Guest Pep Talk [Valerie Wilson]: NOvember

It started with the chair.  Several years ago, when my dad cleared out the house of anything resembling my childhood, he assigned some sort of family significance to this chair, so I took it in out of some weird obligation.  This chair sat in the corner of my room for 2 years, collecting dust and odds and ends.  Then the leg broke and wood glue couldn’t fix it.  The chair couldn’t fulfill its most basic purpose.

During a post-breakup shopping spree, I finally got a window seat for my room, which pushed the chair to the middle.

Maybe I should see if my dad can fix it.
Maybe I should ask my brother if he wants it.
Maybe I could fit it into our cramped living room.

Saying “no” goes against my nature.  Perhaps it’s a female thing, not wanting to seem selfish or confrontational.  Or a yolo thing, not wanting to miss out on everything while I’m still young.  Or a polite-child-of-the-suburbs thing.  But whatever it is, it’s obnoxious.  Saying “yes” all the time is why I continued to get the grunt work at my previous job.  It’s why I get stressed out from an overbooked schedule.  And it’s why I put way too much thought into an otherwise generic, decrepit chair.

It was time to give no f***s (à la Alison).  Because it’s just a f***ing chair in the middle of my tiny apartment.  After a very quick, very amusing trip to Goodwill on my bike, that chair, that guilt, and that weight were gone (well.. at least until I mention it to my dad).

Then NoExNo came around again.  Two years ago, I set out to start a new blog – a success in that I started it, but a failure in that I didn’t keep it up.  Last year, I resolved to meditate once a day, but try as I might, I couldn’t consistently find time to do that in the morning.  10 minutes of my time each day and I couldn’t do that for myself.  This year, I wanted to get to the root cause of the excuses.

I’ve been realizing that every time you add something to your life, something else gets pushed aside – so it was time to see if the opposite was true.

My successes so far this month:

  • Taking out the chair really opened up my room, resulting in fewer stubbed toes and, randomly, more stretching.
  • I felt horrible telling a friend who lives close by to wait until my schedule cleared up to hang out, but I ended up enjoying his company more a week later.
  • I said no to a side project at work that I honestly didn’t have time for and no one questioned it, despite how I figured it would go down (go figure).
  • Following other NoExNo-ers, I removed Facebook from my phone, so now during lunch breaks, after I check emails and Instagram of course, I have nothing else to do but relax and space out.
  • I sent this pep talk to Allison before I really felt done.  I remember hearing somewhere that perfectionists should aim for 80% perfect, because the rest is a waste of time and energy.
Look at all that room!

Look at all that room!

And the failures, since I’m, sadly enough, only human:

  • I should’ve said “no” to a good friend I recently dated, who I’ve hung out with post-breakup more than I ought to.  Despite it being his decision due to the circumstances, his feelings are still very ambiguous.  He didn’t say f*** yeah last weekend, so I should’ve said a firm f*** no.
  • A friend asked me to be a reference for a position she applied to.  How could you say no?  I instinctively said yes, despite not remembering much about the projects we’d done together.  I really could do without having to spend time reading through old emails and piecing together old memories in the middle of a big work project.  Ugh.

    No matter what goal you set this month, think about what in your life isn’t helping you reach it.  Anything that doesn’t want you to be your best, healthiest, or happiest is probably not worth it in the end!

    ________________________________________________
    Valerie is a San Francisco cyclist, dancer, climber, nerd, introvert, and stress monkey (yet not a hipster, although I guess hipsters never admit to being hipsters..shoot).

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Guest Pep Talk [Allie Seidel]: Why announcing your goal is half the battle.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 presetCongrats! You’re halfway there! Goal setting is as much a part of my life for me as brushing my teeth or getting dressed in the morning (which, let’s hope, are two things that happen on the daily).

Since August of this year, I’ve chosen a few goals each month and have written about them publicly. (See August, September, October and current November goals here.) I’ve found that simply writing my goals down and making them public gives me an extra push to achieve them. Additionally, I love looking back and seeing something that seemed so far off at the time and realizing that I’ve accomplished it.

So naturally, I love NoExNo and have participated for a few years, some years with success, others not so much. My NoExNo goal this year was an interesting choice. I picked “launch the holiday line in my shop” even though I knew I had this planned for Nov. 3rd.  So did this leave the rest of November “goal-less” for me? Hardly. When I chose this goal, I knew that I needed to get the holiday line out earlier than the last day in November, so moving it to a later date wouldn’t help, and I was also aware that I could pick a “smaller” goal that I could technically be working towards every day in November.  But, since my biggest goal all month was the launch, the early date didn’t matter to me so much as the concept behind announcing it as my goal.

