This is what TV showrunner and writer for ABC's "The Fix", Sarah Fain, said in a recent interview. "Remove the barriers to entry." She and partner Liz Craft were asked what makes them want to read, or more importantly, continue to read a script that's ...

Removing the Barriers to Entry

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This is what TV showrunner and writer for ABC's "The Fix", Sarah Fain, said in a recent interview. "Remove the barriers to entry."

She and partner Liz Craft were asked what makes them want to read, or more importantly, continue to read a script that's been submitted to them by writers looking to get hired. Besides good writing, surprises within the first five pages (if the first five don't grab them they stop reading) and interesting and compelling characters, they talked more about what interferes with the read or stops them from reading it all together - things that are firmly within the writer's control and where so often they fall short. Things like bad formatting, poor sentence structure or grammar, misspelled words, not enough white space (too many words on the page), are all turnoffs before word one. 

They said, do yourself a favor and remove the barriers to entry. "Barriers to entry" is an economic term referring to things like high startup costs that prevent a new player from entering an industry or market. Sarah's use of the metaphor brought it down to the personal in such a descriptive way. I love that. It got me thinking about how applicable the notion is to so many areas of life.

To put it more directly: Remove the barriers over which you have control before an entry is upon you. And, entry is whatever is involved just prior to setting you up to succeed. An interview, a big presentation or workshop, a networking event, a date, a workout schedule, an eating plan or that huge opportunity to be read or seen by someone who can change your career.

Dot the i's.

Cross the t's.

Over prepare.

Rehearse.

Get notes.

Proofread, then proofread again.

Layout your workout clothes before you go to bed.

Have healthy snacks prepared.

Check your teeth.

Spellcheck. If someone doesn't take the time to fix misspelled or missing words in an intro letter or pitch then how will they be as part of a team on deadline, etc. That may seem harsh, but it's reality. You never know what someone's hot buttons are. So, push them yourself before they become the reason you're out before you were ever in. 

We've all been there, I know I have. And, what a great reminder to not jump the gun until you're ready. This doesn't mean to become paralyzed by perfection, but rather to pay attention to and take seriously the importance of the details. The details that even the playing field, that lay the groundwork for a smooth entry or an easy read or an inviting cover letter or compelling first interview or smooth-sailing presentation or consistent workout schedule. 

Bottom line, it's doing everything within your power, to powerfully put your best self forward always and in all ways.

 

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

       
 

What is Significance?

What is significance?

I got to thinking about this, this week when someone mentioned the significance of the date 4/20, at the same time that so many significant dates are also on the calendar. Dates that signify and recognize events with special meanings, like Passover and Easter, wedding anniversaries, birthdays of loved ones who have passed on as well as those commemorating a new year. New beginnings and endings. Full moons and planet retrogrades.

It got me thinking as well about the power we have over what and where we place significance in our lives.

To be significant is to be important, to be singled out, to be considered of high value, as in one's significant other.

It's the magnitude and weight of the attention you place on it that makes it significant. And, the meaning you impose or create around it.

How do you determine what is significant in your life?

I find, more and more, with all of the many things that push and pull us every day, that discernment and careful consideration are what guide me in determining what's significant. It's a start to the essential and organic syphoning off of what is not important.

And, the bar continues to rise as we become more clear about our values and purpose. If the thing doesn't rise to meet that bar, then it makes it so much easier to focus your valued attention on what does.

Some thoughts to ponder heading into the weekend...

What meets your high bar of significance?

       
 

Overwhelmed? Shut Off The Spigots

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

 

I didn't even notice it until I was in tears. It finally took hold of me. I was overwhelmed.

Normally, I'm blessed to walk around with a pretty large container. In other words, I have the capacity to take on a lot. Whether it's a full house of projects with multiple deadlines, or being there for family or friends in need, or receiving and assimilating input from several sources as I walk my path. And, so often I feel fed, nourished, loved. 

So, it's not often my container overflows. This week it did.

I started noticing that every time I watched or read the news or got into a discussion about some outrageousness that was happening, I got a huge knot in my gut, a heaviness that moved up to my chest. A load that I could previously shake off. A feeling that didn't stay with me. 

This week it did. 

