Doin' A What Did Not Come Naturally...

Writing did not come naturally to me. It took years and loads of practice before I was any good at it. I lacked a key ingredient - the confidence to express myself, to let my words go and allow them to find their own way. Ironically, I would never be writing for myself were it not for some things I learned from work, not from school or my personal life. For the purposes of this blog hop, I’d like to share a few lessons I learned from some very clever bosses on a corporate playing field where writing is anything but personal.

The courtyard at The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

The courtyard at The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

I first started writing straight out of college at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston where among other things I compiled the quarterly newsletter. I was technically skilled at formulaic writing but had ZERO knowledge of composing “a bigger picture.” In fact, it was the first time I had ever heard the expression as it was regularly summoned by the incoming media-savvy museum director, Anne Hawley. While she was all about “The Big Picture,” my editors were the incredibly brainy curators who taught me the micro. This was the first glimmer showing me that Writing is as much about the macro as it is about the micro.

All writers know that you can’t write unless you know what you are writing about. I learned this for myself when my career shifted from museum work to corporate public relations at Giorgio Armani in Boston. It was here I learned that in order to write well, you can’t sit around and expect words to come.  You’ve got to get up and get out there to find them.

I was expected to work five days at PR and an additional sixth day – every Saturday - on the selling floor assisting the sales staff. I resented the six day work week. It was agonizing. As a young twenty-something I was unable to grasp the importance of being in-sync with my colleagues and in touch with the business I was writing about and promoting. It took some time and significant growing pains for me to realize that my boss, Donna Montgomery, was doing me a huge favor, showing me that I was part of a bigger picture, that it was not about me. It was time to ditch my twenty-something ego and learn my place and my role in the business of public relations. THE BEST writing practice, whether PR or private, is to get out of the office and get in touch with the story and all its parts… the client, the product, and the trends. No PR Princess in an Ivory Tower will ever be good at writing unless she keeps up and gets out of her own way.

When I moved from Boston to work for Giorgio Armani in L.A., I did a proverbial “Linda Blair,” turned my head around in a complete circle, and threw up everything. Blaaaaghghgh. Once again, I ditched the ego and learned how to do things in a new way, a West Coast way. That was daunting, but I confess, it was thrilling. My boss in LA, Wanda McDaniel, was a gifted writer, but she was a brilliant strategist, too. She made certain that every word she chose supported the message she needed to convey. Every time I sat on the other side of her desk and scribbled down her messages to Mr. Armani, A-List celebs, and Hollywood’s Power Elite, I was learning the true meaning of crafting a message.

Sadly, Grief was my next boss-Teacher. After my daughter died, I stopped writing. My light had gone out.  I could not articulate my struggle. For years, I had no voice and I mourned for its return so that I could express both the agony and the beauty I held inside. I eventually found "safety" in writing when I went back to work but beneath it all, I knew that if I truly wanted to write in order to express myself, I would need to jump beyond the corporate to the personal. To do this, I not only had to regain my confidence but I had to find it in the first place. It was a slow process but my voice did eventually return to me, and it was different. I was different, both had been forever changed in an instant and over the years. I like this voice better. It’s not always so frightened to say something wrong.

What am I working on/writing?

The process of writing every day is not at all new to me. I’ve been non-stop-writing for the past thirty years. What IS new to me is the JOY of writing for myself. I am working on keeping that joy flame going for as long as possible. Writing Good Girl Go stories offers me a chance to do just that.

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

What strikes me is that my subject matter is very similar to so many others. I guess I am not so very unique after all, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. I love that so many people out there are interested in health and wellness and are trying to improve lives, their own and others. I love that we are not trying to be perfect, that we are accepting of our flaws and searching for and finding ways to nourish our mind, body and spirit. We can all learn from one another and partake in a movement that can better ourselves and indeed, our world.

3) Why do I write what I do?

After banging out press releases, business proposals, fundraising pitches, press strategies, brochures, advertising jingles, anything in the name of corporate communications, I no longer wanted to spend my time writing about things that were not meaningful to me.  I now write about things that have inspired me to grow in ways I might not have otherwise. It took a long time for me to gain the courage to open up and write in this way. Another part of me wanted to write about the experience of losing my first child at birth but I did not want to focus on the sadness and trauma of it all. I wanted to focus on the other side of it, the part that is the Deep Peace and Fulfillment that eventually comes from Grief, the part that makes us Grateful to be alive and appreciative of what we do have in our lives and not hooked on what we have lost. At some point, we all get knocked for six. I like to write about what happens after we work through it. It makes being human, wonderful after all.

