Category Archives: Happiness

Never Have I Ever (Until Now): The Prologue

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Five years ago, this last week, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.

Never Have I Ever (Until Now) – The Prologue

Find your passion and run with it. Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy–anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.

An Intro

“You really need to quit something,” My supervisor tells me as she walks by my office door. “You’re taking on too much.”

My supervisor is right–I’m taking on a lot.

It’s January of 2012. I’m an associate television producer for the City of New York who has recently, in her free time, started writing and performing stand up comedy, perfecting her drawing skills, training for her second half-marathon, and doing photography with a digital SLR. And now I am signing myself up for an acting workshop.

My day planner is filling up faster than a doctor’s office during flu season.

My mom would tell you that I was just as active as a kid as I am when my supervisor tells me that I need to quit something. When I was younger, I played field hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, and softball. I’d attempted the clarinet, I’d tip-toed through a ballet class, I’d sailed in a lake, I’d canoed across a pond, and I kayaked down a river. My parents would rush me from one athletic practice to another; from one gym and on to the next. I was relentless. I never stopped.

But then I grew up, and my willingness to try new things suddenly came to a halt. For several years, I was in a funk. I had fallen into depression and I had forgotten how to live life fully and completely. I would say that I wanted to try something and then I’d never try it. I’d fear failure or judgment from my peers. And instead, I’d mope on my couch about how I’d never be good at anything. I’d lost my sense of wonder. I had lost my yearning for learning new things. I had lost my smile, my laughter, my sense of joy. I had concerned myself so much with destinations that I had forgotten that what really mattered was the journey.

With the new activities, the stand up comedy, the drawing, the photography, and the acting, I felt that I was finally opening myself up to a life that I had been letting slip to the way side. And now, suddenly, I felt as though the progress I was making with the activities was being threatened as my supervisor told me that I needed to quit something.

I didn’t want to quit anything. I didn’t want to limit my life to going to work, coming home, cooking (or getting take out) and going to sleep. I didn’t want to experience living solely from the couch in my artist loft.

So instead of heeding my supervisor’s advice, in February of 2012, I set out on a yearlong quest in the hope of navigating my way to a life that extended beyond my 9-5 job and beyond the sadness I had sulked in for years. I decided that in opposition to quitting anything, I instead wanted to try one new activity or hobby each week for an entire year.

I started to brainstorm names for the quest and came up with “The Hobby Hoarder.” I used my lunch to draw logos on blank pieces of paper and to write lists of hobbies or activities that I could try that I had never tried before. I hadn’t even started the project and I was beaming with excitement.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to brainstorm on the year, and began telling people what I was going to do. As I sat down to coffee with a friend, she said, “So you are going to live like you are dying.”

My eyes brightened. “No. I’m going to live like I am living!”

The truth is that I don’t believe we should live as if we are dying. Instead, I think we should live each day as though it’s one of our firsts: full of excitement and ambition, full of curiosity, full of fear, full of imagination, and full of wonder, full of an openness toward whatever comes our way—that’s right—we should live each day like it’s our first.

For so long, I had forgotten what firsts felt like. When we are young, our firsts are celebrated with smiles and applause and sometimes balloons. First step. First word. First hit in tee-ball. First A+. But somewhere between the time we share our first kiss and the time we hit our twenties, we lose our thirst for the sensation we feel when we experience something for the first time. Firsts can make us realize what we are passionate about: Maybe you’ve never taken a dance class before but when you do you figure out that you’re meant to be the next Beyonce. Maybe you’ve never swung from a trapeze before, but that first time you do, you realize you’re meant to be in the circus. Or maybe you’ve never piloted a plane before, but then you do and you discover that you were always meant to fly.

Firsts can make life worth living. But when we hit a certain age, it’s almost as if we forget to let ourselves experience those firsts. We get caught in “Busy traps” (NyTimes) and “life takes over.” But that’s not true. Life doesn’t take over: Work takes over—financial restraints take over. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something and you said you couldn’t. What was your excuse? If you’re without children was it work? Was it money? Life clearly does not take over. If anything, life takes a backseat ride.

Too many times, we get so caught up in our daily routines and our jobs that the only thing we concern ourselves with when we get home is kicking back.

But that’s not how life’s supposed to be—not at all. Life is supposed to be enjoyable. Life is supposed to be full of challenges—and then exceeding our expectations of those challenges. Life is supposed to be full of fear and overcoming that fear. It is supposed to be about saying I’d love to do that and then actually doing it. Surprisingly life is supposed to be about living.

I hope that before you continue reading this book, you’ll step away. You’ll grab a pen and a paper—and you’ll start writing down everything you want to try this year—that you’ll make your own quest—to live.

And if you haven’t stepped away yet, and have disobeyed my only wish, then welcome! Strap on your seat belts, make sure your seats are in their upright position, understand that the only emergency exit is to live your own life—and that it’s now time to take flight. Literally.

All Aboard.

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Moving Forward

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted—and to be honest it had been a while since I had hobbied. 2014 has been an interesting year—between a small biking accident, breaking my hand in April and then spraining my ankle in July, I’ve spent more time on the mend than I have on my feet.

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And I’ll just say it: those four months were really, really difficult.

But they were more difficult than they should have been:

because I chose to let them be.

