THE MIRACLE TISSUE (OR: WHEN SNOT AND THE UNIVERSE CONSPIRE IN YOUR FAVOUR)


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If you took a peek inside my bra when I’m out power-walking, you’d find three things.

My left boob.

My right boob.

And a tissue.

Now, the tissue isn’t there to compensate for a lack of boobage. (My cups runneth over. A little too much, actually.)

It’s there because I’m a life-long sufferer of hay fever, rhinitis, overactive mucosal glands… whatever fancy name you want to give ‘general snottiness’, that’s me.

All the women in my family suffer from this affliction. (Lucky us.) So along with our childbearing hips and inexplicable Mediterranean colouring, we also all have a genetic predisposition to nose-trumpet our way through life with spontaneous snotty expulsions.

Because we are also genetically predisposed to ‘be prepared’, you’ll never find a Larsen woman without a stash of tissues hidden somewhere on her person.

Usually they’ll be in her handbag or purse, but when such accessories are not practical (like when you’re out on an afternoon power-walk), none of us are above tucking a few spare snot-rags in our bras.

So yesterday afternoon when I was out walking and my nose started doing its usual leak-a-roonie, I confidently reached into my bra, dug around Ol’ Lefty, felt up Ms Righty, and was gobsmacked to find… nothing.

Except boobs. Which – let’s face it – are entirely unsuitable to wipe one’s nose on.

I couldn’t work out how I didn’t have a dang tissue with me – I always-always-always smoosh one into my Sports bra as I dash out the door. It’s part of my pre-workout routine (which also includes: peeing, smearing on some lip balm, grabbing my iPod, popping a piece of gum in my mouth, and peeing again just in case.)

So where the hell was it? Had it fallen out? Unlikely. (As I said, my ‘ladies’ ensure there’s very little free space in my bra. Once something is rammed in there – keys, tissues, lip balm, whatever – there’s less than zero chance of it working its way free without me deliberately groping myself to extract it.)

Which meant I must have done the unthinkable and forgotten to grab one on my way out.

I know what you’re thinking: Why, for the love of Lucifer’s left ear lobe, was this such a big deal?

Well, firstly, because I hate the feeling of an unwiped runny nose. In my books, it’s as irritating and uncomfortable as having a peppercorn stuck in your teeth or a giant wedgie.

And secondly, because about one second before my nose started running, I’d looked around at the utter gorgeousness of the beach where I was walking and thought to myself, This is sooo nice, and it feels sooo good to be outside, maybe I’ll just turn around and do a whole ‘nother lap of the beach before I head home.’

It was then that my nasal faucet started leaking, I discovered I had no tissue, and I grumpily realised that a second lap would NOT be possible because I had snot streaming down my face. (I’m a princess like that.)

I couldn’t even resort to using my sleeve, because I was wearing a singlet. (Totally gross, but we all do it, right? RIGHT?!)

In another moment of princessyness, a stupidly self-indulgent thought entered my mind. ‘This sucks. All I want to do is walk. What I wouldn’t give right now for a freaking tissue!’

I know. Ridiculous. The dictionary definition of a first world problem.

And that’s when I saw it.

Three metres ahead of me, resting on the footpath, was a neatly folded-up tissue.

It was so perfectly folded and pristine that I couldn’t quite work out how it got there. Surely if it had fallen out of someone’s pocket or handbag (or bra) it would be crumpled, right? Or at least look like it had floated haphazardly to the ground?

Instead, it looked like it had been folded with the delicate precision of a swan-napkin at a wedding. Like it had been left there just for me, by some divine being who could predict the inner workings of my nasal passage.

As well as its neatness and convenience, then there was the mystery of its location – how on earth had it not been blown away by the ocean breeze that was gently blowing all around me?

There was only one possible conclusion to draw…

You guys, it was a Miracle Tissue.

You better believe that I rushed towards it, scooped it up, and – with gratitude ballooning my heart – blew my nose in the most satisfying, loud, harrumphing way possible.

It was the best nose-blow of my life.

