Guest Pep Talk [Martha Caldwell]: Keep Calm and Love YouTube

keep-calm-and-love-youtube-6This No Excuses November has been a different sort of experience for me.  The last two years I easily picked a goal and knew exactly what I wanted. This year, I feel a bit lost.  Maybe it’s because I frantically changed my goal at the last minute.  My original plan was to give up YouTube.  I should now confess that I have a full blown YouTube addiction.  I discovered YouTube in its true “people get paid to create ‘content’ on a regular basis through channels” form a little over a year ago.  (I use the work “content”  in quotations because of the extreme variability of the definition of that word.)  Since that time, YouTube has become my primary brainless form of entertainment.  I watch YouTube more than normal TV programming.  I am subscribed to a lot of channels/creators and these 3 to 20 minute videos have brought me endless joy.

However, this happiness brought with it a bit of embarrassment. I am very aware the primary YouTube viewer is a teenage girl.  Most of the videos I watch are very dumb and as a result of this addiction, I have almost ceased to read.  I used to be a voracious reader and that was no longer the case. I missed books and I didn’t know if I could achieve balance without getting rid of YouTube completely.  On top of that, this new form of entertainment had me experiencing a lot of self-imposed anxiety about needing to be productive, well-read and cultured. I am unfortunately the type of person that has a really hard time relaxing.  I make lists and set goals and this YouTube thing did not fit into this mold. It felt juvenile. What was I doing wasting all this time?! My Type A self was ashamed.  YouTube is silly and it was time for me to grow up I told myself.  The original goal was born.

When I started sharing my plan with people, I noticed they were not as jazzed as I was.  The most vocal opposition came from my sister. My sister acts as a major sounding board for me and I look to her for validation and also honest, true feedback (even though that never always feels as great as validation). “If these videos make you happy and help you relax, I don’t see what’s wrong with that.  You don’t need to be productive all the time.”  I heard what she had to say but politely disagreed. Imagine all the time I would have without YouTube!  Imagine all the books I would read!

As I progressed closer to the Nov 1st goal, I really got to thinking about what it was I was trying to achieve.  If I wanted to read more, why wasn’t THAT my goal?   Ultimately, I sent a frantic text to Allison declaring “I just can’t do it!” and changed my goal to reading 3 books during November.  This past week, I’ve wondered a lot about whether or not this was the right decision.  Was my sister right?  Alison’s “Giving Zero Fucks” pep talk helped me solidify my answer. At a time in my life when I am trying to alleviate my anxiety, why did I think it was necessary to eliminate something that helped me do that? Instead, I could add an activity like reading that would help me get there faster.  I can find balance with both.  I need not be embarrassed of my YouTube addiction. Who CARES if it entertains me? Who am I trying to impress?  What I’ve learned the most this NoExNo is to evaluate what I want and why and to make self-care the measurement.  

Guest Pep Talk [Allie Seidel]: Why announcing your goal is half the battle.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 presetCongrats! You’re halfway there! Goal setting is as much a part of my life for me as brushing my teeth or getting dressed in the morning (which, let’s hope, are two things that happen on the daily).

Since August of this year, I’ve chosen a few goals each month and have written about them publicly. (See August, September, October and current November goals here.) I’ve found that simply writing my goals down and making them public gives me an extra push to achieve them. Additionally, I love looking back and seeing something that seemed so far off at the time and realizing that I’ve accomplished it.

So naturally, I love NoExNo and have participated for a few years, some years with success, others not so much. My NoExNo goal this year was an interesting choice. I picked “launch the holiday line in my shop” even though I knew I had this planned for Nov. 3rd.  So did this leave the rest of November “goal-less” for me? Hardly. When I chose this goal, I knew that I needed to get the holiday line out earlier than the last day in November, so moving it to a later date wouldn’t help, and I was also aware that I could pick a “smaller” goal that I could technically be working towards every day in November.  But, since my biggest goal all month was the launch, the early date didn’t matter to me so much as the concept behind announcing it as my goal.

