Month: June 2009

Book review: Career Renegade


Everyone’s style of learning is different, but the people who seem to be able to teach me the stuff that not only compels, but sticks, are the ones who know their stuff, but embody it as well.

Jonathan Fields is one of those walk-the-talk people, and I think it’s no small part of his crazy success both as a serial entrepreneur and a leader of other would-be (and in-transition) fellow travelers. Better still, he’s got a great sense of style and a fine way with words, including being able to arrange them in ways that make me laugh: no mean feat when the subject is business (although ironically, all the more necessary, if you ask me).

His book, Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love, reads like his blog, tone-wise. It’s full of great stories that illuminate his points, told in a no-nonsense, light-hearted way that makes the material go down easy. Chucking the paradigm can be scary stuff, but the way Fields positions it, it seems like the simplest, most logical thing in the world. And while he never sugar-coats it, by breaking the process down into logical, step-by-step possibilities and components, he does make it seem do-able. Which it is, by the way.

Fields draws on his own rich history, sharing the methods he used to segue out of corporate law and into, yes, really, life as a personal trainer, then yoga school owner, then writer/speaker/coach. The book is crazy-packed with resources, lists, links, and even business ideas, plus ways of coming up with more. It’s not quite as expansive as another recent book in the category, Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation, but it’s an equally excellent resource as a hit-the-ground-running guide, and will be especially treasured by those who like their information lean, keen and utterly fat-free. (Kind of like Jonathan!) You can download the introduction to the book for free at his website, and sample his writing for yourself.

Full disclosure: I’m friendly with the author, having spent a passel of time with him at the last South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin. In fact, he kicked my winded, out-of-shape ass on a power walk back from a South Congress dinner to our downtown hotels. But the way I see it, it’s just a way of confirming that not only is the voice you read in the book absolutely the guy you’d meet in person, but also that he knows his stuff inside and out. Because that was one long walk, brother, and no one could vamp on b.s. the entire way, especially with someone like me pummeling them with questions.

Finally, if you’re not ready to jump yet, the book offers a wealth of information on technical stuff to set up pre-jump, like getting started with blogging, understanding social media from a marketing perspective and how to start developing content for potential revenue streams. Again, it’s at the overview level, but it’s a good, comprehensive overview, with plenty of resources should you want to explore anything else at a deeper level. I’ve been at this crazy game since 1992, and online since 2004, and I picked up several pieces of good advice worth the cost of the book. (Which, full disclosure, I actually paid for! And I’m cheap!)


Image by Wendy Piersall (@eMom) via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Ninja trick for dealing with jealousy


I have friends who claim not to count envy among their personal challenges, and I have had them long enough to know that they’re telling the truth. I still look at them a little bit like I imagine a psychopath must view normal people with their normal emotions: That’s interesting, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. (And, in the case of the psychopath, “Now I’m going to eat/murder/rob you.”) But I’m coming along, really, I am!

One reason is that while I suspect that envy and jealousy have, at this point, been baked in as reactive modes, I’ve found what’s become a sort of curious end-run around them.

Oh, good: that thing is done.

As in, thank GOD. Now I don’t have to worry about painting that picture, composing that opera, writing that sentence, delivering that joke; someone has taken care of that for me. Now I am free to do whatever it is I need to do next, or one of these other eleventy-seven billion things on my to-do list. That other thing. Thank you, Person I Might Otherwise Have Felt Jealous Toward; thank you for that kindness.

A couple of things to note about this newish-to-me way of thinking:

First, it is collaborative. Historically, I’ve looked at the world as this gigantic blank space I’m supposed to paint all by myself, and at a Sistine Chapel ceiling-level, not a Navajo-white, rented-apartment-wall-level. Lately, I’ve been noticing how much easier and more fun it is when I share the work and the credit. Sure, my heart just seized up writing those last two words, but that’s conditioning for you.

