Category: Positively Positive

Judgment Stops When Truth Is Present

Put your baseball bat down and stop beating yourself. It is important that you acknowledge that your judgment is there, because if you don’t acknowledge it, you hold onto it forever.

The awakened ones look at a situation not in judgment, but in silence, and watch the manifestation afterward. It is important to stay still and quiet at all times, particularly if you are out of your comfort zone. The awakening factor is this: Send me, oh, Lord, all that is mine. Next, people come, and events happen, and items appear. Isn’t that our prayer? Give us what we need. You contracted to arrive here. That is the Divine contract that was written from your Higher Self to your Higher Self.


Everyone struggles between awareness and judgment. Awareness just is. Awareness and judgment are a double-edged sword with an extraordinarily sharp blade. The way to know the difference between the two is to feel it in your body. The discernment of awareness has no fear. It just is. The discernment of judgment cuts hard, and when you find out you judged wrong, it creates pain. If you want to know the difference between the two, it is a feeling. Awareness is sent down the tube of easy reality. Judgment is sent down the tube of your will. The most important awareness is to be aware that you are not aware of anything.

What is causing most of the pain is judgment. Judgment comes from information from others, gleaned from others in this lifetime and past. Judgment causes a lot of pain. Judgment comes from comparing yourself to others.

If we take the word judgment and change it to conditioning, well, then you know why you are here. You have come here to have your conditioning updated to Truth. Judgment stops when Truth is present. You have to know the difference between Truth and judgment. We all know there is a fine line between judgment and discernment. Sometimes we don’t know which side of that line we are walking on. It is very simple. When you are in discernment, there is no suffering. When you are in judgment, suffering will always be present.

Derek O’Neill, fondly referred to as the Celtic Sage, inspires and uplifts people from all walks of life, offering guidance to influential world leaders, businesses, celebrities, athletes and everyday people alike. Distilled from his life work in psychotherapy, a martial arts career and study with wise yogis and Indian and Tibetan masters, Derek translates ancient wisdom into modern day teachings to address the biggest challenges facing humanity today. For additional insights listen to his free radio archives explore over 20 personal development books including Stop The Struggle, Bullying, Love/Divorce, Grief, Mindfulness, Anxiety, Stress and Depression.

Image courtesy of Inna Stellinna.

Supporting Children Who May Be Nonbinary

Perspective #1: “My 5 year old liked the female characters best, loved wearing dresses, play painted his nails, grew his hair long for a while because he wanted princess hair, loves pink and sparkles, etc. I was quietly supportive by treating his interests like any other. He got the princess dresses he wanted for birthdays and Christmases, his colouring books were unicorns and fairies etc. But I didn’t make a fuss about it any more than I would make a fuss about my other son liking stereotypically boy things like dinosaurs and cars. He wore a princess dress to school on a non uniform day. I didn’t say anything to him beforehand as he felt fine going in and I thought even an attempt at saying I was proud of him for doing it would highlight the difference when the way I want him to feel is that there aren’t male and female toys or ways of dressing, rather than implying he is brave to do something ‘different.’ Mostly it was positive, pretty much all his friends at school are girls and they loved it. He had some slightly mean/questioning comments though from a couple of kids including ‘boys don’t wear dresses’. When he told me this I just said ‘well, boys don’t wear dresses that often so some people think that’s unusual. I think clothes are just clothes. It’s so much fun to dress up as Elsa” and that was enough to make him feel better. I want my child to feel free to explore, but I don’t want to make such a big deal that the child hardens into an identity that might not be authentic for them.” 

Perspective #2: “I love the idea of quietly supportive! But I also wonder about the messages kids get outside the home (or through media) and how to acknowledge the ways those interactions affect them even though we may not see or comprehend the full range. We’re not the only influences in our children’s life, and not discussing something because it’s hard or might encourage them further seems somehow counterintuitive to the quiet support. I guess I consider it similarly to other tough conversations—being colorblind isn’t the same as being antiracist for example, and as a white parent it’s only my unearned privilege that allows me to think I can control racist messaging by not talking about it. I would be surprised if there wasn’t some messaging he’s already encountered about how he’s expected to act as a boy. By not naming it or discussing, I think that could lead to lots of confusion or overwhelm. We know trans and nonbinary kids have higher suicide attempts and die more often by suicide.”

I love this discussion! It’s important that we find ways to engage respectfully about this issue, since we as a community are still evolving our understanding of the healthiest approaches to children who are, after all, still developing, and who may — or may not — be nonbinary.

I love that this mom “quietly supported” her son to follow his interests, including wearing a dress and painting his nails. I know that many parents would have found that challenging. I think all of us want to support our children’s explorations of self-expression. I agree that we should be supporting boys and girls who don’t conform to gendered expectations without assuming that it means they are trans or nonbinary. We don’t want to make assumptions, whether that assumption is that they are straight or gay, trans or nonbinary, or anything else.

After all, we won’t love our children any less no matter who they turn out to be.

And loving and accepting our children as they are is what gives them protection from the judgments of our society. Kids who are nonbinary and suffer mental health challenges are not only responding to the pressures of our culture. They’re also, often, responding to the pressures of parents who struggle to accept the child.

I think that our goal is always to take our cue from our kids.

If our daughter wants to wear an engineer’s hat to school or have a train-themed birthday, we support that. If our son wants to wear a dress to school or have a Frozen-themed birthday party, we support that. We aren’t making assumptions that they will become an engineer and we aren’t making assumptions that they will always love dresses.

BUT we aren’t making assumptions otherwise, either. And if our child ends up feeling bad because society reacts badly, I think they need extra support from us. So our support can be quiet when that’s all that is needed, and that is a huge advance from what most of us experienced as children.

But sometimes, because we are following our child’s lead, and also responding to what happens to them, I think our support needs to be louder. I agree with the second perspective above that because our society is gender rigid, we do need to offer children extra support when they venture to explore outside of that rigidity (for instance by wearing a dress) and get push-back.

The concept of non-binary is new to many of us and to most of our children. So I think it is important that we say to kids — ALL kids — that some people are boys, some are girls, some are neither, which can be called non-binary.

How might it look to support our child who is exhibiting behavior that isn’t gender conforming?

As always, we start by empathizing with the child when they share their experience with us: “Ouch. It could hurt your feelings to have your classmates say that.” We never want our child to have to suffer alone with the feeling of being marginalized.

And then I think we want to take the opportunity to both give permission and educate: “Anybody should be able to wear any kind of clothing. Boys can wear dresses, girls can wear pants. And some kids aren’t girls or boys–they’re nonbinary–and they can also wear anything they want! Being a girl, a boy, or being nonbinary has nothing to do with what kind of clothes you wear.”

Finally, let’s talk about empowerment.

If we send our child into a store to make a purchase, we arm them with the skills and the language to use — we don’t assume they will work it out for themselves, or even that someone in the store will be kind and helpful, although we hope that will be true. If our child wants to wear a dress to school, we hope that everyone will agree that all humans are free to dress as they please without that signifying anything about gender identity, and that everyone at school will be supportive regardless of our child’s gender identity. But because we know that our society is still healing around these issues, we might want to support our child by asking if other boys wear dresses, and if so, how others respond, and how our child might respond if anyone criticizes them. Yes, this might make the child self-conscious, and there are schools where it would not be necessary. You know if your child attends such a school. If not, you might want to have a calm conversation about how great the outfit is and how some people might not understand the choice, but that’s okay — it’s fine for your child to make this choice, and you support them.

And of course, if your child comes home and tells you that they felt badly in an interaction with their classmates, you would empathize and try to empower them, just as you would with any situation that makes them uncomfortable: “That must have felt bad when your classmates said that. I wonder, if that happens in the future, if there is something you might say to them that might make you feel better? Should we brainstorm?” 

The bottom line is that many children explore clothes, toys, and play that is not traditionally associated with their gender. That doesn’t mean they will be gender nonconforming. But it also doesn’t mean they won’t. And if we do have a child who turns out to be gender nonconforming, they especially need our support and our unconditional love. All children deserve the right to explore, to pursue their interests, and to develop as who they are. It’s our job as parents to support them, without pushing our own agenda. Either way, our choice of whether to support our child won’t change who they are. But it will change how they feel about themselves.

Dr. Laura Markham, founder of and author of The Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.

Image courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon.

Life Is like a Painting

Whenever I start a painting, I have no idea where it will take me. Often it’s just a sense of something…An impulse that wants to be expressed. A sensation or feeling that longs to be acknowledged or felt.

I don’t even know what it is, just this itch in my fingertips that wants to be scratched.

And it’s at this moment that there is an opportunity to either say Yes or No.

We can be willing to explore, to follow its coaxing us out of our mind into our adventurous self, or we can stay in our status quo and make up stories whether this is the ‘right thing to do’, the ‘good enough thing to do’, and fixate on the result. In short: we can stay in the known, in our comfort zone.

But if we are willing to tolerate a little bit of discomfort and willing to not know where things will take us, we actually make space for magic.

Something that most of us are deeply longing for, oftentimes unaware that that’s actually what it is that we feel is missing.

Taking it one step at the time

I want to illustrate the process of trust through the journey of the making of this painting.

Because, when I’m looking at it, I’m in awe at the workings of life!

How did I get here? I had no idea what was coming and yet it happened. Miraculously and beautifully so. That’s why I love it because the creative process itself keeps surprising me.

Taking it one step at a time is the essential practice of trust.

How do you do that?

First, you have to become really present with what is in front of you and your natural response to it. What do you feel? And based on your feeling what do you long for?

A bit of contrast? Ok, no problem let’s just add that.

A bit of structure? Yes, sure, why not.

Trust is really this deep insight that there is no wrong in life.

(Or like my partner recently said: there is no right or wrong, there is only a ride!)

It’s a continuous movement and nothing ever is set in stone. In painting terms, it means: you can always paint over it, add to it, change it, and play with it!

Just like painting, life is very forgiving, it will always keep giving us opportunities to right our ‘wrongs’, which means to come back to balance, come back to harmony with life.

What a sense of freedom it opens up when you know that you can explore and play and just keep adding, layer upon layer upon layer…and that each layer will contribute to your perspective, your experience. Each layer will enrich and deepen your ‘(he)art’.

