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The surprisingly practical life lesson I learned from Moana

As soon as I got “Let it go” out of my head, I started singing “You’re welcome,” and “It’s so shiny...”—thanks to Disney’s latest mega-hit, Moana.

It’s a feel-good movie with music that I’ve been singing for months now. One of my clients recently told me that Moana changed her life. Naturally, I listen to the soundtrack while I’m writing for her now.

In the film, Moana lives on a Pacific island and is afraid to sail beyond the reef. She wants to get on a boat and go out there, but every time she tries, she gets hurt. Also, her dad doesn’t want her too. It’s dangerous out there in the big sea. In the movie, she’s 16. Would you let your 16-year-old daughter venture out on the Pacific ocean alone with no training?

“Screw them,” she says. [Not literally, this is Disney, you guys. This is just my translation]. And she ventures out.

She learns from Maui, the boisterous demigod of the Pacific islands that you move forward one step at a time.

Here’s the dialogue that turned a light-bulb on in my head:

Maui: [lying face-down on a canoe's outrigger] If the current's warm, you're going the right way.

Moana: [putting her hand in the water behind him] It's cold. Wait, it's getting warmer.

[seeing a relieved look on his face]

Moana: Aah! That is disgusting! What is wrong with you?

 

In case you didn’t get it right away, he peed in the water.

Take away the pee, however, and the current really does get warmer when she’s steering the boat the right way. This is just one way Moana knows she’s headed in the right direction. She also looks up at the stars for a constellation of a hook—one that resembles the one Maui carries around.

While en route to the island of Te Fiti, where she needs to take Maui to return “the heart” he stole from the island, she finds her way by moving ahead, little by little.

Checking the current, checking the star patterns ahead, adjusting her sails, moving forward, then repeating this process over and over again.

This is called wayfaring—someone who “lives on the way.”

Thinking about how wayfaring applies to our lives—how when we route a trip, we look down at our GPS map on our phone along the way to make sure we’re headed where we want to go.

If we apply wayfaring to our lives when we have a goal in mind, say, writing a book. We can’t just put our head down and write and write and write. We review what we wrote, check-in with facts and our guts to make sure we’re on the right track. We put it down for a day, or a month to let it sink in. We move forward, just a few paragraphs at a time. Adjusting our course as we go.

Living on the way. Writing on the way.

Running a race, we look at the mile markers on the side of the road, and constantly check in with how our body feels. Are my feet okay? Is it time for water or some electrolytes? Is that pee or sweat running down my leg?

We find our way in business and in life one step at a time.

If we don’t like the direction we’re headed, we adjust, change our course until we’re on a path that feels right.

Then, we keep adjusting until we “land” where we want.

Wayfaring.

Double, triple, and quadruple checking along the way to make sure we’re headed in the right direction and it’s not just pee in the water.


 

Doing nothing is a decision. Clues it’s time to move on & how to do it.

Leveling up. Upleveling. Rising up. Onward.

I just threw a lot of jargon at you.

As a change management consultant, I used to focus solely on big company changes. I’d take a close look at what a change in software meant to all the employees.

  • Will this affect how they do their job?

  • Will this make their life easier or harder?

  • How will people react? Will they hate their life?

  • Is this even possible?

Quick definition: Change management is like taking a stick and making sure a change happens. Stick beatings come in the form of communication, positioning, and high-fives.
Disclaimer: I don’t use actual sticks on clients.

My job was to figure out how to make change suck less for a specific group of people. They needed to learn a new skill pretty quickly, throw out their old ways, and start being productive—like yesterday.

Most change is good. I mean, why would we even bother trying to make a change in our personal or professional life if the change was going to make our lives worse?

You know you’re stuck, and you need a change, but aren’t sure what to do next. What do you do?

Your brain might be telling you that you suck at this point.

When I was ready to quit my job and dive into freelance writing full time, I wrestled with limiting thoughts all the time.

  • Staying at my job is easier

  • I know what I need to do every day

  • I know how much money I’m going to make every two weeks

No change required.

But then, I’d wonder if I was just too accepting. I wasn’t challenging myself. I knew I could do more. Do something different. Something that had more meaning. But doing nothing was easier. Back to Starbucks for my second almond milk latte of the day.

Sometimes you need to take the emotion out of it and just leap.

I was worried about it being too hard, and I’d fail. 

I would just tell my brain to shut up. My gut would continue nagging me, and I couldn’t put it off any longer.

What if I could also play the part of the change management expert in my life change?

Let’s look at the example of me quitting my job to write full time:

  • Who would the change affect? Hubby, kids, and me.

  • Would they be negatively affected? We’d lose almost half of our total household income. Ouch.

  • What are the positives? I’m less of a stress bag and can do more work I enjoy. The kids could sleep for an extra hour and be able to relax at home at the end of their school day instead of trotting to after-school care.

  • What does the change mean for me? I’d have to get out there and find my own clients. If I don’t make enough money, I’ll have to eat cat food and never have a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte ever again. Oh, and we’d also probably file bankruptcy.

 

Here’s what I did to make the change happen and lessen the pain for the “stakeholders”—my family in this case:

  • I grew my business on the side for more than a year, so I could set up systems to make my business run well when I started doing it full time

  • I started new habits like blogging every single week and sending a helpful email to my email subscribers every Tuesday (sometimes on Wednesday)

  • I did as much work on the side as I could and socked my extra income in savings. I’d use this to invest back in my business. Like a new website, a new logo, business cards, and subscriptions (this one is my fave)

  • I self-published a book

  • I started telling everyone I knew, planting seeds for future freelance writing and editing work, and also to keep me honest. I was getting really sick of talking about doing it. The more I talked about it, the more seriously I took the change and had to make it happen. I didn’t want to be a schlep that was all talk and no action.

  • I prepared the kids by working from home more. They’d get used to the new behavior of seeing me at home, but not being fully “available” all the time to cut up another apple, or make another cheese-free grilled cheese sandwich.

  • I put a date on our family calendar so we could mentally prepare.

 

Do you know what life would have been like if I didn’t do any of this upfront, make my life suck less work? I would have sat down at my desk on day one and been totally overwhelmed—what do I do first?

Sometimes a big decision isn’t really that big. Sometimes if you do leap, a net will appear. Sometimes if you pour a glass of wine, some salty caramel chocolate appears. It’s magical.

And sometimes, when you have a nagging feeling and get sick to death of talking about doing the thing, taking the leap, making the change, you just gotta grab some lady balls (preferably your own) and do it.

You’re a doer. Be a doer. Lady balls optional.


 

Stop judging every brushstroke of your life

The image above is a painting done by yours truly. I'm no Picasso, Dali, or Michaelangelo. I'm a just a Fisch (married name y'all). 

Imagine you're standing over my shoulder as I dip my brush in the acrylic, then tentatively add some color to my blank canvas. After a sip of red wine. 

You HATE that brush stroke. 

"STOP!" You yell.

"That color is repulsive!" "You didn't make a long enough brush stroke." "You didn't have enough paint on your brush!" "What are you even doing?" "It's ugly." "I hate it." "You suck."

Wow. 

Could you imagine doing that to a painter?

For the love of all things full of wine, I hope not. 

Then, why, on earth would you do this to yourself? Or to your work? Or your kid?

It’s hockey season. This means I’ll be spending more hours than usual writing under an oversized fleece blanket and hoodie in the cold stands.

It mostly means that I’ll be sharing more life and business lessons with you. Who knew that sports would have more lessons for the kids than for the parents?

I can tell you this for sure - there is very little crying in hockey. Unlike baseball. If a kid is crying on the ice, they probably busted something. I’m exaggerating a little for emphasis.

I can’t take full credit for today’s lesson. I read it on a goaltending blog. As I started thinking about it though, I realized it applies to so much more than hockey.

You don't criticize a painter for every brushstrokeyou just admire the painting when it’s finished.

Hockey parent definition: Don’t criticize your kid for every move, every play, every save, every wipe out, or every goal.

And that entire painting isn’t complete at the end of a game, it’s complete after the end of a season, after 5 years, or 10.

This important lesson has me acting like much less of a crazy hockey mom. In my head anyway, I’m thinking, What are you doing? Get up! Why are you so slow? Are you even watching the puck? In my head, I’m judging every movement. This is stupid.

It applies to life and business too. Don’t criticize yourself (or anyone else for that matter) based on every blog post, every botched introduction, every awkward interaction, or the time you opened your mouth way too soon.

Judging a book by its cover is one thing. Would you judge a book by a single page, a sentence, or even a word?

Your work is a painting.

Your life is a painting.

Hopefully, you’ll look at it them more like a masterpiece and less like a hot mess.

Every move you make is a brushstroke. It’s all part of your body of work, your life’s work.

When you do this, you’ll be less critical of yourself. That little voice in your head telling you that you suck? You’ll be able to tell it to shut up.

You’ve got painting to do. 

Besides, you’ve got a masterpiece to create.

 

Happy painting.




 

10 (free or cheap) things to do when you've run out of inspiration

You’re a maker.

You make stuff out of nothing. You take a blank canvaswhether your canvas is a wall, an empty page, a crystal, a greeting card, a shell of a website, or even a motorcycle, and see something that no one else does.

Opportunity.

That opportunity, to create something that wasn’t there before, is why you’re here. It’s why you get up in the morning. It’s what lights your fire. It’s what makes you wear pants. A creative opportunity is exciting. Maybe it gives you goosebumps. Maybe your eyeballs fall right out of your head.

Some days, the opportunity might scare the pee right out of you. Or the opportunity starts to feel like a drag, like molasses. Painful and slow.

When I look at my blank canvas of choice, usually a blank Google Doc, sometimes I have literally no words.

Sometimes this happens if I’ve “spent” too many words in the past few hours, days, or weeks. Since leaving my corporate job to write full time, this has been one of my biggest eye-opening moments.

I do my best work when I’m writing from a full wellmy creative well.

