Live Your Verb

Become a person of action.

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My Cup Runneth Over (I Dare Not Complain)

I’ve been beating myself up the past few weeks. I’m behind on the upcoming relaunch of Live Your Verb, behind on the corresponding ebook and not making my way through client work as quickly as I’d like. Not to mention that I haven’t seen the inside of my gym in over three weeks (I drove past twice and looked at it longingly). My failure to check everything off my to-do list has led me to some personal mental flogging and some very verbal complaining.

But it occurred to me today that all the things I’ve been beating myself up about are, in fact, the direct results of the positive changes I’ve made in my life. I’m not meeting certain goals because I’m finally achieving others. I’m behind in certain areas because I’m getting ahead in others. My body isn’t my ideal bikini shape because I’ve been getting my career and my bank accounts into top-notch shape.

In other words, it’s a trade-off.

And, in some other (more important) words, none of this is reason for me to beat myself up or complain. These are good things, things I’ve wanted for a very long time. And now I’m achieving them at a breakneck pace. Doesn’t really seem like a problem at all, does it? Nope.

These are not problems. These are pieces of my life coming together and falling into place.

I just haven’t managed to keep up with all the goodness well enough to find a balance yet. I’m off-kilter. From all the goodness. Oh darn. (Let’s all roll our eyes at this complaint, shall we?)

So this is the moment that I stop complaining about having to adjust my schedule to accommodate all the blessings in my life.  I’ve realized that my recent complaining has been out of habit, not because I have a valid reason to complain.

This is something we often do in life: complain about something that’s good for us, while completely overlooking what we really need to improve upon. The next time you complain, ask yourself: is this thing I’m complaining about a blessing, a challenge, an adversity or truly a tragedy? Figure out if it’s really something to complain about, or just one of life’s hurdles that is better leapt over by focusing past it and, in Live Your Verb spirit, by continuing to move forward.

Someone once told me the best way to keep your mouth shut and avoid provoking an argument is to ask yourself if that annoying habit, that snarky comeback, that bout of deadline-crushing forgetfulness will matter to you in five days, five months or five years. Chances are, it usually won’t. This doesn’t mean we should let others – or life – run us over. It just means we should pause to check in with ourselves and assess the long-term importance of a word, a lousy day or a fender bender before we set a complaint in motion.

Try this and you’ll find that, yes, it will help you pick your battles. But, more importantly, it helps you gain a more realistic perception of where you are, where you need to go and how to best invest your time and energy to get there. Complaining usually isn’t on that list.

So I’ll close by sharing my gratitude with you (because being grateful is the direct opposite of complaining). I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been met with, and all the success I’ve found. I’m grateful to have so many blessings that they render me overwhelmed and disorganized. I’m grateful for the people who lead me to these little moments of clarity (thanks for this one, Raquel) – and for you, dear readers, who I can share them with.

May my gratitude be contagious. May we all learn to count our blessings first, for then we would be too busy counting to ever complain.


What are you grateful for today? What can you stop complaining about?


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“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

- Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon professor and speaker of The Last Lecture


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Find Your Verb, Lesson 2: Think Like a Kid

This is the second in a series of lessons designed to help you find your verb. These lessons were prompted by a few readers who said to me, “hey, this Live Your Verb idea is inspiring, it’s good stuff – but how can I live my verb if I don’t know what it is? What’s my verb?” So if you aren’t sure what moves your soul, body or mind, follow along and find your verb… You can do it, I know you can.
Don’t worry if you missed the first lesson – you can catch up with just a few minutes of reading. Click here to read Find Your Verb, Lesson 1: You Are Not Your Job.
- Lis

Okay, here we go: Sooo you are not your job. Great. Who the heck are you then? And what is your verb?

I can’t tell you the answers (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) – only you can do that. But I can recommend a mindset that will help you figure it all out: Think like a kid.

Yes, like a kid. A mess-making, toy-toting, fun-loving kid.

Why? Well, for starters, kids don’t filter much; they’re little pillars of truth. They express their emotions openly, ask questions without hesitation and call you out on stuff when they see a disconnect between what you say and what you do. And, most importantly, kids spend their time being who they are and doing what they want. Seems like they’re pretty in touch with themselves, doesn’t it? Exactly. 

So here’s how to think like a kid and get one step closer to finding your verb.

4 Ways to Think Like a Kid

1) Think about the enjoyment you get out of something, not its end result.