And, as someone who's always been independent, as an introverted extrovert, I've been a-okay with being a solo container much of the time. I don't get lonely. In fact, I have a tendency to isolate by choice, spending a lot of time alone. Some of that is built in as a writer. And, I usually don't have issues with not being a part of an event, of not being included in something.

This week I did.

It came rushing, unexpected, like a slow-motion tidal wave of wet fog. 

It tugged at me when I heard of and saw pictures of my family all enjoying each other, loving each other, while I'm half a country away. Now, I've been a long distance sibling, daughter, aunt, sister-in-law for over 20 years. And, it's not tugged at me before, not as a usual thing. I love seeing them love each other. 

This week it did.

It pulled at me when I saw pictures on social media of a bunch of friends at an event that wasn't on my radar so I wasn't there. And, then What's App inadvertently tossed me off the app so that when I re-registered I couldn't get back into a group text with some of my favorite women. I could peek into the group but I couldn't get back in. Previously, I would chalk these up to timing and other plans and technology glitches that can be fixed. They wouldn't pull at me like the anchor of an avalanche.

This week they did. 

It haunted me when I got stuck on some writing projects and rather than honing in and focusing on the project at hand I procrastinated with a game app. Normally I could relax in the game and then get back to it, refreshed.

This week I couldn't. 

What was going on? It was easy to recognize that I was feeling overwhelmed. But, there was something deeper. Different. Unfamiliar yet so familiar. Surprising, yet not. Then, it hit me, which is what caused the tears to flow. The gnawing feeling that spread like waves on a very personal shore? This was separation.

I felt separate. Separate from people I love. Separate from my writing, from the deep work I love. Separate from belonging. Disconnected from the sparks of life all around me. It was exhausting.

So, I went to the place where I usually go first for solace. I sat with pen to paper. "What's going on?" I wrote. And, nothing came.

Nothing. For several moments. Then, this whisper floated from my fingertips:

"Where am I separate from myself?"

Ah. There it was. In what ways have I split away from being? And, what has caused it? 

The response was gentle but direct. "The reason you're separate from yourself is that there's no room in your container for you. You have too many spigots coming in that are turned on full blast."

Whew, what a visual. I saw myself gasping for air, being pummeled by numerous faucets that became aggressive water hoses. It made total sense. But, it didn't make the anxiety lessen. 

As a common trait, I don't often reach out for help. I usually dig deep into my own container for solace and inner knowing. This time I did reach out. Probably because I couldn't find myself amongst the chaos. After a text to my sister, "I feel separate," she immediately called and talked me through my teary moment. And, the first thing she said, "you gotta get off the grid," reiterated the earlier message from my inner wisdom.

I knew it went deeper than just going off the grid, but it felt like a good start.

Turning off the spigots so there's space in my container for me, space for my own well to spring. 

So, I committed to get off the grid for the weekend. Then, I started listening to "Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World" by Cal Newport, on Audible, which I'd forgotten I'd purchased until after my chat with my sister. He talks about the science behind the idea that those very things you do that you think are connecting you to the world: social media, apps, news notifications, texting, are the very things that can make you feel separate, disconnected from your own humanness. He suggests a 30-day digital declutter.

This really resonated with me. I've been doing the KonMari Method (Marie Kondo) and have loved the openness it's created in my home. In fact, I bought Newport's book because it made sense to continue with the decluttering in the digital space once I was done with the home. But, with the container crisis upon me, now was the time.

I made a list of all of the digital areas that were to be removed for 30-days:

  • Social media (unless for work. I'll hear about something if it's important)
  • All news (I'll hear about something if it's important)
  • Phone & game apps (these are my go-to for numbing out when overwhelmed. In fact, I'm addicted)
  • Email (unless work or friend/family related)
  • Google (unless work related)
  • Other websites (unless work related) 
  • No binge watching
  • No NPR

Then I wrote, "Can I do this? I must do this." After 30 days, according to Newport, we are to reassess and add things back in that are beneficial. Choose what spigots are turned on and when. 

But, turning off the spigots is only the first step to reconnecting with self. It's been just a few days and I already feel lifted by the bits of space that are showing up. It's not been easy. In fact, I'm having withdrawals and find myself sometimes fiddling with what to do with myself if I'm not on my phone. 

And, in the space, here's what's coming:

Connecting - making more of an effort to reach and connect with friends, in person. I'm already benefitting from this and look forward to doing more. Community makes you feel a part of something, less separate. So you feel more connected to yourself.