A good friend of mine is currently reading the book “Dear Sugar,” by Cheryl Strayed. And throughout our trip to Orlando, she went about reading me brief blurbs from different chapters—brief blurbs that affected her and that in turn affected me.

One of those blurbs happened to hit me just before we entered the 165 mile per wind tunnel at iFly Orlando —where I officially broke my hobby hiatus:

“You do not have the luxury of despair.”

Sitting cross-legged on top of a cabinet, I stared at the group of people who were indoor skydiving ahead of us, and I breathed into that thought and repeated it in my head several times:

You do not have the luxury of despair.

 When bad things happen—we are very quick to issue blames of circumstance, to sit and to brood. To over-think. To think all of our issues are worse than those of the person next to us. To fall into traps that “the world is out to get us.” And that “Life is just so not fair.”

The small things become big.

So when each of my physical incidents happened, I went through a series of heightened emotions:

First I was sad—then I accepted it—and by the time I sprained my ankle, I was angry.

But it wasn’t fair to me or the gift I was being granted: the gift of time to sit with myself, time to give my body the break it deserved, and time to heal.

Yes. I said it.

Hurting myself over and over again was a gift.

Through those four months, I learned a lot about myself. I learned how to listen to my body. I learned how to ease back into things. I learned how I deal with injury; I learned about my level of neediness—and selfishness; I learned about how to control my neediness and selfishness; I learned when I am both my worst and best version of myself.

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And above all: I learned how to accept that not everything will always go the way we’d hoped it would—but that’s okay.

 Because no matter what—we have only one option:

 

And that’s to move forward.

 

And what better way to move forward—than to fly:

 Special Thanks
iFly Orlando

Special Thanks
The Albertsons

 

iFly Orlando
6805 Visitors Circle, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 903-1150

 

 

Top 10 Hobbies

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A lot of people ask me what my FAVORITE hobby has been. I usually answer that piloting a plane was my favorite hobby–and that I’ll be looking to earn my pilot’s license after this year. That’s 100 percent true, but ranking hobbies at all is incredibly difficult, because each one has done an incredible job in helping me to overcome fears, build courage and manage both my mental and physical strength. Additionally–for several of the hobbies, friends joined me–and being able to watch some of them overcome their fears was more often more rewarding than anything else. AND one of my favorite parts of the year outside of the hobbies that I did–was watching a friend complete her own challenge: Tears came to my eyes as Rena completed her 100th Bikram Yoga class in under 100 days. What I can’t drive home any more is that it’s not until we try everything–that we realize just how capable we are of anything. I hope that these posts do nothing more than inspire you.

If I had to answer “the top 10” questions, this is how the activities would play out from 10 to 1 (1 being my absolute favorite):

10. Ziplining 

“At 650 feet in the air going that fast, let me tell you something,  you’re not thinking about falling to your doom–you’re thinking about living. You’re thinking about how free you feel–how amazing of an experience you are having, how you don’t want this 3,200 foot zip to ever end, and how your smile is going to be plastered to your face for the next few days after completing this. No, you aren’t thinking about falling–you aren’t thinking about landing–You are indeed doing nothing but living.”

9. Subway Singing / Dancing

“It’s great to see what makes people really crack a smile.”-Grant Ryan

8. Chess

” The truth is, when a stranger has faith in you—after only moments of knowing you—it is an incredible feeling—and it makes you wonder how you’ve ever doubted yourself.

Checkmate.”

7. Pon De Flo

“Halfway through class, I had a hobby breakthrough: As I began giggling to myself while I messed up another dance move (sorry Heather!), I noticed that I didn’t care if people thought I was America’s next best dancer–I didn’t care if people saw me mess up–and I didn’t care if my right foot accidentally went when my left foot was supposed to. Eventually, I felt tears begin to fill my eyes. I wasn’t in pain–and I wasn’t ready to run out of the room screaming. No, instead the tears had developed because a great amount of pride had come over me. I realized in that moment, that the fears and worries that I had carried with me just 11 months prior had now dissipated completely. While it may sound insignificant when written down, it was one of the highest points of my hobby year, because it had meant that the hobby year was coming full circle–revealing bits and pieces about myself and how far I’d come, without me realizing that it would.”

6. Surfing

“As I surfed closer to shallow waters, I splashed off the board and was congratulated with a nose and mouthful of salt  water. When I surfaced–I fist pumped into the air, and yelled “I did it.” Joel looked at me and smiled from a distance, though I’m not sure he actually heard me with the crashing white waters. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t do this for him–or for anyone else–I did this for myself.”

5. Meditation

I had escaped–I took a quick short vacation, a brief leave from the world. I spent time sitting still in a moment of ultimate calmness. What one could consider a thing of beauty.”

4. Chalking Happiness

“And what I learned most about happiness–aside from where to find it (ahem, again, everywhere): was that much like my chalked out versions of the word: Happiness doesn’t always come in a straight line–in one swoop–or even in one size–but it always, always feels good.”

3. Trapeze

In the end, all that matters is having the courage to jump.”

