The World Needs Your Light

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Marianne Williamson

The first time I heard these words was in January 1995, at my first Northern Lights Alternatives AIDS Mastery Workshop (NLA), in Oklahoma City. When I decided to attend the workshop at the urging of my ConnectCare coworker Philip, I had no idea how profoundly it would influence my life. The workshop was so powerful that I drove down to OKC every three months for several years to attend in a supportive role on the “Back Row.” I also attended NLA Workshops in Tulsa and Dallas and helped to bring the Mastery to Wichita. I met people who would become some of my dearest friends and was changed in ways that I could not have imagined. The workshop and the people I met through it were instrumental in helping me make a necessary, if painful, decision and act on it. The core message of the Mastery is that quality of life is not dictated by circumstances or duration, and its motto is “Live with Passion!” It is hard to convey to people who haven’t experienced it just how special the workshop is. This quote by Marianne Williamson was only a small part of the workshop, but it stuck with me and meant a lot to me because of the encouragement it provides to allow ourselves to shine brightly and live our best lives.

Even though the OKC Mastery ceased producing workshops in 2016 because of the changing nature of HIV (a good problem, really), and we stopped in Wichita several years prior, to this day, I carry so much of the Mastery and its people with me, and I am incredibly grateful that it is part of my life. I was deeply changed because of my experience with NLA.

Each of our lives is comprised of so many different experiences melding together to make us who we are. Some of the experiences play minor roles, but still have an additive effect in shaping our identities. There are others that play decisive roles, leading us down the road in one direction or another so that we emerge from our involvement different people than we would have been without those experiences.   The Mastery is one of those seminal experiences for me. Biking Across Kansas (BAK) is another.

As I prepared to set out on my bike ride last Sunday, this Williamson quote was the one I randomly selected for contemplation on my ride. Cycling into Mount Hope, Kansas, I thought about these words and the way they connected two pivotal paths in my life—NLA and BAK.

While eating in a small café in Garnett, Kansas on Biking Across Kansas 2003, Kenny and I met three young men who were cycling across the country on a self-supported adventure. We talked for quite a while, listening to their story. Since this journey pre-dated smart phones, they stopped in libraries across the U. S. to update a blog about their travels. In their early 20s, these boys had decided to take on this challenge in order to raise funds for a children’s charity. They wanted to test themselves before life’s commitments got in the way and made a trip like that impossible. They were fascinating, and, after a very pleasant conversation, we ended up exchanging email addresses.

As they continued pedaling across the country, we communicated via email, and I read their blog. Their mission and the spirit behind it reminded me of this Williamson quote, so I sent it to them. The quote is more widely known now, but back then, the only place I had heard it was at the Mastery. After I emailed them the quote, telling them that it made me think of them and what they were doing, they emailed back in awe to say that those exact words from Marianne Williamson were what had inspired their journey. The coincidence felt truly magical. What were the odds?

Thinking about the amazing coincidence, I recognized the intersection of these two very important parts of my life—NLA and BAK. I had been encouraged by both to use the gifts I had been given in ways that allowed me to shine more brightly than before my involvement with either. I had grown as a human through both.

That’s what these boys were doing—using their gifts and allowing their lights to shine brightly so that they could help kids in need, while they celebrated and honored the gifts that they had been given. Their adventure was an inspiration to others, and they grew in the process.

All of us have gifts of various types and degrees. The apparent disparity in the distribution of gifts doesn’t always make sense, but we have an opportunity to use what we have been given to make a positive difference in the world. I have long believed that we have the responsibility to give back in proportion to what we have been given. It is both a privilege and an obligation to shine our lights.

Our stories are powerful ways to do that—both while we are living them and later in the telling of them.

When we live our very best lives, honoring our gifts, we make the difference we are meant to make in the world.

What are some of the pivotal experiences that have shaped your life and inspired you to shine your light brightly, giving others permission to do the same? Every time we do this, allowing our light to spark someone else’s light, the world grows a little brighter. And I think we can all agree that our world needs all the light it can get right now.

I’d love to help you shine your light and make the difference you are meant to make. Claim your free Blossom 2021 Quick Coach Power Session by clicking the button below to sign up to receive a link to schedule your session. In this coaching call, we’ll get right down to business with a powerful coaching conversation designed to help you blossom in 2021.

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Is 2021 Your Year to Blossom?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

–Anaïs Nin

The first time I remember coming across this quote was in 1996. I was going through a major upheaval in my life and living in a studio apartment in a converted home in the College Hill neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas, sharing a bathroom with two women I didn’t know. A good friend and early mentor, Suzie White, had given me a small book of empowering quotes by women. I still remember when I read this quote. Standing at the dresser that came with the apartment, flipping through the small, spiral-bound book, I froze when I read Nin’s words.

