The one thing you need to succeed

I love when things just “happen” to go my way. When the stars align. When things are easy. When everything seems to just be happening in my favor.

I don’t love feeling like crap. Nope, sure don’t. And I’m sure neither do you. Whether it’s anxiety, or being bummed, or being heartbroken, or feeling lost… that yukky stuff comes up here and there…and it’s no freaking fun.

Yes you can repeat to yourself “this too shall pass” (which it will). And you can tell yourself that there are much worse things that could be happening (because there are). But in the moment it doesn’t actually make you feel any better. Your pain is your pain and you’re the only one feeling it.

From one highly futuristic person to another, I’ll tell you that your discomfort is so unbelievably necessary for your growth. Think about hiking to the top of a mountain…up there is a view like you’ve absolutely never seen. But in order to see it, you must put your muscles through hell getting up the incline. You actively put one foot in front of the other, despite the fatigue, because you know where it’s getting you even if you’ve never seen it. You have faith that the view will be entirely worth it.

Your life is no different. There will be so many times where you’re sitting in some shit. And sometimes it won’t be because “it’s happening to you” it’ll actually be because you’re choosing it. You’re choosing it because in order to get to where you’re going you know that some major discomfort must be gone through first in order to get there.

That’s where I’ve been the past few weeks. Let’s just say that I’ve majorly met my quota for tough conversations, all ones that I initiated. I’ve some some how managed to fill two weeks with more uncomfortable discussions than I did the entire 8 months prior. And I didn’t like it one bit…while I was in it.

Now that I’m on the other side of them all, I realize how much our dreams and our joy depend on our tolerance for discomfort. We’re only going to make as much progress as we are OK with not feeling well – with feeling (and even initiating) a bit of pain.

Taking a risk requires discomfort. Following your heart requires discomfort. So too do speaking your truth, being vulnerable, breaking up, standing on your own, and taking a chance.

Without the discomfort you have no appreciation for when it’s absent. Discomfort means you’re growing, evolving, and learning. All things that your dreams depend on to become reality.

Are you forgetting something?

Can you imagine a beautiful starry night’s sky? And not one that is seen from the streets of New York City or under the fluorescent street lights of suburbia. I want you to imagine that you’re miles away from civilization and looking up at nature’s finest twinkles.

The vast night sky lit up from millions and millions of stars wouldn’t be remotely as beautiful if it was just one or two giant white lights. If it was just the moon. Or if it was just the north star. What makes the night sky so immensely stunning is the amount of small flickers happening lightyears away.

Your life is the same way. Your life is made up in millions of tiny moments.

It’s in those moments we love hard. We win big. We laugh. We cry. We wish and pray. We wonder. Enjoy. Question. Giggle.

And it’s hard because all of that is fleeting. We are only right now, one moment at a time, which is why it’s is so unbelievably important to be there with them, no matter how small, instead of wishing for the big moments of the future. Big moments are only big when they’re in the future or when they’re in the past. Because in reality they are just a constellation of tiny moments that your mind regroups.

I’m futuristic. It’s a beautiful strength because I can normally see my path pretty clearly. But it makes enjoying this very moment of sitting with my computer on lap, listening to “Ugly Heart” on repeat with my farmer’s market bag half unpacked, my bed completely not made, and my bottle of sparkling water getting condensation on the couch. But this is the moment. My morning of coffee and laughing with a couple girlfriends at the Ferry Building was another moment. My friday night spent on Google Hangout and group texting my besties abroad about how “he’s the worst” was another. These are the tiny joys, the sparkling twinkles that make up the beautiful night sky that is my life.

They key is to appreciate them. To know they’re fleeting. And to not wish we were anywhere else but right here, in this itty bitty moment in time.

You must know this about time

Have you ever noticed a common thread happening in your life? Maybe it’s a topic that has come up in a bunch of different conversations with your galpals. Or maybe it’s just a mantra that ends up applying itself to a bunch of different situations happening to you lately.

A thread really pounding itself into my consciousness is that time, while always ongoing and moving forward, does not always equate to progress.

Think about it, we’re told that “time heals” and “everything gets better with time” …. but really it’s time + action that leads to progress. Time is not progress for progress’s sake.

Imagine you want learn how to play an instrument. Or perhaps you want to get over heartbreak. Both our emotional and our physical progress requires action. And even more than action, it requires sacrifice. We must give up our time and we must push through barriers in order to see growth.

