Do what you love by Richelle Ouellette

As I stand at my kitchen counter peeling one of the two tangerines my currently very strict diet allows, something out of nowhere causes me to stop for a second and slow down. I am not peeling particularly quickly, but there doesn't need to be any rush either.

It's 8:28am. Fresh out of the shower after an empowering workout, I'm wearing sweatpants and an oversized sweater. On the stove are the delicious-smelling steak and eggs I'm going to eat for the rest of my low-carb breakfast. There's a fun Latin song playing on the speaker in the room behind me. I don't have to be at the office by 9. In fact, I don't have to get to any office as this thought flows through my mind, my gratitude swells. Of course, there's still a long to-do list and a heavy duty day of work ahead of me, but I get to do it on my terms.

Maybe it was the fragrance of the fruit or the sensual stickiness of the rind and sweet citrus juice on my fingers, or maybe just some other unrelated force that filled me with a rush of gratitude at the reminder that I am allowed to stop and savor the moment; there is no rush.

Two days ago I had a bit of a meltdown. For no clear reason, I felt deeply depressed about my position in life, the amount of work I've been doing, the pace I'm running at, my career choice, etc.

While I still don't have complete peace around these worries, the temporary existential crisis has caused me to reflect on how I look at my life, and my days. Because the reality is, though I experience a significant amount of stress (to the point that I have googled "signs of a nervous breakdown" more than a few times in recent months), I am wonderfully blessed to have so much freedom and so much to be grateful for.

Because if I wasn't doing what I'm doing, I'd be wishing I was doing what I'm doing. I have always said I wanted to have my own business, and that's exactly what I'm doing. There is literally nowhere I would rather be. Isn't that a funny thing?

On Monday, during aforementioned minor mental breakdown, I cried several times thinking about how much I hate my job description (you know, that I created for myself and manage myself). But that evening, when my emotions started to calm I was able to refocus on the things I love... I am deeply passionate about entrepreneurship, my clients, my team, my city and I my lifestyle. So while I despise and am having a hard time managing the flurry of frantic emails piling up in my inbox (one of my greatest sources of anxiety), from a birds eye view I get to do what I love every. single. day. And that's pretty freakin awesome.

"Do what you love," they say. But nowhere in that phrase does anything imply or infer that this will be fun all of the time, or simple, or not demanding of your energy. Let's not forget that even your dream job is still a job. Hard work is work. Even smart work is still work. So get to it, and do it, but don't forget to stop and smell the tangerines.

The Beyonce Survey by Richelle Ouellette

There's this bold thing I've been wanting to do for a while, and it's solicit feedback from my clients and peers. Since I don't have a team working around me, or a boss per se, I have to create opportunities for performance reviews and open myself up to the responses I receive. Yikes.

For a while, my excuse for delaying was that I had seen a template in a book I read sometime last year, and I wanted to use that, but I could never remember which book it was from and no amount of googling seemed to provide a template I could copy.

I finally found the courage to pull something original together and last night I sent out the following email to 47 family members, friends, and clients:

Hello!

Hope you are well. If you are receiving this email, you are someone I consider an important person in my life, and your opinion is one I value. If it's been a while since we spoke, let's please catch up. <3

I have a favor to ask, but first an explanation:

I learn many great tips from TED talks and a recent one on getting better at the things we care about resonated deeply. It was Beyonce that grabbed my attention, naturally. Most of the people I know revere her, and we're quick to quote "woke up like this," but in his talk, Eduardo Briceño points out it might be more than flawless genes. Every night following a performance, she watches a video of the show that just ended, identifies opportunities for improvement, and then makes adjustments for herself and her team before the next show. No wonder she is a perfect being.

beyonce flawless

This process deeply impresses me. And since I, too, hope to produce wildly successful smash hits, become a queen, run the world, and improve myself (or at least the latter), I would love it if you would be willing to take two minutes to answer this brief survey to help me get there. [link]

You can do it anonymously, or feel free to use your name if what you are sharing requires context.

