It’s 11pm on Friday night, and I’m terrified.
Tomorrow is the WANT anniversary party at Playlist Yoga. The perfect space, the perfect day, the perfect group of people. And even though I’ve co-hosted events and facilitated workshops and fun stuff like that in the past – this feels different.
It’s the first event that I’m going at solo.
One year ago, I made a decision that would – and I’m sure will continue to drastically – change my professional trajectory. I launched what I called my “purpose project,” because it felt like my purpose living out loud in the world.
When I started WANT, I had a gut inkling it was something the world needed at this exact moment in time. However, I still had that self-doubt taunting me every time I sat at my laptop or got asked “So, what do you do?” I hesitated to identify myself as a writer, I hesitated to identify myself as an activist, I hesitated to identify myself as someone who was able to spearhead true and lasting change.
Fast forward to one year later, and those voices still creep in. As I stood in front of a room packed with 30 women of all ages, passions, body types, and backgrounds, I found myself questioning my worthiness. Even after a year, the front-and-center role was not one I fully believed I was worthy of, even though in my heart I knew I was capable and more than comfortable. It was the negative self-talk loop of the past speaking: you can’t be capable and comfortable and worthy. You can’t take up energetic space and speak your heart. You’ve got to choose, Katie. You’re not worthy of it all.
But looking out at everyone gathered in that West Hollywood yoga studio on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and taking a deep breath in…I remembered that although I was standing in front and leading the call, it wasn’t about me. It never would be. The last year had become way more than that.
This first year of Women Against Negative Talk has taught me more about myself, the world, and our relationships to each other than I could have ever fathomed. And as I’ve said time and again, it’s because of you.
Here are my top five takeaways from Year One, on and off-line:
1.) You don’t need to know what your goal is, but you do need to know how you want to feel along the way. The one question I got over and over from family and friends was “What’s the ultimate goal of WANT? In the end, what is it you’re working towards?” Completely valid question…except for most of the people asking were looking for a tangible thing to hold onto. I want to ultimately be an online coach. I want to ultimately have a web series. I want to ultimately XYZ. The question of the “ultimate goal” was more about a thing than an effect.
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Thing is, in the first year of WANT, I didn’t want to define the endpoint before I knew what the journey even looked like. For me, knowing how I wanted WANT to affect others (and how I wanted to feel in the meantime) was the most important factor in its success. As long as I was on track with WANT’s mission and vision, I was open to whatever would come my way. How could I ever know what would be most effective in the long run if the short run hadn’t even begun yet? It’s one of the only times in my life I haven’t been tangible-goal oriented – and it’s one of the only times it still feels right. Strangely enough (or not?), things are happening I wouldn’t have even dreamed of one year ago. I’m rolling with it.
Just because you don’t know exactly what the end result will look like does not mean your idea is not valid. Quite the opposite, actually, Know how you want to feel, know how you want to affect others, then use that as your launching pad into the stratosphere.
2.) Feel the fear but do it anyway. In the first year of any business, shit comes up. When it comes up – and it WILL come up (including the personal/professional dilemma of whether it’s brand-appropriate to say “shit” without strategically placed asterisks) – the only thing that trumps that unexpected moment is how you deal with it.
The most powerful tool we’ve got is to feel the fear and do it anyway. The urge to criticize and critique ourselves will threaten to get in our way – but moving forward fearlessly through that urge is what counts, and what makes WANT WANT.
My own moving-forward-fearlessly challenge started early on. I consulted with a few friends pre-launch, sharing the ideas I’d had swirling around in my head and heart for so long. I was afraid to let them down. Feel the fear but do it anyway. I smacked a “Coming Soon” page up on the internet and urged people to get in on the action. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to launch on time. Feel the fear but do it anyway. I launched and then had a mild panic attack when I realized I might have jumped the gun too soon and didn’t know how I could possibly fill weeks and months and years on end with content. Feel the fear and DO IT ANYWAY. Two months into launching WANT, I received an email from the team at The Girls Lounge asking me to meet with them; a month later I was at SXSW speaking on a panel with women I’ve admired for years. Feel that fear. Do it anyway.
What I’ve realized is that it never stops. You never stop feeling the fear, it just morphs to fit your level of experience. Every single week, I get that tight grip in my chest as I’m hovering my mouse over the “Schedule Campaign” button in my newsletter host on Monday evening. I’ve done this for over 52 weeks now, and for years before that in various jobs and roles. It never doesn’t feel scary. But you know what DOES feel scary? The notion that one day, I might lose it all. The idea that one day, I might forget how to be vulnerable – nay, honest – or worse, I might become apathetic about what I’m meant to give. And keeping that fact in mind – that I’ve been given this moment to help make a difference, to help fight for something – is my greatest ally when it comes to feeling that fear but doing it anyway.
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3.) Stepping outside your box is an inside job. Years ago, I had an acting teacher pull me aside after class and tell me “You’re not an ingenue – you know that, right? You’re a leading lady. It might just take you a while to grow into it.”
If you’re familiar with stock characters, you already know that an ingenue is the endearingly innocent, wholesome, and oft naive character in plays, literature, movies and beyond.
Nothing wrong with that – it’s just never the role I identified with on a deep level.
It’s a role I wasn’t all that comfortable playing, yet because I looked and sounded the part, it was what I was told I should go after when auditioning. And if we’re being honest here, playing the ingenue – both onstage and off – was easy. Playing the ingenue was safe. I knew I could bet on success that way.
In reality, that was partially true: I could bet on success up to a certain point. Talking the talk? Sure. But walking the walk? My steps were shaky and zig-zagged.
I knew in my heart that I ached to own my space and own my strength, but each time I tried I ended up delegating myself to the “ingenue” box over and over. It wasn’t until there was deeper meaning behind owning my power that I actually stepped into it. When I pressed the “publish” button on WANT – heck, when I launched the “Coming Soon” page! – I knew that while it wasn’t about me anymore, I WAS the messenger. I needed to own that role, and it wasn’t about me anymore. Even though it was scary, I needed to be the Leading Lady in my own life, no apologies accepted.
4.) Success is more than a numbers game. We all crave guarantees, clarity, and definition (a reason why extremes are so alluring). Staring at newsletter subscribers, Google Analytics, and Facebook insights can be a welcome validation or a panic-button push depending on the stats of the day.
In my past life (and up until October of last year), part of my job was to be increasingly aware of site and social analytics: how many people showed up to read what you have to say, what kind of “following” competitors had, how much engagement a post got when it went live, stuff like that. It also taught me to look beyond the numbers: where people were coming from, where they were going to, how they were interacting with one another.
When I launched WANT, it became uber-tempting to define its “success” numerically, because I knew what that game looked like. In order to do X, you must have Y amount of subscribers. If your post/podcast/email gets Z amount of views, that means that A-B-C.
But I started to realize that WANT’s success didn’t work like that. WANT was resonating on a deep level because of the two-way street that was happening: the WANT community was opening their hearts and engaging with not just me, but each other on a personal and vulnerable level. Because of this, podcast guests felt comfortable shining a light into their dark corners, weekly “posts” morphed into nuanced essays, and together we turned this platform into a movement on a roll.
Some days there are thousands of readers and listeners. Sometimes there are 30. But I’ve realized that while it might matter to people like sponsors or advertisers, they don’t matter to US. They don’t matter to ME. Success is not about calculations, it’s about connections.
5.) Commit to not only HOW you want to be better, but WHY. There will always be a way to be better at something. But the quest for “better” can eat us alive if that “better”-ness is empty. As an HSP, I get overwhelmed easily – everything from piled-up emails to angry crowds. I also need to watch where and to whom/what I give my energy, because I’m like an empath on ‘roids: I’ll give and give until my well is dry, and even then I’ll find some way to empathize and give even when I’m not asked to do so. And the combo of the two? It leaves me with lots of things I tell myself I can be better at.
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What has helped me, especially in reflecting on this previous year, has been committing to a purpose rather than just an action. For example: I receive lots of emails from readers and listeners, sometimes just saying hi, and sometimes asking me very specific questions. The hyper-empath in me wants to answer them all. But not just answer them, give the most groundbreaking answer ever! in my response. What ends up happening? The emails pile up, I get overwhelmed, and inherently feel horrible for what I interpret as letting everyone down.
This year, I’m committing to responding in a timely fashion, but in a way that works for me (i.e. not allowing it to seep into my personal life or make me tied to my computer, because if I don’t have those boundaries I will lose a part of myself). I know that if I answered everyone’s questions in the emails themselves, I would never get anything else done.
So I’ve also committed to doing something different this year: videos. Yes, I want to be better at responding to emails, but the reason is because I want to be better at being of service. This means efficiency. This means accessibility. And since I’m not camera shy and I’m not afraid to just use what I’ve got (read: iPhone, MacBook, and ladyballs), for me, that means video. We’ll see how it goes. It might take off. It might be a trainwreck. I’m open. Stay tuned for that.
Bottom line? I know if it wasn’t for the service factor, I would probably fall back into old habits quickly. But because there is a WHY attached, I know I’m all the more likely to follow through.
As for the party – it was a huge success. We sweat, we laughed, we drank smoothies, we danced to dirty hip-hop in down dog. The weather could not have been more beautiful, and the group of women (and man!) could not have been more incredible.
As I walked out of the studio with my friend Meghan, she tried to read my face for signs. How do you feel? she asked.
“It was amazing,” I exhaled truthfully.
“It felt like we were in it together.”
On to Year Two.
A HUGE thank-you to Playlist Yoga and Nicole Sciacca for hosting such a rockin’ party, Beaming for the beyond-delicious smoothies and treats, Caryl Kristensen for the photos, and Your Joyologist, Quest, Blooming Lotus, and Trust Salon for the best swag for bags in the world. And most importantly, to every single person who made not only Saturday, but this entire year, what it was. I’m eternally in gratitide and awe.
What has been your favorite part of WANT’s first year? A post? A podcast? A feeling? What would you like to see more of? I’m all ears. Well, all ears and heart, but you know. Tell me in the comments…
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