Ride The Butterflies: The Story Contest

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If you’re a regular here, you already know my new book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, launches this week. Thursday, to be exact.

I want this whole week to be a celebration of human potential by way of your stories.

So, I’m going to do something kinda fun and cool with you.

Here’s my challenge –

I want you to share a time where you danced with uncertainty…and won. A story where you felt the butterflies, the anxiety and fear, where you thought about turning back, maybe you even did, but then turned back around and ended up creating or becoming or doing something amazing. It could be about art, business, love, health, life, whatever. It just has to be real, no fables here.

I want you to inspire people not only with what you’ve accomplished, overcome and moved through, but with your willingness to reveal your dreams, struggles and successes. To own the gremlins and the glory.

And, I’m going to offer a bit of motivation to encourage you, in the form of the chance to win:

  • Lunch with me at Soho House NY (you’ve gotta get there, the rest is on me)
  • A 1-hr Borrow My Brain skype consult – (normally $1,000)
  • Two signed, limited-edition illustrations by Marty Whitmore (described here)

Here’s how to win, while inspiring others:

Step 1 – Share Your Story.

Post your story either in the comments below, on your own blog, on any website you write for, tumblr, facebook, Youtube, google+ or anywhere else online that feels right to you. It can be text, video, images, illustrations, audio or all of the above. Feel free to embed the book trailer for extra points and inspiration. The sooner you post, the better. But, the cut-off is Wednesday, September 28th at 5pm NY time.

Step 2 – Spread it around.

  • If you shared your story in the comments below, then go share this post on twitter, facebook, google+ or anywhere else you can. On twitter, be sure to use the hashtag #uncertaintybook. And on Facebook and google+, either tag me or add me to your share so I can keep track. I want the world to read and be inspired by your stories.
  • If you’re sharing your story somewhere other than the comment section (even more brownie points for going the extra mile, btw), then be sure to drop a link to your story in the comments below, so we can see where you’ve posted and everyone can go read be inspired by you. Then, spread your post around on twitter, facebook or google+.

Step 3 – I’ll choose and post the winning entry here on Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, after the 5pm ET deadline, I’m going to read, watch and listen to every entry (actually I’ll be doing that all week, so the sooner you post, the better)…and based on the utterly biased, bribable with chocolate (kidding, kinda), completely unscientific opinions of me and my inner circle of Uncertainty Marauders, I will pick the entry that is the most compelling, coolest, funnest, deepest or most creative, feature it in it’s own post on the blog on Thursday, and award you your choice of one of the above three prizes (or maybe all of three, who knows?).

P.S. – If you feel like mentioning or linking to the book in your posts, tweets, status updates, yadda, yadda, I wouldn’t complain, but it’s not mandatory.

Okay, share away!

UPDATE: Wow – what an amazing collection of powerful stories, both here and scattered across the web. Because of the depth and volume of them, I’m going take a bit more time to really drink each one in, then post my thoughts early next week. Though, I can already tell you, they’re all fantastic.

 

*Legal mumbo jumbo: May not be combined with other promotions, no cash value, non-transferable, sponsor reserves the right to change or suspend the promotion without notice, purple eggs make great omelettes but only in Panama, if you’re my immediate family, sorry you can’t enter (unless you pay me with chocolate, then have at it), not valid in any state or country where laws say it ain’t or where they eat giant bugs for breakfast, always check the weather before leaving the house in the morning, I like bagels.

 

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87 responses

87 responses to “Ride The Butterflies: The Story Contest”

  1. Helena says:

    A very very uncertain time for me was in 2008. I lived in Austin, TX with my husband and newborn baby in a job I didn’t like and very uncertain job situations for both of us. I as a Brazilian citizen and him as a Canadian Citizen had working visas that left us stuck in our jobs always worrying about immigration status, being out of a job with no health insurance and no visa. So we made the decision to relocate to Vancouver, Canada, where we would have a lot more flexibility with respect to jobs and health coverage.

    We quit our jobs, sold whatever we had, packed our car to the brim with belongings, two cats, and a baby.
    Drove to Seattle and went to the Canadian consulate, where we explained our situation (my Canadian Green Card was considerably delayed for they lost my medical exam) They gave me a tourist visa to go in and resolved my Canadian document problem.

    At the border the official asked: “where is home?” we said “Vancouver will be our home.”

    The beginning was difficult and we had no where to go and no place to stay,no jobs but after 3.5 yrs, we now are enjoying a great life, getting the benefits of the ‘great’ risk we took.

  2. Christa says:

    What a wonderful way to bring attention to both your book and the stories of others, Jonathan! Thank you for the opportunity to share here…

    I wrote about just this thing over the summer. Here’s the link… http://www.carryitforward.com/to-conquer-fear/

    Peace to you… and thanks, too, for putting this book out into the world.

  3. Joanna Penn says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    It was your book that finally kicked me over the line after 3 years of building up my business part-time. I have finally given up my IT day job to be a creative-entrepreneur. The uncertainty was definitely the killer for me, wondering if I would be able to fund the change. But that fear was holding me back, and now I can ride the butterflies!

    The full story is here, posted before you announced this but you are credited with the final push so I hope it counts as an entry 🙂
    http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2011/09/12/creative-author/

    I talk about how I intend to change my business as well because your book isn’t just about inspiration, it’s about practical strategies.

    Happy launching!

  4. Kate Austin says:

    Being a writer means living each day in a state of uncertainty – will my proposal be accepted? will my new e-book sell well? will some new technology come along and change everything? Again?

    But most importantly, and always, is the uncertainty that what I write will be worthwhile, that I’ll be able to get those wonderful words on the page, that my agent and various editors and readers will go, ah, there it is.

    When I first started writing, I didn’t feel any of this uncertainty, I believed my writing was brilliant and that I would soon be a bestselling writer. But eventually the process, not just of writing but of submitting and being rejected, of submitting and being accepted but not where I wanted, wore me done and I began the dance with uncertainty.
    Could I be a writer? Would I be successful? What DID I want?

    Many, many (25 or so) years later, I still dance with uncertainty on a daily basis. But I’ve learned to do it differently. I try NOT to dance with the uncertainty of writing. I try simply to write. That isn’t always possible of course, but I do it as much as I can.I work on the story or book I’m working on – and I always have the next idea ready to go. I blog on my own blog (www.kateaustin.blogspot.com), on the group writing blog of which I’m a co-founder (www.blackinkwhitepaper.wordpress.com), on the various blogs where I or my alter ego Josee Renard is invited as a guest.

    And I try even harder NOT to dance with the uncertainty of publication. I try to get back to the pure joy of writing – of getting the phrase exactly right, of discovering the story hidden in my words.

    So thanks, Jonathan, for making me think about this. My next blog at Black Ink, White Paper (October 10 for those who are interested) is going to expand on this post. So I thank you also for the idea of that blog and will include a link to your blog there.

    Kate Austin

  5. Joshua says:

    Seeing how other people face uncertainty is a source of courage. Thanks for the opportunity to share and to hear others’ stories (and for a book that won’t arrive in the mail soon enough).

    My story of facing uncertainty is of telling my boss that I was leaving:

    http://thebrightarmy.com/tent/how-to-face-a-dragon/

    “For me the dragon is about my job. Work is good, and parts of it are interesting. The people are wonderful and worth spending time with. But the roles and tasks, as I have come to discover, do not resonate with who I am. They are not my art. And to change is to face the dragon.”

  6. You want to feel vulnerable? Try telling friends and family you’re all done with junk food (and by that I mean, even butter) forever. No donuts, no cookies, no birthday cake, not even a glass of champagne to celebrate an accomplishment.

    You know how it feels instead? Wonderful! I eat as much as I want whenever I want and never gain weight, I need less sleep and have more energy, my cholesterol is 142, and my skin glows. That isn’t even the best part. The best part is dispensing with the endless, boring battle I used to have about how many workouts and how much healthy food entitled me to binge on stale Cheetos and Fruity Pebbles.

    Junk food doesn’t call to me anymore because I quit answering.

    One donut only leaves you wanting more. A spinach salad exacts no such price. It’s delicious, and it tastes even better with that side order of butterflies!

  7. Peter says:

    I was sixteen, camping out on Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California and feeling very confused after a break-up with my girlfriend.

    Lying there that night on a bluff called Lion’s Head overlooking the ocean and with the stars blanketing the sky above me, I felt that feeling we’ve all felt before: that feeling of being very small, infinitely small, a speck of nothingness in an unimaginably vast, random and uncaring universe.

    Utterly alone, I broke into tears and all I could think to myself was, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

    That’s all I knew at that point. That I knew absolutely nothing.

    So, well, after experiences like that, you get up the next day and carry on – shaken inside but you try not to show it. Life goes on. And you eventually think you know some things again….

    Until you realize again you really don’t.

    Flash forward twenty years. Twenty years of seeking, trying to know something, and forever falling back again upon unknowing. Twenty years of exploration, inner and outer, listening, watching, waiting.

    It was an afternoon like any other. I happened to be looking at a piece of yellow cloth that happened to be sitting on my living room sofa.

    And bam.

    It all clicked into place. That infinite nothingness was instantly filled, filled entirely with its own being. It was a knowing like no other knowing – no more a knowing even.

    About the best I can say is it was a direct experience of the infinite.

    And it has never left me since, another fifteen years further along.

    You are not alone. We each of us are the infinite experiencing itself. And we’re all in this same thing all together.

    That’s all.

  8. Jeana Alldredge says:

    One of my first truly life-altering actions, was to put everything I owned in my car, and drive west, right after my high school graduation. My car was a ten year old Monte Carlo that I paid a hundred dollars for. I grew up in Michigan, my family was poor and my dad was an alcoholic. I bounced around in foster care, and was finally emancipated for my senior year of high school. On my last day of high school, my grandfather died. My family, who did not want me to take this trip, wanted me to stay and take care of my grandmother, because we had a very close relationship. I put my trip off for a week. Before I had driven fifty miles my car broke down. The man who helped me get the parts and fix my car told me he had a daughter my age, and he thought I should turn around and go home. He did not think I was making a “safe” decision. I thought about it. I thought about what my family was like, I thought about how much I believed I did not belong there. I kept driving west. I ended up in Oregon, where I joined the Marine Corps. I learned cryptology and traveled extensively. Thirty years later, I have had many times when I have had to decide to do something that was scary, I keep making the decision to jump. My life keeps getting better.

  9. Dan ONeil says:

    Hey Jonathon, My leap was jumping in after the Haiti earthquake. I didn’t know what would happen or where it would lead, but a year and a half later it is still a wild ride. I wrote it up here:

    http://www.danieloneil.com/thoughts/2011/09/turning-fear-and-doubt-into-fuel-for-brilliance.html

    Ironically, I have become bad about posting of late. Your challenge was the kick-in-the-butt that I needed to get back into my blog.

  10. Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you sooooo much for your contest. I’d been feeling so dry and without inspiration for my writing. So I wrote my story of how I overcame uncertainty on my blog. You can find it here: http://www.tararobinson.com/2011/09/flying-lessons-how-i-overcame-uncertainty-and-leapt-off-a-cliff.html

    It’s about how I went from being a nurse in Louisiana to running away to live in the Costa Rican rainforest. Enjoy!

    With love,
    Tara

  11. Trish says:

    Wow, what an opportunity Jonathan! Thank you.

    I love to read about inspiring stories so I hope there is lots of entries.

    I have my own little inspiring story that I shared on my blog a short time ago and I would like to submit it for the contest:

    http://mentalhealthtalk.info/2011/08/28/two-life-changing-questions/

    It is about the uncertainty you face when you let go of trying to “fix” yourself and focus on what you value and want.

    I wish you all the best on your launch on Thursday.

    Love,
    Trish

  12. There is Hope
    By Sagaren Pillay

    My name is Sagaren. I was born in Hackney east London in 1967 and I am the eldest son of Gengan and Thunga Pillay who came to England from South Africa in 1965.
    I did not have a particularly happy childhood which I believe had a large part to play in the emotional problems which accompanied much of my life. I don’t feel it’s necessary to go into detail about why these emotional problems occurred. My philosophy about healing is that it’s important to focus on solutions rather than causes and as a psychotherapist today, that is what I endevour to do with my clients.

