Last night, my friend Alison interviewed me for her awesome podcast called "Permission to Play." In her words, "I interview people who are interrupting their industry, breaking the rules, and following their heart's curiosity." I absolutely loved the idea. Then it got me thinking about how to incorporate more play in our lives as adults. You can catch the podcast in which she interviews me here.
So here are my thoughts on how to incorporate PLAY more in your life:
Yeah, we know all of the research about how it's so bad for us to multi-task and how single-tasking is the new multi-tasking. We know that LED light before going to bed makes it even harder to fall asleep at night. We know that checking social media and keeping up with the Joneses makes us more depressed. Did you know that hunching over a screen also makes you less assertive? So unplug for just 10 minutes a day and create some space in your mind to even begin thinking about PLAYING.
2. THE ART OF DOING NOTHING
When was the last time you did PURE, AWESOMENESS, ELATED nothingness? Be honest. When you just sat and had nowhere to be, nothing to do, no appointments, no agenda, and you just were? I totally catch myself grabbing my phone when I'm waiting for someone or in between appointments. I feel you. Recently, I've been trying to catch the beautiful sunsets I can see from my apartment. I try to savor and capture the beautiful reds, oranges, and sometimes purples that are left behind even after the sun goes down. Try doing nothing. It'll further help create space and ideas for PLAY.
Do you remember when you were a child and you would just while your time staring up at the sky or imagining some wild and crazy adventure? Which then led you to actually having a wild and crazy adventure? Those were the days. Did you know that daydreaming is actually good for us?! Hallelulujah! A new study came out that showed daydreaming is actually not a sign of ADHD but that we are creative and smart! Whaaaaat?! Get your daydreaming caps on.
4. CREATIVE CONFIDENCE
In most of my workshops, I have participants draw something. Invariably, there will be one or two participants who will say, "I'm not good at drawing," or they will try to hide their drawing as I walk by. I get it, I've been there. I used to feel that way all the time, up until I read this book: Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. It's written by two brothers; David founded an awesome global design company called Ideo (pronounced like idea but with an "o"). He also founded the Stanford Design School otherwise known as the d.school and gave a great TED Talk about how to build your Creative Confidence. And no, you don't have to be an artist to be creative and PLAY.
5. USE YOUR HANDS MORE
My dad recently took up woodworking after retirement. He has since built my niece a rocking horse, he has built my mom a 1940s Packard car (similar to the one her grandfather used to drive), and his latest project is a Woody: a station wagon that was popular in the 1960s (!). In a recent phone conversation he admitted he always wanted to use his hands to do this kind of work, and he is so grateful he gets to do it now in retirement. I think there is a certain level of satisfaction to make something WITH your hands. For me, baking and cooking is that something. It makes the meal taste that much better.
6. SCHEDULE PLAYDATES
I have a lot of friends who have kids, and I imagine they also schedule playdates. One of my girlfriends came over with two of her daughters a month ago, and they asked me point blank, "Do you have daughters? Where are they?" They were looking for play dates. My friend laughed it off, but it got me thinking that we adults could do the same. After all, play takes on a whole new meaning when you have play dates.
7. GET GAMING
I don't mean on a device or video games. I mean in real life. Last weekend, Edgar and I pulled out Taboo. For those of you who haven't played it or heard of it, you have to describe a word without using the list of words on the card. Edgar and I had so much fun using inside jokes, being a little bit competitive WITH each other, laughing like kids, and PLAYing.
8. EMBRACE YOUR INNER CHILD
It's funny how as children, we spend so much of our time trying to "grow up" that as adults we often forget to "grow down" and embrace the inner child within. Sometimes when I interact with my niece, I realize that in her world, everything is uncomplicated and simple: she just wants to PLAY and enjoy life. That's it. Wait, life can actually be that simple. We just overcomplicate things.
9. DON'T TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY
Last night I watched a movie about J.D. Salinger's life called Rebel in the Rye. After The Catcher in the Rye came out and Salinger became more well-known, people started approaching him and asking him about his novel more. At a dinner party, where he met his future wife, she asked him, "Why are you taking yourself so seriously? It's just a book. I mean, I didn't really even like it that much." Yeah, Salinger, you need to incorporate a little bit more play in your life.
10. COMFORT ZONE
When you play, you're exploring, you're pushing yourself to stray from the norm to the new. Even though initially being outside of your comfort zone feels scary and nerve-wracking, it is actually good for your brain and helps you build new neural pathways! We can actually change our brains.
So what are you waiting for? PLAY more!