Whatever kids do, they’re in it for the fun. They’re not concerned whatsoever with whether they can add that class project to their resumes or if putting a swing set in the backyard will increase property value.

Somewhere along the way to Being Grownup, we all start making decisions based on the results rather than the process. It becomes less about whether we enjoy something and more about what tangibles we think we’ll get out of it. Big mistake. Because what happens is that most of us end up spending the bulk of our time doing things we don’t enjoy so we can bolster our reputations at work, add bullet points to our resumes, impress the neighbors and bloat our retirement funds.

Not that any of these things are inherently wrong, but placing the focus on the end game means that we’re missing out on Right Now. Does it seem like a good idea to spend your whole life being sensible and bored and even miserable at work so you have a solid possibility of having a fun retirement in forty years? What if you don’t make it to that retirement? What if you do, and you’re so burned out and uninspired by the time you get there that you don’t have any gusto left to bother living it up?

Girl in Leaves Giulio Mola FCCHave you considered that enjoying the ride the whole damn way might make all those grownup things we have to do go down a little easier, because they’ll be nicely balanced with all the time spent having fun?

Is fun overrated? (No.  It isn’t.) Kids know that fun is all it’s cracked up to be. You should know that too.

So focus on the fun. Take that architecture class because you’ve always been interested in it, not because you think it will round out your resume. Invite your new coworker out for drinks because you think it will be fun to swap stories, not because you want to build your client list. Go bowling so you can relax and share a few laughs with your friends, not because you’re hoping to meet an attractive single man while you’re out.

Do it for the fun, and for no other reason. The fun is reason enough.

2) Be yourself. Like, completely.

1046144984_55e75ffbe4_bKids typically like themselves; it doesn’t occur to them that there might be any reason that they shouldn’t like themselves until they become older, or until older humans start planting seeds of doubt. Kids don’t feel awkward about ordering dessert, taking some time off to play Nintendo Wii, wearing their favorite pajamas to the store or hanging out with dirt on their faces.

When I was a kid, I wore a pair of red rubber rain boots with my shorts for an entire California summer. Just because I liked them. It didn’t occur to me that anyone else might not agree with my own assessment that I looked fabulous. My mom mentioned a few times that my boots didn’t correspond with my summer clothes or the weather, but I didn’t care. They were a rockin’ pair of boots. They were comfortable. They had Hello Kitty on the side. I was going to show them off. (Thanks to my mom for giving me room to be myself and show off those boots.)

How many times have you ordered the salad instead of the cheeseburger or decided not to buy that sweet Star Trek t-shirt because you were worried what other people would think of you?

When did someone else’s opinions, even a complete and utter stranger’s, become more important than your own? (Seems ridiculous when I put it like that, huh? That’s the point.)

Stop STOP STOP boxing yourself in to please other people. Be yourself. In all your geeky fan merchandise-wearing, cheesy Lifetime movie-watching, Tom Jones music-listening glory. Own it. Do more than own it. Advertise it. Show it off to the world like I did with those red rain boots.

Because the more you focus on being yourself, the more you will like yourself and be comfortable in your own skin. And doesn’t that sound like a great place to be? Doesn’t that sound like a way to get one step closer to finding and living your verb? Doesn’t that sound like a much more fulfilling way to live life than trying to be someone you’re not?

Now go find whatever your version of those red rain boots is and flaunt it for all to see.

3) Be curious about the world.

Kids ask questions. A lot of questions. Both my favorite and least favorite phase of the kids I know is the Why Phase. You’ve experienced this one, right? If you haven’t yet been privy to the Why Phase with the kids you know, here’s a sample:

Kid: Why do we have to go to the dentist?

You: So we can make sure our teeth are healthy.

Kid: Why do we need to make sure our teeth are healthy?

You: Because we need healthy teeth to eat nutritious food, so we grow big and strong.

Kid: Why do we need to grow big and strong? Why can’t we stay small?

You: Because it would be hard to reach the stuff on the top shelves.

Kid: Why do we need to reach stuff?

You: So that we don’t always have to ask a grownup for help.

Kid: Why can’t we just keep asking grownups for help?

You: ….(sigh)…


Kids Lake PB

So take a cue from those teeny inquisitive creatures and let your curiosity lead you. Read a book, watch a TED Talk, schedule an interview with someone you admire, use a guide to map the constellations while you stargaze. Follow whatever sparks your curiosity, because that’s how you’ll learn more about what inspires you, which is a pretty good indicator of how you should be spending your time. 