4) How does my writing process work?

I write all the time, but mostly in my head when I am dog walking, driving, preparing a meal. Only when I am ready to write do I sit down and type. Then it’s just flow and edits, flow and edits. Time flies for me when I write. It’s pure joy as I pull thoughts and words together.  The act of writing brings me to where I really want to be, a place where I am connected to my thoughts inwardly while expressing them outwardly. I am grateful to be here, finally, after all these years.

Participating in this blog hop has opened up a new dialogue for me and brought to my attention many fine and intelligent women who are sharing their words, their wisdom, and their humor. I am grateful to Laurie Luh at Mimosa Lotus for bringing me into the loop and am thrilled to introduce two very inspirational fellow blog hoppers - Katherine Miller of Kosmic-Kitchen and Keryn Means of  Walking On Travels . Like Laurie, they also know some inspiring ways to make your life awesome and healthy... 

Laurie Luh  is a career counselor, HR consultant and the co-founder of Mimosa Lotus, a lifestyle   website that inspires personal growth by providing tools to live a happier, more fulfilled life. Laurie   was the head of Human Resources at Participant Media since the company's inception in 2004 and   left in 2013 when she realized that it was time for her to jump into the next phase of her career   life. Now Laurie writes about the practicalities of “jumping” and dispenses overall career advice for    Mimosa Lotus  and  greenlightjobs . She will also be a featured blogger on a new online career center   that’s still in development. Laurie has been a guest lecturer at USC and has spoken on several panels.   Outside of writing and career counseling, Laurie lives by the beach in Los Angeles and is an active   runner and hiker hoping to add surfing to her list of activities very soon. She’s easy to find over at    Mimosa Lotus  or you can follow her on twitter @LaurieLuh, where she’s often tweeting photos of   favorite SoCal hotspots.

Laurie Luh is a career counselor, HR consultant and the co-founder of Mimosa Lotus, a lifestyle website that inspires personal growth by providing tools to live a happier, more fulfilled life. Laurie was the head of Human Resources at Participant Media since the company's inception in 2004 and left in 2013 when she realized that it was time for her to jump into the next phase of her career life. Now Laurie writes about the practicalities of “jumping” and dispenses overall career advice for Mimosa Lotus and greenlightjobs. She will also be a featured blogger on a new online career center that’s still in development. Laurie has been a guest lecturer at USC and has spoken on several panels. Outside of writing and career counseling, Laurie lives by the beach in Los Angeles and is an active runner and hiker hoping to add surfing to her list of activities very soon. She’s easy to find over at Mimosa Lotus or you can follow her on twitter @LaurieLuh, where she’s often tweeting photos of favorite SoCal hotspots.

Katherine Miller   has spent most of her life exploring the question how do we create radiant health, in body, mind and spirit? To find the answer she studied macrobiotics and other dietary regimens, raised a family on whole-foods, became a yoga and meditation practitioner and teacher, and served as Executive Chef at a spiritual retreat center for 14 years. She also received certification as a health coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and as a Master Fermentologist to guide people to a better gut health. In 2010 she created   Kosmic-Kitchen   to teach people practical ways to shift their experience of healthy eating into a new dimension of possibility and pleasure. Recently she launched a new venture, Mbodied.com, dedicated to guiding women during their transition through menopause. Both businesses offer virtual and in-person programs designed to guide you in the discovery and practice of radiant health. 

Katherine Miller has spent most of her life exploring the question how do we create radiant health, in body, mind and spirit? To find the answer she studied macrobiotics and other dietary regimens, raised a family on whole-foods, became a yoga and meditation practitioner and teacher, and served as Executive Chef at a spiritual retreat center for 14 years. She also received certification as a health coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and as a Master Fermentologist to guide people to a better gut health. In 2010 she created Kosmic-Kitchen to teach people practical ways to shift their experience of healthy eating into a new dimension of possibility and pleasure. Recently she launched a new venture, Mbodied.com, dedicated to guiding women during their transition through menopause. Both businesses offer virtual and in-person programs designed to guide you in the discovery and practice of radiant health. 

