My Top 5 Takeaways from #BlogHer17

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The past couple of days, I’ve been in Orlando, Florida at the BlogHer conference.  It was INCREDIBLE.  It was the first time I’ve ever been to a conference of any sort, and I was blown away by all of the passion, information, and people that I encountered on my two day stint.

There was so much amazing knowledge that was shared, and so many insights I gleaned from my observations and conversations.  Overall, though, I want to share with you the top 5 takeaways I gathered from my 48 hours at #BlogHer17

Takeaway #1: You Serve Best by Doing What You Love

As I was listing to all of the keynote speakers, it was evident that they had SO MUCH passion behind their individual projects.  While each of the speakers had lofty aspirations they wanted to reach, and they all wanted to make an impact on the world, they were doing it in so many different ways.   Likewise, when I dove into conversation with other bloggers, there was so much variety in what people were targeting in their blogs.

If you look at what everybody else is doing, it is so easy to lose focus on what we originally set out to do.  One of the great quotes that I heard is “we envy what we don’t know”.  I have found this to be true with me recently, as I am trying to solidify what impact I want to make in the world and how I want to do that outside of my teaching arena.  I look at all the things others are doing and think “aw man, I should be doing that!” or “I should be doing this!”

In reality, we need to bring our focus back to us and what WE love.  If we have passion, that passion will be infectious.  However, if that true joy in what we’re doing is lacking, it will never end up being successful anyways.

Takeaway #2:  Don’t Be Married To An Outcome

There were several speakers who touched on this idea.  The notion that we are going to go from A to B to C without any forks in the road or hills to climb is laughable.  Oftentimes we decide on a path and continue to slog through the mud, come hell or high water, even when stepping stones to higher, drier ground appear before us.  There were many examples at the conference of people who started out doing one thing and then pivoted and did something completely different than what they originally envisioned.

This idea of letting life lead you needs to be balanced with drive and ambition, of course, but if you find that you aren’t enjoying something as much as you used to, or you discover something else that gives you more fulfillment, it is 100% ok to change direction.

Takeaway #3:  Pressure is a Privilege

A couple of people discussed this idea that they avoided success because it meant that there would be a lot more pressure put upon them to perform.  If you are the best tennis player in the world, people simply expect you to win, which can be daunting.  However, being successful and having that pressure put upon you is a privilege in that it validates your achievements and gives you a platform from which to amplify your message.

Not having any pressure to accomplish anything is dangerous; it leads to complacency and a cycle of accepting the status quo.  If you feel that pressure to get better, go to the next level, or advance your brand or business, be thankful: It means that you are making headway and an impact.

Takeaway #4:  Celebrate The Power of Others

There were so many women (and a handful of men) at this conference who were doing so many amazing things, big and small.  There were several keynote speakers who blew me away with their social change efforts, and a handful of open-mic night participants that moved me to tears.  It was incredible to feel the constant energy, and it completely fueled my fire to do big things.

Someone else doing amazing things in no way dilutes your ability to reach success, too.  If everyone helps each other up, all participating parties benefit.  There are so many authentically awe-inspiring things that are going on in the world around you-get involved with other people’s success, and it can only augment yours.

Takeaway #5: Dream Big

Many times we imagine what could happen if our wildest dreams came true, and then we tamp our thoughts back down into the firm cold ground of ‘reality’.  There were so many people who presented their accomplishments, and all of them conveyed them in a way that made it seem like it wasn’t an act of luck or happenstance that these things came to fruition but simply putting in the time or taking advantage of opportunities that cropped up along the way.

Our dreams are worth holding on to.  There is no point in chasing a ‘realistic’ dream; than it ceases to be a dream at all.  If you have aspirations that seem crazy, don’t let that dissuade you.  Keep those goals in the forefront of your mind and actually believe that you can achieve them.  We only have one life, and it is better to spend it working towards a bigger vision that squander it on the mundane.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, BlogHer was an amazing, mindset-shifting event that had a profound impact on my mindset and awareness.  While I still need time to process all of the information that I received, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity of going!

I highly encourage you to search up conferences related to your passions and professions.  Not only will you return with renewed purpose, you will connect with others who are like-minded and maybe, just maybe, you will have one encounter that alters your course for good.  In the infamous words of Shia LeBeouf, “Just DO IT!”

