Success: It’s All in Your Head by Liz Thorpe

I woke up this morning and wished I were sick. Not horribly sick, just bad-enough-cold-that-you-lie-in-bed-and-watch-movies sick. I wondered for a few minutes why I wanted this. I realized it’s because what I really wanted to do today was loaf around. The weather is beautiful.  I don’t feel like writing. I don’t feel like thinking strategically about my clients’ businesses. But just hanging out makes me feel guilty. If I’m sick I have an excuse but if I’m well I’m being lazy.

Looking back on the past 20 years being sick has been a massively important escape hatch for me. In college, after midterms. In my 20s during career upheaval and holiday insanity. I’ve barely been sick at all in 2+ years. Life is good. I’m healthy. I haven’t needed the out. But I wanted it today. Successful people, I thought, get out of bed and go…succeed. They don’t wander around in their pajamas watering the basil plants. This led me to Google “how to define success” which led me to Forbes.

It’s a pretty annoying article, the upshot of which is: men and women aren’t as different as you might think, we all want money, and women tend to answer surveys with what they think they are expected to want rather than what they actually want.

So, what did I do today (since I’m not sick) that leads to feeling successful while, essentially, hanging out?

  1.  I went running this morning. Again, that weather. Exercise makes me (and anyone) feel better. Any exercise. Walking. It produces chemicals in your brain that make you happy. This is true. Also, I listen to crappy hip hop while I run and don’t think about anything except Taio Cruz lyrics.
  2.  I worked from home. It’s prettier here. I had lunch with my kid. I made tea when I felt like it. I stayed in my running clothes.
  3. I redefined “work” for the day. I talked on the phone with people. A cheese maker from Georgia, about his farm. A web site developer, about how to present an event I produce. A cheese maker from Vermont, about his 2015 budgets. My neighbor, about the area. I basically gossiped with people for 4 hours about their dreams, their goals, their industries. All that gossiping is actually very important and valuable information. But I’m not going to synthesize it today.
  4. I did write, but I wrote this instead of my book. This is different writing, about whatever I want. But writing is a habit, a muscle that atrophies if unused.
  5. I deposited checks and looked at my bank statements. Feel, acknowledge and count your money. Direct deposit and debit cards are great conveniences but they distance us from what we earn. I feel more excited about my money when I take the time to realize it’s there.

I am alone in my house, unwashed, with 2 hours left in the “work day” and I feel totally successful. That’s how I define success—by how I feel. No matter how much money you have, you always want a little more. When you get accolades from everyone you meet, the conspicuous silence of that one holdout is the loudest voice. Being successful is figuring out what makes you feel good, and how you can incorporate those things into your life so that you, in fact, feel good.

I gotta go water some basil plants.

This is Now by Liz Thorpe

I was on my annual family pilgrimage to midcoast Maine, a tiny hamlet where my parents took me starting at age 2, and where I am now bringing my daughter at 18 months when I noticed a short note on the arm of my friend’s wife—the place where you scrawl “Milk” or “Call Mary” in ballpoint pen so you don’t forget.

It said This is now.

Turns out it’s not a washable reminder but a tattoo she had made, in her own handwriting, after reading the concluding pages of Little House in the Big Woods. I’ve been turning it over and over these past seven days, like some kind of miraculously smooth rock, marveling at the way it captures both the forgotten magic and the seemingly insurmountable of everyday life.

This is now!  It’s unfolding, temporal, and worth stopping to recognize: the little snorting sounds my kid makes when she falls asleep on my hip, nose stuffed with a summer cold; the business-owning, car-owning, house-owning, responsible, loving parents who used to play Dungeons and Dragons and Monopoly beside me on rainy days when we were all 8; the cottage where my family slept one week each summer, sharing a rickety bathroom, when my father was still alive; the picture window overlooking water and sailboats that I can look out of while I do my work, on my schedule, as I dictate. The great blessed freedom of that.

And this is now. The unexpected emergency room visit and ensuing convalescence I wasn’t counting on—it’s passing as I type and I feel better each day; the cold, dreary rain and howling wind that makes every rug and sheet clammy and unwelcoming—they’ll dry; the deep, gut sadness each time I read the news of war, of the shooting of kids—will this be the crossed line that forces a new kind of action? It could be. I hope it will be.

When I chose to leave my well defined, respected and generally understood career to start a new one of my own making it all felt very cavalier. This is now!  I was going to do my own thing, make my own thing and it was going to be bigger and better than what I already had. It was mere days before my this was: unknown, unattached, undefined, uninspired. Scared. All in a very present and immediate way.

Two years have passed and I’m still making my own thing. It’s not like cookies. You don’t follow the recipe and get the result 16-18 minutes later. The making is continuous and the this in my now makes me want to jump up and down, and also just makes me want to jump. It depends. Worth paying attention to, I realize, is that they’re both passing, as they should be.


Manifesting Financial Abundance is Possible by Liz Thorpe

There may be no more loaded topic for me than that of money. My mother tells me that as a very small child I used to hold pieces of glass chandelier against my ear lobes and fancy them enormous diamond earrings. I spent most of my life wanting money because it was so often in short supply, and then feeling like I was a bad and shallow person for doing so.

Here's the deal with money. It may not make you happy, but it makes life easier. Gretchen Rubin has a great post on The Happiness Project. Without a doubt, when debating leaving my job, money was my #1 anxiety. I was the primary earner in my marriage. I felt secure seeing those numbers appear in my checking account every week. More than secure, frighteningly, I felt validated and approved by those numbers. They proved my value, my worth, and my currency in the world. My salary showed that I had "made it." A primary reason why my career in cheese was a "dream job" was because I had created a career writing, talking, knowing and educating about cheese, something I'm really passionate about, AND got paid well for doing so.

The six months after leaving my job were fraught with fear about money:

First, I had to justify: I worked very hard and saved a lot so I could build a responsible cushion for this time off. Second, I fretted: what if we couldn’t pay the mortgage? What if my cushion ran out and I couldn’t find another source of income? Third, I self-flagellated: our country was in a recession and millions of people can't get work. I threw a perfectly great paycheck out the window to “follow my heart.” Fourth, I tightened like a sphincter: I will micromanage my spending and eat brown rice 3 meals a day for 5 days because it saves money. Fifth, I coveted: from a kid's allowance to someone's lottery winnings to my best friend's inheritance. They all had what they needed and I didn’t.

Now, if money were a person, would it want to hang out with me? Hell, no. Because I was a defensive, worrisome, berating, tight-ass, jealous person. If money were a person it would go out of its way to avoid me at a party. And the thing is, it will work that way if I work that way.

Then, I performed this manifestation ritual for financial abundance.

This ritual is incredibly simple. All that I am required to do is have faith. Shift my thinking. Have fun with money. In other words, simple and potentially impossible.

Money can be acquired in 2 ways. It can be earned. It can appear by methods other than your work. I desire both kinds of financial abundance.

Name the number. How many dollars? How many cents?

Name the date. By when do I want to manifest this money?

And then, get myself, energetically, in the place where money would want to monopolize me at a cocktail party. Where I think money is fun, delicious, and available. Where money flows easily, in and out of my life like ocean waves. Where I have deep, unwavering trust that the Inner Me can get with the Outer Universe and make this thing happen. The main way I've been accomplishing this is through a series of affirmations at night before I go to bed, or when money appears in my life, or when money goes out of my life. Some of my favorites are:

I will always have plenty, and some to spare.

The effortless way of life is the best.

I can have wealth, everything I need, and plenty to spare.


The feeling of wealth produces wealth.

By day and by night I am being prospered in all of my interests.

Wealth is mine, and always creating in my life.

I like money. I love it. I use it wisely, constructively and with gratitude. Money is constantly circulating in my life and I release it with joy. It returns to me multiplied in a wonderful way. It is good and very good. Money flows to me in abundant avalanches. I use it for good only, and I am grateful for my good and for the riches of my mind.

And then, of course, comes Gratitude. Gratitude for the flow in. Gratitude for the flow out, which is not a loss of money but a gain of important things that I value, that bring me joy, that improve my family's life. Gratitude for all that I already have. And, gratitude to myself for believing, for participating, and for honestly naming my desires.

My financial manifestation ritual covered a four month period. Money, in fact, appeared as if from the air. The total manifested was within $20 of a number I had named in a fit of daring and seeming insanity. It did not feel like luck. It felt inevitable.

Lesson 7 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

7. We are all expecting. The question is: what? And, how are you experiencing that expectation?

I had a plan for how it would be when I left my job. It was a fuzzy plan, the way dreams can deliver complex narratives but the edges of things are all a little blurry. In my plan, the things I reached for would fall neatly into my hand. In my plan, I would transition seamlessly from That Thing to This New Thing.

It hasn't been that way.

The catch is, there wasn't a plan. I sort of knew that, but I also sort of thought it wouldn't matter. And it doesn't matter, insofar as the unfolding of what comes next is the plan I'm living. But there hasn't been a neat, clean, tidy Next Job for Equal or Greater Money that Delivers Equal or Greater Satisfaction/Pleasure/Accomplishment and rounds out a Life of Equal or Greater Delight. Instead, there's been a lot of sitting around wondering, "Huh. What comes next? Where does it come from? How will I know if it's the right Next New Thing?" And, how do I sit comfortably with that not knowing?

I was lamenting my lack of a work project for the dwindling weeks before Bean Arrived, and a friend said, "You're expecting." Not a baby. Or, not just a baby. You're in the process of expecting The Next Thing. Babies have a clock on their gestation. You expect them, and, roughly 40 weeks later, they arrive. My next work, and the person I will be then is still gestating. I don't know how long that gestation will take. Apparently, it will be more than 40 weeks, but then, when it comes out, it will be able to do much more than Bean, so extra time seems warranted.

The trick, of course, is in choosing how to experience that expectation. With Bean: it can be slow, uncomfortable, compromising, boring. It can also be: miraculous. Physically affirming. A grand excuse to learn about biology. A chance to better know my body and its intuitive, natural abilities.

Expecting The Next Thing, whatever that is, has a similar duality. It can be frustrating. Maddening. Undermining. Irrefutable evidence that I am ruining my life. Scary. Intimidating. Slow. Unclear. It can also be: a chance to see the possibilities differently. The chance to see different possibilities. An experiment in saying yes to what I want, and no to what I do not want. Wondrous. Proof that we get to invent who we are, as many times as we desire. Space.

We are all expecting. The question is what, and how?  We choose, we choose, we choose.

Lesson 6 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

6. Why can't not knowing be fun?

Not knowing everything, at every second, used to be par for the course. Why can’t it be a rare, delightful, crazy adventure? I can’t remember how, as a teenager,  I ever met a friend at the movie theater, or God forbid, a giant outdoor concert venue. How did we live before we could monitor what our exes ate for breakfast? Someone actually discovered the North Pole without the assistance of a ten-day forecast. Surprises, it seems, have become harbingers of the unfortunate, unexpected and otherwise unwanted life occurrences that we were unable to Google before leaving home in the morning. They’re evidence of life run amok, the things, despite our best and most fervent efforts, we’ve been unable to control.

I want a life where surprise is synonymous with the-really-awesome-party-your-friends-threw-for-you-without-your-input-money-or-time. Not learning whether Bean was a boy or a girl became nothing but a party. (And since my husband is an architect we knew the the décor and layette would all be taupe and grey anyway.)

Lesson 5 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

5. Don't be attached to the outcome. Be attached to what the path to the outcome shows you about who you are and what you desire.

I started thinking about this vis a vis labor but its universal applicability is far more significant. That baby. That experience. That relationship. That job opportunity. The right one will happen, and the one that doesn’t happen just wasn’t supposed to. It’s not because I did something wrong or he’s out to get me, it’s because it wasn’t ever going to happen. I didn't lose it. I never had it. And I wasn't supposed to.

What did happen, what is meant to keep, is what I realized mattered, along the way. I understand a little bit more of myself, what gratifies me, what brings me joy and that’s for keeps. So whether the baby is born under water to a chorus of angels or I have an emergency Caesarean section in the back of a taxi, I know what I want to feel like and I still control that.

While I was pretty sure the C-section by taxi wasn’t gonna happen, this one gave me a lot to mull on vis a vis new work projects. I "lost" two in two days. I'm also learned how to name my price without shame, and stick to it. Even when people walk away. And I'm telling myself that people who muck up my ideas of how it's supposed to go are there to remind me that it wasn't actually ever supposed to go that way.

Lessons 3 + 4 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

3. Just because you can’t see anything doesn’t mean there isn’t some major action happening inside.

Internal work, or more aptly, internal shifts are profoundly altering and often completely invisible. It's both frustrating and like a cool secret weapon. We’re set up to need a yardstick to measure progress by—I bought this, did that, earned another promotion. What’s the thing you can show other people as evidence of your forward momentum? Sometimes there isn’t one. That doesn’t minimize the huge importance of those seismic shifts. Just because you can’t see anything doesn’t mean there isn’t some major action happening inside. Like growing a person.

4. Trust your body (gut).

Nature makes another person without any input from you (exceptions being good food, water and enough sleep, and the obvious contributions that get the whole thing going). If it feels good, it’s fine. Better than that. If it feels good, it is good. Feeling good means unequivocally, including the next day or the next week, which is why getting really drunk doesn't qualify (you might like it while it's happening, but you almost certainly regret some aspect of it afterwards, whether it be a headache or that amorphous hollow feeling).

When I left my job, my gut knew far better than my head which decisions feel the best (in fact it was my body that talked us into leaving in the first place), which people resonate as trustworthy and which path is the most promising. Bear in mind, this is often oppositional to the decisions that are the most practical, the people who are the most connected and the path that is the most obvious.

When I listen to my gut and not my mind it always leads me in a direction that feels good, even when there's nothing outward to show for it.


I Have Fear. But I Don’t Have a Business Card. [Part 2] by Liz Thorpe

For me, for a week, speeding across the narrow, winding roads of Emilia Romagna, I embraced having no agenda. I celebrated having no duties. I enjoyed the luxury of being open. And so...

I met a guardian. A small, myopic man appeared. He chastised me for not appearing to like food very much. His belly would greatly overshadow Santa’s bowl full of jelly. Supporting his wide girth with the thump of two palms he suggested that, together, we might do some work on “feeding the baby.” (I wasn't pregnant then. He meant to fatten me up to a fraction of the apparent triplets he had already grown). When undertaking a gustatory adventure, or, actually, even when not, this is a good kind of man to know.

I found a bit of what I'd lost. To pursue food for the pure pleasure of learning about it, and only secondarily to eat it, and, distantly, in 10th or 20th place, because it might be strategic, wasn’t something I’d done in a long time. And oh, I realized, how I missed it. How I used to delight in stuffing my head with stories, historical oddities, funny facts, the names of wizened, animal-milking men. That was my great delight. And somewhere along the way, I lost it. I think the story I'd told myself was that I was bored, but really I see now that I had brilliantly boxed myself in. I had created a job and a professional identity in which I had efficiently replaced these little trinkets of thought with the practical, the strategic, the challenging-for-the-sake-of-challenge.

Oh, to be free to go where I pleased, and with whom I pleased, for no better reason than my gut told me I would enjoy it, and might learn something. To feast to ridiculous excess-- three hour lunches that began with Franciacorta, palely yellow with a tiny, fine bubble and light green apple finish; swaths of the local white cheese, Stracchino, said to be made from the rich, day-end milk of tired bovines who’d walked the mountain foothills, drizzled with the black syrup that is real balsamic vinegar and has made the town of Modena famous; feathery drapes of Culatello di Zibello so sweet and luscious it makes Prosciutto seem like an overtanned Jerseyite. And then pastas, two or three, electric yellow with egg yolks and swabbed in cream-softened Bolognese, or stuffed with a mash of potato, slippery-slick with sage butter. The desserts that I never really care for at home but that, in Italy, seem criminally rude to decline. And all the while, my barrel-shaped host regaling me with the history of pre-War Reggio Emilia, and all the economic and cultural reasons why one cheese wound up the way it did, because of what its people were living through.

In short, naming my fear and choosing instead an adventure led me back to myself, and to the small, beating heart of the work I really desire.

When the Dream Job Just Isn’t Dreamy Enough by Liz Thorpe

When I was 23 years old I walked away from the structure and predictability of a familiar career path and decided that I wanted to learn about cheese. I wondered if it might be possible to make a career out of something simply because I found it intriguing and inspiring and delicious.

I didn’t really understand what I was doing, but I knew there was an insistence I couldn’t ignore. A repetitive whispering, a core of assurance that kept poking me, an older, wiser piece of myself who knew that I was deeply unhappy and that my only shot was to reach for a thing for no other, no better, reason than because I desired it.

I wanted to know about cheese. That was my desire. I thought it was fascinating. There were so many choices. A rainbow of colors, a veritable Benetton ad of shapes and sizes. Looking back, I can see that it was more than just the cheese, though. What I wanted was a job, a career, a life’s work that thrilled me. Something I did every day that I cared about, that I constantly learned from, that actually inspired me and perhaps even the people I met at the odd cocktail party.

And you know what? Cheese stuck. It became my career. And over the years, that first little shop I worked in morphed and evolved and became my life.

You are a more creative thinker than I if you can imagine what it felt like, then, after many years and many successes and indeed, what many (including me!) called a “dream job”, to begin once again to feel the uncomfortable poke of my inner whomever. That daring, visionary, wiser risk taker who held my hand and pulled me into cheese in the first place was once again extending a finger. Crooked toward a big, dark, expanse of The Unknown my gut started suggesting lewd, unimaginable things.

What If…there could be more than my dream job? What If I could keep the parts I loved and ditch the parts I didn’t? What If I could rediscover the parts that I’d cast off, that were dying from neglect, that used to make me giddy with pleasure? What If I could stretch myself, my imagination, my brain, and invent a Dream Job that was even better than the one I had? What would that even look like?

So, finally, after years of debate with my crooked finger, come-hither whisperer, I did the (semi) unthinkable. I quit my job, nearly ten years to the day after I started. I walked away from a place I loved, a place I shaped and was deeply shaped by. I left with no plan, no next step and no intention but this: to follow the part of myself who seems to know where we’re going, on the path to an integrated life of work that is play, and play that enriches my soul.

Oh, and as a major part of that, to rediscover the sheer joy that fed me in the first place.