out. I know I often am.

Here are some prompts to use to fuel this writing session. Use whatever ones work for you, or do them all:

  • What I love about this topic is:
  • What frustrates me about this topic is:
  • The thing people don’t realize about this topic is:
  • The one thing I want the audience to walk away with and why:

The only rule is that you KEEP WRITING. If you hit the brakes as you do it, you will not get to the good stuff. Whether you type or handwrite, set a timer for 15 minutes and just write out your opinions and thoughts on the topic—in no particular order. Jot down any stories or scenes or examples that come to mind. But just a quick sketch–don’t get bogged down.

Remember, this is not for anyone to see but you. This blurt onto the page captures your first thoughts, which often prove valuable.

I started my TEDx talk process this way–I tried to get out of the way of my internal editor and just say everything, messy and loose and all over the place. Just to get it OUT of my head. Say the unpopular things. Say the things you really think.

The only rule is that you don’t hit the delete button and you don’t pause to reread or think about it. You keep your pen or fingers moving, even if what you write is nonsense. Don’t judge, revise, or edit. Just get it out.

Now, put it away and don’t read it until later. Let it sit. Like a good stew, those ideas will mingle and marinate and be better tomorrow.

Next: Get it onto cards (or stickie notes!).

Grab a stack of index cards or stickie notes. Whatever you prefer. Think of each one as like a tiny dish to hold a single mouthful of an idea. The only rule: You must do this by hand, with pen and paper, not on your computer.

Here’s why this works: In his book Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon says he has an analog desk, where there is no digital equipment, just paper, markers, and other physical tools.

“The computer is really good for editing your ideas,” he says, “but it’s not really good for generating ideas…The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us–we start editing ideas before we have them.”

Here’s what to do now:

  • Identify your key ideas, thoughts, and opinions. Go back through your brain dump and pick out the ones you know you want to include. The rule is that each card gets ONE idea; i.e., “Companies overestimate the value of perks,” or “Searching for your passion is a waste of time.”
  • Sift and feel around for examples, stories, or anecdotes that you want to share. And you need several! A talk without scenes or stories is dry indeed. Write ONE story or scene per card. So you might write, “The day I quit my job,” or “what my father said to me”—you know what these things are. You just need a phrase to capture the idea so you can include it in the talk. What scenes do you want to show in your talk? What moments or stories matter?
  • Capture the evidence you want to share. What information will help create the frame and context for your talk? Maybe it’s a few statistics or other things, experts, case studies you want to include. Again, one per card— “Seth Godin quote about how to stand out,” “Domestic violence stat,” or “Client case study: XYZ company”

OK! Now you have a stack of cards, and you will continue to add more. In fact, spend a few days doing this. The benefit is it’s non-linear–so you’re not worried about what you’re saying in what order. Just capture the key stuff and put it in the stack.

  • Shuffle the deck. When you have a solid set of cards, start shuffling them, or put all those stickies up on a wall. Stare at them. Move them around. This is what’s so handy about using cards vs. writing out your talk first: You can physically manipulate them and look at them in a few different ways.
  • Experiment with flow. Move them around, look at them, and see how doing so changes the shape and flow of your talk. This is way more fun than trying to write it from beginning to end, which is too hard.
  • Talk it through. Once you have your cards in an order (and it can change), start talking them through, out loud, as if you’re giving the talk, but you don’t have to be all formal. Do it as if you’re telling someone a story (which, by the way, you are). The talk actually can take shape this way, without having to write down or memorize a script.

Rather than write a script and memorize it, practice talking it through with the cards. You’re not writing for your audience; you’re speaking! So practice speaking. Because every time you do, you’re burning it into your mind and walking those words across your tongue so that they get used to being there. You may never say the same thing the same way twice. That’s ok! You can’t forget your own stories and ideas.

(Tip: Those cards may be a clue as to where you might use a slide. You don’t need a slide for every single thought. Think of slides as a place for the audience to perch while you unpack your idea.)

