Six Things to Do Instead of Watching TV

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I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately.  Mostly about how I don’t have enough of it.  There are so, so many things that I want to do and I usually cannot find the time to cram them all in.

Which is why it boggles my mind when I hear some people talk about how much TV they watch, and relay tales of binge watching their Saturday away or catching up on the latest scandal on CNN as their evening’s activities.  Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing the matter with watching an occasional movie or couple episodes of Big Bang Theory here or there.  But I. personally, could NEVER make it an actual daily or even weekly practice.

TV is entertaining, no doubt.  And I’m sure if I let myself, I could really get into Game of Thrones, or follow the Orange is the New Black saga with bated breath, or find a couple of new releases to patronize each weekend.  But in all honesty, entertainment, especially mindless entertainment, is not productive.  And when seeking entertainment becomes the main focus of your free time, you are losing out on so many awesome points of life!

But some people have become so accustomed to watching TV that they have no idea that there is a whole entire world beyond their 60″ Plasma, or that they themselves could create the type of life they so envy on the silver screen.

Instead of pressing play, you could:

Go on a walk.  Especially with your significant other, kids, or friend.  The fresh air is addicting, and you can have so many good conversations if you go with the people that you love.  There have been so many great discussions that I’ve had with my friends as we meander the sidewalks or trails, and you come back refreshed and energized rather lethargic and blahhhh.  Not to mention the obvious perk of burning rather than consuming calories.

Read a book.  Even when a novel is entertaining you, it is making your brain process information, put ideas together, and decipher the meaning of new words.  It is the best form of entertainment because it is relaxing yet still mind-expanding, especially if you skip the fiction and go straight for the self-improvement reads.  Some great fiction reads are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Help, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  If you lean toward the non-fiction side (which you should at least every once in a while), I would recommend The Power of Habit, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and You are a Badass.

Join a club of some type.  One thing that I have recently started up in the past year has been beach football.  I have never played an organized sport in my life, but there is a league in my town and I, on a whim, decided to join.  I love it!  Joining something that fits a new or old interest not only keeps your zest for life alive, but it is an amazing avenue for meeting new people.

Learn to play an instrument or learn a new craft.  Making music is an innately human way of expressing emotion.  Even if you are not musically inclined, setting aside time to struggle and eventually master a new skill is not something to be sneezed at.  When the mind is stretched it expands, and the more things you add to your toolbox the more valuable you become.

Create a second (or third, or fourth) stream of income.  Think about it.  You could either spend 1-4 hours a night wasting your time with episodes of Friends you have seen hundreds of times, or you could put your time and effort into something that could actually pay off.  Enjoy crafting?  Start an Etsy shop.  Have a particular set of hard to master skills?  Market them.  Have a business idea?  Actually start it.  If it’s something you actually enjoy doing, the same amount of time will pass while giving you way more options in terms of money and connections.

Call a friend.  How many times have to thought to ourselves “oh, I wonder how so-and-so is doing?  We should catch up!”  and then simply never followed through?  Connections with other people are extremely valuable both for sanity and for creating a vast network of resources from which you can draw whenever necessary-IF you put the time in to create those reserves.

The trouble with the majority of options outside of the black box is that they take a least a minimal amount of effort.  So many people like to think of their hours of diversion after a long day of work as a reward, when the truth is that real rewards come out of real effort.

Constant entertainment is taking the easy way out in life, and it makes you accustomed to the road less bumpy.  Yet there WILL be parts of life that are not entertaining, and if you simply fall into the habit of putting blinders on and ignoring it because your reality muscles are in a state of atrophy, those bumps can prove to be disastrous rather than merely annoying.  The most beautiful waterfalls are at the end of the unbeaten trail, and the best life experiences are best actually lived by you.

So the next time you are tempted to press play, put the remote down and step away from the boob tube into a realm of endless possibilities.  Stop watching other people portray scripted exploits, relationships, and feats of grandeur, and go out and create your own!  Life is meant to be lived, not watched.