Second, it comes hard on the heels of my participation in two highly successful and significantly collaborative ventures: co-hosting the wonderful monthly Biznik meetups with the charming Heather Parlato and co-facilitating the amazing first PresentationCamp here in Los Angeles with the amazing Cliff Atkinson and the equally amazing Lisa Braithwaite. I threw myself into the former not knowing I needed help, but astounded by how much easier and more enjoyable everything was for everyone, myself included, when I was not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. And I signed on to the latter not knowing I’d get volunteered for my least-favorite thing, ASKING STRANGERS FOR MONEY ON THE TELEPHONE, then astounding myself by the reasonably capable job I managed to do. With help. Of course.

If you have no problems with envy or jealousy, good for you! And yes, I envy you for your lack of them! You’re probably already so fluid and open, you’ve figured out five ways to apply the lessons I’ve learned in ways I have yet to dream of. (I know you’ll share them, because that’s how you roll.)

If you’re like me, and have the occasional tussle with the green-eyed monster, give this “Oh, good; that’s done!” thing a try. I’d be interested to hear if it works for anyone else…


Image by r’Eyes via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Cuppa cuppa Barry’s Tea


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

For the first two and a half years I was on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I was very, very good. Which is to say, I was, in the parlance of Elaine Gottschall and hard-core SCD-ers, a fanatical adherent.

That meant many, many things were out, both in their whole form, rice, sugar, wheat (although who the hell wants to munch on wheat is beyond me), and, worse, as trace elements: the fillers, extenders, and sweeteners that make life both delicious and convenient, albeit frequently unhealthy.

Coffee was entirely out, as the only acceptable forms of it and its caffeinated cousin, tea, were “black” and “weak.” I’m fine with the former but sweet mother of pearl, what is the point of weak coffee except as some kind of ingenious torture? No, I switched immediately to black tea with honey, and then spent the next two and a half years looking for the best-tasting variety of each.

Thanks to The BF and his own interesting travels, I discovered Barry’s.

Deeply Irish, with some of the ugliest packaging this side of a tampon box, Barry’s is everything a tea should be: robust, clean and emphatic, even at the low volumes an SCDer is forced to enjoy it at. At full strength, it would likely kick your sorry ass all the way to Killarney, even as it had you boo-hooing for more. Barry’s is EFFIN’ DELICIOUS, my friend, and highly addictive.

Yes, you will have your fancy types talking up PG Tips (or yer hoi polloi insisting that grocery store-available Twinings is so refined). Smile, and let them. Only turn on your bestest of friends to the Barry’s, and they will speak your name with the hushed tones of wonder and adoration usually reserved for saints and Malcolm Gladwell, pre-Outliers. (Oh, like you didn’t know he’d tipped.)

If you live in a big and bustling metropolis, I urge you to seek out your local purveyor of imported Irish (and sometimes English) goods. I buy mine from the lovely ladies at the Irish Import Shop here in Los Angeles, two boxes of Classic Blend at a time, since the hardnoses refuse to accept my Mastercard for purchases under $10, no matter how much business I bring their way.

You can also purchase from them online, which I highly recommend, as then their brick-and-mortar shop with its fresh, fresh bounty will stay in bidness. Or, if you have a thing for Amazon and skipping sales tax, well, at least you can buy your Barry’s through this link and net me a few pennies into the bargain.




Image by malias via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Elder vision


My eyes
grow worse
as I
grow old

Betraying me at the sink
whose dirty dishes
somehow refuse
to get clean

Playing dangerous games
as I drive the freeway
at night

Stubbornly refusing
to shift between
the book in my hand
and anything beyond it

I can see half as well
as I could
half a lifetime ago

Maybe less

But what I cannot see clearly
is more than made up for
by what I can:
that we are only renting
that love is the answer
that everything can be seen
as a gift
or a lesson
or both
if you look at it
from the right angle

That this has come to others
before me
and will come to others still
when I am gone

These days
I see every moment
as one to be seized
and seizing
as whatever the moment calls for:
a hundred words, yes
and sometimes a thousand

But also
a two-mile walk
a cup of coffee
a nap
a hug
a bath
a pause

Even, sometimes,
a second pass
at the dishes

So lucky
to have dishes to clean

So lucky
to have time left to clean them


Image by chispita_666 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Excavation, illumination, and The Resistor, revisited


For those of you who don’t track every damned thing I do, I’ve been a little busy lately addressing some…issues.