I proceeded to thank God/The Universe/Elvis/Zeus for my insane good fortune, as I happily did a 180-degree turn and set out to do another lap of the glorious, sun-soaked beach.

And as I walked along the sand (breathing deeply through my delightfully clear nose) you better believe I tucked that now-loaded tissue into my bra with all the tenderness of a child tucking their favourite doll into bed.

So why am I telling you all this? Two reasons:

Firstly because the story of The Miracle Tissue deserved to be told. (This is truly one for the ages, y’all.)

But secondly – and more importantly – because The Universe has our back far more often than we think. It’s rooting for us to feel good, to figure things out, to find our way… and to have the fricking best nose-blow of our lives.

The moral of the story is that the Universe wants to show you the way.

Sometimes it might shove a miracle right under your goddamn nose (see what I did there?!) and sometimes you might have to search a little harder…

… But there are miracles all around, if only you’re willing to look for them.

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P.S. Live workshop at the Sunshine Coast!

Want to spend a whole day learning how to turn your website-words into weapons of mass seduction?

Celeste Mitchell (of The Devil Wears Flip-Flops) and I are hosting an in-person copywriting workshop on September 3rd that will show you exactly how to Write Like a MOFO!

This full-day event is an intimate workshop, meaning tickets are strictly delightfully limited. To get first dibs on scoring yourself a seat, make sure to sign up to the VIP mailing list over here. (A special email to our VIP MOFOs is going out tomorrow, so make sure you scoot on over ASAP!)

 

5 Books That Will Expand Your Mind


Books that will expand your mind

Craving a good read to get the brain pumping and those creative juices flowing?

Here are 5 books that will expand your mind, get the cogs cranking, and fill the void when Game of Thrones wraps up next week!


So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson

We’ve all seen it happen: someone writes a tweet or posts a photo on Facebook. It’s offensive in some way – maybe due to poor wording or thoughtlessness, maybe actual malice, maybe somewhere in between. And then… the pile-on happens.

Hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people jump into the fray. Barbs, threats, name-calling. Occasionally intelligent criticism, frequently rash judgment, often horrific attacks… But it all adds up to a butt-load of public shaming.

Social media has given people a voice. But what happens when we – and this book is squarely about us, not the crazy misogynists or Aryan douche-bags et al, but the otherwise ‘nice, normal’ people who consider themselves generally kind – use that voice to shame and cow other people?

Jon Ronson delves into the phenomenon of public shaming in the online world. And Holy Smokes is this is an important book.

Genuinely funny and enjoyable, while simultaneously being deadly serious and thought provoking, I devoured it in two days, and have already  earmarked it as a gift for a few upcoming birthdays. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

The 10,000 hour rule is bullshit.

So says Anders Ericsson, the psychologist who actually ran the experiment on which the popular rule was based.

The 10,000 hour ‘rule’ – as popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers – states that to become an expert in something, you need to have worked at it for (as the name suggests) 10,000 hours, which usually equates to a period of around 10 years.

‘Bullshit’ might be too harsh a word, but in this amazing book, Anders Ericsson systematically shows why this is a vast oversimplification that shifted people’s focus to the wrong variable in the pursuit of excellence.

To be an expert in something, the length of time you spend practicing isn’t the most important factor, it’s the type of practice you do. It’s got to be what Anders calls ‘deliberate practice’ – the kind of deep, focused work that stretches you to the point of being uncomfortable.

… Which, of course, is precisely the kind of work that most of us avoid doing because it’s so frigging hard!

This book changed the way that I conceptualized my work, it’s changed the way that I practice my writing, and it gave me a framework to set new professional goals (and actually achieve them).

Again, highly recommended.

(P.S. I love Malcolm Gladwell, and loved Outliers. So this was a really interesting read from that perspective too.)

 

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

This book is an amazing companion to Peak. Where Peak demonstrates why deliberate practice is important and how to construct your own path to expertise, Deep Work gets practical and delves into the nitty-gritty of how to actually make that happen on a daily basis.

