Where I Went Wrong

I always thought I would be discovered. I thought some teacher or adult would tell me what I should be when I grew up.

I thought somebody would see my hidden talents and out me. Tell me,“You’re special.” Or at least: “You’re so good at that.”

At the time I didn’t care what they said, I just wanted them to tell me, for godsakes.

I was a kid. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Then I was an adult. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Then I was 50. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Sound familiar?

I waited for some epiphany (that never came.) I waited for a significant conversation (that never came.) I waited for a compliment from somebody in power, some expert.


I had it all wrong. Totally and completely ass backwards. Nobody was going to pick me. I had to pick myself. (Go read James Altucher’s Choose Yourself, it’s brilliant.)

And you do, too.

Your vocation, or your career, or your path, or whatever you want to call it, is a total a Do-It-Yourself job.

You’re not Lana Turner. Nobody is going to discover you sitting in a drugstore.

You have to make your life from scratch, yourself. Your life is a process. You will figure yourself out gradually, one project at a time.

So create an exciting project for yourself. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as you feel amped about it. Then totally invest.

Don’t pray. Don’t meditate. Wait, no. Definitely meditate. Meditate every single day, but not with the hope that your vocation will be revealed to you during your meditation.  That’s not going to happen.

Your life mission will be revealed to you when you’re waist deep in some challenging and exhilarating project.

And, while we’re at it, there is no such thing as a life mission. But there are life missions. Plural. People now have 14 jobs over their lifetime. Not one. So you can lose that idea of working at the same place your whole life

Not happening. Old paradigm.

Careers are fluid now. We morph and grow into different kinds of jobs, different kinds of work. Everything is changing constantly.

I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. It would have saved me a lot of passive hang-wringing and worrying.

I wish someone had kicked me in the butt and said, Stop worrying about your vocation; stop asking that idiotic question: What do I want to be when I grow up. Just go out and DO SOMETHING.

Get a project, and grow up.

You Are What You Love

On the James Altucher podcast recently he interviewed Robert Greene, author of Mastery, and asked him what he says to people who tell him they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

I was making dinner as I was listening.  I stopped chopping. I had been waiting for the answer to this question my whole life.

Greene said:

“This question always disturbs me because it tells me that these people haven’t been paying attention to their lives. Because if they had been, they would know what they should do,or be.”

I felt shocked. I felt shamed. I felt accused.

Wasn’t I paying attention to my life?

I surely was, but not in the way Greene was implying. He was saying: consciously notice your life.  Notice what you do, and how you feel about it. Take mental notes. Cultivate this habit of noticing, and start early. Like when you’re 10. Then by the time you’re in your late 20s early 30s, you’ll know who you are and what you want to do.

So what do you do if, like me, you are getting to this game late?

I started by making lists.

What You’ll Need

Get a small notebook you can easily carry around with you.

You can also use the Notes app on your phone, too, and I do that a lot, but you’re still going to need a paper notebook.

Now make 2 Lists. A “What I like/love” list and a “What I dislike/hate” list.

100 Things I Love

Sit down and list out 25 things you love as quickly as you can. Nothing is too small, stupid, or trivial. If you love it, list it.

Think about foods you love, drinks, smells, music, places, objects, times of year, times of day, activities. Get at least 25 things down in this first session. Here are some things on my list:

Cinnamon toast; a Bombay Sapphire martini, up, with a twist; the smell of woodsmoke; the song of a thrush; the northern California coast, a new box of crayons; Groundhog Day, kids in line to see Santa, looking down at the ground from a plane. (You can check out my complete list here. Feel free to steal.)

Once you have the first 25, keep going and build this list  to an absolute minimum of 100 things. This could take a while. Give yourself some time, but no longer than a month.

Being on the lookout for things to add to your list will force you to pay attention to your life. It’s hard to get to 100 things.

If you’re really struggling, go out and do things. Put yourself in the middle of life traffic. Be active in the world and notice the things that make you happy and the things that don’t.

50 Things I Hate

Then do the same thing with Things I Hate.  You only have to list out 50 things for this one. (Sadly, sometimes this list comes easier.)

A lot of time I’ll be thinking of something I like, like brie cheese, for instance, and it will remind me how much I don’t like feta.

List foods and music and societal conventions. List hated chores and behaviors. List things that piss you off, aggravate you, repulse you, frustrate and annoy you.

Some examples from my list include: parallel parking, shaving, scotch tape, croutons, vacuuming, the cereal a the bottom of the box. (More here.)

Why Do This?

You are what you love. It’s as simple as that. The more things you love, and are aware that you love, the  more clear you will become to yourself and other people.

Each time you add an item to your “I love this” list, you become clearer. It’s like watching a Polaroid develop.

And if you tend this list for the rest of your life, adding to it and subtracting from it as you change and grow, you will will soon notice how complex you are, how unique, and how you add value.

Even when you add to the hate list you will know a lot about yourself and avoid making mistakes and sabotaging your happiness. If you can create strategies to avoid doing things you hate, and promise yourself never to do any of the things on your hate list as a job unless at gun point, your life will become incredibly better.

Whenever you have a difficult decision to make:  marry this person, take this job, move to this location, have a baby– before you decide, take out your lists. Review yourself. Remind yourself who you are.

So many times the problem isn’t that we don’t know who we are, it’s just that we forget. If you have your lists, and you start feeling lost, you can always refer to your maps and find your way home.

