I Am

Laying It Bare…

I wrote this post on Facebook over the weekend:

The Invitation - Exceprt

“Sometimes I get a little obsessive with songs, or poems, and I listen to them or read them, over and over, until I’ve got everything I can out of them, or they’ve at least sunk in.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been reading ‘The Invitation’ by Oriah, Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder, and I love it, all of it, and I’ve got this verse playing on loop in my head, and in particular this line: “I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.”

Can you?

Because I’ve realised I can.

Because being genuine – not betraying who I truly am, or my soul – might not make me the best person in the world, by some standards or rules, but it makes me the only one I’m happy to live with. Being fake – especially to myself – is just not an option. I’ve always been ok with that, but I’ve doubted it a little recently.

Earlier this year, I wrote a thing, and one of the lines in it was this: “People will tell you to ‘be yourself’ but in order to do so, you’ve got to get really comfortable with who you genuinely are.”

Are you?

Because I’ve realised I am.

Even if that means disappointing another to be true to myself.

I really, really am.”

I do that kind of thing, sometimes – post a thought, or an opinion, occasionally a rant.

There’s no real rhyme or reason to what I post, other than feeling a certain way in a certain moment. It’s a free pour, out of my brain, to my little community of people, partly in the hope that some of the words might mean something to them – that they might help them, or inspire them, or at least make them think.

Sometimes other stuff happens instead.

Sometimes people don’t like what I write, or say.

Maybe it hits a nerve for them, or maybe it confronts (or more likely affronts) them.

I’m not sure.

This morning my phone rang and it was someone telling me they’d read my post, and that I was wrong. They told me all the reasons I was wrong. And then the reasons why I was selfish.

I chuckled, a bit. Mostly because I know I’m one of the least selfish people in the world, but paradoxically, and this was kind of the point of my post, I can also be terribly selfish, and I’m ok with that. I’m more than ok with that.

I know you’re not supposed to say that.

I know you’re supposed to say that you spend your entire life in service of others; of people, the greater good, of tasks and checklists. That you put everyone, and everything, first, and lag behind, hoping to catch a break or take a breath. And even if you know who or how you really are, I know you’re meant to deny it, and pretend. Pretend like you are that person you’re ‘supposed’ to be.

But I can’t do that.

I’ve never been wired to do that.

And if there’s anything I know, it’s that you’ve got to love yourself first.

For me, that means being true to who I am. Even if that means disappointing someone else. Even if that makes me selfish.

I am no good to anyone, or anything, any other way.

Jane Caro - It's Important To Be Brave

Today someone shared this Jane Caro article on Facebook, and I read it and nodded. It is much more important to be brave, than nice. And people are very afraid of offending others. And saying what they think. And none of that fazes me at all.

I definitely don’t ever intend to offend anyone, but if someone is a little disgruntled after reading something I’ve written, there’s not a single part of me that is concerned about that.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I can’t, and won’t, suppress my thoughts because they don’t align with someone elses.

Part of what I do, as a writer, means putting a fair bit of myself out there. And while there is a great deal that I haven’t yet written about (my childhood, my challenges, my pretty traumatic labour experience, to name a few), there is a lot that I have. And I know that if I want to be the best writer I can be – and, more importantly, be true to who I am – then I can’t filter my thoughts.

If I factored in every opinion, and expectation, I’d likely never write a thing.

And let’s be honest; writing is one of the most selfish, indulgent things you can do. Especially when it’s about yourself, or your life.

That people even read what I write still blows me away. With all the words in all the world, the fact that a small percentage of people read mine with what precious time they have is kind of incredible.

But I don’t really write for them. I write for me. And, I suspect, that’s part of the reason people keep coming back; because I’m not trying to be perfect – something I most definitely am not. I’m only trying, every day, to be the best me I can be. And I think sharing parts of who I am can maybe help other people be brave, or at least be themselves, unashamedly.

Something I’m conscious of is that not every story is my story – even the ones that do have a lot of me in them. And while I’ll always be true to myself, I’m aware that not everyone I cross paths with has signed up to have their life chronicled, or their thoughts aired, and I respect that, with every ounce of consideration I have.

