How To Make Meditation Fun & Simple (Now It’s Not Boring Anymore!)

Woman Meditating Outdoors Peacefully

Meditation was boring AF.
I liked it at one point. When I was a kid, I was into all sorts of things spiritual & metaphysical. We did this meditation DVD my mom had & I thought it was the coolest thing ever. You did some general meditation stuff for the first part. But the best part (& the reason I was so excited about it) was this part where you spit on your finger & touched it to the center of your forehead (your third eye).
Then from that spot, you mentally went back into your skull, into the depths of your mind, & inside your mind you saw all this white or purple light. I was obsessed with this because it went along with all the energy-healing & angels stuff I was obsessed with when I was 11 or 12. I thought it was amazing.
Meditation Energy Flowing From Head Through Body
But as I grew up, I stopped meditating. It stopped being a priority, & I forgot about it.
Then, when I tried it again, it was SO BORING.
Blonde Woman Meditating & Peeking Around
From about the age of 16 all the way up until 22 or 23, I didn’t really meditate. We didn’t own the DVD we used when I was a kid, so I had to find other ways to meditate. I went on the Internet & did what the articles said.
Numerous times I tried. I really did. I tried to make it a habit.
“Close your eyes & don’t think about anything.” That was supposed to be peaceful.
Yoda Gif -
BUT IT WAS SO BORING.
I couldn’t stand it. I’d set a timer for ten minutes or something. Close my eyes, empty my mind. But my mind would be thinking about everything else, I’d get antsy sitting still & not thinking about anything, & I might try for a few days in a row before I gave up. My mind LIKES thinking. And meditation didn’t make me feel any special way.
Chicken Running After Squirrel
Logically, I knew I should be meditating. Everyone went on & on about how healthy & awesome it was. EVERYONE. Every book, every magazine, every celebrity, every article. It was included in every successful person’s morning routine. Tony Robbins was obsessed with it. Even Pete Carroll, coach for the Seattle Seahawks (aka my favorite football team) was obsessed with it.
Simon Cowell Bored Blinking
Lisa Kudrow
Maybe it was me. Maybe meditation was actually awesome, but my brain was wired weird & therefore hated it. Maybe everyone else was boring & they liked being bored & not thinking about anything & sitting still for a long time. But I kept thinking it must be my problem.
I guess I just wasn’t the kind of person who meditated.
But I was missing out on something other people got a lot of value from! MISSING OUT! It was like everyone was part of some secret meditation club & I was left out.
Fight Club Brad Pitt -
& everyone STILL WAS going on about how good for you it was.
One day, I came across an email newsletter from author & spiritual teacher Tess Whitehurst last July. In her newsletter (titled “6 Magical Secrets to Focus, Productivity, and Success”), she talked about meditation & Insight Timer, this awesome free app she recommended for meditation.
Free app?
& I could do it for as little as five minutes a day?
Snape from Harry Potter Shrugging
I downloaded the app. I had nothing to lose. If I didn’t like it, I could just delete the app & write off meditation again.
But I decided to try it, because I like experiments. Also, I had nothing to lose except maybe five minutes.
The app was easy to use. You could pick a nature sound to listen to while you meditated (like a waterfall, rain shower, or the ocean). Then you set the timer & it had a gentle bell that went off when the timer was done, but you could meditate longer if you wanted. Five minutes wasn’t that long. I figured I could handle that.
This is when I learned something MAGICAL about meditation.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE BORING.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN SITTING STILL.

IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T THINK ABOUT ANYTHING.
Too many cliched articles I read made me think it had to be that way. And there are definitely styles of meditation where that is what you’re supposed to sit still & not think about anything. A lot of people like meditating like that, & there’s nothing wrong with it.
Guy Throwing Confetti at his face celebrating
But there’s more than one way to meditate. That’s what a lot of these articles had left out. So I started learning what had been left out. I learned about other things people did to meditate. Some people did dancing or walking meditations, where they moved in some way while meditating. Some people listened to music. Some people did a positive visualization or envisioned their day being awesome. Some people actually got more benefits from meditating in a loud environment than a quiet one.
& that’s when it hit me.

MEDITATION DIDN’T MEAN SITTING STILL & NOT THINKING.
ALL IT REALLY MEANT WAS LETTING MY MIND CHILL THE EFF OUT.

All this time, I actually HAD been meditating. I just hadn’t put the label of “meditation” on it because it wasn’t boring.
So every time I lied in bed with my eyes closed listening to music & really feeling the song, it counted. Every time I took a quiet walk through a forest not thinking about anything in particular, it counted. Hell! Even when I was trying to go to sleep & I envisioned myself being in the peaceful world I created in my mind, it counted.
I took this new revelation of what meditation meant, & I ran with it. I started using the Insight Timer app EVERY MORNING for five minutes. I started in the beginning of August 2017, I still am using it every day now. It’s become one nice, peaceful, non-negotiable part of my morning routine.
What I do during the five minutes varies. Sometimes I listen to the nature sounds. Sometimes I picture a scene & maybe even have a little story that goes along with it. Sometimes I build up positive feelings about how my day’s going to go & picture it working out perfectly (like I read somewhere that Tony Robbins does). Sometimes I just let my mind wander & think about whatever it wants to without me purposely thinking about anything. Sometimes I try to go back to sleep.
But I do it every day. & I’ve kept this habit up for eight months now. AND COUNTING.
Parrots happily dancing celebratorily in tree
Do I see any benefits from it? I feel like I do. I think it makes me a little calmer & lets my brain recharge a little bit more. If nothing else, it’s a nice peaceful way to start my day. It adds value to my life, which is why I still do it.

So even if you’re like me & your brain hates being put in the corner & you think mediation isn’t for you, it doesn’t mean your mind is effed up or that you can’t meditate.

You just haven’t found the best way for you to meditate yet.
Experiment. Play with it. Have fun with it.
& while you’re at it, break out of the meditation cliche box & come up with your own definition for your previously dreaded “meditation“.
Wonder Woman breaking free of ropes

SEE, NOT FEELING THAT GIVES ME FREEDOM – The Ashlee Craft Show – Episode 037 – Poetry


In Episode 037, I read a poem from one one of my most recent poetry books, “The Walls Were Gray”, titled “SEE, NOT FEELING THAT GIVES ME FREEDOM.” Hope you enjoy it!

The Walls Were Gray
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SEE, NOT FEELING THAT GIVES ME FREEDOM

the sky was dark blue dark blue / evening light window looking out at the lake / the flashes of light upon the water I used to look out at them & the fresh alive air would flow in through the holes in the screen & I would feel like I wasn’t sitting on the island all by myself / dark blue dark blue / I walked up the stairs to the room & the lighting was warm / Antioch, at night blue walls single lamp in the corner it was dim the closet was yellow / workshop, my dreams covered the walls when I was an endless creator / they were yelling downstairs now but I was rising slowly exhausted & ready to sleep / I found myself outside, finally stretching my legs & feeling the late afternoon sunshine warm & bright / they said it was going to rain today but they were wrong / the air was warm & crisp like the end of summer, like the end of summer that one year / fall autumn air queen suicide & rebirth in February into something greater / I was so happy suddenly back then that it scared me / the air had seemed so lonely / she asked me about it & I finally revealed an honest piece of myself more peace of mind / “it was never very interesting to me” I told her “my Work was always more interesting & still is” / I told her I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of constantly chasing them, hoping they would notice me / couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do that be that way / technically it’s more normal but it was never the drumbeat I danced to / this morning I was compelled towards the radio / “I will get by” was playing / note, a year ago said I listened to that & read TOUGH TIMES DON’T LAST & even though things were terrible for me, I felt a lot better / (why does it always seem like things are terrible? not true) / then some song about dancing to the beat of the music played & the morning looked less gray / I read their article & realized the problem / even in my otherness I was still being forced into feelings I didn’t feel / the obligation was strong everywhere around me everyone was screaming out the words & every book proudly displayed it on its cover & the newspapers all wrote about it & every song found it sublime to ramble on ramble on / everyone I knew – it was their primary topic. what had happened. what they would do. how to find one. / I was being forced into feelings I didn’t feel because I felt I wouldn’t belong if I didn’t feel them / but I don’t feel them, not in that way / I can befriend all of them without ulterior motives – imagine what a difference that would be – everyone else was always a goal step to reach a particular means to an end / I felt more normal than her even though I felt dried up & frigid but that was the way the computer was wired & the tree roots were deeper still / I hugged her, “why is everyone so stressful?”, flung my hands around, she comforted me, I hugged her again / I didn’t have to follow them all down into the rabbit hole / “curiosity never killed the cat” she told me / trees sung quietly in triumph as I wrote a letter with the honest truth & let a pigeon carry it back to its nest / then I walked around the lake & went home, just as the jazz started playing, & I felt better about myself, not having to hide / learning to love the emotional mess

2018 WEEK 14: ACCOUNTABILITY UPDATE

What I did the week of April 1 – 7 to make 2018 awesome.

