Finding Our North Star

Finding Our North Star

How often do we take the time to consider what force is guiding us? I don’t mean the big G or the physics of the universe. I simply mean what is driving us to go after a certain goal? How are our values adapted and developed as we continue to mature into new stages of our lives? What is it that helps us navigate the crazy part of our lives, the sad moments and the challenging days? What brings us back to earth, away from the insanity and into the calm…

It’s interesting because in the midst of these questions I’m posing, I don’t think I could have fully answered them a month ago. Who knows what I would have attributed it to. I don’t think I would have been completely sure what guides me other than a commitment to personal success that allows me to inspire and motivate others. Or during an incredibly tough period, what exactly it is that can minimize that pain and make me feel like someone wrapped me in a plush, white blanket of calm (besides maybe some great vino). I probably would have just said it was a combination of things and support systems.

And then I went home to Dallas. For only about 48 hours I was in the city that I was raised, and the stars aligned in such a way that I was able to see some of the absolute dearest people in my life: parents, siblings, nephews, best friends, and my co writer (yes, it was a busy 48 hours).

It was in a 3AM moment on a warm rooftop in Dallas giggling, problem solving, and sharing confused tears with my two life-long best girlfriends who happened to be in the same city for the same night….or while I laughed until I wanted to cry as my Mom belted out “How will I know” from the Glee soundtrack while my dad cursed the lack of parking spots and my brother and his girlfriend Vine’d the entire situation…or while sipping sangria under the sun as my sister recounted how happy she was that I surprised her for her 30th birthday… and amidst a family chicken fight that had us all bent over with laughter in the bottom of our bellies… that I couldn’t have understood the answer to those questions more clearly.

north_star_soul_spark_ilo_inspired

Those moments brought clarity to my own personal North Star: the unconditional, pure love and support of my family and best friends. They keep me sane despite my hectic travel, overly committed career, dating woes, lack of sleep and pressures that have enveloped this decade. They know the goodness at the base of my soul and refuse to let me forget my own potential. And for that I’m forever humbled and grateful.

Our North Stars will all twinkle just a bit differently. For some, family brings nothing but stress while religion gives great joy when all is whirling about them. But whatever form that twinkle comes in…follow it, remember it, and make time for it in order to keep driving towards holistic, worthwhile success.

Reprise* I’m currently in Europe with the world’s best parents here to visit me. So rather than take time away from them (this power couple gets up before me and go to bed after me), I’m reposting a few of my favorite blogs about the importance of our special people like the ones here to visit me…reflections of our grounding, soul-rendering, heart calming individuals in life.

Thriving

Thriving

On Saturday night as the sun was dipping behind the ocean’s horizon line, I sat on seaside rocks and meditated. With the water crashing up next to me, and the last of the day’s rays dancing on the water, I simply repeated my 2014 mantra, “Trust it.”

My mind wandered, as it often does for a less-than expert meditator. But as I recalled that past five hours of my day, arriving in the Cinque Terre, which is a popular vacation spot for many Italians and Americans alike, I kept coming back to gratitude. To trusting the dots of my life. To the wet rocks I was sitting on, the waves crashing, the salt on my skin.

This past weekend was easily the most blissful I’ve ever experienced. And just like my sunset meditation, my joy and bliss was experienced alone and derived from only the center of me. I didn’t have anyone’s attention or affirmation, which I think made the weekend all that more special.

I realized that I may have reached a new level of awareness, a new centeredness this weekend…being able to be so filled up without anyone else doing the filling. I came to this conclusion the last night that I was in Vernazza, one of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre. I sat on a small outdoor patio that literally levitates off the cliff, just over the water. You see nothing but blue sky, ocean, and due to the timing of my dinner: the most regal of sunsets.

As the night went on, one large table across from me asking if I was a food critic, the couple to my left asking why I was alone, and the two behind me telling tales of being raised in the south, I sat with my wine, my smile, and my thoughts and took in the experience of Italy… wine, bread, pesto trofie, lemon sorbet and all. I felt a deep rooted sense of wonder, both for my journey and this life. Three hours later, I paid my check and left.

And somewhere in that wonder that kept me at peace with my silence and with myself for three hours, a length of dinner I normally only reserve to ones with groups, I was brought back to Arianna Huffington’s book that I’m reading, Thrive, and realizing that there’s such a deep need to nourish our own well being. That connecting with our self and our needs, and how amply we’re able to do that, will take us so much farther than wealth and power, which we currently measure success upon.

thriving_ilo_inspired

I have been running on very little, with planes, trains, events and meetings keeping my sleep low and my exertion high. And while the amount I’m accomplishing feels like success, I know in my heart it’s only to a point. This weekend I was able to reconnect. I was able to hear that voice inside of my head and understand her. Instead of noise, I heard pure and clean messages. My sleep was full of dreaming, so too were my days. It was only one weekend but it felt like a gift of a lifetime. That is success.