The Devil is in the Dirty Work

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Lately I’ve been realizing that I need to do more.  In pretty much every area of my life.  More cardio.  More planning.  More thoughtful gestures.

The thing is, in each of the areas of my life I’m sitting at at an OK level.  My body doesn’t look terrible, and I can pull off a tight dress if I want to.  My teaching meets acceptable standards, and I am confident that my students are learning things in my classroom.  My relationships are all fairly solid, and I know that there are few, if any people who would have bad things to say about me.

But come on—this is a scenario that is easily applied to SO many other people, and dammit, I want to be at the TOP.

This is something that I’ve written about before, and sometimes it’s frustrating because I have the personality where if I feel that something needs to get done, than dang it, I’m going to try to get it done NOW.

But I’m slowly starting to realize that transformations like this cannot be accomplished NOW.  They are not a one time thing.  Rather, they are achieved through DAILY dedication and eventual mastery of the habits and mindsets that only the great people have.

Which means that you have to do the dirty work.

Every single day.

It’s one thing to set your alarm for 6am on a Saturday morning and go for a long run and feel accomplished about it all week.  It’s another to consistently get up at 5am and get your cardio in and go to the gym after work for weights and watch what you eat every day not just weekends and do that day in and day out and never. ever. falter.

That shit is HARD.

It isn’t fun AT ALL.

Yet the people who have enviable physiques, lives, and results all do the unenviable on a daily basis.

It all comes down to a decision.  It’s really that simple.  When the moment comes, you can either decide to do the thing that is hard or do the thing that is easy.  And so, so, so many people choose easy.  Hell, I choose easy a lot of the time.  It’s easy to pop in a couple chocolate covered raisins rather than resist.  It’s easy to “forget” to go on the stairmaster. It’s easy to throw together a plan last minute and call it “good enough”.

But every single person that I read about who is winning chooses hard.  Not because they are a masochist or because they think that the more pain they put themselves in the more noble they are, but because they know that that is what it takes.

Most people can’t see past the immediate.  They see the sweat and sacrifice and do an about-face.  But nothing great was every accomplished by retreat, and we need to forge our own warriors mentality with everything that we do.  Battles are not won only on the battlefield, but during every day that leads up to the final epic clash.

So how do you ensure that you will, in fact, be victorious on the battlefield?

Become a leader.  I was listening to a podcast by Andy Frisella on how leadership isn’t about bossing people around but being willing to do the smallest of things every single day.  Essentially, if you are a true leader, you may have someone assigned to do the dirty work but if you see it needs to be done, YOU do it.  Practicing doing what needs to be done on a daily basis, regardless of who is ‘supposed’ to do or when it ‘should’ have been done is a surefire way to ensure self-respect.  And people who have massive amounts of self-respect are unstoppable.

Stop the excuses.  There are so many times I have told myself “It’s Friday…one treat won’t hurt” or “I did a really hard workout today, I don’t need that extra cardio.”  If you want better than normal results, you have to put in more than normal effort.  This is a hard and fast rule that really can’t be bent, broken, or manipulated.  Our excuses are like fast food-convenient in the moment but over time they add up to a shitty lifestyle and a fat ass, neither of which are appealing.

Educate yourself.  If my goal is to be the next female body builder, I could dedicate myself to running and eating low calorie all day long, but I will never achieve the results I want.  I have to be willing to spend money on the best trainers, dedicate time to researching my nutrition and exercise, and constantly be prowling for the best and newest information.  Learning does not stop after we graduate high school or college.  If you want to truly succeed, you must constantly try to learn new things.

Do the dirty work.  I cannot stress this point enough (especially to myself).  I cannot expect to accomplish any of my grand ideals if I don’t grab a shovel and start clearing the hole for a solid foundation.  And once that foundation is made, I need to grab a hammer and nails and start building.  And once the structure is made, the drywall needs to be hung.  And so on and so forth.  The point is, you can image the most beautiful house in the world, but if you don’t actually break a sweat to get it done, it will remain naught but a fantasy.

