#Reverb14: Prompt 21- Ending With Certainty

Prompt 21:

Today, I’d like you to revisit what you wrote on the first day of Reverb14. How does that compare to where you are now, i.e. what can you say today with certainty?

Then, without thinking too hard about it, grab a pen and some paper and finish the following sentences:

In 2015, I am open to…

In 2015, I want to feel…

In 2015, I will say no to…

In 2015, I will know I am on the right track when… But when I find myself veering off course, I will gently but firmly…

In December 2015, I want to look back and say…

And so we’re at the end of Reverb14. As always, it has been a great and insightful experience. I hope that all of you who participated found that, too.

This prompt is hard because when I wrote my first prompt at the beginning December, I expected a very different 2015 for myself… and then I suffered a loss in mid December that changed things. One lesson from Reverb has been that certainty is hard to come by. At the same time, everything I wrote in that first prompt is still true.

In 2015, I am open to... exploring my interests with commitment and dedication.

In 2015, I want to feel… confident and peaceful in my choices when I make them, even if the results are not what I want.

In 2015, I will say no to… things that I know make me unhappy.

In 2015, I will know I am on the right track when… I feel flow in what I do and things come easy. But when I find myself veering off course, I will gently but firmly… send myself back to this blog post.

In December 2015, I want to look back and say... that my life was well lived.

The final Reverb prompt doesn’t address this, but I wanted to leave with these two last thoughts.

1. My word for 2015. Choosing a word for the year is always one of my favorite prompts, but it did not make it into Reverb this year. I had a word in mind earlier this month, but am changing my mind. I now choose imagine as my word for 2015. It is a word that I don’t feel like I use that often, but I found myself including it repeatedly in my Reverb prompts when I talked about things that happened this year. There was so much that “I could never have imagined.” I am paying attention. I should imagine bigger and brighter.

2. My goals for 2015. Reverb isn’t about setting goals, but this experience has made me want to declare some. I have worked with the amazing coach Thekla Richter on my business and personal goals over the years. One of the tools she convinced me to use frequently is a variation of the decision tree. You list everything you want to do in rank order and use that rank to make decisions about projects and how you allot your time. Based on what I learned about myself this year, I’ve created this list of my professional priorities that I am going to print and hang in front of me in my workspace.

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And there you have it. Check out this blog space throughout 2015 for new career, business and productivity tips and ideas, and check back next December for Reverb!

#Reverb14: Prompt 17- Don’t Be An A**hole

Prompt 17:

How can you stop being an a**hole, get out of your own way and make room for more of your magic to happen in 2015?

This year, I was more brave, decisive, and fearless than I have been in years past. It manifested itself in different ways than might be expected. It appeared most often when I rejected work and relationships that did not serve me. So when I first read this prompt, I patted myself on the back for not being an asshole in 2014. And then I thought about it more… and more. And realized that I was totally an asshole.

In my book, Create Your Own Opportunities: Career Coach Yourself to Success, I talk about the beliefs and behaviors that lead to success. One chapter is devoted to managing your ego and not to let it get in your way. This is what I wrote:

Too often, we spend our mental energy worrying how other people are going to judge us. We sway two ways, alternating between the extremes. First we go to great lengths to protect ourselves, telling ourselves we aren’t worthy and then in turn don’t pursue opportunities that seem even slightly risky. Other times we hear something we don’t like, maybe criticism, and spend all of our emotional energy defending ourselves to confirm our place in the world. That leaves us too exhausted and unfocused to create anything else or make change.

It’s really hard to remember this and always follow your own advice! I often compared my path to others last year, wondering why I didn’t have the book sales or speaking engagements that other people had, or was not asked to comment on articles where I would have been perfect as an expert. The result is that I would sulk and retreat (in the past, I would have also taken the defensive route, but not so much now).

In 2015, I need to remember it’s not about the recognition, but why I do these things (also talked about this in Prompt 14). I want get more gigs and appear in the news because my work helps people and the more people who know about it, the more people I can help. So I should keep at it for that reason, but if I am not the person who appears in an article… oh well. No reason to sulk. There are other ways to get my message out, other things to focus on, and feel good for the person who does get the space.

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This year, I did a few speaking events and they were all awesome. It matters that every one was awesome, not that I did 20 of them. Remembering that will help me from getting out of my way. 