When I set that goal in October, I had no idea what the extent of my holiday line was going to look like. I had big dreams, but wasn’t sure how to reach them. It unfolded over the course of a few weeks to include stamps, 8×10 art prints, and Christmas cards, most of which were only far-off ideas when I set the launch date. Despite the uncertainties, I knew I needed to announce this goal in order to make it happen. This is why I love NoExNo, because everyone is announcing together, and I know that for me, this tiny steps makes a huge difference in helping to make my seemingly far-off goals a reality.

So, announce I did, on multiple platforms including NoExNo, and I set the date. The weekend before I was frantic, learning skills I didn’t yet have (hello, Photoshop) and spent many late nights and early mornings struggling through it. But, since I knew I had announced it, I pressed on because I had set this as a personal and public expectation. And then, magically it all came together and I launched it. And today, a week in, it’s live and it’s selling.

Sometimes achieving goals doesn’t look like a linear path, but more like a maze: two steps forward and fourteen steps backward, with plenty of road blocks and wrong turns, but the feeling I get when I finally accomplish my goals is the reason why I’ll hopefully continue to be a goal-setter (and goal-announcer!) for the rest of my life.

So, NoExNos, be encouraged! Know that by simply sharing you goal here, you are on your way to achieving it. Keep going after what you want, and telling people about it. You’ve already won by being courageous enough to announce your goal. Now, get after it!

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Allie Seidel lives in Seattle with her husband. Find her sometimes blogging on alliewaydesign.com, and always instagramming @allieseidel

Guest Pep Talk [Sarah Luery]: The Struggle

The dreadful beginning and dreamy end of Daylight Saving Time always remind me of how arbitrary the concept of time really is.

What is time exactly?

I have watched enough late night YouTube videos about String Theory to know with virtually no certainty that time is a dimension. Time is also a father. It is somehow associated with sand. It flies, usually in proximity to fun. And, despite the fact that we can for some reason move it forward or backwards (but only by one arbitrary time-unit!), it runs out. Probably more often than we would like.

White Rabbit: Don’t just do something, stand there… Uh… no no! Go go! Go get my gloves! I’m late!

These days, I feel like I have been channeling the White Rabbit, whose time seems to be perpetually running out. Each morning, as I wake up 15 minutes after I should have already left for work, and then proceed to play catch-up the entire day, usually working through my lunch break in order to make it to an evening art class or rock climbing session that I have added to my schedule to “de-stress my life,” before coming home to cook a 10pm dinner and read That Book for book club before going to bed too late to wake up for the alarms I have set for 6:00, 6:10, 6:20, 6:30 and (sigh) 7:30 (sorry, bedfellow Evan), I wonder why I keep falling down my own rabbit hole of being behindedness.

Whenever I remark to my dear friend Lisa about the difficulties of managing time in adulthood, she crunches up her hands into fists and tosses her head back to declare, “Sarah! It’s the struggle!” It always makes me feel better to know that it has such a noble name. The. Struggle.

But what is behind all this madness?

I have no idea. But I do have two guesses.

 

  1. That Little Voice

 

In researching this PepTalk, which I would like to downgrade to simply a “talk” (lowercase T; no promise of pep) to lower your expectations, I found an infuriating quote, which I wanted to share:

Image 1

BLEH. I mean seriously. The quotes around busy? VOM. What kind of guilt-inducing madness is this!?

If you REALLY cared, you would find the time.

The subtext?

The way you are doing things isn’t good enough. YOU aren’t good enough.

Unfortunately, this sentiment doesn’t just come from a sad Internet girl on a bench in the middle of winter with all her feelings tucked away in a single shoulder bag.

It’s everywhere.

It’s uttered by your gym shorts as you come home from a long day of work and need to get dinner started for the kids. It’s whispered by your Netflix queue as you spend a night out with friends, and by your friends when you spend a night in with Netflix. You hear it from your parents who want you to visit more often, and your grandparents who want you to visit more often, and your best friend from college who lives in another state and wants you to visit more often. It comes from your boss at work who needs you to put in those extra hours, and your DIY project that you hope to craft into your side business and your Blue Apron box sitting un-opened in the fridge because you have declared that you will Cook With Seasonal Ingredients Three Times A Week, by golly!

And it comes from within.

Which brings us to:

 

  1. Expectations

Image 2

[Presented with an eye-roll]

 

Sometimes, it seems like the solution to everything we are doing wrong is *just* to do it better.

