Posts Tagged: self help

One Chance Isn’t Your Only Chance

Nobody puts John Mulaney in the corner.

Nobody puts John Mulaney in the corner.

Recently, I read an article about NBC’s decision not to pick up John Mulaney’s sitcom (don’t ask me why I’m reading months-old articles on Splitsider–we all just have to live with our decisions). The article basically said that it was a dumb decision for NBC to not pick up the show because John Mulaney is going to be successful whether they have a hand in it or not. The other example the article used was Tina Fey. She wasn’t successful, Splitsider asserted, because NBC let her have a show; she was successful because she was always going to be successful, and that would have happened whether or not she had 30 Rock. If it wasn’t 30 Rock, it would’ve been any number of other shows on any number of other networks, all leading to the same result: Tiny Fey being one of the most beloved comedians in the world.

This realization hit me like a ton of self-help books: if a person works hard, practices their craft, and is talented, they’re going to be successful. In other words, one lost opportunity isn’t the end of the world. It’s so, so easy for us (or, um, me) to assume that if one opportunity doesn’t work out, then we’ve blown our chances at ever being successful. Or, when we’re facing down what feels like The One Big Chance, it’s tempting to see it as our only shot to succeed. No pressure, right?

Thinking back over the past few years of my career, I can think of so many times I’ve thought, “This is the big chance. This is the gamechanger.” I mean, I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count all the times I’ve thought that. And when those opportunities have worked out, yes, it’s been amazing. But, just as many times, the “big opportunities” haven’t worked out. I mean, that’s what being a writer is all about…constant rejection. And while it always stings to “miss out” on something, I can’t think of a single time that a better opportunity didn’t pop up to take its place.

Just remember that it isn’t luck that makes successful people successful…or, I guess it is luck, if you define luck as “being at the right place at the right time but also being extremely prepared by working hard at your craft for years and years.” Then, yeah, total luck.

Basically, as inspirational refrigerator magnets the world over tell us, the harder you work, the luckier you get. One lost opportunity isn’t the end for you. One big chance isn’t the only big chance you’ll get. After all, John Mulaney’s sitcom got picked up by Fox. If you really, truly believe that talent and hard work always win out, you’ll realize that you never just have one chance.

Lady Tip #11: Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Okay, I’ll admit that this is absolutely a line I picked up from self-help books. But do you know why it’s such a self-help cliche? Because it’s totally true.

I can’t guarantee too much to you guys, because I’m not a psychic UNFORTUNATELY, but I can guarantee you that nothing is ever going to fall into your lap. You won’t get everything you ask for, but you won’t get anything you don’t ask for. Well, that’s not entirely true. My grandparents have 11 stray cats hanging around outside their place, and my grandmother explicitly told me, “I didn’t ask for them!” But she did put out cat food, which is basically the same thing. So what I’m saying here is that you need to put out the metaphorical cat food for your dreams (your dreams are cats in this example).

You can’t get your dream job if you don’t apply for it.
You can’t write for your favorite website if you don’t pitch something to them.
You can’t get a book deal if you don’t write a proposal.
You can’t get new friends if you don’t reach out to people.

This is something I have to remind myself all the damn time. You have to ask for something to give yourself a chance to get it. Obviously it’s hard (otherwise everyone would do it, duh), but it’s also pretty simple. What is it you want? A great job? An internship? A pizza (this one is much easier than the others)? Just ask for it. See what happens. You might end up with 11 stray cats! I’m sorry, is that not a good enough incentive for you?

Image via Natalie Dee

In Defense of Self Help: The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

People can get really down on self-help books. Ours is a culture that sees asking for help as a sign of weakness, and reading a book about helping yourself is seen as ridiculously passive by some. In reality, self-help should be empowering; you’re taking control, literally helping yourself. I think burying your problems and refusing to acknowledge them because you’re afraid to even deal with them is a far, far weaker thing to do. But a lot of people don’t see it that way. To some, self-help books are silly, unhelpful, and inherantly feminine (which is inherantly bad, obviously). Clearly, I don’t agree. I love talking about feelings. I don’t think there should be any stigma surrounding self-help books, therapy, rehab, or what have you. I enjoy having deep conversations with my friends were I make them uncomfortable by putting my hand on their arm and saying, “I just want you to be happy,” very seriously. This is fun for me. So naturally I know how to get down with a self-help book now and again.

