How to Start a S#!tty First Draft

I’ve heard this concept for a while and I finally read what I believe is the first reference to a S#!tty First Draft (SFD) in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Of course, I got stuck on a blank page in Word and was trying to figure out how to start a SFD. Blank white space is intimidating. The last two posts I published, one on my dog and one on creating your reality, have received a bunch of great feedback. I get caught up in the, “How am I going to follow that one up?” When you see hundreds of people across the world have read your post, it can either be emboldening or utterly intimidating. I can be haunted by thoughts like, “How dare I think I can follow that up.”

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So here we go. The how’s and why’s of the SFD:

Percolate.  I think of the old, dust-covered Hamilton Beach Percolator my mother would drag out and clean for bridge club in the mid 1960’s. Even if the end product is unpalatable and bitter, the process of filtering through and rethinking and mulling over is important. I started thinking about the SFD when I read Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong some four months ago. Yesterday, I read about it in Bird by Bird. I made notes. I took a shower. I washed my hair. I digested. I realize that, in retrospect, I do this with most of the topics I write about. Something piques my interest and then I let it sit and percolate. I need a little reflection to put the pieces together. So before you start your SFD, percolate a bit.

Start.  The problem with percolating is that it cannot stop there. Percolating can become ruminating. Obsessing. Procrastination. So sit down, whether it’s 6 AM or, as I sit here on the West Coast, my laptop reads: 9:07 AM PST/12:07 PM EST. Start. Open up a blank document. Start. Spill. Type. Don’t worry about another cup of coffee or if you are at your favorite desk with your fuzzy slippers on. Just start. If you wait for the perfect moment to arrive, it will remain elusive.

Sloppy.  I think we all have a bit of perfectionism inside of us. Some of us more overtly than others. I don’t iron my underwear but I do like a clear counter-top and I have a certain way I like the pillows on my couch. As Jason Lengstorf writes, “But there’s hesitation. What if it’s not exactly right? What if people judge your work too harshly? What if this idea isn’t as good as you thought? Small worries like these can lead to procrastination and unnecessary stress.” We get caught up in perfectionism. It won’t be perfect. It can never be perfect. So go for sloppy. Embrace the wabi-sabi.

Data.  Brene wrote in Rising Strong, “In the absence of data, you’ll make up a story.” Isn’t that the truth? I typically search a few terms like “SFD” or “letting go of perfectionism” to see what other data is out there. Who else has written about this? What are their thoughts? What other insights are out there? When searching SFD, I found a bunch of things on actual writing but this all can be applied to more than just writing. Gather the data on the project you want to start. Gather the data on the new knife set you want to buy. I’m not suggesting you turn this into the dreaded analysis paralysis but gather some data for your SFD.

Look.  Keep an eye out for Quantum Flirts.  I learned about Quantum Flirts at the ORSC training by CRR Global. Is the Universe winking at you? Are they sending an almost imperceptible or more overt “sign” that you need to take in? I have been mulling over starting a book for months…er…. years…maybe a decade. I saw Frances McDormand on the Oscars, when she asked every woman to stand up who was nominated and she said, “We all have stories to tell.” For me, this was a sign. I have a story to tell. Some fifty plus years in the making. I need to start telling that story. The Universe was giving me a sign that I need to start writing my book. I need to tell my story. Thank you, Frances.

End.  As Anne Lamott wrote, you need to have the end in mind before you start. How do you know where you are going unless you know the destination? My destination for this piece is for you, my reader, to get started. Whatever getting started means for you. Get out your sneakers and run for 30 seconds. Take one pile of papers off the end of the dining room table. Start that gnarly project you have been sitting on for months…perhaps years. Think about what the end-result will be, whether it’s feeling in better shape, finally decluttering your home or getting that project complete. It doesn’t have to be perfect or reasonable or perspiration-free. Start…with the end in mind.

I am really fortunate to have an excellent editor that makes my posts come together. Most of my posts are SFD’s with misspellings, grammatical errors and references that are incorrect. I dump on a page and hope my editor can make sense of it. This makes writing a SFD a lot easier because I know that Susan has my back and will fix my mistakes. Just start. Listen to Frances. What story do you want to tell? I know you have one.

The Obstacles You Face are Moving Your Story Forward

I’ve been taking Patti Digh’s Project 137 for the last few months. Project 137 has activities each day to help live your life to the fullest. This is what came up the other day:

Where are you, right now, in your journey? Be fully there.