I’ve been surveying my life lately, on many levels. And while I completely honor some of the things I’ve done in the past few years and how much I’ve developed both as a human and someone trying to put my talents out into the world for others….I’ve also seen plenty of situations where I’m waiting for time to pass because it’ll “get better”. I’ll stop drinking as much wine. Or I’ll see more success in a particular area of my life. Or eventually I start my video blogs. Or I’ll get better at my violin. Or I’ll have more money seeded to work on future projects.

But, just because time passes doesn’t mean those things will just magically happen. Time is not a magic answer for progress in any of our lives. I was reminded of this when I read the most poignant line in my galpal’s blog, “Progress does not happen to you.” Amen.

So if it’s not just going to happen, then we need to get out there and fight for whatever it is that’s most important. Can we get it all done at once? No, but small plans and continuous steps, even if they’re small, will lead us there over time.

3 Reasons You Should Never Say Yes

3 Reasons You Should Never Say Yes

Sometimes we all get in a little over our head. We want to accomplish everything all at once. We want to see everyone in our life happy. We love being the one to help. But sometimes in all of those “Yes’s”, we lose ourselves and our own progress. I had to back out of something just this weekend, and I was reflecting on why the heck I said yes to begin with…

So many things lead us to agree to something when we had no capacity, energy or ability to actually see it through. Sometimes a yes is necessary, but so many times it is completely void of respecting our own needs. If you’re ever saying YES for the following reasons, you need to quickly flip a switch in that beautiful brain of yours and communicate a NO instead….

You’re scared of a toughie

Most people aren’t huge fans of confrontation (even though I’m sure we all know someone in our life who feeds off of it). Having to have a tough conversation is a surefire way for anxiety and fear. But not following that fear can produce so many worse ramifications both for ourselves and for the other person. If you’re saying yes because you’re avoiding what’s really on your mind and because you’re too scared to speak your truth, you’ll pay the cost on the other side. So get comfortable with your own needs and have the conversation. You’ll feel so much better once it’s over.

You’re feeling guilty

Guilty. I’m sooooo guilty of saying yes because I felt guilty. It’s actually exactly the reason I said yes to something I shouldn’t have, and then had to back out of. This is never an emotional place to make a sound decision out of. Trust me, I know. It means you’re doing things for the wrong reasons, which will lead to even more wrong decisions. So buck up and drop the guilt (not to self).

Their happiness is more valued than your own

You must show up for yourself. Love can make us do some crazy things, but we need to value our own happiness and well-being more than we do the momentary pain of letting someone down by saying no. When we can be really rooted in our own needs, we’ll find a soft way to say no that makes us feel better (and probably them too) in the end.

Maybe you said YES for one of these reasons lately? Not to fear, there’s a way to learn your lesson, and still back out with grace. I detailed some of tips on doing this today in The College Prepster.

How to back out of a commitment

When you’re the one before “the one”

When you’re the one before “the one”

There’s a right fit for everything: lovers, jobs, friendships, roommates, business partners. Everyone jives and collaborates on different levels. But at the end of the day, there’s a person that’s right for that situation. For that person. For that job. They’re the person to complete the situation or even the other person. They’re the person to bring a department to success. They’re the right vocals for the band because they have “that perfect sound.”

This list goes on.

While it’s awesome to be the one who’s the right puzzle piece to complete the situation or relationship, it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re the person just preceding “the one.”

It’s not so much jealousy, regret, or hopeful wishing as it just is life….and sometimes life can give us a b*tch slap. And while those slaps don’t kill us…they hurt. They sting. And eventually they go away, but might leave a little red mark for some time.

It happens to all of us. It has sure happened to me…twice in the last year, actually. And while I fully know that everything happens for a reason, and whole-heartedly understand (in hindsight) that I wasn’t the “right one” for the situation….our achieving, loving, believing souls want to be the completing puzzle piece.

The one Before the One

Whatever this looks like for you…. perhaps a friendship ended and they have a new bestie that they’re loving life with, or someone took over your position and is having success, or the person you loved a whole heck of a lot found someone else for their future… being the one just before “the one” sucks.

But this is where some serious trusting the universe and the events of your life comes into play. You can revel in the life slap and you can let it sting a little longer than you need, but at some point you need to put some ice on your cheek and remember that this is your path and each letdown, each broken rode, will make sense later. Trust that. Trust the later.