Human Touch - whatever that means to you. This weekend, it meant getting a massage. Human touch is vital for connecting with your own body. 

Gratitude - spending time in deep gratitude. For being so loved and also for loving family and friends. For an abundance universe filled with opportunity and generosity. And, for every experience and situation that brings lessons that drive and lift life. Gratitude is like a glue that puts you back together again. A life adhesive.

Prayer & Meditation - asking for guidance about will serve my highest good, and for the people and world I care about. Meditation is THE best way I've found to reconnect with myself.

Breath - I realized throughout this episode how much I was holding my breath. Just breathing deep and allowing the healing of our own breath to surge through our bodies can be so effective and helpful. Just pausing for ten deep inhales/exhales resets everything.

Focus on Purpose - when in overwhelm, there isn't time, space or energy to see through the trees. Turning off the spigots has allowed the mist and fog to clear so that I can center in on purposeful activities, like writing and storytelling.

What's Expansive - Newport talks about looking for active, new things to try. Healthy things that expand your life. For me, I'm going to take up piano lessons again and get back to French class and hiking. I'd forgotten how much music inspires, calms and fills me up. I've rediscovered music on the radio after bidding adieu to NPR for the next month. Joy and pleasure connects the fibers of our being. 

The pit in my tummy still comes in waves, but I'm finding my own inner wellspring, which is calmer and the air already feels lighter and sweeter. More space. With the spigots off, the wonder finds room again.

That's something, to be sure.

       
 

This Could Be What Matters Most

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One thing I've been noticing as I've been out and about, an uptick if you will: People are kinder. 

And, interestingly I'm not the only one in my circle noticing this. More than a few have mentioned it in some form as well. This, while so much divisiveness permeates the air around us. A swell is taking place. A swell of kindness.

A kind word in the elevator. People taking their time to lend a hand. Or, waiting patiently in line while encouraging someone else to go first, whether it's at a restaurant or in traffic. And, it's not just words, but kinder expressions, kinder eyes. Simple smiles.

There's a subtle, larger effort being expressed. A yearning for a gentler nature being embodied. 

Whatever it's been, it's been palpable. Have you noticed it?

And, #KindnessMatters.

In fact, if you Google that particular hashtag, #KindnessMatters, there's a lovely slew of initiatives and websites trumpeting the power and longevity of kindness. There were 463,000 results in .58 seconds. Some offer 30-day challenges, others inspiring stories, still others longterm initiatives with real, positive effects, changes made, lives improved.. 

It could be what matters most. Kindness. 

It may seem trite to say this, but it gives me hope. And, it raises a bigger hope that people can and will settle into their natural states of being, that of soulful, loving, yearning creatures. Maybe a bit of a pipe dream, but there's a swell that I think is worth noting, and celebrating.

Kindness provides a much needed and solid footing, a foundation from which to meet and greet the less-than-kind assaults that seem to drag down the ether, to stench the air we, at times, feel forced to breathe. 

Kindness is the air freshener. 

Kindness is the helium that will raise the otherwise heavy, negative energies; that will raise the ether, the very consciousness of society.

Kindness is love, understanding and compassion in action.

One might think of being kind as being a pushover. I would posit it's just the opposite. Kindness is a force, an essence and intention that elevates the conversation, the negotiation, the deal. 

Kindness weeds out the petty, frankly eating the petty for lunch along with a nice, crisp Rosé or meaty Cab. I jest, but the phrase, "kill them with kindness" does come to mind. The term "kill them with kindness" sparks back to the 1500's, when it referred to a mother ape who hugged her babies so hard she, well, killed them. Okay, let's not go there.

Miriam defines this phrase as "to cause discomfort to someone by treating him or her in a way that is extremely kind or helpful. Instead of returning the insult, you might try killing them with kindness."

Contemporary useful applications of this notion suggest this: Utilize kindness as a tool to diminish or diffuse (kill) the negativity, rudeness, pettiness or hate of the situation. So that eventually, the person(s) has the choice to align with the kindness, that which is innate within his or herself. A choice to situate with their own better angels. If they don't make that choice, then you have the choice to deal with it or move on.

Kindness in its authenticity, is true power.

Kindness is a choice. While it's true some people seem to have more of an easy kindness about them, we all have it in us, and we all can make the choice to be kind. 