Boom. You will have a talk on your hands, without blank page syndrome. That’s a win!

Speaking from the stage is one of the most influential things you can do for your career. If, that is, you can get the best part of YOU out of your head and into your talk. That’s exactly what you’ll learn at Tapped to Speak LIVE, April 2109 in Boston. Click here to join us!

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.59.28 PMNot too long ago, haters were the domain of the rich and famous — or at least, anyone with a sizable platform. In fact, it was basically a celebrity tax: you want attention, get ready for vitriol.

But now it very much is our problem. Because now we all want attention, and, thanks to the astonishingly infinite reach of every post or picture, we can all get it. Each one of us, whether we have 25 blood-related Facebook friends or 100,000 Twitter followers, is a publisher, producer and personality in our own right. And no matter what you want to say, or share, or do, even if it’s positively saintly in its mission and intention, you are in a position to be snarked at. And you probably will be.

One thing I do is teach talent how to scale their personal media brands — and fear of haters often holds them back. They don’t want to offend; they want people to like them. They’re afraid of critics. And yet, what I tell them is what I’ll tell you right now: Embrace the haters.

I’m not saying you have to like them, but you have to accept them as part of the landscape, which they most certainly are. Because if what you want is large-scale, media success, you’re going to have them. In fact, they can be a sign that you’re doing something right! Because you’re hitting a nerve.

I also realize not everyone wants that much attention or to be a huge star. I get it. But if you do want to make a big splash in your own pond or even rise up through the ranks where you work, again, you’re going to have people who seem to work against you. Online and off.

Fact is, no one is immune to haters — not a movie star, not a Nobel peace prize winner, not your stable older sister and not you. Feedback is one thing, and by definition should come from some qualified source. But entertaining endless snarky, antagonistic or passive aggressive barbs is another. You’ve got to build resilience by expecting it and ignoring as much of it as you can.

For my part, I rarely read the comments section on anything I write, even this one. I’ll glance sometimes, but as soon as things get ugly, I click away. It’s just not worth getting sucked down that rabbit hole.

I give my writer friends the same advice, whenever they feel the urge to jump into the mud pit, dukes up, ready to defend their work. I say: Does Cate Blanchett stand outside some podunk movie theater and defend, or debate, the merits of “Blue Jasmine” (and she got plenty of hate for being in a Woody Allen film to begin with)? Nope. So you don’t need to defend your work, either.

Of course, you care for a reason: You’re wired to. It’s not a weakness; it’s part of being human.

We are mammals who thrive in groups. And so that innate fear of offending, alienating or even just ticking someone off trips a kind of evolutionary alarm that makes us afraid we could be ousted. This is very, very layman science, mind you, but I’d venture to say it’s why we hunger for praise, attention and recognition — and why a whiff of sharp criticism can knock us off our feet. And, arguably, why I walked around my high school in LL Bean knockoff mocassins from Macy’s worrying that I would be found out, and sometimes still do.

The Age of the Troll

Internet trolls are a fairly recent iteration of an ugly human urge: To tear down someone else just because you can. And while we can complain about Youtube and Twitter, the social media landscape didn’t invent the tendency; it simply gave us a borderless playground on which to enact it. But you’ll find plenty of haters in real life, too. Here’s what to keep in mind when facing down four of the most common kinds of haters:

1. The Cynic

She may be a friend from high school whom you only barely granted FB access, and you have lived to regret it. Or she may share your workspace. Either way, this person loves to pinprick every balloon of joy, hope or optimism you float.

She’s the first one to tell you it’s supposed to rain the day you’re going to the beach or to write “must be nice” when you post a picture of a lovely candle-lit dinner. You know why she does it: She’s deeply unhappy and unable to let anyone be happy, either. She’s likely endured some serious disappointment or setback, or just a general, decades long malaise. The worst part is that she thinks she’s wise, or funny, or both. She’s not.

