race runners swift urgency

Do you ever compare yourself with someone else? And attribute a higher grade or extra credit to those whom you perceive as better, faster, or more succesful than you?

I do. All the time.

That’s why I was so relieved when I spoke to my coach (after a long hiatus) who calmed me down, brought me back to my square 1, and reminded me that I’m not in a race. “Your urge has become an urgency,” she said, which led to a greatly needed exhalation.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

In my office developing a retreat, working on my memoir or coaching a client, I’m at peace and feeling blissful. Then, I’ll get an email, see a Facebook post or read an article that puts me into a tailspin. That I’m not there yet. My memoir is not on the New York Times Bestseller List. Funny that I should concern myself with that since it’s not even written yet.

Seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s segment on CBS Sunday Morning helped me to identify and also to relax. He had randomly picked up Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton several years ago and devoured all 700+ pages of it. Midway through his reading he wondered why no one had yet made a musical out of this man’s story. Not just a musical, but a hip-hop musical, then busied himself for the next six years to create one. Hamilton opened to rave reviews at the Public Theatre and is moving to Broadway in July. Miranda is not even rushing its opening to try to get into the Tony race for Best Musical. He’s taking his time.

I call this genius. Not only coming up with the idea, but more important, bringing it to fruition and not being blindsided by urgency. Sticking with your urge is one of the hardest aspects of soul proprietorship. I believe that our urges, our inspirations and the coincidences in our lives/businesses are divinely given. They feel different. At least mine do. I feel a sensation in my body, like a spark. Energy.

What often happens is that the energy is sapped by things like, oh, comparing oneself to the competition or anyone I perceive of as ahead of you.

The solution? Stay in action. Our gremlins–those voices that say very loudly, “You’re not enough!”–get very quiet when we’re busily engaged. Mine are particularly adept at coming out when I think I’m engaged with…social media.

My main job, your main job, is to remind yourself to stick with your urges. Bring them to fruition. Resist the temptation of “oohh, shiny!” and stay with the everyday work of respecting your inner wisdom. I have many people in place, like my coach especially, to remind me of that biblical adage:

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

Make the most of your time and chance. They will come.

trustI took a significant step in the mischief department. I fired the professional who gave me the assignment.

A moment of background for those of you new to this conversation. I had reached an impasse in my business a month or so ago and asked a very successful friend (I’ll call him Mark, though not his name) for a recommendation. Mark has had a lot of activity in his business and is thriving.

He referred me to Janet (not her real name). I made an appointment with Janet who charged me a whopping $450 for her intake session of two hours. After that, she explained, sessions would be $250 each, a hefty amount, but one that I was willing to pay for valuable insights and guidance. I did not see this as a lifelong commitment, but an opportunity to get out of the trough I was in.

I thought our initial session went well and that she sized me up accurately. She gave me the provocative assignment to do something mischievous daily as a means of flexing a muscle I would need if I were to step further into a more glaring spotlight of attention. We had two more sessions at $250 each, so I was surprised when the charge came through as $600 instead of $500 for our time together.

I promptly sent off an email inquiring about the $100 overcharge. “I’ll call you,” Janet responded. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of conversing with her on the matter. It seemed very straightforward to me and required only a simple apology and refund. Instead Janet asked me why I didn’t wait until our session to ask her about it. She explained that because Mark had referred me, she’d given me a discount from the $700 she normally charges for the first double session.

This was news to me as I had no knowledge of this pricing or that she had given me special consideration. None of that had been mentioned in our initial calls and email. In fact, I would not have signed on at that price. Also, she explained, her rates had gone up to $300 per session since we began a month or so ago.

This pronouncement went right to my gut. Uh-oh. There goes my trust.

It so happens that I was with very good friends in Florida when this transpired, so I got to run it by them. “This feels off to me,” I said. “How can I trust this person under the circumstances?” They validated my sentiments and mentioned a wonderful therapist we had all benefited from back in Connecticut. I called Gloria (not her real name) who was delighted to set up an appointment with me.

When I got back to NY from my quick stay in Sarasota, I heard from yet another inspiring woman whose workshops I’d attended many years ago. After seven years on a personal exploration journey, she has relocated to rural Massachusetts and is offering sessions by skype. I’d already called Gloria, but reached out to Cathy (you guessed it, not her real name) and told her that her email was a day too late, but that I was glad she was back and available again.

