To serve vs. to lead.

Most of my work these days is related to my law practice as opposed to health coaching. However, these words apply to any service I provide to any human. As we all struggle to learn, cope, reflect, and ultimately all choose how to respond to and live in our ever-changing world, I think these thoughts are important. 

I have heard from business owners who have received push-back recently after speaking up for racial justice in support of protests around the country. The response is along the lines of “stay in your lane” or why is my estate planning attorney (or insert any profession) talking to me about race etc.

One possible response is : as a business owner you choose who you serve. If someone disagrees with your views, that is not the person you want to serve.

I worry that this response leads to more divisiveness. Remember the case that made it to the Supreme Court when a baker was unwilling to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple?

I don’t agree that we should choose who we serve in all instances.

For example, perhaps a baker refuses to make a specific type of wedding cake because that type of cake is not what they do. Maybe the bakery only focuses on pastries and not cakes at all. That baker would be choosing to focus on pastries. They can lead the pastry industry. They will not be serving people who don’t like pastries, but can and should, I think, serve anyone who wants what they are offering.

As we see businesses speaking up in support of equality, I think these businesses are being leaders for what’s right in a time where that voice is important (okay, maybe far too late, 100% myself included, but let’s be grateful for what’s happening).

Here is how I am thinking about this in my own business. I will serve everyone. If I agree to prepare an estate plan for you, I will carry out your wishes to the extent it is legal under the law. If you want to donate to organizations I don’t agree with, or not donate at all, I will graciously carry out your wishes fully in the same way I would for someone donating to my favorite charity.

As a leader, I can share the businesses core values. I can educate clients and potential clients about the benefits of legacy giving (leaving donations through an estate plan). I can educate myself and my community about charitable foundations and other mechanisms for giving. I can ask clients if they want to give to an organization, thereby normalizing charitable donations. I can stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement because now is not the time to stay silent.

In this way I lead, but I will not refuse to serve anyone who wants the service I provide, from me, and whom is otherwise unharmful to me.

It also of course means that those who do not like the values I do vocalize are unlikely to hire me, but that to me is in the same way that those who don’t like me will hire someone else because we are a bad fit. And that’s okay.

30 Weeks to Awesome: The story of writing my first book. Part 2.

In this recent post, I wrote about how 30 Weeks to Awesome came to be. The motivation and nudge to get it done (a course with a contest that would reimburse tuition for said course) and the re-purposing of a course I created previously. In this post I will share why I believe in 30 Weeks to Awesome, as well as some lessons learned attempting to share the book with others. 

Why 30 Weeks to Awesome?

I think life is a journey and that we should always be continually trying to improve our lives, search for happiness, and to be better people. Some people think that trying to be better means they have to be unhappy with who they are now. I disagree. I think we can have love and compassion for our current selves, while simultaneously striving to be a better version of ourselves. It is an evolution that I hope will take a lifetime, because otherwise I would feel stalled. We are not perfect and we never will be. To think that we are somehow who we are meant to be sounds to me like a horrible way to live one’s life.

From this standpoint, I believe that healthy habits are the building blocks to living our best lives. We have limited decision-making capacity each day. By removing the necessity to make a decision to do something, we take care of our base (the building blocks) without having to work at it and use some of our daily decision-making capacity. From there we can do what’s next in our day.

These healthy habit building blocks are going to change overtime. You can look at any number of amazingly successful people who root their day with healthy habits, and realize that those blocks change overtime. One month you may focus on meditation. That could become an integral practice for the rest of your life, or it might drift away for a few months before you bring it back, possibly in the same form, possibly in a different form. When you are trying to start the habit, it takes conscious effort before it becomes part of who you are. This could be in terms of routine (I meditate every morning for 15-20 minutes). Or it could be simply how you make decisions (I home cook most of my meals, which means I had leftovers to bring to work to lunch today and therefore I do not need to go out to buy lunch like I used to).

I believe that for many people, building healthy habits slowly over time is the best way to achieve lasting change.

