All posts by Joseph Downing

The 90-Day Year: Rethinking Your Long Term Goals.

I recently listened to an episode of Freedom Fast Lane, a podcast where author and entrepreneur Ryan Moran interviews performance coach and advisor, Todd Herman. Todd works with high-level athletes and entrepreneurs on their ‘inner game,’ and had eighteen clients compete at the last Olympics. In this podcast, Ryan and Todd discuss making goals and the concept of the 90-Day Year. Todd believes that setting long term goals can be counterproductive and the psychological reason behind setting 90-day schedules is that they provide a more tangible ‘horizon’ line.  This can apply to physical fitness, your business, art or anything else you want to achieve.

Following this method, it only takes a few tweaks to your mindset to get a huge lift in performance. The enemy to confidence and momentum is confusion and uncertainty. Confidence can be built and isn’t something that is instilled upon you at birth. Confidence is the byproduct of incremental, constant, and consistent improvement. He advises you  ask yourself, “What is the highest impact skill that, if I improved right now, would give the highest impact on my performance?” That is what you should be developing.

Todd explained there are three types of goals you need to be cognizant of during your 90-day year:

             1) Outcome Goals:

Outcome goals are ones that are measurable, such as “in ninety days, I want to have lost twenty pounds.” It’s fine to have such goals, but they can be problematic. Focusing only on the outcome creates high levels of stress and anxiety. We don’t have complete control over these and not meeting them leads to a sense of failure and make you more prone to stop even when making progress.

              2) Performance Goals:

What are you going to improve in order to get to the outcome goal? Break your outcome goal into performance goals over two week periods that you can measure throughout the process, e.g. n the next two weeks, I am going to the gym five times.

               3) Process Goals:

Who is going to do What, When, and Where? Knowing this will provide clarity and momentum. You have 100% control over process goals. One of the ways out of the state of anxiety and overwhelm is to measure progress incrementally. Actions of the past provide concrete data on what you have done. This will give you a high level of awareness and you will feel rewarded when you can measure small steps forward.

Last, pay attention to the concept of “character crafting.” This is the conscious process of developing into the type of person you want to become. Developing skills and making right choices need to be practiced and built over time though conscious effort. It’s possible to choose the evolutionary process of who you want to be, and one useful tool for this is to create an alter ego. Choose a spirit animal or a super hero you immolate. This substitute “ego”  provides an opportunity to strip away fears and doubts.  Start by asking, “How would I be performing if I was ‘that’ person?” It helps to have what Todd calls “totems” or “artifacts” that triggers that character, such as a sweatband or watch. Remember to give your alter ego a name and provide yourself with scenarios you can visualize. You can do this by asking questions like “What is ‘Max’ going to be doing today? How would he respond in this situation?”

This summary just skims the surface. If you’d like to hear the full podcast interview, you can follow the link below.

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.


Who Is Your Accountability Buddy?

Little over a year ago, I made a commitment with my friend Brent that we would go to the gym Monday through Friday at 7:00 a.m. Previously, I had always worked out alone, with middling results. But committing to Brent, and making a promise to each other and to ourselves, changed everything. Those sleepy mornings when I otherwise would have chose to stay in bed stopped happening because when the alarm went off, I knew Brent would be by to pick me up in twenty minutes. I had to answer to someone, and being lazy wasn’t an acceptable answer. I wanted to hold true to my promise, and I would have been embarrassed not to. Those are strong psychological motivators. We can kid ourselves in the mirror, but our supporters and encouragers aren’t deceived so easily.

An accountability buddy is someone (or more than one person) that supports you in making sure you meet your commitments. In psychology, it’s known as an external motivator. Someone, outside of you, that helps you stay motivated. Studies show that writing down and sharing your goals with another person greatly increases the likelihood of your successfully meeting the goal.

An accountability buddy can be used for any goal, whether it be losing weight, finishing your novel, navigating your business, or conquering an addiction. (That’s a major reason people who join AA are assigned sponsors and old-timers continue to attend long after they’ve quit drinking.) Having someone you can talk to, confide in, set goals and monitor progress with, creates a huge psychological advantage. You won’t feel isolated and alone in your efforts, and you won’t be let off with lame excuses. You will feel supported, and will feel the benefit of giving back by providing the same support and accountability to your buddy.

