How to Use ‘Fear’ Like an Expert – an AWAI Article

NOTE: This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Golden Thread, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/.

I AM NOT THE AUTHOR

 


Clayton Makepeace on the Astonishing
Power of Fear
By Clayton Makepeace

Have you ever been tempted to squeeze an irresistibly cute bottom? Tell the judge where he can stick that speeding ticket? Claim a tax deduction you don’t really deserve? Drink and drive?

So why didn’t you?

What’s that you say? You don’t do those things because you’re a moral person?

Well, while your application for sainthood is being processed, consider the rest of us – imperfect folks who are sorely tempted to do all of those things and still don’t – simply because we fear the consequences.

In a word, “jail.”

It’s a rational fear. Fact is, here in America – “the land of the free” – one out of every 98 adults is behind bars. More than 2.3 million of the 225 million adults in the U.S. woke up this morning in a federal or state prison or a local jail. Almost as many people who live in Chicago live behind bars today.

That leaves about 222.7 million of us grownups outside the prison walls – including former prisoners, folks on the lam, folks who probably should be on the lam (presidential candidates, Congress, most bureaucrats, whole-life insurance reps, every lawyer but mine, etc.), and of course, the rest of us.

And to one degree or another, every one of us has tempered our behavior – or even refused to do something we probably should have done – because we fear winding up in the pokie.

But fear does more than keeping us from doing things we want to do. It also compels us to do things that we would never do voluntarily.

Slightly more than 145 million of us labor all year for the privilege of handing over the lion’s share of our income to politicians and bureaucrats – in federal and state income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, automobile licensing taxes, excise taxes, taxes imbedded in the price of every product we buy, the inflation tax and other government taxes and fees.

Because if we didn’t, we could lose everything we own – or maybe wind up in jail.

Fear.

As we pay our bills, we’ll spend billions on all kinds of insurance to protect ourselves and our families from something that will probably never happen.

Fear.

Millions of Americans vote for Democrats because they fear global warming.

Millions more vote for Republicans because they fear Democrats.

I vote Libertarian because I’m terrified of both parties.

Fear.

What are your prospects afraid of?

Read most books about copywriting, and you’ll read a ton of stuff about how to appeal to your prospects’ desires by fully dimensionalizing your product’s benefits.

Now benefits are in the business of fulfilling desires – like the desire for greater wealth, better health, more fulfilling and more enduring relationships, the respect or even the envy of peers, and much more.

But every benefit is just one side of a coin; the other side is a fear.

Because while prospects desire all these things, they also fear NOT having them in their lives. They fear poverty and dependence … illness and pain … being abandoned and left alone, and being thought little of.

And so sales copy that promises to deliver a much-desired benefit and alleviate a nagging fear can be twice as effective as copy that focuses on benefits alone.

But activating your prospects’ fear in promotional copy can be a tricky proposition – and so I thought it might be a good idea to give you a few guidelines I use …

Five Blunders Copywriters Make When Using Fear in Sales Copy

1. Attempting to give prospects a fear they don’t already have:

The last thing your prospects need at the end of an emotionally exhausting day is to pick up a magazine, open a direct-mail package or land on a Web page in which you introduce them to a new problem or a new fear.

Regaling them with a new problem or a new situation they should fear is a sure way to get your sales message ignored – or worse: leave prospects vowing to never read anything else you ever send them again.

Moral: If you’re going to invoke fear in your sales copy, make sure it’s a fear that’s already waking your prospects at 2:30 AM in a cold sweat.

2. Playing on prospects’ fears of distant events:

We all know that retirement is heading for us like a runaway freight train – but very few of us get serious about saving for retirement until it’s too late.

We all know that smoking can kill us – someday in the distant future – and yet millions of us still smoke.

And of course, we all know that Double Whoppers and Double Quarter-Pounders with Cheese will eventually clog our arteries and doom us to a heart attack or stroke – and yet McDonalds and Burger King sell billions of dollars worth of this toxic (but mouth-watering) food every year.

So why doesn’t the fear of a poverty-stricken retirement or lung cancer or a heart attack or stroke motivate us to change our behavior?

Simple: The pleasure we get from spending our money … or chowing down on a thick, greasy burger … or savoring an after-dinner smoke … is immediate. The price we pay won’t be exacted for years or even decades.

Put simply the distance of the negative event in time neutralizes its power to change our behavior.

Physical distance is also a factor when considering fear as a motivator in sales copy. Recently, when I was talking with Joe Sugarman about ads he wrote for his Midex burglar alarm system, I asked him why he began his copy reminding prospects of rising crime statistics and the likelihood that they would become victims of crime.

Joe’s answer was spot-on: “They know all that,” Joe said. “But it’s not until their next-neighbor has an intruder in his house that the fear becomes strong enough to move them to action. And when that happens, if I’ve done my job well, they’ll remember my ads and buy a burglar alarm from me.”

In other words, someone near you was a victim of a violent crime in his or her home yesterday. If it was your next-door neighbor, you’re many times more likely to buy a burglar alarm today than if the victim was a mile or 10 miles away.

Moral: If you’re going to use fear in your copy, make sure it’s an imminent fear. Something that is likely to happen in the very near future – or better yet, at virtually any moment.

3. Using fear that paralyzes:

Right now, the investing world is a very interesting place. The value of the U.S. dollar has been cratering – and foreign currencies have been soaring in value – for 9½ long years.

Since the mid-2000s the U.S. housing bust and mortgage meltdown virtually paralyzed the credit markets. Corporations and consumers alike are finding it much more difficult to get loans and even credit cards.

As this situation continued, the holiday seasons had been some of the most disappointing on record. Manufacturers and retailers lost their shirts. Their stock plunged.

And so the Fed has cranked up the printing presses – unleashing a tidal wave of unbacked, phony-baloney dollars worldwide. And since each new dollar the Fed creates devalues every other dollar in circulation, it’s a good bet that the profits investors have seen in other currencies so far are about to pale compared to what’s going to happen in the months ahead.

But even though the U.S. stock market reminds me of a balloon in a roomful of razorblades, I’m deliberately avoiding sales arguments that could freeze my prospects like so many deer in the headlights of an oncoming tractor-trailer.

Because, although I want my prospect concerned that his money is losing his value … and although I definitely want him to want the huge profits being earned in the foreign currency markets … I do not want him frozen into inaction by the fear that the entire U.S. economy could come unglued at virtually any moment.

Moral: Using a fear that paralyzes prospects won’t do you any good, and it sure won’t help your prospects.

4. Invoking a fear that isn’t actionable:

If you’re looking for something to be afraid of these days, you sure don’t have to look very far!

Cable TV is replete with programs telling us how the world could end at virtually any moment.

Either global warming is going to melt the ice caps, flood our coastal cities, create worldwide famine by altering the weather and give us all a nasty sunburn …

… Or a mega-earthquake in Yellowstone or a giant comet or meteor is going to plunge us into a new ice age.

Four years ago, I saw a show that basically said “Don’t worry – it’ll probably all end on December 1, 2012, anyway.” That’s when the Earth and the sun will align with the giant black hole at the center of the galaxy – and according to The Discovery Channel, this alignment could cause the Earth to suddenly shift on its axis, snuffing us all out.

So does any of this make you feel like buying anything?

Well, if you’re selling a spaceship and a map to the nearest inhabitable planet – and if you’ll let me pay you over 30 years or so – maybe. Otherwise, invoking my fear won’t do you one bit of good.

Moral: Pushing your prospect’s panic buttons is pointless unless you can show how your product eliminates the cause of his fear. Quickly. Cheaply. Permanently.

5. Emphasizing fear over the solution:

The other day, I critiqued a fear-based first draft by a top-notch writer. As expected, the sales copy sang and soared. It was attention-getting, lively and absolutely convinced me that the caca is about to hit the air conditioner.

But it didn’t make me want to buy the product.

See, the promotion is about politics – how the bozos and bozettes in office are going to royally screw us all – and how to survive and thrive, the prospect needs the advice a particular guru is offering them.

But the writer is so passionate about this particular subject, the copy focused almost entirely on the fear our prospects should be feeling as they watch politicians preen, spin and lie their keesters off on the six-o’clock news.

While each threat to our prospect’s wealth, health and liberty was presented in exquisite detail over many pages of inspired, impassioned prose, the many ways in which our client’s product neutralizes those threats were presented quickly and without passion.

Moral: It’s not, ultimately, about fear. It’s about the solution to that fear – the benefits – that you’re offering.

A little fear goes a long way. It’s a powerful attention-getter. Used correctly, it can add dimension to your product’s benefits and motivate prospects to order now.

But nobody buys just because they’re afraid. They buy because you’ve proven that your product will bring tremendous practical benefits to their lives – and by doing so, will free them from the fears that torment them now.

Hope you all enjoyed this article as much as I did – Kit

krangara

December 15, 2014

Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress. Charles Kettering  Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_newyears.html#mH1uw5TQw7KBKB8A.99

NOTE: The following article was first published by me on Medium: https://medium.com/@kr_iyer/top-5-things-you-can-do-now-to-welcome-2015-with-a-smile-27a627aae5dc

5 Things You Can Do NOW To Welcome 2015 With a Smile

The end of every year feels the same to me.

I look back at the past twelve months and reminisce about a few happy moments. But, mostly, I rue about lost opportunities.

My tendency to set unrealistic goals in January comes back to haunt me in December. This sense of ‘failure’ mars my personality and I become mired in a quicksand of discontentment and despair.

As a result, I bade goodbye to the year with a frown.

Does this sound familiar at all?

If so, why don’t we try something different this time?

Let’s choose to herald the New Year with a beaming face and a buoyant heart by doing the following five things from today until the end of this year.

Of course, it would prove highly beneficial to heed these suggestions on a more permanent basis too.

Perform One Act of Kindness Every Day

“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

On January 1, 2014, my husband helped an elderly couple find their keys in the parking lot of Panera Bread. It was a bitterly cold morning, and the lots were carpeted with slushy snow.

We were making a pit stop for some aromatic Hazelnut coffee and found the seniors anxiously pacing outside the restaurant, their heads bowed in concentration as they scanned the area in freezing temperatures. My husband jumped out of the car and after inquiring what was wrong, calmly took out the shovel from our trunk and cleaned the lots until the keys were found.

The couple felt extremely grateful for crossing paths with this thoughtful man and enveloped us in an enthusiastic hug. It was the most beautiful way for my husband to inaugurate 2014.

Unexpected and unaffected acts of compassion garner a ton of goodwill.

So how about performing one random act of kindness every day?

Give a long hug, ply your pup with an extra treat (or 2 or 3!), cook something special for your partner, call your family or a best friend just to say, “I LOVE YOU”, smile at a stranger, buy a cup of coffee for someone in need, send a personal note along with your Christmas gift, pen a gratitude letter to honor the multitude of positive memories you forged this year.

True bliss doesn’t cost much. Just dole out such simple pleasures without any expectations and watch happiness ripple through hearts.

Forgive Those Who Hurt You and Apologize to Those You Hurt

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” — Mark Twain

For more than three decades, I thought forgiving others would trivialize my emotions. The person who hurts me deserves to pay, right?

Wrong.

Holding onto such ugliness has only induced more stress into MY life. Dwelling on a sorrowful past belittles the present and besmirches the future.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t feel bad. Do sit with your suffering. Experience it to the fullest. Denying your pain will only delay your recovery. But, at some point, you have to leap out of that garbage dump.

And forgiveness is the hand that will haul you into a more joyous and peaceful place.

Is forgiveness easy? No. But it is certainly worth it.

My hypnotherapist suggested a simple exercise that is helping me unleash uncomfortable feelings. She asked me to compile a list of people who have wounded me this year — pick your top ten! Don’t forget to include yourself in this compilation because, too often, we are hardest on ourselves.

After creating your list, find a solitary place and read each name aloud. As you say the name, visualize their image. Then look straight in their eyes and say, “I forgive you. I hold no negative feelings back. I am free. You are free. Forgiveness is complete.”

Perform this exercise every day. While you will not want to pardon everyone instantly — that is just not realistic — practice can make forgiveness a habit!

Finally, if you have hurt someone, do not hesitate to reach out and say sorry. It takes courage to apologize, but doing so will allow you to receive the New Year with a much lighter heart. Two days ago, I apologized to a close friend for a misunderstanding that has stressed me for three months, and my act has only strengthened my relationship.

In this era of dispersed attention and selective retention, we do not need more negativity to bog us down. So apologize wholeheartedly and forgive warmly.

Turn Off Technology For an Hour Every Day

Men have become the tools of their tools” — Henry David Thoreau

When I met one of my online best friends for the first time this year, we talked for hours without ever checking our social media notifications. She laughed and said, “Kit! This is the first time I have ever seen you offline for so long!”

Indeed, I am the kind of person who regards Facebook as her first home! I panic if this social giant goes down for ten minutes, and feel helpless without my phone.

Obviously, I need some ‘technological detoxing’, and I suspect most of you do too. Gadgets and gizmos have overpowered us to the extent that human interaction now seems like an inconvenience.

Hence, I have begun to consciously take an hour or two away from the WWW and my phone. I use this down-time to read, write, play with my pup, solve crosswords, take a nap or just zone out!

Consequently, I am becoming more mindful and aware of the present, which is allowing me to cherish THIS moment in all its glorious imperfection.

Shunning technology for an hour will make you more attuned to your intuition, imagination and interests. In addition, this will be a good ‘dress rehearsal’ for those last weeks of December when friends and family cluster around and force you to part with those doodads!

Capture Your Favorite Moment of the Day

 “We do not remember days; we remember moments” — Cesare Pavese

For the last two and a half months, I have been posting a ‘Portrait of Pleasure’ around thrice a week in my Happiness Haven group on Facebook. This picture celebrates a cheerful moment from my past, and is part of the‘100 Days Happiness Challenge’ series, which was introduced to me by one of my favorite bloggers.

It gives me great pleasure to scour my ‘Picture Library’ and pick one that continues to tug at my heart. None of the chosen images are filtered or Photoshop(ped) — well, I do reduce the size, but that’s it. These are raw, real and spontaneous images that are enmeshed in my soul forever.

Surprisingly, my personal recollections make others beam from within too. Because although we might not share the same past, we do share the same belief that happiness is contagious and has the power of forging meaningful relationships.

That picture of your pup wearing an NFL Jersey might charm a fellow NFL fan or a pet owner, and, voila, you just might have found a friend for life.

The most lasting memories are usually fashioned in the most fleeting moments.

Hence, whip out your camera and start clicking. You don’t even have to share your images with anyone. But do find a way to preserve them forever, because, any time you are feeling depressed or despondent, that memory will uplift your spirits. A blissful past has a very charming potential to enliven a bleak present!

Be SMART About Your Goals

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves” — William Shakespeare

My resolutions in 2014 were to launch my new website, lose 10 pounds and pen a few guest blog posts.

Well, I gained five pounds and my new domain name is languishing in the dusty attic of the Internet since April of this year. As for guest blogging, I do have my name on one site, which might shut down soon!

Lesson: When you make vague resolutions, you get vague results.

I have decided to be more proactive with my goal-setting for 2015 by being more specific about the steps required to achieve my overarching goals. For instance, I can break down ‘Launch my Website’ into smaller, more attainable steps such as: (a) define my mission statement; (b) create the About Me page; (c) pick five hashtags that befit my brand; (d) brainstorm categories and ten blog post ideas.

Isn’t such specificity far more prudent than creating a (lazy) ho-hum to-do list?

Start with one goal and divide it into manageable units — preferably with approximate deadlines to help measure your progress. This way, you have something ‘realizable’ to look forward to in the new year, and every seemingly insignificant success will carry you closer to your big goal. Of course, don’t forget to celebrate your tiny victories!

Nothing enlivens our morale than having an obtainable purpose in life. Let’s me S-M-A-R-T about achieving ours.

(Bonus Tip: Clean Email Inbox. Yesterday, I pressed ‘Delete’ on 3000+ UNREAD emails and felt thoroughly liberated. It feels ah-mazing to see 2 READ emails today! Eliminating tangible clutter will make it a lot easier to de-clutter our minds, and make space for productive, proactive and positive thoughts)

I hope these five ideas help you welcome 2014 with a smile on your face, pep in your step, confidence in your heart, love in your soul and optimism in your entire being.

Over to you now, dear readers. What steps are you taking to have a joyful ending this year? Happy Holidays <3

Furry Love is Forever

Furry Love is Forever

This post is part of the 500 Words Challenge, which I have undertaken to pen at least 500 words (for myself) regularly and make writing an enjoyable habit.

Move Over Snow White, Princess Paula Is Here

Her beautiful brown eyes were shaped like the most perfect almonds. She nudged closer, bumping her nose against mine. Sighing contentedly, I rubbed behind her ears and massaged her neck. She rolled her eyes in ecstasy and flashed a graceful smile – thawing my heart faster than a tiny piece of ice on a hot stove!  Then she stood up, waited for me to follow her cue and promptly placed her huge paws on my chest. I laughed out loud at her antics while she happily wagged her tail.

SHE is Paula – a giant dog, of unknown breed and thick snowy-white fur. I met this gentle beast at a pet hospital. Oreo – my black and white puppy – has a deformed paw, and hence our rescue agency suggested we consult a renowned surgeon to ensure that nothing was serious. But my boisterous cookie never lays still, which forces the nurses to sedate him before X-Raying his paws. Consequently, my husband and I are forced to cool our heels in the waiting room for an hour.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." —Roger Caras (photographer and writer)

Paula tiptoed into the brightly-lit area while I was brewing coffee for myself. Our eyes locked, and I fell head over heels in love at first sight. Tapping my legs impatiently while the black nectar dripped oh-so-slowly into my cup, I watched as she slobbered all over my husband. When my cup was FINALLY full – hey, it had been less than a minute since the coffee began brewing, but time seems to stretch when there is such a gorgeous furry-gal in front of you – I almost leapt to where my husband sat, dumped the coffee cup on my chair and allowed her to smell my hands. That’s when she gave me her full attention, and those huge eyes pierced through my heart.

From Biased Phobia to Blossoming Passion

Watching me coo like a ‘crazy dog woman’, my husband grinned broadly and shook his head. With sparkling eyes and a smile wider than his, I asked him what was going on in that awesome brain of his! He said, “I can’t believe you are the same person who was so scared of dogs less than a year ago. Look at you playing with the hugest dogs today”. Chortling, I agreed.

I hail from India – a nation that homes several abandoned dogs on its streets. These stray dogs live in deplorable conditions and, as a result, are scarily aggressive. I remember being chased by several frightening dogs during my stay in India. Hence, I was extremely biased against these four-legged creatures and quaked in my shoes every time one of them crossed my path. Since I didn’t fully understand how dogs communicate, I misinterpreted a wagging tail as a sign of aggression, instead of a sign of love, and equated barking with bad behavior. In fact, I distinctly recall bursting into tears when Oreo barked for the first time after we adopted him. I thought he was going to hurt me.

“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” ―M.K. Clinton (author, The Returns)

Biases. Aren’t they scary? I guarantee that most fears spring from incorrect assumptions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if – instead of permitting  prejudices to lead us astray – we trust our experiences to show us the right way? (That said, I am frikking scared of snakes, and I am NOT going to place my hand in a snake-pit to befriend them any time soon :P )

For instance, my unexpected ardor towards dogs arose because because I let one kind dog open my eyes to the multiple facets of our furry friends!

From Urrghh to Arfff…..

The adorable Bassett Hound – Ginger – featured in the following picture (with me) is the primary reason for my sudden change of heart:

The Dog Who Made Me Fall in Love With Dogs

The Dog Who Made Me Fall in Love With Dogs

Ginger is my sister-in-law’s first dog and one of the most affectionate pets you will ever find. She taught me that, when properly raised, dogs are faithful, adoring and oh-so-much-fun! They trust implicitly, love generously, live wholeheartedly, lead wisely and elate perpetually. It took me only one meeting to embrace these fascinating four-pawed animals! Since that fateful day when Ginger stole my soul, my pulse pounds with excitement at the sight of most dogs! It’s amazing how a single good experience can counter multiple negative experiences (and the vice-versa is true too!)

Oreo has only reaffirmed my belief in the power of pets to enliven our lives. While he can be annoyingly rambunctious, I cannot imagine living without him. Heck, I find it hard to leave him alone at HOME even for an hour. It breaks my heart to see his limpid, pleading eyes when he realizes my intention to go out.  My husband teases my obsessive devotion towards my munchkin, but his amusing quips shall continue falling on deaf ears.

My Seven-Month Old Pup, Oreo

My Seven-Month Old Oreo

Oreo has transformed my life in more ways than I can count, and I am not going to take this blessing for granted. In fact, I created an “Inspired by Oreo” series in the month of July as a tribute to the pup who brought loads of laughter into my tiny world. For twenty-five days, I outlined his teachings – one lesson a day – in the form of stories. However, his influence extends far beyond just a month. Every single day, my dog educates, empowers and encourages me to become a more giving, caring and loving person.

My only gripe is that Oreo never allows me to cuddle him. Hence, I steal such moments with other dogs – such as Paula and Ginger – who do enjoy such human ‘rubdowns’!

Has my cynophobia vanished? NO! It is too deep-rooted to disappear within a year or two. In all honestly, I am still not comfortable around small dogs (and cats). That said, I don’t tremble in fright or start bawling at the sight of any dog anymore, which is quite a relief!

Thanks to Oreo, Paula, Ginger and every dog who is responsible for the most beautiful memories and moments of mankind. We can all learn a lot from your selflessness, spunkiness and sweetness. We love you, darlings.

Were you ever the victim of a bias, either due to a past experience or due to incorrect information? How did you overcome this prejudice? Oh – and if you have any furry friends, I would love to know more about them! :D Thank you for engaging with me, dear readers.

 

Life- It Goes On

Life Goes On

Note: I don’t judge anyone based on their weight (except myself, that is). But I have survived an almost-fatal foray into the world of eating disorders, and hence sprinkled ‘judgmental’ phrases, such as flab or fat, in this post to explain my psyche during this trial by fire ! Again, I don’t mean to or want to or aim to belittle anyone.

This post is part of the 500 Words Challenge, which I have undertaken to pen at least 500 words (for myself) every day and make writing an enjoyable habit

I was born sixteen years ago on this day.

(Hubby: You can stop snickering *grr*)

Let’s say sixteen (plus or minus) seventeen years (ago)! ;)

A Depressed Birthday Gal

Okay, so I am not one of those “age is just a number” gals! Aging scares the crap out of me!  I woke up this morning feeling supremely depressed because my days on this planet felt numbered.

With a heavy heart, I loudly sighed and said, “A few more years and then I’m gone.”

At that very instant, my puppy – Oreo – began licking my hand furiously, as if to remind me about all that’s wonderful in my life. I gave him a warm smoochy – much to his disgust (!) – for gently nudging me to be grateful, got out of bed, logged onto Facebook (my first task of the day ;)) and found over 100 birthday messages from some of my nearest and dearest friends. My premature gloom completely dissipated, and was replaced by immense gratitude towards everyone who took a few seconds to bestow cheers upon me.

From Grumpy to Grinning

So, yeah, as I sit here and type some random musings, I feel blessed to be cozily embraced by these affectionate well-wishers! While death is the only certainty of life, focusing on our impending doom is a waste of time. Instead, for as long as we live, why not concentrate on the versatile beauty, unbridled joy and heartfelt love that surround us every minute?

There is delight to be sought and found in every wanton sway of a leaf, every whimsical song of a bird, every winsome prank of a child (or pet), every enigmatic moment of silence and every warm smile of a loved one.

But then my early-morning nihilism isn’t surprising. All my life, I have either been overly optimistic or extremely pessimistic. My glass was never half-full or half-empty – it was always completely full or completely empty.

The First Two Decades: Ages of Innocence and Ignorance

I was raised in a cocoon of happiness for the first two decades of my life. As the pampered (NOT spoilt, my parents made sure!) second child in a family of four, I never lacked for anything. In fact, I never asked for anything either. I didn’t question, I didn’t wonder and I didn’t struggle.

I was naively ignorant of the (often) harsh realities of life, and resided in this vacuum for twenty years. I did what I was ‘supposed’ to do because it seemed to work so well for me.

Life was too easy.

However, a snake finally entered my Garden of Eden. My first engagement broke less than a month before the D-DAY. Nothing like this had ever occurred in my family. I felt like a bad omen that was put on this earth to sully her parent’s name. Rationally, I knew that my ex-fiancee and I were thoroughly incompatible, but I still felt rejected and couldn’t understand why.

Everybody loved me, so why didn’t he, right? Yep, like I said, I wasn’t aware of a world beyond the walls of my immediate friends and family, so I couldn’t understand the inexplicable vagaries of love and life.

My Twenties: A Lost Decade Where I Finally Found Myself

Although there were innumerable reasons why my ex and I could have never been happy together, I locked onto the most tangible reason in my heart ; an insidious whisper that said: no one will love you because you are fat.

Yes, I was certainly not thin. I loved to eat. Was I extremely obese? NO! But I displayed enough evidence of my fanaticism for food! During that brief engagement period, my ex often made subtle suggestions to join a gym. I brushed his concerns away with a snicker. Heck, I hadn’t ever stepped into a gym and wasn’t about to start doing so for this guy. He just had to deal with the way I looked, which he finally understood and accepted.

Nonetheless, when I was suddenly left alone, I latched on to the only plausible reason for this break-up: my weight.

And for the first time ever, I assessed myself in the mirror. Every roll of flab and dancing jowl mocked me until I shamefully cradled my face in my supposedly fat palms.

I joined a gym and began counting my calories. As the number on the weighing scale descended, I noticed several people complimenting my efforts to look svelte, which spurred me to continue shedding those pesky pounds. I soon met and married my soul-mate – who loved me as I was– but the ‘fitness bug’ had bitten me.

Isn’t it amazing how a thousand positive messages can get overpowered by a single – and often delusional – negative message?

I began linking my self-esteem to the flashing digits on m scale. My rule of thumb was simple and clear: the lower, the better. Soon enough, what began as a healthy adventure to get in shape translated into an unwholesome obsession.

At age 28, I weighed less than eighty pounds, and my newly married husband FINALLY had enough. On a crisp Fall evening, he took me out for a walk and – with heartbreaking tears rimming his stunning brown eyes – begged me to get hospitalized. After my pleas to remain at home fell on deaf ears, I hesitantly enrolled myself into a health center.

More than three hospitalizations and three years later, I regained most of my weight and was at a healthy range. But, in this process, I lost my job as a Telecommunication Consultant.

I still remember the day my HR Manager relayed their decision to let me go – very sweetly, might I add. My husband was out of town and had forgotten to take his phone. I spent the whole night sobbing and cursing my employers for uprooting me heartlessly despite their multiple assurances that my job was safe.

I felt completely alone and unconnected. What was I going to do, now that my safety net no longer existed?

Thirties and Beyond: Exciting Uncertainty

When my husband got home, he felt horrible and comforted me for a while. But he is not one to wallow in the past, instead choosing to find solutions to challenges. After hugging me 10 times and consoling me for an hour, he said something that I will never forget: Weren’t you always interested in writing?  You now have an opportunity to translate your passion into a career. So wipe those tears and get back to school.

In an instant, my despondency evaporated and I acquired a new zest for life and a new meaning for myself. Can I actually become a writer? Do I dare to dream of a future in front of a keyboard?

I joyously hugged hum and profusely thanked him for such unconditional support. Indeed, I wouldn’t be alive without him. He reignited my drive, rejuvenated my passion and reinstated my smile!

The very next day after our ‘talk’, I enrolled in a Journalism class at a community college. But since they didn’t have more than two courses in this major – and because I longed to become a copywriter in my childhood – I complemented these writing courses with an Introduction to Marketing class.

However, it didn’t take me more than two sessions to fall in love with marketing, in general. I knew – in my very core – that a rejuvenating phase of my life had just begun.

Over the last year, I have been fortunate enough to engage with innumerable inspirational entrepreneurs and professionals (on social media) who lead generously, love uninhibitedly, laugh wholeheartedly, learn continuously and live contentedly! Their accomplishments embolden me to believe in and work towards fulfilling my dream, while their encouragement fuels me with a drive to succeed.

A Kaleidoscopic Future

I know not what my future holds, but I am definitely eager to witness its unfolding. There is no dearth of opportunities for anyone today. As a writer, more specifically, I am charged up about freelancing, helping my social media contacts with their blogging needs, setting up a new website (or 2 ;) ) etc. I get goose-bumps just speculating about the myriad possibilities in front of me.

It’s time to buckle down, prioritize and focus. It’s time to dare my fears to a duel. It’s time to travel the road not taken.

Would I wish an Eating Disorder on my worst enemy? NO! That said, this entire experience has certainly offered me the clarity and courage to heed my calling and erect the life of my dreams against all odds. For twenty-plus years, I thought life was a bed of roses, and hence a single thorn threw me into a vicious loop that I continue to embattle every day.

On the other hand, today, I live on a bed of thorns, and hence seek beauty in every rustle of a dry leaf and every tinge of color. My recovery journey is far from complete. While I look normal physically, I am an emotional mess who breaks down daily. But I have (finally) learnt – the very hard way – that failure isn’t final or fatal unless we allow it to defeat us.

Like Monica told Rachel in the Pilot episode of the popular TV Show, Friends, Life sucks. Just deal with it!”

A truer line hasn’t been spoken.

The question now becomes: will I settle for safe mediocrity or aspire for an exciting excellence? Yes, success is never guaranteed, but languishing in befuddled stupor – something I am quite adept at ;) – is worse. All of us possess the super-power to make others happy and elevate the quality of our existence. So why not choose to listen to our instincts, honor our passion or calling, and give, do and be our best every day?

Let’s help each other lead a fulfilling existence, replete with harmonious laughter and heartening love. Are you with me? Thanks for reading and interacting with me, dear audience.

A Call for Help

A Call For Help

At 11:15 am (CST), I broke down.

Every Tuesday morning, from 10 am to 11 am CST, I co-host a Google Plus Hangout-on-Air (HOA) called #GetBizy with Kit and Jim alongside James Fierce – a creativity coach from California. We aspire to connect our ‘dream audience’ with soulful and successful visionaries who humanize entrepreneurship.

Of Creativity, Cojones and Commitment

This morning, we had the pleasure of talking to three empowering and energizing women – Gail Harris, Carrie Roldan and Kristin Drysdale – about how to seek clarity in chaos and erect a life of your dreams without losing your sanity! To say that their words of wisdom were moving would be a supreme understatement.

There was nary a dry eye on the panel during the show.

Their pure hearts, profound knowledge and poignant courage brought everyone to tears! I too felt wonderful for having the honor of being friends with these ah-mazing women and professionals. My heart was brimming with love, pride and joy.

That is, until we said our good byes and I logged out. Five minutes later, I was a bawling mess!

Smile On My Lips, Agony In My Heart

I felt horrible for being a petty, jealous gal who always compares herself to others – even hating her friends for succeeding – while my peers don’t think twice before nurturing their circle of relationships wholeheartedly. How do they survive nightmarish situations without losing their ‘light and laughter’ while I see darkness everywhere despite leading an extremely comfortable existence?

I put my head in my hands and shamefully whispered, “You are a scam artist, a nasty nitwit and a liar who maintains a façade of love.”

Of course, my negative self-talk was quite exaggerated (hopefully – lol) but it IS true that I am not the most positive person. I have struggled with ill-serving comparisons and unhealthy envy since childhood. I still recall my 10 year old self plotting to bring down the classmate who dared to score a few points more than me in an insignificant test! *yes, you can roll your eyes ;) *

And these diseases continue to inflict pain, guilt, shame and a plethora of other fascinatingly ugly emotions on me. There are times when my negativity overpowers me so completely that I actually indulge in ghastly name-calling towards myself and others. Of course, I feel more disgusting than a slimy worm afterwards, but this wave of spitefulness renders me completely helpless every single day.

It’s a wonder I am even partially sane.

My inadequacy as a person soon blended with my feelings of inadequacy as a writer, along with the voices of external naysayers who have never quite believed in my ability to make a career out of writing

(These ‘cynical critics’ are some of my favorite well-wishers. They are just realistic because writing is not regarded as lucrative profession in my country, India)

And this maelstrom of pessimism convinced me that my desire to become a reputable writer was completely inane. How can such a bad person ever heal someone else through her words, right?!

A Kat for a Kit

After berating myself for twenty minutes, I pinged my favorite writer – my Mama, my Mentor and my MuseKatherine Kotaw (on Facebook) to vent my feelings. She is the most courageous, compassionate and committed woman you will ever come across. Unfortunately for Kat (!), she is also the first person I turn to during moments of extreme despair.  I must have recounted countless spiels of sorrow, and she has always patiently and passionately restored my hope and optimism.

Today was not very different.

Although my future remains bleak and blurry, Kat’s invaluable support and her unwavering affection constantly prevent me from giving up. Indeed, I cannot imagine a world without her by my side (even if it is just virtually!).Thank you so much, dearest Katherine, for encamping me in your heart. Your ability to encourage without preaching and love without judging is quite unparalleled.

All For One, One For All

Today’s scary experience, followed by my uplifting conversation with Kat, reminded me of the importance of belonging in a writing community. I have met some terrific writers through Facebook Blogging Challenges, and I yearned to get back in touch with my ‘pen-mates’. Although I enjoy writing for others – indeed, it is a privilege to assist my friends – I desperately crave writing for MYSELF.

Consequently, I decided to challenge myself by choosing to write SOMETHING daily. I recalled the 500 Words Challenge posed by another one of my favorites, Jeff Goins, and dove in without a second thought. I appreciate this community for warmly enfolding me into their group.

By clacking away on my keyboard every day, I hope to:

  • make writing for myself a habit
  • reconnect with my soul
  • reignite my creativity
  • fall more in love with myself and others
  • make my loved ones proud

Most importantly, I ache to forge some lifelong connections with fabulous people who share my wonder for words.

All Is Not Lost

Gail Harris said something very insightful on our show: teach what you wish to learn.

I wish to become a better person, and hence shall try my very best to spread bliss  – one word at a time, one hug at a time, one smile at a time – even when I am festering in a cesspool of negativity and don’t quite feel like smiling. As a result, I hope happiness becomes a habit and I feel genuinely good from the inside-out.

I hope.

Have you ever felt completely deflated (or defeated)– either as a person or as a professional? How do you cope during such dark moments? I am extremely grateful for your participation. #HUGSS

Thank You: The final entry in the Facebook "September" Blogging Challenge

Thank You

Note: This post is part of my third Facebook blogging challenge. I sought to post a 100-150 word narration – with alphabetized titles – in September. Oh! This exercise was definitely tough, but also extremely fulfilling. I have a new-found appreciation for writers who can say a lot in little. This post – in continuing with this month’s tradition- has 150 words, minus this Note section and the bolded section in the end.

I tend to ramble.

Hence, penning 150-word narrations was really not my cup of coffee! :P

But I deliberately strayed out of my comfort zone, during this month’s challenge, in order to tread new grounds as a writer. In the process, I met some amazing authors whose warmth, wit and wisdom are immensely inspiring.

Now, I cannot say whether my writing made sense. That is for my lovely readers to decide. And I am extremely grateful to each one of you. Your heartfelt participation enlivened my passion for writing.

In return, I hope my posts made you smile at least once!

Indeed, it was harder to pen stories for some letters than for others, but all narrations empowered me to remain true to my craft, and emboldened me to push my limits more often,

For now, my hats off to all those writers who express more in less. You ROCK!

Did you take part in this month’s Facebook Blogging Challenge? If so, what were your key takeaways? If not, what do you enjoy the most about writing? Thank you so much for your continued interest in my words. I look forward to solidifying our relationship  #HUGS

Z for Zest: Facebook Blogging Challenge

Z for Zest

Note: This post is part of my third Facebook blogging challenge. I seek to post a 100-150 word narration – with alphabetized titles – in September. While I have penned several essays with more than 2000 words, crafting these stories is going to be my toughest ‘creative’ challenge yet because brevity is not my forte. This post – with a title that starts with Z – has 150 words, minus this Note section and the bolded section in the end.

Yesterday was bad.

Like I-do-not-deserve-to-live bad. Like I-am-going-to-lose-my-brain bad. Like life-is-so-hard-I-just-cannot-keep-up bad.

After sleeping for around three hours to block he pain, I woke up and thought about different ways to revive my enthusiasm during such nightmarish days. I came up with a long list, but still felt edgy and unproductive.

So I shut down my electronics and simply sat with myself.

After silently ruminating for about twenty minutes, I took a few deep breaths and felt better. That’s when it struck me. The key to leading a content life is mindful self-awareness. The more you get to know yourself, the easier it is to deal with negativity.

Hence, the next time I am beset by ugly emotions – which is every day (!) – I am going to embrace solitude and find the goodness that is residing deep within me.

Reconnecting with your unsullied soul helps rediscover your zest for life.

What are you favorite coping mechanisms, dear readers? Thank you so much for supporting me over the last twenty-six days as I penned 150 word narrations with alphabetized titles. Hopefully, my efforts brought a smile to someone’s face. :)