Why Friendship is so Important

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I am a very relationship oriented person.  I love the connections that I make on any level, and I am very dedicated to seeing my closest relationships grow and flourish.  However, I haven’t really realized how important true friends are until lately.

Today, I was telling my best friend about some heart-wrenching revelations that were made apparent to me by certain circumstances this morning.  Without skipping a beat, she said “ya need me to kill him?  I’ll be right over.”  We laughed and moved on, but the sentiment was clear: she has my back.

Beyond hypothetical murder, my best friend has been there through it all.  We live an entire country apart and she’s seen me through a mistaken marriage, a much-needed divorce, a sketchy re-establishment of my single self, and several other relationships that ended with heartbreak.  Not to mention several moves across state lines, job hunts, and just recently being laid off.

Not once have I felt like she wanted to get rid of the friendship.  Not once has it crossed my mind that it would be easier to just let our relationship fade into yearly Facebook greetings and random “how are you?” texts.

We are solid.  And in a world of uncertainty, there is nothing more important than knowing 100% for sure that someone, somewhere out in the wildly rolling waves of life, is keeping the lighthouse lit just for you.

Friendship, real, true friendship, is a priceless gift that cannot be sold for any price.  So, what is real friendship and why is it so important?

Real friendship is honesty.  Honesty in all of its forms.  I once asked my friend “do you think my shorts are too tight?”  She answered to the affirmative in record time.  They have also made their feelings quite clear on how I was treated in various relationships while still allowing me the freedom of making my own decision.

Honesty is giving the gift of our pure, unadulterated thoughts.  Having honesty in our lives is incredibly important because it is only when we see our surroundings clearly that we change or enhance them.  This quality in a friendship is necessary in our daily lives because when we are able to completely open up to someone else, we can completely accept ourselves.

Real friendship is trust.  One of my friends has reason to mistrust her man, but the thought of having to watch him with me has never once crossed her mind.  She knows without a doubt that I would never in a million years do something to betray her trust in that matter.  I share an Amazon Prime account with one of my friends, and never once has the thought occurred to me that she would use my card or do anything underhanded with the information.

If you have trust with someone precious to you, that covenant needs to be protected at all costs.  So many times we focus on having certainty in romantic relationships, but having a relationship unfettered by romance yet still safely anchored in utmost confidence is priceless.

Real friendship is support.  God knows how many times my friends have heard me rant and rave about how this or that isn’t fair, or about how this coworker hurt my feelings, or about how he lost the best thing that ever happened to him.  Never once have they made me feel like they aren’t 100% on my side.  Sometimes, being on my side means reeling me back in and making me realize that I’m being a bit ridiculous, but they always bring me down with love.

Having a support system in your life is so. completely. necessary.  We love to think that we can do it all, but the hard truth of the matter is we cannot.  Or, rather, we cannot if we wish to stay sane.  People who are there for you in your darkest, most pathetic hour are the individuals who make up the foundation of your life.  If that stone isn’t pure, the whole thing crumbles.

Real friendship is laughter.  I cannot tell you how many times I have laughed until tears ran down my face and my abs nearly cracked from being contracted for so long.  I have sat with my friends and burst into giggles over the stupidest memes and the most relatable stories, and inserted hilarity in the place of tears on so many occasions.

Laughter is such an amazing release, and if you cannot truly laugh until your air supply runs dangerously low with another person, you are not completely living.  In order to completely experience life, we need to share all emotions with another person, and gaiety is the best emotion to share.

If you do it right, your true friends are going to be with you for life.  No matter the status of any other relationship in your life, friends are the pilings on which our pier is tied.  No wave, no matter how wild, can knock down something solid.  And no pier, no matter how beautifully fit together, can last without a sturdy steadiness beneath it.

Our relationships in life are our only lasting legacy.  While we are alive, our true friends are our main source of sanity, issue reality checks, hand over tissues, contribute to late night musings, and overall make our lives enjoyable.  If you’re smart enough to make these relationships a priority, they will give you back tenfold on your investment.

So relish in your wine nights.  Share secrets.  Listen.  Be there when the universe is crumbling at their feet and beside them when they conquer the world.  Love them.  Appreciate them.  Keep their confidences and let them keep yours.  Support them.  Don’t be afraid to need them.  Together, the world will unfold before you.  And when it does?  Hand in hand, go kick some ass.

