Reading is stupid… without taking action.

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Me before reading The Autoimmune Solution & after

Welcome! What did you learn and do in 2015? I got a perfectly-behaved puppy, a gig as a conference emcee, a much-improved immune system, and two fun new businesses, among other things. All from reading and implementing what I learned this year.

I’m here because I want to share my life-clearing techniques in the hopes they can help others. This blog is the result of dozens of books and hundreds of blog posts, podcasts, videos, live events, and mentors I’ve consulted over the past years, as well as my own poignant experience with this topic:

Creating your permanent Space to Smile in life.

So, to kick off my blog and 2016, I’ll put my money where my mouth is and share a list of the books I read, courses I took, and podcasts I heard that changed my life this year, 2015, and what I’ve done so far with all that amazing info. I hope you’ll ride along beyond just this post, and get tons of actionable tips out of this blog to help create your own Space to Smile. Because learning without taking action is just… stupid.

This is a long post but I peppered it with real-life photos and examples to show what these books have meant to me.

By the way, please know that this blog is solely meant to help you, my readers, and not to make me a million dollars. That being said, all of the books I mention are linked to my special affiliate links, and if you feel like clicking on them and buying those books, I’ll get a few bucks, and there’s no extra charge to you. I truly appreciate your support in purchasing through my links within 24 hours of clicking on them, as it helps to support this blog. I hope you get as much out of these books and courses as I have.

For me, 2015 began with feeling crummy…again. I had already read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis
and Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, and I had come a long way in the past two years at developing my own gluten-free diet. I had had a couple of years of feeling much better. But something still wasn’t right, and I was slipping into chronic fatigue syndrome and unrelievable arthritis again. After some online research into my symptoms led me to look up Candida, I came across Dr. Amy Myers and her absolutely life-changing book, The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Symptoms and Diseases This book explains how most of our immune system is located in our gut, and all the crap we are eating and absorbing and all the good stuff we are not eating is literally killing our immune system… and us.

A page from my health test results at my Functional MD's office.

A page from my health test results at my Functional MD’s office.

I read The Autoimmune Solution (as well as Dr. Meyers’ very helpful ebook on Candida), found a Functional MD, got tested for various things including a genetic lipids deficiency which turned out to be positive, and began a new regimen of nutrition and vitamin boosters. I felt better than I had in a long time. That journey will be detailed in this blog since it’s a fantastic illustration of how clearing your inner physical environment is crucial to clearing other areas of your life.

Me before reading The Autoimmune Solution (pasty, exhausted and spaced out) and after (10 pounds lighter, energetic and motivated!)

Me before reading The Autoimmune Solution (pasty, exhausted and spaced out) and after (10 pounds lighter, energetic and motivated!)

In my search to conquer (not just accept, because there were so many) the new food allergies with which I was diagnosed, I stumbled on Say Good-Bye to Illness by Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad. This appears to be a very odd book whose premise, NAET Therapy, seems wacko. But it’s fascinatingly legit. It led me to Dr. Chris Chance, a very gifted local chiropractor, and gave additional allergy relief, not just for me but for my 7-year-old daughter.

Feeling like I could take on new projects and brimming with excitement to tell my story and help others, I began research in earnest for this blog. I took a great online course, Living With Less, presented by Rachel Jones. Her blog, nourishingminimalism.com, is an absolute masterpiece about living minimally and meaningfully, and I aspire to be like her even 50%. Her course, Living With Less, helped me to focus clearly on sifting through a mountain of stuff, much of it sentimental or from past businesses, and get rid of it to clear my home physically and emotionally. I had to use her techniques no less than three times this year – on staging our home for sale, in our tiny apartment to keep sanity with my husband and kids while working at home, and even after moving into in our brand new home, to get to my final result: a home with little kids and very busy adults that is CONSISTENTLY spacious, beautiful, and tidy.

Top: house before & after clearing. Bottom: apartment before and after decluttering.

Top: house before & after clearing. Bottom: apartment before and after decluttering.

Speaking of tidy, I added to the toolbox I developed with Rachel by reading this important gem: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The KonMar method of tidying up is beautifully sparse and simple, but I felt I needed to modify it a bit to really motivate me. So I adapted my own blend of the KonMar method, Rachel Jones’ techniques, and my own experience, into my unique house-clearing methods you will find outlined in this blog.

Having cleared out my previous home, I used my boss’s newly minted guide, Moving Forward, to help me stage and negotiate the sale of it. Using the wealth of tips in this book, I sold my home in two days for 96% of asking price. I’d highly recommend this book, which you can only get from a qualified real estate agent working with Hoss Pratt’s coaching or, if you are a real estate agent, talk to Hoss about how you can leverage this book to major success with your home seller clients.

Selling our home so we could move to a perfectly clean, maintenance-free newly-built one… where was I going with all this? Why get so hung up on tidying? Again, all part of the grand plan. A part of me (the musician, the creative) was dying inside because I wasn’t feeding her. I wanted so badly to find time in my life again for the creative pursuits that matter to me. So I began crafting this method that goes beyond physical clearing. That’s what this blog is about. I knew that if I got to the heart of clearing the four areas of clutter- mental, environmental, emotional, and spiritual- that I would find my way, find my space to shine, make good money, and everything would fall together. But to do that I needed concrete steps I could take, a new model, a definitive plan.

Enter one of the greatest books ever written:

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich , which I had heard of on the edge of my consciousness but never read.

Tim Ferriss is a humble genius on many levels. What I loved about this book was that it did give me concrete, actionable steps for things I could do right away (manage my professional email in 1 hour a day, delegate stupid stuff, “batch and do not falter” with housework, grocery shopping and meal prep, and CHERISH my remote job, all of which could allow me to work 5am-1pm with afternoons free to work on music, writing, whatever). It also gave me huge inspiration. I dove into Tim’s blog and podcast and immediately felt like one of his tribe. He’s a bit ADD but has a lot to say, both like me, so he prefers the “long-form” blog and podcast approach. Fortunately, with his rock star guest roster and endless deep questions, he never runs out of entertaining, provoking content.

Writing & recording once again

Writing & recording once again

Continuing on this path, once I had some practical ways to manage my life and get more time in music (which I did- I started participating on HitRecord.org and writing songs again), I needed to keep the flow going. I was still scattered all over the place and needed to calm my thoughts.

I always hated meditation and yoga, but I knew I was a grown up now and I needed to get my ADD under control and focus at my best all day, in order to not waste time and energy. So I revisited Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM). I had read it last year when I saw him speak live and met him at a conference. But at the time, I let work get in the way and never started practicing my Miracle Morning. Again… learning without action = stupid.

Meeting Hal Elrod at reCHARGE 2014 in Dallas

Meeting Hal Elrod at reCHARGE 2014 in Dallas

This summer was blissful as I put the Miracle Morning into practice and discovered the daily power of a little meditation (thank you, Breathe app!), affirmations, and visualizations, a little exercise (during which, thanks to Apple Music, I discovered how much I love Justin Beiber, Katy Perry, and other pop artists, despite being a music snob), a little writing (this blog!) and a little reading. Despite have two young kids, a busy full time job and a house build project, I was able to focus better throughout my day (allowing me to actually put The 4-Hour Workweek
principles into practice, squashing down my workday while not sacrificing productivity). And my Miracle Morning routine was one way that, yes, I DID actually read all these books and take all these courses.

Unrelated (but really, it’s ALL related), after a lengthy conversation about personality types, a co-worker recommended and kindly sent to me The 5 Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman. This was a fun and enlightening book for me and my husband to read. We learned more about each other discussing the results of our quizzes from that book, than we had in a few years. After 7 years of raising small children, me constantly changing jobs, and us moving houses, we really needed to reconnect. This book was a wonderful way to do that. We were able to understand what each other needs to “feel loved” and more consistently deliver that, whether it’s praise for a job well done, or a little hug when cooking dinner. I also found that this book makes a great wedding gift (send this beautiful hardcover gift edition).

One thing I really worked hard on this year was seeking out my next opportunity, for small business and creative pursuits. The next series of books and courses was the rabbit hole I dove into following that dream. When my kids came to me over the summer asking how they could make money, I took the question seriously. I picked up Dave Ramsey’s Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money which he co-wrote with his daughter, Rachel Cruz. What a terrific read. I decided to teach my kids early on the power of earning and sharing their own money. To discover what business would be good to start up on the side with them, I followed a link via a blogger and podcaster I super admire, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, and enrolled in Ramit Sethi’s Earn 1K On The Side. Ramit’s Earn 1K was a great course which helped me brainstorm about a hundred ideas and cull them down into just the best few worth pursuing, and then price my services accordingly and find clients. One idea I developed was CRM consulting for real estate agents, but I still had a good salaried job doing that at at the, so I put that on the back burner. (*2016 UPDATE: THAT BUSINESS IS NOW OPEN- click here to get your CRM optimized for 2016!) Instead I focused on creating a family-oriented business that my kids could participate in now.

Gifty- Nifty Gifts in the Nick of Time

Gifty- Nifty Gifts in the Nick of Time

I took a recommendation from my sister, Wendy Phillips of Big Buzz Brands who’s a speaker, author and has successfully launched a dental supplies membership site, and I read The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry. Warrillow lays out nine different business models that pay on a subscription or retainer basis. The one that jumped off the page for me was a subscription box. Based on that chapter, I made a detailed worksheet of the costs and income to expect in the subscription box business I had in mind. However, I soon found that one chapter in the book wasn’t quite enough info to start a subscription box business. I had started developing a toy subscription box service that involved a storybook and characters created by 3D printing. But it was complex and I was stalled at how to bring it to the market. Then, from Warrillow’s mention in the book, I found Cratejoy.com and followed their totally FREE Subscription School. Wendy and I tweaked my idea with some market research, and I figured out enough to launch the business I am literally just now starting, GiftyToys.com. I HIGHLY recommend The Automatic Customer and Cratejoy.com if you are looking to get into the subscription box business. Both literally hold your hand and make the entire very complex process doable and enjoyable. And Cratejoy provides the best platform for hosting your subscription website and backend.

Now, to get started marketing my newly-launched Gifty, I’ll need professional advice, which I’ll get to in a few paragraphs.

One of my top favorite bloggers, Derek Halpern, also has one of my top favorite podcasts, Social Triggers Insider, in which he routinely interviews up-and-coming authors, entrepreneurs, and influencers. Derek also has a terrific blogging/website promotion course, but I gave no thought to that earlier this year. I was distracted by his extremely compelling interview with Adam Braun, about Adam’s now bestseller, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change. No one can read this book and feel (1) like you are a worthy contributor to society next to Adam or (2) like you can continue to go through your own life and NOT help the kids of Pencils of Promise to get new schools. So as I struggled with looking for a charity to give back to through Gifty, the light went on and I knew PoP was the perfect charity. Gifty’s goal is to regularly provide quality educational and fun toys, already wrapped, to stressed-out parents so they don’t need to constantly be shopping for birthday gifts for their child’s next birthday party (which occur at least once a month). Kids’ education has always been a priority for me, not just because of my own kids, but because I used to run a music school, and then a real estate business where I gave back a portion of my sales every year to arts education in the public schools. If you visit GiftyToys.com you will see I have built into the subscription a portion to go back to Pencils of Promise every month.

The Magic Castle in L.A.

The Magic Castle in L.A.

The next distractingly charming podcast I heard from Derek was with magician Alex Stone, the author of the brilliant book, Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind. After hearing that podcast interview I absolutely had to read this book. It’s a sleight-of-hand adventure story among highly skilled thieves and artists where you unwittingly learn deep-seated psychology as well. No wonder Derek loves this guy. From the book, I learned that how you present something can be much more important than what you are presenting. And here is a strange, ironic little story to prove it. This fall, about halfway through reading the book, I actually travelled to Los Angeles and dined at the Magic Castle, the seat of the mysterious Academy of Magical Arts (AMA), where in the book Alex Stone went to learn from some of the masters. I hadn’t been to the Magic Castle since I was a kid and my uncle was a member. It was so awesome to return; it was exactly like I remembered it and like Alex describes it in the book. After our meal we got to enjoy a magic show opened by Tom Ogden, a venerable comedic magician and longtime member of the AMA. In my mind I connected him with a chapter in the book and being someone Alex had attended a class with. After the show, because I sought out some stage crew and mentioned Fooling Houdini and Alex Stone with enthusiasm, I was able to get an introduction to Mr. Ogden backstage. I approached him and said, “I’m so excited to meet you! You are wonderful in person and it’s so inspiring to meet one of Alex Stone’s teachers.” He was tickled that I knew who he was from the book. And here’s the irony. When I got home I read the rest of the book, and searched cover to cover, and Tom Ogden is never mentioned. FURTHERMORE, I then found out that Alex gets extremely poo-pooed by the AMA (of which Ogden is a member) later in the book. But no one corrected my charming assertion there at the Magic Castle. The magic of flattery? Or a psychological sleight of hand? Perhaps Tom really did know Alex previously and thought he was in the book. Or maybe he was just humoring me.

Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland Anaheim

Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland Anaheim

Speaking of magic, while in L.A., of course I went to Disneyland with my sister and her husband and 6-year-old daughter. With many tips from The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016, which I had studied cover to cover before the trip, we had OFFICIALLY the most magical day at Disney ever. Despite the crowds, we rode a total of 13 rides, had a leisurely, waterside, gluten-free lunch at the Blue Bayou overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (one of my childhood dreams come true!) and had VIP seats atop the train station plaza for the Diamond Anniversary parade that night. I also got literally the cheapest/nicest/closest hotel and free parking. It was RIDONKULOUS ya’ll! Going to Disney? BE SURE to read the applicable Unofficial Guide (and check out their website).

September rolled around and with it a super cool opportunity. My boss asked me to emcee our company’s annual conference the following month, reCHARGE 2015, an elite gathering of top real estate agents from around the country. I had attended the year before so had some idea of what to expect, but if you’ve never emcee’d something, especially for three days straight, you’re gonna need some help. Once again, a podcast saved the day, this time by The Accidental Creative, with an extremely timely recommendation to grab Michael Port’s Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life. I devoured this book in one day and spent my next two weeks practicing and mentally prepping for the conference. Since I’m a musician and have opened for national acts, I’m no stranger to the stage, but being an emcee is an art and Port really helped me pull it off. I culled each speaker’s bio into a few sentences which I took the time to rehearse and memorize instead of reading from a card, I prepared time killers and jokes, I anticipated my audience. I helped curate the music for the conference, I kept the show on schedule, I razzed up the energy.

Emceeing at reCHARGE 2015 in Dallas

Emceeing at reCHARGE 2015 in Dallas

In short, I ROCKED the stage, got many compliments that week on my performance and the conference in general, and had an absolute blast doing it, thanks to Michael Port and the preparation and confidence his book gave me. My emcee skills are for hire for your next conference, yo!

With the holidays approaching and me supposing to launch a toy business, I finally decided it was time to figure out how to promote my Gifty website and subscription business. I turned once again to the expert, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers.com (no, he’s not paying me for saying all this, he’s just awesome). Derek picked the right moment to invite me (ok, all of his subscribers) to join Blog That Converts 2.0, the coveted blog course that teaches you how to write content that can go viral and attract your ideal audience fast. All I can say is, this course is a college-level bonanza of serious, hands-on tips and techniques that if you do them, cannot possibly fail, since they are what propelled Derek himself to hundreds of thousands of readers. I’m working through that now for Gifty and may go back and repeat it for this blog.

This month I finally took a QuickBooks course at the office of my extremely talented CPA, Pam Burns. The previous businesses I ran were documented with Excel and it drove Pam crazy, but she always managed to get my taxes done on time and with money coming back to me (well, most years). For Gifty, I wanted to run my finances much clearer and make tax time much easier. In a few hours I learned how to set up QuickBooks Online for my business and how to track everything I need to in a neat, concise interface. I found out that QuickBooks also has their own support personnel who reach out and offer help as well. I highly recommend QuickBooks Online and finding a course near you that can help you set it up for your business, even if you’re already started your business. As a bonus, Pam and her business partner Elizabeth P. Davies have contributed to this very handy and well-explained book on tax law that I enjoyed and which I think everyone should read, ESPECIALLY if you’re running your own business: Why Didn’t My CPA Tell Me That? Small Business Write Offs Conventional Tax Advisors Miss.

Finnigan, World's Cutest and Most Well Behaved Puppy

Finnigan, World’s Cutest and Most Well Behaved Puppy

Finally, two books that will have impact on us for the next 15 years came in the form of dog training manuals: Good Owners, Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons and Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog. In preparation this month for bringing home our Boston Terrier puppy, Finnigan, we studied these two books and so far have absolutely scored in bringing up Finni. We’ve had him for more than two weeks and to date he has only messed in the house ONCE. He’s only ten weeks old but is completely house broken, eats natural food from a Kong (the perfect way to keep your carnivorous canine busy and happy), is well-socialized, chews nothing but his toys, comes and sits on command, and SLEEPS QUIETLY THROUGH THE NIGHT EVERY NIGHT. Raising a puppy? You MUST read these two books. They have a bit of conflicting information but you can sift and decide what’s right for you.

So the upshot of all this reading, active listening and coursework is that I’m starting 2016 with a new business, a new job (more info on that to come), much improved health, more time to do the things I love, and a gorgeous new home with a perfectly behaved puppy! Think it’s gonna be a good year? Just wait til you see the books and courses I plan to capitalize on this year and my results from those. I actually think a bit less learning, more practical work to test my new skills, and deeper results are what I’m going for this year. I’ll report back next December, if not sooner.

What about you?? What learning materials changed your life this year? Was there a book, course, podcast, video, documentary, etc that fueled awesome ideas and results for you? Let me know in the comments below and share a link to that so we can all benefit.

Then, continue learning right here… this blog is about to change your life.

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