Why I Won’t Wish You a Happy New Year

Note: This post first appeared on Medium

This is the finale of my ‘5 Reasons I Cherish 2014′ series. Part 1 was a ‘prose of praise’ to my pup, Oreo; Part II was dedicated to my enterprising online friends; Part III elucidated on the steps I took to confront my phobia of public speaking; Part IV revealed my decision to finally declare myself as a writer. Bear with me while I rant a bit before revealing the fifth lesson of 2014 ;) 

A Magnificent Start or a Spurious Mirage

Like many of you, I woke up this morning with a buoyant heart, a gritty soul and an optimistic mindset.

The day I had been waiting for with bated breaths was finally here: January 1, 2015

A new day. A new year. A new beginning.

What’s not to like about a fresh start, eh?

The golden shaft of light slanting in through my window shimmied with the promises of hope and happiness.

 The wisps of snowy clouds floating through the azure sky seemed to beckon me to the future of my dreams.

Even the chilly weather of Chicago— that normally has me cussing creatively — somehow felt gentler, like the feathery touch of a fresh snowflake when it first hits the ground.

The aromatic morning air glimmered with love, light and laughter — thanks to my dear friend, Christine L. Bowen, for these three Ls. If I were blessed with limitless imagination, I would have definitely seen magical unicorns floating around me!

I logged onto Facebook to make the necessary salutations, brewed a pot of coffee (which smelled even more enticing today!), solved my morning crosswords and then drove to Panera Bread for some To-Go breakfast and their yummilicious Hazelnut coffee, while my pup leaned his whole body out of the window and enjoyed the rush of breeze.

For a while, my world felt as perfect as George Clooney’s face! ;)

But couple of hours later, as the hour hand and the minute hand converged at noon, my enthusiasm began plummeting. And at around 1:30 pm, I hit rock bottom.

Wasn’t today supposed to be different? Wasn’t this year supposed to be more positive than 2014? Wasn’t I supposed to feel (miraculously) happy at all times?

To give you some background, the hours between 1 pm and 5 pm are extremely hard (every day) because my eating disorder regularly rears its very ugly head to taunt me about my ‘over-sized meal and obese body’.

But I thought January 1 was meant to be a the dawn of a new era, one that is NOT pockmarked with difficulties or demons or disappointments.

So what was going on? Why was GOD being so unfair towards JUST me?

A Lesson In a Bar of Soap

When sleeping or playing with my pup didn’t elevate my spirits, I stomped to my bathroom for a mid-afternoon shower, hoping that the hot water would calm my agitated nerves.

That’s when I spotted one of my favorite bars of Indian soap — emerald green and lime scented — sitting gracefully inside a shower cubby.

As my nose drank in its sweet smell, I suddenly recognized why my morning high was replaced by crushing sorrow in the afternoon.

The New Year was like a new bar of my favorite soap.

Let me explain.

I have a soft spot for scented Indian soaps. A trip to an Indian grocery store will inevitably result in the purchase of half a dozen bars!

From the subtlety of sandalwood to the seductive appeal of jasmine, India manufactures a wide array of soaps with heavenly smells. And I cherish inhaling them while they are still in the packet — sometimes, I even use them as moth balls!

However, my happiness always plummets after using the soap a few times. Although the fragrances don’t fade, my fascination fades with repeated use.

The holiday season is very similar.

Like the pure scent of that unwrapped soap, the holiday season — which ends on New Years day — smells intoxicating, exhilarating and powerful.

From self-help gurus to digital marketers to huge retail brands, everyone throws advice and bonuses and discounts and sales to celebrate this ‘special time of the year.’

(Just like the unwanted buzz around Valentine’s Day, which makes even less sense. Why do we need a special day to celebrate love? To sell products, that’s why! Marketers wrap the red roses and Rolex watches in a seductive package of love, and we foolishly throw away money to express a sentiment that is best expressed with a lot less and comes naturally!)

The anticipation of bigger. better and more beautiful times clouds our judgment, and we start hoping for some magic wand to erase all our troubles and bless us with our dream life!

But when the unblemished perfume of a new soap blends with the not-so-fresh scents of our body, and diminishes in size, its appeal begins to dim.

Similarly, when the New Year arrives and we are forced to take part in it, the day doesn’t feel remarkable anymore.

It feels bland, boring and blase.

The magical unicorns disappear, the sunlight feels blinding, the sky loses its luster and the cold goads you to kill someone!

WHY?

Because our pre-New Year expectations were completely unrealistic!

Take Off the Festive Blinders

What if, instead of year-end sales, retail establishments start holding ‘daily day-end sales’?

Sure, they will lose a lot of money, but, hey, we might then start believing that every day is extraordinary, right?

Do you see the problem with this thinking?

Instead of mindfully experiencing every moment, we are attached to labels and packaging and facades and marketing ploys!

Let’s go back to my favorite soap.

Despite not losing its fragrance, that soap lost its allure in my mind. Why?

Because I was drawn more towards the enticing possibilities of an unopened bar than towards the act of using that soap every day.

Similarly, the holiday season urges us to visualize a utopian future; one where contentment is dirt cheap, where gallantry is our best friend and where success resides on our doorstep at all times.

When New Year arrives and reality doesn’t align with these fantastical expectations, our confidence takes a nosedive and we revert back to the ‘pre-holiday season’ version of ourselves: uneasy, uninspired and unimaginative. 

Is it any wonder that most resolutions don’t stick?

Very few people have the attitude and aptitude to change their lives drastically using showy goals.

Most of us mere mortals have to take small, supple steps that lead to consequential change.

And we have to take these steps in our real, messy, mundane, unstimulating lives.

Just like writers who wait for inspiration to start putting down their thoughts hardly get anything written, those who chase glamorous milestones to start living their purpose are never able to achieve sustainable success.

Live Like a Dog

Now what the heck does that mean?!

In the morning, while I was behaving like Maria from the Sound of Music — joyfully spreading my hands, humming a happy tune and twirling through my unclean home — at the prospect of a NEW YEAR, my pup, Oreo,looked up at his crazy mum, yawned and went back to sleep.

I pooh-poohed him for not understanding the import of a NEW YEAR. He was wasting precious morning minutes scratching himself instead of dancing with me in our not-so-lush backyard!

However, when afternoon arrived and Oreo joyfully chased his favorite squirrel, while I was sinking deeper into depression, I had to confess that he was much smarter!

Because, unlike us humans, my pup’s happiness didn’t depend on the time of the day or the day of the year.

To Oreo, there was nothing different about today and so he did what he always did.

HE LIVED. 

So, yeah, my wish for you is to not have a happy NEW YEAR.

My wish is that — just like a dog — you engage mindfully with your PRESENT and seek something gratifying in the daily grind of life.

My wish is that you embrace each moment — both pleasant and unpleasant — to the fullest so that over-hyped milestones lose their intrigue.

My wish is that you find the courage and the confidence to steer your life in the direction you choose — every day. And if you fall, my wish is that you find the compassion to be gentle towards yourself and possess the cojones to get up, brush your outfit and start over.

Because your dreams, your desires, your aspirations, your ambitions, your passion, your purpose, your success, your story, your loves and your LIFE are worth fighting for: every single monotonous day. 

Happy EVERY DAY, friends!

*******************************************************************

And now let’s move on to the fifth and final lesson of 2014, shall we? (yep, I know that was not a ‘little rant’, but the words flowed and I couldn’t stop  — if you are reading this, I either succeeded in captivating your attention or earned your snickers! Either way, I am glad you are here! ;) )

Lesson 5: Do not fight your life. Surrender to it.

One of my closest friends is in a dilemma over a boy who seems to like her, but is just not ready to commit.

She asked me, “Kit! How did you KNOW that your husband was the one? Why do you trust that he will never leave you? How are you so sure that your marriage will succeed?”

Pat came my response, “But I am not sure. My marriage can break tomorrow. Either of us — or both — might get tired of each other, fall out of love and want to call it quits. I don’t KNOW what’s going to happen in the future, and that IS scary, but also so very exciting!”

She remained unconvinced — actually I might have put her off love completely because of my realistic, but unromantic answer (!)- but my point is that life IS unpredictable, which is why it’s fun!

Like chess players, we take chances based on our insight and intuition. Some of them pay off and others don’t, but all of them were worth it because we dared!

Think about it.

When you make the right moves, the rewards are tremendous. And if you bomb, you are still wiser because of that experience.

Let me recap the first four lessons of 2014 to show you what I mean:

I was blessed with the aforementioned insights because of my willingness to stretch my comfort zone just a bit and take a tiny risk without knowing the consequences of my action.

None of my experiences — be it adopting a rambunctious pet, forming heartwarming relationships, co-hosting a LIVE show OR declaring myself as a writer — were planned or predictable.

In December 2013, neither did I know nor did I yearn for a pet. But when the opportunity fell into my lap, I trusted my instincts and embraced it.

Similarly, I would have never guessed that I would be co-hosting a show or that it will be celebrating its anniversary in 2015.

But I did and it is.

If I had hesitated or shied away from this ah-mazing opportunity, I wouldn’t have those enriching relationships. More importantly, I would have let my fear to take an even stronger hold over my life.

Finally, when I finally called myself a writer, I began experiencing the ebbs and flows of emotions that every writer experiences.

And although the blank screen, overwhelming competition and poor paychecks intimidate the bejesus out of me every day, I still take a certain amount of pride in finally living MY vision and being happy doing what I LOVE.

Please note that I am not saying any of these things to brag. 

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I reek of insecurity and inferiority complexes!

I am just sharing my experiences as further proof that when you befriend your circumstances and lean INTO your life, you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Even as I am writing this, it’s hard to believe that a ‘scared cat’ like me took those chances.

But, now that I have taken the first step, I am going to continue pushing my limits — gently, gracefully and genially — because that’s the only way I can explore more of life’s whimsical treasures. (And that’s how I can pen another series of long, rambling posts! :P )

So, yes, friends, strive to make your every day count and cherish the bountiful riches of life. 

Before you leave, tell me: have you ever reaped rewards by befriending the unknown?

Thank you so much for reading and engaging with me. Happy EVERY DAY! ;)

5 Reasons I Cherish 2014: Part IV

Note: The following post first appeared on Medium

This post is part of the ‘Reasons I Cherish 2014’ series. Part I talked about my life-altering decision to adopt Oreo, my pup. Part II delved into the importance of forging connections that matter. Part III revealed how I tackled my fear of public speaking after being paralyzed by it for nearly fifteen years.

Lesson 4: If you want to live your calling, you have to first OWN it.

“To be a writer is to be a person of faith, someone who trusts in the writing process. The blank page isn’t mocking us. It is inviting us. Like invisible ink, the words are already there. Hidden. But they are not hidden on the page. They are hidden inside of us. And when the timing is right, a light will turn on, revealing each word, one letter at a time” — Denise J. Hughes, On Becoming a Writer: What Every Blogger Needs to Know

I hate flying.

The cramped seats, the miniscule restrooms, the unpredictable weather conditions and the general feeling of being out of control are frustrating — and, frankly, stressful!

I can’t sleep during flights — including transatlantic ones — because of this fear. Hence, I try to distract myself by reading, listening to music, watching movies, solving crossword puzzles or disturbing my fellow-traveler (read husband). (I also latch onto strangers during awful turbulence, but that’s a story for another day!)

Sometime around March 2014, I was flying back from Maryland after visiting my parents for a week. My husband was in a particular cranky mood and wanted to sleep it off during the flight. While he had fun in la-la-land, I was left twiddling my thumbs, drinking five cups of coffee and visiting the bathroom one too many times.

But, either due to an overload of caffeine or the strain of flying, I just couldn’t sit still. When jiggling my body like a ‘bunny on steroids’ lost its luster, I spent some time solving crossword puzzles and making fun of my co-passengers in my head!

Surprisingly, even my favorite pastimes couldn’t distract me from pondering about plummeting to death. So I retrieved my Kindle from the back pocket of the seat in front of me and mindlessly scrolled through the hundred titles that I will never find time to read!

Now, I am an extremely impulsive person with strong instincts (they are not always right, but they ping loud and clear anyway! :D). Regardless of whether I am shopping or eating out or traveling or reading or writing, I listen to my ever-burgeoning gut!

On that day, seated in the aisle section of an unsteady plane, my gut was sending me strong signals to open one book.

But before I reveal its title, I need to tell you about another book that changed my life.

A Twist in My Personal Branding Tale

“When you are branding, you can’t fake it. Find your purpose and define your identity, then developing your personal brand will be far simpler” — Mark Cijo, YOU Branding: Reinventing Your Personal Identity As a Successful Brand

Words have seduced, strengthened and stimulated me forever. My favorite childhood memories involve a book: either in my hand or under my pillows or hidden in the bathroom or shoved into any available crevice around my home! Hence, it should have seemed logical for me to embrace a writing career. (or at least a profession that involved being surrounded by words all day, like a librarian!)

But I was neither logical not brave enough to embark on an unconventional career that was not approved by my society.

India —  as wonderful as it is in innumerable ways – still espouses stereotypical notions about career choices. Most Indians are encouraged to either become an engineer or a doctor (or MAYBE an architect, at the most).

Writing is not regarded as a lucrative profession. And, truthfully, writers aren’t rewarded enough either, so every child focuses on entering one of those two or three ‘accepted’ vocations, hoping to make good money and settle into comfortable lives.

Consequently, barring some poorly penned poems, I never wrote much. And I certainly never tinkered with the idea of becoming a full-time writer.

But after life threw me into consecutive tailspins, I was forced to reevaluate my choices and reclaim control of my life.

That’s when writing and marketing took front seats in my mind.

If you go back and read Part II of this series, you will learn that I was introduced to the thrilling realm of marketing when an eating disorder curtailed my previous career as a Telecom Consultant.

For almost six months, I was obsessed about marketing and wanted to become a social media maven.

To this end, I joined major platforms and tried connecting with the top players in the hopes of entering the ‘big league’. I made the right strategic moves: reading (and sharing) almost every article on popular social media blogs, following ‘influencers’ (god — I hate that term now!) and engaging with other social media fanatics.

In my mind, I was already a successful social media consultant with a plethora of clients at her doorstep and a zillion followers on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

But those delusions came to a screeching stop when I –thankfully — stumbled upon Mark Cijo’s amazing book on personal branding: YOU Branding

As I absorbed and processed this brilliant piece of non-fiction, several high-wattage light bulbs went off in my brain.

Mark’s insights made me realize that although marketing was addictive, words were my true passion and the one thing I cannot live without.

Consequently, I transformed from a social media marketer who enjoyed writing into a writer who relished social media.

By defining writing — not marketing — as my primary purpose, I reframed my mindset and altered my style of interaction on social media:

No longer did I chase big names on social platforms just to increase my visibility

No longer did I yearn to be counted as one of the social media gurus

No longer did I care about social metrics of success

I just wanted to utilize the power of my words to positively heal others by making them smile, by being a source of comfort and by offering hope for a fulfilling future.

‘You Branding’ had spurred me to find my mission in life, which, in turn, prompted me to stop connecting with people I WANTED to like and start connecting with people I LIKED.

This subtle shift has reaped significant rewards by letting my true personality — crazy, childlike and not-so-comical — shine on social media, thereby attracting only those users who truly care about me.

I am supremely grateful to Mr. Cijo for sharing his knowledge and stimulating me to rethink my personal branding strategy

But although I was convinced about becoming a writer now, I was still hesitant about calling myself a writer.

I guess my fear of being rebuked continued to overpower my desire to profess my passion for writing.

Thankfully, that trusty gut came to my rescue on a tempestuous flight by urging me to read an awe-inspiring book that would finally give me the courage to say: “I AM a writer”

Believe It to Become It

“You are a writer. You just need to write. It’s time to kill the excuses and start writing. Time to become a writer again. Not a marketer or an entrepreneur. Not a blogger or business person. A writer. A real one” — Jeff Goins, You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)

Well, the quote must have given the title away!

The book was “You Are a Writer” by Jeff Goins, a man I have come to respect immensely not just for his inimitable intellect, but also for his tender and transparent disposition.

I didn’t know Jeff while making my purchase. I just knew that Amazon’s reviewers seem to love his book. But I remained skeptical about its quality because of a few not-so-pleasant experiences with other popular books.

I shouldn’t have worried.

I was hooked from the moment my eyes took in the following words: “Hi. My name’s Jeff. And I am a writer”

As surprising as it might seem, I had never come across anyone who proclaimed himself (or herself) as a writer. And here was this stranger saying the exact words that I have longed to utter my entire life: “I am a writer”

Instantly, I was compelled to know how ‘Jeff’ acquired the courage to call himself a writer. Did he always know he wanted to write? Did he struggle to assert himself as a writer? Did his family approve? What was his story?

Pushing my seat to a comfortable position, I raised the Kindle to my eye level and got ready to immerse myself in the words of this man with whom I already felt a strange kinship.

For the next hour, as Jeff enthralled me with his uncluttered writing style, unassuming candor and unforgettable story, I forgot about tiny toilets, terrifying turbulence and tired travelers.

He drew me into his world so completely that I even ignored my gall bladder’s protests before the flight began its descent, which is a big deal, trust me! (Of course, I had to pay for my nonchalance, but let’s not go there)

Like a whiff of the most alluring perfume, Jeff’s words stayed with me long after I reached home from the airport.

In the book, Jeff requests his reader to grab a pen and paper, and scribble the words, “I am a writer” every day until you start believing it. I followed his command on the plane, and continued to doodle these words after reaching solid ground until they encamped themselves into my soul.

Seeing those words on various surfaces — including paper towels, book covers and notebook pages — cemented my resolve to write.

It feels wonderful to state that since that memorable flight, I have written every day, either for myself or for a client.

I have participated in Facebook Blogging Challenges, joined writing groups and communities and engaged with fellow-bloggers. My endeavors have resulted in some fabulous relationships with individuals who share my bone-deep passion for writing. It feels wonderful to interact with people who ‘get’ my unrelenting urge to write.

Most importantly, I have deleted belittling ‘adjectives’ — such as ‘aspiring’ and ‘wannabe’ — and refer to myself as a writer. 

If ever I find doubt thawing my determination — which happens every day (!) — I just reach out to my writing communities for unconditional encouragement and positive energy.

In addition, I have couple of really good friends and one magnificent mentor — Ms. Katherine Kotaw — who prop me up with their selfless kindness and steady support.

Of course, there are times when I just need to take a break from writing in order to revitalize my creativity. In such cases, I just give my fingers a break and trust my passion to let me know when it’s ready to befriend me again.

Thank you, Jeff Goins, for sharing your story and thereby allowing me to start creating mine. You were right when you said that every writer has a choice to make a difference (or not).

I choose to leave a positive impact on this world, no matter how insignificant my contribution might seem on a larger scale.

I don’t care if my messages stir only one person; it is still my ‘destiny’ to distribute my words for others to experience and — hopefully — get inspired.

The Beginning

“This is not an end. It is a beginning. You will need the courage of a lion to face this journey” — Erin Hunter

I thought long and hard about how to end this post, and came up empty. It irked me that I was unable to think of a way to tie this entire package in a neat ribbon bow.

It took me a while to recognize why I was having so much trouble.

Because this isn’t the end at all — this is just the beginning of my writing adventure! I shouldn’t be saying ‘good bye’; I should be introducing myself.

So here I go:

“Hi! I am Krithika aka Kit. And I am a writer”

Did you make any momentous declaration in 2014 that would set the course for your future? Thank you for interacting with me.

Please come back tomorrow to read about my final teaching, which really is a combination of the first four lessons!

5 Reasons I Cherish 2014: Part III

Note: This post first appeared on Medium

This post is the third installment in my “Reasons I Cherish 2014” series. In Part 1, I penned a paean to my pet, Oreo. In Part II, I elaborated on why this year has been momentous in terms of forging trustworthy relationships with people who care.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela

Lesson 3: The thing you think you can’t do is a lot easier to do than you think

It was the finale of our Intra-School debate competition.

I was standing in front of approximately fifty schoolmates in a tiny room, gesturing with gusto while expounding my chosen topic. 

Ten minutes into what was supposed to be a fabulous speech, I stopped talking.

My smiling peers looked at me with anticipation. They always enjoyed my speeches and had deemed me as the competition-favorite, especially since I had trounced every opponent in the past years.

But, horror of horrors, no words came out this time. 

My brain went blank and I couldn’t remember my next lines.

My forehead scrunched in despair, my expressive hands went limp, and my moist eyes desperately sought help from the dirty floors of that room.

However, no help was to come. My mind had given up on me.

I simply stood with my head bowed for two (very long) minutes because the thought of being looked at with pity was intolerable.

And, for the first time in my schooling years, someone else stole my triumphant tiara.

I felt humiliated.

A more enervating episode occurred couple of months later at an Inter-School Debate Contest — only this time, I was embarrassed in front of thousands of students. (Surprisingly, I lost to the same girl twice!)

For almost fifteen years after these two mortifying incidents, I refused to speak in public.

Why bother when I am going to fumble every time, right?!

Thankfully, some gracious social media friends proved me wrong.

The Most Damning F of All: Fear

“Fear is a idea crippling, experience crushing, success stalling inhibitor inflicted only by yourself.” — Stephanie Melish

As I mentioned in the second part of this series, I was a self-centered snob in high school. My arrogance was augmented by the fact that I excelled in both academia and extra-curricular activities. Everything came easily to me.

For eight years, I reigned over my peers and thought I was invincible.

You know what’s the greatest downside of such conceitedness? One (or two) instance(s) of failure can paralyze you from moving forward ever again.

Take those debate competitions, for instance.

I was so good at public speaking that it didn’t even occur to me that someone else might be just as good, if not better. My erstwhile domination seduced me into believing that only I was ENTITLED to emerge victorious.

I took my success for granted.

Hence, the two unanticipated losses sucker punched me in the gut. Like a punctured balloon, I lost my air of haughtiness in a jiffy and felt like a scam artist.

I gave my setbacks so much power that they prevented me from ever stepping on a dais — or even in front of a class — for almost two decades.

I was FINALLY afraid.

The ‘fear of failure’ is a weed that invades your mind, spoils your self-worth and destroys your drive.

And, in my case, this dread spilled onto all areas of my life.

Since that fateful day when I was shamed in a large auditorium, I became a shadow of my high-spirited ‘early teenage’ self. I don’t recall excelling at anything for more than ten years.

I lost my courage to stand out, instead transforming into a boring conformist who stayed in her ‘safe zone’ to avoid more disappointments.

Every time I closed my eyes, I visualized the pitying glances of the students in that room — and the snickering stares of the students in that bigger hall — and another slice of my self-esteem got chipped away.

Consequently, I cowered and resigned myself to a life of mediocrity.

But a very cruel twist in fate — in the form of an eating disorder — led to a series of incidents, which reignited me enough to confront the fears that had manacled me for too long.

My Introduction to Hangouts-on-Air: The Best Feature of Google Plus

“Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” — Muhammad Al

After Anorexia put a stop to my previous career as a Telecommunication Consult, I — with the unconditional support of my husband — reunited with my soulmate: words.

Even as I committed myself to writing more often, I was introduced to the magnificence of the marketing and social media domains.

Social media’s ability to unite strangers in a lifelong bond of authentic affection blows my mind!

Since 2012, when I first became a ‘social media fanatic’ (thanks to Facebook), I have interacted with several caring, committed and courageous individuals who only want the best for others.

I feel as though a higher power created social media just to connect me with visionaries who will, in turn, embolden me to challenge — and hopefully conquer- those old fears.

Anyway, after becoming more active on Facebook and Twitter, I wanted to tame the often-confusing world of Google Plus, but didn’t know how to start or whom to approach.

Then this Tweet was dropped onto my screen miraculously

https://twitter.com/stephanhov/status/385040449477427200

Stephan Hovnanian is a Google Plus guru who has this platform wrapped around his fingers. Of course, I wasn’t aware of his stature when he posted the above tweet, but, nonetheless, it intrigued me enough to want to dip my toes into the Plus waters.

I loved what I saw. The transparent repartee between the experts and newbies enticed me to the extent that I became obsessed with G Plus for a while. I watched almost every Hangout-on-Air, penned and shared summaries for each, and made at least one post every day. (Like every obsession, this fire has certainly dimmed over the last ten months, but my love for the platform will never fade away)

My activity intrigued some of the big guns on the platform. Subsequently, I was invited to be a guest on the Social Media Power Chat Hangout-on-Air (HOA), which was hosted by the effervescent and entertaining Mia Voss, a stellar host of the most popular show on Google Plus. The other guest was Christine DeGraff, another adored expert on Google’s social layer. Both the ladies stole my heart from the day I was introduced to the platform. Hence it was an honor to be asked to share the ‘virtual stage’ with them.

Thinking back, however, I don’t know why I agreed to be a part of that popular show, given my extreme fear of public speaking. I shall just chalk it up to the brash excitement of a newbie.

But – whatever the reason — I am glad my mouth said “YES” before the crippling fear in my mind could process what was going on!

For the first time in almost fifteen years, I was taking on a public stage.

I was panicking on the day of the show. My hands felt clammy and my already-dry mouth felt drier! The idea of backing out crossed my mind a zillion times, but I didn’t want to let these two awesome ladies down. My respect for them — thankfully — overpowered my terror.

Consequently, with a pounding heart and a flushed face, I went on the show.

When we went live, the paralyzing panic tugged at my tummy again. Since I was not an expert on anything, I had no idea what I could say that would add value to this amazing show! I stuttered and stammered my way through the introduction and initial discussions.

And about halfway through the show, I somehow found myself revealing my torrid tryst with Anorexia. Even as the words tumbled out, I cursed myself for bringing down the morale of an otherwise upbeat Hangout-on-Air.

To my very pleasant surprise, however, my story was not only loved by the audience, I have formed some life-long affiliations because of that one act of courage.

That was the first time I had spoken about my eating disorder in public. And the wholehearted acceptance of Mia, Christine and the audience members was the confirmation I needed to believe that my mistake didn’t make me a failure. On the contrary, I was stronger for having plowed through the (hopefully) worst period of my life.

Once the show ended, I burst into tears and immediately penned a blog post to express my gratitude towards my hosts and other Plussers.

Since that HOA, I have been very vocal about the trials of my past and the tribulations of my present. The overwhelmingly positive response across all platforms has stunned me.

You never know who will benefit from your transparency and tenacity. So I urge everyone to bare the vulnerable crevices of their soul, at least to those who love and look up to you.

(I continue to have a horrible body image. But I choose to take it one hour at a time and be gentle with myself. I won’t let this demon steal my life!)

The Social Media Power Chat was the first step towards reclaiming my nerve to speak on a public forum. I have been a guest on multiple shows over the last year, but my second most audacious moment of 2014 was when I agreed to co-host a show.

When You Care, You Dare

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” — Jack Canfield

James Fierce aka Jim — an inspiring Innovative Coach from California — was in the audience of the Social Media Power Chat show, and reached out to me in the Comments section

(The best aspect about HOAs is the electrifying audience engagement, made possible through a Live Comment stream).

I have never asked him why he felt compelled to connect with me (perhaps my weird Indian/American accent appealed to him!). However, he initiated a conversation that led to the offer to co-host his existing show since his current partner had to divert his focus elsewhere.

After thinking about his generous gesture for a month, and having a heart-to-heart discussion with him, my mind was made up. I decided to take a stab at co-hosting a show, and deal with the repercussions later.

#GetBizy with Kit and Jim was launched on January 7, 2014 at 10 am CST.

The show’s mission is to connect our delightful #DreamAudience to vivacious visionaries who are not afraid to be human, hopeful and honest. Jim and I are supported by a loving #DreamTeam who go beyond the call of their duty to ensure that #GetBizy runs smoothly.

Our dynamic guests hail from a variety of industries — from writing to coaching to technology to marketing to crafts — but share similar visions and values.

  • They have defied conventions and shunned stereotypes to carve their desired lifestyle.
  • They have tried and failed and tried again until success had to bow down in front of their persistence.
  • They have put people before profits by being committed towards offering consistent value to their trusted tribe.
  • They refused to be holed in a box, instead preferring to play in the endless playground of their imagination
  • They are spirited, sweet, stimulating, sassy and smart

Our predilection towards a casual atmosphere allows the guests to relax and just be themselves! We laugh and cry and giggle and ponder together without worrying about whether our hair is model-perfect or our makeup is done just right.

Gosh — I don’t have the most appropriate words to describe the impact #GetBizy has had on me, both personally and professionally/

Personally, I have formed unforgettable associations with some uber-stimulating professionals.

You can sense the connection made across the Interweb when I genuinely love someone — my voice gets screechy (I do pity my audience then ;) ), my heart skips a beat and my smile stretches my face so far I am afraid it will burst with joy.

That’s when I know that this relationship will last for years to come.

Professionally, I find it exhilarating to just talk to such enterprising entrepreneurs. Each one of them has struggled during their unconventional journey, but have always found the strength to persist.

As a result of this dedicated diligence, these movers and shakers have fashioned a meaningful and mindful existence by doing what they love and doing it well.

(My co-host, Jim, is one of my greatest sources of gumption. It’s impossible to hear his poignant backstory and not want to salute his steadfastness. )

So, yeah, #GetBizy is an invaluable facet of my brand.

Tuesday mornings always make me happy because I KNOW that the show will bolster my resolve to look fear in the eye and put one step in front of the other in a bid to achieve my goals.

I am not saying that HOAs have suddenly made me a TED-level speaker! Not even close. I fumble every week and find it very embarrassing to watch myself on screen.

However, the fear that plagued me for nearly fifteen years is slowly, but surely,losing its control. Isn’t it funny how — sometimes — one bold action can reverse years of inaction and immobility?

Most importantly, I am having fun, which is perhaps the biggest difference between the kind of speaking I do today and the kind of speaking I did in high school.

Those debate competitions were less about pleasure and more about pride. It gave me a high to come first every time — in every class and every contest. And when that ‘power of winning’ was stolen from me, I lost my fervor and fire!

However, #GetBizy is not about proving some inane point and satiating my ego. It’s about molding memorable moments with fascinating individuals in a safe and non-judgmental setting.

And I am forever appreciative of Jim for giving me this humbling opportunity to chat with inventive minds and invigorating souls.

In addition, I thank all my social media friends who have listened to me, loved me and let me know that it’s okay to flounder as long as you don’t surrender.

We shall celebrate #GetBizy’s first anniversary on January 6. I am enthusiastic about meeting and mingling with more sensational stars, and seeing how the future unfolds itself.

For fifteen years, the unpredictability of life scared me into silence.

But, today, I say:

Bring it on!

When fear prevents you from doing something you love, you give it the finger and honor your heart anyway.

Have you conquered any fears this year? Thanks for reading this far (!) and participating with me.

Tomorrow, I shall talk about my most momentous decision of 2014.

2014 in review

Note from Kit: These are not the kind of stats to be shared ;) BUT I am still proud of myself for writing almost every day – either on my blog or elsewhere. And thank you to each one of you who made my blogging journey in 2014 memorable! #HUGSSSSSS

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

5 Reasons I Cherish 2014: Part 2

Note: This article first appeared on Medium

This is Part 2 of my ‘Reasons I Cherish 2014′ series. Yesterday, I talked about the joy that my pet, Oreo, has brought into my life. Today, let me tell you about the power of genuine relationships.

Lesson 2: If you want to be rich, form enriching relationships

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it” ― Wilferd Peterson

The normally raucous class was silent because our eighth-grade Math teacher was walking around the room and handing out graded tests.

The rustle of papers and the scraping of her shoes sounded ominous in the quietness.

I looked around.

Most of my classmates were anxious, but no one was as scared as I was. My gut was sending me SOS signals. I knew my grade was going to be horrible

The teacher walked gracefully to each desk and distributed the grades. My eyes tracked her every step. After what felt like an eon, she stood beside me and, smiling, gave me the test booklet. My trembling right hand reached out and grabbed it while I gulped my fear

Cradling the booklet in my hands, I bowed down to say a silent prayer, and then opened it with utmost tenderness, as though I was handing a particularly delicate glass object.

There it was — mocking me in red ink. My grade. I relaxed a little, although my score wasn’t satisfying. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it still wasn’t good enough for me.

“Never mind. No one would have scored higher. I will do better the next time”, I reassured myself.

I was so lost in my thoughts that it took a few moments to decipher what my teacher was uttering.

I pressed the Rewind button in my mind and heard her say, “You all performed well. But only one person scored a hundred percent. Let’s clap for Mr. P”

What? WHat? WHAt? WHAT?

I couldn’t believe that somebody had the audacity to achieve not only a higher grade, but a perfect score of 35/35. Tears of humiliation danced in my eyes and — before I could stop them — those drops streamed down my cheeks and I was choking back loud sobs as my classmates looked at me with varying degrees of disgust.

My kindly teacher felt so bad for me — or maybe just wanted to shut me up — that she actually raised my grade.

My original grade? It was a 34/35.

GASP!

A Rat in a Rotten Race

If you are still here, thank you. And please feel free to laugh at me and call me all kinds of degrading names. Anyone who creates a public scene for losing one point in an insignificant high school test deserves every snicker, smirk and sneer!

But if you think I exaggerated my emotions in the above story, you are wrong. I can still visualize that teenager creating a ruckus in class because she came second in that paltry test.

You see, I was a grade-obsessed snob throughout my school years. I had several chips on my shoulders, and believed –with all my heart — that I was better than my peers. Is it any wonder that most of my classmates despised me?!

Even I would debase my teenage-self today.

That girl measured her worth by the numbers on a grade report. She was a petty young lady who felt compelled to come first in every test and every extracurricular activity. Consequently, she expended every ounce of energy to make sure that no one would surpass her in the number-game. Any deviation from this norm threw her into a whirlpool of despair.

Meanwhile, she forgot to forge trustworthy relationships with her classmates.

She never collaborated, only competed. Her tunnel vision prevented her from having fun with her peers! She believed that an evening out with friends would impact her standings in school. Hence, she stayed away, pulling all-nighters in a bid to establish herself as the best.

And her efforts paid off — at least for a while.

What she did have were ideal numbers on her report card. What she did not havewas a relationship-enriched life.

Barring a congenial classmate who stood by her side through thick and thin — and put up with her hoity-toity attitude — that girl was alone, chasing some unimportant benchmark of success. For almost two and a half decades, her academic standing determined the luminosity of her smile.

A Near Death and Forever Rebirth

It took a different type of number-obsession to jolt me to the miracles of mutually-satisfying relationships. (Guess I have been attached at the hip to numbers all my life in various ways!)

At age 28, I weighed less than eighty pounds, was diagnosed with Anorexia and was told I would die without medical intervention. After being hospitalized four times and laid off from my old job, I felt lost. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have any direction. No societal convention told me where to go and what to do.

Thankfully, my practical husband grabbed me by the shoulders and made me recognize that these setbacks only bestowed me with the wondrous opportunity to finally weave the life of my dreams — as a writer.

Feeling rejuvenated — and immensely grateful to this kind man — I enrolled myself in a Journalism course at a Community College. In addition, I also joined the Introduction to Marketing course because one of my childhood desires was to become a Copywriter, which is regarded as an offshoot of Advertising (which, in turn, is a subset of Marketing).

Discovering marketing was like stumbling upon a goldmine of possibilities. Until then, I had equated this profession with smarmy salesmen. Thanks to a wonderful professor — and some fun assignments — I realized that marketing is about creating treasured relationships with your clients, customers and competitors.

The best marketers combine their creative skills with their empathetic sensibilities to fashion memorable campaigns that offer value to their target audience.

I loved that there was no one right answer in marketing. Sure, the WWW is replete with formulas and rules for success, but, ultimately, marketing boils down to your intuition, insights and inimitable ideas. The ones who set trends always break rules and blaze new trails of triumph.

The entire course enthralled me so much that I completed an associate degree in marketing. Around the same time, I was introduced to social media as a powerful marketing tool, and my world would never remain the same.

Social Media: An Extended Family

I had already figured out the power of social media to kindle new relationships and mend broken ones due to my favorite platform, Facebook.

Remember the classmates I snubbed in school? While this proud class-topper almost lost her life — and definitely lost her job — to starvation, those supposedly lowly guys and gals had erected triumphant careers and created loving families.

I would have understood if they had rejected my Friend Requests. Heck, I would have ignored my prior self if she had tried to contact me after ten to fifteen years of cold absence. But my ex-classmates not only accepted my truce, some of them reached out and supported me unconditionally while I was traversing the (hopefully) worst period of my life.

Hence, I was cognizant about the power of social media as a simmering pot of wonderful relationships. But I remained unaware of its potential to connect strangers in a life-altering manner.

During those two-plus years as a marketing student, I discovered Twitter, my ‘marketing crush’. Like a giddy kid waiting to unwrap Christmas presents, I watched excitedly as the Twitter feed changed at lightning speed. I engaged in spur-of-the-moment conversations with random strangers just to get acclimatized to this weirdly wonderful platform.

A few months after hopping around on Twitter, a chance Tweet led me toGoogle Plus and their path-breaking Hangouts-on-Air functionality. Between Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, I formed positive relationships with awe-inspiring visionaries who had looked fear in the eye and taken calculated risks to LIVE their dream. Since I wanted to experience the entire spectrum of social media, I also became active in Pinterest and opened an account on LinkedIn (I am still hesitant about this intimidating platform, but one of my 2015 goals is to become more comfortable interacting in this professional environment)

My unassuming acquaintances accept me for who I am without judging, preaching or criticizing (and I return the favor).

These luminaries teach me — every day — that life isn’t an austere checklist; it is a compelling adventure.

Their unswerving affection (and support) has imbued me with the courage to heed the whispers of my heart and the confidence to fashion a career as a writer at my own pace.

Writing is one of the most unpredictable professions, which makes it both grueling and galvanizing. I want to give up every hour because this journey is just too damn hard. But every time that nasty demon in my mind prods me to forego my ambitions, the angels in my soul — in the form of my online relationships — urge me to take baby steps forward.

It would not be an over-statement to declare that I would have relinquished my dream of becoming a reputable writer without the wit, warmth and wisdom of these social media connections.

From Facebook Groups to Twitter Chats to Google Plus HOAs, I have ‘met’ and interacted with several enterprising entrepreneurs who understand and appreciate my desire to spin a meaningful existence doing what I love.

Some of my closest buddies are privy to my pitiful whining on a regular basis. But these pals patiently stand by and listen while I vent my angst because they are extremely familiar with these internal wars that are pockmarked with tumultuous emotions and chaotic challenges. They have also ranted and raged and raved, but continue enjoying their pothole-ridden trek anyway.

I feel blessed to have connected with such stimulating, sincere and solicitous men and women who lead by example, and show me that it is possible to be genuinely happy on your own terms, so long as you don’t give up!

I want to look at that drama-queen in eighth grade and say, “Sweetie! You were a success by society’s standards. However, you were alone and extremely poor otherwise. I feel bad that you were ignorant about your misery”

Today, although I am a struggling writer who toils to piece words together, and have absolutely no evidence of success, I have never felt more inspired, invigorated and irrepressible, thanks to my enriching relationships.

Thank you to each one of my kindred spirits who has gently swept into my life, igniting a revolution of hopefulness and happiness within me. I don’t have the words to describe my gratitude, but please know that you have made me come alive.

I can’t wait to see how many more long-lasting relationships will be crafted during my journey as a writer. My wish is to be a source of compassion, credence, comfort and confidence for each individual who crosses my path. I want to pay forward the kindness displayed to me by my past, present and future connections.

Will I stop focusing on grades? No. I plan on doing my PhD — sometime before Zombies strike – and will certainly aim for high scores. BUT I will most definitely not allow a number to impact the quality or quantity of my relationships.

Because, like my empowering connections prove, the company you keep and the lives you impact are far more valuable than any number on a report card.

Thank you for liberating me, friends. Love you.

Have you formed any memorable relationships this year? Thank you for reading this article and engaging with me. 

Tomorrow, I shall tell you how I stretched my comfort zone by finally tackling my fear of speaking in public. 

5 Reasons I Cherish 2014

5 Reasons I Cherish 2014

 Note: This post first appeared on Medium: https://medium.com/@kr_iyer/5-reasons-i-cherish-2014-81eb1bd2c2b3

On January 1, 2014, I was a struggling writer striving to carve a niche in the overwhelmingly saturated world of blogging

On December 31, 2014, I will remain a struggling writer striving to carve a niche in the overwhelmingly saturated world of blogging

Wait, did those two sentences read the same?

Yep — and this is not a ‘copy and paste’ error.

In all honesty, nothing has changed on the surface — except the tense!

I have no tangible proof of success. My blogging metrics are so bad I celebrated by baking a cake when my blog was liked by 100 readers after nearly two years of existence. And the only person who reads my Word-a-Day blog is a close friend.

2014 was clearly not my ‘breakthrough year’. But was it forgettable?

NO.

Despite my consistent anonymity, 2014 is the second most unforgettable year of my life (the first being 2008, when I married my nutty husband!).Following are five (primary) reasons why 2014 has been very kind to me:

  • I adopted my first pet, Oreo
  • I befriended a multitude of enterprising entrepreneurs on social media
  • I began co-hosting a Google Plus Hangout-on-Air, #GetBizy with Kit and Jim
  • I moved to a new home
  • I began calling myself as a writer (YAY me!)

Each of the aforementioned experiences has imparted an invaluable lesson that has empowered me to embrace my fears, take creative risks, give without expectations, cherish simple pleasures and enjoy the craziness of life.

Over the next five days, I shall elaborate on one reason per day. Initially, I had planned on creating a very long word blog post, but then concluded that my ramblings might prove more effective if they are doled out in installments. I hope you find my messages entertaining, engaging and/or empowering.

Lesson 1: Furry Friends Are Forever

“Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness?” Jonathan Safran Foer (author, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Dogs? Uh-Oh

Two years ago, during a leisurely stroll through a park in Alaska — in what was a very memorable trip — I spotted a leashed dog that was wagging its tail furiously and trotting towards us. Instantly, I grabbed my husband in a death grip and began choking back tears. Despite my hubby’s rolling eyes and repeated assurances that the dog was not going to tear away from its owner and bite me, I climbed over a fence that abutted the parking lot and ran towards my car. Meanwhile, my giggling husband petted the dog and ambled to our car to console his silly wife who had cynophobia.

Fast forward to 2014.

Much to my husband’s amusement, I nuzzle huge dogs at my pup’s vet and run across the road to pet random dogs with wagging tails. I play aggressively with Oreo — my black-and-white Bassador — and hate leaving him alone even for an hour. I make fun of my mom and sister for being fearful about dogs (mean me! ;) )

So how did the woman with a ghastly fear of dogs suddenly transform into a crazy lady who coos at every other dog? To appreciate my story of ‘rebirth’, you have to first know why I was supremely scared of dogs in the past.

I hail from India, a country that houses several stray dogs on its roads. These creatures spend their lives in deplorable conditions; they eat out of trash cans, sleep in the dirtiest alleys and are pooh-poohed by everyone.

It’s no surprise the poor dogs are aggressive and — well — very scary!

I have experienced some hair-raising moments with street dogs — including one near-fatal chase — which petrified me into believing that all dogs are ‘bad’ or ‘frightening’. I did not realize that, much like humans, nature and nurture can collaborate to impact the personality of canines too.

I credit one benevolent Basset Hound, a pretty Pit Bull and a very close friend for opening my eyes and making me more tolerant of our faithful, four-legged pals.

My husband’s cousin has the sweetest dog on the planet. A beautiful Bassett Hound, Ginger loves getting behind-the-ear massages and cuddling with humans. When my cousin-in-law moved to the States in early 2014, I got to spend a lot of time with this gentle giant. With every interaction, I felt my heart thawing and my smile widening. Ginger helped me recognize that dogs can be an incomparable source of comfort.

Ginger: The Dog Who Made Me Fall in Love With Dogs


Around the same time, I got closer to Katherine Kotaw — an imaginative storyteller, a creative personal brand strategist, a lovely human being and a pit-bull advocate.

As our online relationship morphed into a beautiful friendship, her passion for dogs transferred to me too. She is the proud owner of the sweetest pit-bull, Ivy, and is on a personal mission to rebrand these (unfairly) tainted breeds. As Kat masterfully weaved her ardor towards dogs into her witty stories of personal branding, she made me realize that our four legged munchkins really don’t ask for much. All they seek is a dollop of love, oodles of laughter and a ton of turkey (well, at least my pup demands chicken and turkey in return for his loyalty :P)

Ginger’s innocence and Kat’s instincts made up my mind. Around May 2014, I turned to my animal-loving husband and uttered six magical words that he had been longing to hear, “I am ready for a dog”

The Pit-bull With a Heart of Gold

We were both clear about adopting a rescue dog because these ignored darlings needed someone to shower affection on them.

Wasting no time, we began scouting various rescue foundations, but nothing seemed to click. Then my eyes fell on a gorgeous pit-bull — Fiona — at The Buddy Foundation in Arlington Heights.

As she inched cautiously towards us in the ‘visiting room’, I remained transfixed. She was beautiful. And when licked my face, tears of joy sprang to my eyes. It was love at first sight. I was ready to fork out any amount of money to adopt this cutie. I couldn’t wait to inform Kat and experience her glee through the interweb!

But unlike the lucky Shrek, I wasn’t meant to live happily ever after with Fiona.

Her handler told us that although this adorable pit-bull is very sweet to humans, she displays aggressive behavior towards other dogs because of some unsettling circumstances in her past.

I could see what he meant when we took her for a walk.

The girl who happily chomped on grass and bounced on the sidewalk went stiff at the sight of a dog. Her back arched and she refused to move.

