Today is my birthday.
I am feeling exquisitely grateful, strong, and— in more moments than not—as though most anything is possible and that there is exciting, coherence between who I am and who I want to be.
A few years ago, on a birthday when I…uh…wasn’t feeling quite as bright — by this I mean I spent all day crying in my pajamas, wandering around the house feeling sorry for myself and watching episodes from the 4th season of The West Wing for the 20th time — I wrote a list of dares for my life.
It’s now an official annual tradition that I look forward to every year. I love that I have these lists as records of my life. I hope I will look back when I am 103 in my gold mumu and think that I was at least a little bit brave.
The rule is that every dare either has to take my breath away, bring tears to my eyes, or make me want to leap up and start now.
I love dares because:
- They are consensual opportunities (without telling each other what to do) to call forth in each other or ourselves to do what we think we cannot and reawaken our forgotten and courageous parts
- They replace shame and pressure with thinking bigger and stirring curiosity
- They are more rooted in who we are becoming than results we are producing
- They lay the groundwork for authentic strategy (instead of something forced) and feel like the opposite energy of a SHOULD (notice how your body feels just saying that word).
Dares are a cornerstone of how I encourage myself and others to rise, and I find them to be more inspiring, sustaining, and effective than traditional goal-setting.
(I still use traditional goal-setting periodically, but dares are more connected to our intuition and spirit and act as a compass to keep project-planning aligned with what fulfills us instead of what impresses other people.)
Revisiting last year’s list, I was amazed at the alignment between what I wrote and what happened — not in all the ways, of course, because that would be boring and predictable — but I actually did much of what I had written down.
To do what we say we are going to do—THAT is a sexy thing.
Especially because I tend to get caught up in my tiny terrorist’s ineffective “coaching” methods that go like:
You are terrible at execution.
You suck at follow-through.
You will never be great until you are completely organized and systemized in all areas of your life…
(Blah blah blah, insert your own story that keeps you stuck in disapproval of yourself if you want to feel along with me here.)
But then I looked at last year’s list and compared it to what had actually happened in the year, and thought:
There is no way this list belongs to someone who is bad at execution and follow-through.
And there I was in a WHOLLY moment—
A rare moment of grace when you realize you are not as behind as you thought you were, not as small as the little voice in your head has been telling you you are, and more whole than you feel.
Wholly moments feel like much-needed space in our body.
Wholly moments tell us it is time to write a new story.
Which brings me to the part about the lobsters.
You may or may not know that lobsters shed their shells and seek newer, better-fitting shells several times throughout their lifecycle.
The heart and soul of the lobster—GO WITH ME HERE—stays the same, but the lobster periodically leaves its hard, inflexible shell to find a more capacious shell suitable for its current stage of growth.
The stories we tell ourselves are like lobster shells. They cauterize as we develop a comfort in telling them. To grow as big as we were born to be, we have to update and create new personal narratives so that they’re in alignment with who we are today on our way to who we are becoming — not who we were before.
A solid recipe for expansion is to write a new story and then grow into the person who belongs to it.
The thing I’m learning about my personal brand of execution and follow-through is that it doesn’t look like neat weekly deliverables, or 3-months-in-advance-perfectly-scheduled everything (like the Facebook Ads tell me my systems are “supposed” to be like if I’m really going to make something of myself).
Like the bird who runs into the glass window she didn’t know was there — smack! — I come up against a lesson of my life:
The adventure begins when we let go of how it’s “supposed” to go.
The way other people are doing it does not necessarily look like the way that will work best for me.
This is all okay. We are okay.
Spring calls on us to shed the shells that are no longer serving our purpose.
Today, I am leaving some old stories behind to make room for…
35 Dares for my 35th Year:
I am sharing them with you this year to:
- Fortify my commitment
- Tell you the truth about my life and work
- Invite you to join me
If you feel inspired, I dare you to make your own list. The number you write does not matter—you can write as many as your age, or one, or 100.
This is vulnerable and very much puts us on the hook, but I have found no better system of accountability than to tell a community you care about who you intend to become.
35 Dares for my 35th Year
- Get married and be brave in my first year of marriage.
- Get in the best shape and energetic health of my life.
- Let myself feel powerful and useful every day.
- Keep clearing out the scarcity sludge that subversively lodges itself in my bones and behaviors. Ask: what does an abundant relationship with time and money look like? Then be the answer.
- Start a global creativity experiment.
