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My awakening has not been of the “alarm-clock-ring-snaps-me-into-action” variety. More like the “waking-up my-16-year-old-son-for-school” variety.  I hear his alarm go off and I wait. Then I gently rouse him to consciousness and say, “Time to get up. You don’t want to miss the bus.” He looks at me and nods. A little later I am back, this time lifting him into a sitting position or tickling his toes or knocking his legs off the bed. “Come on. You have to be out the door in 10 minutes! Now or never.”

The awakening I have been resisting is pretty radical. It means dropping societally sanctioned definitions of success and questioning the fabric of my (and our) societal norms. And oh, by the way, might force me to stop doing what I am doing and choose an entirely different path. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Leza and Peter have been trying to wake me up.

Leza Danly is the founder of Lucid Living. Some messages from a class I am taking with Leza have been disturbing my comfortable sleep.

  • You don’t make success happen you allow yourself to experience success.
  • Real world definitions of success are an illusion. Money doesn’t give you security.
  • Success comes when our deepest soul/self is given form in our lives. This is deep work that comes with intention and commitment.

This (and so much more) put a kink in my general conviction that my earnings are the juicy fruits of my success. Inconsistent to be striving for a more soulful existence even as I pursue the pot of gold? MMM… yes. (Because clearly I am acting as if I believe there is a pot of gold.) I would attend a class. Do the meditations. Journal. Feel moved. Sense a deep stirring. And all the while plan new products, reach out to new prospects and watch the bottom line. It was my version of hitting the snooze button.

Peter Block is a transformational leader. I have been reading his work obsessively. In his latest book The Abundant Community co-authored with John McKnight, he gently and kindly tickled my toes and warned that I might miss my bus. You see I am a certified leadership and systems coach. Here is what he had to say.

Professionalization is the market replacement for a community that has lost or outsourced its capacity to care…What my uncle once knew is now a secret known only to my therapist. What this produces is a hollow neighborhood that does not value coming together around troubles. Neighbors pay professionals to process their troubles.

He goes on to say that the commodification of care also means care-givers need to continue to see people’s deficiencies to justify their own existence. (And by the way, companies need you to believe you need what they are selling- i.e. you are not enough.)

Holy bed knobs and broomsticks! I am out of bed and shaking in my pajamas.

Never mind that I am all about people’s potential and dignity. Never mind that I bring people together to create community that is conscious and intentional. Peter is right. I need them to need me! I need them to be dysfunctional! Why else would they be calling me (and paying me)?!

I don’t want to go to school!


Wake-up calls, lessons…they are not fun. If I am to get dressed and get going with this new consciousness, I am going to have to make big changes and make some people profoundly uncomfortable.

May I just say, I am not out the door—yet. I am savoring my coffee and looking out the window. I am working my way up to it.

I don’t know what it will look like yet:

  • Start a bartering system to offer my gifts and receive the gifts of those around me?
  • Re-educate my clients to rely on each other?
  • Scale down our lives so we have fewer material needs?
  • Refocus on the love and laughter and real emotion I bring to my life as the currency which enriches me.

Here is what I do know. Pema has it right: “one person and the next, one community coming into consciousness and then the next.”


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Pearl Mattenson is a writer, leadership and systems coach. We met while writing for Danielle LaPorte’s pre-FLAME incarnation, Carrie and Danielle, and have kept in touch following each others’ work, and meeting when our tips of the globe unite. Pearl plugs IN. You can read + learn from her journeys on her blog.

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Wake up with me for the 7-day Wake UP! March 20-27. Join us + watch your life pop open. Cost: Zero dollars and a few dawns.

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Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.


Today’s post is about evolution. And checking your pockets for the wads of greatness you stashed there and forgot about.

In it I talk about Sinclair Ashley, Danielle Laporte, Kelly Diels, Matthew Stillman, Bridget Pilloud, Bindu Wiles, Jasmine Lamb and Meg Worden.

And I push the paper boat of a section of my service menu out into the waters, to be sacrificed to the gods of growth. Water is a sign of change, after all.

