The Quarantine Paradox (Revisited)

It’s been a year.

I had no recollection of writing these words; I found them in my drafts, rediscovered when I logged in to make some edits on my site in preparation for a soon to air podcast.

Though it’s tempting to finish this piece and make more meaning of it, to reflect on who I am now and who I was a year ago, what we’ve done, who we’ve been, who we’ve become, it feels as exhausting as everything else has felt this year. I stopped keeping track of the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases on May 9, 2020 when I realized that life as we knew it, for the foreseeable future, would be canceled.

I’m okay with posting this unchewed and unfinished. I’ve got other writing to do, and leaving it as it is feels like a gentle completion, to turn the page, share, and let it go.

I hope you are safe, healthy and well. xo, Karen



Every morning when I wake up, I check three websites. First, the global Coronavirus Dashboard. Second, the Los Angeles Times. Third, the New York Times, specifically to see the map of California and how we’re doing at flattening the curve. After I look at the data, I update a spreadsheet where I track the daily totals and growth percentages.

When I started tracking on March 18, California had recorded 636 cases. As of today (4/21/20), the total is 33,879.  For a couple of days, the data showed what looked like a flattening of the curve, though we had heard the worst was yet to come. The spike in the number of cases, assumed due to additional testing and reporting shows a spike in the curve. I know just enough about statistics to know that the spike may be an anomaly and also enough to presume that we won’t know more until we know more. (How’s that for the science related content you were hoping to read from me?)

After I remove myself from the news, I go about my day the best I can.

I want to be hopeful. I want to be reassuring and confident, especially to my kids who are living a nightmare of cancellations and separations. I want to know how and when this ends.

As I think about what I’m missing, what we’re missing, how terrifying this is, how much people are suffering. I begin to fixate on the little things.

Is it the things I can control?


I look at my eyebrows in the mirror as I’m about to insert my contact lenses and I can get a good closeup.

Whoa! I’m looking a bit more like Eugene Levy than I used to. Time to pull out some tiny scissors and trim these caterpillars masquerading as my eyebrows.

For what though?

In the absence of people to see and places to go, I consider how much time, energy and money I have spent on my appearance. Manicures and pedicures (my chipping nails tell me it’s time to put some attention there), haircuts, highlights, waxing, laser treatments, facials, massages and even an eyelash perm. Do I do this for myself or to look “a certain way” around other people? Who am I trying to impress? Am I bored? Is this all necessary? I don’t know.

More questions I can’t answer.

I spent a few dollars online to extend the color of my hair when I noticed my now constant messy bun looking a little too blonde at the ends, but too blonde quickly went to WHERE’S MY BLONDE? I DON’T EVEN LOOK LIKE MYSELF ANYMORE as the golden brown coloring conditioner (which smells like spearmint) transforms my beachy inspired locks into something more muted. I don’t hate it, but it’s not familiar. Nothing is familiar. Life is muted.

Zoom calls have me staring at my face more than I used to, and I notice the lower part of my face beginning to sag – I’ve heard this phenomenon described as marionette lines. What a horrible comparison, this natural process of aging, a fight against gravity, reduced to puppetry. Ew. Why do we do this to ourselves? Am I trying to look younger? Am I fighting a losing battle? Is there something I can do about this or is it another thing I have to accept that I don’t like. Why am I fighting at all? Who is winning and who is losing?

Then a couple of weeks ago (weeks? a month? who knows anymore), in my mask at the grocery store, I was carded. Flattered, shocked, I wondered how much evidence of my 49 years is concealed behind the mask? I gladly handed over my ID (bless your heart). Is this something to be fixed, or simply acknowledged? Maybe I need to sleep on my back? Maybe it’s too late? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the clerk is being monitored for checking IDs per store policy and it has nothing to do with me or how I look?

We are living in the ongoing unfamiliar, which was technically always true, but the norm felt so predictable and now I’m staring at data sets and playing amateur epidemiologist sitting in the waiting. Staying safer at home, physically distanced from all the comforts and routines we took for granted.

So what does matter?

Every time they complain about what they’ve lost (is it complaining or just stating a fact?), I tell Jake and Ellie I imagine this compares to living in wartime except now we have the joys of connection through the Internet! We aren’t really isolated at all, we are globally connected. I say this while cursing under my breath that all that global connection landed us in a freaking PANDEMIC. Ellie, studying world history in 9th grade, tells me about the comparisons to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. I see this in my drips of news, specifically including warnings to not end the quarantine too soon, trying to prevent a second surge. The cities that acted fasted had the best containment. I wonder what the history books will say about this, about us, a hundred years from now?