2. Hang Gliding & Skydiving (tie)

“I open my eyes back up, and I take in the world around me. I don’t want to lose this feeling–this feeling that nothing can knock me down, this feeling of being able to hold the entire world in my arms and hug her tight–this feeling that I am flying–this feeling that I am living. “

I’ve learned this year that the more you let yourself “just do” the less you try to stop yourself–the more you go with your heart’s desires–the more your fears subside–and the more fun you have. And life is supposed to be about having fun.”

1. Piloting a Plane

I enjoyed piloting a plane so much that I just had to do it twice…There is absolutely nothing more freeing than using the plane to paint the canvas of the world down below.

“No fear. No looking back. No hesitation. I was–and still am–on top of the world.”

“I don’t believe that I’ve ever taken on a challenge of such great magnitude before–one that set me off into the world to tackle my fears, overcome my personal issues, and become an all around go-getter. This flight, now, gave me the time to see that.”

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The Hobby Hoarder Ziplines

The Hobby Hoarder Dances her Pants off

The Hobby Hoarder Flies a Plane

There’s No Day Like Today

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I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I stopped making them several years ago when I realized that every time I went to make a resolution, I was really starting out a new year by picking out all the things I felt were wrong with myself that I wanted to fix. Now, instead, each year, I try to reflect on the lessons I learned that I hope to carry with me for the year to come. What are your favorite life lessons from 2013?

Here are my top 10 (in no particular order):


1. There’s no day like today (especially if you don’t know what day it is)

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Too often we hold back on some of the activities or events or outings we’d truly like to invest time and money in and replace our wants and desires with excuses. We say “someday” but many times know that very well “someday” will become “maybe later” or “maybe next life.” I’ a firm believer that it’s never too early and
RIGHT NOW it’s not too late to take the leaps  you’ve always wanted to take,
to say the yeses you’ve always wanted to say,
or to make that “someday” that you’ve been putting off, TODAY.
The Hobby Hoarder  (Forthcoming book)

2. Find comfort in the discomfort—It’s okay to be vulnerable.

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When giving something new a shot comes to sports or activities that require practice, the activity asks us to let others be better—to let others teach us. The activity asks us to be a little flawed, a little unbalanced, a little left of center. The activity asks us to respect not being perfect at everything. The task at hand asks us to breathe in deeply and exhale completely knowing that the person standing in front of us may have the opportunity to watch us do something we may rarely let ourselves see us do—and that is possibly fail. It’s okay—we don’t have to be perfect at everything we do and we’ll seem more human later for not being so perfect either.
The Hobby Hoarder

3. The world as we know it is a remarkable place
– Jason Mraz

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Going out and finding beauty isn’t difficult, but letting ourselves sit and enjoy and embrace beauty is. Go for a walk. Take a deep breath. Take a photo—but remember to look beyond the lens. Remember, before our apartments or our cities—this world is our home. It’s nice to just sit and breathe the whole world in once in a while.
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  4. Spend less time on the big picture and more time on the small stuff:

The big picture is important—it’s huge, but we can’t forget about the small things—the things we can work on each day—the things that make the big picture more of a reality. Big pictures are scary—terrifying. It’s kind of like a blizzard. Blizzards are BIG—HUGE—TERRIFYING. But what is a blizzard? A lot of small snowflakes together. And a snowflake alone is quite beautiful. Take some extra time to focus on the small things—the beautiful –though sometimes difficult—things at hand-the tasks that coat our daily lives and become the small nails that hold the big picture together later. Take some extra time today to focus on the journey of reaching your goals—not just the final destination.
– The Hobby Hoarder

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5. Respect sadness. In fact, embrace it.

Sadness comes in an assortment of shapes and sizes—and for a variety of different reasons. But if you’re feeling sadness as the result of having had the opportunity to feel a great wealth of happiness for an extended period of time, take a moment to breathe in what you’re really feeling.  After returning from the road trip in March, I felt an overwhelming abundance of sadness, but I had to take a moment to remind myself that the sadness came from days of joy. I had to remind myself that the sadness I felt was because of a world I had let myself see, the chances I had let myself take, the obstacles I had let myself face, the fears that I had let myself overcome—the challenges I had let myself defeat—the life I had let myself live. I had to remind myself how lucky I was to look back on the moments I lived—with tear drops in my eyes and joy in my heart. I had to learn to respect sadness.
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6. Serendipity

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You can take off anytime you want–and an accidental blessing will be there to catch you when you fall.

7. Every choice you make—is the right choice. OH AND smash your rearview mirror (metaphorically speaking).

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The truth is every choice you make is the right choice. That’s right. Every single choice (except killing or hurting someone purposely) is the right one. Really, think about it this way. Each choice is just a different path—with different scenery all leading to the same destinations. If you have a gust instinct, follow it. Stop asking for directions or a map on what to do next. No one else holds the map you need. We’ve got a great compass right there within us. So stop worrying about the right choice and just start feeling what feels right—for right now. Oh—and smash the rearview mirror, you don’t have to worry about the other options that are already behind you. You’re already on your way.
– The Hobby Hoarder

8. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
-Wayne Gretzky

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You can’t sleep on your talents, your dreams, your aspirations or your opportunities. The biggest mistake you can make when it comes down to giving yourself a chance, going on stage and performing, trying something new or going to an audition is physically not being there.
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9. Embrace the climb.