Or perhaps I should say, readdressing some issues, because two of these are whoppers that have been ongoing science projects: changing my relationship with money and getting down with my Actual Desires.

And readdressing these issues has brought back an old visitor ’round these parts, a little fella I like to call the Resistor, a shape-shifting, merciless motherf*cker whose sole purpose is to push back. Lovely, right?

I named him after a force Steven Pressfield describes in his battle guide for artists, The War of Art. Steven and his book have been much on my mind lately as I push back against the pushing back, or rather, he and it popped back into my brain when I sat down to write about the damned difficulty I’ve been having with writing lately. Because hey, the one thing I generally have little to no problem with is writing, so when that goes down, I know something’s up.

I reasonably sure that the last thing Mr. Pressfield would want is for me to turn him into a patron saint of anything, much less Procrastination (or would it be anti-procrastination?), but hey, he wrote the book on it, and then showed me the fateful kindness of stepping out of the mists to say hello, so tough. Tough. We’re at DEFCON 3, here, and as far as I’m concerned, that means I have license to do whatever it takes to beat the wave back. (Don’t worry, Steven, I’m not actually going to bother you; I’ll just, you know, light a candle and pray a little and stuff. From a respectful distance.)

So. Two things.

#1: Money is ass. I mean, it’s great, what it can do, but it’s ass, the way it gets abused. And my family graveyard is littered with the bodies of the Lousy with Money, in both senses of the phrase: they were either unbelievably good at acquiring it or terrible at disbursing it or both. A surprising number were both, which is doubly-super-awesome because then there is so much residual collateral damage after their deaths. Huzzah!

You grow up watching people who are either afraid of money or afraid of not having it and the chances that you’ll magically have a healthy relationship to the stuff are sucker’s odds. I’ve been outrageously fortunate in that, even without a lot of working at it, I’ve managed to have enough of the stuff to live comfortably my entire life. As my first shrink-slash-astrologer told me as part of a chart reading that I won on a bet*, while I have issues aplenty to keep me busy this planetary go-’round, money is not one of them.

Why, then, am I bothering to waste precious time, energy and (haha, irony pop-up!) money on correcting how I look at money? I don’t even have a next generation to fret about passing this along to; the buck** stops with me.

Plain and simply, I think it’s my job. I know it’s not anywhere in the “hire me” section, but the more I do all this personal excavating-type stuff, the more it feels like that’s what I’m here to do: excavate and illuminate. There will be no 1.34 children to benefit from my presto-change-o, but out of the few thousand people I reach via my various nefarious online activities, there may be one or two who will be spared some of the agony my family (most of whom I am estranged from because of money) and I have been through.

#2: 99% of the other shit I have left to deal with ties into #1. Those Actual Desires I mentioned above are so closely tied in with money, I feel very comfortable smooshing them together in one post and giving my Actual Desires short shrift here at the end. (Pause once more for the Irony Train to pass through.) After all, you can look over the whole almost-five years of this blog and find out-loud examples aplenty of me showing you my ghosties about being out there in a bigger arena. For Mistah Resistah, I’ll be explicit: it is my full intention to remove every goddamned obstacle between me and getting what is is I’m supposed to be doing, which I have identified in this here article as the twin tasks of EXACAVATING and ILLUMINATING, out to the widest right audience.

You’re already here; you know what it is that I do, and presumably, you’re getting something out of it or you’d just, you know, hightail it out of here to one of the million-billion other places available to go and do one of the million-billion other things you could do with your own precious, precious time.

And so, to you, fellow traveler, I ask the following: take in what you feel it is useful to take in, and spread what you feel needs spreading. As you most likely are, but all the same, this is the place where it serves to be explicit. Forward this piece, or the website address (that’s, or re-post a chunk of it, or whatever. I’ve got 50 breathing down my neck and this Resistor cocksucker throwing up roadblocks and while I will do my best to grapple elegantly with both of them, I’m not too proud to ask for help.