I first heard this term from the creativity goddess Julia Cameron.

Makers need a full creative well.

You can only get water from a full well in the ground.

With a full creative well, creating feels more natural, easier, and a lot more fun. With a full well, you can hardly wait to get to work on your project. With an abundant well, you’ll have more to give, more to offer.

I’ve started to take this creative well filling business pretty seriously lately. Here are some easy ways to keep your well filled:

 

  1. Work when you’re sharp. Maybe this is 6 am for you, or 10 pm. Mondays might be better for you than Thursdays. Whatever your witching hours of creativity are, try to limit your work to those hours. For me, that means only scheduling client calls on certain days of the week and at certain hours. It also means stepping away from work on the weekend.

  2. Have a (sacred) space. I’m not talking about an altar or meditation (nap) room, but a space that is just yours, where you can focus and enjoy your time. If you don’t have a room to make your stuff, a corner of the table, or a comfy chair, or in the garage might be your sacred space.

  3. Leave your sacred space. This sounds contradictory, but if you’re taking in the same sights and sounds every day, your mind might get a little dull. Try working in another space in your home, at another office, or anywhere but your usual workspace. I recently decided to dedicate at least one entire day a week to working somewhere else. That might be a new coffee shop (or bar).

  4. Put the screen away. As a copywriter, I spend an embarrassing number of hours staring at a screen between my Mac and my phone. Grabbing a magazine or a book, or even just staring at the wall are ways to give your brain a break.

  5. Do nothing. Absolutely nothing. When was the last time you just sat still to do some thinking? You don’t need to meditate or read or listen to a podcast. Schedule 15 minutes (you can spare that, right?) to do absolutely nothing but think.

  6. Travel. If you can take work on the road, scheduling a little work-cation or some sightseeing will open your mind to new ideas and experiences.

  7. Walk around the block. Stuck on a problem? Walk around the block.

  8. Visit a museum. Check your local guides for days that resident’s get in for free. Or visit a museum you wouldn’t normally be drawn to. Maybe it’s a cultural museum, art, science, or butterfly museum.

  9. Go outside your industry. This has me listening to SaaS podcasts and reading about the wedding industry. These are totally unrelated to what I do on a day-to-day basis. When you’re listening to podcasts, TED talks, or reading books from other industries, look for things and ideas you can apply in your own work.

  10. Do something uncomfortable. This could be going to a party where the hosts get awkward about their wine, but you get a great idea for a story. Or going to a concert by a band you wouldn’t normally listen to. Maybe just eating dinner at the table (or one that seats 100) without a screen feels uncomfortable, do it anyway.


 

Fill the well, my friends.

Batch blogging: The smartest way to keep fresh content on your blog

Ugh! It's Monday morning and I'm supposed to be writing a blog post. 

"I don't know what to write about."

"I have other stuff to do."

"I just don't want to."

You know that blogging is the best way to build a relationship with your audience. 

You're fully aware that your blog is the best sales tool you have. 

And ya, ya, ya, your blog shows off your expertise.

This is great and all, but WHY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS CHOCOLATELY IS BLOGGING SO HAAAARDDDD???

I feel you. Really, I do. I manage content for smart people, I even give them a year's worth of blogging inspiration. When it comes to my own blog, more often than not, I sit and stare at a flashing cursor on a blank page. 

The cursor taunts me...

"You have nothing to say, just go watch America's Got Talent instead."

"You can skip this week."

"And next week too."

Here's the secret. If I batch my blog posts, posting a new blog every week is easy! Here's how to make blog post batching work for you:

  1. Dream up a huge list of topics you can blog about. To do this, think about what people are always asking you about. What do you know about that you can share? What experience gives you an edge? What can you teach people? Start brainstorming, and then keep going. In 30 minutes, you can come up with at least 6 months of ideas. 
  2. Choose your favorites. Once you've brainstormed a huge list, highlight your favorites. Which ones are you most excited to write about? Which ones light you up? 
  3. Block 2-3 hours. Find a few hours on your schedule to write an ugly first draft of a few blog posts. Once you've scheduled your writing time, create a fresh Google Doc or Word Doc with your titles for at least 7-10 post ideas. This is almost three months of content!
  4. Write like a MOFO. It's now your scheduled blogging time. You've blocked your calendar, removed all distractions, have a full belly and a big cup of coffee and are ready to write. A coffee shop is my favorite place to do this. Write quick and dirty on each topic. Don't worry about grammar, spelling, or even sounding remotely smart. Just get all your thoughts on this topic on the page. Do this for all of your topics. If you have time leftover, revisit your favorites and start editing. 
  5. Blog posting day! When it's time to post fresh content on your blog, you now have a whole lotta content to choose from. Choose whichever post feels the most timely or excites you the most right now. Edit that one. Once you've done the hard work of writing and getting the ideas out, the editing part should come easier. 
  6. Pop the champagne! Because you have fresh content on your blog this week!

Need some help getting started? Sometimes all people need is a pick-list of inspiration. I can customize a year's worth of blog post titles for you here!