4) Don’t doubt; believe in the possibility of, well, everything.

Kids are gullible. We can tell them storks bring babies and the tooth fairy collects their bicuspids, and they believe us. Cool. Makes things easy for us. But what it does for kids is better: it instills them with a sense of belief in things that seem impossible to you and me, wondrous things like time travel and pixie dust.

We smirk when kids take our word for it because we know better, but Being Grown Up and Knowing Better has a negative effect: cynicism. That’s where that smirk comes from. So quit it.

I’m not recommending that you be gullible. But I am recommending that you give people the benefit of the doubt when you talk to them. Assume the best. Assume that they’re not putting you on, that they actually like your new haircut and really do think you can ask out that girl without losing your cool.

Girl Dandelion PBBetter yet, give the whole world the benefit of the doubt. Start believing. Believe that you will finish your first marathon, that you will get the exorbitant salary you asked for, that you will stop smoking once and for all, that you will finally master how to use chopsticks. Whatever it is. Believe it. Because when we believe something is possible, we hardwire our brains to accept the idea that it will happen, and thus we hardwire ourselves for success.

No great hero ever slayed the dragon by muttering to himself, “this is ridiculous, it can’t be done, I’m going to fail and feel like an idiot” the whole way. Heroes are heroic because they believed enough that they could do something considered insurmountable and fairly ridiculous, and then they did it. 

The first step is believing. You need that belief to be able to muster the gumption, the courage, the optimism to take all the steps that come after.


There are four ways to think like a kid. Now go forth and be childish. I’ll be here, wearing some red boots and cheering you on…

Coming soon: Lesson 3. The third lesson in the Find Your Verb series will give you insight into blocking out the noise of everyone else’s voices and focusing on your own. In the meantime, take a moment to tell me your favorite kid-like quality and how you think we could all benefit from cultivating it as adults.


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Reinventing Yourself

“The truth is that you have the time for anything you’re absolutely committed to.”

- Wesley Goo


We’re almost a month into the new year, which is just long enough for most of us to start falling off that New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon.

Wesley Goo says that most of us fail at reinventing ourselves and keeping our resolutions because we bring last year’s version of ourselves into this year – and that’s not a recipe for success. Here Wesley talks about the five most common patterns we fall into that prevent us from reinventing ourselves and becoming who we want to be, or accomplishing the goals we want to meet.

Which pattern do you tend to fall into? How are you going to commit to making your resolution a reality? Tell me below.


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The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.

― Benjamin E. Mays 


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“Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.”

- Glenda Cloud


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Burning the Old Year

A new year is here. What will you burn, and what will you bring? What will you create this year that will be so spectacular that you’ll want to carry it with you into each and every new year to come?

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Find Your Verb, Lesson 1: You Are Not Your Job

This is the first in a series of lessons designed to help you find your verb. These lessons were prompted by a few readers who said to me, “hey, this Live Your Verb idea is inspiring, it’s good stuff – but how can I live my verb if I don’t know what it is? What’s my verb?” So if you aren’t sure what moves your soul, body or mind, follow along and find your verb… You can do it, I know you can.
- Lis


“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your @*&!*$# khakis.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

You Are Not Your Job

If you walk up to any adult in a social setting and ask, “who are you?”, you’ll get a reply like these:

  • “I’m Steve. I’m an accountant.”
  • “Hello, I’m Jeff. I work in commercial real estate.”
  • “Hi, I’m Kevin and I own a print shop.”

No, no, no. No.

Wrong answer.

That’s your profession.

When did our jobs become the defining factor by which we identify ourselves to other people? When did the  essence of who we are get tied up in what we do all day, which, for most of us, is not the Thing That Lights Our Souls On Fire?

Was it when we realized that people judge us by our job titles and incomes? Was it when our dreams took a backseat to conformity and then slowly died? (Okay, I admit that was a bit unnecessarily dramatic. But I’m leaving it there because I need to be dramatic to get through to some of you. Moving on…)

Yes, we all know a lawyer who relishes the opportunity to smugly announce his vocation while he sips his gin and tonic. But most of us aren’t that guy – nor do we really want to be talking to that guy. Why? Because we can all see through his drivel. We know that what really revs his engines is making money and impressing people, not the law; the law is just what enables him to do those other things.

So. Here is one of the most important things you’ll ever hear: You are not your job.

I’ll say it again, because it bears repeating: You. Are. Not. Your. Job.

And even if you are one of the lucky few who get excited about work each day, you still aren’t your job. You’re Adam, who is passionate about photography and painting, who finds the art in even the most mundane pieces of architecture or sculpture. You’re Sarah, a chatty bookworm and shoe lover who was mothering everyone around her long before she became a mother in the biological sense. You’re Patricia, who loved ballet as a little girl and speaks with such articulation that your words sound like poetry…

Who Are You, Really?

When was the last time you asked yourself who you are? Not “what do I do?” or “what do I want to do?” Not “who do I want to be like?” But “who am I?”

I’ll go ahead and ask: Who are you?

I know, I know: this is a doozy to answer when you probably haven’t thought about it for a decade or two.

Let’s start simpler:

  • What is it that you’re usually doing when you feel most like yourself?
  • Who are you with when you feel most like yourself? What qualities does that person bring out that make you feel like you?
  • What did you want to be when you were a little kid? (Notice I said “what,” not “who” – because a profession is a thing, not person.)
  • What is most important to you in this life – money, love, recognition, legacy, achievement, faith?

If you answer these questions truthfully, you’ll get closer to figuring out who you are and what your verb is.

I’ll put myself out there, too: I’m Melissa. I’m an artist. I was first a dancer, then also a writer, and now I even try to dabble in mixed media when I’m not marketing by day. I like using my talents to connect with and help other people. That takes many forms, but it always boils down to creating something meaningful that will inspire or move someone else.

Now What?

If, after some pondering, you know who you are – or you think you do – well, good for you. If you’re still struggling with it, that’s okay. Keep struggling. You wouldn’t be here reading this unless you already had a hunch that who you are is not the IT Manager, Event Planner or Fourth Grade Teacher. You are much more than that.

So who are you? You are a whole, complete person. You are a person who has ideas, strengths, passions and dreams that you haven’t explored in years – and it’s about time you started recognizing them so you can enjoy them, cultivate them and share them.

Figure out what all those things are. Roll them around in your head. And when you get brave enough, start rolling them along your tongue. The next time someone asks you who you are, tell them that you used to study dinosaurs but now you’re plotting the great American novel in your head, or that you are a ballerina at heart who makes jewelry out of repurposed materials. They might laugh at your response, sure – but they might also tell you something more meaningful about who they are than their job title. And then there you are, connecting and having a real conversation with another real person about who you really are, one step closer to finding and living your verbs.


Stay tuned for Lesson 2, which will tell you how thinking like a kid will get you into a whole new mindset about both yourself and life (monkey bars not included). In the meantime, I challenge you to tell me who you are below without mentioning anything about what you do.


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The Empty Container

There seems to be a trend happening lately in which I come across something while reading that directly addresses my concern at the time.

Recently, while I was in the throes of an oh-no-I’m-overwhelmed-and-I-need-to-simplify-my-life-a-bit spell, a post from the Zen Habits blog arrived in my inbox. Just like that, I had my answer.

Well, to be accurate, first there were a couple questions:

“What would you do if your life was a blank slate?

If it were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?”

I suspect that you’ll agree with me here: I don’t usually think this way about my problems. I rarely start at Square One. I’m much more inclined to start at Where I Am Now, and then try to backtrack to figure out where I went astray or lost hold of the steering wheel.

This approach seems easier. It feels more manageable to try to solve my problems with small steps like committing to spending less time on social media, subscribing to fewer blogs or planning my errands ahead of time. But the problem with small steps is that often they aren’t enough to make a significant change; they’re difficult to track and sustain, and they’re typically less meaningful in the grand scheme of things because they revolve around the “extras,” which are the last things to go into my container anyway.

Thinking in reverse, however, leads me straight to the core. If I start with that empty container and I ask myself what I want to put in there, the Big Stuff goes in first. Health. Loved Ones. Work. Blog.

Those are my priorities, the few things that I won’t scale back. And starting with them ensures that I give each one the full time and attention required for me to continue growing and thriving in that particular area of my life.

Okay. That makes sense. So the lesson here is simple: in the immortal words of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “begin at the beginning.” Empty out your container, start over, start with the Big Stuff. The rest is just filler.


Read The Empty Container, the Zen Habits post that prompted this.


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