Entrepreneurial Everest ~ Base Camp Mastermind

Numerous are metaphors instructing us to unite for outcomes both lofty and anchored ~

Many hands make light work.

Two heads are better than one.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Reaching oceanic depths and Himalayan heights only happens with linked arms, minds, and legs. Consider the top headlines from 2011 – Arab Spring, the Wisconsin public employee protests, Occupy Wall Street…collective uprisings that reveal discontent and not so dormant frustrations at the state of our present realities.

While I’m not carrying a placard or camping in Zuccotti Park, I am participating as an agent of change. I believe many of us are transforming the world as we contribute our talents, skills, and passions more fully along the spectrum of our potential. For some, that means consciously raising children to be kind, loving, and curious. For others, it’s sharing expertise as teachers, public safety officers, business owners, or blue collar workers.

For me, it’s writing…developing my voice…discovering what’s meaningful and essential and building that into lifelong, sustainable revenue streams. I’ve plunged head first into the creative class.

I believe that the more of us who come alive and come together collaboratively will allow a just society to bloom and prosper. The smaller the better, for now, so that we can truly see and hear each other…in order to understand what’s meaningful and essential to us, our families, and our communities – and what’s not acceptable anymore.

After decades of conveying what was not wholly mine (not necessarily a bad thing if the environment is wisely chosen) or either reflexively reacting to other perspectives or swallowing my own point of view, I’m learning to listen more deeply instead. What’s tricky is I’m formulating ideas of my own and giving voice to them – maybe my most courageous act so far. Yet, sometimes these two dynamics are at odds: curiosity for what lies within another versus what lies within me. I’m not always successful with navigational balance. Ah, the joys of toddling…

Yes, it’s all about listening…and gathering. Co-creating community. Organizing a like-minded alliance to support our individual efforts.

I had the good fortune recently to attend a few gatherings of changemakers: one, a Marianne Williamson-inspired spiritual powwow, another, a combination TED talk / dance party / professional women’s conference.  The most intimate happened around a Brooklyn dining room table, over a lovingly prepared meal. Four of us shared our growing ventures and their inherent challenges, and we gained valuable insight ~ in the spirit of those opening metaphors.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = Mini Mastermind.

What do you get when you mix a kick-ass red-carpet photographer, a heart-centered personal trainer, a radically optimistic writer, and a hands-on healer steeped in both spiritual and academic methodologies? A base camp of golden insight with a view of grand peaks. Care for a crampon? Here’s a few takeaways to grab an entrepreneurial foothold of your own:

1. Invest with your competitors occasionally. See how they’re doing what they’re doing. You’ll learn something new, keep an eye towards new ideas and trends, and most especially, you’ll feel better about YOUR work – because no one ROCKS it like you do!

2. When your guiding force is to help others, becoming a financially healthy business or organization allows you to continue providing value for your clients and customers. Charge what you’re worth. This may be the most responsible action we can take for the work we believe in. “Sustainability” is not just an overused mainstream ploy – it’s LIFE.

3. When we’re in tune with our deepest passions, we are a tidal wave of power, enthusiasm, and magnetism. This makes us irresistible to people, and our future prospects. This is soul-centered marketing, when we’re just being our fabulous selves!

4. Social media is your friend. It’s permission marketing at it’s most widespread, it can be fun, and…it’s free. Use it to promote your good work in the world, and to support those who are, too. Reciprocity rules!

5. Set daily, weekly, and longer term intentions. Do it out loud, preferably within a support network. Follow up with actionable steps and a timeline. Be very specific.

However you’re engaged with making the world a better place, know that millions are doing just the same, in diverse and convergent directions. In gratitude for the collective energy & wisdom, I’d love if you shared one of your mindful masteries below. I KNOW you’ve a gem or three in your pack.

See you at base camp!

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Weebles Wobble, But I Don’t Fall Down

For a significant time in my life, I tended bar and waited tables and eventually reached a level of mastery that only comes after years in the profession.  In order to get and stay employed at upper tier establishments, you must meet demanding criteria with excellence, and make it look second nature.  Once, a fellow apron-in-the-trenches, Raven, observed that while it may seem to someone peering in from outside or to a server-in-training all graceful and effortless, it’s actually harder than it appears, and can be interpreted as a more accessible job than it really is.  Cultivating an efficient, hospitable presence in the midst of crying babies, hungry diners, first dates, and VIP business deals calls for a complex recipe.  Oenophilic knowledge, reflexive prioritization, vast patience, and a fluid physicality with an intimately choreographed and fast-paced dance among tables, swinging kitchen doors and moving human targets are all ingredients that create an illusion of a seamless, well-edited film.  She was right, we made it look easy, and we earned our Oscar every single night.

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Despite proficiency and agility, it’s not always wine and roses.  Steve, another veteran colleague, adds one crucial perspective that can make the difference between a shift feeling like an Amazonian jungle drive with no struts or shocks, and cruising the Autobahn in a cushy, air-conditioned Beemer. In industry jargon, being ‘in the weeds’ means you’re on a sinking ship, you NEED HELP NOW, all hell’s breaking loose, and the wreckage is piling up.  Sometimes no amount of technical ability can save you from this kind of disaster.  With his signature wry wit, he offers this wise salve, “Kellie, you can’t be in the weeds, if you just. don’t. care.”

Contemplate that for a moment.

When pressure mounts – a raucous table tries to flag you down for their third bottle of wine, another wants to send back undercooked steak that they ordered rare, the chef is yelling for you to pick up hot plates, crema on an espresso is fading at the counter and your barista won’t be too pleased to make it over, and the host just seated an ornery family of eight in your station – it’s hard to all hold hands and sing Kumbaya.  The last thing that will help is grasping for perfection and squeeeeezing tight.  Instead, give up.  Stop caring about the mess, the stress, doing your best.  Embrace chaos and move through the madness.  Keep humor in your pocket; toss the-sky-is-falling panic.  Once you stop caring that you’re in the weeds, sanity and order swiftly return.

This is how I finally came to write.  For too long, I harbored lofty views of what writing should be – gazed up on vaunted writers as gods – Faulkner, Dickens, Hemingway, Twain – as anyone with literary ambitions would.  I intensely pulsed with visions of grand words and clever turns of phrase like the masters.  I toted high ideals, yet felt low and too intimidated to put pen to paper for fear that I could nary craft as expert a sentence as theirs.  Nothing I wrote would be good enough, much less perfect, so why even try?  In essence, my wish to be a great writer actually prevented me from ever seriously commiting.  What use is that?  So I alternated between fits of private prose and artistic abstinence, but always ended up disappointed in myself.  Journals got filled, shelved, forgotten.  Yes, Mr. Famous Author, follow me right this way to your corner table.

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Then I remembered how I did what I did for a living, and the philosophies of Raven and Steve.  There was the answer, the road to freedom. I acknowledged that it would take years to achieve mastery, if ever, and I stopped caring about being top-notch.  I didn’t need to be a great writer.  I didn’t even need to be a good writer.  I laid down striving for perfection.  Starving for expression, all I had to do was write.

At once, my first gig waiting tables, back when I was far from competent, came rushing into memory.  One night early on I dropped an entire tray of frozen pina coladas and other frou-frou drinks all over a poor little girl who had the misfortune of sitting beneath me.  Out of mortifying embarrassment I laughed uncontrollably, while she burst into frightened tears.  It was all so horrible, but I cleaned up the mess, got on with the shift, and went back to work the next night and then the night after that.  I persevered, got less clumsy, and built up skills.

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We’re rarely good straight out of the gate;  so when I ask a friend, a best-selling author, for beginning writerly advice he offers up the same, wise morsel – make as many mistakes as I can.  So I do, continually, and it’s OK because now I’ve learned not to care about looking foolish or amateur.  All I want to do is write and have fun doing it.

This week, I sit cross-legged in yoga class, prayerful hands in front of my heart, post-OM, pre-asanas and the instructor, about to lead the group in a series of balancing poses, suggests we set an intention for our evening’s practice.  Before I can think up one, she shares hers – to wobble.  She actually intends to sway, to teeter.