Everyone in this world has a vision of what they would ideally like their life to be, but there are only a few who actually roll up their sleeves and dig in enough to make it happen.  We have one life.  Why wouldn’t you brave a few cobwebs and dust bunnies to uncover the potential treasure trove that lies beneath?

Grab a shovel, friends.  It’s time to get dirty.

 

 

 

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!”

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!

 

Be F*cking Nice

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Today, I was the recipient of pure, unconniving, good ol’ hometown nice.

I found a desk that I wanted to get on Craigslist yesterday, but I lacked the space in my tiny Nissan Versa to move it.  I posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone had a truck or an SUV they would be willing to let me borrow, but made plans to rent a Uhaul as I wasn’t really expecting anyone to respond.

Lo and behold, a guy I haven’t spoken to in quite a while commented that he had a truck and was willing to help!  I texted him and arranged the time; he drove me to the place where the desk was, helped me load it, and gave me a hand bringing it in to my apartment.  When I offered him payment for his gas and time, he refused and said “nah, it’s just what nice, normal people do.

How refreshing is that?

He had zero agenda.  He did not benefit from the exchange at all.  And yet, he gave his time and assistance in spite of the lack of reward.

I follow CEO Andy Frisella on Facebook, and a couple days ago he posted the following:

Be fucking nice.

Its not that hard.

You never know the impact a simple gesture can make on someone.

A hello.

Holding the door for someone.

Complimenting someone (with out an agenda)

There are a million ways to help people…and sometimes the simplest are the best.

Give people faith in humanity through your daily actions. Its good for both of you.

I love this post.  So much so that I stole part of it for my title.

It is admirable to be a driven, goal-oriented person.  Sometimes, however, the same people who are galvanized to succeed are also the people who brush past the niceties in order to drive hard for the prize.  This tunnel vision is great at times for getting results, but it sucks for creating relationships.  And relationships are what push you past the finish line those crucial .2 seconds before the competition.

Case in point, if you have equal on-paper qualifications and an equivalent success track record as someone who is gunning for the same position or sale as you, but you’re a bitch/dick/unpleasant, it will go to the nice one every. single. time.  Humans don’t want to be around horrible people (even if they are a horrid specimen themselves).

Nice has gotten a bad reputation.  So many individuals think that “nice” is a synonym for weak.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Try doing someone a favor when you are exhausted and all you want to do is sit at home in silence.  Try holding a pleasant conversation for a couple of minutes with someone you secretly can’t stand.  Try to compromise on something when the outcome actually affects you.

Yeah.  Not weak.  Not weak at all.

Sometimes, being nice is a task accomplished by those with only the most impressive store of willpower and inner strength.

Growing up in the Midwest, I was saturated with nice throughout my entire childhood.  Neighbors stopped in randomly to chit chat.  Checking out at the grocery store always included a “have a great day!” from the cashier.  The mail lady bought our pet rocks that we were selling on the side of the road.  To me, nice was simply normal.

In today’s world (or maybe it’s just anywhere outside of the Minnesota bubble), being nice is viewed as an anomaly rather than the status quo.  I have never had so many people comment on how “nice” I am more than I have in the 2.5 years I have lived here.  It’s something people notice and appreciate, especially when it’s atypical.

Now, to play devil’s advocate, one cannot go out of their way to be nice all of the time, or nothing personal will ever get accomplished.  There comes a point when your actions can cross over from nice to doormat.  That being said, when it costs to you nothing to lend a helping hand or give of your attention except a little bit of time or effort, just do it.

The world is one big mirror that gleefully reflects every single thing you show it.  Is the universe displaying positivity?  Are doors opening for you?  Do you step outside into a playground of friendliness and possibility?  Or, is the galaxy one swirling dark mass of negativity and suffering, with walls rising in every direction and people slamming into your shoulder as they rush past with their hat pulled low and their collar pulled high?