How to handle it: This depends, frankly, on what kind of relationship you want or need to have. If this person is part of your everyday life and it behooves you to keep things on the up, it’s worth killing her with kindness, if just to neutralize some of the acidity. I’ve found what works for these people isn’t trying to out-cynic them (never works). Instead, when the cynic burps up another bit of soggy commentary, shift gears completely: Inquire about something that you know matters to her — her dog, her mother, whatever.

Authentic connection, stripped of any irony or snark, is the best way to prune that discussion. As for cynical FB comments? Skip them. Don’t get into a cynical warfare. If you want to be a little bit passive aggressive yourself, you could like every comment to that post but hers. But maybe that’s just me.

2. The Green-Eyed Monster

The day you came home crying from school, your mother said that that girl was simply jealous of you. And you didn’t believe her. But she was right. In fact, you probably still have a hard time believing anyone could be intimidated by or wish they were you. But trust me, someone is, and does. And that person has locked onto you as her competition. This can mean a weird vibe, cold shoulder, or even some not-so-nice stuff said behind your back. It’s really not about you; it’s about her own insecurities. However, you still feel the effects.

How to handle it: Online, this is usually not a problem, because jealous frenemies don’t tell you what they think of you; they tell other people. Or they just observe, quietly. But in person, well, the weird vibe is uncomfortable. As a result, you tend to avoid this person. I say, do the opposite. Hone in. Be interested. And ask for help.

I once worked with a woman who needed to one-up me all the time. Granted, she’d been in the department first, and I was the newbie, so she had some innate need to guard her territory. If I tried to offer her any kind of help or information, I got an, “I know that already.” I felt like I couldn’t win, and I realized I was going about it all wrong.

So I did the opposite: I went to her for help. And the day I did, the tenor of our relationship changed. Once she was affirmed in her role as “in the know,” which was important to her, she went out of her way to help me. I was no longer a threat in her eyes and the tension dissolved. It doesn’t matter if it was true; our relationship improved and we ended up becoming friends. Once that fear was gone, she could be herself and so could I.

3. The Noodge

Look, this person is harmless. But her comments always drive you up the wall. She takes issue with whatever you post, she gets everyone riled up so that your simple commentary on a recent news story about school uniforms turns into a whole big Facebook pile-on. Why is she doing this? Does she hate you? Because why else would she suck so much time and energy for no good reason? I’ll tell you why: Because she’s bored and your posts are irresistible low-hanging fruit.

As with the Cynic, it’s less about you than it is about her against the world, and right now, that means you. Whereas the Cynic believes she’s world weary and wise, the Noodge may at turns be morally superior, easily offended or both. She’s not so much popping your balloon as she is making an example of you and “all that you represent.” And it’s worth adding that she may very well be a Green Eyed Monster, masquerading as a Noodge. In fact, the only thing that separates a Noodge from a Full-On Troll is that she’s not malicious. She’s all bark, no bite.

How to handle it: Try to resist her Facebook bait. She’s trying to lure you into a thing to scratch an itch; if you give in, she wins. Fact is, even if you can resist her Facebook bait, your friends may not be able to, and as with any party that breaks out in your house, you’re at least partly responsible for making sure nothing gets broken. If you try to ignore, she may get louder, so best to just play moderator and add a “Good point, Stacy, we hear you” and keep on truckin. She really wants one thing: to be heard.

4. The Full-On Troll

Now this is where things get serious. A Full-On Troll is a perfect storm of all of the above, times ten: She (or he, by the way) is cynical, jealous, bored, resentful, even ruthless. Not to mention, usually anonymous, especially since Full-On Trolls tend to work the more public comment forums, from small blogs to major publications to Youtube, that buzzing hive of haters.

Usually you don’t know this person, but it doesn’t mean you don’t care, because they come in and crap all over whatever it is you’ve posted. While the Internet didn’t invent cruelty or hate, it certainly did spawn trolls, who, under the invisible cloak of inscrutable screen names, roam around swinging their snarky, hateful bludgeons, smashing anything in their path.