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There are a lot of hurdles to jump, obstacles to dodge, and mountains to climb when pursuing a goal or a dream—but after the hurdles, the obstacles, and the mountains, there’s always the view. So embrace the struggle of the climb. Because the struggle is what makes you stronger—the struggle is what makes you smarter, the struggle is what makes the view when you reach the top that much more worth it. And when you get to the top, set your worries aside about what your next hurdle, obstacle or mountain may be and give yourself a chance to breathe in this view—this present moment. Respect the work you put in—the dedication—the determination—the discipline—the perseverance and remember to applaud yourself .You earned it.
– The Hobby Hoarder

10. Believe in the possible.

Find your passion and run with it—Don’t look back. Thank the people who call you crazy – because anyone who’s crazy enough to pursue their dreams is strong enough to achieve them too.
– The Hobby Hoarder

IMG_8482Photo taken by David Tierney Lerner

“What are you waiting for?”

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Two years ago, I sat in front of my computer enthralled in a TED Talk by Matt Cutts on “trying something new for 30 days.”

During the talk, he discussed how he rode his bike to work for thirty days in a row. He then challenged his audience to find their own 30 day challenge, something that was realistic and achievable.

He posed the question, during the challenge, “What are you waiting for?”

I pondered his question. And also asked myself one more question, “What can I do for thirty days?”

I shrugged my shoulders. Then I spotted a blank piece of paper with a pencil sitting on top of it. And then I drew a picture. In that moment, I committed to a 30-day challenge where I intended (and did!) draw one new picture each day for thirty days.

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 If I said that this TED Talk didn’t have something to do with The Hobby Hoarder Quest I’d set out on only five months after watching Cutts speak for the first time, I’d be lying.

This TED Talk re-opened my eyes to the possibility of changing my life through setting my own realistic and achievable goals. For a while, I had stopped doing that—had stopped trying new things—had stopped feeling motivated—had stopped challenging myself.

 Over the years, I have accumulated a TED Talk collection in my web browser history that I continually go back to when I’m searching for a spark of inspiration.

If you aren’t sure what TED is—it’s a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. TED believes “passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimate the world.” So they’ve “Built a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.” (Ted.com)

Today, I thought I’d share ten of my favorite inspiring TED Talks in hopes you’ll feel a spark of inspiration as well.

All of the talks listed below and more can be found at www.ted.com

What are you waiting for? Starting watching! (Oh and please, if you have a favorite TED Talk—share it in the comments—I’m always curious to see what other people are watching J  )

1. Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days

 “So here’s my question to you: What are you waiting for? I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days.”

 2. Aimee Mullins: The Opportunity for Adversity –

“There is adversity and challenge in life, and it’s all very real and relative to every single person, but the question isn’t whether or not you’re going to meet adversity, but how you’re going to meet it.”

 

 3. Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnarability

“We must believe we are enough: “Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”


4. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

“Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to keep writing for your whole life and you’re never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?”

5. Ric Elias: The 3 Things I learned While My Plane Crashed”

“Brace for impact. // I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane — and please don’t — but imagine, and how would you change? What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you’ll be here forever?”

6. Richard St. John: Success is a Continuous Journey “When we stop trying—we fail”

“I learned that success isn’t a one-way street. It doesn’t look like this; it really looks more like this. It’s a continuous journey. And if we want to avoid “success-to-failure-syndrome,” we just keep following these eight principles, because that is not only how we achieve success, it’s how we sustain it. So here is to your continued success.”

 7.  Ron Gutman: The Hidden Power of Smiling

“The good news is that we’re actually born smiling. // Smiling is one of the most basic, biologically-uniform expressions of all humans.”

8. Larry Smith: Why You Will Fail to have a Great Career

“You’re afraid to pursue your passion. You’re afraid to look ridiculous. You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail. Great friend, great spouse, great parent, great career. Is that not a package? Is that not who you are? How can you be one without the other? But you’re afraid.

And that’s why you’re not going to have a great career, unless — unless, that most evocative of all English words — unless. But the unless word is also attached to that other, most terrifying phrase, “If only I had … ” “If only I had … ” If you ever have that thought ricocheting in your brain, it will hurt a lot.

So, those are the many reasons why you are going to fail to have a great career, unless … unless.”

 
9. Caroline Casey: Looking Past Limits

Do you know how much of us all pretend to be somebody we’re not? And you know what, when you really believe in yourself and everything about you, it’s extraordinary what happens // We are extraordinary, different, wonderful people.”

 10. Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die

I’m cheating here—cause it’s not technically a TED Talk, but the first time I ever saw it—was when I was carusing the TED website—so I’m counting it:

 “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”

Giving Thanks

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Thanksgiving is just two days away! It’s time to brace yourself for the holiday traffic, prepare the turkey, set the table for 12, and start writing those wish lists. But it is also time to share what you’ve been most grateful for this last year… and perhaps indulge in some pumpkin pie.

Sharing our gratitude doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t be–an event that is confined to forced conversation over turkey once a year. Showing gratitude is something that we should continuously practice day in and day out. Gratitude is a hobby that travels far beyond the remnants of the turkey coma after your Thanksgiving feast.

So rather than share ten hobbies that might be fun to try this Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to share ten ways to “cultivate the habit of being grateful” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)–not just on Thanksgiving but in all the days that follow.