But it’s ok for me to be raw, out there. To say, or write, the things I don’t think enough people do. I can handle the negative feedback and comments (and even the phone calls).

But I don’t think I can stomach the judgement.

I think people that say things that are truthful – even if those things aren’t necessarily pretty – shouldn’t be torn down, but maybe instead given a high-five, or at least a thumbs up.

Not because of any other reason than it is brave.

It requires, no matter how often you’ve done it before, an unflinching exploration of boldness.

And not enough people are bold. Or brave.

And the more we tear down people when they try to be, the less likely they are to lay anything bare.

And we need to lay bare; to unlatch and throw wide open the window on who we are, so we can make it easier for other people to be who they are.

I’m never going to stop doing that; even when it’s not pretty. Even when it’s brash.

Being who you genuinely are, and being ok with that, is brave and it is bold.

And that’s all I need, and want, to be.

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I Am, I Know

Yesterday, I Was Called A Bully And A Bitch For Having An Opinion

On Thursday night, I shared a Facebook status from MND Australia, celebrating the fact they’ve had $500,000 donated in the past two weeks from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Sandi Sieger - Facebook Status

A Facebook “friend” made a point that the money they’ve raised is taking away from other charities and we delved into a discussion about it. Well, I think we tried to delve into a discussion about it, but when I began questioning the person – and sticking to my guns and not backing down from something I believe to be true – they didn’t like it. Not one bit.

The discussion very quickly moved away from the challenge and fast became all about me being a very insensitive and mean person for being so offensive. I did, after all, call people who are negative ‘miserable sods’.

Which they are. Well, at least from where I’m standing.

The thing most people that know me understand about me is this: I will never enter a debate, or be so incredibly headstrong during one, if a single fibre of my being is unsure about my exact opinion or the facts. And, during debate, I’m always open to other opinions and points and arguments – otherwise, you’re really just talking to yourself, aren’t you?

But here’s what people that know me also understand about me: I won’t tolerate bullshit. And name-calling. And finger pointing. And cowardice.

The discussion went down hill quickly because the questions I asked failed to get answered. Because they couldn’t be answered. Because hypocrisy was rife. And I called it out.

So I got called a bully.

And instead of bowing out (I gave an opportunity to ‘agree to disagree’), the person kept at it. And when I told them, if they continued, I’d give them something to be really offended about, they kept at it. So I told them to go and find something more productive to do with their day, instead of hassling me.

So I got called a bitch.

To be clear: being called a bully and bitch doesn’t bother me. I know I am neither.

What bothers me is that someone – this man – made our entire conversation redundant because he chose to be offensive (something he was admonishing me for, funnily enough) and, instead of answering the question, or raising a single point at all, threw his hands in the air and yelled ‘bully’ and ‘bitch’.

We all know it doesn’t work like that.

If you choose to enter a debate, be bloody prepared to battle it out, like an adult, leaving insults aside, and if you can’t handle it, don’t step up to the podium.

Or, as the old saying goes, don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

I’m assuming I was called a bully and a bitch because I dared to question him. Because I didn’t back down from my opinion. Because I didn’t give in. And because I wouldn’t just darn well come out and say that yes, I was offensive and yes, you are right and I shouldn’t call people who are being negative ‘haters’ or ‘miserable sods’.

The real issue is I called him out. Period. I dared to hit him with a little bit of honesty, without sugar-coating my words, and he didn’t like it.

That’s not really my problem.

I don’t expect everyone to always agree with me. Far from it. I’ve had my opinion swayed far more times than I’d like to admit because I sat back and listened to someone else’s view.

I believe healthy and lively discussion is the only way people, and countries, really progress.

But there’s a big, big problem in Australia at the moment; the second anyone shares an opinion (whether it be your version of right or wrong, or completely outrageous) they’re shut down and ridiculed. If they’re well known, the media turns their opinion into a circus, if they’re not well known, they’re defriended on Facebook and blacklisted.

All for having an opinion.

Let’s get one thing clear: healthy, lively debate, where both sides are prepared to listen, but also belt it out, is vital. It’s vital to life, and relationships, and growth, and hope.