Let go, whispers the universe!

Kapow!  I finally get it… Validity exists in shakiness as much as in stability.  When we’re trying to ground, find steadiness on one foot, arms akimbo, torso bent forward, and we falter – indeed, that is exactly when to accept imbalance – it’s integral to the pose, and not as I’ve long thought, failing.  I’ll never be in the weeds again.

As soon as I embrace the wobble, the imperfection, I stop falling down, and finally begin.

“Faith Is Taking The First Step Even When You Don’t See The Whole Staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was a God Jar.  What’s a God Jar, you ask?  It’s a modern-day Aladdin’s Lamp, a vessel of dream manifestation, a container imbued with the power to, well… contain ~ all my desires, hopes, fears, and worries.  How does this magic receptacle of divine power work?  Seems I’ve a few more questions to answer…

First, I become clear on exactly what it is I want to do, what I want to become, what I want to have.  I write it down or visualize it.  Sometimes both.  Then, I consider what, if any, fear accompanies the desire, anything I may be worried about.  I consider any obstacles that lay between me and the attainment of my wish.  I name them – the yearning and/or the fear.   Clarity is key, here.  Next, I find some way to represent its essence, some tangible symbol like a photo or token.  Finally, I place the chosen symbol into the jar, and Let. It. Go.  Just like that.  Just like the late night rotisserie infomercial:  Set it and forget it!

What in actuality I’ve done is to hand over the rest of the process to the Universe, the Great Green Goddess, The Big Divine Wow.  This can be the tricky part.  It took a long time, but when it finally sunk into my thick skull that I don’t have to have life all figured out is when life started getting easier for me.  I’ve learned to relax and trust in its flow.  (My massage therapist actually had to ask me once to relax, to let her do the work – Geez!  Could I be more controlling?) Now, I know my role is to turn my attention to what I want, do only what’s in my power, and let go, believing I’m not alone in the endeavor.

This is what I struggled with for years:  thinking I had to do everything on my own.  Self-sufficiency is one thing, and it can be admirable, but emotionally distancing myself far from friends and family, not accepting help from others – it’s not the most efficient course of action and its a damned lonely one, too.  Now I reach out to my loved ones, and – wouldn’t you know it? – there they are, as is some grander, unexplainable force that swoops in and throws me up on her wings.  How else to account for the myriad blessings bestowed upon little ol’ me?

I don’t always know how to get where I want to go, the path is often hidden, but I trust that what’s right will come along and guide me there.   And the things I long for from the bottom of my heart?  I take courageous steps in their direction and put in the appropriate work.

So now, what’s in my jar, you ask?  Well, I baptized it this week with a clipping from the front page of a newspaper in which I’d like to be published.  And on the tangible end, I’m putting together my resume, portfolio, and presentation.  Between the two, I’m wholeheartedly pursuing my dream to make a living doing what I love.  I don’t know where my writing will take me – I can’t see the whole staircase – but I’m climbing, one faithful step at a time.

Hello Life! Goodbye Dusty And Dull Resolutions.

Throw out your New Year’s resolutions!  Forget boring lists of goals and good intentions with their numbers (x amount of lbs to lose and subscribers to gain) and sobering approach (more tofu, less red meat).  I’ve got a better way.  Don’t you want to feel alive in 2011?  I sure do.  I want to roll around in the mud of enthusiasm and inhabit words like:

STEAMY!    EXHILARATING!    HILARIOUS!

ZEAL!    RHAPSODY!    POETRY!    BEAUTY!    STARBURST!

Join me in declaring 2011 our year to succeed.  Don’t sit – stand up!  Don’t clear your mind – fill it with desire!  Dig deep and be bold ~ write with passion and vigor!  What would make your world ROCK?  What would bring tears of joy and gratitude gushing down your face?  What would make your heart SOAR?

2011 is THE year!

This is the year my shoulder finally releases all its pain and discomfort… and heals completely!

This is the year my yoga practice creeps deep into my tendons and muscles and molecules and joints and breath!

This is the year I work diligently and faithfully… on the road to success!

