“The key to confidence is being your authentic self. Your authentic self is the coolest part of who you are”
– Gabby Bernstein.
So I am preparing to give a keynote speech at an annual Leadership Conference at my Alma Mater, Cheshire High School. And as I have been preparing what I want to say to the students, my mind keeps coming back to this one theme: authenticity. Stepping into who you are and who you were meant to be. As it is a day about leadership, it got me thinking about how perhaps the most important quality any great leader can have is the bravery to live a life that is true to them. And while I feel it is an important topic to bring to them, I thought I would bring it to you this week, too. It is universal to us all.
And so, today I came across the Gabby Bernstein quote above. What if we could look at our authenticity as the coolest part about us? When we are living in authenticity, we are the most grounded, present, joyful versions of ourselves. I love this part of the definition of authentic: “not false or copied”. When we are brave enough to remember who we are at our core, we are living in our truth.
There is a purpose and unique reason for being within each of us. And while it can take some time to uncover it, it also is showing up all around us, all of the time. It comes out in moments every day- the ones in which we feel most alive and connected to ourselves.
When I take a look at any great leader on any scale, I notice this one thing: they are fully and completely and without compromise, themselves. They have so deeply tapped into their authenticity and bravery that they are then confident in themselves as a result.
Choosing to not teeter on the perimeter of the person you want to be takes courage and repeated self-belief. It requires stepping outside of one’s comfort zone, and even the confidence to go against the grain sometimes. It is about letting go of the fear, and just diving right in. It’s the only way to truly get to know yourself, what you want for yourself, and what you want to bring to life. Living a life that is vast, fulfilled, connected, and authentic to you is what makes it beautiful. Be confident. Because you being YOU is the absolute coolest thing.
“If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?”
This is the question that Amy Purdy asks her listeners at the end of each of her podcast episodes. Amy is a para-snowboarder (2014 Paralympic Bronze Medalist), bestselling author, motivational speaker, and has even competed on Dancing With The Stars and The Amazing Race. She lost both of her legs at the age of 19. I have been deeply inspired by Amy for the past three years since learning about her story. She is an example of resilience, grace, and living life to the fullest. And so, as I listened to her ask this question, it got me thinking….
We are in fact the authors of our own life. We can enhance the chapter we are in, start planning for the next, and everything in between. It is fascinating to look at people who have overcome incredible adversity and challenge. I notice something profound in these people. They have been so exposed to the preciousness of life, that they spend the rest of it choosing to live only in the way they want to.
Everyone encounters struggle. But it is in the resiliency of spirit that one remembers that they hold the pen in the story of their life. It is a beautiful thing- the ability to chart one’s own course. It is not easy. That is perhaps why many forget the power that they hold, and get swept up in going through the motions. But it is never too early or too late to write the story that is most true to you.
We have the ability to create or maintain or change our life into one that feels most authentic to us. One that allows connection and joy, and is led with our intuition, rather than fear. And when we do this, the possibilities are endless….
Time is such a surreal thing. To think that just over one year ago, the world became a different and unique version of itself, is hard to believe. I believe that this has been perhaps one of the most important years for many of us. We have learned an invaluable lesson. The lesson that life has a way of happening and moving whether or not all of our plans go according to what we imagined them to be. There has been so much that has happened outside of our control. And by learning to ease up on the control we feel that we need, we have gained a new sense of trust in that what is supposed to be, will be. It might not happen right away, but if it is meant for us, we will find it!
Having relentless courage and hope for our dreams, goals, and life no matter what is happening, is one of the most important skills we can embody. Learning to get knocked off the horse and make our way back up is such a fundamental part of the human experience.
And sometimes, it feels like realizations, plans, and discoveries come at once. As I have been planning exciting things for my own future, I have been having this incredible feeling- one of reflection, anticipation, and gratitude. Reflection on what has been learned this year, anticipation for what is to come, and gratitude for all of it. As life continues to pick up the pace, keep looking forward with belief and enthusiasm. But also don’t forget to glance back from time to time to appreciate what has gotten you here. Each moment leads to the next, for a reason, whether we know it or not.
If life is a collection of moments, why do some stand out so clearly in our memory even long after they occur? You know those moments- the beautiful, hilarious, adventurous, sometimes unreal experiences that become the best stories to tell later. They are the ones that are always first brought up to reminisce, and the ones that serve as little guideposts in our lives. They are so awesome to look back on because they were moments that offered a peek into our most authentic, spontaneous, and full self.