Growing my business story

Steeped in the work of Sinclair Ashley’s Action Studio, my brain has been like a bloom of tea in a morning mug. The water is hot. The pressure in the experience is a fierce hug from a parent before sending her kid off to his journey. And the possibility is so vast that, being the kid on the journey, I’m overwhelmed by the opportunities. Where do I start? Whom do I invite? With what color do I begin to paint the vision?

So I stared at the vision that’s been staring back at me, seduction all over it. And I thought:

“Forget what you can’t do yet. What can you do now? What do you know already and from what edge of it do you want to reach?”

This reminded me of Grams. She lost her sight to macular degeneration. It degrades vision over time, starting with the center, so that you’re left with only a murky peripheral view. As time continues, even that goes away. But she came home from Blind School in her 80s to report what she had learned. “They said that many people can see nothing at all. They told me to focus on what I can see,” she said. “They’re right. I can see a whole lot.”

So I unstuffed my pockets

If you’re following along, this is the part where you check your pockets and notice the fabulosity you’ve stuffed there.

Out from mine came this great foundation of writing, this really cool relationship to story that has anchored my life since I was a kid narrating people’s movements across the room, this crazy wild and fruitful imagination that helps people push past problems and into solutions, and this ability to see life as story and the telling of it.

Unstuffed, all that goodness lying there in plain view, I thought about how I learn through doing, watching, listening. And I considered how much I value watching the growth in people around me.

My List of Evolutionaries

I love watching Danielle Laporte’s evolution. She’s the mighty teacher, no? Her channel to the Universe is so supple, her listening keen, that what she shares we tuck into our hearts and take with us. Audiences gather round her fire because it blazes in a blue desert night and casts shadows on the rock wall that we recognize as ourselves. But her evolution has been one foot forward and then the next: A need for freedom. An idea. A simple website. Commitment to service, devotion to growth, making way for the next idea and the next. Until she has a fully loaded, always changing nation of inspiration splayed across her dash. And an ever-richer personal body of knowing, sharing, growing, loving, being.

You can see this on Kelly Diels’ site too. What started as a place to write turned into a place to teach about writing, and then to impart site strategy, and most recently to peek past the velvet rope, into a world that goes on a few steps deeper than her blog, in a sort of Red Light District of the heart.

Meg Worden started with a thought and a leap. Now she’s teaching people to make something out of nothing, create supply out of thin air, wholeness out of a piece, and peace from the whole. Her offer grows with deep, revealing, delicious stories every week, and has evolved in just a few weeks’ time.

Matthew Stillman is total joy to watch. His life is an endless supply of story, and in response to the issues people bring him, he innovates with inquiry, creativity, and more possibility for having asked. And his site is an incremental feast. If humans evolve like Stillman’s site and business are evolving, methodically, intimately, exploratively, I have dear hope and regard for us as a species.

Speaking of evolution and humans, tell me you have seen what Bindu Wiles is up to lately. She is creating an Enlightened Society, actively inviting the web and we who use it to stand on our tip toes and expand ourselves inside of it. She sees what’s possible on the edges of our collective strengths and wants to push us as a people to get wise, be of heart, and move our unified conscience to wake up, think past what’s been, and create something brand new and full and rich for all.

Bridget Pilloud is inviting this same enlightenment on a personal level, internally and in business. She has to be the quickest-on-the-draw evolutionist I’ve ever seen, and the most transparent, calling us all to examine our actions, be in conversation, and get clear at an energetic level, and then to move forward with a new integrity in our businesses and lives. Her conversations are curious and spot on, and always new.

And in praise of slow, sure transformation, there is Jasmine Lamb. Jasmine reminds me of a dear friend who has photographed trees over time. People have remarked to her that it looks like the trees are dancing. Her response: “How do we know they are not dancing in their growth, moving in tree time?” She added, “They could be doing the Running Man and we’d never notice because we’re watching too fast.” Jasmine creates at the speed of life, slowed down enough to hear the sounds in between and the messages in movement. Evolution speaks and she listens.