I saw comedian Tony Deyo perform recently, and he did a bit about his recent and first appearance on Conan. During the sweet afterglow of his late night success, a single jab from one YouTube commenter managed to inspire bitter defensiveness and rage. In response to Tony’s four minutes of fame, this snarky respondent wrote, simply, “Boo, bitch.” “That review was two words long,” recalled Deyo. “And in those two words, he managed to insult me twice.”

How to handle it: In a word, ignore. You will not win in a fight with a Troll. Sure, if you’re bruising for a fight, you can dive in, but chances are, you’ll regret it — and probably lose. The fact that you care about something, anything (namely that which you’re defending), puts you at a disadvantage. Because the Troll cares about nothing. You can even call in reinforcements. But is it worth it? What will you win or prove? Nothing. It will cost you a mega-dose of cortisol and adrenaline, and leave you spent and bloody at the end. There are better ways to spend your time.

Deyo says he fumed over his hater for hours, and went on to recount how he turned the tables on him by — how else? — Googling his hater and inflicting his own breed of trollesque punishment on the guy. This was his attempt to right the scales, to make things even. Which he did, and continues to do, every time he tells that story to a new audience.

And thus the toxin spreads and the hater disease continues to fester. Because the most dangerous thing about engaging with a Troll isn’t that you might get hurt or mad or both — but that you risk becoming one of them.


Originally published on dailyworth.com

Picture this: You wake up (perhaps from a minor head injury or a very deep sleep) and forget everything from the past 10 years. In your world, it’s 2004: George W. has won a second term; Martha Stewart has been convicted; Apple just introduced the iPod Mini; and you cried your head off at The Notebook.

This also means that you also believe you’re 10 years younger than you actually are, having (at least for now) borne none of the scars, disappointments or joys of the recent decade. You must now set about collecting clues about who you’ve become.

This is the plot of Liane Moriarty’s popular 2010 novel “What Alice Forgot,” and while it makes for an entertaining read, it’s also a valuable tool for introspection: After all, what would you think of the life you’re living now if you could view it with a cold eye? If you had to figure out who you are now based not on memory, but empirical evidence?

I’ve thought about this long after (spoiler alert) Alice gets her memory back. Reason being that so much of what we’re fed (be it in the self-help, career or otherwise success-oriented literature) tells us to fixate on the future: Set goals, draw up vision boards; picture yourself five, 10, 20 years from now. In other words, keep your eye on the horizon. There’s an optimism to that, and a danger, too – the temptation to assume that things will be better “when,” or simply better then; that all of life is designed to sweep infinitely upward, with more and more to come if we can just manifest it, Secret-style.

Instead of imagining and envisioning what hasn’t happened, look at what has. If you could see your life (your job, your home, the people in it) as a stranger would, what would you think of it – and yourself?

Alice looks with wonder at her lovely home, her swimming pool, her impeccable clothes, her once plump body now lithe and muscular. She’s aghast at her hectic schedule, her foolish friends, the way people treat her – including her daughter, whom she doesn’t know, and the husband she’s in the midst of divorcing, but has no idea why. The clues and the cues reveal that while she is by all accounts beautiful and admirable and organized, she has also become regimented, hard and unforgiving – the very kind of woman she used to loathe.

I call this the 10-Year Test, and I encourage you to take it. I’ll go first:

Ten years ago, I had recently turned 30 and was living in a spacious one-bed in a suburb of Boston. I was dating a former boss, whom I adored, and had just gotten my first publishing job as an editor at a magazine. I was thrilled beyond belief, but also insecure that I had a bit of catch-up to do. I remember crying one night because a younger editor knew more websites than me (it was 2004, after all).

In accepting that magazine job, I had also taken a $15,000 pay cut and was working nights and weekends selling jewelry at home parties to fill the gaping hole in my income. I surprised myself by being very good at sales and wondered how or if I’d use that skill later. My sisters were both pharma reps making close to six figures and I worried (at the very nice pool in my very boring apartment complex in Waltham) that I’d never earn enough, and would ultimately be forced to take up some rich stranger on his offer of $1 million dollars to sleep with me for the night. Not that I had said offer, but if I did, I warned my family, I would very seriously consider it.

