Category Archives: Self Improvement

Forget About Complicated Affirmations. Can You Sum Up Your Focus For the New Year In One Word?

Nubby Twiglet | Forget About Complicated Affirmations. Can You Sum Up Your Focus For the New Year In One Word?

Create: 1. To cause to exist; bring into being. 2. To give rise to; produce. 3. To produce through artistic or imaginative effort.

Like many of you, I love the feeling of a fresh start that the new year holds. It’s the perfect time to file away what didn’t go so well while pushing forward with the promise of a clean slate. At the same time, I’m not a fan of big, blown-out plans and bucket lists. I like to keep it simple — the idea of having one word I can hold close feels refreshing because it’s much more manageable on a daily basis.

I did some soul searching a few weeks ago and my word for 2015 is create.

The goal: Remind myself daily to consume less and create more.

The backstory: It’s too easy to fall into the trap of consuming more and more content. On a daily basis, I find myself continuously checking Instagram feeds, stopping by blogs and scrolling through Pinterest and while these are fine in tiny doses, all that time I spend consuming adds up — it could instead be focused on creating.

When I think about feeling productive and satisfied, it really comes down to creating content that helps my clients and audience achieve their goals. In the new year, I’ll be making some shifts to create more which I’ll talk about in more detail soon.

For now, I want to hear: what is your word for the new year?


Hashtag necklace: Carrie Hammer

Hell Has Officially Frozen Over: I Did a Cleanse…and I Liked It

The Clean Program Cleanse

Up until two weeks ago, I’d never done a cleanse in my life. Or, been on a diet. While self-control and focus come easily to me in my professional life, with food, it’s always been a different story. If there’s a basket of bread in front of me at a restaurant, you can bet that I’ll polish off the whole thing. If there are pastries sitting out, I’ll eat two without a second thought.

Overall, I’ve gotten lucky and managed to slide by with little effort while still fluctuating (give or take 10 pounds) near the same weight I was when I graduated high school in 2000. But internally, I knew that I wasn’t operating in top form. I just lived with that feeling, though because my clothes fit and I was low on motivation. While that bread basket was damn delicious every time, I’ve never, ever had a flat stomach (I jokingly refer to it as my “energy pouch”). I just assumed it was the way I was built.

Sometimes, the right people enter our lives when change is needed and in April, I met Dhru and Kaya Purohit at our LA Blogcademy. Lithe, clear-skinned and possessing energy by the bucketload, I wanted to know their magical health secrets. Soon enough, I found out that they were part of the Clean Program. I wasn’t necessarily ready to take part but a few weeks later, a brick-sized box arrived on my doorstep filled with their vanilla shake packets.

Was that enough to convince me to change my ways? Not quite. I’m a tough sell. And stubborn! The box of Clean goodies sat untouched in my office, taunting me for a solid two months.

But then, I hit the road again. Sprawled across the couch in our rented New York apartment and too tired to go out and fight the suffocating humidity after teaching our workshop, Kat, Gala and I ordered Thai take-out and gleefully watched Behind The Candelabra. We did the same the next night. And, again. By the time I was hopping on a plane to Minneapolis, my skinny jeans were waaay snug (haha).

Vowing to get back on track (when you’re traveling, you know how hard that is!), I ordered the local fish for dinner my first night in Minneapolis. But I forgot that when you’re in the Midwest, everything seems to be breaded or deep fried. Everything. Then, the stream of bagels and lattes crept in as our early mornings teaching the workshop set in. Of course, when you’re in those parts, deep-fried cheese curds and kitschy mix drinks named after Prince are around every corner and who am I to say no to such delicious delicacies?!

Needless to say, I was relieved to get back to Portland where my husband, a diehard vegan for the last 20+ years, does all of our cooking. While that helped, I still felt pretty gross and lethargic. The thought of anything fried made my stomach turn but I still devoured plenty of buttered toast and downed many lattes as my schedule sped up.