Newport’s framework for achieving deep work is presented through 4 ‘rules’ for adopting a craftsmanship approach to your work and avoiding the endless distractions that keep us from being great at what we do. (Um, prepare for some blunt words on the impact of social media!)

This book changed the way I work, and I’m incredibly grateful for its insights and suggestions. When I finished the final chapter — after no small number of highlighted passages and dog-eared pages — I immediately went back to the start and read it again, something I rarely do.

 

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, by Cal Newport

After being so impressed by Deep Work, I went back to read Newport’s previous book – So Good They Can’t Ignore You – and was not disappointed.

This might be the best book I’ve ever read on finding work that makes you happy.

It starts with a potentially inflammatory statement: that the conventional career advice – ‘follow your passion’ – is B.S.

With excellent arguments, evidence and case studies (Newport is a professor in his ‘real life’, so his ideas are incredibly well argued and supported), he turns this advice on its head and offers a different framework: create a remarkable life doing work you love by building rare and valuable skills.

I listened to this book (Audible for the win) and was genuinely captivated. It gave me really great insights into my own work and choices, and reinvigorated my drive to aim for excellence in everything I do.

 

The Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell

This book is the aberration on the list.

While you’d find the others in the ‘business’ or ‘science’ sections of your book store, this one would be nestled on the travel shelf.

This awesomely-titled tome first came to my attention when I was in Copenhagen last year — it was front and centre of every English language bookstore I came across. But with the CRAZY price of books over there (around $60 Aussie dollars for a paperback), I passed on purchasing it during my trip and put it on my wishlist to order when I got home.

In the end, I went the audio book option (seriously, my Audible subscription makes me so happy!). And this is an AWESOME book to listen to.

The story starts with a familiar trope: Russell was a not-overly-happy journalist living the busy corporate life in London when her husband was offered a job in Jutland (rural Denmark). Feeling dissatisfied with her dull and stressy life, she and her husband decided to pack up, make the move, and immerse themselves in a new culture.

She’d always been fascinated by Scandinavia. Even more so by the fact that the Danes routinely top global rankings for being the happiest nation on earth – which at first glance seems odd, considering that for four months of the year they only have a few hours of sunlight each day.

So, being a journo, Russell decided to document their adventure and use it as an opportunity to investigate up close what it is that makes the Danes so dang happy.

Part fish-out-of-water story, part travel memoir, this book was hilarious. I LOVE travel writing, and this is one of the most enjoyable books in the genre I’ve read in years.

For months – and I am not exaggerating here, MONTHS – after I read it, my boyfriend would roll his eyes in mock exaggeration when I would start a sentence at least once a day with the words, “Did you know that in Denmark…[insert awesome factoid here].”

For example, did you know that in Denmark, people leave their babies unattended in their prams outside cafes and restaurants while they go inside to eat? Such is their level of social trust (and belief in the importance of fresh air!).

Did you know that in Denmark, schoolkids stay in the same class with the same teacher from years one to ten? (Stability and security being considered important for optimal learning.)

Did you know that in Denmark, on Friday evenings, there’s a popular kids TV show that all the kids watch… Giving parents the opportunity to duck off and (ahem) ‘service’ their own needs while their kids are otherwise preoccupied? (They call it ‘Disney sex’. It’s a thing. Apparently everybody does it!)

From the Dane’s design to their food to their world-leading social welfare system to the intricacies of their sex lives (you will laugh), this book taught me more about Scandinavia than I ever knew I wanted to know.

Being of Danish heritage myself, I was absolutely, deliciously, delightfully absorbed. I’ve since passed it on to my mum, my sister, and my bestie – each of whom has in turn gifted it to others (confirmation that I wasn’t delusional in my obsessive love for this book!).

Despite it being fluffy and enjoyable on the surface, this book changed the way I think about so many things, particularly work-life balance and the importance of pleasure and beauty.

I laughed out loud so many times while listening – which was usually at the gym, which meant I got lots of funny looks.

But you know what? So. Damn. Worth it.

 


Have you read any amazing books lately? I’d love to hear ’em!

Or, want more books that will expand your mind and crank those creative cogs?

Check out some other fab reads here and here.