Since I had never owned pets before, my husband thought it best to not adopt Fiona at this time. HE was afraid that she would not get along with the dogs in our neighborhood — two of whom lived next door — and that I wouldn’t be able to take care of her!

I was heartbroken, but understood his perspective, and let go of the leash with a bowed head and red-rimmed eyes. Although I couldn’t unite with Fiona, her kind demeanor reaffirmed my decision to parent a dog. I hope she has been enfolded into a loving household because this princess deserves no less than the best parents in the world!

Time For a Black-and-White Snack

 
IMG_4042[1]

                                                              Are You Talking About Me? WOOF WOOF

A long, dreary month later, my husband was browsing theChicagoland Dog Rescue website when his eyes fell on a 2 month old black male pup with an elegant white stripe that traveled from his forehead to his nose. I could hear my husband’s loud heart-beats pulsate with extreme fervor for this black-and-white canine.

However, I wasn’t very sure about this cutie because of an ugly misunderstanding: black dogs are very aggressive. My husband — who has no patience for stereotypes — spent hours trying to convince me to just take a look at Drako, the pup’s listed name on the site. If I didn’t like him, we shall continue our search and forget about him.

Sighing loudly, I bowed to his heartfelt pleas and accompanied him to PetCo on a crisp summer morning. He had already made an appointment, and so we walked directly towards a tiny dog that was lying under the chair.

As we advanced, Drako opened his dazzling almond-shaped eyes and lifted his head off the ground. My lips began to stretch on their own accord, but since I was still mad at my husband for ‘forcing’ me to visit the puppy, I quickly pursed my lips and shrugged my shoulders as he caressed Drako. (Hey…it’s fun making the husband squirm, eh? :P )

STICKS

Am I the Cutest or What

However, my impatient heart didn’t like these mind games and urged me to take the cutie into my arms. I never understood the expression ‘heart is overflowing with love’ until that moment. As I cradled and coddled Drako for almost thirty minutes, all my complaints were swallowed by the mist of unconditional love.

I just knew that we were bringing this guy home, but was nonetheless apprehensive because of a previous home assessment trip that didn’t go well. (We had almost settled on another dog, but the foster parent felt that my home was too dirty *rolling my eyes*)

The day of the home inspection, Drako licked my nose as soon as he crossed our threshold. It was all I could do not to snatch him from the foster mum. But since no one likes to give a dog to a senile woman, I showed incredible restraint by just smooching him!

Thankfully, these foster parents were extremely considerate and felt that we were the perfect match for Drako.

The adoption papers were signed on June 17. Drako was mine to cherish forever.

Is That a Piece of Turkey I See?

                 Is That a Piece of Turkey I See?

But the name had to go because it reminded me of Dracula! Amid rippling laughter and loud groans, we listed — and rejected — five names. (I am just glad my pup doesn’t have an identity crisis!)

Then my cousin-in-law — Ginger’s owner — suggested Oreo, which was also endorsed by our neighborhood kids who fell head over heels in love with the long puppy with short legs and an excitable nature

Oreo, it was.

I cannot exaggerate Oreo’s importance in my life. Between shredding paper towels, pouncing excitedly on strangers, clamping my hand between his sharp teeth and generally driving me crazy, my cookie teaches me to love, laugh, lighten up, let go and live! (I created an Inspired by Oreo series in July as part of a Facebook Blogging Challenge to honor my pup’s warm, witty and whimsical personality.)

It’s impossible to recall a time without Oreo. This exasperating love-bug hasn’t just encamped himself in my soul. He has stolen my heart so completely that staying away from him for even an hour throws me into a deep hole of depression. Simply put, I feel empty without him. His colorful food bowls, scattered chew toys (read: slippers and remote control :P), playful barks, umpteen treats (read: human food :P), dancing tail and uber-delightful face define my days!

Mommy's Mr. Handsome

                                                                     Mommy’s Mr. Handsome

How can someone so exasperating also be immensely endearing? How can someone who drives me nuts with his diva-like behavior also have me roaring in laughter at his silly antics? How can someone as trying as this pup also be extremely tender?

Indeed, Oreo has a very unique personality. He hates to be cuddled, but will slowly sidle towards you whenever HE misses your touch. He loves being left alone, but also wants to play HIS version of Fetch with you at HIS convenience and on HIS terms (meaning he will grab anything you throw, but will not give it back. You have to pry it out of his mouth!). HIS MAJESTY turns his nose up at those unappetizing kibbles while gleefully devouring baked chicken that his mommy HAS to make every day!

Fabulous, Onerous, Relentless, Boisterous, Gregarious and Peerless. That’s my Oreo for you. Quite a package, eh?

And I wouldn’t trade him for anything or anyone in this world! Within a span of six months, this dearie has blessed me with a lifetime of memories and has stolen many a heart with his (deceptively) innocent face and hilarious pranks.

10462877_870015413026903_8332680004250146722_n

Are You Done Writing? Play With Me NOW!

 

Should I talk about the time when my dad sang a lullaby as my pup slept on his lap? Or should I describe how Oreo followed my ten-year old niece like a devoted fan when she visited me last month? Maybe I should tell you about how my cookie pushes his butt against my legs whenever he is biting on a chew toy. Or how he enjoys sleeping on your feet, lying under the warm sun on a cold day, licking your plate, pushing his whole body out of the car window, cocking his head, sleeping with his arms and legs splayed, flopping on his back as my hubby rubs his belly or begging to take him with you EVERYWHERE

You know what’s the best part? My journey with Oreo has just begun. I can’t wait to see him grow and blossom into a handsome dog whose childlike demeanor brings smiles to anyone who crosses his path.

 

Thank you, dearest, for embracing me into your life and opening my mind, heart and soul to the wonders of parenting a pet! You have converted a prejudiced woman into a passionate pet-owner with your ingenuousness, impishness and intuitiveness.

Stereotypes are extremely dangerous, for they prevent you from accepting the multitude of joys in our lives. There is beauty everywhere — unfortunately, our bias shrouds this splendor, inducing despair and disgust. I am extremely grateful to my husband for not supporting my prejudice against black dogs, instead dragging me to Petco and bringing our Oreo home.

Has my fear of dogs vanished? Not really. I still feel squeamish when a dog barks constantly or growls threateningly. But I am certainly not going to lump or label all canines as good or bad, instead assessing and appreciating each canine without any preconceptions

Because furry friends are forever!

Uh oh — Oreo is stirring awake. Time to give a big smooch (against his wishes!) and baking him some delicious Chicken!

I love you, my Cookie

I promise that my future installments are going to be much shorter. Oreo has been my greatest blessing of 2014, and hence I just had to pen an EXTENDED paean! Tomorrow, you shall learn how 2014 reinforced the importance of relationships. Meanwhile, what is your fondest memory of 2014? :-)

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