This was supposed to be a post about reframing. I love reframing. It’s a core part of Designing Your Life, and it’s one of the most used tools in my life design kit. Reframes help keep me sane. But Dave, who is one of the more important people in my life (in addition to being the co-author of DYL and a client for the better part of a decade,) recently gave me feedback on a personal project of mine that made me want to write something different. Dave wisely noted:
“You are an incredibly intense person. There are virtually no moderate adjectives in your lexicon, or your experience. That will be a lot for all and too much for some. Whether or not you intone some of the “sound” more accessible without turning down any of the “fury” is both a very personal issue (authenticity) and a strategic one (readership). I have no recommendations for you there, just the obvious observation.“
So, in the spirit of being authentic and risking readership, I want to write about being intense. Because I have always been intense.
At Sunnyside elementary in Los Osos, California, (pop. 14,000) every 30 days one student was crowned “student of the month.” In a humiliating for most but desirable to me even then front of the class ceremony, one of our first grade teachers would had out a handmade button (bless teachers) with a specific word chosen for that month’s student. Midway through the year I was nervous I might not make the cut. I was six and the pressure was already on. It was a rainy February morning and I insisted on wearing a yellow wildly patterned dress. When Mrs. Howard called my name at the end of the day during the much anticipated event, I was thrilled. Achievement unlocked! But I wouldn’t come to understand the real meaning of the words chosen for a long time.
“I am Self-Aware” the turquoise blue construction paper pin read, complete with a shooting star sticker.
19 years later I would find this pin at a critical juncture in my life and career. Miraculously it had survived two decades of moves, small floods, epic purges, and who knows what else. Sorting boxes of mementos after breaking my grandmother out of an abusive nursing home in Green Valley, Arizona (story for another day) I found a folder of my old writing and art from that era. Tucked safely inside was the pin (thanks, mom!) I was 25 now, working in 3D Printing on Park Avenue in New York City. It was dreamy, but I was living paycheck to paycheck and hitting my head against the wall of middle management. I craved the freedom I had working for myself briefly after college.
I was self-aware enough to know that a conventional career path wasn’t for me. It would take a few years (and admittedly a generous amount of time with the authors) for me to effectively apply life design. But I was always conscious that I didn’t fit in many traditional professional molds. Entrepreneurs are a notoriously intense breed. Thankfully my teachers were kind enough to nurture the sassy student I was, and my best employers (and clients) hold space for vibrant creative expression while also reminding me where necessary boundaries lie.
The most common positive feedback I get is on my energy. Scientifically, Intensity = Energy Density x Velocity.
I don’t have a television, I stand at my desk, and generally I struggle to sit down outside of an airplane or rideshare. My mind moves so fast it hurts and communicating with people can be challenging as a result. The amount of blank stares and vexed brows thrown my way are impossible to count. I never bill by the hour because I strive for peak efficiency or operate at pure sloth pace. I get very uncomfortable when things don’t move at the cadence I’d like them to. The office never felt safe. Norms never resonated. And I live by the first quote I put on my binder as teenager:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I am complex and difficult. I am loud and not discrete. But I am also brilliant. I am empathetic to a depth few see. And having risen from hell already once in this life, I am resilient and strong beyond the curves of my muscles. I enter a room knowing my energy will be the first thing noticed, whether I want it to or not. I know I am unforgettable (also for better or worse) and that I must be self-aware of the impression I make.
Any fellow freaks and/or dyslexics out there? You’re not alone! And you’re awesome. Turns out my dyslexic thinking is my superpower, and I see things that most people don’t. The big picture is my only picture. I know that I am too much for many. That the severity of my oration uproots those not fully grounded. That fucking me changes your perception of passion irreparably.
And guess what? I am done apologizing for it. Instead I’m here to tell you it’s worth it. Don’t snuff out your intensity. Celebrate that shit. Our legacy will not be our sameness, but the wild uniqueness we imprint on this beautiful Earth.
It’s been a twisted few years but we have prevailed. It’s time we thrived. At full velocity. At full intensity. In this beautiful human suit we get to wear this one time on this stunning rock. And we can design our lives for that, by shaping a career that embraces our creative mania (thanks, DYL team!) and surrounding ourselves with people who honor the unique individual we are.
March 1st marks the seventh anniversary of running my own show (this iteration) and the 10 year anniversary of being a professional public speaker. It took the grueling four years like they say it does to feel like it wasn’t all going to collapse any minute (and sometimes still does) but I feel grounded in my seat at the table (even I often stand) and the confidence in the caliber of our work that only comes with experience (and case studies.) I’m in flow – and my best – on stage. And you know why my clients stick around and the event planners always rebook?
Because I am fucking intense. And I am damn good at my job.
Take “I am too intense” and reframe it to “My intensity and passion is a magnet for the right people.”
Don’t let weaker minds shape you. You’re gorgeous as you are. And maybe this post was about reframing, after all.