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As an undergraduate, I slogged through controversial, complex geopolitical histories of the Middle East. I thought if I looked hard enough, I would find The Answer to better relations between the U.S. and the Middle East. No matter how many research papers, policy proposals, opinion articles and historical narratives I read, I could not satisfy my perpetual question: what is going on with this clash of civilizations??

Now I suspect my dissatisfaction resulted from where — and how — I sought knowledge, and it mirrors a larger problem of American short-sightedness about legitimate sources of understanding.

Connecting Dots

The extent of Islamophobia in the U.S. shocks me. I try to counteract the existing association of Islam to violence, an association that pervades mainstream media. I try to talk to my friends and family about my limited knowledge of Muslim culture, and I’m always looking for better access points for discussion with wary audiences.

One day in music class, I found an exciting possibility. I learned that in Islam the human voice is considered the best medium for understanding and preserving the word of God. Printing the Qur’an is helpful, but limited in its ability to convey the words’ highest meaning. Saying them out loud — with the proper pronunciation, lyricism, and spiritual sensitivity — illuminates their richer beauty, making the heart tremble with joy.

When I heard this, my mind lit up and my head went wild.

I’ve learned over time that my favorite ideas sound like really, really loud cymbals; the vibrations even seem to emanate from the center of my head. It feels like the sides of my skull have been struck together, for all the clanging and crashing going on up there. The opposing spheres of stubborn shell ring in clashing resonance.

Sound of A Wake-up Call

I’ve finally learned that the clash is a wake up call. An alert from the universe to keep an eye out for new ideas, to find a new path of understanding that’s somewhere close by.

So I invite you, too, to greet the clash from a new perspective. I invite you to listen. What do you hear?

I hear the intangible beauty of the human experience. I hear the yearning and longing of spiritual seeking. I hear the power of the human voice. Now there’s an entry point, a possibility for an unconventional connection.

The Value of Voice

U.S. policymakers have to realize Christian values are not universal, including values about communication methods. Western governments will not successfully communicate with Muslim governments as long as they cling to a version of world politics that’s written, written by and for imperial fantasies.

In every conflict, there’s a resolution waiting in the wings. One cause of the clash between the West and Islam is repeated miscommunication. Maybe we are trying the wrong methods, the wrong tools for connecting so we’re missing the current. Maybe — no, certainly — we need to stop asserting our values and listen to the other side.

What Does Your Brilliance Feel Like?

So let’s listen, let’s wake up. Be open to other sources, to other ways of knowing. Look out, sniff out, hear out, tongue out, feel out — whatever works for you. Go outside your world, yourself. Then bring your experiences back in to marvel, mingle with, and awaken more truths. What does your brilliance feel like? What sense do you use, and are you already aware of it?

And once you find out, please share: I love hearing others’ sources of inspiration.
For my part, I’ll keep you posted on the path through the clash, because I won’t stop looking for a better connection.


Stephanie Murphy showed up out of the clear blue and I had a feeling I had to work with her. Now she’s a sounding board, co-creatrix and executress of big ideas, pulling them out of the ether, chasing them with me around corners, and landing them with a daze, a triumph, and stars overhead. She writes more great stuff just like this, exercising her rich ideas on her blog. Take a look, and stretch that big brain you’re carrying around.

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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.

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Our stories save lives, sometimes our own, often someone else’s.

World Pulse provides access for the voices of women journalists around the world. Grassroots journalists write, speak, develop community, and share stories from their villages and neighborhoods in networks around the world. They save themselves. They save each other. They grow from fear to fulfillment to self empowered to community-empowering. They are changing lives.


There are many videos on YouTube to choose from to get a flavor of World Pulse’s mission, reach, and successes. On their gorgeous website, you will find their ongoing journey in progress, in the shape of stories, events, community and offerings. Find your voice. Hear others. Help provide access to more. Visit And keep on waking.

World Pulse is raising money and awareness today through a sale at one of its sponsors. Go to Eileen Fisher online today, save $25, and 10% of your purchase will go to support World Pulse.

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The 7-day Wake Up has been off the charts expansive and beautiful in its results.

Join us for the weekend? 4:00 a.m. PDT. March 20-27. Wake up with us + watch your life pop open. Cost: Zero dollars and a few dawns. Reach out —> Hi [at] StoryCharmer [dot] com

Receive the Wake Up Kit. Get on the call. Or skip the call! And wake up anyway.

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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.


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.


What’s scary about conversations? What razor teeth are threatening enough to chase confrontation into the dark?

Are we worried about being revealed? Worried about being wrong? Afraid that if we ARE in fact wrong, there’s no way to right ourselves to a new view? And what exactly IS confrontation? Have you heard these words cross your mind or lips?

Is something I’m saying confronting you?
Are you shutting me down because what I’m thinking out loud is making you see and feel things you don’t want to see and feel?
Am I the bad guy for saying what I see? Versus, say, recognizing the perpetrator as the bad guy?

What threatens so deeply about talking something out, without sleights of hand that detract from the point.

Hello, passion plugged in. Welcome to Waking Up.

Turned up. Shut down.

In the wake of March 1st’s post on the potential of racial bias in U.S. Congress and the country, I noticed conversation would spark, and then talk would be quickly shut down. Shut down by others as if the talker were naive for bringing it up.

Conversation over. Crickets. Setting sun. Go about your business, there’s nothing to see here.

This in turn shut me down. A week went by. I got wrapped around an obstacle.

Do people want to hear this—“this” being curiosity about the topics that keep us sleeping?
Do I have authority to talk about it?
Am I naive for bringing it up?

Don’t hold your peace. Live it.

I can thank Rush Limbaugh’s current breach of decency for showing me the way. Rush attempted to shut down critical conversation by shaming a woman for talking.

Aren’t shame and fear and control the reasons most conversations get censored and self-edited? Fear of being misheard. Fear of not being accepted. Shame for one’s belief’s in contrast to a louder voice’s beliefs. Fear of repercussion. Control of the  relationship, lest it…evolve into something different?

Speak now.

Talking is powerful action. Listening is a seat of power, and a gift of creation, collaboration. Listening is growth for both the talker and the listener.

If you cannot say a thing, think it. Write it down in private. Yell it into the woods. Let your beliefs live somewhere. Like us, they have a habit of growing, and bursting out of seams that would hem them in.

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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.


The Waking Up Series

March 1, 2012


I lean against the headboard, laptop and late night my company, lights dim. I’m traversing mental whimsies, and snicker when I imagine a character thinking he can achieve enlightenment simply by waking up early in the mornings, as a practice. “Waking up to embody Waking Up,” I think. “That’s cute.”

I’m still snickering, when I hear in my head, “Well…why not?” Why not practice something physical to find something spiritual, or cerebral, or emotional…some parallel experience by which we can compare another experience for better understanding how to maybe bring it about.


My new blog project is conceived, just like that in the late night and solitude. A 30-Day project about waking up, stories and experiences and guest posts. “My, the topic is so broad, anyone can relate,” I think. I start reaching out to people to open the conversation, asking them to be a part of my experience. I jot down memories and story ideas that illustrate examples of waking up. …But along the way, I start thinking, “My, the topic is so broad, I wonder how anyone will relate. I guess I’ll write stories about my experience, invite others to do the same, and people can follow along if it speaks to them.” I make a contributor calendar and set a start date.

A Swerve the Size of A Continent

I hear a fantastic radio story on “This American Life.” It’s about a guy, a normal dude, who looks so much like this other guy who’s running for president, that he shaves his beard, buys a suit jacket and starts showing up places to feel the rush of the Obama-for-President experience. It’s a story about the way up, the way down, it’s a story about the way people look at you, and about racism, and about hatred by proxy. It’s human and heartfelt, and more shocking by the minute. By the time it’s over, my blood boils, my skin sparks, and I can’t stop wishing, once again, that I could find a conversation-in-progress about racism, buried deep in the recesses of the ways we think and feel and fear, specifically racism quiet or loud in the American electorate, in Congress, staunching the yeses and swaying the no’s, on the House floor, in living rooms, and in the darkness of the never-said but leaking out to the surface in action, inaction, refusal to be led by a Black man.

I’m still boiling when I fire up email and reply to a Waking Up contributor asking for clarification. I let it rip. I don’t know her politics, but off I go, spewing like a geyser, connecting an example of waking up to what I just heard, to allowing different conversations into one’s life, to examine how he or she feels and thinks, and to question if it is fairly serving self and community. I hit send.

I don’t hear from her for a week, till I email her again and apologize for my outburst, and for connecting it to the project between us when I don’t know what she feels, where she stands. Politics, everyone knows, is not for polite company. And heck, I’m the one asking for her contribution here. I’m a jerk. I welcome her to vent anger in reply. I ask for forgiveness. I hit send.


What I get back blows me and my little Waking Up project into the stratosphere. She takes time to tell me her experience, her observations, her profound and profoundly calm assessment of the same things I have been spewing about, whether certain No’s would be simple Yeses if the man were not Black, if certain classes of poor would vote against their economic interests if they were being led by a fair skinned leader.

I finish reading the email and my idea to write introspective stories about personal consciousness, on the path to individual waking, seem tiny in comparison. Then my bell gets rung even louder. I sense, through the clanging of it: this project is not about my personal awakening alone, or others’. It’s about where we wake up and plug it into community. It’s about lighting up our cultural realities with personal possibilities turned outward. It’s about plugging in and flicking awake, like a string of lights down the line, one person and the next, one community coming into consciousness and then the next.

My idea is not new. Religions have been proselytizing for centuries. But it’s not evangelism that powers my exploration. It’s the curiosity of what will happen when we take our own personal revolutions and plug them into the cultural status quo. What then? Even if cultural status quo refers to your personal environment, your family culture, your work place. What happens if you take what’s been waking you, and slip it into a community’s dark edges?

