Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn or a Mark Manson F*ck
Sep 28 2016

squirrels-nutsmasteIt’s an unconventional title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life(amazon link), but it’s an insightful, irreverent, and hilarious book that’s not too trite, sappy, or “duh, who doesn’t already know that!” kind of read. It seems to be about how so many of us get hung up on the wrong things and make ourselves and potentially others in our social solar system miserable. He helps the reader figure out what they really should give a f*ck about instead of wasting time and energy measuring their success or failures using other peoples metrics instead of their own.

He suggests if we go through life being uncertain about everything, including our adamant beliefs about ourselves and others, as well as accept our idiosyncrasies and human flaws, we will be much happier.  I suck at directions, and that’s OK!

Those who are absolutely certain about things tend never to achieve lasting happiness because really, as most of us know, nothing is certain and disappointment is inevitable.  As a person who practices yoga, self-learning, appreciates the teachings of the Buddha, was raised Episcopal/Southern Baptist, and performs much less mental self-flagellation than I used to, the concepts Manson discusses resonate with me.

It’s a much more upbeat read than the must read book Man’s Search for Meaning(amazon link) by Viktor Frankel, a psychiatrist who writes about concentration camp survivors. Those who made it through the experience (if they weren’t randomly killed) had something they really gave a f*ck about. Those who didn’t were more likely to be measuring success by using metrics that didn’t fit the situation in which they found themselves (i.e., the drastically unfortunate cards they were dealt). I think the lessons in Frankel’s and Manson’s books are similar, but Manson uses many more F-Bombs and has modernized it to address our current more whiny “first world problems,” because, fortunately, almost none of us Gen X’ers and Millennials had to survive a horrific concentration camp!

Other posts I’ve written on self-exploration that may be useful to new/future readers are:

Wow, I didn’t realize how much I wrote about this sappy, self-help, existential crisis stuff! But I think all that writing and creating of songs I did was better than doing the 100+ less emotionally, physically, spiritually, medically healthy things I could have done while processing all that painful personal growth, trying to stay a mostly sane mother, and not turning into a raging HULK. Haha! Thanks to my readers who actually read my ramblings and still remained readers! 😛

Based on who you ask and when you ask them, I am much happier, tolerant, understanding, and calmer (unless provoked/poked while I’m under duress!) than I used to be even 3 to 5 years ago, which likely explains why I post much less frequently.  I’ve learned to tame some of those demons (who never fully disappear), set better boundaries (which Manson mentions in his book), be OK with my human failings by relying on GPS, and try to make better choices largely thanks to the kindness, support, and understanding of my numerous truly amazing friends and certain great family members. Just like Manson and most of us, I am constantly learning what to give a f*ck about based on where I am in life. I’ve gotten better at letting the rest of it flow on by just like the river in Siddhartha(amazon link) by Herman Hesse.

I’ll be interested to see how Manson’s views change if/after he has kids. Those new humans can cause you to question your entire life in a mostly sleep deprived state as well as pummel your a$$ affirming how little we really know/understand about ourselves or tiny humans!  He also discusses the “fear of death” in his book. Ironically, I fear pain more than I fear death. I fear dying before my kids are on their own, and I can’t even think about anything bad happening to them because then I might as well be dead.

I highly suggest you read this book because I care enough about all of you (even if I don’t know you) that I don’t want you to embody this quote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau from Walden.

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Who I Was Being Is Not Exactly Who I Am
Apr 7 2009

Photo by Sandy Blanchard


I just finished the Landmark Advanced Course that builds on the lessons learned in the Landmark Forum.  It was a very powerful course and although it turns out I’m not an elephant or a horse, I discovered courageous parts of myself that I have suppressed because of the fear of what other people would think of me.  And worse yet the fear of what I would think of myself.

To me, life has always been a journey of learning and self discovery.  The Landmark Education courses have been one of the most fascinating steps I’ve taken on that journey.  I’ve gotten more out of these two courses than all of the professional and personal advisers/counselors I’ve seen and books I’ve read…especially more than the romance novels I used to breeze through for mind numbing distractions from my text books in undergrad.

Some people stop pushing the envelope of self discovery because it can be a very scary process and others stop because they realize there really is no envelope to push and are at peace with themselves and the world.  I haven’t met any of the latter kinds of people who have kids…in fact, I’ve met very few of the latter kind.  So I wonder if the way to achieve the rare occurrence of enlightenment is not to have kids.  Hmmm.