That’s where I am,” I thought.

The risk to remain tight in my bud had become more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

I have loved the quote ever since, and I have applied it to different circumstances over the past quarter century, but the words really hit me again last Saturday. After a bike ride, as is my practice, I randomly selected a quote from the extensive collection I have actively curated since 2001 and got into the shower. The shower, as you may know, is a great place to think, and I love to think and ponder and introspect. The quote where my finger landed was this one. Although I had first encountered it five years prior to starting my first volume of quotes, I never forgot Nin’s words, and had recorded them in that first book.

When my finger landed on this quote, my first thought was, “Cool. Always a good reminder.”

But then I was suddenly tingling with excitement. I knew that I was at another seminal moment in my life where it was time to blossom. And I knew that I could use the concept that quickly unfolded in my brain to help others blossom, too.

I thought about the seasons. Here in Kansas, we are firmly in winter. So far, it hasn’t been too extreme, but it is still considerably colder than I would like for it to be. And grayer. And browner. Try as I might to remain positive, I have a very hard time seeing beauty in the winter. Even snow doesn’t do much for me, I have to admit, because I hate driving in it so much, and I hate the cold so much. Cold Kansas wind feels like an assault on my body, and the heavy gray skies that are so frequent this time of year weigh on my spirits and drag me down into the dumps.

But, as I thought about Nin’s words, I could start to see some value—or at least a purpose—for the winter season that I dread so much. Rest. Incubation. Waiting.

Until it is time to blossom.

Although I have no doubt that I would thrive in a seasonless environment that was warm year round, I can recognize that we have an opportunity to make meaning of the winters of our lives.

There are seasons of life when we need to remain tight in a bud, for a variety of reasons. I think there are also a lot of different types of “flowers” in our lives and periods where we may be ready to blossom in one area but need to remain in a bud in another area.

But there are times when it becomes painful in one aspect or season of life to remain tight in a bud. In fact, the risk—suddenly or gradually—becomes greater than the risk to blossom.

During my shower last Saturday, I pondered Nin’s quote, and I saw clearly how I need to blossom during 2021, and I felt inspired to use my coaching skills and my writing to encourage others to blossom.

I’m excited to launch my special Blossom 2021 Quick Coach Power Sessions. If you feel ready to blossom in 2021, click the button below to sign up to receive a link to schedule your free session. This is a real coaching call—via Zoom or phone—not a sales pitch or consultation. We’ll get right down to business with a powerful coaching conversation designed to help you break free from your bud.

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My Favorite Books in 2020

“ . . . the books we read are more than just things. Somehow they become a part of who we are. A little piece of our soul.” –Mari-Jane Williams

Along with cycling and writing, reading is one of my very favorite things to do. That is why I have enjoyed sharing this annual post with my readers for the past five years. You can check out all of them at these links: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

I read a lot—66 books in 2020. As the quote from Mari-Jane Williams says above, the books I read become a little piece of my soul. I grow and learn so much through reading. It is one of the ways I continue to self-educate. What a privilege it is to be able to do this throughout life!

I read mostly on Kindle these days. While I love libraries and love the cost savings they allow, as well as the look and feel of physical books, Kindle fits best most of the time during this season of life.

My Kindle is not a fancy one, and the cover is certainly showing some wear. This is my second one, after Logan or his friend Dakota stepped on my first one, already several years old, in 2017.

I have been saddened to notice how the apparently irresistible force of Logan’s phone and the Xbox have pulled him away from reading. I notice this in many of my students, too. I wonder how many read anything long form these days. How many adults do? I know I still have reading friends, and, if you are reading this post, you are likely a reader, too. Maybe you will be inspired to check out one of these titles. I hope so, and I hope those who are under the spell of electronics (I know. I read mostly on Kindle, and I am typing this on my laptop, where I have conveniently recorded my favorite books all year.) can somehow regain a love of reading. Logan used to love to read. Until it became too much work. That makes me sad.

But this is meant not to be a lament for nonreaders but an ode to readers and fuel (“Kindling,” if you will) for their fiery passion for books.

I have included in this post those books I awarded four or five stars on Goodreads. I read almost exclusively nonfiction, albeit a wide range of genres within nonfiction. Some of the categories overlap—especially memoir and personal development or psychology. We can learn and grow so much from reading each other’s stories. Your preferences may differ from mine. That is great. The main thing is to keep reading!

