Why So Serious? Lessons from New York

I had the wonderful privilege and honor over the weekend to celebrate my sister who is getting married in just a few weeks. We decided to do a girl’s trip to New York for the Bachelorette party. It was my first time being in the Big Apple. New York was a steady mix of everything I expected and nothing like what I expected.

I learned several important lessons from the Concrete Jungle such as:

1. Be ready to spend loads of money. It’s an expensive town so breathe deeply after the sticker shock to calm yourself then go on living. A New Yorker (former Chicagoan) who moved there recently had this to say when we met up: “Welcome to New York. It’s going to be expensive but you’ll have fun” —–he was right about it all.

2. Taxis and Uber are convienent but walk or ride the subway as often as you can especially if your party is bigger than 2 cab-fuls.

3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. It was so hot and I spent a lot of time dehydrated and trying to catch my body up on water.

The best thing I learned which brings me to my post topic was…Don’t be afraid to have fun.

Friday night we reserved a table at an impressive posh rooftop bar in the meatpacking district.

The space had beautiful views of the city. At first we were a little put of because there are so many layers of security that it feels like you’re applying for a job at TSA. Once we got through that, it was alright.

The bar was full of people throughout the night. We had an area reserved for our group of 10.

The music was great for dancing to but we were the only people actually dancing in the whole place. We also seemed to be the only ones truly enjoying each other’s presence.There were entire groups together and people weren’t even talking to each other. They didn’t look like they were having fun. They looked like they were so bored.

We didn’t care what everyone thought while they stared. We didn’t fly all the way from Chicago to not have the time of our lives. People were sitting in large groups staring at their phones it was ridiculous.

It felt like a similar experience I had in Miami. Connects to VIP in a hot night club and people seemed more concerned about looking cute instead of having a good time. I remember very similar bored faces. Beautiful people in a place created to have a good time and they seemed lifeless.

We had such a fun time dancing and laughing. We were the liveliest bunch there and people were staring in hopes we would acknowledge that’s not how things are done. Towards the end of the night a few strangers joined our group looking to take the pressure off and relax enough to have fun. They did.

Maybe what we saw is not an accurate impression but the differences were largely clear in the moment. If you find yourself in the same kind of situation when you hang out with friends, whether at a club, house party or dinner together, here is a way to get them to have a blast. Maybe everybody just needs to remember life is short so they can ease up a little.

The perfect way to achieve the fun is to create a No phone zone.

I love taking pictures and being in them but in order to really enjoy the company of those I’m with, I became the no phone police. At some point in the night when all the statuses were updated and enough pics were taken, there came a time when I requested we put the phones down completely.

It helped us connect and have a blast. We can all stand to lighten up a little.


The Greatest Lesson I ever learned about Myself

In high school I took on a bit of an adventurous spirit.  I started to enjoy life in the outdoors even more than I had when I was a kid. I started liking activities like camping. I don’t mean glamour camping. I’m talking sleeping in a tent, backside on the earth, shooting stars blanketing the sky above and all in a land of no plumbing. I came to really enjoy those experiences.

I also have on a couple occasions in my life gone rock climbing. I have done the man-made walls and scaled the side of a few caverns back in the day. It is not something I jump at doing because even just the thought of it is exhausting. Yet I have done it and I remember the first time I did.

Actually, the greatest lesson I have ever learned about myself came from a rock climbing wall.

I was strapped in. Those harnesses can be so uncomfortable but safety is always far more important than comfort or style in certain experiences.

I don’t recall how many feet the wall was but it was tall — looming like Goliath. Getting started was fairly simple though. I had guidance and was enjoying finding the next space to place my hand or stabilize my feet so I could achieve my goal of making it to the top. Oh and I forgot to mention there was an audience.

So there I was putting one foot in front of the other. Everybody was calling my name. Everybody was trying to encourage me. Everybody wanted to cheer me on. People below kept offering their advice. They were telling me I just need to make one more step, put my hand here and my foot there. There were so many voices at once all trying to offer their “help”. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

I was about halfway up when suddenly I freaked out. I was overwhelmed, my head was full of everyone’s voice but my own. Doubt was creeping up and I was losing. All of a sudden I didn’t want to do this anymore. It was too much pressure and no one was letting me think for myself. I couldn’t concentrate on doing what I needed to do and knew I could handle. I got caught up and lost my focus and it felt so hard to regain. But I was halfway there. I couldn’t give up now, right?

Then somebody in the crowd who recognized that I was fully capable of doing it, made a simple statement that changed everything. They said, “Dilaun. Tell us what you need.”

In that split second, I had to determine what I needed from the people who were trying to help me. They meant no harm in their efforts to help but the aggressiveness of their offering help was not actually helpful to me. So they asked me what do you need and I said “Actually I just need everybody to shut up. I got this. I like that you got my back but I don’t need the cheers. I don’t need the clapping. I don’t need the directions. I don’t need the micro-managing. I just need you to trust that I can handle this.”

Lo and behold, once everyone got quiet, I could think and focus and concentrate.  I got to the top of the climbing wall quickly and I rang the bell they had and it was a glorious feeling. I accomplished a major goal because I asked for exactly what I needed. I found power in my voice to say I need something different than what other people who get up here need. My boldness couldn’t come from the energy in the crowd. My boldness had to come from me. I had to create the environment that would allow that. When I first started climbing the wall I had no clue what that experience was going to be like. In order to achieve my goal I had to trust myself and the people around to support me, quietly.

