How to Listen to Your Inner Wisdom

How to Listen to Your Inner Wisdom

Has a leadership coach or self-help guru ever said to you, “You have all the answers inside of you; you just need to listen?” 

Upon hearing this, I usually roll my eyes. 

Please, I’m a smart cookie. If my intuition or whatever tried to speak to me during this crossroads, I would tell myself, I’d have heard it by now. But I’m still lost as to what to do. I’m still floundering. So she must not be speaking my language. 

But at a retreat a few years ago seriously changed my tune. Here’s what went down: 

I attended a women’s weekend retreat in Calistoga, California. Hosted by my lovely friend, speaker and author Shasta Nelson, this was about getting away, diving deep and learning how to listen to that quiet little voice that (seemingly) speaks a foreign language to me. 

Fueled by prompts, deep questions and fun exercises, we did a lot of journaling. Some of it was led by out guts, some of it was more thoughtful. We used words and images to wake up our inner wisdom and get it talking. Some of the work didn’t make sense at first….until it did and the insights cracked open right in front of me. 

While I’m not a “woo woo” kind of gal, I have to admit: it worked. 

The topics I journaled about, the images I was unknowingly drawn to, the words that popped into my head–they all pointed me to the same conclusions for how to spend my year.  True, some of these themes had been marinating for months, but I still craved clarity and direction. It dawned on me that I already had direction, but lacked  the confidence and permission to do what my soul was crying out to be done. I was too wrapped up in other people’s expectations and self-invented pressures. Doing the work shed those layers and forced me to face the core truth, with flashing neon lights pointing me in the right direction. 

I think I actually heard my soul huff in exhaustion, “Finally! She gets it!” 

What I uncovered is less important than how it was revealed. Like a lightning bolt, I finally got it. When people say, “You have all the wisdom you need inside of you,” all they mean is that… 

When you take the time to journal, or ponder, or use your gut to find images or words that speak to you (for whatever reason), themes will emerge.  (TWEET THIS!)

And you have to parse out and pay attention to those themes. While I was guided by activities and prompts all weekend, in the end, no one led me to these conclusions but my own subconscious. There was no therapist, guru or teacher spoon-feeding me these ideas. No one else but me came to those conclusions in my own heart and mind. 

This, my friends, THIS is what they mean by tapping into your inner wisdom.  

So how can you as a leader or entrepreneur, do it, too? I’m clearly not an expert, but here’s what worked for me: 

  1. Write down your thoughts. Yes, not everyone likes to journal, but you can’t believe the power of getting the slush and mud out of your head and onto paper. Feeling angry for no reason? Write it down. Have a daydream or desire? Write it down? Want to feel a certain way, even though you’re not sure what action it takes to get you there? Write it down. A sentence, a paragraph, a word, Whatever. If writing is not your thing, perhaps use simple one-word descriptors or images. The important thing is to get the chaos out of your head so you can examine it and find the patterns. It’s amazing what your subconscious is trying to tell you, but like a toddler, it can’t always find the right words, so it needs your help. 
  2. Find some quiet: Your wisdom is struggling for to speak to you: you just can’t hear it above the constant noise in your life. Turn off the phone, shut down email and go for a walk, sit by the beach or just lie on your couch with a warm latte in your hand. We try so hard to numb our confusion with external distraction that we can never discover what our body and intuition yearns to reveal. Maybe we’re scared. Maybe we’re lonely. But finding the quiet is essential to hearing the small voice inside of you. I have a rule of never listening to music while I walk my dog by the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. I spend that time listening, dreaming and pondering in silence. It is truly a delicious luxury. 
  3. Share your journey: This one can be especially scary. But sometimes the best insights can come from hashing it out verbally with someone. Open up about your fears, dreams, and dilemmas with a trusted friend and as you do, you’ll find your own truths will reveal themselves as you talk it out. Introverts may not love this idea, but as an extrovert, I can tell you that some of my best ideas have come from talking things out. Forcing yourself to verbalize your desires and challenges (especially if you hate writing, see #1 above) helps you to clearly focus on the real issues. This is why talk therapy works so well. Try connecting in person with a confidante and instead of dishing about our latest Netflix obsession, spend time sharing what’s coming up for you in terms of direction and desire. You may surprise yourself. 

