I was on a call with my wellness coach & he asked how I had been doing. I shared my week and how I was feeling in all of it. I had a lot going on – all good things.
When he reflected my own words back to me, I noticed he said “busy” and “have to” a few times. I stopped him and asked if I had really said those things. Yep.
I had NO memory of saying them, yet they were right there popping out of my mouth. Words I’ve been working to remove from my vocabulary.
What’s funny is that a few days later, my husband would tell me how amazed he was at how spot-on my memory of conversations can be – sometimes word-for-word.
Years ago, I was hanging out with high-level entrepreneurs at a Maverick event. Dr. Steve, a fascinating healer, asked me about my speaking retreat. I shared about how I loved holding the space for my Rockstars to show up, yet when I was done, my energy was spent. It felt wonderful to be able to do this for them, I just wished I was stronger.
He looked at my directly and said “Your words have meaning. What if you CREATED the space for them and allowed them to HOLD the space for themselves? It might not be so tiring.”
That one conversation showed me how much power I have in my words and the meaning I give them. By changing “hold” to “create” and truly doing that work to also change my actions with it, I’d be able to gift my Rockstars something special.
It’s been years since Dr. Steve shared this with me and I’ve learned how to be much more intentional with my words – and I’ve also learned that changing our way of thinking and speaking takes time. (Oh, and I’m human so I can be awfully stubborn when it comes to keeping some of my learned behaviors.)
Back to my original conversation.
When I realized I had said “I have to” and that I was busy, I found myself looking at my calendar. I remembered heading into my Monday with a sense of dread. It had been a weekend where everything I had been doing the last few weeks (being VERY busy) came to a crashing halt.
I started that Monday off with a full day of meetings and even looked to see if any of them could be moved. I determined that it wasn’t possible. They were ALL essential meetings. I HAD to do them. Until half of them rescheduled. Hrm…
I then looked at the other days and wondered how I could have done them differently. Could I have rescheduled or moved some meetings around? Could I have given myself some more time to prepare in between? Could I have consolidated some of them? Yes – all of that. Yet…
The answer was VERY different than I thought.
A few months ago, I hired another kind of coach. A business coach who focuses on mindset.
I hired her because she terrifies me.
When she called me last August and asked me how I was making ends meet during the pandemic as a speaker, I was honest – not well. She also asked me if I was making any money. I didn’t love the question, but that’s because I wasn’t. Her impeccable timing was right in the middle of realizing that my business income was not coming back – no matter what I tried.
When 2021 started, it felt like a fresh new year. And yet, I still had no idea how I was going to make this business work. I did what I do every year – I pulled on my big girl panties and worked my hiney off. Because that’s how entrepreneurs do it best – they hustle.
When she called me again in January and asked me if I was interested in some help, I was all ears. I was tired and couldn’t find the answer on my own. So I started working with her.
Within just a few weeks, I was able to retool my whole business model and focus on my ONE THING. I was loving the work and thrilled to finally be focusing on what I really wanted to do.
The only problem was that I was still in a solid place of overwhelm, busy and “have to.” Yes, I was clearing things out, but that also meant I was adding more to my plate.
We’ve all heard people say “work smart, not hard.” Yet few can give us specific tools for doing that. And most people don’t go deep enough into why we’re working so hard in the first place.
As I got on my call with her to go through my next steps, I shared my overwhelm. My “busy.” And instead of diving into a new task list, she helped me pinpoint exactly why this was happening.
My internal words have deeper meaning than even the words I had been speaking. And my internal voice was being a mean girl.
My internal mean girl was saying things like: “You’ll never succeed, so what’s the point?” “Work harder!” “Stop being a slacker!” “Why can’t you do things the right way?!” “You’re going to get in trouble for this.” “No one likes you anyway.”
You see, I’m a perfectionist. It doesn’t matter which personality test or astrological sign or even the numbers assigned to my life, it focuses on the fact that I love order and for everything to stay in order. And my internal mean girl is WAY more of a perfectionist than I am.
The part that always gets me the most: I am WAY harder on myself than anyone else. I expect much much more from Melanie than she realizes.
What’s even better? I have been a brand strategist my entire career – and this perfectionism has helped me excel at my job. Until my internal mean girl shows up and reminds me that I’ll never be good enough.
Words hold meaning – deep-rooted meaning. I’ve believed my whole life that this is just how I am. I’m a perfectionist and I expect that everything has to be done perfectly or I’ll get in trouble.
Sure, nature vs. nurture and all that – yet WE GET TO CHOOSE WHO WE ARE.
Me saying I’m a perfectionist and then being validated in every possible way was causing me to hold that as the truth.
The question my business coach asked that day was: “What if you didn’t have to make yourself wrong anymore?”
Which also translates to: What if I let go of having to be perfect?
After our conversation, I stepped into a higher sense of being and my next meetings became more ME – less perfect, less hard – more loving, more exactly what they were supposed to be. And I found great reward in those calls. Clients were saying YES!
Instead of being busy, I was feeling abundant.
Instead of “have to,” I GET to.
Instead of being a perfectionist, I get to do what feels good.
Now I sit here not hustling, but finding spaciousness. I’ve been off social media for almost a week and it’s amazing how much extra time I have – to think, to breathe, to walk, to read, to learn, to just be. I’ve “had to” post almost daily for years, yet not wondering what to post is actually allowing me to find more words to say.
I’m sure I’ll write more on my social media hiatus later, but for now – I want you to notice the words you’re saying this week.
The words you might not even know you’re saying.
The words you’re thinking about what you’re doing.
The words you say consistently to others.
The words you say consistently to yourself.
The words you believe about yourself.
Your words are your life. What kind of life are you building?
“That story with all the highs and lows – what seems so ordinary – what seems like nothing to you – that’s your power.” – Michelle Obama
My husband was watching Michelle Obama’s documentary Becoming last night. I walked in the bedroom after my massage and he said, “I know you’re the one who gets weepy during movies, but I keep tearing up. This is so good!”
He rewound it to a part he wanted me to watch. Girls from a high school were chosen to have a discussion with Michelle. Many of them had asked “why me?”. One girl said she didn’t have high SAT scores and wasn’t in all the clubs like the other senior girls. She was happy to just get to school and go to one club after school before she went to work.
When Michelle asked her why she had to work, she shared how her dad was in an accident and it would make him happy to know she was helping. This senior was helping support her three little brothers because her family needed food on the table.
Michelle’s response: “And she wonders why she’s here. That story with all the highs and lows – what seems so ordinary – what seems like nothing to you – that’s your power.”
Isn’t it interesting how we judge our own stories when others are captivated by them?
This morning I got up at 5:15am because something was rattling around in my brain asking for me to let it out. (Spoiler alert: it was this blog post.) So, I walked into the kitchen and started the water for coffee. My husband and I have had every coffee maker humans could have since we got together. French press, Keurig, Nespresso, Breville, and now pour-over coffee. We still own most of them but they’ve either been shipped back to the wrong place or are in storage.
This newest way of making coffee has become a meditation each morning. It’s not a bleary-eyed ‘plug in and start’ kind of deal. I have to be intentional. I grind the beans, fill the kettle with filtered water, then slowly pour the hot water over the coffee grounds so it drips into the glass carafe. Although I wish it was quick and easy, it’s a soothing way to start the day.
As I started pouring today, I downloaded TikTok. It’s official – I have shared my first one (username: melaniespringspeaker)! Sure, it took me 30 minutes to make the coffee and the video, but I did it. And even went back into the archives of my brain to come up with TLC’s Diggin’ On You for the tune. (Oh, those high school vibes.)
This little video reel is part of my everyday story. It’s a little glimpse into my morning routine. And it’s not going to change anyone’s life. If I really look at it, there’s honestly no real reason to share it. It just felt so peaceful to me to pour the water over the coffee.
AND YET – there’s always someone who reaches out later and reminds me that the little glimpses into my humanity are what make them feel connected to me. My morning hair. My coffee mug. My face sans makeup. Where I’m sitting. What I’m working on. The mundane. The everyday.
As I sit here drinking this everyday delicious coffee, I thank my stars that I can wake up and make my coffee and decide how my day will go. I decide because I work for myself. And have been for more than half my career now.
You see, 12 years ago my boss asked me what I would do if he couldn’t pay me anymore. “I’d work for myself” was my answer. He gave me 30 days and on April 1, 2009, I started this entrepreneurial adventure. The adventure that would become a branding agency, land me in Entrepreneur Magazine, and then on stages around the world.
That’s my everyday entrepreneurial story – a simple question and answer that changed the course of my life and my career. I’ve had to learn more about myself as a person, as a leader, as a boss, and as a woman because of this journey (oof, SO much learning & growing.) I could easily go back and start judging myself for all of it (and I have before), yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Let me say that again a different way – MY STORY IS MY POWER!
If I didn’t share my ups and downs with you in my posts, on social media, and in my talks, you wouldn’t feel connected to me. If I only shared the highlight reel – the best parts – you would look at my life and think “wow, she’s got her shit together – why would I bother sharing my story with her?”
It’s in MY story that you might find yours.
My family moved 17 times before I was 11 (and no, we’re not military.) I went to 3 colleges in 4 years to get my degree by 21. I got married at 23 & divorced by 24, bought a house at 25 and lost it when the market crashed when I was 28, lost my job and started my business when I was 28, quit my branding agency when I was 36 to start a full-time speaking career while accidentally starting a speaker training program, then manifested meeting my husband just before 37 living in 4 different states in under 4 years of being together.
That’s the SUPER quick and dirty – but you get my point.
My story is not epic. There’s lots of interesting things that have happened along the way, but I’m a healthy human being with all my limbs who has had my fair share of ups and downs. That’s it. I’ve been through really rough patches and am still standing here to tell you about them. I consider that a win.
My story is my power. The everyday mundane parts of it are more powerful than any epic stuff that could have happened. Because that’s where we connect as humans.
Over the last 4 years, I’ve hosted a retreat called SPEAK With Confidence. It’s an event where humans get together and learn how to give a talk on a stage. It’s a safe space to share their stories without judgment. To get feedback and support as they become more confident with sharing themselves with others.
The biggest challenge I’ve seen my Rockstars (that’s what we call our speakers) face is their own self-judgment. The judgment of their stories or how they tell them. The judgment of their ticks – how they move their hands, what they say, how they fill pauses when they can’t think of what to say. The judgment of how they are not enough or their stories aren’t epic enough.
We worry that others will judge us, yet we’re the most judge-y of ourselves.
In May of 2021, I’m hosting our very last SPEAK With Confidence Retreat. (Yes, this is the official announcement – so if you’ve ever wanted to attend, this is your sign.)
Since starting this retreat, I’ve heard stories that range from the most epic to the most mundane. I’ve seen powerful people crumble when they talk about their pain. I’ve seen the quietest people become the loudest. I’ve watched people lie to themselves on stage – and then find their own deeper truth. I’ve witnessed healing and many, many tears. I’ve had people go home and blow up their whole lives. I’ve seen self-doubt and judgment leave because of the support of other humans. And I’ve seen some of the deepest bonds created between strangers.
My biggest takeaway from all of it? The everyday stories are the most powerful. They are what connect us.
My story is my power.
Your story is YOUR power.
Sure, we worry what others will think of us when we are sharing. Or what happens if we trip walking up on stage. Or what we’ll do if we forget what we practiced. Yet we can go back to remembering that our story is our power and someone needs to hear what we have to say.
YOU are the biggest reason you’re not sharing your story.
YOU are the most judgmental of yourself and your story.
YOU are the only thing holding you back from making an impact.
You don’t have to have an epic story to change the world. Your everyday story is your power.
Don’t wait for the question that could change everything. Choose to share your everyday.
“The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.” — James E. Faust
If I asked you right now to tell me a story about your mom, I’m going to guess that you could give me at least five minutes of content. At least.
Whether your mother is your favorite person or the hardest relationship you’ve ever had. Whether you’ve never known her or she has passed away. No matter if she is your adopted mom or step mom or bonus mom or extra mom. Whether she remembers the day you were born or she can’t remember your name anymore. There is a human woman in your life who has been a mother to you – and you could tell me about her.
You might smile when you start. Your face may go dark and you might shift in your chair. Or you might laugh out loud and launch into a memory.
If I asked you for ANY story about her – whichever mom you choose, where would you start?
Maybe with the conversation you had the other day, or the blow-out fight you had when you were 15, or maybe even that time she taught you how to shave your armpits (awkward!). Maybe your memories of her perfume on Sundays or how she made you feel on that one special birthday. Maybe you have tears in your eyes as you share about her final days.
We all have a story about our mom – and most of those are everyday stories. They would make us laugh or cry – but we’d all be able to relate in some way.
If you shared a story about your mom, it would make me think of a story about mine. And vice versa.
I was recently on the About Your Mother podcast. Jennifer Griffith, the host of the show, chose me to share my mother with her listeners is because I shared about my mom in a blog post that made everyone want to hear our story. When we started chatting, I figured we’d just talk about my relationship with her – but the more we talked, the more she asked about the woman I had become, where I got my confidence, and how I live my life now. We talked about the everyday stuff of being a woman.
The story I share about my relationship with my mom is also my story. It’s my story to tell because it’s from my perspective. Yet I’m also thinking about the gratitude I have for who I have become when I share it – not in spite of her, but because of her and our relationship. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I am the woman I am today because of my mom.
When Jennifer closed up the podcast, I thanked her for having me on – and then didn’t think of it again – until I got the graphics. Until I read the show notes.
I don’t think of myself as a very quotable person. I’ve borrowed other people’s quotes for years – and even made stickers of them. I’ve reworked some phrases into my own, but they always start out as someone else’s. I seem witty, but I’m mostly just good at picking up the things other people say and twisting them into something witty. It’s something I learned from my mom.
When I saw the graphics & show notes for the podcast episode, I noticed that Jennifer picked up some quotes from our conversation – MY words.
“Confidence comes from choosing to be confident.” “It’s the everyday stories that are most important.”
“Life isn’t about balance, it’s about integration.” “The constant reminder to not apologize unless you’re actually sorry for something. If you did something terrible, please say you’re sorry. Otherwise, don’t apologize.”
I said those things – not because they’re witty or epic or mind-blowing. Because they are my everyday stuff. Because they’re things we all need to hear. They’re reminders that we’re all walking a path and growing.
Same goes for sharing our stories. They don’t have to be epic or earth-shattering – they can be everyday. Those can be the ones we need to hear. The ones that connect.
When I was sharing about my relationship with my mom, I wasn’t doing it to get back at her. I wasn’t doing it to make her look bad. And I definitely wasn’t doing it to blame her. I was sharing because I know our story isn’t the only one like it. Our story is an everyday story about an independent mother and her strong-willed daughter.
I share it because someone reading this post has a mother like mine or a daughter like me. I share it because we’re not the only ones with this story.
No matter how many times I share our story – about how we didn’t get along most of my life (there were some seriously epic fights), then ended up not talking for a few years in my early 30’s, only to reconcile and do the work to build a strong relationship – I always hear: “so, there’s hope for me & my daughter?” or “there’s hope for me & my mother?”
YES! She even finally quit coloring her hair and we look like sisters now.
And it doesn’t take an epic story or all the gory details to give others hope. It takes being real – and being willing to share the story of your mother to connect with others. It’s proving to others that they’re not alone in their relationship with their mom or their daughter.
Your everyday stories matter. Your everyday words matter. Your everyday quotes matter. YOU matter.
So, what’s the story of your mom?
Choose one & share a little part of your story. Try it right now before you go off and do something else. You can share it here in the comments below, in a blog post on your own site, or on social media. (And if you do put it out there, tag me in it! I want to read it.)
The everyday story of your relationship with your mom will spark something in someone else. And it could give them what they’ve been searching for.
Are you willing to give someone else hope? It’s not about you anyway. What do you have to lose?
“Life is a concept, like the “universe”, that expands as soon as we reach what we think is its edge.” – Kamand Kojouri
Have you ever played the game, Two Truths & A Lie? It’s a game where you share three things about yourself – two are true and one is a lie. Those listening have to guess which one is the lie.
Two Truths & A Lie is a get-to-know-you game that allows people to learn more about your fun side. You’re supposed to share things that don’t seem like you – or things that seem off-the-wall. When you share, you’re supposed to make it hard for people to guess your lie.
I was chatting with my mom recently about this game and she laughed. She told me that I would be a hard person to guess about because I’d done so many epic things.
I looked at her sideways, not being able to think of one, and asked, “like what?”
That’s when she gave me the list:
I’m scared of heights, yet I still jumped out of an airplane
I have given keynotes on three continents
I went on a tour of the West Wing of the White House
I drove 7000 miles in three weeks around the US by myself
I have a picture of me with my arm around President Obama (yes, in real life)
I’ve been caught by a trapeze artist while swinging from a flying trapeze (while still being afraid of heights)
I’ve given a talk in Times Square
I lived in my office & showered at the gym by choice for 18 months
The ballgown I wore at Ball On The Mall is now owned & worn by a bearded drag queen
I’ve moved more than 40 times in my lifetime (16 before I was 8)
I started my business because my boss asked me what I would do if he couldn’t pay me anymore
I’m afraid of the water, yet I’ve surfed in Bali & Costa Rica
I was the receptionist for West Marine HQ in Watsonville, CA (it was a temp job)
I bought a house so my dog could have a back yard
I got the first entrepreneurial scholarship at my college
I eloped at Lake Tahoe the first time I got married
I ran the real estate section of a newspaper in Santa Cruz
I ran a race up a volcano in Hawaii (Ragnar!)
I traveled solo for three weeks through Scandinavia with no itinerary
I quit my successful business to do what I loved instead
I’ve gotten tattoos in 4 different countries
…and a whole bunch of other things I’ve since forgotten.
Every one of those is true. (I guess I’ll have to come up with a lie that I can then turn into another truth.)
After hearing that list, I have to say that it’s fascinating to see my life through other people’s eyes. Sure, many people have done more, bigger, crazier things – but even my mom thinks I’ve had a pretty amazing life. And I have! Especially since I know how much I’ve had to move through fear to do most of these things. I’ve had to find my new edge over and over.
You’re probably thinking that this is just how I’m built. But it’s REALLY not.
I’m built of everyday stories. The epic stuff I’ve done actually comes out of the everyday stuff I’m afraid of.
You may not know this about me, but I’ve been afraid or uninterested in most things my whole life for various reasons. Here are some other things that are also true about me:
I hated getting dirty as a kid, so I just kept myself clean (my mom loved that)
I (still) hate touching creepy things, so I don’t fish, touch worms or frogs, and hate seeing pictures of snakes
I never wanted kids, so when I got divorced the first time, I stayed unmarried for more than 15 years
I didn’t like working for other people, so I started my own business
I had asthmatic bronchitis my whole childhood, so I was afraid to work out in any way until I was 26
I’m terrified of heights, the water, and getting into car accidents
I imagine dying at least once a day (no, I’m not being morbid, I just have a wild imagination)
I didn’t really like people, so I learned how to enjoy time with myself
I didn’t like the outdoors most of my life, so I stayed in my room as much as possible
I am my dog’s comfort animal as much as he is mine
I was very much an introvert my whole life, so I always had a side hustle to keep me busy after work
I don’t like learning public transportation routes, so I tend to walk every city I’ve ever visited
I’ve tripped & fallen so many times running that I finally stopped running altogether
I judge myself hard when I’m in a workout class or doing yoga next to other people so I don’t do classes
I hate moving, despite having moved more than 40 times
It takes a LOT for me to want to push my edge. But when I finally do push it, I go all the way. No holds barred.