 

Stop running yourself into the ground while you run your business


Running yourself into the ground

There are three ways you can spot an entrepreneur:

The thrice-worn yoga pants.

The unwashed hair.

And the globs of – what is that, dried egg yolk? – spotted down her front from when she devoured her breakfast in front of her laptop.

When you’re in the business of running your own business, trivial things like doing your hair or shaving your legs seem… well, trivial. They’re not directly related to bringing in money, so you don’t do them until it reaches crisis point. (You know, like when your ponytail leaves an actual grease slick on your pillow, or when you haven’t shaved your legs for so long that cornrows become a legitimate grooming option.)

Lest you think I’m judging anyone here, fear not.

I work from home, all on my lonesome. And my Significant Other travels for work at least 60% of the time.

Which means that 60% of the time, there is literally no one around to notice that I haven’t gotten out of my workout gear for three days in a row. Or that stray Freddo crumbs have fallen between my boobs. Or that I’ve been chained to my laptop for 17 hours straight.

That is how I used to ‘entrepreneur’. All the time.

In many ways, I had no choice.

I was so fricking busy getting my client work done each day that I would find myself at 11 p.m. wondering whether I should have a shower and a microwave dinner before collapsing into bed, OR ditch the shower and take that time to actually cook some proper veggies for once. (My zombie-like energy levels meant that this was an either-or decision.)

The only way I could get myself started in the morning was with a giant tankard of coffee, and the only way I could wind down at the end of the day was with a giant glass bottle vat of wine.

When my boyfriend was home to witness this mess, he would have to usher his tear-stained, depleted, shell of a partner to the couch, where he’d place a big bowl of dinner in my hands, a wine by my side, and put on the most mind-numbing TV show we could possibly find.

In short, it wasn’t pretty. Or fun. But thankfully, those days are behind me… for the most part.

Because the truth is, we all have a choice.

We all have a choice over what food we stuff into our faces, how many clients we take on, what boundaries we set in our businesses, how we enforce them, and whether we drink a glass bottle vat of wine every night.

Of course, it took me a near-death experience to realise this.

Literally.

Which is kind of embarrassing.

I had to fall from a height onto an exposed wooden beam, smash open my head, tear my forehead apart, see my own skull, and think that I was about to die to realize that doing business is not meant to kill you.

Neither literally or figuratively.

But getting knocked over the head with the truth (which is a pun that has only juuuust graduated from the category of ‘too soon’ to ‘painfully funny’) was the catalyst I needed to stop running myself into the ground while building up my business.

That was just under a year ago.

And these days, I’m happy to say, I ‘entrepreneur’ very differently.

There are a bunch of business-y things that I’ve changed – like charging properly, setting realistic deadlines, and saying (a grateful, gracious) no to overloading myself with work.

But this article is about the LIFE-Y things that I now do differently that have helped me ‘entrepreneur’ differently.

… Specifically, the appearance-y things. (I didn’t paint you a mental picture of my thrice-worn yoga pants for nothing!)

Because although I will argue to the hilt that what’s written in our pages is a million times more important than what’s painted on our covers, that doesn’t mean we’re allowed to mistreat the meat-suit we’ve each been gifted to walk around in.

And for many of us, though we might chug down a green smoothie or drag our butts through a workout, we’re not actually nice to ourselves. Beyond the basic perfunctories, we don’t actually show ourselves that, you know, we matter.

But treating yourself nicely is one of the smartest things you can do for your business.

Even when it’s just trivial stuff. Like what you wear, and how often you wash your hair – and your yoga pants.

They say you should dress for the kind of job you want.

I say dress for the kind of business you want.

If you’re anything like me, you want a business that makes you feel alive and vital… not wrung out and wrinkly like a used-up tea bag.

You want a business that gives you a thrill, like when you used to get hit on by the cute guy at the bar. (You know, back before you entered a monogamous relationship with your business and grew cornrows on your legs.) NOT a business that fills you with dread every Monday morning. Scratch that. Every morning.

There are a million things you can do to create the kind of business that feels the way you want it to feel.

