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Posts from the ‘Connection’ Category

6 Quotes to Help You Embrace Small

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When I started Defying Small three years ago, I wanted to bring together an online community to help people live bigger, more passionate lives. Why? Because none of us wants to come to the end of our life and regret that we didn’t pursue the things we were created for.

Over dinner one night my boyfriend (now husband), Stephen, looked at me and said, I get Defying Small. But why aren’t you also writing about Embracing Small?

Embracing Small seems counterintuitive in the “Super-Size Me” culture we live in. But there’s a movement under way that’s all about Embracing Small—people downsizing and opting for tiny living spaces. Others who are getting rid of “stuff” so they can travel. They talk about how freeing it is. And there’s a reason.

Defying Small always begins with Embracing Small. No matter who we are, no matter how ambitious our dreams, we must start right where we are—with the gifts, talents, and resources we’ve been given. We have to embrace our small beginnings. Only then can we begin Defying Small, moving step-by-step towards our biggest life.

A few days after my conversation with Stephen, I changed my tagline—and the title of my book—to Defying Small, Embracing Small. That also changed the focus of my Defying Small Manifesto (click here to get the free, downloadable PDF).

As I pondered the idea of Embracing Small, I began finding quotes that inspired me. Some of them may be familiar. Each of them talks about the importance of Embracing Small. Please enjoy and share!

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Note: I love the photo above, taken when I was in Rwanda. My friends and I ran across this amazing group of women who had started their own micro financing co-op. Each woman owned a goat and was working towards purchasing a cow. Talk about Embracing Small!

How are you Embracing Small in your life? Feel free to comment, below.

 

 

 

An interview with Dr. Julia Burns: Defying Small through art

img_0098-224x300I recently had the privilege of talking with Dr. Julia Burns, a psychiatrist who has helped children, adolescents, and adults for over twenty years. When she is not working with patients, she enjoys painting, blogging, and spending time at the beach. Dr. Burns lives along New Hope Creek in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, Andy. They have three grown children.

In this interview, Dr. Burns shares insights into Defying Small through her “healing meditations.”

Q. You call yourself a healer/artist. How did you come to see yourself in that way?

A. I stopped working as the Medical Director of a child welfare agency in 1998, and I started writing a couple of months later, and painting a few months after that. I used my artistic work to create a healing space for myself from all the trauma stories I had heard. I also painted for my patients and my friends.

Q. How have you grown artistically over the past sixteen years?

A. I wrote my first poem in the middle of the night. I was working with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and praying for a way to heal others and myself. And I wrote a poem, “I Sing a Song for the Abused Child,” the song no one wants to hear.

I kept writing and writing, and I continue to write. I may meet a person in the airport who tells me their story. I write these stories, and then paint a picture over the story of the trauma they tell me. It can be the moon rising over a lake or a beautiful scene at the ocean or the mountains. I call them “healing meditations.”

8-julia-07-2013If someone has a physical illness like breast cancer—and I happen to be working through that now myself—we might draw their breast on the paper and write affirmations of their healing. Their children might write on it.

One client picked the 23rd Psalm and so we painted the view from her lake house in Canada and wrote the 23rd Psalm lightly over the water. If you’re a couple of inches away, you can see the writing. But if you’re across the room, it just looks like a painting of the lake. And that’s how it’s evolved, and that’s how it continues to grow.

Q. It sounds like you draw a lot of your inspiration from nature. Is that true?

A. Absolutely. All of my art comes from my relationship with other people, people I that love or animals that I love. And also from my relationship with nature. We bought a house on the New Hope Creek in Chapel Hill and I did a series of paintings from my backyard called “New Hope.” I have a place at the beach and I’ve done a lot of paintings of the beach, as well. Those places are meaningful to me.

Q. How do you nurture your creativity?

A. The most important thing for me is to have a lot of time alone—in silence, meditation, and discernment with God. And then to actually make sure that I go into my studio. A friend who helped me learn how to paint told me, “Go into your studio everyday, if it’s only to sharpen your pencils.” And I try to remember that. My studio is in a loft. And I find the inertia comes from just climbing the stairs and getting started. But once I get in there, two or three hours go by and I don’t even know it. And that’s what I love about it. It’s very meditative.