Accepting frustration as part of the process

And then maybe there comes a moment where frustration kicks in because in spite of all the accepting, trusting you have been doing, it still doesn’t feel satisfying and good.

It still doesn’t feel like you are connected to something bigger. What’s the point of this whole art thing, or ‘life’ thing for that matter, if there is no beauty in it? If there is no love in it?

Wonderful questions, but don’t get stuck in them.

I have come to embrace my frustration. It’s medicine and it takes me in a moment of ‘exasperation’ to the places where I usually wouldn’t go. It makes me take risks. Lean out a little bit more. Do unusual, unexpected things. It’s the energy that catapults me out of my stagnation and into the fresh and the new.

It’s what keeps refining my ideas of love and surrender.

Trusting dissatisfaction

And then…comes a moment when you look at your painting, or life, and you can say, yeah, it’s good enough.

When I got to the point of the painting above, I asked myself: Is it finished? I didn’t know what else wanted to happen, nothing was really moving and most people I checked in with said, that they liked it and yes, indeed, they felt it was probably finished.

Ok, I thought, maybe it is.

But then for two months I kept looking at it and even though I wasn’t inspired to take it further, I also kept feeling that it didn’t touch me. It was nice, ok, but it didn’t have that special ‘something’ that sometimes a piece of art has and that can take you into another dimension.

This is a tricky moment, because, what’s there is already good enough, so anything you add from here might fuck it all up.

If you want it all you have to be willing to lose it all.

And yet, in your heart, you know that you will never be able to look at your creation and be fully satisfied. You will always feel the twinge of not having gone full in. Not having given it your best.

Where in your life do you feel like that?

Trust that little voice of dissatisfaction. Make sure it doesn’t come from a false sense of not good enough, which is a wound of the ego (and in it, nothing will ever be good enough), but from a real feeling in your body, a tug on your heartstrings that there is more for you, and then go for it. Risk it all.

Because even if you ‘fuck’ up, even if you fail and lose, at least you know that you gave your best.

It’s your inner guidance beckoning you towards more of your soul expression.

That moment in the painting process I find the most exhilarating. That’s when I really feel I’m dancing on the razor’s edge, I’m stretching my comfort zone and in the process, I am surrendering my small self to something bigger.

I become a channel. And it’s a feeling of ecstasy. Finally, there is no me, there is only what wants to happen and the divine itself.

How do you know it’s finished?

People ask me this question all the time. If you are supposed to trust your dissatisfaction how do you know you are finished?

The answer is actually really simple: It’s done when you are done.

Because it’s actually not about the outcome on the outside, it’s about where you have been within yourself. The places you went and touched within yourself. There is only that much energy available for it.

I’m likening it to the process of giving birth. When is the baby born? The energy available for the process is gone once the baby is out. You don’t keep pushing after you finished. Simple.

When I look at this finished painting below, of course, my mind could go into the critical self and think: Oh, I should change this a little or that.

But regardless of it, there is nothing in me that wants to touch it again. I’m done, spent, finished. In fact, there is often the feeling of “I don’t even want to look at it for a while!” The umbilical cord is cut, now I want to simply rest from the process of creation.

Can we trust the process and cycles of life?

For me, painting is a spiritual practice. A process in which I become very intimate with myself. Very honest. No one can enter this realm with me. It’s just me and it.

A deeper reflection of my life.

I hope you can find that kind of love and trust for your own process and enjoy all the steps along the way!

Kasia Patzelt works as an Embodiment Coach and is passionate about integrating our spiritual experiences into the here and now of daily life aka how to be truly heart intelligent. She is a writer on Medium and works one-on-one with people online or on the magic island of Ibiza, where she lives.

Image courtesy of Jadson Thomas.

It’s Not Going to Turn Out the Way You Thought

It will happen later. His best friend will ask you out instead. You’ll be kissed in the movies instead of on a beach. You’ll end up going to a different school because the one you thought you’d get into didn’t work out.

She’ll move away. Someone else will move in next door. She’ll be a little weird at first, a little more shy, but ultimately really good at riding bikes and playing dolls.

That part you always wanted will go to that other girl instead. And you’ll rock it out in the chorus like your life depended on it. Because on some level it does.

The road you were going to take will be flooded and closed. The inn where you were going to stay will be under renovations. He’ll be taller than you thought. And have a funny accent. But will be a good kisser nonetheless.

You’ll get a flat tire on the way to that crucial meeting and end up peeing your pants laughing with the gas station attendant over a copy of Us Magazine. And someone else will fill in for you because they always do.

You won’t get that dream job like you thought you would. It will go to someone else with far less creative drive and vision than you. Someone far better suited for a cubicle than you.

You’ll be put in groups with people who put your panties in a wrinkle. You’ll sit next to someone on the plane who you’d never talk to except that they won’t shut up…and you’ll end up staying in touch for years and taking family vacations together.

Five years after you graduate life won’t look anything like you would have imagined. You’ll be single when you thought you’d be married. You’ll have kids when you thought you’d be in the Peace Corps. That trip to Laos will get delayed because you’ve got to stay home and take care of your grandmother. Laos will be there. Your grandmother won’t always.

He’ll move over seas and oddly the Atlantic Ocean between you will bring you closer than you ever dreamed possible. You won’t get engaged, married, or pregnant when you thought. You’ll miss the bus/train/plane/ferry that you thought you just HAD to be on.

You’ll fall off the turnip truck. You’ll jump on a different bandwagon than you intended. You’ll get fired when you thought you ought to be getting hired.

You’ll realize you forgot the outfit you had planned to wear and that the shoes are all wrong now that you have a full-length mirror to see the whole outfit. Your shirt will be wrinkled and you’ll spill red wine on your white jeans.

Your dog will eat your five-year plan. You’ll drop your Blackberry in the toilet (at least once.) Your computer will crash and you’ll delete the first draft of your magnum opus. You’ll accidentally delete your hard drive and end up with a clean slate.

You’ll show up late to the date with the guy you were sure was going to fit into your husband suit and realize he’s less than graceful under stress and not so flexible. (Better to know now than later.)

When you thought you’d be baking pie and living behind your very own white picket fence you’ll find yourself doing something so entirely different you couldn’t have even imagined it a year before.

There will be moments when you’ll look around and not even recognize your own life…in a good way.

You’ll take a wrong turn and end up in an entirely different city than you intended. You’ll dial the wrong number and end up in love with an entirely different person than you intended.

You’ll flunk out and end up taking five years instead of four to graduate. You’ll have your heart broken when you were sure you were with the one and then meet the other one a month later. You’ll move to a new city to start a new business with those perfect new business partners and then it will all go to shit. And you’ll move across the country again only to realize that that’s where you belonged the whole time.

You’ll drive as far away from home as possible thinking that it will make you feel free. Then you’ll get homesick and drive back four months later because you suddenly feel trapped.

You’ll imagine the open road, country music playing loud, you singing at the top of your lungs, and flirting with a new man in every town. And then you’ll invite someone to come with you on a whim and realize driving around the country by yourself was a terrible idea anyway…and that it’s way more fun when you’re traveling with someone you love.

You won’t do it at the right time.

You’ll be late.

You’ll be early.

You’ll get re-routed.

You’ll get delayed.

You’ll change your mind.

You’ll change your heart.

It’s not going to turn out the way you thought it would.


Want a beautifully designed reminder that it’s not going to turn out the way you thought it would, it will be better in your home or office? Grab your poster of this blog here!

Kate Northrup is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and mother who supports ambitious, motivated and successful women to light up the world without burning themselves out in the process. Committed to empowering women entrepreneurs to create their most successful businesses while navigating motherhood, Kate is the founder and CEO of Origin Collective, a monthly membership site where women all over the world gather to achieve more while doing less. Her first book, Money: A Love Story, has been published in 5 languages. Kate’s work has been featured by The Today Show, Yahoo! Finance, Women’s Health, Glamour, and The Huffington Post, and she’s spoken to audiences of thousands with Hay House, Wanderlust, USANA Health Sciences, and more. Kate lives with her husband and business partner, Mike, and their daughter Penelope in Maine. Find out more and receive your free copy of the 5 Simple and effective ways to get the results you want in your business at

Image courtesy of Jonathan Borba.

Don’t Have Your Dream Job? Try Changing Your Outlook until You Do.

Let’s be real and admit most people don’t have day jobs that light them up. Most of us go to work because we have to. We have bills, kids and hungry bellies, so work is more of a means to an end rather than an exciting part of our lives, right?

We get stuck in day job routines where we lose sight of what attributes we bring to the table, even in the smallest of ways.

I was in a Subway restaurant recently and the people who work there are called Sandwich Artists. I saw that and smiled. I thought to myself,

“What if we all viewed our jobs as a way of being an artist of whatever task we’re performing?”

An artist of office work.

An artist of dentistry.

An artist of teaching.

An artist of caring for our family.

The word artist has connotations of performing something unique to who you are. Whether you’re doing construction work or conducting an orchestra, no one else will do it just how you’ll do it because, well, no one else is you, right?

I imagine most of us are not so great at looking at our jobs through such a lens.

We get tired and bored and view our jobs as simply something we have to do to avoid being naked and hungry. Rarely do we pause to feel the satisfaction of doing the work we do.

Sometimes our jobs feel like a heavy weight to bear that comes with being an adult. Working can be a mix of drudgery and routine, and it takes a step back sometimes to refresh the way we look at how we bring ourselves to each day instead of shoving the day on auto-pilot.

Not many of us are lucky enough to have jobs that match the vision we had in our heads as kids. If we had a choice, most of us would choose jobs that are totally in line with our passions. But what happens when life serves up situations that fall short from the visions we conjured?

We roll with it. We see ourselves as artists at work, putting our spin on the job we do that only we can bring by being uniquely ourselves. We see how the work we do reaches the people we come in contact with and put an extra personalized touch to our work.

How do we do this?

I have a day job where I answer the same questions over and over each day, so I remind myself even though it’s the 10th time I’m answering this question, it’s the first time the person on the phone is asking it. So I’ll answer it like I’m not exhausted from it. I’ll help her because she needs it, and I’ll do it with patience and friendliness because good energy begets more good energy, and I want that rather than getting sucked into a vortex of grumpiness.

I make it a point to have fun at work. I listen to music and laugh with coworkers. I have a standup desk to keep me energized. I jot down personal goals as they come to me throughout the day to look forward to personally and professionally.

If I look at each day as a project and challenge to make that day the best it can be, I find my work more rewarding. If I take time to appreciate where I am instead of where I am not, my day has more depth.

I once visited my grandma in the nursing home before she passed, and I asked her how they were treating her there. She sighed, “Oh, they’re nice enough, but I can tell they rush through things because they just want to get home to their own families.” I responded saying how awful that is, and she answered, “Oh, no it’s fine. I get it. I would be the same way.”

We’re all guilty of wanting to be somewhere else other than where we are, especially at work, right?

Our minds drift to when we get done, so our “real lives” can begin. We sometimes put half our effort and energy into projects because we no longer see the purpose or importance of our work or the people who are on the receiving end of our work.

That thinking is a slippery slope to no longer being engaged at work, and we’ve all been there, I imagine.

I recently saw a dancer on public TV who was in his nineties. He said dancing never felt like work to him because every single fiber in his body was immersed in joy when he danced. I have no activities at work that do that for me. Work feels like work. I am not immersed in joy so much that it doesn’t feel like work, so I’m not going to set the bar of expectation so high in my life that I choke myself on it.

The truth is, it’s okay to feel the effects of work. It challenges us and makes us feel like we contributed in some way. My biggest goal in raising my kids is that they have strong work ethics. I don’t care if they make a lot of money. I just want them to have the gift of being able to feel the joy that comes with working hard and touching others.

I had to write a letter to my daughter and put it in a time capsule for her graduation day five years from now. In the letter I told her to work hard and put her heart in all she does. I told her if she needs to wash toilets to make money, be the person who washes them the best with happiness in your heart while you sing along to the radio. I told her the pride and joy in her work will be contagious and learning to have that outlook in life will make her content, no matter the job.

And that’s the real goal, right? To always keep striving for more, but to also dig into the job we’re currently doing to cultivate joy and happiness right where we are instead of fooling ourselves we’ll arrive there only when we get the work of our dreams.

Our dream job starts today with the artistry we bring to our work.

Work is an honor and privilege. And it’s also a major pain in the butt. Both truths can coexist rather comfortably. It’s a conscious choice to spend more time on the optimistic side of this coin. That’s where our best selves live, and if we’re firing from that engine instead of from the one that whines, we’ll see the world differently.

If we can accomplish that change in how we look at work, it just might extend over into our personal lives and relationships. Then we’ll be the richest “artists” of all.

What ways can you change the way you see your work and acknowledge the value you bring to the world? I bet it’s more than you realize.

Rebecca Rine is a writer and speaker at where she writes with raw honesty about the joys and challenges of an ordinary life, feeling it all and living simply and deeply while not being a bag of turds to others. Readers say her writing connects with them because she openly writes about her life and shortcomings regarding marriage, parenting, spirituality, and aging with a goal of embracing your imperfect, authentic self. She is an opinion contributor to Dayton Daily News and public radio, and has been published in places such as: Scary Mommy, Blunt Moms, Fatherly, and The Write Life. Her podcast “Real Life out Loud” can be heard on various platforms, and her short videos about “one thing to think about” can be found on YouTube. You can follow her on Facebook, and subscribe to her website to get updates on her upcoming book of essays,“What Waits Ahead is Way Better and Way Worse Than You Imagined”.

Image courtesy of Ivan Samkov.

Every Day Is an Adventure When You Spend It with People You Love

A little girl was melting and screaming in agony. Her brother was trying to help her but couldn’t.

I showed Josie a movie of Hiroshima when she was about five years old. Mistake.

Josie woke up crying and hitting her pillow at three in the morning. I held her and talked her to sleep.

Stupid stupid me. Showing her that movie. (“Barefoot Gen”).

Lesson: don’t show little kids videos of other little kids melting in agony.

When I first got divorced I was broke. I was unhappy. I am the type of person who doesn’t like to be alone.

But the worst thing was thinking that when my daughters were crying, I wouldn’t be there to talk them to sleep.

I knew they would inherit it.

The overwhelming fear and anxiety that hit me at 3 in the morning every night for almost 40 years.

I spent last week with Mollie in London and Paris.

She asked to go with me on the trip. When will that ever happen again? Maybe never!

She had had a hard time recently and I wanted to give her a nice treat in return. So on a work trip, I took her.

Every kid has a hard time in life. It’s hard to figure out the rules of being an adult.

Because there are no rules but everyone (parents, teachers, friends, family, society, culture, Instagram “influencers”, media, etc.) tells you there are rules.

How do you teach someone there are no rules?

Rules of cool. Rules of health. Rules of “get a job or die”. Or go to college or die”. Or “this is history. Believe this and nothing else.”

And I wasn’t going to teach her new rules. There’s no way to tell a teenager, “you can’t do this!” Or “you’re wrong”.

Mollie is wrong about everything. But so am I.

