Your Standing Ovation

Mick Jagger Oakland 1969
Mick Jagger Oakland 1969

We have all had this anxious moment. The split-second before you post. You re-read your writing, watch your video for the 50th time, re-work a paint stroke or study your sketch and ask yourself- – Is this authentic enough?  Does it stand out in a sea of sameness? Is it “unique” enough for the world to appreciate?

Michael Port, Author of Steal the Show, said it brilliantly in an interview the other day.

You don’t have to be different to make a difference.

Must Read
Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life

Madeline Johnson's Top Book Picks
An inspiring read “Steal the Show” has great work and life performance advice.

In my mind, way too much cred has been given to creating “authentic” and original work in a “unique” way.  This thought can really stifle your creativity.  Worrying about the “authenticity” of your work will only blur your vision and mission. Instead, strive to create a higher caliber of work each day. Your best work. You see, the distinction is that you are already different from everyone else. You don’t need to focus on your authenticity, you are already unique, just as you are. Yes, you do stand out in a crowd, even if you do absolutely nothing.

It also really helps if what you are creating what truly inspires you. If you are bored doing it, then chances are someone else will be bored reading or watching it.

Driven to Perfection

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to tip toe to my grave safely. I want to take risks, chances, I want to soar through this life.

unicorn me

So I will let my fear be the fuel. The reality is, we all are afraid.

One of my favorite morning rituals is to listen to Brian Johnson’s Philosopher Notes. They are short, sweet, little bits of wisdom that can fuel your day. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

In one of my favorite mini-classes, he mentions taking a deep breathe when fear freezes you. Thinking back on my daily meditation practice, everything I have been learning and last night’s Vinyasa Flow Yoga class I find it funny and ironic, that the simple act of breathing has become such a “thing” in my new found intentional life.  Who knew something so mindful and simple could help so much.

Listen to Brian’s 10 minute video  for more tips on how to move through your fears. “How to Conquer Your Fear in 30 Seconds.

Sensing Awe in the AWEdinary

sun riseIf you are paying attention you can find truth and inspiration anywhere and everywhere, in the most ordinary things and experiences in life.
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower – Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. 
~ William Blake

Study – The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake

What passes for spectacular and awesome in today’s culture is mostly synthetic and artificial – most experiences fading like fireworks in a night sky.
Feeling Awesome
Awe is not a function of the brain. Awe is a feeling that comes from that mysterious place deep within the heart and soul. Awe isn’t a product of thought. Rather, awe arises from the gap between our thoughts. There, we connect with that which is beyond description and understanding – something that can only be felt – something that can be shared, but not explained. Read more awesome thoughts here
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius
Read his philosophy here

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)

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Profound truths are in the anthropological field notes of life.  The sweet honey fragrance of pink plumeria aromatizing along my pre-dawn morning walk.  The salty, slightly cooler fresh air blowing through my hair from the Gulf of Mexico. The nervous scurrying about of the hard shell blue crab across the inter coastal dock.
Life’s Field Notes
When searching for awe in the ordinary, I study life like an anthropologist. Ethnographers engage in participant observation in order to gain insight into cultural practices and phenomena. To facilitate this process, ethnographers must learn how to take useful and reliable notes regarding the details of life in their research contexts. My journals may include –
  1. Date, time, and place of observation
  2. Specific facts, numbers, details of what happens at the site
  3. Sensory impressions: sights, sounds, textures, smells, taste
  4. Personal responses to the fact of recording fieldnotes
  5. Specific words, phrases, summaries of conversations, and insider language
  6. Questions about people or behaviors at the site for future investigation
  7. Page numbers to help keep observations in order
 crab
The Blue Crab as Spirit Animal
Time to come out of your shell and be yourself. Stop hiding. He is reminding you that not all paths lead directly to your personal goals. Sometimes a sideways approach is necessary. Shift your focus to what is all around you because your inner senses are trying to guide you through an easier way. Alternatively crab can be reminding you that community is vital for growth, however equally important is a time of introspective seclusion. Know when to withdraw and discern what is right for you.
Crab can also be letting you know that it is important to fuel your curiosity on all levels. Exploration of the world around you leads to discovering new horizons and a vibrant life.