But from my experience, none of those things are as powerful as starting with YOU and how YOU feel.

And one of the swiftest ways to get yourself feeling the way you want is to transform how you feel on the outside, so that your insides get the hint and can follow (meat)suit.

Which means, next time you’re getting ready to start your day:

Put on some lipstick.

Put on your going-out pants. (Hell, if you’re anything like three-years-ago Jess, just put on any pants.)

Maybe even blow-dry your goddamn hair.

Basically, just do whatever it takes to make you feel like you matter.

Because when you take the time to give a damn about yourself, you’re less likely to treat yourself like crap.

Because when you stop running yourself into the ground, you’ve got so much more energy to run your business.

Because just like it says on that tube of lipstick,

Lady, you’re worth it.

 


David Attenborough’s Bare Ass & The Big Secret to Writing Well


creative mistakes

Confession time.

I once wrote an About Me page for a client that proudly described how much she loved ‘facilitating big shits’ in her clients’ lives.

…Oh what a difference one tiny missing ‘f’ makes!

Then there was that time I agreed to a rush job for a corporate client, didn’t have as much time as I normally would to proofread, and ended up sending off a report – to a LOT of people – which insisted that the ‘anus of proof’ was on the other party.

…Yep.

And one time – embarrassingly recently, and in a very public forum – I wrote a piece mistakenly referring to Sir David Attenborough (one of my all-time personal heroes) as a ‘world-changing naturist’.

Of course, what I really meant was that he was a world-changing naturalist – someone who’s passionate about natural history… Not a naturist – someone who’s passionate about being nude.

(While I’m sure that Sir D-Att’s bare butt is mighty fine, I don’t know if it qualifies as ‘world changing’.)

Why the laundry list of wordsmith faux pas?

Because when you’re writing anything – from emails to reports to blog posts to books – you are bound to make mistakes at some point. We all are.

Sometimes they’ll be kind of hilarious, like these ones are.

Sometimes, they’ll be mortifying. Like when you *finally* get around to emailing your list after three months of silence, and are feeling super proud of yourself, then realise there’s a spelling error in the damn headline.

And sometimes, they’ll seem like straight-up creative catastrophes. Like when you spend three months writing an eBook, only to read through the finished draft and realise that the first half has a completely different voice/tone/thesis to the second half and you need to start over from scratch.

Whenever a screw-up goes down, most Creative Souls have a tendency to beat themselves up and use it as evidence that they should never write anything again, ever.

This, of course, is bullshit.

For three reasons.

1. Literally, the only way we learn is through our failures.

While successes are fun and rewarding (and feel really good), they don’t teach us anywhere near as much as our faux pas and failings.

If you ever want to grow and learn as a writer, you better start getting comfy with making creative mistakes.

2. If everything you write is ‘perfect’, you’re either sitting on it too long, not pushing yourself far enough, or have toned everything down to a state of bland conformity.

You should be making creative mistakes. You should be trial-and-error-ing. You should be stepping outside your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory… That’s how you know you’re on the leading edge of your abilities.

3. Forgiving yourself and getting back on the horse is the only way you’ll ever achieve that Big Thing your heart is dreaming of.

This is the most important reason of all.

And – spoiler alert! – it applies to every single life area you can think of. Whether it’s writing a book, building a business, losing 30 pounds, whatever – you ARE going to make mistakes; you ARE going to fall off that horse.

The people who actually achieve those Big Things are the ones who forgive themselves quickest, climb back on the Clydesdale, and keep nudging their steed forward – even as they’re bruised and battered from the fall.

That’s the big secret to writing well.

Hell, it’s the big secret to life-ing well.

…Jumping back in the saddle is the most powerful act of all.


 

Can’t decide which idea to pursue? Here’s how to choose.


Which idea to pursue

It’s the universal creative dilemma: You’ve got a bunch of potential projects buzzing around in your head, and you don’t know which idea to choose.

You’re kind of attached to all of them (they’re pretty dang brilliant, after all), you KNOW that each of them could work, and the indecision is killing you… What, in the name of Zeus, should you do?