I don’t understand all of the way events have played out in my life either. My head gets it while my heart still flickers with disappointment. The key is to give yourself that, and then keep your head high. Hold out for the dazzling pieces that will complete your puzzle, instead of completing someone else’s.

The one person you *must* trust

Take a guess at who this might be.

Hint: It’s not your mom (although I do trust my Mom implicitly). It’s not your business partner. It’s not your significant other. It’s not your best friend. And no…it’s not your new puppy.

Got a mirror? That a girl. You guessed it. It’s you.

you you you you you you you you you you you you

You. And darnet if it didn’t seem like this *should* be so easy, right? We spend every waking (and sleeping) moment with ourselves. Why should it be so hard to trust the one person we will spend more time with in this universe (and beyond) than any other human.

I’ve been reflecting on this “trusting ourself” thing, because I’m actively fighting to “trust myself”. And not trust myself in the meta interpretation of the word. I’m not really in an ongoing battle to learn to trust myself more in general. I’m fighting the hard fight to trust myself right f*cking now. I add the emphasis because I’m so in need of my own self trust – of decisions, of my dreams, of big life decisions, of risk, of things that no one is deciding but me. Now I need to trust it 100% (I’m at about a 90% trust rate right now).

You might say, “Max, 90% is great.” And I agree. It’s not bad. But so much happens in that 10%. In one day, that is 144 minutes that I’m doubting myself. That over 2 hours of being deep in my head, questioning, wondering, and poking. It’s two hours that can do a lot of harm. And it’s the two hours I’m pushing back against because I do trust myself so then why can’t it be 100% of the time ?

I have ways of combatting self doubt, and most of them include the most amazing friends and family that a girl could ever dream of. With one phone call or coffee date, I’m talked back up to the mountain of glory – of utter self confidence. Of seeing what they see. Of believing what they do. But those supporters can’t be there 100% of the time. So at some point its up to us (up to me in this case) to figure out how to trust myself. How to see what others see. How to trust the one, single person that matters. Me.

I’m beyond grateful for close few that help me fill that 10%. What do you do when you’re feeling the pull of self doubt??

I asked for feedback and this is what happened.

“You stand more for everyone than they stand for themselves.”

I’m sitting at David’s Tea with tears streaming down my face….and not because I’m sad or frustrated. Because I’m completely and utterly moved by this feedback. The man sitting across from me is kindly acting like he doesn’t notice the giant tears (or the snot), but the emotion is moving me hard, and I’m not going to fight it.

Now to explain this, I have to rewind a bunch of weeks. Last month I asked one of my fierce supporters of a friend to run an exercise that Gina Bianchini suggested for anyone wanting to get a more crystal picture on their personal brand. It asked just a few simple questions about what makes me irreplaceable, what is holding me back, what they thought I’d be doing in 5 years, and an open forum for additional feedback.

It’s that feedback where the opening line of this blog came from.  I’m overwhelmed with love and support, and fired up with ideas on what drives me to build out my life, my brand, and my own future business endeavors. But more than anything it reminds me that who I will be is actually made up of who I am each and every day. We’re all the makeup of a million tiny moments.

My brand is just a very businessy term for who I am. And who I am is built like a pyramid, one block at a time. So is yours. I learned some major lessons from doing this exercise, a few that are so personal they’re not even worth sharing (because they won’t make sense), but a few that are incredible reminders for any one of us building something, anything, in our lives:

Your value to all is the same as your value to one

I realized by reading the comments of everyone who gave their incredibly thoughtful feedback that what we aim to communicate to anyone as a brand, as a thought leaders, as heads of a family, as the owners of a small business, can be distilled down to one individual person. What do we want to communicate to one? What do we want them to feel…about themselves, about us? That value that one person feels is our value broadly.

Legacy is consistency

I don’t often think about “what my legacy will be” because I’m too busy living it half the time. But it’s a really valuable question to ask ourselves. What will we leave behind? Because whatever that is should truly be lived day in and day out. Are we perfect? No. I’m sure not. And I’m not always consistent. I have bad days, off days, but the more rooted in my purpose I am, the easier it gets to be consistent. And that consistent value that I bring to others will one day be my legacy…and I can’t think of a more significant driving force to add value in the same way to many, many people’s lives.

