I was sitting alone on my couch with my broken leg bound up like a mummy, swollen from recent surgery, bleary and woozy from painkillers.
It had not been…the best week ever.
I felt grateful that I’d broken my fibula and not my spine. Grateful to be alive. And also, lonely and a little nervous.
Nervous I would never be able to run or jog or dance again. Nervous that I would fall behind on work, that my income would suffer, which (as a self-employed person) I couldn’t afford to let happen. Nervous about so many things.
I lived at the top of a steep flight of concrete stairs with no elevator, which meant I was temporarily “trapped” in my apartment and couldn’t leave for a while. I didn’t have family nearby. My partner (at the time) was at work.
I was alone. All alone with my thundering thoughts, an unsettling place to be.
Then, a knock at the door.
It was my friend Justin. Coming by, just to check in and say hi.
And he brought me a sandwich.
The scent hit my nostrils and I realized: between the accident, the ER, the surgery, and all the meds, I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in days. That sandwich was gone very quickly.
He asked how I was doing. I answered honestly. I’m actually feeling pretty anxious.
Justin looked me straight in the eyes and said, “It’s going to be okay. I’m here for you. You have friends who care about you. We are going to help you get through this. And you will be stronger than ever.”
Justin visited for about 15 minutes and then left. I felt different than before. Calm. Steady. More hopeful.
It’s incredible what a sandwich and a few minutes of compassion can do for a person who is hurting and a little scared.
Justin’s tiny act of kindness changed my attitude and, really, changed my whole year.
Big actions are important.
Tiny actions are so important, too.
The call. The text. The moment of undivided attention. The hand to hold. The sandwich.
Tiny things create big ripples.
Go bring a sandwich to someone today. Or your own personal version of a “sandwich.”
It might make a huge difference.
It could change their whole day. Maybe even change their whole life.
A couple weeks ago, I was recording a promotional video with a colleague of mine.
I’m based in Hawaii. She’s in Indiana. We’re doing split-screen, recording our talking points, discussing a new program. Filming is going great. We’re on a roll. And then…
Right in the middle of filming, her husband barges through the doorway and explodes into the room behind her. He’s practically naked. Clad in his boxers and nothing more, holding a plump little puppy that had recently peed on the carpeting.
My colleague shrieks, “Honey, get outta here! I told you not to come in this room, remember?! We’re filming!”
Horrified, realizing he’s being captured on camera, he slinks out of the room.
She cracks up. I busted up laughing.
She is a successful entrepreneur with 10 employees. He’s a smart man.
Nobody is perfect.
Whenever I make a mistake—small, big, any size—at first, I usually feel a hot wave of shame. Panic careens through my body for a moment. So intense, it’s almost blinding.
In those moments, I have to breathe and remind myself, “Everybody makes mistakes. Even Oprah. Even the people who seem super-human. It’s normal. It’s okay. Nobody does things perfectly 100% of the time.”
Nobody. Not even the leaders that we greatly admire.
President Barack Obama’s team once released a message with a glaring typo: “Congrssional Budget Office.” Whoops.
Senator Cory Booker once urged everyone to “re-elect President Barak Obama.” Another typo there. Doh!
Once, I got invited to be a guest on a major radio show. I was intimidated and worried that I wouldn’t do a good enough job. I prepped diligently, because I definitely wanted to be “perfect.”
I dialed into the show, and then—much to my shock and amusement—the host proceeded to called me “Andrea” and “Amber” throughout the entire conversation. My name is Alexandra. This happened live. On the air.
This man is a well-respected media personality. He goofed up…and honestly? I didn’t mind. I was actually relieved. Because it reminded me that…he’s human. Just like me. Just like you.
I hope this message brings some relief into your heart.
You can be imperfect and successful.
Perfection is not required for greatness.
A project can be excellent, helpful, and inspirational. Even if it contain a few mistakes.
You can improve thousands of people’s lives through your business and the services you offer. Even if your next email contains a typo or a broken link or the wrong date.
Your book can bring hope into someone’s heart, or even change someone’s life. Even if there’s a misspelled word on page 72.
We can aim for excellence, and get pretty darn close, with the knowledge that humans are humans, and clunky moments will inevitably happen…and it is okay.
