Monday, January 27, 2014


A week ago on MLK Day my good friend Marta and I caught up with each other over lunch.    

During our conversation I shared something with her that had been plaguing me for a while and seemed to be getting worse.       

At first I was a bit awkward; it was just so personal.  But over the last of the chips and queso I found the courage to share my vulnerability.  

I’m usually a centered, energetic , happy person.  I know where I'm going.  I'm always looking forward to the journey and full of passion as I make or mark the path that gets me to my destination. 

But for about the last year I'd not been feeling myself.   I was a little off and couldn't seem to talk my way, feel my way or get out of my way.  And as much as I hate to admit it, I was starting to feel a bit reclusive and protective while flapping around in self-doubt and anxiety.      

It seems simple now, post Marta conversation.  But it was our chat that helped me define this jumble of feelings as a simple but powerful lapse in confidence.   

With Marta’s help I stopped sloshing around in my emotional murky waters and figured out with certainty what had precipitated my funk.           

I’d had a very successful six-year business contract that had ended badly several years ago.  And now I was making a mistake so many of us make. 

Instead of remembering the good and the bad of that situation, I was unconsciously concentrating on the last painful moments of that contract.  In the story I was living, I was not focused on the fullness of the experience and my love of the work. Instead I focused on the disappointing end.     

Once I was conscious of what I was doing, I felt the most wonderful emotional release.  Because once a negative thought or action has been defined, it immediately, in that moment, starts to lose its power.            

I can't tell you how much better I'm feeling; how much stronger and more focus are my actions, how creative and optimistic my mood!  

I guess the moral of this post is: find your “Marta.”  

Find the person you can confide in.  Especially on this entrepreneurial journey which is so often a lonely journey; find the person that is compassionate and empathetic. 

But also the one that will listen to your story, ask the right questions that facilitates understanding and then gently challenges you to get back in the game, back on your purpose. 

So there you have - my detour and the journey back to me. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Success: One Month at a Time

I'm sharing an article that originally appeared in The Huffington Post as a blog post because it focuses on a really simple idea that could potentially have a huge impact in your 2014.    

I’m running the full article but pay special attention to point #1. 

You may recall my last post was on resolutions and why they don't work for most of us.  

This article reinforces my point of changing your year-long resolution list into SMART goals that expire in 30 days.  I'm excited because for me it's making all the difference. 

UPDATE:  I started my New Year goal-setting in December, 2013; I know - always the overachiever.  Anyway, that goal was not only met but exceeded my projected outcome.   We’re 13 days into the new year so that means I’m 13 days into my new challenge.  This one is a business challenge; finish the marketing plan for my new product launch.  We're almost half way thru the month and I'm on target to finish the plan with time to spare.    

Okay, so here’s the article.  Hope it helps.
New Year's Resolution 2.0: How to Make It Work for You and Your Friends
Posted: 01/02/2014 3:19 pm
For the first time in my life, I actually stuck to my New Year's resolution for 2013. My friends did too and we're already discussing what we're going to focus on for 2014. What sparked the change?
1. We commit to 12 one-month resolutions. Instead of trying to maintain one lofty goal for 365 days, we allow ourselves the opportunity to switch it up every month (in January, I committed to being a vegan; in February, I committed to reading four books).
Interestingly, some of these monthly resolutions end up becoming habits because we are so intently focused on doing just that one thing for a month. Twenty-one days to make a habit? Maybe. Thirty days? More likely.
2. We make it social. Our resolution-of-the-month club started last January among three friends. Now, we have 15 members, not all of whom know each other. It doesn't matter who joins or when someone joins (our most recent addition joined in November). We only have one requirement: You email the group on the first of every month with an update on last month's resolution and your commitment for this month.
3. We track our progress. We keep track of our resolutions and progress to date in Google Docs. Seeing everything that we accomplish, both individually and collectively, month after month is incredibly motivating. The fear of having to write the email, "Last month didn't go so well," to the group is also just as motivating.
And the result? Aside from the fact that I have proof of what I accomplished this past year, I actually feel like I am a more interesting person to talk to, whether at dinner with friends or at the water cooler with coworkers. People now know I am working on some area of my life at any given point in the year, and so the question of "How's this month's resolution coming along?" has replaced the trite "How are you?"
Above all, I am inspired by and amazed at all of our resolutions. We have become each other's biggest cheerleaders, particularly when our resolutions have evolved from "no alcohol" to "finalize creating a website and send the link to the group when it's done." Our tracker shows a progression of us getting bolder and more creative with our resolutions over time. Not only have we delved into the standard resolutions (exercising more, eating healthily or getting our finances together), we have also managed to audition for TEDx, write a business plan, learn new dance choreography or start guitar lessons, just to name a few. We are more vulnerable and courageous, and we are taking more risks with each other's support.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the resolutions are; what is more telling is our reflection on how our previous month's commitment went and why. The toughest lesson I learned about myself came with my June resolution, when I resolved to unplug from all technology (no Internet, no TV, no phone and no email) for every Saturday in June. Though I successfully unplugged for all Saturdays except one, I resolved to make up that one day in July, in addition to a new resolution. When the unplugged day didn't happen in July, I rolled it over to August. When it didn't happen in August, I rolled it over to September. Embarrassingly, I wasn't able to unplug fully until one day in November (read: on Thanksgiving). That lingering incomplete resolution was a wake-up call for me. Luckily, because this group had seen my struggles in finding a day to unplug, no explanation was necessary when I sought their advice.
And my favorite resolution? Hands down it was my November one, when I decided to mail handwritten cards expressing my gratitude to 30 individuals, one for each day of the month. The response from the recipients was overwhelming, from a friend's handwritten response (who doesn't love receiving snail mail?) to multiple phone calls expressing how receiving such a gesture moved them to tears. My mentor emailed me recently to say that it inspired her to do something similar in 2014. Certainly, resolutions can become even more powerful when we commit to doing something for someone else, not just for improving our own self.
Not surprisingly, our conversations as of late are focused on what we're each thinking of focusing on in January. We're continuing in 2014 what we started in 2013.
For 2014, I encourage you to rethink your New Year's resolution. Shift the year-long mindset and ask yourself: What do I really want to accomplish this month? Put it in an email and tell your friends. Start your own resolution-of-the-month club for 2014. You won't regret it.