What they feel is what you should feel

The line that came after the one at the top of this blog was “Stand for yourself as much as you stand for others.” It was a tough one to read, because it’s true. The pep talks I give others should be the ones I give myself. I should feel the same confidence about my life decisions and dreams that I infuse in my friends (and strangers I meet). We all have to be for ourselves what we are for others. This is probably the hardest lesson because it requires trusting our gut, our intuition and seeing the beauty and talents in our self that others see. If we can see it in others, shouldn’t we be able to see it in ourself?

I encourage every one of you to do this personal branding exercise with a friend….I promise it’ll have a few aha moments. And I can’t wait to hear them below.

Do it. Sit in your shit.

Being uncomfortable sucks so bad.

Do you remember the last time you were super, super uncomfortable. We’re talking the kind that means you don’t even want that chocolate chip cookie because you have too much anxiety to even dream of it being good. You’re so nervous about telling someone something that you look down and your neck is just a blotch of hives. And when you go to talk you kind of stutter. When you dream, all you can think about is the worst. When you text, all you do is panic.

I’m the first person to say, an extended version of any of these things are totally not OK. BUT… and I think there’s a pretty big but here (not to be confused with my own double t butt which is even bigger *wink*)… we all go through shit.

Shit – fear shit. scary shit. embarrassment shit. grieving shit. nervous shit. ugly shit. dark shit. anxious shit. f*cked up shit.

And as one of my favorite souls once told me… “Sit in your shit.”

Why though? Why would we want to stay uncomfortable? Because, in our attempt to get out of discomfort, we forget what that discomfort is all about: getting to the other side. Having the breakthrough. Seeing the light. We can’t have that “good stuff” unless we’re willing to literally sit, roll around and cover ourselves head to toe in the “shit”.

Do you remember the last time you got your hands dirty? Like physically dirty. Today I was crafting and got paint all over my hands. All I wanted to do was to wash it off, and wash it off ASAP. But instead, I said to myself, “Max. You’re going to rock this paint on your hands, and in your nails and on your face a little bit longer. You’re going to be dirty, and kind of uncomfortable with your blue paint all over you. And you’re going to like it.” I didn’t like it. But it was a great physical representation of my internal discomfort from the week prior. And what did I learn?

Discomfort will not kill us. It just gives us an even greater appreciation for being clean.

So whatever you’re feeling today– whatever unpleasant, prickly feeling is coming up…. own it. Lean into it. And remember, sometimes the only option you have is to sit. in. your. s h i t.

Change your relationship with fear

Fear is a crazy thing. It feels all consuming. It feels powerful. It seems like a thing that we should run far far away from. But actually, the opposite is true. Fear can be our north star, if we’re willing and able to get super, super uncomfortable…it’ll tell us exactly where we need to go:

Into it. Into the fear.

Growing up, we learn to treat fear like a fence. It keeps us away from things that could harm us: a high-speed bus, a rabid dog, a ill-intentioned stranger.

But as we get older, we learn those rules to the game. We know to lock our doors, walk in twos, stay on the inside of the sidewalk, etc etc etc. We understand that fear and stay away from it without fear needing to guide us back.

As an adult, fear becomes a much more powerful fence: an emotional one. It makes us think that we can’t go after what we want. It holds us back from speaking out truth. It keeps us from wanting to feel exposed, unsupported, or vulnerable.

Every time we keep that electric, emotional fence up and refuse to scale it, we put even more space between us and our dreams. We see our future, our love, our potential for greatness…and we can’t realize it because we’re so scared of the fear.

Instead, we should see that fence as our giant playground- run to it, climb it, dance ontop, jump off. Because on the other side of fear is the universe calling us to our purpose.

Follow the fear and we’ll find our way.

A place you MUST visit

*Reprise: It’s been exactly a year since I took the most life changing trip traveling alone through northern India. It was the absolute greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. In true nostalgic spirit, there’s no better way to relive the trip than with a read through this post. It truly is a place you must visit.

I hope you’ll go. It is an honest wish in my life that everyone gets to experience the magic of India at some point in their lives. I want you, I want everyone, to have their soul touched by the gut of humanity, and see the way it changes you. The way it lightly shifts your outlook while you’re in the midst of it, and then wildly shifts your heart after. I want you to have the adventure I had. I want you to stare at the Taj Mahal and wonder how love ever built something so magical. I want you to hop on a motorcycle and tour the countryside. I want you to send your blessings down the river Ganges or watch bodies being burned at sunrise. I want India for you.