                     Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

                     Be fully where you are. The obstacles you face there are moving your story    

                     forward. Embrace them.

This was really enlightening. I have written about staying off someone else’s path before, but actually viewing obstacles as moving myself forward was completely new to me. It’s so easy to get discouraged by an obstacle and letting it demoralize you. Put your hands up in the air and throw in the towel.

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Here are some thoughts about how having obstacles can move you forward:

Re-frame the obstacle.  I received some life-altering bad news yesterday. I was angry. I felt deceived. I felt like I just could not catch a break. And then, as I do with many of my coachees, I re-framed it. This news was not a death sentence. It wasn’t even a health issue. It was just about money. I realized by the time I went to bed that it was just money. I didn’t lose a loved one, my health was fine and my career in tack. So it’s just a challenge I need to get past and will be stronger for it. Put the obstacle under a new frame.

Take stock.  I write in a gratitude journal every day. This is incredible helpful when life throws you a few challenges. I had a serious scare earlier this week with a loved one. I took stock in the fact that the loved one was just fine and how happy I was that they were fine. I’m happy my dog is safe when I return home from being on a business trip. I appreciate that a friend took time to speak to the class I was facilitating. I am grateful that my career is so successful. I write five things (sometimes more) that I am grateful for every day. It helps me realign the universe to having my best interest at heart. Take stock.

Take the turn.  Have you ever used the GPS to get through something like the Hampton Roads area of Virginia? I cannot make it through the Norfolk/Newport News area without taking the wrong exit, or being in the wrong lane while my exit is three lanes over. So I have a choice. I can get angry and beat myself up or I can take the next turn and get back on track. Just because it didn’t go as planned, just adapt. Be flexible and don’t let your inner critic hijack your emotions. Just relax and take the next turn.

Stay positive.  As Patti writes in Project 137, “Don’t let your struggle become your identity.” When I went through a huge life pivot point some 6 months back, I defined my entire life by the pivot point. All my worthiness was wrapped up in a decision that someone else made. I was not moving forward. In fact, I was trying my hardest to move backwards. I was living in the space of constant struggle. It took a few months, but I finally figured out that forward positive motion was the only answer. I couldn’t live in self despair. I had to see what was possible instead of wallowing in grief. Staying positive lets you see what is possible.

Understand your story.  Brene Brown writes in Rising Strong, “In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. In fact, the need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive survival wiring. Mean making is in our biology, and our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense, feels familiar, and offers us insight into how best to self-protect.” Knowing that you are filling in the blanks for data that is missing is important to recognize. It’s amazing how paranoid I can get when I am missing a few data points. When I acknowledge that I am “fabricating data” for the story in my head, it brings me back to reality and helps me redraft the story with more positive data. You are the author of the story in your head, and you are allowed, actually encouraged, to rewrite the story for the happy ending.

In an era of constant change and ambiguity, it can be overwhelming when a challenge arises. It’s important for all of us to remember, including myself, that it’s our response to the obstacle that is what’s most important, rather than the challenge itself. What obstacles are you facing?

Setting Boundaries to Build Trust

This seems counterintuitive. Why would having firm boundaries increase trust? This is a concept I learned about from Brene Brown in her latest book, Braving the Wilderness. I imagined that if you have firm boundaries that you have created an impenetrable fortress around you. You don’t let anybody in, and in turn, certainly don’t let anybody out. Keep everyone at arm’s length.

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By Brene’s definition, it means making clear what’s okay and not okay. But this is really hard for those of us who just want to please everyone. Go along to get along. I’ve been in this camp for many years, whether it was giving into crazy rules and regulations of a relationship (i.e. no music while driving, no lemon, only foreign films, etc.) or making excuses why someone is late or not being respectful. Regardless, I haven’t been very good at setting up boundaries. So, this is something new for me and about 80 percent of my coachees.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take responsibility. There is only one person who can set up your boundaries and that is you. Your Fairy Godmother is not going to come down from on high and Prince Charming won’t arrive on his stead to set up your boundaries for you. Don’t play the blame game for someone else walking all over you. There is only one person who needs to take responsibility, and that is you. I know this is hard to swallow because it is so much easier to complain about how someone treated you, instead of owning it. Take responsibility for your boundaries.