You hear that, Resistor?


*Someday I will have to tell this full story, if I haven’t already. It may have violated every ethical shrink code in the book, but boy, was it effective.
**Again with the irony! Although admittedly, this is more of a pun. Shudder.

Image by oswaldo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Book review: Rightsizing Your Life


Part of me living my life backwards has been about doing what Ciji Ware’s excellent and comprehensive book, Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most, discusses in detail: figuring out what works and why, and finding ways to let go of the rest.

It’s the right prescriptive for People of a Certain Age (middle) who are headed into a new age (old), and that’s who this book is written for. Aside from the general resistance to change, we are tremendously attached to our stuff here in the U.S., and by our personal mid-century marks, we tend to have accumulated quite a bit of it. As has been pointed out for eons, you can’t take the stuff with you when you go; as people find when they’re either forced by circumstances or drawn by new desires (fewer stairs, less dusting, more oceanfront), you can’t fit it all into a beach condo, either. Plus, there’s the dusting.

I love stuff as much as the next guy, but I’ve come to understand that, regardless of the cost of acquiring it, the price of having it is freedom. You don’t really own your stuff, by definition, you can’t. You’re only renting. But your stuff can definitely own you, and does, when you silently agree to be the caretaker of stuff that no longer serves. (There’s also the issue of acquiring stuff that never really served, or that served only to distract you from that big, empty hole inside you, but that’s beyond the scope of this piece.)

The sweeping concept of this book is simple: as you move through the various stages of your life, stay awake to your needs and wants, and keep only what serves. If you can absorb the full meaning of that line and figure out the rest for yourself, godspeed. If not, Ware’s book is filled with practical information about how to determine what’s serving, as well as detailed information about the proper disposal of what’s not. There are sections on editing down everything from wardrobe to cookware to photos, plus resources for help with physical removal of stuff. There are ways of doing it on the cheap or the medium or the high end. There are timelines and how-tos for people with the luxury of time, and those with change breathing down their necks. There’s discussion on how to handle the move and, should you need to, handling another move. (Apparently, this happens more than you might think: sometimes life intervenes swiftly, and other times the downsizing bug really takes hold.)

Ware is a seasoned journalist, and it shows in the finished project. Rightsizing Your Life is a complete how-to manual, a great all-in-one reference guide, with the luxurious added bonus of being (hallelujah!) well written. It’s a couple of years old, publishing date is 2007, but it’s sadly timely, in light of the forced “rightsizing” a lot of people are finding themselves in with this difficult economy.

If you’re facing a move and feeling overwhelm at the mere thought of it, or simply a logical Virgo type who likes the idea of a companionable checklist of sorts, this book is for you.


UPDATE: I should perhaps make it crystal clear that the primary audience for this book is the person or family of relative means, “rightsizing” to a simpler lifestyle that is still fueled by relative means. In other words, the American upper-middle class. If you’re in doubt as to whether it’s the right book for you, I’d encourage you to check out a copy from the library, browse it in the bookstore or just read the reviews on, which are pretty accurate.

Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most, by Ciji Ware (Springboard, 2007)

Image by Jsome1 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Doing the hard stuff


I have a confession to make that some of you who are constantly chastising me about working too hard (*cough* ANGIE *cough*) may find difficult to believe: I am, at heart, a lazy sumbitch.

As I can hear the chorus of disbelieving protests rising up from behind (or is that in front of?) computer screens everywhere, let me add that I have confirmation on this from the most vaunted of sources and a new favorite obsession (what? you didn’t think lazy people could be obsessed?), the Enneagram. (Yeah, it feels woo-woo and squishy, but hey, I’ve got “virgo” in my tagline, and only there semi-ironically, after all.)