Q. How do you practice gratitude in your life?

A. I do practice gratitude in traditional ways, where you get up and go, “Wow, great shower and cup of coffee! Yahoo! I’m in the top percentage of blessed people on earth!” (laughs)

I was raised by very demanding parents, so it’s easy for me to fall into that. Right now I’m working on affirmations for my upcoming surgery. And one of the affirmations is, “I let go of any harsh judgments and criticisms of myself and others, allowing my heart to soften, knowing that brings healing to myself and others.”

I’d say that’s a constant challenge for me, because in my family we really loved each other, but there were very high expectations. So I have to guard against that as a standard for others. And I really believe that people are in different phases of their journey. And what looks like a baby step for one can be a giant step. We have to suspend judgment. Always.

You can’t be gracious and grateful if you’re critical and harsh. And so that is how I constantly practice gratitude. I’d say I’ve learned even more about that in the last two or three years. I’ve changed the system of therapy I’m working in and that’s been a big leap for me.

Q. Where are you most happy?

A. At the beach.

Q. Tell us about your series “Louise and the Lewis Sisters.”

img_0421A. I don’t call them paintings; I call them “The Girls.” And it’s my mother, who was the youngest of seven, and her six sisters. They were very strong women and I had a close relationship with each one. The oldest sister lived to be 100. She started the first library in Pitt County (NC) and was the mayor of Farmville from age 65-73. They all worked and they all raised their families, some of them by themselves. Again, there were high expectations. But they loved me and gave me this wonderful feeling of support, a sense that I was put in the world to make a difference, to make a mark.

Louise was our housekeeper who was with us every day of the week. I absolutely worshipped her and loved her. What I admired most was how loving, calm, and accepting she was, no matter what the situation. My sister was always losing her library book and it was always a catastrophe, a huge whirlwind of crying and angst. We’d be running around the house looking for the book and Louise would say, “Now Jamie, I want you to just think where you were the last time you had that book.” And Jamie would mumble something and Louise would just walk over and pick the book up.

When she died, I wrote a poem about her. I wanted to know who was going to plait my hair and scrub my ribbon red knees, because I was always falling down and she was always picking me up.

Q. You’ve just created a new series of paintings entitled, “What Were They So Mad About?” What compelled you to create this series?

A. The series is based on five artists that used their childhood trauma to catapult their creativity and inspire them to make the world a better place. I got the idea from my assistant, Eileen. Virginia Woolf is my favorite.

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I remember years ago when Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, came out. It’s a movie about 24 hours in the life of three women. Nicole Kidman played Virginia Woolf and it was amazing. I had read the book a few years earlier and I was looking through the bibliography and it mentioned that it drew from her memoirs and her sexual abuse by her brother. I was shocked. I had studied Virginia Woolf in college and I was a psychiatrist and took women’s studies courses and I had never heard that she was sexually abused. I had heard that she was bipolar, schizophrenic, bisexual, borderline—all these diagnoses—but I had never heard about her sexual abuse.

It inspired me to do a painting of her and write a poem, “What Was She So Mad About?” and they’re both featured in the show. I actually sent the portrait to Michael Cunningham and he said he put it over his writing desk to inspire him. That made me really happy.

In addition to Virginia Woolf, we also picked Tyler Perry, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey. I believe the inspiration also came from Maya Angelou’s death. Each one has a quote from their life about how they’ve used their inner experience to write their stories.

Q. How are you Defying Small in your life right now?

A. There are two things that come to mind. The first is when I was the Medical Director of a child welfare agency. I had learned nothing about child sexual abuse in my training. To become a child psychiatrist, you have to do a four-year residency in adult psychiatry and a two-year fellow in child psychiatry. You would think that I would have had a half-day seminar on child sexual abuse, because 80-90% of children who are institutionalized in childhood are sexually and physically abused.

