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A Love Letter to The Amazing Andrew Sullivan

Celebrating Andrew Sullivan, blogger, disher

I have been reading you, Andrew, since 2004 – 4 years after you started blogging. You were more conservative back then, but always brilliant and weird. Those two qualities really drew me to you. I’ve been talking about you several places, but so much is coming up today that I am choosing a public homage – that also turns out to be a private wakeup call.

What you have done, is truly pioneer using the web your way. You turned off blog comments years ago because of the troll factor. But you actively encouraged reader feedback and each day, your posts include anonymous reader feedback. We the people could not use you as a platform to promote ourselves but we could engage with you, and therefore your readership, by adding value to the ideas and the energy. You left a salaried post and built-in exposure at more than one prominent publication, finally settling into your own home with no ads, supported by your fans.

You were openly gay before it was safe, before it was cool.

You published the first cover story on gay marriage, making the *conservative* case for it, back in 1989. Yes, fucking 1989. You are willing to show your true passion publicly, regardless of what others thought. You openly admit to changes of heart and opinion. You embrace your sexuality and do not hide it from your readers. How weird and wonderful to read 20 posts in a day that could range from NSFW shit to praising a pope – yes, one of the many puzzle pieces that “don’t fit” is the fact that you are a Catholic. I am a “recovering Catholic” – no desire for any religion these days much less one that played an important role in my own childhood pain.

I emailed you the day I learned you were quitting blogging, and told you, I get it. I wished you well. You owe me and everyone else nothing. And now a week later, the shock is wearing off and I am feeling extreme sadness for the loss of what you created. I have cried several times this week as I have visited your blog and once again experienced the beauty of contrast, the thrill of new voices, the videos you and your amazing staff find and share, the updates as things change inside a post, and most of all, your open-hearted, fiercely intelligent advocacy that is not done at the expense of anyone else – well, except maybe a little bit at the expense of Sarah Palin. But IMO, she asked for it, indeed perhaps thrives on it.

Somewhere in here I want to mention your love of dogs Andrew. Me too. It is one of those powerful and irrational connections I feel with you. Our dog died less than a year ago. Yours too. Thank you for not hiding the grieving. You moved the consciousness of understanding animals so far forward.

But there is also a virtual rubber band snapping at my wrist.

Why on earth shall I continue to let you be my proxy, for myself? Why pressure you to be the voice of diversity and weirdness and self-acceptance, when I can do a better part representing myself in that theater of absurd life as we know it today?

So today marks a turning point for me.


What would I do, if I weren’t so afraid? If I cared less about others’ opinions of me? If I didn’t have to know, with certainty, who I am before I acted on some little flicker of interest?

“What would so and so do” is a reference to the deep emotional story in Hawaii of legendary surfer and lifeguard Eddie Aikau, who drowned at sea during a massive storm seeking help for his canoe mates. (well, and of the What would Jesus do meme too.) What Would I Do is a shifting of responsibility from living life through other people’s eyes, regardless of how beloved or inspiring they are. Because for me, what is the use of inspiration if I don’t anchor it inside my own cells, my own bones, my own actions? For me, it just leads to more depression, more withheld everything, more stifling of my true nature. (More on that later, as one of the most confusing things for me has been how much I love Hawaii and so much of its ethos and yet also find myself unable to breathe at times because of the stagnation of group mind and stuck-ness in the past.)

This is my view from My Transition in Consciousness. I own several blogs. I decided to put this post first on my business blog. That is the place where I have been most reserved, most adhering to protocol, most afraid to upset anyone even while embracing for over a decade the liberation that is social media: a form of communication that is based on personal and authentic sharing to build relationships. Somehow, you managed to be both classy and crude on the same page, on the same day – that is sheer mastery IMO.

I have been authentic, but not thoroughly so. You will not find lies or misrepresentations here, per se, but you can assume there is a decade of withheld opinions, beliefs, and desires. Even as I espoused to thine own self be true, I have hidden behind politeness and some fictitious set of best practices.

Andrew, the Beard of the Week perhaps sums up the mechanics of your brilliance for me. I am not a beard lover. I am the opposite. But because you have bared so much of yourself over the years, and I have come to love you and respect you so much, I chose to look at them with “fair witness” curiosity. You have built up SO MUCH credibility with me, that I am willing to drop any prejudice to engage in further examination. Thank you for being so visual, so self-accepting even in the midst of so many expressed doubts. That truly is the secret sauce I believe.

It’s turning into a really long post.

But for that too, I thank you Andrew. You held firm to long form writing. I have no idea how you consume so much in a day, but I am not going to worry about that. #WWID no longer supports worrying about others, even and especially the people I value as deeply as you.

So for all you have done, let me now stop depending on you to do that for me and let me do that for myself. Your quitting is actually kicking me out of your nest. This may be the thing for which I am most grateful to you!!!

So I leave you readers with the video that inspired this post today, Leaving, by the Pet Shop Boys. (Andrew posted it today.) It’s been raining hard here where I am in Palm Beach, and well, it just all fits together so poignantly well. Also because I love music, and dancing, and if I could have one more Andrew wish, it would be to party on the dance floor to 80’s music with you, Andrew, just having some fucking fun.

As a straight female reader, I am in the minority. So what, I ask myself now? Andrew Sullivan, you are amazing. And I imagine I will be very pissed if I don’t get emails from you, letting me know what you’re up and how I can continue to share this weird, wacky, wonderful world with you from time to time.



Mindful Goal Setting

Man meditating in tree position

I really wanted to promote my Mindful Social Business Coaching program during the holidays. But I was overwhelmed by the hype being delivered by the email lists to which I myself am subscribed. I really am committed to creating a hype-free zone here for us. So as each day went by, I went inside and listened for a compelling “message to market.” None arrived.

Oddly enough (or perfectly so) the January 5 session started and we had acquired two new members. They joined without me doing anything extra. My commitment to myself is to walk my talk more often, to step away from the effortful approach to work and relax into the mindful approach. The key essence of mindfulness at the moment is that each of us has the full backing of something much more vast and powerful than a single mind-body. So we don’t have to follow endless formulas or ever feel frantic; there is enough, including time.

What is Mindful Goal Setting?

It is an inner-directed approach not a follow-someone-else’s approach. It’s why I am calling 2015 the year to stop learning and start doing. The abundant supply of “listicles” (10 Things to … and 5 Essential yadas) are out there – as we want them. But what I find is that our brains have become so hooked on them, that it is easy to experience paralysis. You start to work on your blog, and you think: I’ve saved some lists somewhere to tell me how and what to do. The trouble is, many of those lists create false simplicity. One of the “Five Essential Steps” could actually take weeks to accomplish. I find this so energy-draining, distracting, and non-productive.

Instead, trust that you can just Start Now. When you run into a question, you can search for that answer and then get back to your doing. So find time, maybe in a beautiful or favorite place, and sit quietly with a notebook. Let your mind wander and ask yourself, what would make you happy? How might you accomplish that? And when you have a few answers, start to arrange them in a SMART Goal format.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals Make Things Easier For You.

S: Specific
M: Measurable
A: Action-Oriented
R: Reasonable and Relevant
T: Time-Defined

Let’s Compare & See How It Feels to You.

Common Goal:
I want to blog a lot more and use social media to grow my business.
(Admirable but large and diffuse. How and where do you start? How will you know if you are succeeding?)

I commit to blogging at least once a month and to using social media for my business at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes per session.

Mindful SMART Goal
I commit to blogging at least once a month and to using social media for my business at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes per session. I will track my efforts and evaluate my progress every two weeks, so I can adjust as desired.

Mindful UN Goal
This is the really out there option, that actually involves no goals. You can still go through the above process – it can help you organize things and orient yourself. Then, be willing to show up in the here and now and trust that each day, as you listen to your truly focused inner Adult voice, you will know what to do. And at the end of each week, then each month, etc. you will be able to delight at where you have arrived. Sometimes the universe has way MORE in store for us than we can imagine. I always like to make room for that!

If I could give you anything this year…

It would be the knowledge that you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you! (Thank you Stuart Smalley) You can start using social tools today, without reading another article or taking another webinar. Yes, you can start anywhere — there is no perfect place or time to start. You will learn so much more by doing, than by studying. And by doing, you will start getting results.

Join Us for Coaching and Accountability

If you would like to be part of a brilliant group of other solopreneurs, artists, nonprofit leaders, and business owners who are using coaching tools to start doing, please join us in the Mindful Social Business Coaching program. Because even the most brilliant can benefit from the wisdom and support of others in the privacy of your own computer.


P.S. A version of this was originally published to our email list. Please click here if you want to be on it. I really liked it, and it is still January – time to think about or re-think about what you want to do in 2015 and what you want to do, today.

Announcing: Your Mindful Social Media Business Coach

header graphic for Roxanne Darling, Your Social Business Coach

I want to be your social media business coach, offering a mindful approach to using these tools, and especially dedicated to consultants, artists, small business owners, marketing managers, and nonprofits. This is an idea that has literally been on my wish list, years in the making! But it was only recently that I found the perfect web-based platform! Read More

Thank You to Basecamp – You Are Amazing

Basecamp thank you trip for Bare Feet Studios
Is it just me or is it getting harder and harder to be wildly surprised, out of the blue, with something so totally unexpected that your first reaction is, this must be a prank? The internet has us all so connected and up to date on life as it is unfolding. We have become a society of know-it-alls (or maybe that is just me), in a very wide sense of that phrase. We’ve seen the hottest videos, know about the scams, and if we get asked a question we can’t answer, it’s easy enough to hop over to Google and get smarter in an instant.

So when we received a packet in the mail from 37 Signals, now known as Basecamp, with pretend passports, luggage tags, and a giant sheet of paper listing 10 cities around the globe for a free trip for two to the location of our choice, I was stunned! Shane and I scoured the materials, looking for the catch. This sort of thing is usually a sweepstakes with one in a million odds, disguised as a free trip. But knowing it came from 37 Signals, it had to be real.

Because Basecamp, aka 37 Signals, is the Real Deal.

“As a token of our deep appreciation for your long-term business, we want to do something really special for you.”

Yes they did! Imagine one of your vendors, giving you and your business partner, a free trip to Paris (from Maui), including airfare, hotel, private car to and from the airport, Metro cards, daily breakfast, and some spending money! Oh, and covering the extension airfare to Dublin for a personal side trip. Oh, and letting you pick the airline so you could use your miles to grab some upgrades. And doing all of the booking for you. And lastly, patiently waiting from February to September for us to create time and space to enjoy this adventure. Yes, this was a wild and wonderful surprise!

We easily continue to love, use, and evangelize Basecamp, for our client projects, our internal projects, and even for managing my elderly parents’ medical history since 2008. (Care providers are blown away when they see how easily we pull up 6 years’ worth of medications, doctor visits, et.) In fact, I cannot imagine my life without it.

We are just now returning from the two week experience, where we are able to get away from our so-called normal lives and truly breathe in the art of Paris, the legendary magic of Ireland (where I took a 5-day Mindfulness Tools Training) and Shane extended to Stockholm to visit his friend and inspiration, Vu Bui and see a stunning photo exhibit by Joyce Tenneson, another of Shane’s teachers. We have been restored, refreshed, and exposed to so many new ideas for our ever expanding creative and professional pursuits.

A few contemporary Paris Art Links
Gagosian Gallery, Peter Lindbergh Exhibit
Yan Marczewski, Painter
Ren Hang, photographer

Thank you, Jason, David, Andrea, and all of the brilliant people at Basecamp! We love you!

The timing was delightfully flexible.
We received the invitation in February. We traveled in late September, early October. It took seven months for life to line up in our favor, with no pressure coming from the Basecamp crew. Shane was able to create, install, and take down his solo art exhibition. I was able to plan and attend my Mom’s 90th birthday celebration. We were able to nicely wrap up several client projects before launching into new ones. September in Paris was so delightful!

The trip planning was gracious and personal.
It was interesting to notice how Shane and my brains kept trying to throttle the experience, while Andrea kept saying, “Yes.” and “Sure!” and “Why don’t we add on a private car service to and from your hotel; I can’t imagine you’ll want to deal with public transportation after traveling for nearly 24 hours!” Even when I wanted to add on a stop in Dublin, Andrea included it in the plane ticket, no problem, no need to backtrack.

The result was more than we could have imagined on our own.
Who knew that we were each really hungry for a change of place, a change of people? How did the Mindfulness Tools Program pop into my brain, and there just happen to be a program nearby at the time we wanted to travel, and on short notice they would still have room for me? How ironic, that as Shane and I expand our business in new directions, that we would be able to fly off to Europe for two weeks of being educated and nourished in all dimensions! It was clearly magical how quickly, easily, and richly the trip fell into place for us.

Please enjoy a few photos from our trip.

You can also see more on Instagram, at hashtag #roxshaneOTR. (OTR = on the road) Then, when you want to get your business more organized and help your clients help you, hop over to Basecamp and check it out.


Join Our List and Increase Your Internet Literacy

Join Rox's Email List and Get Support
I am celebrating 10 years of work using social business* tools, by, ahem, finally starting our own company email list. Yes, you can hear the horns of #irony blowing loudly at this moment, as I have set up over 50 email lists for clients over the years and it is one of my Number One recommended tools. All I can say is that we never needed one to accomplish our goals, until now. We have been a boutique consulting agency. Most of our clients are not that. If I have learned anything over the past 18 years of working in the “internet space,” it’s that there are more choices available than there are truly relevant tools. Scroll down to hop on the list.

Yes, your online business strategy is not one size fits nor all nor is it shoot as many bullets out there as you can and hope you hit a few targets.

I am launching a coaching service now and that is a very different type of business than a small digital agency. As an agency, we have clients for the longtime – our two largest have been with us the longest (and yes, those two data points are related) – since 1997. We have received all of our work through referral – either directly from an existing client or from my many years as a public speaker.

The coaching service I will be offering is for individual, not business, entities. I can and want to serve many more people. So having an email list is now a key component of both my marketing and my customer support strategy. I am so excited about the platform that I have bought into and will be announcing that in a few weeks. For now, I am reaching out to anyone who meets any of the following criteria, and inviting you to join my email list. Those of you on the list will be the first to get an invite to the coaching program!

You might want Rox as a coach if…

  • You feel overwhelmed by how and where to market your business online.
  • You know what you should or want to be doing, but somehow, it’s not getting done.
  • You want a community to find information quickly and experience respectful support.
  • You don’t want to pay high one-to-one coaching fees.
  • You want access to a library of vetted resources to help you be more effective and efficient.
  • You want to do all this in a private virtual space, on your own timeframe.

I sincerely think you will want to join this list if any of those statements apply to you. This coaching will be for amateur as well as professionals,. Why? Because, based on my own experience, I bet you are lacking focused motivation far more than you are lacking information. I’ve been using a similar coaching service for over a year and half for my writing projects, and it has changed everything for me. I am writing more, enjoying it more, and publishing more. I can hardly wait to launch this and create a community for us focused on building internet literacy and then acting on that!

Thanks so much for reading!


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* When I say “business” I mean any work that you do, be it a for-profit company, a nonprofit, a hobby, or a dream working its way to becoming true.