Giving Up My Safety in Obscurity

by Megan M. on July 15, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

“Take yourself, for instance,” he went on saying. “Right now you don’t know whether you are coming or going. And that is so, because I have erased my personal history. I have, little by little, created a fog around me and my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do.”

Reading Castaneda last night, I realized that this is what I’d done. It feels so good to know that no one can pin you down! You can do whatever you want, if you have the guts (and the stamina) to make it work. I was making it work. I was equal parts intensely proud of myself… and running myself into the ground. I didn’t want to give it up—I still don’t. But geeze, there will be more challenges. This isn’t the only hard thing I can do in my life. This isn’t the only place where I can persevere and prove myself.

Ooh-hoo, not a chance.

Navigating the Trenches

I’m visiting my parents in Youngstown this week, and I’ve been almost constantly conscious of the weird impulses I get just because I’m in an old, familiar place with old, familiar smells and the associated familial people behaving in familiar, familial ways. It’s reminding me of how far I’ve come in a relatively short period of time. Obviously I’m not this person anymore. But who am I?

Damn good question.

Driving around town to go to lunch and pick my mother up from the airport I noticed that I vividly recalled every single spot where a car I was piloting had broken down. Here is where the drive shaft fell out of my Volvo on the highway. Here is where the copper-colored Ford LTD (that BOAT!) puttered out, thick white gouts of smoke streaming out behind. Here is where I hit the deer in the middle of the night, here is where I spun across the ice into a ditch. Here is where I bumped the curb and blew out a tire.

Such small memories, almost completely inconsequential to my life, and I remember them in perfect clarity. Almost certainly because my amygdala categorizes them as Dangerous and Worthy of Note, but still—interesting, isn’t it? And it reminds me how valuable it is to make a point of remembering good things. To stick them in our heads and repeat them like a mantra. To paste them on the walls, loop them in our iPods, write them in lipstick on mirrors. The good parts, what are the good parts? Otherwise, what do we remember about a place? The awful hammering we woke up to. The dust of construction. The friendships that fell out. The dog bites. The busted fingers. The bad sushi. Oh, the bad sushi. I’ve got some clarity on that one, I’ll tell you.

All those times the car broke down, that’s not my LIFE.

But that fact is still something I need to consciously remember.

Realizing That I’m Real

The real kicker, I’ve noticed, is to realize that there is a real core of me that isn’t affected by external pain. Although my body remembers the bad stuff, the bad stuff isn’t me. It’s a bizarre trap we all get sucked into, and, a la The Power of Now (which I’ve just started listening to and is probably going to be one of my Favorite Books Ever), I am currently all about reminding myself that there is a part of me that isn’t touched by any of it. Not even just a part—my whole real self. How’s that for metaphysical!

And along those lines, it’s my whole real self that is still me even if I can suddenly describe myself to someone who doesn’t know me. My whole real self is still me even if I decide to continue building a fog, obscuring or removing personal history in order to stay “safe”. Safety doesn’t make a difference to that core Megan, anyway. Safety is overrated.

I’d rather live a brilliant, meaningful life than just be safe.

And so I took the fog away.

It’s getting clearer all the time!


Survival of the Slickest

by Megan M. on July 14, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

This is a wacky road I have decided to walk. I just realized that—without even thinking—I had marked all my Idea Blueprint Girl content by-nc-sa, instead of by-sa. Not because I didn’t want to share it with money-making entities, but because I’ve gotten so used to the idea that we need to keep things from other people who might make money off our hard work, I didn’t even notice the mistake! On a site meant for the free dissemination of ideas, bruiting the dangers of idea “protection”!


I fixed it, of course. If I want people to be able to benefit from my ideas, I don’t want to restrict them to only those who won’t make money from them. As vilified as money gets to be, it’s important to remember that in its purest sense it’s just energy—an exchange of value between individuals and entities. The most balanced way to be able to create value for other people is to be able to receive some kind of value in return. Money isn’t the only way to do that, but it’s the most prevalent way and probably the most logical way, at least for the moment. (Maybe. Accepting challenges on this point.)

The “non-commercial” part of that license is the hard part of the leap for most people, myself included. If I’m not the only person who can make money off my idea, who’s stopping someone else from taking all my business? That thing should be me, not a law. I should be able to ensure my own success by putting forth effort, being quick on my feet, and making the best thing I can possibly make. If my thing is better than someone else’s thing (for my people, that is), if I am clever enough to make something people really want, I’ll be okay.

It’s like natural selection, right? If I am faster than the bear, I don’t have to be lunch. ;}


It’s been a whole weekend since I did That Scary Thing I Did, and I have to tell you… it doesn’t stop being scary just because it’s done. Probably because it isn’t actually done!

I often find myself under the delusion that forcing the good change will get it over with and then I won’t have to “suffer through it” anymore. Launch the damn thing, and I won’t have to do the launch anymore. But here’s the thing, folks: You can leap into the freezing lake, and you’re done leaping. Yes, the leap (launch) is over.

But you’re still in the freezing lake!

You either tough it out and get used to the temperature, or you freak out and wail back to shore to find a fluffy towel. And all your friends call you a big whiner. And since I am determined that there will be no wailing, and no shelter-seeking, I am going to enjoy this fucking lake.

I just need a few minutes, you know? After you stick with it awhile, you notice that the lake isn’t really that freezing. It’s actually pretty nice—cool, crisp. And I’m speculating here, because the lake still feels pretty freezing, but I think the water gets to be just lovely. And once that happens, I get to float on my back and feel the sun on my skin and look at the clear blue sky and the tops of the trees… and relax.

So bear with me while I’m getting there. Don’t mind that look on my face. I’m just getting used to the water. ;}

Why is the lake so freaking cold?

I guess I just never jumped into a lake before. Not this kind of lake.

For most of the years I was running my design firm, I was really intent on “doing it right”—which meant, I thought, pretending to be a Real Live Business With People In Suits and Secretaries and Maybe Even Cubicles. It was only later on in that decade when I realized that pretending was a stupid game, and I didn’t like it, and it made me miserable (even though running my own business, compared to working one of the commonly available food service jobs in Youngstown, made me very happy). Encounters with clients made me incredibly nervous during that time—when would they find out? What would they do? The rejection suspense was just ridiculous.

A lot of that stress fell away when I decided, hell with it, I’d be myself. As I built my new network (the right one) I was much happier working for myself as myself, working with people who liked me and were like me, and not worrying so much about being called out as some kind of fraud. But I was still restricting my official business to web and print design. I must have thought I had to. I must have thought no one would take me seriously if I didn’t have that label.

The universe doesn’t screw around, though, when you’re meant to do something (I suppose!). Over the next few years, I found myself doing a ton of work that really wasn’t web or print design—it was a lot more like idea design. I didn’t know what to call this or how to sell it, so I didn’t; I did it for friends, for myself, and I sometimes threw it into the mix with clients I felt comfortable with—but usually for free. It was only very recently, after expanding my network of friends to include the Triiibes community, that I let go of the need to have a label and started doing that idea design work for money. Who cared if it was weird and I didn’t know what to call it? I had happy clients, and people who loved me, and that was all that mattered.

Of course, you know the problem already. You can market labelless to friends who love you, but it’s pretty much impossible to market labelless to strangers or acquaintances. There was no moving up for me here unless I wanted to funnel a lot more energy into making friends. Which is cool—but man, I need downtime, too. I am not strictly an extrovert. I had a feeling that kind of hardcore networking was going to wear me out.

So I decided, once more, that I needed a label.

But I was done with boring labels. I was done with labels that didn’t properly encompass the scope of my playground. I know I’m supposed to “pick a thing”, but I’ve never wanted to “pick a thing”, even in college—Opera? Graphic design? Internet culture? Business-building? No, I’m not going to focus on one and drop the others, screw you people. Ah, my theme song.

And I did find that label, if that’s the right name for it. Sometimes I wonder if I actually found a calling.

So why is it so scary? I don’t get it.

Dude, I don’t get it either. I’ve been searching my soul for the answers this weekend, trying to understand the reluctance I had to move forward and the reluctance I still have to talk about it.

Why is it so scary?

You know… I was always really small-time.

In fact, especially after I dismantled Virtual Magpie and started doing my kind of business just as myself, I didn’t have a standard that anyone was trying to hold me to. No one could try to define me from outside me. They didn’t have anything to base a definition on, unless they’d read through most of my blog—and then, usually, they got it right.

It feels safe to be able to avoid definition that way. It feels safe because the only standards I stood by were my own, and I could do whatever I felt was right at the time and not worry about someone else looking at my setup and deciding I should be doing it differently. It was between me and my client. If they were happy, that’s all I cared about.

But now, something has changed.

I almost feel like this gives the rest of the world leverage.

What that means, I don’t know. I know that it makes me afraid. But I think that fear is borne of insecurity, of the idea that I’ll never survive being judged by someone other than myself—and that if I can keep things quiet enough that my only judge is myself, I’ll do okay.

