Super Bowl 50 is around the corner and, while normally I’d never write about football on this blog, it relates to something that’s been on my mind recently: people who reach the pinnacle of their careers and how they do it.
Two years ago, one of my elementary school classmates played in the Super Bowl. Let’s call him LP because I don’t feel comfortable trading on the name of someone I haven’t spoken with in 20+ years.
When mutual friends told me LP was playing in the Super Bowl, I was surprised and impressed. I hadn’t followed his career. I didn’t know that he played football in high school much less in college or the NFL. What I do remember, though, is that he talked about making it to the NFL when we were kids—and I pooh-poohed it.
The odds were with me, of course. High school seniors have less than a one percent chance (.09% actually) of making it to the pro league, and we were in fifth grade at the time.
Let me give the story a bit more color: LP was slight, of average height, maybe less, and we met in a magnet school for academics, not athletics. We also lived in a small city known more for its televangelist than anything else. So perhaps it’s not surprising that I doubted his ability to make it to the NFL, but I was wrong.
Here’s what this experience taught me:
As the quote says, “Aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Figure out what you truly want and go for it.
Don’t listen to the naysayers.
We all wish we had perfect friends, families, and connections who would support our every intention, but that’s improbable. In fact, some of the most impressive people I’ve met are also the most resilient. They’re the ones who’ve slogged through seemingly impossible situations and made it to the other side.
Your success ultimately comes down to how badly you want it. And so the person who has to believe in you is yourself.
Don’t be a naysayer.
At 10 years old, I was surely repeating messages I’d heard, and you better believe that I applied them to myself as well.
Do you know the odds of becoming a professional dancer or published author, two of my goals back then? Slightly better than LP’s chances, actually, but I didn’t think I could achieve either and so I didn’t try. What would have happened if I had, I wonder?
Don’t be a dream killer. It’s not your job to give someone else a reality check, even if you think it’s for their own good. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming as long as you’re also willing to…
We have to be willing to work hard to achieve our goals. Sure, natural ability helps, but perspiration is a far greater contributor than talent.
I’ve heard that, at the professional level, athletes are almost always evenly matched and you have to fight for every inch you get. That’s probably true in a lot of fields, so it’s a good lesson for all of us.
Keep at it.
LP wasn’t a superstar in the conventional sense. He didn’t attend a top-ranked college football program. He wasn’t drafted straight out of college. During his career, he was signed and released multiple times. In fact, he was several years into his career before he managed to play a full season with one team. And yet he’s also been voted team captain repeatedly and he played at the Super Bowl.
If LP’s story isn’t an example of career success through perseverance, I don’t know what is. Obstacles always come up, even on relatively smooth rides. Each time, you have to decide if your goal is worth picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and getting back in the saddle.
Love what you do.
While I haven’t confirmed this with him, I can’t imagine that LP chose his career for the money or the fame. From this outsider’s view, his journey looks like it was fueled by love for the game.
If it had been about money or fame, do you think he’d have been able to sustain his commitment over the long haul? Especially given that he wasn’t a star or constantly followed by paparazzi? I sincerely doubt it.
It’s loving the work that makes us willing to make sacrifices—often painful sacrifices—for it. It’s loving the work that makes the hard times worth the effort.
Bottom line: It’s easy to think that you can’t achieve amazing career success when the odds are stacked against you, but someone has to. Why not you?
Do you ever wonder if what you’re putting on your face or body is safe? I’ve been experimenting with natural makeup and ethical skincare for the past few months, but I’m no expert. So I asked professional makeup artist and personal stylist Fanny Woo to share her tips on becoming more conscious in your skincare and beauty regimen. Here’s what she had to say:
We all know that a lot beauty and personal-care products contain toxic chemicals. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 80,000 chemicals are registered for use in the United States. With an estimate of 2,000 new chemicals introduced each year, no one knows the effects they have on our health. YIKES!
Some companies even state that their products are “natural” or “all-natural” because those words are not regulated labeling terms. From personal experience, reading the ingredients alone can make your head spin.
Here is a fantastic infographic about ingredients to avoid, from mindbodygreen:
The good news for us is that we have options. There are many brands that are beauty conscious. It can get pretty overwhelming when you are on the hunt for an environmentally friendly product that is just as effective as the chemically formulated ones. If you are interested in greening your beauty and skincare, here are some pointers:
1. Go cruelty-free/vegan
If you are going to start anywhere, start by purchasing products that have not been tested on animals. With so much advanced technology, there is no reason why animals are still being used for testing.
Want to know if the brand you are interested in is tested on animals? Check out PETA’s database of 1,700 companies. Or click here for a quick list.
2. Get savvy
Next, pay attention to what’s in your products. For product ratings based on toxicity, use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) cosmetic and skincare database. I was shocked when I entered my children’s sunscreen and bath products.