But when adults allow themselves to be disgracefully over-sensitive, when they allow ignorance to rule their mouths, and shut down their ears, we are left with a really big problem.

Stagnancy.

We become boring and dull and downright sluggish.

And whilst I’m not suggesting that everybody starts throwing opinions around every five minutes, I am saying we need to shake off this culture of shush and start learning how to listen and engage without being so offended.

I have absolutely no problem with the person that called me a bully and a bitch. I’d sit opposite them at dinner tonight and chat away happily. But I doubt they could say the same applies for them.

When did people become so petty? When did we, as a culture, become so offended, by everything, that it blinded us from what really matters?

I always believe that out of a negative comes a positive. And yesterday, when I was scratching my head and wondering how little this person must really think of me, the positive started to appear.

My phone started ringing. I started getting text messages. And private messages. It was from friends saying: ‘Well done.’ ‘Good on you.’ ‘Need me to put my fist in anyone’s face for you?’ And they kept coming from people I haven’t seen in far too long: ‘I love it when you speak and write.’ ‘Go for the jugular!’ ‘I’ve just read through the comments on your profile and this bloke is a bit out of line, I just wanted to offer my support to you.’ And then they started coming from people I don’t even really know at all: ‘I totally agree with you!’ ‘You’re bloody goooooooooooood.’

And, that, right there, made me realise that out of all the good things in my life, and out of all the good things I have done, this was the very best of them: surrounding myself, and building for myself, a network of positive people. Passionate, intelligent, rational, spirited people.

They are the very antithesis of stagnant.

And the reason I’m writing all of this is because I want you to know that you should never shy away from your opinion. By doing so, you shy away from yourself.

I want you to know that you should always stand up for yourself and sticky by, and to, the things you believe in.

Most of all, I really want you to stop pussy-footing around. Around people. Around issues. Around ideas. Around yourself.

Be proud of who you are.

I sure as hell am.

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I Do, I Know

Mistaking Motion for Action

The other day, I read this blog post from my dear friend, Faustina. Currently in LA, Faustina is stumbling upon some life lessons that are making me nod my head and ‘ah’ in agreement:

One thing that I’ve become far more aware of, particularly in the last couple of months, is that lessons in life will keep on presenting themselves to you until you learn and understand them wholly. The lesson I’ve consistently been presented with is to stop rushing aspects of my life when making transition.

That paragraph sums up the last few months of life, for me. There are lessons, and thoughts, and feelings that keep on presenting themselves; sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, that make me think, ‘Ah, I’m back here again.’ Thoughts and feelings and lessons in waiting that I cannot shake, that keep peeking around and popping up in so many aspects of my life.

Then I read this, and it made so much sense I felt it with every fibre of my being:

When I wake up in the morning I think about what I feel like doing that day. Not just what I should – cause then the list goes for days. And then the pressure sets in.

We hardly ever give ourselves enough credit to follow what it is we want to do.

Granted, there’s things we should and need to do, but if we fail to put the want into our day, we’re just cheating ourselves.

And sometimes, we needn’t worry about what we should do. Some days we should pack the car, go for a drive, hit the beach or the mountain and breathe, or, go wherever it is we feel like going and do whatever it is we feel like doing.

I’ve been following my gut feeling over the past few months and it has lead to some discoveries and realisations. As well as some of the most relaxing and fulfilling moments of my life.

I’m sick of the should-dos. And the can-dos. The up-and-gos. And the to-dos.

I’m sick of rushing.

I know too many people who are too busy getting very little done. There’s been some great work written on busy lately, of which I entirely agree, and I say that as a person who’s spent the best part of her twenties being busy – and fulfilled, and happy, and full of life.

I still want to be fulfilled and happy and full of life, but I recognise that in order to do so you don’t need to be busy. We are constantly bombarded with messages of ‘life is short’, ‘make every day count’, ‘live each moment like it’s your last’, but the reality is, for most people, life is long, full of many days and moments, and I feel like all this ‘make every moment count’ hoo haa is just another way for, as Faustina says, ‘the pressure to set in’.

We’re so obsessed with making each moment count, we try to have multiple moments in one. We’re no longer satisfied with one thing at a time. We’re no longer satisfied by simple moments.

