I'm adding one more position to my ever-growing resume: Motivational Speaker
While working in my Jerome studio this lovely Sunday afternoon, a small group of Canadians wandered in. "What do you do here?" one of them asked. I gave them the four-cent-tour, showing them the featured artist of the month's paintings on display in my gallery, a table full of my photography, my book The Secret Butterfly Trail for sale, autographed of course, and some of my modeling photos. They enjoyed the free coffee and goodies too.
The questions came and I answered them like I usually do - animated, smiling, full of laughs and one-liners, like "I was raised by hippies in the middle of the woods in Connecticut." But once the conversation started, I explained simply and matter-of-factly how I ended up in Jerome, and Sedona, and Michigan, and how I talk to the Universe every day, surrender and live in a constant state of gratitude (with a little humor and sarcasm thrown in). One of the visitors said "You should be a motivational speaker, if you aren't already."
"Oh, no. I'm much too busy with photo workshops and designing websites, drawing floor-plans and arranging First Saturday Art Walks." Seriously, could I add one more thing to my busy schedule? I mean, I'm already in need of a Personal Assistant and probably a couple other helpers. I couldn't possibly be a public speaker too.
"You're famous," said an older man with bright eyes and a big smile. I stared at him for a few seconds, then looked at the rest of the group. They were all looking at me the same way. "Well, I'm not famous. But I have done some public speaking, and I talk to groups just the way I've talked to you here today, like I talk to friends about my life-stories."
We hung out on the comfy couches in my studio, sipping coffee and talking and laughing. The best part: they opened up about their personal lives, sharing their tragically beautiful stories with me. After an hour or so, the sister of the other man said "You've been through more than most people, and look at you - you're doing great. Would you mind talking to my daughter? She's struggling."
I don't know what I'd say to her daughter, except the same sort of things I say to my own, which is pretty basic. "Do a little bit of everything and see what sticks. When something clicks, and you obsess over it and can't wait to try it again, do that for a while and see where it goes. Have a vision and don't wander away from that vision. Keep your vision alive, every single day." That was how I got into photography, and everything else I do with passion. I didn't take a class or study with a master. I picked up a camera and started experimenting and sharing my photos with the photographers I modeled for. Sounds like simple advice, and it is, but you also have to be willing to sacrifice and fail, over and over and over again. I'm a pro at that!
Motivational Speaker - Why not? I'll give it a whirl. Like with everything else I create in my life, I'll jump in feet first and figure it out as I go. Like one of my favorite motivational speakers, Tom Bilyeu, says:
"No one is born a visionary. You cultivate that s**t." - Tom Bilyeu
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I rarely ever share an article that wasn't written by yours truly, but this one by Dinah W. Brin crushes it. As a busy freelancer, these reminders come in handy, and they are how I do what I do. Check it out:
Any small business owner or freelancer bursting with ideas and overwhelmed by projects may need help staying focused and organized. This is especially true for the easily distracted entrepreneur.
Shiny objects - email, Facebook, the phone, the dog — can sidetrack anyone, leaving you foraging for important papers or just trying to figure out how to start your workday.
If you find yourself bouncing from task to task, becoming more frazzled as you struggle to make real progress, consider trying a new tack to minimize distraction and establish some order.
A combination of meditation, planning, written goal-setting, bite-sized work sessions, productivity apps, accountability buddies, exercise and delegation may work for you. Here are a few tips to consider for getting organized and on track in 2018.
Write down your daily goals and steps for getting there — and follow that plan"Storing all of your goals in your head just isn't enough; if you don't already create daily goals, it's time to integrate this into your routine. Every morning, make a short list of milestones for the day," says Hannah Wright, co-founder and CEO of cloud HR software firm HR Partner.
"The act of recording your goals is much more powerful because you are far less likely to forget your tasks, and it also allows you to hold yourself accountable," says Wright.
Licensed clinical social worker Kelsey Torgerson recommends that people set a schedule for the day, figuring out what needs to be done immediately, within the week and within the month. "Stick to a schedule so that you know you'll spend at least an hour on this task before moving onto the next one," she says.
ADHD author David Greenwood batches together similar or smaller tasks to complete in one stretch, which helps him "get in the zone" on projects.
Your daily goals should be part of a larger objective.
"Every business owner should be operating from a strategic plan. This plan should include an overarching vision, a path to achieving that vision and the milestones that need to be hit along the away," says David Scarola, The Alternative Board's chief experience officer.
Break your work into manageable pieces — and take breaks. By unpacking a major goal into smaller steps, you'll see progress and gain momentum and confidence to propel you toward your overall objectives, emotional intelligence coach Harvey Deutschendorf says.