1. Go outside and breathe the fresh air. Not everyone is lucky enough to have clean lungs or the ability to walk outside on two feet. Show your thanks for both by taking a step outside and really taking the time to breathe—inhale, exhale.

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2. Say thanks for the little things—If your loved one made the bed this morning, text him thank you in the afternoon with a little smiley face. If your friend or roommate did your dishes—especially if it happens regularly: say thanks. It’s the little things that sometimes mean the most.

3. Write thank you notes. Write them to everyone: to good friends, mentors, acquaintances, people you’ve lost touch with.. Be sure to let people know that even if they were in your life only briefly, their impact has mattered.

4. Pay it forward. Drop a couple coins in a parking meter that is about to expire; pay the toll for the car behind you on the highway; cover the coffee for the next person on line next to you in café. By doing this we can start something pretty amazing: A chain of gratitude—or something as amazing as a kindness boomerang:

 

5. Go out of your way for people for the heck of it. Similar to paying it forward: Offer to clean out someone’s closet, mow their lawn, or rake their leaves without an alternative motive.

6. Start a gratitude journal: Write down 5-10 things you are grateful for or 5-10 things that make you happy each day—or each week. Maybe 10 isn’t enough. Try 20. Once you start writing down what your grateful for/what makes you happy—you find out there’s a lot out there that goes beyond the surface. In 2010, my good friend Hannah challenged me to come up with 30 things that I was grateful for/that made me happy. I ended up making an entire day out of it in Rome:

7. Give thanks to the negative aspects of life—not just the positive. Remember, it’s easy to say thank you when all things are going right. But it’s just as important to say thank you when things aren’t going right, or when you’re stumbling, or when life puts up hurdles on the race track. It is in the moments of struggle that we build strength, and in the moments of adversity that we build character. We cannot be grateful for the happy moments without being grateful for the difficult moments as well. Make sure in that gratitude journal you share the negative things you are grateful for too.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. Write it in Stone. Okay I don’t mean deface property. But perhaps take a piece of sidewalk chalk and put just how grateful you are right there for everyone to see. Last winter, my goal was to spread happiness by chalking the word happiness into all five boroughs on one of the coldest days of the year. Why not take the time to chalk thank you as well? My good friend, travel mate, and editor Kim did just that in Raleigh, NC:

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9. Try something new. I clearly can’t preach this enough (ha). But remember (as with #1), not everyone has the chance each and every day to walk outside and breathe the air, to make use of the legs they’ve been given, the arms, the hands—the heart. Some people are born without legs and ski mountains, some people are given one arm and discover how to climb Everest. And some of us are given two legs, two feet, two arms, and two hands—and we often forget to believe in ourselves with our one and only heart. Show your gratitude for what you’ve been given, by using it. I don’t mean flaunt it—just use it.

10. Give yourself a day. Give yourself a day to just be. Don’t schedule a single thing. It’s your day. You’ve earned it. I mean this. As important as it is to show gratitude for the air you breathe, the people you spend time with, the roof over your head, and the health you’ve been blessed with—it’s equally as important that you show gratitude towards yourself—for the hard work you’ve put toward the happy, healthy, filled life you are living. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s next–To forget to embrace the moment. But embrace the moment—be grateful for the moment. Be grateful for yourself.

Embracing Imperfection

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“Our addiction to perfection will kill the artist,” – Rachael C. Smith

This past year I discussed how the only thing I quit was one of my jobs.

Looking back—that’s not true–I also quit something else: I quit trying to be perfect.

 Does that mean I stopped trying to be the best me I could be?

Absolutely not.

 It simply means that I’ve found a new respect for imperfection and that I’ve found a new way to embrace the fact that we will not always be the greatest at what we try.

 Because the truth is that so often we fill ourselves with doubts and fears and worries about trying new things — but not because we simply believe we won’t be able to physically or mentally do something, but because we are concerned that we won’t be able to do something perfectly.

And when we don’t succeed at doing something perfectly, we can often feel guilty or embarrassed and tear ourselves apart. But the truth is that many times we should feel proud just to have tried something in the first place, because LIFE isn’t about being perfect.

It’s about a willingness to be IMPERFECT.

It’s about a willingness to mess up and to learn from our mess-ups.

It’s about a willingness to expose our vulnerabilities—and also a willingness to embrace them.

Life Is about taking on challenges and testing our strengths and testing our limits. It’s about breaking out of our shell and finding out what works for us. It’s about refusing the word no and giving unlimited possibilities to where YES might take us. It’s about throwing perfection out the window—and embracing the fact that just once, or twice, or even many times we might not be the best  and most talented in the room—but at least we are there and at least we are trying.

I didn’t set out on the hobby year to be perfect, though many times I found myself doubting and worrying and scared that I wouldn’t be “perfect” at something new. AND many times, I believed that if I wasn’t perfect at something, I’d be disappointing.  But when I wasn’t perfect—the truth is I wasn’t disappointing—In fact, I was human. My friends, my teachers, and my instructors all accepted my flaws and welcomed them because they wanted to teach me. And because they welcomed the imperfection—I began to welcome it as well.

Once I put the thought behind me that “I had to be perfect”—I really began to give it my all–I really found how much I was truly capable of:

-Getting up on a unicycle with the help of friends.

