I’m sitting in the lobby of the ACE Hotel in NYC with a glass of rosé champagne, feeling fired up enough to be writing a blog post in a room full of drunk hipsters. I have a story to tell. It may be long, but I’ll do my best to make it good…
8 years ago, I was working for a very well-known luxury cosmetics company in Vancouver, Canada. I was making great money, led a team of 5 (up to 30 at events) – most of whom were older and more experienced in the industry than me – and was being primed for big moves up the corporate ladder. I was super ambitious, yet soft enough to be encouraging to the women I worked with. Not to mention, I was enthusiastic as hell (or maybe it’s just because I was 25). I was made for this job and I loved it dearly, totally dedicated to my vision of rising through the ranks in the company.
Then, one day, my world took an abrupt turn. My boyfriend (who I lived with) and I broke up. I thought we were going to get married, my friends thought we were going to get married, our families thought we were going to get married. We didn’t. Instead, we split and I moved in with girlfriends. My heart ached like nothing I’d ever felt and yet I knew it was the best thing for both of us. I felt fairly optimistic and totally terrified.
I knew exactly what I needed: an addiction.
I had done the addiction thing before. For as long as I could recall, I had been a compulsive overeater and I spent a lot of my early 20’s nursing ecstasy and cocaine hangovers. Yeah. Not cute.
Brokenhearted, I knew I needed something to focus on. At that point in my life, though, I had worked too hard and taken too many positive risks to go down those unhealthy roads again. I needed a healthy addiction. Naturally, being a 25 year old in Vancouver, I hauled myself into a yoga class. I dove in, and I mean all the way in. Within a few weeks, I was at my yoga studio 13 times a week (Sunday afternoons off!). No joke. I loved it, and I will never ever forget the day that I felt – for the first time – my heart beating and the blood moving through my veins. I was hooked…on life.
After several months of intense physical practice and several lengthy discussions with my yoga teachers about life, I made a nervous request to my primary teacher, Shakti – “Can I start coming to pranayama?”. In my yoga studio, this breathing class was invite only, so I knew my request was bold. “Yes“, she said, “I believe you are ready. But I have a few questions – do you do drugs, drink alcohol or take prescriptions?” “Um, no drugs…anymore. Every once in a while I have a drink. And, yeah, I have a prescription.” Before I tell you her response, I need to give you some context. As I was taught, because pranayama moves energy through the body rapidly, your body has to be super clean or else it can be unhealthy. Responsibly, she replied, “Okay, you can’t come to class if you’ve had drinks the night before, and I’d like you to see if you can get off your prescriptions first. See a doctor.” I was crushed, and totally determined to get my ass to class.
Within 3 days, I was sitting in my new naturopath’s office. Within 1 hour, my life changed forever. I walked out of that appointment and overhauled my diet and my entire lifestyle. I started painting, eating organic, reading ingredient labels and writing in a journal. I bought roller skates. I read Eckhart Tolle and Paul Hawken. I decided to “try” being Hindu again. I started wearing head wraps (à la Erykah Badu) and stopped wearing a bra.
I went from Cosmetics Superstar to Hippie Activist in 30 days flat.
I wore a polished uniform, slicked back hair and 18 items of cosmetics (I counted) by day; baggy cargo pants with combat boots and no makeup by night. Within 3 months, the misalignment was physically painful. One day, I walked to my naturopath’s appointment on my lunch break from work. Sitting there in my fancy pants, I watched the receptionist. She was the picture of c-a-l-m. In a gentle voice with a soft smile behind it, she answered a call: “Sage Clinic, this is Vanessa speaking”. Sigh. I wanted…a change of pace. I wanted…something like this.
1 hour later, I left my doctor’s appointment to go back to work. Impulsively (and flooded with unexplained courage), I called Vanessa: “Um, hi, it’s Nisha? I, um, was just there to see Arjuna. I was…gosh, now that I’m calling, I see this is a bizarre question, since you’re the only one I’ve ever seen working there…but, um, I was wondering if you’re hiring? For, I guess, a receptionist?“. I rambled on for another minute about how her c-a-l-m inspired me and I was ready for some of my own. She replied, “Wow, really? I’m actually leaving for nursing school in 2 weeks and we’re desperately trying to find someone to fill my position. Want to come back for an interview?” YES. I arrived back to my job, faked sick, and walked right back to the clinic. The next day, I walked into a meeting with my manager and gave my notice. They were shocked. Cell phones came out, calls were made, I was offered more money. “No, thank you. I’ve decided”. More money. “This is really generous, and I appreciate it so much, but I’ve decided.”
6 months later…
I had worked at The Most Zen Place On Planet Earth for 6 months and had fallen in love. I fell in love with the place, yes, but also with a man. On my 6 month anniversary of this delightful new life, I gave my notice again. This time it wasn’t for a more aligned job, it was for love.
I moved from Vancouver, Canada to Jersey City, New Jersey. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. My income was cut in half when I left my cushy cosmetics career, and now I plunged headlong into absolutely undeniable uncertainty. Within 3 months of landing in NJ, I’d run out of money. I got a job working at a cookie factory for $7/hour. In case you missed that, I’ll say it again: 7 years ago, I worked at a Cookie Factory for $7/hour.