Back to my work with Sinclair. Of the many quotables Miss Thang brought to bear in her mentorship, one was this (I paraphrase it here): You have no business building your business around something simply because you can. Do something you you dream. Do something only you can do.

So I’m taking the leap. I’m streamlining my offer. I’m letting my storytelling tell my business future and removing the Guided Reverie from my service menu. It was such an awesome gift, both for me and the people I got to do them for. But it’s time to stretch off the edge and cat call that future that’s been ogling me all this while.

Who is on your list of evolutionaries?

What part of your vision do you have the colors to paint with now?

What can you let fall away in service to doing what only you can do?



One of my first theatre mentors used to be my boyfriend. We saw a lot of shows together. A performer, director, producer, he spent his off-time going to shows because he loved them. I loved sitting next to him, sensing what he liked and what he didn’t, what moved him and what bored him, what struck him as original after 30 years of watching and creating for the stage.

He says the one question he has as he takes his seat and the lights go down–what he wants the playwright, the director, the actors to answer–is:

“Why am I sitting here”

In other words, What are you going to do with my time? My heart? My brain? My station in life in these two hours? How does it matter, this experience?

It’s a big question to answer when you’re writing content, creating for an audience, asking people to indulge you your words and hoping your words will in turn indulge them.

To help me answer that mother lode question, this is what I ask myself:

What do you know?
What do you want people to know?
What do you NOT want them to know?
What do you have to give them?
What do you want to receive?
What’s true?

“True” doesn’t mean you have to tell a true story. It means you have to be true to what the story or the content wants. Be true to all of those other questions that come before it in the list. Be true to your characters, your impact, your knowledge or the value you’re offering.

It means don’t be UNTRUE. Don’t make up stuff you don’t know to sound smart because you think what you have to give them is not enough without it. Don’t dump everything and imagine your reader wants to pick through the sludge to find the good bits.

What’s true?

Be true to the message. True to your relationship with the audience, whatever that may be. True to your relationship with the material. And then be lean.

A lot of talk goes around these days about being authentic. This is where it counts. What of yourself do you want to keep. What do you want to give away. What matters?

You’ve got our attention. Lay it on us. Make us pleased we’re sitting here.


Sprout of a thing

June 1, 2010

You know how fear is said to have an odor? You can smell it on me when there are rules to follow. If that odor had language it would sound like this…

Am I going to get it right? I have to get it right. If I don’t get it right, then, then…no one will like me and I’ll never work again, I won’t have ANY friends or any more income! And then what? I’ll have to sell pancakes from a camp stove at a rest stop on the I-5, and shit it’s cold out there sometimes, and rest stops are dangerous, aren’t they? Dangerous? Rest stops? I hate making pancakes. I’d better stand right here with this coffee cup and not walk over there, where those other people are walking, the rebels, with their coffee, even though the restaurant waiting list clearly says, “Coffee is for customers. Please enjoy it here, i.e. don’t walk away with it.”

Can you imagine when the rule actually matters? Like when it’s tied to business building and marketing and tweeting and talking and cold hard cash baby, ROI! Say it like this! Get it right–doh! You did it wrong! Sorry you suck. We’re sorry you can’t play the game with us. Game over.

You’re invited

Um. Shut up, brain. Shut it. It’s too much pressure! You’re making me break your stupid rules by being such a jerk about it. Brain! You’re making me hate you and I don’t want to hate you, brain, I want to love you. Can you feel me? I want to love youuuu.

So herein, I am breaking the rules by introducing my new blog to you, the vast public sea, before it’s complete. It’s not all spit shined and ready for the debutante ball. It’s a sprout of a thing. I invite you to watch it grow.


My favorite teacher was big on the dramatics and bigger on “excellence-or you’re-out.” She never actually said that, “excellence or you’re out.” But she told each of us in my high school AP English class that we sat in 28 coveted seats, and that if we failed, our former seat would stay warm it’d be filled so fast by someone else ready to take it.

Failing wasn’t difficult. The work she threw at us was a daily assault on our literary sensitivities. Our summer reading list alone could have built the first spoke on the Axis of Evil. There were writing assignments way out of our league. Due every freaking day. Failing wasn’t difficult. It was de rigueur.