We must do what we can, both individually and collectively, to reassess what thriving means to us. For me, it was a three hour dinner and a complete comfort in my own solitude that whispered thrive. But to get there I had to trust myself, trust my ability to detach and know that being fulfilled happens from the inside out.

A Conversation Quickie

A Conversation Quickie

Being in a another country is no easy task for your relationships. But after almost two years of continuous travel, sometimes it can feel like most of my relationships require the effort of someone who lives halfway across the country.

The most important people in my life are spread around the world, literally in so many different countries and time zones. And here I am in Europe making even the close ones very far away.

I like to think I’m pretty darn good at keeping in touch with my people. Whether it’s texting, a good google hangout or just a quick email, my best friends and my family never feel too far. Are there relationships that I haven’t kept in touch with? Of course. And that’s okay. But I’ve put a lot of work into maintaining the ones that need be on my life’s train.

One of the worst feelings is knowing that you badly need to catch up with someone and putting it off because there is just SO much to talk about that in the waiting to allocate “enough time” you never actually call. It just silly! And we all do it.

This Christmas, one of my absolute best friends (who JUST GOT ENGAGEDDDDDDD) mentioned how much easier it is to just pick up the phone and facetime your people for five minutes. You don’t have to put the pressure on yourself for having a life catch up, but it literally gives you the quality facetime you need to feel their love and enjoy their closeness. It’s the five minute facetime that has made such a difference in my relationships the past four months.

I find myself pressing that facetime button to call my mom quickly. I’ll facetime a friend hours ahead of me when I get home from the bars in SF. I’ll facetime one of my besties in NZ just to say hi. I facetime my nephews so I can see their curls and smiles. And I don’t need hours, nor do I put the pressure on myself of them to talk for *that* long.

Our relationships are one of the most contributing factors in joy that we have. Which is why having strategies for staying in touch are so insanely important. And why I wrote about this and a few other strategies for The College Prepster. Keep those people close, it only takes 5 minutes, promise ;)

Staying in touch_college_prepster

Meant to Live

Meant to Live

Last night in Milan, I was sitting on a rooftop sipping on chilled Montenegro as it was nearing midnight. I had been invited over to a friend’s house that I had met the previous night. She cooked homemade Carbonara which was mind blowing alongside an fabulous white wine. I was in Italian heaven as I looked over at the Milano skyline from her patio.

As we talked about life and love and work and culture and friends…I was overwhelmed with this feeling that life is meant to be lived. And living happens in the moments. Living is fully experiencing the culture, saying yes to the new friends when they invite you over for dinner, smiling as a table of women are giggling in Italian and somehow without understanding a word, you comprehend everything that you need. There you find the joy in living.

Meant_to_live_ilo_inspired

I needed this carb loading, liquor sipping, vino drinking moment on the rooftop in Milan. Because as intimately breathtaking as the moments of Europe have been the past few weeks, I find my mind wondering down the rabbit hole. Stressing out about timezones. Freaking out about the amount of work I have that’s difficult to do when I’m hosting so many events. Over thinking relationships I shouldn’t even be concerned with. Questioning my future, my abilities, my potential. Worrying about my workouts or the fact I’m quite literally eating my way through Italy.

As the cold starlit air whipped over us during our conversations, each of us teaching each other words and sayings from our native languages, I realized I have a few options during the next weeks. I can spend it working and worrying, or I can spend it living. This life is meant to be lived. And lived big. Europe is a place to inspire, to love, to experience, to connect. That’s all there is here and all there will be anywhere.

It’s your lifetime. Spend it in a way that is full, grand, and as open as Milano’s midnight sky. It’s meant to be lived.

Dealing with a Happiness Hangover

Dealing with a Happiness Hangover

I love really amazing weekends. The kind where you don’t have a worry in the world. The kind where you’re in just such a state of joy from the places your experiencing, the laughs you share, and the people you’re with. It’s amazing what a couple days with incredible experiences and special people can do for your soul.

And as awesome as those times, weeks, or even full on vacations are, nothing is worse than the hangover that follows. While you’ve been infused with joy, when it’s all over, there feels like such a low of having to be back to normalcy. Your emotions came from really high, down to really low, and you’re left to sort out the hangover that came from being so happy.

Being in places of high joy are always going to feel incredible. They’re also really vulnerable states. All you can do is embrace the moment and be happy that you’re living it. And know that the hangover will pass, just like the one after a night of drinking always does. Eventually you’ll feel more even keeled. You’ll be a bit more stable. And the hangover will go as quickly as it went.