  1. Published 3 blog posts.
  2. Released 2 YouTube videos (Episode 041 of The Ashlee Craft Show & released my cover of Crowded House’s song ‘Archer’s Arrows’).
  3. Began editing the book I wrote last year about my Epic Florida Road Trip!
  4. Spent a lot more time sorting stuff in my house & garage to work on becoming more of a minimalist.
  5. Made 6 posts on Instagram.
  6. Reached out to someone successful in acting to ask for advice about agents, jobs, etc.
  7. Reached out to a company about them carrying the shorts I designed.
  8. Uploaded my new song Run Away to Soundcloud!
  9. Submitted my song Run Away to one website with the possibility of it being featured on their website.
  10. Drew 10 illustrations (nine of which are for a book I’m doing!) & 1 design.
  11. Wrote 1 poem.
  12. Put products with my Blobfish design on them on on Society6 Shop!
  13. Wrote 1 short story!
  14. Signed up for the Yes Supply Facebook group for female entrepreneurs.
  15. Asked five successful entrepreneurs that I respect immensely what their #1 tip was for how to get from obscurity to success & two replied!
  16. Created & set up my page on Patreon!

2018 WEEK 13: ACCOUNTABILITY UPDATE

What I did the week of March 25 – 31 to make 2018 AWESOME.

Week 13 was very productive! I spent a ton of time cleaning & going through stuff in my garage & house, & I finally made the demo version of the shorts (that I put off for one year) & released the song I’ve been working on for two years!

  1. Released “Run Away”, the song I’ve been working on for two years on iTunes, Amazon, & other digital distributors!
  2. FINALLY made the demo version of my first-ever piece of clothing I designed, so I can begin on the next steps of actually getting it produced! I put this off for more than a year, so it feels great to have it done!
  3. Got rid of a ton more stuff I didn’t need. Sorted through 6 boxes of my stuff & only kept three boxes.
  4. Researched best websites to find acting jobs on & signed up with Actors Access.
  5. Edited more of the images to be used in my Udemy course!
  6. Drew 1 illustration & 4 designs!
  7. Made 3 Instagram posts.
  8. Wrote 1 poem.
  9. Did research on how to become a session musician.
  10. Published 4 blog posts!
  11. Did not do well on my eating healthy goals, but I did excellent on the exercise goals.
  12. Looked into some clothing items I’d like to get in order to help me look more like myself/my vision for myself.
  13. Published 3 YouTube videos.
  14. Signed up to be a brand ambassador for a sunglasses company that I like. Was approved!
  15. Looked into requirements for putting a course on Udemy just to make sure I do everything right while creating my first course!

2018 WEEK 12: ACCOUNTABILITY UPDATE

What I did March 18 – 25 to make 2018 amazing.

  1. Sorted a lot more of my garage & got rid of a lot more things I no longer needed, as part of my goal of becoming a minimalist this year. Found a ton of stuff to donate!
  2. Recorded a new song, called “I Will Find You”, & mixed it! Soon I’ll be ready to release it! Mixed two other songs I’ve previously recorded, including my cover of Crowded House’s Archers Arrows.
  3. Posted first Fiverr gig EVER! It’s for doing illustrations in my unique style. Set up Fiver profile & added 3 additional gigs (illustrated banner logo, pet portraits, & proofreading). Made a lot of illustrations to be samples for these gigs to show people what they’re getting & to promote the gigs.
  4. Published 1 YouTube videos (Episode 039 of The Ashlee Craft Show)
  5. Made 4 Instagram posts.
  6. Published 3 new products to my online store!
  7. Looked up how to pick a good monologue for acting auditions.
  8. Signed up for Backstage.com. Took new headshots & updated acting resume.
  9. Started editing more of the slideshow images for my Udemy course!
  10. Took another photo for my film photography book.
  11. Considered & brainstormed ways to get acting jobs after I realized how much I wanted to do this.
  12. Applied for 5 acting jobs! Got scheduled for one audition, which I did.
  13. Reconsidered & got further clarity about what kind of LIFESTYLE I want to have, as a whole, instead of just focusing on things that will provide one thing at the expense of others (i.e. making more money at the expense of freedom).
  14. Donated one illustration to a charity with the hopes they’ll want to use it. If they agree, I will link to their website on my website & help promote their charity, & I’ll add the illustration to my portfolio.
  15. Looked up more money making ideas online. Looked into proofreading, part-time, virtual assistant, & entertainment jobs.
  16. Worked on signing up to be a Groupon Merchant.
  17. Colored in five of my illustrations.
  18. Saw Foreigner in concert with the Rock Symphony Orchestra!
  19. Saw Al Stewart, Three Dog Night, Lords of 52nd Street, & Firefall in concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall!
  20. Began reading The Courage to Be Rich by Suze Orman & Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Bought a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers from the library so now I can finally read it!
  21. Made more strides in owning a home.
  22. Gave my mom a life coaching session to help her level up her life this year too.
  23. Signed up for Zazzle & added 9 products made from 1 design. Signed up for Society6 & added a bunch of products made from 2 designs.
  24. Wrote 1 blog post.
  25. Improved environment by cleaning up clutter in my house & putting items back in their places.
  26. Learned about investing in ETFs & low-cost index funds.

STORY TIME: How I Bought My New Pet Crested Geckos!

My crested geckos when I got back in my car at Repticon
PART 2 OF 2
READ PART 1 →
After what seemed like forever, it was finally Repticon Day! I excitedly drove into Tampa, armed with an empty foam cooler. The cooler was to keep the temperature around them consistent & to hold whatever containers they came in place. Not like little geckos can be seat-belted in unfortunately! & the last thing I wanted was a container to pop open & a gecko roaming free in my car as I drove on the highway! I went a bummer route but I was only 10 minutes late, so despite the bummer route I was pleased.
It was my first time being at a reptile expo & I thought it was awesome! I’d definitely go back again! It was like a way better version of a pet store. They had way more species of EVERYTHING than any pet store, & way more colors/ages/choices. One thing I also really loved was that, unlike most pet stores, you’re probably dealing with the actual person who actually bred the reptile you’ll be buying. This means your questions can get answered, both regarding the care of the species, & about the specific age of the reptile you’re buying, or how it was raised.
Tampa Repticon February 2018

Tampa Repticon February 2018

Reptile expos are awesome environments in general. You’re surrounded by other people who are also obsessed with reptiles. There were so many awesome species! I saw tons of awesome snakes (including beautiful banana ——— morph ball pythons), various colors of sugar gliders, hedgehogs, hairless guinea pigs galore (aka “skinny pigs”), rats, baby mice, chicks, tons of bearded dragons, & even pet cockroaches! I got to pet hedgehogs & a bearded dragon, & I GOT TO HOLD AN OWL! (More about the owl coming up soon!)
I did my rounds when I got there to get an idea of who was selling what. That was what the Internet recommended you do if you were looking to buy a specific species. The first place I saw with crested geckos was Manatee Suncoast Lizards, LLC. They had a great selection & great prices, but I still walked around the rest of the show. After doing this, I determined Manatee Suncoast Lizards had the best crested geckos, so I went back over to pick some out. I’ll write a more in depth-review of the breeder soon!
Geckos at Manatee Suncoast Lizard's Repticon Booth

Geckos at Manatee Suncoast Lizard’s Repticon Booth

About 24 baby crested geckos stared up at me from their little plastic tubs. This was the most difficult part of the whole process! There were so many to choose from! How was I supposed to choose the ones I wanted?