6 Things That Made Me Happy Today

1. My yoga studio. How crazy is it that I own a yoga studio? Sometimes I just cannot believe it. I walked in there at 7 this morning to do my personal practice, all bleary-eyed and tired, and walked out all energized and ready for the day.

2. Vince, my trainer. I write about Vince frequently here, but here’s the thing that made me happy today. Vince likes what he does, and it shows, and it makes me happy to to be around him, (even when he makes me do stuff that causes sweat to drip off the end of my nose.) What if everyone felt that way about what they do? Can you imagine? Can you imagine if everyone LIKED what they do for a living?

3. Making Turkey Goulash. Dicing onions, cutting mushrooms, measuring spices, tasting, stirring, and making the house smell amazing.

4. The James Altucher Podcast. Today (as I was making the goulash) I listened to his interview with Chris Hadfield. It was so good. Hadfield talked about becoming competent. It made me want to be competent, too.  Chris Hadfield is famous for this YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo 

5. Having Owen in the house. G’s dad arrived today from North Carolina. He drove 12 hours straight through. They are going fishing in the morning. (And that’s why there are worms in our fridge right now.) We ate the goulash and watched Survivor. He is such a happy person to have around.

6. Em and Scott got an offer on their house. This is my daughter’s first foray into the world of real estate. The Portland, OR housing market is crazy! Houses sell hours after the listing goes live. It took 48 hours to get their first offer and they were so nervous. But now they are in negotiations. *fingers crossed*

What made you happy today? Care to share?

A Few Things That Made Me Happy This Week

1. Today it was sunny and in the 40s (omg,  my face didn’t hurt when I walked outside!)

2. And G’s wheatgrass is up!


3. I did a private Beginner Yoga lesson today with a delightful woman who came in with a new mat (the absolutely worst mat she could have gotten, but oh well, she didn’t know.) And a matching yoga towel and a matching water bottle.

She said she didn’t know what to wear so she asked Siri. That made me laugh. I would have never thought to ask Siri what to wear to yoga, and now I am going to think about it the next time I am in any clothing dilemma.

(I can’t think of the last time I was in a clothing dilemma, though. I probably need to get out more.)

4. I am reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before which is about mastering habits. It is freaking me out how alike we are. She did NaNoWriMo on a lark–so did I. She learned Scrivener to make her writing life easier–so did I.  But though I have some strong “Upholder” qualities, I am mostly an “Obliger” in her system.

She says there are 4 basic types of people when it comes to habits: Upholders, who meet other people’s expectations  as well as their own; Obligers who meet other people’s expectations, but not their own; Questioners, who question all expectations; and Rebels who resist all expectations. It’s fascinating, and a fun read. I love these kinds of books about habits, and the creative process, and how the mind works, and sane business strategies, and what motivates people. Can’t get enough of them. (And I have a whole stack of them at my elbow.)

5. I also got a kick out of this Clive Thompson talk about writing with a pencil versus writing on a keyboard. It made me remember my January retreat when I would go back and forth between the 2. (It also made me buy a box of Blackwing pencils and a sharpener!) In a weird moment of synchronicity, the day after I watched this talk, Shelly Clark came to class with a pencil holder filled with pointy Blackwing pencils for us to write down our intentions for yoga class.

6. On my way to Wegmans yesterday for my weekly shopping I listened to the James Altucher podcast in which he interviewed Maria Popova of Brainpickings.org. I loved her distinction between writing “content” on her blog and “substantive” writing. Her blog is an incredible resource for readers and if you are a reader you should check it out. I have found countless gems there.

These things made me happy this week, despite my prana depleted, de-caffeineated, itchy, dragon-eyed, still-snowy-in-March-what-the-fuck situation.

What made you happy this week? Any good finds or happenings? Refrain from sending sunny pictures of flowers, or palm trees, or green grass, though. I’ve seen enough of that on Facebook and it’s really enough, people. Have some sensitivity.

I Never Know What to Write About

The question of the moment is: Should I sit here and continue to eat refined carbohydrates and drink coffee, or go to Wegmans for green juice supplies?

OR: Should I stop eating refined carbohydrates and go up and meditate first, and then go to Wegmans for green juice supplies?

OR: Should I put on a James Altucher podcast and clean the house, then go for my Power Walk, and then go to Wegmans for green juice supplies?

OR: Should I write about how there were 22 people for Happy Hour Yoga last night and I had a freakin’ blast?

OR: Should I write about the Yoga Challenge which is in Day 5, and how I heard someone ask another person: “Are you yoga challenged?”

(“Why, yes. Yes I am.”)

This is what the wall looks like in the lounge:

Yoga Challenged

OR: Maybe I should complain write about the weather. Now that would be novel and interesting.

Winter face in spring

OR: Maybe I should write about how Spring lifted up her skirt and let us catch a glimpse of her panties the other day, and I saw it and captured it:


But then she put her long johns back on and pretended like it never happened.

OR: Maybe I should write about how we found a new place to eat in Corning that serves green food and we were so happy!

(This is G pounding wheatgrass shots and my salad.)

Pretty salad

G drinks wheat grass









And what would a post be without a picture of the miraculous Obie? Em took him to “Mommy and Baby” class and clearly he had too much to drink.


Obie: Done.

OR: Maybe, now that I’ve procrastinated long enough by writing this post and my  blood glucose levels are dropping precariously, I should go to Wegmans for green juice supplies.