The Clean Program Cleanse

After a few days back home, Kat and Gala both emailed me, saying that they were feeling pretty icky post-vacation too and suggested that we all try the Clean Program together. Okay, okay. Fine! I’m super competitive and I wasn’t about to be the lone loser. So I chugged the vanilla shakes every day, denied myself alcohol, caffeine or processed foods and stuck with nearly all fruits, veggies and nuts (like I said, hell froze over).

Day one was a breeze. “What?! This is NOTHING!”

Day two wasn’t so kind as I struggled through a splitting headache all afternoon. Was it the caffeine or sugar withdrawals? Probably both.

By day three, all I could mutter repeatedly to Joey was that I wanted a bagel.

By days four and five, I was beyond sick of subsisting on veggie soups and salads, even though I admitted that they filled me up and I did feel healthier. The night of day five was the most fun challenge: I went out on the town with my dad and three bars later, I’d managed to avoid alcohol completely. Sipping ice water in Portland’s hot spots is cool (or, at least that’s what I told myself).

The weekend didn’t even faze me — days six and seven I was so busy with projects that I didn’t have time to dream of my old vices.


Lessons Learned

Now that my foray in clean living is up, I’ve learned a lot about myself:

1. The bloat I’d always had in my stomach was indeed diet-related, not genetic as I’d assumed. Within three days of kicking bread, it was the flattest it’s been in years.

2. Anything worth doing is hard. I kept putting off diet changes because I’m not overweight but I was missing the bigger picture: it’s not about just about weight, it’s about HEALTH.

3. I realized that since Joey does all of our cooking, I was actually already eating “clean” about 75% of the time. It was just a few extra additions that were making me feel like a garbage disposal (mmm, pastries).

4. I made too many excuses about being busy and often skipped walks with Joey and Rocky. Since doing Clean, I just get up and go. That bit of exercise clears my mind and I do feel better.

5. A week (or two or three) is a manageable enough chunk of time to make changes and if you don’t like them, you can revert back to your regular routine.


In Closing

Will I do a cleanse of any kind again any time soon? Probably not. I’m focusing on moderation so that I don’t feel deprived but I’m much more aware of what I’m putting into my body. While doing a cleanse was a good way for me to jump-start new habits, it’s not a manageable way for me to exist long-term. I just want to feel healthier and by being more aware, I know that I can keep up on the basics I learned by eating clean. I can live with that.

I want to know: Have you ever done a cleanse? Did it help you jump-start new eating habits for the long run or did you revert back to unhealthy habits the second it was over?


Special thanks to the Clean Program for providing me with the tools to jump-start my diet for the better. All opinions expressed are my own. Photos by Made U Look.

Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

Being a self-professed Paul Arden super fan, Whatever You Think Think the Opposite is a book that I’d been meaning to crack open but instead, it sat in my office untouched for a good six months. Truth be told, I was a little afraid of what his advice would be — sometimes I play it too safe in life and this book is all about breaking the rules. I value stability but at times, I overcompensate to hold onto that sense of familiarity instead of taking big chances that scare me to death. So I finally picked up this book and read it cover to cover in a day, all in the hopes that it would inspire us rule followers to loosen up a little and face those things that scare us head-on, for better or worse. It delivered.

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

Arden’s trademark humor peppers the opener with “Let us start off on the right foot by making some wrong decisions.” In this day and age, we’re often afraid of being wrong, and this is especially so on the internet. At times, it feels like observers are standing by idly, waiting to jump on our mistakes but on the flip side, are slow to congratulate our triumphs. But we all make mistakes (and will continue to) because we’re human. And that’s how we learn. What mistakes have you made lately? In the end, did they actually benefit you in some way you hadn’t expected?

At The Blogcademy, I talked at length about the power of differentiation when it comes to branding. I love what Arden had to say of the subject. “Original ideas are created by original people, people who either through instinct or insight know the value of being different and recognize the commonplace as being a dangerous place to be.” Trying to look and act like everyone else will do little but leave you in the pile with everyone else. It’s clear that playing by the rules often leaves us feeling more trapped. Arden relays that if you’re feeling this way, “it’s not because you are making the wrong decisions, it’s because you are making the right ones…the problem with making sensible decisions is that so is everyone else.”