- Exuberantly and whole-heartedly release any need to please the people who don’t matter to free up energy to care about the people who DO (like you).
- Do a handstand away from the wall.
- Learn more about my mother.
- Study, research and discover adventurous methods in high performance and create a badass out-of-the-box Olympic-like training for people who desire to rise to the next level without “crushing,” “killing” or putting all the power in a Guru With The ANSWER (& find a more fun and creative way to talk about “high performance”.)
- Notice at least 10 things before breakfast on as many days as I can remember.
- Significantly grow my body of work while decreasing the amount of time looking at a computer screen. At the very least get a standing desk and one of those things that turns handwriting into typed text.
- Write about past trauma and mental health journeys more openly.
- Give a talk that everyone can see.
- Become a better leader. Specifically—build trust with my collaborators by honoring deadlines more rigorously, tend to the quality of energy I bring to meetings and stop indulging in the pattern of showing up disheveled and frazzled.
- To the best of my ability, eliminate: “I’m behind,” “I’m trying” and “I’m a failure”. (Saying “I failed” when it is true is totally fine. Regular failures are healthy and necessary but turning them into a fixed identity is not).
- Find more consistent and creative ways to lift up and make visible the amazing work of my colleagues, collaborators, clients, and you.
- Put up the show with my Dad.
- Do what it takes to solicit more rigorous feedback in all areas of my work, and be open to unexpected mentors and collaborators who challenge me to grow my skills and tell bigger truths.
- Grow The Collective into a global force.
- Commune with the natural world more regularly & do more to take active care of mother earth.
- Become a warrior against distraction. Keep rigorous boundaries especially during creative work and sacred no-screen time before bed. Forgive myself when I don’t do any of it.
- Keep committing to turning daily worry / daily scrolling into small but mighty daily action for a more compassionate world. Specifically, focus on getting out the vote in the US, empowering women and girls, and gun control.
- Figure out how to throw dinner parties that don’t involve me cooking anything.
- Develop a cure for imposter syndrome.
- Create a free confidence workshop for girls.
- Enroll in an antiracism / dismantling white supremacy training.
- Crack the consistency-spontaneity continuum – trust that the secret is not in yet another planner or Instagram ad — and expand ways to help all of us show up consistently and bring projects to completion in a way that feels like putting on a fun production instead of doing uninspiring homework alone in your room.
- Make a regular practice of writing thank-you notes to teachers who have impacted my life.
- Go for the ‘no’. Stop waiting and only responding to the opportunities that come to me and start developing the part of me who wants to advocate and pitch and make offers and be a badass.
- Do everything in my power to free the chronic pain from my body.
- Take at least 3 creative / development retreats.
- Once a week date night with Michael without phones.
- Make more appointments with the people closest to me. Be unafraid to be the one who makes the plans and simultaneously forgiving of myself when my own response time is slow. Let growing families, busy work schedules and lack of geographical proximity be an opportunity to be creative and flexible—not a barrier to connection—and let my love be as big as it wants to be.
- Pray more creatively; explore collaborations with higher realms.
- Write the book.
I am smiling.
I am simultaneously thrilled and a bit terrified.
The Tiny Terrorist screams:
Who do you think you are??
Sharing this with everyone!
This is too much! You are too much!
What if you don’t do it??
You are setting yourself up for failure!
I do my best to share exactly what I hear in my head so you can start recognizing a similar voice in YOU that is very much NOT you, but the arrival of which, though unpleasant—is great news.
The Tiny Terrorist shows up exactly when we are approaching meaningful transformation and next-level challenges worthy of our time and energy.
Fear, doubt, and resistance are markers on the path to our next becoming – signs telling us to keep going.
If the voice in your head is loud, it means you are onto something.
What are your dares for you?
If you’ve been feeling any kind of stuckness or lack of inspiration, my hope is that writing this list may spark movement.
We read books and search for mentors to help us figure out where to go, who to be, and what to do, but I believe you actually know many of those answers when you dare yourself to spend 15 minutes telling yourself the truth about what you really want.
After you make the list you have a more refined compass to point you toward resources, people, and specific pathways that can fortify your courage and specifically enhance your vision.
I look forward to seeing what emerges for you and the ripples it inevitably catalyzes; as Billy Graham and, now, apparently the entire internet says — courage is contagious.
Here’s to shedding shells, telling new stories, and doing the next brave thing.
ps: The above photos were taken right after someone dared me to eat a cricket.