My song isn't really mine, it's yours

What if me writing a song wasn’t about me. What if it was about you.

It seems strange to say this, because of course the song is about me. It’s my song. I was moved to write it about something I care about.

But what if, once I wrote it, it wasn’t about me anymore. What if now that I finished it, it became about you. It helped you understand something, it changed you, it healed you, it helped you. Maybe “my” song set you free, or made you cry, or had you pick up the phone and call a friend. Maybe it helped you deal with what you are going through. Maybe it gave you a little more strength, a little more faith. Maybe it helped you feel understood.

The song’s no longer mine, really. It’s yours.

Practicing shipping

Maybe you've noticed...

I've been writing a blog post almost every day these past few weeks.

It's a deliberate practice I've undertaken since reading this post and this post by Seth Godin.

Basically, I am writing and publishing a post a day to get over my fear of putting things out into the world that are unfinished. I want to share from the heart, quickly and directly. And a practice like publishing a blog post a day is one way to do that.

Here's a quick and dirty manifesto around my practice:

  • 1 post a day

  • written in one sitting

  • edit in one and only one pass (no obsessing or worrying about grammar, punctuation, typos)

  • post it... no sitting on it. ( Seth's term is "ship it")

  • ability for people to comment — this setting is turned off (as Seth’s is on his blog)


Manifestos are helpful. Daily practices are helpful. Making myself do something I am scared to do is helpful.

I don’t know how long I will do this for, but I do know that I will become someone different on the other side of this practice?

What got you here won't get you there

One principle / distinction that I’ve been thinking about lately and have been using in my coaching is this:

"what got you here won't get you there."

Our strengths that got us to one level of success are not necessarily the ones that will get us to success at the next level.

Another way to say this is that the demands on our time and mind-space grow as we grow. If you seek a new level of achievement with old tactics and strategies, you will struggle. You are a different person now. You need new ways to approach the new world you created and now inhabit, and the new world you want to create and live into.

In my world, this distinction plays out like this: In my 20s and even my 30s, I could fairly easily find 4 to 6 hours a day to practice my guitar and write songs. 

Now, in my 40s, with a fulfilling relationship to nurture and grow, a team to lead in my music career (my social team and my VA), a coaching practice that lights me up and that I love working on and in, a desire to write more songs for myself and other songwriters, a self-creation / self-mastery practice (meditation, writing, gymnastics, backpacking), I have to work hard to find even an hour a day to practice my guitar.

I cannot expect to have hours and hours of time to get better at guitar and cannot keep operating as if it will happen, someday. As Ramit Sethi says “someday is code for never.”


I can’t muscle my way through as I once did. I can’t just expect myself to grind like I used to, stay up to the wee hours fitting in more things. Fitting shit into my life sucks now. It used to be how I operated. Now it hurts. It doesn’t work for me anymore. Now, with my other responsibilities, I create my schedule. I craft time for each activity. I deliberately say no. I protect songwriting time.

I also use my intuition now. I network and collaborate with people now.

I have acceptance for the things I can't do and I focus on my strengths versus trying to bring my weaknesses up to strengths. I find the best person for the job and then I empower them to do it, own it, and report back.

I let go more.

I am seeing how far I go and who I become and what is possible through letting go.

What got me here won’t get me there.

These people deserve the credit for my TEDx Talk

No one does anything alone or in a vacuum.

There’s no such thing as DIY. Even something you think you “did” yourself has been helped and shaped by forces seen and unseen for decades, if not longer.

I wanted to acknowledge the people who made my TEDx Talk better:

  • Angeline May and the whole TEDx West Chester Team

  • My mom, of course. Her journey of awakening (that I chose to go on with her through her diagnosis and death from ovarian cancer) irrevocably altered the course of my life

  • Leah Ollman for every little thing, including listening to the talk at least a bazillion times

  • My TEDx coach, Ryan Hildebrandt at Viral Message Lab

  • Primoz Bozic, my business coach, for suggesting I reach out to Ryan when I got the invite to speak

  • ALL the friends and acquaintances who agreed to be interviewed on loss and grief as I put together the script for my talk

  • All the friends who set up events that gave me the opportunity to practice my talk, helping me bridge the gap from relying on my script to a fully memorized performance. Big shout out to Nercy Sullivan and her team at Alchemy Space in NYC who threw the first such event at her beautiful hair salon in NYC. Her “yes” gave me the courage to continue asking for help with practicing my talk

  • Alex Kipp of Muse Public Speaking for the hours of rehearsals and laser-focused work on my performance

  • Nicki Richards for the invaluable vocal coaching and crucial tip about getting the songs into the right key

  • Amy Wolter for a new and different kind of performance coaching this time ‘round

  • My life coach, JP Morgan for the reminder that I don’t care about polished… I care about moving people

  • Dr. John Sharp for early advice on the TED process and everything other kind of life advice

  • Katie Anderson of MEND Tailoring for the style

  • Rob Mounsey for helping me make Bright Nowhere (aka The Death Album) the incredible piece of life-changing, culture-shifting, award-winning music that it is and will be and for making me a better musician

  • Carol Annibale for keeping me and my team organized and for planning all the events and travel

There’s no way I could’ve created a talk this good and this powerful on my own. No way. Never ever.

I didn’t do any of it alone. Thank goodness! I am so grateful for all of these human beings.

Am I willing to torpedo my TEDx talk?

Today, during my weekly call with my life coach (yes, I am a life coach that has a life coach) we talked about what I want to create with my TEDx talk that is happening this Thursday night, November 8, 2018.

Here’s a bit of what we talked about and what we created in our conversation … 

What is possible if I completely open my heart and give my TEDx Talk from my most vulnerable, raw place?