So when I took that job, first, I didn’t know I was going to see so much of it, and secondly, I didn’t have a clue how to treat it. And boy, was I defying small every day when I got up and went to work. The children told me their stories and I believed them when no one else did. And I learned how to try to help them. And then when I stopped in ’99, I learned how to help myself by telling the world the stories of the children through my art. So that’s the first way that I defied small, and I do that every day for the children I love and take care of.

The way I’m defying small now is that I’ve just finished 24 weeks of chemotherapy and I’m getting ready to have surgery. I’m going to defy my survival statistics by living—and living well—with great health, vitality, strength and courage. So I think that goes back to what I said about my mom and her six sisters: They all defied small and I had great mentors. If for some reason things don’t go the way I want with this cancer, the way my family wants, I’ll still defy small. I know I will. I believe in living like that. It’s something that comes naturally to me.

Julia’s art show “What Was She So Mad About?” is on display at Caffé Driade in Chapel Hill, NC, through October 31, 2014.

You can follow Julia’s blog at juliaburns.org.

Defying Small: A Manifesto

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I have spent the past two months writing, editing and designing my Defying Small manifesto, a free, easy-to-read, 22-page, downloadable e-book. In it, I share ideas about how to defy small, embrace small, and begin living your biggest, most passionate life.

I hope you will:

– read it (click here)

– share your thoughts below

– share it with anyone you think might enjoy it

– share it on Facebook and Twitter (using the hashtags #defyingsmall    #defyingsmallmanifesto)

– consider exploring the principles of Defying Small in your daily life.

I hope Defying Small encourages you to take that first (or next) step. I enjoyed writing it and am excited about sharing it with you.

After you read it, please let me know what you think. I’d also appreciate hearing your stories of how you are Defying Small. To those have already done so, thank you! If you haven’t and you want to get in touch, my email is defyingsmall@gmail.com.

I am now getting back to work on my book Defying Small, Embracing Small: How to Live Your Biggest, Most Passionate Life. If you’d like updates about my book, as well as inspiring articles, blog posts, and quotes, please join me at Defying Small (Facebook) and Twitter (@defyingsmall).

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Share the Love and be the first to get my Defying Small Manifesto!

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Want to live a more passionate life but don’t know where to start? In just a few weeks, I will release my Defying Small Manifesto, a free, downloadable PDF that will show you how to DEFY SMALL by helping you:

– choose yourself
– overcome your fears
– make an action plan
– take that first step (or keep going) towards your biggest, most passionate life!

Take a moment and share this Valentine with your friends on Facebook. Tweet it to your followers on Twitter with the hashtag #sharethelove. Then email me at defyingsmall@gmail.com to let me know you’ve done that. In mid-March, you’ll receive an email with a link to a free, downloadable PDF of my Defying Small Manifesto (before it’s available to the general public). It’s that simple!

Thank you for your support of Defying Small. And thanks for Sharing the Love!

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Surprised by Joy

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Joy is in the business of surprise.

I went through a very difficult parting of ways yesterday with the person, next to my children, I love most on earth. I’d seen it coming. And not coming. But it came nonetheless.

I went to bed feeling sad, angry, hurt. I woke up knowing it was for the best. An opportunity for discovery and growth, and perhaps, one day, a deeper, more lasting connection.

As I stepped outside this morning, I saw a robin. Spring, I thought. I looked up at the sky, pastel and full of promise. I heard birds chirping. Not the usual Muzak twittering, but a lilting prayer.

And then I felt it. Joy.

5705397960_65628d1826_zWhy is it that joy so often surprises us? I believe it’s because we walk around expecting bad things to happen. Things like break-ups, a cancer diagnosis, a hit-and-run. We expect to be blindsided at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday. And, often, we are.

But we don’t expect joy. It frightens us. We’re afraid it will sneak in the back door, give us a momentary glimpse into Glory, and then leave just as quickly as it came.

Boom.

And we just can’t afford to let that happen. Are you kidding? More pain? So we keep up our defenses. We guard against vulnerability. Vulnerability will chink our armor, and, if we’re not careful, leave an opening for joy to enter in.

Yep, you’d better watch out for joy. It’s sneaky. And terrifying.

In this interview with Oprah for Super Soul Sunday, Brené Brown talks about “foreboding joy” and why, she believes, it is the most frightening of all emotions:

So now I understand my “joy moment”. It broke in because:

I loved with my whole heart.

I am grateful, so grateful, for this person and all we have shared.

I confess it’s not easy to write about this very personal thing that happened yesterday. It’s not easy to write, period. It means being vulnerable and keeping a lookout. For joy.

Have you ever been surprised by joy? I hope you’ll share your story, below.

10 Quotes from Alice in Wonderland That Can Help You Defy Small

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In honor of British novelist Lewis Carroll’s birthday on January 27, I thought I would share a few quotes and my reflections about defying small from Alice and her adventures in Wonderland.

#1 “When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

You know you’re living your dream when you wake up and can’t imagine doing anything else. If you’re not there yet, don’t lose heart. Just take that first step and, slowly, but surely, you’ll get there.

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#2 Alice: “Where should I go?” The Cheshire Cat: “That depends on where you want to end up.”

Have a plan (life plan, business plan, book proposal, etc.) Without one, you might eventually get to where you want to go, but you’ll waste a lot of precious time in the process.

 #3 “Be what you would seem to be—or, if you’d like it put more simply—never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others.”

Be authentic. You won’t please everyone, so don’t even try. Build a tribe of faithful followers and just keep doing what you do best. Those faithful few will show up and bring new followers along.

#4 “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

Sometimes you’ll think you are crazy to pursue your dream, whether it’s starting a new business, writing a book, or traveling around the world. Other people will think you’re crazy, too. Personally, I’d rather be creative and crazy than do nothing and live a life of regret.

#5 “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Be curious. When I want to master a new skill, I do my research and delve in. Take a risk and dare to try something new.

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#6 “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

The more passionately you pursue your dream, the more demands you’ll have on your time. Make a choice to get off the hamster wheel. This is your dream, after all. Slow down and enjoy the journey.

#7 “Why, sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I am most creative in the early mornings, so that is when I write. It’s also when my thoughts are most fluid and when the best ideas come to me. Find your prime time for creativity and guard it with your life.

#8 “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Once you decide to pursue your dream, there’s no turning back. You may be successful. You will probably fail somewhere along the way. If you are open and vulnerable, you will grow. But you will never go back to being the person you were before.

#9 “If you limit your actions in life to things that nobody can possibly find fault with, you will not do much!”

See #4.

#10 “If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”

Find a tribe of people who believe in your talents and abilities. Find a mentor to guide, empower, and encourage you. Show gratitude by believing in and encouraging those who believe in you. At the end of the day, it’s connection that counts.

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Which is your favorite quote and why? Feel free to share your thoughts, below.

Presents? Or Presence?

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The Whitfields: Jimmy, Annie Laura, Horace, Laura, Lawrence

School is out, my girls are home, things have slowed down a bit, and my thoughts have turned to presence. That’s right. Presence, not presents. While everyone else is rushing from one thing to the next, I’m thinking about the importance of being present. Here. Now. I know, the holidays are upon us with all of their crazy scurrying about. But, perhaps, that is when we need to be present most of all.

I got an email on Friday that kicked me in the solar plexus. No need to elaborate, but it could have ruined my day. I was about to begin Morning Meeting with my kindergarteners and wondered just how I could do that with composure. I took a deep breath, lifted a Help! prayer (Anne Lamott-style), sat down in my teacher’s chair and began.

First, I took a moment to look at the faces staring back at me. I pondered what I loved about each face, each personality. I drank in the fact that they were sitting there, literally looking up to me, waiting for me to reveal some new truth or teach them some new thing. My thoughts drifted for a moment back to the email. “Be present,” I told myself. “Don’t go there.”

santa3And, so, I did. Stay present, that is.* And I began to read Santa’s Favorite Story. It’s the book I read at the birthday parties for Jesus we held in our home each December when my girls were young. The story goes like this: Some animals find Santa sleeping in the forest on Christmas Eve and are worried that there isn’t going to be any Christmas. Santa tells the animals that Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with him, and he tells them the story of the first Christmas. He finishes by saying, “It’s my favorite story because it reminds me why we are so happy at this time of year. Love was the gift God gave to us on the first Christmas, and it still is, you know. And this love is far better than any presents I can deliver.”

There’s a lesson or two (or three) here, people.

One: Being present means taking care of yourself. The Big Guy is taking a nap on Christmas Eve. It’s his busiest day of the year and he’s practicing radical self care. Whoa. When you’re overwhelmed, stop and listen to what your heart (and body) are telling you. Then do at least one thing to take care of yourself. It’s amazing how it will energize you for the tasks ahead.

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Our Christmas tree

Two: Being present means focusing on the people around you. As many of you know who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, I’m addicted to social media. I could spend hours tweeting and posting and forgetting about everything and everyone around me. But my three beautiful daughters are here for a brief visit this week and I’m aware that our time together is precious. So I close my computer, turn off the ringer on my phone, and sit down with them to watch “Elf.” In minutes, we are laughing and quoting lines and being present with each other. I look at them sitting on the sofa, heads in laps, all beauty and light, and I fall in love with them all over again. So love the one(s) you’re with. Which brings me to my third, and last, point.

jan48xmas_largeThree: Being present means opening your heart to loving and being loved. I know, we’re all in pain. Someone we love is sick or dying. We’ve been wounded by our parents or our spouse. Our children are ungrateful. We’re out of money, time and patience. We’re a mess, we’re feeling vulnerable, and to heck with everybody. “I’m not going to let one more person in just to let them hurt me,” we mutter to ourselves. And right there is the very reason we should. We need love and we need to practice love. It’s what we were created to do.

Oh, yeah. That photo at the top? That’s a picture of my family taken at Christmas when I was about three. Of the five of us, only my brother, Horace (left) and I are left. I miss Mama and Daddy and Lawrence, especially at Christmas. But missing them reminds me of who I do have in my life and how rich it is and how blessed I am. And that is being present. And it’s the best gift ever.

*  It turned out to be a great day.

A Love Affair with Life by Jacqueline Boone

I am excited to welcome Jacqueline Boone as my first guest blogger for Defying Small! I met Jacqueline through a Skillshare blogging class she was teaching and we instantly connected as passionistas. She is an amazing person and I believe her story will inspire you. Enjoy! Laura

Meet Jacqueline Boone! Photo by Vanessa Hellmann http://vanessamona.com

Meet Jacqueline Boone! Photo by Vanessa Hellmann

Are you wholly, completely, absolutely head over heels in love with your life? If not, it may be time for a new relationship.

Of course there will be moments that are less than ideal—squabbles, mixed up directions, peaks and valleys, but at the end of the day do you think to yourself: “Wow! I love my life!”?

I wish I could tell you that as the creator of 6 Months to Live, a blog and company completely dedicated to inspiring, empowering, and helping people live their dreams, that I have always loved my life, but that’s not the case.

At the time I started 6 Months to Live, I was a 26-year-old who had just returned from the grand adventure of living and working in China for 3 years. I topped off the experience by working on a ranch in Montana, which was one of my childhood dreams. Fall came, and I found myself sitting on my mom’s couch in Atlanta, GA trolling the Internet for jobs in San Francisco during the 2009 recession. I felt deeply discouraged and life in suburbia felt painfully ordinary in comparison.

Hua Shan, China

Hua Shan, China

I went to a conference as an opportunity to network and hopefully land a job. An attendee at the conference asked me, “What would you do if you had 6 months to live?” I didn’t have a good answer.

That question stuck with me. If I had 6 months to live, what would I be doing different in my life? I decided to try a 6-month life experiment. What if I approached my life intentionally? What if I made the best of each day? What if I loved my life?

That decision completely changed my life and my philosophy towards it. I wrote 168 letters of gratitude to people all over the world for how they had made a difference in my life. I took last minute trips and moved to San Francisco with a place to live for a month, no job, and a little over $1,000. 5 weeks later I was hired by a great company working for the CEO doing international strategic partnerships for a 2-billion dollar company. And I lived happily ever after…for 3 years.

Three years later, I found myself no longer in love with my life, so I made a change. The truth is that life is constantly changing, just like our relationships. While our relationships with girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, friends, and family are significant, our relationships with life and ourselves are the longest and most important relationships during our time on earth.

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Sailing in Mexico

Our relationship to life and to the people we choose to have in it makes all the difference. If you’re ready to make a change, but you don’t know where to start, begin with gratitude. It doesn’t mean that further changes in your approach or life won’t be needed, but it does make it immediately clear how much there already is to love in your world.

How we choose to spend our time makes up a lifetime. Sophie Tucker, a Vaudeville singer at the turn of the century, had a saying, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor—and believe me, rich is better. My saying is: “I’ve loved my life and hated my life—and believe me, loving your life is better!”

Jacqueline Boone is a passionately curious explorer, entrepreneur, and writer, who has a profound love of humanity. Follow the passion at 6monthstolive.me, on Twitter @6monthstolive and on Facebook at 6 Months to Live!

In the months to come, look for guest posts by other amazing authors, bloggers, travelers, and entrepreneurs who are Defying Small by living their biggest, most passionate lives!

The Power of Connecting

To my readers: I recently wrote this guest blog post for Jacqueline Boone at 6 Months to Live http://6monthstolive.me. Jacqueline is a connector and an adventuress who lives each day defying small! Enjoy. Laura

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Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. ~ Brene Brown

A lot has been written about the power of connecting. And if you move in the world of social media, like I do, you begin to believe that connecting means this: more Facebook followers, more blog hits, more retweets.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You see, connecting isn’t just about numbers. It’s about joining with others to accomplish something you’re unable to accomplish alone.

2a3f6f0385a5e16ca220c33ae84d91cbConnecting sharpens us. I’ve been writing professionally for twenty-seven years, but I’ve only been tweeting for three (you can read my life-changing Twitter story here). Over the past few years I’ve learned a lot about blogging. But I still have to seek out marketing experts to help me with SEO, RSS, and HTML. By connecting, I can be even better at what I do best.

Connecting inspires us. What I love most about connecting is seeing other people embrace their gifts and passions and live their biggest lives. When I connect, I not only have allies helping me reach my goals, but I have the joy of helping them, too. People like Jacqueline, alias “Cheerleader of the World,” who is also writing a book this summer. And Torre deRoche and Evan Sanders, who just launched theirs.

The beauty of connecting is that every connection is as unique as the two people themselves. Sometimes connecting is just a brief interlude. At other times it is a life-altering catalyst that sets you on a path of change and growth.

Connecting transforms us. One great example is this blog post. I recently took an online blogging class through Skillshare called “Build Your Blog’s Unique Brand & Audience.” Jacqueline was my teacher.

Not only did I learn how to make my blog more appealing, I also met a kindred spirit and made a new friend.

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Carl Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” I’ll never forget something Jacqueline said to me the first time we spoke on the phone. After a few minutes of chatting she laughed and said, “You’re a connector!” I already knew that about myself. But being recognized as a connector? That was life-changing.

It was that connection (and a series of others) that birthed the idea for Defying Small, an online community I founded of visionaries who want to live bigger, more passionate lives.

Connecting requires vulnerability. I love connecting because I am an off-the-charts relational being. I am also an introvert. I need time alone to think, work, and refuel. Connecting requires stepping out of my own world and into another’s. It means self-disclosure and vulnerability (risk). If we’re going to connect with others in a deep and genuine way, we must be vulnerable. And that means being our true, authentic selves.

Daring Great author Brene Brown has researched and written extensively about vulnerability and the profound impact of connection. Here’s a TED Talk she gave on the subject:

“They had connection as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were.”

How are you connecting with others? How has connecting changed your life? I’d love to hear your stories. Please leave a comment below.

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