This quote is from The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph, by Ryan Holiday.

The author has just spent some time talking about how astronauts prepare for going into space. If an astronaut doesn’t have total control of his emotions, if he gets spooked and panics, if he is at a loss for what to do, he dies and takes everybody else down with him.

Jack, my 9-year-old, puts it best. “NASA spends a lot of time and money teaching people to calm the beep down.”

Holiday has said that astronauts have to keep their heart rates down or zillion dollar rockets fly headfirst into the sun. But the rest of us freak right out over anything and everything, large and small. Holiday calls this a luxury, an indulgence that astronauts don’t get.

“If an emotion can’t change the condition or the situation you’re dealing with, it is likely an unhelpful emotion, Or, quite possibly, a destructive one.


Right, no one ever said anything about not feeling it. No one said you can’t ever cry. Forget “manliness.” If you need to take a moment, by all means, go ahead. Real strength lies in the control or, as Nassim Taleb put it, the domestication of one’s emotions, not in pretending they don’t exist.

So go ahead, feel it. Just don’t lie to yourself by conflating emoting about a problem and dealing with it. Because they are as different as sleeping and waking.”

Places you can use this handy little tip:

  1. Oh my God, what if my sale doesn’t go well?!?!?!? I’m so scared!
  2. Oh my God, my partner doesn’t support my business!!! I’m so upset!
  3. Oh my God, what if I screw up my enrollment conversation?!?!?! I’m so nervous!
  4. Oh my God, my ad performed terribly!!! I’m so depressed!
  5. Oh my God, there’s so much to do!!! I’m so overwhelmed.

Scared. Upset. Nervous. Depressed. Overwhelmed.

Remember: “If an emotion can’t change the condition or the situation you’re dealing with, it is likely an unhelpful emotion, Or, quite possibly, a destructive one.”

What could we do instead? What could we do in spite of the emotion? How could we turn this situation into a positive?

Those are the questions you could ask.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Every now and again, a client will come to me with a question that is BIG. It’s complicated. It’s nuanced. It’s got a ton of moving pieces.

Often, this person might be in an industry I’m not familiar with. Or they have contracted me late in a process, and have multiple projects they’d have to catch me up on. Or there are too many options to count, let alone process and consider.

In these cases, giving me enough information to answer properly would take more time than we have. But I still have to get them on their way with a good solution.

In these cases, I cheat.

If I can’t answer the question, I don’t.

Here’s what I do instead. I turn the question back at them.

I say this:

“Let’s say you hired me to help me with this project and as far as you were concerned, nobody else could help. You couldn’t hire another consultant or coach or firm. They couldn’t help.

Then, tragically, I got struck by lightning. I’m dead now. Bye-bye Naomi, and bye-bye help on your project.

Now you HAVE to [complete the project, write the sales page, pull off the launch] and you have to do it without advice.

What would you do?”

Usually, the first answer is “cry” or “panic”, and those are perfectly rational responses. If you think somebody is going to help you and they inconveniently go dancing in a thunderstorm, panic makes a lot of sense. So, panic is your first step.

Now what are the rest of your steps?

I’m consistently amazed by the answers.

Here’s one I got yesterday. This client has been focused on service for the last several years and has created a small email list based on, basically, people who seem to really like her. She’s launching her first test product, and she’s not sure what to do next.

This is pulled directly from the email she sent. I haven’t changed a word.

  • Create a FB event
  • Create a sales page of some sort with a link to buy it.
  • Try to connect that to Aweber to see if it will email people when they sign up.
  • Send it out to my email lists
  • Send it out to individual folks I know and the folks that have said no to the big coaching program and need something smaller.
  • See if my friends will promote it.
  • Ask my affiliates if they will promote it (or people I’ve emailed for in the past.
  • See what happens
  • Push more if I need to.
  • Hopefully there are people signed up!

This is an absolutely PERFECT marketing plan.

There’s not a damn thing wrong with this.

When she sent it to me, I told her I wouldn’t change a thing.