Want some help crafting a juicy and delicious brand story for your business, or finding just the right words to intrigue your audience? Take a look at what we can do together and let’s chat! 

How to Break the Rules of Success

Be a maverick. Break the rules of success.

Everyone applauds mavericks and innovators for breaking the rules when it comes to products or technology.  It’s the classic Cinderella story. And we celebrate this image of the lone wolf, standing on a TED stage, sharing with the world how he or she refused to listen and followed their own heart to find success. 

We tend to think of technology companies or big thinkers with huge global acclaim when we envision this inspirational story.  

Some of you might believe you can’t be such sexy mavericks in your own industry. I mean, what can a wellness coach, website designer, or financial planner really do to break the rules and innovate? 

I’d like to encourage you to think bigger about breaking the rules. 

For too long, the myth of the maverick has been stuck on replay: Compete. Be fearless. Invent something new. Take no prisoners. Be relentless. Hustle. Move. Go. Go. GO!   

But here’s the thing: you can be a maverick, a true innovator, by breaking the rules… of success and achievement.  (TWEET THIS!)

You can show that vulnerability is sexy (thank you, Corey Blake!) and endear yourself to your clients or community. 

You can use empathy and compassion, not more paid ads, shiny objects or get-rich-quick courses to build a stronger community and attract raving fans. 

You can prioritize quiet time, family time or creative time and still keep forward momentum. 

You can patiently achieve your goals and still make space to rethink and reinvent without constant hustling, “crushing” anything, or grinding yourself into the ground.  

You can use your success–at any level–to make the world a better place. You don’t have to wait until you have Oprah or Branson influence. 

You can be scared, confused, lost, and unsure when tackling any challenge. And admit to the world that you are doing so. Calling fear out by name, publicly, can fuel your resolve and drain its most potent power: the power to make you turn back or never try at all. 

You have the power today to be an innovator and rewrite your story of success so that it works for you.  

So what’s your story going to be? 

The Stubborn Person’s Guide to Creating Habits

The Stubborn Person's Guide to Habits

I’m stubborn and it’s hard for me to change.

We can have the best of intentions, but if we can’t make healthy habits stick, the results will always be the same.

Apply this to any habit you might be trying to create: updating social media on a regular basis, finding time to focus on writing, sending invoices every week, working out 3x per week, drinking more water.

Flossing every night.

Yes, at 46 years old, I had still not been able to create a nightly habit of flossing. I make my preschooler do it every night, and so, feeling guilty at not being a proper role model, and being sick of every single 6 month dentist visit ending in a lecture, this stubborn girl finally made it happen.


Well, what do stubborn people often need? To prove their point.

After my last dentist visit six months ago, I issued myself a data-driven challenge:

I will floss every night until my next dental visit and see if she can tell the difference.

This was purely a scientific experiment, a competition in which I would know if I was right or wrong.

In order to not “skew the results,” I had to do it every night. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Even when I was tired. Even when I thought I could cheat.

“You can’t prove the theory right or wrong with biased data,” I told myself. See, stubbornness has it benefits.

And what happened? I stayed mum at my recent dentist visit. After cleaning, the hygienist remarked, “Wow, your gums are in great shape. No bleeding! Things look really healthy in there.”

So… I had proved that flossing does make a difference.

But more than: After doing something for approximately 182 days, for whatever reason, solidified this habit. I literally cannot go to sleep now without flossing!

Habit accomplished.

When you look at a habit as a scientific experiment or a challenge, this can awaken a more logical side of your brain (totally not a neuroscientist here, but this is my theory). For me, I activated my curiosity and competitiveness. If I could prove once and for all whether flossing every night really impacted my dental health, then I could put this issue to bed forever.

Next time you want to create a habit in your life, think about it as a personal challenge. Approach it logically, gather the data and aim to prove someone WRONG. (Tweet this!)

Experts tell you to post on Instagram 3x a week comment on 90 other posts daily? Give it a shot for 3 months just to prove them wrong.

Experts tell you to eat more oatmeal to lower your cholesterol. Give it a shot for 3 months just to prove them wrong.

And yet another great option to create good habits: Try out Sarah Von Bargen’s fabulous Make it Stick Habit School for an alternate and fun way to form lasting habits.

More articles you may like on forming healthy habits for your life and business:

Make good habits stick: A chat with Sarah Von Bargen
Why you need to untangle your brain
5 ways to make marketing more enjoyable
Check out for a wonderful piece on habits!

7 ideas for how to make tough decisions

7 Tips for Making Tough Decisions

We very rarely, if ever, get to make a major life decision and live with it as reality – before it is undone. We often wish we could “try decisions on” and then turn back the clock if we change our minds.

Why? Because it’s one thing to talk about a choice and quite another to actually DO IT.

This is a rather personal story about what it’s like to feel a real decision and then have it unmade.

In 2011, I found out I was pregnant. It was completely unexpected, as I just happened to go to the doctor for my annual physical and told him I was late. “Let’s run a pregnancy test to be sure.”

I half-listened to the doctor’s voicemail, knowing it would be negative.  “Your test came back positive. You’re very early, about 5 weeks, I’d say, but congratulations. Let’s talk about next steps.”

You must understand the current state of affairs. My husband and I had talked about kids but were not even close to a final decision. I’d had a major health crisis a few years prior and, in the aftermath, we leaned toward no kids. Still, I always wondered what it would be like. Sweet cuddles and fun adventures balanced with sleep-deprivation and no more freedom to take off at a moment’s notice.

But there was no way to predict how I would actually feel if/when it happened.

Until it was real.

I vividly remember driving to lunch to meet a friend that day with a new found sense of safety to do the speed limit. And wondering, “How do I do this? Who do I tell first?”

Mind you, I had left my husband a message that I had something to talk to him about at home. But no way was I going to drop this bomb over voicemail.

At lunch, it felt weird to tell my good friend, but good to share it with someone. Me. A pregnant woman?! Between our shock, we giggled.

As the excruciating hours passed before my husband got home, I settled into the idea. No more imagining. This was happening. How did I feel? I sat with my emotions in this new reality for about 8 hours before my husband knew anything. Panic. Excitement. Shock. But the overwhelming emotion? Joy. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Then later that afternoon…

Some light bleeding. Maybe this decision was being undone right before my eyes? Fear. Dread.

My husband came home and I told him. But with a caveat that “this might all be going south.”  He reeled from the shock but also expressed concern about me.

And then….it all unraveled.  Light bleeding turned to heavy turned to emergency doctor calls and then finally, that last callback where a total stranger, the on-call doctor, said out loud what I dreaded to hear.

Two days later, an exam at the doctor’s confirmed it. There had been a very early pregnancy but it was over now. No baby.

The decision had been undone. 

But it gave me what I needed to be sure about my choice. And now we have a beautiful almost 5 year old boy.

This story is not just about the 48 hour pregnancy. It’s about how we make decisions.

And what we really want when we have to make especially tough ones is to understand how our final choice will make us feel. (TWEET THIS!)

We rarely get visceral certainty. We can only speculate with what we know right now. We really wish we could marry that guy, start that business or take that job and get a taste of it before we truly commit.

We often cannot.

We have to examine both choices from two angles:

  • How will I feel if I do make that choice?
  • How will I feel if I don’t make that choice?

You don’t often get the luxury of emotionally and physically stepping into that reality before you decide. So you have to do your best to imagine. But even that can trick your brain, because I’m telling you, the emotions I felt that day were not even close to what I imagined.

So what can we do? Short of being able to go back in time…

Here are 7 ideas for how to make a tough decision:

  • Gather the right information. Get enough data to make a balanced, informed choice… but then stop. There comes a point where you start simply seeking data that confirms what you already want to do!
  • Use pro and con lists wisely. Such lists are okay as inputs, but they’re not a useful decisioning tool, so say Chip and Dan Heath in their book Decisive. We often construct those lists with an existing bias. And sometimes that one pro is worth way more than all of those cons (or vice versa!)
  • Get a similar perspective. Talk to people who’ve been through it and probe about their before and after. Especially if they possess a similar worldview to yours. But remember, they are not you. You are not them.
  • Trust your gut on how you may react if it happens….and if it does not. When you tell yourself “This is happening” or “This is not happening” take note of your physiology and mood.  Sometimes, you actually already know!
  • Ask others to notice for you: When you describe the dilemma, ask your friends to notice how you talk: voice pitch, facial expressions, body language They may tell you that you are already pointing out all the negatives of one option, or that your face lights up for the other.
  • Make all things equal. Great for deciding between two options. Ask yourself what you would do if most things were equal. For example, when faced with two different kindergartens for our son, one close to our house, one 20 minutes away. I asked myself, “Which would I choose if the commute were not a factor?” When put in those terms, I didn’t even hesitate, which told me what I needed to know. We made the decision to put up with the longer commute.
  • Take the leap. Or don’t. At a certain point, just decide. You only know what you know right now, so stop trying to predict the future. While it is true that we often regret more of the things we did not do, than those we did do, you just need to make a call. Often, we can adapt to whatever decisions we make.

P.S. While this post is about making decisions, if the topic brought up anything difficult for you around miscarriage, please find some resources right here:

For those in the UK, this may help.

Emotional support after miscarriage.

After a miscarriage: Surviving Emotionally from the American Pregnancy Association

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Representation Matters

Be Resilient. Stretch. Adapt. Succeed.

If motherhood has taught me any important lesson that has benefitted my business the most, it is this:

Be resilient.

My son is now four-and-a-half and he tests my patience, grace and sanity on a daily basis.

But he’s also taught me how to think on my feet, come up with creative solutions, adapt on the fly and roll with the punches.

Yes. Motherhood has made me elastic. ☺

When he won’t do as he’s told, I come up with creative ways to motivate him into action. No, yelling does not work most of the time, but I sometimes forget that. NOTE: My on-the-fly winning games and stories will be fodder for future children‘s books, mark my words!

When he’s hurt or upset, I put down what I’m doing and focus on him – no small feat for me. I have learned to adapt to quickly shifting my attention.

When he asks questions that stump me (“Mommy, what does ‘ever’ mean?”) I dig deep, think hard and learn how to explain things in a new way (or figure out where to look them up.)

All of these actions require resilience. I must stretch and bend to be creative, thoughtful and innovative.  I must not let failure or the unexpected knock me down.

And, damn, it feels good to flex those muscles!

There is no better lesson for anyone in business.

Resilience is a trickster: It helps you stand firm against the wind while still propelling you forward at the same time. (TWEET THIS!)

The winds will knock you. Work will paralyze you. Failures will upend you. But never stop growing, expanding, stretching, learning…..all while STANDING TALL.

Learn how to bounce back from criticism and failure. Or at least learn how to keep you head up and filter criticism so you can find the seeds of improvement.

Read more about varied topics. Dive deep. Go beyond the surface and fluff.

When you get stuck, learn how to extend out and grab inspiration.

Photo by Swaraj Tiwari on Unsplash

How to Feel Less Busy and Get More Done: A Chat with Laura Vanderkam

Do you feel like you never have enough time?
Are you so crazy busy, you can’t get anything done?
Do you feel like the weeks are zipping along in a chaotic, unmemorable haze?

What would it feel like to get it all done and still find time for the important stuff: self-care, quality time with your kids, a walk in the park? You know…time freedom? Time when you feel “off the clock.” 

That time freedom is so alluring…and so elusive. Or is it?

I am thrilled to share my interview with time management and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam. Laura is the author of several books, including the new Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. She is the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the podcast Best of Both Worlds. Her TED talk, “How to gain control of your free time,” has been viewed more than 6 million times. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four (!!!)children, and blogs at  

Yeah, so she personally and professionally knows a lot about managing time.

Her book was amazing. More than practical and data-driven time management advice, it is a profound look at time nourishment: How to slow down time, create precious memories and savor each moment of every day, no matter if you’re at work or at play.

We covered it all in the video interview below: Where your time really goes, how to keep a time diary so you can feel time abundant versus time scarce, why planning actually gives you more freedom, how to slow down time, and practical tips for being more productive while savoring more of your life and creating memories.

If you yearn to feel less busy while getting more done, making time to enjoy your days, watch the video interview below! 

YouTube video

Highlights include: 

  • What Laura learned when 900 people with full time jobs and families tracked their time for a day – and what she has learned about herself by keeping a time diary for three years.  
  • Why equally busy people can feel time abundant versus time scarce and why some have time for everything and can feel “off the clock” more often while others feel stressed, manic and unproductive.  
  • Why our generation “feels” busier (7:42) “The issue is not that we’re busier, but that we have leisure time which we’re just chopping up throughout the day and that our quest for constant stimuli in wasted activity, like checking our phones, actually robs us of more intentional, thoughtful uses of our time. 
  • Why fun takes effort! Why the best planners are those who also have the most freedom with their time…and why freedom does not mean having no obligations. (10:14) 

“We don’t want our fun to take effort, but when we don’t put effort into our fun we only get effortless fun. In the long run, the effortless fun isn’t really all that memorable or enjoyable.” (TWEET THIS!)

  • Pro tip: Front-load your week to get more of the important stuff done (16:47) 
  • Our remembering selves and our anticipating selves are the keys to making time move more slowly. Why our human brains can’t actually be blissful “in the moment” and why that’s totally okay! (19:14) 
  • What being “in the moment really means” to create a lasting memory. And why you shouldn’t always listen to your “experiencing” self when making decisions about how to spend your time. (22:42)
  • How to get yourself out of the victim mentality of time happening to “you” – and the surprising lesson you will learn from a woman with 18 month-old triplets who tracked her time to discover she had 3 hours of personal time every day! (24:30) 
  • Why everyone should track their time. And why you might not want to because you’re clinging to a false story or source of identity: “I’m a busy entrepreneur or I give everything to my family so I have no time for myself!” (26:20) 
  • Balancing planning and routine with memory-making. How to make everyday tasks more memorable with a “mindset toward adventure” (30:10) 
  • Research that explains why the years fly by now but high school seemed like it lasted forever! (31:23) 
  • How to create “conscious artifacts” (35:14) 
  • Why intentional moments of nothing can make time feel plentiful. (36:34 ) 

And don’t miss Laura’s tactical pro tips to make more time and do more of what you love – including how to do Friday Planning Sessions. (41:32 )  

“Expectations and demands are infinite, but time is finite. You’re always choosing and you have to choose open space.” (TWEET THIS!)

Did any of Laura’s advice change your thinking, like it did for me? How do you currently manage your busy schedule or where do you have challenges? Reply back to this email and let me know! 

Your Dream is Not Dead Yet

About two years ago, we had our new house landscaped, front and back. We’re talking major overhaul.

One of the plants our designer had recommend was a Pride of Madeira. It’s a bold, big, round plant commonly seen here in Northern California that can quickly get unwieldy if not properly maintained. But when it is properly loved, the purple conical flowers look so lovely amidst all that green.

We planted two in the backyard and two in the front.

The backyard ones quickly consumed the yard and, instead of offering up their lovely purple cone-shaped blooms, simply grew into unwieldy large green bushes. My husband tried pruning it the way he’d read about online, but nothing seemed to happen. We decided to rip those out and replace them with other options, as well as one of the ones in the front that was quickly threatening to take over our neighbor’s driveway.

There was one in the front, however, that we left along the side of the driveway. My husband worked on it when he could. But two seasons passed with no purple blooms. And it was just too big. We read that our big mistake had been not pruning these plants often enough in the beginning. The green leaves took over, hogging vital nutrients the purple flowers needed to bloom. My husband made a few attempts on this last surviving one, but still…nothing.

“Rip it out,” I begged my husband. “There are no blooms. You tried to prune it, but the flowers are just dead. They won’t come in now” I thought it must be beyond saving and didn’t want this big green monstrosity in the front yard anymore.

And then…..

This past year, my husband tried one more time and really hacked at it. It looked anemic. But, finally, as it overnight, huge purple blooms spread across the bush. It was stunning. (See photo above)

The plant wasn’t dead yet. It just wasn’t properly nurtured.

The lesson here is not to keep banging your head against the wall in futility about a dream or a goal. The lesson is simply this:

Don’t give up on your dreams and goals before they are given the proper chance to bloom.  (TWEET THIS!)

Take a look at all avenues and be honest with yourself and what you’ve done to achieve them before you decide it is no longer viable. We gave half-assed attempts at nurturing this plant and too quickly said, “It’s done. It’s over.” That was on us. And saying things like, “I’m too old” or “I’m not smart enough” or “I don’t have the right connections” are simply excuses, not realities.

Before you give up on your business, book, or big idea, remember: Your dream may not be dead yet. It might just need some extra loving care and the right nutrients before it can bloom.

Photo credit: Maria Ross

Managing Entrepreneurship and Motherhood: A Chat with Sara Dean

How do you juggle the dueling demands of parenthood and running your own business or career? Are you managing it with aplomb or do you feel like a crazy person most of the time?