So, if you told me that, 10 years hence, I would earn enough working for myself to rent my own studio apartment in Manhattan, write for major publications, including my own column (ta da!), appear regularly on TV and have enough cash left over to eat sushi once a week and get regular pedicures, I would have thought the reason was because I’d died and gone to heaven. I would have also been tickled pink at the fact that I was dating an attractive, talented young musician from Brooklyn or that I could expertly navigate the NYC subway system. I would be surprised by my long hair (which I always used to keep short), my tall boots, the body that I kept in shape thanks to regular runs through Central Park. (Central Park! I would have said. Isn’t that dangerous?)

In other words, if somehow the universe folded back on itself and I could have had coffee with this older version of myself, I would have been impressed. I would have wanted to be me. Now, that’s saying something.

What my younger self doesn’t yet know is that the flipside to that freedom is isolation. That I’m not as sure about what I want as I assumed I’d be at this point. The only thing she and I know well is the familiar sting of that punishing inner voice that hasn’t changed, even when everything else has. But in taking a tour of my life through younger eyes, the day-to-day falls away for a moment, and I realize how good I have it, and how the decisions I made have paid off.

Ok, your turn.

Look around – at your job, your home, your handbag. What do you do all day, and do you like it? What do you carry around with you and do you need it? What’s in your fridge, your bathroom cabinet, your bank account? Chances are, you may be worth more (perhaps quite a bit more) than you were ten years ago. But weighing the money against your mood, what is it worth, and what is it costing you?

I have always thought that you can tell a lot about a woman by her handbag. I can still remember buying my first ever designer handbag. It would have been about 10 years ago now and I still treasure it to this day. I worked so hard to save up for it and when it was finally in my arms I really felt like I had accomplished something. Since then it is safe to say I have purchased a few more handbags over the years. But nowadays, I am much more likely to buy a knock off louis vuitton bag than a real one as I have realized that there are other things that need to be paid for first. There is no shame in owning a replica handbag after all. It can be so hard to tell them apart from the real thing. Do not get me wrong, I still love my designer handbags. Fashion will always be important to me. I just have to be more careful with my money now compared to when I was younger.

Look at your body: How has it changed, grown, worsened, improved? How would you describe it if it belonged to someone else (in fact, I bet you’d be a lot kinder). What do you love or admire about it?

What about the people in your life. Who are they – and can you say that you’re glad they’re there? If you’re partnered, is this the kind of person you wanted to be with back then, and if not, why are you with that person now?

And now the big question: Is the person you are now the one you hoped you would be?

I’m all for goal-setting, for thinking, dreaming and envisioning a fantabulous future. Keeping the twin engines of hope and ambition running is what gets me out of bed in the morning. But rather than try to just get ahead of or better than you are now, you’d be wise to stop every so often and check yourself against what a younger you would think.

Here’s why: You owe it to her. The younger you had big plans and dreams, and quite frankly worked her butt off to get you to where you are now. With your 20/20 hindsight, it’s easy to look back and see how everything fell into place – but she didn’t know that! She had to do it blindly, with no idea how it’d turn out. You may think she owes you a debt of gratitude, but in fact, you owe her.

Because in many ways, she’s braver. Maybe she was naive and optimistic or perhaps pessimistic to a fault, and there’s a lot of things you would tell her if you could, but she expected the best of you, and still does.

Now as you look ahead to the next 10 years, you too have big dreams and sketched-out plans. You’re doing what you can to get there. The future you, the one looking back from the precipice of 2025, is well aware. And she already owes everything to you.


Get Rejected More (You’re Not Doing It Enough)

If you’re weeping into a glass of sherry and wondering why the world is so cruel and your life is so loveless, well, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Yes, I said that. Because if you’re like a lot of women, you wait. And wait. You think you’re enlightened and independent, yet there you are clinging to this Disneyfied idea of romance, believing down deep that if you click your heels, the Right One will appear, if you just sit quietly and wait. It’s not the world getting in your way; it’s you.

