Your secret life

Last night, I watched a pretty great film called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The lead actor and director is Ben Stiller. I’m normally not a fan of his movies, but this one blew my socks off!

The premise of the movie is about Walter: steady, average, boring Walter who manages the negatives (photography negatives) at the Life Magazine company. He’s been at the job for 16 years and he’s exceptionally good at it (in the most mundane, steady way).

And yet…

There’s a side to Walter that only he knows about. He has a secret superpower – his imagination!

His family knows he “checks out.” His coworkers ask, “Where did you just go?” when he zones out into his imagination. He is teased by coworkers and bosses because of it.

A few events in the movie lead Walter to a message: “Look inside.”

He sees this as his opportunity to bust out of his “average, steady, mundane” life and go searching for the extraordinary.

The movie is a glorious example of what happens when people embrace their secret superpowers and put them into action!

In one scene, someone who only knows Walter through a series of telephone customer service conversations meets Walter in person after his adventures. This guy shares a Cinnabon with Walter at the airport and says, “I pictured you as this little gray piece of paper, but now I see you and it’s like Indiana Jones decided to become the lead singer of The Strokes or something.”

BAM! How’s that for a dramatic change?

So that leads me to wonder, gentle reader, do YOU have a secret superpower you’re not fully using? Where are you living life as a little gray piece of paper rather than as proud, out loud, and with adventure?

The gray piece of paper life looks like this:

  • Working: 9 -5 (or 24/7/365)
  • Last vacation: YEARS ago!
  • Routine: pretty much the same every day
  • Energy level: somewhere around your socks
  • Enthusiasm: see above
  • Learning: stagnant
  • Reading: who has time for that?
  • Coping mechanisms: alcohol, chocolate, food (not necessarily in that order)
  • Laughter: quietly contained or non-existent
  • Hugging trees, singing to flowers: are you freaking kidding me?
  • TV: on, all the time

I have to stop making this list because my vision is going all grey.

I implore you: choose a new color, a new attitude, a new lease on life! Release your secret superpower! Fly your freak flag! Get excited!!!!!

Right now, this very minute, write down the thing you daydream about. The thing you doodle in the margins during meetings. The thing you google just to feel a connection.

Whatever it is, write it down. Yes, right now.

Next, write down the very first thing that comes to mind about how you can be, do, or have that thing.

No censoring. Just write it down.Yes, right now.

Finally – go and do it. I’m serious. Quit being a little grey piece of paper and go live your one glorious, amazing, colorful life! Do the thing you’re meant to do! Today, now, right this minute.

Make Some Room,


P.S. If you want to share it with me, I’d love to read it!

Working hard vs. hardly working

In the last couple weeks, I’ve talked to a number of people about working hard vs. hardly working.  Mostly it’s been men (probably because men make up about 75 percent of my client list). We’ve been talking about their dads and how they learned hard work was good work, respectable work, the “right” kind of work.”

And while that advice isn’t bad or wrong, I think we’ve taken it to an unhealthy extreme in our modern world.

On my reading list is Arianna Huffington’s new book Thrive. I’ve read a number of blog posts about it and one quote keeps popping up:

“There is a stubborn and dangerously wrongheaded myth that there is a trade-off between high performance at work and taking care of ourselves.”

Here’s the thing: after working with hundreds of business owners over the last 11+ years, I wholeheartedly agree with her.

It’s why I’m so passionate about what I’m creating with my Make Some Room Rendezvous, Retreat, and Revolution.

I still believe that hard work is good work. I also believe that making time to rest and recharge, that taking care of ourselves, is vitally important for each and every one of us.

And why I believe that making time to take care of ourselves doesn’t have to negatively affect our performance at work. In fact, taking care of ourselves supports our high performance at work!

See, 100 years ago, we were more in touch with nature and her rhythms. We got up with the sun and “hit the hay” early. With minimal artificial lighting, it was hard to do much “productive” work after the sun went down.

And 100 years ago, we didn’t have artificially controlled environments. Without A/C and central heat, life was…ummmm…less comfortable.

Our modern conveniences have us locked into houses, cars, and work spaces buildings which are comfortable 24/7. Our lights works 24/7. And sometimes, this encourages us to stay connected and work 24/7.

Let me be clear: I do not want to get rid of central heat/air or electricity. Or my car (although I would consider trading it for an electric bike) or my stove or my indoor plumbing. I LOVE THEM. (Although you know me and sometimes I’m very content living without them.)

What I do want to do is help you restore some balance to your work/life.

I do want you to #UNPLUG and reclaim your nights and weekends for play, rest and relationships. I do want you to make some room in your schedule to be creative and use your imagination. I do want you to work sane hours on the right work that makes you feel ALIVE.

Not working is not the opposite of hard work. There is a balance to be found.

If you’re not sure where to begin, I can help.

Make Some Room,


The “Meez” (or why the first 10 minutes matter)

I recently learned there’s something about why the first 10 minutes matter in commercial kitchens. I’d never heard of this, yet read the most renowned chefs do it and are almost fanatical about the ritual.

And I find it fascinating because I do it, too.

What is it?


Mise-en-place is translated as “everything in its place.”

The “Meez” is what the professionals call it. It’s much more than a routine. In fact, it’s a near fanatical devotion to creating the right state of mind in a kitchen before beginning any activity.

During the “Meez” professional chefs and their staff stop. They make room to study their menu, pick the right tools and equipment, and make sure they have the proper ingredients.

Why the first 10 minutes matter

It’s important because this is the planning stage. The mental prepping stage. Even the physical prepping stage.

It’s preparing before beginning.

I loved this idea after reading about it in a Harvard Business Review post. It resonated so much with me because I have naturally done this for my whole entire professional career and it’s what I teach my clients.

When I was a vet tech, we always stopped to review appointments and the surgery schedule for the day. Did we have the right equipment? Enough people? How about meds? And what about cage/recovery space?

As an administrative assistant, I always stopped to review my day and make sure I was prepared for meetings. My goal was to anticipate what my boss might need.

Now as a business owner, I review my week first thing Monday morning and review my day’s events as my first morning activity.

This practice gets me into the right frame of mind for my clients. It keeps me focused on my priorities. I begin my day in response mode rather than reacting to whatever comes at me via email or voicemail or person.

I have what I need. It’s organized. I’m in control of my time. I’m ready to begin.

Calm rather than chaos

You, too, could benefit from mise-en-place. It’s a routine that could permeate every area of business and life:

  • 15 minutes of meditation might revolutionize your daily outlook
  • 0 minutes of checking email and voicemail for your first hour of work allows you time to knock out those #1 priorities
  • 10 minutes to review your schedule and prioritize your To Do list helps you focus
  • 5 minutes of prep time before your calls and meetings allows allows you to review notes, discussion points, etc., plus you can take one minute to check in and create the positive mental state you want to bring into the interaction
  • 5 minutes at the end of each time block, task, or project allows you to finish what you start – put away papers, materials, and files; tidy your work space; prepare to “change gears” and begin the next time block, task, or project
  • 10 minutes at the end of your day to mise-en-place means you leave your work area tidy and ready to begin again fresh tomorrow

If you could create a mise-en-place routine, how would that change your productivity, your efficiency, your effectiveness, and even your attitude?


Angie Mattson Stegall

P.S. I’ve created a short summer series to help you create your own mise-en-place routines in business and personally. Learn more here: Registration ends July 3, 2014. The course begins on Monday, July 7, 2014.

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