This is the second in a new series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who are guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1.
You know those fireballs of energy that you see in life? On a stage, on the track, at the podium? You can sense they have an inner fire burning, giving them energy to dazzle the rest of us with their words, or dance, or speed.
Danielle is a fireball. One that is balanced out with thoughtful discipline and cheery goodwill. I met her through her amazing vinyasa classes at Yoga Space NW in the summer of 2013, and count myself lucky to be still in her circle of influence. You may too, after reading!
I asked Danielle some pointed (i.e. nosey) questions about how she came to be such a sustained, balanced person, and some themes emerged from the experiences she related to me.
Whether it was a rut of routine exercise gigs or the destruction of a relationship, one thing that Danielle has been able to show again and again is that when you are presented with a wall, strength is finding a way around or through it.
It starts with accepting that your life is going to be a series of changes, and not fighting to get everything perfect and then relax. It continues with being aware of those changes as they come at you, and taking the time to adjust to them and make decisions based on love rather than fear.
For example, Danielle told me about a moment when she was feeling very unfulfilled, despite having a steady job, a new house, a caring boyfriend… it sounds perfect, right? But the feeling was there, and she had to pause and figure out why. She’d recently left Nike as a trainer and Pilates instructor to go into event planning, but realized her work in event planning was not filling her cup of happiness, as it were.
That missing feeling prompted a ‘cathartic meltdown,’ and after a lot of hard introspection, she knew she had something new to teach, and could return to the yoga/fitness world she’d left, with much more to offer. This happened a few years back, and I can see why it felt like one of the hardest lessons to learn. However, on the positive side, later iterations of the same lesson then become easier to recognize!
For me, my catharsis happened in DC after similar elements combined to make me feel like I was at a dead end: stagnant job, remnants of torn-down relationship, but hey! financially stable!
And it was a light bulb moment: I’m responsible for this? I can make any choice I want? Well then let’s get this effing show on the road! And all the blips since then have been easier to weather, knowing that I’m doing this solopreneur thing because I love myself, and don’t want to be living someone else’s life.
Slow and Steady
While we might want to make changes, we often wish it was as easy as saying, “Make it so.” But it’s not. When we try to improve our lives by adding a daily habit or getting rid of one, there are slip-ups, excuses, and self-talk to battle against.
Danielle has found her own brand of ‘slow & steady’ that keeps her grounded and focused in her work and her life. It involves using carefully selected teachers in different parts of her life that help concentrate her effort to learn, for example in yoga, in yoga therapy, or in the personal therapy arena.
It also involves a specific time management strategy. I imagine there is a fancy term for this in the workout world, but essentially the technique is to “do a little bit of hard work at a time, then take a break.” That way, you’re challenging yourself to confront the new and scary, but also giving yourself breaks to the familiar so that you don’t burn out. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s getting you closer to your goal.
I like this technique a lot.
Business Decision-Making is Never a Breeze
We talked a fair bit about the relationship between money and stress and decision-making. As solopreneurs whose service and/or product bears directly on our ability to pay the rent, there are a lot of emotions tied up in that analytical process. We may feel like we need to say yes to an offer of a side gig, when if we worked out the costs of gas and the stress of traffic, it’s a lose-lose situation. (Commuters on the West side of Portland may know what I’m talking about!)
It’s important to consider money, time effects, and one final factor: learning for value. This encompasses doing things that yield nothing tangible in the moment, but trusting that they may have results in the future. For me, this is another way of saying MARKETING (yes, I said it).
One of the things Danielle and I totally agreed on was that marketing for solopreneurs can get us all confused emotionally; we have to promote ourselves as our brand, but then not feel criticized when our efforts don’t gain as much traction as we want. I think the perfect answer here is measuring your impact by effort put in, not results coming out.
Know the difference between enjoyable and beneficial
When I asked about balance in her life, Danielle made an interesting distinction: enjoyable vs. beneficial. Amid all the earnest goal-setting, healthy eating, and exercise, we do need an opposite sort of activity, one that doesn’t require our brains to be ‘on’ in the same way, one that gives the Ego or the Driving voice inside a break.
We could do this by zoning out in a Netflix binge, but that would be enjoyable in the moment, not beneficial to our overall well-being. This is a line of demarcation that may take some getting used to, since we are so centered on our screens these days, but one that deserves attention. What can you think of that is a go-to activity for you, but might not be beneficial?
I am still pondering this one. I know that watching old movies from the library or Youtube videos of unavailable British comedy is one way I turn my brain off, but it feels like such a release!
Social media, I admit, is a slippery slope. I realize this every time I get on Facebook, only to look up 20 minutes later and think, “What did I get on here for?” So that one, I do monitor more closely these days. But the videos, when used judiciously… I’m not sure I would say they’re not beneficial. What do you think?
Cultivate Your Own Community
In addition to the screen addiction, there are many other ‘modern society’ behaviors that may not be beneficial to you, and it’s your job to sniff those out. Know thyself, in order to figure out how you work best (#howiworkbest).
I asked about what parts of modern society Danielle chose to opt out of, and here was the list:
- Smartphone worship
- News (in the form of an NPR alarm clock!)
Agreed! The sort of false connection you get when connecting via social media or on our smartphones is beneficial neither to us nor the world, so why do it? Rather, hunt for and find like-minded individuals who share your priority values, and build your tribe. Maybe even start an intentional community. That could be really beneficial, helping you live your life according to your examined values.
Do you have any questions for Danielle?
…Do you want to come take her class? Told you this would happen…