However, as I’m dealing with the worst of happiness hangovers today (think one too many shots of joy), I’ve been reminding myself of a few things that help with the funk, which should help should you find yourself in this hangover of sorts too.

Be grateful – I feel like gratitude is always the best form of medicine for days like these. When you can remember the experiences you had and be really really appreciative that they happened, you pull yourself up out of the crap. I had a good friend say to me this morning, “how lucky are you to even have had this weekend. Most people will never experience days like that. That’s what you hold onto.” And she’s right. Lucky. Appreciative. Grateful. I’m all of those things. And that helps with the haze.

Get back to work- Just do it. I feel like mornings like these are the best for flinging yourself back into the work that keeps you overly occupied. Get on calls. Power through the presentation. You may just feel like napping and reminiscing in the hangover, but getting into action and feeling like you’re in drive can help power through the HH. It’s one of those times working too hard can be a good thing.

Quit Thinking- I’m the queen of overthinking. Everythinggggg. I’ll think and rethink and over think every little thing. When you’re in the midst of a happiness hangover, the best thing you can do is to stop the thinking. Enter to a place of gratitude. Enter a place of contentment and peace. And let the thinking move to the side. You’ll climb out of the valley much quicker.

 

Tolerance for Ambiguity

This morning I got a manicure in Berlin. As I met the man who worked there, who spoke not a lick of English, we first dealt with the language barrier but found our way through that wall and onto hand signals of painting my nails. It was fun to be able to break through that barrier… until he pulled out his motorized nail file (ladies, you know which one I’m talking about. The one the looks like a mini marshmallow spinning really quickly on a stick. The one they use when they’re pulling off acrylic.) I snapped my hand back like “hellll nooooo you’re putting that on my natural nail. I work way to hard to keep nails looking this strong.”

After much hand signal debating, and having to get one of his broken English speaking colleagues involved…they talked me into keeping my hand there (sweating mind you). Apparently thats how they get the nail polish off more efficiently in Germany? I went with it, obviously seeing I had no choice between the language issue and the fact they probably just do things differently here.

In three countries and two different languages, I’d been pretty much ok with this idea that I don’t know where I am or what they’re saying. Whether it’s the Dutch thinking I’m one of theirs or the German signs and letters I can barely pronounce, or the google maps that make no sense to me, or just simply not knowing if you ask for your tab or if they bring it to you: everything from language to customs and to whereabouts have put me in a position where I’m basically in a full unknown.

I realized quickly that I’m pretty good with this ambiguity. I haven’t had a confusion breakdown or a cultural freakout. Things have been good and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of having to work through this inherent boundary that comes from being in a completely new country.

But when I walked away from the nail place, I realized I had some ways to go in thinking that I know the best way to do things. As I looked down at my new gel manicure, which also happens to be the best looking manicure I think I’ve ever had…I noticed that my tolerance for ambiguity can be developed even more. Landscape is one thing, but then interacting with the people and their beliefs is an entire other.

The more we can open ourselves up to unknown: new ideas. new ways of doing things. new processes. And not pull back our hand as soon as we feel the discomfort of an unknown nail file, the more we’ll find beauty on the other side. If my manicure is any representation of what might exist on that side…I think we’re in really good hands. Pun intended :)

Feel Your Future

Feel Your Future

I’m the future’s biggest fan. One of my key strengths is futuristic- I’m able to envision what I want and how I see my life playing out pretty clearly. Does it always pan out that way? Of course not. But I see the future before I see the present most times. Which can be a huge asset. But it can also be an even darker shadow.

Regardless of whether you live in the future like I do or not, there’s so much power in being able to identify and believe in your dreams. And often when we think about this, we think about our goals. We set them. We write them down. We place them in places we can easily reference them. All of these are key to mapping out your ideal life, but one key ingredient is missing.

Last week in Amsterdam I had the pleasure of having dinner with 8 or so dynamo women. They were far more experienced in both work and life than me. And somehow, as we told our stories one theme kept popping up: at some point they held felt the energy of their future before it happened. They not only knew what they wanted in life but they had practiced feeling what it would be like to actually have that future.

feel_your_future_ilo_inspired

What does it feel like to live in the city of your dreams?

What does it feel like to be walking the streets, holding hands with a significant other most perfect for you?

What does it feel like in your ideal career?

And when I say feel, I mean feel it down to your liver. Make sure you’re feeling it in your soul. What do you smell. How does your heart feel. What’s going on in your head. Does your tummy tingle? Feeling that vision of the future will attract the energy sure to make it yours.

So the next time you think about what you want in this life, take a step back. Drop the thoughts, and feel your future to its core. Feel it until it’s so real it feels like reality. Feel it until you believe it. Feel it as if you already have it. Feel it to truth.

