“Put the work in now.”

“Put the work in now. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.”

A quote by a friend about three weeks ago in a spin class I haven’t been able to shake. She meant it for biking. She meant it for sweating. She meant it for burning legs and lungs. But I can’t help thinking there was a bigger purpose to those words rattling inside my head these weeks.

Work is good. I love work. I really do. It’s a word that never really scared or felt painful to me. It’s a word that I appreciated. Like I could see the end result of my work before I ever started and that was my motivation to put time, energy, and effort into working toward that THING whatever it was.

Growing up, school was my greatest work and feat, but I always made it through those nine months of school and got to live the achievement with each new grade. Then college and grad school. Both rough, but so good for different reasons. Work in finding and starting some sort of career, still discovering what that means, but I love the journey more each year!

What I really want to talk about though is sports. I’ve always loved sports. My parents were big on getting my siblings and I plugged into sports teams growing up. Kids and adolescents have the potential to learn life changing lessons for the good because of sports. Character, stick-to-itiveness, losing, winning, boundaries (what are they, why are they there?), cheating, teamwork, sometimes being in the spotlight, and sometimes giving that spotlight to others, and lastly showing up to practice even when you don’t want to. When athletes reach a level of skill and honing in on their sports that they can be a leader in their community, or even reaching the highest levels of sports by going pro is a great aim for many kids that carry them through to adulthood. Sports are a powerful part of society and I know I’m a way stronger person because of sports.

I learned to push through physical and mental pain and stress, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll be left behind or won’t reach my goals. And this could be goals in anything! Goals pertaining to relationships, my career, finishing my first triathlon, and being able to run a certain distance, but being able to drop the time.

The key is: part of putting in the work is knowing your “why” as I hear so many coaches talk about. Why the days alone training? Why the early mornings and rigid schedules for your career or athletics? Is it for being the best, so recognition? Is it for more money, so maybe financial security? Is it for staying in good health, so as to live your best quality of life? (Your why should be something meaningful and fulfilling; recognition and fame can be flimsy “whys.” They can be easily taken away. Choose your why wisely.)

My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.

Once you know your why, then putting in the work to get there is the next step. My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t. In the moment, though I was on my bike with the music blaring and lights dimmed as most spin rooms are, my mind was on relationships. I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

Putting in the work doesn’t always look like getting sweaty and “swoll” in an obvious way on the outside. It might look like internal exhaustion and setbacks, but still trekking forward because your goals and dreams matter and you’re standing on your “WHY.” Your why puts those hard days in perspective.

Maybe your goal is to be the top sales person where you work or to earn the title of manager, what do you need to learn and do to get there? Maybe it means saying “no” to late night shows so that you can go to bed on time and wake up ready for a new work day refreshed. If you have actual #relationshipgoals as the trending hashtag circled around the world got posted, what work do you need to put into that relationship now, so that you reach the goal? In some cases the “work” might just simply be stating a prayer to the One Above to guide you in your marriage when things seem to be falling apart.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’m not suggesting that work is all that life is about. It’s not. Life is also about enjoying the good days before you and learning to love the people around you well; it’s about practicing the true art of self-care because you are worthy of love yourself.

However, what I do know is that work is good and when it comes to work, the goals and dreams we hold onto (athletic goals, career goals, travel goals, marriage goals, community goals…) won’t magically appear without effort. And as my friend said that day as I huffed and puffed my way through a 26-mile ride in the studio—if you don’t put in the work now, no matter what your goals are, you’re only cheating yourself.

Inclusive Creativity

How many people out there would consider themselves a “Creative”? Right now, looking at what you do every day for a living, at home with family, or in the community, would you, Reader, call yourself a Creative?

I caught myself a number of months back writing a post within a group on Facebook: Hey ya’ll! Where are my Creatives at? Our team is growing!

To be a Creative, in the world of art, design, music, dance or writing is a normal label to take on. It feels good in those worlds to be known and identified as belonging to these traditionally creative communities. And in my post to promote a growing team for media and content creation work. By calling the “Creatives” I inadvertently fell into the trap of excluding everyone outside these traditionally creative fields.

I’d like to re-define how the label creative is used to be more inclusive, to allow creativity to take on meaning for people of all fields.

To be a Creative, one doesn’t need to by profession be an artist or designer. Creativity is not limited to your job title or hobbies.

A Creative is someone who thinks and acts outside the norm. Someone who inspires new ways of doing life, regardless of fields or professions. You could be in the line of fitness, business, therapy/counseling, teaching, tech, politics, law, or anything else out there and be a Creative.