Surely, there are times where someone will get so fed up with their way of life that they will take massive action and actually have it stick for the long term. What do I mean by this? A program such as Whole 30 is right for some people at some times. Depending on your previous way of eating, this can be a massive undertaking. You remove a whole lot of foods, then slowly add in, but ultimately completely overhaul your way of eating. Some people will do this, feel great, and stick with it. Others will do it, feel great, but then slowly return to their previous way of eating. This person could go even further and adopt worse ways of eating than before the massive changes because they rebel against the restrictions that they were only able to maintain for a few months. More people than not are going to rebel against really massive, strict changes. This can be referred to as yo-yo dieting, and we know that considerably more than 50% of people who lose weight on a diet gain all or even more back within 2-5 years.

Thus, with 30 Weeks to Awesome, my hope is that readers will be able to manage a small task each week that builds over time. If you slowly add more vegetables, other foods will subside at a sustainable pace. The book also focuses on a variety of healthy habits from choosing healthy fats to eating out to getting outside.

Another of my core beliefs that influences me as a coach and attorney, is that each of us is unique. I do not believe that there are enough resources in our environment that encourage us to discover and listen to what we need in any given moment. Thus, in 30 Weeks to Awesome, most weeks I encourage the reader to pick a goal that is right for them. This is in the same way that I might work with a client in a coaching session and ask them what their next step is. Usually we know better than anyone else what the next right step is, but sometimes we need a nudge to realize it and to listen to our own intuition.

While the book is simple and short, I believe that this is one of its values. There is no lack of health information in the world, but there is a lack of action and follow-through.

What I have learned from marketing?

Self-publishing is easy. Educating people that the book exists and why they might want to read it, that is a whole different process. Interestingly, should you be worried about this part, know that even authors who have publishers have to do most of their own marketing. The publisher will work on getting it into stores (which I have had to do on my own) but the author must get the readers. This is why publishers focus heavily on an author’s “following” or ability to let people know about the book when deciding what books to publish.

We have an amazing opportunity right now in which we do not have to wait to be picked by others to publish a book to share our ideas with others (Seth Godin’s words). I believe this has intrinsic value, and is an opportunity we should all consider taking advantage of. However, just because you put something out in the world does not mean that the work will magically get noticed by those who want what you have on offer.

I learned that most bookstores work with distributors to get books and they do not want to work with self-published authors.

I discovered one distributor that I could work with. However, while the prospect of getting my book out to more people was exciting, if I signed with them I would not be able to sell it anywhere else. I didn’t want to lose control to take my book to local stores and others.

Selling has pushed me outside my comfort zone in many great ways. I think it is really important to do things that are not comfortable, and marketing my book has been a clear way to make me do this. I have gone into a number of stores cold and asked if they would carry 30 Weeks to Awesome. Most of the time I was rejected, but sometimes I succeeded. Four locations in my hometown carry it, one in a town in California that I visit often, and my biggest win – the Fireworks Galleries in Seattle now carry it!! This is (probably) the most popular store in the Seattle airport.

With that said, I could and should continue to research and try for different places to carry it. Fortunately, the clock has not ended, I still have an opportunity to learn and move my book into different areas.

Is it resonating?

I have received some excellent feedback from some readers. I hear that the book is helping them to focus on healthy habits (as intended). However, I am leading a group of readers through the book and many have dropped off. They get busy and want to pick up where they left off instead of moving on. They tell me they will return. Thus, it is possible that 30 weeks is too long, but I am not sure of the solution. I could encourage readers to go through more quickly to gather momentum. Or, it may be the type of resource that someone returns to for weeks at a time over years. Because of its length I believe that I need to wait more time to gauge its true resonance, but I am encouraged by the positive comments received so far.

What happened with the contest as part of the course I was in through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition? 30 Weeks to Awesome was selected as one of the Top 10 books coming out of the course! I am very grateful for their support and recognition of this project!