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-Hanging upside down even briefly at an aerial yoga class.

aerial yoga

-Walking a wire

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-Swinging and flipping off of a trapeze

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And 90 other activities and skills that I never even thought I’d have a chance to try.

So the next time that the worries and doubts and fears fill your mind, and the next time you think you can’t do something because you won’t “look perfect” or because you think you might not BE perfect when you try, I dare you to put those worries and those fears and those doubts behind you—because not only are they holding you back from trying something new, they are holding you back from understanding how wonderful it is NOT to be perfect. I dare you to embrace the imperfection, because what you’ll find out in the end is that you’ll be perfectly okay with being imperfect. 

 

Choreographing a Better Life

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If someone had told me two years ago that I’d nearly be spinning in circles on my head, swinging around a pole, getting jazzy with it, or frequenting a fitness based Caribbean reggae dance class three-four times a week by the year 2013, i would have laughed in their face. Two years ago, I was the girl who walked out of Zumba classes because she couldn’t follow the steps of the instructor and felt too embarrassed to go on. Two years ago, I was the girl who judged herself against the professional dancers and professional fitness instructors in infomercials who appeared flawless. Two years ago, I was the girl who didn’t give herself a chance to last through a dance class because she had given up before she had even stepped up.

The truth is that long before those Zumba classes, I had deemed myself incapable of breaking it down to a steady beat. I had thrown in the towel. I was ready to enroll in therapy for the choreographically challenged–to stand up and say–no wait–YELL,  “Hello, my name is Libby and I can’t dance.”

What I didn’t realize two years ago was that by not giving myself a fair shot–or the classes themselves a fair shot, I was holding myself back. And the truth is that too often, that’s what we do: We give up amazing opportunities before we even give them a chance, and in the end we only hold ourselves back. 

So what exactly was I holding myself back from? I was holding myself back from learning to love dance–I was holding myself back from learning to love the way my body moves when I just let it–I was holding myself back from being free and I was holding myself back from…well…put simply–I was holding myself back from learning. And I LOVE learning. I always have. 

I recently had an epiphany, and when I say epiphany, I mean a full-on lightbulb popped over the head, type of epiphany.

As I swung left, and stutter stepped right in a class last week, I realized:

“Oh my goodness. Dance has taught me a lot this year…and by a lot…I mean: Dance could be a life coach.” 

The epiphany itself nearly knocked me off my feet.

So after class I decided to sit and compile the five biggest lessons that dance has taught me not just in terms of dance…But also in terms of the bigger picture: Life.  After reading through, I hope you’ll share some of your favorite life lessons you’ve learned through the activities you’re most passionate about.

Here goes:

1. No one is judging you. Well-Okay maybe one person is. And that’s you. But you shouldn’t be. Getting to the class in the first place is something to be proud of. Getting up and out to do ANYTHING you set your mind to is something to be proud of, especially when the weather–or our moods–or our mind is telling us otherwise.

Pole Dancing

2.  There isn’t an exactness to everything you do. In dance, if the teacher is getting her JLO on and you want to get your Beyonce on during a booty shake then by all means get your Beyonce on. Or men if you want to shake it like Michael when the teacher’s getting down like JT–then just do it. Add YOUR flavor. Just whatever you do–own it. Same goes for life: Own EVERYTHING you do–and never–EVER–stop.

3. Do it wrong. So I cheated on this one. I took this lesson from not just dance class but acting class as well. Do it all wrong. We learn from our mistakes. Our muscles learn from our mistakes. And questions are okay – no wait–they are great. Sure, teachers love flash mobs of amazingness but they don’t teach so that perfectionists come in. They teach because they want people to learn, they want people to get excited about being imperfect sometimes, they want people to embrace their passion. Part of the fun of a class –ANY class– is working your way up. Part of the fun of any challenge you take on in life is getting knocked down and feeling the sense of pride in getting back up.

Breakdancing

4. “When you assume. You make an a…” We all know the saying. We can’t judge a class–or a situation in life– before we even step foot in it. Not only does it reinforce any stereotypes or preconceived notions we have about the class/activity/event, but it also holds us back from possibly finding something we are truly passionate about. Prior to the hobby year, not only had I convinced myself that I wasn’t a dancer–but I had convinced myself I wasn’t fit for group  classes at all–that I didn’t fit the “look.” You know the “look” I am talking about–the look it seems that all the people have who participate in infomercials for the latest Zumba videos or aerobics dvds. The men are shirtless and ripped; the women are in sports bras and spandex–chiseled. That belief I concocted from stupid infomercials was wrong. In each and every dance class I’ve participated in this past year, people of all sizes and of all attire are taking part. People of all sizes and all attire are having a really amazing time. I choose to rock my college field hockey shorts and a white T. Cause that’s comfy–and cause that’s me. (And sometimes me –and sometimes comfy is a tiger suit–see last picture on the page).