You have the power to create a little bit of beauty multiple times a day.  The more times you take the opportunity to be nice, the more times the world will bring nice to you.

The guy who helped me move my desk today?  I became friends with him after I offered to help him push his truck into the garage when I saw him struggling to do it himself.  You never know when your acts of kindness will come back to benefit you, but I can promise you, they will come back.  It might not be the next day or even the next year, but eventually, the tiny seeds of positivity that you plant will bloom, and the winds of life will blow those second-generation seeds back into your own garden right when you need them.

So really, what do you have to lose?  Go ahead–pull on your overalls, grab a shovel and hose, and plant nice.

Creating Steam

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This weekend was a three day weekend for me and an amazing one at that.  I felt incredibly happy the majority of the time, yet looking back, I’m dissatisfied with how some of my time was spent.

On Friday night, I chilled out with my roommate and watched ‘our show’.  This isn’t a problem, but the fact that I didn’t do ANYTHING else is.

On Monday, my extra day off, I cleaned in the morning, but napped in the afternoon and fell asleep really early that night.  I was going to do some life errands, but I put them off until today.  Uncool.

While this may seem like a typical weekend for most people,  I know that I don’t want to be most people.  I want to accomplish a lot in life.  Like, a LOT a lot.  Like, an insane amount.  And that requires that my extra time be utilized to its maximum capacity.

Most weekends, I find it incredibly easy to work on the things that I am building in my life.  It feels exciting and fun.  But this past weekend, I lost my momentum.  I wasn’t feeling inspired on Friday and Monday, and I simply didn’t care that much.

So what does this reveal?  Does this imply that I shouldn’t be working as hard as I have been?  Does this suggest I should lower my expectations of myself because they are clearly a bit unrealistic?  Does this foreshadow the impending doom of my lofty ideals?

Hell no.

Upon reflection, I realized that I am never going to be gung-ho, balls out, 2 year old who just got a sucker excited about reaching my goals 100% of the time.  That’s just not possible.  I’m going to get tired.  I’m going to get discouraged.  I’m going to get lazy.  This is normal.

But, I don’t want to be normal.  The difference between ordinary and extraordinary lies in pushing through those moments where you feel like you’ve hit a wall.  Ordinary stops and shrugs its shoulders.  Extraordinary picks up a sledgehammer and starts swinging.  Ordinary makes excuses.  Extraordinary refuses to give in to stumbling blocks.  Ordinary settles.  Extraordinary achieves.

Creating the incredible requires that you just. keep. going.  Everything is so easy when you have that inner desire.  Sometimes, though, you can lose your steam.  Its disheartening when you can observe this happening in yourself.    If you feel like your fire is dimming, take steps to fan your own flames.

In order to create steam you need fire and water, much like creating progress takes motivation and effort.  You’re going to have to add fuel in order to keep the flames alive.  Most of the time, the wood is conveniently plopped in the stockpile close at hand.  Sometimes, it’s still going to be in tree form and require an ax and some muscle.   Other times, you’re going to have more than enough wood, but adding more water becomes necessary so the pot doesn’t boil dry.  It could be as simple as turning on a tap, or as consuming as grabbing a pail, hiking a couple miles, and filling that sucker up.

Regardless of what you need to do in order to keep the momentum, it is going to take mental determination.  Being willing to put in the extra effort creates the difference between achieving awesomeness and settling for humdrum and mainstream.

Sometimes, putting in the effort is easy because the flames of motivation are hot.  Other times, it’s simply a matter of principle that keeps you going.

When it comes to promises made to other people, are you a man or woman of your word?  If you are, how much more important is a promise to yourself?  Know what you want to achieve, and make yourself a promise that you will get there.

And then?

Keep your promise.