I admit to the latter.

See, I had this image of running my own business and doting on my sweet babe with grace and ease. Reality quickly set in and I have never, ever felt that kind of pressure before. An imaginary timer would start counting down from the moment I woke up to the minute I went to bed…and there was never enough time to do anything well.

I remember being a guest on a globally-recognized podcast while my newborn yelled in the background with the sitter I had to hire just for the call…and conducting another phone interview by headset while breastfeeding. Not to mention scrambling to finish client work in stolen moments of time because my son arrived earlier than expected.

The good news is that my little man has taught me more about prioritization, negotiation and setting boundaries than any self-help guru or leadership class ever could. 

Which is why I was thrilled to talk and laugh with shameless mom Sara Dean: Author, speaker, podcaster, and host of the top-ranked The Shameless Mom Academy podcast.

She coaches women on how to reclaim their identities and live bigger, bolder and braver #everydamnday.

We covered it all in the video interview below: Unrealistic expectations, owning your space, modern motherhood, the myth of balance, why men have less flexibility than women, prioritization, goal setting and how we ALL can support working moms (and dads) everywhere.

We also talked about how mothers make the best employees and how leaders who are moms get so good at negotiation, they could create world peace in days!

Sara’s golden nugget of wisdom:

Give yourself space and grace to figure out what you want BUT take radical responsibility to take one action every day to get you closer to your goals. (Tweet This!)

If you struggle to juggle your business, family and personal life–or simply want to be more productive and efficient–please click below to enjoy this video:

YouTube video

Highlights include:

How the “magical motherhood” picture was a myth and how Sara turned things around to reclaim her work and life (5:45): “I got really clear on how I was going to divide my time.”

What modern motherhood looks like, why even men don’t have as much flexibility – and why moms make the best employees and leaders (10:30): “What I love about modern motherhood is that it looks like whatever the heck you want it to look like!” and “Our next President should be a mom with six kids!”

Why balance is not real and how to think about “seasons” instead. And why the hustle and grind philosophy doesn’t work for everyone (16:52)

Sara’s foolproof tips and tools for planning and goal-setting (20:55): “What are the three things that will lead to revenue today?”

What each of us–and society­–can do to support entrepreneurial (and working) moms and dads (24:21): “What would systemically go a long way to support women and men in growing their success is to really check ourselves on our own judgment. Be supportive.”

How we can support each other (27:19): “The more we can be supportive for each other, the more we can own our space, own our decisions and own what we’re doing.”

How to look at others’ successes without falling into a jealousy trap or downward spiral. And how to own what you are doing (30:12): “I want to model what I think women should be doing. If you have a major accomplishment, let people know! I’m not going to apologize for success building.”

Why your personal story is everything if you want more publicity and growth (34:16): “Connect your story to where you are now and the gifts you’re giving to the world.”

How to take radical responsibility for all your “Yes’s” and “No’s” – and how to get good at saying no in a graceful way. HINT: Stop talking so much! (47:290: “Give yourself space and grace to figure out what you want to do. But also, that doesn’t mean you have the excuse of space and grace to not do anything, or not take action for a really long time. With the space and grace, have the radical responsibility of taking action. Do one thing every day that gets you closer to a goal.” 

What did you think of this video? How do you currently manage motherhood and your business, work or career? Drop me a line over on over on Twitter or the Facebook page and let me know!



Sara Dean is the creator and host of the Shameless Mom Academy Podcast, which has been featured in 5 categories of iTunes New & Noteworthy for almost 2 years now, and is rapidly approaching one million downloads.  Sara’s biggest passion is helping women own their space.  After enduring her own identity crises following the birth of her son, Sara took her background in psychology/health/ wellness and rebuilt her identity, one step at a time.  Sara motivates and inspires women to stop shrinking and start growing.  She is on a mission to inspire women and moms, in particular, to live bigger, bolder, braver #everydamnday.

The Myth of Authenticity

The Myth of Authenticity

Be authentic. Have an authentic brand. I want to be seen as authentic.

Everyone’s all about “authenticity” these days. Which really hasn’t changed all that much since I first blogged about this in 2011. And yet, marketers and entrepreneurs are still fretting out about it.