I’m trying to use the time to do all the things I am supposed to do. I even set up a gamified and incentivized experience of a “wellness challenge” to inspire my kids to take on hobbies and self-care projects. I failed the challenge after the first week. Personally, I hated learning the ukulele, but they seem motivated to do something, which is better than nothing. At least I think it’s better.

I hear people talking about “coming out stronger” but I don’t know what that means. Right now, I want to be safe. I want my family to be safe. I want my friends to be safe. I want my city, state, country and world to be safe.

It’s not looking good. Does that make me a realist or a pessimist?

I feel guilty for how lucky we are to be who we are and to live how and where we do. Rafe’s business is essential, mine was always virtual. I love spending more time with the kids but it feels like we’ve pirated the time and this forced cohabitation is ill gotten booty. This doesn’t stop me from loving hearing the noises of their lives and seeing everyone’s faces and cozying into home together. And I hate that they have to spend time with us, especially at ages where they should be spending time with their friends and on their own developing all the skills they are supposed to have to “adult.” I never expected “adulting” to look like this.

I love that I got to adapt my gym routines to meeting my trainer on my iPad in my garage. I love that we moved into this house in 2017. Living in our old house would have completely crushed my spirit….








Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

One day, but not today

There will be a day

When market shelves are fully stocked with toilet paper, isopropyl alcohol, flour, and yeast and we won’t be stunned

When our homecomings are not punctuated by a solid 20 seconds of hand washing

And we can smile at each other with the entirety of our faces, not solely as a pair of eyes above a mask


This will be true one day, but not today


There will be a time when Amazon Prime returns to next day delivery

When the targeted ads in my Instagram feed are anything other than athleisure, a tempting array of sweatpants like I’ve never before seen and somehow still resist

When I will book travel and look forward to experiencing somewhere new

And not adventure to the pharmacy or Target as vacation destinations


This will occur in the distant future, but it didn’t happen today


There will be a day

When our kids go back at school

When we see little ones on a playground and pause and smile with gratitude

And current events will cover a range of topics, not just the One


This will happen one day, just not today


There will be a day

When we begin to mend what was broken

When we may take a collective global breath and sigh with a big deep inhale and know that we will be okay except when we aren’t

And we’ll be better prepared god forbid there’s a next time


This will happen one day – it’s not today


We will return to a sense of “normal,” though normal will never be the same

We’ll have our hair cuts and manicures and pedicures, we’ll improvise graduations and proms

We’ll tell each other stories about how we managed with updates on our confinement projects

We’ll be happy except when we’re not, and we will continue to mourn and grieve what was lost

And we will remember what we found


This will happen one day. Today isn’t it.


Today I am grateful for the unavoidable moment at the bank supporting the essential nature of our business in which the teller and I talked about how much we dislike the heat under our face masks, celebrated our treasured personal hand sanitizer bottles then wished each other a good day

I might return to learning ukulele on YouTube

I will connect when I can and disconnect when I remember I need that too

I will write a letter and put it in the mail

I will reach out to the friend who lives alone

I will enjoy the smell of fresh baked cookies

I will complete another crossword puzzle like I did before all this started

I could even organize another closet

(there must still be one I haven’t done)

I will cuddle with my husband, kids and dogs, not necessarily in that order

I will send a silent prayer to all those on the front lines, to those recovering, to those suffering,

And to us all in our shared vulnerability and our resilient and delicate humanity


This I can do.

I can do this today.


Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

fortune cookie with message

I am not an oracle, but I feel things

fortune cookie with message

I am not an oracle. I’m not a fortune teller, a psychic or a mind reader. I have no way to predict the future though I wish I did. I am highly sensitive, deeply intuitive and empathic. I feel A LOT.

If I had the answers, believe me, I’d be shouting from YouTube or my driveway to anyone who might listen and not dismiss me as a mildly unkempt woman in her bathrobe yelling into the void.

I feel like we’re on a big timeout, a collective, global, slow the f down. Once the world opens up again, we may begin to realize how false borders are, human to human. Timelines have changed and expectations have changed along with them. Graduations, celebrations, weddings, fundraisers, festivals, even the due date of our tax returns (in the U.S.) have shifted forward. We’re living in a TBD world.

While we can’t make solid plans other than washing our hands and keeping a safe and healthy distance from each other, we can, optimistically plan ahead. We can work with what we’ve got. We can get ready.

I’ve noticed myself saying, “let’s hope to” instead of “let’s plan on.”

We can learn to be comfortably uncomfortable exactly where we are.

I think we’re going to be okay, but I also think we’re going to be really sad, frustrated and disappointed for quite awhile and we will grieve and mourn the loss of what was.

I think we’re going to have to learn to deal with how much we depend on future plans for our happiness, how quickly we look outside instead of inside for a sense of joy, fulfillment or satisfaction. I think we’re going to notice how quickly we get bored and how boring we become when we can’t have what we want when we want it.

I think we’re going to have to accept how fragile and interdependent we are, even though we used to believe we were strong, resilient and independent (at least in the U.S.).

I think we will continue to be humbled by all we don’t know, how quickly and easily we are seduced into fear and panic and how much we truly need community and to care about each other deeply.

I think resilience will begin to look and feel different than “toughing it out” and will become more relational, more knowing “we’re all in this together,” everyone, everywhere, without exception.

I think we have an opportunity to be more creative and more self-aware.

I think as more is taken away from us, the more we will begin to focus on and acknowledge our true needs and gifts.

I think we’re going to step up.

gold star decorations

On “overachieving”

gold star decorations

This is a snippet of a conversation I had with a client a few months ago.

See how much of this feels true for you. X feels out of control, so instead of telling yourself, “Wow, X feels out of control” and acknowledging how powerless you feel right now, you’re trying to get everything right, but it’s impossible because of everything happening at the same time.

And, instead of sitting down and crying because you’re overwhelmed, or asking for help, or saying it’s too much, or saying no, or taking a pause, you’re focusing all of your energy on the one thing that does feel good and right (your work) and when that’s not perfect you’re snapping at everyone and feeling bad about yourself for doing it.

She laughed out loud and we shared a moment.

Overachieving is a beast we both intimately know. Unlike most addictions, overachieving tends to yield positive outcomes.

It’s like being a dog that can’t stop barking because it’s a self-rewarding behavior and we continue behaviors that are rewarded. We DO, and we get a gold star. We do MORE and get more gold stars. Hooray for gold stars! We LOVE knowing how well people think we are doing!

We produce like little machines and we receive all this delicious external validation. It feels like all the extra effort is worth it, and if the effort is worth it, we must therefore, be worth it. The achieve-reward cycle becomes a compulsion, earning validation, praise and elevated status … before it leads to burnout.

I don’t wear “overachiever” as a badge of honor; being labeled as one makes me feel misunderstood.


A new friend heard about my book and grilled me about it.

“But there’s no such thing as overachieving,” she insisted, “you can only achieve. Anything else is, well, redundant.”


I wrote half a book about it. (The other half is about discovering joy.)

For most of my life, I believed I had to do more to be okay.

Just to be okay. Normal. Good enough.

One day, without realizing it, “overachiever” had become my identity. Without all the gold stars, I didn’t think I mattered.

Our culture LOVES overachievers and doesn’t consider the downsides.

The shame of overachieving comes when I realize I simply cannot do all I have committed to doing. I feel responsible for letting people down. No matter how much I achieve, the bar is set so high I am destined to disappoint. I am empty and depleted instead of full and accomplished.

Do you know how confusing this is?

I start to believe that if I cannot be and do all the things, I AM bad, unworthy and unlovable. I spiral into doubting everything about myself. Shame is a deep, deep well that bottoms out in depression. Depression SUCKS!

Even after watching Brené Brown’s illuminating TED talks (listening to shame, and the power of vulnerability), I had no personal concept of shame (likely because I had convinced myself I was over here being awesome … except for the times that I felt like a terrible human and not worthy of existing on this planet without having to earn my spot on the team…but again, I didn’t talk about that).

The good is thrown out with the bad, negative self-judgments fly every which way in a tornado of rotten garbage strewn around in my thoughts.

It’s not pretty.

Those were the thoughts I kept inside until I landed on a therapist’s couch to deal with childhood trauma, PTSD and C-PTSD. In therapy, I learned the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt=I did a bad thing. Shame=I am a bad thing.


We need better language for this.

Brené Brown‘s glorious “The Gifts of Imperfection” turns that word on its heels.

Perfection/imperfection. Easy.

What have we got?

Overachiever/average? Overachiever/normal? Overachiever/mediocre?


There’s Got to Be a Better WORD.

Combatting the addiction of overachieving is not a permission slip or an endorsement of mediocre.

You know those commercials about just ok isn’t good enough? I don’t want my tumor removed by an ok surgeon, nor do I want my sushi prepared by someone who is ok with food safety.

Excellence has a place.

Overachievers (and all humans) need to set limits and boundaries.

Underneath the control issues, there is something really special about people like us who seek mastery and create beauty. We are insatiably curious, incredibly competent and deeply driven.

I know it’s not just me. I built a business inspired by us. I am proud of us. I LOVE us!

What I tried to explain to my new friend is that the “overachiever’s guide” part of my book’s title is meant tongue-in-cheek, as is the now available companion journal “The Overachiever’s Guidebook.”


It is a self-guided digital download offering directed inquiries to help you discover your joy using the exercises I write about throughout my book. One of my first readers described it as …


My heroine’s journey in There’s Got to Be a Better Way is not about doing more, nor, quite frankly, is it about doing less.

It’s about doing what’s right, and what comes from guiding myself by a sense of purpose, cultivated self-awareness, and trusting my intuition.

When I am guided by my own light, my life is different.

On the days I write, I am consumed and in the flow. I take everything off my plate that I can, which includes not scheduling a service appointment to fix my dishwasher “because I’m going to be home anyway,” and it will likely involve dinner delivered or something very simple if I’m cooking.

(My family reminds me that every meal I make does not have to be unique and spectacular.)

I will not be responding to every text when I see a badge on my phone nor will I be looking at my email to see who has responded to what and what I need to do next thinking I need to respond immediately.

I write so much about this because I think it’s helpful to know that I have made countless errors in judgment and I’m gently and continually on a path towards improvement. For all the times I ignore or crash through my feelings instead of slowing down to check in with myself, I know one way or another, I will end up in a heap of tissues and tears.

I am learning to question how I habitually hit the gas at emotional yellow lights instead of pausing to consider whether I should stop or go.

Usually, if I slow down to the speed of my unique GPS, the answer is no, not now, or no, and of course you don’t have to do it at all.

You don’t have to figure it all out and you really don’t have to do all the things – especially not all at once.

(Believe me, I’ve tried.)

a woman sitting on a cliff edge watching the sunset

The #1 Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself

One Friday morning, I was driving up Topanga Canyon to a routine doctor’s appointment while pregnant with our son Jake — but my mind was already at my desk in Santa Monica. I was rehearsing difficult conversations I needed to have about time sensitive projects that weren’t going as planned. I didn’t notice the car stopped in front of me and drove into it.

I was fine, unborn Jake was fine, the driver of the car I hit was fine, but my career was critically injured.

My doctor said my job was too stressful. I didn’t believe him. The day after the accident, quite certain I was fine, I nearly fainted in the grocery store. Perhaps I was stressed beyond my capacity. The Monday after my accident, I reluctantly took a leave of absence – one that lasted almost 5 ½ years!

In the years I was home with our babies, I imagined work I could do that would be flexible enough that I could have work-life balance and wouldn’t end up collapsed on the floor of the market again. Eventually, I returned to work part-time when the kids were both in school.

And then I went back to work and I was miserable and pushing just as hard as before. I realized I couldn’t be the only person struggling to redefine herself after a major life transition and career interruption so I started training and practicing as a professional coach to make a difference and to create a better life for myself and our family.

Was I living the life of my dreams?

One day, someone asked me what my life was like and in a moment of surprising vulnerability, I said out loud, “Every day I go to work, a little part of me is dying inside.”

Dying inside? Dramatic, yes, and also true.

It took me MONTHS to figure out how to make a change. There were many factors at play:

1) I had to admit that what I wanted was beyond what I knew how to do,
2) I had to commit to doing whatever it took to get there; and,
3) I had to decide that pursuing this dream and entering into something completely unknown was worth it.

I decided to hire the best coach I could to help me find the courage to quit my job and change my life.

So why am I telling you this?

I was a straight A student, received a scholarship to attend UCLA, had a job right out of undergrad, earned a graduate degree while working full-time, and kept moving up in my career. I’d done everything I thought I was supposed to do, and in the blink of an eye none of it mattered as much as being well enough to care for the baby I was growing and to focus on nothing else.

I didn’t know what I wanted until I knew what I didn’t want. I followed a lot of paths that I thought were right and ended up burned out and disappointed. Dying inside.

Right now, people around me are suffering and they won’t tell anyone because their lives look perfect from the outside. They are smart and wonderful and successful and amazing and are also dying inside like I was. It breaks my heart. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had recently where people can’t – or won’t – answer the question, “What do you want?”

Do you know what you want?

Ask yourself the question, “What do I want?” and see what happens next. And, while you’re waiting, keep an open mind, because as soon as we start declaring what we want, we tend to make up reasons that we can’t have it, shouldn’t want it, and on and on. It’s exhausting.

I’ll offer you a few suggestions to save you the time I wasted.

First, stop it.

Next, allow yourself to imagine a future in which you have what you want, without trying to figure out how to make it happen right now. Find inspiration around you, in nature, in other people’s stories, and hear what your heart wants. If you still don’t know, focus on what you like and what’s interesting to you and see where it takes you. Your dream is waiting for you.

If you tell people what you want, most will love to help you. And, if you think I can help you, I hope you’ll ask me.