The very next day I received a message from my coach who has been through a daunting health journey and had been on hiatus from her practice since last June. She wrote that I still had one session I’d paid for almost a year ago and would I like that time with her or a refund.

I jumped at the opportunity to talk to her again. We had our call on Monday afternoon, and I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be with whom I want to be working.

It felt like a miracle. I needed help. I went to trusted sources. I trusted my own inner wisdom in rejecting one practitioner. And the perfect match presented itself.

The through line here is action: asking for help, showing up, and trusting your gut.

But wait! There’s more. I had reason to call Mark (the friend who’d referred Janet) today on an unrelated subject. “Funny you should call,” he said after we’d addressed the reason I’d phoned him. “Janet called me out of the blue and said that ‘Jane is very angry with me.'” Just in case I wasn’t 100% clear on what my gut was telling me, the fact that this therapist had not mastered Confidentiality 101 further substantiated my decision.

Jeff Seaver – Guest Expert – Social Media

My Mastermind Intensive, aka the Bolders, had the privilege of listening to Jeff Seaver of Seaver Interactive talk about what social media is and isn’t. He was our guest expert last Friday. We were riveted by his humor, his candor and the enormity of his knowledge on the subject.

His gorgeous handout included Seaver’s Two Rules of Social Media Marketing: AUTHENTICITY and SERVICE. He encouraged us to give it away, which is contradictory to the ‘monetize it’ voice that competes for our attention. Through illustration, he helped us to understand the benefits of this generosity using himself as an example and how his career has escalated through giving away his knowledge, and then being hired over and over again.

The main function of social media is to engage in conversation with your audience. Jeff made it seem so simple. At the core of it all is your brand. He gave our group a great suggestion. “The worst one to say what your brand is is YOU. Have others tell you what YOUR brand is.” We are too close to our products and services to really understand how the general public perceives us. Better to have customers and colleagues describe how they perceive your company.

He also drove home the importance of storytelling. After all, that’s how we learn and how we remember. Using social media to tell your story is an opportunity to engage your audience in ways that most others aren’t. Keep it personal. Be sure there’s conflict (who doesn’t experience that?) and redemption. Most important, Jeff added, “Only the heart touches the heart.” Get real, personal and be genuine. People remember.

The old adage holds here, even digitally. People want to do business with people they know and like. Using blogs, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are new means of creating those relationships. The cost and risk are low. To get the best results, give of yourself and your experience.

Henry Blodget

Henry Blodget – Co-founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider,

 Jonathan Landman, Editor-at-Large at Bloomberg News’ Bloomberg View section

Jonathan Landman, Editor-at-Large at Bloomberg News’ Bloomberg View section

“You’re here under false pretenses,” Jonathan Landman told us on Saturday afternoon in his opening remarks for Cornwall Conversations which was billed as:

 “the future of media and communications by two people who should know: Jonathan Landman, editor-at-large at Bloomberg News’ Bloomberg View section, and Henry Blodget, co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider”

on the Cornwall Library website.

“We should know,” he continued, “but we don’t. No one does!” Which set the tone for the conversation that followed.

In their remarks, which flowed easily between the two experts, here were the take-aways I found most interesting:

  • No one knew that twitter and Facebook would not only change journalism but become journalism.
  • That print publications today are ‘basically litter’ and ‘guilt-inducing’ as newspapers pile up as reminders of the dead wood being used daily to produce them.
  • There’s a big difference between ‘hits’ and ‘reads’. A ‘hit’ is the equivalent of walking by a newstand and taking in the headlines. Those numbers are counted, but aren’t the same as intentionally reading the full article. This data is difficult to mine and interpret.
  • Millennials get 50% of their news on their mobile devices, 20% on computers and 0% via print media.
  • Both were in agreement that America loves cats.
  • The reality is that reading about our involvement in Irag does not pay the bills. Cats, however, do.
  • In the same way that it incorrectly predicted that radio would eliminate newspapers and that TV would eliminate radio, the internet will not eliminate anything.
  • The Internet is the richest, most creative means for journalism that has existed.
  • Re truthfulness in today’s online reporting – “There are two billion fact checkers out there the moment you publish anything.
  • “You can immediately edit your words. In print, words can never be fixed. Online, you can fix it forever.
  • The rate of errors is the same today as in the past. E.g. Wikipedia vs. The Encyclopedia Brittanica – about the same number of errors, and wiki’s can be edited.
  • Photos used to be expensive to reproduce in print. Online, they’re free. People LOVE pictures, and they are worth 1000 words.
  • In addition to cats, we love lists. “21 Ways to…” etc. gets more opens than a “how-to” which is considered boring and can be read anytime.
  • The Holy Grail in publishing is how to offer a manageable amount of information to keep the public reasonably informed.

One or two members in the crowd bemoaned the state of communications today and speculated at what the youth of America may be missing out on. Wisely, Jon Landman said, “Nostalgia is a very dangerous thing.” Many, in support, agreed that our children are better informed today than we Baby Boomers (and older) ever were due to the large number of sources at their fingertips. “You have to have faith in people,” Blodget concurred.

“We are still in a period of enormous experimentation,” Landman added, which makes this an exciting time to be a witness to historic changes happening daily. Blodget declared this the “new Golden Age for journalism.”



Jane in chair leadingI thought I’d open the kimono a bit today and share my own process when I’m working on a big project. What has my attention these days, well, for over a year, really, has been a memoir. It keeps shape-shifting, but it’s moving forward, which is the main thing.

Here’s how I stay on track.

Number 1 - I take courses. I started with Ann Randolph’s writing class at Kripalu last June. Immediately after that, I made the decision to begin my memoir.

Number 2 - The first thing I did after her class was to hire a writing coach. After 3 months of working with the awesome Kate Brenton, I signed up for an Advanced Memoir class at Gotham Writers Workshop. That was ten weeks worth of writing, critiquing and being critiqued (ouch) with the inspiring instruction of Cullen Thomas which I followed up with another 10 week session that will come to an end on the 19th.

Number 3 – I read other people’s memoirs* to better understand the form.

Number 4 – I find support.

Last July I formed a writers group by inviting three amazing women to try out a session together. I sought them out. Over the course of the previous year in New York City, I’d had my antennae up. When one woman I’d met mentioned that her publisher had given her a due date for her memoir, I made a mental note. I became friends with woman #2 and learned over dinner that she teaches writing at the college level and had a manuscript tucked in a drawer. Jotted that down in the memory bank. And fabulous friend/woman #3, I found out, is an editor for a notable publication and also served on a prestigious jury for a major book award. Tucked that info away and then approached the three of them with an invitation to my place with writing samples by each to be read and listened to in the privacy of a quiet room in my building. We’ve been together now for nine months now and celebrate and deeply encourage each other.

I know what it takes to keep a big idea or project going. I love creating this momentum for myself and equally love creating these structures for others. Please join me this spring and get the support you need if DIY isn’t your thing, but working on something really important is. My in-person and virtual Mastermind groups are starting in late March. Click here for the scoop.

Some of the memoirs I’ve read recently and highly recommend:

  1. The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch
  2. Even This I Get to Experience – Norman Lear
  3. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
  4. The Kiss – Kathryn Harrison
  5. You Deserve Nothing – Alexander Maksik
  6. Long Road to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
  7. Brother One Cell – Cullen Thomas
  8. Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
  9. Truth and Beauty – Ann Patchett
  10. Ithaka – Sarah Saffian

mustache on woman

Oh, boy! I got the best responses (mainly privately) from you! Great suggestions (see yesterday’s comments) and so much inspiration.

I did leave the dishes in the sink last night and slept in this morning.

This could get dangerous!

Today I put a mustache on the photo of an acquaintance–beard and eyebrows, too. I’m going to work through the list of your brilliant ideas over the next couple of weeks until I need to report back to the woman who challenged me.

Thank you, All, for the wide-grin-producing escapades. My list is growing. Keep ‘em coming!

naughty girlI just got an assignment from a trusted support person to do something naughty or mischievous on a daily basis. The point of the exercise is to misbehave, act out. Consequences be damned! (Does swearing count?)

What’s that quote about well-behaved women not making history? This is in an effort to do my part on my own behalf.

But I need help. I’ve spent a lifetime following the rules, coloring in the lines and not making waves. This has got to stop.

Trouble is, I’m having a hard time coming up with mischievous acts that won’t harm anyone (leaving dirty dishes in the sink), get me kicked out of my building (throwing water balloons out my window) or negatively effect me (eating stuff that makes me sick). I’m drawing a big blank.

I’m asking for your help. What ways do you act out, misbehave that you’d be willing to share with me for the sake of women and history? You can comment below or email me privately – jane@janepollak.com .