There seems to be a distinct difference between those moments and the ones of daily, ordinary routine. And it makes me think- in order to have those moments, we must be around the people and in the places that bring out the best of who we are. And most importantly, we must look at life as something that is filled with infinite adventure and moments of intense joy, hilarity, connection, and self-becoming. Because it is.
And the key is to realize that these moments can come to us at any time. In the mundane, the extraordinary, and everything in between. It is all about our lens and perspective. Speaking of- yesterday I had one of those timeless moments. On a hilarious, unexpected, albeit downright treacherous hike up (and down) Mount Nittany in PA, I think my friends and I were reminded. Reminded that the best of stories often come from times like these. One minute you are taking the doors and roof off the Jeep to take a ride on what felt like a summer’s day, and the next minute you are nearly sliding down the side of a mountain that is covered in a sheet of ice in torrential rain. All the while surrounded by other Penn State students who decided to do the same on their day off. In a moment of laughing at the absurdity of the situation, I got a familiar feeling. This was one of those moments.
I have always had a keen awareness of these times- whether it be with family, friends, or even total strangers. They are what bind us, and simply something to add to the book of our lives. Keep adding as many anecdotes, stories, falls, and triumphs. They are all important. They make up who we are, and remind us when we need reminding. And, after-all, life is an adventure. An awesome one at that.
“And in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”.
Life is a series of moments, experiences, and choices. We all ultimately have so much more control over where our life goes than we think. In fact, it is all up to us. Each day- from how we think, feel, interact, and experience life…it’s always been, and always will be up to us. Yesterday, in a conversation with one of my best friends, Bianca, she was telling me about a moment in her day where she took a chance on something she was hesitant about. She expressed how empowered and inspired she felt the moment after taking the chance. She felt that she had nothing to lose, but possibly much to gain. She said to me, “You know, I think that is a great approach to life in general”. Yes….
In that moment, I was reminded of something incredibly true that it rings so clearly for all of us, if we choose to look at it. If we do not put ourselves out there for the world, we will be missing out on so many things that life was meant to offer us. Wouldn’t you rather something not work out after taking the leap of faith rather than never even knowing if it could because you never took the chance to begin with? It is much better knowing that you gave something all of your courage, than to keep it bottled up- never knowing, and always wondering.
This reminded me so deeply of a quote that my middle school lacrosse coach read to us on the bus one day:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?….Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you….It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Do not play it small in this world. Go big. This is your precious life to live. And if you give yourself permission, you just may let someone else give it to themselves, too.
It sounds so simple, so effortless. Yet, it is a thing we all do, some more than others. And worry is a funny thing because what I worry about may never cross your mind, and vice versa. It is an illusive, unique thing to all of us that has a way of sliding beneath the surface. So, why do on some days we float on by with ease and peace, and other days, worry creeps in? Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but what I do know is that there is a distinct factor that I believe causes this difference. It is a detail that is so innate that we seem to forget it! We are either living with a sense of trust and peace within, or we are letting worry or uncertainty take over.
And so, just as the song says, “….let it flow, let yourself go”- maybe it is about letting things flow the way they are meant to. We all want control over our day, our feelings, and our endeavors. But do you ever notice that when you try to control things so much, they actually go in a different direction than you wanted them to? If you invest in trust and confidence rather than control and worry, you will be surprised and amazed at the results. Some of the very best times in life happen on a whim. They are in-the-moment experiences. And you know the feeling you get when you just let things unfold. It is a good feeling.
Only until we become able to let most things roll off of us with ease, will we be present enough to experience these moments. And when we look back, it will be the moments of peace, love, and happiness that we will remember and relish in. Not the ones of worry, doubt, or uncertainty.
See where the day takes you. You just might be surprised.
“The best things in life are the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the people we meet along the way”.
Every hour, the iconic Old Main bell tower on Penn State University’s main lawn plays the Alma Mater, resonating and transcending through all of campus. Even from the right spot in downtown State College, you can hear the familiar tune. I remember hearing it for the first time as a freshman during my first week at school. It was a hot, sticky day and I recall very distinctly the feeling that washed over me when the song began. It was a feeling of comfort, of home, and of pride. I can feel the pride all over this place. From the Penn Staters (students and alum alike) decked out in their blue and white, to the regal chime of the bell tower, to linking arms with thousands of my peers singing the Alma Mater at every football game. A place where it is impossible to ever know everyone, but somehow feels like we all already do.