Crack! The lightning of cold meets warm. Current races across the sky. And thunderous conversation roils, about seasons, elements, change.

Building It

That’s the result. That is what we’ll get to. Before then, there are inner miles to explore. I meant to start a 30-Day project today, wherein I wake up at 4am to embody waking up and write about it, toy with metaphors of the physical feeling, see if I can speak the language of wake-up in this way. I will get to that, and will ask for a cohort to wake up with me for that time.

There is road to cover first, however. It’s a road I’m not exactly sure about, but the beginning of which I can see. So today, I step into it. I invite you to walk with me. I’ll post on waking up throughout the month. I’ll publish guest posts. We’ll get out conversations that live in the dark. We’ll retell stories of how the light got in. We’ll follow the yellow brick road. It’s all WONDER after all. And begins today.

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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?



Moth, meet Flame

I just got off the phone with Meg Worden, of and Feed Me, Darling. If you don’t know her yet, you’ll know her soon. Because the bonfire she’s building on her beach is so bright, so gorgeous, so big and hot and primal and core, that it’s easy to recognize. It provokes the personal fire, the one within. One glimpse and it’s easy to warm to from a mile away. Easy to move into from the darkness.

Meg knows darkness. As we all do. But she speaks it. In the process and practice of a lifetime, she unclouds her light and just lets it riot. How? In the feeling. In the living. In the telling.

We talked about our businesses and our relationships. We’re both restless explorers and noodle the nature of NEW when we talk. In our conversation’s edgiest moments, we’re addicts remembering a high–moving cities, meeting people, growing fast, figuring it out. Or fantasizing a score–absorbing experiences, eating them alive, forgetting to breathe…then…remembering our heads…cooling out…basking in flight.

What I loved so much about today’s conversation was what she said about telling. Sharing. Letting it out. She said:

“I’m building deep relationships by telling my core story. When you decide to hold totally true to your vision, people are attracted like moths.”

To a flame, people. We want that flame. We WANT it!

A break off the big light

We want it because we can feel our own flickering to get out.

What is your core story? Do you know? Does it hound you to get out? Do you push it back in thinking you’ll be castigated if you share it? Will you be?

What is the prison you freed yourself from? Or the one you’re still in?

Meg also said:

“Your awareness expands the entire shape of you. When you are unconsciously feeding yourself, it IS poverty, even if you’re eating filet mignon.”

She’s talking about food here, right? Being the health:business smart cookie that she is. But I’m gonna spin it to story. What. Are you eating. Unconsciously? What untrue trash are you feeding yourself about NOT sharing. About NOT having a story to express? About not being enough to say what there is for you to share.

You know what I know? What I absolutely know down to every electron in my cells? Your. Story. Changes. Lives. No shit. So does mine. So does your friend’s, your partner’s, your mom’s.

You know why? Because each story is a little (or big) break off the big light. It’s a spark from the big fire around which we ALL warm our hands. It’s life. Individually and in numbers. More specifically, it’s information that someone else needs. Not only in the words, mind you, but in the soul that you express while expressing them.

Snap. Crackle. Listen.

Ever hear someone say about a musician, “That gal, she could sing the phone book and I’d listen”?

People listen. It’s all we want to do. We want to hear and be heard. We want to know we exist, and we know it by seeing ourselves in others. In their stories. In their expression.

So what’s your phone book?

Better yet, what are your stories? Where is your voice? Are you singing it?

Here’s another gem from my conversation with Ms. Meg today:

“What is the difference between the people who lead and the people who don’t? It’s not that leaders have more of anything. It’s that they have the ability to walk into it.”

They have the ability to see, and accept, and BE all that they are, and all that there is for them to be. And to walk into it. That’s it.

I know, right? Phenomenal.

If you are worried that you don’t know who to be, or what to do, or with what to lead, tell your stories. Take a listen to who you are. The answers will come with the expression.

Said Meg:

“What we’re creating is evolving in a way that creates the next hit. We need to just create a life for ourselves that accommodates who we are today.”

Are you stuck on the overuse of that “create” word? Don’t be. It’s there for a reason. Over and over and over. Creation is now and now and now.

Story saves lives

One more thing from Meg before I give the fire back to the flame:

“Use story to create connections rather than having a one sided story about your life.”

Thank you. Can I get a witness. That is WHAT it’s all about. Story inside you runs you. Story outside you makes you friends, community, tribe, witness. Takes you to meet humanity.

Get your story out. Get it said. Go up in flames in the telling if you have to. Inside the crucible is you. New. All clean and transformed. And purified by fire. The fire that’s already inside you. Flickering.


Scramble or die

November 10, 2010

One day, fed up with hating myself, I got out the scales and began to weigh inside versus outside. For each instance I wanted to speak up but was too afraid, I would ask myself, “Which hurts worse? To keep this sentiment inside? Or to try saying it, fail and look stupid, but at least have it out?”

Read the rest: “Self Leadership for the Reluctant Hero,” my guest post today on THE MOXY PROJECT.