 

It Takes a Village

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Yesterday I chaperoned our end-of-the-year 8th grade dance.  Well, merely chaperoned is an understatement.  I’m in charge of our 8th grade end of the year activities, and thusly I’ve been prepping for this event for months.  In addition to making sure that the students ‘left room for Jesus’ during the dance, I also spent several hours setting up the event and an hour afterwards tearing it down (AFTER, of course, a full day of teaching).

What made an impression on me, however, was how many people stepped up to help me out.  I’m used to doing things on my own, and while I vaguely knew that people had volunteered to help, it was overwhelming HOW MUCH they helped; it was truly awesome to be able to trust the people around me to step up and help me get the job done.

All of this reminded me of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  As teachers, we have thousands of children to raise, and I am lucky to have an amazing village of teachers around me to help shape the children in our care.  However, I feel that this saying applies to more than just raising a child; it also takes a village to provide the catalyst for success, motivation, and fulfillment.

This is not a very popular idea.  In America, there is a glorified image of the Lone Ranger taking on the world all alone and rising to the top.  Yet in reality, this type of win could only be achieved by stepping on the people below you in the fight to get the top, and you are limited by an unsavory reputation and the smell of burning bridges behind you.  However, if you truly cultivate a village around you, your potential is unlimited, and you and your village will progress together.

The original village mentality was built around survival.  If one person was out of line or there was a rife in a relationship, that threatened the very existence of the village.  It all came down to trust, and if that trust was lost, your membership in that community was called into question.  This guaranteed that the village members toed the line-their survival depended on it.

Today, we don’t need a village to survive.  But I would argue that we do need a village to thrive.  And while social media has done us a disservice by bringing to life the paradox of ‘the more you share the lonelier you feel’, it has opened up the possibility of being able to hand pick our village.

This is an amazing opportunity, so I’m going to repeat it: we live in a time where we are able to individually choose our village.  We are able to actively search out people who will add value to our lives.  This includes people who expose us to new information, pick us up when we stumble, and help us discover the tools we need to keep growing.

This, of course, comes with a flip side of the coin.  In order to choose these individuals as your village, you need to bring something to the table.  Gone are the days where you might happen to be born into the village where the best cloth-weaver resides, and where you can pick up on her skills by exposure.  Now, in order to take advantage of someone else’s years of practice, you have to be able to contribute to their lives in some way.

It is a harsh reality, but it is true: if you do not bring value to anyone, no one is going to chose you to be in their village unless it is by happenstance.  I believe that this is why so many people stay by their hometowns and have the same friend circle throughout their entire lives.  People have a need to belong no matter what level they are on, but if you want to belong to more than the Friday night local bar club, you have to infuse your being with value.

Just as the top villages of old worked their ass off to make sure there was food, water, and shelter, the successful villages of today work just as hard to make sure that their minds are in tip top shape.  And the concept of striving for full potential is just the same as scrambling for survival; every single person has to be at the top of their game or the whole network suffers.

The ability to choose your village is a privilege that many forgo, simply due to the lack of effort or lack of preparation.  Actively seeking like-minded people is a foolproof way to light your own personal fire while getting the benefits of helping other people light theirs.

Take the time to think about who you admire, who you can see is creating your type of success, and who you want to be as a person.  You cannot simply run up to these people and create a shortcut to prosperity-achieving ANY kind of personal goal is always through hard work.  If you put in the arduous work, it will show.  And once it starts showing, the people you seek out will be attracted to you because YOU can help them, too.

It truly takes a village to become the best version of yourself.  Don’t shun the idea that you need help to get to where you want to be.  While you’re waiting, strive to become the best version of you on your own, and when that is achieved, there will be people who come into your life to skyrocket you to heights you could have never even seen if you stayed in your own bubble.  Strive for more than survival–seize the chance to thrive!

 

The Three Most Annoying Words in the English Language

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I had a nice little chat with two different friends yesterday.  I was detailing the horrors of the end of the school year, and lamenting that I wasn’t as far along with my real estate classes as I would like.  I was, of course, expecting the sympathy to start rolling in–HA.  I should have known better.

They both, in so many words, said “Sounds like a bunch of excuses.”