I had just recognized that if I do not speak up for who I am or what I want, other people will tell me what they think I need instead of me telling people what I actually need. That inner clarity comes when I best know who I am.

The lesson carries over into many other pieces and parts of my world. I don’t need to be louder or more competitive. There are people who do that. This world works because there are those who do but there are others who don’t. We need Balance thus I don’t have to apologize for the way I am.

My story is about self-awareness. I am with myself everyday all day long so if I don’t know who I am… if I don’t know myself, I’m in trouble. When I was up on that climbing wall, I could have given up or let people continue offering advice that didn’t serve me or used my voice to show others how they could best help me.

Here are 5 take-aways from my rock climbing experience:

1. Trust your intuition

2. Speak the truth even if your voice shakes

3. Don’t allow other people to tell u what u want or need

4. Be comfortable enough in your own skin to know what u want or need (then ask for it)

5. Don’t apologize for feeling your feelings

What in this post was helpful to you? What would you add?


Razzle Dazzle ’em: What Kinky Boots taught me about Innovation

I have always wanted to develop something that could be left with this earth as part of my legacy. But what would that be? It has always felt like everything has already been invented. Every leader has their audience and every audience has chosen their master teacher.

But innovation takes a new spin on invention. Innovation takes what already exists and moves it to the next level, giving it new life with your own flavor. Innovation looks at things in a different way.

Innovation looks for opportunity to introduce a new thought or way of doing things that improves products, business, services that already exist.

Think Uber & AirBnB. Both companies took really simple ideas and transformed the way we live and travel.

When it came to writing this blog, I put it off for so long. I kept saying everything to say has already been said. What more can I add to the conversation? But that is kind of the point. I have plenty to add to the conversation because no one can share the stories I have lived. I am here to share them myself. My experiences, my mistakes, my victories, my lessons and my life are all unique enough to matter in the conversation. I love to write and this blog was an important step in figuring out that I want to get to the next step.

So just as my title suggests, I saw the musical Kinky Boots a few days ago. I positively loved the show’s energy. It felt like a grown version of Billy Elliot which I saw just a couple of months ago. Sure Kinky Boots was about shoes instead of ballet but there was still a whole lot of singing, dancing, mending relationships, untangling social issues and men in heels.

The Kinky Boots story is about a man named Charlie Price who inherits his father’s shoe factory. Charlie wants to save the family business and makes an unlikely new friend, Lola who helps him do so. Lola is a cabaret star who helps his new friend Charlie save the business by designing sparkly sensational boots for other men preparing to walk in a Milan runway show. The idea of producing the special shoes were a far-reach from the customer base the factory previously had but with the new idea, they are able to save their future and make a major name for themselves.

It’s a story about finding friendship, inspiration and passion where you least expect. The tagline of the show is that Kinky Boots proves that you change the world when you change your mind. The story of Kinky Boots is at least in part about true innovation.

Innovation is about change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis and breakthrough.

I can bring my mind, my talents and my passion to changing the way the world does something. I am still figuring out the details on that part but what used to seem impossible seems far more possible now. I am capable of developing something that could be left with this earth as part of my legacy. I look forward to that vision becoming clearer and I look forward to you staying tuned as I do.

What kind of impact do you want to leave on the world? What vision do you have for your life?

Stop sleeping like a baby: 3 ways to relax, rest and recharge

I don’t have kids but the the friends I know with babies say the last thing you can count on is babies sleeping through the night. Some days I am so tired from staying up late night and waking up early mornings I feel like I will never catch up on sleep. It is exhausting. Maybe we should change the idiom to sleep like a teenager. They can sleep through anything.

I currently sleep like a newborn where some nights I wake up at a random hour for no reason. It throws off everything. Don’t get me wrong. I love staying up late with something fun or interesting to do. Real rest is so important though if I want to be able  to stay awake for random late nights.

Have you ever had a problem getting good rest? I want to help you stop sleeping like a baby who wakes up every three hours and start sleeping like the miracle baby who actually rests at night. Here are 3 ways to do it:

1. Shut the screens down. 

No TV on all night. Set the sleep timer or turn the tv off when you start to nod. It’s also hugely important to not let social media be the last thing you look at before bed. Your brain will thank you for limiting the glowing screens. Having a healthier nighttime routine instead like a nice shower or yoga or reading or writing or listening to music can put you in a more peaceful state of mind to let your body and mind rest.

2. Limit the liquids.

No alcohol or caffeine just before bed. Alcohol can make people crash hard into a temporary deep sleep (even a couple beers) but it throws a wrench in a good night’s sleep. As for caffeine, I don’t know about  anyone else but I once had Pepsi just before bed and I was wired. I couldn’t sleep for hours. It was terrible. Once the sugar high wore off and I managed to get a few winks in, I had to be up for the next day with heavy bags under my eyes. I don’t do that anymore. It also is so annoying to wake up in the middle of the night scrambling to pee. Limit liquids like the airport does…no more than 3 oz.

3. Take naps.

Use a sleepytime app which you can download straight to your phone. You can calculate how to maximize your bedtime hours to get great rest. It operates based on what you need for REM sleep. It is typically in 90 minute intervals. I take quick naps whenever I need to. I notice when my body starts slowing down and there’s nothing I can do but take a nap, I need to comply. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else. Our bodies often tell us exactly what it needs. Without proper rest, it is easy for issues like stress, fatigue and moodiness to take over. If your body needs to take a break, give it a break.

It’s important to take care of yourself and your body. Go to bed. You won’t miss much.

What is your bedtime routine? What would you add to this list?