Most mistakes are quickly forgotten, immediately forgiven, and usually not as big a deal as we think. And the mistakes that truly are a big deal? There’s always a way to handle those situations with professionalism, humility, and grace, and emerge better than before.
Go make a few mistakes today.
When you make a mistake, instead of being ashamed, be proud. Because each mistake is proof that you’re fully in it. You’re trying. You’re creating. You’re pressing forward. You’re sharing. You’re taking risks. You’re in the arena, not waiting idly on the sidelines.
Nobody is doing it perfectly.
And isn’t that such a relief.
Earlier this year, I forgot my own power.
I was having one of those weeks where everything felt overwhelming. Too much to do. Not enough time. Too many obstacles. Not enough energy to clear the boulders out of the path. I felt weary and discouraged and not very powerful. Self-pitying. Woe is me.
When I feel powerless about my present circumstances, I look to the past.
I turn towards my ancestors. I think about their stories. What they survived. What they did not survive. What they built out of nothing. Their courage, resilience, and strength.
My ancestry is a mixed-bag of several things including Jewish heritage. When I think about what the Jewish people have faced, it humbles me.
Just a few years ago, I learned that during World War II, inside the Terezín concentration camp, imprisoned Jews performed an opera called Brundibár.
They put together an opera. While starving and dying. Inside a camp.
These brave people knew they were facing their final moments of life before a brutal death, and what did they do? They joined together. They raised their voices. They sang. They wanted to make art and do something beautiful with those final seconds of life, and make every moment count.
The human spirit is powerful beyond belief.
My people are survivors and artists, immigrants and entrepreneurs. My people fled villages, traveled to new lands, taught themselves how to speak English, how to run a business, how to build something solid with the most limited resources.
If they could do all that, then I can handle tough things, too. A pandemic. A recession. All of it.
I can. I will. I must. I have no excuse.
Briana Saussy, author of Making Magic, writes in her book, “No matter who you are or where you came from, there is magic in your ancestral lineage.”
Whether you hail from Nigeria, Mexico, Ireland, China, Sweden, or numerous places, there is strength, resilience, and a powerful story in your bones.
You are the sum total of your ancestors. All their power is harnessed within you.
The grandfather who sailed to America with $20 dollars and a dream.
The grandmother who was widowed and raised five children on her own.
The ancestors whose names you don’t even know because their names were never recorded, or the papers were burned.
All of their love, grit, hope, and potency is inside you.
Let this be a reminder that you can conquer whatever is on your to-do list today, and 100x times more.
Yes, you can find the courage to send that email. Yes, you can ask that client to hire you. Yes, you can pitch your book idea. Yes, you do have what it takes. And yes, you can have a difficult conversation, go to that rally, stand up for what you believe, take a risk, advocate for yourself or someone else…or whatever you feel scared to do.
You can do it.
You have the capacity in your cells. In your DNA. Passed down to you.
You are brave enough. You are strong enough. You can do hard things.
Our ancestors are watching. Let’s make them proud.
Remember who you are.
. . .
PS. How will you make your ancestors proud today?
PPS. Also, how will you learn from your ancestors’ mistakes? How can you be better and do better?
Being an artist, writer, entrepreneur, or any kind of creative person (any kind of human, really) can sometimes be a discouraging journey.
At times, it can feel like you are yelling into the void of the Internet…hoping somebody will notice you. I speak from experience.
You pitch 20 publishers but nobody wants to give you a book deal.
You email 10 potential clients but nobody wants to hire you right now.
You reach out to 5 journalists but nobody is even remotely interested in doing a story on your company.
You put up flyers about a free class you’re leading. C’mon people, it’s free! Who could possibly say no! But then 1 person shows up and asks, “Uh, is this the right place? Am I too early?” And you swell with shame and realize you bought way too many donuts.
You begin to feel like you’re begging, pleading, and groveling for the things you want and need. Which does not feel good.
As one person said to me recently, “Hearing ‘no’ I can handle. It’s the silence that really hurts. When I email someone and it’s just…crickets. That’s when I really feel like a failure.”