Subtle Genius

But she had this genius thing going. Here in this hallowed hall, we could keep our coveted seats even if we were completing “C” and “D” work. We could fall flat on our faces and get a big fat green “F” on the page (she liked to use Crayola markers to grade our assignments), and still take home an “A” on our report cards.

This genius lady had a plan she called, “On your average.” The plan was we start with an “A” and keep the “A” as long as we 1) complete every assignment, and 2) arrive on time. Any incomplete assignment, or a second tardy arrival meant our grade fell to our average. We’d get on our report cards the value of the work we were earning in class.

Result? We worked our asses off. I was regularly doing “D” work in her summation. I felt like a total idiot. But her fat felt tipped comments in red or orange or teal were always informative. They told me what worked and what didn’t. They told me what to try and what to kill. Helpful comments, but all those ugly “D’s,” I wondered if I would ever feel smart again. I wondered if someone else deserved my seat.

She answered this with a “Keep going. You’ll get to the ‘A.’” Lord howdy if she wasn’t right. By the end of the year, I was a skilled little automaton of composition. I was a critical thinker and a creative analyzer. I could say what I saw and spin a yarn. And I was earning my “A.”

Astral Terrestrial

In recent months and years of sister doin’ it for herself, I’ve been plagued by having to do it right, having to be the best at my new business or quit, thinking I needed to compete at the front of the pack to survive. I knew how to write, but I didn’t take into account that running a business was a new exercise. I wasn’t going to be the star right off the bat.

That’s when I realized you don’t have to be a star. You just have to rock. You just have to get the thing done, every day, whatever it is. Stretch your efforts and callous your thinker. And sure, live on your average a while. Earn the “D.” Let it humble. But keep completing the work. It’s yours and no one else’s, the style you’re finding, your rhythm. Your rock. And, maybe you’ll be a star. But more important, you’ll rock.


What do marathons, business launches and story-making have in common?

One step at a time, Grasshoppa.

I had a girlfriend who trained me how to run. Weird concept. You’d think running is just putting some speed in your step. Boom. Finish line.

Not so.

She prescribed my daily distances, timed my pace, corrected my posture. She marked miles on my route, made Wednesdays speed days to increase my heart rate capacity. She tracked my heart rate!

I went from hating jogging all my life to bounding out of bed for my morning run.

What happened? She made the run make sense to me. Instead of pining for the finish and sucking wind the whole way, she showed me a structure. Running is not just one foot in front of the next. It’s your whole system working together: your breath, your heart, your pace, the view you’re taking in, the places your mind goes, the drum beat of your feet, the muscles that move you while learning to give some a rest and employ others.

Running broke open a new underworld of understanding, about what my body was doing and how I could do it better, easier. And those endorphins! Oooee! So worth the distance.

For the love of launch prep & speed days. And perspective.

I wax on. Why? Because I’m trying to give myself perspective here. I’m in the middle of this launch prep, and it feels like a Wednesday speed day, every day. It hurts my lungs and legs, and my mind is threatening to splash out of my skull. What the hell is a MailChimp and a CSS, and a codey mc blah blah but a techy headache when all I want to do is help people write?

I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a structure. It’s the law. Well, not a cop’s dream, but the law of the cyber-universe. And the law of attraction. And the law of: this is fun, dammit, stretch a brain cell and join the revolution, sister.

For the love of the writing-challenged.

When I put it together that THIS frustration is what people who have a hard time writing feel, it made my dive into this funky internet jive totally vibe. This is my tribe. These Tweeps are MY peeps. Word! It’s about the word. And how to shake it, pimp it, be it, say it. It’s about saying the things that make you you. About crowing and crooning and whispering sweet nothings, whatever it is that makes YOUR audience swoon and wrap their lovin’ arms around you till the night is through.

One foot in front of the other, one word and then the next. One breath, then heartbeat, one MailChimp and then code string. One system leaning and lurching, and soon, loping forward into a complete opus, be it marathon or blog post, website or launch.

One step at a time, Grasshoppa. Word.