So when you go, call my friend Gurpreet Kaur (the best travel agent ever over at India Inbound) and have her create the most magical itinerary that includes, but is not limited to my favorites:

The River Ganges in Varanasi

There are two unbelievable moments you must experience while you’re in Varanasi. The sunrise and the sunset. They couldn’t be more spiritually similar, yet radically different experiences.

At sunrise, wake up at 4am and begin trekking through the old city at dark. You’ll go through back pathways laid with stone. You’ll meander through the alleys, avoiding cow shit (and cows), seeing little children urinating in the corner, women burning incense and old police officers sitting around, guns in hand. Intense. I know. But when you get to the ghat, you’ll light a candle in a votive made of pink flowers, and you’ll send your blessings floating down the ripples. I sent blessings of love to the ones that meant the most to me, and similarly asked the holy river to send a great love my way. And when you get to the old boat made of rickety wood, you’ll float along the dirtiest river you’ve ever seen. But you’ll find yourself wondering how something so dirty could still feel so beautiful. And when your boat stops, look for the smoke. There you’ll find the bodies of locals’ loved ones being burned, their ashes, and their smoke, wafting off to the heights of heaven. There too you’ll find the deepest sense of belonging to a universe that is so much more connected and deep than our conscious even has the capacity of understanding.

And when the sun sets, make your way through the crowds, through the ailing locals begging you for money, and get to the rooftop to view the evening Puja of God. You’ll sit cross-legged on the ground with a group of 50 travelers, all there to watch 8 men dressed in gold dance around and send fiery blessing upward to god. They’ll chant, you’ll hum along, and somewhere in the midst of the fire and flower petals and the sunset on the river, you’ll be covered in goosebumps wondering how any moment will ever compare to this one. How you’ll ever go back to your grind of a life. Here’s a secret: you wont. You won’t return the same way you came.

The Taj Mahal

It’s one of the the world wonders for a reason. But don’t just go to see this one. Go and sit with the Taj at sunrise. Watch what happens when the sunlight hits the sides of the white marble. It’s like watching a soul come alive. It’ll twinkle and sparkle and you’ll never want to get up from that bench that sits just off to the right of the courtyard before this beautiful structure. Watch the people as they take their pictures. Look at the different walks of life that have all come around this one, glorious monument. While the visitors start to trickle in, somehow the beauty of this place will make you feel like you’re the only girl in the entire world looking up at it. Facetime the loves of your life and share it with them too. Relish in the moment that something this beautiful exists. I promise, once you sit quietly in front of the Taj Mahal, nothing will ever feel so epic. Be quiet. Don’t get up for a couple hours. Pray. Thank God, or the universe, or whatever greater power you believe in the for the grace and the glory that has led you to this moment. This unforgettable moment.

india_foryou_ilo_inspired

Amber Fot in Jaipur

You’re going to be heckled by countless men who want to sell you bangles, paintings and maps, but don’t let them get under your skin. There’s an elephant waiting for you. A beautiful, magical creature who will use her power and stature to get you up a steep 30 minute trek to the entrance of Amber Fort, the ancient capital of Jaipur state. As you’re riding, honor the lucky animal taking you there and breath in the first breath of clean air that you’ve had in a while. Look down the foothills, and see the plush green mountains that surround you. This is nature. This completely unrefined, hardly touched but mature civilization. Say goodbye to your elephant, and watch as she roars her trunk in the air. It’s a novel experience that you’re unlikely to have again.

Tiger Lake in Udaipur

No one is going to tell you about Tiger lake. It’s your magical jewel in Udaipur to seek out and find. But when you find your way to the lake, probably from hopping on the back of a motorcycle of one of the locals, know that the journey there is every bit a part of the destination. The small, dirt roads that take you twisting through the country side, the villages that you pass as the little children wave hello with their big brown eyes, the heat on your face that’s cooled with the whipping wind, this is all a part of the experience of Tiger Lake too. Don’t discount it. Where it leads to will rock your soul. The lake that you find, glistening in the middle of the mountains, it looks like it has never been touched before. Sit on the white stone with your feet hanging off the cliff and just be still. Enjoy the serenity. Appreciate the culture. Send your gratitude for all the the trip has served up to your heart. Life likely won’t feel this still again for a while, so tuck the experience away for when you need it most. For when you return home. It’ll be a gift that keeps giving, and it’s all yours for as long as you can hold onto it.

Whatever you do in India, and whenever it is that you do it…. Go and wildly experience it.