I'm moving offline

Isn't it crazy that for years I went into an office to talk to people through a computer all day? Then I quit my traditional job, just to continue to be in front of my computer for even more extended hours.

In the past year, I've done online classes, online yoga, online therapy, etc. Being in front of my computer all day and with a child is not something I want. I want my work to be physical and embodied. I want to spend my days being with people, not hiding behind a screen alone. This is why I have a goal to open a dance studio, but I'm wondering how I can be more offline now?

My favorite problem I'm playing with is, "How can I mostly work offline while still being an entrepreneur and content creator?"

  1. Eliminate email

My first thought is, “I need to make enough to hire an assistant who answers emails.” That might be a while, so I'm wondering what would happen if my email auto-responder was, "I don't do email. You can call me at #?" I wonder how many calls I would get? How much FOMO would I have about the emails I am missing?

  1. Outsource logistics

There is more I can delegate if I stop trying to control and learn to trust more. A career coach pointed out that I feel bad giving work to people, even when that's part of their job. This is primarily a mindset shift I need to work on.

  1. Set clear boundaries for Zoom calls

Before scheduling any zoom call, ask myself, "Can this be done on the phone?" I can do calls while walking and while in my jacuzzi. Better yet, can I send a voice memo text to save having to do a call? I need to limit zoom calls to only when screen sharing and seeing someone's face is critical to the outcome of the call.

  1. Hire a video editor.

I just realized in writing this, that my YouTube channel right now makes enough for me to justify paying a service to edit. My challenge has been thinking that someone else can't do the editing. But because I've been taking a break, I haven't produced any videos in over a month. What if letting go of my way of doing things leads to generating more content faster and then allows me to hire more folks to make it even easier?

  1. Add in-person elements to our Building a Second Brain online course

I'm playing with ideas for doing more in-person BASB activities. For example, I'm thinking of hosting an in-person Los Angeles mentor group next cohort that I can lead. I miss being with students.

  1. Create systems that work without me

Before the next BASB cohort starts, I'm working on a new system in Clickup which will help smooth out logistics and resuse previous elements. This means next cohort I can focus more on connecting with mentors individually, which I love.

  1. New tools

I want something like my Paperwhite Kindle that is just for writing, like a digital typewriter. On Goole I found this Freewrite device. If you have recommendations for offline tools/devices/methods, I’d love to hear them!

My Biggest Regret

I listened to writer Suleika Jaouad share her story of going through four years of life-threatening leukemia treatments. I related to her story of being hospitalized and how impossible it is to go back to normal.

I spent almost 2-months hospitalized, a year in physical therapy, and had to relearn to walk after a car accident at sixteen. At 25, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Both instances threatened my ability to have children. I was left with a deep mistrust of my body– a body that fails me. I didn't realize how much trauma was lurking in my body until I was pregnant.

Suleika was 22 when she was diagnosed with leukemia and didn't know if she would live or die. She journal wrote regularly, and her blog led to a column in the New York Times.

My biggest regret is not journal writing about my health experiences while they were happening. I intentionally avoided it. I didn't want to reflect. I didn’t want to feel.

When I was in a wheelchair, I got so much unwanted attention that later, I didn't want people to know I had cancer and be treated differently. I am giving myself grace now because at that time, what I needed to power through those experiences was not to process them. I just needed to get through it.

Suleika said on the Tim Ferriss Podcast,

"So often, writing teachers will tell you to write what you know, but I often find that I write what I want to understand."

Now it's time for me to go back and reflect on what's happened to my body. To heal the trauma I ignored at the time, I need to write about it.

Reading Suleika's book, Between Two Kingdoms, the details of my hospital experiences are seeping out like tea from a bag.

I remember the moments of pain, the Grey Anatomy staff storylines I pried out of my nurses, the humiliation of having strangers wipe my ass, and how even confined to a bed, I managed a flirtation with my hot hospital tutor.

But most of all, I'm reminded of how I survived the unimaginable; how my body defied every prediction the doctors made in my effort to get back to my "normal" life. I'm reminded to be grateful for my health today.

Suleika's comment on writing to understand is staying with me. I previously got stuck trying to regularly publish newsletters, overthinking what I have to say that would be useful for other people. I don't want to write "how-tos" or give people advice. Now I'm seeing the benefit of writing to understand my life and the world around me. With this intention, I find more people connecting with what I write.

The Art of Doing Nothing

This week I was supposed to start working on launching my summer online course. But I was dreading it. 

I could logically reason myself into taking action or not taking action. I meditated on it and asked, "What does my heart want." The answer was clear. I don't want to teach this course this summer.

I don't need reasons or excuses not to do it, which can always be debated. What my heart wants can't be refuted. One weekend of vacation and 1-hour of self-reflection just saved me dozens of hours of work. I need to remind myself of this because the busier I am, the faster my self-care disappears when that is when self-care is most needed. I'm so good at taking action that I can easily move far down a path in the wrong direction.

Instead, I'm actively practicing doing nothing.

It's a challenge for me to be okay with taking a break. So much of my self-worth and happiness is derived from working and achieving. I'm trying to prove to myself that I am worthy. Prove that I am good enough. But no matter what I achieve, I always feel behind.