I’ve been becoming more aware of an ability/talent I was given to sense people based on what they say, don’t say, their body language, etc.  I’ve heard that 80% of what someone conveys is not through words but through their body language.  I happen to be more attuned to that 80% than most people.  People tell me the most intimate things about themselves and their lives and sometimes I think they are surprised at what they tell me based on how I notice them.

I am sometimes pretty raw and honest about what I see in certain people with varied results.  Sometimes I don’t say anything because I sense the person would not get in the slightest what I’m saying and think I’m crazy.  But ironically, this ability doesn’t work as well with my close family and friends.  And people have had a hard time knowing me because to deal with the bombardment of cues I get from people, I ‘was being’ a person who unknowingly suppressed my ability to share what was going on with me.  In the words of Landmark, I was not being “authentic or fully self expressed” because fundamentally I didn’t trust people with my being.  I was loudly letting them trust me, but I was quietly not trusting them with myself.

There are no magic pills or overnight fixes, just different ways of looking at things, and I think the path I’ve chosen has helped me understand other people and myself a little better, and therefore be a better friend, manager and connector.  I’m sharing more and being more open and vulnerable than I have ever been in my life, and my close friends (and even people I’ve only recently met) and family are responding with such kindness and support that I have found myself with tears in my eyes more often than I expected.

There is another course in this 3 part series, but for now I am not planning on taking any more courses.  I’ll digest, make some changes, and consider what’s next.  I know they are a business so they will do their best to up sell me on their other courses…which is fine because I know I have the choice whether to sign up or not.  Landmark Education is a global, fast growing phenomenon written up in Harvard Business Review and other reputable publications, and I think they will continue to grow given how they deliver their curriculum.  They don’t do any outside advertising but rely solely on word of mouth and occasional press mentions.  Of course those who do the research also pull up stories of their roots in something called EST.  But from what I’ve heard of EST, the courses I’ve taken are drastically different and much less intense.  The only way to know that is to see how it has changed the life of someone you trust and care about.

At any rate, I have met some amazing, brilliant people in these courses who I dare say I’ll probably be in contact with for quite some time.  I’m a bit envious of the younger people who are taking the course because what a head start they will have in making transformation happen in their lives and their organizations.  We had a few 18 year olds  in the group.  What a gift they have been given to have access to this technology at such a young age!

It’s all about Living A Powerful Life and Living A Life You Love!  That is the reason I signed up for the Landmark Education courses.  I’m on my way…stay tuned…

Author: | Filed under: conferences | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments »

The Weight Of The World. The Weight Of Your Children.
Mar 22 2009

So many entrepreneurs and business people are scrambling trying to figure out what to do during these interesting times.  Companies are shutting down, investors are upset, entrepreneurs are having breakdowns and wondering how they are going to make it through the next few years let alone their lives.

Large companies like AIG are literally crumbling based on decisions made based on statements surrounding the awarding of bonuses that weren’t properly scrutinized by the US Congress or internal management.  All of the actions and behaviors that should have been considered sub-par that were looked over are now coming under extra scrutiny because times are tough.  When times are good, people look the other way on many things they should not because they figure “Hey, it’s not hurting me.”  When people raise the flag like they did on Bernie Madoff during the good years (the SEC had received repeated requests to investigate Madoff and they didn’t follow through) people looked the other way.  It’s shocking to me how often people look the other way when incompetence and potential illegal activity might be going on.

Maybe I have an extra sensitivity to this because in my first job out of college I was a public accounting auditor and in my second job I was an internal auditor with training in fraud detection.  It’s often the people you least suspect who are committing fraud, holding a check or two in a drawer, moving money around in accounts thinking no one will notice because no one is really paying attention.  They think to themselves “Oh, I’ll put it back. I’m not doing anything wrong.  I’m trying to help out here.  I really need this.  They’ll understand.  Plus, I’m going to put it back.” But when it comes time to put it back or right the wrong, they don’t have it so what started out as a simple stop-gap gets more complicated.  Who’s fault is it?  Definitely the person doing it, but also the people who should be paying attention.  Most people are too distracted to pay attention…not only in business but also in their lives with their spouses, their children, their own financial situations.

Then all of a sudden, the weight of the world is on not only those who intentionally or unintentionally rob and profoundly affect innocent people, but also on those who should have done a better job at oversight.  The finger pointing starts flying, but we are all to blame.  Humans keep repeating the cycle because we get caught up in the game, in the story, in as Landmark education says “wanting to look good and being afraid to look bad.”  The “fear of looking bad” overwhelms most of us and paralyzes our ability to make the best decisions at work, at home, and in life.  I know how strongly that fear affects me despite having pushed the ‘potential for looking bad‘ envelope a time or two!