Furthermore, I always knew that I was building Idea Blueprint Girl as a vehicle for me to do what I loved on a larger scale. Small-time wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go.

And oh, big-time is scary.

But there’s something else here, too.

I can help people much better this way. They can see what I do, and ask me to do it. They don’t have to depend on me to find them and suggest it. It gives them power and it gives me an easy way to connect with people who can use my help.

Funny how quickly the fear overwhelms our better impulses, you know? And silly. Because when I think about how much easier it will be to take on projects that help people, it gives me a thrill. Just a shiver that kind of runs up my spine, or makes my skin tingle. What could I do with this? How can I change the way things work? What new corners can I air out? What wonderful new people will I meet? What incredible projects can I put together? How will I make a difference for them? What will happen next?

Remembering how thrilling it is reminds me why I thought it up in the first place—and that thrill dissipates the fear.

Wow. Can we bottle that headspace?

What does happen next?

Geeze, you got me. I’m just winging this whole thing. It’s so easy to feel strong and confident about pushing someone else’s project forward. I can see it objectively and understand how all the pieces fit together. I’m not stalled or blinded by deep-seated emotional obstacles. I know how easy it is to make something work. When it’s mine, the path is a little fuzzier. But I can still see it, most of the time.

I think I’ll just keep moving forward, and the rest will take care of itself.

What do you think?


That Idea Blueprint Girl

by Megan M. on July 10, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

Brooke Thomas sent me a note not long ago letting me know that she was organizing a graduation gift to commemorate the end of Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA program: For Seth, from the almost-Alternative-MBAs. That is, those of us who submitted an application but didn’t make it into the program!

This was a bizarre coincidence, because I had noticed previously that the Big Thing I was getting ready to launch happened to coincide with the end of the program, and I was forced to reflect on the last six months of my life—six months I might have spent working on projects in New York, but six months that, at the same time, I had done really great things with anyway. Successes I was proud of. Projects I wouldn’t have traded for anything.

As it happens, I’d been putting off this launch for about a week already. Ah, psychology. It’s never quite there, you know? But really, it was already done. Brooke’s note meant I couldn’t put it off any longer.

Also as it happens—today is Seth’s birthday. I can’t think of a better day to make my first official launch post and kick everything off. Thanks to Seth Godin for all his nudges, inspiration, and awesomeness. I wish you a very, very happy birthday.

So that’s it, right? Time to show you the good stuff!

If you want to know all about my project, you can read the Squidoo lens I put together: Idea Blueprint Girl: The (Home Study) Alternative MBA of Megan M.

Or you can go straight to That Idea Blueprint Girl, and start browsing.

Things are about to get pretty interesting around here. ;}


Wherein I Pimp the Living Shit Out of CrossFit Central

by Megan M. on June 27, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

I am absolutely filthy. Covered in dirt. No hugs. ;}

This was my fourth week doing five CrossFit classes a week—Monday through Friday—so I decided to celebrate by doing one more day, and making this week six. There was a free boot camp this morning, under the bridge downtown near Town Lake, so Marty and I hustled down there around 8. Push-ups on the ground meant we all ended up covered in dust and dirt and little leaves, and all the sweat meant it stuck. It was awesome.

I should mention, too, that I’m still the last one back from the run (apologies to my teammates at the end there), but unlike my starting situation in May, I can now do real squats, like a person with… muscles. In their legs. Holy cow. It seems like a little thing until I remember exactly how weak I felt when I started doing this. What I’m experiencing is progress.

So I’m sitting here writing this entry, covered in dirt (at least it’s not mud, right?), and the only clean thing on me is my hands. Because I washed them. And while I wait for my breakfast to be ready, I figure, I have to say something about these people. Because these folks really watch out for me, and it means a lot, and furthermore it says something—about Crossfit Central in Austin, about the kind of people who work there, about the folks coaching their classes.

Zachary Thiel taught us CrossFit Elements when we started out—it was fantastic. Now, I have Chris Hartwell Mondays and Wednesdays and Lance Cantu Tuesdays and Thursdays. I drop in on Carey Kepler’s Monday-Wednesday-Friday women’s class on Fridays (which Jen Cardella helps coach), and it’s the only class I have that isn’t a beginners’ class. All of these classes kick my ass, and I don’t know how I lived without them before.

This isn’t like grade school gym where the teacher is frustrated with the slow kids, and mostly ignores them. This is something else entirely. This is a whole different motivational ethic, and I love it. There’s tons of encouragement to go around. No one gets forgotten. That’s something I was really sure would happen, the more behind I was—I was worried I’d get forgotten.

Never happened.

These coaches all go out of their way to be helpful and share advice as needed. They’re friendly and they know their shit. They have senses of humor, good hearts—and high standards. I walk out of these classes feeling so proud of myself, feeling this enormous respect for what I’m doing even though I can’t really do it any better than anyone else (and, uh, far from it). But I still leave feeling amazing. Competent. Adult, not just because I’m 28 years old and “legal”, but in a true sense of what it means to be responsible for yourself and your own well being.

In my conversation with Marty this morning, we decided that it wasn’t the exercise we liked, specifically. It wasn’t even that we were doing something that would be good for us, result in better health and flexibility and longevity—though those are all great effects. It’s that we like the way we feel when we do these things that are hard. It raises your self-esteem to know that you did the thing when most people wouldn’t have bothered. It feels good to have made the extra effort. It feels good to know you can do it, no matter how far you still have to go.

It makes it all even better that Chris always has a warm smile and Lance always has a word of encouragement and Zach has a friendly hey when we walk in, and Carey cheers us on and Jen cackles when I lose count (Jen is awesome, and yes, I probably should have been using the 20lb dumbbells. Next time!!) and that they all adamantly push us to do our best, every minute. I love seeing these people every morning. Man, I can only imagine what a hardcore gym workout every day could have been. What I got was so much better than I imagined. Jesus, if I can do this, who couldn’t?

And crap! Exercise isn’t my thing—it’s never really been my thing. It’s not that I was born to do this stuff or that I’ve gravitated towards it all my life. I’m a freaking couch potato. So it has to be something else. It has to be the challenge and the play of it, and the environment, and the people.


It’s probably just CrossFit Central.

Thanks, guys. :}

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Social Work, Social Writing & the Social NetWorker

by Megan M. on June 19, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

I’ve been writing for Social Work prn (that is, pro re nata) for almost three months now, and by god, it’s a great way to spend time. It’s definitely a favorite as gigs go, and they are good people. Here’s my preferred list for the stuff I’ve put together since I started, if you want to bop around and take a look.

My Favorite Single Posts

  • Fully-Integrated Social Change
  • Better Kids, Better Us, Better Everybody
  • Social (Detective) Work, Perseverance, & What Matters

On Homelessness and Social Change

  • A Need for Social Change
  • Finding the Connection for Social Change
  • On Desperation and Locked Doors
  • Seeing Clearly: What Help for Whom?

Angel and Michelle’s Story

  • Outside Looking In, Part One
  • Outside Looking In, Part Two
  • Outside Looking In, Part Three

Burning Flipside and Alternative Social Structures

  • Alternative Social Values for the Real World
  • Civilization and Self Reliance
  • Social Systems, Invisibility, and Self-Reliance
  • Self-Reliance: Creativity, Ingenuity, Growth
  • Remembering to Connect

Sweat Lodge Ceremonies and Social Work

  • Assuming Social Connection
  • Sweat Lodges and Social Work
  • Seeking the Sweat Lodge
  • Inside the Sweat Lodge, Self-Work and Spirtuality

If you want to catch posts as I make them, you can see them most Tuesdays and Thursdays at Social Work prn’s blog, The Social NetWorker. Rob Plotkin posts there regularly, and we’ve had a smattering of other guest bloggers in the last few weeks (including our friendly neighborhood Freak Revolutionaries and the ever-awesome Bob Poole). If you’re interested at all in social work (or being mindful of the world around you!) it’s a good read. Here’s the RSS feed.

Have a super-great weekend, folks!


Hiring a Hydra

by Megan M. on June 17, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

Kyeli Smith is pretty fucking smart. She understands a few things about problem solving—first and foremost, that formidable mythical monsters are excellent multitaskers.

She understands that sometimes the most confusing and difficult problems are best solved with unorthodox solutions.

She understands that the solution you’re searching for is sometimes the one hiding in a rarely-sought (or ridiculous) corner.

And she understands that sometimes the shape of the solution isn’t technically real, but its effect on the problem is. Even if the hydra she decides to hire is actually a very talented (human) assistant, the hydra in her head is the solution, because it allows her to hand off a powerfully overwhelming mindset to a delegate, and thereby move forward through her life less encumbered, freed for challenges ahead.

If the hydra she decides to hire is entirely “imaginary” (who can suppose under such circumstances?), it accomplishes the same results.

Search everywhere for solutions. They don’t exist only where you think to look.