*Dedicated to + inspired by my friend Alison who inspires others around her to PLAY.*
I love telling the story of my friend June's 9 year-old son, Brevyn. The story of how he stuck up for his friend Claire who got shoved by another boy, and how Brevyn came to Claire's aid saying, "We don't hit girls." When I asked June how she thought he learned that behavior, she said, "It started early...like in pre-school. He knew and all of my kids know that even if someone hits you, you don't hit back. And you always stand up for someone who is littler than you--boy or girl."
GRIT > GRADES
At Starbucks, after a warm bowl of yukgaejang (spicy beef soup), I sat and asked my friends (two incredible moms) how to create "successful" humans. June immediately said, "Well, it's about grit, isn't it? Research shows this and proves this." I instantly recalled Angela Duckworth's book Grit in my mind. "Kids model your behavior. Beyond grades, you wanna raise kids who will persevere through the tough times, through those extreme times of adversity." I thought of how her father-in-law, their grandfather had just recently passed away. I admired how they were all holding up in their own grit.
For all the challenges being connected online present, one of the things I am grateful for is Class Dojo. It's a website that allows me a sneak peek into what my 5 year-old family member is up to in her kindergarten class. Some pictures that have caught my attention recently are a behavior-based evaluation system. Each student is given a secret number, and each number is placed next to a chart which tells them how well they are behaving. In September, my family member won a "Shining Star" award for "exhibiting integrity by doing the right thing when no one is watching."
Imagine if our workplaces actually evaluated employees the same way? I think perhaps we would have less corporate bullying and crazy CEOs slapping their employees and making them kill chickens with a bow and arrow? Ummm...recent true story that has come to light in Korea. Read about it here.
ENVIRONMENT > "SUCCESS"
Chenoa chimed in, "It depends on your definition of success. You know, that's going to be different for everyone. I just want my kids to look back on their lives and be able to say that they lived a full life--and be able to appreciate their lives. It's not about money or the superficial things either." I thought about how she lived her creed, as she was about to embark on a mission trip to Japan the following week. "All we can do is provide a loving and supportive environment in which they can be as successful as they want to be."
A good friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that one of her elementary school aged daughters had woken her up in the middle of the night with a nightmare. "Mom, I had a nightmare of the lockdown drills, but they were actually real, and there was a bad man who was coming to get us." My friend asked for love and support not knowing quite what to tell her daughter. Would grit be enough in this case?
On my weekly call with Dom, a fellow coach, she talked about a woman she serendipitously ran into. She was a total badass. She had written a book but didn't want to promote it locally. As I listened to the story of this woman, I thought of all of the women I had coached, and so many other women I had met who were all badasses, as well as myself. Yet there was a holding back when it came to their own success, my own success. "Kyla, you know what I think? I think you fear success," Dom boldly gave me feedback. I couldn't disagree with her. Is that something I learned as an adult? Because I certainly don't remember fearing success as a child.
POLLUTION of the MIND
As we said our "goodbyes" outside Starbucks, June put her mask on. It was an apocalyptic day: Air quality readings were at 167 (RED)--similar levels to the ones in China. Chenoa commented, "I just don't feel like I have energy with this pollution." I began thinking about how on a micro level, these women were going back to being "productive members of society" in their own words. They were really moulding future generations of leaders. On a macro level, something had gone seriously wrong with the current leaders that had allowed and created this pollution. It was nowhere near a successful or sustainable model for anyone. Perhaps our minds were polluted as adults to believe that success looked like money at the expense of everything else and everyone's health (mental/physical).
I learned about Mindvalley, a global school that delivers transformational education that is powered by the community. The guy who started it Vishen Lakhiani talks about how Mindvalley began as just him offering classes on meditation. He had quit his corporate job at Microsoft and everyone told him that he had gone mad. He and his business partner were trying to scale the business by going to all of these classes on strategy, marketing-- all of the classes they thought they needed in order to succeed. Then one day, they happened upon a class on mindset. They thought they wouldn't need it in order to succeed, but went anyway. And that is when things started happening. Now he has more than 200 employees from more than 45 countries and his company is a multi-million dollar company. Oh and they are creating more successful humans in the world through transformational education. Not too shabby.
FriYAYs WITH Kyla + Special Guest Anna Koj | On Change + Happiness | November 2, 2018
I have wanted to write and communicate WITH you for several years now, but I am not sure I knew what I wanted to say nor how to say it. You should also know, I avoid confrontations like the plague, I always have. I would rather go around doing something or saying something, anything, just so I can avoid saying what needs to be said or doing what needs to be done. Today that ends here WITH this letter to you.
I first met you when I was in elementary school. I was taught that if I avoided you, I would have a (false) sense of safety and even security. If I didn't follow the school's rules or society's rules for that matter, I would feel you breathing down my neck in the form of a stern talk or a scolding. So I always tried my best to avoid seeing you.