How will you NOT be an asshole in 2015? 

#Reverb14: Prompt 14- Roots & Anchors

Prompt 14:

The idea of rooting down into your own personal beliefs and center of truth is an ongoing process, and many things can serve as anchors or roots as you move through life.

What rooted or anchored you in 2014?

And where do you want to put down roots in 2015?

This has been one of the hardest prompts of them all, and one reason I left it unanswered for so long. Yesterday, I was thinking about this prompt as I went for an afternoon walk with my husband and my dog. While thinking, I literally tripped over the roots of this big tree. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from the song As Is by Ani DiFranco: “Cause when I look down, I just miss all the good stuff. When I look up, I just trip over things.”

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Yeah, pretty much.

One of my biggest issues in 2014 is that I rarely felt rooted or anchored the way I wanted to. I tried new things and started my marriage and that was all wonderful, but all would have been easier being rooted in the world as Tracy Brisson. I looked down a lot and wondered “Is Savannah my home? Am I a writer or a coach or a recruiter?” In my mind, I looked up and constantly played “what if?” when I thought about my future, with my head in the air, planning the rest of my professional and personal life as a Choose Your Own Adventure game of unwanted choices rather than envisioning one clear picture of my future that reflected my principles and values.

For 2015, I’m revisiting some things that can help me feel more rooted. They are all things that I do with my coaching clients, especially those who work with me through my Create Your Own Productivity Playbook package. One is to remind myself why I do what I do. When things go off plan, it is easy to forget the why and let yourself continue off-course from your values if other things in your life are tolerable. I have pulled up my old why statement and am revisiting to make sure it reflects me. I can already see some turns from the last time I wrote mine that need addressing. I am also revamping my combination life mission (Stephen Covey’s Habits of Highly Effective People) /50,000 foot plan (David Allen’s Getting Things Done) as the one I last touched in 2013 is outdated.

Roots and anchors are the most intangible and yet necessary attachments I will work on this year.

How will you root and anchor yourself in 2015?  

#Reverb14- Prompt 12- My Brave Year

Prompt 13 comes from Marianne Elliott.

Prompt 13:  

Step one: set the timer for 5 minutes and write down as many answers as you can think of to the question: ‘When and how was I brave in 2014?’ Note: remember the private, intimate and small ways in which you were brave as well as the big public ways.

Step two: Choose one of more of those moments of bravery and write a letter yourself back at the beginning of 2014, letting you know how brave you are going to be that year.

Step three: Write yourself a short reminder to tuck into your wallet or post above your desk of just how brave you can and will be in 2015.

As Marianne indicates, bravery is complicated. We think of courage as something that appears in big moments, but the bravery that gets us through the day that can be just as powerful. This year, there were certainly days where just getting dressed felt as courageous as a high-stakes speaking engagement.

I looked back at my journal this year and know that in no uncertain terms that I was brave often. I’m choosing to focus on a trip that my husband and I took at the end of July to Tennessee and North Carolina. We drove 7.5 hours to Gatlinsburg through the Smoky Mountains and then back through the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, NC in our trusty Nissan Versa, Vivian. You have to remember that I am the NYC single girl who avoided driving for the first 38 years of her life due to fear. I never imagined myself driving a car I owned expertly through one of nature’s greatest glories with the love of my life less than 2 years later.

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At one point in our journey there, we were on a very windy part of the road going downhill with only big trucks on the road and the only radio station we could get played Led Zeppelin. Describing how I felt seems impossible- words like “powerful” and “brave” even feel limiting. I cranked the radio up, giggled to myself, and leaned into the present. I couldn’t imagine a life without having experienced those emotions that day.

My experience that day reminds me not to overthink the future, to stay present, and when I have a choice, consider the courageous option in 2015.

How will you be brave in 2015?

#Reverb14: Prompt 20- Space for Joy

Prompt 20 comes from Jen Lee.

Prompt 20:

One thing I learned in 2014 was how to make space for joy and levity, even in the midst of challenging circumstances or sad times. 

How could you make space for joy in the year to come? How could you protect it?