In fact, if you listen closely to That Little Voice (whether it is coming from your mom, your boss or yourself), it seems to also offer a solution for how you can *just* do it better — an expectation for action.

Not seeing enough progress at the gym? If you really cared you would *Just* workout more frequently/longer/harder. If that means you have to cut time from other things, so be it. Aren’t you dedicated? Don’t you want it? Or do you not want it enough?

If you perk your ears up, you can probably hear a storm of voices telling you how you can be better – a better friend, a better colleague, a better constituent. And you can probably hear a flurry of expectations within yourself for how you can be the person you want to be – Eat better! Exercise more! Call your family more often! Write more! Watch less TV!

And if we would, we could.

But there are only 24 arbitrary time units in a day, and we just can’t do it all.

Sometimes, we have to learn when to say ‘Uncle.’ We have to figure out how to allocate our time in ways that perpetuate our growth and nourish us, but we also have to learn how to build in time to rest, rejuvenate, and replenish.

And this, I think, is The Struggle. Knowing when to say yes, and when to say no. When to step forward and when to take a back seat. When to stop and when to go.

These days, I am starting to suspect that there is no magical moment at the end of a task when everything falls into place and we can breathe a sigh of true relief. There is always something else beckoning to us; something new needing our attention.

So I am trying to learn to put on the brakes, even when it feels like the job isn’t yet done. Or maybe, especially when it feels that way. This is why, for the month of November, my goal is to take my lunch break every day.

Because the work will still be there when we get back. But another thing about time? It slips away. And it will continue to do so unless we grab it at those inopportune times, like now.

Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to channel that White Rabbit after all.

White Rabbit: Don’t just do something, stand there…

____________________________________________________________

Sarah lives in Los Angeles.  She enjoys audio books, art class (” ‘Cause adult education’s a wonderful thing”), rock climbing, and listening to Maria Bamford on repeat.  She is doing the best that she can.

 

Guest Pep Talk (Xica Simmons): Smile, you’re doing NoExNo!

smileI’ve  never been one of those people. You know the ones… friendly people. They practically ooze with energy as if they can’t contain it. And it usually leaks out in the following form:

It starts with the eyes. Eyes that widen and which somehow manage to force contact despite your best efforts to avoid them. The brows that frame them rise like a cobra right before it strikes. Their lips part and curl in an upward motion revealing a tawdry display of teeth and sometimes even tongue…

A smile. It’s terrifying. I know.

I’m kidding if course. Smiles are beautiful, ya know, provided good dental hygiene has been maintained. But apparently I lack whatever it is that causes people to do this without provocation. When I was a kid my mom would say, “What’s wrong?” I would quickly say, “Nothing!”, to which she would respond, “Well then tell your face.” I can’t even help rolling my eyes and shaking my head as I recall that memory.

I don’t consider myself an unfriendly or intimidating person, but for as long as I can remember friends and acquaintances alike have at some point or another told me that they initially thought I would be mean or that they were intimidated by me. Seriously?? I’m just standing here. Anyone who really knows me knows that I am the farthest thing from intimidating.

Unfortunately, this lack of friendly has begun to affect my work performance. And in a customer service industry, that’s a bad thing. On more than one occasion, customer reviews have reflected a similar notion. One lady went so far as to explain that she had no doubt that I was a good employee and that I was knowledgeable but that I was not friendly. Never mind the fact that it was the last hour on a Friday night, I was alone in the store and her nonstop chatter prevented me from greeting all other customers and answering the phone! Oh sorry, no excuses. Dang it.

I’ll be 28 in a few weeks and it seems I need to make an adjustment. Enter Allison Baker and NoExNo. I was fortunate enough to take part last year and since waiting until New Years isn’t an option I figured this was an area of my life that needed attention, like ASAP!

Everyday this month I’ve participated in activity which, until now, I’ve viewed with disdain. Small talk. Apparently like 88% (or some other real statistic) of you people respond to it, so I’m doing my best. I’m smiling at people that I accidentally make eye contact with, all the while thinking, “I hope I don’t look like a stalker. Oh no! They think I want to chat. Op, now we’re chatting”.

I have to admit it’s not bad. I’ve met some cool people in the process and I have a couple new Facebook friends to prove it. I’ve even had a couple guys at the gym ask me out! Wow. Who knew?