  • Whenever I wanted to take a car, she said, “Let’s walk.” And I did.
  • Whenever I found a good restaurant, she found a better one.
  • Whenever anyone asked her, “What do you want to do?” She said, “I don’t know”.
  • I read 1.5 books while we were away. I think she read three.
  • She wrote more than me.
  • I had to work a lot so she spent time exploring. More than I did.
  • She started to come up with ideas about how her life could be bigger. “Maybe I can spend a summer here.”
  • She refuses to go to “clown college”. “But it’s the only school that teaches real skills!”
  • We spent hours sitting in bookstores. Getting lost while sitting right next to each other.
  • We had one miserable experience getting from London to Paris. I apologized to her. She said, “I had fun” and she explained to me why.
  • She came to my comedy/lecture/Q&A in London. “I learned a lot”.
  • On the entire plane ride back she did homework so she wouldn’t have to stay up late the night before school. I slept and watched “Family Guy”.

When I grow up I want to be Mollie.

I cried when we landed and I hugged her goodbye.

But, for once, the future feels better to me than the past.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of ROMAN ODINTSOV.

To Be More Creative, Schedule Your Work at 80% Capacity

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Leaving Things Behind

I’ve been editing my life lately. Consciously, even stringently.

But not in a self-punishing way. Not in a denying or depriving way.

It started–this life editing, self-editing–because of the circumstances of our last move. We left Puerto Rico last June, planning to go back in December.

Instead, in December, I asked my husband for a separation. We would stay in St. Louis. Family members sheltered us with space and with love. We enrolled our kids in the local schools.

I moved from one day to another in a kind of blur, a haze of unknowing, letting myself realize slowly that going back was not an option.

It never is, but we keep trying.

A month ago, the kids and I moved into an apartment. It is a small, cozy nest, furnished by many gifts and a few secondhand purchases. I keep a keen eye on what comes through the door, what is allowed to take up space here.

I measure carefully.

There is no room for what does not belong.

It’s painful to realize what does not belong to you. To be honest about what is not working. To see for yourself what you cannot hold close, no matter how much you try. It is jarring, shocking, a violation of your trust in the familiar.

The shock gives way to acceptance. You tiptoe forward, you sneak toward it. It’s an acceptance you can’t face, not quite, not yet. You have to come at it sideways.

You drink a glass of water over the sink in the kitchen and push yourself an inch closer.

You wake up and turn on the ceiling fan and take another step.

Closer, closer.

Sometimes you cry on your yoga mat. Stay in child’s pose another minute, sink deeper into your hips, let the floor hold you. Cry like it’s an offering, a payment for your sins, then take a deep breath. Stand up, shaky, and realize you moved another step.

I took the smallest bedroom and filled it up with myself. The curtains have rainbows. The double bed is covered in soft whites, pillows stacked in one corner. I lean back with a journal in the morning, with a book at night. Sometimes all I do is look at the pages and cry.

The closet is full of my clothes. I remove the shirts I don’t wear, the pants I pull on and immediately take off. There is no room here for these discarded parts of myself, these outgrown pieces of identity: the most stringent editing must be the editing of myself.

I cannot be who I was here. There is only space for who I am.

It is powerful to say what you have chosen out loud. It is powerful to say: Yes to this, No to that. It is defining. It is limiting, too. But it is the power to shape the universe, to pull it around you the way you want it to be, to exert yourself upon what is malleable.

There is so much we cannot change. So much that is not at our command, that does not come when we beckon, does not go when we dismiss.

Most of life stands beyond control, beyond understanding. Most of life gives us only one choice: accept, or resist.

So where we have choices, let us take them. Let us be discriminating. Let us edit carefully. These choices are gifts. Perhaps they are tests: not tests of whether we will make the right choice, but whether we will choose at all.

I think it matters: to take responsibility when you can, to let yourself be powerful in the small measures of what you do control, to exert your will upon the world.

To look at the pieces of your life, of yourself, and say: This can stay. That must go.

And then, to live with gratitude in the atmosphere created both by what you have chosen and by what you cannot control. Gratitude walks the line, knits the two parts together.

Outside our apartment there is a row of trees. Between the trees and the wall, there is a tiny balcony. It holds a single rocking chair.

I can sit in that chair, surrounded by the sounds, the air, the shade and sunlight, the moving trees, the noisy birds, the cars and people, the parts of life that immerse me, touch me, and remain always out of my control. And I can go inside. Look at the painting on the wall, the peonies on the table, the movement, the life happening in this defined space: here is what I have chosen, what I have drawn close to me, and here is the space left open by what I have released.

Annie Mueller is a writer, reader, seeker of growth, and transplant to Puerto Rico, where she lives with her best friend and their four children. Her crash course in self-discovery came from experiencing job loss, financial devastation, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, and major surgery—all in less than a year. She writes about creativity, personal growth, and spirituality; runs Prolifica, a content management consultancy for small teams and solo professionals; and sends out a popular weekly newsletter about feelings and freelancing. You can find more of her work on her website.

Image courtesy of Alina Vilchenko.