The key is to find someone with your same goals and commitment. Make sure they are positive and supportive in their accountability, not bullying or scolding—at least not completely. It should be about helping pull each other up by the bootstraps in order to meet your mutual goals. And you can celebrate together when you succeed.

How about you? Have an accountability buddy story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you at


My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.

The One Thing We can do Everyday to Make us Healthier, Happier, Calmer, and Yes, Change our Brain Chemistry for the Better. And it’s Free.

Some people are content in the midst of deprivation and danger, while others are miserable despite having all the luck in the world. This is not to say that external circumstances do not matter. But it is your mind, rather than the circumstances themselves, that determines the quality of your life. Your mind is the basis of everything you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train it.

–Sam Harris

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with meditation. Like eating healthy, working out, getting more sleep, my high aspirations often fall short of my goals. But having just finished Waking Up by neuroscientist Sam Harris, I’m getting back on the meditation bandwagon. And not for the spiritual component (although I value you that too), but for this astonishing fact: meditation actually physically and demonstrably changes our brains and our bodies. (All italics are excerpts from Harris’ book.)

Long-term meditation practice is associated with a variety of structural changes in the brain. Meditators tend to have larger corpora collosa and hippocampi. The practice is also linked to increased gray matter thickness and cortical folding . . . it is not hard to see how they might explain the kinds of experiences and psychological changes that meditators report.

I was shocked by the amount of studies and data that show the positive and permanent effects on our brain matter and physical health that meditators’ experience. I hope you take the time to read Harris’ book, but I’ll give you a few highlights that you can walk away with today that I believe can be life-changing.

  1. Meditation reduces pain.

Science has proved that meditators feel physical pain less and handle what they do feel better.

 Expert meditators respond differently to pain than novices do. They judge the intensity of an unpleasant stimulus the same but find it to be less unpleasant. They also show reduced brain activity in the regions associated with anxiety while anticipating the onset of pain, as well as faster habituation to the stimulus once it arrives. Other research has found that mindfulness reduces both the unpleasantness and intensity of noxious stimuli.

  1. Meditation reduces stress.

This was the least surprising, but I was unaware that a physical change in brain composition was the cause.

 An eight-week program of mindfulness meditation reduced the volume of the right basolateral amygdala, and these changes were correlated with a subjective decrease in stress. A full day of mindfulness practice reduced the expression of several genes that produce inflammation through the body and an improved response to social stress.

  1. Meditation makes us happier.

A mere five minutes of meditation a day for five weeks has been proven to increase left-sided baseline activity in the frontal cortex, which has been associated with positive emotions.

Five minutes. That’s the magic word. I can find five minutes a day.

  1. Meditation makes us healthier and better people.

Studies have shown that mindfulness improves immune function, blood pressure, and cortisol levels; it reduces anxiety, depression, neuroticism, and emotional reactivity. It has shown promise in the treatment of addiction and eating disorders. It increases subjective well-being and empathy. In the broadest sense, meditation is simply the ability to stop suffering, in many of the usual ways, if only for a few moments at a time. How could that not be a skill worth cultivating?

I’m going to try harder, and I’m going to start small. Five minutes in the morning every day. And if I miss a day, I won’t judge myself, but will commit to sitting down, being still for five minutes the next day, and the next. I’m committing now and will report back on its effects on me in three months and let you know how it’s going and which techniques worked the best for me . Want to join me? I’d love to hear about your experience and whether it had a positive effect on you.

You can find Waking Up by Sam Harris here:

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.


The Wisdom and (Controversial) Philosophy of Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera is a Franco-czech writer who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature multiple times. His books were banned in most of the eastern block until 1989. His novels, particularly The Unbearable Lightness of Being, have been some of the most influential on my life. Having just re-read Unbearable Lightness again, I wanted to share a bit of his philosophies with you. I don’t always agree with them, but I am always challenged by them. The themes hop around a bit, but are worth our consideration. Here goes:


Not knowing what we want is quite natural. We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.

 Isn’t it true an author can write only about himself? The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them all. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.

 Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman). Attaching love to sex is one of the most bizarre ideas the Creator ever had.

 The goals we pursue are always veiled. A girl who longs for marriage longs for something she knows nothing about. The boy who hankers after fame has no idea what fame is. The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us.

 We all need someone to look at us, and we can be divided into four categories. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, for the look of the public. Actors and singers fall into this category. The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers.

 True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle.

 No person can give anyone else the gift of the idyll; only an animal can do so, because only animals were not expelled from paradise. The love between dog and man is idyllic. It knows no conflicts, no hair-raising scenes; it knows no development.

 What do you think? Do you agree with his conclusions on our wants, our needs, or relationship to others, including animals? Regardless, his conclusions are food for thought. They get me thinking, which is a beautiful gift from a writer.


My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.


Reawakening Our Sense of Wonder.

In the beginning, everything was alive. The smallest objects were endowed with beating hearts, and even the clouds had names.   Scissors could walk, telephones and teapots were first cousins, eyes and eyeglasses were brothers. The face of the clock was a human face, each pea in your bowel had a different personality, and the grille on the front of your parents’ car was a grinning mouth with many teeth. Pens were airships. Coins were flying saucers. The branches of trees were arms. Stones could think, and God was everywhere.

Paul Auster

Payne seized her. They grappled lovingly among the hampers. A famous man says that we go through life with “a diminishing portfolio of enthusiasms”; and these, these, these children, these these these these little children will soon not be able to feel this way about anything again.

Thomas McGuane

With the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood, it’s so easy to lose our sense of wonder about the world around us. To lose the sense of awe, of joy, of appreciation of all of life’s little beauties. It almost fees predestined; that we were always meant to let go of childish things. This is an unnecessary sacrifice that diminishes us. We can pay our bills, get the kids to school and still take time to pause and revel in the parade of amazement that surrounds us. Your elderly neighbor’s smile. The bees pollinating your azaleas. The sound of crickets lulling you to sleep at night.

Last week I was sitting outside reading when a hummingbird came to my feeder. She must have been surprised to see me, because she flew up eight inches from my face, paused, studied me, cocking her head side to side, for at least ten seconds. It felt like an eternity—a life within a life—and I felt a deep sense of joy, of connection and utter wonder. What a gift. A gift I may have been denied if I was off being distracted or engaged in some escapist nonsense.

Relearning to be childlike is not childish. Our senses become dulled to the artistic majesty of the world overtime. We tend to take things for granted and thereby devalue them. We need to reignite our passion for the awe around us. Watch a child’s face when they hold a frog or roll down a hill. We can have that, too.

How? Here’s a few easy things to try.

Pause. Stop. Look.

Take a few moments each day and stop everything you’re doing and just breathe and look. What is around you? Appreciate the craftsmanship of your desk. Notice the dazzling color of the strawberries on your salad. Run your fingers through the grass.

Do something artsy.

Preferable something tangible and tactile. Sculpt, make ceramics or get your fingers into messy paint. Engage all your senses. Breathe in the wood, the oils, the stone. Feel the texture of the canvas, the spin of the wheel. Let your body share this space with your mind and your soul.

Find a way to play.

Find something and do it for the mere joy of it. Not to win, not prove something, not to get fit. Nothing goal-oriented. Do it for the sole reason of creating pure, silly joy.

Ask a child.

Ask a child what they think the cloud looks like. Ask him what the two squirrels in the tree might be talking about. Ask her what she thinks the people on Mars like to wear. You will be surprised but not disappointed. Again, pure, silly joy.

Find your inner child, the one that loved to play, to see, to experience the world as a big wide place of magical wonder and let the adult in you share space with him.


My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.


Know Your Value and Stop Discounting Your Gifts.


A few months back I did some legal work for a client and everything went fine. A few days ago he called back and wanted to make some changes, which I happily did for him. When I billed him for it, he was upset—after all, he was only making some changes and he had “already” paid me for the work. He wanted me to spend the time and do the work for free. I refused, he got angry and then I made a choice: I fired him as a client.

Early in my career I probably would have caved in, gave him what he wanted, and thereby devalue my services, my self–worth, and set myself up to make this a pattern. He succeeded once, why shouldn’t he try again?

I don’t do that now. It can be uncomfortable to lose a potential customer over price, and distasteful to even talk about for many, but we have to be willing to let that happen. If you’re confident in your value the people that want your services will understand that, the good customers will stay and the bad ones—the ones you don’t want anyway—will go away. Let them. But the responsibility of conveying our worth falls squarely on our own shoulders. Here’s how to do it.

Know your worth.

If you’re just starting out and are still learning your trade, it may be okay to price yourself below a competitor who has mastered the trade. But once you are confident that you are providing value, that your product or service is worth it, be confident. Take the time to learn and excel at your skill, your art, your gifts, and then don’t ever devalue them.

