Inspired by Awesome – Danny Wallace

Every once in a while, somebody will come up with a brilliant idea or go on an amazing adventure that makes me boggle at just how fantastic we are as human beings.

Quite possibly my favorite idea-haver/adventure-goer is Danny Wallace.

I don’t know that I can fully capture just how much I adore Danny Wallace in one blog post. Usually when I talk about him in the physical realm, there is a lot of excited screeching and hand flailing. It’s probably for the best that you only have to read these words, rather than watch to me attempt to say them in a calm, even fashion.

First of all, he’s Scottish, and he lives in England, which automatically scores him Awesome Accent Cool Points. If you only read this far, you at least know that hearing him speak is quite an enchanting experience.

As for what he does, well, that’s where things get interesting. He’s accidentally formed his own cult, intentionally started his own country, gone on a quest to reunite with his childhood friends, gone on a quest with his friend Dave Gorman to meet people of the same name, and spent a year saying yes to absolutely everything.

If that last one sounds familiar, that’s because the book he wrote about his experience, Yes Man, became the basis for the movie of the same name.

That’s how I discovered Danny Wallace in the first place. I love movies and I love Jim Carrey, so I checked “Yes Man” out from my local RedBox. I knew it was based on a book, because I’d seen the book at Barnes & Noble. However, until I read the book myself, I didn’t realize that it was non-fiction. A true story. Danny Wallace actually spent a year saying yes to everything. And then wrote about it.

And the book is completely hilarious. Granted, I’m an easily amused person and it doesn’t take much to make me laugh. But this book had me laughing out loud so much that I actually felt fantastic while reading it. Laughter’s the best medicine, and all that.

Throughout the book, Danny occasionally references his past adventures, which he has also written about. I picked up Join Me next, the story about how he inadvertently became a cult leader by placing an ad in the paper that simply said “Join Me”. Hundreds of people did, and you still can.

I enjoyed it so much that I went on Amazon and bought everything he had written up to that point, and proceeded to read all of it. My roommate at the time was very patient with this. I would sit on my bed reading, and occasionally crack up in a fit of laughter, to which he would patiently respond, “What’s old Danny up to now?”

By the way, reading Danny Wallace is a dangerous thing to do in public. I took his books to many a restaurant where I’d sit, alone, eating and laughing. I’m sure I looked ridiculous.

But as funny as Danny Wallace’s books are, it’s nothing compared to how much they inspire me. I mean, most of us, we have a crazy idea. We think, wouldn’t that be nice, even kind of fun, if we did it. And then we remember that we have responsibilities and bills and friends we don’t want to alienate and probably it would be a better idea to keep our crazy idea in our heads.

But Danny doesn’t. Danny takes his idea and runs with it. He makes things happen. He creates something from nothing. He takes risks, he puts himself out there, he does things most of us avoid for fear of looking stupid or crazy or losing everything. Danny’s had experiences I’ve only dreamed of having because he’s not afraid to take the leap.

It could be argued, of course, that he’s too foolish to know better than to take the leap. But what’s the difference, really? His foolhardiness has produced a body of work eight books strong, an army of people who do random acts of kindness simply because it’s the leading mission of the Join Me “cult”, his own country (the country of Lovely), and a pile of mini-adventures and amazing experiences enough to fill a lifetime.

If I had to choose between the guarantee of a predictable life or the right to say “I Did That”, I’d pick the latter. Danny Wallace inspires me to no end to get out there and do it, whatever it is, whatever the reason, no matter how crazy or foolish. The man makes me happy simply by existing. And for that, I owe him endless gratitude.

Inspired By Awesome – Gala Darling

I’m not big into fashion. I have about four pairs of jeans that I cycle through based on which is least dirty, and a handful of t-shirts (most of them from Cedar Point) that I keep in constant rotation. Fashion intrigues me, but not enough to follow it.

So it might seem odd that a fashion blogger is inspirational enough for me to set as a home tab on Firefox.

That’s because Gala Darling posts about a little more than just fashion.

I first found Gala in February of last year, when she launched a celebration of radical self love for the whole month. She’d done an interview with John Halcyon Styn talking about the project, and I immediately got behind the concept. Instead of feeling bad about being single on Valentine’s Day, why not take the whole month to lavish yourself with love?

I signed on and have been following her ever since. Aside from having one of the most gorgeous blogs I’ve ever seen, Gala is a treasure trove of information, cool ideas, and fun links. Every Friday she makes a Carousel post where she rounds up interesting articles she’s found around the Internet that week. I spend many happy hours poking through those links, discovering new things, new people, new blogs. I love it!

But the biggest influence Gala has had on my life comes from her podcast, Love & Sequins.

The podcast is broken down into twelve “chapters” that comprise a book she wrote purely because she wanted to write a book (another concept I can completely get behind). These chapters cover a myriad of topics: self-love, business, fashion, New York, blogging, friends, and more. When I started poking through them, there were only seven chapters available. I was most interested in Chapter 2, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Business. But I liked her blog so much that I decided to dive in and get a subscription to the whole book.

I’m really glad I did. I got something out of every single chapter, even from the ones I didn’t expect (like the chapter on manners).

I think the reason this podcast is so useful is because the entire thing builds off of Chapter 1, Learning to Love Yourself. Many subsequent chapters begin with, “If you haven’t read Chapter 1, go back and do it right now!” (Each chapter also comes as a readable PDF.) Coming at every aspect of your life from an angle of self love and self respect gives the entire project a much stronger heart than your average how-to book. Plus, the whole thing is read in her adorable New Zealand accent, which makes it all the more enjoyable to listen to!

Love & Sequins is at times like a walk-through of her life up to this point. I enjoy hearing about what she did before she started her blog, and how she’s managed to grow a successful business online for herself just by doing what she loves: dressing up and writing about it. It seems so simple, because it is so simple.

I’m indebted to Gala for providing something so personal and detailed in addition to her regular blog. You can really tell that she puts her heart and soul into everything she does, and it pays off. Learning about her journey first put the seeds in my head to finally start taking blogging more seriously.

And even, perhaps, wear some bolder clothing.

Lessons Learned From Gala Darling:

-Do what you love without fear

-Love yourself, love yourself, love yourself

-Wear clothes that make you feel happy, even if they might seem ridiculous to others

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Inspired By Awesome – Jessica Mullen

I’ve been reading Jessica Mullen’s blog almost non-stop since I quit my “day job”, and I can’t get enough of it. It’s full of inspiration and ideas for making each day better than the last!

I stumbled onto Jessica’s blog when I was browsing through the backlog of Gala Darling’s “I Want To Be” posts. From time to time, Gala will feature a professional from a particular career and interview their journey getting to that point. I was actually looking to see if she’d ever done “I Want To Be…A Freelance Writer”, but I didn’t find that post. What I DID find was: “I Want To Be…A Lifestreamer!”

I had no idea what, exactly, “lifestreaming” entailed. I could guess, though, and it intrigued me enough to click on the article.

Turns out Jessica and her wife Kelly run their own School of Life Design, with lessons on how to build your life via your thoughts, and how to turn your website into the outward expression of you. Lifestreaming made immediate sense to me. One thing I’ve struggled with in the past is how to keep my “professional” life separate from my “personal” life (or my online life). I’ve always come to a stalemate with this, because I feel like every aspect of my life is so intertwined that it doesn’t make sense to try to separate them.

The concept of lifestreaming was like an excuse to stop the struggle of holding that barrier up. Make MY LIFE my work. Duh. How long have I been telling myself some form of this? I’ve constantly told myself to make my heath, yoga, hooping, whatever is most important to me my Real Work, regardless of what “day job” I might be holding down at the time. Reading Jessica’s site was like written permission to stop the niggling guilt monkeys in the back of my mind telling me that it might not be okay to live that way.

For some reason, putting a word on it, especially a word that can mean just about anything, gave it the legitimacy I needed to embrace it. I realized that pretty much all of the people I admire most are lifestreamers! Amanda Palmer, John and Hank Green, Kevin Smith, all of these people live their lives publicly online, constantly weaving their work with their lives. Their lives ARE their work!

In my poking around Jessica’s site, I also found The Popular Podcast, which she and Kelly have been doing together for years. Watching some of the episodes, I remembered that I had seen it somewhere before, a few years ago. Someone had linked to it somewhere on the Intarwebs, and I’d clicked and watched. But I hadn’t delved much deeper than that at the time.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, where something I find on the Internet then comes back a few years later and turns out to be really important and helpful to me. It happened with Halcyon Styn and his Hug Nation, as well. It’s always a little weird, yet synergistic, when it happens. It’s like, okay, the Universe keeps shoving me towards these people, and at the time, I wasn’t ready to hear what they had to say. But something out there knew I needed them, and it led me back at exactly the right moment.

Definitely the case with Jessica Mullen, I’m incredibly grateful to have come across her site when I did!

Lessons Learned From Jessica Mullen:

-Let go of your fears and trust that you are taken care of

-Post / talk about / think about the things that you want more of in your life

-Your life is your work!

-And much more. Not done learning from this inspirational woman!

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Inspired By Awesome – Rachel Brice

Yesterday when I opened my mailbox, there was a package waiting for me! I’d been waiting somewhat impatiently for this package, so it was more of a relief than a surprise that it FINALLY CAME.

What was in the package, you may ask? I shall tell you!

It was Rachel Brice‘s new DVD, “Serpentine“!

I was introduced to Rachel Brice several years ago by a friend who had her first DVD. Before I saw this DVD, particularly the performance on said DVD, I had little interest in learning belly dance. I had watched belly dancers in the past, but I’d never understood why it was called “belly” dance because to me, it just looked like a bunch of swiveling in shiny costumes and I never noticed them actually dancing with their bellies.

And then I saw Rachel.

I was completely blown away by how precise, sharp and clean her movements were. It was like watching belly dancing fused with pop locking. And I FINALLY got to see some incredible, enviable belly work. It was honestly the fact that she actually USES her belly in the dance that turned my opinion of belly dance around. And the control she has over her body is staggering. There are moments when she’s moving different parts of her body in a way that seem almost nonsensical (watch around 3:00 into the above video to see what I mean). Seeing Rachel Brice also introduced me to the fact that there are several styles of belly dance, and that what I’d traditionally seen in the past was a “cabaret” style. What Rachel did was more rooted in the “tribal” style, and her particular brand of belly dance, “tribal fusion”.

Call me an instant tribal fusion fan.

When I took up hooping, belly dance started to look a little more appealing to learn. Besides being fun, belly dance teaches you to be aware of your arms and how you are holding them, and when you’ve got a hoop spinning around your waist, your arms are either up and dancing or stuck in the dreaded “t-rex” position. So I voted for belly dance arms. I practiced with that first DVD of Rachel’s for a while, and took classes from a local teacher.

When this new DVD came in the mail, I put it on immediately (after making sure my roommates would be okay with just sitting and watching an instructional belly dance video; I had hoops to tape so I wasn’t actively following along). Just watching the intro got me jazzed to see what new drills Rachel had to offer. I pointed at the screen and I said, “I want to move like her.”

My roommate looked at the screen, then at me, and said, “I want to move like me!” And the reaction I had to that was rather bizarre, because normally I am all about self-empowerment. But her statement didn’t seem to jive with what I was feeling, so I shook my head and said, “I want to move like HER.”

I realized in that moment that when I said I want to move like Rachel, it was a form of self-empowerment. This statement wasn’t coming from a place of envy, it wasn’t coming from a feeling of lack in myself or wishing that I could magically transform into Rachel Brice. Instead, when I said “I want to move like her,” what I meant was that I know I have it within me to one day have that same control, that same precision. I didn’t exactly know how to word it properly, because I didn’t exactly mean I want to move JUST like her, what I meant was, “I want to be so aware of my body that I can make it move however I desire, like Rachel.”

It doesn’t really matter to me if I ever look just like Rachel, or have a belly as flat as Rachel, or a wardrobe as impressively jaw-dropping, or a fan-base as rabid and loyal. When I look at Rachel Brice, I see complete and total awareness of the body. There is not a move that woman makes that isn’t intentional, and that’s what I admire most about her. That’s what I want to internalize and make my own. I’m not going to do the yoga or the drills on this DVD with the intention of someday being able to dance “just like Rachel”, I’m going to do them with the intention of becoming even more in tune with my own body. (Which, it occurs to me, is why I do a lot of things.) In the end, with diligent practice, I will still be moving like me. I’m always moving like me. I can’t not move like me, because I’m the only me that I am. But I know there’s some serpentine in me, and I can’t wait to bring it to the surface.

Lessons Learned From Rachel Brice:

-Total control comes from consistent practice

-Fluid movements make a beautiful dance

-Don’t be afraid to wear LOTS of shinies 😉

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Inspired By Awesome – Katwise

I once said somewhere (I can’t remember where, somewhere online where I was asked to describe what I do with my time) that I spend an awful lot of time online, but I don’t like to think of it as a waste of time because I spend my time on the Internet being “Inspired By Awesome”.

Katwise (AKA Kat O’Sullivan) is easily one of the most inspiringly awesome people I’ve come across on this world wide web. I can’t remember how I found her in the first place, which is a little weird for me. All I know is that I originally found her Etsy store and favorited it. Then one day, as I poked around my Etsy favorites, I discovered it again, and decided to delve a little more deeply into the girl behind the sweaters.


Image from Katwise’s Facebook page

But first, can we just talk about the sweaters, please? If you haven’t clicked on the link to the Etsy store, go ahead and do it. I’ll wait. If you don’t want to click, just take a look at the above picture. She makes these incredible “upcycled” coats from thrift store sweaters that she hacks up and reassembles. And they are SO INTENSE. So much color, so much swirliness (which isn’t even a word but I DON’T CARE), they are unapologetically FUN. I want one SO BAD, and not just because they are ridiculously cool, but also because buying one would mean supporting Kat and I am all in favor of helping her continue her outpouring of awesome.

I visited her website to find out more about her and holy crap, does this woman do more than just sweaters. She travels. EVERYWHERE. She paints crazy, colorful murals. She has owned and painted up two school buses that have garnered her plenty of attention wherever she goes*. And she supports her endeavors solely by selling her gorgeous creations.

The most inspiring thing about Katwise, for me, is how she fully supports herself with her sweater sales and does not let fear get in the way of doing what she feels in her heart she should do. It’s a seemingly endless supply of inspiration reading about some of the places she’s been…places I’ve never even considered going myself. At one point on her website, she mentions that throughout all of her adventures, she’s done it all without ever being under the influence of drugs. This really spoke to me, because as a person who doesn’t do drugs, I sometimes worry that I’m missing out on some sort of intense creative experience. (This might be a strange thing to worry about, I don’t know.) But seeing the gallons of creativity this woman pours out on a daily basis, 100% DRUG FREE…I feel at ease that I’m not, in fact, missing out at all.

Most recently, she’s been remodeling her house to be the ULTIMATE whimsical paradise. I HIGHLY recommend visiting her facebook page and having a look at the pictures she’s posted of the project. A bright, smiling (literally), rainbow-colored fairy-tale house…not to be believed.

Lessons Learned From Katwise:

-Don’t be afraid to be BOLD

-Travel

-Live the life you want to live, without compromise

-Creativity comes from within

*It was seeing her multi-colored, gorgeous bus that lit the initial spark to not just own a tiny home, but a home I could drive around.