5. The most important lesson of ALL. Just freaking dance like no one is watching. Please, I beg you. Refer back to number 1: no one is watching. The world is a wide open dance floor just waiting for you to dance on through, to make your art–to make your life.  So go on. Yes YOU…YOU and even YOU.. Dance. Dance. Dance.

subway

AOL Live Audition

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“I have three favorite words: “Passion,” “Dreams, and “Serendipity.” I believe that if you’re passionate, then your dreams are reachable. And even when you think you are falling from the path—a serendipitous accidental blessing will be there to catch you. Moral? Believe in your passions and your dreams no matter how far fetched or crazy they may seem. Anything is possible. Life will surprise you. You will surprise you.”

I wrote this on a Manhattan bound L train from Bushwick this morning at 3:00am–a time when many people are leaving the city after a night out. Instead, I was heading into the city to pursue a lifelong dream: to be an on-camera talent.

When I was six, I told my mom that I wanted to be a play-by-play commentator for Major League Baseball. Subsequently, I went downstairs to the family computer opened up Coral Word (yep, old school), and typed out an entire nine-inning play-by-play commentary of an imaginary game. I gave each player the name of a friend of mine, and when I finished writing the commentary, I’d practice reading it out loud.

“Emily throws in the pitch. Julie takes a swing, and it’s a long fly ball to left field. It could be, it might be, it’s gone!”

And when I felt really good about how I was saying the commentary, I’d pull out a radio, throw in a blank tape, and hit record. Then I’d listen back and see how I could make it better. Yes, I swear, I was only 6! It was my favorite childhood hobby.

One day, I decided I wanted to write a basketball game out as well. When I finished writing the game, I was so excited that I accidentally saved the document over the nine-inning baseball game.

I was devastated. I wanted to have both commentaries to practice. I wanted to master the craft.

Over time, my dream changed from wanting to be a sports broadcaster to a weather girl and then eventually from wanting to be a weather girl to wanting to be a news anchor—and above all wanting to be a storyteller—a storyteller who informs, a storyteller who engages, and a storyteller who inspires.

However, very rarely is there a once-in-a-lifetime  opportunity to  just walk into a studio and possibly be offered the chance to stand in front of a teleprompter and audition for a room full of producers for an on-camera role. So when I learned yesterday afternoon that AOL was inviting all on-camera hopefuls into their studio to take a shot at being their next anchor at 5am this morning, I knew that I had to be there—I knew that I had to wake up early—and I knew that I wanted to be one of the first ones in line with my yellow sunglasses in tow and a big ole smile on my face. And so I made sure I was.

When I arrived at AOL’s office on Broadway and 9th Street around 3:45am, just one other person was there–a young friendly woman who had taken the train in from New Jersey. We chatted briefly and then others began to show up. I could feel the energy boiling among us as we described why we wanted to be the one of the first AOL Live anchors.

“What an amazing opportunity to take advantage of,” I thought to myself. “Everyone is so passionate. I love it!”

Soon enough we were guided up to the AOL offices where we checked in and then awaited information on what would happen next.

We were then told there would be two rounds, but that we were only guaranteed the first round:

The first round would be an interview round—where five people at a time would be escorted into a conference room to charm the judges with answers to whatever questions they asked.

The second round, if selected by the judges, would be the one where we’d have the chance to step in front of the camera and give our best newscast based on the teleprompter script.

Not before long, the first group of five (which I was in) was escorted into the room where three AOL judges were. I sat in the middle with a big giant smile on my face. I could feel my face glowing.

“Nice shades,” said one of the judges.

I blushed. “God, I love my glasses,” I thought to myself.

After the judges completed questioning the first two women, I stood up and introduced myself:

“Hi, I’m Libby Segal, but most people call me Libs.”

And then the judges threw me their first and only question:

“So Libby. Tell us. What do you like to do?”

I smiled. Tipped my yellow sunglasses a little bit forward on my head, and excitedly responded: “Everything,” before launching into an elevator pitch about the The Hobby Hoarder year and my quest to try one new thing every week. I could feel my face beaming as I spoke passionately about the year.

The judges smiled as I spoke and wrote down my answer.  They then thanked me for my answer and moved onto the final two in our group. Soon enough we were asked to leave the room while the judges could decide who would move onto the next round—the round that mattered most: The live camera round.

Nervously, I chatted with one of the other anchor hopefuls outside the door. The woman who escorted us into the room then walked out of the room and asked for three people to join her. I was one of them. I held my breath. She didn’t disclose to us if we were moving on to the next round. Her poker face was brilliant. And as we began to walk, I could feel my heart beating rapidly. She was taking us in the direction of the exit.

“Breathe, Libs. Either way, you got out of bed and gave it your best shot.”

Before reaching the exit though, the woman took a right hand turn and led us down a dim hallway to a row of chairs.

I half expected the next words to come out of the woman’s mouth to be, “May the odds ever be in your favor.” (Hunger Games). And while these weren’t quite her words, the news to follow was definitely grand:

“Congratulations, you three have made it onto the next round!” Instantly, I could feel all the tension release from my body.

“Phew,” I thought. “Now it’s time to rock and roll.”

Ten minutes later, I was brought into the studio and given the chance to strut my stuff. I danced onto the screen from stage left and gave it my best shot as the script ran through the teleprompter. I could hear myself stumble over a word and then recover. Before I knew it, it was time to de-mic and give the next person their shot. As I exited the studio, I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“How’d you do?” asked a new friend.

“Hard to tell, but I got to dance on camera—so I feel pretty good,” I laughed.