3. Try DIY
While you’re at it, why not try your hand at making your own skin care products? Pinterest, Youtube, and DIY books, oh my! Here are two of my favorite blogs for some DIY inspo:
If you are like me, you love discovering new brands and supporting small businesses that are trying to make a big impact. There is always Etsy.
And if you don’t have the time or energy to research, check out Glowing Beets, a subscription box company that curates conscious beauty products and delivers right to your doorstep monthly.
Last but not least, remember to protect your skin! Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Click here for EWG’s most recent guide to sunscreens.
With just a little bit of effort, you too can become a conscious beauty!
Join Fanny and Kate for a free, live Q&A call next Wednesday, February 3rd at 11am Pacific. During the call, we’ll talk more about how to create an eco-friendly beauty regimen and Fanny’s favorite skincare and beauty products.
And, let us know in the comments what questions you have so we can be sure to cover them!
Fanny Woo is a make-up artist and personal stylist in Northern California. She loves helping her clients transform and loves the challenge of solving their style conundrums. She believes that style and beauty can be on any budget, staying true to yourself, and that style comes from within. Her clients include busy professionals, moms, movers and shakers, do-gooders, glass ceiling shatterers, the non-famous, the college student, the husband, basically anyone that needs a little help with their image.
When she isn’t working with clients or spending time with her family she’s working on her passion project, Monday Sparkles, a subscription box for tween girls inspired by raising two daughters in today’s world. You can find Fanny on her website or via Instagram or Facebook.
As I began to heal and find more energy later in 2015, I was able to cross off a fair number of items on my 40 Before 40 list. We’re now halfway through my available time and I’ve completed 15 things and made progress on another five, so I think we’re in good stead overall.
Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:
#6. Play tourist in my “home city”
I’ve been working on playing tourist since I first announced this list, and I’m finally ready to declare this goal completed. This fall, I visited Hakone Gardens, saw the Silicon Valley and Smuin ballets, and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.
I also reconvened a group that dines out at new restaurants and tries interesting cuisines, and bought tickets to see a variety of shows during 2016, including the San Francisco Ballet in February, Sebastiao Salgado in March, and Wicked in April.
I managed this primarily by paying attention to special offers through Goldstar and Travelzoo. You can’t beat fun outings and good prices.
#8. Develop and release a free course for my blog readers
In September, I released A Call to Beauty, a 12-week e-course designed to inspire readers to see all of the beauty in our human experience. The course was offered for sale with a pay-what-you-like feature that allowed you to pick it up for free, if you chose.
It’s a series of 12 emails (one per week) that offers a theme for contemplation, exercises, and downloadable wallpapers as a daily reminder of the practice.
The next session begins March 14th and registration will open a month prior. For more information and to join in, click over here.
#16. Try Stand Up Paddleboarding
In August, while visiting family outside Baltimore, Mr. Watson and I tried Stand Up Paddling. My sister-in-law and our nephews introduced us to it at Middle River SUP on Sue Creek.
I really enjoyed it and was able to kneel, sit, and stand back up several times during the adventure. I’d definitely SUP again and I’m glad we learned on a calm creek versus in the ocean, where my sister-in-law first tried it.
#17. Attend a concert at Mountain Winery
In September, Mr. Watson and I attended a Gipsy Kings concert at Mountain Winery.
I was first introduced to the Gipsy Kings while studying abroad in Prague. Their greatest hits were always playing at a bagel shop I frequented. Since then, Mr. Watson and I have seen them in concert a couple of times and it’s always a wonderful experience. The Mountain Winery only added to that with its stunning architecture and valley views.
#19. Start a personal photography project
I started working on Project “What Will You Be?” last March. Through the project, my goal is to inspire at-risk youth to fulfill their potential through academic and career success—by showing them real-life, culturally relevant role models.
The project is on hold a bit while I work on a few new things, but I’ll pick it up again soon.
#36. Host holidays at home—with guests
This one was originally on my 40 After 40 list (not yet published) because I’d thought I couldn’t host holiday dinner before we owned a home. Well, I’ve since realized that perfection is the enemy of the good and so, when Mr. Watson’s and my Thanksgiving travel plans were canceled last-minute, we decided to invite some friends over for Thanksgiving dinner.
It wasn’t a home-cooked meal and we weren’t seated around a large table as I’d envisioned, but it was just right for where we are here and now.
And on that note, I’ll declare the past six months of 40 Before 40 list progress a success and move on to the next six months. As usual, there are fun things in the works but I’ll update you on that in July.
What exciting plans do you have for 2016?
P.S. I just updated Roundup #2 with photos from our 10-year anniversary celebration in May. Have a look, if you like.
This is my third-annual recap and realizations post and, for this one, I’m going to try something a bit different (for reference, here’s 2014 and 2013). Instead of getting into the nitty gritty of everything Mr. Watson and I attempted and accomplished in 2015, I’m going to stick with one big lesson we learned:
Focus on what you want.
Not why you can’t have it.