Business/Career

Difference: The one-page method for reimagining your business and reinventing your marketing, by Bernadette Jiwa—This was a short, easy read with simple, yet useful suggestions for creating a business based on empathy. This was the gist of the book—lead with empathy for those we serve. If doing work with purpose is important to you, this book can help

The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-to-5, by Taylor Pearson—I debated about whether to give this book three for four stars. Finally, I decided on four because there was a lot of good information, and there were useful questions and exercises in the book. In general, the book is written for prospective or aspiring entrepreneurs, but there is an odd section that feels like it belongs in a different book. It is a long chapter providing details about how to hire an apprentice. The book explains that apprenticeship is a potential path into entrepreneurship, but this section feels like it was written for established entrepreneurs who may hire others to work in their businesses. Still, the book has value and earned its place in this post.


Getting There: A Book of Mentors
, edited by Gillian Zoe Segal—This was a really good book, full of interesting first-person accounts written or spoken (I’m not sure which.) by people who have achieved big things in a variety of careers. I really liked reading their insights and gained some pearls of wisdom.

Health

Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body, by Jo Marchant—This was an interesting and critical look at how our mind contributes to our well-being. It is written from the perspective of a scientist, not a New Age believer, yet she recognizes a place for mental wellness in physical health.

Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites, by Alexandra Levitt—Although written before the COVID-19 pandemic, I read this book during the early stages of our ongoing pandemic. It told an interesting story about the epidemiology behind solving tough outbreaks. I’m sure the “medical detectives” have been hard at work on this pandemic.

Even Vegans Die: A Practical Guide to Caregiving, Acceptance, and Protecting Your Legacy of Compassion, by Carol J. Adams—This book turned out to be different than I expected, but it deals with an important topic. I guess the subtitle should have been a clue. This book acknowledges that vegans may face guilt and shame if we have health problems. I can relate to the expectation (self-imposed or not) that I should have perfect health and stay effortlessly at a perfect weight, in order to represent vegans well. This is the first public discussion I have read of this issue, and I appreciated the discussion of it that Adams presented. Then the book did become the practical guide the subtitle claims, addressing things like wills and advanced directives. While unpopular, these are topics we should all consider, and Adams’ perspective and experience are useful.

Functional Medicine Coaching: Stories from the Movement That’s Transforming Healthcare, by Sandra Scheinbaum & Elyse L. Wagner—This book seems to have been written to recruit coaching students to the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, but there is still a lot of great information in it. I have already included some of it in a blog post and probably will in the future, too.

History

Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer, by Margalit Fox—I finished this book on New Year’s Day 2020, and I knew I already had the first addition to My Favorite Books of 2020. Fox does an excellent job of providing general information about Arthur Conan Doyle. I learned that he was much more than the creator of Sherlock Holmes, although that is remarkable enough. This is the true account of his two-decades-long quest to free a wrongly convicted man. I was so fascinated that I decided to purchase the book for my mom for Mother’s Day. She enjoys classic mysteries, and I knew the British element of this story would be of interest, as well. This was a great book to carry into 2020 to start my new list.

Facebook: The Inside Story, by Steven Levy—This was a very long book, and there were times I wondered if I should stick with it, but Levy presents an extensively researched account of Facebook’s history, including his personal exclusive access to inside information and happenings. Part of my reason for reading was to decide how concerned I should be about my privacy in Facebook. To be honest, I haven’t changed anything since reading this book, but at least I feel like my use is less naïve. The origin story and evolution of the company really is quite amazing.

Memoir

Becoming, by Michelle Obama—I read this book for the WSU Common Read Book Selection Committee, and it just happened to come in the midst of the social unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd. Obama covered so many topics—gender, race, socioeconomic status, education. She also shares details of the Obama family life very openly, including what it was like to live and raise children in the White House. It was very informative, and I admired her authenticity.

Contact Wounds: A War Surgeon’s Education, by Jonathan Kaplan—This is the second book, after The Dressing Station, by Jonathan Kaplan, that I read. I think I liked it even better than the first. It chronicles Kaplan’s fascinating career before and after the stories he covers in The Dressing Station. Kaplan chose an unconventional medical career, and he is open about the sacrifices involved, but it is clear that there are also many benefits.


Counting Backwards: A Doctor’s Notes on Anesthesia
, by Henry Jay Przybylo—I learned a lot about the world of anesthesiology. I didn’t realize there was as much potential for self-advocacy with anesthesiology as there apparently is. Dr. Jay, as the author is called, feels deeply that his mission is to alleviate all pain for all patients, to the greatest extent possible.


Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt
, by Kevin Hines—I gave this four stars because the story is so important and told so honestly. The writing is not the highest quality, but it is genuine and told with passion. I heard Hines speak at WSU a few years ago and was quite moved. After surviving a suicide attempt via jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, Hines has continued to struggle with bipolar disorder with psychotic features, but he is a passionate mental-health and suicide-prevention advocate. His story is important. I highly recommend attending a speaking event where he presents if you have the opportunity.


Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening
, by Manal al-Sharif—This is a very powerful book that shares the story of Manal’s coming of age as a Saudi woman. She transitioned from a traditionally raised Saudi girl to a fundamentalist Muslim to a bold and courageous woman who fought for women’s right to drive. This book touches on many challenging issues and can be hard to read at times because of her history of abuse that she shares, but it is compelling and important.

Downhills Don’t Come Free: One Man’s Bike Ride from Alaska to Mexico, by Jerry Holl—I loved this book. It represents my very favorite genre—what I call personal-growth adventure memoir. Even better, it was cycling specific. Holl’s story of his solo cycling trip from Anchorage to Mexico was so much fun to read and very interesting. His accounts of riding past grizzly bears makes my dog encounters seem pretty mundane. The simple daily journal style was easy to read and rolled readers along on his journey.

The Dressing Station: A Surgeon’s Chronicle of War and Medicine, by Jonathan Kaplan—This is an amazing account of Kaplan’s assorted adventures as a doctor who traveled. He shares his experience in everything from war medicine to cruise ship physician. Quite a fascinating life!

Educated, by Tara Westover—I am late to the party on this one. I purchased this in 2018, but I just read it in May 2020. This is a wonderful book, with so many rich layers of social topics. Westover and two of her seven siblings overcame incredible odds, as members of a Mormon extremist family, to earn PhD’s, despite never having been sent to school as children. Learning to think for herself had a steep price for Westover, but her story is one that can benefit many, through the thought-provoking way she tells it.

E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality, by Pam Grout—There were a lot of good reminders about the power of abundance thinking and the Law of Attraction. She proposes nine experiments, and, honestly, I gave them up because I didn’t achieve “success.” Still, there is a lot of good stuff, and I liked reading this book by a fellow Kansan.

The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe—This is a beautifully written book about a topic that could have been depressing but wasn’t. Schwalbe shares his mother’s last years and their journey together through the books they read and discussed. Not only was it a lovely testimony to the power of reading to shape and enhance lives, but it was a wonderful tribute to his mother and almost a guide to facing end of life with grace. A powerful book.

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, by Alex Hutchinson—This was a fascinating treatment of the psychological and physiological aspects of endurance. The author shares his personal experience, as well as the stories of many other athletes, plus hard science.

Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner—Weiner presented the history of the FBI and a fairly extensive biography of J. Edgar Hoover in this exhaustively researched book. It is long and dense. To be honest, I skimmed parts, but it was not difficult to read. It was particularly fascinating to read more recent history that I remembered in order to attain a better understanding of what really happened.


Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning
, by Leslie Odom, Jr.—This was a quick, easy and worthwhile read. Odom’s story of his rise to play Aaron Burr in the musical Hamilton is inspirational and instructive. I’m not sure the title really fits, but there are some good lessons in this interesting memoir.


Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness
, by Suzy Favor Hamilton—I’ll be honest. The writing is not spectacular in this book, but the story is truly unbelievable, and the intention behind the book—illuminating the extreme behaviors that unmanaged bipolar disorder can cause, while removing the stigma and shame associated with mental illness—is a good one. Hamilton’s story is one I will remember. I probably bought this book because I love reading memoirs by endurance athletes, and I did enjoy reading about her running career, but the second half—her life as a high-end Las Vegas escort—was astounding. I can’t imagine how her husband stuck by her through it all. It is one that made me think.


Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin…Every Inch of It
, by Brittany Gibbons—I went back and forth about whether to give this three stars for four stars. I ultimately decided on four stars because of Brittany’s transparency and positive message. She tells the story of how she became an internet celebrity advocating for body acceptance. It is an entertaining, poignant and quick read.

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer, by Heather Lende—This is another one where I found myself teetering between three and four stars. I settled on the higher side because, although somewhat depressing, I believe so strongly in Heather Lende’s core message to find the good in every life and situation. She uses the lives and deaths of members of her small Alaska town to illustrate the various lessons she has learned from them, and I like that. Her writing is not depressing. I think the heaviness I felt while reading it was my own.

Girl Unbroken: A Sister’s Harrowing Story of Survival from The Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho, by Regina Calcaterra & Rosie Maloney—What an incredible story! I wasn’t too sure about it at first, but it quickly grew on me, and I loved it, although there was plenty that was hard to read. A family of five kids suffered unthinkable abuse at the hands of their mother. Rosie suffered at the hands of a stepfather and other men, as well. Two of the five teamed up as adults to share their story. It is brave and hopeful and deserves to be witnessed.