Set clear expectations.

If you don’t explain the value of what you provide, how will the customer know? Explain how the product or service benefits them and why it costs the amount it does. Make sure they know the costs upfront.

Don’t discount yourself.

Once you start discounting it’s hard to stop. People will come to expect it, and soon your full price doesn’t exist any more, you’re attracting all the wrong customers who are looking for ‘cheap’ and you’ll start believing your services weren’t worth your original price in the first place. One client told me that when she tried giving away or discounting her services, her clients miss appointments, they showed up late, they became erratic. When she raised her rates, people fell back in line. “It’s about the perception of value,” she said. Discounting shows a lack of belief in the value of what you can do, that you doubt the importance of your profession and what you can offer. If you don’t believe in it, why should your clients? Have faith in your products and services and believe in your pricing. Five good customers are better than ten that don’t value you and want to take advantage of you. Let others have the ‘cheap’ customers.

Get over your distaste for money.

Your skill may a spiritual gift that God or the universe has bestowed upon you, but you still need to get paid if you want that skill to support you. Marketing is not bragging. Advertising doesn’t mean you are greedy. Poverty is something we want to rise above—it’s not a virtue. View money as a tool. It’s a form of energy, an exchange between two people. View yourself as a channel for that tool. Yes, it’s a gift to have a talent, and this gift should be shared, but it’s your financial resource, also. To say that you don’t need to be paid for what you do is to deny part of the gift.

Know when it’s time to give back and do it on your own terms.

I don’t discount my fees, but I do pro bono projects on a regular basis. I find causes or clients that I believe in and do the work for free. The difference is that I’m in control: it’s a proactive choice instead of a defensive caving in. If you give something away, make the choice based on compassion and choice, not from guilt or fear caused by someone undermining your value.

Now go do good work and get yourself paid.





Do You Suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.

Maya Angelou

We’ve all experience this. The feeling that we don’t know what we’re doing, that we are a fake and that any moment now the world is going to point its finger at us and declare: you’re a fraud. I know many writers who write regularly and with passion, but refuse to call themselves “writers.” They feel they haven’t earned the right to that title. The same could be said for artists, soldiers and business leaders. Why do we denigrate ourselves in this way? Psychology has a name for it: imposter syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

 Screenwriter Chuck Lorre, best-seller writer Neil Gaiman, US Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, and actress Emma Watson have all admitted suffering from this feeling.  Actress Kate Winslett has said, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this.  I’m a fraud.” Even Albert Einstein was not above its sway. A month before his death, he confided to a friend that, “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”

Early in my career as a lawyer imposter syndrome was a daily occurrence for me. Clients would sit across from my desk and ask me questions and I would answer them, swelling with anxiety and waiting for them to realize that I had no idea what I was talking about. I don’t have that problem much anymore as an attorney, but still feel the pull to deny that I am a “writer,” despite being published multiple times. I mean, I haven’t won the National Book Award, so how could I possibly be a “real” writer.

This is when I realize I need to get over myself. We all do. We define what we are. We have the right to be anything we want, the same as everybody else, and no one has the right to tell us otherwise. Degrees of talent and success vary, but they are not essence of who we are and why we do what we love. Follow your bliss and you are not a fake—no matter the outward results.

 If you suffer from imposter syndrome, there are steps that you can take to move past its symptoms.

Seek support. Check in with your tribe and explain what you are feeling. Sometimes others have a clearer idea about what you offer than you do yourself. Their self-worth and esteem is not wrapped up in their view of what you do and they can often give you an impartial view. They probably have had the same feelings as you do and seeing it as just an experience we all share from time to time diffuses the syndrome’s power over us.

Be present and aware. Note when you engage in thoughts and feelings of being an impostor. Catch automatic thoughts before they carry you away. An example of an automatic thought related to impostor syndrome would be “I am not smart enough.”  This underlying thought may lead to thinking such things as: “Everyone else is smarter than me.” You can see how these thoughts are useless and destructive and can lead us down the rabbit-hole.

Separate feelings from reality. Some people tend to believe that if they feel something strongly it must be right. “If I feel stupid, I must stupid.” When you catch yourself thinking this way, rephrase it to “the fact that I feel stupid in this moment does not mean that I really am. What am I really experiencing right now?”  Not knowing the answer to a specific problem or what the next right action might be is a normal human experience, not a lack of intelligence. Find balance and awareness in your thinking.