You can’t make this shit up.
Passionate about whole foods nutrition and the power of meditation and yoga, I brainstormed a new career. It was exhilarating at best, painful at worst. In the course of that first year in the US, I found myself a job at an adorable little tea shop where I met my friend, Liz Long, who had just ditched her well-planned college career path to find meaning. Over 7am oat groats and chai tea, Liz and and I masterminded. We sketched out ideas on scrap paper, asking each other “Is this a crazy idea?” at least 5 times each day.
In 2007, I got married and started my company, which has evolved several times over the years.
In 2010, I separated, then divorced.
In 2011, I fell in love.
It’s 2012 now. In 8 years, I’ve gone from a cushy day-job that was no longer aligned, to making $7/hour at a cookie factory, to running a successful business that I love. I’ve gone from brokenhearted to married to divorced to in love. I’ve learned how to call my shot, aim and shoot, then trip and fall and keep on going.
It’s been deeply painful and deeply pleasurable. It’s been utterly defeating and totally enlivening.
It’s been worth it.
I haven’t felt this way every moment of every day (not even close), but when I look back, it’s the #1 thing that I’ve discovered to be vital to the process: COURAGE.
It takes courage to go against the grain, choosing the less comfortable and conventional path. It takes courage to follow your heart, even when you’re confused where she’s leading you. It takes courage to be criticized and keep going anyways. It takes courage to love after a broken heart.
Not surprisingly, the root of the word COURAGE is coeur – or HEART, in French.
When you read the definitions of courage, you’ll see that it is about boldly taking action, even in the presence of fear. It’s not about being fearless, it’s about connecting to your heart’s desire and moving forward even while you feel the fear of moving. Courage is about listening to the heart and honoring her desires through action.
Courage should be celebrated.
And yet, courageous acts are so often discouraged or, even worse, punished.
> As a Health Coach, I watched as The Powers That Be attempted to silence us from dispensing simple nutritional advice, like “eat more greens”, while they promoted artificial sweeteners and had their pockets padded from the big boys. They attempted to put us out of business, but our collective voices (and the voices of our clients everywhere who spoke up, too) were too strong to be silenced.
> Earlier this year, I watched in shock as the DC Taxi Commission pushed to pass the “Uber Amendment” (named after private car service, Uber) through DC city council. This amendment would have required any private car company to charge at least five times the minimal price of a taxi, openly stating that the point was to restrict competition. Can you imagine?! An innovative company is created to serve market demand (people like you and me who wanted a better service), and is forced to overcharge, which would effectively put them out of business? Thankfully, because people spoke up, the amendment was shelved.
As innovators and world-changers, it is our responsibility to defend courage.
Without it, there is no progress.
Courage is what has me so fired up right now, because someone I know is exercising great courage, and The Powers That Be are attempting to shut him down. I’m sure you can see why I won’t stand for it.
Tim Ferriss, author of New York Times bestsellers The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body is about to release his newest masterpiece (I’ve read an advance copy and it is indeed a masterpiece), The 4-Hour Chef. Tim has a heart of gold and is obsessed with delivering incredible value to his beloved readers. He is both a brilliant, prolific writer and an incredibly savvy entrepreneur. If you ever want to write a book, pay attention to how he executes his book launches.
When considering what publisher to go with for this 3rd book, he chose Amazon, the new kid on the block in the publishing world. He has long admired Amazon’s ability to get more books to more people, faster. They’ve listened to the requests of people like you and me, and created a way of delivering what we want. That’s called good business.
So here’s a guy – Tim – who has had people ask for X, he’s done the work to create X, and found the best way of delivering X. Courage! So, we’re celebrating it, right?
Some of us…
From Tim’s blog:
The 4-Hour Chef is being boycotted by 1000+ bookstores across the United States, led by Barnes & Noble.
Why? Because I’m the next big bet from Amazon Publishing. I now have armies of booksellers hoping me to fail, despite my only motivation: getting books to as many people as humanly possible.
Some retailers are rallying behind the book, but they are few and far between. I’m certainly grateful for their support and will help ensure they move copies.
The New York Times bestseller list is highly skewed towards print retail. This makes it a hard target for me, though I’m still gunning for it. No matter, I want to hit #1 on BookScan to send a message to the incumbent world of publishing, to those who want everything to remain in the 1900′s. If The 4-Hour Chef “wins” in any capacity, authors will feel freedom to experiment. If this book “fails” because the old guard makes of an example of me, their message wins: don’t mess with the system that keeps us fat and happy, or we’ll punish you.
Can you imagine if you had and audience you know and love who were asking you to create something for them, then you poured your heart and mind into building it for them and getting it to them, only to have your efforts intercepted by the old guard when you’ve done nothing wrong? It’s infuriating.
We vote in many ways, everyday, with the choices we make. I bought 25 copies of Tim’s book to send a strong message: courage prevails. Follow this link to join the fun.
This is our chance to stand up for COURAGE and INNOVATION.
p.s. Here’s Tim. Adorable, right?