When I set that goal in October, I had no idea what the extent of my holiday line was going to look like. I had big dreams, but wasn’t sure how to reach them. It unfolded over the course of a few weeks to include stamps, 8×10 art prints, and Christmas cards, most of which were only far-off ideas when I set the launch date. Despite the uncertainties, I knew I needed to announce this goal in order to make it happen. This is why I love NoExNo, because everyone is announcing together, and I know that for me, this tiny steps makes a huge difference in helping to make my seemingly far-off goals a reality.

So, announce I did, on multiple platforms including NoExNo, and I set the date. The weekend before I was frantic, learning skills I didn’t yet have (hello, Photoshop) and spent many late nights and early mornings struggling through it. But, since I knew I had announced it, I pressed on because I had set this as a personal and public expectation. And then, magically it all came together and I launched it. And today, a week in, it’s live and it’s selling.

Sometimes achieving goals doesn’t look like a linear path, but more like a maze: two steps forward and fourteen steps backward, with plenty of road blocks and wrong turns, but the feeling I get when I finally accomplish my goals is the reason why I’ll hopefully continue to be a goal-setter (and goal-announcer!) for the rest of my life.

So, NoExNos, be encouraged! Know that by simply sharing you goal here, you are on your way to achieving it. Keep going after what you want, and telling people about it. You’ve already won by being courageous enough to announce your goal. Now, get after it!

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Allie Seidel lives in Seattle with her husband. Find her sometimes blogging on alliewaydesign.com, and always instagramming @allieseidel

Guest Pep Talk [Sarah Luery]: The Struggle

The dreadful beginning and dreamy end of Daylight Saving Time always remind me of how arbitrary the concept of time really is.

What is time exactly?

I have watched enough late night YouTube videos about String Theory to know with virtually no certainty that time is a dimension. Time is also a father. It is somehow associated with sand. It flies, usually in proximity to fun. And, despite the fact that we can for some reason move it forward or backwards (but only by one arbitrary time-unit!), it runs out. Probably more often than we would like.

White Rabbit: Don’t just do something, stand there… Uh… no no! Go go! Go get my gloves! I’m late!

These days, I feel like I have been channeling the White Rabbit, whose time seems to be perpetually running out. Each morning, as I wake up 15 minutes after I should have already left for work, and then proceed to play catch-up the entire day, usually working through my lunch break in order to make it to an evening art class or rock climbing session that I have added to my schedule to “de-stress my life,” before coming home to cook a 10pm dinner and read That Book for book club before going to bed too late to wake up for the alarms I have set for 6:00, 6:10, 6:20, 6:30 and (sigh) 7:30 (sorry, bedfellow Evan), I wonder why I keep falling down my own rabbit hole of being behindedness.

Whenever I remark to my dear friend Lisa about the difficulties of managing time in adulthood, she crunches up her hands into fists and tosses her head back to declare, “Sarah! It’s the struggle!” It always makes me feel better to know that it has such a noble name. The. Struggle.

But what is behind all this madness?

I have no idea. But I do have two guesses.

 

  1. That Little Voice

 

In researching this PepTalk, which I would like to downgrade to simply a “talk” (lowercase T; no promise of pep) to lower your expectations, I found an infuriating quote, which I wanted to share:

Image 1

BLEH. I mean seriously. The quotes around busy? VOM. What kind of guilt-inducing madness is this!?

If you REALLY cared, you would find the time.

The subtext?

The way you are doing things isn’t good enough. YOU aren’t good enough.

Unfortunately, this sentiment doesn’t just come from a sad Internet girl on a bench in the middle of winter with all her feelings tucked away in a single shoulder bag.

It’s everywhere.

It’s uttered by your gym shorts as you come home from a long day of work and need to get dinner started for the kids. It’s whispered by your Netflix queue as you spend a night out with friends, and by your friends when you spend a night in with Netflix. You hear it from your parents who want you to visit more often, and your grandparents who want you to visit more often, and your best friend from college who lives in another state and wants you to visit more often. It comes from your boss at work who needs you to put in those extra hours, and your DIY project that you hope to craft into your side business and your Blue Apron box sitting un-opened in the fridge because you have declared that you will Cook With Seasonal Ingredients Three Times A Week, by golly!

And it comes from within.

Which brings us to:

 

  1. Expectations

Image 2

[Presented with an eye-roll]

 

Sometimes, it seems like the solution to everything we are doing wrong is *just* to do it better.

In fact, if you listen closely to That Little Voice (whether it is coming from your mom, your boss or yourself), it seems to also offer a solution for how you can *just* do it better — an expectation for action.

Not seeing enough progress at the gym? If you really cared you would *Just* workout more frequently/longer/harder. If that means you have to cut time from other things, so be it. Aren’t you dedicated? Don’t you want it? Or do you not want it enough?

If you perk your ears up, you can probably hear a storm of voices telling you how you can be better – a better friend, a better colleague, a better constituent. And you can probably hear a flurry of expectations within yourself for how you can be the person you want to be – Eat better! Exercise more! Call your family more often! Write more! Watch less TV!

And if we would, we could.

But there are only 24 arbitrary time units in a day, and we just can’t do it all.

Sometimes, we have to learn when to say ‘Uncle.’ We have to figure out how to allocate our time in ways that perpetuate our growth and nourish us, but we also have to learn how to build in time to rest, rejuvenate, and replenish.

And this, I think, is The Struggle. Knowing when to say yes, and when to say no. When to step forward and when to take a back seat. When to stop and when to go.

These days, I am starting to suspect that there is no magical moment at the end of a task when everything falls into place and we can breathe a sigh of true relief. There is always something else beckoning to us; something new needing our attention.

So I am trying to learn to put on the brakes, even when it feels like the job isn’t yet done. Or maybe, especially when it feels that way. This is why, for the month of November, my goal is to take my lunch break every day.

Because the work will still be there when we get back. But another thing about time? It slips away. And it will continue to do so unless we grab it at those inopportune times, like now.

Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to channel that White Rabbit after all.

White Rabbit: Don’t just do something, stand there…

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Sarah lives in Los Angeles.  She enjoys audio books, art class (” ‘Cause adult education’s a wonderful thing”), rock climbing, and listening to Maria Bamford on repeat.  She is doing the best that she can.

 

Guest Pep Talk [Alison Kranz]: 14 Things I’ve Learned from 14 Months of Giving Zero Fucks

Above, my Zero Fucks Protégé Haley and I demonstrate the Team Zero Fucks secret hand signal which combines the round “zero” of thumb and forefinger with the ASL sign for the letter “F” to provide a comprehensive sign that laymen assume means “AOK.”

Recently, I realized I have three guiding life tenets:

  1. Give zero fucks
  2. If it makes you laugh, do it
  3. Say what you mean and mean what you say

For the sake of this post, I will focus on tenet #1, which I have upheld wholeheartedly since August 2013. Note that I am referring to “fucks” as a noun (though there was a sad, dark expanse of time where I was upholding “zero fucks” in its verb form as well).

You might think “zero fucks” is the opposite of “no excuses,” but I assure you it’s not. At its essence, “zero fucks” means “say yes” and “just do it”; don’t spend too much time overthinking your actions, and certainly don’t spend any time caring what others think. Eliminate that doubt and do what you know, in your gut, is right for you.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from my ongoing practice of giving zero fucks:

  1. If you are tall and wondering whether or not to wear those five-inch platform heels, the answer is “yes.”
  2. You have no responsibility to respond to text messages from your ex. Especially when he refers to you by an old pet name.
  3. As soon as someone says something the least bit offensive on a dating website, block them—that’s what the command is there for. (“I would love to sniff your ass” is not an acceptable opening line.) Remember: If it’s not “fuck yes,” it’s “fuck no.”
  4. If you want to listen to one song on repeat for an entire month, do it. (Exhibits  A, B, C, D, E, F.) And be sure to sing at the top of your lungs. Definitely when you’re in the car, sometimes even when you’re walking across town.
  5. It’s your scrapbook. It’s totally okay if you want to fill it with pictures of unintentionally explicit newspaper headlines and store signs you’ve come across.
  6. If you’re a lady, the pickup line “Excuse me, would you like to makeout?” is very effective on the gentlemen.
  7. Your iPhone autocorrect is smart enough to change “makeout” to “MAKEOUTS.”
  8. If Lady Gaga is playing a show on a Saturday within driving distance from your house, you buy a ticket. Even though you’ve already seen her once this year. (She is the original zero fucks inspiration, of course.)
  9. It’s all right if you want to watch Aziz Ansari’s Buried Alive special seven times within as many months. You’ll still laugh out loud every time.
  10. When you bicycle home in the morning from the house of the HOT MAN you’ve been seeing, refer to it as a “bike ride of pride,” which is the exact opposite of a “walk of shame.”
  11. If you are feeling like you are giving too much of a fuck, go out for a (really fast) run until your brain is cleared.
  12. Life is too short for binding, underwired bras. Embrace the stretchy, soft cup bra, and—when it gets cold—let those nipples fly free. At least they’re comfortable when they do.
  13. Let people read your writing, even if you are afraid of showing a little too much of yourself (or others).
  14. No one’s stopping you but you.

I encourage you to embrace the practice of zero fucks this November and beyond. Who knows what might end up on your own personal list of zero fucks triumphs?

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Alison Kranz is an editor, writer, observer, runner, and abundantly photogenic model. She likes wordplay, flânerie, typing, squares, surrealism, and consistent correspondence. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter at @alisondearest.

Guest Pep Talk [Eric Joppa]: On Rising Again

NoExNos,

Last year was a miserable failure for me. I set out with the best of intentions. I wanted to inspire, be inspired and change my life. Instead, I changed nothing, inspired no one, and was jealous of all you who made good change. I was true to our little group’s name and gave no excuse. I just wallowed in my guilty filth.

Then, I came face to face with my need for change and could no longer put it off.

I have lost 55 lbs. so far and have just finished my master’s degree.

So why am I writing? Easy: I need to.

I have lost 55 lbs. since June. Not bad, but I began my journey at the hefty number of 330 lbs. I know sit at 275 lbs. I have 75 lbs. more to lose, and I have been struggling.

In the last week and a half, I have had life hit me in the diet plan. Traveling, speaking, and some arrogance, has derailed me and I lost nothing this week. I also know that I have been half @$$ing my efforts. This fact came home to roost the other night.

I coach my son’s flag football team. (We are REALLY good, btw. I should be in the youth flag football HOF for coaching) I was talking to a father, who lost 70 lbs and looks great, and another boy’s mother, who is on the same journey I am on and is close to her 50th pound lost. You Go Marcella!

As we were talking, we were planning how we would eat at the end of the year party, discussing how we would avoid the inevitable pizza for dinner. A “cheat” day was suggested when Kenny, the dad who has lost 70 lbs. and looks great, said, “Nope. My cheat day (in maintenance mode) is Sunday. Can’t change it. I’ve lost 70 lbs. and I don’t want it back.”

WOW. Now that is dedication. I want to be like that.

I am now in his journey. I am going to lose 75lbs. more. I am not going to get it back. So here is my plan for November.

I am going to:

Lose 20lbs or more in November. (Or, 30 lbs. between Oct. 23rd and the end of November.)

Be in the Gym 5 days each week, and active on the weekends.

Prepare all of my meals meticulously, down to the last gram of fat.

Post all of my activity as accountability.

I know what you are thinking… “Here he goes again, making all these big Goals…SMH”

The difference is, I know what I have to do, and how to do it. I just need to be more serious than I have been.

I invite you, NoExNos, to join me in lofty, crazy, life-changing goals.  Your goal could be to stay away from caffeine, drink less alcohol (yeah right),  ask that amazing girl to marry you… whatever it might be, let’s do it together. Let’s get moving and make change!

You can follow my journey at ericjoppa.tumblr.com

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Eric is a regular guy, a former student, a father, husband and pastor.  He is also a follower of Jesus, but he totally sucks at it.

NoExNo: You’re Doing it Wrong/Right

successThis year, NoExNo got me good. And I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it’s been an uphill battle. But, I’m still learning, and I hope you are too.

This year, I’ve learned to count my blessings along with my failures. Sometimes, when I fail to succeed at something, that’s all I can think about. But I often forget/ don’t give myself credit for the things I’m doing right.