Relationship Must Reads

Relationship Must Reads

On all my planes and trains and cars, I have plenty of time for journaling and working and writing. But I’m also trying to make sure that I’m getting my reading on during some of this empty time where the internet isn’t available. If you know me, you know I have a pretty little problem with self help. If it’s a developmental book, then I’m all over it.

What I realized is how much I appreciate not only books that help understand myself better and realize my own potential, but rather things that help me understand how to connect further with those around me. From how to deepen relationships, to understand how to communicate, to what leads to more effective leadership, to how the hell to date, relationships are the biggest factor of our daily lives and being able to master those will lead to a treasure chest of joy.

So with that said, here are some of my favorite relationship books:

The Tools

This one was suggested to me by one of my dear friends Amanda, and while I’m not all the way through it yet, I cannot get enough. From how to conquer or fear of communicating with other people, to how to love in the face of those who anger us, this book is such an inspiration to keep moving, keep creating, and keep building our relationships despite obvious challenges.

Get the Guy

Calling all my single ladies. If you’re dating you MUST read this book. Seriously. I’m not one to pick up a dating book, but this was such a game changer. Key take away? You’re a high value woman. Act like it. Want a great guy? You need to open your funnel and be meeting a LOT of them, not just recycling the old ones because it’s safe. Amen to the reverend. Oh, and if you’re single and mingling right now, read my blog in The College Prepster: Don’t let Tinder Break Your Heart.

Dating Tips for 20s

Daring Greatly

If you want to get anywhere in this world, you have to find a way to be vulnerable. And being vulnerable doesn’t happen alone in your room thinking about it. It requires being open and authentic with others. In your relationships. This books is life changing and anyone that wants to show up for people, for themselves, should read this. It’s truly transformational.

Good to Great

While this book goes into many ways that companies end up being successful, the biggest takeaway for me was the people leading the companies that were successful- what did they do. How did they lead. How did they exemplify level 5 leadership. Finding a way to balance both humility and professional will was a recipe for leading others.

These are a few, of many that I could list…But I would LOVE to hear yours!!

 

The Power of Proximity

We’ve been told since we were babes that you are an average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. So, if those people are go-getting, high achieving people…you’ll probably be the same. Conversely, if they are gossipers who have no integrity for relationships, likely you will not either.

Proximity can be a powerful thing. Which is why it’s so integral that we keep in mind that to which is closest to us.

Beyond just osmosis of attitudes, mindsets and values, our tribes can get us push us beyond limits we never knew possible.

This weekend I was at my new bootcamp which meets at Hyde Park in London, and after we had our booties handed to us for 60 minutes, we were told the story of an olympic runner who shaved two seconds off of his time. And he attributed it to being in Kenya, training with some of the fastest runners in the world. By virtue of what he was closest to, spending his most time with, he was able to develop in a way unprecedented for an athlete at his level.

It got me to thinking, what is that “two seconds” for me. Where can I surround myself with people needed to push and grow me even further? When I look at every accomplishment that I’ve had in my life, it’s because of the people I was spending the most time with who believed that I could get it done. Who kept pushing me past the limits I had subconsciously set for myself. Their proximity had been a gift in going further.

Look around you. Who are your closest people. What are your goals. And how can you make sure that your life is being consistently supported with the energy of those around you. Do they stretch you. Are they there for you. Are they your biggest fans. How you look at your inner circles and find your power through them, harnessing the gift of proximity.

Where every body knows your name….

I’m used to a city where I walk down the street and know people by name. My cleaner who comments on how much I’m working out when he hands back my wash and fold. The transgendered cashier at Safeway who always compliments my makeup. My 70-year old friend Rio who sits every night at the old italian resturant and tells me stories of his dates in the 60s, one of which included an almost- naked ride on horseback. The bouncer at my favorite North Beach bar, who has long grey curly hair and a body better than guys 30 years his junior.

And then there’s my friends. My amazing, amazing friends who are family away from home. A community. A support system. A gift from the universe.

And the treasure of having my not-so- kid brother who is only an hour away.

In San Francisco, I’ve got it made. I have my people. I love my town. It’s home.

And now I’m in a place where literally no one knows my name. I talk differently. Dress differently. It takes me 20 minutes to hand over my cash because I can’t tell a one pound coin from a two pound pence. My favorite starbucks drink tastes different. I rode the tube in a full circle on accident. And the only thing double digit about my friend group here is their age.

Yet, the ambiguity is quite beautiful. It forces you to make friends. It encourages you to go on that date. It pushes you to join that local bootcamp and make plans to hang out with them later. In short, you must have a high level of tolerance for the uncomfortable.

I’m in a position where I have no choice but to embrace it, but I think right in our own locales…we can find a way to dive into ambiguity. And when we do, beautiful relationships, adventure and experiences are headed our way.