13 minute video: Why Does Marketing Feel Bad – Posturing, Collapsing and Composure

In today’s 13-minute video above Why Does Marketing Feel Bad – Posturing, Collapsing and Composure, you’ll learn:
  • My candid thoughts on why marketing feels bad so often (I have a strong opinion about this). I think that there is one central issue that I rarely ever hear discussed amongst most of my colleagues.
  • The difference between posturing and collapsing (and the hidden agenda that runs them both).
  • The hidden agenda that sits at the centre of most mainstream sales and marketing processes.
  • What you can do instead of collapsing or posturing and what the overt, plainly stated agenda in all marketing needs to be (there is only one agenda that works)

If you’d like to spend six weeks with other good people from around the world exploring how you could make your marketing feel good to yourself and the people receiving it (while still being effective), then I invite you to check out my six-week, Marketing for Hippies 101 program.

It is extremely affordable. There are no early-bird specials, just an honest, straight-forward good deal.

You can learn more to see if it’s a fit for you at the link below.


13 minute video: What if marketing felt good? (from live workshop)

Most marketing feels terrible to everyone.

And yet so many people simply say, “Well. This is how it is. You’ve got to pay the mortgage, you know?”

Many of us feel like we have to choose between doing marketing that is pushy, manipulative and gross or do no marketing at all.

It’s a terrible place to be in.

Thankfully, you don’t have to choose.

Marketing can feel good.

Punchline: the ‘feeling good’ is a part of the effectiveness.

Stated another way: when marketing feels bad it is less effective.

In this 13-minute video above, filmed at one of my live workshops, you’ll…

  • hear me unpack and explore the consequences and implications of what happens when marketing feels bad and what might happen if it felt really good in a way you may have never heard done before.
  • learn a simple exercise you can do to get clear on how you want your marketing to feel (it’s a bit different for everyone)
  • learn the number one factor in marketing that, even if the product and service are amazing, makes everything feel terrible.

Note: The audio for audience comments in the first couple of minutes is hard to hear without earphones but then it’s fine.

If you’d like to spend six weeks with other good people from around the world exploring how you could make your marketing feel good to yourself and the people receiving it (while still being effective), then I invite you to check out my six-week, Marketing for Hippies 101 program.

It is extremely affordable. There are no early-bird specials, just an honest, straight-forward good deal.

You can learn more to see if it’s a fit for you at the link below.


“But aren’t people indecisive?”

During my last tour in Toronto leading my Marketing for Hippies 101 workshop, I was asked the same question, twice in different workshops.

“But don’t people have a hard time making decisions?”

And, both times, I had to stop to address it.

The notion that people struggle to make decisions is one of the classic premises used to justify pushy and manipulative sales techniques.

The logic goes like this.

  1. Your product or service is great and high value. It could really help people.
  2. People have a hard time deciding.
  3. So you have to help them decide. Helping them to decide is a service to them.

And that’s actually fine as it goes. It depends what we mean by ‘helping them decide’. What that usually translates into is ‘helping them say yes’ or, stated another way, ‘getting the sale.’

Let me ask you, the first time you fell in love, did you decide to or did it just happen?

Do you remember the first house or apartment you fell in love with? Did you decide to?

When people see something they like, they like it.

This notion that ‘people have a hard time making decisions’ is one of those core beliefs about humanity that feels similar to the notion that ‘kids won’t learn unless we bribe them with gold stars, grades and punishment’.

If I believe that you need what I have (which is the first thought worth questioning) and that you have a hard time deciding things (the second thought work questioning) then I will manipulate you. Those two thoughts are all I need to justify my use of pressure-filled, sneaky tactics to get you to say ‘yes’ to working with me. I’ve heard it said outright by well-known sales trainers that you need to sell yourself on your product so that you walk in absolutely certain that what you’re offering can help those people and then to do whatever it takes to sell them because you’re actually doing them a service by pushing them.

If I believe those two thoughts, I will also be blind to what’s really going on.

They’re not indecisive, they’re just not sure it’s a fit. They’re not sure it’s worth the investment. They’re not sure it’s the best use of their money. They’re not indecisive, they’re deciding.

And our job is to facilitate the decision-making process (whether that’s towards a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’).

If we let go of those thoughts and are willing to accept that we have no idea if others need what we’re offering and we let go of the idea that deciding is hard then what we’re left with is that some people decide to work with us and some don’t.

Without those two thoughts, we can see potential customers as capable human beings who are in the process of making difficult decisions. Some of them will be a good fit for us and some won’t. Some of the ones who are a good fit for us will decide to work with us and some won’t. That’s how it is.

Knowing this, we go embrace the notion of slow marketing and go back to the three roles of marketing, to crafting better packages, to gaining more skill in having conversations with potential clients, to clarifying our niche and our point of view.

Instead of applying more pressure to help them decide, we clarify what we do to make the decision-making process easier. We help them contrast and compare what we do with what others do.

Human beings are not inherently indecisive.

But, if you believe it, you might just become inherently pushy and hard to be around.

4 Basic Reasons Your Business Isn’t Working Very Well

Guest Post by Julie Wolk.

tree-trunk-569275_1920Imagine a tree without roots.

Doesn’t really work so well, huh.

Your business also needs roots. It needs deep, strong roots too, so that it can hold up when the winds of change blow and the doldrums of summer seem to slow things down.

The problem is that it takes focus and time to build these earthy foundations of our businesses, and so we tend to skip over them, charmed by the shiny objects of the marketing world . . .

“The one marketing system you will ever need!”

“Get everyone to say YES to you!”

“All it takes is this one simple mindset shift!”

“Make millions blogging!”

I know: I see them everyday on Facebook too. And I admit – I’m sometimes tempted too (when my eyes aren’t rolling back into my head). Could it really be that easy?

Well first, probably not.

And second, if your business doesn’t have strong roots – meaning focus and clarity around four key areas of your business – none of these shiny promises are going to help you.

The Four Roots of Your Business

If you are not strongly rooted in these areas, no trick in the business book is going to work.

Skipping the roots and going straight to designing a slick website, or doing marketing and sales, can leave you feeling confused and frustrated – and your potential clients too.

And yet so many people do it! I would like to help you avoid that pain.

So let’s walk through these four areas:

1. Your Money

The majority of entrepreneurs I meet are mostly or completely ignoring their money.

A lot of people don’t like “dealing with money” at all. Or, it might be that numbers, spreadsheets and bookkeeping programs make you glaze over. Or that tracking feels like it’s too much pressure or gets in the way of your creativity.

Not only that, we all hold deeply rooted and often invisible beliefs about money that are etched into our psyches from years of familial and cultural influence.

Here are some common beliefs about money, that when left unattended can actually block you from earning money:

  • I’ll never have enough
  • Having money requires working so hard I’ll burn out
  • Rich people are greedy
  • Money is the root of all evil
  • I don’t deserve to make money
  • Money is complicated or causes problems/pain

Can you see how if those were your beliefs, you might not actually be able to earn a good living?

Thing is . . . I’m pretty sure most of you need to make at least some money in your business (if you don’t then awesome, but I would argue that you still need to pay attention to your money).

When you pay attention to your money – even if you have to get over a big “ick” factor to do it – here’s what happens:

  • You start to dislodge your stuck places around money by facing it and honoring it, instead of shying away from it
  • You feel empowered as the true leader of your business, one who has their finger on the financial pulse
  • You create an energetic container for your money to flow into, so that you earn more money. “What you appreciate, appreciates,” (says my favorite money teacher, Lynne Twist)

There are two key money practices you cannot ignore if you want to create a thriving business. One is energetic and one is very practical.

You need to explore and shift your underlying beliefs about money.

This is a long-term project. The first step is identifying what tapes play in your head about money without you even thinking about it. Then comes the work of shifting those old beliefs into life- and business- affirming beliefs about money – and constantly noticing when you slip back into your old ways so you can keep yourself on track.

You need to track your money.

Even if it’s just a simple spreadsheet (but ideally a simple bookkeeping program), please start tracking the money you earn and the money you spend in your business! Set a financial goal and track each month to see how much NET profit you earned (income minus expenses).

The coolest part is that these two practices are mutually reinforcing.

When you track and pay attention to your money, you start earning more, and your beliefs about money begin to shift. When your beliefs begin to shift, you start to earn even more money. And so on!

2. Your Purpose

Picture it: A business without purpose . . . wandering aimlessly in the sun-dried hills, wondering what to do with its life . . . Confused about what it does, who it benefits and how . . . Full of ideas and offerings, but not focused enough to make them happen. What problem do I solve? Who are my people? Where do I belong? Why am I here?!

Ok, I’m being overly dramatic, but I think you get the picture.

If you’re not clear on the purpose of your business – otherwise known as your niche – you can bet that others are confused too. This is not good for business.

And, when you’re not clear on what you do, it leads to all sorts of other frustrating questions like:

  • How do I talk to people about what I do?
  • What do I put on my website?
  • How do I market and get clients when I can’t clearly explain what’s going on?

Your business’ purpose, or niche, is perhaps the most fundamental building block of your business.

When you skip this part, it makes everything so much harder.

But when you take the time to hone in on your niche:

  • It will help you clarify what is totally unique about your business so you stand out from the crowd
  • It will allow you to speak confidently about your work, know exactly what to put on your website, and market with more authenticity and ease
  • It will help your perfect people find and hire you

I like this ecological definition of niche: “The role and position of a species in its ecosystem.”

What is your role in your ecosystem? How do you use your natural gifts to solve a problem for people? And who are those people specifically?

And how do you position yourself? How and why do you uniquely do your work?

Woven together, these threads are your business’ purpose. And knowing this, and honoring its organic growth and change over time, is an essential root of growing a successful business that feels natural to you.

3. Your Process

So you want to sign clients up to work with you for a six-month commitment because you’re sick of doing these one-off sessions and not having consistent work.

Or, you want to teach a yearlong group course so you can leverage your time.

Or, you’re still trying to find the words that show people how what you do is different from all other practitioners out there in your field and how you actually will help them get what they want.

All wonderful ideas!

But for people to make a big investment in your work, they really need to understand how exactly you’re going to help them. It’s not enough to tell them you’re an acupuncturist and you’re going to also do some moxibustion and cupping to help them feel better.

You need a process: A system that walks your clients down a pathway to the results that they’ve hired you for.

Here are some of the vast benefits to clarifying your process:

  • Potential clients are more likely to work with you when they are clear and confident about how you will help them get results and see you as having credibility
  • You feel more confident in your own work because you can actually see everything that goes into you creating results for your clients
  • You get to create an incredible, unique system that is truly your methodology, based on your experience, skills, and philosophy
  • This roadmap can be the outline for all of your business’s offerings, enabling you to design different programs and packages for different stages of the journey that all flow together and help you leverage your income

Your process does not have to be complicated. It just needs to be clear. Although it might be hard at first, try to define the steps you take people through as you work with them. What results do they tend to get each step of the way?

4. Your Time

My clients regularly ask me how they can better manage their time. Translated, this may mean:

“I am totally distracted by Facebook,”

“I have been putting off X project for six months now,” or

“I feel scattered and disorganized and don’t know what to do first.”

Sound familiar?

You might also have some resistance to structures and systems like calendars and goals. You are not alone in this.

The dance here is finding the balance between structure and flow. Structures truly do create freedom, and yet we don’t want to be overly rigid with ourselves, or beat ourselves up when we don’t hit our goals (no self-flagellation, please!).

That said, here’s what a little structure can offer us:

  • Less overwhelm, more organization, and more confidence in getting things done in your business
  • Clarity about what needs to happen next in your business and when you actually need to do it by
  • A strategic and focused way of approaching your work instead of a hodge-podge of random activities
  • Meaningful vision and goals that actually inspire you to get things done

But how do we get there?

The truth is that to really improve our “time management” and “productivity” (the outward desires of most entrepreneurs) we need to get at the heart of how we use our time.

At the core, our ability to manage our time well relies on things much deeper than simple productivity tips:

  • How aligned are you with your work? Do you feel on purpose?
  • What do you want to create? What are your goals?
  • What’s your strategic priority? What’s most important to do first?
  • Are you taking care of yourself? Are you giving yourself ample rest and refuel time so you can actually get this stuff done?