You can purchase the book directly from me here, AND I will donate all proceeds to the 2020 Community Assistance Fund – COVID-19 for Southeast Alaska, or you can purchase it (Ebook or paperback) here

30 Weeks to Awesome: The story of writing my first book. Part 1.

Introduction

I usually downplay the fact that I wrote a book. It’s not exactly a best seller, and it is not a long masterpiece that took years of my life to write. Indeed, very few people have read it and probably few ever will. It’s also easy to be on the other side, and to reflect on how easy it really is (these days) to put something out into the world that anyone can purchase.

However, by some accounts, about 80% of people say they want to write a book someday. Far fewer ever do.

Thus, I thought I would share my simple story of developing 30 Weeks to Awesome in case it inspires you to turn your idea into action. I do not go into depth on the how-to side of things, but feel free to reach out if you have questions.

I don’t remember the moment that I decided I wanted to be a writer. I don’t even know what it means to say “I want to be a writer”. We are all writers. Some may be limited to texts and simple emails, but almost anyone in an office setting spends a significant portion of each day communicating in writing via emails.

Some people write books for a living. Some write books as a side gig or hobby. Others write a book or a few books about their profession and in support of their profession. You can write as an art, you can write to share a story, you can write to persuade, you can write to educate. There are numerous ways and reasons to create a book to offer to others.

My attorney mentor wrote Wear Clean Underwear, a book about estate planning. It is a book written to support her practice. It is valuable for many people, but it was written to support her business, not because she wants to make a living as a writer. Some writers in this category see a book almost like a business card. Many nonfiction books fall into this category, though there are certainly near full-time nonfiction writers. (Malcom Gladwell comes to mind). And there are fiction writers who write and publish as a side gig alongside another job. They may hope to become more full-time writers someday, or they may simply want to keep it as a hobby.

Attorneys, and I am one, often are writers. It is essential for most areas of legal practice, though there are differences in the type of writing based on the type of practice one has. Writing a brief about a constitutional law topic probably allows for more creativity than drafting a contract, which requires specificity but is also usually based on a template used before. Attorneys do not usually call themselves writers, nor do other professions who spend most of their days writing. It is different than setting out to publish articles or write a book.

The context within which 30 Weeks to Awesome came to be

I am a writer as an attorney, but I would like to do more. There is something about the research and creative process that very much appeals to me. I also have an idea currently that will take many years to execute, but it is exciting and I think I am a good voice for the topic. In the meantime I may work on smaller books, as 30 Weeks to Awesome was. This book is allowing me to experience the [self]publishing process.

Here is how this first book came to be. You will see how unremarkable the story is. If I can do it, you can too!

When the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the company that trained me as a health coach, offered a course to help students publish their own books, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew I wanted to write, and I knew nothing about the practicalities of publishing.

The course is only six months, and most authors spend years producing a single book. [For an excellent view into one author’s creation process, check out this interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, during which she shares the 3-4 year process simply to do the research before writing City of Girls.] Thus, for this course, you must either work with something already largely written, or choose a very small project. I’m sure there are some that create something extensive and amazing AND get it published within a 6-month time frame, but those are going to be few and far between.

Initially I planned to write a book with twelve chapters, offering a focus each month for a whole year.

As a health coach, I initially wanted to focus on working with attorneys. No good reason really except that the profession is known for being pretty unhealthy and busy. I thought as an attorney I would somehow have a leg up in communicating with this population. (It hasn’t really worked out that way, but when I started writing this book I had attorneys in mind).

In law school we learn to write with a format, using the acronym IRAC: Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. I love using this system because it is clear, and provides a good base template for legal issue analysis. It also creates a structure that can be useful for many topics. Thus, each chapter of my intended book was going to be structured in the IRAC format. It would be an inside joke for any attorneys and provided structure that would make it both easier to write and easier to follow as a reader. I had already written a chapter in this format on exercise that I offer for free to those who sign up for my newsletter (see it here).