Keryn Means  is a freelance writer and founder of   Walking on Travels , a site that gives hope to today’s active parent who doesn’t want to stop their lives; they simply bring their kids along for the ride. You can find Keryn dragging her two boys around Seattle most days and across the globe several times a year. Follow her on  Facebook ,  Twitter ,  Google+ ,  Pinterest , and  Instagram . 

Keryn Means is a freelance writer and founder of Walking on Travels, a site that gives hope to today’s active parent who doesn’t want to stop their lives; they simply bring their kids along for the ride. You can find Keryn dragging her two boys around Seattle most days and across the globe several times a year. Follow her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, and Instagram

10% Happier and 100% Human: ABC News Anchor Dan Harris Gets Real with Good Girl Go

Dan Harris, co-anchor of ABC  Nightline  and the weekend edition of  Good Morning America.

Dan Harris, co-anchor of ABC Nightline and the weekend edition of Good Morning America.

For years, Dan Harris has delivered news stories as a respected ABC News anchor. Now, he’s delivering a new story – his own. Dan is a gifted story-teller. He’s in one of the toughest, ratings-driven professions on the planet where there is very little room for error and being “perfect” in the public eye goes with the territory. How ironic then that his first book, 10% Happier, exposes his imperfections. With humor and an authenticity that we don’t often see, he succeeds without preaching to teach us about Meditation. At the end of his story, the mother in me just wants to hug him and say “thank you. Thank you for being so brave and honest.”

If there’s one thing Good Girl GoGoGo likes to write about it's life-affirming stories about good people who work through difficulties and then have the strength to share their stories with others so that they, too, may heal.  In a previous Good Girl story I wrote about the Hero's Journey, “I can’t help but be reminded that when we think of the archetype mythological hero and his journey, we intuit a man, his journey and his struggles, and his ability to impart wisdom to others upon his return home.  The key to this myth is that throughout his travails the hero [actually] stops along the way to ask for directions from wise guides who make his journey more…meaningful.  It is this ability – to ask for guidance as well as to share knowledge - that turns a mere mortal into a Hero because he is both able to listen and learn as well as to teach and help others.

Dan would be THE LAST person to call himself a Hero, especially in light of the fact that he has reported from war zones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq where people put their lives on the line every day. Dan is a different type of hero, a hero whose story reminds those of us who are suffering that we’re not in this alone and that there IS a healing path to wellness – you just have to be open to it and willing to practice, and then practice some more.  

Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier came out in March 2014 and by April, it shot to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. If you think the book’s success is the result of the massive ABC megaphone that helped to propel it, think again.  Its success is down to something far less cynical: an overarching societal craving to slow down and get a better handle on things and to be more…human.

It takes a lot of courage for anyone to share their personal story, let alone someone in the public eye. Dan is pretty hard on himself, but with a self-deprecating sense of humor.  In a manageable 237 pages he distills the concept of ‘monkey mind.’ Using accessible language and his personal journey as backdrop, he deciphers Meditation.  Lucky for us, he demystifies the airy language, cuts through the cosmic goo and shows us how science supports the practice of mindfulness.

 

Dan’s story begins ten years ago with an on-air panic attack in front of 5.019 million viewers. What unfolds is a lively tale about a young man in a thrilling job and the consequences it has on his health. After covering the war in Afghanistan and visiting the Taliban home base in Kandahar Dan writes, “I was hooked.” Reporting from the war zone was “journalistic heroin.” His story continues with whizzing bullets overhead in Tora Bora where he was under additional pressure to prove that he was not too green to cover the war. 

Dan Harris reporting from Kandahar. Harris was one of two western reporters in the city during U.S. bombardment.

Dan Harris reporting from Kandahar. Harris was one of two western reporters in the city during U.S. bombardment.

In talking with Dan, he was clear about his experience: “I liked what I was doing. It was thrilling.” At this point, his already addictive personality accelerated way beyond his mother’s chocolate cake and morphed into a more serious addiction to adrenaline. When he came back home, he says “life was flat and grey and that’s when I stupidly started to self-medicate on the weekends with cocaine” … and then came the on-air panic attack. Your heart breaks for him when you watch it, but don’t worry – he’s anything but pathetic, and definitely bounces back.

Dan knew he needed to change his habits. What he didn't know is that he had to change his way of thinking, too. His book catalogs his progress through years of discovery and challenge and one of his life’s many ironies: the profession that led to his adrenaline addiction ultimately led to his “salvation” as well.