When I read my dear friend Ashley Simmons’ Pep Talk, I realized that sometimes we take our failures too seriously and our successes too lightly. For Ashley, that meant that while she was feeling like a failure for not managing to stick to her NoExNo goal, she failed to give herself credit for being a new mom, a wife, a friend, a full-time employee, et al. Finally, she gave herself some credit for the fact that even though she didn’t get to exercise as much as she had hoped, she never let excuses get in the way of caring for her beautiful daughter.

This week, I ask you to briefly acknowledge what you need to work on, but to focus on what you are doing right. Are you working hard at your job? Are you a good friend? Mother? Son? Great at drinking wine? There are so many things you are succeeding at that you might be taking for granted.

So, if you feel like a failure, you’re doing it wrong. The point of NoExNo is not to condemn those who don’t complete their goals (who would cast the first stone?), the point is to encourage each other to do something brave. Well, today I am encouraging you to remember what you are doing right.

Give yourself a mini pep talk today, and remember: you’re doing it right*.

*That’s what she said.

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Allison Baker is a legal assistant, marketing director, writer, career procrastinator and the founder of No Excuses November. You can find more of her here, here, and here.

Guest Pep Talk (Xica Simmons): Smile, you’re doing NoExNo!

smileI’ve  never been one of those people. You know the ones… friendly people. They practically ooze with energy as if they can’t contain it. And it usually leaks out in the following form:

It starts with the eyes. Eyes that widen and which somehow manage to force contact despite your best efforts to avoid them. The brows that frame them rise like a cobra right before it strikes. Their lips part and curl in an upward motion revealing a tawdry display of teeth and sometimes even tongue…

A smile. It’s terrifying. I know.

I’m kidding if course. Smiles are beautiful, ya know, provided good dental hygiene has been maintained. But apparently I lack whatever it is that causes people to do this without provocation. When I was a kid my mom would say, “What’s wrong?” I would quickly say, “Nothing!”, to which she would respond, “Well then tell your face.” I can’t even help rolling my eyes and shaking my head as I recall that memory.

I don’t consider myself an unfriendly or intimidating person, but for as long as I can remember friends and acquaintances alike have at some point or another told me that they initially thought I would be mean or that they were intimidated by me. Seriously?? I’m just standing here. Anyone who really knows me knows that I am the farthest thing from intimidating.

Unfortunately, this lack of friendly has begun to affect my work performance. And in a customer service industry, that’s a bad thing. On more than one occasion, customer reviews have reflected a similar notion. One lady went so far as to explain that she had no doubt that I was a good employee and that I was knowledgeable but that I was not friendly. Never mind the fact that it was the last hour on a Friday night, I was alone in the store and her nonstop chatter prevented me from greeting all other customers and answering the phone! Oh sorry, no excuses. Dang it.

I’ll be 28 in a few weeks and it seems I need to make an adjustment. Enter Allison Baker and NoExNo. I was fortunate enough to take part last year and since waiting until New Years isn’t an option I figured this was an area of my life that needed attention, like ASAP!

Everyday this month I’ve participated in activity which, until now, I’ve viewed with disdain. Small talk. Apparently like 88% (or some other real statistic) of you people respond to it, so I’m doing my best. I’m smiling at people that I accidentally make eye contact with, all the while thinking, “I hope I don’t look like a stalker. Oh no! They think I want to chat. Op, now we’re chatting”.

I have to admit it’s not bad. I’ve met some cool people in the process and I have a couple new Facebook friends to prove it. I’ve even had a couple guys at the gym ask me out! Wow. Who knew?

I promise I really am a nice person and ever mother of every friend I’ve been close with always calls me sweet. Always. But I do take some time warming up to people enough that it shows on my face. So if you see me at the gym feel free to say hi (as long as I’m not in the middle of a set) and I’ll happily force a smile. Please note it’s only forced right now because it’s not a habit yet. I still have to “tell my face” at this stage.

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As a secondary goal for NoExNo Xica is learning to track her macros (macro nutrients: carbs, fats, protein). And since competing in her first figure competition (bodybuilding) this year and falling head over heals for Gym, she’s finally decided to get her certification for personal training. Perhaps the combination of a friendly first impression and a certification will allow her to have a career that doesn’t feel like work.