Initially I thought that this would be a narrow enough topic to complete in my short time frame.

I was wrong. As I began researching my 11 remaining topics, it was clear that I would not be able to produce the well-researched quality that I wanted in my short publishing time frame through the course. Certainly, I could continue on the book and learn through the course without actually publishing (as most students do), but I wanted to get through the actual experience of putting a book out in the world. My goal through this project was to have the experience publishing something; so that I could learn from start to finish, more so than it was to get this particular book I was working on out into the world.

So, what to do?

I had to go simple. Even simpler. Way simpler. At this point I had only a couple of months before my publishing date.

I should mention at this point that I had extra motivation which provided a tremendous boost on this journey. There was a competition associated with the course. If we published by a certain date, we could submit our book to the course leaders. The top 10 authors would get their tuition costs refunded! Honestly, without this deadline, it would have been very easy to get lost in analysis paralysis, trying to make it perfect and never getting it finished.

But back to my decision making.

Previously, I had created a 30-day healthy foundations program. I had it automated so that when someone signed up, they would get an email each day with a small amount of factual information and an action item for the day. I was really proud of it, but the only people who had done it were friends that I asked to try it out. In other words, I hadn’t yet successfully marketed it. My program that I was so proud of sat out in the internet collecting dust. I decided to pull it as a 30-day program, and to use that content to create my book. But 30 days was really too ambitious, so I went with 30 weeks. [Now you know my secret].

Some nuts and bolts

Because I had already created most of the content, it didn’t take me too long when I decided to re-purpose it. I did re-write some sections, but the bulk of the work was done.

I figured out how to format it for Amazon’s self-publishing branch [Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP]. This was a brutally long process, but just a matter of time and frustration. Then, I had to decide how much money to invest. It wasn’t an easy decision. I wanted a real go at a book, but I was newly self-employed and not coming close to earning living expenses. I am not well-known, and there was no evidence that I would be able to recoup the money I spent on the book in sales. I could do everything myself, with resources provided in the course. This includes formatting, designing a cover, editing, and marketing. Or I could look for help for all of these things. When you look for help, the amount you can pay varies dramatically, and the results may as well.

I ended up discovering on Facebook that a friend from high school was now an editor! I reached out to her, and she was willing to do the work (for pay, but incredibly reasonable). That was an easy decision!

For cover design, I considered hiring someone in another country to create a design using Upwork or Fivrr (there are people doing decent work who are really cheap by U.S. dollar standards). I even put one request out to Upwork to see what would happen. In the meantime, I shared my struggle on Instagram. An IIN grad (another health coach from my same school) reached out and offered to help because she designs book covers.

After speaking with her, I ended up hiring her, though this investment was much greater than someone on Upwork. It was an incredible investment for me, and yet she charged me much less than her usual rates. (Again, it is fascinating to consider the variation in costs). I love the product and I am happy that I worked with her! I think she probably took more time than someone else would to understand what I liked in covers and what I wanted in this one. She started with three versions, and then we tweaked my favorite. She was also familiar with KDP and helped me get my book finalized for publication.

I should mention that there are other ways to self-publish. I decided this made the most sense for me, and it appeared it would be the easiest.

What happened when it was ready? Did I win the competition? What have I learned about marketing? Stay tuned for Part 2…

In the meantime, you can purchase the book directly from me here, AND I will donate all proceeds to the 2020 Community Assistance Fund – COVID-19 for Southeast Alaska, or you can purchase it (Ebook or paperback) here

Rest away from the office.

As I cleaned my office for the first time in months, I came across notes from a book titled “Rest: Why you get more done when you work less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. One of the first quotes I wrote down is this: “Rest is not something that the world gives us. . .if you want rest, you have to take it.”