Most of them were “frogbutts”, or crested geckos without tails. I was interested in getting a froggbutt because they tend to be less expensive than ones with tails. I heard that many crested geckos that have tails will eventually lose them anyway, & the tails can even sometimes cause problems. Not having a tail doesn’t affect them in any way, the tail just never grows back.
Baby crested gecko!

Gecko hugging the bird perch “branch”.

Because all the geckos were pretty young, most of them weren’t large enough to be sexed yet. I starting by ruling out any of the ones they had determined were males already. The geckos ranged in price from $20 – $45. I then started picking up ones that looked interesting & looking at them closer. The first one that appealed to me was a small baby one. Take me home, the gecko seemed to say. It melted my heart because it was looking out of the container at me & watching me. If I’m buying a certain type of animal & it looks into my eyes or puts its little hands on the cage it’s in while looking at me, I fall in love with it. So this baby gecko did that, so I picked up the container & it was the first one I selected.
Baby crested geckos

Crested geckos sittin’ in a tree…

Okay, now I had one gecko. This was exciting! Which geckos was I going to pick to go along with it? So I resumed scanning the geckos, again picking up ones that looked interesting. Some of them got examined a few times as I tried to narrow down my choices. A few geckos managed to crawl under the black cardboard circles in the bottoms of their deli cups & were hiding under them. Thankfully this table wasn’t too busy yet because I was totally blocking this little section of geckos as I picked mine out. When I found a gecko that looked interesting, I’d pick it up & look into the container. I wanted to get geckos that would look at me, because I took it as a sign that they were both interested in me & healthily engaged with their environment.

I had it narrowed down to a few. Then one little gecko that was an orangish color sat in its container looking at me & touching the container in my direction. That sold me. This gecko was coming home with me!
I now had a stack of two geckos in my hand. One more gecko left to choose! I went back & picked up some of the ones I’d looked at earlier, until I found an adorable one that stared at me. I just knew this gecko was supposed to be mine, so armed with a stack of three geckos in deli cups, I said to the girl behind the counter,
“I want to buy these geckos.”
“Would you like to hold them first?” She asked.
I didn’t even know that was an option! Of course I did!
Baby crested gecko!

This gecko is checking out the temperature & humidity on my gauges 🙂

She helped me open the deli cups & showed me how to pick up & hold the geckos. Looking back, I am very glad that I did hold them so that when I held them for the first time at home, I had confidence in knowing how. I held each of the three geckos for a minute. I was a little surprised at how much they liked jumping from hand to hand. One jumped away from me at one point & landed on the deli cups with other geckos, but I grabbed it again before it could go any further. By the third gecko, I was confident enough to pick them up & put them back in their containers myself.
I asked the breeder a few questions & made sure that the sizes were compatible with each other. The breeder explained that the numbers on their containers were their hatch dates. This meant that the big pale one was ——&  the orange one was —-. The baby one did not have a birth date on its container because the breeder’s niece had hatched it, but they estimated it was born in late summer or early fall of 2017. Confident in my purchases, I paid for my geckos & they handed them to me in a big white paper bag.
Baby crested geckos

More geckos chillin’ in their tree

After buying my geckos, I walked around the show for a while longer.  —–You can read about what else I saw in this article here (& you can see how I decorated the article with cool reptile emojis!).
I finally felt like I was satisfied with having seen everything at the show, so I decided it was time to go home. When I got in my car, I said, “Hello chickens!” to my geckos. (FUN FACT :: “Chicken” has somehow, over the years with my dog, became a term of endearment that I refer to my animals by). Then I took them out of their bag & put them in the cooler. I angled the foam cooler lid so it would let air in but also act as a sun shade so the geckos wouldn’t be in direct light at any point on my drive home.
Baby crested geckos

Baby geckos love hiding in their plastic reptile plants

When I got home, I showed my family the geckos. Then, one by one, I opened their containers & let them out into their cage. I made my sister film it. The geckos explored the cage for a while, then found places to nestle themselves for a much-needed nap.
 
Welcome home, baby geckos. <3

PHOTOS! My First Time at Repticon!

Tampa Repticon February 2018

Repticon Tampa on February 24th – 25th, 2018 was my first-ever time at a reptile expo 🦎🐢🐍. It was so awesome! I bought my VIP ticket online about six weeks before. The REASON I was originally going to go was to get a red foot tortoise hatchling. But after thinking about it more, I got cold feet about two weeks before Repticon & decided to go with my original choice of crested geckos instead. Crested geckos seemed both easy to care for & like a much better choice for my first pet reptile than a baby tortoise. Here’s where I wrote about why I decided on crested geckos 🦎.
I had the gecko tank all set up, complete with a custom ABS plastic divider that took me an hour to make. (SPOILER ALERT! On my geckos’ first night, the two bigger ones managed to squish themselves over the top & into the unfurnished side of the cage. This rendered it useless so I had to remove it. Pets are like that 🙂). I had the heat pad running & the humidity up. Everything was ready.
Here’s what I saw at my first expo & my observations (plus kewl emojis)!
  • First off, I bought my first three crested geckos! 😍🦎🦎🦎💕 I got them from Manatee Suncoast Lizards, which seemed like a really nice breeder. Read about my geckos here & see more pictures of them in this article here!
    My crested geckos when I got back in my car at Repticon
  • They had a cool blow-up snake out front that kids were taking pictures of 📸.
    Tampa Repticon 2018
  • Reptile expos are like better versions of pet stores. The people selling you the pets are mostly the people who actually bred them, & can answer your questions better than most pet stores. The quality of the animals is also a lot higher 👍, & the prices can be much lower 💵 because you’re buying it directly from the breeder & there’s no middleman.
    Tampa Repticon 2018
  • It’s awesome being in an environment filled with people who are passionate about reptiles 😍.
  • To let everyone know I was a VIP there, they gave me a tortoise hand stamp which was adorable!
    Tampa Repticon 2018 Tortoise Hand Stamp
    Tampa Repticon 2018 Tortoise Hand Stamp
  • SO MANY SKINNY PIGS! (AKA HAIRLESS GUINEA PIGS). One person had regular guinea pigs but it seemed like at least five were selling the hairless “skinny” guinea pigs. For some reason they were a really popular thing.
  • A large selection of chinchillas chillin’ (pun intended) in a cage. One was perched precariously at the edge of a shelf, sleeping, but it seemed perfectly comfortable 😴. LOOK AT THEIR LITTLE CHINCHILLA FACES!
    Chinchillas at Tampa Repticon 2018
    Chinchillas at Tampa Repticon 2018
    Chinchillas at Tampa Repticon 2018
  • Tons of sugar gliders, including baby ones! I saw some really pretty white sugar gliders with a dark stripe down their backs, & some other sugar gliders eating fruit. 🤗 Their “crabbing” sound reminds me of a combination of a quiet angry squirrel 🐿️ & the sound my guinea pigs make when they’re mad at each other.