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

For me, the most important point of the book was defining the difference between wishing and wanting. Whereas “I wish” equates to “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” and leaves us wishing our lives were different, “I want” demonstrates leadership. It boils down to the assertion of “If I want it enough, I will get it.” Successful people don’t take no for an answer. They work towards finding a way to make the life they want a reality.

But how do you get there? Arden says that “Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want.” What a mouthful! He goes on to say that “The unsafe decision causes you to think and respond in a way you hadn’t thought of.” Think about all those times were you were caught in a bind because the safe plans you’d made fell through. When you lost a client or a job or a living situation fell through, how did you react? How did you survive those times? Did you come up with some far-fetched, downright crazy idea that panned out even better in the end?

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

The more time we spend online observing versus going out into the world and doing, the more our imaginations take over. I’m guilty of getting caught up in a never-ending whirl of blogs, inspiration sites and social media time sucks. And what I’ve realized is that I never walk away feeling better about myself. All that time spent searching, observing and living vicariously through others’ lives keeps us from being truly productive. Arden made me think hard about this when he says, “Everyone wants an exciting life, but people are afraid to take the bull by the horns. So they take an easy option for an exciting life. They live their excitement through other people.

I’ve always been a big believer in putting plans into action and then fixing them as I go and Arden endorses this mindset as well. Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. The pursuit of perfection will have you waiting around forever. Instead, set deadlines and just launch already! This has always been my mindset with blogging. When I started, I was still in school for design. I was still figuring out the ins and outs of blogging. I was young, enthusiastic and made changes as I learned. In a way, being a bit naive and not over-thinking your plan will get you further faster because you’re less afraid of being wrong or taking those big chances.

Think The Opposite Paul Arden

Arden says, “There is only one person who can determine the shape of your life. You. What are you going to be?” It’s up to you to simply change your life. And if your plan doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. I got a good dose of perspective when I was reminded that “No one is going to cut off your right arm, take away your motorbike or put you in jail if you don’t succeed.” So just go for it. Follow the path less traveled; you might be pleasantly surprised where it takes you.

Six Ways to Turn Desire into Success


Painting by Francoise Nielly

I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite books of all time, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and in the second chapter on desire, there is a method called Six Ways to Turn Desires into Gold. As I was reading, I realized that replacing the word money with success made a compelling plan to achieve the goals you set forth. See for yourself:

Fix in your mind the exact amount of success you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of success.” Be definite as to the amount.

Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the success you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)

Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the success you desire.

Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.

Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of success you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the success, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.

Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. As you read – see and feel and believe yourself already in the possession of the success.

These steps are so basic and really are the basis for achieving any goal. Yet, we so often make excuses and claim that we are too busy. Today is the day to define the path that you’d like to take and outline a concrete plan to make it happen.




The Alchemist

Many years ago, I received The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho as a gift. Admittedly, I was aprehensive about reading it since I am not a fan of fiction. Usually, I much prefer titles that revolve around the topics of business and self help that I can directly apply to improving myself and my career.

Yet, I picked up The Alchemist and began reading. And, I realized that there was magic locked inside the pages, just waiting to get out. If you’re struggling with your life’s purpose and holding onto a safety net instead of following the signs that have been set out before you, this book can help you break free.

In the introduction of The Alchemist, Coelho states that “We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: “Oh well, I really didn’t want it anyway.” We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey. Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.” Coelho continues on and asks aloud:

You may be wondering, as Coelho does why it is so important to live out our personal calling if we are going to suffer more than other people. He explains that “Because, once we have overcome the defeats – and we always do – we are filled with a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hour is part of the good fight. We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable.”

Santiago, a young shepherd boy has everything he needs; a loyal herd of sheep along with enough food and water. And, he has a fairly consistent existence. But, he feels like there is more out there to discover; there is more to explore in the world. He keeps having a recurring dream of finding treasure near the pyramids but right before finding the exact location, he always wakes up.