If I were to completely open my heart and be as vulnerable as possible, here is everything I fear.

I’m afraid I’ll …

  • completely lose my way in the talk

  • get so overwhelmed by the memories and emotions and sadness of caring for my dying mother that I can’t go on with the talk

  • not be able to sing

  • my singing voice will be off-pitch and sound horrible

  • run out of time (TED only gives you 18 minutes maximum to give a talk)

  • etc

At this point in my preparation process, my talk is polished and well-rehearsed (to the extreme). I’ve given it to 15+ groups of people as of today. I’ve rented rehearsal spaces to work on it and even had a friend get me into her school auditorium to give me the chance to practice on a big stage (beyond the time I get during our dress rehearsals).

But polished and well-rehearsed is not what connects to people’s hearts. Polished and well-rehearsed does not change lives. It is impressive. But I don’t give a shit about impressive. I give a shit about liberating everyone around loss and death. 

Am I willing to lean into my emotion so much that I risk the whole thing crashing and burning? Torpedoing the whole thing because I am so in touch with the emotions and feelings of that 4 year journey with my Mom from diagnosis to death?

I am.

A parallel universe in which I got everything right?

When we’re centered there is no such thing as “doing it wrong.” It could be anything in our life: guitar playing, songwriting, washing the dishes, writing, working, exercising, eating, etc.

When we aren’t centered, when we are coming from fear, worry, comparison, being too far behind, not being good enough, not being farther along, when the voice in our head is beating us up about every single thing, then everything in our lives feels like a mistake.

Here is why that un-centered voice (the ego, the “I”) is full of BS: it looks at every single thing in our life and says that it should be (or should’ve been) different or better than it is (or was).

This is a total scam. It’s also a no-win situation.

The inner voice is insatiable. It’ll never stop criticizing you.

There is simply no way to be better or different in a way that will satisfy the ego.

As the Zen teacher Cheri Huber likes to say, there simply is no parallel universe in which you did / do everything perfectly and everything turned / turns out exactly as the inner voice wanted / wants it to.

There just isn’t. There is no amount of doing that will satisfy the voice in your head. Ever. Never has been and never will be. Its whole existence is based on getting you to do, do, do so that you are constantly distracted and thus not able to see its lies and delusions. It wants to keep you suffering and doing and striving and failing and achieving but yet not quite measuring up enough and scared and comparing and wanting and exhausted (do I need to go on?)…

When we notice this voice and begin to wonder why it’s so mean to us, we can sometimes catch a glimpse of what’s really here, what’s really true.

What’s really here and true is that Life is.

You didn’t do it wrong. Ever. Not before and not now and you won’t in the future.

There are no mistakes.

The possibility of astonishment

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities … offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope,” — Thomas Merton

I’ve written in the last few days about how we like to think we control everything.

Our ego, the self-identified “I”, the I at the center of our universe, is under the illusion that it can influence everything around us. That by doing more, better, faster we’d be more and better and have already arrived there. And ego wants it exactly as it wants it. It likes and dislikes all day long.

When we step outside of this incessant, nagging voice in our head for even a brief moment, we see that there is something else available. That something else is peace, possibility, joy, delight, surprise.

When we can get away from the voice of the ego for even a bit, and we are open to the astonishing world we inhabit, we realize that Life serves up wonders and amazements that the ego could never dream up.

Your (my) little terrified, square, nagging, angry, bullying little ego would never dream up how incredibly wondrous this world is — how almost everything I do today is a miracle.

On mundane morning example of the amazingness of every minute of my day: that I can press a button and my glossly black french roast coffee beans (that came from Africa originally, but were transported to and roasted in New York) are perfectly ground and pressed and hot water (that is clean and heated to the perfect temperature) is passed through said grounds. Then a delightfully smokey brown liquid drips into a beautiful clay cup I have placed under the spout. All this happens in under a minute. And whenever I feel like it.

It is simply astonishing when I get out of my tiny little world, when chose to ignore the nagging likes and dislikes of the ego that drone on in my head.

It is possible to be astonished every single minute of the day by how much LIfe wants to and does offer us, if we’d only let it.

The 1 second commitment

When we make a commitment to practicing something, anything — say playing guitar for an hour a day, meditating for two minutes in the morning, turning our phone off at night — that practice is not actually about playing guitar, about meditating, or about time away from the phone.

It’s really about training the muscle that says no to the voice in your head that wants to talk you out of doing that thing you committed to doing.

We want to get to a point that no matter how we feel (I’m not getting anywhere, I’m miserable, I’m too exhausted, I’m hungry, I’ll do it tomorrow) and no what what the voice in our head is saying, we simply keep our commitment.

Most of the world thinks they get credit for reading about how to keep a commitment or listening to a podcast about how to keep a commitment, or, if they are feeling a little bit more energized, that they get credit for “trying” to keep their commitment.


These things don’t count, I am sorry to say. I wish they did.

Keeping a commitment to yourself is a form of training. As the Zen coach Cheri Huber says, “We are training to be the person we have always wanted to be, the person we can trust with our life.”

Keep your commitment to yourself as if your life depends on it. Because it does.


If you have to scale the commitment back, do that. Don’t skip the practice all together. If your commitment is to play guitar one hour a day and you just don’t have time and the voice in your head is saying all sorts of things to you about what is more important, then play for one focused minute. If you can’t do that, just simply pick up the guitar and hold it for 10 seconds or 10 slow breaths.

I know that sounds absurd.


But only the person who has not yet had the courage to keep even 30 seconds of her commitment would laugh at such an idea.