  • A whole bunch of baby hedgehogs! 🦔🦔🦔 If I was still interested in getting a hedgie I would have been excited, because they were only $100. But MAN, are those things sharp 😮. Especially when they bounce to poke you with their spikes. You can see me jerk away when it pokes me in the video below! They were all sleeping in a little prickly pile together, & they were adorable 💤.

    Baby Hedgehogs at Tampa Repticom 2018
  • More leopard geckos than you could shake a stick at. 🦎 It seemed like EVERYONE was selling leopard geckos. I saw some really beautiful mostly-white ones.
  • Awesome geckos! 🦎🦎🦎 SO MANY GECKOS! 🦎🦎🦎 The aforementioned leopard geckos, plus a reasonable number of crested geckos. But I also saw some really great Chahouas, Leachies, day geckos, gargoyle geckos, etc. Geckos are super-awesome. 🦎
  • I got to hold a 🦉 rescued screech owl 🦉 from the Friends of Largo Nature Parks! (ARTICLE WITH MORE PHOTOS COMING SOON!) OWLS ARE MY FAVORITE & THIS WAS SO AWESOME! They had a Sulcata tortoise 🐢 with a donation jar taped to its back. It was so awesome. The article has pictures of that too! (Also, I was so excited after holding an owl that I began walking away before I realized my gecko bag was still sitting on their table 😂).
    Me Holding an Owl at Friends of Largo Nature Parks - Tampa Repticon
    Owl at Friends of Largo Nature Parks - Tampa Repticon
    Owl at Friends of Largo Nature Parks - Tampa Repticon
    Owl at Friends of Largo Nature Parks - Tampa Repticon
    Owl at Friends of Largo Nature Parks - Tampa Repticon
    Sulcata Tortoise with Donation Jar at Friends of Largo Nature Parks - Tampa Repticon
    Sulcata Tortoise with Donation Jar at Friends of Largo Nature Parks - Tampa RepticonLook at the little tortoise nose chilling in the bottom right corner too!
  • I got to pet a bearded dragon! I can’t remember the name of the vendor but they made custom stone-looking houses for reptiles. They had this awesome bearded dragon just chilling on a rock & people could pet it. The beardie was so docile & cute! Someone said their bearded dragon always got excited when they came home, like a dog 🤗.

  • There were so many beautiful snakes! 🐍🐍🐍 I wasn’t in the market for a snake so I didn’t spend too much time looking at them, but I saw some gorgeous ones. In my opinion, the most beautiful snake are the banana/candino morph-looking ball pythons. I saw plenty of those. I also saw some cute tiny snakes in cups. I watched vendors put the snakes in white mesh bags & speculated that if I ever get a snake it will totally ride in the cooler on the way home just in case it happens to escape from its mesh bag.
    Banana Ball Python Morph at Tampa Repticon 2018
    Banana Ball Python Morph at Tampa Repticon 2018
    Banana Ball Python Morph at Tampa Repticon 2018
  • Someone was selling pet roaches, which were pretty cool!
    Pet Cockroaches at Tampa Repticon 2018
  • There was someone with fancy bettas & cherry shrimp. 🦐 I will totally have a shrimp tank someday 🦐!
  • One vendor had tiny cups with even tinier baby axolotls. I looked at the axolotls & was very glad I decided not to get one. I would have been too nervous about their water quality.
  • I saw piles of tiny 🐁 pinky mice & fuzzy mice 🐁 huddled together. I took a photo of the fuzzies & the vendor said, “The pinkies are also cute.” They were precious, even though I know they will most likely become snake food. There were also a good number of people selling rats, both pet & feeder rats. I saw some really cute baby rats too!
    Baby Mice at Tampa Repticon 2018
    Pinky Mice at Tampa Repticon 2018

    Baby Rats at Tampa Repticon 2018

    Baby Rats at Tampa Repticon 2018
  • There was a cup filled with baby chicks 🐤🐤🐤. If I lived somewhere zoned for chicks, I would have bought them. I felt sorry for them because I knew that, like the baby mice, they would most likely be eaten.
  • So many people had 🕷️ tarantulas & scorpions 🦂. I heard a guy excitedly telling his father about how poisonous this one tarantula he was getting was & how nasty their bite was. He seemed to know a lot about tarantulas & he sounded like he just loved them. I heard a kid asking a vendor which species she recommended for a beginner. I saw some cute tiny tarantulas 🕷️ that were only about the size of a penny!
  • I hoped to get millipedes 🐛 while I was at the expo. I spent a while looking for them, but didn’t see any. I saw a vendor that seemed focused on invertebrates, so I asked if he had millipedes. He said not right now.
  • TONS OF TORTOISES! 🐢🐢🐢 I saw a huge number of baby red foots & other tortoises. There were also a variety of ages of tortoises. They were so cute. But I was still really glad not to get a tortoise (especially a fragile hatchling) as my first reptile. I freak out enough about my geckos; it would have been so much worse with a baby tortoise despite my obsessive research. There were also turtles. Someone was selling baby red-eared sliders for $10 & baby snapper turtles for $25. Baby snappers look pretty harmless but I know what they grow up to be 😉. 🐢🐢🐢
    Tortoises at Tampa Repticon 2018
    Tortoises at Tampa Repticon 2018
    Tortoises at Tampa Repticon 2018
  • There are a lot of animals I WANT to buy, but I’m good at not impulse-buying them 👏🏆💯
  • IF YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO GET A SPECIAL GOODY BAG BECAUSE YOU GOT A VIP TICKET, ASK FOR IT FIRST 🛍️☹️. Big lesson here. I casually moseyed on over to the welcome booth after I was done looking around. “Is this where I get my bag of free stuff?” I asked. The lady looked at me sympathetically. “I’m sorry, we ran out of those.” I wasn’t offended, just a little disappointed. & I totally made a mental note to ask for it ASAP next time. I wonder what was in the bag.
Going to Repticon was super-awesome. I can’t wait to go back again!

Meet My Three New Crested Geckos!

 

LOOK AT MY NEW PRECIOUS BABY GECKO CHILDREN 💖🦎🦎🦎Went to Repticon Tampa earlier & got my first ever crested geckos! 🦎🦎🦎😍😮😍 It was also my first time ever at a reptile expo & it was SO COOL 💕😍 & my first time getting a pet reptile. Their cage was all set up before I went so they had a nice place to go when they got home. I got them from Manatee Suncoast Lizards, which seemed like a really good breeder 💕 Here’s to my trio of gecko children 👏🏼😘😘😘 I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT RAISING THEM 💕🤗 #gecko #geckos #petgecko #petgeckos #repticontampa #repticon #crestedgeckos #crestedgecko #babycrestedgecko #crestedgeckosofig #crestedgeckosofinstagram #reptileexpo #newreptile #reptileshow #repticon2018 #geckobabies #reptile #reptiles #petreptile #petreptiles #frogbutt #frogbuttgecko

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PART 1 OF 2
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Introducing…my three new pet crested geckos!
Since fall/winter of last year, I’ve been looking into getting another pet. I love my pets so much & I wanted another. I knew I had the time & money to take care of more pets, & the idea of getting another pet really started to appeal to me. The thing was, I didn’t know what kind of pet I wanted.
First I looked into hedgehogs, but I decided they weren’t right for me, at least not at this time. I looked into a lot of types of small rodents like hamsters, rats, gerbils, & mice, but they also weren’t right for me (at least not yet).
Finally, I decided on an axolotl! Axolotls are adorable & they’ve been one of my favorite cool, weird animals for a long time. I heard this one local pet store had a baby one in stock & I really wanted to buy it. Then I learned online that axolotl water has to be cycled, so I held off on buying it so I could start getting the tank ready. Then I got nervous about how precise their water conditions had to be. I didn’t even own a water test kit for my aquarium at the time I found the baby axolotl, & didn’t actually know anything about managing water quality for aquatic pets.
Leucistic Axolotl

Axolotls are cool & weird

Thanks to axolotls, I did learn a lot about testing the aquarium water in my 10 gallon tank & started researching this, because I had never known how important it was. I had this impression only fancier fish like angel fish required water testing. I started keeping fish as a kid & had always just gone by the logic that you put some fish in a tank with a filter & changed some of the water once a week or so. Managing the water quality in the tank is now something I do & monitor regularly, & I’m really glad I realized what I didn’t know so I could learn about it. Even with this, I was still nervous about axolotls. I was nervous because my house is 70F, but a lot of axolotl websites say that even that’s too warm. Because of those reasons, I still didn’t feel comfortable taking care of a little axolotl baby, so I moved on to something different.
But axolotls opened the door into the herptile world for me. Before I considered getting an axolotl, I hadn’t looked that much into reptiles. Growing up, my parents had always said no to reptile & amphibian pets because they thought heating their enclosures was too expensive. I did some Googling & learned that the average cost of running something 24/7 all year could be summed up in this equation: number of watts x $1.00 = cost per year to run.
So let’s say =you had a 70 watt heater for your reptile & you ran it (at full heat, if I’m not mistaken, & without the use of a reptile thermostat [which is really important to have!]) every hour of every day for a year. Using the rule of thumb that it costs $1.00 per watt per year, it would most likely cost a MAXIMUM of $70 a year for that heating element, or about $5.83 a month. That’s not expensive at all! Granted, many reptiles need more than one heating element, or a higher-wattage one, but it still doesn’t cost as much as I expected it would.
Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are cool like dogs & someday I’d like to have one.

I also had this perception that reptile pets were difficult to care for. Obviously the herp world encompasses a HUGE number of species kept as pets. Obviously some of those are more difficult to care for than others. But a lot of common reptiles are reasonably easy, once you understand their basic needs. They do need a different type of care than say, a hamster. A hamster doesn’t have to have a specific humidity, or ambient temperature, or a basking spot that must be monitored. I feel like reptiles are a little bit of a “learning curve” from that. But that doesn’t mean they require much – they’re just different to care for than mammals.
Here’s a summary of what I realized:
  • Not all reptiles have to eat live bugs, or at least not all the time. This in itself does not bother me, it was more of the practicality of having to go purchase crickets for it all the time (& that still doesn’t bother me, it was just something I considered).
  • It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think to heat their cages.
  • Not all reptiles cost a lot to purchase or maintain. You still need to have money put aside in case they get sick & have to go to the vet, but that isn’t necessarily an up-front cost (especially if you buy captive-bred & they don’t have parasites).
  • Their cage cleaning requirements can be a lot simpler (or at least, not any more complex) than my guinea pigs.
Armed with this realizations, I set out to figure out what type of reptile I wanted. I thoroughly researched fire-bellied toads, leopard geckos, & crested geckos. I did a good amount of research on corn snakes, ball pythons, other species of geckos, & bearded dragons.
Tortoise

#tortoiselife

Tortoises really began appealing to me during this process. I’d interacted with some during my epic Florida road trip at places like Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, as well as one at a rescue that had been at a local event. I really did a ton of research. I was going to get a red foot tortoise hatchling. A red foot specifically, because they’re great for Florida weather when they’re big enough to live outside, & a hatchling because I wanted to raise it from a baby. I joined a tortoise forum & asked a TON of questions. I bought most of the supplies I needed for a tortoise. I bought tickets to the Tampa Repticon & started researching breeders.
Only a few weeks before Repticon, I got cold feet. Why? I still hadn’t found a breeder that (a) bred red foots & (b) that I felt cared for them properly. I was nervous because I’d read a LOT about how vital hydration was to hatchlings. I learned that a lot of people believe if the breeder doesn’t soak them often enough from when they hatch to when they’re sold, it increases the risk of hatchling failure syndrome. It can even cause their livers & kidneys to grow deformed, which can create problems down the road. I also knew that hatchlings were difficult to care for, & the last thing I wanted to happen was have a poor baby tortoise die on my hands & never know whether its death was my fault, nature’s, or the breeder’s. Especially with it being my first herp (& a more expensive one at that), I just didn’t think that risk was worth taking at the time.
Crested Gecko

Not my gecko, but a good picture of a crested gecko.

I thought back on all the research I’d done on crested geckos. I was actually going to get the cresteds before I started getting into tortoises. So I re-researched them again & realized they really were the best option. Here’s some of the things that convinced me:
  • Crested geckos are easy to care for. You change out the paper towels in the bottom once a week, mist their cage 1-2 time a day, feed them every other day, & clean the cage with bleach water once a month.
  • Crested geckos don’t need a whole lot of heat (75-78 F seemed to be ideal from what I read). They also didn’t need a UV bulb or any special lighting. (Although I do have a UVB bulb that I bought for the tortoise & didn’t end up using!).
  • Crested geckos’ humidity can & should vary during the day from 50% or so up to 85% (much easier than the 85% constant humidity a red foot hatchling required).
  • Crested geckos eat a complete powdered fruit diet that you mix with water. After they’re eating that regularly, I’ve heard you should give them crickets occasionally.
  • Crested geckos themselves were generally cheaper than tortoises, especially pet-quality crested geckos in their natural colors.
  • Crested geckos can be handled, especially once they’re adults. They are also super-adorable.
  • The geckos themselves were a LOT less fragile than a tortoise hatchling & therefore a way better thing for me as a beginner herp owner to get. Because they’re hardier & require less specific hatchling conditions than tortoise hatchlings, there was also less chance of them getting ill or dying.
  • I already had a 10-gallon tank the baby geckos could live in, & a lot of the supplies for the tortoise would also work for the geckos. For example, the terra-cotta trays, reptile plants, & reptile thermostat all could be re-purposed for the geckos.
I went full-speed-ahead with this idea. I bought the supplies, cleaned out the 10-gallon (which I’d gotten for free from by a neighbor’s trash can! [FREE STUFF FTW]), & set it up. I also researched any questions I had about baby crested geckos so I could make sure I had everything they needed & did everything right. I was thinking about getting three geckos, but knew that how many I got could be limited by price if they were more than I expected. I had done plenty of research about keeping more than one crested together. I was aware of the risks & prepared for the very real possibility that sometime they might have to be separated.
I was prepared in every way.
Now, all I had to do was wait for Repticon Day!

My Interview with Speaker & Coach Stephen Lynch!

Stephen Lynch Interview Banner

Here’s my interview with Stephen Lynch! Stephen is passionate about public speaking & coaching others to be their best selves & learn to communicate well. I met him through the awesome 52 Weeks of Momentum course that I’m doing this year, which is run by top author Benjamin P. Hardy. In this interview, Stephen talks about what he does, how public speaking has changed his life for the better, & how speaking can take your life to the next level.

1. Tell us a little bit about what you do. How long have you been doing what you do?

Currently I advise the legal profession in England about issues relating to Brexit, financial services and corporate law. I work to support, represent and promote the legal sector at the independent membership body for solicitors. A large part of my role is to persuade, influence and lobby policymakers on behalf of our members. While I’ve been in my current role for only three months I have over six years’ experience of working in lobbying, political communications, policy, research and media.

In my professional life and spare time I also enjoy training people in public speaking and improving their communication skills. I have been doing this for over a year now.

2. In your article, you discuss how you were depressed & isolated growing up. Would you like to elaborate a little more on what that was like?

Being unaware and ignorant about mental health and depression when I was younger I was very confused and misguided about how to deal with it. Fundamentally this depression and isolation was characterised by a feeling of hopelessness and a lack of direction – not feeling in control, or of having freedom.

To give one example here I remember being at university in Sheffield as an 18-year-old. Here I got decent grades, did my best to stay active and tried straightforwardly to pursue what I enjoyed. However, I remember feeling very self-conscious and restricted a lot of the time. I was in such a negative thinking pattern and thought so little of myself I struggled to even go and speak to people who I actually liked and respected. I have since told a couple of these people that this was the case, as I felt my behaviour at the time needed an explanation and that I meant no offence to them by my aloofness.

In particular in groups of people I slowly realised these feelings were not normal or healthy. I started to investigate them myself for practical solutions. I was so misguided and ignorant of these things that it took me until I was 18 or 19 years old to discover there was even a distinction between introverted and extroverted people, and that these traits even existed. For a supposedly intelligent young person I was very naïve and too accepting of what was going on around me.

I would also feel hostility in certain situations, like my mere presence was causing others discomfort. In short I felt ineffective, anonymous and emasculated.

3. When did you begin to have an interest in public speaking? At the time, were you actively seeking something to help you get better, or was it something you kind of stumbled upon?

I must have had a latent interest in public speaking and communication because I’ve studied politics since I was old enough to read a newspaper. I remember watching speeches of Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy as a youngster on Encarta on my PC (probably while everyone else was out being a normal 6 or 7 year old!).

I remember doing readings at school masses and giving a couple of short presentations at school that passed without major incident. On some level I must have actually enjoyed them, and I was usually asked to continue doing them. But it wasn’t until I entered the working world where I faced the dread of a team meeting and “the creep” of waiting your turn to update the rest of the team of what you had on that week. At a time I was feeling particularly useless I remember giving a very poor, informal talk to colleagues. Some point after this I must have had a ‘fuck this’ moment where I decided things were going to change.

My next role in political communications involved much less scope for public speaking (and from the party’s point of view maybe it’s just as well!). I enjoyed the work initially but found it straightforward enough to start seeking out more challenge. It didn’t come from within so I decided to seek it externally when I forced myself to go to public speaking and acting classes.

I must have had a latent interest in public speaking and communication because I’ve studied politics since I was old enough to read a newspaper. I remember watching speeches of Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy as a youngster on Encarta on my PC (probably while everyone else was out being a normal 6 or 7 year old!). I remember doing readings at school masses and giving a couple of short presentations at school that passed without major incident. On some level I must have actually enjoyed them, and I was usually asked to continue doing them. But it wasn’t until I entered the working world where I faced the dread of a team meeting and “the creep” of waiting your turn to update the rest of the team of what you had on that week. At a time I was feeling particularly useless I remember giving a very poor, informal talk to colleagues. Some point after this I must have had a ‘fuck this’ moment where I decided things were going to change.

4. Did you have a “point of no return” moment around the time that you got into public speaking where you HAD to move forward? Did that moment make you resolve to get better, or did it just happen just kind of naturally on its own after you had that experience?

My previous answer partly covers this question, but one of the first speaking classes I took part in I remember sitting in the front row waiting for my turn to speak. The feeling I had was tortured anguish in the pit of my stomach. The feeling was telling me to go and be anywhere but right here in this room. This was the ‘where’s the hole to swallow me up?’ feeling.

I also remember having to psych myself up to go to these meetings in the early days. Telling myself I could not go home until I’d done the whole thing.

I got up to speak that time and every time since, but the memory of this stays with me. I didn’t want to feel that feeling again. I was sick of the feeling of people pulling faces when I speak. After two years of regular practice I still get nervous sometimes and I still perceive hostility and discomfort in the expressions of people in the audience. But I am much more used to them now, and am more streetwise about what’s really happening.

5. When did you first realize that public speaking had a positive impact on your depression & self-esteem?

I noticed increased fluency and sincerity in how I was communicating after only a few weeks. There’s usually a gap between how we feel we are being perceived (we tend to underrate this), and how we are in reality (often better than we think). And I felt I was closing this gap all the time and being much less self-conscious and concerned with others’ opinions – whether imagined or real.

I remember sitting with a friend on the Tube after a class and having a very frank conversation with him. I acknowledged to him at the time that I was being more honest with him than I’d be with almost any of my other friends at the time. As outlandish as it seems, it was a rarity for me to sit and have this feeling of being able to be myself and express myself freely without restrictions.

These sort of classes also allowed me to meet many like-minded, talented and genuine people. Being around them helped me open up and have free-flowing conversations with them. To state the obvious this all felt very good and natural, and something I wasn’t particularly used to. Being transparent and telling the truth (where appropriate) became a lot easier thereafter and I tried to be a ‘straight shooter.’ In this early process I also remember getting into bed to sleep and laughing very hard to myself. I knew something was changing inside me and had to put it down to these changes I was making.

These sort of classes also allowed me to meet many like-minded, talented and genuine people. Being around them helped me open up and have free-flowing conversations with them. To state the obvious this all felt very good and natural, and something I wasn’t particularly used to.

Being transparent and telling the truth (where appropriate) became a lot easier thereafter and I tried to be a ‘straight shooter.’

In this early process I also remember getting into bed to sleep and laughing very hard to myself. I knew something was changing inside me and had to put it down to these changes I was making.

6. What was the process like to become a speaker & coach? What types of training & massive actions did you take to get there?

I’ve had a set of unique experiences in my personal and professional life that I think others could find useful or insightful. The more I offer my reflections on these the more people tell me they’ve had similar experiences or that what I have said is valuable to them.

I think many people are held back because they’re simply unaware of how their mental health works, and how things like their environment strongly impact this. There are many coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with black moods. Equally there are several ways one can become more integrated, coherent and transparent in their lives and in the way they communicate. I can only share what has, and hasn’t worked for me with all of these things.

I’ve put myself through lots of training and mentoring in writing skills, public speaking and acting. One thing in particular I do a lot of, perhaps to the chagrin of others, is to volunteer myself often. A prominent politician recently said his advice for those aspiring to emulate him would be ‘to keep throwing your hat in the ring until people get tired of throwing it back at you.’ Take action consistently. Be persistent. Your desire, passion and belief has to be stronger than the person ignoring you or saying no to you. I’m sure I’m mixing metaphors by now but you have to outwork and outhustle these people who appear to be implacable obstacles. Yes is more powerful than No.

Equally, don’t take setbacks or disdain personally, even if it is. Use it to motivate you. Make sure you overcome and outlast those that seem to be in your way, sometimes deliberately. Be the final word in the book there, the full stop or the exclamation mark!

One thing in particular I do a lot of, perhaps to the chagrin of others, is to volunteer myself often. A prominent politician recently said his advice for those aspiring to emulate him would be ‘to keep throwing your hat in the ring until people get tired of throwing it back at you.’ Take action consistently. Be persistent. Your desire, passion and belief has to be stronger than the person ignoring you or saying no to you. I’m sure I’m mixing metaphors by now but you have to outwork and outhustle these people who appear to be implacable obstacles. Yes is more powerful than No. Equally, don’t take setbacks or disdain personally, even if it is. Use it to motivate you. Make sure you overcome and outlast those that seem to be in your way, sometimes deliberately. Be the final word in the book there, the full stop or the exclamation mark!

7. Did you have a mentor when you were getting started? How did they help you? If you didn’t, do you wish you’d had one?

I’ve had a bunch of them and I’m grateful to each of them for their unique style and approach. One of these inspired me by effortlessly radiating confidence. Another would hold their students to extremely high and rigorous standards, and wouldn’t excuse poor effort and performance for one second. Others would have such a forensic and methodical style, or such a personable and genial manner it created a very positive learning space. I would hope I have learnt from and taken elements from each of them.

One mentor in particular was one of the first people I encountered on this journey. They took complex ideas and broke them down into very simple takeaway messages using exercises and discussion. They embodied what they were saying and helped many, like me, to tap into their confidence.

Inspiration is a very lofty word but I observe it often in others and it’s a very positive cycle to stand on the shoulders of giants.

However 12 months later this person encountered a very sudden and drastic decline in their own confidence and had to weather a storm of their own. Without sounding like a Disney film, I’d be letting him down if I didn’t kick on and try to help others like he did. Inspiration is a very lofty word but I observe it often in others and it’s a very positive cycle to stand on the shoulders of giants.