I am pretty sure that when Jen wrote this prompt, she was talking about space and time– how can you make decisions that offer the space needed for joy and creativity when our world is so over programmed and scheduled. I am so all about this! I am no longer participating in three commitments in 2015 that were not conducive to my needs. I have also taken some more actions to be more proactive with my schedule so that I actually do joyful things and not watch more Netflix (not that I don’t love great tv!).

But for this prompt, I need to talk about physical space. Space has become more important than I ever expected the last few years. In fact, when I left New York City for Savannah in 2012, I wanted the location independent lifestyle. But then you live in your first actual house as an adult- not an apartment with people stomping above you and yelling below you- and with a backyard… AND you experience having laundry in your building for the first time since you were 22… well, funny how priorities change. I like being at home.

We currently live in a great little cottage in Savannah… but it is too small for us and we need to find someplace bigger when our lease is up in May. I keep donating bags of stuff that we don’t use or need, but our hallway is still full of things that our little place can’t handle. Working from home and feeling crowded is not a formula for daily happiness. The idea of moving is both liberating and scary. There is part of me that doesn’t want to leave because this house is truly my nest. This is the first house my husband and I lived in together as a family. It is where our dog found his forever home, where we grew winter greens in the backyard, threw some amazing parties including the rehearsal dinner for our wedding, and where I grew deeper friendships with some of the most awesome women that are now in my life. Many bottles of wine have been emptied here on Ladies Nights.

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It is also scary because we always have the option to leave Savannah. In fact, we could theoretically go anywhere we wanted when we move. Lots of our friends moved away from Savannah in 2014. It is often tempting to both of us to move even further south and/or even closer to the ocean, even if it means starting over. Choice is not always your mental friend.

But I get joyful thinking about the possibility of a new home and its SPACE to create more joy in our lives. To cook meals with multiple people in the kitchen. To be able to have a bedroom that fits my clothes so I don’t have to keep them in a closet across the house that interferes with my work area. To make new family memories.  To have a conversation on the phone that can’t be heard loudly through every vent in the house. To have space for a living room chair where I can stretch out on my legs and use my lapdesk to write. And to have a place in the backyard that gets enough sun so we can grow tomatoes.

Space alone cannot create joy and levity. Mindset is needed for that. But when we move, and we compromise on things (because you know that we will have to), I want to remind myself not to compromise on the things that can bring joy, both big and small, wherever we are.

How will you use space in 2015 to create joy?

#Reverb14: Prompt 12- A Love Note

Prompt 12 comes from Amy Taylor-Kabbaz.

Prompt 12:

It all starts with kindness. Everything I have learnt, everyone I have interviewed, every word I have studied has guided me to this simple but profound conclusion: true happiness begins and ends with self-kindness.

No more guilt. No more shoulds. No more comparison.

And the very best way to give your weary soul some kindness at the end of this year? A love note.

Write a letter from you to you… filled with forgiveness, love, and a big bear hug.

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On January 3rd, I received an unexpected email. It was a love letter that I wrote to myself on January 3rd, 2014 using FutureMe.org. I had no recollection of writing that letter to myself. It was eerie, wonderful, and yet heartbreaking.

Three of the five things that I wished for myself did not come true. Two were things that I desperately wanted, one I tried very hard and gave my all for. I didn’t really feel like being reminded of this on a lazy Saturday morning. It had nothing to do with “shoulds” or comparison or guilt, but just a sadness that I was not able to make these two important things happen based on my efforts. That being said, my past self was kind and encouraging and that made it easier to read this email, even with the great intentions it had. I told myself to be bold and “embrace that certain things that are worth it are hard so just get dirty.” It’s a good reminder and I feel like I did that even if I did not get the results I desired.

In the world of self-employment and selling clients in the coaching industry, it is easy to sell the dream of a full and free life. I have certainly done that in Reverb this year and in the past. It’s harder to be raw and recognize that not everything comes easy or sometimes at all. But acknowledging failures and disappointments are part of growing as an actualized adult, no matter what your profession is.

I wrote another letter to myself today using FutureMe that I will keep private until I receive it in 2016. I don’t even remember everything I wrote just 7 hours ago. I do know that I tried to be specific in what I wished for myself and reminded myself of values that I believe in and that if the things I wished for myself now didn’t happen, to reflect on all that I did happen.  Some of the things that happened in 2014 that were wonderful were feelings and experiences I could not have possibly imagined when I wrote my first letter a year ago. I hoped that I had more of those and hoped that I recognized that magic in 2015. And yes, I did tell my future self that I loved her deeply!

