It was the morning of December 1st, 2011, and I was getting dressed to speak at an event in Baltimore, Maryland. This was my first live speaking engagement after having gone through a “dark night of the soul” in 2010.
That dark night was the most challenging thing I’d ever experienced. I had gone from having a relatively successful business, a best-selling book, being the “picture” of success, to losing it all – my home, my business (through a challenging partnership dissolution), almost my marriage… right down to having to file for bankruptcy.
Today when I look back on what had happened to get me to that dark place, I realize that I hadn’t been true to myself. I had been chasing some illusion of what I thought I “should” be doing, how I thought my business “should” look, who I “should” be working with, and how I “should” be working with them.
There was a moment earlier in 2010 when I’d had to decide if I’d keep doing what I “should” do, or let it all go to discover what I was born to do! While it was challenging to let go of everything I was familiar with, my soul knew it was the only choice. And I was led on an amazing personal and spiritual journey that transformed my life.
Long story short, I was shown that I needed to stop trying to make money by teaching other people how to make money. That was a behavior I had slipped into, not realizing how far away it was from my true heart’s desire… which was to heal hearts and transform people’s lives. I had simply modelled what I saw other successful home-based entrepreneurs doing, but hadn’t done the deep dive into discovering what was right and true for me.
In addition to seeing what I was not meant to do, it became crystal clear what I was meant to do. I was supposed to serve transformational authors – even though at the time I had no idea what a transformational author was. I had to define it, because on all of Google I couldn’t find one reference to this thing called a “transformational author.” Now it seems like such a common term… but not in 2011.
Having this insight come to me was a huge relief. Everything about it felt right. I knew authorship (since I’d been training authors for years), and I knew transformation, especially after the personal journey I’d been on, so why not combine these two passions?
While 2011 started with a tremendous amount of pain, that pain was followed by blessings and miracles too numerous to count. I defined what it meant to be a transformational author, put together a program called the Transformational Author Experience®, and got myself and my family back on our feet financially. But better than that, I experienced tremendous joy and ease serving nearly 10,000 authors in that one year.
Life was good.
So back to that morning on December 1st, 2011, and that speaking engagement. It was not just a “coming out” after my dark night of the soul… it was a day that would transform my life.
Transformation comes in so many forms. Some of it occurs by a proverbial two-by-four to the head (bankruptcy was one of my two-by-fours), other times it comes in a whisper, a loving face, or a quiet moment of reflection.
This day, transformation occurred in my closet! (It really can happen anywhere at any time.)
There I was, digging through my closet to find my fancy speaking suit… the one that had been packed away for the past year. It was a beautiful brown tailored suit with a long coat and pants that fit like they were custom made for me. I had a sparkly top to wear underneath and the perfect pair of shoes to complement the outfit.
I got myself dressed in that suit as I’d done before and looked in the mirror. But this time I didn’t like what I saw at all. In fact, I cringed and wanted to jump out of my skin! Or that suit to be exact!
Who was that person in the mirror wearing that fancy suit? That suit used to feel like a second skin to me and now I wanted to get out of it as fast as I could. Why was that happening?
When I looked in the mirror, what I saw was someone who put on a costume to try to look a certain way – together, successful, sharp, smart, etc. I instantly recalled one other time in particular when I wore that suit and felt like I needed it to hold me together, because if people knew what was really inside me and the struggles I faced, they wouldn’t listen to a word I said. It felt like if people knew the real me, they would be anything but impressed, which was important to me. I had always strived to be good enough and liked by other people.
I used to be so comfortable with the “dress for success/dress to impress” model. Anytime I’d travel to speak or attend an event, I would spend days thinking about what I’d wear. Would I fit in? What should I wear to give off a certain air of confidence? (Mind you, confidence I didn’t have on the inside!) My patient husband would sit through hours of my trying on outfits, giving me his opinions until I found just the right thing that would show others I was successful.
If I faked it – success – enough, then eventually I’d make it, right? Not so true. If you fake it too long, you miss the gift of discovering the true you.
So as I looked at myself in the mirror that morning, my path became clear. Finally I didn’t have to fake it anymore. Finally I knew in the depth of my being that I didn’t need a suit to impress anyone. Finally I knew who I was, and it didn’t matter if I wore a fancy suit, yoga pants, jeans, or a dress. Clothes don’t make me who I am… I am who I am because of the inside of me!
Some of the stories you’ll read in this book share far more challenging experiences than mine, and moments of transformation that are profound. But that morning when I looked in the mirror was one of the most transformational moments of my life. And I’m sharing it with you so you can look for the seemingly small moments in your life that can hold the gift of your next transformation.
Okay… on with the story!
As the clock ticked away and I needed to leave for the speaking engagement, I tore through my closet trying to find something that looked and felt RIGHT! I put on all of my old speaking outfits – the tailored pants, fancy shoes, and sparkly tops – NONE of them felt like me! They all felt like I was putting them on just for show.
The only thing in my closet that felt right was my favorite pair of jeans and one of my long cardigan sweaters. But I thought, “I can’t wear jeans for a speaking engagement… that’s so unprofessional. What will people think?!”
I’m sure that my inner critic was alive and well from my days of being told I couldn’t wear jeans to church… that I needed to look nice. I had always interpreted that to mean I should look nice for other people, because they (or God) would judge me based on what I wore. That may not be true, but that’s what it felt like to me as a kid.
Then, standing in my closet, I heard the words of Frank Sinatra rolling around in my head singing, “I did it my way.” Guess what: so did I!
I put on my jeans, a simple tank top, and my favorite cardigan sweater. The only thing that I kept from my fancy outfit was the great pair of shoes. I felt amazing! I felt like me! I felt like I could walk on that stage and be 100 percent authentically me.
This might seem like a small thing, but it was truly liberating for me! I hadn’t realized how much time and energy I’d spent worrying about what others would think of me based on what I wore – time and energy that would have been much better spent serving and helping others on their transformational journeys.
So this is what I do now. I enjoy my time doing work I love… with people I love to do it with. While I like to get “dressed” now and then, I haven’t set foot on a speaking stage in anything but jeans since that day in December of 2011. Actually I had to wear dress pants once because of a strict dress code at the venue I was speaking at, but other than that, it’s jeans and a sweater for me.
And guess what? Nobody has ever said anything about my wearing jeans on stage other than how much they liked my outfit, and also how refreshing it was to see someone look like a regular person on the stage. (As you can see here when I’m speaking at Lisa Nichols’ Speak and Write event.)
It’s now become part of my brand, what people have come to expect from me – that I’m going to show up looking exactly like me… an authentic, down-to-earth, real, caring person who isn’t putting on a show for anyone, whose presence is what people need the most.
The confidence I’ve gained since that morning spent digging for a suitable outfit in my closet has changed my life. While it may have just been a decision to wear jeans, it was really a decision to lay down my façade once and for all and let people see the real me.
That one decision has helped me create a successful and profitable debt-free business, help tens of thousands of authors around the world, and transform lives. In short, exactly what I was born to do.
Frank Sinatra had it right, and I’ll cherish those lyrics forever: “I did it my way.”
When I reflect on this book and the goal to transform the world one person at a time, I believe when I chose to wear jeans on stage it was that one small decision that’s helped me impact so many people. I do believe we are making a difference in the world. As the publisher of this book, this is just one example of that difference.
So I want to ask you now, what small thing are you doing that’s compromising who you are? Do you dress a certain way, but not really feel at home in your clothes? Do you say or do things you don’t really want to do just because you think you should, or wonder what others will say about you?
I encourage you to look for those small and seemingly insignificant ways you might be compromising the essence of who you are. Then heed Frank Sinatra’s advice and be willing to Do It Your Way! You’ll feel better and become a more open vessel for your gifts to shine through without anything getting in your way!
You deserve to do things your way – your book, speaking engagements, career, dressing, and living; you’re the only one on the planet who can authentically “do” you!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put on a pair of jeans and join my family for dinner.
Get your copy of Pebbles in the Pond (Wave Three) and discover how YOUR story can be featured in the “next wave” by visiting www.PebblesBook.com/contest. Hurry! Contest deadline is Thursday, July 24th!
I’d love to hear how YOU “do it your way!” Please comment below and let me know your thoughts about this article. Thank you!!