The Top Four Lessons I've Learned as "The Intentional Optimist"Nov 07, 2022
“Why do you always have to learn the hard way?”
This is from my mother, standing in the doorway, right hand on her hip.
These memories play across my mind from about age 3 until… well, 50, if I’m honest… and they all look the same.
To her utter consternation, I’m just one of those people who needs to learn “the hard way.” To her, this looked like stubbornness, disobedience and lacking discernment or wisdom. I mean, who wouldn’t want to learn from other people’s mistakes, or who wouldn’t want to avoid hardship when possible?
Evidently me. I wouldn’t.
The question for me was always “why can’t I learn MY way?” Why wouldn’t you want to experience things for yourself in order to then know what works and what doesn’t. Granted, these weren’t huge, life altering issues, and I was not a rebellious teenager, I just saw things a little differently, and needed to gather information through my own experiences.
This particular disagreement continued with my mother right up until the end… we lost her to breast cancer when I was 50. But that last year or so, something shifted. In both of us.
Though she saw me as a “late bloomer,” she began to acknowledge my wisdom - hard won though it was - and I found a confidence to stand taller in the reality that 50 years on this planet, learning as you go, can accumulate a good bit of that wisdom if you work at it.
Oh, and I worked hard at it.
John Maxwell says “Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”
When you fail to learn from your own experiences, just like history, you’ll repeat the same thing over and over until you DO.
So, while I’ve learned much over the years, the art of reflection and evaluation is what’s made the difference in the last 5. I wanted to reflect back and look at some of the big lessons I’ve learned since I first ventured into the world of “The Intentional Optimist.”
I know that not everyone is like me. Many of you DO prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes. Remember, though, you have the ability to learn from ALL your experiences, so I’m going to walk you through that process a bit as I share.
What have I learned over the course of the last few years?
Well, some pretty big life lessons. I’ve been rather open about my quest as a 50+ year old woman to determine what I stood for, who I really am, and how I want to show up in the world, and these are the top FOUR lessons for me - so far.
The Fourth Biggest Lesson: Figuring out WHO I am was, and IS, the “hardest” part.
Personal growth is not a destination. It’s a journey. So I say it often - mostly to remind myself. As soon as I think I’ve figured “ME” out, God blesses me with just a little more awareness, wisdom, insight, and everything shifts just a little more.
The biggest challenges here have been acceptance and allowance. It wasn't just others who needed to accept me, I had to... I had to accept who I was created to be, and then allow myself to show up. Even when it seems a little scary - like quitting my job to pursue full time entrepreneurship.
I can see, at my age, why my mom would call me a “late bloomer.” In a society with a fixed set of expectations about what it looks like to succeed - go to college, get a job, find a spouse, have some kids, get promoted (or in some cases stay home with the kids), then work until retirement - my journey is different. Yes, it may look like it took me a long time to figure out my path, but I wonder how unique I really am. How many people are truly honest about their journey?
You see, I think I’m right on time. I’m blossoming exactly when I’m supposed to.
The more I learn about, and understand, who I have been created to be - through trial and error, study, experimentation, reflection, coaching and feedback - the more confident I become in my skills, abilities, strengths and my calling. I’m still learning to allow myself to be the teacher I know in my heart that I am, and I know my understanding will continue to clarify as I grow. Identity shifts are a big deal. It’s almost easier to say “I’m a leadership coach,” than it is to say I’m the creator of a personal growth philosophy. It’s way easier to say “I train people to communicate more effectively,” than to have the audacity to say “I teach people the mindsets and attitudes they need to employ in order to live with excellence.”
So yes, figuring out who I am, accepting that and stepping into that leadership role is a big life lesson. These revelations have come through coaching, podcasting, blogging and writing, and I know this is just the beginning.
The Third Biggest Lesson: Most of the time, it’s the FIRST thing you thought it would be.
Prior to leaving my corporate job, I was fond of saying “I’m gonna leave here, and just like the Pied Piper, I’m gonna take as many women with me as I can!” Of course, by the time I did leave, I was mostly just happy to get out, and terrified at the prospect of figuring out just how to make it work on my own.