As I write this, dutifully obeying a Stay at Home Order from both my local and state governments due to COVID-19, it seems that maybe the world is giving us this rest period, should we choose to take it. This is not to diminish those that are suffering and those that are working to exhaustion. Many healthcare workers are putting themselves at risk on the front lines of caring for the sick and working to pure exhaustion. Other essential workers are working overtime while dealing with their own stresses and families. Even some of us less essential workers are working overtime to pivot our business models to continue serving our communities under new parameters. Many parents now have two full-time jobs between child care and working from home. Others are dealing with their own sickness, or that of a loved one.

Still, for the vast majority of us, things are slowing down. Many aspects of the lives we led a month ago are now on pause. Sure, there are a number of things you could be stressed about, but how could you also take a rest to let yourself recover from the stress and exhaustion that possibly ruled your life a month ago?

This might be in your own life. I have been cleaning and organizing papers that sat in stacks for a long time (hence the notes from Rest). There may be books on your night stand that you haven’t made the time to touch – maybe now is the time? Or that art project you haven’t gotten to? Maybe you have a business idea that you can pursue from home? Or an online class that peaked your interest but now it is easier to commit to?

Consider allowing for unscheduled time and see what happens. You could just sit there for a bit, or go for a long walk, and then do whatever you feel moved to do in the moment. You might feel bored. That might feel really uncomfortable. And it just might be really, really good for you.

You might also explore your work life. If you are working from home and have the flexibility to not work set hours each day, how can you mix up your day? When do you do your most productive work? How can breaks be used to your advantage? This will not work for everyone, but could for some, and you may have flexibility to multitask in a way that your office environment doesn’t allow.

I have found that I work in spurts of different types of work. Sometimes, I work for an hour at 4:45am before beginning my exercise routine (which just might be a bit of procrastination). When working on a deep-concentration project, I can only focus for a couple hours at a time, and then I break for a dog walk or shift to a different type of work. Last week I made brownies in the middle of a workday while listening to a webinar.

We all work differently and have different demands on our time. What feels best to you? You’ll probably need to experiment to find out.

Consider this, again from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in Rest: “When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: they organize their lives around their work, but not their days.” What would your day look like if it wasn’t organized around your work? If you now have kids at home that are getting in your way constantly, how might you work them in more than out? Or move your work around their schedule – and that of a partner?

If your life is a little slower paced right now, I hope you will also find joy in some creative energy, and in some rest. If worried about rest, I can almost guarantee that if you allow some rest now, you will come back stronger when you can get back to the office.

How to be successful without confidence.

What comes to mind when you think about confidence in yourself and others?

Is it positive? Do you view confidence as a good character trait? Do you wish you had more of it?

Or do you associate confidence negatively? Do you equate confidence with Ego? Do you shy away from it, believing that confidence is unbecoming?

Most people say that you need confidence to be successful. I agree…but only if we are very careful in how we view confidence. I don’t think that confidence is synonymous with self-importance nor thinking that you are good at what you set out to accomplish. You don’t need to think you are great at or will excel at what you aim to accomplish in order to succeed.

Defining confidence and success.  

“Confidence” can be defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”

“Success” can be defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

We not only can accomplish an aim without self-assurance, at many points in our lives we must do exactly that. We cannot be sure of our own ability until we have tried a few times. Yet, I think people often look at confidence as just this first part of the definition. Let’s look at the second part – to appreciate “one’s own abilities or qualities.” That doesn’t mean you have to think you are great. It simply means that to have confidence is to feel self-assured in your ability to try to achieve something. To feel that you are worthy and brave enough to try to get better.

So how does confidence relate then to success when viewed this way? First, I think it is helpful to view success as requiring different elements, which all must be present, for you to feel a sense of success.

Do you have what it takes to be successful?

What do you need to accomplish an aim or purpose that you set for yourself? One way to look at it is that you need these following three things to be successful. They are cumulative; none of them is sufficient alone.