S. Frances Robbins, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with an online therapy practice, recommends establishing time blocks for working on specific tasks, starting with 20 minutes.
"Remove all distractions. If no internet is needed to complete this task, turn off your WiFi," she says. "If you need the Internet, then turn off the notifications and limit your screen to only those areas you need to complete your work."
Take a short break after this dedicated work session, said Robbins, but set a timer, "or your 10-minute break could easily turn into an hour."
Free or low-cost time-tracking apps like TimeCamp and Toggl, project management software like Wrike and Asana, and your trusty computer, paper or cloud-based calendar can help you stay focused, organized and on top of business.
Tech entrepreneur Mike Brummett, founder and CEO of startup Sensory A.I., keeps a Google Keep tab open, using the note-taking service to set reminders for tasks, follow-ups and even prompts to go get some fresh air.
Tend to mind and body. Exercise, meditation and mindful focus on breathing can help keep you centered, calm and on track. Rest and good nutrition are important, too.
"Getting the proper sleep is critical. The brain repairs itself during sleep and it's one of the best ways to ensure you have the ability to focus the next day," says Greenwood, author of Overcoming Distractions: Thriving with Adult ADD/ADHD. "By the same token, exercise needs to be a part of your life. ... I need to get some type of physical activity at least every 48 hours or I have issues with focus."
Twenty minutes to an hour of exercise a day can keep your mind focused, according to Robbins.
Mindfulness, through meditation, focused breathing or other methods, can also be effective.
"Help your brain stay focused by taking breaks for deep breathing, and just build them into your schedule so that you know they're coming," says Torgerson.
Brummett says mindfulness and meditation apps like Headspace have "helped on those mornings and afternoons where there are important meetings or personal events that seem to overwhelm my mind."
Physically limit distractions. You may need to close a door, get away from your regular work space or find another way to tangibly block distractions.
"Noise-cancelling headphones are my godsend," Brummett says. "You can shut out the world when you're in the zone and keep up the momentum."
Limit your personal social media accounts and your access to them, perhaps checking only once a day. The same goes for any other internet rabbit holes that tend to steal your time and attention.
If you find that you can't resist Twitter or Facebook, try an extension like Work Mode or StayFocusd that will block them for you during work.
Find an accountability buddy to help you stay committed to achieving your goals. "Clients who struggle the most with getting focused really benefit from weekly accountability check-ins from either a coach, friend, family member or colleague. This looks like someone sending them an email or text to ask them what their three main accomplishments were the previous week, and what their three main priorities are in the coming week," said career coach Rebecca Beaton.
"I personally do this with a friend each week — we both check in with each other," she says, "and I find it helps me to laser focus in on what's important, while avoiding 'shiny object' syndrome."
I thought about starting this blog with, "I've spent years trying to figure this love thing out." And although that sentence is true, I'm so far removed from it that it doesn't even make sense to me anymore. What is there to figure out? Do we ever really figure out love?
Here I am at 52, in a new relationship. Is it great? Sometimes. And other times, not. Hearing someone ask "could he be the one?" irks me to no end. It's like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. "No, there is no one", I tell them.
I was married twice. Well, technically three times, if you count my first husband, whom I married, divorced, married and divorced, again. Let me start over. I was married three times, to two men. (That sounds like I married two men three times, but you get it.)
Marriage, what a concept! What does marriage have to do with love? At my age I should have some answers, but I don't. I'm winging it through this life. You're probably thinking, why should I bother reading the rest of this blog? Hang on, it gets better!
I will tell you this: there is no love better than loving yourself. I know, it sounds cliche. Self-love is plastered all over social media, and that's not such a bad thing. There is overkill, though. But for those who don't know how to love themselves, I'm glad that self-love quotes and images are out there for everyone to see on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the like. A simple glance while scrolling through news feeds can spark something, anything that might help someone who really needs to hear it.
I came across how to love myself the hard way, as usual. Nothing ever comes to me easily. Long before social media influences, books on the matter and support groups, I was alone out there in the vast wilderness of self-loathing, clinging to men for validation. "Choose me, love me, don't leave me!" I soon learned I was not alone. The majority of women I knew were in the same boat, and it was headed down the rapids.
How did we get this way? Were we raised to be needy with no self-value, unless, of course, a man gave it to us? I could analyze that for hours, but I won't bore you. You know who you are and how you got here. None of that really matters anyway. What does matter is what we did next.