But the truth was, I felt great. I was proud of myself. I felt good not just because AOL had given me the chance, but because by getting out of my bed at 2:00am—I believed in myself and gave myself the chance–And the first step to pursuing  any passion and achieving any dream is believing in yourself. I knew very confidently that no matter the outcome, I had taken a giant step in the right direction.

You can catch up on the auditions that aired live here: AOL LIVE

And you can vote for your favorite on Twitter by tweeting @AOL 
#AOLLive #AOLAnchorQuest

And as always you can tweet me @LibbySegal #thehobbyhoarder

Motivational Soundtrack Part II

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After posting my motivational soundtrack yesterday, I decided to go to some of my hobby coaches and find out what songs motivate them. AND I took it one step further and asked each of them why they chose their songs. What you’ll read is sure to amaze you–and inspire you. Here are some of the answers I got:


Christopher Grady
(Guitar Lesson):
“I Turn My Camera On” – Spoon
“It’s nearly impossible to have that song come on and not move from a walk to a strut. It has all the swagger of Staying Alive but none of the cheesiness. Plus it makes every sidewalk feel like a catwalk.”

April Brucker (Ventriloquism):
1.” Causing a Commotion” – Madonna.
“This is because it reminds me the world is mine and the stars and sky is only the limit I make it.”

2. Glamorous Life-Fergie.
“It makes me know my dreams and the Hollywood life are within my reach.”

3. Stay-Madonna.
“It gets me going and it is a song I covered.”

4. Take Me Home-Lisa Lisa.
“Reminds me that I am worth only the best and to respect myself in business and in life.”

Jon Hanson (Downhill Mountain Biking):
“18 Candles” – The Sessions
“The song is from a mountain biking video called seasons with one of my favorite riders Matt Hunter. The video is like 5 years old, but any time I watch Matt’s part, I get stoked to ride.”

Nicholas D’Sent (Pilot LessoN):
1. “My Life” – Gwizz

2.  “I Believe I can Fly” – R. Kelly
“Because he said if I can see it then I can be it.”

Flynn Michael (Jedi Light Sabre Training & Stilt Walking):
“Heh, favorite inspirational song as a kid was High Hopes (Rubber Tree Plant) song, but as an adult, I’d say Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name Of.

Laura Fisher (Singing Lesson):
“Creator” – Santogold
This song has all of the wild, dark, inspiring energy I need to get me going any strange day I wake up and need some abstract coffee. The lyrics also give it that equally important layer of self-empowering wordwisdom that I need to toss me up on top of the world. a gleam of chorus:

“Me, I’m a Creator
Thrill is to make it up
The rules I break got me a place
Up on the radar
Me, I’m a Taker
Know what the stakes are
Can’t roll it back, it’s understood
Got to play our cards.”

Brandon Jacobs (Drumming Lesson):
“Rearview Mirror” – Assorted Animals
“I know that it is a little self indulgent to choose a song by my own band, but it is a song that does truly inspire me. Not only is it a testament to what I have accomplished with my band in New York City, being that it’s on our first self produced album recorded in NYC, the song itself has a great message.

“Isn’t funny how things always seem to seem/Oh the grass is much more green/as it disappears/through my rearview mirror.”

It’s a message of always looking forward, and even if you look back and it might seem better, it doesn’t matter because we always have to move forward towards something better.

That and it’s a kick ass song that’s catchy as hell. That doesn’t hurt either.”



Jason Schneider
 (Welding):
“Nightcall” – Kavinsky (featuring Love Foxxx)

(Excerpt from an amazing email Jason sent me when I asked him to name his motivational song and why–make sure to check out the doc he’s working on and more at JsWorks.Org)

“I first heard this song while watching the movie “Drive” with Ryan Gosling. I had just started my documentary, and in the beginning, it was going to be much more of an uplifting film. I hadn’t even thought about tackling any heavy issues / conflicts within myself, and wanted to show mostly the uplifting or “overcoming” aspects of my story / disability.

It sounds corny, but something clicked inside me when I heard this song sitting in that movie theater. The idea of the lonely driver, who’s essentially a good man, but has some dark demons he’s trying to hide from / escape, really resonated with me – because that’s how I felt about myself for most of my life (post accident).

I’ve always had a passion for music, and really identified with / attached personal meaning to various songs over the years, but the dissonant tone of the beat, coupled with the lyrics, just stirred something up inside me. It made me realize in that instance that I had to go places I hadn’t wanted to ever go before… push myself to explore all the negative feelings / thoughts I’ve ever had about who / what I was – and my “disability”- on camera.

There are things I have accomplished in my life that I should be really proud of – and some could look at it as the whole “overcoming” thing – but at the same time, I constantly feel like I haven’t accomplished enough, or pushed myself hard enough. I feel like these internal demons (thoughts / feelings) really weigh me down. But I realize now that many of those feelings come from the very thing I’ve been running away from (or chose not to face / explore until now). I don’t know if my internal conflicts have helped to drive me (no pun intended) all these years, or if they’re standing in my way of something bigger.

Throughout the process of my film I’ve played the song over and over as a source of inspiration. Every time I listen to it, it still gives me the same feeling / motivation to dive deep into uncharted territory within myself.

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