I've become introverted around my family since none of them really know or care about what I do for work. It's like I don't have anything to talk about if I'm not talking about work. I'm mourning this sad existence. I want to know who I am and what I care about outside of achieving and work.

I've been reflecting on this asking myself:

  • What hole am I trying to fill with achievement?

  • What needs do I have that need to be satisfied with achievement?

  • What other ways can I fill those needs?

  • How would I feel about myself if I didn't achieve these things?

I'm trying to hold on to the thought, "If I sit in front of the TV and do nothing for the rest of my life, my life would still have value and meaning."

In this past week of doing nothing, I laughed so hard that my cheeks went stiff with pain. I sat in awe, watching my 8-month old son fiercely dissolve an orange in his mouth like it was his most extraordinary mission in life. I went swimming twice in the middle of workdays. I binge-watched Selling Sunset. I revealed my extroverted self, hanging out with friends and family every day. I feel more human—more like my childlike self.

Whenever I slow down and stop being Sisyphus pushing my ball up the hill, magic happens. Things arise without force. I'm not sure what will come of this, but I know the shift in my energy will attract what comes next.

Theater Arts: the Future of Online Education

I just watched an online play that surpassed my expectations of what Zoom technology could accomplish in online education.

Teaching a 1,500+ person online class, we are at the forefront of creating immersive online experiences.

When we started Building a Second Brain, there was no script; there were no pre-recorded videos. But over the years, we refined our content with highly produced videos, dress rehearsals, fancy cameras and lighting, and tightly facilitated agendas.

Teaching online isn't like showing up in front of a classroom. It takes far more energy to hold people's attention when it's online. If you want to charge premium prices for an online course, it needs to be more performance than lecture.

Think about performing a dance, theater piece, or song on an instrument. You rehearse the lines, the movement, the timing over and over. When a dancer starts learning new choreography, it's awkward because your brain is trying to remember what comes next. The movements are disjointed; it's hard to get into a flow between doing the moves and remembering what to do. After many repetitions, muscle memory kicks in, and the body can focus on performing.

Think about the difference between a TED talk and a college professor's lecture. TED speakers are never rushing and end just on time. Most of them hire speech coaches and rehearse a ton to be that polished on stage. It's a performance.

But this Zoom play opened up a whole new world of possibilities that are the new frontier of online education: The intersection of online education and performance art.

The play The Most Beautiful Home...Maybe told the history of housing in the U.S. The actors were singing zebras who facilitated breakout rooms. Each actor had a green screen, and scenes were easily changed. Music was playing throughout the performance. Pre-recorded videos played and transitioned into the actors leading meaningful discussions on housing policy. The individual and group activities were designed as a game board in Miro. The actors' instructions were Windex-clear, moving people between discussions on Zoom and working on the activities in Miro.

I was blown away by the seamless integration of media and moving pieces. I can't imagine what it took to design and execute this play.

I was inspired to shoot for their execution level in our future cohorts of Building a Second Brain. We often look to top course creators for inspiration, like Marie Forleo's B-School or Seth Godin's AltMBA. Now I will spend the next few months watching as many Zoom theatrical performances as I can, learning from those who are experts in holding an audience's attention.

Accepting Help From Strangers

I've been telling everyone about my idea to start a dance studio. But my limiting belief is saying, "I can't actually do this." Like a simmer over low heat, the sinister thoughts continuously bubble to the surface.

I've accomplished enough in my life to know not to listen to that voice.

No matter what I achieve, the negative voice doesn't go away. I love the way Liz Gilbert describes that voice as your annoying friend who's allowed to tag along on the road trip but isn't allowed to drive.

I use the tactic of talking about my goals publicly so that the public pressure will hold me accountable for taking action.

Now that our online course Building a Second Brain is coming to an end, I have the space to start working on my dance studio.

But starting a dance studio is completely overwhelming.

In Building a Second Brain, we teach a concept of breaking down projects into "Intermediate Packets," small pieces of work that individually move the project forward and stand on their own as pieces of work you can share.

One student commented, "Now that I can break my big idea into smaller components, I'm terrified of having the responsibility to take action." I felt totally exposed in their comment. I know what actions to take, but I'd rather daydream about the distant future than take the small, uncomfortable actions now.

Then a subscriber to my email list, Jeremy Finch, responded to my newsletter asking how he could help. I'm the type that not only avoids asking for help but declines help when it's offered. It's hard for me to know what to ask for.

Jeremy has a background at the intersection of arts and business. I was checking email after drinking a beer, and I took the plunge and requested a call.

I've talked to many friends about my business idea, but talking to a stranger was so clarifying. Here I am talking to someone who has no stake in my life. Jeremy could be objective. And weirdly, it's easier for me to be vulnerable with people I don't know.

Jeremy did an excellent coaching call. He listened to my ideas, repeated back the core elements that stood out, and asked open-ended questions. Jeremy also gave me ideas to consider tapping into local resources. He helped me open up possibilities to see that I could pilot numerous models to figure out who my audience is and what they like best.

My favorite question he asked that I'm going to add to my project kickoff checklist template is, "What would failure look like?" In answering, I laughed. It's not the idea of losing money that I'm afraid of. Failure for me is giving up before I give it a real try.

I left the call feeling motivated with a series of actions to take.

Check out Jeremy's Newsletter The Fire Jar which explores creativity, movement, and learning.

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