The Grace to Race: The Wisdom and Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete Known as the Iron Nun, by Sister Madonna Buder—What an inspiration Sister Madonna is! Like Downhills Don’t Come for Free, this book falls into my very favorite category, personal-growth adventure memoir. Sister Madonna, who is now 90 (https://triathlonmagazine.ca/personalities/sister-madonna-buder-turns-90-today/), shared her fascinating story of personal growth and her unique brand of ministry and mission in this wonderful book.

Notes from a Young Black Chef, by Kwame Onwuachi—I read this for the WSU Common Reads Book Selection Committee. Onwuachi tells his courageous story of breaking away from gang life to “hustle” (to use his word) to make it as a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America, who has worked at, and briefly operated, some of the most exclusive fine dining restaurants in the U.S. His perspective is an interesting one worth reading. In the unrest of summer 2020, it was timely.

What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, by Mona Hanna-Attisha—I also read this one for WSU Common Reads Book Selection Committee. Dr. Mona was the driving force behind breaking open the Flint, Michigan water crisis. In this memoir, she tells the story of the fight against institutionalized racism that had created the problem and threatened to keep Flint in danger because of lead in the water.

Personal Development

Badass Habits: Cultivate the Awareness, Boundaries, and Daily Upgrades You Need to Make Them Stick, by Jen Sincero—I love Jen Sincero’s work. I listened to this one on Audible because I have listened to one of her previous books, and she is just so funny. Humor aside, there is a lot of great material in this book. She has designed it to function like a course, and it makes adopting new, or losing old, habits very manageable. Jen tells it like it is and has a way with words that is uniquely her own.

Beginner’s Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now, by Liz Forkin Bohannon—I read this for the WSU Common Reads Book Selection Committee and probably wouldn’t have chosen it, based on the title. The title just didn’t speak to me, although I can see why it might to college students. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out to have a lot of relevance for any age, and it was very well written and quite funny in spots.


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
, by Chip & Dan Heath—This was an enjoyable read with lots of good suggestions for making better decisions. I gleaned some tips that I have already put to use and will in the future.

The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms, by Danielle LaPorte—There were quite a few good ideas and inspiration in this book. Any time I find inspiration to grow in some way, I get excited.


Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be
, by Rachel Hollis—This is another book where I was late to the party, reading it long after the hype settled, and I accidentally read her subsequent book first, a while back. I wasn’t thoroughly convinced with my four-star rating, but I ultimately settled there because I did pick up several good quotes. Hollis shares 20 lessons she has learned through life. It’s good, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, based on the hype or on Girl, Stop Apologizing.

Psychology

Cringeworthy: The Value of Awkwardness in a Put-Together World, by Melissa Dahl—The best gift of this book was the feeling of “It’s not just me!” that I got when I read about cringe attacks and mind pops. Until that point, to be honest, I was feeling disappointed in the book, but that chapter elevated the book to four stars for me. I wrote a blog post inspired by this chapter because reading that others share these experiences was such a relief to me.


The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better
, by Gretchen Rubin—Although I have read Gretchen Rubin, used her Four Tendencies in my coaching practice and had this book on Kindle for years, I didn’t actually read the book until November 2020. There is so much that makes sense here, and it is a helpful way of trying to understand ourselves and the people around us. I confirmed that I am an Upholder. Only one of the Rebels with whom I live would take the quiz. The other is too much of a Rebel for that. Understanding tendencies helps to depersonalize some behavior.

Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun—This book is hard to categorize. Personal growth? History? Psychology? I’m not sure where it belongs, but I did appreciate it. It left me with some questions. I had not previously thought of myself, as a GenXer, as really being part of a community because of that—one with a unique set of challenges because of when we grew up. I’m still not sure I do. However, it did make me wonder if the angst and searching I have felt so often is generational or if it is just me, as I have always assumed. Maybe it is a little of both. This was an interesting discussion of GenX women at midlife.

True Crime

The Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the Murders That Shocked a Nation, by Dennis L. Breo—This is one of the best true crime books I have read. It was so thorough in its coverage of a horrific crime and the exhaustive investigation and legal proceedings that followed. The investigators, prosecutor and star witness were clearly the heroes of the book, rather than glorifying the murderer. The victims were treated with respect, and their story was told with dignity. I had heard of this historic crime for years, but I didn’t really know the details until I read this book.

Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption in the Infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields, by Kathryn Casey—This was a fascinating examination of three decades of murders along I-45 in Texas, between Galveston and Houston. Casey examines these murders from a compassionate perspective and in the hope of generating interest in cold cases.

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” –Annie Dillard

I hope this list of my favorite books from my 2020 reading inspires you to pick up some of them. What was the best book you read in 2020? Let us know in the comments.