So begins a journey full of chance encounters, omens, and meetings with a king, gypsy, monk, an alchemist and more as he tries to uncover a deeper purpose and meaning in his life; his Personal Legend. These signs from the universe come often and he always listens. And, by listening, he sometimes loses everything he owns but quickly gains back more than he started with. He gets robbed, works in a crystal shop, crosses the desert, discovers the love of his life in an oasis and nearly loses his life multiple times but his life is so much richer than the predictable existence he had before.

As he crosses the desert, the boy strikes up a conversation with one of the camel drivers. He relays that “People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want. We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

Sometimes in our lives, we get signs; things happen that we cannot explain. We can choose to listen or to ignore them. In the last few weeks, I have received many signs and instead of brushing them off as I normally would, I am keeping myself open. Events have happened that I cannot fully explain and by accepting them, I am searching for clarity and a deeper meaning.

In life, we are faced with many obstacles and road blocks but one thing I’ve learned is to never shut yourself off. Keep an open mind and an open heart. Have hope even when everything seems hopeless. The power of positive thought can do amazing things.

Allow yourself to find your purpose. Along the way, the journey you will encounter will remind you of why you’re alive in the first place. As the Alchemist says, “If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

We all have a Personal Legend that is waiting to be discovered. Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist didn’t write his first book until the age of 38. Hold on, have faith and see where life takes you.

Readers: Have you received signs in the past and followed them? What was the outcome?




Lifting Weights in The Haunted Mansion

david barton astor gym new york city manhattan

If you know me personally, you’re probably aware that I dread working out. I hate the thought of exercising so much that I just don’t do it. No sports teams, yoga class or jogging around the block for me. The thought of getting sweaty and wearing practical footwear has always repulsed me. Until now.

I had a religious experience. An epiphany. And, it all happened while walking down the street in New York last week. I was with Gala near Astor Place when we noticed some peculiar skeleton chairs in the window of a building, complete with very a gothic & baroque vibe throughout. Was it a boutique? A showroom? A bizarre home decor store? We weren’t really sure so we went in to ask.

david barton astor gym new york city manhattan

Get this….the place turned out to be a GYM. The one place I despise more than anything. And, it was cool. Hands down, it was one of the most fashionable places I’ve ever stepped into. My perceptions of what a gym was supposed to be began to shift.

We requested a tour and the first thing I noticed was the lighting. No fluorescent, unflattering lighting here. Instead, it was a deep pink that resembled a high end night club. We walked past buff guys lifting weights and towards a massive disco ball shaped deejay booth. The disco ball was salvaged from Studio 54. Instead of the usual concrete or formica, the floors were done in beautiful distressed wood.

The space contains multiple levels and on one, we were shown the yoga studio. I’ve never tried yoga, but based on the atmosphere, I’d give it a shot. Why? The very dimly lit room featured an entire wall of candles. Glass doors closed it off from the rest of the gym. It felt like an extremely glamorous cave. I was sold.

david barton astor gym new york city manhattan

The machines throughout looked pristine. No sweat covered handles and sticky seats here. I’d heard horror stories about my friends’ gym experiences in the past but this place seemed nothing like that. I actually felt….relaxed.

david barton astor gym new york city manhattan

The guide took us down a massive white baroque staircase where we were met by bold damask print wallpaper and a naked male statue. I thought it was the perfect mix of glamour and humor.

david barton astor gym new york city manhattan

We then walked into the women’s locker rooms which were basking in neon light and woodgrain lockers. The benches were large pieces of polished wood. Was this really a place for changing clothes? Or, was it a backdrop for a surreal and futuristic photo shoot?

During the tour, we were introduced to the man who owns this gym, along with six other locations, David Barton. He was extremely welcoming and actually in the middle of working out. I love it when the owners of companies are actively involved in the use of their own products.

So, you may still be thinking that a gym is just a gym, no matter what the atmosphere is. But there was one final factor that got me hooked, I promised you: All of the signs, business cards and schedules were done in Helvetica. Seriously. And there’s no denying that I am a sucker for both great interior design and typography.

Find out more about David Barton gyms here. Sweating has never seemed so glamorous!

* Photos courtesy of David Barton Gym

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