We, the insecure ladies of the world with no self-confidence, battered and beaten by motherhood, careers and marriages, managed to pull ourselves out of the miserable world of waiting - waiting for a man to love us, to give us what we thought we deserved. We woke the fuck up. At least, that's how the scenario went for me.
In my personal experience, a mental breakdown was necessary. I left. I walked away from my home, my kids, my husband, everything. It wasn't a choice. I had given myself away, so much so that there was nothing left to give. I prided myself on being a martyr, the do-gooder, the worrier, the saint, the caretaker. I was everything to everyone. I sacrificed myself. And no one put a gun to my head, I did this all on my own.
It was only when I lost myself, and I mean all of myself, that I hit rock bottom and was ready to build myself back up, for the first time in my life, and I was only 35. I wasn't ready to look at my part, but I was ready to crawl into a therapist's office and whisper my secrets. Even that didn't come easily for me. I'd rather talk about my latest nail color, or redecorating my living room, or my recent trip to the beach in Mexico. You know, the bullshit that we think is real. Over time, and a prescription for Prozac, the words flowed out of me like an uncontrollable river of obscenity, betrayal and infidelity.
Like wading through quicksand I grasped at anything I could to get myself out of the mess that I created. Blaming others was no longer allowed. I was all there was to blame. Through the muck I went, like pulling a hair-clog out of a bathtub drain, full of goop and nastiness, I verbally vomited all over my therapist's office. Thank goodness for her, this angel in my life. For the first time ever, someone allowed me to be me. And even I wasn't sure who I was.
I learned how to love myself, and how to be happy with just me. I didn't take a class or go to a seminar. I got on a bicycle and rode for 28 days through the bike trails of Southwestern Michigan. But that's a story for another day. My point is, I had to be alone and be okay with it. I was alone, and I felt like shit.
It was painful, like I was being reborn. Literally, I felt like I was being pushed out of the womb, gasping for air. It was life or death for me, there was no middle ground. When big changes come my way, they're dramatic, never subtle. Slowly, I began with little things. Self-love, for me, meant taking long hot baths using essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus, drinking herbal teas and listening to soothing music. Long walks alone, putting my bare feet on the earth and meditating. Spending long periods of time in quietness, journaling and sleeping were my favorite things to do. Over time I started to feel happiness, and I don't mean constant-happiness. I thought that was the goal. It's not realistic. I learned that I could be happy even in the worst situations. Happiness is a state of being, and certainly not a permanent place of bliss. That's something else entirely.
I learned what happiness was and how to get there, which naturally evolved into self-love. I was in love with me, happy and content. I no longer needed someone else so that I could feel gratification. I was doing that all on my own. I took care of myself, held myself accountable and became responsible. This didn't happen overnight, it took years.
Relationships with men came and went over time, and I learned more about myself through each one of them. Each of them, the one for me, at the time. And that's when an epiphany hit me like a two-by-four to the head. I was ready for a committed, mature relationship. Wow, I never thought those words would come out of my mouth!
Just when I wasn't looking, he appeared. He wasn't a knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse to save me. I wasn't a damsel in distress needing to be rescued. This wasn't a fairytale, it was real life. I was a mess after three solid days of writing, starving and standing at a grocery store deli, waiting for my turn and eyeballing the fried chicken in the deli-case. He was standing nearby, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, attempting to make small-talk with me. I was in no mood for that. Finally, I was served, sat down in the corner of the grocery store cafe and began scarfing down the chicken and coleslaw. He approached me again, and I wrote down my website and handed it to him, not expecting to ever hear from him.
But a couple months later he found me, in of all places on a Facebook advertisement for my latest book. He commented, "Hey, I met you at the deli!" From there, we messaged each other, and I agreed to meeting him the next day to sell him a signed copy of my book. Sure enough, the following day he walked into my work studio, handed me a twenty dollar bill and asked, "Are you hungry?"
"I'm starving," I said, and off we went to The Asylum, which for those of you who are not familiar with Jerome, Arizona, The Asylum is one of the best restaurants in town, my favorite. That was three months ago and we've been together pretty much most of the time since. It wasn't love at first sight. It was something much more meaningful than that. It was friendship, which grew into compassion and understanding, which evolved effortlessly into a deep loving relationship.
If you got anything out of this blog, I hope that it is this:
Be happy with who you are, and then fall in love. Fall in love with yourself first. Don't go looking for someone to love you. If it happens, let it happen naturally. Stay away from fairytales, they'll only let you down. And when the one drifts into your world, open up and let him in.
I am living the dream, one day at a time, and sharing my experiences with you.
If you liked what you read today, you may make a contribution and support my writing. Much gratitude!
© 2016 ZUSHKA BIROS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.