What these questions all point to is the need to take a step back from our busy work lives to slow down and figure this all out!

It takes some trust to know that time taken to create a plan and vision and set goals and priorities will actually help you feel less scattered and more focused on a day-to-day basis. But I invite you to take a risk and try it!
Our Root Systems Always Grow and Change 

As trees grow, their roots grow . . . The taller the tree, the more robust the root system.

Over time, as you and your business evolve, you will need to return to further clarify and deepen your roots. This isn’t just for beginners.

Every time you want to change or up-level your business, it’s an opportunity to return to your roots and clarify. Whether you want to increase your client base, take your business online, teach groups, or hire staff, as you grow, your roots need to grow with you.

Website-Closed SmileJulie Wolk is a business coach committed to helping purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature and themselves to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy! For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with.

If you want support to work on the Roots of YOUR Business, join Tad as he interviews Julie about her new course that covers all this good stuff at 2PM MT (local time in Alberta, Canada) on August 2nd: HERE


Scatterlings: An Interview with English Storyteller Martin Shaw on Nomads, Being Local and Belonging



Martin Shaw is currently doing a book tour across Canada. You can find more information on that here.

You can listen to the interview here.


Tad: Hi, everybody. This is Tad Hargrave from MarketingForHippies.com and various other endeavors. And I have the good pleasure and the good fortune of being here on the phone with Martin Shaw who is a storyteller and award-winning author who has written the book, A Branch from the Lightening Tree, Snowy Tower, and Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia, his most recent.

He is director of the West Country School of Myth in the UK and he has also devised and led the oral tradition courses at Stanford University. And I’m sure many other things.

I had the pleasure to meet Martin and see him at work I guess earlier this year on the west coast of Canada at Hollyhock Retreat Center. And was suitably impressed and amazed to be in the presence of one such as this with so many old-time stories brought alive in a new way in the world today. And so Martin and I were just chatting before we got started. He’s been working on his current book, Scatterlings, which we’ll be talking about today, for the last five years.

So, Martin, reading the write ups and seeing the video that you made about it, it seems like such a poignant book at these times. Because we’re in a world where localism, where shopping local, and local food are becoming more important. But we’re also in a world of immigrants. We’re in a world of digital nomads where it’s become sort of this idealized lifestyle that you can have the laptop lifestyle and travel anywhere, where home just becomes a feeling. But also this world of refugees because of the destabilization of climate and political realities. And here you are, this traveling English storyteller, with something to say about it. And so it seems like such an important time for a message such as this. So I guess I lay that out as the overture.

And I’m curious why the title Scatterlings, what that word means for you?

“I realized to be honest that although my family were from a place, they weren’t necessarily of it.”

Martin: Scatterlings for me really is a term for everywhere and nowhere. When I was growing up, I think like a lot of people I come from a place — I come from the west country of England, from a county called Devon, where variants of my family have been there for 200 years.

But I realized that although my family were from a place, they weren’t necessarily of it. And so I began to suspect that being from somewhere might be a little bit overrated. I think by the time I was 20 I had lived in 14 different parts of Great Britain. And I would always use overly romantic terms to describe it.

I’d call myself a nomad or a gypsy.

But the truth is I wasn’t either of those things. I was a scatterling. And really what that means is, as I said, of everywhere and nowhere. You know, it was as though I had traded depth for endless growth. In doing so, my knowledge was three miles wide and two inches deep.

And as a storyteller and a mythologist, which is a very sort of endangered species type of profession these days, I realized that stories from everywhere are now available to us all the time. And with that, I realized that they are somehow ruthless and in fact as a storyteller I felt weightless to some degree.

So, about five years ago, I effectively drew a sort of chalk circle of about 10 miles around where I grew up. And I said, “This is going to be my mythography. This is where I’m going to dig in. This is where I’m going to begin the labor of finding out what wants to disclose itself to me right here and now.”

What does it mean not to claim something, but to be claimed by it? What does it mean to behold a story or a stretch of land, not just to see it? You know, when you and I, if I took you for a walk where I live, we’d go for a little while. And you and I would see a thistle. But William Blake didn’t see a thistle. He saw a small, gray, glowing man waving at him.

That’s called beholding, and that has a visionary aspect to it. And you know, one of the kind of modern hysterias is this feeling about how do we become indigenous again? Like it’s a pill that we can pop. And funny enough, I’ve never met anybody worthy of calling themselves indigenous. I’ve never heard that phrase being used.

“a huge difference between being from a place and of a place is your capacity to behold it.”

But one of the things that I think makes a huge difference between being from a place and of a place is your capacity to behold it. A long time before I became a storyteller, a long time before I wrote books, when I was about 23, I took myself to a stretch, what we optimistically call a mountain.

You wouldn’t call it a mountain. You’d call it a hill. It was in Snowdonia in Wales, there’s a mansion called Caer Idris, the Seat of Arthur. And if you spend a night alone on Carta, you come down mad, dead or a poet. And so I went up for four days and nights without food to make absolutely sure, to see what would happen.

And I had quite unexpectedly, a deep and protracted mystical experience. I had an experience that doesn’t fit in the self-help books. It doesn’t fit in modern books about rites of passage. It was like something out of some Siberian anthropological report from the early 1900’s.

And it happened to a white kid on a Welsh hill in 1996. And so I was left in the detritus of that experience, wondering how on earth — how can a doorway like that still be open? A doorway where you can walk out of this century altogether? That’s what I did really. And the last 20 years has been a slow walk back from that into the village. Because you know, the epiphany of the wild is not enough.

“Don’t make a marginal life out of a marginal experience”

I say to my students, don’t make a marginal life out of a marginal experience. Initiations tend to take place on the fringes of things. But there is a secure route back into the middle. You know, people like Yeats was political his whole life. He didn’t just sit there as a poet at a great distance. He got amongst it.

After 20 years of stories, 20 years of witnessing and traveling stories from all around the world, it felt important in the time I had to realize I had been claimed by a small stretch of land, a place called Dartmoor. And to do something about it. To do the labor and do the work.

In some small way, I wanted to be a good little Shetland pony for the 10,000 secret things that riddled around me all the time. And so that’s what Scatterlings is.

Tad: Now I can imagine some people pushing back and saying, “Yeah, but part of the benefit of the time that we live in is it’s this globalized world. We exchange cultures and it’s so diverse and so eclectic. I can eat food from a curry shop over here, I can have a burrito over here and then I go to an African dancing class over here. Then I go to my Zen meditation over here. We’ve got this big, eclectic global world. And so globalization is wonderful. We get to travel, and that’s part of the benefit of being in these times. We don’t have to be so rooted anywhere. You know, we get to have this globalized experience, and isn’t that adding to the richness of our life to be in this more globalized world?”

And I’m curious what you would say to that?

“It’s easier and easier and easier to walk away from situations, from relationships, from people and from cultures and from ideas that we don’t see them through anymore.”

Martin: I’d say all of that is true, but it is also leading to an addiction to severance. It’s an addiction to severance we get. It’s easier and easier to walk away from situations, from relationships, from people and from cultures and from ideas that we don’t see them through anymore. We don’t see anything down anymore.

I think when I meet many people bereft in their emotional lives I see them as almost sort of paralyzed by choice. There’s a tyranny, actually is the word I would use. A tyrannical element to choice that is distinctly unerotic. It doesn’t feed life. It actually paralyzes you.

And the kind of globalization you’re describing means in the language of the romantics, and I’m definitely a romantic, it means you experience a lot of eros, but you don’t experience amor. A lot of eros, but you don’t experience amor in the sense that I can travel to Marin County or I can travel to the tundra of Siberia.

I can travel with the Kalahari Bushmen and I am moved and thrilled and interested. But when I am on Dartmoor, I am in the presence of something entirely different. And my body feels different. The tempering of my heart is different. And I’m very grateful that I have that relationship and that I can discern the difference.

Without that, I will move from flower to flower to flower to flower, experience to experience to experience, and I will marry nothing and my hands will touch nothing. And then I wonder why I want to blow my brains out when I’m 50. So, for me, that is part of the entanglement that comes with all of this endless opportunity.

I’m not an idiot. I understand all the good things about it. You know, it will be a long time before I’m rude about growing up on Sesame Street or listening to John Coltrane or going to the cinema or any of those things. I’m not a ludite. But I am aware that there is a tremendous price tag attached.

“I am aware that there is a tremendous price tag attached.”

Tad: That opens up a lot of loops. But one of the things that occurred to me as you were speaking is, certainly in a lot of circles I work with, there’s a sense of — of course most of my friends want to go to India because you have all the sacredness there and the Ashrams.

You can meditate there. And a lot of them want to go to South America and of course in South America you can do ayuhuasca and you can hang out with Mayan shamans and you can hike the Inca trail. And then people want to go to Asia and Thailand. Meditation! The full moon parties! All these other places.

Especially it seems for people of European descent, but maybe there’s something about this modern world. Because I imagine there’s a lot of people of a lot of different cultures that could relate to this sense. There’s always somewhere else.

And I can tell you that when I think of spiritual Mecca’s in the world, places you might have a transcendent experience, Devon is not one that would come to mind.

Martin: Yeah, and I’m relieved about that because that means it’s a secret.

Tad: There’s a woman named Grace Lee Boggs who was an Asian woman in the States, an activist. And one of the quotes she said, there are two that come to mind. One of them was, “The most radical thing I ever did was to stay put.”

The other one was, “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it; unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.”

But this notion of being in a place, that you found something extraordinary in a place that other people might look at and see as ordinary in some way. And it seems like there’s an invitation in what you’re saying for people to perhaps stop seeking the sacred in these far-off places and to draw that imaginary chalk circle around a certain place for themselves and to find something there.

13838583_10153778182205980_337657412_o (1)Martin: Yeah, that is true. That is true. Scatterlings is the end. You mentioned the other books, A Branch from the Lightning Tree and The Snowy Tower, and then this book Scatterlings. Scatterlings is the one, and it’s very much the end of a trilogy. It’s the most urgent of the three.

And it is a very gnostic book. It is a very esoteric book. It pulls no punches. But it absolutely does offer, in its own strange, circuitous way, something of a map that whether you are living in Detroit or in a fishing village or you know, in a city or anywhere else, there is something you can do with this. I don’t quite know what, because I don’t like franchises and I don’t like bullet points.

It doesn’t do any of that. But it’s got a taste to it, it’s own undomestic language. And language is important to me. The guy that you would have seen me with in Hollyhock, Stephen Jenkinson, is a great pal of mine. And he’s someone who really relishes his language. He believes that language has moved like reindeer over tundra to get into the meadhall of your jaw.

It’s that you matter. That you have a degree of consequence. And that when you are feeling things deeply, you need to elevate that to a point where you nourish more than yourself when you speak it. That doesn’t mean it has to be high faluting. It just needs to have a kind of truth in it that the old gods recognize.

So staying still for five years, you know, and I travelled, but my psychic world was here. You know, the intensity of my creative life was here. Raising a child was here. You know, that’s the most important part of anything that I do, is being with my daughter.

“… many of my friends like yours were gobbling ayahuasca or hanging by their testicles off trees in Sri Lanka or whatever the hell it was.”

So all of these things were relatively undramatic, undramatic. And you know, many of my friends like yours were gobbling ayuhuasca or hanging by their testicles off trees in Sri Lanka or whatever the hell it was. Raising kids, dealing with the ignominity of living in the west. These are kind of private but very real mythological struggles for me.

They are what I would call ordinary grandeur. And I just knew that that was what I was going to focus on, rather than anything else that seemed too dramatic. I wasn’t going to get thrown off the chase anytime soon.

Tad: So a lot of people I can imagine who are hearing this would say, “Well, I haven’t left my damn neighborhood in 20 years. I would never have this kind of mythical experience.” I’ve been traveling and I’ve been in a place and there was no chalk circle, but if there was, I wouldn’t have left it. And yet I haven’t had this experience of being of this place, rather than just being from this place.

And so what do you make of that?

Martin: Well, they sound tacitly or explicitly depressed. And one of the things that I would have recommended is, as I sort of referred to briefly at the beginning is that this all comes out of an experience called wilderness rites of passage. Where I got profoundly shaken.

I was shaken to such a degree, I had absolutely no idea whether I would come out of this alive or not. So when I talk about the process that’s in Scatterlings and actually long before I wrote Scatterlings, I spent four years living in a tent on a succession of English hills. Exploring the notion of does wildness and wilderness even exist in Britain anymore?

“if your idea of your neighborhood is waddling down to Starbucks and back, no we’re not on the same page.”

So I did the hard yards and that kind of thing. I turned my head in that direction. So no, if your idea of your neighborhood is waddling down to Starbucks and back, no, we’re not on the same page. We’re not talking about the same thing. Absolutely not.

You know, the book asks more from you than you will want to give. That’s for sure. And I can talk about that on the phone, you know. But the main thing is to read the book and see the price tag attached. And most people would not want to do it. You know, Rilke the poet, he says really the function of poetry, real poetry, is saying this to you, “You must change your life.”

“The function of poetry, real poetry, is saying this to you, ‘You must change your life.'”

You must change your life. And so the book and my particular stance in the world is not designed for a mass market. But what it is saying is that mythological intelligence, in other words, your capacity whether you’re living in a city or a suburb or out on some farm or you’re part of a traveling circus, your capacity to recognize not just that you are in the presence of the gods but that you recognize which gods are speaking to you at which particular times through conversations and circumstance. That is a skill that you can develop. What Seamus Heaney would say, he’d say, “You need to tune your ear.” You need to tune your ear. And if you are living in a place and you are profoundly stuck, your ear is not tuned to it. And there are many different ways that people go about that.

And again, in the ’90’s and the early part of this century, anybody that I met that presented themselves as a spiritual being thought language was rather out of fashion. Everybody was trying to get to the place beyond language. And so to become a storyteller felt a very antiquated act. You know, a very strange thing to do. But because I believed that language was a kind of holy currency, it was a way of bartering with weather patterns and claiming some sort of intimate relationship with oak trees and ravens. And I believed also that when you did that, in some strange way, what we loosely call ancestors would roll up and have a look. This all seemed to be part of the move from the fromness to the ofness. Language was actually a bridge into that for me.

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Tad: Speaking of language, you made a distinction in the video. You referenced it here between wilderness and wildness. That had me wondering. Because some people live in the concrete jungle, and there is no wilderness around them. And yet you seem to be suggesting that wildness is still available.

Martin: Yes it is. It is. Now there are different types of wildness. You can be thinking of wildness like the long grass that is growing up between two tenement buildings. You can look at, if not a wild environment, then a feral environment, when you’re looking at street gangs.

I’ve spent, many, many years working with what we loosely call at-risk youth, and in prison sometimes. And you see versions of wildness or attempts at wildness trying to show their hands all the time.

I mean, interestingly for me, I believe that discipline is the dance partner of wildness. That actually I don’t want to be experiencing expressive dance or interpretive dance all day long. Sometimes I want to see a flamenco. I want to see steps. I want to see discipline. I want to see homemaking skills. You cannot be a decent storyteller without homemaking skills.

Because in the Gaelic and Celtic tradition, if your life isn’t beautiful enough, if you are not a kind of little trembling bird of sound, then stories simply will not land on your shoulder. There’s a whole maintenance program designed to curate and look after stories. Otherwise they’re simply not interested in turning up.

“The stories in Scatterlings are not auditioning for our contemporary polemics. They don’t care. They do not care.”

You know, you’ll see this in Scatterlings. The stories in Scatterlings are not auditioning for our contemporary polemics. They don’t care. They do not care. They have an agency all of their own. I travel about and people are always saying to me, they say, “Oh, you know a bit about stories. Can you give us one mono story for now? Can you just procure it out of the ether with all of the complexity of everything we’re living through? Can you do that for us?”

And my feeling is the stories we need arrived really perfectly on time about 5,000 years ago. They’re stepping forward now. The first thing that I recommend is, if you’re interested in stories, you need to live a life efficacious enough, humble enough and beautiful enough for stories to actually show up. Stories are not interested in us just beholding beauty. They want to see us make it. They want to see us make beauty and then they get interested and then they show up. And then they start to, as I said earlier on, arrive in the meadhall of our jaws.

“Stories are not interested in us just beholding beauty. They want to see us make it.”


Tad: Is there some relationship for you between beauty and wildness?

Martin: Yeah, there is. There is actually. And I think most people can understand that very quickly. But civilization is also not the dirty word for me that it is to a lot of my contemporaries who would just be done with it. They would just like Rome to burn all day long and that would be the end of the matter.

And I’m not interested in that either. You know, it is a paradoxical time that we’re living in. You know, there’s no one that I know that on some level is not a hypocrite. Nobody. And you know, I would say this: at this point, for you and I, our incompleteness is our authenticity. It is. You know, I’m not saying we stay there. I’m not saying we stay there, but for me anyway, my incompleteness is my authenticity. Anything else is just hubris. And then I try to work at it in my own stumbling fashion.

Tad: Well, you mentioned the relationship between storytelling and homemaking. And I’m curious, because that word ‘home’, of course, gets used in a lot of different ways in this culture. And it’s come to mean a lot of different things. So I’m wondering, what does home mean for you? And what does homemaking mean for you?

Martin: I think there’s some practical stuff attached to that. Seven or eight miles from where I’m talking to you now, my dead are buried. You know, my aunt is buried, my grandpa is buried. My great-grandfather is buried, my granny is buried. My other aunt is buried. So there’s something to do with bodies in the ground. That’s partially to do with home. I can’t access that sensation by the Pacific Ocean. I can’t access it in Norway. You know, I have to be in a particular place.

You know, it’s funny how we talk about the difference between a house and a home. ‘Home’ I have to say for me is also a lot to do with books. I’m an enormous reader and I’ve lived in different places. But certain books, certain images, certain paintings, they orientate me, but I do not mistake that for what someone would call an axis mundi. That’s not my Yggdrasil. That’s not my holy tree.

So I have a sense, wherever I go, to some degree, I feel stabilized. But without question, when I am entering Devon, it’s to do with the smell of the air. It’s to do with the seasons I have witnessed over and over again. It’s to do with the child that I’ve raised. It’s to do with the rain in my face. It’s to do with all the failures that have landed on me in this place over the last 44 years. It’s a really nuanced confluence of things that for me give me a sense of home. And it’s not even a comfortable sensation. It’s just a thing. You know?

Tad: So is homemaking a skill, do you think, that we have to develop? Is it an innate human capacity, this idea of making home? Because for some people of course, maybe they’re a refugee or something else, or maybe they’ve moved for a different reason and now they find themselves in a new place that is not home. And some people have never known home in the way you’re talking about it: the bones of their ancestors. So then we’re left with this, I guess we have to make home.

“when you go deep enough into the local, you find the nomad.”

Martin-Shaw--224x300Martin: You do. And how does one do that? One of the things I found so fascinating about spending five years ruminating on your home ground, from where I come from, Devon, is when you go deep enough into the local, you find the nomad. There’s always a nomadic agency at the very center of the local. For example, a few years ago on a hill very near where I lived, a place called White Horse Hill, we discovered the burial cairn of a young girl. She was 14 years old. And she died about 4,000 years ago, or had been ritually executed. I’m not sure. And there were bearskins in there. And there was all sorts of jewelry. But the reason why we knew she was a big deal was that there were 200 little amber beads right there on this remote Devon hillside. And where did those amber beads come from? The Baltics. The Baltics. So that was going on 4,000 years ago. Trade was going on 4,000 years ago. One of the things I do in Scatterlings is I collect language that has remained outside of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, but was being used by farmers and sheepherders sand rural people in Devan for hundreds of years. And without question the root of their language for calling animals is Aramaic.

“And without question the root of their language for calling animals is Aramaic.”

You know, so in other words, one of the things as I’m trying to get soaked into the local, the further into it I go, the more and more scent I get from cultures from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. You know, I mean Dartmoor itself is 365 square miles of wilderness, but, for a long time, it was the bottom of an ocean. For a long time, it was a redwood forest. For a long time, it was covered by hyenas and elephants. I love the idea that an elephant is more indigenous to Dartmoor than I will ever be. I think that’s very charming.

So I don’t lock in too quickly. I stay curious. Put it that way, Tad. I stay curious about what the word ‘local’ is. Because actually, and I’m sure this is the same way you are, there’s a hysteria around the word local that after a while I find unattractive. It’s just become another word, you know. So actually one of the things that Scatterlings has to own as a book is local stories, local myths, local legends. They do not do what a Russian fairy tale does. They do not do what a big Irish saga does.

They are much more low-key. When you really do get a story that is based and locked into a particular stretch of the dark river, that oak tree with the moss on the northern flank, the information it gives is discrete and quiet and really requires you as a storyteller to bring people into what I call the mnemonic triggers, the landscape triggers of that story.

“You don’t tell those stories to 4,000 people.”

You don’t travel the world with those stories. You don’t tell those stories to 4,000 people. There seems to be an invitation the other way in saying — and that’s what happened with the book. It felt as if the land was saying, “We will disclose these stories to you, but the condition is if you’re actually going to tell them you have to tell them in place.”

And so that’s what I can see as part of my practice over the years with this book. It’s actually working with quite small groups in Chaw Gully or by the great weatherstones or wherever these stories actually arise out of the ground from. There’s a wonderful phrase from a writer called Sean Kane and he says myth is the power of a place speaking.  is the power of a place speaking. Not that myth is people speaking or an oak tree speaking or a jack door. It’s the place. And you and I can be part of that place briefly, sometimes. But I’m touched by that. That’s enough for me to go on.

“Myth is the power of a place speaking.”

Tad: That reminds me of an experience I had 10 years ago. I was at the Gaelic College and I ended up connecting with a storyteller, George McPherson up there. And he had all these stories that were so particular, like this rock. You know, what you were saying has me thinking. So much to say.

One is how this culture becomes very — identities can become so Puritan and so pure. So “I’m from this country,” or “I’m from this,” with no sense that the ancestors of those places came from other places at some point. And there’s been all this migration over the years.

People say, “I’m Scottish,” and it’s like from this place. But you know, where? When exactly? So there’s that. And, of course, we see the toxic bloom of that coming out in the United States right now with the rise of white supremacy. Which is this sort of toxic white as a pure thing, which of course has a larger story of often coming and fleeing from Europe.

And then a sort of freezing of this cultural identity of you know, Scottish or Irish or whatever it is. And it makes me think. One of the things Stephen Jenkinson said once was that the main capacity of storytelling is actually story hearing. The ability to hear stories.

So part of what I’m hearing of what you’re saying is there’s this notion that people in their communities, when we really look at our communities and neighborhoods and where things came from, each of those things has a story. And that if we can look at everything and say, “Where did you come from?”

Look at the dandelion in North America and know that they came from Europe. They got brought over. I’ve even heard people make claims that earthworms were not here, that those came over from Europe. You know, cattle and all these things. So there’s a capacity, even in looking at one square mile or one square foot almost, one could want to know, “Where did you come from? How did you get here? What’s the story of you? What’s the story of us?”

And then it just seems like there’s some — that seems connected to the capacity for homemaking.

10515116_10152921283898336_362192035662851658_oMartin: I agree. In this book I wrote, Snowy Tower, the epilogue of the book is called Foundational Stones to Myth Telling. And it’s all about that. It’s just saying, “Try this out, try this out, try this out.”

It makes people a little worthy for a while. Do you know that expression? Worthy? So you’re a bit anal. You’ve got people kind of wandering around with jackets that are sort of pressed in vats of their own urine and things like that. They’re a little humorless for a little while, but you get past it.

I mean, I have students who for example, there will be a small room in their house and everything that is in that room they know entirely the story of that table and how it was made. Or the shoes or the musical instrument. They can go right back to the source of it usually because they made it themselves. So, that’s a mighty task. It’s a wonderful task. But if people want to work in that manner, that’s a place that you can go. You can just say, “I’m really going to get to know how it is to handle wood, or to build a boat. I’m going to dig into this.” And the further you go, as I’m sure you’re aware in your own life, you get paid back pound by pound exactly what you put in. And you will know that you are on the right trail with it when you are no longer enjoying it for a period of time. And you continue. I mean, that’s one of the things in Scatterlings I’m talking about for a lot of this book. The book was not written on a crest of euphoria. You know, the book was a very diligent, slow, trucking through four very difficult winters.

Trying to find my way across Dartmoor without a map. So in other words, I would find a story or a story would find me that still had a beginning and middle and end that was describing a particular section of the moors. And I would go up there and I would walk — I hesitate to call it that, but you could see it almost like a song line. I would try and find my way from one end of the story to the other. And the commentary on the stories was not a kind of exegesis in comparative religion or comparative mythology. It’s what happened on the walk. It’s the belief that when you start not only listening to a story — you know, the suggestion you were saying about how we listen to stories, not just tell them — it’s also how we walk them. You know, to walk a story, to walk the geography of a story. To try the myth line of a story. And you do it in such a fashion that what discloses itself on the walk, whether that’s animals you encountered, people that came towards you, you know the way the weather turned, it’s all a form of divination, for me anyway.

And that’s kind of my disclaimer really, is that I am of a mystical disposition. And so it’s not necessarily that these are things that would work for anybody. But they are sincerely laid down in the book as well as I can, as well as I can do that.

Tad: Do you think that not being at home is connected with not knowing the stories of things and not knowing the stories of a place?

“The result of not knowing the stories of things means you do not know the story of yourself or your place in it.”

Martin: Yeah, I do. Because the result of not knowing the stories of things means you do not know the story of yourself or your place in it. And when you don’t know the story you’re in, you in the end will be victim — and I do say victim — to enormous floods of anxiety. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. None of that matters. It’s absolutely crippling and debilitating. So you know, you end up in a very bleak place. I mean, I’m sure with pals of yours one of the discussions at the moment is around the word despair.

People are saying to me, “Is it legitimate? What do you think about the word despair? Is it good to feel despair for the world?” And I’m cautious about that word actually. I’m cautious about it. I think sorrow is one thing. But true despair, true despair, that is a very, very terrifying proposition.

And to bring it back into the realm of stories again, you know, the myth teller — there is such a thing as a myth teller’s contract. In a tribal community, stories are the nutrient that are going to hopefully get you from one end of the winter to the other. You know, it has survival at its core.

And the stories that we remember are the ones of significance. Someone asked me the other day, they said, “Why isn’t there a story about the day that nothing really happened?” And I said, “Well that’s a good question.”

The reason why is that stories that come from oral cultures come from a time where we didn’t have an iPad that we could continually put down information into. We had a finite memory. So the stories we remembered were impacted with really important, vital information, psychic information about how to function in this world with dignity and a little bit of style.

And with all of that in mind, the contract of the myth teller is to get a group into as deep a place as you possibly can. In other words, into the arena of ritual. To the bottom of the well if you’re going to use a fairy tale term. But you are contractually obliged to get them out again. That doesn’t mean you say, “Ah, you know, and then it was just a dream and then everybody woke up and la, la, la.” It’s not that. It’s not that. And it’s not quite hope either. Or if it is hope, it’s a very sophisticated version. But to some degree, you do not leave people in the wound of the story as if that alone is enough. Because it isn’t enough.

“Your wound does not edify the gods.”

Your wound does not edify the gods. You know, again something I think in the book I talk about is I meet a lot of folks these days and I say that they are experiencing what I call the seduction of the wound. If you’re growing up in an anesthetized culture where nothing really is happening, to get in touch with something that feels painful feels truthful.

You know? So, for me, the first place that I wanted to go when I was a kid was the mosh pit. You know, that’s where I wanted to go. If I was launching myself off a PA system 12 feet in the air above a screaming bunch of punk rockers, I was alive. And it was going to hurt when I landed, but it would be a trance-breaking kind of hurt.

And it was a form of contact, because I was banging up against people in a peculiar kind of dance. But that in itself is a move towards waking up, but it is by no means the end of the story. You know, that might have temporarily edified me, but it didn’t edify anything else. And with my own students, part of homemaking skills — we’re coming back to that theme again — part of homemaking skills is saying — say you’re a writer– waggling your pen around in the ink of your pain is a seduction. It’s a seduction. There has got to be a more vital form of nutrient than that.

And so with the stories that I’m involved with, the stories that have claimed me, the ones that I’m telling, they have some very hard, what I would call prophetic, not pastoral information. We don’t need more pastoral stories telling us we’re doing all right. We’re not doing all right. If Trump has a possibility of being elected, we’re not doing all right. If England is under the hallucination that leaving the European Union is a good idea, we’re not all right. So I’m curious about how we raise our game with our artfulness in the years that we’re here.

“waggling your pen around in the ink of your pain is a seduction.”

Tad: You know, when you talk about wounds, it strikes me that one of the ways we can deal with wounds, certainly there’s directly addressing them. But there’s also giving them some bigger context that they’re in, which seems like one of the roles that myth has played. You’re not the only person to have felt this way and that there’s a bigger story at work around this thing.

It’s not just that. And so there’s this notion of being inside of a story. And yet, that seems so antithetical to our times, which our times — we’re so hungry for freedom and yet the way we define freedom in this culture, this modern world, seems to be about a lack of limits. So freedom means no limits.

Which of course has the consequences of a rootless and weightlessness. And so I’d be curious to hear your understanding of freedom. Because in the words of Stephen Jenkinson again — we’ve referenced him a few times — he has a line he says, “We are modern and we are confused by freedom.” So I’d be curious to hear your understanding of freedom.

Martin: Yeah, I mean I don’t think about the word very much to be honest. It doesn’t register. You know, as long as I remain curious, curiosity is a more interesting word to me than freedom. Because what does freedom mean? Does freedom mean that I’m not indebted anymore? You know?

Does it mean that I don’t owe people stuff? I hope I owe people stuff. I want to owe people stuff for the rest of my life. You know, the old Platonic — in Greek thinking there are these modes that they call growing down. Growing down into the business of living. And one of them is you know, that strange troubled nest that is your family.

Accepting that there is some sort of divine principle at work. Or if you’re an orphan or wherever the hell you grew up, there’s some dynamic principle working from the beginning trying to get you to remember something. And there’s an indebtedness to that. There’s an indebtedness to a small stretch of land.

And it goes on to these four modes. But it culminates in creating a life to approach the unpayable astonishment that one should have at the experience of being gifted a life at all. So I want to be in the presence of unpayable things and I want to try to pay them anyway. So freedom, in any conventional sense, it’s just not on my radar I’m afraid.

Tad: It just strikes me that in this modern world we want to be free of everything, which includes free of a story. You know, “I just want to be my own person. I want to be an individual. I’m not a part of this bigger story that you want to tell. I’m just myself.” And yet the loneliness that seems to create in these times.

It means they’re dead. It means that guy died in this experience.”

Martin: I know. If you really want to make people uncomfortable when you’re having a gathering and people are talking about words like ‘initiation’ or words like ‘indigenous’, talk to them about the word submission. The function of submission in a rite of passage worth its salt.

There comes a point where you have to find out what it is like to bend your head. And at that moment, the polemic of your feelings matter not a jot. I remember a few years ago a guy rang me up and he said, “Yeah, I want to do your wilderness fasting, but I have to eat all the way through. We’ll just clear that up now so I can eat.”

And I knew the guy and I said, “Do you have a particular book on your shelf?” And I knew he would. And I said, “Go and open the book up.” I had it too. And I said, “You see page 82? You see this aboriginal ritual going on where all those guys are lying on the ground and every third or fourth guy there’s like a white stick coming out of the ground?”

He said, “Yeah, that’s really weird.” He said, “They’re out in the desert doing something like what you do.” And I said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Do you know what the white sticks are?” He said no. It means they’re dead. It means that guy died in this experience.

“And you’re telling me you’re going to rock up with a McDonalds and a Frappachino and expect to have an equivalent experience?” You know, ring me in eight years. Which is actually exactly what happened. He went out last summer.

So you know, I don’t know. Strange times that we’re living in. And you know, I’m very aware with Scatterlings and I’m very aware as a British person living in Britain, my situation with landscape is not the same I would suggest as an American of European origin living on Turtle Island. It’s different. And we have all sorts of gradient of relationship up until the present day, that Scatterlings has to tackle. It’s not as if I’m sitting here thinking, “Well you know, 300 years ago the red man was sitting in the forest next to where my house is.” It’s a different crisis. It’s a crisis of equal weight, but it’s slightly different. So one of the things the book has to do is deal with what I call English liminal culture. In other words, even through the Industrial Revolution, even through the political spheres, where were the pressure points? Where were the acupuncture points in British history when people were trying to reach out to the mysteries?

They were trying to reach out to what David Abram calls the more than human world. When was that happening? So one of the things is I hope for folks whose names maybe end in MacGregor or Vaughn or O’Brien, there are all sorts of clues in that book about this is a place you could go. This is a place that you could check out.

This is a place where you could raise your game, raise your wisdoms about what stands behind you.

Tad: I suppose that leaves me with one more wondering, which is a big one. It seems like so much of this coming to understand and find this bigger story that we’re in, this capacity for homemaking, this capacity to be of a place, has a lot to do with the relationship we have to the particular things of the place.

I didn’t get the sense you were sitting in Devon on a hill overlooking everything from a distance. But you talked about really walking through it. And in particular that moss on that rock and this tree and the way the branch is broken and that way.

And so there’s something about particularities, which of course could be just as true in a concrete inner city environment. There’s particular things to be seen there too. And yet one of the things you said in the little video you made for the book is this whole thing is about courting.

And one of the things you said earlier in this conversation was, you used the phrase what wants to disclose itself to me? And you made the distinction between beholding and seeing. And so it seems like there’s something about our manner of approach to the particularities of where we find ourselves that determines what we find.

“there are whole new growth pine forests on Dartmoor that were entirely planted for the construction of warships.”

Martin: Yeah. I mean, for the longest time, the forests where I come from have all the glittering, gleaming eyes. You know, when you go into a wild place, there’s many more eyes looking at you than anything you think you’re looking at. You’re always being looked at.

And what they have seen for a long time is us coming and looking at ancient trees as 2×4’s – as planks rather than a tree. They’ve seen us planting. There are whole new growth pine forests on Dartmoor that were entirely planted for the construction of warships. And so the very reasoning for those things to be there is for an act of war.

And so for 20 years I have often gone into wild places and I’ve stopped eating. One of the reasons you do that is because it is a primordial set of manners the wilderness understands. Because it means you say, “For a while, I am no longer devouring, but being devoured. I will be devoured.”

And I place my sword on the soil, and I bend my head. And you recalibrate yourself for a while to the humors of that place. To the hearing and the listening of that place. And so that’s why my relationship began to change.

Because quite frankly I was vulnerable when I was out there. I was cold, I was frightened. I was unpractical. I’m not a practical man particularly. So it was always a struggle for me, that kind of thing. But I did it with a particular type of humility because the old ones can smell if you’re on the take. They know. And they go, “Oh, it’s you again.” And so the manner in which they disclose things, the manner in which you move from seeing something to behold something is simple. Lay down your arms. Lay down your arms. And that is the beginning I would say of a different kind of conversation.

Tad: Thank you. I’m wondering if there are any last words you’d like to say. You’re about to go on this huge tour of Scatterlings all across Canada and be sharing this book with a lot of people. It will be a part of your life the next little while. So I’m just wondering, are there any last thoughts that you’d like to share?

Martin: I’m thoroughly looking forward to coming. And I’ll read you something from it.

Tad: That would be wonderful.

Martin: This is just a little bit. Two or three minutes. And it’s really the beginning of going out and looking for stories looking to get claimed.

I went out looing for stories in dark places. In caves, hundreds of feet into the base of hills. The immensity of tree roots and stones suspended above my fragile head. I leant slow words down there. Words flushed deep with water and bolder dust.

I took myself to dreaming places, forgotten places. Places deserving of shrines. I built small shelters in ancient solitary haunts and sealed myself into the dark for days and nights. It was in those places I learnt many holy names for time. Time is malleable as a concertina, as robust as Irish cattle, as slippery as the trout escaping the hook.

Each of the secret words was true wealth for my parched tongue. They required payment in full and I was not sad to give it. I went looking for stories in the palace of the birds, the pastoral murmur of the wood pigeon. The thrilling blue calls of the tawny owls in their midnight kingdoms. I learned feathered words up there, sounds that whittled a new and fragrant shape to my jaw.

For a little while, I was a boy of the moonlight, cloaked and rooted by the base of great trees. It is no great brag to say that a part of me is still there.

So yeah, there’s a bit of the book.

Tad: Thank you so much. So if people want to know more about the tour, they can go to — there’s a website DrMartinShawCA.wordpress.com.. And if they want to find out more about you and your work and about the school and learn more about you beyond this tour, where should they go?

scatterlingsMartin: There are two websites. One is called DrMartinShaw.com and that has a lot of my wider work. I do a lot of work with Celtic translations. I’m just finishing a book of translations of Lorca the poet. Various sort of stuff I’m involved with. I also lead a conference called the Great Mother Conference every year in New England.

And then the other website is SchoolOfMyth.com. And that’s my little school, my little hedge school that I have down in the west country where people come and study with me from really April to December. We gather five times for three days at a time. And we go very deeply into the kind of areas that we’ve just briefly discussed this evening.

Tad: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. I know it is now 11:00 PM your time and you’ve been very gracious with your time. May your travels be wonderful and full of unexpected delights in every stop, and the seeds of many good things be planted in your life and the life of everyone who comes to your events.

Martin: Okay, thank you so much.

Tad: Take care. Bye.

Winners of the 2016 SYTYCN Contest!

sytycn2016I am thrilled to announce the winners of the 2016 So You Think You Can Niche contest!

Backstory: throughout the month of May I invited people to submit their niche summed up into 140 characters (that’s the length of a tweet!), and then to rate at least five other people’s niches from 1-10 and offer feedback to one another.

The results were fantastic. We had 45 niche meme entries, over 150 Facebook “likes” on those entries and more than 560 thoughtful, constructive comments.

I am deeply happy and encouraged by the quality of content and interaction. In addition to being fun, the So You Think You Can Niche contest for 2016 has been a wonderful platform for learning and a genuine success.

And the winner is: 

Allison Macbeth!

Allison Macbeth

Allison received an overall rating of 10, and of all the 10/10-ratings in this contest, she had the most feedback comments – thus making her our winner and proving that the amount of genuine, thoughtful, rated feedback really did matter!

My sincere congratulations to Allison – she entered a super clear niche for her work helping women to chart their menstrual cycles and balance hormones naturally.

Allison takes home the first place prize of a 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + she’ll be featured on my blog in the future + a $100 gift certificate at her favourite locally owned restaurant + a free hard copy and digital copies of my book The Niching Nest + a free entry to my Niching Spiral Homestudy Course to give to a friend (she doesn’t need it ’cause she’s so smart) + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course (in case she does want to join the course herself), which will be fully launching soon!

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2nd & 3rd place:

Eloise Meskanen and Leesa Klich. Each of these women received a 10 rating overall and had the 2nd and 3rd most comment ratings of all the 10/10-ratings. They will each receive a 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + an electronic copy of The Niching Nest + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

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The lovely SYTYCN contestants who placed 4th through 10th each win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course – a discount the winner can use or pass onto others. The tie-breaker for niches with the same rating was the number of comments offered on that niche. 

My congratulations to these folks: 4th place: Kathryn Karpinski [10]; 5th place: Crystal DiDomizio [10]; 6th place: Jill Mahanna [10]; 7th place: Bradley Morris & Andy Freist [10]; 8th place: Sherry St. Cyr [10]; 9th place: Joyce Schafers [10] and 10th place: Victoria Vernhes [9.5].

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BEST MEME AWARDS go to people who created an eye catching, easy-to-read meme that really echoed their work or offering. This is a subjective category – I’ve looked at a lot of memes in my time and I chose memes that were striking and memorable to me, that were clear and welcoming and made sense with the niches they are supporting. These folks win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course – a discount the winner can use or pass onto others.

And the winners are: Josee Brisebois, Iona Bonamis, Crystal Di Domizio, Cara Leopold, Tomar Levine, Rebecca Llewellyn, Allison Macbeth, Eloise Meskanen, Bradley Morris & Andy Freist, Claire Sierra, Devika Singh, Victoria Verns, and Fran Westmore.

Best Memes of 2016

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THE BEST COMMENTS PRIZES go to the people who gave the best, most useful and insightful feedback to many others in the SYTYCN contest. They each get $300 off my Niching Spiral Homestudy course – because they’re the kind of people I want in it (this is a non-transferrable prize).

Thanks for the amazing effort and deeply thoughtful feedback folks, my congratulations go to: Lia Ayley, Josee Brisebois, Sarah Chauncey, Elfriede Krauth, Dana Leigh Lyons, Liz Massey, Solona Mead, Liz Norris, Jo Maria Vernon, and Sherrie St. Cyr.

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List of  Final Ratings:

Lastly, you’ll find the  list of the final ratings for everyone who entered the contest below. Congrats and thanks to all these lovely, brave contestants!

Please note: the calculation was made by finding the average score of a niche/meme’s ratings and averaging that total with my (Tad Hargrave’s) rating.

1 Allison Macbeth 10
2 Eloise Meskanen 10
3 Leesa Klich 10
4 Kathryn Karpinski 10
5 Crystal Di Domizio 10
6 Jill Mahanna 10
7 Bradley/Andy Morris/Freist 10
8 Sherrie St. Cyr 10
9 Joyce Schafers 10
10 Victoria Vernhes 9.5
11 Tomar Levine 9.5
12 Josee Brisebois 9.5
13 Iona Bonamis 9
14 Lia Ayley 8.5
15 Liz Norris 8.5
16 Fran Westmore 8.5
17 Ling Wong 8.5
18 Jessica English 8.5
19 Courtney Moore 8
20 Devika Singh 8
21 Rebecca Llewellyn 7.5
22 Mary Choo 7.5
23 Sarah Chauncey 7.5
24 Dana Leigh Lyons 7.5
25 Alice Grange 7
26 Jessica English 7
27 Tea Silvestre Godfrey 7
28 Jennifer Badach 7
29 Xine Lafontaine 7
30 Claire Sierra 7
31 Jo Vernon 7
32 Sheena Grobb 6.5
33 Elfriede Krauth 6.5
34 Cara Leopold 6.5
35 Sabrina Fletcher 6.5
36 Liz Massey 6
37 Nicole Ortega 5.5
38 Solona Mead 5.5
39 Sharon Love 5
40 Louise Knight 5
41 Seth Rainess 4.5
42 Jennifer Wenzel 4.5
43 Douglas Brown 4
44 Olga Kaminsky 4
45 Dana Pharant 3.5

The Poverty of Believing in Yourself

13185318_sIf you’ve ever struggled with confidence in building your business, this blog post is for you.

This blog post isn’t written to give advice so much as it is to comfort and console and to lift our gaze up from our personal struggles to the bigger context in which they lie.

It is a long post that might need more than one sitting to get through but the topic is worthy of the time invested. One doesn’t approach such a topic, so central to our experience of being human in the dominant cultures of the world, lightly or casually.


12417937_1160132484004549_2435039033404846341_nIn mid-March of this 2016, I had a two and half hour Skype conversation with Yahya Bakkar (pictured here) in New Jersey who had been following my work for years. Many parts of the conversation struck me but one has stayed with me in particular.

He has been a motivational speaker and is working to coach and mentor young men to find self-confidence and to believe in themselves. I was inspired by his work and what it might mean for these boys with whom he’ll be working.

And he knows something about the need to believe in yourself as he was raised in a strict, religious family and was disowned by his adoptive father in his twenties because he wasn’t religious enough for him.

He also found his birth mother in his mid-twenties. She was living in Thailand and working at the airport. He flew her to the United States to visit for ten days. On the fifth day, she had a meltdown and, while he watched, tore up his only photo of himself as an infant. He’d left it, framed, by her bedside during the visit.

And then she left. He hasn’t spoken to her since.

So, as a young man, he had to learn to believe in himself because no one else would.

He had to love himself because none of the people who should have did.

And so he was going to teach these young men to believe in themselves too.

I was struck by both the beauty and the poverty of the whole situation. This approach of ‘believing in ourselves’, complete with its affirmations and incantations, its notes on the mirror and its positive self-talk, is a solution to a problem.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, we imagine it to be that we don’t believe in ourselves.

But why don’t we believe in ourselves?

Because we weren’t believed in.

This is important. Our lack of self-belief isn’t a personal failing. It’s not that we’re internally deficient or lack some confidence gene that everyone else had.

This might seem like I’m indicting his parents for not believing in him, but it’s a bigger story than that. Likely his parents never got believed in either. Who knows how long this lack of belief goes back. And, frankly, this job of being believed in is a village-sized job that has been foisted onto parents. It’s too big. It’s too much to ask of the parents and it might not actually be a job that is suited for parents particularly. Surely, the aunts and uncles and grandparents have some important role in fostering the young person’s belief in themselves. Surely the rest of the community plays some role.

But it’s deeper than that.

When I talk about being believed in I mean something deeper than looking at a child and saying, “You can do anything”.

In fact, I certainly don’t mean that.

I mean something more along the lines of a community expecting the arrival of the child and considering that this child might be coming to them from somewhere and that it might be bringing with it, in its tiny closed fists as it emerges from the womb, some sort of gifts for the community. I’m talking about the community believing that its well being hinges on those gifts being properly identified and fostered into their fullest fruition. I’m talking about the community, its elders in particular, clearly seeing the seeds that have been handed down to the village from those who came before in the form of this little one and doing their best to ascertain the proper role for them.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about niching. Most of my colleagues use the word niche to mean ‘target market’. But I tend to define it as something like, ‘your role in the community’ as it comes from the old French verb ‘nicher’ which means, ‘to make a nest’. And it’s worth noting that the bird makes the nest for their young. The chicks in the eggs don’t build the nest into which they will be born. And so, the role of culture needs to be about helping the young person to find their role.

My father died when I was nine years old from multiple sclerosis and I never had a strong male role model growing up. Those male role models became men, most of whom I never met except in passing. They were men who wrote the personal growth books I devoured with a hunger I couldn’t understand. Leo Buscaglia, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Gregg Braden and more. I was trying to elder myself with personal growth books because there were no elders around.

That wasn’t my mom’s job.

It wasn’t even just my family’s job.

It’s not a job that they, alone, were capable of. It’s too big.

The personal growth scene is big on confidence as a thing to cultivate.

After all, if you don’t have it, what might happen? It’s like a ticking time-bomb we know might go off. If we don’t become confident by a certain point, then it could be too late and the timer might run out, and the bomb could explode leaving us with a life of quiet desperation.

And yet, the desperation is present now in the way we approach this getting of confidence. It’s present in the way we talk about confidence as something we can ‘get’.

The desperation is present because the bomb we’re terrified might detonate already went off so many generations ago and we are standing in the crater of it. We are standing in the poverty of the dismantled village. We are left fending for our own belief in ourselves. We are left with a fractured, individualized understanding of who we are. Instead of understanding ourselves as a part of a community we are left to understand ourselves as some static, atomized individual who is responsible for making themselves feel worthy.

We are told that we need to parent ourselves. And I’m not arguing with this or suggesting this kind of therapy isn’t vitally important work to do. I’m grateful that the ones who do it are out there. But I am suggesting that the existence of this work and the clear need for it is a sign of the deep poverty of this culture and collapse of village mindedness.

It is madness. 

Of course, we feel desperate about it all.


“If you haven’t been fed, become bread.”

I think we also forget how much of authentic confidence comes from real competence.

If you are good at something you will tend to feel confident about it. 