And the weight of the world is heavy when it falls.  And the weight of the world is difficult to remove.  And the weight of the world is stifling.

But the weight of your young children is different.  Today I got very upset with my kids for locking all the doors (they thought it would be a fun game) to our room because I was trying to find my keys so we could go to Home Depot and get some air filters while their dad was riding his bike.   I sent one to our living room and one to stand in the hallway while I tried to open the door with a gadget we have just for such occasions.   I was frustrated because it delayed our errand running until after lunch and it took me longer than expected to open the freaking door!

While our 6 year old son was waiting in the living room, he decided to pick up his English chapter book (Cam Jamson and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery) and start reading.  My son decides he is going to continue reading his book after lunch but that he has to do so while sitting on my lap despite there being several other places to sit.  Their dad was back by that point and the doors were all open, but they were both still getting hard stares from me.  We were all in the living room, and I was sitting on the sofa.

So he climbs on my lap and reads his book and asks me from time to time how to say a certain word, and I feel so elated (like only a mom could) that of all the places he could sit he wanted to sit on my lap to read his book.  I remember thinking “he won’t want to sit on my lap for much longer” and how the weight of him felt so right and perfect.  Our almost 4 year old daughter then decided to climb up next to me and put her head on my left shoulder and look at our son reading.  The combined warm weight of them blended with their interest in reading/learning overwhelmed me, and I kissed their heads repeatedly and dropped a few emotional tears onto their heads…just like any other sappy mother. 🙂

And the weight of young children on your lap is light.  And the weight of young kids sitting peacefully on your lap is not something you easily want to remove.  And the weight of young children is uplifting.

Now, the weight of teenagers is apparently not so glorious…

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship | Tags: , | 5 Comments »

Making Breakthroughs In Your Life and Career
Feb 9 2009

Back in December 2008 I participated in a workshop called the Landmark Forum.   It has been one of the most profound educational workshops I have ever taken in my life!  I went in skeptical but willing to learn since I have met one former CNN executive who took the course and read that many other successful business people have taken it as well.  You can read the post I wrote after taking it called A Transformation in Process.   Just as with anything worthwhile in this world, there are no quick fixes.  You get out of it what you put into it.  I can honestly say that participating in the Forum has given me a different perspective on life, myself, and other people.  It has also given me the tools (they call it technology) to have extremely different and highly authentic conversations with people I care deeply about and has helped me be more productive in my two jobs and frankly even more connected as a parent.

After completing the forum, there are a series of meetings that occur weekly or bi-weekly with the same people that took the forum.  In those seminars we discuss what we’ve learned and how we are implementing that learning in our day to day life.  We also formed groups, and I have some pretty cool people in my group…two doctors, one musician/artist, a financial adviser, a person who works at an interesting non-profit, and another mom/professional worker like me.

The one thing I don’t like about Landmark is the sometimes ‘hard sell’ of the program.  As a business person, I understand the business behind why they feel they have to do the ‘hard sell’ but as a participant, the first time I attended an introduction, I was actually turned off by it and decided I wasn’t going to sign up.  Only after hearing about it several times from a person I grew to trust and respect did I suspend disbelief and sign up for the course.  So when our seminar leader, Scott Shirey, said he was going to do something different and break away from the typical ‘bring someone to the seminar and then we’ll take them to another room and tell them about Landmark‘ and instead have a mini-Landmark experience with a known Austin individual, I told him I would be happy to promote that!

If you want to sign up, that’s great but I’ve been assured that no one will be taken to another room and educated about the benefits of Landmark.  New people will have the opportunity to experience the activities and the discussions that occur in the Forum and in the seminar meetings.

So if you are in Austin and would like to find out how you can make breakthroughs with money, the economy, and your career as well as make an impact on your and other people’s lives, please come to our February 16, 2009 seminar meeting.  They will even be giving away a free scholarship to an upcoming Landmark Forum valued at $385.  Honestly $385 is not a lot of money when you take into consideration to the time (a 3 day weekend and the 7 to 10 seminars that are included) that is provided to help you realize results.  I hope to see you there!  Details below:

How to Gain an Edge That Lasts a Lifetime:

Creating Unpredictable Results in Today’s Challenging Times
Breakthrough your concerns with money, the economy, and your success.
Consider this a friendly invitation for an evening of possibilities featuring:

Kirk McDow
Business Coach and Professional Musician


Scott Shirey
Seminar Leader  Landmark Forum in Action Series

7:00 P.M. – 10:00 P.M.
Norris Conference Center

2525 West Anderson Lane
Austin, Texas 78757


Because of construction/destruction it is easiest to get there from Burnet (behind Panda Express and Sonic) as the conference center is behind what was/is North Cross Mall.