I’ve watched myself and my clients come to a realization of who they are and what their mission is, only to wander away from it because it just feels too out of reach. Or too difficult. Too scary or too much. Look, just because you don’t know how to do it right now, or didn’t know how to do it back then, doesn’t mean what you’ve meandered over to is the actual answer.
I’ve watched it time and time again - we know what we want or need to do, but we’re afraid - so we keep circling back to it.
For example, I finished writing The Six Tenets of Intentional Optimism in the Fall of 2018. They still needed some refinement, but for the most part, they were in their final form. I began to slowly share them with friends, colleagues, and got positive responses. My vision included teaching and coaching through the tenets, and writing a book… but figuring out how to actually make money doing that was a completely different thing. I didn’t believe I had the “authority” to just start offering it to people - I mean what do you say? Right? “Hey, I just came up with this new philosophy, wanna hear it?” I know there are people out there with the confidence to do just that - but I wasn’t one of them. I also wasn’t certain how to talk about the tenets. I knew that somehow they would be pivotal to that initial vision of liberation for me and other women, but that had to come over time - through living in them myself.
I won’t say I ever lost my vision of being that liberator, but gosh, when that road gets rocky, or steep, and you just want to figure out how to make sure you can pay for insurance, you start looking for all the different ways you can generate cash flow so your business can survive long enough to ever accomplish your vision - even if it's 10 years down the road. There were times it looked like I was throwing the proverbial “spaghetti against the wall,” through the different types of communities I've created, the different coaching offerings I’ve had, etc. But I was always looking for how I could help liberate women from that same “fixed set of societal expectations of what success looks like.”
Then I started this podcast in August 2020. No, a podcast was not on my original list of ways I could share my vision. But in May of 2020, isolated and homebound during the height of the COVID Pandemic, I was pulling weeds and listening to a podcast, and heard the one question that changed the trajectory of my business. Heather Sager asked, “Is a podcast your next stage?” I stood up, and told all the birds in my yard that “yes, YES, a podcast was how I was going to deliver my vision…”
That platform gave me the opportunity to talk on a weekly basis, with a guest, or directly to my listeners, and work out how I could share Intentional Optimism with you. What it really is - a philosophy, a plan, a set of attitudes - and how to use it to change your life.
So yes, it’s the first thing I thought it was. Liberating women, one at a time, by implementing and using the tenets of Intentional Optimism.
The Second Biggest Lesson: The answer is less literal than you think it is.
For instance, I was LONGING for community. Truly. Community - moving together for the collective flourishing of all involved - is one of my Core Values. It encompasses the idea of harmony and camaraderie, which should tell you how much I don’t care for conflict.
So, I figured I’d just start my own based on the tenets of Intentional Optimism and the values of freedom, authenticity and community. I started a Facebook Group. But - have you ever started a Facebook Group? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Mine turned out to be mostly me talking and women listening. It was nice to have nearly 500 women who wanted to listen, but no one was talking back. Yes, there are Facebook groups out there that are very active and collaborative, and that’s what I wanted, but it wasn’t working. So I decided to just share my message over on my business page, and everyone still got what they were looking for.
Thinking I’d go smaller, I started a group program through Marco Polo Channels, where I literally did most of the talking via daily videos. With feedback from the beta test, we added in a zoom call each month to create more connection. Over the course of the next 6 months, I realized what we all really loved were those zoom meetings, where we set & reviewed our goals, and encouraged each other. So we cut everything else out. Now we meet twice a month, and I’ve come to love the intimate setting of this group. It’s not what I expected, but it has become a lovely small circle community where we truly do work together for each others’ flourishing.
However, over the course of the same 3 years, I’ve also built a network, interviewed over 50 women, and created some great working relationships.
Looking around, I realize, I FEEL like I am part of a community - it’s made up of all these things. All these women. It could not be manufactured, nor was it literal. It’s bigger than that.