Knowing what I don’t like or what scares me or even what makes me uncomfortable is typically where I find my edge. It helps me understand myself better – and gives me the room to go bigger. And then I’m always amazed at what my new edge looks like.
The same edge goes for our stories.
During every interview, podcast, and conversation I have about story, I’m inevitably asked, “What’s one thing someone can do to get over the fear of sharing their story?”
My answer: Share one story – one tiny little story – with one person.
When you share one story, you open yourself up to sharing another story. That first story can be a simple, non-vulnerable story. And it can be told to a total stranger sitting next to you (ok, 6′ away from you) at a coffee shop. Here are some ideas of things to share:
your favorite coffee order
why you enjoy that coffee shop
your most recent trip
the contents of the book you’re reading
a project you’re working on
the last conversation you had
the last decision you made
why you bought your car
why you started your business
And then ask them to share in return: “What about you/yours?” – and listen intently to their answer without trying to come up with another story. (It’s amazing how much we can learn about our own stories from truly listening to others.)
The biggest reason it’s hard for people to share their own stories is the same reason it’s hard for people to come up with two truths and a lie. We think we have to come up with epic stuff in order for people to get something from our stories – when in reality, the everyday stuff is the most compelling AND engaging.
With two truths and a lie, if I told three everyday things about me, it would be hard to guess. Try it. – I think toilet paper should be pulled from the top. – I don’t like garlic. – I can’t wear flip flops.
Answer: I love garlic, so that’s the lie.
That’s tougher than if I told you two epic things from the list above with another epic thing as a lie.
Now think about your story – your everyday story.
When you share an everyday story that relates to someone else’s story, you connect yourself to them. They feel like they know you better – because they don’t need to be impressed by your story to learn about you. And your story will make them think of their own story to share in return.
Everyday stories are most important because every one of us has everyday stories. It’s not a competition about who has the most epic stories. Your everyday story will inevitably open the door for their story to come out.
It took me a long time to share everyday stories AND epic stories. It took one step at a time for me to get to the point that I could write a bulleted list of things I am afraid of or uninterested in. The epic stuff I’ve done is easy – almost forgettable. The everyday stories – the relatable ones – are the ones we remember the most.
YOUR TURN: Start with one simple story that allows you to take the leap into sharing.
Then share another.
Get more and more comfortable sharing your stories until you find your new edge.
Then keep going.
It takes time to get super vulnerable with our stories. And there’s no limit to how deep and vulnerable you can go, although there are boundaries (but that’s for another time.)
Take ONE step. Out of fear, out of the airplane, into the water, or off the platform of a flying trapeze. Take ONE step. With one everyday story. One little teeny tiny story that connects you to another human being.
Try it here. Take that first step and tell me a little everyday story in the comments below! Or go more public on my social media post: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve been promising yourself you’ll write “that story.”
The story that shows up in your brain space at 3am – waking you to tell you it’s time to write it.
The story that gives you a twinge of jealousy when you watch someone else sharing their own story and crushing it.
The story that gives you all of the anxiety because sharing it would mean you were vulnerable.
The story that gives you imposter syndrome and you’re worried you might cry when you share it.
The story that makes you feel like you could be judged because no one else has ever been through something like it.
The story that will help others finally heal/learn/grow/be better – and yet… it’s stuck inside you.
What if I told you that writing “that story” doesn’t have to be that hard? That 90 days from today, it would be written and shared with the world?
Well, it doesn’t – it doesn’t have to be that hard – AND it will be ready. IF you take the first step.
Hi! In case you don’t know me – I am Melanie Spring. I’m an international keynote speaker and speaker trainer – and it’s my job to amplify YOUR voice. As much as I love speaking from stage, my real purpose is to help humans tell their own stories.
I have this fancy gift of seeing through the bullshit into someone who has an itch to tell their story. To see when they’re ready to write their own story down and share it with others. To see when something is stopping them from sharing it.