Pattern Interrupt, Pushing Through and Improving Your Workouts

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Usually habits are really useful. When we are on “auto pilot”  our brains have become so efficient at doing something we can tune out our conscious minds, which can be helpful sometimes, like when brushing our teeth, but not when working out.

More about the upside of habits in this awesome book:The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Problem with Mindless Patterns

Habits and patterns can also be a real problem. We can eat mindlessly and therefore overeat. We can tune out important people and not actively listen. We can exercise without paying attention and not get the most out of our workouts.

Russian Twists

I’m focusing on a bit of mid-course correction while making sure I don’t become weary from unconscious behavioral patterns during my morning exercise routine. The minute boredom sets in, I am reminded to “pattern interrupt”. It keeps things fresh – and improves results. So I do something different – I step up my stride, moving faster; add 20 more squats with calf stretches and try new exercises, like today – the Russian Twist (see illustration above) for toner abs.

Chi Walking and Core Movement

I’ve also been practicing engaging my lower abs throughout the day, especially when walking, jogging, running and sprinting. It has taken my routine to the next level.

When you correct your posture, you will be able to tighten your abdomen while you are walking. Leading your stride from your pelvis or what some call “Chi Walking” teaches us how to redirect the workload of propulsion to our core muscles around the pelvis and lower trunk area.

Pushing Through

When you are working out  every single day, it is easy to find yourself in a state of apathy about the mundane routine. Four things that help me push through –

Focusing on my super hero strength.  Yes, that’s me, in my mind, when working out. Lara Croft. Beautiful and brainy, with a fearless quest criss-crossing the globe, in an amazing attempt to save the world. 

Lara_Croft_film

Break it down into small increments. 200 squats in a row my ass. I do 10 sets of 20 deep squats and jog in-between. Before I know it, I’ve completed 200 squats with a tighter tush.

Goblet_Squat

Feel your body and get to know the slow, soft burn. Get to know what small progress feels like in your muscles. Where there is energy, there is life and growth – Seneca. More philosophy and wisdom here: Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

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Don’t focus on the time. Cover the clock and speed up the pace, even if it is just a bit quicker.

What are your workout tips? 

Do you have tips to push through to the next level? Something awesome to help make workout routines more fun? I’d love to know what you recommend. Leave a comment below.

 

On the Go Movement, Growing Good Habits and Elon Musk

 The Emotion & Motion Connection 

I stay in youth-mode – powered with an ageless mind – armed with a liberated, open, playful, light-hearted and free-spirited attitude. In youth-mode, I am limitless.

Not exercising each day makes me feel lethargic and depressed. Over the past decade I have noticed that all forms of daily, disciplined movement – walking, biking, running, yoga, Pilates -helps to soften the rigid suit of armor I call my body. Tense from head to toe, my body takes in and holds all of my emotions – memorized in the tightening of each muscle. The connection between my emotions and motion is fascinating to me. Stretching releases the ache and tightness I feel in my neck as I release the “weight of the world” from my shoulders. Sit-ups strengthen my lower back so I feel strong and “supported” as I feel my “intuition” making better “gut reactions” from strengthening from my core. Squats help tone my legs and my knees and joints give me more balanced, confident  “legs to stand on”.

Habits are Everything

We are an accumulation of everything we do daily. To see change in our lives we must change the way we go about our day. I use to wake up worried, now I turn the channel in my mind  to gratitude – literally forcing my mind to think about what I truly appreciate in my life from the moment I open my eyes.

Eat More Salt to Curb Sugar Cravings and eating healthier on the go.

My next good habit will be switching my taste buds to healthier on-the-go eating  – especially for days like today – when I have been on a golf cart buggy to the dock, boat to the mainland, taxi to the airport, plane to the States, and finally train to my car. I will shop, plan and make snacks to bring along – fresh vegetables, salads and home made health to eat along the way.