Your Authentic Self

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I have a student who moved here at the beginning of the year and is quite different from all of my other students that I teach.  Mary* works extremely hard at school, takes dance classes every night, is involved in the drama class, belongs to the speech and debate club, AND wants to start a Junior National Honor Society Chapter at our school.

When I talk to her about the future, she tells me she is planning on auditioning for our Fine Arts College during her sophomore year of school (since she moved here too late to audition this year).  She also laughs off the notion that she needs to relax a bit, saying that doing all of these things now will give her more options in the future.

To top it off, this girl is also the most polite and sweet child I have ever had the privilege of teaching.  Her fellow students snicker when she talks and gives answers in class, mostly because she is a glaring anomaly in a sea of kids who have zero ambition and no future plan.

I am ashamed to admit, I find her irritating at times.  She asks for her scores at inopportune times, will come back again and again if I am busy at the moment, and takes up my time in between classes because she enjoys talking to me about whatever is going on in her life.

Why am I telling you this?

She is always no holds barred, unapologetically, in-your-face, 100% her authentic self.

 I cannot help but admire her.  She knows what she wants.  She takes the steps to accomplish it.  And I will bet you my life savings that she is going to BE somebody someday.  If she is this determined and strong in 8th grade, at a school where the culture is anything but goal-oriented, who knows to what heights she will soar when she gets around people who will embrace her true self rather than be intimidated by it.

I am almost 28 years old, and while I have always been someone who accomplishes what I set out to accomplish, it has taken me this long to be ok with my own authenticity.  Growing up, I was always a person who secretly worried about what other people thought of me.  Do they like me?  Why not?  Why aren’t they talking to me?  OMG why ARE they talking to me? Should I wear this outfit?  Talk about this topic?  Maybe I need to be more serious/goofy/like them. And on and on.

Thank GOD I have gotten over myself.

A couple weekends ago, I hung out with a group of girls, one of whom rubbed me the the wrong way COMPLETELY.  When I talked to my roommate about it later, she said “Yeah, it was so obvious you were annoyed, and I could tell she thought you were annoying too.”

A couple years ago, a comment like that would have crushed me.  She thought I was annoying?  OMG-Now I need to change everything about myself.  I’m obviously a terrible person.

Today, I don’t give two flying f*cks about whether she thought I was irritating or not, because I know who I am, and dammit, I like who I am.

Revealing your true self is one of the scariest yet empowering things you can choose to do.  People gravitate towards authenticity, no matter what form it comes in.  If someone is genuinely a sweetheart, those around her will notice and appreciate her thoughtfulness.  If someone is genuinely an asshole, peers will grumblingly admire his honesty.

If you are true to yourself, those who surround you will be able to sense the credibility in your actions.  You attract the vibes you put out in the universe: fake begets fake, real begets real.

Success will come much faster and more abundantly to those who achieve it through being legitimate.  Real desire, reliable work, and a convincing vision will win over slimy networking and brown-nosing any day.  Those who are at the top have zero reason NOT to showcase their ultimate selves, and they got to where they are by shedding their masks and using their verity to their advantage.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have cart blanche to be a terrible person and hold out the “authentic self” card like an all-encompassing shield of justification.  If you are that person who is authentically an asshole, stay true to the genuine core of who you are, but take the steps to soften the edges.  It is 100% possible to be true to yourself AND work on self-improvement at the same time.

Finding and displaying your pure self takes a lot of courage in the beginning.  It’s hard to shed the need for other’s approval.  But when you understand who YOU are, you can use that knowledge to propel you forward in life.  Trying to make progress without accepting yourself is like walking on a treadmill: you may get a workout in, but you’re not actually traveling anywhere worthwhile.

Overall, you will be surprised by how many people actually LIKE you for you.  In a world of filters, contour, and butt surgery, finding individuals who proudly display their personality  like Mary* is a rarity.  Take a chance.  Let others around you see your hidden glow.  You just might find the tools you’ve been needing to take the next step towards your optimal life have been hidden behind your walls this whole time.