  • Skill. To achieve, you actually need some skill in an area. But, guess what, we aren’t generally born with the skills necessary to lead our best lives. It takes time to build skill. This is where the next to pieces come in.
  • Emotional management. In order to get the skill set that will allow achievement that will build confidence, you need to be able to manage the emotions that will arise from putting yourself out there as you learn. Since learning is a lifelong process, the importance of emotional management does not dissipate. You may face criticism from others, and particularly from yourself during the skill-building process.
  • Self-talk and internal belief system. It’s kind of a catch-22 situation, but you need a basic level of belief about yourself to be able to be successful. You can be amazing at something, but if you don’t believe it then you will never feel successful.

If confidence is assurance from appreciating your abilities, then maybe confidence doesn’t actually mean that you think you are good at something. Maybe confidence is the backbone behind all of these three aspects of success. If you know you are still learning the skill necessary to accomplish your aim, then you are aware that you are not perfect but that practice is necessary. This underlying awareness will then give you the emotional tools to deal with failures that will come on your way to success at least most of the time.

What’s more, if you begin to think about confidence as an honest assessment of your ability, you can separate it from self-importance and work to incorporate the honest view into your life.

Here are some other tips to strengthen each block towards success.

Strengthening the building blocks of success.

Are you lacking in some of these areas? What can you do to improve? Here are some ideas.

  • Skill. You have a natural ability in some areas to do better than other people with very minimal effort. If you also enjoy these things, focusing energy on them will allow you to be skillful in a short amount of time with added advantage. This can be helpful to build skill, though it isn’t necessary. If you want to do something that you are not naturally good at, practice and conscious effort to improve can allow you to exceed your expectations (of course with some practical limitations – not all of us can do everything). Adam Grant decided in high school that he wanted to be a diver. After tryouts, his coach was honest with him: he lacked some of the most important qualities of successful divers. However, his coach followed up – he would match Adam’s effort in diving, putting as much into him as a coach as Adam put into training. Adam went on to win the state championships because of the practice he put in to building his skill set.
  • Emotional management. While we all respond differently to the emotions that come with trying to achieve, here are some ideas to strengthen your ability.
    • Start looking at fear as excitement and learn to love the exhilaration. This gets easier the more you put yourself out there, and can be practiced to build the muscle of not caring so much. I recently wanted to reach out to local medical practitioners to let them know about my health coaching practice. To start the conversation, I merely brought a letter and some brochures into different offices in town. Seems simple enough, but I was terrified when I started doing it. I was worried about what I would say and what they would think of me. However, on my second day it was no big deal at all. That initial fear was gone.
    • Here is just one example of an activity to help build your ‘getting out there’ muscle (courtesy of Phil Zimbardo): take a marker that will erase fairly easily and draw a small square on your forehead. Go about your day. People will question what it is and may want you to remove it. Just tell them it’s nothing, that you are just trying something out, and resist the temptation to clean it off.
    • Just do it. Don’t hesitate and let yourself create negative images. Fake it till you make it.
    • On the opposite spectrum from just doing it, do the written exercise of fear setting.
    • Use your body to convey a ‘can do’ attitude to your mind. Stand with hands on hips and your chest out for a few moments before facing something. Or, when in a conversation, maintain an open powerful posture with shoulders back.
  • Self-talk and internal belief system.
    • Affirmations have been shown to help. You can actually convince yourself of something if you keep repeating it to yourself. Think of a negative belief that you want to change and choose what you want to believe. Say it to yourself each morning and at other relevant times. Start with just one at a time.
    • Manifesting – imagine that you are already excellent at the skill. Close your eyes and picture yourself having achieved the result that you are working towards. How do you feel? Who is there? What do they say?
    • Remember that your intrinsic worth is separate form your abilities in your career, relationships, etc. You can try and fail without effecting your intrinsic worth.

Conclusion

Building confidence is an important part of achieving your goals, but that doesn’t mean you have to think of yourself as overly-important. Rather, you must believe that you are intrinsically valuable no matter what your current ability or quality, and you must be able to handle emotions that come with getting from here to there. The more you do it, the higher you will set those aims, and your life will get better and better as you realize what you can accomplish on the other side of your fear.