According to the Enneagram, or to various books and websites which explain it, I am a three, or a “three”, or a “3”, a.k.a. “the Achiever” or “the Succeeder,” depending on which source you’re referring to; for convenience’s sake, from here on in let’s go with “Achiever” and dispense with the quotation marks, as all the finger-motoring to the “shift” key gets tedious and Achievers have no time for tedium, as we are very busy with our achieving and/or succeeding. (Here is a fairly typical and good description of threes, if you can call the peculiar clutch of personality traits that define attention whores “good.” Sorry. Quotation marks.)

The deal with Achievers, as you know if you’ve clicked through and might surmise even if you haven’t, is that we work really, really hard…except when we don’t, and we curl up into small, apathetic balls of non-activity and go on week-long benders of The Tudors. Everyone on the Enneagram wheel defaults to some evil or lame behavior when confronted with some kind of adverse circumstances; for threes, the behavior is laziness and the trigger is stress. Which, as you might guess, kind of comes along with the territory of pushing for achievement, especially when the thought of not getting it means the removal of love. Good times!

Because it wouldn’t be a complete system without an equally strong shift in the opposite direction, if we push through the hard stuff and confront our fears, we blossom into the kind of thoughtful, fun, spotlight-sharing, “Goooooo, team!” types who, of COURSE, naturally attract the love and attention that motivates all of our baser behavior. And there are specific prescriptives for getting to this glorious place, all of which have to do with letting go, serving the greater good and not operating all by our lonesome. Which, again you might guess, is hard for us dig-me, loner, spotlight-hogging types.

I’ve committed myself to this personal growth stuff, though, and once you do, you’re basically all-in. What’s more, the Universe starts cooperating in weird ways you kind of wish it wouldn’t, like when it makes you blurt out loud on the Twitter that you’ll help mount a big unconference and then again when it makes you blurt out loud on a conference call that you will head up sponsorship opportunities, which means not only getting in touch with strangers, but asking them for money. Which you don’t get, but which will disappear into sandwiches, swag and sodas, which in turn will disappear with the attendees.

Many hard things have been done this year by me, but none so hard for me as helping in the way I did with PresentationCamp LA. I confess, I got into it (I thought) for purely selfish reasons: raising my visibility as a speaker, getting another chance to speak, and meeting Cliff Atkinson. Out of the three, I accomplished exactly one, meeting Cliff, because frankly, between the running around and the stressing myself out about whether I’d do a decent job at my new and horrible job WHICH I SIGNED UP FOR, I was too fried to actually present anything. Worse, even after I thought I’d made my peace with this at 5pm on the Friday before Saturday’s 8:15am call (Cliff and I met early to pick up more snacks), I flipped myself out even further and decided to put together a presentation on how to be funny. Because boy, nothing says “hilarious” like an exhausted speaker presenting material she put together in six hours and rehearsed exactly once.

At some point in the day, I let go of that lunatic notion completely and just tried to enjoy myself. And mostly, except for being tired, I did. Because everywhere I looked, I saw people having fun, real, unbridled, full-on, nerdly joy, because of what I, as one small part of a much bigger team, had put together. And baby, it felt great. Not b.s., fleeting-moment great, but deeply connected, awesome great. It was great just seeing it and soaking in it, but oh, no, that wasn’t enough for the big, bad Universe, it had to send wave after wave of incredibly nice people up to me afterward to thank me for my part in giving them a great day.

Okay, okay. I get it. It’s enough, for now.

One more small thing before I go, though. Because the Universe is such a meticulous motherfucker, it also has taken pains to point out to me various versions of “what if?”: what if I don’t do the hard stuff? What if I just do more and better of what I’ve been doing? What if I become outstanding at what I do? Won’t that be enough?

And no. No, a thousand times no. Not by half. I’ve had wave after wave of mirrors put in front of me, showing me slightly different flavors of Me of One Possible Future, and no. No, thanks. I literally recoil from them. Yes, that’s judging; I am also using the Remembrance to help me deal with that. I’ve seen possible ways, and now I know my way. I’m not sure where it leads to, ultimately, but I know that the other is the road to nowhere.

Onward. And excelsior!

And boy, wish me luck. Because like the song says, the going, she is never especially easy…


Image by eyeliam via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.