Social media, for all its brilliance and blessings, has allowed us to develop a behaviour where we feel as though we can’t miss a moment, so we need to be plugged in and switched on all the time, but not only that; we also can’t miss out on the opportunity to capture a moment. Our computers and laptops and smartphones, gadgets that bing and ding and ring and ping, are pulling us from the very moments we’re supposed to be enjoying because we’re so afraid we’re not capturing it all, or, that there’s something going on that’s more important or interesting than what we’re currently doing.

We can no longer watch a TV program without vomiting opinions about it – in real time – online. We can no longer watch a movie at the theatre without a screen lit up in our palm (I’m about one movie away from picking up someone’s phone and throwing it). We can no longer capture a beautiful view in our minds, we need to Facebook and Instagram and Twitpic it.

The constant need to share has started to make me a little ill. I actually don’t want everyone to know what I’m doing, all the time. And I don’t really want to know what other people are doing all the time, too.

I don’t want to have conversations with people that are multi-tasking. I expect undivided attention.

I stopped using Foursquare weeks ago, because I realised I didn’t want people to know where I was enjoying a coffee, and it’s become more and more apparent that I care less and less about where other people are having one too.

I love gaining insights into people’s lives via social media, I love the banter, the humour, the connections and the links sharing great writing. I don’t love the negativity. I don’t love the opinions – particularly those that are degrading or rude or judgemental. I don’t love the links sharing bad writing.

So I use social media in my own way now, in a way that suits me. That means taking in 10% of what’s going on, sharing 15% and using the other 75% in more positive and productive areas of my life.

I don’t run to social media first thing in the morning anymore, or last thing at night. I switched off my notifications. My phone rarely pings and dings and bings anymore. I only answer calls if it suits me to answer them. Ditto emails. I check social media when I want to (some days, I forget to check it at all – it’s surprising how quick and easy it’s been to detach). I find myself enjoying social media more, when I do use it, because I’m using it less. I find myself less affected by people’s opinions and negativity. I find time to read more good quality blogs, online magazines and newspapers. I still connect with people. Online and offline. And I’m getting more done. I read more. Yes, books.

I’ve written about the farce that is multi-tasking before, and I kind of feel that way about online activity now – not that it’s a farce, but that you can spend a day flicking between websites and social media profiles, feeling busy and rushed, but achieving very little.

When online activity started to make me feel rushed and pressured, when I started to feel like I had to have something to say, and share things in my day, that’s when I decided to change my approach.

Life may be full of moments, but I don’t think each and every one of them has to count. I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favourite films, The Age of Innocence, when Newland Archer played by Daniel Day Lewis, replies to a question of how he’s going to spend his day, by saying, “I’m going to find a way to save my day, rather than spend it.”

That, I believe, is what we should focus on. Not the ways to make each moment count, as though the more we do, the more we have to accumulate, thus making our lives more worthy, but rather, focusing on how to save and cherish moments, acknowledging that sometimes, whittling away the hours doing sweet nothing is far more meaningful than rushing in the pursuit of something.

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I Do, I Know

Why Multi-Tasking Is A Farce

I’ve stopped multi-tasking in my job.

And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

I’ve realised – after several years of thinking that doing too much all at the same time is a good idea, and with thanks to business coach Marie Forleo, whose B-School course I have just completed, that multi-tasking is a complete farce.

Yes, a farce.

The past week, I have focused 100% on exactly what I’m doing at any given time – and on that task alone – and I’ve noticed a huge spike in my productivity, concentration and quality of work.

This might all sound very simple. And you may scratch your head and wonder if this ‘lesson’ I have learnt is really that much of a discovery.

But easier said than done.

The truth is, working in the online space is often erratic, frenetic and involves having 82 tabs open, 10 programs, 12 social media accounts, 6 email accounts, one landline, one mobile phone and a partridge in a pear tree.

It’s overwhelm, on your senses, and in every sense of the word.

And sometimes you get to the end of a long day, back away from the computer and think, ‘Wow, today was so busy, it was go, go, go.’

Which it most likely was.

Go from phone call to email, go from Facebook to Twitter, go from YouTube to online magazines, go from writing to editing, go from here to there and repeat.

I have done this long enough to know that a busy day might not necessarily equal a productive day.

So, after reading the stats and research on the importance of banishing multi-tasking, after learning and evolving, I have stopped multi-tasking at work.

And I get so much more done. I now schedule like a mo-fo, I map out my week before it’s even begun, I break tasks down and I set aside sufficient time for them to be completed in.

And I’m smashing it.

Not being pulled and stretched too thin means I’m not worn out at the end of the day, but more importantly, it means what I’m doing during the day is great work, as opposed to good work. There’s order to my day and that order has brought a certain clarity with it that’s so new to me, I do feel a little bit like a new person.

This is a huge shift for me. And whilst I certainly won’t stop multi-tasking outside of work (the washing, cooking and cleaning trifecta is best left alone), I don’t think I can go back to multi-tasking at work again.

Parts of my day still involve tab-jumping and serial mouse-clicking, but I’ve allowed time for that to happen. It’s not my whole day. Whole timeslots in my day are now blocked out and dedicated to just one task.

If you think it can’t be done, or if you’re scoffing at the thought, give it a go.

Don’t make excuses. I used to all the time. All of the reasons as to why I needed this open or that at my fingertips.

The world will not stop spinning if you spend an hour devoted to working. Your client will not die if you call them back 45 minutes after they leave you a voicemail message. You can take four hours to email someone back. That tweet can wait.

We’ve created this idea that we need to be on top of everything, all at the same time; but that’s not only impossible, chances are it’s also damaging your working life (and maybe life beyond that). As I’ve looked around this week, I’ve noticed people declaring how busy they are, how much there is to do, but then at the end of the week, their to-do list barely has a tick on it. And so they go into the next week with the same list and the same thing happens and then a month has passed. And they’ve somehow kidded themselves into thinking this is how work is supposed to be done.

I should know. I’ve been there.

What we need to do is be clear, focused and on task so we can get the job done. And if you can do that with 82 tabs open, 10 programs, 12 social media accounts, 6 email accounts, one landline, one mobile phone and a partridge in a pear tree, then all power to you.

But I have finished a week where I’ve given multi-tasking the flick and it’s been the best working week I’ve had in a long time. Even though I worked late into the night twice this week. Even though there were some minor frustrations.

So goodbye, multi-tasking, and hello, clear to-do list.

Let’s rock this.

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I Do

Social Media, We Seem To Have A Problem

Working in social media is, for the most part, incredibly fun.

Except when people think that’s about all there is to it – fun.

Whilst it’s enjoyable, and exciting, and ever changing and growing, it comes with a serious amount of bashing-head-against-wall moments.

Or is that just me?

The thing about working in an industry that isn’t fully developed or established is that – besides everyone thinking they’re an expert – there’s no blueprint. There’s no formula. There’s no X, Y and Z. Most elements of social media are dependent on a variety of things; the client, the type of business, what service/product is being sold, the market, the tone, the platforms being used – I could go on and on and on – so every approach to social media needs to be different. Tailored. Customised. And yes, there are common features and patterns, but every day is different, because, shock horror, social media is driven by people, and you can’t always predict and categorise people.

None of this bothers me. It’s actually the thing I most like about social media – that every day is different, that a new skill needs be learned, that there’s always a challenge, because not every day is identical.

Working in social media actually requires a skill set that is incredibly varied – some of which can be learned and some of which is pretty inherent. Hence the reason why there are social media agencies that are thriving and those that are dragging the name of social media through the winter mud – because they’re lacking in most of the fundamentals that are essential to any basic campaign or community.

It’s frustrating having to witness that kind of behaviour. Sure, it’s wonderful when my phone rings and people say, ‘We want a piece of what you’re doing,’ but I’d rather all parties involved in social media pulled up their socks and acted in accordance with the titles on their business cards.

And, if we can manage it, it’d be great if clients employing the services of social media agencies and community managers and companies et al. could also act in accordance with the parameters set by the people they’re paying to do a very skilled job.

Let me share an example.

If I employ someone to build a website for me – something I have done before – I certainly don’t tell the web designer what I want, then monitor their every movement, then edit, alter and change code on them whilst they are developing what I am paying them to do, then tell them all the ways they could be doing things because ‘I read on this website somewhere that…’

Or how about this one?