Living life is a mix of great and sad- you need both to experience the highs. I am glad that I wrote the future letter to myself and will now try to do so every year, even with the potential negative emotions that could come from reading it next year. Even if it feels like I inched forward on some goals, I don’t know if I would recognize my progress without the reminders of journals, Reverb, and letters to myself. Constant reflection is the best tool I can offer you as a career coach.

What would you write to yourself in the future? 

#Reverb14: Prompt 19 – Signs & Symbols

Prompt 19:

Today, I invite you to consider: what sorts of signs and symbols have recurred for you in 2014? Think: repeating colours, shapes, people, sayings, music, images, ideas. Where could they possibly be leading you?

Colors: Red. We’ve taken a million pictures of my dog and he is always on my red couch. Everyone in the world with an Instagram account knows we own a red couch. I have noticed I have started to buy more red clothes and honestly, I’d probably buy all new red kitchen plates if it didn’t seem wasteful.

Shapes: Circles. Just yesterday my husband and I visited the park where we were married and it features a big circle in the middle. It was so important for me to be married in a circle and enveloped by the love of our friends and family.

People: Superheroes, specifically superheroines. I wrote about my developing love for comic books, but it has all been about the female heroes. Storm. Jean Grey. Rogue. Carol Danvers. They are so strong and yet complicated. They are fearless, yet are also so human.

Sayings: “As long as we stick together, everything works out”- Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights (so important, we included this in our wedding vows)

Music: I switched over from iTunes to Rdio this year so I stream most of my music. I connected my iTunes to Rdio and it reminded me of how great the 10,000 Maniacs are and I began listening to them again. As far as new music, I discovered I love Haim and became a Nicki Minaj fan.

Images: Puppies. Puppies on a red couch. Weddings. Parks where I officiated weddings. Beverages not drank yet, delicious and dangerous.

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Ideas: That optimism is the most important trait needed to make things happen for yourself. Without it, data, strategy, intentions and goals mean nothing.

Where is it all leading me? Unsure, but power, optimism and fearlessness are things I seek. And delicious and dangerous beverages to accompany my journey are never a bad thing.

What symbols helped you in 2014?

#Reverb14: Prompt 9- Shades of Grey

Prompt 9:

As you enter into the new year, what would you like to do/make/have/be more often? How will you bear witness and celebrate the tiny milestones? How will you respond on the occasions when your intentions do not come to pass?

In 2014, I did a better job of celebrating the small, great moments that happened, better than I ever had before in my life. I still held myself to high standards, but I understood that reaching the big goal was not the only milestone worth recognizing. When a good review came over email for Confessions of a Teacher Recruiter: How to Create an Extraordinary Resume and Hook Your Dream Job– even just a “Thank you!”- I made a point to get up and do a specific happy dance. And when I was doing something I wanted to remember, like performing my first same-sex marriage, I took a selfie.  If I realized something uniquely positive about myself and my work, I would grab my husband by the elbow and say it out loud at that very moment so it wasn’t just self-talk.

One of the things I realized that I was not as comfortable with this year is grieving and mourning the negative milestones that come with being an adult. This September, a dear friend of mine, Perry Medina, passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks short of 50 years of age and left a wife and two young daughters. We worked together and he was my softball manager at the company I worked at in 2004. From day one, he became the big brother I never had, always watching out for me and the bad boys I insisted on dating, accompanying me to Giants and Yankees games and inviting me to corporate parties long after I left the company.

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A few years later when he was between jobs, I helped him land a consulting gig with my new office in 2008 and when he left, we talked less. He was not a big Facebook user, which made it hard to stay touch when I moved 900 miles away, but we’d connect on his birthday every year via text. This is what the last year’s few text exchanges looked like.

2012

Me: “I met a boy- and I think he might be a keeper?!”

Perry: “Duuuuude!!!”

2013

Me: “I moved in with the guy I told you about!” :)

Perry: “Whaaaaatt? I’m knew you’d figure it out.” :)

And how I imagined the 2014 texts that were never placed.

2014

Me: “Duuuuude- I GOT MARRIED! TO THAT GUY!!”