Elon Musk -Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future  by Ashlee Vance

I just started reading the incredibly fascinating life of Elon Musk. creator of the Tesla and now working on a way to have us living in outer space.

Where Mark Zuckerberg wants us sharing baby photos, Musk wants to save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation. He’s wired like a scientist and suffers mental anguish at the sight of a factual error.

Love this thought from Musk – “It seems like one should make the world a better place, because the inverse makes no sense.”

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.

Morning Rituals, Mindful Breathing, Spinning and the Slow Carb Breakfast

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The Importance of a Motivating Morning Ritual

When I decided to change my daily habits to create a more fulfilling life, I created my very own morning ritual. The idea was to create a more inspiring way to begin each day and then in turn, create a better life for not only me, but for all of those that I love around me.

I urge anyone trying to improve their lives  to awaken one hour earlier every morning to learn, read, meditate, move and take a moment to think about all that you have  to be grateful for, even the smallest of things. This daily habit has  made a huge impact on my life.

I am currently studying the teachings of the philosopher Seneca, because I believe that without a philosophy to guide my work and life, I will succumb to daily excuses and distractions. I will make the mistake of acting on my moods throughout the day and not on my principles.

Many of us want to place blame and responsibility on external objects because it’s easy to do, but the truth remains that all conflicts start internally, in our minds.”

Taken from this essay @99U written by @PaulJun_ of Motivated Mastery “The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos.”

Read an essay a day  Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

I’ve been experimenting with breathing techniques to help me stay energized and relax throughout the day. Who knew that the simple act of mindful breathing could actually improve the way I do just about everything –  exercise, work, write and deal with frustrating craziness throughout the day. Evidently proper breathing has profound effects on our health and unbelievably most of us don’t know how to breathe properly. Crazy.

The Power of Vital Breathing

As I was sleep-driving to 7:30 spinning class at Covert Fitness this morning, I tried the four short & fast breaths  that I heard Tony Robbins talk about as part of his Power Hour morning ritual. It’s a simple technique of breathing in and out through the nose rapidly four times with about 10 repeats. Hello and good morning, my brain just woke up! Now, I am not an expert on the topic but there are plenty of tutorials on  breathing techniques .

How can we improve our breathing? Well first by recognizing the bad examples like over-breathing, holding our breath and/or shallow breathing. These breathing patterns are very stressful for the body and lead to a shortage of oxygen and energy. Read How to Breathe Properly

Spinning away the Stress

Let’s get this straight, Spinning is not for everyone, although you may wonder with Soul Cycle and it’s cult-like following now filing an IPO.  I lost my last 10 by Spinning on the weekends and found my self to be a lot less stressed. I join Saturday & Sunday morning classes at Covert Fitness which have also helped me power up my outdoor cycling routine. There is something very motivating about letting the instructor take over your brain for 60 minutes while you zone out and focus on your body doing the hard work. After a few sessions of Spinning (along with my regular daily workout routine) I became even more energized and motivated as I watched my weight melt away.  The calorie burn is intense and there are plenty of residual effects.

Schisandra chinensis & the Slow Carb Breakfast

If you are looking to lose extra weight and eat to sustain your day, then the slow carb diet from The Four Hour Body is a must try. My breakfast begins with two soft scrambled eggs (yolk included) with a few tablespoons of small white beans and fresh spinach or left over vegetables. The white truffle salt that Tim Ferriss recommends helps to spice things up.

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

I drink a ton of coffee, but in the morning I also take steep a small glass jar of Traditional Medicinals Detox Tea which contains organic chicory and dandelion root. Side note: my grandmother use to boil dandelions and drink the water which she claimed helped clear her kidneys and liver.

This tea also contains a strange, exotic berry from China and Russia. The berry of Schisandra chinensis owes its name Wu Wei Zi (five flavored berry) to the fact that it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. Schisandra chinensis has been digested to prolong life, retarding the aging process, increasing energy, as a fatigue-fighter, and as a sexual tonic.

I am always looking to learn how to make my morning rituals and work outs even better, so if you have something that you think I should try, please share it in the comments.