Busy Bodies vs. Achievers

The society I live in, the books I read and the conferences I attend in order to create an outstanding life all stress one thing – taking action. Taking action is praised because it moves us from dreaming to achieving. And for a long time, I was here for that rhetoric. I was always busy DOING something.

But more recently, I’ve realized that the most effective people I've studied focus their energy on only doing the right things. The "right thing" could mean the important action or the action that would reap the best results if executed at this time. I interviewed Myleik this week (our interview will air early next year by the way) and she shared how she doesn’t force herself to execute if something doesn’t feel right. And Jess Lively, who runs the Lively show, says the same thing on her podcast. She consistently listens to her intuition before taking action.

While these women (along with countless other achievers), took the time to assess their actions before executing, many of us spend time doing things that are neither important, nor well-timed. I for example, will often do the easy thing instead of the right thing because I have less resistance towards the easy thing. More specifically, I started Depth & Candor because I wanted to explore success and happiness by interviewing people who are forging a bright path for themselves. But instead of reaching out to potential interviewees, scheduling the interviews, sending them the questions, learning how to become a better story teller, and hiring a video editor, I spent most of 2016 blogging. Why? Because it was the easier option and it made me feel like I was accomplishing something. And while there is nothing wrong with blogging, it wasn't more important than publishing interviews.

We have a little over two months before 2016 is over - and you know I’m obsessed with this timeline if you follow me on snapchat. If you hadn’t set any goals at the beginning of the year, then cool…the rest of this post probably isn’t for you. But if you were like me and realized you hadn’t met some of the goals you set, it might be worth taking a moment and assessing what you spend your time on. Were you just a busy body or were you truly achiever?

Busy bodies do lots of things. Achievers do the right things.

Since I will be focusing on interviews more, I am looking for blog contributors. Are you obsessed with building a great life? Do you want to share it with an audience of like-minded people? If this sounds like you, send me your pitch to Hiwote@depthandcandor.com.

Make the rest of 2016 count, nobody is guaranteed another day.




Deal With Failure Like A Champ

I finished a new project a couple of days ago.

And it failed.


I'm only refraining from explicitly telling you what the project was because I'm still working on it with partners who might not want the details on the Internet.  

When I came home and sat on my couch to reflect on why the project didn’t succeed, I felt disappointed in my inability to execute like the women I admire (I’m talking about the Myleik Teeles and Marie Forleos of the world). An hour later though, I was well on my way to recovery. Two hours later, I had taken action towards fixing the problem and I had started writing this blog post.

Did you hear that? It took me a total of two hours to move from disappointment to working on my next best move. I tell you that because this kind of efficient recovery is new to me and it’s worth sharing what has changed in how I deal with failure.

I had sat on this very same couch for years processing my many failures in very different ways. I sat on the right hand corner when I was writing my entrance essay to Hopkins. And I cried as wrote and rewrote each draft, 100% sure that I'd never get accepted and that I'd be a failure because of it (side note lesson there: my success was never tied to any one thing, Hopkins or otherwise). That many tears over anticipated failure sounds ridiculous in retrospect but that should tell you how scared I was of failing, and how high I had made the stakes in my mind. 

I sat on that same corner of the couch a year before that, when I called my friend Morgan in frustration at my continued weight loss failure. 

And more recently, this couch was where I hugged my last boyfriend goodbye. A failed relationship I wasn't sure how to recover from. 

In each of those cases, I never walked away feeling peaceful about the outcome of my efforts. But I knew I had to process my failures effectively because I wasn’t going to stop striving for greatness. Of course I could shield myself from the sting of failing by not trying, but that would mean I wasn’t expanding. 

I had to find a way to make peace with failing.

The reason I processed my most recent failure well was because I had gradually learned to take specific actions when things didn't work out as planned.

Here are the five things I do to recover quickly:

 1.     I let myself sit and feel the sting. This is related to last week's post on mindfulness. Feeling the sting means finding a quiet space and feeling the sensation of my emotions in my body. I usually feel it in my chest or stomach. I pay attention to what I'm thinking, knowing that recurring thoughts of doubt about the future are normal. That is what it means to sit and feel the sting. In the past, I thought I was allowing myself to do that but really, I was hiding from it behind Netflix binging, shopping, or food. These are no longer options for me. At some point, I decided that just dealing with the issue directly makes life easier the long run. 