Dan went from covering the war to covering religion in America, a different sort of war zone. It was another beautiful life irony for Dan: the assignment he was least interested in personally [Religion] brought him to his most profound personal discovery – Meditation. Like a reluctant rower on a river leading to Nowhere-other-than-Salvation, Dan met many pivotal characters along the way – Evangelical Pastor Ted Haggard; Self-help gurus, Joe Vitale, Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra; oh, yes, and Paris Hilton – some of whom are encapsulated here in The 6 Strangest Things Self-Help Gurus Have Told Me.

He also interviewed His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who admits "Enlightenment does not depend on rank. It depends on practice!" It's an endearing exchange where they easily talk about Enlightenment, Anger, Reality, Impermanence, Illusion...watch it!

Dan gradually grew into the assignment and accepted that “at a time when religion had become so venomously divisive, thoughtful reporting could be a way to take audiences into worlds they’d never otherwise enter, and in the process demystify, humanize and clarify.” Little did he know he was taking himself into a new world, edging closer and closer to Meditation.

Dan resisted meditation. Apart from his understandable aversion to pan flutes and hand symbols, he wanted science to prove its benefits. He also feared judgment from friends and colleagues. He writes “I would either clam up and get a sheepish look on my face, the way dogs in Manhattan do…or I would launch into an off-putting, overly emphatic lecture…” By the end of his story things change on this score. Not only is Dan more comfortable with it, his bosses and colleagues are too. 

It’s clear from Dan’s story that he has a good boss in Ben Sherwood, the kind we all dream about [he has since been promoted to Head of ABC]. Ben, the antithesis of a detached overseer, encouraged Dan to “UP YOUR GAME,” and become a “LEADING MAN.” I asked Dan “what is it about Ben that made you trust him enough to come clean and talk about 'old stories of drug abuse'?” I learned from Dan’s reply that the trust was always there. There wasn't any big emotional build up to coming clean. I can’t help but feel happy for Dan when he describes his boss…  

"Ben is an extraordinary guy. I’ve had a long relationship with him. He’s charismatic and really smart and attuned to detail. He just loves being involved."

Dan writes about “the warm glow” volunteers receive from their acts of kindness. With bosses like Ben Sherwood, I believe it’s possible for a corporation to grow a warm glow of its own by being “kinder.gentler” to its employees. ABC has most certainly been a leader on that score as it presents itself as a family, proudly and lovingly supporting one another through life’s journey. Dan Harris is not the only ABC family member to tell his story. Fellow ABC anchors Amy RobachElizabeth VargasRobin Roberts have opened up, too. They are all living, loving, breathing HUMAN beings with real stories to share, stories that can help others heal and live healthier, happier lives.

ABC’s on-air talent is taking huge personal leaps and successfully connecting with Modern-day America, the part of it that is wounded and desperately in need of a “release”. In a consumer driven society of hard-work and material gains, we all care about who and what touches us. It's good to know that when the news is delivered to us and touches our lives it's coming from someone who is human after all. 

One of my friends, a New Yorker through-and-through, says “Dan’s one of the lucky ones. He was able to catch himself and allow himself to be human.” I’d say Dan’s doubly lucky he has the support of a good boss and fellow colleagues…triply so when you consider that Dan has great people in his life and his journey can be measured by the love and wisdom he received along the way from his doctor, his family and friends, and from his caring, intelligent wife, Bianca.

In this world of “perfection,” it’s refreshing and wonderfully real and daring for a news anchor, of all people, to share his story so that others might heal, too. For those cynics who call it a PR ploy on ABC’s part to use its on-air talent to boost ratings, I’d say they have it all wrong. ABC is definitely looking after its tribe. You can feel the love and it’s contagious. Who cares if the ABC megaphone was used to promote personal stories? They would be stupid not to use it. Look at all the ways it can help to heal millions who are wounded and have no idea where to turn to let the healing begin. If they keep it up, ABC could usher in an age where corporate America takes metta breaks instead of coffee runs... and the world would be better for it.

Throughout his book, Dan carries around a motto like a litmus test “the price of security is insecurity” believing that his security is measured by his vigilant self-criticism and worry. By the end of the book, he’s come a great distance, far enough to learn that there’s so much more to gain than to lose by being 10% Happier and 100% Human.