    I knew I had a significant problem in my early twenties. I was unable to hold down a job because at the first sign of criticism I would fly into a rage, storm out of the job and then spend the next few months deeply depressed shut off in my room.
    This happened again and again but even though I knew something was wrong, I didn’t want to visit my doctor and admit that I thought I might me mentally ill.

    I didn’t get an official diagnosis of depression until I was nearly thirty which was the point where I realized I needed to get help. My life just seemed to be going nowhere. I had by this time obtained and walked off numerous jobs and was still shut off from the world in a room in our family home.

    I was prescribed anti depressants for the next few years which if I’m being totally honest didn’t make one iota of difference to my feelings of inadequacy or my thoughts about the futility of life. I still shut myself off from the world for the most part and lived my life one day at a time always believing, for some unknown reason, that somehow I would get better eventually.

    And this is the one major piece of advice I would give anyone living with mental illness. If there is a part of you that really does believe it is possible to heal from your pain and live a better life, then you have to hold on to that hope. I truly believe that even in the depths of despair when I seriously felt like ending it all, that small still voice that knew there was a way out, an answer somewhere, is what eventually led to me healing and living a better life.

    The turning point for me came when a throwaway comment from someone really hit a chord and resonated deep inside me. Someone made the observation that I had an “I’m not worthy” attitude about me. This was the “a ha” moment for me because this was the moment when I realized that this could be the key that would eventually unlock the door.

    Those words ignited something in me and I started on a quest to find out as much as I could about self worth, self esteem, emotional healing techniques and anything that would help me understand why I had these problems but more importantly how I could heal.

    It was not an overnight transformation but over the next few years I was able to make significant improvement in the way I felt about myself and my place in the world. I married, trained as a psychotherapist and now have a lovely life in Cambridgeshire.
    My life is not perfect and neither am I but I don’t need things to be perfect for me to be content. That was an important lesson I’ve learned while healing. Being able to see myself, other people and life itself in a more understanding and accepting light has been a large part of my recovery. There are many ways to do this but I agree with Carl Jung who found that those patients who took on a more spiritual perspective of life made the greatest improvements in their healing.

    I’m not a religious person in that I do not see the need for prayer to a supreme being or the need for ritualistic or superstitious behaviour. What I have come to understand is that there is an interconnectedness between everything in the universe and that there are such things as positive and negative energy. Being connected to positive energy allows us to disconnect from the ego which due to pain either sees itself as inferior or superior. Once we connect to the positive energy of our True Selves we are able to see ourselves as equal to everyone and everything. There is no need to gain the approval of others to feel good or any need to control others. There is just the feeling of oneness and contentment.

    Now I know that this sounds like mumbo jumbo, new age nonsense to a lot of people but for me it has helped to make the transition from feeling worthless, useless and hopeless to someone who truly loves life, feels life has meaning and who wants to make a difference in the world. I sincerely hope that whatever you’re going through right now, you are able to find something to help you change your life the way I did mine. Namaste

  13. Al Smith says:

    Thanks Jonathan. What a day for you to talk about uncertainty. It is too private to air here, but there is a lot going on. The CARE Movement is up and running and the Dare to CARE challenge is ready to begin October 1. What a different life I lead today. And it is changing more every day. Might have to send you an email. Thanks again for all you do. Really looking forward to the book. I am suppose to go to Sarah Robinsons CIP this weekend. Hope to make it. Wish you were speaking there, too. Take CARE, brother.

    Al

  14. Tom Evans says:

    I used to be uncertain but now I am not so sure 😉

    Seriously though for me the uncertainty journey was not one of upheaval or trauma but of transition from chrysalis to butterfly.

    I used to be a techie broadcast and Internet engineer/consultant until I wrote a book “by accident” in my mid-forties. It changed my life and has changed countless others. I have retrained and picked up new life skills specialising in clearing writer’s block and teaching people how to form a strong and permanent connection with their Creative Muse.

    I have never earned so little but never been happier and less stressed. Clients appear without any effort just when I need them and they need me. The bank account always seems to have money in it when I need it.

    And four more books appeared from my pen ‘by the same sort of accident’ and more are on their way.

  15. Cindy Coady says:

    In 2007 I had a house, mortgage and a well paying job…. Oh, did I mention I HATED that job! I wanted to leave this job so badly but I felt cornered. I could not quite because I had a mortgage to pay… on a house I loved. I felt I had become one of those people that had become a slave to her choices. One day after work I was waiting at a red light. I remember so vividly looking at the cars pass me by and calculating in my head “how far do I have to move forward to get clipped by another car”. Not to kill myself! I just wanted to be hurt enough to not have to go back to work for a wile…. This thought rattled me to the bone… what was I thinking? The next day I met with my boss. I am a psychotherapist but was in an administrative position. I let my boss know that I missed working with clients and would like to get back into the field. She understood and supported me looking for a new job. 4 months later, my employer had found someone to replace me but I had yet to find another job. I was totally panicked. I thought this job was my “rock bottom” but when I left work on December 23 with no perspective employment in site I fell a little deeper down the dark hole. I knew that if I proceeded with fear. I may end up in another job that I hated so I began to ask for guidance. I asked to have clarity, clarity to see the opportunities that may be masked by my fear. I told the universe I was open for greatness! Literally a few days before new years a friend told me about a new therapeutic certification that was being given. I knew just by the way my body reacted that I needed to do this certification. There was no doubt in my mind that this is what I was supposed to do. I was in the next class and within the year I started my private practice. It has been 4 years now and my practice is flourishing…. I think back with fondness at that time… I do not know if I would be as happy as I am now doing my life’s purpose if I had not hit “rock bottom”.

  16. In 2008 EVERYTHING in my life screamed uncertainty… My marriage fell apart as I discovered years of lying and affairs, I was miserable at my job, I suffered a back injury and became bedridden for six months, I underwent major spinal surgery, my doctor mis-prescribed pain medication and I became addicted to oxycotin, and I found myself in debt and living with family and with no home of my own. It was a very dark and depressing time.

    A friend would joke and say, “at least things can’t get any worse.”, but he was wrong. It could and it did get worse many times. To cope with the circumstances I remained honest to myself and others (even if it meant acknowledging the dark sides of myself and my life) and most of all, I conducted myself with integrity at all times. By doing so, I knew that regardless of how bad things got, I could always hold my head high.

    I was uncertain that my life could ever “turn around”, but I had faith in myself and those that truly cared about me. I focused on what was working, and slowly things began to change. I emerged from my depression, overcame my addiction, paid off my debt, and recovered from my surgery. In fact, by taking small steps every day to advance my recovery, I managed to come back stronger than ever. I had been an amateur triathlete priory to my back injury, but even I was amazed that only 9 short months after my spinal fusion I raced in my first Ironman distance triathlon at the 2009 Lake Placid Ironman.

    One of my greatest accomplishments was overcoming my fears of pursuing a new career and embracing the uncertainty to embark on a new career path. But what I’m most proud of was learning to trust again, and creating an incredible relationship with an amazing woman. We’re now married and have just welcomed our son into the world.

    Life is good! 🙂

  17. Turning Point
    Have you ever had thousands of people laugh in your face because of a mistake?
    I have –
    When I was in 11th grade I was in DECA, a school sponsored -practice business program. Individuals and groups participate in district and State competitions for the opportunity to attend Nationals. I jumped through the preliminary hoops and had made it to the National DECA convention. Winning at anything other than Checkers, for the first time was a big deal for an 11th grader and I was more nervous than a first-time sky-diver.

    There in Orlando, at the opening breakfast, were thousands of kids from every state, their teachers, chaperons, judges and sponsors, all waiting for the introductions to begin. The hotel was large and ballroom felt cavernous. In the back there was a stirring, a murmur quickly honed to cheers. Inspired by boredom our massive group of teens had seized on the opportunity to express their home-state pride.

    “Gimme a T-E-X-A-S!” – Kids up on chairs doing their best call and response – rapid-fire, loud/proud, unbridled cheerleading. Of course, it started turning raucous and soon the chiefs were looking to quell their tribes. My Colorado delegation was sitting on their hands. A mite too shy, sleepy or as it turned out, smart to get involved. I saw the “we’re-as-cool-as-you” window closing as all the proctors were now actively hushing their charges.

    I jumped up and scrambled to the tallest standing position my chair offered me, yelling “Gimmie a C…” – All eyes were turning toward me – as I had just made a break-out from the descending cone of silence and then…

    I blanked out.

    Three letters in and I forgot how to spell where I was born. I took a simple task and JACKED-IT-UP. The laughter was extraordinary as adolescent cruelty can be. I sat down with the laughter ringing in my ears and tears stinging my eyes. It wouldn’t stop. The group was heartily enjoying my self-inflicted demise, with the additions of name calling and sugar packet pelting, we were collectively moving into pulling-the-wings-off-flies territory.

    Then it came, the rage to make it right. In one fluid motion, I standing on the chair, and as you can imagine I had everyone’s attention. I proceeded to finished what I started, and turned the ridicule into applause. I had made the semi-easy thing a mess and was slammed for it. I had made the hard thing (getting “back on the horse” in front of everyone) look easy and was praised.

    It was a turning point for me, as there and then I vanquished stage-fright, public speaking, cold-calling and hiding after mistakes. If thousands of people have seen you fail and were able to laugh in your face, you would have a choice – let it tear you up or – leapfrog the mistake and get busy with whatever is next.

    Uncertainty may be for certain, but you will always have a choice in your response and as an answer, the best of you will always be better that the least of you.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIGfhdaemPI&feature=youtu.be

    • Tanisha says:

      Your story says so much, I am trying to imagine what it would be like to live without shrinking from mistakes… I’m going to find out! Thank you!

  18. Interesting timing, given the email I sent you on Friday. 🙂

    I’m in the middle of the launch for the biggest thing I’ve ever worked on, and uncertainty has been a part of it from day 1. What started as me wanting to do something to help during the BP oil spill last year has literally led to a global movement of kids coming together to share the stories of other kids that have been impacted and continue their ‘silent suffering’ along the coast.

    Last Summer when I was first working on Spirit of the Gulf Coast, I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills. Many of them were late, and I was on the verge of bankruptcy. Yet, I couldn’t turn away from the work. I KNEW it was making a difference, and would help usher in a productive dialogue regarding the oil spill, how it was impacting people who live there, and what we can do to avoid things like this in the future.

    Now, 1 year later, this initial work is being amplified by order of magnitude as we gear up to produce a professional documentary that follows 2 kids as they go down to the Gulf this Fall to discover for themselves how this tragic event continues to impact kids just like them.

    Like last year, I’m in a tender position financially, and that’s putting it mildly. But, like last year, I KNOW this is going to be huge, and it’s already having a major impact on kids around the world. For evidence of that, just search Kids of the Gulf on Twitter – incredible!

    I’m dancing on the edge of the cliff here. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to pull all of this off and keep myself from going bankrupt. I just know it’s going to happen. I get up each morning and feel the amazing energy around this work, and know in my heart that it will come together and have a big impact on the world.

    I wrote about the history of this effort and how I got involved at:
    http://www.brandonsutton.com/kids-of-the-gulf-be-the-change/

    I also did a post about being on ‘The Edge of the Cliff’ where I mentioned the book trailer:
    http://www.brandonsutton.com/the-edge-of-the-cliff/

    Your TEDx talk on Fear last year gave me the much needed inspiration to take some big risks last Summer, and some of them led me to where I am now. These risks continue to pay off today, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

    Here’s to dancing with Uncertainty,

    Brandon

  19. The entirety of my last six months have been based on a leap into uncertainty – divorce, starting my own business, moving away from everyone and everything I know. And, it’s been an amazing six months. I think the story that best captures the willingness to walk into the unknown is my first step into acting on my beliefs and participating in civil disobedience for the first time.

    I wrote about my experience here: http://www.verdantspringdesign.com/blog/?p=21

    The experience (and my past six months) have taught me so much about myself, and I have met so many amazing people / done so many amazing things along the way. Here’s to taking that leap of faith into the unknown!
    Jessica

    • Jessica, your story really inspires me beyond words. Seeing a #WDS sister standing up and putting her body on the line for the good of humanity was particularly poignant for me. Your sacrifice was pivotal in my decision to participate as well. I applaud your bravery and have nothing but respect for your actions.

  20. Tara says:

    I returned to my hometown of Vancouver in 2008 after 8 years building my career as a management consultant in Toronto. Who moves away from Toronto as a career move? Well, as my maternity leave was winding down after the birth of my first child, I realized I wanted to come “home.” So, once in Vancouver, I began applying for typical MBA-type jobs, and even found some. But wanted to do what I loved—which is what I was already doing in Toronto. Implementing lasting, valuable change in small companies. Doing it quickly, effectively and being able to see, firsthand the results of my labour. When change works, it’s like a drug and I wanted more of it, I just wanted to do it in Vancouver. The problem was that I couldn’t find any Vancouver based companies focused on the implementation of business systems in small businesses in Vancouver. I had travelled through the early part of my career and wanted local work so I could meet my personal commitment of having dinner with my family. I went to my boss in Toronto and explained my dilemma. Always an inspiring mentor, he said, “why don’t you try to sell a project in Vancouver? If you can, you can start a company. If you can’t, take one of those other jobs. What have you got to lose?” Well, nothing when you put it that way. I incorporated in 2009 and immediately had to start bringing the staff that used to work for me in Toronto out to Vancouver just to meet the demand.
    Then 2009 happened. For the business world, that meant the global economic meltdown. For me personally, it coincided with me falling unexpectedly pregnant with my second child. I’d just started a company. I was its main business development driver. Still a start up, we had virtually no referral business and, as the 2010 Olympics fast approached, I could not convince anyone to take a meeting. They were either preparing for the Olympics, or going to the Olympics, or trying to get out of town to avoid the Olympics. It was a disaster for the company.
    By the time the Olympics had passed, I was 5 months pregnant. Every time I went to a meeting the person would be interested in what I was saying, but then give me a quick look up and down and say, “call me in the fall.” 2010 was indeed a tough year and I even had to lay someone off.
    Today, happily, we’re back stronger than ever. Up to 5 full-time local staff, with a growing track-record of satisfied Vancouver based clients. In the best of times, selling management consulting is incredibly challenging when you are focused on the small business sector. Small business owners typically haven’t used a consulting firm and don’t immediately understand what they’d be buying. So, we’re not competing with other consulting firms. We’re competing with the dollars they’d spend on other things that are important to their business. Things they are used to buying, like that mythical “perfect” sales manager, or a machine for the shop floor that they’ve coveted for years but have never quite had the money to buy it.
    But if I can explain the value of an outside perspective, more often than not, they turn to us. They know where their business needs to be, but try as they might, they haven’t been able to get the traction. And that’s where what we do is a game changer. We use process benchmarking. We listen. We mentor. We get what it’s like for them. And we believe in them and their potential. The fun part is that we get amazing results. Sometimes it’s not until six months, or even a full year after we’ve finished the hardest work with a client that they realize just how far they’ve come. How much change their business and themselves have undergone.
    It’s been an up and down ride these past few years. With two wonderful children to mother, new clients coming to us every day, and a growing, eager staff, I’m looking forward to the next chapters in my own story more than ever before.

  21. Jim Mitchem says:

    I quit drinking when I didn’t want to.

  22. Debi Stadlin says:

    “Cliff-Diving for Dummies”

    This could be the title for my biography. Where to start. I am Debi, a recovering lawyer. I have been clean for 13 years. How I got clean is the story.

    I was 35 and it was my year for making partner in my corporate law firm. I was “on track”. It was also the year that my mother died very suddenly. Two things I knew for sure after her death, that my life would change dramatically and that I did not want to be partner with more stress, more pressure, more meetings. I took some time off to think. I enjoyed my son, I learned to roller blade. I started to sense there was something missing from my life that I would not find in a law firm.

    I attempted to negotiate a compromise with my soul. I would work part time, telling myself this would give me some freedom. I quickly saw that this was an illusion, as I walked around with the first big cellular phone. 20 billable hours a week turned into 50. It was full time stress and part time pay. I finally had the courage to quit. (The first Cliff Dive).

    I started to meditate and hike. One day in meditation, I heard “you are to go to Costa Rica and work with the turtles.” This message was so outside of my reality, that I questioned my sanity. After that, I went to Barnes and Noble (pre-google), bought a coffee and said out loud, “show me the trip”. I picked up an EarthWatch magazine and the trip was in this magazine. I went home and signed up. No questions asked. (The second cliff-dive).

    When I arrived in Las Baulas National Park, Costa Rica in October, 1998, the Leatherback Turtle Project was just getting started for the year. There were eight Earthwatch scientists and I was the only volunteer. I spent 11 life-changing days with this group.

    Our job was to patrol a two mile stretch of the beach each night from 11pm-5am and, as the large leatherback turtles nested on the beach, we would lay on our stomach and gather the eggs. The eggs were about the size of a ping pong ball, not as firm, and there were 60-100 per turtle. We would collect them in large garbage bags, mark the bags and take them to a protected hatchery. We would dig another nest and carefully put the eggs in the controlled environment.

    By about 5am, we would head to our rooms, take a shower, check for scorpions,(quite a stretch for a city girl), and sleep until lunch. We had some free time and explored the mango groves by canoe, had sand fiddler crab races, and enjoyed the beach. After an early dinner, we would rest and get ready for the next patrol.

    What I experienced for the first time in my life, was being connected to the rhythm of nature. I had never spent a night outside and I had never seen the constellations so clearly. There were nights we had torrential downpours and we worked with trash bags covering us. Each night was a new adventure.

    As I walked the beach with each scientist, I heard their story. I realized how passionate they were about their work. I had not experienced this in my work. This awakening to passion was the gift this trip brought me.

    I also had a series of dreams while there, that led me to know that I was supposed to paint. This was a big surprise. I had never painted and drawing was pretty much stick figures. My great-grandfather and his 7 siblings had all been Russian artists, so I reasoned maybe it was not totally impossible. (The third cliff-dive).

    I returned home and saw an article about a local artist who had a painting school and taught private lessons. He actually had known my great-grandfather. The first time I painted with oil paints,I had this amazing feeling in my entire body, that this was what I was supposed to do (sorry I suffered through the CPA and Bar Exams!). It was pretty emotional. My art career unfolded very quickly. I had a show within 5 months of starting and have passionately embraced my life as an artist and joyfully expressing myself. Success has a very different meaning for me. It means touching the lives of others, the way I was touched in Costa Rica. I see the value in sharing our stories with others. I see that being as opposed to doing, can really open you to your wildest dreams. I have met amazing people along the way and seen a lot of the world I had not explored.

    13 years after the first cliff-dive, I am having a very strong impulse to play a bigger game. I am giving myself a retreat time to allow the next dream to unfold. I am smack in the middle of nowhere and flying in the face of fear (a country music song?)as I write this. Somehow, someway, I have the confidence it will make sense and I am sure it will involve some sort of teaching others to follow their dreams. It helps to have a few cliff-dives under my belt.

    A big toast to uncertainty!

    Debi

  23. […] written yesterday and posted first thing this morning, but I have never been good at should. I have Jonathan Fields to thank for the motivation […]

  24. This Nuclear Engineering thing at Pearl Harbor is starting to bore me.

    I was 23 and living on Oahu working as a Nuclear Engineer for the Department of Defense. I guess poking my head around in the reactors of nuclear submarines started to lose its luster. I was living far away from home in a place that I was “supposed” to be loving according to everyone else, but I wasn’t.

    I was pretending to live the life of the happiest guy on earth but inside it was eating at me. Then I had an opportunity to start a film production business with a friend of mine…in Charleston, SC. Film was always a passion of mine and my friend recently took a job where he would have access to state of the art equipment.

    So as the youngest member of my extended family, there I sat in Hawaii with the burdens of generations of familial success staring me square in the face if I decided to leave this career path that I had gone to school for. For the first time in my life I had a full-time job but it was also the first time in my life that there was no end in sight. I could stay at this job until I died. No semesters ending, no internships, no study abroads. This was the start of a career, and that scared the ever living hell out of me.

    What would they say at work if I quit? What would my friends say? What would my parents say? …

    Eff it. I have to take this leap. I have to go pursue film. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    The day I planned on quitting I remember thinking, “My life can continue as normal here if I say nothing, or, by uttering the words, “I quit,” my life will forever change.” That’s all it takes. Two syllables. I. Quit.

    I actually couldn’t do it for 2 weeks. Every time I wanted to go talk to my boss, I was so nervous that I thought I was going to throw up. Was I crazy? I live in Hawaii! I work at Pearl Harbor!

    But I couldn’t ignore the feeling in the pit of my stomach. If I stayed at Pearl, it would be for everyone else except me. I would have stayed because I was afraid of what people might think or say behind my back. If I stayed, I would have died a slow death. Screw this, I thought, it’s Bassam, Inc.

    So finally, shaking and on the verge of passing out, I told my boss that I had to quit and that I was chasing my dream.

    As the weight of the world got removed off my back, an amazing thing happened. Everyone at Pearl supported me with fervor! They were so jealous that I was chasing my dream and they hoped I remember the little people when I made it big. My parents and friends supported me fully, although some thought I was crazy.

    Best part of the story? The film production venture failed miserably. I lost my best friend, I was waiting tables at a restaurant and I was in a…well let’s just say, not the healthiest relationship with a girl.

    Why is that the best part of the story? Well because when it was time to pull the ripcord from my time in Charleston and chase a new endeavor out in California, it was a little bit easier to pull. I was more confident in myself having figured out what didn’t work in life and business.

    I was in debt, with a schmorgasborg of a resume, and off to California I went.

    There was a another huge crash-and-burn story in California (that’s another story) but I again rose from the rubble even stronger. Now I sit in New York City and I’ve never been happier. I’m Director of Operations for a Construction Management Company, I co-founded a film festival and I launched a motivational methodology.

    But if it wasn’t for the leaps into the unknown that I had taken earlier in life, I wouldn’t have been able to try the things I’m doing now. Fear would have overwhelmed me. I wouldn’t have perspective. I wouldn’t know what to cherish. But by failing, I learned and each time I failed, I realized that it wasn’t bad! I realized that trying and failing is important. It builds character.

    After all, if you can’t fail, it doesn’t count.

    Butterflies in the pit of your stomach let you know that you’re alive and let you know that you’re about to do something epic. How the story gets written will be up to you but without leaping, you’ll always wonder what might have happened.

    Uncertainty is the river you jump in. It’s up to us to decide how hard we’re going to paddle.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share, Jonathan!

    Bassam

  25. Gwyn Michael says:

    Yay for uncertainty and timely writing challenges. I was having trouble with what to write today and your prompt saved me which is a gift inn itself. If I win anything double bonus time for me 🙂

    This is an old story, but one that energizes me every time I think of it.

    http://www.gwynmichael.com/2011/09/26/ride-the-butterflies-on-the-rode-to-hell/

  26. I dance with uncertainty on a daily basis, as does everyone, if they are to be honest. My two step began in 1992 which I lovingly refer to as ‘our year from hell.’ My husband and I had moved to Florida to begin a second regional edition of our magazine, called Visions which was about transformation, wellness and spirituality. In March of that year, I had an ectopic pregnancy and nearly died. In May, Michael was diagnosed with Hep C. In August, we lost our house in Homestead to Hurricane Andrew and along with it, the South Florida edition of our magazine. We moved back to Bucks County, PA in January of 1993, arriving on New Years Day. Within a few months, Michael began the arduous treatment for the condition that was ravaging both body and mind. For 5 more years, we were on a journey that was held the polarities of fulfilling and frustrating, that had us going through the revolving doors of hospital ER’s so many times that I had lost count. In June of 1998, we sold the magazine, I returned to my social work profession,and Michael enrolled in The New Seminary to become an interfaith minister. I studied casually with him, typing his papers, reading to him and quizzing him. He entered the hospital one final time on 11/11/98 and for the next 5 1/2 weeks, we rode a a proverbial roller coaster (he while in comatose state), awaiting a liver transplant that never occurred. I had a pivotal experience while I lived in the ICU for that entire period. I did what I referred to as “God Wrestling”, saying to the Creator “He’s mine and you can’t have him.” evoking the loving but firm response “He’s mine and he’s on loan to you like everyone else in your life.” How could I argue with reasoning like that?

    When the life support was turned off on 12/21/98, I heard that same Voice, a gender neutral communication that instructed me to “call the seminary and ask to finish what Michael started.” A few days following his Christmas Eve memorial service I did just that, condensing two years worth of study into 6 months and I was able to graduate with Michael’s class that June.

    In these interceding 13 years, I have become a free-lance journalist/interviewer (my ‘dream into reality’ interview that I concucted in July 2008 was with His Holiness The Dalai Lama) interfaith minister, contributing author to several books, author of my ‘first best seller’ entitled The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary. In addition I have said Kaddish for both my parents (my father in 2008 and my mother in 2010).

    Each of these experiences brought with them a swarm of butterflies (cosmically coincidentally, in conversation with my mother in the six months that she was on hospice,she told me that she would return as a butterfly, so I have reframed the idea of ‘having butterflies’) And in each of these experiences, I have allowed myself to feel a myriad of emotions but ALWAYS moved forward, knowing that I will be carried aloft by those gossamer wings ~0~

  27. Though it is a short summary of some of your experiences of loss and transformation, it is splendidly told. Thank you for sharing this and for continuing to see Michael, your mother and father’s life in others, especially butterfly’s.

    May your spirit expand and contract as needed, when needed and your soul always be your sister.

  28. […] http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/ride-the-butterflies-the-story-contest/ I want you to share a time where you danced with uncertainty…and won. A story where you felt the butterflies, the anxiety and fear, where you thought about turning back, maybe you even did, but then turned back around and ended up creating or becoming or doing something amazing. It could be about art, business, love, health, life, whatever. It just has to be real, no fables here. […]

  29. […] special shout out to C.B. and Jonathan Fields.  Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your […]

  30. Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for giving us a platform to share our stories. I wrote a blog post today about mine here: http://www.jermainelane.com/through-the-rain-and-rainbows. It is about my continued fight for hope while living with kidney disease.

    Also, I did a video post last week about my one year kidney transplant you might enjoy: http://www.jermainelane.com/one-year-dialysis-free.

    Thanks again and for letting us inspire each other here. Peace.

  31. TITLE: A Message from Two Faces – A True Story that Happened Today

    I’m psychic. Not your party psychic who takes your ring and delivers messages from the Other Side, but a low wattage type where I get feelings that things are going to turn out good or bad. I’m rarely wrong.

    A week ago, as I bought printer ink at the local Cartridge World, I sensed I should be doing the buying someplace else. I soon forgot about it. But not for long, because this past weekend I discovered at least two of the cartridges I bought were defective and the black replacement was the wrong size. I also got that renewed feeling that a return to Cartridge World for a refund would not be pleasant. It wasn’t. But then again, it wasn’t supposed to be.

    As I parked in front of the store this morning, Dan was standing outside the door finishing off a Winston. Dan had helped me a number of times before the store changed owners. He looked like he always does – disheveled long brown hair, a wrinkled shirt, dirty jeans and long fingernails with black stains under them from filling ink cartridges. It’s hard to guess Dan’s age. He looks as beaten as an open-sea fisherman. He’s probably forty-five to fifty-five, and wasted from the inside out. But he’s always been articulate and polite to me, so I never felt repelled by his presence. This morning, that feeling of dis-ease was all around me. It was in the air, and some of it was coming from Dan.

    Now I have to tell you I live in a world of uncertainty regarding jobs. It’s called Hollywood and film projects never start on time, or many times refuse to start at all. This morning I got an email. My next movie will be pushed back even more, and I had already turned down another film to take this one. So I wasn’t exactly feeling cheery when I dropped onto the counter four defective cartridges and asked Dan for a refund. Dwindling money reserves was again a concern and I wanted some control back in my life, even for sixty dollars.

    Dan surprised me, though. Without a hint of argument, he agreed to return my entire charge. Humm, I thought. This is easier than I expected it to be…until he swiped my card and handed me the print-out for a sixty dollar SALE, rather than a CREDIT. I quickly pointed that out. Control was slipping away.

    Dan’s face blanched, even whiter than it already was. Seems the card machine needed a software upgrade and crediting back funds needed his manual entry. To Dan’s chagrin, and mine, it didn’t work. He then said to me, “I’ve got a problem.” Upon which I replied, “No Dan. You don’t have a problem. I have a problem, amounting to one hundred and twenty dollars. We have to fix this.”

    Was that rude and uncalled for? Probably. But I could sense that things were going quickly sticky and I was trying to get ahead of them. Silly. This drama had been put into place eons ago and I was committed to riding it out – all the way to the big lesson.

    Dan called tech support, so I took a seat at the front windows next to three stacks of broken down printers and a small dog cage. A man walked in, presumable for a pick up, and waited to my left next to the wall. Dan didn’t notice. He was still on the phone.

    The man was trim and about my height. But he had dropped his head, placing his hand in front of his face. It was obvious why. He hoped I wouldn’t see what he was hiding. But I already had, as he entered the store. And I can tell you, the memory of the film “Elephant Man” bubbled up in my brain, really fast.

    This gentleman, about forty, had the profile of a concave face; no nose, depressed cheeks, what was left of them, a casing of thick and callused skin looking like the cratered surface of the moon. A four inch piece of brown tape covered what would have been the protrusion we all have which supports our glasses. Below that tape, where, on my face a mustache resides, were two slits, presumably for air intake. I have never seen a more appalling mask, and this was a real face. Yes, he was covering it with his hand, but this deterrent only brought more attention to his pose. Still, I pretended I didn’t notice.

    Dan put down the phone, the man crossed to him, picked up his order and in silent seconds, he was gone. In my mind, he was burned in forever. For Dan, I have no idea what he thought. He seemed to be in his own world of hurt.

    As I approached the desk, Dan explained that he had to call London to talk to the new owner, since he could not electronically refund my $120. I didn’t respond. I was still thinking about the man with the fright face, and how he must feel every time he steps into a store or diner. Maybe he doesn’t.

    A moment later, Dan handed me the phone so I could talk through the drop outs to a person from India. Apparently he had bought this business from Nathan, the original owner, and was now concerned he would loose me as a customer. Through his fast chatter, I tried to explain that I was late for work and just wanted the refund. But he insisted on enumerating a list of all the things that could be wrong with my printer. After ten sentences from him, and ten from me insisting, “It’s not my printer,” he finally said yes, he would pay me back in cash.

    I returned the phone to Dan, who didn’t look at all happy. But I’m wasn’t either, as I told him that his new boss had authorized a cash-back payment. Dan muttered, “I know,” and opened the cash box. Tears started rolling down his cheeks and he took off his glasses to wipe his eyes. I couldn’t believe he was falling apart over a refund. But he was, as he counted the money with moist, ink-stained fingers.

    “I’m sorry if I got you upset,” I whispered, as I took the bills. “But I was concerned about the refund. And your new manager likes to talk. And I’m late for work.”

    “He’s really a good guy,” Dan replied wiping his face again.

    “What is it, then? What did I say?”

    Dan sucked in his hurt. “My partner died last week and Nathan sold the business and now my whole life is a fucking mess.”

    “Oh… I’m so sorry.” Those were my only words. And I was sorry. But what could I do about the death of a loved one? And someone who I didn’t know. Nothing, except leave the store feeling ashamed that I spent twenty minutes worrying about $120. I can afford it. My life is the antithesis of a fucking mess. My face is not repulsive, all my body parts still work, I have a loving wife, good friends, my parents are still alive, the job WILL eventually come in, and I’ll sleep tonight knowing tomorrow will be okay. I can feel that. I’m psychic. And hopefully, I’m somewhat wiser and more grateful for what I’ve been given: another lesson.

    I thank Dan and the man with the hidden face for helping me become a better man. I got the message. I won’t forget it.

    Irv

    (The names have been changed for this story.)

    Irv Podolsky IrvingsJourney.com

  32. Reynold Fuentes says:

    The story takes place over a few years. I was always the odd one out in a lot of ways. The path less travelled was the typical default for me. Such a life would lead to odd stares at times and less than kind comments but I was always able to win people over (but usually that would fade and people just wound up wanting to strangely me:/).

    I came up for an idea for a script while on vacation in the Bahamas. I told all my friends about it on the way there and for fun wrote out a small draft of it in my notebook. I actually got a kick out of seeing the smile on my friends faces as they read it. A few days into the trip (and quite a few drinks) the script was lost. I personally feel it was the cleaning ladies who took it. Oh well.

    A year and a half later I relayed the script to one of my co-workers at the time. I actually enjoyed telling my little tale from time to time. He was attending NYU at the time and I guess me talking about it all the time decided he would use the idea for a color sync project. What took place over the next couple of months were some of the most difficult and trying of my life, but at the same time, one of the most enjoyable and rewarding of my life. What started as a tiny 8 minute project grew to 45 minutes and the most expensive color sync project in NYU history.

    I had to write 27 drafts and had to sell personal items on eBay to get the movie done. Arrangements were made with my boss at work and there were many days in which we did not sleep. I can’t take all the credit because it was also my other two friends who kept me going. If any of us dropped, one of the others would step up. I would not recommend doing this to anyone and looking back if I had realized everything that making this short would entail, I might not have done it (who am I kidding, yeah I would. It premiered in our home town at the local United Artist theatre. We made the local paper as well and I got to work with some great talent in the movie. Is my life amazing now. Yes and no. I am not some famous mogul right now, but I am absolutely fine with that. I actually draw on the experience in pursuing other areas of my life. If I truly believe that the next step is the one I need to take, I just take it ( for the most part). I realize in life that I am my own worst enemy, but in the same vein, I am my best asset as well. I also realize that creativity and making things happen is ur greatest asset. Not money or the people you know, you are.

    Anyhow, can’t wait for the book. I wish you the best. If there is anything you need to promote the book, just ask.

    All the best,

    Reynold Fuentes

  33. Bill Peregoy says:

    Thanks for this opportunity Jonathan. When I heard your yoga studio story at WDS this year, it helped give me a jumpstart towards my new business, so thank you for the inspiration.

    Heres my story.

    http://www.stayingmindful.com/2011/09/27/uncertainty-can-be-our-friend/

  34. Tracy says:

    TITLE: My Crazy College Job in a Lock-Up facility!

    When I was a college student I had no less than three jobs at any given time. One in particular, I will never forget. I found myself in a juvenile LOCK-UP facility! This building housed teens who had to get through the program or else end up in prison. I had no idea what I was getting into. Ir was the worse job ever!

    I did what I could to work with the girls on my floor and be a positive influence. A lifetime of phsyical and sexual abuse and mental illness caused rationality to be very fleeting for many. One inmate in a crazy fit attacked me when I came on my shift. I had no idea what had happened before I got there. She was on serious prescriptions for her mental instability so I didn’t take it personally. That same week we had CPR training. I had had it before. No big deal I thought.

    Well a few days later this same young lady passed out in her room. A group of us stood over her staring. It didn’t seem real. My coworksers bagan to panic. I told one person to go call 911 and another to get a supervisor. Everyone else ran, literally. They all took CPR with me and could have stayed to help. All of the staff left me in this room alone with a breathless dying girl. My CPR was barely a few days old. Uncertaintly. Did I pay attention well enough? Uncertainty. What if she died? Uncertainty. Where the hell was everyone else? Uncertainty and fear. All those scary thoughts only lasted a few seconds. She wasn’t breathing and her heart had stopped. Somehow the CPR class came back. The ambulance arrived 15 minutes later. Our obscure lock-up building made it almost impossible for the ambulance to find.

    I had saved someone’s life in the face of great uncertaintly and fear! The interesting part in all of this is that not a single person said good job or thanks for taking charge and saving her life. They laid me off a few days later instead. I still laugh today about that. No matter. In my heart I know I made the difference.

  35. Executive X says:

    Thanks, Jonathan.

    I was burned out and frustrated at work and had reached a crossroads. That’s when one conversation turned it around for me and I re-focused and re-energized.

