A-B-C Easy As 1-2-3

I am definitely not Coronavirus-ing today. Instead, let’s do Chapter 8 Pivot Your Activity. Drop some knowledge, Alyssa and Freddie!

There are 3 kinds of activity that make your plans come to life. C activity, B activity and A activity.

C activity is research. Immersing yourself and learning as much as you can. Freddie uses baseball to illustrate: learning the rules, reading books, studying statistics, watching baseball on TV.

B activity is preparation. Buying a glove and bat, getting a group together to play at a park on the weekend.

A activity is action. Showing up at the park and playing baseball.

Freddie’s point is you can research and prepare ’til the cows come home, but you won’t know how to play baseball until you play baseball. His illustrates this further with his web series Addicts Anonymous.

He and his friends wrote the scripts, raised money, hired actors, got cameras, sweet-talked their way onto a college campus to film it and just did it, learning about marketing, fundraising, acting and directing along the way. Sure, they could have helped themselves a bit if they’d researched and prepared for some things in advance but the point is, the best teacher is experience.

My parents used to make elaborate plans to renovate our house. They would draw floor plans, argue over sofa styles, and have serious discussions about whether or not to add a bay window to the south side of the house. They made these sort of plans through their entire marriage. Once in high school I went to a friend’s house and was astounded to find his mother peeling wallpaper off the walls of their dining room. Mrs. Hymowitz was sick of it and was changing it. Right then and there. I was stunned. People actually made changes to their houses without months or years of design plans?

Mrs. H was all about A activity. Renovation plans were basically foreplay for my parents.

So, it’s no surprise that I hang out a lot in B and C activity. Especially when it comes to writing. I make schedules, I google stuff, I spend time following writers on twitter (#writingcommunity), I strategize how to query an agent… all before I have any completed writing to share, much less sell. For me, B and C activity help mask fear, which must be pivoted from!

So how do you get yourself to do A activity? Researching how won’t help – hey, that’s B activity (or maybe C activity?) Whatever, it’s not A activity!

Do your thing. Write a page. Submit your resume. Pick up the guitar. Run the Couch-to-5K app.

The only way to do A activity is to do it.

Millennials Will Kill Us All

I can’t deny it. Pivoting my mindset to live like a millennial has really turned my life around. Since November 16, 2019, I’ve lost over 20 pounds, upgraded my employment, seriously improved my social media, and faced some of my worst bullsh*t.

But, I am starting to question this decision. Because even though my millennial gurus are self-quarantining in LA (omg they are so cute, check out their podcast), the rest of you millennials are freaking selfish, or crazy, or oblivious! Look at you with no sh*ts to give about spreading the coronavirus:

Um, you’re like, not practicing social distancing?

Dr. Deborah Brix continues to appeal to the millennial ego. “I’m going to call on that group…we need them to be healthy,” she coyly told America during today’s Presidential coronavirus press conference, “We cannot have these large gatherings that continue to occur throughout the country for people who are off work to then be socializing in large groups and spreading the virus.”

Get it together, millennials! Even Hilary Duff is yelling at you!

Pivoting from Excuses

Chapter 2 is incredibly personal.

Most DAYS fans know about Alyssa’s and Freddie’s car accident in October 2014. Freddie takes us through the accident and the aftermath, and Alyssa shares the mental and emotional steps she took to heal her whole self while in recovery.

I swear, these two. How they saved themselves and each other is truly awe inspiring. The car accident wasn’t their only tragedy, either. When they were down, life kicked them in the collective nuts a few more times. (I won’t get into detail here because seriously, you should listen to this chapter right now.) They faced all of it with the mutual decision to learn from the events and to not make excuses when life was sh*tty. They each could have crumbled under the weight of these incidents, but they showed up to life every day with a positive attitude. They pushed themselves and pulled each other along.

I now understand why these two millennials are wise beyond their years. I’m so grateful I found their audiobook. Who would have ever thought that indulging in a sudsy soap opera when I was so sad would lead to so much positive change in my life. I hope I can thank them someday.