And so, today it is a snow day. And I walk by Old Main once again, hearing the sweet and nostalgic melody. And I think about that hot, sticky August day when I first heard it, and how it is all making sense to me. We are led to the places in our life that are meant to shape us, teach us, and love us. In these places, we find people. And in every stage of life, we are aligned with the people and places that are meant to be a part of our path.
And out of all of the places to go and all of the people to meet, I believe, things must be for a reason. Each moment, from our beginning, makes up a part of the fabric of who we are. It’s the moments, the people, and the places we have been given that allow us to decide who it is we want to be.
The most successful people are the ones who trust themselves. This is true for anyone. Trusting in ourselves and our own intuition can be difficult. We all doubt ourselves at times, but it is when we truly believe in our own intuition, that we let go of the need for reassurance. This is an amazing thing because it allows us to live a life that is truest to the one that we want for ourselves. It has been noted that the most successful leaders are the ones who not only rely on their own gut, but have confidence in it.
When we become comfortable with our intuition and learn to trust it, life becomes broader, more exciting, and full of new opportunities. And when we decide to live this way, we inspire others around us to do the same. Life is filled with so many possibilities, more than we can even imagine. And so, we must be in charge of steering our own course.
We don’t always need to know what that looks like- in fact, half of the beauty is seeing where life will take us. But, we should always know how we want our experience of life to feel like. And the only thing that can tell us that is our own self. We have the wonderful freedom to take any road we want, make any stops along the way, and even change direction.
And as Audrey Hepburn said,
The most important thing is to enjoy your life- to be happy- it’s all that matters.”
Strive for everything you want, but simplify your mindset to this: you were given this one life, so live every day out of it. Take the leap of faith into uncertainty, because as long as you have your heart and your intuition, the rest will take care of itself.
“With confidence, you have won before you have started”.
Who we are today, in many ways, determines who we become tomorrow. What a fantastic concept. What we aspire to be, have, and do in the future can serve as a guidepost for how we live today. One of the most powerful things in life is to be inspired by other people. But what if we could also inspire ourselves? If we could leverage the power of the courage and confidence within us, we could rely on ourselves to bring us anywhere we want to be.
Life is ever-changing, unpredictable, and is always either pushing us one direction or pointing us towards another. It is constantly bringing us new experiences, opportunities, and challenges. This is part of what makes it exciting and amazing. But when we truly know and believe in ourselves, whatever course we are on, will be true to us. And isn’t that one of the highest forms of success? Being true to what we know is the way we want to experience life. It is a willingness to learn, bounce back, take risks, and have fun while doing it all.
So, how does our life look in 10 years? This is an important question to ask. And by visualizing that future picture of ourselves, we are actually becoming more present to the now, because it gives us something to always shoot towards. Live in the now, and be excited for tomorrow. Steer your ship in the best direction you can imagine.
“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”
A quote my dad often repeats. I have always loved it, and have used it as a sort of barometer. A check-in, and a reminder. To me, the “adventure” of our life is unique to each of us. But I believe that it means living a life of passionate wonder. One of friendship, laughter, and belief in oneself. This is something both of my parents have inspired in me, and they are ways of living that I try to emulate. They are insights that remind me of all that life is and all that it has the potential to be.
And so, I was recently looking through an old photo album and came across the above left picture, of my mom in Florence. Twenty-one years ago, to the month, my parents traveled to Italy. And two years ago, so did I, on a trip I was lucky enough to take with some of my very best friends. Italy had always held a sentimental value to me. A wonderful mystique. Something about knowing that my parents had traveled there before I was born made me want to experience it, too. They had always said that Florence was their favorite. And to little surprise, it was mine as well. During a moment in my life where I was on my own awesome adventure, I couldn’t help but think about them when they were on theirs.
So when I saw this picture, I knew that it reminded me of something I had seen before. And that turned out to be the photo of me, pictured above to the right. It is funny how certain moments can let us in on so much about what life is trying to show us. These two moments, on the same streets, nearly 20 years apart, represent something amazing. The adventures of our lives make up a part of the fabric of who we are. The friends and family, the moments we create with them, and the chances we take are what make the adventure.
This little trip down memory lane made me reflect on where I came from, the adventures I’ve had, and the ones I have yet to take. I love that I see me in my mother there on those streets of Florence, and who knows….maybe we can add another picture in 30 years 😉