2.     I am acutely aware of the fact that this failure is telling me I need to either course-correct or project-correct. By that, I mean that I give myself the space to think through whether the project didn't work because it is not what I am truly supposed to be doing (this would lead to correcting the course or path I am following), or whether it didn't work for some project related reason, like poor execution (this leads to correcting specific aspects of the project the next time we execute).  

3.     I take one small action step towards fixing the problem. In my most recent failure, I emailed my teammate and set up a time to discuss how we can make the project a success. Please note that I didn't say I worked on fixing the entire problem right then and there, because it takes time to recalibrate and approach the problem with a new perspective. 

 4.     I let each failure be exactly what it is; an event that did not yield expected (or better) results. It is not an indication of who I am as a person or my life's trajectory. This is the hardest one to practice consistently because it's hard to not attach your failures to your identity. When I'm having a particularly hard time detaching, I study other people's success stories and I often see the same pattern – they tried lots of things and failed at some and succeeded at others. Then they used what they learned in each step of their journey to build their character and their life. This is a reminder that our life is the sum of our experiences, not our failures alone. I recently watched Robert Greene’s Ted Talk about how he became a best selling author and internationally acclaimed consultant. Watch it when you need a reminder.

 5.     I do my work. The alternative here is to play victim, which is nice because it lets us get away from our responsibilities. But I am not interested in anything that doesn't directly feed into my wealth, health and happiness so I'm not falling for the part of me that would rather take a nap when I know there is a lot more to be done. 

 Now I’d love to hear from you, what have you learned about effectively handling  failure? Comment below or tweet me and share your process. 

Drop It Like A Bad Habit

I know I should save my coins but every month, I find myself living paycheck to paycheck because #Shopping.

I know I should cut out sugars from my diet and eat more greens, but I can’t seem to stay on track for more than a couple of days.

 I know contributing my thoughts during meetings would help me get promoted, but I just can’t get myself to speak up when I feel intimidated.

 Why do we do that? We know exactly what we should do but for some reason, we do the exact opposite.

I pulled the third quote from a conversation I had with a very successful friend. When we talked, I gave her suggestions on how to speak up at meetings but I walked away feeling like we didn’t solve the deeper issue. Why didn’t she speak up if she knew it would help her career? And how could we change that moving forward?

I later learned that the decision to not speak up was a habit. At her last job, junior-staff were discouraged from speaking during meetings so she was struggling to break that habit in her new position. I do the same thing when I claim that I’d like to be healthier. I know that I need to cut sugars and eat more greens, but I don’t. As it turns out, that’s a habit too.

According to Dr. Judson Brewer; a psychiatrist and addiction expert, we all have triggers (like being stressed) that motivate a behavior (like eating a cookie), which results in a reward (a little sugar high and a diversion from dealing with the stress). This makes it so that next time we’re stressed, our brains remember that we can ease the stress by eating instead of directly dealing with the issue - and then we learn to repeat the cycle. Eventually, this becomes a habit.

So what’s the solution?

In this Ted Talk, Brewer explains that forcing ourselves to change a habit doesn’t actually work. Instead, he encourages us to get curious and observe our actions in our moments of weakness. This is a mindful approach to dealing with the behaviors we want to change. Getting curious about the cycles we put ourselves in takes us from theoretically knowing that something is bad for us, to changing that behavior for good.

I'll be honest, I first rolled my eyes when I heard about the mindful approach to changing habits (because #PopPsychology) but the more I read more about it, the more curious I became. In one study, twice as many smokers stopped smoking when using a mindfulness approach compared to those using traditional approaches. So in the name of science - and being candid, I am going to try that approach this week and report back on whether mindfulness actually breaks the habit of eating unhealthy foods during moments of stress.

Check back with me on Friday, I’ll give you a run-down on how this worked for me. Until then, this is our little experiment.

If you have a habit you’d like to change, why don’t you try this with me? All you have to do is be curious about your action the next time you decide to spend your last dollar on a sale item or eat the cookie or sit silently in a meeting (or whatever your bad habit is). Instead of getting mad at yourself for your action (or inaction), you simply observe what is happening and how it feels. The idea is that eventually, the behavior simply stops being an appealing response to the trigger because you are operating from a mindful place.

5 Lessons On Getting Over My Fear of Public Speaking

Public speaking is considered the # 1 fear in the western world (apparently, the rest of the world has more important things to worry about). And I get it. While I am not really that scared of delivering a prepared speech, I am terrified of impromptu speaking because exposing my unfiltered thoughts feels like a crowd is watching me undress, spanx and all.