This, obviously, was the exact opposite of what I was wanting to hear.  Aw man, that sucks!  Yeah, you definitely have your plate full, I wouldn’t be that far along either.  That is completely understandable.  THAT’S what I wanted to rain down upon my ears.

But instead, I got “quit slacking”.  “It all comes down to you.”  “Sounds like you aren’t working hard enough.”  So that was cool. *insert sarcasm*

But the most annoying part…the part that sucks….the part that I hated to admit was:

They were right.

I DIDN’T actually have any excuses.  I legitimately was kind of being a slacker.  And as much as I like to think of myself as a driven person who won’t quit until success is reached, I kinda sorta have to admit that lately, that hasn’t been the case.

“You are right”.  Those three words can cause even the most seasoned life veteran to cough and stutter before spitting them out.

No one likes to hear that they are wrong.  They especially don’t like to learn that they’re wrong in a direct, straight-to-the-point matter.  With witnesses.  And it SUCKS to have to swallow your pride and admit your downfalls to yourself, much less to the person casually pointing them out.

I know that if I were to have talked to any of my other friends, I would have gotten what I wanted-soothing words of affirmation that would assure me that there was nothing wrong with what I was doing, and I should just keep on keeping on.

And yet, I feel that this would have been a disservice to me.  We don’t need people to encourage us to keep curling the 5 lb weights that obviously are a better fit for the tiny 80 year old woman in Silver Sneakers class.  We need people who are going to yell in our face as we struggle to put up the 20 lb shoulder press, and encourage you to go for that last rep before our arms fall, exhausted, but our pride swells, elated.

Of course, this last metaphor would be a lot more effective if you’re being yelled at by a 220 lb jacked trainer rather than your 115 lb friend who loves Zumba and Yoga.  Likewise, we need to have those friends in our lives who are living what they push us to do.

The two friends who called me on my shit?  Both male.  Both extremely hard-working.  Both putting in long hours towards their differing goals, so much so that most people would think them slightly nutty.  Both headstrong, very smart, and driven from within to succeed.

So yes, it was extremely annoying to have to admit that they were right.  But I would rather have friends who push me to my breaking point and help me reach beyond rather than ‘friends’ who are content floating down the Lazy River.

“You are right” are the three most annoying words in the English language.  But they are also the most necessary words to hear in order to move forward with your life and your goals.  If you never feel the need to admit that you were wrong about something, then you have never felt the impact of growth.

Growing.  Changing.  Evolving.  These are all symptoms of realizing that we do not know everything, and we are better than our excuses and previous mindsets.  If the people that you surround yourself with have never ever made you say those annoying words, than you need to find yourself some other friends and mentors.

Flourishing as a person is not easy.  But it is infinitely better to go through the pain of mental reorganization and realization of temporary failure than it is to skip blithely along with the mindset of your youth unchallenged.

“You are right” is annoying only because of our pride.  Set aside your ego, and those words become words of discovery, words of new beginnings, and words of positive change.

In today’s society, we have become so accustomed to others patting us on the back with a ‘there there’ and moving on that we instantly become offended when people try to point out how we could improve.  Straight-shooters are seen as assholes.  Individuals who keep it real are snubbed.

But stop and think about it.  Who really cares about you?  The person who nods their head and agrees externally while rolling their eyes and shaking their head on the inside?  Or the person who stops you in your tracks and says ‘wait a minute dude, you’re selling yourself short’.  I know who I’d want on my team.

So challenge yourself to truly see what you are.  Call yourself on your own shit.  If you actually care about the people around you, be (wo)man enough to call them out when they aren’t serving themselves well.  The quick slice of a knife always heals faster and less ugly than the slow degradation of flesh.  And the sting of reality is substantially better than the suffocating cloud of self-deception.

Embrace the annoyance.  Relish the feeling of those words on your tongue.  Love the effect of pushing yourself to constantly be more.  At the end of the day, the moment of irritation and ego deflation will fade away in the bright light of fulfillment, and you will thank god that someone took the time to call you out.

 

Nobody Cares if You’re Motivated

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The past couple of weeks, I have been mentally out of the discipline game.  I haven’t gone off the deep end where I’m running around eating, drinking, and doing whatever I want, but I feel like I definitely have allowed myself a lot more slack than I normally do.