Let’s start with the fable of Buridan’s ass…

Picture a donkey – thirsty and starving. The poor creature stumbles into a field and to his delight, spots the very two things that could save him – on his left, a bale of hay; on his right, a trough of water.

He’s exactly halfway between the two, and he can’t work out which one he needs more. He’s absolutely starving, and as thirsty as he’s ever been… so each option seems equally important and essential.

And being but a humble ass, Mr Donkey doesn’t have the ability to look into the future to see that if he simply chooses one option first, he can take his fill, then immediately move on to the other option, thereby sating both his empty belly and his dry, cracked throat.

Instead, he gets completely stuck between the two. Unable to choose, unable to decide which is more important, he simply does… nothing. Paralysed, he ends up dying of both hunger and thirst, right there in the field.

Silly ass… If only he could have looked into the future and seen what us humans – with our big ol’ brains and meta-perspectives – can see: that choosing one option did not stop him having the other forever, it simply stopped him from having it at that exact same moment in time…

It’s easy to see the absurdity, right? You’d never do that. You’d never be so silly and obstinate and… assy, right?!

Except we do – we all do.

Which idea

Creatives the world over are prone to paralysing indecision that keeps them stuck in the middle of their own proverbial ‘fields’ for months, years, even decades on end…

‘I don’t know which book to write, so I’m not going to write anything at all until I decide.’

‘I don’t know which product to create, so I’m just going to put it off and focus on something else until I know for sure.’

‘I can’t pick which of my passions to turn into a business, so I’m just not going to start anything for the moment…’

Obsessing over which idea to choose keeps us from doing anything at all. We see it as the donkey’s ‘either or’ – I can either write this book OR that book. I can either start this business OR that business. Which makes it a scary decision – maybe you like both zombie fiction AND Japanese poetry. Maybe you’ve got a fabulous idea for BOTH genres. Maybe it scares you a whole lot to relinquish your hold on either of them in order to commit to just one.

But the thing is, you’re only committing to one for now. Not forever – even though it may seem that way. When you’ve committed and devoted and produced and shipped, you can move straight on to whichever idea next appeals to you most.

(And maybe it will still be the other one you’re currently attached to so vehemently. Then again, maybe it will be something else entirely… who can tell?)

But isn’t it better to have devoted to one idea and produced something, rather than clutching on to two, never deciding, and never producing anything at all?

Isn’t it better to have built one imperfect business based on a cool idea, than plotted and planned and ‘pro-ed and conned’ your way through yet another year of indecision, tossing up between two cool ideas with nothing at all to show for it? Why not simply pick one, build it, then – if you want to – when you’re done, build the other.

Ditto for books – pick one and write it. Then pick another and write it.

Ditto for careers – pick one and run with it. Then pick another and pursue it. (Assuming you’re in your 30s and you’re going to live until you’re 80-odd, you can have, like, five whole expert-level careers between now and then. Despite what we’re told at high school, career decisions are NOT for life and they are NOT the be all and end all.)

Now, to be clear, I’m not advocating rash decision-making. Especially not for something that may become your focus for years to come. But once you have enough pertinent information in front of you, if you still can’t decide which idea is better, it means you’re choosing between two good ideas; perhaps even two GREAT ones.

And in the battle between water and hay, you can’t go wrong by simply picking one… then choosing again later if you need to.

So, to avoid being a creative dumbass, when you’re presented with multiple options and you can’t decide which idea to pursue, try this:

Get just enough information to be informed (not too much, not too little).

Then pick an idea.

Then act on it – smartly, sensibly, consistently…

…And then, when you’re done, choose again. Decide again. You’ll always get another shot. And action trumps indecision every time.

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P.S. For all my Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, and Gold Coast peeps, pop June 4th 2016 in your calendar!

If you’ve been craving in-person creative inspiration, my gorgeous friend Celeste Mitchell and I have something super special in the works. (Hint: there’s a whole day of writerly goodness coming your way…)

P.P.S. Happy New Year, gorgeous! May 2016 be your most epic creative year yet… xx

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