In an attempt to face my fear, I joined Toastmasters, a public speaking workshop with branches all over the world. And because I’m the go-hard-or-go-home type, I joined the most renowned Toastmasters in NYC. Many of the members get paid to speak in their real lives and every Monday night, they come together to improve & maintain their craft. Over the course of my year as a member of the organization, they’ve given me feedback that has helped me tap into how great speakers deliver their thoughts. I’ve learned a few things I thought might help those of you looking to become the kind of speaker people actually want to listen to.

Before we get into it, let’s make a couple of things clear. I am by no means an expert public speaker & this is not Public Speaking 101. This is just a slightly delusional person who believes she can actually get better at something sharing what’s helped her go from average to slightly above average.


Lesson # 1: The Best Story Wins

Good content without good delivery is like a really attractive guy that hasn’t shaved or showered in a few months, not really something you’re going to pay attention to. I’ve found that my speeches are a hit when I embed my core points in a story that the audience wants to listen to. For example, I spoke about the evolution of my racial identity after the shootings in July and I won best speaker of the night. Later, a past president of the Toastmasters club emailed me to elaborate on what made the speech good. He explained that I hit on the audience’s pain point by speaking about race at a time when most people in the room were thinking about racial injustice and racial identity.

Why this works: Telling stories allows us to connect to other human beings on a personal level. We all love a good story, we grew up listening to them and telling them.


Lesson #2: If You Can Practice, Practice

The best way to project confidence is to actually be confident (stop rolling your eyes). If that is true, your chances of appearing confident increase when you improve your competence in an area, which in this case, is your speech. So if you have the opportunity to practice your speech before hand, don’t put it off because you need to clean your apartment or go for a run or de-clutter your inbox. Do the really boring (and slightly painful) thing and practice. Practicing doesn’t remove all nervousness but it’ll reduce one of the reasons you get nervous, the fear that you don’t actually know what you are talking about.  

Why this works: People get rewarded in public for the work they do in private. Practicing is the work, the thing most people won’t do. It’s what sets you apart. 


Lesson # 3: If You Can’t Practice, Pull from Your Story Bank

This is really the reason I joined Toastmasters – for the impromptu mini-speeches I’d have to deliver in everyday scenarios. I’m talking about things like eloquently answering questions during high stress interviews and having something to say to the CEO when we’re in the elevator for 30 grueling seconds. In these situations, my biggest fear is that I don’t have anything to say that sparks a conversation.

To alleviate these fears, I pull from a story bank. A story bank is exactly what it sounds like; a reserved set of stories you pull from when making conversation. My current story bank is home to Feyisa Lilesa & Ryan Lochte (since everyone is talking about the Olympics) among other stories I pick up through reading and conversation.

Why this works: See Lesson #1.


Lesson #4: Make Eye Contact & Smile

At our very core, we are all just toddlers asking everyone we meet, “Do you love me?” While toddlers are great at making friends with everyone they meet, we are a little more reserved as adults. Making eye contact and smiling does two very powerful things. First, you are making a confident move by making eye contact whether you know it or not. You are asserting that you’d like to connect with another person. Then you are smiling. This inviting gesture lets the other person know that you are warm and it encourages the other person to smile back.

Their smiling at you does one YUUGE thing for you when you are speaking in public, it creates an ally in the room. That inner toddler who was begging for love now has a friend, and a distraction from the terror of standing on stage and possibly wetting their pants.

Why this works: When people exude strength (making eye contact) and warmth (smiling), we think of them as influential according to research at Harvard.


Lesson $5: Get You an Alter Ego

You might do everything listed above and still have the smallest part of your brain take over, telling you that you can’t do this. If that is the case, pretend to be someone entirely different when you are about to get into the moment. Become someone smarter, more comfortable, and more confident.  I know this sounds insane, but I promise you, I wouldn’t have done 90% of the things I am most proud of if I let my mind overpower me. Plus, we all know those delusional people who have no skill but still win at life simply because they are crazy enough to think they are best? Yea, they understand the power of an alter ego (although they probably took it too far lol). Still don’t believe me? Ever heard of Sasha Fierce? How about Yonce?

Why this works: Alter egos are really just a way of getting out of your own head. It stops you from keeping yourself in a box. If we really can be whatever we want to be, why not become the person you need in that moment?

That is it! If you’re terrified of something like public speaking, it is probably a sign that you should grab it by the throat and kick it’s ass (Maya Angelou quote remixed).