This might not be the end of the world, but for me, who is used to carrying things out in a timely and orderly fashion, I can completely tell that I am not at the top of my game, and I hate it.  I have so many things that I want to accomplish, yet I seem to keep sliding backwards when I should be striding forward.

I desperately want all of my goals to be accomplished.  So why is my motivation not propelling me forward in the way that a burning desire should?

Motivation isn’t the catalyst.

I read or heard something recently that you don’t need more motivation, you need more discipline.  This could not be more true in my experience: I am completely motivated to get my real estate license and to lose the last 5-8 lbs that I need to lose in order to be completely happy with my bikini bod, but the last couple weeks with discipline being completely thrown out the window, I can tell that my body is a little softer than it was 4 weeks ago, and I’m still on my first real estate book when I had planned to be on my second by now.

And so, here I sit, no real estate license in hand and jeans a bit more snug that I would like.  Nobody wants to hear about the time you were motivated to almost finish a race or almost start your own business.  We love stories about actual results.

Why, then, are people so quick to blame lack of motivation or claim they need to do all these things to get motivated to do something?  Why don’t they simply put their nose to the grindstone and start to see results?

 

Sadly, the truth isn’t exciting.

Quite frankly, discipline sucks.  No one WANTS to constantly resist all of the tempting foods that are constantly being shoved in our face.  It’s definitely not FUN to stay home on a Friday night once again so that you can pop out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning.  It’s BORING to sit down to the table to read a chapter for the 17th day in a row rather than flip on the TV to the latest hit show.

Motivation, on the other hand, is addicting.  It’s highly enjoyable to get all hyped up about something, especially if you are getting pumped up in a crowd.  You see people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish.  You hear about how they achieved this body or that amount of customers or traveled to this many places, and their story inspires you to make more of a push for your goals.

But the thing is, most goals are not going to be accomplished in the hour or two where your motivation is at peak levels.  If motivation is the only that that is fueling your fire, than you will be shivering in the cold long before the end game is in sight.

It takes discipline to go the long haul.  You are going to have to go out to the woods, chop a tree, bring it back piece by piece, and do this over and over again to keep that fire burning.

Simply put, discipline is the ONLY THING that guarantees your results.  The very nature of discipline implies consistency, and if you are consistent with anything long enough, you will eventually achieve your desire in one form or another.

Any time that I look at what I have or don’t have and try to mentally complain about how it’s not fair that I’m not at this or that level, I can always force myself to look back and see the lack of consistency that led me to where I am at that moment.

Discipline is hard.  But eventually, discipline leads to habit, and once you’ve reached habitual levels of consistent effort, your progress will speed up tremendously.

However, life still likes to throw roadblocks at you in the form of unexpected events.  When I have a week where my routine is uninterrupted, my food consumption, gym attendance, and learning schedule are unchallenged and go off without a hitch.

But throw in a random meeting or two, life responsibilities that take a lot of time in my otherwise normal day, and people who are visiting or who want to hang out, and my discipline goes out the window.

So, in reality, I’m actually not that disciplined.  If I was, I would be able to navigate those stumbling blocks with ease, and keep my eyes on what it is that I want long-term.

This is a sucky thing to admit to oneself, especially if you have an image in your mind that encompasses all you WANT to be, versus where you really are.  And once again, I have all the motivation in the world to want to be fit and advance my learning in general, but when it comes down to it, desire doesn’t matter.

Your body doesn’t react to what you WANT it to look like-it shapes itself based on what you do to it and how you feed it.  Your business doesn’t grow based on what you WANT your revenues to be, it yields tantamount to the consistent effort that is put forth by you and your employees.  When it comes down to the wire, your efforts will show, no matter how much you will them to be different than they are.

There is no shortcut to any success.  Motivation may cause an initial burst of energy that will get you past the breakers, but it is the slow, steady strokes, hand over hand, that will get you across the channel.

So sit down with yourself.  Acknowledge where you want to end up, and how far you are away from it.  Steel yourself for the long haul ahead.  Write out a specific plan for your days, and how you will handle routine interruptions.  Settle into the reality that it’s not going to be a high-energy, full speed ahead race where the finish line is reached in mere seconds.