This is the year my body returns to its ideal weight, strength and flexibility!

This is the year I turn up the volume!

This is the year the universe rewards me for taking risks on its behalf!

This is the year my creativity explodes!

This is the year I am abundantly compensated for following my bliss!

This is the year that love lifts me up and twirls me around with joyful abandon!

This is the year I surrender!

This is MY YEAR to let MY LIGHT shine!

* * * What year will it be for you? * * *

Acknowledging A Year Of Triumphs

Do you do this?  I sell myself short sometimes.  I look at my life and feel I’m spinning my wheels, making no headway, then pessimism and defeat settle in.  I feel a little less worthy and the downward spiral bores into the ground, rooting into hopelessness.  Crazy, right?  But why steamroll myself this way?  I wish I knew.  But recently, when a high school friend posted a photo of a (very young & very skinny) me on Facebook back from my days coaching cheerleaders, I decided to pick up my metaphorical pom-poms and be my own pep squad.  2-4-6-8!  Who do we APPRECIATE?!

My quest to restore buoyancy begins with a small exercise injected into my daily routine – I simply review the day and list what I completed.  Usually I do this in my head (washed the dishes, finally wrote a blog post, called my sister, saved the world, didn’t eat the whole bag of cookies…), but occasionally I’ll write it down, especially when the mental list doesn’t offer quite the satisfaction I’m after. Actually putting it on paper makes for a longer list, because writing it out is more of a commitment (and damn! Doesn’t the page looks more impressive the fuller it is?)  I include more than just mundane errands and the requisite household tasks – I’ll jot new insights, flesh out story ideas and add smiley faces and exclamation marks.   (It’s hard to deny the uplifting nature of drama and silliness, particularly when colorful markers are employed.)

When I’m feeling really dejected – stuck in first gear with my tires spitting mud while the ruts only get deeper – I stop and look for a higher view.  Maybe a few months back, or even a couple years, and I check out the scenery since then.  What I see never fails to surprise and delight.  I’ve been amazed by distances I’ve traveled both geographically and in the landscape of imagination.  Try it – think back to a point in time and take inventory of where you were and what you were doing.  Marvel at how far you’ve come. We are not the same people we once were.  We’re better.  Stronger.  Wiser.

What I’ve learned is to be more aware of my current state, to see with clarity – the situation is almost always better than I think it is.  Now, even before I start to dip below sea level, I head myself off at the pass by taking stock, and appreciating not just what I have, but also what I’ve accomplished, both in large and small ways.

So as I head into this fresh year, this new decade, I’m taking time to review my accomplishments from 2010:

  1. I created OFF~PEAK, to explore and develop my voice and writing skills, and to target future goals with you at my side, dear readers.
  2. I committed more fully to nurturing my friendships, after a few too many years of sequestering myself.
  3. After almost 25 years, I moved on from the restaurant business – while I still enjoyed it.  (The secret to a long life is knowing when it’s time to go.)
  4. I ate more green, leafy vegetables and less meat.
  5. I drank more water, and less alcohol and caffeine.
  6. I donated substantially to causes I believe in, using my money as a tool to align myself with who I am and what my values are.
  7. The Great Midwest Road Trip!  I saw jaw-dropping miles of cornfields; visited great architectural sites like Columbus, Indiana, the skyline of Chicago, and the unsurpassed splendor of Fallingwater; operated one of the locks on the Mississippi River; and met a quirky cast of characters, including a roadside BBQ chef who taught me to roll down the windows and let my hair and spirit fly.
  8. I trusted my intuition.  I listened to my gut.  I believed in myself.
  9. I purged material belongings that were weighing me down and holding me back.  A LOT of things.
  10. I cultivated my creativity.
  11. I moved, on a whim, to Maine:  6 weeks from inception to arrival.  I call that Life Flexibility.

And more than any other entry on that list, I transformed how I define myself.  I am a Writer now, and the most content I’ve ever been.  I can’t wait to check in this time next year and see how far 2011 takes me!

And you?  I would love to hear your peaks and proud moments…bet there’s more than you think.

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