    Here’s the story…

    http://executivecrossroads.com/burnout-then-reignite-your-career/

  36. I ran through a lot of examples, but I kept coming back to the one that’s staring me in the face right now. So I wrote about that.

    Ride the Bugger, erm, Butterflies

    http://goodshiplifestyle.com/?p=663

  37. […] post was inspired by Ride the Butterflies by Jonathan Fields, who reminded me that the butterflies have been with me […]

  38. Sandi Amorim says:

    I remember at WDS when you said “harness the butterflies.” Those words stayed with me and resurfaced yesterday as I read this post.

    They inspired me to share a time in my life when I did harness them, when the energy was amazing and the result unexpected: http://www.devacoaching.com/2011/09/27/harnessing-the-butterflies/

    Thank you!

  39. Tania Dakka says:

    Thank you, Jonathan, for giving me the courage to say what I had wanted to say since last week. Here is my post and I am tweeting it, it has been facebooked on two sites, Stumbled Upon, and G+. Much success to you in your journey!!

    http://taniadakka.com/?p=628 Thank you for hosting this contest:)

  40. John Craig says:

    Let’s start with the stats…
    42 years old, 10K (6.2 Miles), 56 minutes

    This was the completion (and the starting point) to a summer of work.

    Throughout the race I would say to myself “fueled by Grace”. This mantra came from a conversation I had with an NMO patient (Devics patient) whose name is Grace. I never shared this story with you here. I never seemed to be able to write down the experience, needless to say it was good.

    I ran for those who could no longer run, walk or even move much. I ran for those who live with this disease in different stages of progression to show that it could be done. That you could do this…or walk, or jog around the block. In disease as in life it’s hard to heal the mind if you do not heal the body first.

    Heal the body in whatever manor you can. I know some of you reading this have permanent damage, healing the body has a different meaning for you, different levels for all of us. It may be to stand on your own or walk down the hallway in your house or to walk to the mailbox. Whatever your goal is, go for it…I believe you can achieve it. When you do, share it with others.

    The phrase “body, mind and soul” has an order to it. Improvements on the outside will help fix issues on the inside (ponder that grasshopper :)) Ok, so I sound like an infomercial, trust me it will help a lot.

    The phrase “body, mind and soul” has an order to it.

    Let’s talk about the highlights of the race for me.

    The last 1/2 mile was euphoric for me. I turned a corner and ran into a wall of people cheering. It felt great. I was high-fiveing little kids, waving to the pretty girls cheering, reading motivational signs and thanking spectators for the encouraging words. I loved it. Every step of it.

    Around mile four I saw a young man seated in a wheelchair on the sidewalk clapping for the runners as they go by. This was so incredibly powerful for me to see. This young man had no idea why I was running. In truth I’m running to get as far away from the image of being in a wheelchair myself. Living with Devics or MS, the possibility of ending up in a wheelchair is always an ever-present thought. I sit in my neurologist’s waiting room and read about my condition on the internet. The long term prognosis of using my own two feet diminish quickly. At that moment of seeing this young man, I think: as long as I can move my body, I will. In turn my body can heal my mind (sometimes thoughts need to be squashed).

    The other highlights of the race for me was the other runners; all different types of people were out running. All ages, all sizes, all with a different purpose. I loved it. I loved being part of the pack.

    Future goals: 15K, 1/2 marathon (hopefully I can find trail races. I love running in the forest).

    The main goal is to run with a group of Devics and MS patients alongside of me. I would like to travel to different parts of the county and run with Devics/MS people.

    Heart of a servant
    Strength of a fighter

    In the end what I did was nothing special. 14,000 people showed up and ran and that is the lesson learned. Sometimes doing nothing special feels really good.

  41. […] I want you to inspire people not only with what you’ve accomplished, overcome and moved through, but with your willingness to reveal your dreams, struggles and successes. To own the gremlins and the glory.” – Jonathan Fields […]

  42. amy says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    This came tumbling out today:

    I decided to have a homebirth late in my first pregnancy, well into the third trimester. All through the first six months I flip-flopped back and forth, first buying into the message that hospitals were safe for births and homes were not, and then feeling profoundly certain that the most loving and supportive environment in which to have my baby was at home.

    While I knew I wanted to be a mom, I hadn’t thought much about birthing babies until my growing belly required me to do so. And despite my Berkeley address, I didn’t consider myself particularly counter-culture, like I imagined homebirth moms to be. What I wanted was to be in charge of how things went, to have an un-medicated birth, and to walk away from the experience changed in a positive way.

    But more friends than I could count came home from their hospital births just the opposite; they were traumatized by how the experience was wrenched away from them, and took years building back their confidence and pride around birthing their babies. When I thought of myself in a hospital bed, hooked up to monitors and feeling pressured to cave to suggested medical interventions, I felt sick. So I decided that I would take an alternative route.

    It wasn’t an easy decision to hire a midwife and have my baby at home. I was raised in a home where it mattered what the neighbors thought. Where only experts knew the “right” answers. Where you took the conventional course, and you followed the rules.

    Homebirth in the U.S. is not following the rules.

    I got all the resistance I expected I would from my family, and even from some friends. My response was to place my hand on my belly and stay quiet. But then I began to experience my own inner resistance to my decision, which was much harder to work with. These voices of dread, uncertainty, doubt and fear are so convincing and clever; it was a daily struggle to stay my course.

    We worked out an elaborate “just in case” back-up plan, and I spent alot of time journalling about my vision for the birth. I built up an impressive fortress against my own resistance to what I knew I wanted.

    The voices, however, kept up their campaign all the way until I heard my baby’s first cry.

    At home. In my sunny kitchen, with my husband and the midwives. Safe.

    Choosing to have my son (and later, my daughter) at home ignited a power in me that has grown even stronger and more vital over time. I knew what I didn’t want, and I had a vision of what I did. But I needed to embrace the uncertainty that comes along with choices such as these, and to stay committed even when resistance plays the dirtiest of tricks. Moving through the uncertainty and out the other side made a bold decision a game-changer for me. Now I know the extent of my own power. Becoming a mother on my own terms set me up to play bigger, to go beyond conventional limits, and to dare to take risks in ways I never imagined I would.

  43. Carol Hess says:

    First Sandi Amorim mentions your name and “Uncertainty” this morning. And then Christine Kloser does the same. So how could I NOT respond to that kind of a hint from the Universe?

    Here’s a story about a time I felt major uncertainty about whether or not to participate in a firewalk. Find out if I did! http://www.starpolisher.com/the-firewalk

    Jonathan, I wish you all the best with your new book and can’t wait to read it! I’ll tell you how I liked it at our lunch at the Soho House. 🙂

  44. Jeff McPherson says:

    My story of triumphs over failure began with a call I received as 18 year old high school kid. The call was from my Congressman telling me that I was accepted to the United States Naval Academy. My athletic and academic background had gotten me an appointment to the Academy. Except for my grandfather serving in WWII, my family had no contact with the military complex. I was setting out to a school half a continent away, into a setting I knew little about. I think our class had over 15,000 qualified applicants, and I was one of about 1200 who had gotten in.
    Once there, I quickly realized maybe I was in a little over my head. I know many other realize this, and react much better than I did. Unfortunately, did not make the best of the situation, and after 3 years found myself in an even more exclusive fraternity of those that do not complete their course of study. Upon dismissal from the Academy, I could not even get into a junior college! I gained weight, got depressed, all those things that happen to people when they think their one shot at glory is snuffed out. I spent 5 years enlisted in the Navy, and got out with my bachelor’s degree. I knew I had something to prove, and built a business that would catapult me into a top business school. After a whole lot of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an MBA. Since that time, I have spent time consulting in Europe, did sales strategy for a multi-billion dollar organization, and now have just completed my first year of business with my second entrepreneurial endeavor. Business is good, but there are few failures as harsh as where I have been.

  45. Marguerite says:

    Got one more for you: http://xquisitelyladym.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/harnessing-the-power-of-butterflies/ There was a lot there and I don’t want to hijack your page here, so I’m just putting in the link. …It’s my story and I’m owning it. There’s another blog that I have that’s got a lot more to it than this one. If anyone wants to read that one, then just let me know. It’s new…and it can be extremely dark, but it’s the full story – unapologetically put out there for the world because I’m darned proud of what I’ve accomplished.

    Thanks for the continuing inspiration Jonathan…and everyone who’s shared stories here. I see I walk in amazing company. :o)

  46. Jonathan Fields says:

    For the record – you guys are blowing me away with your amazing stories, kindness and willingness to share and inspire! 🙂

  47. Vikk Simmons says:

    Totally inspired by the intro and first chapter of the book. So much so I did a post on the launch of the book and added my own story. I hope I’ve captured the spirit of the book and the contest.

    http://www.downthewriterspath.com/2011/09/are-you-willing-to-ride-the-butterflies/

  48. R. Oliver says:

    It was one of those rare occasions where two of us were riding together in a patrol car. Actually, I was little more than a rookie deputy riding with my seasoned field training officer, when the call came for a miscellaneous complaint: husband and wife having a verbal argument in their residence located in the central part of the county. It was a little after one AM on an otherwise busy Friday night to Saturday morning shift; I was driving and we were on the main drag of one of the four hamlets in our rural heartland county. I pulled a gentle u-turn and we started out toward the address – no rush, no crisis.

    A minute later, dispatch updated, “male subject tearing house apart, has broken flat screen television, dishes and furniture. Possible DV [domestic violence].” Lights and siren on, speed bumped up. I laughed to my FTO about “possible” and how I disliked “possible code blue [no breath, no pulse]” and “possible code black [death]” more. But for now, I’m focused on not catching a deer in the road and getting the best safe, fastest speed on the paved roads before they turn to gravel to get us there. Dispatch passes, “Second caller reporting shots fired, male now signal one [suicidal], has hunting rifle trying to shoot self in head. Contact lost with first caller.”

    We’re moving balls to the wall now – in a rush, this is a crisis. We’re at least eight minutes out. Radio crackles with other units moving to back us up from the far reaches of the county and EMS toned to stage at a nearby stand-by location.

    “Third caller is baby-sitter. She has most of the children and is going to neighbor’s house. Code one has smashed rifle on dining room table and gone outside to truck. He is threatening to hang himself, but may be getting handgun.” The minutes seem to pass like hours; I’m driving as fast as possible.

    Tyler, my FTO, is on the radio trying to get an answer to how many people, including children, are still in the house. “Four: mother, six year old son, female neighbor and code one, signal one.”

    “So the male back in house? Is he armed?”

    An agonizing series of 10-3’s [dispatcher busy] later, “Male has broken through back door. Male in back, has orange rope tied around neck and saying he’s going to hang himself. Unknown if armed. Three callers on line reporting.”

    “Male is outside, climbing tree, threatening to hang himself.”

    Uncharacteristically, the dispatcher transmits, “Hurry, hurry. Man reported hanging from tree by neck. I’ve lost all callers. One line open. I hear several women screaming in background.”

    “Whoomph,” and the familiar grind of gravel with the shimmy of much less control on gravel sounded in the car as we moved off the paved road onto gravel. We’re twelve to thirteen blocks, a little more than a mile, away. Roughly the equivalent of ten blocks – there not being a street each block in rural country – before a final turn to the south for the street the house is on. I’ve driven enough rural fire-rescue calls to know the frustration of not having house numbers posted on the mailboxes, so I said a quiet prayer this house might be different.

    I mashed the brakes and skidded through the intersection turn to the south. Dust flying everywhere in the darkness around our car reflecting the emergency lights on our car. Backed up, turned and accelerated heading south. As we emerged from our cloud, a minivan traveling north nearly hits us. I see a woman and young child in the front seats following the glare of her headlights. The road is obscured by the dust from the van. First mailbox has numbers, next none. Corn field, next has none. Next has name only, another corn field. “Dispatch, do you have home-owner’s last name for the address?”

    The new dispatcher’s voice still cracks with emotion while speaking volumes, “The mom said he’s hanging dead from a tree. She has taken their son and left the house.”

    And I am reminded of the line by Kipling, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” The dust cloud on the road ends and there is a handsome brick one-story to the west. The front door is open. I hang a right into and race up the driveway. Tyler is out of the car before I get it into park. I run behind him to catch-up. As Tyler heads through the open front door, we’re yelling “Sheriff’s Office! Sheriff’s Office!”

    I enter the house behind him. It’s a much, much nicer looking home than I could ever afford — lavish. To the back left is the dining room. I see a broken dining room table and chair, above the table are what look like three bullet holes in the ceiling and on the floor spent casings and hunting rifle with the bolt open. In the center of the back is a stone fireplace dividing the dining room from the living room. Hanging off-center on its bent frame above the mantel on the living room side is a huge broken flat-screen television screen. Pieces of broken plates and food are on the tiles and carpeting leading into the living room. DVD’s and CD’s are cast about the carpeting with pillows and blankets and popcorn. The double-door back door has been broken open and a dead-bolt and part of the door frame lie on the carpeting in front of it. We yell again, “Sheriff’s Office!”

    A faint muffled voice comes from outside in the backyard, “Help! Help! Out here.”

    We step quickly out onto the back porch. An integrated 30-foot above-ground pool and spa are part of the porch to the left. To the right are steps down to the yard. In the distance I see a woman running in small circles, right, then left, then right, holding the feet of bent legs beneath a life-sized marionette hanging by an orange cable from a tree limb above her.

    Tyler and I run out to the tree. I grab a folding cloth lawn chair as I pass it. The woman is five feet tall and Tyler and I are over six. The man is hanging by the neck from an extra heavy-duty extension cord. His waist is more than six feet off the ground. Drool and snot drip from his mouth and nose and his eyes are partially open. His face is ashen blue and his head is cocked to the side by the cord holding him above the lawn.

    As we approach, the woman runs toward the porch, away from us as Tyler grabs the man’s thighs and plants the side and top of his head in the man’s buttocks to stand and lift him and possibly reduce pressure of the cord around his neck. I position the folding chair next to Tyler while Tyler begroans the odor. The man has wet and soiled himself. This ain’t no disco. I was tempted to quip about the physiological responses to true black/blue code calls, but used Tyler’s shoulder to steady myself and reach up with my knife to cut the man down. The wire in the cord was too heavy for my knife to cut through it, but I saw the man had tied a timber hitch around his neck and the triple prong of the extension cord had only four turns in it back to the bight of the knot.

    The woman shouted from the porch, “Please save him. He’s not really a bad man.”

    With some difficulty, I balanced wobbly on the chair and reached well above my head to force the prong beneath the restraining cord: once, twice, three times. “Chuck, we may have to leave him and cut him down when fire gets here with a ladder.”

    “Not yet, we must try.” I find myself in what I know, or more importantly, what I do. I had a six year old son and while my selfish cheating ex-wife opted to ruin our marriage, I did not want any other six year old boy to be without his father in a home. “I almost have him. Push up one more time, a little more.” Tyler lifted, I pushed. Bingo, “Here he comes,” and we essentially fell en masse to the ground. “Check pulse,” I said as we finished our respective derogatory commentary of the effects of gravity, dead weight and not impaling ourselves on the now crumpled folding chair.

    We rolled out from under him, put him on his back and took positions to either side of his body. I felt his throat. His larynx and trachea felt intact. We each checked an arm, and I his throat, for a pulse and found none. I checked his mouth and it was clear. I wiped what snot and drool from his face I could and took a deep breath while pinching his nose and tilting his head. “Blow one-thousand,” I thought to myself as I watched his chest rise. “One, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand,” I said as the air blubbered out of the man’s lifeless body. I took another deep breath, pinched and blew into the man’s body. I’ve done CPR several dozen times as a rural volunteer firefighter and have had far better than average success, but I remain curious how closely the subject’s uncontrolled exhale mimics a slow horse snort. Second breath had much greater flavor of stale beer and marijuana. I looked at Tyler and he appeared frozen. “Okay, one person CPR,” I thought to myself and began compressions. First thirty only felt a few ribs snap on the sternum beneath my clasped hands. I’ve been an American Red Cross and American Heart certified CPR instructor for over 15 years, so I settled into my rhythm: two and thirty, two and thirty, two and thirty. I did feel myself turn a little green, not quite Lou Ferrigno-style — though there is always a more than adequate dose of adrenaline that comes with doing CPR for me – but more from choking back the increasing taste of rebound beer and dope from locking lips with the man. At the two minute check, neither of us found a pulse, but I was into my twenty-seventh compression following that when the man let out a low sustained moan and moved of his own accord. We had a pulse. Tyler advised EMS who estimated two minutes out and we rolled the man onto his side in a recovery position and continued to monitor him until they arrived. EMS quickly packaged him and got on their way to the hospital with him.

    We investigated the scene and incident. Seems husband had gone out to dinner with wife, had too much to drink, got stoned, accusations of infidelity of husband by wife led to theatrics by husband. In my gut, I feel the man meant to tie the cut end of the cord around his neck and have it come untied during his performance after he shimmied down the side of the tree and swung out, but in his haste he tied the wrong ends to the tree and his neck and instead got mileage out of his behavior he had not intended.

    Later that morning at the hospital, the man’s wife wants to know what evil I have done should he not make a full recovery. There is a moment when an otherwise dead person returns to life where I swear you can hear angels sing. The wife’s focus made me wonder what playground she hailed from or if I were meeting the devil in my private Idaho. When we do the best we can, we sometimes learn what miracle comes to the life of others. The man made a full recovery and is said to have lost only his memory of the evening. When I drive by that house on other calls now, I smile how the stump of the tree calls to me like a good story by Shel Silverstein.

  49. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, thanks for the chance to play. My tale:

    Who would have thought that the broken glass from the tech crash of 2002 would have sent me to a tiny speck of land just a piddling rock toss or so from the equator? I’d been peddling words as a freelancer for a while, mostly to Silicon Valley tech clients, so the shuttering of all those Foosball tables in startup breakrooms everywhere took its toll—in no small measure on my taste for expensive ice cream.

    I wasn’t gaining traction by offering to proofread (at reduced rates) the creatively bad spellings of “foie gras” on menus at restaurants I could no longer afford. So when an old high school friend that I hadn’t heard from in 25 years emailed me and said that he was the attorney general for a tiny island in Micronesia, and that I should come visit, I thought “Why Not?” How could flying 5,000 miles to a place where they eat the stray dogs be excessively weird? (After all, we all know that aliens must be constantly probing our politicians to make them act the way they do, so weird is relative.) Besides, I suspected that I already knew a lot about Micronesia—I thought it had to be smaller than Macronesia.

    The Pacific. She is mighty big. So big that my island, Kosrae, is about a 2,500-mile stone’s throw from Hawaii, if you throw your stones with rocket ships. There’s not much else out there for miles and miles, except for a few other small islands and many fish the color of electronic dreamscapes. My girlfriend and I immediately attended to priorities: we obtained our drinking license ($4), which gave us 30 days of island licentiousness.

    During our visit, we stopped by the local community college. The college director offered me a job teaching English. He didn’t tell me that I couldn’t get half-and-half on the island, so yes, I was tricked. My girlfriend and I returned to California, got some renters, and packed up for the island. Uncertainty? Very much so, except I was very certain that we would be warmer in our new home. I still bought a wool blanket, but that’s just me.

    We spent a year on the island, which was baffling, hilarious, depressing, peculiar, engrossing, and very, very humid. I despaired of the cereal that had expiration dates from years past; I exulted in the yellowfin tuna that tasted of heaven’s clouds, at fifty cents a pound. I cajoled, pleaded, made stern admonitions, danced, laughed and tried a thousand tortuous ways to engage my students, but mostly they just stared at me. I saw undersea worlds that were shockingly, arrestingly beautiful. I saw poor people living in hard conditions.

    We came back, and couldn’t believe how many kinds of cheese are for sale here. So, since the country is again on the verge of economic collapse, and the aliens are again vigorously probing our politicians, we’ve been looking for another stint somewhere far, far away. This time I won’t sign any contracts unless they prove they have half-and-half.

  50. Dale Dupont says:

    As a 36 year old techicain got got laided off from a company going out of business. I took the education assistance offered to go back and get a four year degree. During that time I had an intership at a local controls company. Par tof my job was to repair protoytpe circutboard we were using for testing. We were do to only a few functioning boards and the one I was working on was needed the next day. I fixed what I knew was wrong and checked over most of the parts that could have failed the first time it was used. I had checked it three times for normal errors.
    Now I came to the point of do I spend more time guessing what had gone wrong looking and trying to find stuff or do pull it in and hope. 15year of experience had taught me I could be wrong. It had also taught me I could be wasting valueable time. Time that couldbe spent on other things.
    So put on my safety glasses stared right at the circuit board and plugged it in.

    Electricty is fast. Bang! The high powered IC regualtor blew up in my face. Little bits of IC peppered my face and made tinkling noises off my safety glasses. No blood but my face looked like a kid with measles.
    In split second I got all the information I needed. Was able to fix the part in short order. Run another test. Then give a working board and a good report to the lead engineer about his circuit. I learned alot about technical writing in that lab. In writing feel for the material has deep meaning to me.

  51. Many thanks for the challenge Jonathan -published on my blog http://bit.ly/rulSdn
    Dancing with uncertainty -a critical skill in cross cultural relocation

  52. Jamie says:

    Here was my big soar with the butterflies, the one that taught me I could indeed fly.
    18 years ago, I’m writing my first one woman show. At the time I was a singer, dancer and trapeze artist. (Now I’m ‘just’ a Mom; job title change, duties remain the same). Talk about anxiety. I knew I could perform but here I was going to be performing my LIFE. Super scary. And right on cue, enter the Voices In My Head. At the time, I was cah-razy. Super disordered eating. Grappling with a less than stellar past for what seemed like forever. Massively worried about your opinion of me. Your opinion of anything. PTSD from childhood trauma. You name a neurosis, I had it. And I was going to offer it up and sell tickets to see it.
    Cut to the VIMH. Brutal, as I’m sure you know. They not only push your buttons, they installed your buttons. “Who do you think you are? No one’s going to come. No one’s going to PAY. You have to lose 10 pounds. What do you mean you’re tired? Go for another run. ” You get the point. I’m sure you KNOW. On and on and on.
    Now, I had known myself enough to not give myself an out. The theatre was booked first thing. There was no out. There were tickets printed with my name and dates.
    And I can’t get squat done because the VIMH are too loud. I’m on the verge of a freak out.
    For some reason and I’m going with Divine Intervention, a louder voice said, Give it a role. Give it a spot in the show.
    So I tell the VIMH: Fine! Here! Have a role. You get your own spot. Now write. You get 10 minutes a day. I get the rest.
    I wrote. She wrote. She wrote a lot. And I remember the night, I crafted it into a monologue. And there it was. I started to shake. This was gold. Fear + anxiety crept in. It was RAW. It was REAL. It was GOOD SHIT. The rest of the show got built with a ridiculous amount of speed. My path was clear.
    I never named her, neither for myself nor the audience. I dressed her in black leather, sunglasses and she smoked.
    Opening night: she brought down the house. Standing O.
    People rushed me after the show, “Oh my god, I just LOVED your mother!” “Oh, you were great as the devil.” “How did you get inside MY head?” “You’re a woman but THAT was my dad.”
    Everyone put THEIR name to my demons! It was WILD. I could have never, ever predicted this.
    It was my moment of artistic clarity. We are one. We are in this together. And when we USE and I mean USE all of our good and bad and ugly and scary and TRUTH we are all better for it. Cause not one of us is alone. And our demons just ain’t that special.

  53. Like you, Jonathan, that in day in New York City ten years ago remains one of the most significant days of life shift that has come my way.
    At that moment in time, I was working part time in a museum and teaching metalsmithing, holding a dream in my heart of the day that I would become a studio artist, selling my work to make a living. I had decided at age 14 that this was what my life was to be. Waiting for the right moment, the big project, the gallery representation that would make it happen for me. What I didn’t realize was that I was the one that needed to make it happen. Fortunately, my museum gig was ended and nobody signed up for my classes that term. I needed to do something.
    I didn’t even think clearly that I was creating a new business. It was a matter of survival mentally to engage myself in a project. Living a mile and a half from Ground Zero I began to work with the few tools I had, in my apartment, making a few jewelry designs. The studio at which I taught classes hosted a holiday sale, so I worked towards having some jewelry to sell by December 3rd.
    The feeling around the creation of this new life wasn’t as gentle as butterflies, it was a force that only a prehistoric beast the size of an elephant could create by beating its wings inside of me. Every night, I would have panic attacks, nightmares of flaming planes crashing into whatever visual form my dreams took. At the same time that my subconscious mind was setting my path towards a new future, my conscious mind would pipe up and tell me that making art, making jewelry was a ridiculous and useless endeavor. My deep desire to make this new life must have been strong indeed, to be able to propel me forward in such a dark and disturbing time.
    The thing that matters 10 year later is that action was taken. I have held fast to my core life mission, even if my grip was sliding, holding on just by my fingertips at times. Whether it was pressure to make low end, outsource, make mindless work that could sell fast, cut corners, give up, cash in my precious metals and call it a day. Come wars, changing commodity prices, market crashes, along with the waves of butterflies that come along for the ride, I have shown up day after day at my workbench to make my vision come true for myself, and my customers. The butterflies visit me all the time, but I have learned to befriend them and appreciate the beauty, dancing among them before I set off for next the stop on my path.

    I always hesitated to tell this story, not wanting to seem like I was capitalizing on the tragedies of Sept. 11th. This summer, realizing that that my story could inspire others to take steps in uncertain times, I danced with the butterflies again, and shared it for the first time here:
    http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110702/FREE/110729977

  54. Steve Errey says:

    Hey Jonathan, you must be having quite a week huh?! Some amazing and moving stories here, so thanks for the opportunity.

    Not sure if you know or not, but I’ve got your basic incurable, debilitating chronic illness. I’ve read that the best chance to overcome ME/CFS for good is in the first 3 years of the illness, and I’m now into my 4th year with this constant companion.

    It could be that the illness will see me bed-ridden in the future, unable to do much of anything for weeks or months at a time, or it could be that I simply have to keep a friendly eye on it and go a little slower at life than I might like.

    So while some days I hardly notice it at all, there are some days when it’s hard to even stand up. Some days my body hurts so much I feel like throwing up. And some days I’m so scared of causing myself lasting harm by continuing to push myself and juggling freelancing with building a new business, that I wonder if it’s wiser just to stop and settle.

    But I can’t stop. I have no idea what this illness has in store for me and how it’s going to affect me next week or next year, but I can’t let it define what I do and what matters to me. All I know is that I’ll keep on laughing with life, because frankly, I don’t like the alternative.

  55. Jason Poole says:

    I love this call for stories! And I’ve loved reading what everyone has been sharing. Thank for you for that!

    I’m sure everyone has had a time in their life when they’ve had to face the uncertainty go for it. I call it SHOWING UP AND SAYING “YES!” and that philosophy has been my driving force for the last few years. It keeps me on my path. It provides me with opportunities that I’d never dreamed of.

    Here’s my story about “riding the butterflies”
    http://www.accidentalhawaiiancrooner.com/?p=5766

  56. Gosh, well I have three kids on school holidays and I’ve been camping, picking leeches off them. Then I went up to the Bunya Mountains and back home again to get ticks off them so this is all bad timing Jonathan but still I had to do it.

    A Skype call with JF? Heck yes!

    So here is my story of Uncertainty overcome: https://plus.google.com/u/0/104506859515256498309/posts/K8bUxzSEFQr

    Is it the winning entry? I know not. But I do know that we are all winners here, that I am inspired by reading all your stories and by being part of the tribe where we banish butterflies en masse.

    1000 Mwahs to all of you:)

  57. Beryl says:

    3 years ago I lost our first pregnancy at 20 weeks pregnant. I share my story over on my website where I am teaching women experiencing pregnancy and infant loss how to heal using photography. It took a lot of courage for me to post the full story. But the pay off of helping so many other women heal has been so so worth it. Illuminate launched in July, and I have big plans to grow this thing into something bigger than I ever dreamed it could be:

    http://illuminate.beyoungphotography.com/bellas-story/

    Thanks for all you do to inspire us. I’d love to learn more from you. xoxo.

  58. Amanda Wang says:

    Thanks, Jonathan, for encouraging us to not ride the butterfly, but also float like one and sting like a bee!

    My fight for those with mental illness (and my own personal journey with BPD) led me to confront my fears head on and push through my first boxing match. It wasn’t pretty, but I’ve come to learn that like boxing, life is never what we expect it to be, yet we can still push on.

    You can find the story of my first fight here:

    http://bit.ly/ksyiK0

    So glad you are doing this! Best of luck and thanks to all who shared their stories — quite inspiring to say the least!

    Amanda

  59. McElf says:

    Who knew that such delicate, colorful organisms – creatures barely strong enough to fight the breeze – could cause such incredible abdominal torture?

    I am currently dancing with uncertainty; I have not yet won. (I know the rules are to share something that we’ve won, but it’s hard to think outside my current circumstances.) For the last several years I have been blessed to work together with my father in his venture to bring new technology to the forensic DNA market. It is old news that investors are more difficult to find and assure these days so it is also needless to say we were grateful to find seed money, albeit less than we truly needed to bring our ideas to fruition. We’ve scraped through the last two years with no pay, no compensation, running personal finances completely dry, selling personal possessions to keep creditors at bay, working long days and longer weeks like every entrepreneur.

    But we have done it. The scientific community is literally foaming at the mouth they’re so excited. They haven’t seen new technology since 1995 (which, coincidentally my father also introduced to the field) and they know that this new technique will address many shortcomings the current technology has. We are validated to international standards and ready to take our product commercial. We’ve even found an all-star, extraordinary group of investors to acquire us and help make it happen.

    But our seed funding shareholders have decided they don’t want out. They have realized our true potential and they want it for themselves. They refuse to make a deal or to fund us into the next stage. We have reached a complete standstill while they wave our patent our their heads waiting for us to go into bankruptcy so that they can walk away with the technology for themselves. Maybe that sounds overly dramatic but I do not remember the last time I slept through the night, the last time I paid my own bills, the last time I breathed. I know we are on the side of right and that we will prevail – even should it come to bankruptcy court. But day-after-day now my life has become a parade of phone calls to creditors and vendors asking for a little more patience, we’re so close. Please, give us this chance… All it would take it for one to lose patience with us to push us over that edge…

    It is relieving to discover that it was just those darn butterflies tickling my innards all these long, long, long months. For it seems to me that “Butterfly Spasms” will prove to be a medical problem with many more solutions than those other bugs I feared were really at the heart, the soul, the core of my anguish.

    What will hurt more than anything is that this wasn’t to just be another biotech company: it was to be a culture. We have the experience, the connections, the PASSION, to pull together a group of people not just dedicated to making the world a better place by doing their job, but who would actually be a community of advocates to the forensic world, binding all the different facets of the field together to provide services where they are desperately needed… tomorrow maybe that will happen. Or maybe we’ll lose it all.

    I think those butterflies have wings made of razors.

  60. Debi Stadlin says:

    I feel like I have met some of the most inspiring people on the planet just reading these posts…Jonathan, thank you for creating community through your work!
    Debi

  61. Hello Jonathan,

    I would like to share with you incredible journey I undertook with my son. Ellis is now 12 years old and he is autistic. When he was 5, he had virtually no language and we had no way of connecting with each other.

    I would sob at his bedside in sheer frustration because we were inaccessible to each other. I could not understand him and he was unable to communicate his most basic needs to me. When I talked to him, he would ignore me, if I got hurt, he would not even blink. It was like living with a stranger. I had no support network, no money and was a single father left to find support for a child needing intensive intervention that cost upwards to $40,000 per year if he was to have any kind of chance of some quality of life as he grew.

    I needed to make a change. So I took a leap of faith. I quit my job as an industrial designer and became Ellis’ mentor for a year. It was a textbook case of ‘tremendous uncertainty’. I trusted that if I did what was right, what was right would come to me. It was the smartest decision I ever made.

    In that year I made a startling discovery that changed our lives. I discovered that Ellis ‘thinks in pictures’, not in words.

    So I began using drawing as a tool to converse with Ellis and for the first time, he understood his dad. I would draw my feelings, my intentions to play with him, my frustrations, and my pride that he was my son all in the hope that he would understand because I had faith that he could. And then one day he drew back to me.

    I swear I discovered a higher power at that moment. And that moment happened again and again. He drew and I drew and we connected over and over through our drawings and we became human to each other. He learned he was my son and that he had a father.

    However that was not enough for me. Here was my chance touch the lives of others the way my life was touched. So I transcribed our picture conversations onto glass using glass paint, framed the art, added stories on the back of the frames and called the project The Big Blue Hug after a drawing Ellis made to ask me for a bedtime hug. Our mission: to touch lives.

    The paintings are amazing because they have actually changed the lives of those who have seen them. One family brought home our art, read the story on the back, and learned that drawing could be used to communicate with their nearly mute daughter. She drew back as well! And she drew and drew until after 9 months, she drew her way out of her speech delay completely! Now you would never know she had any kind of disability.

    The project has grown so that I teach professionals and parents all around Quebec how to use drawings as a visual sign language. I call the process Picture Talking and it works!!

    Big Blue Hug has had national news coverage. We are well known in Quebec and I will be lecturing for the first time at McGill University about using drawing as a communication tool for ANY individual having communication or learning challenges.

    Ellis is reading, writing and talking so much now that sometimes I wish he would give me a break! But he is still challenged with his autism and so we still draw.

    Much of what you say in your wonderful trailer for your ‘Uncertainty Book’ strikes a chord with me. I strive to create ‘amazing things’ because people need to be inspired.

    Please visit thebigbluehug.com. There you will find our art and our stories. Below is a link to our signature story and frame: ‘The Big Blue Hug’.

    http://thebigbluehug.com/collections/glass-art/products/the-big-blu-hug

    Picture Talking:
    http://thebigbluehug.com/pages/communicate-through-drawing-2

    CTV interview:
    http://watch.ctv.ca/news/#clip294459

    I would LOVE to come down to NY and meet you. Your words are thrilling and compelling. I believe right down to my core that The Big Blue Hug has to potential to spread across the globe and you are the one who can help make that happen.

    Sincerely yours,

    Jason Goldsmith

    PS: I am posting links of your trailer to all my contacts, FB, and Twitter accounts in the hopes that others will be inspired by your words.

  62. First of all Jonathan – Congratulations on your book my friend!

    Inspiring story – well my inspiring story started almost 3 years ago when I discovered my husband was having an affair. Now, if you are married put yourself in my shoes and feel your heart sink to the floor, feel the butterflies and even the nausea that is attached to this event! So I had 2 choices – either stay and become a victim or get out of dodge and CREATE a better world for myself and in the process of my journey, start LIVING!

    So I packed up my clothes in my fancy car and headed WEST – Head West Young Man – Head West! So I did head west all the way to California from Florida! I landed in Sausalito, CA and knew absolutely NO ONE! Not one soul and I was over 3000 miles from family and friends! I found myself a small (may I say a shoebox) studio right on the San Francisco Bay and I found my peace and solice!

    I could have turned my car back a hundred times as I drove west but I didn’t – I conquered the fear of being alone and going to a place where I was to be alone! So the next 2 years I found myself living in places 2-4 months across the country with no furniture and moving to places that I knew no one! Absolute butterflies – YES – FAITH – absolutely YES!

    I am now known as “the girlfriend guru” and am creator/founder of MakeGirlfriends.com. I connect women nationwide to actually meet.share.inspire! The website is designed for us to inspire and encourage with transparent and content full blogs. We live in such a virtual society that I feel that the power of the touch, the look in the eyes is something that is missing in our society today! It’s like sitting for lunch with the person that wins this contest – you get so much more out of it then what the virtual world can give.

    So Jonathan this is my story in brief – I am now on my next vision to build transformational housing for women that have not been able to get it together and their children. Does this scare the crap out of me – you bet it does but just like when I packed my car and headed west – I didn’t press PAUSE, I kept my player on PLAY!