The journey is long.  It’s arduous.  It’s full of moments that suck.  But in the end, the steady turtle of discipline will outpace the bounding rabbit of motivation every. single. time.

Appreciation is a Powerful Drug

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Last weekend, all of my friends got together and had an amazingly fun girls night-without me.  Whomp Whomp. I had prior obligations, and while I was sad that I couldn’t be there, I know it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

What made this event stick out to me, however, wasn’t the fact that I was missed out, but the fact that they all took the time to tell me that they wished I was with them and to make sure I knew that they would have rather had me join in the fun.

Now, having a group of girlfriends is probably old hat to most women my age, but I haven’t yet had this experience: I grew up fast, working all the time, and I was married throughout college, the time when most people are forming solid friend groups for life.  This show of appreciation for, well, just being me made me feel amazing.

This got me thinking: how often do we take the time to let people know that they are appreciated simply just for existing in our lives?  When do we take the time out of our day to write a text, drop a note, take advantage of a pause in conversation just to say hey…you’re awesome.  Thanks for being in my life.

Polite habits are ingrained (or should be ingrained) in us from childhood.  Say please and thank you.  Write a thank you letter when you receive a gift.  Make sure that if someone does you a favor you pay them back somehow, someway.

Yet we rarely take the time to appreciate people just for being them.  And let me tell you from one who has received an abundance of ‘just because’ recognition lately: it feels damn good.

When it comes down to it, appreciation is simply showing that you notice and you are grateful.  Writing a thank you note for that brand-new wedding crock pot is a formalized way of saying Hey!  I liked this thing you picked out for me.  I am really happy that I don’t have to go get one myself.  Thank you!

When you tell someone ‘thank you’, or ‘miss you’, or ‘wish you were here’, it’s saying that you notice them and you’re grateful for what they bring into your life.  You observe what they do when you’re around, and you care when they are not around.

There are so many people in your world that deserve appreciation.  

That barista that makes you coffee every morning?  It would make her day to hear a heartfelt greeting and sincere words of acknowledgment on how much she kicks ass every morning.

That office lady who always greets you with a smile, no matter what?  It would mean the world to hear even the smallest affirmation of  how well she does her job.

That coworker who keeps his head down and just does his job-but does it well?  He would love to hear that people notice his dedication.

No matter how much we tell ourselves that we can give ourselves our own props and it doesn’t matter how other people notice, when push comes to shove, this is complete and total bullshit.  While we can, of course, keep going without cheerleaders and can accomplish anything we want sans pats on the back, the truth is, receiving that acknowledgment and recognition from others around us can act as high-octane gas in our fuel tank.

Sometimes, our encouragement just serves as as a touchstone for others on their journey, a sign that they are doing what they need to do.  Other times, our confirmation can be the push that sends them soaring beyond anything they dreamed they were capable of, that little rev on the engine that sent them shooting beyond the mark they made for themselves.

We never know where anyone is in their life journey.  So seek out opportunities to appreciate others.  These opportunities can be as big as letting someone know that you think they’re doing such a great job that you’re going to recommend them for a promotion, or as small as saying thank you to the random stranger who holds open the door for you.

There are so many situations that we fail to take advantage of; appreciation opportunities are actually quite frequent; you simply have to pay attention:

Tell your friend that you miss them when they aren’t there.

Tell your spouse that you feel lucky to be married to them, just because.

Tell your coworker that they are doing amazing, especially when you can see they’re having a tough day.

Tell your boss that you appreciate his communication.

Tell your mailman that you appreciate his service.

Many times we tend to think “well, it’s just so-and-so’s JOB to do that.  I don’t need to acknowledge anything”.  Who the hell cares?  It’s MY job to teach, and guess what my favorite thing in the world is: hearing ‘thank you’ from a student.  People may be getting paid to do something, but money exchanging hands should not be a determining factor for with-holding gratitude.  Besides the light that you will bring to others, it also serves to make YOU feel amazing.

Take the time to reflect on who actually is a help to you, who makes you feel amazing, who is there for you when shit hits the fan, who makes you laugh, who knows you inside and out, and who is doggedly keeping your life running in the background.  After you’ve realized all the amazing people that you know and who is true gold in your life, take the time to sincerely tell them ‘thank you’.  And then, every once in a while, just so they don’t forget…tell them again.