I can’t remember where I read the best description of anti-depressants (it may have been Sarah Silverman’s book, The Bedwetter), but here it is: Anti-depressants don’t “fix” your depression. Instead, they put you in the correct frame of mind so that you can deal with your problems.
I feel the same way about self-help books. If you’re expecting to read a book and have your life magically changed, you’ll be disappointed. But self-help books can drastically affect your attitude, which can put you in a place where you’re ready to make necessary changes. I know that’s definitely true for me; I can directly credit specific books with helping me to start writing again, encouraging me to start submitting my writing, convincing me to move to a new place, helping me reassess relationships and attitudes, and just generally helping me get out of a negative funk and into a place where I’m in control. So by popular demand (i.e., one person asked), I’ll be talking about some of my favorite self-help books. First up is The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick.

The Nerdist Way is, hands down, the best self-help book I’ve ever read, and that’s entirely because of Chris Hardwick’s personality. This book is funny. Laugh-out-loud, quote the lines to my boyfriend funny. This is really rare for self-help books, which tend to take themselves a bit too seriously. But even more importantly than the funnies, Chris Hardwick seems like he really wants to help people. He shares his mistakes and lessons in with an honesty that doesn’t seem desperate for attention; he just seems like a friend who wants to help.

The book’s divided into 3 sections: Mind, Body, and Time. The Body section is interesting because Chris Hardwick has the best attitude about fitness I’ve ever encountered. To be fair, I’ve also read the book Skinny Bitch, so I’m used to people telling me the size of my ass is inversely proportional to how much I deserve happiness. Chris Hardwick shares this revolutionary sentiment with us: Exercise should make you feel good. I know…whaaaat?!?!

The section about Time gives a lot of practical advice, like how to set up your email or how to effectively file your paperwork. But the best section, in my opinion, is Mind. I don’t know about you guys, but I can play some serious head games with myself. It’s so easy to self-sabotage and talk yourself out of succeeding or ever even attempting something, whether you’re doing it because of fear, anxiety, or some misguided belief system. Chris Hardwick gets this, and he lays out all the excuses so clearly it shocked me. How did he get in my head?

Chris Hardwick is pro-self-help, pro-positive thinking, and anti-laziness. Good attitude, good work ethic, and funny? This book not only changed my thinking, it made me develop a weird, student-mentor crush on Chris Hardwick. Whatever, I don’t judge you and your issues. Just let me have this.

I haven’t even mentioned something that most people would find important: the book uses Dungeons and Dragons as a framework. The thing is, though, that I know basically nothing about D&D (not entirely true. I can’t hang out with my boyfriend on Monday nights because that’s his gamin’ time) and that didn’t affect my understanding of the book in the least. Nerds, in this context, are people who are enthusiastic and focused about their interests. If you’re reading this, you probably identify.

Seriously, guys, I can’t recommend this book enough. If you’re feeling blocked or stuck, if you have some big dreams you’re going after, if you’re a creative-type, if you have problems with time management, or if you just want to improve…this is your book!

Also, my self-help recommendations are going to get decidedly more “hippie bullshit” from here on out, so be warned.

Lady Tip #3: Self-Promote, Self-Promote, Self-Promote

This is tough for anyone, but especially for ladies, and even more so for ladies from towns with midwestern sensibilities. Self-promotion is hard because it goes against everything we’ve ever learned. We’re so used to downplaying our accomplishments, to deflecting compliments, to thinking we’re not good enough. If we say, “I’m talented, I made this, and I’m proud of it,” we’re afraid we’ll come off as cocky or pretentious, either of which are basically mortal sins in the small-town mindset. Well, stop thinking that way. You have to. If you don’t think you’re making something great, why should anyone else? We don’t all have a Vera Nabokov, ready to pull our Lolita manuscript out of the fire. We have to be our own Vera Nabokovs.
Sometimes, I feel weird about posting every one of my HelloGiggles posts on facebook, or about linking to my blog posts. I felt uncomfortable starting a Twitter account. But what am I worried about? That someone will think I’m full of myself? Here’s what you and I need to remember: real friends will be happy you’re happy. Anyone that isn’t happy for you isn’t someone you should spend another second of your time on. It’s not like you need to brag, but don’t bury your accomplishments, either. You did it, so be proud of it! No one’s ever going to see that thing you worked so hard on if you don’t make them see it. Start a blog, use facebook or twitter, put it out there are don’t apologize. Make sure people know when you have a sale, a show, or an article coming out. Start a website!
Just get it out there. Believe me, I know it’s hard. And it feels really weird and creepy-crawly. But, as I read on Shutterbean, if you don’t bet on yourself, nobody else will.