If I call a tradesman to come to my house and fix something that is broken, I would not hover over their shoulder, incessantly tapping it and asking them what they are doing and to please justify every single step. I probably wouldn’t tell them how to do their job, either, nor reference some DIY handbook, extolling my knowledge on the very thing I called them and am paying them to fix.

I would, instead, make the tradesman a cuppa and gather some biscuits for them to enjoy after their hard afternoon of work. I’d probably say thank you, too.

Truthfully, I understand clients with complaints. In many cases, they’re bang on. Especially if they’ve been overcharged for a service that has been well and truly under delivered.

What I don’t understand is why social media managers, agencies et al. need to bear the brunt of a businesses frustrations – and why we’re expected to be the answer. To everything. But I also cannot understand why a business or person would pay money for someone – or an agency – to manage their social media profile, and then feel the need to check on their every movement and click.

Mostly, I can’t understand why it’s acceptable to treat the social media industry with the level of disdain and distrust that it’s currently experiencing in Australia. Businesses cannot group all agencies and managers together in the one basket – sure, there are some rotten apples – but we’re not all mouldy.

And because I’m the kind of person who cannot keep anything inside for fear of self-combustion, and because my fingers are typing without my brain even needing to kick into gear, here’s a list I’ve titled:

Things I’ve wanted to say in meetings or to clients, and some things I really have*…

*because if no one tells it like it is, how will anyone know what it’s like?

Social media will not solve all of your problems. It will most probably amplify them. Unless you are prepared to deal with your problems honestly and politely, avoid the social media space because I can guarantee you will not like what you read, hear or see.

Oh, you read Mashable? You must be an expert in social media.

Have a little faith. Sure, there are less than brilliant social media agencies out there. Chances are, though, most people you encounter that are working in social media on a day-to-day basis have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t. If they offer you some advice, you’d be best to take it, then make your own mind up from there.

Oh, you have a Facebook profile? You must be an expert in social media.

If you aren’t happy with the agency/person you are paying to manage your social media presence, find another agency/person that meets your requirements.

Oh, you’re on Twitter. You must be an expert in social media.

Social media managers are not like Jesus. We cannot turn water into wine (although I guarantee some days at our desk we truly wish we could), we cannot walk on water or perform any other such miracles. We do, however, have something in common; we don’t appreciate being crucified.

If your social media plan involves clicking delete and block, on repeat, you’re doing it wrong.

Social media managers are not mind readers. Keep that in mind next time you expect them to read yours.

Oh, you’re on Pinterest? You must be an expert in social media.

Social media doesn’t switch off. Measure that.

When I was at University, my lecturers told me I’d be working in a job that hadn’t even been invented yet (at the time). They were right.

If your social media plan involves screaming HIT LIKE on Facebook, you’re doing it wrong.

I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a fork than go to most of the social media networking events or conferences. Most of the time, they’re full of back-patters – and wankers – that have very little idea about social media, spruiking things people definitely don’t need. While you were there schmoozing and feeling all ‘industry’, I was working.

Oh, you’re on Instagram? You must be an expert in selecting filters.

You cannot treat social media, or approach it, in the same way you do your traditional marketing plan or other forms of advertising. Sure, it’s got to correlate, but a carbon copy it is not.

Oh, you want a schedule of everything I’ll post for the next month? Sure, please provide me with a schedule of every event, current affair, issue, discount, special, promotion, offer and thought you’ll have in the next month, and I’ll be sure to jot it down.

My chow chow actually gets it more than you do … yes, that’s a dog.

You are paying me for a service. But doing so does not mean I will ask ‘HOW HIGH?’ when you request for me to jump. Do you ring your mobile provider every day, requesting service from them? Do you email your energy provider every day, reminding them you are paying for their services? You don’t? Well, I never…

Change your attitude. Arsehole is unbecoming on you.

If you think social media is easy, and that you can do it yourself, I suggest that you do.

Oh, you don’t like my tone? (Insert finger gesture here).

If there’s something that shits you about social media – working in it or dealing with it – I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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