Email subject lines that I would love to see in my inbox.


SUBJECT: This is the shortest email you will ever read.

SUBJECT: Except for this one. Which is shorter.

SUBJECT: You are pretty and smart. No response required.

SUBJECT: Hey Alex! It’s me, Mister Rogers! Just kidding! I’ve been alive this whole time!

SUBJECT: Hey Alex! It’s me, Oscar Wilde! Me, too!

SUBJECT: Hey Alex! It’s me, God! You were right. I’m totally real.

SUBJECT: Greetings from RuPaul! Brunch? This Sunday? You, me, Fred and Oscar?

SUBJECT: Hey Alex! I had a question for you, but then I Googled it instead. No response required.

SUBJECT: Hey Alex! I had another question for you, but then I trusted my own intuition instead. No response required.

SUBJECT: Hey Alex! My intuition was totally right. As usual. No response required.

SUBJECT: Dear sir / madame. Your penis is exactly the right size. Carry on!

SUBJECT: I would like to unsubscribe from your mailing list but I’m going to be super nice about it and totally not yell at you in ALL CAPS.

SUBJECT: I am a robot and I did all your laundry. You may rest now. No response required.

SUBJECT: Open me for baby otters and also pandas.

SUBJECT: Alex, this is Bill Clinton. I’ve been thinking about that letter you wrote to me when you were 10. About the sharks. You were totally right. They are intelligent creatures and they deserve cleaner oceans and far more respect. XOXO. BK.

SUBJECT: INSTANT ORGASM FOREVER!!! Details = inside. (30% off. Black Friday Sale.)

SUBJECT: This email literally has five words.

SUBJECT: This email literally has three words.

SUBJECT: This email is literally just a photo of a baby duckling.

SUBJECT: Alex: This is your official reminder to take a break from answering emails & go write a book or something. Love, The Universe.


PS. Your fantasy email subject line. GO.


Read More Uncategorized

GOOD QUESTION: How can I create a clear “brand” and “message,” when I love to do so many different things?


Dear Alex,

I’m feeling lost.

I’ve poured years of my life into building a business that (I thought) would be a success.

I’m doing fine, but not as “fine” as I’d like.

It feels like squeezing water out of a stone every time I launch a product. I pour my heart and soul into the process, but nobody bites. I literally had ZERO sign ups after my last product announcement. Not fun.

After some reflection, I think I’ve diagnosed the problem. I’m trying to be and do too many things, at once. My message is scattered. My offerings are all over the place. I don’t even have a clear “job title.” No wonder people aren’t buying.

I know that I need to make some changes, but I’m not sure where to begin.

My question for you is:

How can I create a clear “brand” and “message,” when I love to do so many different things?

–[Please Don’t Use My Name]


Dear Lovely Anonymous Person,

I have a strong opinion about your conundrum. And my opinion may be… an unpopular one.

You asked:

How can I create a clear “brand” and “message,” when I love to do so many different things?

My answer is:

You can’t.

Clarity — by its very definition — requires sharpness, crispness and distillation. It requires subtraction, not addition.

If you want to have a clear brand and message — one that people can immediately grasp & get excited about — then you have to make some tough choices.

You have to commit to a particular path, and keep marching. You have to focus your energy. You have to do less and do it better.

In the historic speech that transformed our world, forever, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cries out, “I have a dream…” not “I have LOTS of dreams and let me tell you about ALL of them, right now!”

To communicate powerfully — and resonate deeply — you must exercise some constraint.

But… exercising constraint doesn’t mean that you are trapped in a tight little box for the rest of your life.

Picasso had his Blue Period, then his Rose Period, then his Cubism Period.

You can evolve through several iterations of your work, too.

But whatever period you’re in, right now? Be fully in that period.

Choose a dream. Choose a topic. Choose a job title. Choose a message. Commit.


“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.” ―Fred Rogers


“One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something.” –Henry David Thoreau


“Creativity is subtraction.” –Austin Kleon


“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” –Alexander Graham Bell


“You can have it all. Just not all at once.” ―Oprah Winfrey


Constraint is not a cage.

Ironically, it is the opposite.

Constraint is the choice… that will set your best work free.



PS. Fill in the blanks:

Right now, through my work, I am trying to ______________________.

That is my focal point. That is my cause. That is the primary miracle that I am trying to create.

And that is why, right now, my primary message is ______________________.

My message might change, in the future. But for now? THAT is IT.


Read More good question

“Teach people how to treat you.” How to write clear, loving policies for your business & life.


You teach people how to treat you.

You teach people how to communicate with you.

You can’t expect people to “guess” your policies, expectations, hopes and dreams.

You have to share them. Clearly.

You also have to enforce them. Consistently.

Otherwise, people won’t know what you want. They won’t know how to play with you. They will (probably) disappoint or frustrate you, and it won’t really be their “fault.”

This is a lesson that I have learned slowly… and with great difficulty. (I owe a great debt to Dr. Suzanne Gelb, a psychologist who has dramatically changed the way that I think about “enforcing boundaries and policies.” Her guidebooks, by the way, are true gems.)

In a few weeks, on my thirtieth birthday, I will be launching a brand new website, complete with new language, new offerings… and crystal-clear policies.

I feel nervous, but mostly excited. (Nervcited.)

I’d like to share a few of my new policies with you, today, along with my thoughts on how to craft clear, loving policies of your own.

Here we go…




In 2015, here is what you should know about working & playing with me:


My re-publishing policy.

If you see something on my website that resonates with you — an idea, a quote, a script — feel free to re-publish it on your own site, in your magazine, in your book, or anywhere else that you like.

You don’t have to reach out to me for permission. Just go for it!

All I ask is that you mention my name & link back to my website:


My advice policy.

I love sharing what I know & offering helpful advice as often as I can — but I do not give “free advice” via email.

Instead, I have an advice column. It’s called Good Question.

If you have a question that you’d like to see me answer in a future column, please send it to me.

I can’t answer every question that I receive, but if I choose to answer yours, I will send you a personal note to let you know.


My “tough love” cancellation policy.

If you are purchasing a ticket to one of my events, please know that your ticket is “non-refundable and transferrable.”

This is a fancy way of saying:

If your plans change, and you are no longer able to attend the event, you cannot “cancel” and then get a refund.

What you can do is: 1. Switch into a different event, if I have space. 2. Give your ticket to somebody else. 3. Sell your ticket to somebody else. It is your responsibility to find that “somebody else.”

I have been quite lenient on this policy in the past. No longer. This is firm. Tough love.

Bottom line: Just come. Don’t flake out. Be brave & show up. It’s good for the soul.


Thank you for reading my policies.

I enjoyed writing them, and I will enjoy enforcing them… with love.




1. Start with this question: “What is making me feel resentful?”

Resentment is a sensation that signals: “Something has got to change.”

Are clients constantly cancelling at the last moment? Are students flaking out on your workshops? Are people pestering you with an unnecessary amount of emails? Or sending messages that are long-winded and confusing?

Identify the moments in your day, week or month that trigger feelings of resentment. Those are the places where you’ll want to write some new policies.


2. Your next question is: “What are the questions that I get asked, repeatedly?”

Are people constantly emailing you, seeking free advice? Or asking for discounted rates? Or donations? Or asking you to do things that you don’t want to do?

If you’re feeling tired of answering the same questions, over and over, then you have an opportunity to clarify and tighten up your policies — or perhaps, create a set of Frequently Asked Questions — so that people understand how to play with you.


3. After that, ask yourself, “What are the questions that I WISH I was getting asked, repeatedly?”

Do you want more media bookings? Or more opportunities to speak onstage? Wish people were “quoting” you in their books and blog posts? Want people to hire you for a “new” kind of service?

People might not know that you want those kinds of things. You need to teach them.

So, write policies for the things that you want — even if you’re not getting them, yet.

Your words will act like magnets, drawing those kinds of opportunities to you.




Case studies.
Cell phone usage.
Classroom behavior.
Customer service.
Dinner time.
Following up.
Household chores.
Media appearances.
Re-publishing / re-using your work.
Rescheduling appointments.
Shared responsibilities.
Social media.
Working for free.

… for starters.




Resist the urge to “explain” or “justify” your policies.

Just state the facts.

There’s no need to describe the ten years of misery and personal growth that went into establishing those facts.


“In 2015, my rate is $250 an hour.”

Is much more clear & powerful than saying:

“After a great deal of thought and consideration, I have decided to raise my rates — slightly — in order to provide better service while honoring my commitment to self-care. This is why my rate will be going from $200 to $250 an hour. If you have any questions about this change, please let me know. In some instances, I will be willing to honor my old rate for long-time clients, as well as new clients with financial difficulties. I also offer packages of time, which leads to a lower hourly rate when you purchase in advance. [etc…]”

Don’t explain. Don’t waffle. Don’t apologize. Don’t create “exceptions” and “loopholes.” Don’t invite “questions” and “commentary.”

Just say what is true. Clearly. Simply. No additional fluff.

Teach people what to expect from you.

Teach people how to treat you.




PS. Are you changing a personal or business policy in the New Year? What’s the new policy?


Read More business // acceleration

Please ask yourself this question before you choose the “format” for your next product, service, art project, or heart project.


Here it is:

“What is the effect that I want to have on people?”