You need to make shit happen. Here’s how: You need to take more risks. And you need to get rejected. In fact, my challenge to you is to get rejected no fewer than three times. Tonight, if possible. Because it means you’re getting somewhere. Also, because it’s unlikely you’ll even get that far before someone takes you up on it. (Trust me on this.)

Men already know this. They play the numbers. They’re used to rejection — they accept it as part of the game. If they ask out ten ladies, it means one or two or three will say yes. They go after what they want, and expect rejection. Regularly.

I knew a guy like this in college. He was nothing to look at, truly, but a fun, personable guy. He was never the hottest guy in the room. But he asked out EVERYONE. And the man always had a date. It’s not magic. It’s numbers.

You need to think this way. You don’t need to “act” like a man, but you need to adopt the mentality, create the calluses, and push through it. If you prefer a more gender-neutral example, think business: A salesperson doesn’t go into the field thinking everyone will say yes. But she goes out knowing that to get a return on those efforts, she needs to aim for far more than she’ll actually land.

When’s the last time you got rejected? And what did you do about it? If the answer is go home, lick your wounds, and stop shaving your legs, that’s the wrong answer.

I’ve gotten rejected lots of times–tons. It sucks every single time. It will always hurt. But it doesn’t always have to stop you cold. When I look at the past year alone, I’ve been told many times “no,” or “later,” and “maybe not.”

STRIKE ONE: I was seeing a man in the midst of a divorce; he had pursued me. Then he said he needed time; he’d be back. That was a year ago. When I asked whatever happened to him, he said he was dating other people, but decided he “didn’t want to continue our thing.” Our thing? Meaning, that thing he started? Yeah, that hurt. Moving on.

STRIKE TWO: I sold a guy a set of drawers on craigslist. I was charmed. I emailed him to let him know I thought so. We went for coffee. Then, a walk. He emailed me the next day and said I just wasn’t what he was looking for in a girlfriend. I was shocked, then hurt. Then, over it. Next?

STRIKE THREE: I put the full-court press on a guy I met at a singles event (or rather, I happened to him — find out how to do this). I had him in the bag — I thought. He texted me the next day to go out. Then he changed the date. Then, he changed his mind.

I have more…you want me to go on? You get my point. I get hurt, sad. I don’t quit. And I’m never without a date if I want one. I just go get one.

I also find men wherever they are — not just out at some bar. Anyone you meet is game, and he doesn’t have to be in striking distance of a gin and tonic to be game. I recently visited the Apple Genius bar for help with my Mac. The guy who helped me was completely adorable. I started to leave after our session and then turned my ass right around and went back inside and, when I couldn’t find him, gave my card to another employee to give to him.

He wrote me back a very polite, service-oriented note. I wrote back telling him I was interested in him. And I didn’t hear back. For a month.

I forgot about it.

And then, weeks later, he started following me on Twitter. I called him out (“hey I know you”) and he replied, “We should hang out.”

So we did. And we are.

Be warned: The more time you spend in a gaggle of ladies, the less time you spend taking the risk of putting yourself out there in a real way — making yourself vulnerable, trying, and, failing. Failing isn’t a mistake or something you shouldn’t have done. It’s something you should be doing more.

Do it. Go out — alone. Look hot. Feel hot. Sit at the bar and get a drink. Start a conversation with someone who’s even just mildly attractive. I don’t give a shit if he’s married, gay, or about to enter the priesthood. Buy him a drink. You will probably not marry this man. But you may date him. Who knows? And at the very least, you have a fun, flirty conversation. There will be more.

Do it again. And again. Introduce yourself to guys you meet randomly, in passing, anywhere. Rack up numbers. And you will get results — and likely, a guy who appreciates a woman with a little initiative.

Terri Trespicio is a media personality & lifestyle expert, and a dating coach with expertise in getting singles back on the field. Visit her at territrespicio.com and follow her @TerriT.