This is what happens when people do this exercise. People who honestly believe they know NOTHING about marketing come up with something utterly flawless. It’s wild.

Here’s why I like this exercise:

If you’ve been in coaching circles for a while, you’re familiar with this scenario…

Client says, “I don’t know what to do!”

Coach says, “Well, what if you did know?”

It’s a cool question sometimes. It often leads to some nifty insights.

BUT! It can create the feeling or belief that there’s a “right answer”. It creates pressure. Of course they don’t know it! Does anybody know it? Holy pressure, Batman! The client’s brain stalls out, and we still don’t know what to do.

Reframe the question from “What if you did know?” to “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” and it can reveal some amazing stuff.

You’d be surprised by what you’ve got inside you.

Have a great weekend, darling.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

pencilsIn the 1998 Nora Ephron comedy You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are developing an internet romance and corresponding via email. As the season is starting to change, he writes:

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils…”

There’s something about the back to school season that puts a newness in the air. It feels different than the newness of January 1st. That has a sort of desperate determination to it. We place a silent “goddammit” after every decision for change.

The back to school season feels more like, “Yes. Yes, I can. And I will.” We buy our newly-sharpened pencils and we begin.

It comes back to the levels system in schools, I think. The knowledge that we’re getting ready for high school now, or we’re writing the 11-plus this year, or we get to finally take chemistry – each time it happens, we feel a little bit more grown up.

This feeling like a grown-up thing is nice work if you can get it.

We feel like this year, this external thing will make us finally feel confident, finally feel ready, finally feel like we’ve got our plans under control. Our impostor syndrome will finally subside, our personality flaws will start to diminish, and we’ll be able to do this thing.

Where I come from, we go back to school on the first Tuesday in September, the day after Labor Day. The Labor Day long weekend is a time to reflect on how much you love your family, how much you hate bugs, and how you really should have done your back to school shopping in July like you said you would.

If you’re in a country that celebrates Labor Day, I hope you have a wonderful long weekend. Sleep in if you can.

And regardless of where you come from, I have a little exercise for you for the weekend. We can do it together.

Your little exercise for the weekend:

We’re going to take advantage of all the fresh, back to school juice in the air.

Just like when you were in school, “this year” had a meaning, and you got to define it.

“This year” is the year you finally ask that girl out.

“This year” is the year you make the senior team.

“This year” is the year you do your calculus homework before you start drinking.

Think a little about what “this year” is for you. You can even write a list if you’re inclined. Are you going to make that product? Are you going to start your coaching? Are you going to stop your coaching? Are you going to brave Facebook advertising? Are you going to honestly sort out your mailing list, or your blog, or your website?

This is not a final exam. You don’t have to get it perfectly correct or write anything in stone. Just go with what feels good.

Got something?


Just like in high school, something (or several somethings) have stopped us from achieving the things we want to achieve.

In high school, we didn’t ask the girl out because maybe we hadn’t worked up the nerve. Maybe we hadn’t shifted our identity to “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”, or even “gay” or “straight”. Maybe we hadn’t made a rudimentary script to work from, so when the time came, we always defaulted to talking about TV and chemistry class.

In high school, we didn’t make the senior team because maybe we were too stubborn to take the coach’s feedback. Maybe we were pulling our punches. Maybe we were still afraid to go full out because we weren’t ready to commit to being a jock.

In high school, we drank instead of studied maybe because we thought it wasn’t worth trying. Maybe we had a learning disability and it felt too hard, and it was easier to be good at being cool than to be bad at being smart. Maybe we had a chip on our shoulder and didn’t want to put in the effort.

Whatever it was we wanted, there were reasons we hadn’t achieved it before.

The same is true now.

The benefit, hopefully, is that now we’re a little older, and perhaps a little more humble. Perhaps now we can learn from our past choices. Perhaps now the stakes are high enough that it’s worth saying, “This time, it’s up to me.”

So this weekend, let’s think about what we want for our particular version of “this year”. Let’s think about how we can make it happen. Let’s think about what’s stopped us in the past, and how we might be able to let those things go.

I’m in if you’re in.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.