I’m excited to launch my special Blossom 2021 Quick Coach Power Sessions. Enter your email address and click the button to sign up to receive a link to schedule your free session.

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Who Do You Want to Be in 2021?

We have made it through Christmas and are winding our way toward 2021. I just got brave enough to look at my 2020 Vision post from last year around this time. COVID-19 threw such a wrench into my ideas about what I would create in 2020 that I hadn’t let myself look at it in a long time. Here we are, still entrenched in a pandemic, yet we have to keep living while we are waiting for things to return to “normal.” It was one thing to be knocked off kilter by the surreality of the pandemic, but this is life as we know it for now and for the foreseeable future. So, we must move on.

It was nearly two months ago that I settled on the accomplishments I intend to achieve in 2021, and I clarified an identity mantra a couple weeks ago. These are the beacons I am currently using and what I intend to use to carry me through 2021 toward my vision of success.

“The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams today, in every little way you possibly can.” –Mike Dooley

A big part of achieving any meaningful goal in life is to see ourselves as “the kind of person who _________” and then to start living as that kind of person to the greatest extent possible right now.

Creating an identity mantra is one way to do this. Find a way to really clear your head (The bike works best for me.) and honestly ask yourself what you really want to achieve in the next year. Focus on one to no more than five accomplishments that you want to have under your belt by the end of 2021. What would you call yourself if you achieved these things? For instance, if you want to have run a marathon, you would call yourself a runner. If you want to have quit smoking, you would call yourself a nonsmoker. Use this identity to craft an identity mantra—something that you will use as beacon to direct your activities and guide you toward accomplishing what you want to accomplish. The three accomplishments that became clear priorities for me on a bike ride in early November are: securing a book deal, building a robust platform and creating a writing life—clearly all related. The identity mantra that I crafted to help me internalize those accomplishments is: “I am grateful to be a successful author and coach, embodying what I teach and living a life of freedom, flexibility and meaning.”

Say, write, read and visualize your identity mantra every day, several times a day. Really see it and feel it. What does it feel like to have accomplished what you set out to accomplish? What does it look like? How is life different and better? Feel gratitude in advance for your success. The more vivid you can make this for yourself, the better. Visualize it in your journal; in meditation; in prayer; on your walks, runs, swims or bike rides; in the shower; while washing dishes; while driving—any time you can. See yourself going through your day as a person who _______ and immerse yourself in what it feels like to be that person.

“. . . there is actual data showing that visualizing success makes it more likely to become reality.” –Shawn Achor

Reverse engineer the steps to be who you want to be by the end of 2021. What will it take to become that person? Even if you don’t or can’t spell out all the steps in minute detail right away, take time to figure out the major components of success. This may be quite simple or quite complicated, depending on what you are working to achieve. But figure out the big picture and then break it down to the first action you can take. Get started today. And keep going tomorrow. As I have written, we often need to move in tiny steps, but moving is the main thing. Anything is progress.

It is critical to plan for the unexpected, as well as for expected interruptions. Life will get in the way. We are in a pandemic now. Hopefully, we won’t be at some point in the next year. But there will be other things—hopefully, not on this magnitude, but you can be sure there will be something. Or several things. All of us get knocked down by life at times. While I didn’t let go of my identity mantra and my intentions for 2021 during the lead-up to Christmas, I certainly didn’t embody the JustWind mindset in every moment. I firmly believe that when we recognize that we have the power and freedom to choose our perspectives, we can liberate ourselves from the victim mindset (I didn’t succeed at this all the time as Christmas approached.), optimize our lives (this either) and make the difference we are meant to make. (We can never make our best contributions when we are overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.) I’m disappointed in the way I handled this (and every) Christmas season. I am committed to learning from the disappointment and moving forward, doing better in the future. And I am committed to continuing to believe in my identity mantra and to doing something each day to bring me closer to living it as fully as possible.

We have to forgive ourselves when we mess up. It will happen. The key is not to let it totally derail us. We can reframe what success looks like and decide that we are successful when we recognize our missteps on the road to our new identity, decide to learn from them and move forward in a more productive direction. If we can do this, getting right back on the (literal or figurative) bike saddle, and resuming forward momentum, we should pat ourselves on the backs and celebrate our success. Then we keep moving more fully toward the self and the future we envision.