8. What is the reason WHY you do what you do? What drives you to keep pushing forward even when you don’t feel like it?

I want people to fulfill their potential and overcome the same struggles many of us confront. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being held back by external factors or by who they are. Life is short and precious and we’ve probably only got one shot at this thing.

I know what it feels like to be so full of frustration, resentment and rage that you can’t even think straight, never mind get on with anybody or being able to be yourself. I know what it’s like to sit in your room for almost days on end avoiding people because you feel so uncomfortable and worthless. I know what it feels like to almost squander your degree, to walk out of your place of work and not feel able to go back, to miss out on opportunities, friendships and positive moments because you’re so wrapped up in yourself.

I also know the opposites of these feelings. I know what its like to feel like you’re being listened to, like your contribution is being valued, like people are identifying with what you’re telling them. I know the feeling of real confidence, achievement and purpose.

And crucially, I know which of these I want to roll with and experience most. That’s my WHY.

I want people to fulfill their potential and overcome the same struggles many of us confront. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being held back by external factors or by who they are. Life is short and precious and we’ve probably only got one shot at this thing. I know what it feels like to be so full of frustration, resentment and rage that you can’t even think straight, never mind get on with anybody or being able to be yourself. I know what it’s like to sit in your room for almost days on end avoiding people because you feel so uncomfortable and worthless. I know what it feels like to almost squander your degree, to walk out of your place of work and not feel able to go back, to miss out on opportunities, friendships and positive moments because you’re so wrapped up in yourself. I also know the opposites of these feelings. I know what its like to feel like you’re being listened to, like your contribution is being valued, like people are identifying with what you’re telling them. I know the feeling of real confidence, achievement and purpose. And crucially, I know which of these I want to roll with and experience most. That’s my WHY.

9. What is the best investment you’ve made in yourself or your work?

You’d expect me to say this but most definitely courses in public speaking.

There is something powerful about taking a decision and investing in yourself, it’s a point of no return moment.

A phenomenally successful mentor of mine said: Investing actual money in yourself dramatically changes the psychology of things. When you invest in yourself, you become highly committed to what you’re doing. Investing in yourself is an act that facilitates what Charles Darwin would call, “Selective Pressure,” which is a phenomenon that alters the behavior and fitness of living organisms within a given environment. It is the driving force of evolution and natural selection.”

It's very easy to quote too often from others but I love this one also, from the same source Ben Hardy: “Investing in yourself creates internal supply to match the external demand of the investment. The bigger you invest, the bigger the psychological leap — which then facilitates a radical upgrade in behavior, confidence, harmonious passion, and outcomes.” The same way you won’t get bigger or stronger lifting 5kg weights every month or so at the gym, you won’t improve or develop if you don’t take a big step and put yourself under more pressure. You won’t get stronger, if you don’t put yourself under the weight. And one more cliché for you, if you don’t challenge yourself you will not change. So take a big step.

It’s very easy to quote too often from others but I love this one also, from the same source Ben Hardy: “Investing in yourself creates internal supply to match the external demand of the investment. The bigger you invest, the bigger the psychological leap — which then facilitates a radical upgrade in behavior, confidence, harmonious passion, and outcomes.”

The same way you won’t get bigger or stronger lifting 5kg weights every month or so at the gym, you won’t improve or develop if you don’t take a big step and put yourself under more pressure. You won’t get stronger, if you don’t put yourself under the weight. And one more cliché for you, if you don’t challenge yourself you will not change. So take a big step.

I used to buy untold motivational and self help books and some of these have had a very positive impact on me also.

Trust yourself and your instincts Above all, don’t lower your sights or shrink yourself to make others feel less insecure Don’t let anyone stick labels on you or profess to tell you where you’re going or what you should be doing Don’t let yourself play down to your environment, if you can’t reform it then change it altogether Don’t take advice from anyone you wouldn’t be happy to swap places with Back yourself - you’re better than you think, just don’t be afraid to screw up and be embarrassed sometimes Some people might be more expensively educated than you who live in leafier postcodes and dine in pricier supermarkets but they’re not any smarter, hardworking or better than you.

10. If you could go back & give advice to your younger self, what would you say?

Don’t be so angry! Everything is going to be okay. Every trite piece of advice you can think of.

Joking aside the advice I’d give myself and anyone else younger is to:

  • Trust yourself and your instincts
  • Above all, don’t lower your sights or shrink yourself to make others feel less insecure
  • Don’t let anyone stick labels on you or profess to tell you where you’re going or what you should be doing
  • Don’t let yourself play down to your environment, if you can’t reform it then change it altogether
  • Don’t take advice from anyone you wouldn’t be happy to swap places with
  • Back yourself – you’re better than you think, just don’t be afraid to screw up and be embarrassed sometimes
  • Some people might be more expensively educated than you who live in leafier postcodes and dine in pricier supermarkets but they’re not any smarter, hardworking or better than you.

11. How have the challenges & setbacks you’ve faced helped you become the person you are today? If you could go back & not have to experience one of your bigger challenges or setbacks, why or why wouldn’t you?

This is a great question. I think the advice I’ve given in the previous question alludes to some of my challenges and setbacks as a younger man. More recently I’ve had to make decisions I would have otherwise agonised over and perhaps wouldn’t have made.

The older I’ve gotten the better I’ve become at dealing with setbacks, or rejection. Or having to say no myself to an arrangement that is not serving me and is taking more away from me than its putting back. So you simply become more resilient and almost blasé about these things. You can go in a different direction to others and go about it in a grown-up and sensible way. Not following a crowd and trying to fit in if it conflicts with your goals and values becomes easier.

That second question is also very good. I’m being honest throughout here but let me open up on this one. A big challenge for me is when I’ve been (or felt) rejected as a friend, or even as a relative, by people who I respect. Straight up that is difficult, it can get to you if you let it. You ask yourself why, and want to know the real answer.

It’s even more disappointing when I’ve thought this rejection is based on something arbitrary and/or something I can’t help. For example, whether its my political beliefs, or because I happen to be a Catholic and because I enjoy following Gaelic Games and like Celtic Football Club.

Losing touch with people you have time for is tough but you get on with it.

12. What did you want to be when you grew up when you were a kid? Does any aspect of that relate to what you do now?

Lots of things – an astronaut, Formula 1 driver, video games tester, lawyer.

Given my long interest in politics I think there is overlap with what I am doing now. I’m not a politician thankfully but they have to craft messages and arguments, and persuade people to follow them and endorse their ideas. Above all an effective politician is an effective communicator, and at times a salesperson.

A typical day of a politician would be spent making speeches, meeting people, representing their constituents’ concerns, arguing in favour of their ideas and how valid they are, defending their record from criticism after subjecting it to scrutiny.

There’s some overlap with what I wanted to be when I was younger. I like being where the action is so to speak, at the coalface and front of house. It’s great to work for an organisation that’s leading the way in their field and that’s at the cutting edge. What’s also great is seeing the output of your team’s work and seeing the wider world’s reaction to it.

13. What do you wish more people knew about you? What’s something most people don’t know about coaching/speaking that you wish they did?

A cracker of a question. There’s plenty of things to me that I only share when asked. I’m not the greatest at walking into a room and saying I’m this, I’m that. Something I’ve learnt, and something you’re doing very effectively here Ashlee is to ask specific questions. High quality questions that you’ve thought about will prompt better answers. You’ll be surprised what people will come out with if you merely work a bit with them and give them opportunities to answer something. Silence is often met with silence.

Like two actors on stage there’s a shared responsibility there to get the best out of each other. Interviewing isn’t easy by any means but a little curiosity can go a long way to finding out what you share in common and what makes someone tick.

High quality questions that you’ve thought about will prompt better answers. You’ll be surprised what people will come out with if you merely work a bit with them and give them opportunities to answer something. Silence is often met with silence. Like two actors on stage there’s a shared responsibility there to get the best out of each other. Interviewing isn’t easy by any means but a little curiosity can go a long way to finding out what you share in common and what makes someone tick.

So I guess my wish is simply to be asked good questions, then people can find out all kinds of things!

My mind also goes blank often when I’m asked what I’ve been up to at the weekend for example. 10 minutes after the question I’m still remembering things to say. And I still feel like I’m boring people no matter how busy mine has been!

14. What’s one of the best places you’ve got to speak at? What did that feel like? Did you have a sense of “making it” or getting to the next level when you did?

The best place I’ve spoken at is my old Sixth Form College. My Politics tutor gave me an entire lesson of his to come in and speak and answer a few questions from his AS Level class. This was a fantastic experience, I was very proud to have done it and I hope to have the opportunity to do it again. The questions I received in the Q&A were also very engaging, intelligent and challenging for me to answer. I felt around 10 feet high as I walked out of there and for hours and hours afterwards.

I certainly felt it was a significant step for me and I learnt much also about how to prepare for, and deliver talks in these kinds of settings. You can always improve and make adjustments no matter how experienced or great you think you are (I don’t think I am!).

Another time I was asked to deliver a workshop for over 30 young political leaders around the world. They were very enthusiastic and a great group to work with. I also felt my ego swell when the group of delegates from Ecuador asked me to come over and deliver another session for them!

15. What have you found to be the best way to market your work & get the right people to see it?

I think the person behind the brand should embody what they are selling. The same way a headteacher or chief executive makes themselves very visible around their workplaces and engages with people. You should see yourself as an ambassador for your work or organisation.

I think the person behind the brand should embody what they are selling. The same way a headteacher or chief executive makes themselves very visible around their workplaces and engages with people. You should see yourself as an ambassador for your work or organisation.

I don’t think I’ve discovered the best way to market yet but Facebook adverts are something I’m experimenting with. I guess I’m old fashioned in that I believe word of mouth recommendations and testimonials are quite powerful.

Someone I met in my acting class recommended that I go along and try DJing for a hospital radio station. He was so passionate and eloquent in his explanation of it that I was completely ‘sold’ on this idea, and have been volunteering at the same hospital for 18 months now.

16. What’s one of your favorite memories of something that happened to you after or because you became a coach & speaker?

So many great memories from this. I thoroughly enjoyed preparing to give filmed short speeches on a few topics – one about the power of the mind, another about self-image and confidence and a very early one where I had to answer the question: “If you knew you could not fail at something, what would you do?”

As I’ve mentioned before I believe in asking the ‘right’ questions and this is a magnificent question to ask yourself and reflect on the answer. I took my time to come up with the answer, and asked myself again when I doubted if it was simply an answer that others might want to hear. But my instinct was right, my answer to the question in my speech was to improve the education system in the UK. How and why I’d do this are questions for another day but this prompted me to go and work for a charity which advises teachers and parents interested in setting up ‘free school’ academies in England.

17. What helps you manage your occasional bouts of depression? Do you have a specific set of things you do when you start feeling depressed, or is there another way you work through it?

My instinct is always to withdraw myself but perhaps this isn’t advisable in all circumstances.

Having direction, and feeling productive and living truthfully are what I’m striving for. Sometimes the depression descends when I stray from any of these. Frankly the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve walked along this path the more sensitive, or intolerant, I’ve become of anything that doesn’t align with these things.

That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes, or say or do daft things still, or handle something not as well as I should have. But I think I have a system for getting clarity, getting things done and reaching people. And when this system malfunctions the red lights on the dashboard flash very brightly indeed!

I’ve been doing some reading about the causes of depression and anxiety. For many years it was believed depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Academics are re-examining this and are starting to believe that depression is caused from not having certain basic psychological needs met. We all want to feel valued, like we’re good at something, that our lives have meaning and purpose, that we’re making a difference, that we have a bright future. Our culture doesn’t meet these needs for so many people. The deep disconnect from these needs is driving the increase in depression and anxiety.

I’ve been doing some reading about the causes of depression and anxiety. For many years it was believed depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Academics are re-examining this and are starting to believe that depression is caused from not having certain basic psychological needs met. We all want to feel valued, like we’re good at something, that our lives have meaning and purpose, that we’re making a difference, that we have a bright future. Our culture doesn’t meet these needs for so many people. The deep disconnect from these needs is driving the increase in depression and anxiety.

I think I’ve improved in talking to people when I’m anxious, and not just about anxiety but just talking to people generally. It’s easy to become isolated and think you aren’t close enough to anyone to talk to them.

Exercise for me is a very effective tool and I get very lethargic and restless when I don’t exercise for several days.

I’m better at staying away from depression, than I am from pulling myself out of it when it descends on me. I meditate daily, have cold showers, listen to positive content, avoid negativity in the news where possible. For Lent I’m giving up caffeine and I also frequently abstain from alcohol for months at a time. Indeed I fantasise often about becoming teetotal.

Longer term, having things to look forward to is important. For example, I hope to travel to Africa again this summer after spending 11 days in Rwanda last year.

18. Looking back at your path & how you got where you are now, what’s one of the things you are most grateful for?

I’m not grateful enough to my parents for supporting me through a lot, including some leftfield career choices and gambles I’ve made in my professional life.

In their own way they give me the space and support that has helped me along the way. Without embarking on a life story, both of them grew up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This was a very divisive and acrimonious period, and while its frequently an elephant in the room in some sensitive situations they’re very stoic about it all [see boxing article].

I’m unfair to members of my family sometimes and I give them a hard time. By and large, for a very big extended family on both sides, my family are pretty solid. My relatives in Ireland also are very generous, reliable and straight up people who always make me feel very welcome when I go over.

“Learn how to be an effective communicator, because once you open your mouth, you tell the world who you are.” This is a quote from motivational speaker Les Brown, who is perhaps the best known speaker in his field. I like to introduce some of my seminars with this quote and I always repeat it a second time because its so profound. I remember listening to his speeches on an almost daily basis last year. Even at work I would have him plugged in. I’m really struck by how effective he is, how he uses stories and anecdotes to get his points across and rousing the audience from start to finish. The quote resonates with me because years ago I reached a point where I said to myself there was no point being around here, no point in getting out of bed in the morning and leaving the house if I didn’t feel like I could communicate with people. I asked myself what is the point in being here, in being alive if I couldn’t open my mouth and simply talk to people without it feeling like such an effort and strain? From that moment I slowly but surely started to force myself to improve it. I mentioned earlier how I forced myself to go to public speaking and acting classes and its fitting perhaps that I’m typing this sentence early on a Saturday morning where I have a day of acting classes and public speaking sessions ahead of me!

19. What’s one of your favorite quotes, & how has this quote helped or inspired you?

“Learn how to be an effective communicator, because once you open your mouth, you tell the world who you are.”

This is a quote from motivational speaker Les Brown, who is perhaps the best known speaker in his field. I like to introduce some of my seminars with this quote and I always repeat it a second time because its so profound.

I remember listening to his speeches on an almost daily basis last year. Even at work I would have him plugged in. I’m really struck by how effective he is, how he uses stories and anecdotes to get his points across and rousing the audience from start to finish.

The quote resonates with me because years ago I reached a point where I said to myself there was no point being around here, no point in getting out of bed in the morning and leaving the house if I didn’t feel like I could communicate with people. I asked myself what is the point in being here, in being alive if I couldn’t open my mouth and simply talk to people without it feeling like such an effort and strain? From that moment I slowly but surely started to force myself to improve it. I mentioned earlier how I forced myself to go to public speaking and acting classes and its fitting perhaps that I’m typing this sentence early on a Saturday morning where I have a day of acting classes and public speaking sessions ahead of me!

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