I promise I really am a nice person and ever mother of every friend I’ve been close with always calls me sweet. Always. But I do take some time warming up to people enough that it shows on my face. So if you see me at the gym feel free to say hi (as long as I’m not in the middle of a set) and I’ll happily force a smile. Please note it’s only forced right now because it’s not a habit yet. I still have to “tell my face” at this stage.

__________________________________

As a secondary goal for NoExNo Xica is learning to track her macros (macro nutrients: carbs, fats, protein). And since competing in her first figure competition (bodybuilding) this year and falling head over heals for Gym, she’s finally decided to get her certification for personal training. Perhaps the combination of a friendly first impression and a certification will allow her to have a career that doesn’t feel like work.

Guest Pep Talk (Martha Caldwell): NoExNo– Trying to NAIL it.

Nail biting

Even Kate freaking Middleton can’t kick the habit.

I hope all of you are navigating through November with a new-found confidence from meeting your goals. I wish this for you because I, Martha Caldwell, am 6 days into November and today I failed.  And it sucks.  I am confessing this to all of you because I am trying to not let this mistake break my own confidence and to convince myself that my goal can still be achieved.

How could I have failed so soon?  Let me back up and explain myself.  For No Excuses November, I decided to try and break my life-long habit of biting my nails.  Call me ambitious.  I’ve always been an anxious person and although the anxiety has manifested itself in many ways throughout my life, the one constant has been nail biting.  Before you get all judge-y, the way I know so many people do when they find out I bite my nails, let me just say that I already know it’s gross.  Let’s move on.  Before it even crossed my mind that NoExNo was coming, a friend of mine had a lunch and nail painting party. I went primarily for lunch, but decided to give painting my nails a chance.  I was really enjoying the results when Allison sent out the email about NoExNo the next day. That’s when I decided that I was going to give this a try, to submit this as my goal and head down the habit breaking highway.  My nails were already painted and I would even have a few days head start.  I was ready.

After sharing this goal with some people, I got a lot of advice on how to be successful: chew gum, keep your hands moisturized at all times and this gem from my brother– shock yourself with a 9-volt battery every time you’re about to do it.  I appreciated the advice, had high hopes, and went for it.  That first week was, in a nutshell, pretty flipping miserable. I spent the first few days (fine, it was a week) obsessively eating pita chips, sitting and staring at my hands for unacceptably long periods of time and going through packs of gum like it was my job. I wore gloves when I got home from work to keep myself from biting and generally felt and acted like a crazy person.

I started a new job three weeks ago and, like a lot of new jobs, the first couple of weeks were pretty slow and stress free.  Perfect scenario for me, Ms. Anxiety, to kick my most long-running anxious habit in the butt.  But like most things in life, not every scenario is perfect and there’s never ever going to be the “right time” to do something.  Enter conflict.  Five days ago, I was put in charge of a project by the Senior Vice President of my department (who, two days prior, I was told I never would work with directly) to fix a process I was barely just learning.  Caveat: I had to fix it immediately because our new Corporate CFO (my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss) wanted to review it, like yesterday. Hooray!  After learning this, I spent the next hour ripping off all of my pretty nail polish.  I painted them that night and ripped all of the nail polish off again the next day.  I still hadn’t bitten them, but I could tell this was quite a slippery slope.

This teetering on the edge went on for a few more days (painting and then demolishing) until today, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I bit off all of my nails.  Hours later, the project was reviewed and resolved and things started to simmer down.  Too bad the damage had already been done.

I confessed this to a friend, got a pep talk of my own, and decided that I did not want this to define my NoExNo experience.  I tried!  Things got stressful!  I couldn’t help it!  Breaking habits is hard!  I could tell myself any of those things, but those are excuses, and excuses during these 30 days are generally frowned upon.  No Excuses November does not mean that you aren’t going to fail.  Clearly, I have proven that that isn’t true.  If you miss a day, it’s not over.  If you did something you weren’t supposed to, it’s not over.  Using that mistake to give up on this month is an excuse.  We don’t like excuses.  To me, No Excuses November means that I am going to try for something, maybe suck at it, but try nonetheless.  It’s not pretty or easy and it sure doesn’t make me feel better.  But I will not make excuses.  So that being said, I am going to accept this fall and start again tomorrow.  I hope that if you veered off course too, that you start again with me.

To no excuses!

Guest Pep Talk (Alison Kranz): An excuse for you, an excuse for me.

zerofux1

I spent the better part of 2013 making excuses for someone else. This was someone whose excuses I had listened to, assessed, and accepted when he made his case for why we should get back together the first time around, in February, after break-up number one. When we were back together, his excuses became—almost instantly—moot, and I filled his lack of excuses with made up ones of my own.