And last, just listen to me: you’re not an imposter. I promise. Go do what you do and wear whatever title you wish to own with pride.

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it a positive rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.

How to Use Social Media for the Betterment of Your Community. And for the Betterment of Yourself.

Following the recent events of the shootings in South Carolina, the removal of the confederate flag from the State House, the Supreme Court rulings on healthcare and gay marriage, I have been paying close attention to what people have been posting on social media. Although the majority of posts I observed were positive, supportive and loving, I am continually surprised at the number of vitriolic messages people chose to put out into the world. Beyond the broader universal issues, I recently experienced an ex-husband take to Facebook to attack his ex-wife publicly for issues that were private and only related to the two of them, but apparently he decided that publicly humiliated her was going to benefit him in some way. I listened to a beautiful and compassioned talk by author and Psychologist Brené Brown on the Power of Vulnerability, in which she talked about how we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open if we truly want to connect, empathize and feel love. In the comment section, someone attacked her for being “fat.”

Why? What draws so many of us choose to react with negativity and ugliness? What thought and self-awareness is present when doing this?

I believe in free speech and have no interest in censoring anyone. But I do challenge myself and everyone else to ask this question before putting something into the ether world of the internet: why am I posting this? How does it serve me or anyone else? Am I acting as an agent of good, or being destructive and divisive?   I’ve given this much thought, and I’ve come up with some guidelines for myself that I’ve summarized below.

Be Positive.

Do people really need to see another video of teenagers fighting in a fast food joint? How important is it that you share how bad the service was at the restaurant last night? Are you attacking, insulting and ridiculing, or are you praising, thanking, and helping someone or some cause? If you want to be respected you first have to give respect. No one wants to be associated with a negative individual. Before posting something, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is there anyone this might harm? Sometimes we post thoughts without considering how they might impact our audience and it’s easy to forget how many friends are reading. Two hundred people make a crowd in person, but online that number can seem insignificant.  Remember, we want to build ties, not burn them down.


Know your intentions.

Doug Firebaugh of has identified seven psychological needs we may be looking to meet when we log on: acknowledgment, attention, approval, appreciation, acclaim, assurance, and inclusion. Before you post, ask yourself: Am I looking to be seen or validated? Is there something more constructive I could do to meet that need?

Be your authentic self.

In the age of personal branding, most of us have a persona we’d like to develop or maintain. Ego-driven tweets focus on an agenda; authenticity communicates from the heart. Talk about the things that really matter to you. If you need advice or support, ask for it. It’s easier to be present when you’re being true to yourself.

Respond with your full attention.

People often share links without actually reading them, or comment on posts after only scanning them. If the greatest gift we can give someone is our attention, then social media allows us to be endlessly generous. We may not be able to reply to everyone, but responding thoughtfully when we can makes a difference.

Don’t be too quick to judge and react.  

You know the old saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? It still holds true today. When meeting individuals online, you should strike up a conversation, get to know them a bit before you judge who or what they are.  Just because you are “hiding” behind a computer doesn’t give you free reign to act as you please. You still need to treat people properly. Show patience, kindness and assume others have good intentions before you assume they are malicious.

Support Others.

Share messages about others more than messages about yourself. Retweet other organizations’ posts, share web content relevant to your tribe and post kind words and questions. Celebrate the accomplishments of those who share them with you.

Thank your community.

Whether it’s a donation, a comment on your blog or a helpful recommendation, it’s important to acknowledge the kind gesture when anyone supports you.

What ideas do you have to make social media more positive and loving? I’d love to know.


I’d like to acknowledge and for inspiring some of the above ideas.

 My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it a positive rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.


7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People By Leo Babauta

This is a repost from Leo Babuata’s wonderful blog, Zen Habits.  He allows others to freely share his posts, so I am.  Enjoy.

Are there people who constantly criticize you, tell you that you can’t do things, make you feel bad about yourself, even yell at you?

These are toxic people.

Dealing with them is never easy, but it’s such a difficult problem that it’s worth looking at some strategies you might consider.

I was reminded of this problem by a reader recently, who asked, “What if toxic people are my family? How do I shut them out? What if I can’t find the courage to rise above them?”