I recently saw the musical, "Come From Away," set in the week following 9/11. It tells the true story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land outside the small Newfoundland town of Gander. 7,000 scared and confused passengers descended on the town. "Cultures clashed and tensions were high," but the townspeople took on the arduous task of caring for them, figuring it out as they went along. What rose like heat from this story was the magnitude of kindness that bolstered them all. The depth of their humanity brought us all to tears. 

Kindness. Kindness transcends labels. And, titles. And, status. It is an equalizer, second to none. 

Kindness is contagious and spreads like wildfire.

That's why I'm thinking kindness could be what matters most. So, perhaps a leading question to ask ourselves whenever we have any type of interaction: how would kindness begin this? Or respond?

Or simply utter the mantra #KindnessMatters. It really kinda does. 

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash

       
 

Flip the Switch To Reveal the 2019 Word of the Year

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There's quite a bit that goes into choosing a word for the year. Inspiration, feeling the need to improve on something or selecting a greater theme that will help to powerfully guide the next twelve months, are all factors that weigh in while narrowing down the word. I find it enthralling, particularly since it becomes a writing guidepost as well. 

My word for 2019: Mindfulness

I tossed around several words, and what I found is that underneath each of the intentional words I was drawn to, was the running current of mindfulness. In other words to successfully embody anything empowering, one must be mindful to attain it.  

Mindfulness is a word that is loaded and is bandied about a lot. So, let's unpack it.

Often, for me, being mindful is what I think of after I do something that is usually a result of not being mindful. Such as when I grabbed a banana instead of my keys as I walked out my front door. It wasn't until after I locked myself out of the house and noticed the banana in my hand that I said, "Cindy! Pay attention. You need to be more mindful." Or after I tripped and twisted my ankle because I wasn't being mindful about my footing. Or when I've inhaled my meal, not really tasting it. 

So, my intention by picking Mindfulness as my 2019 word, is to being mindful as a forethought rather than an afterthought. Like buying insurance before you need it, rather than regretting not having purchased it when you realize you're unfortunately caught without it.

What does it mean to be mindful? To my way of thinking, it's being fully present and engaged, while making a thought or action that serves the moment's highest good. And, then doing it again and again.

Mindfulness and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "Mindfulness is presence of heart." Mindfulness symbol

He illustrates this with the Chinese symbol for mindfulness. The top symbol means presence and the lower symbol means heart. Presence of heart.

Flip the Switch 

Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as turning off the automatic pilot. Continually returning to the present. I like that. It's a simple switch. It's not a constant "on" switch. In other words you don't stay in a state of mindfulness. You return to a state of mindfulness.

Kind of takes the pressure off, don't you think? The invitation is always there to be in mindfulness, we just have to flip the switch in the moment. 

It's also defined as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

There are certain attitudes and self-regulating indicators present when one is mindful. That of being open, curious and accepting.

Mindful.org is a wonderful place to be reminded and inspired. They say “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Mindfulness solidifies strong character by causing us to slow down and think before speaking and acting. 

Mindfulness fosters creativity by weeding out the superfluous and extraneous clutter.

In his book, "The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation," Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Many people are alive but don't touch the miracle of being alive... Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” 

He also says, “Mindfulness shows us what is happening in our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming ourselves and others.” 

Mindfulness generates kindness. Kindness was going to be my word of the year, and then I realized that kindness is an essence and expression that is also generated from mindfulness. So, I played with that a bit and expanded my platform. While mindfulness is the word of the year, kindness is the theme. I intend to infuse everything with kindness and to recognize and celebrate kindness in others. Mindfully, of course.

Which led to a rather delicious portmanteau, and the name of my 2019 platform: Kindfulness. The state of mindfully being kind, being fully present in the act of kindness. 

So, I pledge to be mindful, return to mindfulness, about, well everything. Such as:

Start the day mindfully by meditating, journaling.

Make mindful choices that stem from kindness to self, to the group think and to the greater good.

Engage in mindful thought, actions and conversations.

Eat mindfully.

Be mindful in my to-do lists, keeping them clutter-free and on purpose.

I'm already noticing mindfulness and kindness - kindfulness - at work in my daily life. I'm leaning in to wherever this takes me.

What's your word or theme for 2019? My wish for you is a mindful exploration for one that feeds your soul and elevates your year. 

Title Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash