I wasn’t ready. I was nervous. I had practiced, rehearsed, memorized my presentation for weeks. For an entire month, all I thought about, cared about, and cried about was this huge presentation. This was my chance. This was my one golden opportunity to show them what I could really do. To prove that I was more than the peon they thought I was. With this presentation, I was going to show them.
I was going to face the people who didn’t think I could do it. I was going to look right at them, give my talk, and they could look back at me in awe. I was going to prove to them, and to myself, once and for all, that I could do it. That I deserved more than what they currently thought of me.
But as the days grew closer to THE DAY, I grew more and more scared. I could feel the anxiety rising. I could actually hear my heartbeat. I started not being able to sleep. I found myself overwhelmed with thoughts about it not going well. I thought I would get up there and not remember what I was going to say.
Doubts crept in. The worst case scenarios played out in my mind. What if they start laughing at me? What if they roll their eyes? What if I forget completely what I was going to say? What if my voice sounds like it is shaking? What if my nerves take over and I throw up on stage? Worse, what if they give me a look of pity as if to say…”aww…that poor girl thought she had what it takes.”
So I thought through my options:
· Option One: tell the event staff that I was going to have to cancel
· Option Two: tell them I am sick the day of the presentation
· Option Three: beg the event staff to re-schedule me to a later date
· Option Four: suck it up and try
Then I googled “prepare for a big presentation” and found the following tactics:
· Tactic One: visualize yourself giving the speech and it going well
· Tactic Two: act like superwoman with a power pose
· Tactic Three: deep breathing exercises: in for 3 counts, hold for 3 counts, out for 3 counts
· Tactic Four: rehearse out loud
I did every tactic. Tactic One to Tactic Four. Then I repeated them. But nothing worked. My heart was still beating out of my chest non-stop. My mouth was still dry. I still couldn’t take a deep breath. My insomnia continued.
But I kept going through the motions, I went through all of the tactics. Again and again. I tried to keep myself calm. I kept running through my talk out loud so I could hear myself. I recorded what I looked like while I practiced. I noticed things that could make it better. I adjusted, I tried different inflection points with my voice, different ways of moving across the stage, different hand gestures.
I had gone over this presentation so many times that I literally felt sick to my stomach when I started from the beginning of it. Again.
Then the big day came. After a night of little to no sleep, I woke up at my usual wake up time. I did my usual morning routine. I took a longer time getting ready, trying to hide the huge circles under my eyes.
As the hour of the presentation came suddenly closer, my nerves were so bad I was visibly shaking. My breathing was short, my mouth dry, my heart racing.
Then a voice in my head came through loud and clear. Get yourself under control Erin! This isn’t life or death! You did everything you could do. You are ready! You got this!
And so I had. As I walked up onto that stage, I was calm. I was ready. I could do this. Yes it was scary. Yes I was nervous. Yes there was a risk of it not going well.
But in that moment I realized that there was a greater risk. The greater risk would have been not trying. The greater risk would have been dodging the opportunity and calling in sick. The greater risk would have been giving up.
The greatest risk in life is not taking any risk.
Command Joy by Taking a Risk. What are you currently afraid of or avoiding in life because you are scared? What steps can you take towards it? Tell me in the comments below!
All my life it was assumed I would go to college. So I spent the entire four years during high school focused on things that would look good on college applications. From getting a perfect GPA to participating in every extra-curricular activity I could handle, I did as much as I could. Did I even WANT to go to college? I honestly have no idea. Because it was what I was supposed to do, I went to college. I just went. Then in college, I spent my summers doing internships. I did an internship because I was told they are good for my career. (Wait. What career?) All of my life, I never actually took a moment to ask myself what I wanted. Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a job I hated. Finally, I decided to listen to the voice in my head that said the words I needed to hear… “Erin, you can’t be serious. Who are you right now?!?!”
That’s the very short story of how I started my career in marketing which led me to creating this website. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of experiences. Some awe inspiring, some devastating, but in the end, each had a powerful lesson.