And please, please be brutally honest. If you can't think of anything critical to say, I'm flattered, but think harder. I genuinely want to know which behaviors (strengths and weaknesses) I should focus on improving.

Much love, humility & fierceness,
Richelle

The link to the survey asks the following questions:

  1. What is one thing you've seen me do this year that impressed you? I'm open to all answers, but particularly interested in a positive change I might have made. Full disclosure: This question is 100% first to pad my ego before I read all the things I need to work on. :)
  2. Which 1-3 words would you use to describe me to others?
  3. What would you identify as (one of) my greatest strength(s)?
  4. What is a skill, behavior, or habit of mine that could use attention and/or improvement? If possible, please provide a specific example.
  5. How can I be a better friend, family member, colleague, mentor/mentee, client, or vendor to you (& your business)?
  6. Any additional advice you'd like to share to help me achieve increased success?

I haven't checked the results yet, but I'm bracing myself for Radical Candor and ready for a harsh look in the mirror and some heavy duty self improvement.

Pleasure Report: Day One by Richelle Ouellette

Today was the first day of my pleasure project.

As soon as I unset my alarm last wave of relief like the AC vents at HEB on a sticky August day in Austin. My anxiety around the entire next day momentarily melted away.

And the world did not end.

Sure, I didn't wake up at my usual 5:00am call time, but I woke up feeling relaxed and ready to start the day, not dreading it. Even rolling out of bed at 6:30am I still had time to meditate and read a book before heading to my favorite coffee shop to read a book, then bumping into a lovely friend and catching up with her before even opening my inbox.

As I sipped my almond milk latte (on the approved pleasure list!) I thumbed through quickly, answering the messages that deserved a response after quivering in my inbox over a three (and a half) day weekend. Then I closed the Gmail tab and did work.

Actual, interesting work. I listened to my favorite 'brain food' playlist, which helped me focus, and made me feel relaxed.

At 11am, by the time I was starting to get hungry (I've been testing out intermittent fasting), I left the coffee shop and headed to Frond to purchase plants. I have wanted plants for my apartment since the day I moved in 15 months ago. I have not bought plants because a) they are kind of expensive, and b) historically I have not been so great with plant care, therefore exaggerating the issue with the former point.

But I walked in, made friendly conversation with the lovely sales girls, asked her some questions about plant care to educate myself, asked for her advice, and bought two beautiful plant babies in gorgeous containers. I did not look at the price tags, because I didn't want to feel the fucking guilt over spending "more than I should" on plants.

Plants are life. They literally KEEP US ALIVE. So. To try to rationalize not spending money on an actual, living, breathing thing that keeps me doing both those actions is completely preposterous.

I spent $191 (which is more than I've paid for my last three international flights), and walked home THRILLED with my new lively addition to my tiny apartment.

Now I get to keep them alive.

I made lunch, then after a short break to flip through a luxury real estate magazine that was lying on my desk (goals, and also perspective), I left for afternoon co-working with another friend, Kara.

I met my "engage meaningfully with someone you love" quota before the end of business day. We chatted about similar things that are bringing us anxiety, and I realized it's an epidemic, not just me. Then dove into afternoon tasks that I hadn't necessarily been looking forward to, but didn't mind getting done.

I wrapped in time to meet two friends of mine at Melody Dancefit's first Beyonce Night. Dancing and working out are both high on the pleasure list, plus I got to enjoy it with friends, and laughed a ton (mostly at myself), hitting at least 5 checklist items & all the pleasure sensors in my brain.

My night ended with an incredible conversation with a man I've been talking to, seeing, dating (what's the term?) for a while now. We always have deeper conversations, but this one was the most intimate we've shared, and I felt myself opening up significantly more about my personal self than I have been in the past. It's possible I'm making this up, but I'm pretty sure I've read studies that happier people are more deeply connected to others. Coincidence? I think not.