Image via designspiration

Lady Tip #1: Bake A Little Something For Your Guests

I’ve discussed my love of self-help books in the past. Whether they’re about work, writing, happiness, what have you…if it’s about self-improvement, I will probably read it/listen to it in my car. We can get into the (weird, cynical, and completely unwarranted!)stigma around self-help books later. I know that, for me, they’ve been an enormous help. Over the past year, self-help books have helped me change my attitude towards myself and actually start accomplishing the things I’ve wanted to do my whole life. It’s kind of amazing!
Anyway, since I’m constantly listening to podcasts about creativity, reading books about achieving your goals, listening to audiobooks about writing and reading generically positive “you can do it, girl!” websites, I thought maybe I should share with you guys the things I’m learning. Hence LADY TIPS, which I like because it almost sounds dirty, but I don’t know why. Like, I’m not even going to let my brain go down that path to figure it out. If I found some nugget of wisdom through a book, website, or podcast I’ll link to it, but today’s Lady Tip just came from my own life. That will be rare, because I do not often learn from either my mistakes or my successes (end self-deprecating aside). And anyway, who do I think I am, Oprah (oh, hold on, it’s still going)? We’re just talking about the things I’m doing to make my life better/be a better friend/produce more/write more.

Lady Tip #1: Bake a Little Something For Your Guests

I don’t keep snack food in my house. I know, it sounds like a nonstop party around here…no snacks AND no TV? Who wants to visit? Since I don’t want any hungry guests to rummage through my cabinets and be like, “Umm, I guess I’ll eat this can of beans?” I always try to bake a little somethin’ somethin’ if I know a friend is coming around.
My ultimate model of hospitality is my mom. She will drop everything to make a person feel at home. Even if that means making one of her famous turkey-bacon sandwiches at 11 p.m, or even if that means buying ingredients she would never normally have in the house for someone with a dietary restriction. You will, guaranteed, always leave her house with a bag of cookies or a plate of food.
I’d like to have at least a little bit of that welcoming warmth in my place, even though I definitely can’t compete. So I always try to have something baked when people show up. Brownies, cake, cookies, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes I forget or run out of time, and I always regret it when that happens. It’s a quick thing you can do for a friend that says, “I’m glad you’re here!”
Of course, it’s important to make something your friend can ACTUALLY EAT. Very important! For example, I know Lauren doesn’t like broccoli (I KNOW!), so I would not make broccoli cookies for her. I wouldn’t make broccoli cookies anyway because those sound gross. Just kidding, I would totally make them! Please send any and all broccoli cookie recipes to welcometoladyville(at)gmail(dot)com!
My gal pal Jayne came over this weekend, and she is not a Sugar Eater. I wanted to bake something sweet she’d be able to eat, so I remembered a recipe I make often when I need a quick cookie. There are only four ingredients: peanut butter, sugar, an egg, and vanilla. I remembered seeing Paula Deen’s recipe for these cookies, which used sugar substitute. Bingo! I decided to use natural peanut butter to go with the unnatural sweetener.

Magical Peanut Butter Cookies
from Paula Deen

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar replacement, plus extra for doing those fun little fork criss-cross things (Paula recommends Splenda)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.

In a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, 1 cup sugar replacement, the egg, and vanilla, and stir well with a spoon. Roll the dough into balls the size of walnuts. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. With a fork, dipped in sugar replacement to prevent sticking, press a crisscross design on each cookie. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and sprinkle the cookies with some of the remaining sugar replacement. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

Note: I typically make these using real sugar, and I personally prefer them that way. But then again, I’m a big ol’ sugar eater. They were a little crumbly this time around, but they got the job done.

Yay for cookies!