At the end, they present questions to help you pivot from your most-used excuses. I was like, I don’t make excuses. I have real-life reasons why I don’t write or exercise, which you celebrities don’t understand! I don’t get up early to work out because I need to sleep. I have a demanding job. Sometimes I’m up too late the night before – it’s my only time to catch up on my binge shows, or I get sucked into social media. I could hit the gym after work, except I’m usually too tired, or we have plans. I don’t write in the mornings because that’s my time to work out. My brain is too fried at night to be creative.

Oh my god, do you see this? I’m not only full of excuses, they are LAME.

What do these excuses actually do for me? They must serve some purpose because I make them all the time.

I think excuses help me placate my ego. If I have an excuse for not trying, I’m not exactly failing because I plan to try. Excuses enable me to fantasize that I’ll succeed without putting in any of the work. I keep my hopes and dreams alive because of the illusion that I’m working on it.

Oh, man. I am my own worst enemy. I’ve got to break this self-sabotaging behavior.

“Don’t wait until tomorrow,” Freddie says. “Please don’t give us that excuse.”

Pivoting from Fear

January 16, 2020. It took me exactly two months to get back to The Pivot Principle.  I’d been on a serious roll just from the Intro and Chapter 10, and I was eager to see what else Freddie and Alyssa had to teach me. I dove right in to Chapter 1: Pivot from Fear.

There is a lot of valuable material in this chapter. You should listen for yourself. Here are the top things that spoke to me:

Freddie: I’ve been on 500 auditions. I was told “no“ for 485 of them. The other 15 made my career. That’s a 97% rejection rate. 97%!!

Freddie: Ask yourself, “Why do I care if someone rejects me?” I’ve never asked myself why I care about rejection, especially from strangers. In my late 20s, I quit my entire life to break into television and it was a disaster. I was rejected from loads of jobs, and when I finally got a job, I was told “no” every single day in one way or another. It was a demoralizing experience but it didn’t break me. It’s like I worked my rejection muscle really hard during that time, but now it’s soft as I’ve become comfortable.

Freddie: Rejection is inevitable so you may as well go for it. If you don’t try, you definitely fail. If I could withstand a 97% rejection rate like Freddie, then I go into it knowing that most strangers won’t like my writing. OMG! I get it: It’s not personalThat’s how Freddie lets the rejections roll off! That’s how he stays true to himself! MIND BLOWN.

Alyssa: To reach new heights, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m more comfortable eating whatever I want and complaining about my weight than denying myself junk food. I’m more comfortable living a life where writing comes last than I am with doing whatever it takes to write every day. Change takes effort. I’m not making any effort. I’m very much into instant gratification. I’m not stuck. I’m…lazy. I’m very uncomfortable learning this about myself. Darn you, Alyssa.

Alyssa: There is no perfect moment. “Being ready” is an excuse. Seriously, how is she this wise at 30?

Alyssa: How are you going to put yourself out there and work on your fear and rejection muscles? I don’t know. What do unpublished writers do to put themselves out there? It’s got to be more than send query letters to agents. Looks like I just gave myself a research project.

10 Years Younger

Following the examples of millennials is working. My millennial advisors are celebrities who, obviously, don’t know me (which is a shame, because I’m a delight!)

Seriously, I need real-life millennials to advise me and who actually give a sh*t about me. Most of the people in my life are Gen-Xers or baby boomers with a few Gen-Zs sprinkled in (my nephews, for instance.) I’m not asking my teenage nephews for advice.

When my awesome hair stylist quit her Brooklyn Heights salon in a blaze of fire and glory (let’s just say the salon deserved it), she also took a break from styling to try flower arranging. (Because why not.) I posted a plea on facebook for stylists and got plenty of suggestions. I gave Brendon’s stylist Lucy a call because he is a millennial I actually know and that is now the rule of the game. Lucy is as great as Brendon said she is, and I’m so glad I went with his suggestion.

When I wanted a peppy playlist to get me to move like I’m 10 years younger, I stayed with the 80s-90s music I knew. Music discovery now is so alien to me. I’m definitely stuck in my Generation-X ways, which are long gone: alternative music or college radio. I don’t fully understand Spotify or Amazon Music or other streaming services that expose you to artists song by song based on an algorithm. As a subway commuter, streaming services aren’t appealing because of signal loss in the tunnels. So, I did the only thing I could think of: I got a bunch of those “Now That’s What I Call Music” albums and added them to my phone. The best thing that came out of this was discovering Lizzo. I’ve completely fallen in love with Lizzo. ALL HAIL QUEEN LIZZO. (Childish Gambino too, but I’ve been a fan of Donald Glover since his Community days.) I prefer music a little less produced. I need to talk to millennials to find out who and what they listen to. This will take more research.

Change up my look. As much as I’m thinking, moving, acting like a millennial, I have Generation X skin. I haven’t tailored my skin care routine in a few years, and I suppose I should upgrade my makeup to be “selfie ready.”

I notice that millennials (and Generation Z) apply makeup on the heavy side. That is, you can tell right away they’re wearing it, especially with the contour trend. While makeup in the 80s was also obvious, some of us preferred a more subtle, natural look, like the hippies (a/k/a the baby boomers). It’s taken some adjusting on my part to get used to makeup being for selfies rather than everyday lifes. I seek a happy medium: heavier than I normally wear (because as I’ve aged I need the coverage) but not so heavy it’s mask-like.

  1. Get guidance. I went to MAC. The millennial who helped me was a dream. I’ve always known I was olive toned, but found out I’m actually olive with golden undertones. I also found out that even though I’ve tended towards oily skin most of my life (acne, large pores…yeah, the teen years were loads of fun), I’m now a bit drier and need to moisturize differently. I’m now the proud wearer of MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation and MAC Studio Fox 24-Hour Smooth Wear Liquid Concealer (for the dark circles under my eyes I’ve been blessed with since birth). I have to admit, my skin looks fantastic in photos! I do have to blot throughout the day, though.
  2. Up your skin cream. I wish I were shilling for this brand, but I’m not shilling for anyone. Maybe one day. This is just honestly the greatest skin cream for fine lines I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried a ton: Bye Bye Lines Anti-Aging Serum by It Cosmetics. This is the sh*t. It’s expensive but you only need a teeny bit, like half of a pea-size dot. It plumps my under eye area so well I can only use it once or twice a week, otherwise I look like I have allergies. And it’s great for plumping lips, which millennials are obsessed with.

Thinking, feeling, moving, acting 10 years younger… sounds great to me.

What else can millennials inspire me to do?

Pivot Like an Irishman

Ask a Millennial: what else can I do for fitness?

If you’ve seen The Irishman, you were probably impressed with the CGI that makes Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci look younger throughout the movie. In the accompanying The Irishman In Conversation, director Martin Scorsese discusses how CGI was viewed as makeup to help create the age illusions, but that portraying the characters at different ages took much more than CGI. “Your whole body has to act,” Scorsese says. They had to stand straighter, talk a little higher, take the stairs with a spry step as their younger versions. “You can’t fix your acting in post,” Pesci says.

I definitely move like a heavy, middle aged woman. I walk, but I don’t walk fast. I take the stairs carefully for fear of falling, or I take an elevator or escalator. This feeds my perception that I’m old, past hope. Stuck.

Pivot! Think like a millennial. 10 years younger puts me in my 30s. If I’m thinking like a millennial, I’m acting like a millennial. Which means I’ve got to move like a millennial.

Goal: Pep in my step!

  1. Upbeat songs. I live in NYC and walk everywhere. Not knowing what millennials listen to (future post!) I made a peppy pop Gen-X friendly 80s/90s playlist. I defy anyone to not love Janet Jackson’s Alright. As a former marching band member, I’m programmed to step in time to any music I’m listening to, so the more upbeat the music, the faster I walk, the more I swing my arms, and – side benefit – the more I smile.
  2. Spry stair steps. My subway station is the 4th deepest in NYC, 100 feet below street level. (There’s a duplicate set of stairs and escalators at the top of the photo below.) Obviously, I normally take the escalators both ways. But now, Ms. Jackson-if-you’re-nasty and I take the 8 flights of the regular stairs down and I walk up both sets of escalators. I’m huffing quite a bit at the top, but it’s what a fit millennial would do.

These small changes have really helped. I have more energy! I feel younger, especially bouncing down those stairs. If I’m thinking and moving 10 years younger, can I look 10 years younger?

Welcome to 100 feet below Roosevelt Island! There’s another set of stairs and escalators at the top of the photo.

Snap! and PIVOT

Ask a Millennial: what should I do for fitness?

My millennial gurus, Alyssa and Freddie, count steps. I live in NYC and don’t own a car. I walk all the time. I hit 10K steps a day easily. My body is used to it. I’d have to increase my daily steps by at least 5K if I wanted to see any change, but I’m so bored with step-counting. I’ve also joined gyms (so sick of the elliptical) tap dancing (fun but not good cardio), couch to 5K apps (working out alone is a drag!), pilates (not my thing), on and on. I’m STUCK! I need something new.

To mix things up, I turned to another millennial for inspiration: Chandler Massey, a/k/a Will, the other half of the fabulous (sadly, now-defunct) Will and Sonny supercouple on DAYS. He recently posted on Instagram:

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LONG POST WARNING My weight has been an obstacle for 3 years. The left picture is me in 2016, 191 lbs & 30% body fat. I had been off Days for 2 years, and had utterly let myself go. I rationalized my lifestyle by telling myself that once I started working again, I could easily shed the weight & be “camera ready”. The next year, I got the chance to prove myself right. Will Horton was back baby, and he was going to be lean, mean, & better than ever. But there was a problem. The fat that I had assumed was going to melt off my body like butter on a hot pancake refused to leave. I tried everything to get my fat cells to f*** off. Fasting, paleo, whole30, cico, keto, juicing, low carb, no carb. I tried to appeal to my vanity, pride, anger, shame. None of it worked. If you watch Days I’m sure you noticed I looked different the 2nd time around. There was a reason they gave @mrchristophersean the shirtless scenes while I chilled in plaid flannels. Some nights after crushing a box of lucky charms I told myself that this was just the journey of getting older. I was never going to be fit again, so why continue this pattern starving & binging, of quietly throwing up in the kitchen sink after my roommates fell asleep & trying to slap some willpower into me. I gave up 100 times during those 3 years. I tried again 101 times. I can’t point to a specific moment that was a turning point. Rather I believe it was the gradual process of learning from each failure. Instead of clinging to a fad diet I began to critically examine my relationship to food. I realized that my crappy eating habits were tied to negative emotional states. When I learned to recognize & deal with those emotions, I saw food for what it really is: a tool, not a bandaid. This was not a smooth journey. Just last Sunday I ate a family size pack of Oreos bc I was upset about GoT. But after each step backward I manage to forgive myself and take 2 steps forward. The picture on the right is me yesterday. I now weigh 160 lbs & have 12% body fat, reaching a goal that I wrote on my bathroom mirror 3 years ago. I’m not ashamed of the person on the left anymore, but damn am I proud of the man on the right.

A post shared by Chandler Massey (@therealcmassey) on

Isn’t he a sweet pea? Baby bunnies fall out of his pockets all the time too. I swear, it’s true!

Chandler does CrossFit. Great! CrossFit it is.

I booked a Fundamentals class at CrossFit NYC on New Year’s Eve Day. I’d heard that CrossFitters can be on the cult-y side. Maybe it’ll be the cult for me!

There was only one other person in the class, and the trainer was super nice. He showed us the proper forms for squats and jerks and lifts. Then we moved on to the Push Jerk.

Trainer: You’re hinging your hips. That’ll make your arms swing out. You don’t want to do that. (Stands 4 inches away from me.) Try again.
Me: I might hit you.
Trainer: No you won’t. You’ll do the jerk properly, right through the space between us. Try again.
Me: I might hit me. (steps back)
Trainer: (steps towards me) Try again, you got this.
Me: (steps back again) You don’t understand. I just visualized popping myself in the chin.
Other Newbie: You visualize, you materialize. (also steps back)
Trainer: …

To his credit, he was creative: he got a PVC pipe and held it in front of me instead. To my credit, I didn’t hit it or me.

Overall, it was a good experience. The positives were attentive trainers who listened and adjusted to help me, and the space was really cool. The negatives were a lack of showers and class times that didn’t quite fit my schedule. I wasn’t totally sold on CrossFit yet.

A couple of Gen-X friends raved about OrangeTheory Fitness so I signed up for a January 2 class near my new office. It was called Run n’ Row (I think) and we spent 30 minutes either frantically running on treadmills or rowing on rowers. I wasted a lot of time trying to not kill myself starting and stopping the treadmill. The next 30 minutes were strength training, but using small weights and doing variations of planks. The music was fun and the coach was enthusiastic, which was contagious.

There have been many articles about CrossFit vs. OrangeTheory. Basically, if you want cardio, go with Orange. If you want mostly strength training, go with CrossFit. Orange classes are the same across all locations. CrossFit gyms tend to have their own personalities. Both gyms gave me pause because of my clumsiness.

I’m not clumsy in a cute rom-com-protagonist way. I’m bloody-nose, break-a-toe, shatter-a-jar-of-mayonnaise-on-the-kitchen-floor clumsy. I wasn’t comfortable with the Push Jerk, and I felt spastic bouncing between the treadmill and the rower. Both gyms had great trainers willing to help. CrossFit had a bro feel, and OrangeTheory had a cheerleader vibe. I could see myself making it work at either gym… but I didn’t want to “make it work.”

I wanted to join a place that I actually wanted to go to! Where I felt like I was with my people. Where it would be okay if I was a spaz while giving it my all.

I looked for a unicorn.

Five weeks later…

My unicorn, Mark Fisher Fitness! (photos courtesy of Mark Fisher Fitness)

They’re “CrossFit-adjacent.” (Thanks again, Chandler!) Their staff and clientele are mostly working actors, which are TOTALLY my people. As soon as I walked in, I felt at home. And not just for the cool Hey Janet welcome sign! Their silliness is the right vibe for me. Their dedication to fitness is what I’m looking for. And I haven’t laughed that much with a stranger-turned-friend in a long time. This was the cult for me!

I not only signed up for a year’s membership, I joined their bootcamp Snatched In Six Weeks, starting this March. Stay tuned.

Fitness goal: in motion!

And that is how ya PIVOT!

NBC, Saturday Night Live, 2016

The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.” Over and over it ran through my mind. My heart raced constantly. I couldn’t sleep. I was hot all the time. Food tasted awful. The power of Alyssa’s words took me over. I was like a frayed wire.

I lost 14 pounds in 12 days. My plus-sized body was Pivoting all on its own.

Well, I wasn’t going to avoid any more work. I wanted magic! I looked over the lists of goals I’d written and decided to tackle the new job goal first. This was the one goal I could wrap my brain around while my body freaked out.

I’d been job-hunting all year, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was unfocused, haphazard. I’d send my resume to companies that looked cool or posted a too-good-to-be-true job listing and never heard back.

I’m a dutiful student. I took Freddie’s advice to heart and wrote a detailed list of what I wanted.

Goal: New Job

  1. Must have a mission statement I can get behind. After years of working for law firms, I’d finally gotten my first in-house paralegal job with a non-profit news organization. What a change! I was so proud to work for a company whose mission is to inform the world, rather than to bill the client as much as possible. Wherever I went next, it had to be about more than making money. It had to be for a profit company that wanted to make a difference.
  2. Better salary. Non-profits do amazing work, but they usually don’t pay well. I loved where I worked, but I was severely underpaid. I live in NYC – I needed more money.
  3. Good fit with the new team. Personality mesh is an important part of the job process. Who you work with can make or break a place. I reminded myself that I’m interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing me. I’d know if we “clicked” and if we didn’t, I’d keep looking.

Once I was clear about what I wanted, I applied much more strategically than before. I researched the companies’ business filings. I checked sites like Glassdoor for employee POVs. Several applications and a few interviews later, this approach paid off. In December, I accepted an offer that hit every one of my requirements: A for-profit company whose focus is health. A salary that reflected my skills and experience. A team made me feel welcome and valued. I would start my new job at the beginning of 2020.

New job goal: check.

Holy sh#t. It worked.

What can I Pivot to next?

The Pivot Principle

November 16, 2019: I was two weeks into my new obsession with the Days of our Lives time jump story. It was soapy, sudsy awesomeness: Why is Sonny so sad? Why is Justin kissing Kayla? How did Adrienne die? Why is JJ on drugs? His girlfriend died?! WTF is Xander about? WHY IS WILL IN JAIL. WHY IS HE CELL MATES WITH THE GUY WHO MURDERED HIM A FEW YEARS AGO. Where’d that baby come from? What happened to the other baby? Kristen’s a nun? Why is Ciara a super sleuth? He’s the father of the alive baby and doesn’t know it, but she knows? Gabi is CEO!

It was such a blast because it was the perfect distraction from the sadness, and the rest of my life.

Generation X is well settled in to its midlife crisis, and so was I. My job depressed me. I was overweight and eating terribly. Worst of all, my writing was beyond stagnant. I fancy myself a scifi/fantasy writer (time travel’s my thing) and I hadn’t written much beyond a few short story drafts in a couple of years. Crappy job, crappy health, no creativity, and incredibly stuck. I wanted to change but I’d get paralyzed and overwhelmed and do nothing. So I threw myself into DAYS! Way more fun than throwing myself into me.

Back to November 16, 2019: As I wrote in my last entry, I was scouring the internet for DAYS spoilers. I found myself on Freddie and Alyssa’s YouTube page and stumbled on their audiobook The Pivot Principle. I clicked on “Chapter 10; Pivot Your Health.”

Both Alyssa and Freddie narrate the chapter but Freddie’s part got me. He talks about his issues with weight with a frankness and vulnerability that is brave and heartfelt. His quest for balance after following several “meal lifestyles” (I love this term) really got to me. He suggests writing out your goals and a detailed description of the outcome you want. Get specific about how to achieve them, and figure out your “why”.

I’d written out goals, but I’d never really thought about the details to achieve them. My goals are more like, “lose 30 lbs” or “exercise”, but I didn’t ever write down “log food every day” or “30 minutes of cardio 4 times a week.” I made a mental note to try it sometime soon, and moved on to “Introduction.”

There are a handful of times in my life when I’ve had an A-ha moment. When I recognize a truth that I feel in my heart and soul, this wave of tingles sweeps over my whole body. It’s how I know I’ve learned something important and I’m permanently changed. This happened to me when I heard Alyssa say at 2:42, “The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.”

The truth of her words literally changed me, right in that moment. My heart dropped. The tingles spread all over me. I had to catch my breath! How could someone so young be so wise? Alyssa and Freddie had an understanding of our world that eluded me.

I was ready to learn.

I grabbed my journal and started writing out my goals, and all the steps to achieve them.

Not just health/weight goals, but my career and my creative writing, too. It took several pages. I felt amazing when I finished. What else could I learn from the millennials?

Well? How did I get here?

I’m stuck. Generation X is the Jan Brady of generations. The baby boomers won’t give up their power. The millennials are so angry they are leapfrogging over us to shove the boomers aside. Generation X brags about not dressing like adults and still having good taste in music. No wonder CBS left us off of that infographic.

Vintage Dr. Martens. Yep, they're mine.
Vintage Dr. Martens. Yep, they’re mine.

This is not for me. I can’t shrug my shoulders and “whatever” my life away.

If Generation X is, indeed, fading from the cultural landscape, we can either be absorbed into the baby boomers or jump in with the millennials. My parents are baby boomers, so the choice is clear.

Join me as I pivot my entire life to follow the millennials.