I have to confess, there aren’t any easy answers. I’ve used a number of strategies in my life, and I’ll share what I’ve tried:

1. Practice self-compassion when you’re feeling bad. This is always my first step these days, as I’ve learned how useful this method is. Think about it: if you’re feeling bad because of someone else’s behavior, you might show your anger or irritation in your actions and words, and that only makes that person more likely to be toxic. Your bad feelings are not only horrible for you, but for the situation. So try this when you notice you’re feeling bad from someone else’s actions/words: turn inward and notice your feelings, instead of avoiding them. What do they feel like in your body? After a minute, try creating a feeling of love towards yourself. Wish yourself happiness, and an end to your suffering. Wish yourself a life of joy and peacefulness. This won’t magically cure the pain, but it’s a good place to start.

2. Talk to other people. I’ve found that when I’m hurting, I often don’t want to admit it to other people, but then when I talk to someone about it, I inevitably feel better. So take the plunge and talk to someone. Share your feelings, ask for them to listen, maybe even give advice. The advice doesn’t matter so much as the connection and listening.
Practice empathy and compassion. Try practicing the same compassion method towards the person who frustrates you. In your heart, wish them happiness. See that they’re also going through difficulties, like you are, and that’s why they act that way. Wish for an end to their suffering. Wish them a life of joy and ease.

3. Talk to the toxic person. Once you start to feel more compassionate towards the other person, talk to them. Yes, they might not act in a compassionate and peaceful way towards you, but you can be the better person. You can see that they’re suffering in some way, and are acting inappropriately because of that suffering. Try connecting with them, sharing that you’re having a hard time, asking for their support. This might not always turn out well, but if you do it in a spirit of connection, they might be open to this discussion.

4. Model the behavior you want to see. Often I get mad at other people for getting mad at me, and then I’m doing the same thing they are, behaving badly because they behaved badly. Even if I feel it’s their fault, my behavior escalates the situation. So I try to show how to deal with frustration, try to be compassionate with them, try to show a positive way of dealing with things. And often that can have a great effect, even if it’s not immediate.

5. Find more positive friends. If all of this isn’t working, it helps to find other people who are more aligned with the way you want to live. People who are creative, entrepreneurial, self-sufficient, excited about things, positive, healthy, happy. Find them in your local running club, yoga or crossfit class, Toastmasters, volunteer organizations. Find them online in various positive communities. Take the plunge and reach out, develop relationships. Buy someone tea or coffee and start a friendship. One by one, nurture the relationships that have a positive influence in your life, and be a positive influence in theirs. I’ve done this in my life, and it’s made a huge difference.

6. Cut them out. It’s a harsh thing, but when family members aren’t supportive of me, if they’re constantly critical and angry … and none of the above works … I will just stop seeing them as much. I’ll do my own thing. See other friends. That’s harder to do, of course, when they live with you, but even then you can go out for a run, take a hike and see nature, meditate, create. Don’t let the thinking about toxic people be the thing you focus on all day — put your mind in more peaceful, creative, positive places.

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

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How Many Fans are Enough? Fewer than You Think.

Prior to entering the music business, Amanda Palmer made a living as what she called the “eight-foot bride.” Wearing white face paint, a veil and a wedding dress, she stood on a box on a busy street corner perfectly still, waiting for someone to stop and drop money into a hat at her feet. Yes, she was one of those living statues you see in touristy places. And when someone did give her money, she would hand that person a white flower and look him or her directly in the eyes, silently saying: I see you. Doing this, she learned a valuable lesson in connecting with others. And a valuable lesson in being ignored. The vast majority of people walked by her, not looking up, not interested or even aware of her presence. Rejection always seems to register deeper within us than reward does, but with presence and a constant sense of gratitude, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here is what Amanda has to say about it:

There is a certain sense of indiscriminate gratitude that is essential to hone if you are going to survive in the arts. You can’t really afford to be choosy about your audience, nor about how they wish to repay you for your art. In cash? In help? In kindness?

 This is exactly what I learned standing on the box, then while playing in bars for my first band, and, later, when I turned to crowd-funding. It was essential to feel thankful for the few who stopped to watch or listen, instead of wasting energy resenting the majority who passed me by.

 Feeling gratitude was a skill I honed on the street and dragged along with me into the music industry. I never aimed to please everyone who walked by, or everyone listening to the radio. All I needed was . . . some people. Enough people. Enough to make it worth coming back the next day, enough to make rent and put food on the table. And enough I could keep making art.

 Whatever you are creating, don’t expect everyone to embrace it. Most won’t care. Just focus on those that do. And be grateful for every single one of them.