I’m completely serious about this.

people pyramid humanGrowing up, someone who ‘needed help’ was looked at sideways. Going to a ‘shrink’ was ridiculed as even the expression implies. This was all before the days of coaches, support groups, accountability partners, etc.

Today, asking for help is a sign of strength. Harvey McKay told an audience of thousands, back in my NSA* days, that he worked with no fewer than 54 coaches. He had a speech coach, a writing coach, a business coach, and on and on. He exhibited no shame, was (and still is) a hugely successful businessman, author and speaker. And he announced, from the platform, that he NEEDED help.

Sadly, most professionals don’t share that there are legions behind them in support positions. Whether it’s pride, shame or deceit, many folks would prefer that the public think that they are the ONE who can pull it off solo.

I’d like to speak on behalf of those who openly admit that asking for help is a sign of strength. And letting your audience know that you get it is a thing of beauty, not shame. (How big is our President’s Cabinet? And our country was founded on that structure.)

Personally, I just signed up with a woman I am trusting to help me work on my own fear of success. Fortunately, she started our session by declaring that this issue is something experienced almost exclusively by high performers. As I continue to help others work through their resistances, I need to spend time in my own backyard dealing with mine. I’m a firm believer in not being able to take anyone further than you’re comfortable going yourself. I cannot limit my own imagination and expect others to expand theirs.

I am launching a new program next month for women like me. It will offer maximum support and accountability in an inspiring, safe and rigorous space. Click here to learn more. Hope to see you in March.

*National Speakers Association

heart app motivationWhat you focus on grows. What you measure grows.

Truer words could not be spoken when it comes to the heart app on my iPhone. I didn’t even know it was there until a few weeks ago when I had lunch with good friends from my Semester at Sea trip who pointed it out after I’d inquired about one’s fit bit bracelet. I knew I wasn’t going to shell out $100 for one of those. At which point her daughter said, “You don’t have to. Your phone counts your steps, even if you’re not aware of it.”

Now that I am, I find myself walking instead of taking the shuttle up to Broadway every morning. Knowing that I’m short 1500 steps at 5pm for my daily 10,000, I’m opting for walking versus hopping on the next bus or subway. This little app is making me happier and healthier by scoring me and recording my steps every day. My accidental accountability partner.

I’m a sucker for this kind of reinforcement. For health reasons, I knew I needed to let go of wheat and dairy. I began rewarding myself with a gold star for each day’s abstinence and didn’t want to mess up my three day streak. That was 8 years ago.

I’m a huge proponent of accountability as my goal buddy will attest. What serves you best? I promise that if you put out your desire/goal to another equally motivated partner and have a repeatable method for marking your progress, you’ll get to where you want to go with excitement, momentum and exhilarating results.

Michio Kushi – Brought Macrobiotics to US

I traveled to Boston over the weekend to attend the memorial service for Michio Kushi. According to the NYTimes obituary, Michio was “a Japanese scholar who popularized the macrobiotic diet in the United States, helping to change the way health-conscious Americans eat. He died on Dec. 28 in Boston. He was 88.”

Speakers from all over the globe traveled to the Arlington Street Unitarian Church and paid tribute to this man. The final eulogy was given by his youngest son, Hisao Kushi. I took notes.

Hisao talked about what it was like to have a father who saw health as a key to world peace. Imagine its affect on a child, especially when filling out an application for school or work.
“What does your father do?”

Long pause. A ripple of knowing chuckles from those gathered and attuned to intricacy of the issue.

“I’d write teacher. At the interview, they’d ask, ‘Where does he teach?'” Another pause, followed by a hesitant, “Europe?”

Michio lectured all over the globe. “Is he a professor?” More laughter now. His message was much bigger than a university classroom.

“Then,” Hisao continued, “I started saying author,” because his father had written many volumes on the subject. “What did he write?” was the natural follow-up interview question.

Again hesitation. “Your Face Never Lies.” Inside the macrobiotic world, this is a seminal book. To the general public, not so much.

“Eventually,” the son offered, “I would say that my father was a philosopher.” At which point the inquirer would be stumped. What follow-up question would you ask of someone with that response?

“If you asked me today,” he concluded, “I’d write dreamer. My father taught us to make sure that our life’s dream couldn’t be solved in our lifetime. But we could work on the fundamentals. The gift he gave us was the permission to dream big.”

Michio Kushi accomplished far more than the fundamentals in his lifetime. And there’s still work to be done. I’m grateful that he founded the Kushi Institute and that his caring family embody his message and dreams.



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