Give YourSelf the Dignity to Be Different

It’s really easy to be ignorant of our habits and misunderstandings; to adopt cultural norms as being synonymous with our own values, and then upon straying from such norms, internalize the image of flawed Self. It creates a feeling of separateness, and of not belonging. This is what I’d like to discuss today and intend to ease your heart of suffering.

Why do I endeavor to ease your suffering?

Because I speak and support those who I call people with purpose and sensitive dreamers. And when you clear your heart and your understanding, your true power and true service come through.


I’ve said it here on my podcast Lila, and I’ll continue to emphasize the fact that there are various ways to live your life. The idea that there exists a hierarchy consisting of two camps— what’s best and true and what’s left for “the special Olympics*”—is misguided.

*I respectfully use this analogy to demonstrate the root of a general cultural belief in the USA as shown by the presumption that the special Olympics is inferior and less valuable than the original Olympics.

What do we accept, tolerate, and mark as inferior because it doesn’t live up to the “original”?

It’s the belief that different is somehow inferior because while admirable, it’s insufficient. Because if you could be the other thing (e.g. attend the regular Olympics), you would.

And this voice is so loud that it almost brings forth shame at the mere thought of ignoring it. Of choosing another way. Of not believing what it says. It ignores the magic of who you are— not in comparison to but as is. It insufficiently addresses the complicated realities of life, which can leave us feeling vulnerable in the wake of not being able to live up to the dream.

And what dream is that, little one? Is it truly yours?


It’s through our actions and our willingness to be who we are, different or not, that leads to true change. To a more compassionate society that is accepting of others.

Because the first other is always you. The first other is always you.

The reason I point out diverse cultures around the world, like in Lila episode #13 here, is to demonstrate the possibility of all that could be. Aren’t cultures amazing in their never-ending creativity to make sense of their surroundings? To give meaning and richness to life?

Global cultures demonstrate there is more than one way to live your life. That other creative leaders and beings have built practices that over centuries have served them well. And you may benefit from adopting some of those habits and cultures.


Look no further than social media to deeply understand this, where deeply ingrained and often unconscious biases are plastered and sold all over the internet. Without presence, without wisdom, and the ability to quiet the noise of “should” and tune into the voice of IS, you’re destined for crazy-town.

And sensitive dreamers, people with purpose, require a sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging. But to force yourself to live up to standards and dwell in camps—or rooms as I frequently call them—that do not align with your light is challenging. There are other ways, and this requires you to believe. In yourself, in those that love you enough to support your freedom to follow a new path and in the dreams that show you the way.


To see the beauty in what’s on offer from all different types of people. And that you engage yourself enough, commune enough, to build real friendships with the people and values, the way of beings, you prize the most. Especially if they aren’t the ones you grew up with.

Aligning with your truest values is a greater representation of who you truly are, more than any singular race, gender, sex, nationality or any other checkbox you can imagine. The intersections of our lightest and most powerful gifts are one way of defining who we are as a society.

We fixate on fixing boxes when we should be fixin’ to build wings to soar. And speaking with and understanding the 1 million types of birds in the sky from all over the world to best learn to navigate the airways.


This brokenness first, and always, begins with a disconnect from Self.

Your values.

Your light.

That aligns with all those around you.

You need not be the same or different to belong or be accepted. I see you and I value you. And I’d love to see more of you if you’re willing.

Question values that are superimposed on the walls of the halls you roam. Whether it’s in self-help, coaching, the USA, brown-black-white-red-blue… be curious to it all so you can be free to see and be who you truly are. Beneath the noise. Beneath the misconduct of self which almost always relies on confusion.

Big hugs,


Lalita Ballesteros is a speaker, comedian, director, and the founder of Haus of Lala, a creative agency specializing in personal branding. She stands by the belief that your voice matters and that authentic self-expression is our most important work. In the past, Lalita’s disrupted the publishing industry with Seth Godin and The Domino Project (powered by Amazon) creating six best-sellers and raising over a quarter million in revenue in only four months. She also worked at the American Embassy in Rome, created a 6-figure Airbnb business, and oversaw ambassador efforts at Lyft. She speaks three languages and is a regular contributor for Positively Positive, a publication with over 2.5 million followers on Facebook. Lalita’s been seen on the stages of TEDx and Comedy Bary as well as in the pages of Fast Company, Etsy, Forbes, Yahoo Small Business, Mashable, and the best-selling book End Malaria. She currently lives in Toronto with her dog, Luna. Follow her writings and comedy here and #100daysofcomedy here.


Image Credit: Kim Carpenter.

11 Little Tricks I Stole from Psychologists to Be a Better Conversationalist

Have you had that ultra-embarrassing moment when you’re talking to someone and you’ve forgotten their name? Or that you’ve been monologing about yourself for the past five minutes? Or that you’ve made a joke that was badly received? I totally have.

I’m not alone, either. Especially after a pandemic that forces social distance, a lot of us are feeling rusty at basic conversational skills.

Luckily, talking well and easily is a skill that you can improve and lose like any other. Here are 11 tricks I use, recommended and backed by psychologists, to be less socially awkward and better at talking to other normal humans.

1. Influence how people think with material priming

Researchers found that placing themed objects in the room you’re having the conversation affects how the person you’re talking to thinks and feels.