Perry: “I am so happy for you, kid. He’s a lucky man.”

I found out that Perry had passed on my Facebook news feed while I was waiting in my parked car, early by 20 minutes for a meeting. I let out a ginormous sob and my next emotion was guilt, that I would probably not be able to pull myself together to attend my meeting that I had committed to. I emailed the people I was meeting and went home, put on my old softball hat and cried into a big goblet of wine that night… And felt again guilt, that I was so upset about someone I only talked to once a year now, something that “should” feel tiny.

But Perry was special to me and all of my emotions were the right ones to have. I still check his Facebook page now and then. I need to let go of the guilt that it is creepy behavior, and realize that it is okay to take a minute of my day and remember my friend with peace and love.

In 2015, I want to be secure in my feelings and not label them. I reject expectations of my emotions that are not authentic to my reality. I can’t always “be myself” when the world demands and that is alright with me. I can be the second best, or even 20th best, version of myself if that is what is needed. The world will still function.

How will you “be” in 2015?

#Reverb14- Prompt 10: Generosity

My last few prompts (writing over the holidays is so tough)… Prompt 10 comes from Kira Elliott.

Prompt 10: 

I am not going to lie, I often dread the holidays because I grew with the holidays laden with heavy expectations of giving. The gifts wrapped in bright-colored paper sitting under a tree sparkling with multi colored light were tied tight with invisible cords of what I was supposed to be or do that made it almost impossible to enjoy the gifts.

Now as an adult I strive to understand there is a difference between generosity and giving. Generosity is free of obligations; it opens the heart, and creates warmth and connection between the giver and receiver. When I cultivate generosity the holidays become something I look forward to sharing with my loved ones.

Look back at the last year and consider: how did generosity open your heart? How can you cultivate generosity in the coming year?

This summer, I had a stretch of about four weeks where I specifically remember the feeling of an opened heart and how I felt using it to help people I loved. I had a friend who was extremely unhappy with work, another whose dad passed, and another whose 20-year-old cat had passed away after a battle with cancer. For some, the comfort I could add was over the phone because they were far away, and for others, it was cooking and pouring wine in my Harry Potter wine glasses. I remember feeling specifically how grateful I felt that I had the emotional capacity to be of service to others because that has not always been the case. I had just finished putting up my wedding officiating website and had booked my first client. I did not know that I was going to enjoy that work as much as I do, but I still felt zen and open and just so grateful that I was in a place where I could be supportive to people I cared so much about.

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Four weeks later, I was not in the place to give the same type of open, unrestricted emotional support. In fact, I remember how dark that time was just as specifically as the good time that became before it. But that’s life. It’s about recognizing those moments and giving your all when you have it. I’m ready to do the same in 2015.

How can you express generosity when you can?

#Reverb14: Rituals and Routines- Prompt 11

Prompt 11:

What tiny rituals: signal that your day is starting; help you ease into a creative project; give you closure from an intensive task; or mark other significant milestones in your day? What new rituals would you like to create in the new year?

Here’s another topic, I’ve been discussing since Reverb 2010! Morning habits and routines = my nemesis.

However, in October I cracked this problem for a three weeks! I joined a writing accountability group and woke up every morning at 5:30AM and wrote from 6AM to 7AM or until I reached 1,200 words. I quickly had a storyboard for an entire book, well over 10K words written, and a complete first chapter. But… I ended up quitting the writing group for health issues. I was going through something that made me very sick in the mornings and sleeping in became very important to my health. Also, the members of the group had their own scheduling issues and it seemed to taper out in general.

This is the storyboard I created during my three week whirlwind of writing beauty. It is on a cardboard divider that separates our shared office when my husband or I have calls. These big post-its stare at me every day, a reminder of what I can do.

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Despite having to ultimately quit my writing habit, those three weeks felt awesome! I definitely had to get to bed earlier, but within a few days, I adjusted to the schedule. My mind was clearer in the morning. I would get our coffee maker ready the night before and have coffee while I wrote, but ate breakfast later and did some light reading and content curation over it. I felt less guilty taking time to do something passive since I had already accomplished so much. Everything about my work life was better.

So I am committed to starting this ritual again as I know I can do it and the conditions have changed that will make it easier.

What are your rituals and routines for 2015?