 

  • Know your boundaries. Take some time to articulate your boundaries.  Write them down. I don’t stay out after midnight. Never travel for business on a Sunday. Always request a booth at a restaurant. Only 25% of my business is pro bono. I agree to deadlines that are attainable. No phone calls after 7 PM. No technology at the dinner table. No more than three text or emails without a response. No committing to more than two events per week. I don’t leave my dog with a dog sitter for more than two days. Whatever they are, write them down. Know them. If you haven’t written them down then they might get blurry. Establish your boundaries.

 

  • Just say no. Brene writes about choosing to be uncomfortable for eight seconds when you turn something down, rather than the resentment that will eat at you if you say yes. When you can’t live with the uncomfortable eight seconds to say no, then you will end up living with resentment that will eat you up. I have done this many times. I’ve said yes to serving on boards I had no time or desire to be on. I don’t want to look like I am selfish. I’ve said yes to obligations that did not line up with my passions. The regret that comes with these decisions is a much heavier load than the eight seconds of being uncomfortable. Embrace the discomfort and say no.

 

  • Let go of the guilt. Guilt is an inside job. Maybe my mother is carrying a load of guilt on my behalf, but besides that, all the guilt I might carry is completely created by me. I carry guilt for other folks. My daughter made the decision to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event instead of a family event. I started picking up the guilt and carrying it with me. It was not my guilt to carry. She had set a boundary and I needed to respect that. Sometimes the guilt is attributed to someone else’s boundary. Respect that and let go.  Don’t drag yours or anyone else’s guilt behind you. It is weighing you down.

 

  • Hold the line. Brene calls this accountability. Don’t back down once you have set your boundaries. I’ve been meditating for 30 minutes for the last 5 months. It is non-negotiable. If I have a 6 AM flight, I’ll get up at 4 AM to make sure I get my meditation in. Make sure your boundaries are non-negotiable. At this point, this boundary in my life is a habit, similar to brushing my teeth. If you hold the line long enough, it becomes second nature.

 

Establishing boundaries builds trust. In many ways, it is trust in yourself in that you know what is best for you. Isn’t that what it’s all about. Knowing what is best for you? What boundaries do you need to establish?

What story are you telling yourself?

You walk into the room and everyone snickers. They must hate the new shoes I am wearing. Your assistant forgets to copy you on an email. She must have it out for me. Your boss doesn’t return your text for at least 2 hours. She must not think I am important enough.

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These are all stories we tell ourselves. We take a few floating facts and put them into a story that sets us up for disappointment. We feel marginalized and often shut down. The thing is that everyone tells Their Story in their own head. But how often do we test our assumptions? How often do we verify that we have The Story right? This whole concept was illuminated in Brene Brown’s powerful book, Rising Strong.

Here is how to unravel your story:

  • Curious.  As Brene wrote, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty.” It is so much easier to live in our self-deprecating assumptions that everyone is out to get us. When we open ourselves to curiosity, we open to possibility. This helps reframe or re-write the story. So how does this play out? Hmmm. Maybe my boss is in an important meeting. Maybe my assistant didn’t forget to copy me intentionally. Maybe I should ask my friend why everyone was snickering. Remain curious.
  • Wabi-Sabi.  Wabi-Sabi is accepting imperfection and uncertainty. As Brene wrote, “It’s always helpful to remember that when perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun.” Striving for perfection is exhausting. You will never be ________ (fill in the blank: good, smart, thin, funny) enough. Seeking perfection is inviting shame. The shoes will never be right. The report not all encompassing enough. Shame will not help the story in your head. Embrace the wabi-sabi in your life.
  • Enough.  This is one of the best quotes from the book: “Many of us will spend our entire lives trying to slog through the shame swampland to get to a place where we can give ourselves permission to both be imperfect and to believe we are enough.” It’s so important to tell yourself that you are enough. Try this: Shoulder’s back, stride into the room, smile and make eye contact. The next time you are walking into a room of new people, try it. It makes a remarkable difference in how you show up and how you feel. You are enough.
  • Own it.  Brene wrote, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” I’ve done this a few times with my husband over the last few weeks. When I started believing that he was mad at me or was upset about something, I would start by saying, “So I have two stories that I’m telling myself. One is that you are working really hard and are stressed and can’t be as attentive. The other is that you don’t love me anymore and you are seeing someone else.” Guess which story was true. Now I can own the real story.
  • Discomfort. This can be uncomfortable. It takes bravery. As Brene posits, “People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real bad-asses.” Think of yourself as a New York Times reporter fact-checking your story. It’s definitely uncomfortable to step into the vulnerability of uncertainty. If it’s too comfortable, are you really challenging the facts of the story. Engage in discomfort.
  • Ditch comparison. Comparing yourself to other’s is another way of writing the wrong story. As Brene wrote, “Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” Comparison is a limiting belief. In addition, it invites in perfectionism. My neighbor has a nicer car. My boss has a bigger office. I don’t make as much money as my colleague. Not very inspiring. Nothing to compel you onward and upward! We are all on our own path. As Brene says, “Stay in your own lane.”