Miho Kubagawa is a Birmingham, AL native working in the ed sector in NYC. Her resolution for this month is to read The Creative Habit and to complete the 32 exercises listed in the book. You can follow her at @MSKubs.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Secret to Turning Your Resolutions into Reality

My 2013 approach to resolutions was fairly elaborate.

Instead of spending the holidays in Austin, I’d traveled to Michigan preparing to stay in my home state for the entire month of Dec.into the first week of Jan.  

It was probably because I had read every book I’d brought along.  And certainly after a month of celebratory eating and drinking I had finally found my capacity and had lost interest in exceeding it.

So to fill up my New Year’s Day I devised a game creating 2013 resolutions and invited those in the room to play with me.   

I made up the rules to the game as we went along.  Everyone had a notepad and pen.  And I gave an extemporaneous speech to my little audience about setting intention for the New Year. 

After preparing our individual lists we went around the table and shared our 2013 desires.  We made a pact we’d check in via Skype at the end of every quarter just to make certain we were not losing our way. 

By second quarter 2013 I had indeed lost my way, along with my list. If someone had asked me to recite those resolutions that were so important just a few months ago I would have been hard-pressed to recall even half the list.

Fast forward to December 2013

A friend on my Facebook feed mentioned a 30-day fitness challenge.  She was in the last few days of her challenge and boasted she was now able to hold a plank for almost 4 minutes. 

Well I thought this was fairly impressive and decided to do my own 30-day challenge, starting the first day of December.  It’s not so important to this post what I decided to focus on but the effectiveness of the focus.   

And I’m proud to report within the 30 days (well technically it’s been 23 days) I've never strayed from the goal, never lost sight of the desired outcome and every day I happily perform rituals to reinforce the new behavior. 

I actually can’t believe how well it’s worked. Not only did I get what I wanted, it came with a bonus.  I am decidedly happier and lighter of spirit.  I've gifted myself with a new way of being.          


So what’s the difference (at least for me) between New Year’s resolutions (that don't work) and time-sensitive challenges (that do?) On the surface they sort of seem the same; at least they’re made up of similar components. 

However I think the way I do resolution lists sets the path for failure.  The list is too long, too nebulous, too hazy and too wishful thinking-ish.  It’s not a plan list, it’s a wish list. 

On the other hand my 30-day challenge is clear of purpose, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. 

OMG it’s a SMART goal! 

The key then to making it happen is to forget the long list and wasted time on New Year’s Day.   Instead target one specific want, need or desire and create a measurable plan around it.  No need to make it elaborate, just clear.  In just a little time your implemented plan will reap a big payoff.    

So my 2014 wish for you and your family (besides good health and happiness!) is the ability to remember that so many of our answers are already within us.  We just have to stay quiet enough to hear them.

Happy 2014!