The 3 Most Important Things You Can Learn From Trying To Live A Remarkable Life In A Conventional World

Re-framing Your Thinking

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Who was your favorite Disney character growing up?   Yes, I know I’ve asked this question before; I know I’ve said I wanted to be Ariel. But Beauty and the Beast always had a special place in my heart.   Yes, part of it was because I wanted to live in that giant library in Prince Charming’s castle (because let’s be honest, what bookworm doesn’t?)   But it was also because I found myself relating to Belle, even when I was 5. I knew there was something more for me out there. I knew there was “something more than this provincial life.” Enter 2013, where I finally found a conference called the World Domination Summit that attempts to answer the question: “How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?”   A conference that answers this question? In my favorite city in the United States? Yes, please! I went. And it was magical. So naturally, I had to go again.

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And boy was it a roller coaster ride. Last year’s conference taught me a ridiculous amount. This year was no exception.

 

Expectations Usually Make Things Worse  

 

I admit it: I had impossibly high expectations going into this event. And then the structure changed. Not drastically, but enough to throw me. I kept comparing things from this year to last year. And although I loved the quiet time the big breaks allowed us (and the opportunity to go around my old stomping grounds), I wasn’t able to stay present, and enjoy the ride in some instances.   You would think that after my trip to Australia in 2012, I would have learned to expect the unexpected, but I guess the universe decided I needed another lesson.   So thank you, universe.    

 

People Want To See You Succeed  

 

I had always been afraid to say what I wanted. You could chalk it up to growing up in a bilingual house. In Japan, it’s not considered polite to be direct. There’s a lot of beating around the bush. And despite the fact that I don’t live in a place where there are bullet trains and cherry blossoms every March, I absorbed some very collectivist values.

On one level, I was not afraid to tell my friends what I wanted.

My friends know that I want to:

a)    Work and live in London as a content creator.

b)   Travel internationally and live abroad (in cities like Portland, Melbourne, London and Tokyo and other international locations) inspiring kids to believe that they can overcome any sort of obstacles they face, especially in the realm of mental health

c)    Use writing and media for good to help erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and build kids’ self-esteem.

d)   Be paid to do all this.

It’s one thing to tell your close friends about your dreams when they know that you’ve been traveling since before you knew what a passport was. But to tell every person that you met when they asked “So what do you do?” was a little different, even if you believe that everyone around you was just a friend you hadn’t met yet. I was floundering in my head for a good answer.   So rather than just going with the title that I gave myself on my business card, I told people what I wanted to do: I wanted to be paid to use writing and other creative mediums to inspire kids and help erase the stigma around learning differences and mental health all over the world.   That’s a lot more interesting and inspiring than just telling people what you do, don’t you think?

In the words of Elise Blaha Cripe (and I am fully aware that I may be paraphrasing): If you make a bold statement (like the one I just made above), it’s on someone else’s radar.   And if it’s on someone else’s radar, chances are that when they come across something that could potentially help make that dream a reality, they’ll pass the information on to you.   But you have to say your dreams aloud for that to happen.   And if you wait until you knew what you were doing, you would never do anything.

Because according to Amy Poehler, great people do things before they are ready.

At the very end of the conference, Chris pulled several people up on stage and gave them some incredible resources to make their dreams come true. He gave one attendee who wanted to write a book in 6 years the opportunity to meet with his literary agent; he gave one attendee 12 cameras for his non-profit. After hugs from the 6 attendees on stage, he closed with the following line (again, pardon the paraphrasing):   “We can’t make everyone’s dreams come true; but we have the responsibility to help each other get a little closer to the life we deserve.”  

I wholeheartedly agree.

 

Things Are Never The Same The Second Time Around  

 

They could be better.   Or they could be worse.   Chris Guillebeau and the rest of the team behind the World Domination Summit made some changes this year; for me, some of them stuck, some didn’t. But as Jadah Sellner would say, not all the pieces of spaghetti you will throw at the wall will stick.   The magic was just different in comparison to what I had experienced last year when I was grabbing at everything like a kid in a candy store with no expectations. Change is inevitable when you’re trying to improve. Sometimes those changes make lasting improvements; sometimes those changes make you backtrack. Some people will love the changes that you don’t really resonate with.   You just have to be insanely curious and find what sticks, and what doesn’t.   And if that means admitting that something isn’t working, that’s perfectly fine.   But taking imperfect action is better than doing nothing. You learn something new every time. Jadah Sellner summed this up perfectly in her speech when she said, “Letting go is hard. But holding on is like falling back on jet skis and being dragged around the lake.”  

I’d rather let go than be dragged around a lake, wouldn’t you?

 

These lessons weren’t the only thing I took away from the conference: I can now add World Record Breaker to my list of awesome, since I was one of the 808 people who baked themselves in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square in the process of breaking a world record.   I was lucky enough to find my tribe in a city that I love, and an equally supportive group of friends to keep the spirit alive, even a few thousand miles away from the Pacific Northwest. For the past two years, I’ve had amazing people come into my life from all over the world. You may not have found your people, but they are out there. Keep looking, and you’ll eventually find them.   It’s worth the wait, I promise you.

What have YOU learned from hanging out with your tribe?

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The Biggest Reasons I Love Traveling

Travel

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Who doesn’t want to travel more this year?

The idea of going to a foreign country and absorbing a new culture is a very exciting. Traveling more is probably the most popular resolutions in the New Year (perhaps only second to “I’m going to lose weight.”) Seeing that, I started to reflect on how my past international travel experience has helped to foster growth.