I have slowly tried to incorporate this into my life. I take a step back when I am angry or resentful over something and try to reframe my story. It’s not easy but I do feel more present and I am able to re-write the story. What story do you need to reframe?

Untether The Balloon. 5 Ways To Detach From The Outcome.

I’ve just spent a few days on the West Coast and met up with a great college friend. We spent a lot of time talking about “Not being attached to the outcome.” She shared an example of a conference she attended where, a group of 30 had to divide into three learning groups. There was no guidance as to how the groups needed to be put together but that everyone in the group had to agree with the makeup of the group. That’s a tall order. She said they spent two days trying to divide up the groups. She was tracking certain folks she wanted to be with, but the turning point for her was letting go and not being attached to the outcome. She ended up in a group sans any of the folks she was tracking but it still proved to be a great group. Letting go of the outcome let her be open to other possibilities.

I was coaching a client this week who wasn’t sure they wanted to do an Ultra Marathon (over 26.2 miles). So I asked what the worst case scenario was and he said a, “To not finish.” I asked, “What is so bad about that?” He said ” Well, I guess I could try again, especially if it’s an injury”. Exactly. We don’t need to be so tied to the outcome….it is…what it is. Let the balloon go and let it float away.  Let. It. Go. red_balloon_by_snnr

So how do we let go, become untethered from the outcome? Here are some steps to try on for size:

1. Meditation. This seems appropriate since non-attachment has its roots in Buddhism. Spending even five or ten minutes on mediation each day helps you to let go of thought. It’s not like you stop thinking, but you learn to let go of thoughts as they come into your mind for ten minutes like little balloons lifting off. It helps you learn to let go of the story. Let the story balloons go as you meditate.

2. Open. Be open to all avenues. I have several ways to get to work. Some are longer, some have more red lights and some are prettier rides. Mess up your ride today. Go a different route. Quit being on auto pilot. I bet you don’t even remember the last drive you took to work. Let go of the assumptions of what is around the next corner, what will happen if your daughter drops out of college, or if you call back that client you aren’t sure about? What if you let go of the fear of quitting your job. Be open to possibilities.

3. Paradigm. Some paradigms are meant to be broken. A paradigm is a set of rules in your head. Many of these paradigms are built on the back of ghosts. If you struggled for money as a child, your paradigm might be about making a million dollars being THE only sign of success. If you only notice that thin people are successful, you might think you can only find success once you are thin. If you had a bad relationship with someone who is Korean, you might think that your child is doomed if they date a Korean. If you don’t want to be attached to the outcome, examine your paradigms…they are likely built on the ghosts of the past.

4. Acceptance. Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Brene Brown speak on her inspiring new book “Daring Greatly”. As Brene pointed out, it’s amazing how we all spend so much time judging each other. I can be devastated by a friend looking me up and down and assume they are judging my clothing selection. I can lose sleep over the fact that my neighbors must be mortified by our uncut lawn. I can make my child change what they are wearing to hope that they are judged by the pink polka dot socks and the purple suspenders. As Brene pointed out, everyone is busy being self-conscious and worried about their own thoughts. So how would you be without that thought? Let it go and accept.

5. Enough. You are enough. Let go of the struggle. You are perfectly you and no one else is exactly as perfectly you. Don’t wait for the next raise, or to hit the lottery, to lose twenty pounds or to marry the guy with the Ferrari. You are enough right now and forever. If you can be enough…right now in this moment…you can be enough even when you fail. Be enough (because you already are).

I have to say that I’ve been working on this for several years. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it and reflect on your progress, you will evolve into that floating balloon and let the wind take you where it will…and oh what a ride!