As I grew older, I found that you were inextricably linked to success. My idea of success was all about getting good grades so that I could eventually get into a good college, get a good job, then a good ____, and a good _____, and so on and so forth. My parents didn't push me, they weren't tiger parents per se, but my sister and I always knew that we had to get good grades. I recall in middle school and even high school, how my heart would beat faster and I would feel you creeping up on me when I'd get a report back or a homework assignment back.
In high school in the U.S., you taught me to fit in. I would sense you coming, intuitively, when I'd say something different in my British accent like "bin" instead of "trash can." It was at times subtle-- a glance here, a whisper there. And at times not so subtle--not getting invited to weekend outings, not having people to sit with at meal times, and not having anyone to walk to breakfast with in the mornings. I grew to avoid you by losing my British accent so I could conform.
In college, I began trying to understand the world around me more. I'd read the news or I'd watch T.V. I sensed you coming whenever I met people who didn't look like me or who may come from a different background from me. I recall meeting people from a different religion who also encountered you and definitely didn't want to hangout with me because I wasn't particularly religious at the time.
You would show up, after college, whenever I wanted to try something new, whenever I wanted to push myself. You were there in all of my travel adventures whenever I would go to a new and exotic destination. You were there when I started speaking globally. You were there in all of my new jobs. For better or worse, you were a constant companion throughout my 20s/30s.
IT'S TIME to CHANGE
In the last year or so, I have been doing some work on myself WITH myself and realized that I don't really need you in my life anymore. I don't mean this in a harsh or negative way. I think I have learned a lot WITH you over the last four decades you have been in my life. You have taught me some incredibly powerful lessons, like that you live inside my mind, and that if I want to change, well, you have got to go. I am grateful for all of our time together, all of the memories, I will never forget you.
Yes, this is us breaking up.
CRUTCHING -> CRUSHING IT
Basking in the fall sun like cats at Coffee Bean, we sipped our green tea lattes letting our Thai lunch warm our bellies. Inevitably with Dom, Brendon Burchard's name would come up. She had attended a conference where he and a bunch of other life gurus spoke. I looked at her enjoying her green tea latte, wondering if I she would be open to feedback on how I thought she had been CRUTCHING IT.
"Hey...you know how you bring up Brendon Burchard a lot?" I started out slowly and cautiously.
"Hahahaha...is it that obvious?" She burst into laughter. You could always count on Dom to laugh WITH herself.
"Well, why do you think you refer to his stuff more than your own stuff?" I asked.
"Oh, I like to learn...I mean I love learning new stuff..." she answered openly.
"Why don't you learn new stuff about YOURSELF then rather than Brendon Burchard?"
CREATE YOUR OWN SHIT
Whenever presenters use stock photos or memes that they didn't create themselves, I would feel myself getting increasingly irritated. I never really knew why, but I would just say in feedback to my past university students or other presenters seeking my advice, "Why don't you take your own photos? And use them? You could create your own meme too!" Ok, I know it's a lot of work to create your own stuff, and it's easier to hit <CONTROL C> and <CONTROL V> but that's only short-term. Long-term, when you create your own stuff, you are learning in the process about yourself.
TIDY YOUR LIFE
At Dom's house, I picked up and quickly skimmed Marie Kondo's book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up." From what I could gather she warns readers not to do a bit of tidying up here and there, but rather she recommends getting rid of stuff that doesn't spark joy anymore. It made sense: from a happiness point of view, I had learned that if we don't have physical spaces in which to be, mentally it would be almost near impossible to invite happiness in. Kondo goes on to say how clients of hers had radically changed their lives after taking her courses on tidying.
Over dinner that night, Dom and I joined Riza for our monthly mastermind. Riza talked about someone in her life that was not bringing her joy anymore. She went on to list reasons (or were they excuses?) as to why she couldn't quite let this person go, even though this person had deeply hurt her. Why is it so much easier to toss out that old pair of skinny jeans than speak your truth to someone who has hurt you? Or is it just perceived as such in our minds?
As most of our mastermind sessions ended--with full bellies, full hearts-- this one also ended with a simple yet profound question: "What can we do to help you or support you?" We took turns answering. The spotlight was on me now. Dom recalled our Coffee Bean conversation and asked, "You know, do you really want to do The Happiness Workshop stuff or have you been using it as a CRUTCH?" My heart stopped. I mean, I had just spent a ton of money on my Happiness Workshop promo video, I knew all this data/research on Happiness, and I had so many more reasons or were they excuses? Was she right?