“The question is not whether you’ll slip up but, rather, how you’ll respond when you do.” –Jen Sincero

Bonus points and power: Choose a word for 2021. I started doing this several years ago, and it can serve as a short, powerful trigger to help you make choices that are aligned with your priorities. Put it (and your mantra) on sticky notes where you will see them often. Consider engraving your word on a bracelet or painting it on a stone. (I have done both in the past.) Most importantly, keep it in the front of your mind. It’s important to discern your word carefully. Try it on to see how it resonates. Like many things, I find my best clarity around choosing my word to come on my bike. After I was reminded of the word practice recently (COVID-19 knocked my 2020 word right out of my head.), I tried on a couple words. They were close but didn’t feel exactly right. I went for a bike ride and rode into my answer for 2021: JustWind. It’s my word. It encapsulates my book, my business, my philosophy, my trust in myself—all things I intend to emphasize in 2021. What’s your word for 2021? Why? What does it mean to you? How does it represent who you want to be?

Rather than a traditional New Year’s resolution, I encourage you to try this approach to achieving your desired accomplishments. Decide on an identity and start believing in yourself as that person right now. Get a little head start on 2021 and begin now. Live it. See it. Believe it. Be it.

You can help me achieve my 2021 accomplishments by sharing this post on social media or with someone you think might benefit. If you think it has merit and would like to help me along the way, please share it. This helps me reach people I would not otherwise reach in order to build a robust platform, which is a must for securing a nonfiction book deal.

How can I help you achieve what you want to achieve in 2021? Leave a comment or private message me. Let me know if there is content that I could provide that would be beneficial to you.

If you feel like you could benefit from some coaching, click this link to schedule a complementary phone or Zoom session where we can explore ways to work together.

If you haven’t yet joined my email list, please do. I will make sure you have access to my Optimal Living Route Plan tool when it is ready, and I’ll keep you updated on JustWind developments in 2021 and beyond.

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Let’s take control where we can and create a powerful 2021!


Move to Be Merrier

It happens often. Not every ride. But often. I’ll be riding along, maybe even pushing into a tough headwind, and I’ll suddenly realize I am smiling. Despite feeling a tad bit goofy when I notice the smile, I smile even more.

How fortunate I am to be doing something that causes me to burst into a spontaneous, genuine smile!

I’m not sure when I started noticing the smiles or even when I started smiling on rides. I do remember several years ago on Biking Across Kansas, after riding the hilly last day into White Cloud, Kansas, seeing my friend and fellow BAKer Mike Minihan and hearing him say, “You were just smiling as you rode those hills!” I don’t think I had even realized that I was smiling as I rode past miles of corn fields and up and down miles and miles of hills. The fact that he noticed made an impression on me.

That’s a short excerpt from Chapter 27 of the book I am writing. The chapter itself is more about noticing when I am smiling than about simply smiling itself, but I want to talk about the smiling today.

This is the toughest time of year for me, as it is for a lot of people. We all have different reasons, and it affects us to greater or lesser degrees, but there are many of us who are not fully on board with the songs proclaiming that this is the “most wonderful time of the year.”

The core message of my book and coaching work is that when we recognize that we can choose our perspective, we can liberate ourselves from the victim mindset, optimize our lives and make the difference we are meant to make.

I totally failed to embrace and embody my own message this week.

I will spare you the whiny details. Suffice it to say that I allowed myself to be swallowed by overwhelm, as I tried to complete my (online) Christmas shopping, while getting sucked into the whirlwind of a scarcity mindset around time and money. I’m not over it yet, but I have promised myself that I will really, truly, this time learn from this misery and find another way to approach the holidays before next Christmas. At this point, it comes down to damage control, but I intend to live my message more effectively throughout the 2021 holiday season.

Regardless of the time of year, one powerful tool for boosting our moods and lifting our spirits is moving our bodies.

Biking Across Kansas 2015

I’m writing this on Saturday morning. The boys are asleep, so the house is quiet. I am sitting by my front window and looking out at the sunshine. The wind chill is only 27 degrees at the moment, and it won’t get above 37, but, layered in warm gear, it will be warm enough to ride my bike. I am grateful to have the flexibility in my schedule today to ride at the warmest part of the day. I’ll start gearing up around 2 p.m. Hopefully, the sun will still be shining then. I can feel the excitement in my belly when I anticipate my ride. It will only be 15-20 miles, since this is the off season, and I would choose warmer weather, if that were an option, but I get to ride!

For me, cycling goes beyond the well-documented mood boost exercise provides through the release of endorphins—feel-good hormones released by our brains and nervous system when we exercise. Because I regularly reflect on what a gift it is to be able to ride my bike, I experience another level of joy through cycling. But, any form of purposeful physical activity can give us a mood boost, and endorphins are a big part of that.

