Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wisdom from Odwalla

Last week, a very special guest came to talk to the seniors at the school where I work: Greg Steltenpohl, the founder of Odwalla. He said a LOT of inspiring things to the seniors, but this really stuck in my mind.

“Being an entrepreneur, you have to kind of put your idea out there and believe in it and then manifest your vision,” he said. “You just keep coming up against things constantly, no matter how long you go along, there’s going to be someone who just says, ‘It isn’t possible.’”

Change "entrepreneur" to "writer" and omigosh, it's totally my truth. And how did he deal with the doubters?

“Nine times out of ten, it’s about manifestation. If you believe it, then other people start to believe it and pretty soon it becomes the reality.”

Kind of how I try to live my life. Believe it into reality. His final pearl of wisdom:

“You never know what's going to happen, just by doing what you love.”

Greg sold Odwalla to Coke in 2001 for $160 million. Not a bad payoff for doing something he loved!

I have no aspirations to make millions. But I do hope that by staying true to what I love, I can find  success.

How do you define success?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mayonnaise and Coffee

Sounds yummy, right?

Yeah, not so much. This is actually a parable of sorts that a writer friend sent out last week. I love the story here, especially since I read it the day after having coffee with my friend Casey (skinny latte, hold the mayo, thanks). Rather than tuck it away somewhere, I thought I'd post it here for others to see and as a permanent place for me to find it as well.



A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked
the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children! Take time to get medical checkups. Take your wife/husband/lover/friend out to dinner. Maybe even play another 18. There is always time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled.

“I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there is always room for a couple cups of coffee with a friend.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writing in Retreat

We’d talked about it–fantasized really–for months, maybe even years. A girls' weekend/writing retreat with nothing to distract us: no families, no internet (hopefully!), not even each other. We’d stay at a spa and eat healthy meals, have separate rooms, but get together every once in a while to bounce ideas off each other and just have a mental break. At the end of the day we’d relax with massages to ease away all the tension from a long day of writing.

Of course, the price tag gave us a reality check, but we weren’t ready to give up the idea. After all, when it came right down to it, the Motel 6 would serve our purposes just fine, right? But then just like a good novel, a twist: Lori’s husband took the boys camping, but her daughter got sick. Could we just meet at her house?

Definitely cheaper. But would a familiar location be too much of a distraction, especially for Lori with a sick child?


For 24 hours we wrote, stopping briefly to eat, compare notes, sleep. And it worked. I spent my time reworking a story I’d given up on. With quiet time to think about what worked and what didn’t, to experiment, cut, write and rewrite, I found threads I didn’t even know where there. Best of all, I found my mojo again. I was ready to write. Anything. Ideas were bursting over each other, words flowing, aching to come out.

I was so happy I cried on the way back home.

And now I know. Next time I hit a rut, all I have to do is find a quiet stretch of time to focus.

Or send Lori’s family packing for the weekend and move myself back into her house :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Being Relentlessly Happy

I’ve always believed happiness is a choice. At least for most people, most of the time.

I don’t claim to understand clinical depression. But I do understand the blues. I experienced them after the birth of my son. I was deliriously happy. But also sleep deprived, adult deprived, constantly covered in regurgitated milk and slowly losing touch with life outside of my house. It may sound like the romanticized pressure of being a new mom, but the reality was far from charming.

The same could be said about my writing life. I’ve definitely experienced the blues, sometimes for months on end. I’m proud of things that I’ve accomplished. But I’m also sleep deprived, understanding adult deprived and constantly surrounded by people who are doing everything better than I can. At times, it’s hard to focus on anything other than life inside the writerly sphere, especially when things aren't going as planned.

Definitely not charming.

And the thing is, when I slip into the blues, even though I do have understanding adults around me, I push them away. I paste on a smile and deflect their concern with unrelenting cheer. Every once in a while, the forced happiness is enough to pull me out. Other times it sends me further into hiding, away from anyone who might ask questions I don’t want to answer.

Although it’s hard to avoid the tough questions I ask myself.

Oddly enough, it’s the writing that pulls me out. A big block of time, a story that’s dying to be told. That’s what brings me back, every single time. Because no matter how hard my doubting brain works to convince me otherwise, the fact is, I’m a writer.

And so, I write.
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