Author: | Filed under: FYI | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

A Transformation In Process
Dec 13 2008

Photo by my friend, Sandy Blanchard.

Last weekend I had a profound experience at a seminar called the Landmark Forum.  At the beginning of the forum, they tell you the goal is to experience a transformation.  I don’t think I achieved it in the intended way but the insights I gained have been phenomenal! 

I was extremely skeptical when I first heard about it.  I usually approach things from a very analytical viewpoint so I had a hard time getting over ‘I’ve seen this all before‘ mentality.  I even went to one of their orientation sessions at the recommendation of an amazing person, Marlene Merritt who founded Merritt Acupuncture, and left feeling like they were trying to ‘hard sell’ me on signing up.  I don’t like it when people try to convince me to buy something when I’m not ready.   

I saw Marlene a few times after that and each time she said she really felt I would get something out of attending and how taking it profoundly affected her life 7 years ago.  She didn’t get anything out of me signing up.  Nothing at all, except for the joy in seeing me go through a life changing event.  And for that I’m grateful.  I had been experiencing many diametrically opposing feelings leading up to my standing at The Entrepreneurial Ledge, so I signed up. 

After signing up, a friend sent me a link to an article on a well respected online site with a note saying it seemed like a ponsi-scheme.  In addition to acknowledging that CNN and Reebok executives have successfully participated in the forum, the article strongly insinuated that it was cult-like.  I was hurt when I read the article because it took a lot for me to share that I was taking the course.  After taking the class and thinking about it, I decided to re-interpret his response and apply a different meaning — one that meant he cared enough about me to research it and share his concerns.  

Another friend who had taken the course also said it was a good course but she could see how people could think it was a bit cult-like because of the terminology they used.  After taking it, I determined it’s no more cult-like than the Episcopal or Southern Baptist churches I attended growing up!  She said she thought it might help me surface some issues so I should go in with an open mind.  And boy did it really unearth some stuff for me.

It’s hard to explain everything I got out of taking that course in a mere blog post but suffice it to say, I now view the world differently.  I’ve been able to have very different conversations with my kids, my husband, my mother, my sister, and my co-workers.  I even called my father who I haven’t spoken to in probably a couple of years…although we exchange email from time to time. 

I’m still me, but with a different view of my life and my world.  They describe the transformation as something like when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.  It is still the same creature but the butterfly has a vastly different view of its world because it can fly.  I don’t feel like I’m a butterfly yet, but I understand more of the mechanics of how one becomes one. 

The Landmark Forum can’t really be compared to anything else, but humans learn by comparing so while I was sitting there, many of the concepts reminded me of what is written in The Power of Now, Siddhartha, and A New Earth (book links below) as well as what many philosophers and psychologists have mentioned in the past.  After all, even the Bible states “there is nothing new under the sun!” 

I 100% believe that if everyone took the Landmark Forum, there would be fewer wars and misunderstandings in this world.  Before finishing the Forum, we were all supposed to come up with a possibility we were inventing for ourselves and our lives and one 50-ish year old man got up at the microphone in front everyone and shared his.  His mother and brother had both died when he was fairly young and he had been angry for most of his life.  He was angry that they had left him and he had not even realized how hurt and angry he was for so many years.  The possibility he invented for himself was the possibility of having every teenage orphan in the United States take the Landmark Forum for teens.  He felt if he could save those kids the decades of pain he felt, he could make a huge difference in this world.  I gave him both of my cards and said “let me know how I can help.” 

You’ll have to take the Forum yourself for the punch line, but one of the possibilities I invented for myself and my life is the possibility of being courageous and empowering people to achieve their dreams.  Now people might think I already do some of that but it’s always been laced with fear of people not liking me…or worse that I will be abandoned and not loved. 

And coincidentally enough on Tuesday at my day job, before the last late night session of the Forum, I was presented with the opportunity to be courageous.  And I was and still am afraid, but I took a stand anyway.  I may not have this day job for much longer because of the stand I am taking, and people might not like me, but I don’t want to look back and say I was not true to the possibility I invented for myself and my life…

Author: | Filed under: conferences | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments »