brain freeze: thawing out after years of endless winter

I can’t seem to get myself to actually create even though I know it’s my calling. Any tips to get me out of this long freeze of too many years?

Tips, maybe. A story, yes.

Tips never go far enough. They never really tell you what you need to know. If all it took were tips to make meaningful change in our lives & businesses, we would cultivate a garden of tips and harvest when we needed them.

Sadly, we’re left with little bounty.

Filling in the gaps with stories and example is the best way to learn. You have to work harder to apply the truths to your own life. You have to connect your own dots. But, in the end, you’re left with something more satisfying and much longer lasting.


I graduated from college with a BA in Religion, honors, the respect of my classmates & professors, and a full ride to graduate school. I was poised for success – life plan was in order. I was at the top of my academic game. Ideas were fast & furious. Writing was effortless & fun.

I left my college town to spend the summer with my mom before moving out of state. The local Borders Bookstore took me on as a part time barista and I spent hours learning to make coffee and soaking in the smell of beans mixed with books. You don’t smell it after a bit…

I became completely enamored with this job. The people. The knowledge. The flow.

I saw the opportunity for something greater than what was presented on the outside. I was seduced.

There was also the high of a regular paycheck.

Three weeks before I was set to leave for grad school, a full-time job opened at Borders. My will crumbled.

“An academic?” my brain questioned. “Who do you think you are?”

How will you support yourself? How will you find a job? What hope have you for success, for stability?

I sent an email to my professor, an alumni of the school I was to go to.

I can’t do it. I’m not ready. I’m not cut out for this.

Looking back, it was such bullshit.

But I couldn’t articulate what I was really feeling. Sitting, weeping, on his couch, his wife and he tried to understand what I was missing, what piece of the puzzle had come loose. Please don’t do this. We know you’re scared.

I balked.

I walked.

I abandoned what had been my goal since I was 12.

I accepted the job as a supervisor at Borders. I was making $7.50 per hour in Fall 2004, writing orders for milk, cleaning sinks, and taking inventory of chocolate bars. I was at rest for a few months.

It didn’t take long to realize that – whether or not I “should” have gone on with school – I had seriously interrupted my momentum.

An object with momentum doesn’t necessarily have a destination in mind… just velocity and mass.

One year passed. It included 2 promotions. I became a manager.

My time, sanity, and will to live were stretched to their breaking points. I entered the worst bout of depression I have ever faced. I lost 30 pounds – going from a size 10 to a size 0.

Creativity, ideation, the pleasure of learning & growing were no longer part of my life. I pushed them out in favor of the conventional. The sure thing.

I knew I needed those pleasures in my life. So I started looking for them in another job.

I worked my resume over & over again. Changing my objective, punching up my skills, concentrating on the positives.

I sought out jobs & fields that played to my strengths without requirements that would immediately discount a Religion major.

No one would have me. No non-profit, no library, no university. I couldn’t communicate my value. I had lost touch with it completely.

But at least I had started the process, I started seeking out failure. I started learning from each foray into – what seemed like – utter foolishness.

In 2007, I spent 8 months with a different company. Instead of running a $5 million dollar business, I ran a $150,000 business. I wasn’t just executing orders. I was creating them. I had almost full reign over my operations, ordering, and marketing.

And I took advantage of it.

Something started blossoming. Spring had sprung.

Did I know what I was doing? Well, sorta. Did a lack of expertise hold me back? Nope.

What changed was not just the company I was working for but the self-determination that came with the job.

How can you be creative? How can you discover your own path if first you don’t have a sense of self-determination?

I returned to Borders before I left the traditional employment world all together. I spent 9 months gestating. Ideas. And a baby.

When I left, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I knew I could do whatever it was that I decided on.

Because it was me and only me determining my future. No one was going to tell me what to do or how to do it. No one was going to question my ideas. No one was going to question my ability.

Not because I was self-employed (I wasn’t) but because I was self-determined.

Self-determination breeds creativity.

Self-determination thaws the frozen.

And it doesn’t require you working for yourself. It requires you to take responsibility for where you’re at. For what you’re doing. It requires that you see every day and every situation as an opportunity. A miracle waiting to be realized. By you. By no one else.

Once I realized my own self-determination, I never looked back. How could I? I was hot. Turned on. Still am.