Our IKEA table in our master bedroom is covered with brown wrapping paper. You know, the kind that you wrap parcels with before you send them off? On that brown paper, I have scribbled my vision board if you will around 3 words. Marie Kondo will be happy to hear, I cleared up a bunch of stuff that was lying on top of those 3 words so I can actually see them clearly now! I began telling Riza and Dom about those three words I came up with: "It began because my friend Tammy asked me what I wanted to do? What I saw myself doing? And I think I just blurted out, I really just wanna travel, speak (my truth), and inspire...I wanna go on my book tour and talk about WITH vs AT. I wanna talk about my own shit."
Riza's two dimples lit up her face and she beamed, "Kyla, you look so much happier talking about WITH vs AT, I really feel like it's the thing that lights you up." I looked over at Dom and she smiled and nodded.
There it was. I had tidied up my life into three words that sparked joy: TRAVEL.SPEAK. INSPIRE. I had been using other people's research and work on Happiness as a crutch, so I wasn't crushing it, and it was high time for me to not just tell people to create their own shit, but start doing that myself.
Thanks Dom + Riza.
"Kyla, I am one of your biggest fans. I just watched your TED Talk," he said. He had risen in the ranks of a large conglomerate in Dubai, and had tons of philanthropic side projects including an inspiring leadership program for educators. Wow, I can't believe he just started our 15-minute phone call with that line, I thought.
A STAR IS BORN->BELIEVED IN
Lady Gaga makes her acting debut and Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut in this remake. While watching the movie tonight with a good friend, we were taken by the rawness of the acting and the fact that Bradley Cooper actually sang his own songs. Beyond the technical aspects of the film, I couldn't help but think back to an interview Lady Gaga gave in which she attributed her acting debut to Cooper saying this: "Bradley told me to trust him, so I did." In the movie, Cooper's character tells Gaga's character do that exact same thing as well.
I am a huge fan of America's Got Talent. Although in Korea, I can't watch every single episode, I catch most of the Golden Buzzer moments on YouTube. What is interesting to note is after every single Golden Buzzer gets hit, and the beautiful golden snow flake-like confetti sprinkles down, amidst the roar from the crowd, the contestant inevitably runs towards whoever is waiting back stage and gives them a big hug. Then the tears come for them and me.
A year ago, I got to see Sully Sullenberger speak. You may recall in 2009, he landed that US Airways flight on the Hudson River and got all 155 crew and passengers to dry land safe and sound. What you may not know is that he credits that day to his crew. He goes on to say that the media and everyone else likes to credit him with the safe landing, but he said he could NOT have landed the plane without the help of the two flight attendants who kept passengers calm and his co-pilot who was by his side in the cockpit. I was also pretty impressed that he was able to keep us all captivated with his story of how this was all possible for 60 minutes without a single Power Point slide!
AN EDUCATOR TURNED COMEDIAN MANAGER
My friend Jennie from college left her job as an elementary school teacher to jump into the world of Comedian Management. When Jennie started, she was the first and only female manager at her company (!). On one visit to LA several years ago, she took me to UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) Theater (think raw version of SNL). I remember asking her if it was affiliated to UC Berkeley! One night, we ran into one of her clients: Hasan Minhaj. At the time we met, it was just "Hasan," way before Homecoming King (one-man show on Netflix), way before he was the featured speaker at the White House Correspondent's Dinner; and now Patriot Act just came out on Netflix, Jennie has been as proud as ever posting pics on FB--like an older sister.
BE A BELIEVER
What if that guy and countless other people had never told me that they were a fan? What if Bradley Cooper had never believed in Lady Gaga? What if family/friends/significant others weren't on the sidelines supporting their loved ones believing they could win the entire America's Got Talent competition? What if Sullie's crew hadn't worked as a team to support Sullie believing that he could land that plane on the Hudson that fateful day? What if Jennie hadn't believed that Hasan could have a career in comedy?
Often it's easier to be apathetic. I've been there. Or maybe it's not even about apathy, but somehow you see people's "successes" and you think, "Why not me?!" I've been there too. The thing about prosperity is there is plenty of it. Being a fan, a champion, a BELIEVER in someone else--no matter the outcome, serves to amplify that prosperity and abundance. You have to start practicing BELIEVING WITH someone. Then you start seeing your own life from a place of abundance rather than lack. And maybe, just maybe you start supporting, and believing in the most important human out there: YOU!
*Dedicated to + inspired by Jennie*
Dear Mr. Bowers,
Hello, my name is Kyla. You don't know me and I don't know you. I live in South Korea, but I have been to Pittsburgh once to visit my friend Katherine who is getting her Ph.D. at The University of Pittsburgh. Although it may seem that it would be impossible for us to have ever crossed paths: you someone from the trucking industry and me someone from the happiness coaching industry; but perhaps unbeknownst to either of us our paths crossed when I visited my friend Katherine in Pittsburgh in 2012? Perhaps our cars were on the same freeways, perhaps we visited the same grocery stores, perhaps we walked along the same sidewalks, and most of all, perhaps we are more connected than we ever know because we are both HUMAN?
I have dealt WITH an inner bully for most of my adult life: I never felt good enough. I got into Harvard where I met my friend Katherine, incidentally, and I still didn't feel good enough. I sought to fill my external cup with awards, accomplishments, global speaking gigs, and the like. When all along, my internally-validated cup was empty. No matter how much water I poured into my externally-driven cup, it would not overflow into my internally-validated cup. And so my inner bully raged on.
TALKING WITH YOUR EGO
Most of our deepest fears are ego-driven, Mr. Bowers. For example, take the fact that most people fear public speaking more than death. Crazy right? Well, if we were to unpack that a little, we could figure out what is actually at the bottom of this fear. Why do we fear public speaking? Because we fear judgment. Why do we fear judgment? Because we want to be accepted. Why do we want to be accepted? Because we come from a long line of hunters and gatherers. When one person was ousted from the tribe, what was the likelihood that he/she would survive through the night by him/herself? Yeah, that signaled death.
Don't let your ego talk AT you.
TALKING WITH OTHERS
Last night I watched two men talk about one of the men's sons and how he had cancer at the age of 3. One of the men visibly teared up, the other one loosely acknowledged it. And you never really even knew what had happened because it was all shrouded in vague language. It was Michael Buble and James Corden on Carpool Karaoke. Buble's son had been diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 3. He is still undergoing treatment. I get it, sometimes it's hard to say things out loud, like "My son has cancer," or "I hate Jewish people," but that is how change is created.
Have an uncomfortable conversation WITH someone.
SEVERE AT COMMUNICATION
You know how some people's worlds are separated into black and white? While others see more grey? Well, to me my world is separated by WITH and AT communication. I see everything through that lens. Allow me to explain. If you have a WITH conversation WITH yourself to try to figure out where the anger is really coming from and you respond to it, rather than react to it, you will be a lot less stressed out. As I mentioned earlier have comfortable or uncomfortable conversations WITH others who are different from you, you will GROW and become a better person. When all of this breaks down, stress occurs, and we humans cannot think clearly. We fall back on our limbic systems (which don't allow us to creatively problem solve) and we do what we have done in the past. We fall back into negative behavioral and/or thought patterns. We all do it. Then we talk AT ourselves: that inner bully comes out, and then it really comes out to others AT others.
A WITH TOOL: EMPATHY
I can deeply empathize WITH you. The government took everything my grandparents had away from them, and during WWII, they were placed in an internment camp. My uncle was born in an internment camp, my grandfather would carry ice-cream in his hands back for his children, and my grandmother once had a gun pointed at her. My mom never trusted people, least of all people who were darker than us. I ended up marrying a Mexican-American man who was the first in his family to go to college and grad school. Growing up, both my parents were quite negative, so I knew nothing different. You'll be happy to hear, my husband is one of the most positive people I know, and despite everything he has overcome in his life, he remains positive and has helped every single person in my family see the positive in the negative.
What do you think your story of struggle is Mr. Bowers?
We all have a story of struggle. It ends WITH you WITHin you, not WITH others.
Mr. Bowers, if you have read this far, allow me another paragraph. It is this WITH communication that would have allowed you to deeply empathize WITH the people in the Tree of Life Synagogue. Let's bring you back to Saturday morning. Imagine the tables had been reversed and you had been in the synagogue. You would have wished to communicate WITH the shooter, right? Explain WITH the shooter that even though you are different, even though your religions and ideologies are different, even though you may seem different on the outside (like you and me) that we are all humans, and therefore inextricably linked.
If you have gotten to the end of this letter WITH me, I am grateful that you have been able to understand just how important communicating WITH vs AT is and how much it can truly change not just your own life, but the lives of the humans you communicate WITH.
Wishing you WITH Success,
As we danced to the music, I looked out at the women: they may have looked different on the outside, they may have had different experiences in life, but what brought us together last night was our calling to EMPIRE (EMpower + insPIRE).
Allow me to explain.
A few months ago, at one of my Happiness Workshops, I met a fellow Happiness + Success Coach named Dom. She had arrived in Seoul just a few short months ago, but was bursting with energy and excitement to create change in the burgeoning coaching space in Korea.
I thought this could play out one of two ways: 1) I could wish her well and see her as "competition;" or 2) I could collaborate WITH her, EMPIRE her, in the way I wish I had had a mentor in Korea when I first started.
I chose the latter.
On the phone before the workshop, she was her usual effervescent self:
"Kyla!! Are you excited? How are you feeling?"
"Yeah, I am feeling pumped!"
"Hey, let's come up with like a slogan or something we say before we do our workshops!"
"Ok...what did you have in mind?"
"You know...maybe we could combine EMPOWER + INSPIRE"
Silence as we were both in deep thought.
"How about EMPIRE!!" Dom shrieked excitedly.
At our very first W.E. (Women Empowering) Women Workshop last night, we were living and breathing what we had wanted to create for the women who attended the workshop: we trusted each other, we respected each other, we gave each other the space to EMPIRE, and we were ourselves.
After the workshop, two good friends commented, "It was so smooth. You guys worked so well together." Another workshop participant was surprised to learn that Dom and I had met just months ago. She thought we had been friends for years because of our rapport.
Over lamb BBQ dinner, Dom and I talked about the highlights of the workshop:
A friend who had come even texted me this after the workshop:
"Thank you for an empowering and brilliant workshop. I am so happy I came. It was a really wonderful, insightful, positive, and nurturing workshop. Loved absolutely every minute of it. And you were just so amazing and fantastic. Keep on moving forward!!! You are a superstar and my inspiration."
On the walk from dinner to Starbucks, I felt relieved. It was as if I had been one of the participants. I had struggled alone to create change in Korea. It was as if I had been facing my own judgment within. It was as if I had needed that EMPIREment just as much as they did. And I finally had a partner-in-EMPIREment in Dom.
Waiting for a taxi near some corporate buildings, Dom dropped the last EMPIRE bomb of the night:
"Kyla, what is it that YOU really want to do? I mean, I am grateful that I get to work WITH you, and you EMPIRE the heck out of me, and I wanna be like you in a few years, but what really gets YOU pumped up and how can YOU level up?"
I was stunned. I mean, hadn't we just walked out of an awesome collaborative workshop? You know, like that music video where Taylor Swift has all of her besties star in? Bad Blood? Where they walk out and their hair is blowing, their skin is glowing, and they just blew up a building...
I blinked to buy myself some time. She smiled as she always did, excited about my response.
"Well...I have this thing that I wrote on this long piece of paper covering the desk in my bedroom...it's just three words: travel, speak, inspire->empire..."
"Then do it! Make it happen, Kyla. You can do it. Level up!"
And just like that, when you think you have empired someone, they empire you back.
EMPIRE strikes back.
Thanks, Dom and all of the amazing women who helped EMPIRE us last night.
On my recent FriYAYs WITH Kyla, I asked a favor of the awesome bootcamp ladies in my class while working out: Would you mind answering this question on my FB Live show: "What do you love about yourself?" I could immediately feel a shift in the room-- a discomfort if you will. They worried about what to say, how they would look on camera, and that they may appear arrogant. I probed further as we were warming up: "Why do you think you would come across as arrogant?" Some women said that society had imposed impossible standards for us to live up to, and that when you talked about yourself in that kind of way, you appeared arrogant. It just wasn't socially acceptable. Having said all of that, the women used class time to thoughtfully come up with one outside quality and one inside quality they loved about themselves. And they nailed it. You can check out the video here for some inspiration. Not one to shy away from de-stigmatizing hushed topics like these, I thought I would take on the challenge and add it to my 100 things list. So here it is in a non-arrogant way:
1. I am thoughtful
2. I am creative
3. I can teach/coach the heck out of most things related to life
4. I have a knack for picking up languages
5. I am a pretty good connecter of people
6. I am less afraid of public speaking than I was as a teenager
7. I am super open to learning/growing
8. I've become pretty good at baking without processed sugar
9. My cooking skills overall aren't too shabby
10. I get to do what I love for my job
11. I am getting better at forgiving myself and others
12. I get to inspire people to be their best selves
13. My multicultural upbringing
14. My travel adventures
15. My unique and different perspective on life and most things
16. I haven't had to settle on life, love, relationships, career
17. I am grateful/thankful
18. I love giving
19. I am becoming more positive (thanks to my positivity coach, my hubby)
20. I am speaking my truth more
21. My relationship WITH my family is getting better and better
22. I get to work on myself for my job
23. I get to meet amazing people for my job
24. I get to be inspired by and WITH extraordinary people and inspire others
25. FriYAYs WITH Kyla
26. My website (I created)
27. I am generous
28. My idiosyncrasies
29. My LOUD laugh
30. My '90s hip-hop dance skillz (!)
31. I get to live in Korea
32. I am married to a phenomenal human
33. Working on not judging myself and others
34. Evolving everyday
35. Learning and growing as a human
36. I get to hangout WITH awesome women in my community
37. I laugh at and WITH myself
38. I love being a kid and refusing to grow up
39. I am open
40. I am easy to get along WITH
OUTSIDE: (Wow, this was hard!)
1. My freckles (especially my first noticeable one Fred on my nose)
2. The color of my eyes
3. My skin because it tans easy
4. My thick hair
5. My second toes (as they are longer than my big toes)
6. My 4-pack (still working on my 6-pack)
7. That I don't wear make-up
8. That I haven't had any plastic surgery done
9. I don't spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning (prefer sleep)
10. My hair is pretty easy to maintain
11. I don't have to use a lot of sunscreen
12. My nose hairs are not long (!)
13. My ear lobes don't stick out
14. My thick eyebrows that I haven't plucked or tweezed
15. My arm hair isn't too thick/bushy
16. When I don't shave my legs you can't really tell that much
17. The mole on the bottom of my left foot
18. My collarbone is sexy (!)
19. My legs and arms (they help me swim)
20. My knees (they help me sit cross-legged on the floor)
21. My body in a bikini (believe me this took a long time--most of my 20s)
22. My naked body in a mirror or a spa
23. My double-jointed fingers
24. My thighs
25. My smile
26. My non double eyelids
27. My stretch marks
28. My tan lines
29. My booty
30. My nose (where Fred lives)
31. Pretty comfortable being naked in front of strangers (thanks to boarding school!)
32. My bottom half in skinny jeans (I was quite late to the skinny jean trend--wait, is it over now?!)
33. My top half in tighter tops
34. My breasts (this has taken me most of my 20s as well)
35. My height (most people think I am taller than I actually am!)
36. My weight (a good friend of mine once told me it's not about the number on the scale, but how you feel)
37. My face
38. My feet
39. My hands
40. My hips
1. I don't beat myself up over stuff I can't control as much
2. My first name and my middle name (Hana which means flower in Japanese)
3. I am a strong, independent woman
4. My humor
5. My constant commentary in my mind and outside of it
6. That I talk to myself out loud sometimes
7. My quirky personality
8. I am not superficial
9. I try to be as authentic and genuine as possible
10. I can be vulnerable
11. I cry often
12. I have accepted a lot of my "flaws"
13. I am ok with who I am
14. I say "I love you" quite frequently
15. I don't hide who I am
16. I am friends WITH people across generations/races/ethnicities
17. I am understanding
18. I am working on being patient
19. I am a writer now!
20. I am a work-in-progress
It took my friend and I walking around and around Dongdaemun Design Plaza in circles before we finally happened upon the line to get into the actual show. As we walked passed people in the general seating line, we flashed our VIP tickets (that had been generously gifted to us be another dear friend), not knowing where we were headed or what to expect when we got there.
We were virgin fashion week goers.
It was a scene out of Vogue: lanky models walking up and down the catwalk to the beat of loud drum music and the never-ending clicking sounds of flashing cameras at the end of the catwalk.
I was captivated and drawn to their stoic facial expressions. I thought if I looked closer, I would catch a smile or even a smirk...but these were trained robots. The only movement was ever so slight eye contact to make sure they headed back when the next set of models were walking down. If you blinked, you could have missed it.
The experience was completely void of human connection.
CARING ABOUT THE INTERNAL > EXTERNAL
While watching these seemingly perfect humans walk back and forth with different designer clothes, seemingly perfect skin, and seemingly perfect hair, I looked around at the people who had come to watch. From my third row seat, I could tell everyone was as captivated as I was.
Then I thought, what if we took the time to care more about what was going on in our insides? Like our emotions, how we spoke WITH ourselves, our inner critic, accepting ourselves for who we are on the inside, and we actually had an entire show about that? Each season there would be a different emotion showcased? A different strategy to reclaim our inner lives?
IT'S JUST LIFE
In a psychotherapist's office, just hours before heading to Seoul Fashion week, I sat and had a conversation WITH Eunice about how to tackle mental health issues in Korea. We had met at another event she was speaking at about "How to Manage Stress." With her tiny frame, calm and listening demeanor, I could see how clients could sit for hours in her office. Not to mention she had been practicing psychotherapy for more than 20 years. She specializes in Sandplay therapy (a therapy involving toy figurines), so one of her shelves is completely covered in tiny toy figurines.
"Our clients are 90% foreign and 10% Korean. The Koreans don't really come out of fear that someone will find out. You know, I see a therapist, I wrote an article in this magazine about it. I mean, I want people to see that it's not a big deal. We all need to take care of ourselves. It's not even about mental health, it's just life."
We went on to talk about how people hide their emotions and their feelings for fear of people finding out that somehow they aren't perfect.
Wait, we are ALL not perfect. We are imperfect humans. IT'S JUST LIFE.
With that, she hands me the magazine and tells me I can take it with me. I leave feeling like I have just had a therapy session WITH her and hopeful that together we can create change around...LIFE here in Korea.
SUNDAY MORNING SURPRISE
It was a typical Sunday morning: I slept in, did some laundry, just got back from exercising. Then I saw the notification I had a voicemail on Whatsapp from my friend Gloria: "I was just thinking of you...you inspire me a lot with your sincerity, genuineity, and Kylality." She went on to say she was at the beach and thinking back to when we met at the swimming pool in Mumbai, while we were both there for a Corporate Happiness Bootcamp training in June.
During an activity in which we had to see (through movement) how much we thought we were creating change in our own organizations at the bootcamp, I could feel my body physically hesitate. I didn't feel as if I was really creating change yet. Gloria firmly took my hand, and led me to where she was standing: the firm "YES, I am creating change" section.
It was hard to not fall madly and deeply in love WITH Gloria: she had the kind of warmth that made you feel like you had known her in a previous life. She gleefully stood out because she didn't fit in to any social norms. Whether she was sitting on the floor cheering, or hugging participants she had just met, or singing and dancing to her own tune (literally and figuratively), she truly embodied HAPPINESS.
Whenever I spoke to the Indian gurus, they would inevitably bring her up: "You know, think about Gloria. She doesn't really care what others think of her. She has really done the work to get to that stage of oneness."
On Friday night, I invited some new coach friends over for dinner. Over pork adobo and stir-fried bok choy, we eagerly chatted about everything we had worked on (and were still working on) to get to where we were as coaches. I confided in them that I was at the 25 mile mark with my book. I could almost see the finish line, but I wasn't sure if I could make it to the end. I further admitted that I had had a mini breakdown WITH my hubby about it all a few days ago. Both coaches talked about their parents and how their parents had made them feel "Not Good Enough." Everything they shared, I felt like I had experienced the exact same thing in my own life.
I nodded, inhaling deeply, sipping on my ginger tea.
After a story I shared about how I had met my hubby, one of them said, "Kyla, you're such a great storyteller. I should bring you home so you can tell some stories to my kids!" Nobody had ever said that to me before. The other coach chimed in, "Wow, I have goosebumps."
After they left, my apartment felt re-energized, heck I felt re-energized. We (the apartment and I) were glowing with a new found possibility. My stories meant something--not just to me--but to others.
BEFORE GETTING TO -ITY
As the Indian gurus mentioned, Gloria did the work on herself. You have to do the work on your SELF, WITH your SELF. An old high school friend put it to me like this when I was going through my quarter-life crisis, "It's like peeling an onion, Kyla. You have to keep peeling, and it may smell, it may make you cry, you may not like the process, but once you get to the core of who you really are, that's where the real you is."
And I would add, that is where the -ITY begins.
What is it that makes me, ME? I used to be a people pleaser, and a whole lot of other things, because I always felt I was not good enough. But what is this Kylility that Gloria spoke of? The question lingered in my head well after she sent me that voicemail. I think it's a turning inward to see who I really am, rather than running away or finding external validation. It's a mindset of being kinder, more loving, more compassionate toward and WITH my SELF. It is my true vulnerability: the tissue on my face when I leave the house, my unbrushed hair, my imperfectness, the uncomfortable sometimes awkward things I write about and speak about, it's a gumption (my friend MK likes to say that I have a lot of it) to create change that is so necessary but so hard at the same time, it's speaking unspeakable truths, it's the audacity to want to lift an entire country's happiness set point (look out, Korea!), and bring myself up, up, up WITH it as well.
Can be found not neatly wrapped in a gift box, but through inward work, struggle, tears, and everything in between. It is in those moments where you believe you are at mile 25, and you can see mile 26, and it is an uphill climb. When you feel as if you really don't know who you are, your -ity will be just waiting to be found, discovered, uncovered, again and again. It will evolve as you do, as it should.
And just when you thought you couldn't climb that last hill, just remember the data from positive psychology: when you look at a hill alone, it seems steeper than it really is. However, when you look at a hill WITH friends or other people, it seems a lot more manageable.
Thank you, Gloria, and my new coach friends for making that "hill" seem that much more manageable.
Happiness coach, Theta Healer®, author, WITH Warrior in Chief <3