How to Create a Cocoon of Kickass

cocoon of kickassDo you ever feel…stuck?

Sometimes I get stuck. And I’ll bet that you do, too.

Doing what I do for a living is an amazing journey filled with honey badgers and baby echindas but sometimes I find that I’m the one doing all of the talking. People ask me for advice, input, perspective. I’m the writer, “expert” (fuck me), consultant — hell, it’s what I’m paid to be and what I love doing.

When you’re in the position of doling out the ideas, how do you push yourself to raise your game? Everyone reading this blog is completely kickass at something. You’re the go-to and for 360 days out of 365, it’s awesome. But we all need those other five days where we get humbled. Our asses kicked (and in the best possible way).

And by people who are so epically kickass at what they do that we have no choice but to perform a remove-head-from-ass maneuver and strive be to something better than we were yesterday.

After this weekend, I’m going to call this creating a cocoon of kickass.

It Began in Dallas

Last week, I hopped on a plane on Wednesday morning for Dallas, Texas to speak at Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Growth Conference. In a sea of 1200 entrepreneurs, here’s what I cherish most:

  • Friends: At huge conferences, sure — I get to see friends as fly-bys. In Dallas, I got to talk to them. I hadn’t seen Jason Falls in nearly a year and I got to sit down with him for a couplefew hours and find out what’s going on in his life. He’s doing epic things and I loved hearing him say, “I’m learning something new every day.” This is why I love seeing Jason — everything he does is from a point of humility. Exchanges like this also remind me to ask: Am I learning something new every day? (And if not, why the hell not?)
  • Permission: I never have to be anyone but myself at this conference. We laugh, we share, and I get to see heads nod in response to all of the shit that flies out of my mouth. And yeah, there are some folks who didn’t like what I had to say, but Entrepreneur has been an incredible partner in the evolution of ME. I’m grateful for every head nod, hand shake, “fuck yeah” that people yell at me as I walk down the hall after my sessions, and for every story shared because I gave people in that room permission to be the only thing they ever need to be: themselves. Experiences like this remind me to ask myself constantly: What situations do I willing put myself in that don’t make me feel like I have permission to be myself?
  • The Unexpected: A gentleman came up to me after one of my sessions and asked me to come speak for a women’s group in Dallas — yes, of course, send me details! And then he came up to me at the table where I was signing books. He took my hand and said thank you to me for saying what I did, how I did, and…he got choked up. He apologized for nearly crying and then proceeded to tell me why it is that he does what he does with his life every day. I can’t tell his story as he did, but in the briefest manner possible, he told me about running programs for women coming out of abusive homes so they never have to feel as if they need a man/need permission to live their lives and do great things. See, in my talk, I ask people in the session if they know WHY they do what they do. Out of 700 people, he’s the only one who came up to me and had the balls to tell me his WHY. This is what Fuck Yeah looks and feels like. Experiences like this one remind me to ask: Do I know my WHY — why it is that I do what I do, each and every day?

So I hopped on a plane, flew back to Denver, and hopped in the car to drive six hours to Ouray, Colorado for the Ouray Ice Festival. It was time to climb some ice.

Erika and Piper in OurayThe Coldest Cocoon

I’m one of those absolute idiots that gets off on climbing frozen waterfalls. Introduced to the sport back in 2007, I can honestly say that there’s nothing that I’ve sucked at more on a first attempt. First, it’s cold (temps in Ouray, CO for the weekend were in the minuses). Secondly, ice breaks and falls — when it hits you, it hurts. Finally, it’s pretty damn incredible when I finish a climb, look down, and see from whence I came.

But I hadn’t been on the ice since January of 2010. I was glad to be back, but I was — in no uncertain terms — intimidated. By my friends (who all climb regularly and much harder than I do). By the weather (how would I handle the cold? My tolerance in the past few years hasn’t been great.). By my insecurities (see friends and weather).

And here’s the win of my frozen weekend: I was continuously enveloped in the coldest cocoon of kickass EVER.

For two and a half days, I was surrounded by humble people doing incredible things. Just watching them challenged me and made me smile. And it’s an incredible feeling to hear your friend cheer you on as you climb something harder than you’ve climbed in quite some time, even though she breezed up the same climb with deft speed and skill only moments ago. My drive home even included an extra, unplanned passenger who turned out to be a professional, sponsored climber who teaches technical ice climbing skills to the Sherpas who guide Mt. Everest expeditions. Jesus God. How kickass is that? Six hours in the car back to Boulder flew by as we chatted from everything about her life, her happiness, what jazzes her, and our thoughts on everything from food to frozen water features.

So Where’s Your Cocoon?

Funny thing is, I started last week not knowing I needed a cocoon of kickass surrounding me. But I did — and it’s helped me feel a whole lot less stuck. And oddly enough, I found it — but it really had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with everyone I placed myself among. We get so mired in our own BS that the cocoon of kickass is the only thing that can shake us out of our own shit-doesn’t-stink reverie and into a place designed to brew brilliance by the gallon.

So I’m passing along my tips for finding YOUR cocoon of kickass — the ideal incubator for everything you want to be and everywhere you want to go. We all need one to keep us warm (or cold as the case may be), rev us up, shift our perspective, and challenge us to be a better version of the ME we each are today:

  1. Say to hell with your industry. How tired are you of the buzzword bubble and the same old faces? Get away from the same old same old and surprise yourself in new and challenging environments. We all need a shake-up. Who’s shaking you if it’s not you?
  2. Listen to stories. Even if you’re the one on the stage/panel/microphone/blog/book/pulpit, your stories aren’t the important ones. I think the best we can hope for is that our own stories inspire others to share theirs with us. I learn more from the stories of others than I ever have my own. My perspective also gets a healthy thwack each time I’m humbled by knowing I gave someone else the permission to share the intimate details of their life experiences with me.
  3. Take human inventory. Do your friends and colleagues lift you up or shove you down? Start being honest with yourself about who you are and what you need and stop apologizing for wanting to surround yourself with brilliance instead of whiny, pissy mediocrity. Do you want the Lunchables version of relationships or do you want those who will always call you on your shit so you don’t get stuck in it?

So now, go build it — your cocoon of kickass. You don’t have to speak at conferences or climb frozen waterfalls in order to do it, but you do have to be willing to ask:

Who do I need surrounding me so I never (ever) consider mediocrity to be an option?


PS and special help-ya-out thing: Marketo is doing some brilliant things for online and content marketing. They have their annual summit coming up in April and if you want to enter to win a free trip to attend and maybe find more people for your cocoon of kickass, follow this link to enter. You can also check out their cool library of totally free resources for marketers and businesses of all shapes and sizes.


6 replies
  1. Amy McGibbon Lang
    Amy McGibbon Lang says:

    I think the most important lesson I’ve learned form you in the past year is that balance is such a critical part of one’s life. While I love to hear your thoughts on work related situations, for me – I find when you incorporate off-work experiences into your message, it reinforces the notion that I can’t possibly be my best when my ass is stuck to my computer 24/7. Break out of the vacuum Amy, and find a cocoon of awesomeness. Great message, thanks Erika!

  2. Bill Dorman
    Bill Dorman says:

    Did I ever tell you I have the greatest job evah? Outside commercial insurance sales….I know, ewwwwwww. But you know what, I really do help people and certainly not by just selling a policy. I also get to deal with a multitude of businesses and personalities, and most of those relationships are uplifting and rewarding. And guess what, I even get paid to do this and it’s not too shabby. How cool is that?

    But, it is outside sales so just about the time you are ready to put it on cruise control, you will be humbled; that I can guarantee. It can be very fickle at times, just like social.

    Oh well, suits my personality because I do like to network and meet new and interesting people to hear ‘their story.’ Did I tell you they also pay me to do this?……..:).

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it; sorry it was all about me………doh……..

  3. Angie Colee
    Angie Colee says:

    Love it. I think I intuitively figured this out in recent years, as I’ve noticed that cutting out the dead weight has substantially improved my quality of life. Not only that, it’s improved my friends’ quality of life too, as they don’t have to deal with the dramatic fallout that accompanied associating with perpetual downers. Better yet, I’ve stopped thinking “that’s impossible!” and started wondering how to achieve the things I want to, and draw constant inspiration from those who are out there DOING it, instead of listening to those who think I can’t. Bravo, girl. YOU OWN THAT WATERFALL!


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