It’s time to bust this myth of authentic branding, once and for all.

Authentic is not something you can BE. It is a way of being that is unique to whatever you already are, what you deliver or how you serve people.

Trying to be “authentic” is like trying to “be original.” An original what? Authentic to what? How does this show up in the world?

When experts advise you to be authentic, all they are really saying is to be who you are.  Play to your true strengths. Don’t try to slap on “coat of brand paint,” as I like to say. This is the very reason why your brand must be lived from the inside out.

Some confuse authenticity with transparency, or homemade, or natural. If that is who your brand and business really are, then, yes. You are being authentic if you convey that vibe. But if you are truly a loud, obnoxious and rabble-rouser, your brand can convey those traits and “authentically” be that, too.

All authentic really means is that you walk your talk and deliver what you promise.(TWEET THIS!)

It’s not an “end state” to aspire to, it’s a way of being what you already are and showing that to your audience. Period.

What I believe entrepreneurs and marketers often mean when they say they desire an “authentic” brand is that they want to be seen as down-to-earth, conversational, approachable, open or direct. If so, then use those attributes. Don’t say authentic. It should be a given that your brand walks its talk.

You can be an elite, exclusive, downright snobby brand and, if that’s truly what your organization delivers and what you convey in all of your messaging and design, then it is an authentic brand as well.

And please don’t take things too far! Being authentic is also not the same as having no filter. It’s not an excuse to forget about your audience’s needs and what would be valuable for them. Personally, I don’t find an Instagram feed full of what a thought leader ate for breakfast “authentic.” To me, that’s just egotistical. If, however, showing me the “behind the scenes” glimpses offers value, then great. Share the story, lesson, or failure so I can learn something. Heck, make me laugh or inspire me. That’s adding value, too. Be real…as long as it’s genuine to who you are AND in service to the promise you made your audience.

Authenticity is not a state to be achieved that means one thing. Authentic is a qualifier: Your brand is authentically….what?

Soul-Sucking or Soul-Stirring?

A good friend of mine had to let one of her best friendships go.

They’d had a good run. But recently, things got hard. This friend was dragging her down with negativity and selfishness, constantly putting my friend in the position of cheerleader. Worse, she stole my friend’s joy about her own happiness and success. This left no room for my friend’s own needs in the relationship.

The whole deal just became a chore.  My friend left their meet-ups sad, cranky and tired. Like a black cloud had descended upon her. It would take her days to recover.

That, my friend, is soul-sucking. Something that literally sucks the life right out of you.

We all have soul-sucking relationships, not just with people but with behaviors and tasks, too. Maybe yours include doing your books, binging on unnecessary purchases or sweets–both of which you know you’ll regret later– just to make yourself feel better, writing blog posts…or cleaning the toilet.

Soul-sucking is not always obvious. Sometimes it disguises its clever self as need, ambition, progress or even love and commitment.

  • The social media you religiously post with a sigh because you think you have to do it to promote your business.
  • The many “pick your brain” coffee dates you commit to because you can’t say no.
  • The client who pays a ton of money but fights you at every turn…and doesn’t appreciate you.

We often confuse soul-sucking for soul-stirring. We confuse difficult work, anger, drama or resentment with passion. (TWEET THIS!)

Why? Maybe because we believe that anything that keeps us busy moves us forward.  That, if it’s difficult, it must be worth it.

And from personal experience, I once believed a very toxic, soul-sucking relationship was soul-stirring because it was dangerous, unpredictable and volatile. I mean, fireworks, right? Surely that’s love! Except all those sparks only burned me over and over again.

What does soul-sucking look and feel like?

  • You approach it as an obligation rather than a joyful necessity.
  • Time stands still when you do it or are with that person. It seems interminable.
  • You would never do it if you had a choice.
  • Stomachache. Anger. Regret. Dread. Shame.

But what does soul-stirring look and feel like?

  • Time flies by and you’re in the zone.
  • You get more creative, innovative and energetic.
  • You feel alive, tingling, and utterly free.

If you feel overwhelmed, take a thoughtful look at how you spend your time–and with whom you spend it.

Here are some tips for banish soul-sucking behaviors from your work and life:

Maybe you’ll find that what you thought was good for your business….or soul….is actually killing it, little by little. 

It’s time to recommit to the good kind of soul drama!