To use this trick for yourself, think about the tone you want to set for your conversation and which objects might set that tone. For example, if you’re trying to flirt with someone, why not place a candle in the room, or a bed?

2. Make sure they tell the truth by asking them to repeat their story backward

There’s no shame in having a faulty lie detector when it’s been a year without social contact. If you’re trying to suss out if someone is telling the truth, ask them to repeat the story in reverse order. If they struggle, they’re probably lying to you.

Psychologists call this phenomenon the “cognitive workload.” Telling the truth is easy — if you’re lying, that’s an extra burden on your poor brain. Imagining your fake story in reverse is much trickier than simply repeating an honest story backward.

3. Grab someone’s attention with “soft tension”

“[M]ost people spend the majority of their conversations sharing their own views rather than focusing on the other person,” the authors of a 2017 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology tell us. This makes it hard to grab someone’s attention without waving your arm in their face and shouting their name repeatedly.

To avoid that, simply build soft tension — ask a question you know they’ll be able to easily answer. This allows them to stay the center of their own world, but puts the focus on you. Examples include asking about favorite music genres, books, or foods.

4. Make a perfect first impression by tickling their frontal lobe

The words you use when you meet someone affect how they think of you pretty much for the rest of your acquaintance. If you want to knock it out of the park the first time around, use positive language to stimulate their frontal lobe.

A study in 2009, conducted by Maria Richter et al, described how the presence of negative words like “disgusting,” “grueling,” and “dirty,” cause stress in the moment as well as contributing to long-term anxiety. Positive words, like “refreshing,” “celestial,” and “warming,” conversely, decrease the expression of stress hormones.

5. Remember their name with mnemonic devices

It’s no secret that a person’s name is the sweetest sound to them. Ensure you give your conversational partner what they want by remembering (and using) their name in conversation.

One 2016 psychological study found that it’s much easier to remember names if you use mnemonic devices. For instance, if you meet someone named Oliver, you might remember that he has blue dots all over his tie.

6. Don’t fake it till you make it

Talking can be stressful! There’s no harm in acknowledging that. But if you want people to like you, don’t be tempted to fake it till you make it. If you don’t feel like smiling, don’t pretend — wait until you can genuinely smile.

Research from a 2019 paper shows that consumers can instinctively tell the difference between real and fake smiles, even for Instagram celebrities and influencers. If they can’t convincingly pretend to smile, you probably can’t either.

7. Use “conversational entrainment” to have a more productive chat

Psychologists define this as “spatiotemporal coordination resulting from rhythmic responsiveness to a perceived rhythmic signal.” In human talk, this means you mirror what they do.

Research from a 2019 paper shows this works best when you mirror three aspects of their conversation: verbal cues, like the way they form their sentences; lexical, like the types of words they use; and nonverbal, like eye movements. This has been demonstrated to give us “productive and fulfilling conversation,” according to Borrie et al, 2019.

8. Copy improv stages with the “yes-and” approach

Improvisational theatre is famous for the “yes-and” approach. In order to keep conversation flowing and expand on a line of thinking, improv actors say, “yes, and” when it’s their turn to speak. Research has shown that this strategy works well to foster collaboration and trust in businesses and academic settings.

To do this, catch yourself the next time you start to say no or go off on a conversational tangent. Instead, try to yes-and whatever your conversational partner was saying.

9. Ramp up your listening level

I can be guilty of putting my “listening ear” on autopilot. Especially in group conversations, many of us don’t actively listen but just passively absorb and assume we’re understanding what people are saying. But it isn’t true. Research shows that actually listening demands a lot of effort — and the more effort you put in, the better you listen.

To make friends and influence people in your next conversation, try to simply be aware that listening is an active exercise and ensure you’re hearing and reflecting on what your conversational partner has told you.

10. Don’t cross the teasing line

Teasing is viewed as a fun and harmless way to casually chat and joke. But it can have real harmful repercussions to your relationship with the person you’re talking to. “[T]easing is often negatively evaluated when it is meant to amuse the hearers at the target’s expense or it is delivered in a non-affectionate way,” writes Valeria Sinkeviciute in her 2017 paper on the subject.

Instead, ensure that you go for an affectionate delivery, that you don’t target the same person repeatedly, and that you don’t make jokes at the expense of a single person.

11. Find a shared interest

Starting from ages as young as four, research shows humans have a strong perception of “us” versus “them.” Luckily, a shared interest is all it takes to get into the “us” group with whoever you’re speaking with.

If you’re struggling to chat, try looking for something you have in common with your conversational partner. Sports, music, food, books are all great places to start looking.

Talking is a superpower. I’m always in awe of people who can strike up a conversation and easily bond with others within the span of a few minutes, being socially awkward myself. But like any other skill, it’s something you can learn and improve at.

These 11 psychological tricks can help you can manage conversations a little more easily, especially when you’re out of practice.

Zulie Rane is a reader and a writer who believes in the power to change the world through the written word. You can find her writing on, posting selfies and art on Instagram at @zulierane and tweeting bad puns on Twitter at @zulierane.

Image courtesy of cottonbro.