she writes.

"If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” - Toni Morrison

Staying Still to Break a Pattern

This has been my pattern over the last five or six years: get a new job, move, move again, get a new job. And although some people would say this is normal (expected, even recommended), it didn’t feel normal. It felt like I was running from something.

When I thought about “WHY?!”, the answer wasn’t clear for a long time.

All I knew was that I felt like this:

Pinky can translate feelings for me.

In trying to Iyanla-myself, I thought maybe it was a little bit of believing I didn’t deserve stability. And a little being afraid of staying in one spot. Then some general not-knowing-how-to-live.

Each apartment I had looked like a hotel room. A room in one of those hotels where each room is designed differently, but a hotel room nonetheless.

There was no personal in the personality. To most people, it would be obvious to put up pictures of loved ones, but it was something I had never done until I saw a post by Gala Darling that caught my attention. I can’t find which exact post inspired me, but I probably misread her tagline to read ‘Adorn Yourself, Adorn Your Life’ and went from there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now I sit in my apartment surrounded by pictures of the family and friends who’ve made a difference in my life. I used Canva, Pixlr and free images I could find online to make posters that meant something to me. And I made an effort to really make the place mine.

uncomfortable

My move to my parents house was an angry one: I had just started a business and it was a struggle to get rent together. I felt like I failed and all the stuff I had accumulated in years past now needed to be lifted and lugged. Reminding me of where I had gone wrong.

I didn’t know where I would land next (‘cause it wasn’t gonna be my parents place for long) and so I just got rid of everything. Threw the unusable stuff in garbage bags, gathered the stuff I still kind of wanted but couldn’t carry anymore, left it at the local Value Village and kept the essentials.

Fast forward to one weekend before the Christmas holidays. By this time I had a new, empty apartment and was eager with inspiration to make it a home, so I went to my local Ikea. Little did I know this trip would stir up a frustration that had never brewed within me before.

IKEA_MAN

Queue the drama. It started when I realized I was surrounded by couples and families:

“You’re the only person here by yourself.”

“Why are you buying shit you already had?”

“Am I just going to have to get rid of this — or move it — in a couple months?”

“This is why I can’t move forward – I’m busy doing shit I’ve already done.”

That last realization was a tough one, but necessary. It forced me to look at my life and see the pattern for what it is. It forced me to acknowledge that I was afraid I’d never be able to move forward, that I’d be stuck in this perpetual pattern forever: single, constantly needing to find a job, searching for a new apartment or moving.

My first instinct was to destroy the pattern with fire.

But thinking about what it would mean to break the patterns made me even more uncomfortable. If my pattern is to quit my job and move every time things get mildly uncomfortable, what did I need to do to break that pattern?

Nothing. Or more specifically, “nothing”.

My only option here, I realized, was to straighten my back, plant my feet on the ground underneath and look at the world that’s open to me, instead of the one left behind. To look at what I’ve created instead of getting frustrated that the things I want in life aren’t here, in front of me.

When it came to where I lived, I had to plant my own roots. That’s why the pictures and memories I put up all over the place are so meaningful. They remind me that I create home where I am.

I like to think I don’t have a problem being honest with what works and what doesn’t. Especially when it comes to my job. Hell, every time I didn’t like something, I would go back to school so I had an excuse to leave… or just leave. And while I can honour myself for that honesty, the way I was going about making the changes I wanted needed to… change.

Work is a process of calibrating, testing out new things, trying different industries, learning new skills. But being honest with myself meant admitting that my ‘get up a quit’ reaction wasn’t working either.

The problem was the feral cat-energy I was bringing to the situation (see Pinky above).

Staying still gives me the chance to check that cat. Its meant being honest when I feel:

  • fears I’m going backwards
  • anxious about making a change
  • lost, like I can just go back on “what I did before” and re-do old patterns

Now I know that unless I’m making a decision from a place of cool cat, it’s not the right one.

I love talking about this kind of stuff, so if you found this interesting or useful, please comment and / or share! Or tweet me. We’ll probably get into some kind of discussion about it ;).

Should you use “SUBSCRIBE! SUBSCRIBE! SUBSCRIBE!” pop-ups on your blog?

Is it me? Or is everyone using those “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-ups on their blog?

You know the ones: you land on a blog page from Google and get ready to leave because it’s not what you’re looking for, but you get a subscribe pop-up? Or {worse.} you’ve just started reading the post and as soon as it might get interesting, you’re asked to SUBSCRIBE now for EXCLUSIVE OFFERS!?

Over the last couple years these pop-ups have exploded onlinealmost everyone said “they work!”. But in internet-years, a “few” is about 6.5 to 8 actual years, so do those “exit-intent”, pattern-interrupting pop-ups still work?