When we are doing something we aren’t good at and we fail, it’s a terrible feeling. People have been let down. People have been hurt. We didn’t do a good job. If we’re an alive, empathetic human being, we’re going to feel bad about that because, in our heart of hearts, we’d never want to hurt someone.

When someone isn’t skilled in an area and is being asked to take on a big job in that arena, the appropriate response is not, “You can do it! Just believe in yourself.”

In a traditional culture, you’d never become a medicine person after taking a year-long course. You’d be mentored. You’d apprentice to someone. You’d be set up for success and not failure. You’d have support. And you would have, likely, been recognized as someone to groom for this role from a young age.

If a young person was born with a fascination in stories, maybe they might become a story teller. If they were more athletic, maybe a hunter. If they were drawn to crafting, maybe that.

But, in this culture, we are raised to conform, fit in, be a cog in the wheel of industry and progress. In this culture, we are told how to be based on our gender. In this culture, we are put into boxes of reward and punishment. In this culture, we are led so far astray from the reason we might be here, the gifts we brought in the trust that our community would recognize them, that even finding our way back there is a miracle. And finding our way back to that without help? It’s a miracle.

I found myself amazed at the work this Yahya was doing. “What you have done is Herculean” I told him. “It’s huge. You’ve taken on the work of a whole village in trying to find those gifts and then craft a way to give them. It’s too big. Robert Bly has the line, “If you haven’t been fed, become bread.” You’ve done that. You’ve become bread for these young men. And my hope is that your work with them helps ease their burden, that it’s another step towards some sort of a village so that those to come aren’t left with the too heavy burden of trying to figure out their gifts on their own or believing in themselves.”


The industry of believing in ourselves is often a band-aid solution to a deep laceration. It’s covering up something so immense. It’s an industry that whispers to the sapling, “Water yourself. Be your own Sun. Be your own soil.” As Stephen Jenkinson puts it,

“If you’re on the receiving end of that stuff long enough, what happens is, there’s this little bud that grows up from you being bombarded with somebody being certain that you’re loveable, no matter what you think. And that little bud is a bud of worthiness. That you didn’t do anything to conjure, or manufacture. It’s not a meritocracy getting loved, getting grieved, getting understood and seen. It isn’t. It’s a consequence that you’ve got sane people around you. That’s what it is. But if you have this bud of worthiness that somehow, involuntarily starts to take up room and your take on yourself? The inevitable consequence is your ability to love somebody is born there.”

In the video below, Poet Maya Angelou once recounts to comedian Dave Chappelle about her experience of meeting young rapper Tupac Shakur. The way she related to him was the way an elder relates to young people, a feeding of their deep importance in the scheme of things. This kind of interaction is one that every young person deserves on a regular basis. What she does to Tupac is not to feed his ego, but to feed his soul and to tether him back into the history of his people. She places him back into belonging. She nails him back to time and place. She tells him, “This is who you are. This is where you are. This is when you are.”

And how many young people will ever be on the receiving end of such a moment? How many will be fed in this way? How many will ever even meet someone capable of this kind of beauty?

I recall one story I heard from an elder who was sitting with a young man, an activist wrestling with the state of the world.

“I am depressed,” said the young man.

“Yes, you are.” said the elder. “But, depressed as you may be, while we are here together, you won’t be depressed alone.”

He was affirming his feelings. He wasn’t trying to change him. He was letting him know he mattered enough to have company in the matter.

While speaking to a group of kids at Vashon High School in St. Louis, ET the Hip Hop Preacher, a black motivational speaker, was confronted with deeply disrespectful behaviour from his audience of mostly black students. His response was not to attack or shut them down but to confront them with a fierce love and honesty.

There are so many ways this kind of love and believing in people can look.

But most of us didn’t get a lot of it.

This culture is full of olders on drugs but has a deep poverty of elders dispensing medicine. This culture is full of young people with gifts to give and no one to recognize those gifts.

Years ago, I interviewed the good David Waugh of the Natural Gifts Society about this issue.

Tad: So, how did you get involved in, with this work of helping people find their gifts?

David: Yeah, it started, oh, very early on. I would say one of the first mentors that I found when I was lost in my mid-life crisis, in that crisis all of my old identities didn’t work anymore. I had been running a business, I left that. My marriage broke down, so I was no longer a husband and a father, a worker. All of those identities that I really thought — when people would ask me who I am, I would describe myself in those terms.

When I left all of that, it was like the deep question: “Who am I?” It started to haunt me, and I had some time and I had some means so then I started to explore. One of the first mentors that I came across was a fellow named James Hillman, who just passed away last year. He has a wonderful book called “The Soul’s Code,” and that was my first hint that there’s some sort of code, there’s some sort of pattern and it’s really unique to each person.

The metaphor that he used was — just like the acorn that has the blueprint of the mighty oak tree, it’s that specific. Each person has something of a unique pattern, and that’s very different from a lot of how the culture represents us as more of a blank slate. I think the term is “tabula rasa.”

It’s actually echoed in many indigenous traditions around, and like you say, the Catholic mystics also discovered that people have these innate or inherent gifts of spirit, that’s the way they articulated it. James Hillman called it “the soul’s code.”

Then I started in my research, I met an African shaman who really still — he’s quite modern in the sense that he has a couple of PhD’s, but he went through a traditional initiation. His name is Malidoma Somé, and he says in their culture when the mother is pregnant with a new child, the medicine person or their shaman actually interviews the child when it’s in the womb through a kind of hypnosis, I suppose. They find out that the child has a unique purpose, a unique destiny.

This is probably the oldest tradition on the face of the planet since modern research is showing that we all originated in Africa at one point, and this is an ancient idea that we’re — each person is unique and how to find that uniqueness and have it unfold.

A lot from our education system focuses on kind of standardized testing and there’s a lot of mixed messages like “You can be anything you want to be.” Well, that’s kind of life telling the acorn that it could be a rose or a sunflower, where it’s actually more precise in, you know, we’re fortunate enough if we can be who we’re meant to be. That’s going to take some help, I think, some guidance.

If you struggle with believing in yourself it’s because, properly, I don’t think that it should be your job. It’s a job that’s too big for you. It’s a village sized job being taken on by an individual. It should have been the job of everyone around you as you grew up to help you find the perfect role for you in your community and to become good at it so that your community could receive your gifts.

“…in their culture when the mother is pregnant with a new child, the medicine person or their shaman actually interviews the child when it’s in the womb through a kind of hypnosis, I suppose. They find out that the child has a unique purpose, a unique destiny.”


If you struggle with believing in yourself, the truth is that you may always be plagued with this.

You may never get the confirmation from the world that you need.

It may be too late for you.

But, again, “if you haven’t been fed, become bread”.

If you didn’t get it from your family, you can be that for others.

Being wounded doesn’t mean you can’t heal others. It just means you know how important the medicine is.

If you don’t believe in yourself, then see if you can’t walk your way towards believing in others and why they’re here. And see if that can’t be something more than a reflex, blanket reaction of positive affirmations. See if you can make it particular to those you meet as you narrow your eyes a little to make out the types of seeds they carry with them in their fists that they never dared to open because they were terrified to lose what they’d been entrusted with knowing full well that their family and community had no capacity to see or help them plant those seeds so they can grow. If you’re very lucky, maybe some of those people will relax their fists open and you can sit next to them and help them in learning to weave them into that bigger blanket of a village that might be one day.


It’s good to distinguish, in all of this healing work, the difference between healing and a cure.

A cure means the problem is gone.

Healing means that some measure of wholeness has been restored.

And, often, we don’t find a cure, but we do find healing.


A good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself… it is his own hurt that gives a measure of his power to heal. The doctor is effective only when he himself is affected. Only the wounded physician heals. But when the doctor wears his personality like a coat of armour, he has no effect.”— Carl Jung 

The archetype of “The Wounded Healer”, as we know it now, seems to have originated with Carl Jung (1875-1961) in the Greek myth of Chiron (a centaur, was known as a wise teacher, healer and prophet) who, in the process of overcoming the pain of his own wounds, came to be known to us in modern times as the compassionate master teacher of the arts of healing and medicine, privy to the secrets of life and death.

During a skirmish with a rowdy bunch of centaurs Hercules, carelessly and accidentally wounded his friend and mentor, Chiron, in the knee with one of his arrows.

The arrows Hercules had chosen to use on this particular day were arrows coated with the blood of the monster Hydra. Arrows coated with the blood of the Hydra were known to cause painful wounds that would never heal.

Being an immortal, Chiron would never be able to heal from the wound caused by Hercules, and being immortal he could never die.

He then retreated to his cave to heal himself, and, in so doing, created the healing arts. Ironically and despite this great achievement, his wound never healed. He had spent his entire life becoming very accomplished in the use of healing with herbs and other methods, but he could not alleviate his own pain. But, in his own search for personal healing, his ability to heal and teach others grew.

On the Moontides blog, I found these good words.

Chiron reminds to us that it is only by being willing to face, consciously experience and go through our wound do we receive its blessing.We are all wounded healers in one way or another, and many of us have been directed and made wise through our own painful childhood experiences. Hence, it is through these very experiences of hurt and pain that we can best help others…and it is not just helping those who are suffering similar experiences. In fact, the healing process applies to ourselves as well because each time we relive our pain in order to help others, we are also again dealing with and healing ourselves just a little bit more.

We each have the ability and perseverance to go beyond our issues, our problems and troubles, and not have suffering label us as who we are. There are many men and women – probably in our daily lives – who are an inspiration and testimony to that. Chiron symbolizes those who find the strength through suffering to help others avoid the pain they themselves have had to undergo. We are often directed and made wise by own painful childhood experiences. Chiron’s house and sign show where we have been deeply wounded and may hold the key to our own healing. Chiron takes us on a journey through our darkness, personally and collectively. He teaches us that our wounds contain a gift, and that the process of healing oneself is a journey back to greater wholeness and integrity…the gift of who we truly are. His story reminds us of the magic, relief and healing that can occur when we fully accept and honour who we are. 

A Chironian wound is an injury that will never, ever totally heal.

We learn, suffer and grow from dealing with this sensitive area . . . but the wounding will never totally heal and go away. This Chironian wounding can then, later in life, and after much personal struggle, become a special area where we can help others by sharing our healing and teaching powers with them.

The most important question is not how to get rid of our own wounds, but how to make our wounds a source of healing…it’s like the Grand Canyon is a wound in the Earth, but if you go into that wound, there’s a healing force coming out.” — Henri Nouwen


This culture is obsessed with the self.

We imagine ourselves to be self-made and value self-esteem. We try to teach young people about self-respect and self-worth. When we are dumped or heartbroken, we are told to practice self-love.

What if instead of manufacturing belief in ourselves, we could muster up some of the honest grief for having never been believed in the first place? Maybe that might be a more honest path to follow. Maybe that grief could remind us that we showed up here with something to give. Maybe the grief could point us back in the direction of the village we left so long ago.

What if, instead of trying to avoid our lack of belief in ourselves, we could learn that lack of belief and come to understand what it does to us? What if we could testify to what it does to someone when others look through them? What if we could give voice to the grief of never having been seen so that others might follow that our well-wept tears to water the seeds in our unopened fists? Isn’t this what many of the greatest artists in the world have done? They have turned their own suffering into art and beauty.

What’s missing is the grieving that this world full of people who don’t believe in themselves. What’s missing is the grieving of what’s been lost and what we never knew. What’s missing is a village full of grandmothers and grandfathers who help us find our way. When we don’t grieve its absence we have no chance at cultivating its presence. Our grieving it is our remembering that it matters. It is our affirming and praising its importance.

When we grieve, we aren’t cured, but we do receive some portion of healing.

So, if you’re looking for a cure to your lack of belief in yourself, consider that inwards may not be the only direction to face because the feelings of belonging, peace and happiness we’re after don’t come this alone.

“The devotion to personal contentment is the depression machine, it generates the depression. It makes the depression inevitable which of course obliges you to work harder to be happy and there we are. But how does it do that? Because it whispers to you that happiness should be the discernible consequence of you winning, of you trying hard, of your best intent being in the forefront of all your design. And a lot of people in the world, ancestrally, knew long ago that being content or that sense of well-being, that’s a consequence of your willingness to help the world live. That your happiness is actually a corollary—let me change happiness—that your health is a corollary of the health of everything around you.” —Stephen Jenkinson

If you are trying to ‘get confidence’ (as if it were something you could buy off the shelf at the local mall) you may be trying to find a remedy for something that has no cure. You may be a tree planted in the crater where a bomb went off, struggling to survive and feeling that it’s your fault that you don’t grow stronger not even knowing what it would be like to be a part of an old growth forest. And, if you learn of that heartbreaking impossibility, then you are left with the realization that the old growth forest isn’t for you. You will never live to see it and you deserve it as much as any human being ever born. You were not born in the old growth. It will be a thousand years before it arrives.

“The candle is not lit To give light, but to testify to the night.” – Robert Bly, The Night Abraham Called to the Stars: Poems

You were born now in the crater.

And so, what does this time and this place ask of you then? Perhaps, what it asks of you is to plant the saplings and tend to them, to be the source of that old growth for the ones yet to come. Perhaps the crater is asking you to redeem it and turn into a place worth coming from.

My friend Corin Raymond struggled with self-doubt for years and wrote songs about it. He was guided by the understanding that, if you need it, someone else will too. Jonathan Byrd calls these songs ‘Songs of Service’. “This is a song I worked on for many years, and I talk about it in the Record Lonesome Night book, how the song – even during the years it was unfinished – was a companion and a friend I could turn to. I had the idea when I was probably twenty, and I started writing it for a girl, but as the years went by, the “you” in the song became me. It became a letter to myself, a reaching out, an offer of friendship from the part of me that had faith that we were going to make it. It’s definitely one of the songs that saved me.”

What if we were less concerned about getting confidence and more concerned with creating beauty? And what if this included beautifully expressed grief? What if we were less concerned with acquiring belief in ourselves and more focused on believing in others? What if we stopped running from our low self-confidence and started getting to know it? 

As David Richo put it in this beautiful book, How To Be An Adult,

“Our problem is not that, as children, our needs were unmet, but that, as adults, they are still unmourned… neediness itself tells us nothing about how much we need from others; it tells us how much we need to grieve the irrevocably barren past and evoke our own inner sources of nurturance… What was missed can never be made up for, only mourned and let go of… We are grieving the irretrievable aspects of what we lost and the irreplaceable aspect of what we missed. Only these two realizationslead to the resolution of grief because only these acknowledge, without denial, how truly bereft we were or are. From the pit of this deep admission that something is irrevocably over and fone, we finally stand clear of the insatiable need to find it again from our parents or partner. To have sought it was to have denied how utter was its absence. Griefwork done with consciousness builds self-esteem since it shows us our courageous faithfulness to the reality of loss. It authenticates us as adults who can say Yes to sadness, anger, and hurt. Such an heroic embrace of our own truth transforms emptiness into capacity. As Jung notes, ‘your inner emptiness conceals just as great a fullness if you only allow it.'”


If you don’t believe in yourself, I don’t blame you.

It’s hard.

And it was never your job to begin with.

When someone says, “believe in yourself!”, it’s so worthless. It’s just words. And words aren’t food. So much of the meaning of your life is in the hands of others and the meaning they grant it by their actions and non-actions. When someone believes in you, there is no price that can be put on it.

One of my friends, in a conversation about this, shared with me, “This seems true and I find it so disheartening. I’ve never really valued myself and I’ve always struggled to try and believe that I had something to offer others. Now, if this is true then I’m left feeling both validated and powerless. Validated because I feel like the struggle to build my self-worth has never been successful and powerless because maybe I don’t have as much control over it as I had hoped.”

And, of course, we don’t.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.

I’m not against pump up and motivation. I’m not against therapy, visualizations, meditations, and retreats to build up self-confidence. Those all seem to be a needed part of the story these days, and god bless the people who do that work, but the fact that it’s needed is an indictment of the deep poverty of our culture. It’s what we’ve been left with. It’s not a sign of our culture’s wisdom. It’s the evidence of how much wisdom has been lost.

I’m not against the work people are doing to help other’s believe in themselves, and surely there must be a diversity of perspectives and approaches on this in the world, but, before you can believe in yourself, you need to see yourself and, the one thing we can never really see is ourselves. The set up of the whole arrangement of our bodies is that we have eyes on the front of our heads that see most of our bodies but not all of it. There’s a lot of yourself you usually don’t see. Without a mirror, you can’t see the back of your head or neck or upper back. And so, it’s up to the community to see the rest of you. If you don’t have a community, you’re left to twist yourself into contortions to get some perspective on yourself or to walk around believing only in the parts of you that you can see.

I’m not against the work of helping people believe in themselves but, in this culture at this time, much of that work seems to further the deification of our individualism. It’s the attempt to reify our capacity to be self-made. It’s the affirmation of our atomized understanding of this universe. It’s our saying. “I can exist without you. I don’t need you to believe in me… and you don’t need me either.”

And what is the end game of this all? Nobody needs anybody. Everybody is self-sufficient.

Cha duine, duine ‘na aonar (A person by himself is not a person).” – Scottish Gaelic Proverb

I’m saying that worshipping at the altar of the self is a lonely place to be.

I’m not saying the pain isn’t real. It’s too real.

I’m not against reading books on positive thinking, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the heart-brokeness that these times seem to ask of us, as long as it doesn’t stop us from using that grief, or being used by it, to make something beautiful to feed life. Grief is a reliable compass, pointing us in the direction of what matters. Grief is what connects us with the beauty and preciousness of life and reminds us that life is worth believing in. Our deep grief can be a form of high praise for the thing we never got. Grief is what motivates us to make sure that it still has a place in this world.

I’m saying that, as Vernon Howard put it, “the resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance.” Our resistance to grieving what we never had is the issue, not just that we never had it.

I’m saying that confidence is the natural by-product a sense of deep belonging to a people and place. It comes from our lived relationship to all of the people we know, all of the natural world and whatever that mysterious unseen world is. Belonging comes from relationship. Belonging is the seed from which a comfort in our own skin might sprout and bloom into a flower that some might name ‘confidence’. Confidence is the natural by-product of being supported in developing an articulated skillfulness in the expression of your natural gifts that others helped you identify. 

I’m saying that the bromides of “You can do anything!”, “Believe in yourself,” and “You can do it,” are sometimes tonic and sometimes toxic. Sometimes they encourage people to keep going and sometimes they encourage people to do foolish things. Sometimes people should not believe they have the capacity to do things (e.g. “Sure! You could do brain surgery! You just have to be confident in yourself.” or “Sure you can lead this group through this healing ceremony!”). Sometimes confidence is misplaced. 

Believing in ourselves, in the way this culture asks us to, seems to be an impossible task like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again before it reaches the top. Our modern approach to confidence mistakes the sources of our strength and any swagger we might have and ignores the gravity of the culture that we live in.

 The soldiers settled down to filling and lighting their clay pipes. They continued to ignore him as if he were a ghost and they could not see him. Perhaps he was in a dream. Or perhaps he was a ghost; perhaps he was dead already. How would you know if you were dead?” – Peter Behrens, The Law of Dreams

The story we are fed is that we’re supposed to be able to live in a culture that fundamentally looks through us, or sees us as a resource to be used or that sees us as inadequate in some fundamental way and be utterly unaffected by this. That’s the story we are told is true. You’re supposed to stand in the face of that and remain intact. According to whom?

This is madness.

During the Potato Famine in Ireland, many Irish fled their country to North America. But the route took many of them through Liverpool, a town that, according to John Kelly in his book The Graves Are Walking, “had grown steadily wealthier on the high-end vices of the white man: African slaves, sugar and tobacco. In 1807, when Britain abolished slavery, Liverpool – nimbler than other English seaports – identified immigration as the next growth area of human trafficking.  By the 1820’s, the city offered regular passenger service to North America.” But even those Irish who, somehow, survived the famine that killed twice as many as the American Civil War, were often emotionally and spiritually crushed by their time in Liverpool. For most of them, “…Liverpool represented a first encounter with modernity… Under the sheltering umbrella of peasant culture, even the most humble could be esteemed. Of course, the peasant knew he was poor, but that was the result of being outmatched by life, and where was the shame in that? Many a man – many a fine man – had been outmatched by life. Besides, the peasant’s language, Irish, was such a glory, the saints in heaven spoke it.  In Liverpool, modernity pitilessly deconstructed all the comforting myths of peasant culture; the emigrant suddenly found himself an object of horror and contempt… In Liverpool, the emigrant was forced to see himself – judge himself – by the standards and values of the modern world. The historian Robert Scally has called this change in perspective the ‘Liverpool Mirror.’ and it was as cruel as any pestilential Vauxhall cellar. Standing in front of his reflection, the peasant saw the poet, honored for his perfect image of the moon, and the ‘scholar’ revered for his ”priest’s knowledge of Latin’ dissolve into Punch’s ‘aboriginal Irishman: illiterate, savage,’ a speaker of a language ‘through which no light had flashed for a thousand years.’… some were broken utterly and completely by it.”

Swagger doesn’t come from affirmations. It comes from belonging. It comes from having a people who have your back. Swagger comes from having a role in your community. Swagger comes from the end of self-concern which is the bloom on the flower of knowing your place in something so much bigger than you, something which your life is dedicated to feeding.

I’m saying that we can be the source of a world that would never place the burden of ‘believing in yourself’ on the shoulders of the young, a world where children would know that our love for them was a place they could rest and lean into not a prize to be won so that, when they are adults, they’ll know that they are here not to earn love but to spend it.

And, in reality, when my friend does his good work with young men around their self-confidence, his teaching the concept of ‘believing in yourself’ won’t be the power of his work. It will be his believing in the particular youth with whom he works, the look in his eyes and the fact that he makes time for them that tells them, “You matter.” The notion of self-confidence is the menu. His willingness to sit with them and listen and try to see what they’re seeing… that’s the food.

People seeing us and believing in us is food. We can’t live without it and we can’t self-generate it. We can question the thoughts that stop us from seeing all ways we have been and are being affirmed every day by simply being alive. We can question the thoughts that, “We’re worthless” but… it’s likely we even need help doing that.

Years ago, I heard an audio of Jack Canfield and he ended by telling the listener that, even if no one else in the world believed in them, he did. “I believe in you,” he said. And that message was a mixture of things. It was a beautiful and sincere message, the kind of message I am imagining he could have used when he was younger. And it was also a generic message, however genuine, to the masses. It was a ghost of the real thing that had very little power to touch anyone in a lasting way. It was an indictment of the culture that he felt, accurately, it was a needed message. 

Many of us grew up not believing in ourselves. We grew up not knowing our gifts or strengths. We grew up not getting much of the emotional and spiritual food that we needed to become healthy human beings. The most terrible part of this all is how normal it has become. We look at the situation, if we see it as a situation at all, and we imagine that it has always been this way, that it is this way everywhere and that it will always be this way. “Of course,” we tell ourselves. “Humans are plagued with self-doubt and don’t believe in themselves! That’s how it is!” 

It has become normal, but it is not natural.

The work Yahya is trying to do with young men is beautiful and it’s needed but what does it say about our culture that it’s needed?

There are other cultures who do not know these neuroses. We all descend from cultures like this. Remembering this is costly and asks a lot of us to see that. But, in seeing it and being willing to grieve the absence of it, our tears water the ground of our days to make it fertile for the possibility of the presence of it again in the days of those to come.

The central poverty isn’t that we don’t believe in ourselves but that we have to.

So You Think You Can Niche Contest – Win $100 + Free Coaching + A Copy of The Niching Nest for The Effort of a Tweet

***Contest Open May 2nd – 31st, 2016 ***


Do you have a clear niche? Are you sure?

I’d like to give you a simple and fun way to find out for sure (and it might put $100 in your pocket). 

Many entrepreneurs I work with believe they do in fact have a clear, solid and effective niche for their business.

Until I begin to ask a few questions.