I’m not going to lie I really hate that the word “creative” as having many connotations connected to specific fields, it just leaves out too many creative people in other fields.

One beautiful example of this is a fitness instructor I got super inspired by when I saw a new type of fitness-dance-drumming-cardio workout that she founded and trademarked. It’s called Drum Late and it’s a one-of-a-kind workout experience. After a couple of weeks of working out with her, I got so inspired, I asked if she could coach me to instruct Drum Late on my own. Here is a woman in a “non-creative” field of fitness, but creating a brand-new workout experience with mixed dancing and weight lifting moves to help people meet their health and fitness goals.

Then there are my teacher friends who through the entire 2020-2021 school years have needed to adapt classroom settings to be online or a mix of online and in person. There were some creative solutions for getting students to engage and be proactive while remote learning. New systems being put into place quickly and seeing big picture problem solving solutions for something they never had done before—wow! Creativity has sparkled and shone through the entire 2020 year as people and business developed and changed how they do life to make it work.

Then I have a mom-friend who came up with a pretty creative idea to teach her son potty training. By dumping a small handful of cereal in the toilet bowl, she taught him to aim for each piece and “sink the ship.” Creative! Maybe this is a trick a lot of moms know? But I don’t think so because I have seen a number of Facebook posts “Help! How do I teach my son potty training and how to aim?” This simple solution was creative for her situation and should be celebrated for working.

Creativity is not limited to position, field, or community. It lives outside all of those things. There are creative solutions in business, entrepreneurs are constantly coming up with creative ideas and products. I’d like to see the word Creative become more inclusive and applied to more people. I don’t want anyone to be limited by phrases like “Where are my creatives at?!” that I myself posted in that group. For as useful as a post it was that I wrote to get some attraction for media people, it limits and holds back everyone else. I don’t want anyone to ignore a post because they say “I’m not creative, so this isn’t for me.”

We all have the potential to be creative in any field. I mean, think of how science and medicine have been advanced through the years because of creativity being put to good use with other knowledge?

Maybe because I see people in my field calling themselves “Creatives” I’m sensitive to others being excluded. Maybe you read the post from the beginning and thought, “Yeah, I’m super creative!” And you’re in the field of counseling. Great! I’m so glad you’re ahead of this idea I’m just now writing on.

But. If anyone reading this never considered themselves creative before—would you reconsider? Let’s not limit ourselves from new thoughts and creative ideas in ANY field, profession, or role.

Fitness instructors, pastors, doctors, lawyers, parents—mom’s and dad’s— We ALL have the potential for creativity and be called Creatives. So, my last statement, really a question is simply this: What field are you in and how can you think and act more creatively in your community?

Jewelry: Telling Stories That Last

There are a few things that I love about jewelry…

  • It lasts—at least the good quality jewelry does.
  • It can be passed on. I have a few pieces of jewelry that came from my mom and both grandmothers that have been in the family. And my own engagement ring from my husband came from the gold of his deceased father. Just amazing.
  • It makes me feel, beautiful!
  • It adds the final touch to an outfit.
  • It sparkles and shines.
  • Anytime I’m asked about the jewelry I’m wearing; I get to tell a story.

I have a few momentous memories from pieces of jewelry that were given as gifts, or that I myself purchased through the years, and when I put those pieces on now, I get to think back and remember.

I get to remember the people who were with me when I bought or received it. I get to think about how I felt in the moment and how it makes me feel now.

A few years ago, my Dad and I were traveling through Europe to Prague and Germany after I finished my master’s degree that I earned from a business school in Spain. I cherish the garnet stone earrings he bought me from a shop owner and learning that garnet is Czech Republic’s main gemstone.

Then, of course when my husband and I designed our engagement ring before we were married. The anticipation I felt when I saw it when he proposed—would it look the way we had planned and wanted? It did. It was perfect.

And then a few months later he gave me a matching necklace that he designed for our first Christmas engaged. Seven hearts for seven days of the week, so I would remember that he loves me every day.

I got to wear opal earrings from my grandmother in my wedding. She is gone, but I had a piece of her with me in the beautiful jewelry she once cherished herself. She was not wealthy her entire life. To have dainty opal earrings, they were probably one of the most expensive things she’d ever worn or owned, and now I wear one in my upper, cartilage piercing all the time. I remember my Grandma, and my wedding day every time I look at it.

I often get compliments on a shell necklace my mom gave me from a trip she took to Hawaii once. It’s special that she thought of me and brought it home. I just love that necklace.

And then on our honeymoon, my husband bought me a pair of coconut carved earrings from a rasta man. So fun being in his country of Jamaica, and interacting with a local, enjoying the fun beauty of his craft in carving coconuts.

Or my trip to Morocco picking out a turquoise ring. MY FAVORITE!

I could go on and on with jewelry that I’ve bought and received on travels and trips and for special events.

Jewelry is SPECIAL.

There is so much more than the sparkles and shininess of jewelry, but that doesn’t take away from the beauty of some types of jewelry either!

That’s why Written Jewels has decided to become a Brand Partner with Bellia. This jewelry company is about women becoming all they were and are meant to be in the world. They believe women can change the world. They believe that women have value. They believe in the power of beauty—both in the jewelry itself and the woman who wears it.

If you want to tell a story of jewelry that’s life changing and makes a difference to the world around you, check out the Written Jewels Bellia Shop and choose a gift for yourself, or someone close to you that you think would be blessed by the story of Bellia’s values.

You’re worth it. Be Bellia today and continue the story of amazing jewelry and its values that go beyond the surface.

Normalizing Failure

Photo Cred: Amy Humphries

The number of times in my life that I have done anything at all, perfectly is approximately zero. I’ve done some things well, other things even better, but nothing in life have I executed or carried out perfectly. As a matter of fact, some things I’ve attempted in life… many things… I’ve absolutely failed in. I’ve failed to show up for friends and family when they’ve needed me. Failed in carrying out duties at work. Failed in my workouts and fitness life at times which I take pretty seriously as a lifestyle and habit.

And yet through my failures I’ve learned. Overcome. Transitioned. And grown. Through my failures I’ve seen things from a new perspective I didn’t know mattered. Through my failures I’ve been able to stand up and try again.

John Maxwell, a bestselling author and expert on leadership says, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

Applying this concept to my life, I’d like to introduce the idea of failure being quite normal even freeing. Because in failure we get the chance and opportunity to try again and overcome.

An example of this could be a child learning how to read or trying a sport for the first time. It would be insane to expect that child to perform a new task perfectly. The beauty of being a child is they are given the right (for the most part) to make mistakes in things, learn consequences if there are any, and get better.

I remember my first swim meet ever, I was 7 years old, maybe 8, and was supposed to swim a 25-yard breaststroke. I got to the end of the lane and popped my head up, thrilled to see I had won. For all of 3 seconds when the person running the timer in my lane said I was disqualified. I actually swam freestyle, not breaststroke. Oops! I learned the lesson and never made the mistake again I don’t think through all my years on a swim team. I had failed. But no one held it against me.

So why would we hold failure against ourselves as adults? Why do we take such considerable strides to HIDE failure on social media and with friends and family? I’m all about putting our best foot forward in life, but what if that is actually crippling us at the end of the day rather than living authentically with our stories of not being where we want to be yet that could be encouraging and helpful to so many people.

I submit to you now that failure is more normal than carrying out any task in life perfectly.

I’d like to see failure normalized, not hidden behind pretty social media posts and trying to hide our faults and failures to the enormous extent that we do.

Another example comes from my own life with working out and Triathlons. I used to compete in regularly 1 to 2 times a year in Triathlons around the northeast of the US in new cities and towns each race. My first year I had a HORRIBLE race time. I put so much effort into training and making a goal time for the race, yet I completely blew it the day of the race. I briefly thought to myself “I’m not made to do Tris.” I almost gave up this hobby and lifestyle because of a bad race. It took about two weeks until I missed the swimming, biking, and running and chose instead to say, “Well, it seems I have a lot to learn and become better in with regards to workouts and training. I can do better next time.”

I think giving into the first statement, “I’m just not made to do this” isn’t going to help me win and become better at the next thing I choose to focus my time and energy on. It isn’t going to help me succeed. It isn’t going to help me really at all. Though I failed in reaching all of my goals that first race, I chose instead to see my end time as a reason to adjust, get educated on workouts, include other people in my training by talking to a couple of other athletes who had done way more racing than I ever have.

I chose to realize that “failure” was just a matter of personal definition, not an absolute that determined an end to something that I really enjoyed— in this case swimming, biking, and running—despite my slow pace and poor choices in the race that really set me back.

Normalizing failure for any and all can be a way to rethink failure in general. If you personally “did bad” in something— could be anything from baking a cake that turned out horribly that you meant to give to someone for a special occasion, to showing disruptive and “bad” behavior at an event that in retrospect you realize you shouldn’t have acted that way—and you choose instead to learn grow and change based off of that perceived failure, have you really failed at all?

I don’t know a single person on planet earth that has done ANYTHING perfectly in life. But everyone I know has messed up in big or small ways around me my whole life, including myself, and the world still moves on.

Instead of getting caught up with our failures, beating ourselves up, ruminating on went wrong, what if instead we chose to focus on the positive that might be a result of that failure? What if that time we didn’t show up as we should for someone we learn the art of apologizing and making amends? What if we recognize that no matter how old we are, we are fallible human beings and failing is a part of life. Failing is actually… normal… and can bring about positive change including overcoming obstacles and achieving greatness in some area.

This new year, let’s embrace our “failures” as we might call them and realize that as Maxwell said, “The only guarantee for failure is if we stop trying.”

As long as you admit the mistake, change the course, make a new decision next time you’re faced with a problem or dilemma that you “failed in” then truly failure isn’t the end of the story.

I’m sure many people are making new year’s resolutions and vowing changes for 2021. Let’s not see 2020 as a failure, but a year of learning and growth. Let’s choose to walk into 2021 refreshed for amazing opportunities that if we keep going, don’t give up, and try again in we can have the greatest personal success imaginable, no matter what our goals are be them relational, financial, spiritual, physical, or any area of life that you may be holding onto failure in.

There is always hope. There is always room for growth and change. There is always a new time to keep the faith and change the course for better next time. At the end of the day, without failure we will never fully understand the deep feelings that success brings.

When Skin Tells a Story

I was rubbing my sun burnt legs down with lotion and noticed not only the hot feeling of a surface burn, but also felt an itch with a cluster of mosquito bites on my left calf. Scratching only irritated the burn, but if I didn’t scratch the bites were impossible to handle. Then, I noticed the nick where I had cut myself with a razor blade down near my ankle; blood was starting to trickle down my foot. I had rushed my shower, obviously, to have not noticed my beat-up legs and allowed myself to be so careless in cutting myself. Cuts, burns, and bites made my leg looked like it had been to battle.

I studied my other leg taking in an old scar down by my ankle. Fewer bites, but still uncomfortably burnt and a giant bruise on my shin.

All of a sudden, I felt a wave of being proud of my legs. I think typically my mind would rumble through thoughts of frustration having to dress a certain way to cover up the mess that was my legs in that moment. But not this time.

“Look at that.” I thought. “My skin. Taking the heat literally for all I go through and put it through.” My skin protects me from all kinds of elements just by walking the daily ins and outs of life. And look at all it can handle. The sun. Insects. Scrapes. Scratches. Bruises. Cuts that lead to scars. Though imperfect, my skin was beautiful to me in that moment. Is beautiful. And I don’t give it enough credit.

Skin is the biggest organ of our bodies and gets treated the harshest. Do we thank our skin for all it protects us from? Do we take care of it as we should? Do we drink enough water or eat high nutrient foods that hydrate and feed it properly? I try to. But besides the physical necessity that skin is by providing our bodies protection, there is so much more depth to understand.

My skin told the story of a woman who loves the outdoors— bug bites and sunburns. The bruises point to someone who is active, jostling around, and bumping into things. The scar on my ankle showed something of adventure or an experience that might have been rough in the moment, but ended with me being more resilient and now it’s healed. The razor cut by my ankle points to a personality of getting things done quickly, maybe too quickly and even rushing at times.

And what about you? What does your skin say to the world? What stories can people gather beyond the surface from that tough outer layer?

Some people have tattoos. (I love asking people about their tattoos! Sometimes the stories of a person’s tattoos are deep and meaningful. Others say they got a tattoo on a whim because of a bet or a preference. “I just like stars!” someone responded when I asked what the array of stars on their shoulder stood for.)

Some people have unique birth marks.

Some people have freckles.

Some people have stretch marks or wrinkles.

Some people have callouses built up from work and play.

Some people have more or less melanin, making them “black” or “white” or somewhere in between.

Think of the individual fingerprints you specifically were born with.

It’s pliable and soft. Growing with you. Stretching with you. Unique to ONLY you.

You can get skin wet and dry it off in a matter of seconds. Sometimes when it’s rainy and I need to run outside to the mailbox or take the trash out, I would rather go in my bare feet knowing that shoes will take forever to dry compared to wiping my feet off.

Skin gets dirty and it’s never a problem knowing you can then get it clean in the next shower.

Whatever your skin says on the outside about you, your life, your story—know it is absolutely beautiful and deserves appreciation and care.

Be proud of your skin. Be proud of what it says about you. Be proud of the first cover people see to the story and book that makes your life. And live your best life knowing your skin is beautiful even if it’s imperfect.