Even if you haven’t found a form of exercise that makes you erupt into a spontaneous smile (I encourage you to keep searching for one that you love that much!), and even if you revel in winter wonderland and relish the festivities of the holiday season, physical activity can add a spark of joy to your days. Endorphins play an important role in that. Exercise has been shown in many studies over the years to be at least as, and sometimes more, effective than pharmaceutical interventions for depression. Of course, it is crucial to seek professional help, if you are struggling with depression, and there are times when medication may be needed to alleviate particular types of mental health issues. Even so, exercise is a great complement to medicinal treatment for depression and anxiety.

I feel most myself on the bike. Whatever form of physical activity you choose, it is a terrific way to bolster your self-esteem and self-confidence. It feels terrific to follow through on what you say you are going to do. Even if it were a dreary, overcast day, as long as the wind chill was above freezing (and maybe even if it was a bit below freezing), I would ride today. If conditions were too miserable, I would do some other form of exercise. It is part of who I am, and it feels wonderful to keep promises to myself.

How can you benefit from the mood-boosting effects of physical activity, no matter the time of year?

  • Try, try again. If you don’t already have a favorite form of exercise, experiment. Don’t write yourself off as a non-exerciser. It’s too important, for so many reasons. There are countless ways to move your body. Just to start your mental (and maybe physical) wheels turning, here are some ideas. This is not an exhaustive list!
    • Cycling!
    • Running
    • Walking
    • Swimming
    • Yoga
    • Pilates
    • Strength training with body weight, weights, bands, kettlebells and more
    • Group fitness classes
    • Hiking
    • Team sports like basketball, baseball, softball, soccer or volleyball
    • Racquet sports like tennis, pickle ball or racquet ball
  • Find a friend. Or not. Some of us love solo pursuits, or at least activities that we can do alone or choose to do with other people—like cycling, running or walking. Others may want or need the companionship or accountability of a friend or group.
  • Mix and match. A well-rounded fitness program includes exercise for your cardiorespiratory system, as well as activities to build strength, enhance flexibility and challenge balance. Don’t let that stop you, though. While that may be an ideal to work toward, anything is better than nothing. More is better than less, to a point. If you don’t already have a consistent program, pick one activity from the list above or your own idea. Then, add another on a couple days of the week. For example: Walk on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Do yoga (Try Hatha, Power, Vinyasa or Yin. Yoga with Kassandra has hundreds of terrific practice options, organized by style or length.) on Saturday. Do some resistance training with bands on Monday and Wednesday.
  • Enlist a coach or trainer. Are you intimidated by the idea of adding exercise to your life? Do you not know where to start, so you don’t start at all? Give yourself the gift (or ask for it for Christmas) of a session or a package with a coach or trainer who can design a plan for you and help you develop a strategy for success in your particular circumstances.
  • Build a habit. Depending on the study, research has shown that it takes anywhere from 14 to 66 days to instill a habit. The reality probably depends more on what the habit is and a person’s history with adopting positive or losing negative habits. Again, a coach can help you incorporate your habit into your life if you don’t know where to start or need accountability. There are several ways to build a habit.
    • Schedule it. Plan each week and know when you are going to exercise and what you are going to do. Make it non-negotiable.
    • Set yourself up for success. Want to go for a run in the morning? Set out your gear the night before. Know you won’t go to the gym? Plan to walk outside instead. What needs to be in place to make it easy to keep your promise to yourself? Plan ahead and make sure it is in place. No excuses.
    • Make it appealing. Buy yourself some nice walking shoes. Get some cool yoga clothes or a new bike jersey. Ride, run or walk in an interesting location.
    • Decide you are a person who exercises. Identify as a cyclist, a runner, a walker a swimmer, a triathlete, etc. This is what you do because it is who you choose to be.
  • Join an event. I still remember the moment in 1996 when I crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon and thought, “I am an athlete.” Even though I exercised prior to training for the marathon, which was my first, it was a transformational experience that set the stage for becoming a cyclist, going back to grad school for a Master’s degree in Exercise Science and many of the things I have undertaken.

The most important thing about exercise is that you do it. It is a lifeline for me all the time, but especially this time of year. It helps me to stay sane, and it helps me to manage my emotions. It’s not a panacea, but it is a tool that can help you find your smile when life gets heavy.

I’m editing this on Sunday morning. I did ride 19 miles yesterday. Even though I should have worn a windbreaker and never really got warm enough, and despite having given myself a black eye in a nasty Christmas gift wrapping accident a couple hours before I rode, I noticed myself smiling as I was riding north into the light, but cold northwest wind. It was a highlight of my day.

I’d love to help you incorporate mood-boosting exercise into your life. Leave a comment or send me a private message to let me know if this content is helpful. Would you like more like it? What, specifically, can I do to help you build an exercise habit?

If you feel like you could benefit from some coaching, click this link to schedule a complementary phone or Zoom session where we can explore ways to work together.

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