A lot of us think that we don’t have an interesting story to tell, so we don’t bother to tell it. How wrong we are! In everything that happens to us, there is a universal lesson that is worth telling. A narrative that we need to share. Our brains are hardwired to pay attention to stories so it’s no wonder they work so well!
So now that we know storytelling is important, how do we do it?
Start with illustrations with something personal that happened in everyday life
Share your Thought Process
Think about what questions might be in a listener’s minds and walk them through your line of thinking
Have a Big Idea
Drive your main message or big idea home by repeating it several times throughout your story. In a world of endless distractions, it’s a good idea to repeat the big idea.
Do you like the idea of storytelling but don’t know where to start? Command Joy can help!
Send us a DM with a story you are thinking about telling and we will help you craft it for maximum impact!!
Wouldn’t it be great...?
That one question has the potential to transform our focus and our path to a place of growth. When we expand our awareness and our minds to the possibilities, we can make something magnificent. We can all start to Command Joy with One Question.
“Wouldn’t it be great if Thanksgiving was every day?” a friend of mine asked. There we were, sitting on a long table, with our closest friends. We were giggling uncontrollably, laughing at some joke one of us said. Friends since college, we rarely found the time to get together. Life events, marriages, children, jobs had taken us on different paths. But every Thanksgiving, for 5 years, we made it a point to get together. We flew in from all around the country – East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Middle of Nowhere. We found time to take a break from our busy lives and just be together for one night. In these dinners, I could feel the love we had for each other. I felt gratitude for having these people in my life. And I felt the hopefulness we all had for making our places in this world.
The love I felt in that room made me want to cry with happiness. As I sat there glowing in pure joy, I realized, Thanksgiving isn't just a holiday. It’s a lifestyle. Everyday we can choose to feel this love. Everyday we can decide to be grateful.
And then I realized that the simple question of “wouldn’t it be great” can be asked of everything! The next weekend when I returned home, I started writing a list of “wouldn’t it be great…” I was actually surprised by the things I came up with.
Wouldn’t it be Great…
And on and on and on…things that I didn’t even realize I wanted to do let alone cared to do became more real to me with this one simple question! We can Command Joy with One Question.
So, tell me, in the comments below…what wouldn’t it be great list did you come up with?
It’s that graduation time of year and Today is a Celebration! Really, every day is a cause for celebration. Why, you ask? Because when we stop and think about it, just the fact that we are ALIVE is a reason to be in awe. But we don’t always remember this.
We live in a world full of distractions, demands on our attention, and pressures to succeed and perform. It can get really intense! We have bills to pay, mouths to feed, deadlines to meet. The stress can be overwhelming. Layer in our “got to have it now” world and society, and it is easy to get overwhelmed and anxious. So, when it all just feels like it’s too much, and we don’t know what to do next, we can Command Joy by Celebrating Ourselves.
We can get there by pausing. Breathing. Looking around to see that there is so much pure beauty that exists in each and every one of us.
We can Command Joy by Celebrating Ourselves.
Years ago on New Years Eve I found myself standing in my closet. I was frantically looking at every dress I owned and trying to figure out what to wear to a new year’s party. I probably tried on 20 different combinations of glittery skirts and silk blouse, black pants and sparkly tank top, long dress and glitter heels. As I looked at all the different combinations of shoes and jewelry and jackets, I started to feel very overwhelmed. In my head I was thinking, why can’t I make one simple decision about what to wear? Why was even this, small, tiny, simple thing, so hard? AND WHY do I have so many clothes to begin with? My closest isn’t that big!
As I tried on shirt after shirt, I had to sit down. I plopped right down in the middle of my closet. I felt dizzy. I could barely breathe. I was making little, short breaths but when I tried to take a deep breath, I couldn’t. Then I felt a pain in my chest. A sharp, shooting pain in my stomach and heart. I freaked out. I screamed out loud, OMG I am having a heart attack.
I knew where the nearest ER was so I grabbed my keys, ran to the car, and drove myself there. I thought to myself, this is it. This is where my story ends. Erin Merritt’s last day. I couldn’t believe it. I had so much more I wanted to contribute to the world! This can’t be THE END. It felt too soon, too sudden. As I pulled into the ER parking lot, a nurse saw me. She grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled me right in, past the waiting room of a hundred people with bloody body parts and aching pains. I couldn’t believe how packed the ER was! Luckily I didn’t have to wait. I was moved into a hospital bed and my vitals were checked. A few minutes later, a doctor walked over and evaluated me. “You aren’t having a heart attack” he finally concluded. “It’s just an anxiety attack.” “The majority of ER visits stem from mental health issues.”
The relief set in. I was going to be okay! I was going to live!!! I had an overwhelming feeling of Joy and happiness.
As I started to process what the Dr. had just said to me, I thought I don’t have a MENTAL HEALTH issue. Who are you to tell me that I have a mental health issue?!! Then later, I thought… hypothetically that if he was right, then what is an anxiety attack? Is that even a real thing?
Naturally, from my hospital bed, I started looking it up on my phone. Turns out, it is a real thing. A very real thing. So I spent the next few months trying to understand how I made it to that point. How did I get here? What the heck happened?
As I thought about the events leading up to my visit in the ER, I realized that for months I had been dealing with a high amount of stress – I was overwhelmed at work, I was having problems in my relationship, my Mom was fighting melanoma. I had a lot on my mind and I wasn’t doing anything healthy about it.
I had a co-worker that recommended I start meditating to calm my anxiety. So I decided to start trying. At first, I thought it was dumb and a complete waste of time. I had so much to do, I couldn’t just sit in silence and try to clear my mind! Who has time for this?
But I didn’t stop trying. I kept at it. After a few weeks of daily 5 minute sessions, I started to see the power in it.
Through meditation, I started to see beauty in myself and in the things around me. I felt love, real love, for myself for the first time in my adult life. Calmness. Peace. Beauty.
The world that was once scary and overwhelming felt different. It felt alive and wonderful. From the ER came a changed woman. From the ER came a person who was ready to Command Joy.
We can all Command Joy by Celebrating Ourselves today. At the core of every one of us is freedom, love, and joy. Why not take the time to celebrate that today?
Looking for that Touch of Magic to go after your dreams? It takes guts to put yourself on the line and to say “I am going to try something and it could fail. I’m going to put my time and energy into this. I am going to actually go for it. I am going to throw myself out there and I could be ridiculed, rejected, or run out of money.” So we don’t do it. We go along with the status quo. We get comfortable.
And then we don’t push ourselves because we value comfort over growth.
The people who believe in the Touch of Magic and who know all the risks but try anyway are the ones that really want it. And yes, it is scary to start. It is scary to take the leap.
When I started this blog, I had thought about doing it for years. YEARS. Literally over 10 years I kept thinking “You know, I really should start writing about my experiences. They may help someone struggling out there.” But there was never enough time. Never enough money. I had all kinds of excuses. But the reality was that I didn’t have enough courage. I was too self-conscious to put anything less than the best out in the world. So I would start to write something, and if it wasn’t PERFECT, absolutely perfect, then I didn’t post it. Instead, I would spend more time thinking about doing it. I rationalized to myself that since I wasn’t the best out there and since no one knows who I am, then it’s not worth trying. So I delayed starting. Years went by and I put “start website” on my goal list for 5 years. Never actually getting it done.
Then when my Mom died, the sense of urgency came to the forefront of my mind. I realized that I didn’t have the luxury of all these years to get started. That it needed to happen now. That life is short. That someday will never come.
I had to become vulnerable enough to share my experiences. So I started writing. I stopped worrying so much about what I sounded like and I just wrote. After a few weeks of consistently writing, I got an email from a man who said he was suicidal and then read one of my posts and he realized he wasn’t alone. My words and my experience helped someone!
It was at that point that I knew that if nothing else ever came of writing this blog, then at least I had helped one person.
That Touch of Magic may look like having some courage to just start. It is so cliché but it is true. When we start with where we are, even though we don’t have it all figured out, things will start to flow.
The Touch of Magic will start to appear.
What are you scared of right now? How can you move towards that? Discomfort is your growth! It’s where the Touch of Magic will come to life.
I’m currently reading a biography of Roald Dahl, the children’s author who brought to life those sweet gems of books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda, plus countless others. As the second part of our three part series on the Touch of Magic in the creative process, I was interested in understanding more about his.
The creative process takes time. While we wish things would always just flow smoothly, it often isn’t the case. The same seemed true for Mr. Dahl. While he was arguably one of the most creative writers of his time, as it turns out, it didn’t always just flow for him. He put a routine and structure to his writing. He created a space to let the creative process come to life, on its own time.
Dahl’s writing took place in a shed hidden behind his greenhouse. He had a tiny shed that was just big enough for himself, a chair, a small table, and other photos and things. It was here where the creative genius produced his greatest work. The writing hut was centered around his armchair and he set an old suitcase full of heavy logs as a footrest. When it was cold he put his legs inside an old sleeping bag and pulled a rickety electric heater just close enough to warm his hands. He propped a cloth-covered board up on a roll of cardboard to set the exact angle for writing, taking his time to get it ‘just right’. He was very routine about his process. He would go to his hut about 10AM every day and would sharpen 6 pencils with a pencil sharpener. He would write for two hours, go back to the house for a light lunch, a nap, and then head back to the hut for two more hours in the afternoon. His experience told him a writer 'should never work for too long at a stretch, because after about two hours you are not at your highest level of concentration, so you have to stop.'
At the same time and same place every day, he would go to his writing hut. The consistency of going to his writing hut was paramount, even if the Touch of Magic of the words did not flow easily. The hut had no view, no natural sunlight, no noise, and no interruptions. In describing his routine, Roald Dahl wrote lyrically of the charming setting for his writing hut: 'Through the window [of the hut] you can see all sorts of creatures if you sit there quietly looking out. There are squirrels in the big apple tree, and blue birds, and bullfinches, even a green woodpecker sometimes, and I would be happy to sit watching them all morning long and do no work. So I leave the curtains closed.'
But it was very familiar and comforting to the author: the ritual of writing at the same time every day, in the same seat, in the same room, on the same yellow paper, with the same number of pencils in the jar beside him gave a sense of stability and constancy. The monotony of the creative process was how he tapped into his Touch of Magic.
But like all things, this doesn’t always happen on our timeline. Dahl’s work – was no different. In notes for a speech, he wrote: 'I, like many other writers I know, am always frightened of starting work each morning. The reason for this is that when you have to invent something new to write every day of your life, there is always the fear that your inventiveness will fail you and you won’t be able to think of anything at all.'
Dahl’s stories seem to be inspired from his own life. He takes ordinary things that happened to him or that he experienced and added a Touch of Magic. He also had one important habit that helped him tap into ideas 'I have a notebook for plots. It is the same one I’ve had for twenty years. If I get the germ of an idea, I scribble it down in the notebook, one idea to each page. ... Once or twice every year, I leaf through the book ... And then at last, perhaps after three years, perhaps after seven, there comes a time when I look at it and see that it is ripe for writing, and I take it out of the book, and start away.'
His books are famous for always having the underdog be the hero. The outsider is the victor. Dahl himself experienced this – as a kid growing up he was bullied, beaten, and as an adult was sacked from a job because he just didn’t fit in.
It isn’t always obvious when and how the Touch of Magic begins. But if we use our own creativity, imaginations, and are open to taking our experiences and exploring them to a different level, we can tap into a side invaluable to the creative process. For Dahl, each working day would begin with re-reading every draft that he had written so far; not just the work of the previous day, but all the way back to the beginning of the piece at hand. Roald Dahl calculated that, by the end of writing a book, the very earliest sections would have been re-read, altered and corrected around 150 times. But this early, intense effort could unlock the rest of the story. 'The first page is written and re-written so often that the process never takes less than three weeks. But during that time, other things are simultaneously happening, the little seed is starting to grow in the mind, the colours are emerging in the story, a kind of momentum is slowly gathering and the fingers that hold the pencil are beginning to twitch. So the book begins.'
Roald Dahl shows us that his experience was essential to his process on all levels, and also contributed to his craft. That combined with a certain level of discipline and routine, we can ignite that Touch of Magic. As Dahl says: “All the best stuff comes at the desk.”
In general, I am the type of person that likes to be as effective and efficient as possible. So when I sit down to get things done, and I run into obstacles, I get frustrated. Most of the days, when I am working, I chug along confidently. Things just flow, I cross things off of my to do list. I feel optimistic and confident that I can hit those deadlines. I laugh and sing as I high five myself. It’s like some Touch of Magic is happening in the background, helping me move things along, getting stuff done! It’s exhilarating and inspiring.
But other times, I hit dead ends. It could be when I have a conversation with my boss that doesn’t go the way I wanted it to. When a pitch that I poured my heart and soul into gets rejected. When I find out that someone else got the promotion I wanted. When I notice an error in my work that I already submitted for approval. When these things come up, I get frustrated and distracted. And I think that I just can’t deal. When I feel like it is all too much. There are days when things just don’t go the way I planned them too.
You know how that feels, right? It's when you're working there trying. HARD. But nothing is going your way. It's frustrating, uncomfortable, and makes you want to cry. You start freaking out.
One day, in the middle of this mental freak out, I realized I was expecting myself to have everything figured out already. To have the work already done. I noticed that I was being really hard on myself. Criticizing everything I was doing. Mean thoughts in my head like “"It's NOT working Erin! All these hours and days and you're still not done yet! You're not nearly as far as you should be on this project. Your team is going to be so angry and disappointed. Why did they even hire you!"
Sitting there in the uncertainty and the chaos of my mind while the time was ticking away was beyond challenging and uncomfortable. I felt like running. Like giving it all up. Throwing the towel in and walking away. I was so overwhelmed I found myself unable to keep focus or continue working.
What was going on here? It was in that moment when I realized that I wasn’t trusting myself. I didn’t trust myself enough to know that I could handle this. I didn’t trust myself enough to believe that I could make all of this work come together. I was looking for a Touch of Magic to give me some sort of inspiration or insight or amazing discovery that could help things start to flow again. That could tie all of these things together in a way that would make a difference in this world. I had this ideal notion that if I was really good at my job, if my contributions really meant something, then things would just be easy and effortless and fast. When I am in the middle of the creative process, I often think that if I was really good at something, it would easily just happen.
But the reality is that the Touch of Magic sometimes takes time. A long time. We have to trust in ourselves and our abilities that creating work we are proud of takes time.
Great work takes time. A Touch of Magic will appear on its own, when it is good and ready. So when we find ourselves feeling the tug of uncertainty and the negative thoughts start to take over, we can pause. Take a deep breath. Dig deeper into our faith that the Magic will show up. And trust in the time that the creative process takes.
A lot of us think about doing great, amazing things. We think about what we want to achieve. But in addition to thinking this, we have to believe it is possible for us. And we have to be committed to the belief—because possessing the unqualified belief that we are capable of having what we want is the first step to achieving it.
When we commit to believing it will happen, then everything else will fall into place to make it happen. By committing to believing it will happen, our choices and our decisions become guided by this mindset.
There is beauty in believing because in that space, we know it can be true for us. Some may call us ignorant, but I think ignorance is the key. When we decide on something we want, we can’t possibly know how we are going to reach our goals, and we don’t need to. Once we are willing to live with not knowing everything, the results will start to appear.
But it’s easy to understand why some of us stop believing we can have what we want! There are going to be times when it seems like the world around us is trying to get us to quit. When we are hit with problem after problem. When we watch the months pass by… but we are nowhere closer to where we want to be. Through the struggle, we may lack confidence and motivation. We may think that it seems nearly impossible that we can transform our lives.
But we can overcome this! We can take back control of our focus. We can get back to the discipline of believing it will happen. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of subtle shifts. When we find ourselves lacking belief that it will happen, when we are down and full of despair, we can take a few minutes to re-assess. We can ask ourselves:
· Where is our attention? Sometimes all we need is to look around and realize what is driving us away from our goals. For me, it is my phone. I realized I had a problem when every 5 minutes I was checking it. So I made a change. Now, my phone never makes an audible noise. I keep it face down most of the time so I can’t see the screen light up, and I turn off all notifications. And that is exactly the way I want it. I lived a great life before text messages, and life will go on if I miss one now.
· What are we listening to? Are our thoughts helping or hurting us? We have to get comfortable being kind and loving to ourselves. It is easy to tell ourselves that we are failing, or that it can never happen. But we are all stronger than that – we have to shift those thoughts to ones of believing it will happen. The quality of our work will drastically increase and we will be more productive if we tell ourselves good, positive things.
When we decide to commit to believing that what we want is possible for us, life will give us exactly what we want. We just have to have the discipline of believing that we really do have the power to make it happen.
So tell me, in the comments below, what was one thing you didn’t believe you could achieve but now you are certain you can?
Dear Self, I love you. I really do. You are always there for me. No matter what, you are there. And starting today, we are together. We are on the same team. I love you for always being there for me. I love you for supporting me, giving me the air in my lungs, the blood in my veins, and the beat in my heart. Thank you for keeping me alive and healthy. I appreciate you for giving me a good instinct so I know when I am on the right path in life. You keep me protected and safe. Thank you for all of the joy and laughter you have brought into my life. You are the reason I can giggle and sing and dance and love. You have always had my back. Always.
So starting today, I will start to show you more love. I will appreciate you and care for you. I will start treating you better. I will dress you in outfits that you feel proud of wearing. I will feed you with food that makes you feel good. I won’t call you mean names anymore. I will keep you excited and energized, alert and stimulated by being kind. I will start to appreciate the fact that you take care of me, look after me, and protect me. This time, I will put you first. I will respect you and honor you and cherish you. Together, we are enough. Thank you self. I love you.
Have you ever taken a moment to write a love letter to yourself? Oftentimes, we are our own worst enemies. We don’t always show ourselves love. There are times when we get mad at ourselves. We don’t like what we do or we get disappointed in our behavior and actions. But instead of letting it go or forgiving ourselves, we get frustrated and mad. We criticize and say some really bad stuff to ourselves. We call ourselves names and beat ourselves up emotionally and mentally. We are so mean to ourselves! We try so hard to change ourselves and become someone that we aren’t. We compare ourselves to others and worry so much about what other people think of us. So we try to fix ourselves to act and behave like a person we were never meant to be. We spend time and energy wishing we were different.
Well we aren’t doing ourselves any favors! Instead of getting frustrated, how about we forgive. Instead of hating ourselves, our bodies, our actions…how about we show ourselves some respect and love. Let’s command joy today by writing ourselves a love letter.
It’s Monday morning. The alarm goes off at 5:30AM. We have to get up to face our normal work week. Some of us may be dreading it. We may have a job that we hate, and we are dreading the work day. It’s difficult, no question. It’s challenging to get up, get ready, and face the world. But when we are feeling less than enthused, we can shift our thoughts and choose to command joy by bringing light into the world.
One of the greatest influences we have in our world is to radiate our own light. When we shine, we allow others around us to shine too. When we find a way to open our hearts to the light of awareness, freedom, truth, and love…we bring in the light. And through our lightness, we light those around us. We influence the world in a positive way, making things a little lighter, a little better, a little happier. It’s our joy to bring light into the world.
To find our light, we have to get in touch with our deepest, truest self. We have to let go of our egos. We have to release the need to please other people and the feeling of having to prove ourselves, and just be. Once we are in touch with our truest self, lightness happens. We start to radiate the qualities of light and love, truth and beauty. We lose our attachment to things that don’t matter. We feel harmony and balance. From here, from this place of light, we can impact others around us.
We become the light by treating the person next to us with kindness, compassion, and human dignity. We light up the world by being the best, most loving version of ourselves to our friends and family. When we let our light shine, we command joy and light in others.
We all have the power to make the world a little brighter. We can choose to shine our own light. So today, get out there and shine enormous amounts of light! Light up the world by doing what you were born to do. Find the job, the passion, the hobby that lights you up! When we are the light, we light up the world.
Tell me, in the comments below, how do you bring light to yourself, and to others?