It Pushes You Out of Your Comfort Zone

            This might sound obvious, but not being able to communicate with locals really does give you a one-dimensional travel experience. It wasn’t until I went to Japan on my own at 15 that I realized that I really needed to buckle down and learn the language if I wanted to add depth to my experiences there. I didn’t want to be the one who had to rely on a third party for a translation.

Sure, it’s intimidating to have to learn a new language, but I find that the locals are largely impressed with you if you attempt to start a conversation with them in their native tongue. Conversing with locals forces you to use body language, and it gives you the opportunity to expand your own vocabulary. Being in a new environment (particularly in places where they don’t speak English) takes away your safety blanket and pushes you outside your comfort zone.

It Forces You To Re-Evaluate

            This is especially true if you’re traveling in groups. Living with people in close proximity gives you time to observe how other people around you behave and how others (including locals) react to that behavior.

To give you a personal example, nearly 2 years ago, I stepped off a plane in Sydney, Australia with 18 other people. Traveling around the country together and living in such close proximity with each other gave me the opportunity to observe how I come across to others, how others communicate with each other, and how others (including the locals) perceive you. The trip also shed light on many facets of my personality where I still had room to grow. This awareness has prompted me to devote more time to evaluating all aspects of my life on a personal and professional level.

Live In The Moment

            Who wouldn’t want to absorb everything a new culture/city/continent has to offer while you’re on foreign soil? Absorbing yourself in what you see in a new place allows you to get the most out of your experience (which is part of the reason why I’m glad I went without a cell phone in Australia for as long as I did).

Going into a new place just being open-minded with no expectations allows you to get the most joy out of your experiences. Studies have also scientifically proven that living in the moment makes people happier. What could be better?

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The Little Things Are Important Too

            Paying attention to cultural differences that can seem miniscule can make a big difference, and add an entirely new dimension of enjoyment to your travels. I found I was fascinated with the differences between British, American, and Australian lingo. They all speak English, but what may mean one thing to an American sounds different to a British person, which in turn, sounds different to an Australian.

In addition to discovering new interests, I’ve found that by absorbing the good, the bad, and the ugly in all my international ventures, I tend to get the most out of them. Things that can seem negative in the moment can be a blessing in disguise given time and distance. You can also develop a deep appreciation for things that you used to take for granted. Gratitude just makes everything so much better.

Have you made a resolution to travel more this year?

How has traveling changed you?

2013: The Year of Mulan

Miscellaneous Musings

 

 

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If it’s not obvious, Mulan is one of my favorite Disney characters.

I remember at 8, bawling my eyes out while listening to Christina Aguilera’s song “Reflection” before even seeing the movie. At one point, I remember shoving the CD into my Walkman and giving my mom the headphones, demanding that she listen to the track. The song could explain to her feelings that I couldn’t clearly articulate at that age.

As painful as it is for me to admit, that song has been the theme song for my life.

One thing I’ve learned is that recovering from trauma, as I’ve started to do this year, is a daily battle. You aren’t “fixed” and then let off the rails to fend for yourself. Recovering is a journey, something that you face every day of your life. There is no quick fix. My life coach equated my journey to working out. She said, “If you do it a little every day, it will serve you, even if you don’t see results. But if you’ve just started working out 2 weeks ago and then not work out for 2 weeks, it’ll be like you never started.”

This year has been a journey of reflection. I’ve been given many opportunities this year to re-evaluate and one of my goals for 2014 is to use the tools and lessons I’ve learned to continue that growth. I hope to use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable, and hopefully help others along the way.

I started the year by declaring that my goal was to obtain my driver’s license. That didn’t happen. I’m going to own up to that right now. It’s because I was paralyzed by fear. When the year started, I fully believed that my journey defined who I was.

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(These images are mine)

I went to the 2013 World Domination Summit with no expectations. Those 72 hours turned out to be one of the highlights of my life. People who, like me, did not want to fall into the trap of mediocrity surrounded me. Add to that the fact that I was back in the city of my alma mater, a place that I loved.

I was home.

As a result of the event, I was exposed to an entirely new network of people, many of whom I now call friends who also live in the same city. They were the first ones I turned to when I was let go from my first job shortly after returning. They were the ones who spurred me forward. They were the ones who encouraged me to see this as a blessing and turn a negative into a positive.

I worked with a coach who helped me get clarity on my passions and re-framed the concept of gratitude and why it’s the one of the best things in the world. Since then, I’ve volunteered my social media skills with the biggest TEDx event in UK and worked with incredible women who have allowed me to participate in transformational programs in exchange for social media content development. This transformational journey has taught me so much about how to hold myself accountable in the world beyond academics. I am not perfect, by any means, and I am still learning.

Through this journey, I have learned to see my own roadblocks. Which is more than I can say for the girl that I was 10 years ago. I had no sense of self-worth, and I thought that the only way to deal with the world was to numb myself and to shut it off by pushing my feelings down the filter because they weren’t “right.”

10 years later, I am finally taking steps to heal and build myself back up again. I am learning to express my emotions instead of pushing them down and stay present instead of numbing the world out. I am learning to keep track of the little things that I am grateful for. I am learning to tap into my power. I am taking steps to learn how to overcome my fears.

I’m now reading books that I initially dismissed as what one of my coaches would call “woo-woo.” I took a driving lesson for the first time in 5 years (when I was terrified of even taking the written test), and I’m trying my hardest to be open to new practices.

I don’t have everything together. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year.

But do know that I’m grateful for everything that happened this year thus far (and the year’s not even over yet).

This time next year, I want to be saying “Thanks for making me a fighter.” I think you can all guess what song I took that lyric from and who sang it.

Are there any songs that have a special meaning for you this year? What was most memorable?