And maybe the better question is: do they work for everyone?

What we’ve got now, I think, is opt-in overload. From what I see, blogs have the opt-in pop-up set and whoever is managing doesn’t care / hasn’t looked at whether or not those pop-ups still work.

And then there’s the end-user. The one person who all this is for. They’re not the same as they were a year ago. They’re an internet-teenager: short attention span, moody, have a lot to say and so *over* those annoying pop-ups. But the pop-ups are now part of being on the internet so they’re automatically ignored.

subscribe

If I’m like most subscribers, I can assume the process of going from first-time visitor to subscriber happens something like this:

  1. Google something, like “oatmeal protein spirulina breakfast recipes work”.
  2. Sort through a bunch of results, find one that looks good.
  3. Ignore the “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up that asks for my email address.
  4. If it’s good: save the post in Evernote to try.
  5. If I have time: Go back to the search results to find another result that looks good.
  6. Some time later, do another google search like “what to do after binge eating tortilla chips seven layer dip”.
  7. Open a post from one of the blogs from my previous search.
  8. Ignore the “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up that asks for my email address.
  9. See another post from the blog that piques my interest, like “common twerking injuries”.
  10. And another, like “lazy lunches that last the whole work week”.
  11. Click around to find out more about the author.
  12. SUBSCRIBE!

Getting that first “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up, interrupting me while I’m trying to read the first blog post I’ve landed on kind of feels like having a first date ask me to help paint their apartment.

Or it’s like asking for someone’s number before you even know their name. Without any “how are you, today?” or “come here often?”, not even a “do you like stuff?”.

Too. Soon.

An email address (not the fake ones used to get access to an e-book, but one that’s checked daily) is valuable. Like a phone number was in the 90s.

At least Darryl (pron. “Darrell”) gives a compliment before asking for the number. That’s a lot more than some blogs I know.

So {opinion} before asking someone reading your blog for those precious letters that make up their email address, you need to prove they’ll get some value from your updates {/opinion}.

End-users are more sophisticated now when it comes to why and when they give up the email address. So it’s time to get more sophisticated when it comes to building a subscriber list.

It might work if you have an ecommerce site, where you can offer someone a special discount if they’ve been browsing around for a while, but does it make sense if your bounce rate is over 90%? Or if your analytics show you don’t have any repeat visitors? Or if you haven’t published anything new in the last month?

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I don’t use those pop-ups or ask people to subscribe because a) I don’t publish often enough, and b) I don’t think as a group, the posts I’ve published provide enough value to a specific audience (which c) I haven’t clearly defined yet).

We’re at the stage of content marketing now where we can target repeat visitors, and we can define what those visitors are likely to do before subscribing, meaning if they go to another post, or visit an about page, or use the site search for something else.

I’m not suggesting the world stop using these types of calls-to-action, but I am suggesting that they be used with more consideration. Too many blogs / sites out there are aggressively asking for a sign-up before a first-time site visitor even knows if a repeat page visit is worth it. And that can / should be changed.

Personally, I think I have a lot of work to do on this blog before I get to the point where someone is ready to give me their email address.

Until then, I’ll keep working on what I have to offer.

Five things to consider before asking people to subscribe, using pop-ups or anything else:
  1. What are you offering? Don’t ask anyone to subscribe unless you have something to offer. This means discounts, free resources, more in-depth content. If you’re offering more personality have lots of it, like Wendy Williams. If you’re a Gabby Bernstein / Marie Forleo type, you’ve got to have a lot of well-designed, put-together content.
  2. Who are the people that visit your site (ie. your potential and current subscribers)? Are they sophisticated users who have probably been asked to subscribe 30 times that day already? So what are the chances your pop-up is probably going to be closed like all the others?
  3. Who are the people that visit your site (part 2)? Are they most likely repeat visitors who have already subscribed?
  4. Where do the people who land on your site come from? And what do they do after landing? If you have a high bounce rate when you’re trying to get people to spend more time on your site, that pop-up that displays when users reach for the back button isn’t going to help your cause. Maybe work on the bounce rate first.
  5. How are your current calls-to-action doing? Are more people using the subscribe boxes or less? Try testing out the subscribe pop-ups to see how they work, but don’t forget to check out the results after a few months and optimize if needed!

Why do the successful people with easy lives talk so much?

First, let’s be clear. In no way am I trying to devalue someone’s experience, or make it seem like one person’s story is better than another for any reason. The point of this post is to say: we need to hear more stories from people who have been. through. shit. Good. Glad we got that out of the way.

When I hear a “success story”, my bullshit meter goes crazy. Mainly because I’ve come across so many stories that my eyes can’t take anymore serious rolling, so I have to filter.

Like a recent story I heard {by accident} on a podcast I won’t name.

The story pretty much went like this:

  • person went to law school on their parents’ hard-earned (I’m assuming) dime {begin eye-roll}.
  • decided before they left they wanted to be a writer.
  • parents basically said “ok, great!” {ohhhh… kay?}.
  • they had a sister who was already a writer.
  • sister helped person become a writer.
  • they write about “being happy” {eye-roll complete}.

No offense, don’t take this the wrong way, but fuck these success stories from people who don’t seem to have ever been through anything really tough.

I don’t want to hear shit from these successful people who’ve had parents that coddled and co-signed their lives from day one.

What about someone who had to make their own way through school and then realized they didn’t want to practice law, or medicine, or whatever?

Or a person who had to deal with a lot of really tough shit in their younger years, and were still able to overcome / find success?

Or someone whose life was going on, pretty happy (or maybe not), and then they get hit with some kind of disaster and they’re able to come out from it a better person?

That’s the story I want to hear.

real_shit

But there are so many of these stories floating around from those *other* people who’ve basically been set up for success from a young age. It sends the wrong message.

For a while, I started to think that the ones like me, who have really struggled, we don’t get to be successful.

And then shit gets even more real when you look at those people who are talking, and you realize none of them are like you in some very specific ways: they’re all men, or they’re all white, or they’re all {enter other circumstance here}.

That sends another, very dangerous message.

There’s something about those people. The successful ones who’ve had nice, happy lives. They have a confidence that has never been challenged. I think if you’ve dealt with abuse of any kind, you sort of learn to shut yourself down.

The last thing you want to do is stand up and start sharing your story or talking to people. At least, this is how I see it.

If you’ve lived with someone who’s abusive, getting up and talking could get you hurt. So you’re more likely to live small.

Then if you have lived past it, got away, overcome, and had some success in your life, it might not occur to you that other people want to hear your story. That other people can draw strength from your strength, confidence from your confidence, learn from your lessons.

In my eye, the world is a scary place and I’m not sure if there’s someone else out there like the person I got away from. So if I get up and start sharing my story, my fear is that person will show up in my life again.

perfect (2)

I started listening to Unmistakable Creative a couple weeks ago. It was by pure accident. I had subscribed, but never listened until I saw the title “How to Live Well and Die Well with Greg Hartle – Part 2“.

It shook my world. I cried, downloaded both episodes on two different computers, put it on my iPod so I could listen to it anytime, played, paused, took notes, googled what it meant to find the ‘temporary structures’ Greg talked about, shared it with anyone I thought would be interested.

It was exactly the type of story I was looking for. So I spent the rest of the weekend stalking Greg Hartle to find out everything I could about him and his story.

Even though in the podcast he said he wasn’t in the public eye anymore because of health issues, I figured I could find more from him. More about his experience, more about his journey, just more.

I’m not just looking for more from Greg Hartle, I’m looking for more of these stories. And the search is what motivated me to write this post.

We need to hear more from people who have actually been through tough shit.

For Part 1 and 2 of Greg Hartle’s interview with Srini Rao on The Unmistakable Creative podcast, click the images below.

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Things I Wish I Could Get For Kids.

I have a hard time around kids’ birthdays. There are things I would like to give them, but can’t because they’re not sold in stores. I’d probably have to go to some magical school for this, like Hogwarts or something, but I’d be willing to make the trip.

A strong sense of who they are.

This I think kids have naturally, but I’d want to give them whatever they need to keep that freedom as they get older.

A divorce {for their parents}.

I’m not one who believes you stay together “for the kids”, or for religion, or for family. Two people stay together because they want to and are committed to each other. Nothing else. And if two people are together and they’re creating an unhappy environment for their kids, a divorce or separation might be just what those kids need.

Knowing that everything will be okay.

This one’s for kids who are going through something tough and maybe need a little encouragement.

The ability to trust their instinct.

Another thing that kids seem to have without any trouble. But for those kids who are a little less confident, or something to keep as they get older.

Encouragement to explore everything, all the time.

For this one, imagine the world without it’s made up rules about what you can and can’t do because of your age, weight, where you live, race, how much money you have, where you go to school, where you work, etc. If I could, I would give a kid the power to explore whatever they want without worrying about all the made up shit.

A mind cleaner.

For use after being bullied, watching Disney movies or old cartoons, generally watching tv, etc. Something that would clean the mind of whatever subconscious messages that could potentially sink in.

How To Run {From Life}

It started with Colour Coding. A blog post I wrote but didn’t tell anyone about. It continued with the Sandra Bland post from last week. And now this.

If you’ve looked at the blog posts I’ve written recently, you might notice that before ‘Colour Coding’, I don’t talk about personal shit at all.

At that time, I didn’t have a section of my website dedicated to writing prompts either.

What’s happening is I’m cleaning out the bullshit. Yes, it’s showing up on my site and no, I’m not going to wipe out all the stuff I did before just so it “looks clean”. It’s happening and I care not about how ‘clean’ it looks.

What this mess looks like in real life.

Last year, I quit my job and went off to learn how to build websites (hence, what you’re looking at). I did it because I was working in the PR industry and I thought it was moving too slowly.

Or at least, that’s what I told myself. It’s a good answer, the perfect kind of answer someone looking to hire me might want to hear. It says things about me that a potential employer might like. But it’s not the truth.

I quit my job because it was another way to run from whatever anxiety I had about work, and being laid off or fired. Anxiety I had about not having control over losing my way to pay for rent and food.

Then I learned to build websites because I saw it was a skill I could make money with until I had the courage to do what I really want to do.

This.

Maybe it’s a result of getting older, but I’ve come to realize that this is how I run. Different people do it in different ways. Like doing too much of any one of the following:

drinking,

eating,

turning up the volume,

not calling,

not answering calls,

texting,

changing topics,

changing channels,

changing seats.

Say what you will about my generation; I wonder for how many of us is that excuse a coverup? I run (ran? we’ll see) from my fears by changing careers.

Not saying I don’t like the job I have now, because I do.

Not saying I don’t like knowing how to make a website (which is a skill that’s fading as fast as I can type this post), because I do.

And not saying the PR industry isn’t moving too slow, which I believe it is but that’s another post.

It's in the act of having to do things that you don't want to that you learn something about moving past the self. Past the ego. - bell hooks

It’s just that this stuff just circles — doesn’t quite hit — the bullseye of what I’m about: writing.

And I avoided it for so long because I thought it was impossible to get paid to sit down and string words together. It didn’t seem like a valuable skill that people would pay for.

Then after getting that excuse out of the way, the reason I didn’t pursue a career as a writer shows up. I didn’t think I was good enough to do it. I wasn’t coddled as a child, didn’t have people encouraging me to do it, didn’t have the connections and mentors who would help me figure it out .

So I avoided it out of some self-imposed sense of obligation I had to punish myself for being unworthy. Somewhere (probably in university – thanks, York!) I unconsciously made the decision to devote myself to the torture of constantly finding work, getting into financial trouble, and doing jobs because I “needed to” so that I could pay the bills and avoid pursuing a career as a writer.

Besides, it would take too long. There would be no way that I could just start writing at the beginning of the month and continue writing so that by the end of it, I would get some paycheque that would cover rent.

This led me to wonder: do people have a limit on the number of times they will run around the bullseye? And what does it look like when you stop running around what you want to do and just go for what you want to do?

random inspirational image that tells you "don't do it for the money"."

Tired of hearing that line from rich people? Yea, me too.

I had to ask myself if I would still write even if I had to work doing things that aren’t writing for the rest of my life. Imagined different scenarios made up of things I could control – like getting published, promoting my work, etc. If I could do all that but not make enough money to pay rent or bills or buy food, would I still do it?

If you could teach people to work out and live healthier for free, would you do it?

If you could sing at local events or retirement homes, would you do it for free?

If you could offer people free help for their computers and phones, would you do it?

You get the idea.

Writing is it for me.

You're in the perfect place.

The only way I could stop running was to take money — and the desperation — out of what I was doing. Constantly needing money and worrying about debt and everything else was fucking with my mind. I needed to get to a point where I was just not willing to do that anymore.

Then I saw the beauty of being in a place that didn’t seem like it was exactly aligned to the life I wanted to live: I have a way to make money, which allows me to pursue what I really want to do. So I’m not worrying about whether or not my writing will pay me enough to cover expenses, I can really be free and just do what I want!

Here’s the ironic thing though. In tapping into what I really want to do, it’s made me more passionate about my day job.

Right now, my purpose or mission is to help others heal by helping them realize that they are not alone. This might change, but right now, it’s what I’m going for.

And even though my current job doesn’t really allow me to do this, it does help me to tap into what it feels like to help people. That is what I’m going for: helping people. And I don’t think it makes a difference if I’m helping someone deal with psychological trauma that stems from childhood abuse, or figure out how to style blog posts with CSS.

Resources

Stuff I’ve found that has helped me stop running.