For the past few months, I have been on a personal journey. Yes, it has been one of those times when I kept getting hit over the head with a message but just refused to wake up and listen. In my case, the message was clear: You’re working at 130% but need to be working at 100%. Ideally, I would be working at 80%, leaving time and space for the unexpected – like a sick kid, unexpected visitor, or date night out with my husband. I put a lot of energy into justifying why I wasn’t listening—that is, until my refusal to surrender reached a crisis point. As we enter the holiday season where being overstretched is by no means unusual, I wanted to take time out to share some of the insights I gained on my journey.
When to Surrender
There is a saying in Buddhism that if you miss learning something with the feather, then a twig, then a stick, then a branch and then a limb, the entire forest will fall on you. Need a translation? It is easier to learn something when it is first presented—soft, easy and light as a feather—rather than waiting to be slammed by a forest or a Mac truck! But again, this is easier said than done.
In early June, I set out on a new project…one that would nearly find me face to face with Mac truck. As I got clear on how I wanted to launch my new book, I realized I needed to update my website. Soon, I was rethinking my entire digital strategy and even my brand integration. But this was just the beginning.
As I contracted with project planners, web designers, digital strategists, writers, editors and photographers, my self-contained and autonomous professional life quickly became riddled with tangles, extensions, complexity, and more to-dos than I could handle. As someone who already has a tendency to jam too much into a short period of time, I soon found myself depleted and reaching the end of my rope. So, what went wrong?
Obviously, updating one’s website is a good thing to do from time to time and so is aligning one’s brand and clearly defining one’s digital strategy. What I set out to do was not the problem The real problem is that early on, I lost control of the process. Once again, this is where my failure to surrender proved devastating.
Dreaming big, taking on new challenges, and believing that anything is possible is a way of being. As a result, I simply hate it when people tell me I need to set more realistic expectations. I don’t want a normal or mediocre life. I want an exceptional life! And to get that, I firmly believe you need to constantly push boundaries, stretch the envelope, and level up. The problem is that sometimes there is a fine dance between pure insanity and creating a great life and achieving extraordinary results. By failing to surrender, I found myself in a situation where I felt like I was skidding out of control and maybe, for a moment, I even was?
In the midst of my 130% effort to redesign my website, digital strategy, and brands while also drumming up new business and giving my all to existing clients, I scheduled a photo shoot. For me, it was a typical day. I was up early and cleared the deck before heading to a 6:00 am yoga class. Relaxed and limber, I took a quick shower, ate some berries, and was at my 8:00 hair appointment 10 minutes early. I parked my car in front of the salon and sat for five minutes before feeding the meter for two hours.
Despite a clarifying and confirming conversation both when I booked the appointment and when I arrived, it turned out that they did not understand curly hair. I will save you the drama, but let’s just say, my hair has never been straight before! When I walked out—with straight hair for the first time in my life—I found a ticket on my windshield. Apparently in my Zen moment, I had not put the parking brake on. Luckily a good Samaritan saw my car rolling backwards down the hill, put a brick behind the back-right wheel, and saved my car from potential doom. Total damage? A parking ticket, since my car was no longer anywhere near to the spot for which I had paid. But yes, this could have turned out much, much worse.
The rest of the photoshoot continued to unfold a bit like it started—full of mishaps, surprises, and near disasters. When it rains, it pours, and during my photoshoot it did on every level. The videographer didn’t show up, the skies opened up, and I was ready to throw in the towel, straight hair included. I realized, despite my best intentions, my plan to execute a full overhaul of my website, image, brand and digital strategy, was rolling in the opposite direction.
What Really Matters
Reflecting back on the past few months, including the day the sky opened up and let everything pour down on me, a few things are clear. Dreaming big is imperative. It’s the only way to realize your vision and expand your vision to realize visions for yourself and others you thought weren’t even possible. Knowing when to surrender—when to acknowledge what you can’t control or can’t control in a certain time frame or can’t fully know—is also important. Surrender, after all, it’s not about abandoning your dreams but about having the humility to approach your biggest aspirations fully aware of the fact that even big dreams sometimes have limits. But to surrender, you also need to do more thing—cultivate humility in everything you do.