I found the energy to write this out before going to bed.

And I also purchased the smiley face stickers elementary school teachers use for my pleasure chore chart, which is not a chore because everything on it feels amazing.

The Pleasure Project by Richelle Ouellette

I should be happy.

I live in a clean apartment. I am living my dream of owning and operating my own business, and it's going extremely well.

I have a healthy savings account & retirement funds.

I have a recent-ish model car that gets good gas mileage and gets me from point A to Z.

I travel frequently. This year alone I've already been to 4 different countries. Compared to the rest of the world, I am the 1%. If you make more than $30k a year, you are too.

Why have I been waking up feeling so much anxiety most days of the week. Why are Sundays the only day the energy feels in line with the life I'd like to be living?

Why am I doing things like attend events I don't want to go to, answering emails that don't require a response, watching shows I don't find entertaining, socializing with people who don't enhance or enrich my life?

What if for a week, (or a month?!) I tried an experiment where I only did things that bring me pleasure, and avoid every single thing that doesn't. If something stresses me out, I'll stop doing it. If I don't want to go somewhere or eat something specific, I won't.

It's going to force creativity, because of course there will still be work to get done. But I can delegate it, outsource it, or find a way to enjoy it. It's a temporary experiment.

People will think it's crazy.

But wait, people will think it's crazy that I'm doing things I absolutely love to do? What the hell is wrong with me?! What the hell is wrong with society?

I have to try it.

Stay tuned.

A love note to my Valentine by Richelle Ouellette

Dear Valentine,

I love you. You are incredible, fierce, bold, brave, a leader. When I see what you're doing with your life, I am amazed and inspired. It's truly incredible to see your capabilities and watch you learn about your potential.

You have such a beautiful soul. Your desire to serve others and lead comes from a pure place, and your giving attitude will bring you great success. People love you because of the way you treat them; you have an innate ability to make them feel important, and that can change the world.

You have been through many painful events, but you face this world fearlessly. You don't let your past mistakes, sufferings, or stories hold you back from living the life of your dreams.

I love watching you grow. Seeing you learn through books and living as you adapt principles and gain new ideas is truly inspiring. I can see the passion in your eyes, the strength in your heart.

You give so much. Make sure to take care of yourself, and give yourself that same love. Your suffering is real. Your stories are not necessarily the truth, but they are your perceived reality, and you can learn how to retell them to change the course of your life.

I love you because of your smile. You have an ability to see the positive things in life, and don't let the negativity around you phase you or prevent you from taking risks.

You are so incredibly smart. You are articulate and creative, and I love listening to you speak about the things that light you up. Your voice deserves to be heard, and I could listen to your wisdom for hours.

Your body is divine. The fact that you give your best efforts to care for your body says much about who you are. Be sure to always treat your body kindly, as a vessel for your being. I want it to be around for a long time. I love exploring your body and learning every touch that turns you on. I love seeing you experience pleasure in every sense of the word. I'm excited to continue learning about your body and how you experience and express your sexuality and your soul.

Your confidence is so attractive. I love how you walk into a room and don't wonder what other people think of you, but are more concerned with getting to know who they are and what beauty they offer the world. You project an air of certainty; you radiate. You know who you are and what you want, and that is the most beautiful thing.

I love you because you are willing to struggle. I love you because you set goals and keep them, and are constantly trying to push harder, be better. That type of progression isn't always easy, but I love knowing that you'll be a better person every single day if you continue to make positive change your priority.

I love knowing you, learning about you, and being you.

Will you be my best friend, Valentine?

Why I’m stripping on the internet by Richelle Ouellette

You know those nightmares in the opening scenes of 90s teen movies? Maybe you’ve even had this dream. The one where you’re in front of a massive group of people and all of a sudden you realize you’re completely naked. You do your best to cover your naughty bits, but in your dream world, the laughing and mocking of your classmates/work associates/family members is un-ignorable. It echoes in your mind, even after you snap awake and sit up in bed.

That dream. That’s the one I’m about to give myself in real life. Why? Because I’ve been longing to write more, and I heard a quote recently that ignited my soul:

“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.” -Neil Gaman

And so I’m taking off my metaphorical clothing. I’m getting real. Like the kids used to say, I’m gettin’ jiggy with it. (Please advise; does that phrase apply here?)

I recently cried in front of my therapist as I exclaimed how deeply I crave real connections and authenticity. It’s not something I can magically manifest into my life, but I figure the best way to find what I’m looking for is to first be it.

That is to say: if I act authentically, I will attract genuine people and create pure, meaningful relationships.

Obviously this is something I have to practice in person with my friends & associates, but I’m willing to give it a shot on the internet, too. So this is me, Richelle, real, raw, and unlike one of my feminist heroes Beyonce, far from #flawless. (But seriously girl, twins?!) This is me, showing the world my unfiltered, uncropped selfie.

In other words, I’m just a girl, standing in front of the 3.2 billion people who have access to the internet, asking them to love me… for exactly who I am.

A Grand Life by Richelle Ouellette

grand canyon sunrise

I've always wanted to... So I did.

I wavered on my decision to go this far out of my way (gas money, time, lack of gear for this weather), but after a brief pause I knew I had to. Call it FOMO if you must, but yes, I am afraid of missing the moments that give my life meaning, of being caught up in the rat race, and of waking up one day 25 years from now wondering where my life has gone.

Last night, when I asked the man who checked me into my hotel for viewpoint recommendations, he responded that he has never watched the sunrise here. He's lived outside the park since 1991. Who am I to judge; he's probably quite content with his life which includes sleeping past 8am, but I will not settle for content.

Standing in solitary stillness on Yaki Point with frozen toes and frozen tears I want to trap this feeling in a jar like a lightening bug and let it glow inside me forever. 

I want to lead with my heart and lean into the awkwardness of meeting new people, the vulnerability of falling for someone, the pain of heartache and loss, the embarrassment of making a mistake, and the anxiety of waiting for something I long for. These are the moments that remind us we are human and which open the doors to learning, joy, and love. 

I want to push myself to new horizons, come to the edge of what I think is possible and soar beyond it; take risks that simultaneously terrify and thrill me, and explore every inch of the world around me with the curiosity of a toddler. 

How often do we take for granted the beauty that lies around us? And not even the special, Grand Canyon-esque views. What about the creases around our grandparents' eyes from years of laughter, the sharp red sunsets when we're stuck in traffic on the way home from a long day, or the change in a person's countenance when they bump into someone they know. Though intangible, we have to grasp onto these fleeting scenes and hold on tight for as long as we can.

Forget the obstacles standing in your way. It's not about having time, or money, or the perfect circumstances. It's about what your priorities are... and you are too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.

Let Go by Richelle Ouellette

let go

Earlier week I attended the most amazing yoga practice.

Ok, several, but one in particular was incredibly inspired. The teacher for this gentle Hatha class set the intention to eliminating perfectionism from our practice, and our lives.

Enlightenment, he taught, is not reaching perfection, it is eliminating the anxiety attached to imperfection.

I choked back tears on multiple occasions not because of the challenging binds and holds, but because of the hyper-relevant wisdom to let go of the things we can not control and to love ourselves completely because we are perfectly whole.

To not do things perfectly does not mean that we will be failures. We can still attempt each action in our life with purpose, well intent, and a desire to learn. In her badass book, #GIRLBOSS Sophia Amoruso says, “When you approach everything as if it’s a big fun experiment, then it’s not a big deal if things don’t work out.”

Let go of expectations. Of destinations, and outcomes. When you release the desire to control these things (which really can not be controlled anyway), is when you gain real power.