The biggest problem with that itch? It can come with a twitch. A twitch that says things like:
“But what if no one cares?”
“What if no one likes it?”
“What if it doesn’t matter?”
“What if my story is boring?”
“What if my story doesn’t resonate?”
“What if I cry when I share it?”
“What if people laugh at me?”
Let me make something really clear – YOUR STORY MATTERS. Period.
Now that I’ve said that – I also want to say: Maybe you don’t think you have “a talk” inside of you. That’s ok! Or maybe you have NO idea which stories of yours really matter. That’s ok, too. You DO have a story. And that’s the most important part.
OK, WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP!?
Make friends with your story.
WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
That means you have to stop being so damn judgmental about your story.
I’M NOT JUDGMENTAL!
Maybe – maybe not. But most people are – which is why they don’t share their story.
Let me explain it this way: When you make friends with another human being, you don’t start with “I don’t like you” or “I don’t trust you”, you are start with “ooh, you’re cool!” or “You’re a lot like me.” You don’t begin a friendship with judgment or frustration or even anger – you start with a conversation. You start from a simple place of love – or, at the very least, LIKE. You want them to like you, you want to like them. You want the best for them right away.
What if you were that way with your story? What if you started from a place of love – or, at the very least, LIKE for your story? WHAT IF you made friends with your story and asked it questions and really listened to the answers?
When I first launched the SPEAK With Confidence 90-Day Challenge, I told everyone they could write a talk in 90 days. And a lot of them did. But there is always this group of “others” who sit in Chapter 1. The chapter that helps them find all of their stories.
They sit in Chapter 1, complain about it, cry about it, learn from it, go deeper with it, get frustrated with it, and eventually come back for another round of the Challenge to get into Chapters 2-7. And for that group of others, Chapter 1 is exactly what they needed. They NEEDED to make friends with their story. They NEEDED to learn how to stop judging their story. They NEEDED to fall in love with their story. They NEEDED time with their story.
What would happen if you dug a little bit – and found out that your story really truly mattered? And then you wrote a talk about it? And then you gave that talk about it? And other people’s lives changed because you finally shared it? Well, THAT would prove that making friends with your story could make a difference in the world.
And then you’d prove me right.
Or you could try to prove me wrong – by making friends with your story and it not working out after all.
Either way – at least you tried. Right?
So… are you in?
Our next live 90-Day Challenge starts Wednesday, January 6:CLICK HERE to learn more about it
My dad would wake up way before the sun and make a pot of coffee. The burnt aroma wafting through the house. “The Best Part Of Waking Up” to him WAS the Folgers in his cup. The metal can popped open. The scooped out dried powder into the white filter.
He would sit in the light of the kitchen and read his Bible at 5am before he’d head out to the garage to work or to a neighbors to build a porch or to plow snow for extra cash so the local college professors and staff could get to work.
A little coffee mug sat on the counter next to a coffee pot that would be waiting for him when he got back.
He’d make it at 5pm sometimes after a nap. He worked hard and needed that coffee.
My mom would always make a face when she came downstairs in the morning and smelled the coffee. She was a late night person while my dad was an early morning person. She’d stay up to watch the weather at 11pm and my dad would be asleep by 8. He’d be up before the sun and she liked to sleep until 8am if she could.
It wasn’t until I was well out of the house that my mom started drinking coffee. I’m not even sure why she started. 20+ years of smelling my dad’s and somehow she decided it was time. He’d make a pot of Folgers and leave a little in the bottom for her. When she woke up, it was just enough to mix some sugar in and drink before she went to work. When they had a microwave (which was short-lived), she’d warm it up and make another face as she drank it.
If you were to ask me as a kid, coffee was gross. It smelled bad. It tasted bad. It did nothing good for you. I had no idea why anyone would drink coffee.
When I was a kid, I didn’t have a good relationship with sleep.
I was an insomniac from a young age and would stay up late making up stories, dreaming up big ideas, and reading. When I had my own room, I’d press my little metal desk lamp into a pillow so it would give me a sliver of light and not show under the door. (I burned the cover of more than one embroidered pillows reading at night.) When I did actually sleep, I’d have panic-inducing nightmares called night-terrors – so I kept myself from sleeping by keeping myself entertained.
I didn’t need caffeine – and I didn’t sleep. It’s like my brain was wired on. I never took naps and I didn’t get tired.
It wasn’t until I became a full-time entrepreneur that I was really introduced to coffee. About two years into my branding agency, one of my coworkers got me a caramel latte. The sugar, the frothy milk – it was so delicious. Starbucks sugar coffee was my gateway drug to real coffee.
The caffeine did nothing for me, but the coffee habit was in full motion. I loved getting a latte and sipping it while I worked.
Over time – just like my palate for wine – my coffee palate changed and became more refined.
When I was in Bali, I learned from a local roaster about roasting beans, about organic growing, and about the grinding your own beans. I learned how to love coffee. I learned the health benefits of coffee. I fell in love with local coffee shops – you would never find me anywhere near a Starbucks.
That was the same year three different healing professionals told me separately and without provocation that something happened to me when I was three to cause me not to sleep. I dismissed the first two because I truly believed I had been born an insomniac based on the stories my mom would tell me about never napping as a baby or toddler.
When the third healer asked me to ask my mom if something traumatic happened when I was three, I finally did.
At first, she pondered and said, “not that I can think of.” And then – “Well, you were in a car accident when you were three, but nothing happened to you.”
In 1983, we were in my dad’s 1950’s GMC pickup truck without seatbelts. A woman in a small yellow car turned in front of my dad and we T-boned her car. Our truck was fine – she and her car were not. I was in my mom’s arms when we hit the car – and although there wasn’t any physical evidence of trauma, my developing brain shifted.
It wasn’t until 35 years later that I would find out I’d been suffering from mid-brain trauma almost my whole life. It meant that my fight-or-flight response was turned on 80% of the time – which is the polar opposite of what it should be.
I was awake for the better part of 35 years. Of course I didn’t need coffee to wake up or stay awake. My brain was keeping me awake – letting me know to be on high alert all the time.
It wasn’t until I found the root cause and started working on my own healing that I was able to start sleeping. And along the way, my night terrors ended.
My husband is a professional sleeper. He can fall asleep in two minutes flat and stay asleep for 12 hours. He can sleep through an entire international flight if he puts his mind to it. We have very different sleeping schedules, but he caters to my sleeping needs since he can sleep anywhere.
After my husband and I got together, we became coffee snobs. He needs his coffee and I just love it. We got a coffee maker that grinds our beans fresh and makes espresso-based drinks. It’s a ritual now.
I am still working on healing my brain – and probably will be for the rest of my life – but I am also very aware of the stories we make up.
The stories about why we do and don’t like certain things. The stories about why we are the way we are. The stories of our traumas and our joy. We all have them, yet most of us have no idea where they come from – or even take the time to see how they fit into our lives. Or even if they do anymore.
I still don’t need coffee – I just really like it. I like to wake up before the sun, make my perfect cup of coffee, and turn on a lamp in the living room to write while my husband sleeps.
And we take our own coffee over to my dad’s house now. Yes, he still drinks Folgers from a can in a coffee maker that sounds like a really loud dishwasher. And yes, my mom still drinks the last of his coffee.
Think about your little everyday stories. The ones that make you who you are – and then ask yourself why those stories matter. Or why they don’t. Ask your family for stories – or even ask them what happened – or why things happened the way they did.
“Finding, acknowledging, and giving a voice to my stories has felt overwhelming, even suffocating at times. Two months later and I find myself s t i l l in chapter 1. I hope there’s no exact formula to this process because this particular formula seems a little crazy but here I am- processing and grateful.” – Londa Sherwood-Austin, Rockstar in SPEAK With Confidence
If you don’t ask, you won’t find out. And your story matters.
STORY PROMPT: What are your first memories of coffee?
(Share in the comments or tag me wherever you share your story.)