When someone is slipping away from you and you’re not ready to lose them, you will tell yourself anything. They are three hours overdue to your previously-scheduled hang out? They are self-employed and have a lot of work to do. You understand. They haven’t responded to a text message you know they read eight hours ago because they have their iPhone read receipts on? They must have gotten distracted and forgotten about it. They finally respond with a one word reply after hour ten? Well, at least you know they’re still alive. They never apologize for these breaches, or make any effort to make it up to you? At least the time you do get to spend together is good.

While making excuses for myself is an idle pastime I am capable of accomplishing without much thought (unfortunately!), making excuses for someone else turned out to be an endlessly draining and daunting task. I was tired of thinking so much, let alone having those thoughts and excuses serve as my “other half.” Why split myself into two, when my one-on-one with myself was essentially the same thing, and healthier?

For the year I’d started off in true single-person style as the “Year of Zero Fucks Given,” (thank you, Lady Gaga), I had sufficiently given one too many. It got to the point where I realized I had no more excuses left to give, and not a single one of the pre-existing ones were worth my time or effort. So I was gone, gone, gone—and it never felt so good.

While the mourning period for break up number two was significantly shorter, given that I had already been through the roughest parts during break up number one, the same principles and mantra remained: make no contact; do not waste any more of your time; do not dwell; no excuse is good enough; move on, move up, move forward.

As we kick off the second annual No Excuses November, remember: it’s for you. Do it because you’ve been putting it off, do it because you need to, do it because it feels good. But, above all: do it for you.

_________________________________________________________

Alison Kranz is an editor, writer, observer, currently-crippled runner, and an abundantly photogenic model. She likes wordplay, flânerie, typing, squares, surrealism, and consistent correspondence.

You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Guest Pep Talk (Eric Joppa): Time for Change

time-for-change

I have had a mental block about something for quite a while.

It seems that, whether because of my good self esteem or my total narcissism, or my inability to be honest with myself, or whatever Freud may have said, I have been unable to really see myself as fat.

Now I have looked in the mirror. I have watched my pant size increase. I have even seen what the scale says when I dare to step on it and gaze at its struggle for survival underneath my weight. I have long joked, as just about any student who has heard me preach at a youth group, school or camp can attest to, about how fat I am. I have long thought it was funny to put pressure on someone who says something about me or someone else being “large” or “a big guy”.

I quickly spout, “Are you calling me fat!?” Or “Is that a fat joke?”

I truly love watching them squirm.

The problem is, I have never worried about how I look. I guess I just really don’t care what people think of me. I actually think that is a healthy thing. But something happened recently that I had to notice.

I recently went through the process of trying to get a new life insurance policy. My family has one for me already, but it will expire in a few years and is not representative of what they will need if I choke on a chicken wing.

Let’s just say, sticker shock.

Then, about a month ago, a friend of mine died suddenly. He had a heart attack and died on the spot. Someone told me he was in mid conversation. Just gone. Its still hard to believe.

He was a”big guy.” 6′ 5,” and well… heavy.

Since then I have wondered, what would happen to my kids if I was gone? I may die in a plane crash or spontaneously combust. I might die from poor poisoning or some other stupid 1/1,000,000 improbability. But I don’t want to leave them alone because I was lazy. Because, “I’d rather my food taste good.” Then the other day, I did the unthinkable. I stepped on the scale.

330 lbs.

I have never in my life felt so unhealthy. For years I have known I was unhealthy, fat, but I was funny fat. You know, big belly fat. I have also made excuses for why I can’t stick to a diet or work out regularly.

Not anymore.

No more excuses. No more sitting and doing nothing about it. No more watching other friends lose weight, look and feel great, asking their secret, and doing nothing. So, I set some goals:

1. I will go to the gym 3 times a week.

2. I will run 2 miles twice a week (by the end of November).

3. No eating anyplace that has a drive thru (Starbucks does not count).

4. I will lose 30 lbs.

I have a plan, and I will not deviate. I will get healthy. I will not stay this way. And you know what I learned? I’m funny. Without being fat. So who’s going to join me in not having anymore excuses?

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This originally appeared in Eric’s blog.

Eric is a man. He is happily married to the love of his life, Kelly (she the pretty one that he’s always with) He is also the proud father of Nathan, 6 and Leah 3. He’s a 17 year youth ministry veteran, avid reader, golfer and student at Hope International University finishing his Masters degree in ministry and leadership. He currently serves as Interim Pastor to Students at River Life Church in Sacramento, CA.