The BIGGEST Lesson: Not everyone will appreciate you.
Especially if who you are, is not what they expect.
I heard a speaker at a conference a few years ago put it this way “you can spot a grower miles away.” If you’re growing, people will see it. If you’re changing, especially in a way that will leave the landscape, community or culture in which you operate new or different, you WILL encounter resistance… opposition, even.
Some may outright reject it - the change - or you. If you're reading this, you are likely a woman who is working to figure out how to show up in the world as the leader you were created to be. And when you figure out how to be you, it will scare people to death. They will be threatened, and some will be outright hostile. Any time you step outside the “norm,” people will notice. So if you have a goal or a dream, or if you actually step into the leadership position that you were made for, you’re basically messing up the choreography on the stage. Or you’re messing up the lines /characters in the play. That’s upsetting to people.
I know not everyone listening to me wants or even feels a pull to be an entrepreneur. But if you’re here, you likely DO want to grow, change and become bigger and more effective at whatever it is you do. You're looking for true personal growth that leads to excellence and success in all areas of your life. That’s just going to scare people.
What’s interesting, is that while I’ve been experiencing a good bit of this lately, I also experienced it 25 years ago… it’s like it just cycled back around. There is something about me (being me) that is intimidating to people. My son thinks this is hilarious, because “who could be intimidated by you, mom?” Right?
But here’s the thing. And I can say this from personal experience on both sides of the coin… there are very few things more intimidating than a woman who knows who she is and what she’s called to do. That’s a strength and a confidence that is inexplicable to those who lack it, and we all mock what we don’t understand.
Here’s one last tip on this one, strong women are way more threatening to women than they are to men.
Back in 2018, I claimed Ephesians 2:10 as my life verse.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
The “Andrea” translation of this passage is: Free To Be Me.
I made wallpaper for my computer and my phone, and for nearly 4 years that’s what I looked at every single day.
So when I say the top four lessons I’ve learned are:
4 - Figuring out who I am, was and IS, the “hardest” part.
3 - Most of the time, it’s the FIRST thing you thought it would be.
2 - The answer is less literal than you think it is.
1 - Not everyone will appreciate you.
And that I’m not a late bloomer - but am blossoming right on time - that’s where I get it.
I am free to be me - who, what, and when I’m created to do it.
And so are you.
So, if you’re still young, (and by that I mean, like, under 35) consider this advice from your older sister (or aunt or mother, whatever works). If you’re closer to my age - hitting that mid-stride or later, I present this as encouragement to stay the course, do the work, and don’t go quietly into the sunset.
- If it means turning your life upside down, do it.
- If it means changing careers or starting a business. Now is the time to do it.
- If it means looking in the mirror and asking that woman who she is, even if it seems irrational and crazy, do it!
The result is worth it. Knowing YOU, knowing what you’re here to do, and finding peace and fulfillment in the journey, the work and the destination… all worth it.
I am free to be me, and you are free to be you.
If you’re not familiar with all six of the Tenets of Intentional Optimism, I have a free resource for you, and I invite you to start employing the attitudes and mindsets in your life. Click here, to get you on your way.
My passion is to equip and empower YOU, the next generation of female leaders. To help you learn to think critically, create imaginatively and lead effectively - in any situation, team or organization. My hope is that the information I bring you here or in my podcast will inspire you to move forward and take action with confidence and strength, to lead in your own unique and beautiful way. In your personal AND your professional life.
Where do you begin? Well, the other set of guidelines (I usually call them guardrails) for your journey, is understanding your own Core Values. I have a mini course that will help you with that right now. It’s called “Uncover Your Core Values - Live in Alignment With Your Own Non-Negotiables!” This simple 4-step process will provide your guidelines to live with full authenticity. Understanding your non-negotiables is the first step to knowing who you are and where you’re going. Here's the link for the course.
Give yourself the gift of clarity, as you determine where you want to go and who you want to be. This is your first step to understanding who you were created to be.
Because you, my friend, are free to be you.
Until next time.
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