After a long string of disappointments, your ego is bruised. You, understandably, begin to feel discouraged. You’ve been burned too many times. It’s hard to motivate yourself to keep trying. Why bother? It won’t work. There’s probably no point.
And then, this defeated energy begins to permeate everything you do. Your emails stink of it. Your body language, your facial expression, everything exudes discouragement, bitterness, resentment. People can smell it. And this doesn’t exactly make people eager to work with you.
And so, the cycle of disappointment continues. You feel increasingly frustrated, invisible, and powerless.
How do you break the cycle?
You have to take back your power.
You have to stop waiting for someone to say “yes” to you, and instead, say “yes” to yourself. Be your own yes.
You want to speak onstage? Host your own event and speak there.
You want to be a guest on an amazing podcast? Start your own amazing podcast.
You want to be an author? Write and self-publish your own book.
You want to win an award? Instead of waiting for someone to notice and choose you, choose yourself. Nominate yourself. (Hot tip: most people win awards because they took 30 minutes to fill out an online form and nominated themselves.) Or create your own award and give one to somebody else.
Instead of waiting to be invited to the cool party, throw your own cool party.
Instead of waiting for the world to be generous with you, be generous with the world. And then, this generosity of spirit tends to boomerang back to you.
History is full of countless examples of people who “started their own thing” and that beautiful “thing” eventually grew into something much bigger.
The Joy of Cooking began as a self-published cookbook.
Issa Rae’s self-created webTV show eventually gained a fanbase, and then her pilot got picked up by HBO and became the hit show Insecure.
Luvvie Ajayi started her blog as a hobby, a place to share her rants and randomness, and that blog eventually unfolded into a TED Talk and bestselling book.
My friend Susan started hosting garden parties in her backyard. She’d serve a meal and lead a seminar on how to achieve your goals. Nobody was inviting her to speak to audiences (at the time) so she figured, “I’ll just do it behind my house on the lawn.” Humble beginnings. Now she gets paid (very well) for her work as a motivational speaker and life coach.
You can wait forever for someone to say “yes” and unlock a door for you. Or you can build your own door, build your own key, build your own house. And when you run your own house, then you can be the person who unlocks doors for others. That’s real power.
You are more powerful than you think.
What is the power you’ve given away…and how could you take it back?
When the pandemic hit, I got extra-serious about my fitness and self-care routine.
Since my local yoga studio and gym were both closed indefinitely, I created a do-at-home workout zone in my house.
I laid out my yoga mat. I put out my shoes. I purchased a new set of elastic resistance bands. I got a stationary bicycle. And of course I bought a cute neon yellow headband with major throwback ’80s vibes, because obviously that’s crucially important too.
I felt proud for investing in myself and prioritizing my health.
For several weeks in a row, things went great. Daily cycling rides. Daily resistance training. Deep, cleansing sweat. Long walks with the dog. Swimming and bodyboarding in the ocean. I even carved out quiet time to be still, meditate, and rinse out my brain.
Then “life happened” as life often does.
I took on several new clients. I launched a new program. I set some ambitious new financial goals for my company. I got busier. My workdays intensified. And I fell out of my wellness routine.
I was working longer hours, sitting more at my desk, logging much more time in front of a glowing digital screen, and inventing 1,000 excuses why I couldn’t possibly squeeze a 25 minute workout into my day.
I began feeling annoyed with myself.
“Why am I being so lazy?” “I’m really good at focusing and accomplishing goals. So why am I avoiding this *one* thing?” “Why can’t I just get back on track?”
This spiral of annoyance carried on for several more weeks.
This morning at 5:54 a.m., something changed.
I can’t explain what exactly. It was just a moment. A decision.
I looked at the dawn sky and simply decided, “It’s time to get back on the bike.”
And I did.
I completed a low-intensity 10 minute cycling ride, followed by 10 minutes of weight training (light weights, 3 pounds), and then 10 minutes of stretching on the floor. Nothing too crazy. Gently easing back into things. It felt incredibly refreshing. Soul-electricity: alive again.
It is never too late to find renewed commitment and devotion.
It is never too late to do the thing you’ve been avoiding.
It is never too late to get back on the bike.
Whatever your “bike” may be.
This year is not over yet.
Today is not over yet.
Get back on the bike.