P.S. If you want to know what else can change when you decide to change, head over to CTI’s Transforum Blog and read about my approach to changing the world!

an open book on a throw rug

Advice to Aspiring Authors

Now that I have written and published a book, at least once a week I get to talk with an aspiring author or storyteller about the process, my process. I love to speak from the place of yes, this dream came true for me and yes, it can come true for you.

I used to be one of those people who kept saying I want to write a book. I had (and still have) so many to write! I was also one of those people whose friends probably got tired of her saying “I want to …” and then had a hundred reasons of why it wasn’t the right time, or the right topic, or the biggest priority.

I have started and stopped more books in process than I’d like to admit.

And, I now have my very own ISBN and a work in the collection of the Library of Congress.

So if you are sitting there wondering if you can do it, the answer is simply this: probably.

Yes, you can probably write a book. If you want to. It’s really quite doable.

I am happy to share any and all of the logistics and details of my journey to publishing, and I’ll also tell you this:

If you have a story to tell, find a way to tell it.

Let it be yours. Let it be imperfect, even messy. Get it wrong. Let no one read it or review it or listen.

The hardest part about writing a book, or building a business, or raising your rates or entering into a new relationship isn’t the thing itself, it’s you.

You have to know that you are worth it. Your story is worth telling. Your art is worth making. Your love is worth sharing. All of this worth comes from the fact that you are you and not anyone else. No one sees the world through your eyes the way you do, and that, my friend, matters. It matters a lot.

I recently wrote and shared about creating and making art. Telling a story is the same thing. Your story might come out like mine, in a book. It might also be in the children you raise, the music you write, the food you cook, clothes you design because you want to wear them, songs you sing in the shower because you love how they sound and how it feels to hear the reverberation of your own voice. It’s all art. It’s all story. It all comes from love. It’s all you putting your unique voice out in the world. You get to let your voice be heard, your vision seen, your heartbeat held.

If you want to ask technical questions, and I certainly did, I will answer those questions the best way I can.

I will also provide answers to the questions you’re not asking.

Yes, it’s okay to tell your story.

Yes, it is okay to take up space.

Yes, you matter.

Stories are universal, even yours.

I think I’m also being asked: is it okay for me to dream? YES.

Is it okay for me to share how I uniquely experience the world? HELL, YES!

Will people care? I HAVE NO IDEA. I really hope someone does because sharing your work feels so personal and vulnerable and that can be scary, but it’s also what allows you to have joy and meaning and a sense of contribution and purpose, so please do it anyway.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did you write your book?

A: I wrote this book with multiple intentions.

  • I wanted a place to put stories I’d written for at least 15 years, on blogs, newsletters, in journals.
  • A part of me that wanted to close a chapter of my life with honor; looking back, I think I’d call that chapter “The Struggle to Figure Out Who I Am.” I no longer struggle. I know who I am.
  • I had an experience with a client who had hired me but I felt like I had to continually work to convince her that it was worth it, that SHE was worth her investment. It was all about her business, not about her as its creator. Philosophically, we were not aligned; she kept thinking if I consulted with her on her business it would grow but wouldn’t believe that her business would grow as a reflection of her own growth. I wished I had a book to give her to say, “Here, read this first then see if you want to hire me” (Note: it didn’t work out for us and we parted company. I wish her all the best.)
  • I wanted to share the origin stories of Wrong Turn Ranch and Into the Fire Leadership because my life – and everything in my life – became so much more magical and wonderful when I started listening to my inner voice and found the courage to follow my heart and if I could tell the world any one thing, it’s that.
  • I wanted to normalize experiences that people have and don’t speak openly about, like:
    • Losing your identity when your career changes
    • Losing your identity when you become a mom
    • Ongoing personal and professional reinvention
    • Being a highly sensitive overachiever powerful woman
    • How life is not defined by one’s accomplishments
    • Different perspectives on grief and loss
    • What it’s really like to start a business
    • Taking risks and learning something new in midlife
    • Therapy and recovering from trauma
    • Realizing you are not who you thought you were
  • Finally, I know I have a lot of books in me and I had to start with this one.

Somehow, we managed to fit all of this into 284 pages!

Once I committed to writing my book, I compiled everything I’d written that I thought might fit into it and I printed it out on paper and sat on the floor of my office with a red pen and two piles: Yes and Probably No.

I’d sit with my work for a chunk of time, binder clip it back together, and pick it up again later. Sometimes I was working on it daily; I also let it sit for months at a time.

I didn’t actually know what I was writing about, but I looked for themes in my writing to see what fit together. I landed on listening to my inner voice.

After that, I did a lot of cutting and pasting into one Word document (yes, I tried Scrivener but it didn’t make sense for this project, yes, eventually we moved the manuscript into Google docs to work from one version but ended up back to Word when Google docs had a glitch and kept losing edits as we were near completion of the manuscript.)

I pulled all the stories together and looked for what else I needed to say for the puzzle pieces to fit together.

Because so much of what is in this book came from material I’d previously written as blogs and newsletters, I wanted the book to read as a collection of related essays, which was inspired hearing Andrew Rannells talk about his book on Rory O’Malley’s podcast which I listened to while driving my kids to summer camp.

I have worked with the material in this book in so many ways. I have attempted to fictionalize it in novel and write it as a letter to my children. Eventually I surrendered to it being exactly what it was, reflections over time, captured in a moment, preserved as authentically as possible and edited for context and clarity.

When I was actively working on it, I would take my MacBook in my purse and write in the cracks of my life like in carpool lines and while getting new tires. I’d write after dinner, before breakfast.

I gave myself a writer’s retreat weekend alone in a cottage in Malibu very early in my process, but I don’t think I used a word I wrote. Maybe they’ll show up in a future book. Or not. Towards the end of the actual writing process, I took a few days in Ojai with every plan to write and realized my time would be better spent playing tennis, surfing and wandering through town, which I did very successfully.

Along the way, I looked for other authors to spell it out for me.

  • Tim Ferriss talked about canceling everything for a month and writing his book exclusively. That would never work for me. I’ve got teenagers!
  • Cheryl Strayed, also a mom, talked about locking herself away in a cabin for a weekend whenever she could, but I like to engage with the world while I’m creating.
  • My friend Christine wrote her first book every day at 4:00am before her kids got up for school. I’d die first.

All this to say, the way you write your book will be the way you write your book. You can try on other people’s processes on for size, but yours will inevitably be custom.

Q: How long did it take to write your book?

A: If I’m being cheeky, I’d tell you it took me about 30 years. The earliest essay I include in There’s Got to Be a Better Way was for my admission to university written in 1988. In earnest, I started writing my actual book in September of 2017 and completed the draft manuscript in July of 2018, but again, a lot of the material was vintage and repurposed and I was not writing 24/7.

Q: Did you have it all figured out at the beginning?

A: Dear God, no. One thing I tell every aspiring author is that the book you read is not the book I wrote. Well, it is and it isn’t. I did not write from an outline or a story structure. I did not have chapters planned out in advance.

I keep a flip chart on the wall of my office with post-its of story ideas. Once I had an idea of the narrative I was telling, as I’d remember a story, I’d write it on a post-it and add it to the wall, so when it was time for me to write I had pieces to pull from. In addition to the post-its I kept notes in my iPhone to catch ideas on the go.

After I gave the manuscript to my editor to read, she presented me with the concept of how the stories could fit together. We took a risk, writing the book with a non-linear sense of time, using flashbacks and pairing essays together by theme if not necessarily sequentially. Not everyone loves it. I got a fair amount of feedback from early readers about how it didn’t work, but we did our best to connect the dots and give the reader the opportunity to go on their own journey with my stories. I have this idea that you can flip through it and land on something that might be useful in the moment. You can put it down and pick it up any time.

Q: How many people read the book before you published it?

A: Somewhere between 6-10. I asked people to read it who I trusted to provide insights in a way that would be useful to me as the author and to my future readers.

Q: How did you know what to write about?

A: I wrote about my life, as unfiltered as I could. Again, going back to the many intentions I held for this book, I had a lot of material to work from, much of which was already in Dropbox.

Q: Why did you self-publish?

A: A few big reasons:

1. I met with a book agent several years ago and pitched I Invented Motherhood – Motherhood Reinvented (my early blog and first business). She listened and asked, “What else have you got?” A lot of people can write about motherhood who have more authority and expertise on the topic, she told me, and when I told her about my other work around leadership and surfing and horsemanship and my own trials of learning how to surf in my 40s she found that idea quite charming and encouraged me to put together a book proposal.

2. I tried to write a book proposal. I really tried. But I kept getting hung up on not having an audience who would buy my book, which led me into and down a deep rabbit hole of how my stories weren’t going to sell which seems to be very important to publishers, and if my book might not sell, maybe my stories might not be worth telling.

To say I had to “get over this” minimizes the real work involved, and any creative person knows this. Before I could actively write my book, the real work happened inside me and included:

  • Finding value and meaning in the experiences of my life.
  • Learning how to trust.
  • Deepening my intuition.
  • Healing from trauma and learning how to manage anxiety.
  • Falling deeply in love with my life – and myself – exactly as it is and exactly as I am.

I did not do this alone and it did not happen quickly (see “I Take a Village” in the acknowledgment section of my book.)

3. How does an author aspire to be on the New York Times Best Seller’s list and also not want to play the publishing game of how many books need to sell, and when, or how many reviews need to be on Amazon, etc? I had to get comfortable with my ego and figure out why I really wanted to write my book.

It would be lovely to one day have global recognition for my work, but that is not why I write. I wanted to write a book people I know right now could have in their hands to read. I wanted to tell my stories. I wanted to help. I decided that the most immediate way I could do that would be to self-publish. Plus, all the cool kids are doing it.

4. At the end of the day, I didn’t want anyone else to own my stories. I didn’t want someone to one day break the news that my book would no longer be in print. I didn’t want any other authority telling me what I could and could not share, to whom, how much or how little.

Q: How did you do it?

A: I had a village (see above). When I hired Amanda Johnson to be my developmental editor, I trusted her knowledge and guidance so much that I re-engaged with her after we’d completed the manuscript to be my book doula and help me get the book out into the world. Amanda gave me the pros and cons of online publishers, helped me find a stellar designer to layout the interior of my book for print and electronic publishing and coordinated with my cover designer to make sure all the files were what they needed to be to make a beautiful finished product.

Q: How much did it cost?

A: Not going to answer that question specifically. I was willing to pay for things others might do themselves. I also wanted my book to be the very best book it could be, so I was very particular with the paper quality and color, the texture of the cover … I paid for an all-inclusive, five-star, luxury experience, but I do that as often as I can when it matters to me and I don’t when it doesn’t matter.

I was surprised to find quite a range of pricing between freelance editors, some who charged by the word (my original manuscript came in over 75,000 words which I edited down to about 50,000 before handing it over), some who charged by the project.

It costs what it costs and you can publish however you want. Don’t let your fears about money become bigger than the story that needs to be told. Deal with those separately.

Q: Why did you hire your editor?

A: I was about to hire someone else who impressed me with her writing, credentials, and the way she thought about the editing and writing process, even though as a first-time author I didn’t have a context for comparison. I liked her a lot, except she kept missing meetings and took a long time to respond to my messages, and since my book is about listening to my inner voice, I had to really ask myself why I was willing to compromise on something so important when I wasn’t feeling it?

I reached out to a professional network I belong to on Facebook who I describe as “magical people who get shit done,” and asked for an introduction to a Mary Poppins of an editor, practically perfect in every way, and within an hour was linked to Amanda, we connected, set up a meeting, and I hired her. Boom!

Q: Was it hard?

A: I do not buy into the concept of the struggling or starving artist. It’s bullshit. I loved writing my book, I loved editing my book and I continue to love sharing my book.

“Not hard” does not, however, equate to “easy.” It broke my heart to let go of stories I loved that didn’t fit the book’s larger narrative. It was a challenge to let my editor mess around in my beautiful nest of words, especially as an occasional recovering perfectionist. It’s an exercise in humility to be pushed to go deeper or encouraged to use words and give details that I wouldn’t in front of my dentist or my kids for that matter. I put all of my trust into Amanda when I hired her to edit my book and I’d eagerly do it again.

Some of the best parts of the book were written in the margins, which is to say the conversations Amanda and I had in the comments of the Google doc we shared elevated the whole story and I am forever indebted to her for her commitment to making Let’s Color and Go in the Ocean There’s Got to Be a Better Way: An Overachiever’s Guide to Discovering Joy the best book it could be. (Let’s Color was the working title. I loved it but it didn’t make it through edits, and I’m glad for that.)

Q: So, are you really saying that writing a book is not a solitary endeavor?

A: No. For me, it was not. And honestly, why would I keep something to myself when I so love to share and collaborate? As I have said many different ways in There’s Got to Be a Better Way, you have to listen to your inner voice and mine said loud and clear, do your best and then find people who will make it better.

I have been working with my coach Linda for several years now, including while I was writing, also before I was ready and since. She has been a brilliant sounding board for me to process my experience and thoughts and was one of my valued early readers. I gave her my book because she knows me well enough to know that my book sounded like me and that my voice was true and she helped me see when and where it was not. She’s not a “book coach” and I didn’t need her to help keep me accountable to a certain number of pages/week. Again, my process. You do you.

Q: What else did you learn about writing a book that would help someone just starting out?

A: Writing and editing are completely different processes. I used to edit while I was writing, now I do not. Maybe I thought it was more efficient? Maybe it came from having to write under pressure for exams? I don’t know, but whatever you do, don’t attempt to edit your work while you’re writing it. Let me say it again. Editing and writing different processes. Don’t do one at the expense of the other.

Now when my kids are writing essays for school, I help them to write first and edit later. Write. Give it space. Go for a drive. Come back to it. It’s not going anywhere. For heaven’s sake, you’re not writing a book in sand. Writing is about getting all the ideas out, editing is shaping and refining. You will lose some of your voice if you are refining while you are creating. Do one then the other. Go back and forth. It’s not linear. Two different and highly interdependent processes.

Q: I thought I was going to write a book, but it’s not coming to me/I don’t have time for it/I’m totally stuck/I can’t find my voice …

A: Set it down. It’s okay. If you have a book in you, I hope it will eventually find its way out. Go listen to Liz Gilbert read Big Magic. You’re not the only one. When it is time and you commit to your book, you will have so much more to include and share. Trust yourself.

Also, it might be actually be time right now for you to write your book and you might be scared and letting your fear drive the bus (again, go listen to Ms. Gilbert), so figure that part out first then write the dang thing.



green cacti in the desert

Grow or Die

Two new clients have started leadership journeys with me this week. These two strong and powerful humans from different parts of the globe have spoken the same words to me:

I am afraid.

By definition, fear is a feeling or emotion in response to a perceived danger or threat. It’s a survival instinct hardwired in our brains – only now instead of threats to our very existence (oh look, a hungry lion!), fear manifests when we imagine our ego, beliefs or self-concept is in danger of being changed – WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY THEY’VE HIRED ME.

Hooray! No lions!

I get it, but I am not afraid for them. I am a champion of their inner awesome. I am a beacon of light guiding them towards their own brilliance.

I write this for them as much as I write this for you and for myself.

As humans, as leaders, if we are not growing, we are dying.

I choose growth and I think you do, too.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way: you should be afraid. Expect it. Get used to those uncomfortable feelings. It means you’re feeling something and not simply proceeding numbly through the motions of life.

You are exactly where you need to be.

I believe that lasting changes come from a deep knowing of who you are and making choices based from your inner wisdom.

Change comes from the center, but to get there, you have to start playing outside your comfort zone, your familiar zone, the place where habitual behaviors reign. You’re now entering the land of possibility which comes with the responsibility of making conscious choices. You’ll take baby steps, make incremental 1-4% stretches that compound into exponential transformation, test out hypotheses, and begin trial periods examining if new actions and behaviors yield your desired results.

You can always go back to the way you used to be, but I imagine you won’t want to stay there very long. You won’t have to. There will be more of you to work with and from.

How’s that exactly?

Let’s talk about building capacity. Beyond the buzzwords, here’s what that really means.

You are a leader (all the time, no matter what). As a leader, you have certain skills and talents. You are known for who you are and what you do, and you’ve done a great job so far at that. Good work, you!

But now you’re feeling stuck. Dissatisfied. Like you’re missing out on opportunities. You’ve hit a ceiling of your own design. You’re not expressing yourself. You’re afraid your personality is too big, your sensitivity too limiting, you’ve been doing the same thing but now you’re less satisfied.

It’s time to shake things up.

If the spectrum of leadership is a rainbow, you’re hanging out somewhere in the yellows and greens, wishing for some red or indigo; you’ve muted your extremes to make nice and blend in. Not to say yellows and greens are bad or undesirable, they’re amazing, but you actually have access to play with all the colors if you:

a) want to

b) know what they are for you, and

c) can find them in yourself.

So let’s put the crayons away and talk about real life.

You are a CEO. In this role, you are a visionary, a mentor, a colleague. You are creative, responsible, innovative. You listen and you set direction. You empower and support.

Are you doing all of this at the same time? Yes…and no.

Great leaders are like surfers: they aware of the conditions of the ocean, they look for and anticipate obstacles and opportunities. Once standing up on the board, the surfer makes subtle and constant adjustments to ride the wave she’s on while staying connected to the ocean and the surrounding world (other surfers, the beach she’s headed towards, etc). A great leader is a race car driver reading the conditions of the road, aware of hazards and openings. The driver is in constant motion, accelerating or braking, taking risks and staying safe.

It’s obvious that we have to constantly adjust as surfers and race car drivers because doing so means we stay alive. We forget this in our day to day relationships, work, and personal development.

It’s no less important.

Chances are, when you’re stumbling through life doing the same old same old and whatever has worked before, that’s why you feel stuck. You are. We are dissatisfied when we exclude the parts of ourselves we’ve been told are too much. Capacity expansion means finding a way to include and express your whole self, and knowing how to adjust, adapt and bring forth what is needed most given your vision and your environment. You get to play with the volume of how much you use that powerful personality so that you’re not always a bull in a china shop. You get to tune into your sensitivity to speak what’s not being said.

When you can live into the depth and breadth of who you already are, creating the life you want instead of what you tolerate, you’ll be happier, you’ll feel more alive, and you’ll inspire others to do the same. That, my friend, is leadership.


Making 1%-4% incremental changes for exponential growth

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (Steven Kotler)

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness (Jeff Olson)

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