Reverb13 Prompt 14: Decisions

What was the best decision you made in 2013? What were the results? How will you continue the good work in 2014?

The absolute best decision I made in 2013 was to lean into my relationship with my partner and move in together. No question! Based on my relationship history, these risks were not easy, though in retrospect it seems like a no-brainer. The result is experiencing a contentment and happiness I didn’t know was possible, and understand what it actually means for two people to connect and support each other in their goals. It has also changed my mindset about what I ‘deserve’ which shows up other parts of my life.

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Work-wise, the best decision I made was to issue a paperback version of my book, Confessions of a Teacher Recruiter: How to Create an Extraordinary Resume and Hook Your Dream Job. The whole book concept originated from a request I had from a client to do an ebook for their teachers- they would pre-buy a bunch of copies and I would retain the rights so I could sell it on my website and for the Amazon Kindle. In June, I decided to do a paperback because someone requested it. My attitude was why not? It took me 45 days to figure out how to do a print-on-demand version and I almost gave up. It was well worth it though because since I put it on the market, it has outsold the Kindle version 3 to 1 and I’ve had enough interest for a 2nd edition that can be shelved in bookstores. Apparently, people love their resume books in print!

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I have some BIG decisions in 2014. I can boil them down to 3. 

1. What does it mean to be healthy and how can I align my daily decisions to support that?

2. What will motherhood look like for me? I’ll be 39 in June. I need to have some answers. 

3. What do I want the professional aspect of my life to feel like? Do I want to stay in biz for myself OR join another team and write my books on the side? Neither feels exactly right at the moment. 

I have actually been trudging through a book called Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath on making difficult decisions. I think they actually give some great points, but it hasn’t clicked for me yet and I’ve had a hard time getting through it.

One of their tests is to step back and ask yourself what you’d tell your best friend in the world if he or she was in the same situation? It’s supposed to be an easy test, but I don’t know! Another test is to set ‘tripwires’ that can let you know something is going “wrong” and you can evaluate your original decision. A revenue goal is a recommended goal in my situation. But what if it all feels so subjective… last year, I had all the money, this year not so much. A few years ago, my current financial situation would have made me feel awful. Now… just slightly uncomfortable. I can’t even decide what a simple tripwire would be!

A last suggestion the Heath brothers have is to identify your core priorities. I am going to guess that is where I need to spend more time if I am going to follow-through on the commitment to myself.

Reverb13 Prompt 18: Peace

I am often surprised where I find peace, it is usually in the midst of chaos.

In the midst of living, did you find moments to breathe? Were there moments that held you in the embrace of peace and quiet and pure contentment? 

Did these moments catch you by surprise or did you create the space for peace to find you?

How will you make space for greater peace in 2014?

I am a typical only-child introvert. I need community and socialization to be happy, but also need to retreat afterwards to feel whole. So I was surprised when my moments of peace in 2013 came when I was with other people. 

My greatest moment of peace happened a few days after coming back from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco and Vermont. My boyfriend and I spent a Saturday watching 11 episodes of Friday Night Lights on our couch. We didn’t run our usual errands and ordered takeout. I remember feeling so peaceful and close to my partner, and that it seemed strange because we watched TV all the time together and had been together almost every moment of our 10 day trip. Why now? But what I felt was undeniably peace.

Walks on the beach this year were tremendous, too.

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One of the things I want to work on in 2014 is how to create more space for peace within my mind so I can think through things and stop feeling like everything is urgent. I need to give myself permission to step away and use the tools available to do that and not get distracted or feel guilty for not responding to emails. My poster board, calendar, markers, and notebooks have been sitting in a corner of the dining room for over the last month. My goal was to plan my year in as a fun and playful manner as possible, and feel peaceful about my decisions… and have not allowed myself to step away to do that. The few times I’ve tried, my mind was racing so much with anxiety, I decided it was not worth it.

I have taken up meditation again, including listening to Zencast episodes, and hopefully that will help quiet my mind over the long term. Dog cuddles, too, might help. 

Reverb13 Prompt 17: Word

What word did you select to be your traveling companion in 2013? What gifts did this word bring?

What word will you choose to guide you through 2014? What do you hope it will bring into your life?

Because I had to stop Reverb12 short last year, I never picked a word for 2013 so now I need to do it in retrospect. After looking through some variations of words, I am picking manifest

When I look back at 2013, I committed to and created more important, living things than I ever had before in any year in recent years, things that have felt tangible and unbreakable. Publishing my book. Moving into a home with my boyfriend and committing fully to my relationship with him. Assuming the responsibility of dog ownership. All three were goals that I wrote down in December 2010 that I manifested this year. They are real things no one can take away from me. 

For 2014, my word is alternative.

While my challenges were new this year (finances, community, stability), the wonderful things that came to me were also new and only manifested themselves because I thought differently 4 years ago when I decided to quit my job and start something new. Unfortunately, I realized I stopped thinking differently and have just been stuck on the plan that I fixed myself on when I made that big change! It’s not serving me as it needs to and I need to think about alternatives.

  • If I am unhappy with what is going on, what is an alternative way of doing things or thinking about them?
  • What is an alternative to the alternative(!)?
  • What are alternative stories I can tell myself about what I deserve or what the rest of my life is supposed to look like?

Before I started Reverb13, I was really upset that I did not have a master plan for 2014, that I only knew what I DIDN’T want to happen. Now I am excited about the possibility of trying out new alternatives for myself. After all, there is more than one way to live a good and successful life.

Reverb13 Prompt 9: Inspiration

Who inspired you in 2013? And why?

What gifts did they give you? And how will you carry these forward in to 2014?

I almost punted on this one. I have been thinking about it for an entire week and hadn’t come up with anything! There were certainly people in the world who did inspiring things, such as the young lady who stood up to the Taliban… but I am not necessarily inspired to do something like that myself. Inspiration for me must be much more grounded in my reality to make it actionable.

The last few years, I would have had any problem coming up with a list of people who inspired me. As I began my journey into self-employment and taking charge of my life, I encountered someone new at every turn who had done something that inspired me to be better. This year… not so much. I blogged in the prompt on community that I’ve come short on meeting new people in 2013. And maybe it’s cosmic, or just the fact that we’re all the same age and trying to find our way, but the people in my life that are closest to me struggled immensely this year with internal decisions. My emotions toward them would be better described as empathetic than inspired and they would probably say the same about me. And as far as people who seemed to be doing amazing professional things? In 2013, I saw a little too much behind the curtain.

But this morning, I went through my grateful160.com journal and had a revelation. Grateful160 is a service that will email you every day and ask you send ONE simple thing you are grateful for that day (160 is the number of characters). You can then log onto the site and view your history of gratitudes. I have been using the service every day for about 18 months and it has changed my outlook on life. I am always surprised at how MANY things I have to choose from, even when I am having a bad day.

My review taught me that I am inspired by all the people who I spent time with me this year, just ‘cuz, and in many cases helped me out… like the friend who dropped everything to come help with my flat tire without even feeling put upon or that I owed him. Or the people who made a big effort to come to my birthday party even though there were other more exciting things in their lives. My years in NYC made me forget that people operated that way, that people don’t pencil you in among a bazillion commitments for the same night. What I am inspired by is people who step up and cultivate relationships. It is easy to hang out with people when there is a party or there is a big cause behind your plans, but it takes a commitment to just show up as an authentic person with no mask. 

In 2014, I want more of this, to be inspired by people living their values, every day and not by the big dramatic things they do with their work.

Reverb13 Prompt 8: What Went Well

What went right in 2013?

Maybe you didn’t quit smoking or lose those pounds or go to Paris, but something did work, did happen, and/or was realized. What was it?

I have decided to use this prompt as a free-writing exercise… giving myself 7 minutes to write up a list of all the great things that I think went well for me this year with minimal editing and some photo additions. Here goes. 

Finally saw Harry Potter World (a.k.a. nerd heaven) after years of longing and bought my wand, Griffindor scarf and pygmy puff. * Treated to a few days at the Black Orchid Inn in Flagler Beach, FL, heaven on earth.

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Invited to speak at New York University on an expert on women’s leadership in the spring. * Told by a few dozen people that my work in the career and recruitment space legitimately helped them. * Spoke at a TEDx on how to live a meaningful life and people said I did a good job.

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Published a well-reviewed paperback book on resumes that reached #21 in its category on Amazon. * Hired to be a career expert by one of the top brands in the country.

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Moved into a house with my boyfriend. * Deepened my relationship and love for him. * Attended 4 weddings and celebrated love with friends. * Became closer to my childhood best friend.

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Took time to get to the ocean over the last 12 months while the rest of the country froze. * Worked outside as much as I could.

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Finally understood why grits are amazing. * Learned to make some staples in my slow cooker. * More than half my home-cooked meals this year came from the local Forsyth Farmers Market. 

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Had a year of safe and uneventful driving. * Spent time with my niece and nephew. * Had the best Thanksgiving that I could have ever dreamed of.

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Made the adult decision to have an expensive dental surgery that has helped me tremendously. * Adopted Forrest, the best dog in the world.

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And 15 still days left of the year!

Reverb13 Prompt 13: Alchemy

The phrase “It takes a village” is often bandied about, in reference to child-rearing, running a business, just about everything. But if you’re anything like me, you may not be a natural born collaborator.

In 2014, how could you explore what community means to you?

I am 100% an only child, but when I lived in NYC, I had a pack of girls that I ran around with and am a natural collaborator in work. While I love Savannah, most of my socialization has been around being part of a couple. I haven’t found a pack of girls I have much in common with and haven’t felt a natural fit around the work stuff. There are dozens of groups for women in business, but none have been a great fit and the one that has been the closest has an inconsistent track record of meeting. The lack of community has definitely made me feel lonely at times. I did join a Lean In group that starts up in January as my next option.

The last two months I have considered starting a monthly ‘Women and Wine’ event at my house for likeminded women. I have met enough individual women here who are pursuing interesting projects who I’d love to pull together and find how we can enjoy each other’s company and support each other with our pursuits. Many of the women I mentioned have also commented that the current networking options leave them underwhelmed. My hesitations on moving ahead have been (1) baggage I still feel as a transplanted Northerner (what right do I have to start things here?) and (2) competing with the plethora of groups for women networking. 

But this prompt has led me to try bringing community to me in 2014 since it’s so important to me. And who can go wrong when you invited people over for wine? I’ll let you all know how my group goes in Reverb14!

Reverb13 Prompt 15: Sensory Highlights

Give us a sensory tour of 2013. How would you describe the year that’s passing in terms of:

Sight?

The sky and how it sets on the ocean. Lots of oceans this year- Tybee, Foley, Jekyll, Hilton Head, Hunting Island, Coco, Flagler.

Sound?

The specific tone of voice when I am told that everything is going to be alright.

Smell?

The smell of our kitchen after we’ve made pulled pork in our slow cooker, a meal that we discovered in September, we equally contribute to and feels like home.

Taste?

Distinctly Southern. Shrimp and grits 3 different ways at the Shrimp and Grits festival on Jekyll Island, an oyster po’boy with collard greens on Hilton Head. The fancy brunch at the Jekyll Island Club that I was lucky enough to experience twice.  

Touch?

Thick dark curls through my hands. 

Reverb13 Prompt 11: Bold

What challenges lie ahead in 2014? How might you meet them boldly? 

I looked back at the goals I made for myself earlier this year and am reflecting on where I want to go. I do see a sea (ha!) of challenges… and I am ready to face them. 

1. Health: Love my body and treat it with the respect it deserves, and remember that when I make decisions. Boldly, I need to remember that is what matters more than else. Behaviors will follow. 

2. Finances: I need to increase my ROI for my projects even if the individual decisions are hard. I’ve done some work on expenses this year and am good on that. It’s the revenues that matter. For 2014, I must say no to 95% of free speaking engagement requests, including conferences, and increase some of my prices for my recruiting services.

3. Love and Relationships: I will not be afraid of giving my all and also asking for what I need, even if the answer is no.

4. Career: I will make decisions and be bold with my choices. I will come to answers on how important the location independent lifestyle is to me, what it means for me to live like an artist, and where it makes sense for me to have my focus. I will commit to a set amount of creative projects and priorities for all of 2014 within 10 days of the new year. 

Reverb13 Prompt 12: Muddy

I’m a big fan of muddy experiences. They become our greatest teachers when we’re wise enough to exfoliate with them; roll around in the deep until we finally feel ready to get clean. 

Today, identify something muddy that kept recurring for you throughout 2013, and then ask yourself this: What’s the clear truth underneath this damn mud if I finally wash myself clean?

My muddiest experience was with a former contractor I let go who also lives in my town and shares mutual social connections with me.

We worked together for one year and it was a roller coaster of highs- spurts of energy getting shit done- and then weeks of no movement on her project goals for me. It took me forever to let her go because part of her delays in her work were due to health, and the thought of training someone new was just overwhelming to me.

I finally let this contractor go when Q1 passed and she still hadn’t given me the goals she wanted to be judged on for 2013 and missed a deadline on a proposal for a high 4-figure client. I had finished up my numbers for 2012 and realized her work had just been a giant cash loss. She brought no revenue into my company because everything was late, clients didn’t really like her tone, and I would be irresponsible to keep her despite any personal feelings I had about her.

This relationship failure bugged me most of the year. I am a coach and teacher and I feel responsible for people’s performance so I felt 100% responsible for her failure. Also, this is the 3rd person I’d hired in a row that had flamed out and I am a recruitment consultant. Way to go, Tracy. In the end all 3 failed because in truth they didn’t wanted to work for someone else- they wanted to run their own VA shop and run their own blog, not be a VA themselves. In an early-stage business, there can only be one entrepreneur in charge. I have since gone back to using my former intern from 3 years ago who can throw me some hours each month. We work together seamlessly.  

Beside failure, I felt lots of anger and though we parted ways in early April, the anger still bubbles up occasionally. I uncovered all sorts of BS with my website and biz Twitter account that I’m still fixing. She also immediately started marketing herself as an expert at all the things I felt that she screwed up for me and pitched herself to some colleagues of mine without mentioning me (she removed the whole year of work for me from her LinkedIn profile), leaving me in an awkward place in regards to what to say as I was asked (nothing truly ever falls off the internet).

I’ve learned some great lessons from this muddy experience.

- One, I won’t make the same hiring mistakes again, confusing potential with past performance, and I would not hire someone in this type of role again unless they were an employee and not a contractor.

- Second, my business needs are different than my personal needs. If someone is failing my business, I need to act on that quickly and not dwell on the decision. 

-Third, anger is futile- all it does is make me suffer, not the other person. My anger doesn’t change anything, especially the past. She might work well with someone else, or she might fail and go homeless, but it’s her agency to do that, just like it was her agency to not meet deadlines with me. I don’t HAVE to feel any emotions about any of it and can boil it down to facts when asked for an unexpected reference. All the anger I’ve felt has taken the place of positive emotions I could have expressed toward other people and situations. 

I muddied the situation, not her. And I truly wish her well in 2014- she should experience abundance just like everyone else. For my own progress, if I hear something about her, I’ll tune out and think about the clean slate of the new year, including a new team member already scheduled to start in mid-January.

So rather than a “hell no” GIF which would have been my choice 2 months ago, I leave you with a “hell yeah” GIF. Exfoliation complete.

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Reverb13 Prompt 10: Auto-Pilot

Living life on auto-pilot can feel disorienting and dull. How did you cultivate a life worth loving during 2013?

How can you turn off your auto-pilot button in 2014?

Wow. I didn’t realize how much I needed this question. 

I realize that I am totally on auto-pilot as of late. I go between living two versions of my life- crazy changing person or auto-pilot as a way of coping. Auto-pilot is super easy for me because I work from home. I can slip into sweats, trudge to the home office, and be “busy” all day until it’s time to make dinner, pour myself a glass of wine and pick what Netflix show we want to marathon. I do get out of the house to see people, but it still feels part of my routine. 

I am thinking about the list of things that I wanted to achieve in 2013 and possible things that I want to achieve in 2014 and how I could get off auto-pilot. Here are two things that I’d like to see change. 

1. Wake up earlier and at the same time.blogged about this for Reverb2010! I am still doing the same damn thing, going to sleep at different times and waking up when my body is ready. I think being intentional starts from the first moment you’re awake. And I believe in my bones that if I was able to master this, other good habits would generate from this. I want to do this even more than pick up a more consistent exercise program. 

When we adopted Forrest, we had some hope that he would help us get up earlier. Somehow we picked a dog that likes to sleep in. 

2. Plan a year of travel. I reverbed in 2012 about how excited I was to own a car for the first time. I had in my mind a year of Southern adventures, visiting states I’d never been to like Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina and doing some workcations. We did take some trips to FL, SC and parts of GA, but we never made it to those states. There were job changes, financial constraints, but also living on auto-pilot and not planning ahead. My partner and I both work remotely, can go to conferences, and meet interesting people for our businesses. If we put our minds to it, we could plan some awesome dog-friendly trips that meet our budget and work preferences. I don’t want to regret missing out in this time in the future when there are potentially school-age children to consider.