This post originally appeared on TerriTrespicio.com. Republished with permission.


Originally published on Oprah.com

You know you should sleep more, walk more and turn off your phone (that’s not happening). Here are a few surprising ways to quiet your brain at different times of day—without going off the grid.

Take on a more demanding task

In a 2007 study published in the Association for Psychological Science journal, Professor Nilli Lavie of University College London measured the response time of 61 subjects performing tasks on a computer while being distracted by flashing letters. Turns out the more demanding the task, the less distracted the subjects were.

How to do it: When you feel yourself darting out in a thousand different directions, rather than play Whac-A-Mole with your email, immerse yourself in one of your most challenging projects, one that will require your full attention.

Try it when: Your energy is high (as in, not at bedtime), but you’re feeling stressed because you have your hands in a bunch of different half-done tasks.

Don’t spend more than six hours alone

While there’s growing evidence that working from home can reduce stress and increase productivity, there’s reason to believe that spending too much time alone is a recipe for anxiety. Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, M.D., leading authority on ADHD and author of CrazyBusy, says that face time with another person can have a grounding and calming effect, and you should do it every four to six hours. A study done at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine (and reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) suggests that a change in brain hormones due to social isolation was responsible for aggression and anxiety in mice. “Research is beginning to show what has been a largely unrecognized importance of human connection,” says Hallowell.

How to do it: Commit to regular daily doses of human moments, says Hallowell. Whether that’s coffee with a friend or a hair appointment—interact with a real person in the flesh, not on your phone.

Try it when: You don’t remember when you last spoke a word out loud to another person.

Balance on one leg

A powerful way to calm the mind is to redirect attention to the body. Somatosensory activities, which are simply exercises designed to help you sense your own body, can help sharpen cognitive and physical performance. Hallowell uses them in his Learning Breakthrough program to help with balance, attention and focus issues in children and adults, and you can use them to quiet the mental chatter.

How to do it: Try standing on one leg with your eyes closed (better yet, try it on a wobble board). Change your clothes or put on your shoes without sitting down or holding onto anything. Challenging your proprioception (awareness of where your body is in space) has a way of zapping nagging thoughts.

Try it when: Your brain is about to explode.

Put up stop signs

You weren’t born knowing that a red light means hit the brakes. But you’ve done a pretty solid job of assimilating that information, as you have other habits, like tying your shoes or driving. And you can do the same for a racing mind—if you turn it into a habit. “Your brain learns by repeated attention to intention,” says stress and performance expert Cynthia Ackrill, M.D. “Pairing actions with a calming technique like breathwork can increase those synaptic connections, helping you reduce stress more easily and effectively.”

How to do it: Get yourself a packet of tiny dot-shaped stickers, and put them in select places where you’ll come across them regularly: On the back of your phone, on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, the steering wheel. Every time you see one, take three deep, grounding breaths. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found yogic breathing to be a beneficial adjunct treatment for those suffering from anxiety and stress disorders—even those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Don’t have stickers handy? Train yourself to pair breathing with actions you do every day; for instance, every time you walk through a doorway or open the fridge.

Try it when: Your thoughts are racing so fast you can’t keep up.

Take a micro-rest

When your brain is scattered, you can slow it down in seconds—if you make those seconds count. Jim Loehr, founder of the Human Performance Institute and author of The Only Way to Win, spent years studying world-class athletes and coaching them to optimal performance. What he discovered using EKG telemetry was that top tennis players (as well as other athletes) strategically used the downtime between points to recover in as little as 16 seconds (poor competitors did not leverage this recovery time). Based on this groundbreaking research, Loehr developed The 16 Second Cure training program for coaches and athletes.

How to do it: Set a timer for one minute and breathe from the diaphragm (also known as abdominal breathing, in which you allow the belly to expand on the inhale). Make your exhales twice as long as your inhales; this can stimulate your mental recovery.

Try it when: You’re between meetings or you have a big presentation where you’ve got to be at the top of your game and want to quiet your mental chatter.