In my experience, 90% of entrepreneurs have an extremely fuzzy niche (and don’t realize it). But that’s just my opinion. And it occurred to me that you might be curious about how clear your niche is. So, I’ve arranged a quick and fun way for you to get some direct and candid feedback from me and also dozens of other people. In my experience, honest feedback can be hard to get.


For the past three years now I have run a contest I called So You Think You Can Niche? where people submitted their 140 character niches and memes  – and there were some really good submissions.

You can see the top forty winners by clicking on the dates for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

I created a fascinating and really useful, searchable collection of case studies from the 2014 and 2015 entries, which is an added bonus for people participating in my new Niching Spiral Homestudy Course, which is currently in beta testing.

So here it is, So You Think You Can Niche? 2016. It’s totally free to enter. But it’s only for the brave . . .

Submitting Your Niche:

Click the SUBMIT HERE text below and it will take you to a submission form that explains all. But here are the rules:

  • you must write your niche in 140 characters or less (say wha?!). That’s the length of a tweet.
  • if you submit a niche, you must rate at least five other people’s niches (it’s only fair) but please do more if you can. Be honest and constructive in your feedback.
  • your photo meme must include your 140 character niche text, your website (if you have one) and the hashtag #sytycn2015. Here’s are some great examples – the winners from 2015 and 2016 respectively:

Don’t know how to make a meme? You’re not alone! There are all sorts of apps for both Apple and Android phones and computers – here’s an article with some choices listed. Download one to your phone or computer to make your meme. Or get help from a friend! We happen to use Diptic and Over, but all these apps are a bit different and it depends what platform you’re working on which one will be the best for you.

You are totally welcome to email your friends and rope them into voting for you as long as you ask them to be honest.

Once you submit, your photo will be posted in this album on my facebook page. You can then select your photo and copy the link and share it as you like. 

In fact, here’s a Facebook post and a tweet below:

fb So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetFACEBOOK: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in the So You Think You Can Niche contest? #sytycn2016 [ADD A LINK TO YOUR PHOTO]

new twitter logo So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetTWITTER: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in #sytycn2016 [ADD A LINK TO YOUR PHOTO]

How to Rate Other People’s Niches:

fb So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetFacebook: Go to the photo album of niches. To vote, simply leave a comment underneath the photo with a number from 1-10 along with any comments you’d like to make. You can view and vote here.

To be clear on the rating system:

1 = Not clear at all. I have no idea what they’re talking about or what problem they solve for people.

10 = I can totally picture specific people I could send to them and I know for sure whether I’m in their niche or not. I clearly understand the problem they are solving.

You’re welcome to write some feedback too – in fact, please do! But let’s remember to be gentle, uncompromising truth but also unconditional love as this is a vulnerable thing for people. 

There is a prize for the person who gives the best and most insightful comments (read more at the bottom).

Examples of Niches I’d Rate a 10 in Clarity:

  • I help holistic practitioners attract more of their kinds of clients they want without doing anything that feels pushy.
  • I lead yoga classes for people with “round bodies” who don’t enjoy going to regular yoga classes.
  • Therapists who need an outlet to anonymously share all the secrets they have to keep from sessions with clients.
  • MD’s who are burning out or can see they’re heading to burn out if they don’t slow down and make changes.

Thirteen Chances to Win a Prize.

What’s in it for you?

How to win: the winner will be the person with the highest total score. In the case of a tie, the one with the most people rating them wins. So get your friends involved if you want to be sure to win – but remember, they need to rate you honestly!

1st Place: 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + you’ll be featured on my blog + $100 gift certificate at your favourite locally owned restaurant + free hard copy and ebook versions of my book The Niching Nest + a free copy of Niching Spiral Homestudy Course to give to a friend (you don’t need it ’cause you’re so smart) + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

2nd & 3rd Place: 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + a free hard copy and ebook copy of The Niching Nest + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

4th – 10th Place: Win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon! + an ebook copy of The Niching Nest.

Best Photo: Your creativity and quality of presentation will be rewarded, even if your niche isn’t. You win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course!

The Best Comments Prize: the person who gives the best feedback to others gets 50% off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course because that’s the kind of person I want in it.

But, every person who enters a niche will receive a rating from me personally (from 1-10) and some direct feedback and questions to help you dig a bit deeper.

Every person who enters gets to see a tonne of examples of how others articulate their niches in clear and fuzzy ways. And you’ll get feedback from (hopefully) dozens of others.


5 Reasons to Beta Test Your New Program – Using Nature as Your Guide

Guest Post by Julie Wolk

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.46.14 AMAll business is iterative. In fact, so is all of life.

This means we need to learn to let go of perfection in favor of motion.

We have this crazy idea that we live in a linear world where everything has a clear beginning and end point.

But in truth, we cycle around continuously, as the seasons turn, doing, adapting and shifting according to a changing environment (both inner and outer) . . .  and doing it again.

This is how biological evolution works. It’s always been happening, and it will always continue.

Similarly, our businesses go in cyclical phases, travelling around the wheel.

And here’s the best part – when we finally relax into this reality, it’s a huge relief!

We realize that we don’t actually have to figure everything out all at once – things will naturally evolve and change over time, becoming more and more suited to the environment around them.

We simply can’t force it. Things take time to evolve.

That’s a big load off, right?!

This principle of iteration holds true for the overall evolution of our business, for our niche, and for our programs and services, which we’ll focus on in this article.


So What is a Beta Test?

A beta version, beta test, prototype, or simply a test run, are all words for the first cycle or iteration around the wheel.

The bottom line question to guide you in creating a beta version of your program is:

What is the simplest way I can put out a quality program to try out my idea in as little time as possible?

There’s a popular idea in the tech start-up world called The Lean Start-Up, which defines a beta program as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the process of using a build-measure-learn feedback loop. While it started with software products, the concept quickly spread to other industries.

It’s evolution from the heart of Silicon Valley – you build something, measure how it does based on feedback in the marketplace, learn from it, and then rebuild (you know it as version 1.0, 2.0, etc).


So here are some further questions to help you apply this concept to your work:

  • What is the pared down or bare bones version of my epic program?
  • What elements can I leave out that will make it easier for me to just get it out there now but would not sacrifice the goals of the program?
  • Can I test out a program one-on-one before offering it to a group?
  • Can I teach my course live before attempting to package it up into an online course (a must-do if you ask me)?
  • Can I teach a daylong version instead of an 8-week course?
  • Can I use a cheap or free venue to host my event? Or do something non-residential before planning a big retreat?
  • Can I offer a free or low-cost call or class to assess interest in a more robust program?
  • Do I need to do it via webinar (or other unfamiliar technology) or can I simply use a free conference call line?
  • Could I design an information product myself instead of hiring a graphic designer?
  • Can I do it without a fancy website or sales page and have sales conversations instead? 


What Happens When You Don’t Beta Test Your Programs

Look, it’s going to happen anyways: The first time you offer something, it’s probably not going to be as good as the 10th time you offer it. So why not own this reality and take advantage of it instead of uncomfortably trying to act like you already know everything when you don’t?

And then of course, there’s the “Crickets Effect.” When you don’t beta test, you run the risk of creating an “epic” program that your target market doesn’t even need, potentially wasting a lot of time and money when people don’t sign up.

But worse than crickets or pretending you’ve got it all figured out, there’s the more likely possibility that if you don’t put out a beta version, you won’t put anything out . . .

Because you are waiting for perfection.

First off, let’s just send that little perfection monster on vacation. Cycles need to move. And while clarity is very important, we have to be careful not to get stuck in vision-mode.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is trying to figure it all out in advance – to make their offering absolutely perfect – before they put it out there.

Forget your perfect offering.There is a crack in everything.That's how the light gets in.-Leonard Cohen-3Well I’m here to say:

Forget your perfect offering (thank you, Leonard Cohen).

And This Takes Courage, By the Way.

While the reality is that nothing’s ever going to be perfect, when you’re in beta mode, things are inherently even more imperfect (that’s the whole point).

But we humans don’t generally like being seen as less than perfect, so this means you’ll need to muster up some courage to put your work out there anyways.

And frankly, this is what building a purposeful business is all about.

Just doing it anyways even if you’re not quite ready.

Because you will learn way more about how to successfully grow your business by actually doing your work and getting direct market feedback that you will from me or any other business or marketing consultant out there, or from simply planning and thinking and doing market surveys.

So how about trying a beta version?


5 Great Reasons to Put Out a Beta Version of Your Program (and Some Implementation Tips)

  • You Gain Experience and Confidence: This is the obvious one. You get to actually do it! Doing it will give you more practice in your craft and more confidence in your abilities. You will get to see your work impacting others and that is essential in giving you the information and motivation to move forward in your business.
  • You Get Feedback and Testimonials: You can get the specific feedback you need to make your program better through surveys and interviews (How did this module work for you? What would make it better?), and you can get the testimonials you need to market your program more effectively when you come out with the next version.
  • You Get to Be More Relaxed in Your Delivery: Because you have framed this as a beta program, which manages the expectations of your clients, you can more easily let go of it having to be perfect. I reference the fact that I’m running a beta program all the time when I’m doing one! I even make jokes about it. You get to be transparent about your newness, which gives you more leeway to be creative and experiment. And people will respect your honesty.
  • It Can Help You Fill Your Program: I recommend “one-time beta version pricing” – pricing that is reduced from what you will ultimately charge for an evolved program to a point that feels good to you AND fills your program easily. Then, you can focus on program creation and spend less time marketing. I’m not proposing you dramatically undervalue your services, but remember that you are gaining a lot more besides money when you get to test out a new program on a bunch of people! (And you may end up earning just as much money because you’ll actually fill the program instead of charging more and having fewer people).
  • Your Clients Get Super Invested: When people get in on the ground floor and are asked to provide feedback, they feel heard, they feel ownership and they feel investment. They will get more attention from you now than they will when there are more people in the program. They are likely to get a lot out of your program and recommend it to others. And because you will offer your beta program at a one-time beta version price, (this is true, it’s not creating a false sense of scarcity, as I absolutely recommend increasing your price the next time you offer it), they will be psyched they are getting a deal. And people truly are getting a great deal because you are awesome.


PS – Doing a Beta Version Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Good at What You Do

Beta programs are not meant to be hid behind because we don’t think we are good enough.

You have something to offer. It is in some stage of development. Your beta program will help you develop and evolve your offering in a particular format you may have not delivered it in before.

Once upon a time, we were all amoebas. Now we are people. That took time.

Your beta program is a way to hone your gifts and create something deeply impactful and worthwhile for people. It will be valuable the first time you offer it, and it will become more and more valuable over time.

JulieWolkAbout the Author: Julie Wolk helps purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy. For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with. 


If you like what you’re reading, download Julie’s free guide: The 5 Principles of a Natural Business: How to Tune into Nature and Yourself to Grow a Profitable Business You Love.


What am I being asked to see here?

20104219_s“The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.” – Carl Jung

Sometimes in business things go wrong.

Sometimes it’s because we are out of integrity. Sometimes it’s because others are. Sometimes, everyone’s in integrity and it still falls apart.

However it happens, there’s a certain amount of heartbreak that can occur. It can leave us feeling shame, regret and hopeless.

The questions we ask ourselves in these moments shapes everything.

We are often tempted to ask ourselves questions like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why does it never go right for me?” or “Why didn’t anyone respond?” or “How can I fix this?”

Here’s a different question I recommend asking: what am I being asked to see here?

If things have gone wrong, there’s a good chance that there’s something you didn’t see that led to it. Maybe it was something in yourself. Something in a business partner. Maybe it was something in the marketplace.

But this is a question worth setting aside a quiet, undisturbed 20 minutes for with a pen and paper. It’s worth wondering about. This question isn’t interested in making you or anybody wrong. It’s not interested in fault finding. It’s just interested in helping you to see more.

And then, once you see what you haven’t seen before. Look at that piece and ask yourself, “What am I being asked to see here?”


When we have a problem, the instinct is to move faster to solve it but it’s often wise to slow down and see if we can’t see more first so that any actions we take might be better informed and less full of drama.

We often get into trouble because we have some blinders on. And, before breaking into a problem-solving sprint, it’s usually a good idea to see if we can’t take them off, or at least open them up a bit.