Not what might happen if you can’t have it.
Not what you could have instead. And, for the love of all that’s holy,
Not how you could make something you don’t want work.
Mr. Watson and I tend to take a strategic outlook toward life so we ask ourselves ‘how’ a lot, e.g., “How could we buy a house this year?” As a result, sometimes we come up with wacky answers, “We could move to Pittsburgh where home prices are ⅓ to ¼ the local price.”
Then we make pronouncements such as “we could totally make that work” even if it’s not our dream.
Sometimes we even convince ourselves that we don’t know what we want because we don’t think what we want is possible (this is a huge one for me!).
Kate Swoboda of Your Courageous Life said, “Most of the time, when people say they ‘don’t know’ what they want, they really do. They’re just afraid to name it and claim it.”
Agreed. I would add that sometimes we say we don’t know because we don’t think we can have want we want and so, instead of naming that big wish, we go looking for alternatives that would suffice.
Which brings me back to the big 2015 lesson: What do you really want? We each must determine what we want before we move ahead to the next step: Creating that reality.
As an example, here are two things I’m very clear about wanting:
- To own a comfortable home so we can make the decisions about paint colors and countertops and whether or not to have pets.
- A small group of friends who want to see me regularly (every month or so) and who don’t make me feel guilty about my introversion or energy level. I’m doing the best I can, I promise!
There are some other things I’m not 100% clear about so I’ve adopted two questions to guide my decision-making in 2016 and help me focus on what I really want. Here they are:
Question #1: Is it meaningful?
Anytime I make a decision, I’d like to consider whether that course of action is meaningful to me or not. Here are a couple of examples:
- Do I want to work with a new foster child? > Well, will doing so add meaning to my life? — Yes, it is a cause and organization that matters to me. Sounds like a good idea!
- Do I want to join that board committee? > Will doing so add meaning to my life? — No, it feels like a ‘should’ instead of a ‘want.’ So the answer is thanks, but no thanks.
I’m using my values and feelings to guide my answers. If you don’t yet know what your personal or career values are, here’s an exercise to help you figure them out. On the feelings side, it comes down to whether you truly want to do something or if it feels like a ‘should’ or someone else’s expectation. It’s that simple.
Question #2: How do I want to spend my days?
This question is an important check on the first because:
- You don’t want to be writing checks your body can’t cash, as they say in Top Gun, i.e., you don’t want to be taking on too much even if it is super meaningful to you, and more importantly,
- Thinking about how you want to spend your days keeps the focus on dreams that fit your lifestyle. And the secret to happiness (after practicing gratitude) is enjoying your day-to-day life.
As we move deeper into 2016, I’m looking forward to keeping the focus on what I want—and encouraging you to do the same—by remembering what’s meaningful and how we want to spend our days.
What lessons did you learn in 2015 and how are those lessons guiding your 2016?
One of my favorite things about life is how we’re always learning and growing. There will never come a time when you’ve learned it all, when you’ve mastered life. There are always new lessons and opportunities.
For the past several years I’ve chosen one word to help guide my experiences, to remind me of something I need to learn or remember that year.
My word for 2015 was accept because I had a lot about my life and situation to come to terms with, including flagging energy that was standing in the way of what I wanted to achieve.
Accept served me well. Whenever I bristled against the restrictions of my body or situation, I remembered to accept where I was and what I could do now. As a result, 2015 was a year of deep healing, both physically and mentally.
I spent a lot of time alone, not lonely, just alone with my thoughts and at rest. It was wonderful, actually. I know some of my friends didn’t quite understand where I was or what had happened to me, but it was exactly what I needed at the time.
As I began looking toward 2016, experiencing greater energy and excitement than I’d had throughout much of late 2014 and 2015, I knew this would be a year of greater action.
In fact, I considered the word action as my word for 2016 but, as I took on more responsibility and engaged in more activity, my body reminded me that I must rest as well as act. I’m not fully healed and, as an introvert, my need for downtime exceeds that of the extroverts I know.
Therefore, my word for 2016 became:
Although I know there’s really no such thing as balance in this complex, beautiful life of ours, acknowledging the ideal reminds me that action and rest are two sides of the same coin, interdependent and inextricable.
Whenever I choose a word, I look up its definition to ensure I know what I’m surrendering to. Some of my favorite definitions of balance include:
: a means of judging or deciding
: equipoise between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements
: equality between the totals of the two sides of an account
: an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements
: the juxtaposition in writing of syntactically parallel constructions containing similar or contrasting ideas
: physical equilibrium
: the ability to retain one’s balance
: an amount in excess especially on the credit side of an account
: mental and emotional steadiness
(full definition here)
And so I’m entering this new year with an eye toward balance and, in particular, balancing several seeming dichotomies:
- Action and rest
- Introspection and external engagement
- Self-care and caring for others
- Consistency and experimentation
What’s your word for 2016 and how do you expect it to help guide your year?