Start there.

Or, to frame the question differently:

“What kind of impact do I want to have?”

“What kind of experience do I want to create?”

“How do I want people to feel?”


If you want to create an experience of connection, intimacy, closeness, tribal communion…

Is an e-course with hundreds of participants and zero face-to-face contact really going to create that kind of effect?

Maybe a private, invitation-only salon in your home, with twelve people, is a much better choice.


If you want people to feel energized, lit up, clear, ready to take action NOW…

Is a 5,000 word essay, full of charming stories and tumbling side-rambles, really going to inspire that kind of feeling?

Maybe a brief, heartfelt, three-line manifesto, with tremendous economy of language, is a much better choice.


There are no “good” formats or “bad” formats.

There is only the optimal format for the specific experience that you want to create.

What is the experience that you want to create, for your audience? (Your audience of one… or one thousand… or more?)

Decide that, first.

The right format will be obvious and clear, once you know.



How I met the love of my life. {A true story… about what happens when you say what is true.}


One year ago, at 1pm Pacific Standard Time, I met the love of my life.

(Side note: he’s even cuter in person. Side-side note: he’s a chef and he’s making me a pan-seared duck breast with a red wine reduction… right now. But I digress.)


On our first date, I wore a shirt with an owl on it. I was shaking, slightly. Too much caffeine. He was so nervous he could barely speak.

We got sandwiches and walked through the park. We talked about life. We talked about books. We talked about one of our mutual passions: cheese.

We fell in love and there was no effort involved.

It was simple and it keeps getting simpler.

It was good and it keeps getting better.

It was love. Still is.

Now, it’s deeper.


When people ask how we met, I tell them, “an online dating website”. People often seem surprised.

They ask, “How long did it take before you met each other?” The answer: “About two or three weeks”.

The next question is usually, “Whoa… What did you put in your profile?”

What did I put?

I put the truth.

I wrote:
I aspire to be the kind of person that Mister Rogers would be proud to call his “neighbor”. Some days, I succeed.

I like heart-shaped crystals, almond croissants, pumpkin spice lattes and smartphone-free dinner parties.

Professionally-speaking, I’m a writer. Of books & things.

I’ve been told I have a pretty epic smile.

I believe in love. The forever kind.

You should message me if…

: You are curious & thoughtful, but not cynical.

: You would describe yourself as a “world-class hugger”.

: You still believe in love. Even though. Even when. Even now.


I also expressed — by ticking the appropriate boxes in my profile setting — that I was interested in a long-term relationship.

Not short-term-and-let’s-see-where-this-goes. Not casual. Long. Term. Love.

That was the truth, so that’s what I put.


This is significant because “telling the truth” was not something I’d ever… really… done before.

At least, not when it came to romantic relationships.

Embarrassing, but true.


I spent my twenties meandering through a series of relationships with people who were wonderful, charming, smart and beautiful. People who were perfect for somebody. But not right for me.

I take responsibility for all of the not-rightness, because I never really told the truth.

Either with an outright lie, with vague language, or by omission, I would fail to express what I really wanted.

Instead, in a somewhat desperate (but totally understandable and very human) effort to feel loved, I would try to be… whatever they wanted.


“Oh, so you’re not into ‘relationships’ and just want to have casual sex? And never meet any of my friends? Sounds great! When do we start?”

“Oh, so you and your husband have an open relationship, and you’re looking for an occasional girlfriend-on-the-side? Dream come true! Where do I sign?”

“Oh, so you don’t like saying the words ‘I love you’ to anyone? I can roll with that. Who needs those kinds of words, anyway?”


Words are like magnets.

When you say something that isn’t true, you get something that isn’t right.

I learned this lesson slowly. But I learned it well.

And finally, a little over one year ago, when I crafted my profile and put the absolute truth about what I wanted – true love. deep love. big love. with one person. forever. – I magnetized someone who wanted the same kind of love.

I am sure that lots of people read my profile and thought, “Whoa. Chill out, lady. Forever-and-ever love? How about we do coffee and see where it goes?” Those people did not write to me.

But one man read my profile and thought, “You’re the one I’ve been dreaming about”. He wrote to me.

And that was that.


That’s how it happens, you know?

This is the power of language. This is the kind of miracle that can happen when you communicate with clarity and honesty.

This is, ultimately, what I am trying to teach when I lead workshops, when I write advice columns, when I coach people who struggle to express themselves clearly.

Just say what is true.

Say it with love. Say it as simply as you can.

Like you are speaking to a child. Like you are speaking to a friend.

Just say what is true.

And that which belongs with you… will be drawn to you.


PS. Brandon, my true love, approves this message.


Read More devotion // liberty