    In gratitude to this amazing contest,
    Living in the possibilities of life,
    Nancy

  63. Jason Poole says:

    It’s funny–this is a contest where, if we read each other’s stories about “riding the butterflies”, we ALL come out as winners. Inspired by each other. Right on! Mahalo for that.

  64. Matt says:

    Hi Jonathan! Thanks everyone for sharing their stories. They are all really inspiring!

    I made a video about my uncertainty story. It was my first time doing stand up: http://vimeo.com/29733650

  65. MattG says:

    Well, a huge part of my life has been about ‘riding the butterflies’. I am now 27 years old.

    I grew up in an fundamentalist family, my parents were knee-deep. Eventually they had fallen in to the trap of a cult. At 17, I decided that I wanted none of that. I got up the courage one day to tell me parents that I couldn’t have the same beliefs as them. This was grounds for being ostracised. Which I was.

    I grabbed the first ride home to Prince Edward Island, Canada, to live with my brother. This was an extremely lonely and exciting/experimental time where I had my fun. I eventually got bored, and simply alone. My brother and I were at this point battling our own depression. We decided one morning that we’d hitch-hike from PEI to Toronto, Ontario. We made ourselves some dinner, packed a few sandwiches and we were on our way. In December.

    It became frighteningly cold as we treaded across each province on foot, grabbing short rides from the world’s most friendly people on the highway. They’d pick us up one exit and drop us off at the next. At some points our feet felt like they were going to freeze off. It was the coldest I have ever been.

    3 days later, we made it. My brother and I moved back with my parents. I decided to give their beliefs a chance. That lasted a little over a year. Before I knew it, my parents were packing up my things and shoving me into a tiny apartment with my little sister (who was now freshly ostracised).

    I haven’t graduated from high-school at this point and finding a job is nearly impossible with that kind of ammunition. A few years went by, and I’ve been dating a girl who we’ve grown to become extremely attached to. It came the time for me to abruptly end it. I had to find my own place. FAST.

    I found my own place and soon after, I got my acceptance letter to a College that I had applied to! I got in! I would be the first person in my family to achieve a proper education. 4 years later, and I did it. I graduated. I did it. On my own.

    I live in a bachelor basement apartment. I have my own car. I have an amazing career as a Software Developer. I made it. My girlfriend is the world’s most beautiful and smart girl. She’s a psychologist.

    It all boiled down to me making a decision to speak up and change the path that was dictated to me. I had a hell of a life, and I’ve got a hell of a lot more life to go :).

    I made it.

    Now, my struggle is to start my own product. That’s where my butterflies are leading me.

  66. Denise Barry says:

    As a new writer I had to look uncertainty in the face and make a decision on whether or not I wanted to put myself out there with all of these amazing stories to compete against. I’m glad I did because like Jason Poole said, “we all come out as winners!” My story titled “Butterflies” can be found at the following website, where I will be a regular blogger for best-selling author Karen Salmansohn (as it turns out this became my first blog…so thank you Jonathan!)

    http://notsalmon.com/blog/

  67. Denise Barry says:

    Here is my story…last minute! Whew!! It’s called “Set Your Butterflies Free”

    Please go to http://notsalmon.com/blog/

    I am a guest blogger here today.

  68. Jeff Kirschner says:

    Indonesia. 1997. Nowhere near the beaten path.

    I didn’t want to get on that bus. Eight months into backpacking around the world, you’d think I’d have grown comfortable with less-than first world conditions, but truth be told, I was terrified. I’d heard the horrifying travel tales of tip-overs, topples, and thousand foot drops. And the thought of being immortalized in a cautionary NY Times column was less than comforting.

    But I had no choice. It was my only way out of town. And if the local Indonesians dangling out of the windows weren’t enough of a deterrent, certainly the roof-riding goats should have been. I reluctantly pushed my way on board.

    Inside, contorted bodies were crammed three or four to a seat. Even the driver had to share. Towards the back, I found a smidgen of space between a corroded window and a slightly toxic individual. Eyes closed and smoking only the filter of his cigarette, he didn’t seem phased as I wedged myself in – our bodies so close that our sweat mixed. For a moment, I couldn’t help but marvel at my hazmat of a neighbor. His bony ribs peeked through a button-less button down shirt. Frayed cut-offs exposed muscular legs and mismatched flip-flops staged ten of the dirtiest little piggies I’d ever seen. Occasionally, his tongue would meticulously polish three sporadic teeth, providing a salivary glaze to the rust colored stains left from years of chewing Betel nut. I nudged closer to the window.

    Across the aisle, a father wiped his son’s running nose onto his own soiled shirt, while two elderly men stared at a newborn baby suckling from its teenage mother’s breast. The teenage mother shot balls of spit through the void where two front teeth once were and then nonchalantly vomited on to the floor; never losing contact between her nipple and child’s mouth. Behind me sat an elderly woman puffing away on a clove cigarette. Thick white smoke surrounded her face producing a wizard-like effect. I smiled at her. She exhaled at me.

    Hot and cramped, I buried my head in my hands and stared at the floor. There, a lone chicken lay helplessly on his side, hog-tied at the feet. We gazed into each other’s eyes. He began to blink in rhythm to the Morse Code distress signal — a telepathic SOS. Untie me! Set me free and I’ll get us both out of here. The bus then made a sharp and unexpected turn. The chicken slid away. He passed under my feet, picked up speed across the center aisle and slammed into a burlap sack of potatoes. The bus swerved back. The chicken came sliding back but stopped abruptly when his beak hooked onto my neighbor’s protruding toenail. Tormented by images of swaying poultry, I couldn’t help but think that we might meet again under slightly different circumstances, with him being served on a bed of rice.

    My attention quickly shifted to my neighbor’s slumbering head, which had crash-landed on my shoulder. His tilted position now provided a wonderful view of overgrown nasal hair. The dark mucusy ropes were nearly long enough to wrap around all three of his teeth. I gently pushed him the other way and quickly brushed off the visible lice he had left behind. And then I heard an awful squeal.

    I turned around to see the elderly woman holding a tin pail, covered by a wool blanket. The pail rattled back and forth and suddenly a curious snout appeared. Like a periscope, the snout rotated 360°, sniffing frantically. The woman then grabbed the snout and shoved it back into the pail and that was the last I saw of the pig in the blanket. Interestingly, no one else seemed to notice this except for maybe the chicken, who in timely fashion, was just sliding by.

    And then the bus discovered it had a radio. At first, I gladly welcomed the tunes, which I hoped would clear my head and drown out the cries of vomiting villagers and squealing piglets. The music was of a local woman who sounded as if she had just inhaled a giant helium balloon. The locals began grooving in their seats. Feeling their excitement, the driver cranked up the volume, turning the woman’s voice into an intolerable shriek. I covered my ears like a scared toddler at a fireworks display. Then I remembered my Walkman and put on an Alice in Chains cassette tape. I was confident that the grunge of Seattle could out pump any Indonesian folk song; however, there wasn’t sufficient battery power. Desperately, I pushed the headphones further down my ear canal, closer to my brain. No luck.

    In committing one of the most irrational acts of my life, I opened the window and climbed out of the bus, carefully clawing my way to the roof where I found a most peaceful setting of reclined villagers and relaxed goats. There was a nice breeze, a wonderful view and lots of legroom. First class.

    That’s when it dawned on me – the ultimate sense of freedom that only travel can provide. Travel is about exploration. It’s about enjoying fresh experiences and going further than you’ve gone before. It’s about climbing out of your window and discovering a new perspective.

    Using my backpack for a pillow, I lay down and watched the Indonesian world go by. There were farmers in lampshade hats working their rice paddies and women shaping mud bricks. Water buffalo laboriously tugged wooden plows through waterlogged fields and the sun constantly reminded everyone of its presence. As I sat there, regaining my sanity, a strangely familiar sound came from the bus’s stereo – Credence Clearwater Revival. When they reached the chorus, I just shook my head and smiled as the whole bus sang “There’s some bamboo on my rice.”

  69. Sarah says:

    4:59 PM EST…. here you go!! I wish I had seen this earlier, but I could not let a challenge pass without making the effort, even with limited time.

    http://nohelphere.com/2011/09/28/riding-the-butterflies/

  70. Jonathan Fields says:

    I’m sitting here, on the eve of my book launching, reading all of your stories and…I’m just blown away.

    So humbled, proud, honored to be a part of a community with all of you.

    Gigantic thanks for sharing so much of your souls, your wisdom, your trials and your truths.

  71. […] week, I then launched a story-sharing contest which has seen the creation of dozens of insanely inspiring personal stories, both in the comments […]

  72. Tara Rodden Robinson says:

    Jonathan! The suspense is killing me! 🙂

    Have a great weekend,
    Tara

  73. Sharon says:

    I’ve “danced” with uncertainty throughout my life–felt the fear, the self-doubt, the inner critic (and outer critics too!).

    Many moons ago,during high school, I dreamed of traveling through Europe–although my blue collar family never traveled beyond 100 miles from home. I worked two jobs at fast-food places, spent all my free time reading “Let’s Go” and other travel books, and scrimped and saved. My friends thought I was absolutely nuts, and my parents were angry and told me I could not come back home and live with them if I went on this trip after graduation (they felt I needed to go get a job in a factory or the post office). But, I was certain this was the right thing for me. I even got a dear friend of my excited enough about it to travel with with me. I got the passport, the plane ticket, the backpack–and stepped onto my first plane ride to Ireland.

    We hitch-hiked and walked through the country–and expected to be safe and “divinely guided”–to the right places, people and moments–and we were. When my friend went home after a month, I cried in a public bathroom, all alone–and then realized I could do this. I went on to enjoy four more months becoming my “SELF” for the first time in my life and traveling the countryside.

    At age 20, I became pregnant–and against all odds, decided I could do this–I could become a great mother and figure out a way to support my child. I went back to work as a teller, and immediately signed up for “secretarial school”–which I graduated from with 4.0–after enduring all my colleagues’ snickers and comments as I tried to better myself.

    At age 25, working fulltime and raising my son, I went to apply for a private college to study business. The admissions office basically told me I probably couldn’t hack the demands of “real college” and should start slowly at a community college. I stood my ground, and graduated in five years magna cum laude (and overcame my accute math phobia).

    After building my career in communications to a director level and with some health issues to contend with, I decided (at age 40 mind you!) to tell my manager (the CFO), that I needed to make a change, to take care of myself, and that I was going to leave. And I negotiated a nine-month contract as a freelancer with them, they printed my business cards and letterhead, let me use their computer, and continued my health benefits. Everything I asked for, I received! I even called my business “NextStep Business Communications”–as it was the next step in my personal journey.

    Each time I’ve taken a step, the fear is almost crippling. And then, when I’ve made that decision–it’s magical, absolutely magical! Funny how we forget that when we move forward despite fear, we create wondrous adventures in life!

    I’m facing fears again as I ready myself to once again leave a very lucrative corporate position to live my passion and pursue my dream of publishing my books and sharing spiritual insights through workshops and webinars–helping people remember their true Self.

  74. Did I miss the ending to this beautiful contest?

  75. I regretfully missed the deadline, as I was traveling for most of September and got behind on emails (note that this is actually a very, very positive thing in my worldview). Still, I believe in this case it’s better to comment late vs. never. As I delve into the Uncertainty book this week, I want to also share my own ongoing story of uncertainty.

    I quit a high-power, high-stress NYC marketing job in October of 2010. What has followed is a year of self-discovery, a year that has changed my professional and personal path forever, a story that is currently and evermore a work-in-progress.

    The blog I started in February tells all…

    http://wherethedaytakesyou.typepad.com/where-the-day-takes-you/2011/02/prologue.html

  76. Bob K says:

    yeah…I know I missed the deadline (and don’t have an eye for details…like..well, the deadline). But the post inspired me to write it anyway, and wanted to share.

    I wish I’d found Jonathan sooner…(and not just for the chance at a free lunch).

    Behold. Stage Fright, part 1.

    http://www.bobkinnison.net/2011/10/jonathan-fields-butterflies-pick-me/

  77. […] your Engagement Superstar contest. Inspired by Jonathan Fields’ Ride the Butterflies contest, I invited Firepole Marketing readers to nominate whoever they felt was deserving of the […]