Category: Real Talk

2017, Real Talk

REAL TALK: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

When very successful people like Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, Seth Godin, and Michelle Pfeiffer have said in interviews that they still wrestle with the idea that they are frauds we have to understand that Imposter Syndrome knows now bounds. It affects everyone no matter who you are and won’t go away until you confront it head on.

In this episode I talk a little bit about where it comes from, some personal experiences, and what to do about it.

If you like stuff like this subscribe to my youtube channel and blog – and remember:

It’s not about where you are. It’s about how far you’ve come. Keep going, keep it positive, and keep it real.

<3 Oni

General, Real Talk

REAL TALK Q&A: Negative Thoughts: How to silence negative thinking about yourself, events, and life

The me of 15 years ago and the me of today would probably not be friends.

I used to be a highly negative person. For those of you who have met me in person this is probably a pretty big shock. My reputation today is that I can stay calm and polite in even the most stressful situations. My staff has in the past pulled me aside after a particularly rough situation and asks me how I didn’t blow up. Here is the answer. Today I’m going to talk about negative attitudes, where they come from, what happens when you are negative, and how I stopped being negative.

In 2010 I chose to put together a system to reprogram my brain’s default to be positive instead of negative. I gave it a duration of 3 years. A test. If my forced attitude change didn’t work to show improvement in my life by 2013 I’d drop it and try something else.

I am a huge fan of looking at myself as a social experiment.

How To destroy negative thoughts

I automatically assume I am a stupid asshole that needs to be observed and directed by my own self. This is how I’ve permanently broken behavioral patterns that weren’t serving me. I simply refused to become attached to myself and these patterns in the first place.

Not only did it work – it’s the main reason I’ve been so successful.

Understanding Negativity:

First let’s talk about what creates a negative perspective so that we can understand how to undo it.

Our perspective gets defined when we are young. Trauma and lack of support from parents, family, and/or school are some of the common things that can create a negative perspective. If we are set up to fail over and over again we expect to fail. If we keep experiencing trauma after trauma, we expect more trauma.

For example, if you wanted to be a musician and your parents simply told you that you may as well not try because it’s impossible and stupid they have set up a negative expectation. Maybe it won’t work, but starting a pattern of giving up before you start is incredibly damaging to a person’s life and ability to succeed and innovate. This can easily become the lens with which you view the world if you don’t take action to override it. These comments and experiences slowly filter through every aspect of your life until you expect everything to not work, give up before you try, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy that repeats over and over again.

The result is that the fictional parents in this example may have felt they were protecting their kid but instead prevented them from entering into a thought pattern that would have led to good behaviors that equal success – whether they literally become a musician, a corporate manager, or both. Our interests are varied pathways to many ideas and experiences. The worst thing we can do is shut down an interest in another person.

Fixing negative thoughts

How to Fix it:

The good news and the bad news is that the world generally responds to what you think and what you believe. The solution is simple but also probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do: You have to change “fuck this” to “Hell yeah!”.

My internal voice used to be a doppelganger for the TV version of Tara from True Blood:

This is maybe funny on TV but it’s not cool in real life. This is definitely not the type of behavior that gets anyone to advance in life. It only attracts more negativity to you and then the cycle returns and then you maybe die alone and no one cares.

There were some years where my brain would act like this but my mouth would speak in a more kind way. It was jarring. It was like my body knew what to do but my brain didn’t want to let go of the lens that trauma had created for me. I call it my nightbird because when I name a sonofabitch that means I can take control of it and own it.

I forced my nightbird to shut up with one simple step: Every time my brain would default to a negative statement – even if that was justified – I’d think of a positive statement related to the same situation immediately. Eventually my nightbird let go and defaulted to the positive programming.

If someone was driving stupid in front of me instead of saying “fn slow asshole!” I’d say, “This person may have been having a bad day. I’m glad they are able to go out and get their errands done.”

If someone pushed through me in a store instead of thinking that they should f off, I changed it to “that wasn’t personal – they are probably in a rush. I love their hair color!”

Even if someone is highly aggressive toward me I try to understand the pain they must have that is generating it and meet it with kindness and a kind thought.

This seems like some hallmark card bullshit but it’s actually just as difficult to change as it is important to change. If you want your life to be positive you have to act positive first. There are no exceptions to this. No one wants to set up their picnic blanket next to the biggest pile of dogshit. The only way I’ve found that works is to make it a practice to:

1. Don’t judge yourself. Understand where you are and what you need to change. Judging yourself leads to depression and weakens your ability to fix the issue.

2. When you emote something negative – IMMEDIATELY emote a positive in the same way. Make it a game. Cancel out your negatives with positive.

3. After enough repetition, this will become your true nature and you will have opened up the door to success and a better life. It works. I am your proof.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni

General, Real Talk

REAL TALK Q&A WEDNESDAY: How to set goals you can actually reach OR why your New Year’s Resolution doesn’t work and how to fix it

Submit your question for a future Q&A Wednesday by emailing me via the top bar on this site.

If you have trouble setting and sticking to goals this Real Talk Q&A Wednesday is for you.

I never do New Year’s Resolutions. Since I am a business owner in charge of 3 events plus my freelance career as a marketing consultant who needs to set and exceed goals in order to be employed– this often surprises people. The real deal is that I set goals every day/week/month/year as an overall life practice so it makes New Year’s Resolutions a moot point.

New Year’s Resolutions are mostly marketing. I should know because I am a marketer. It’s great to sell people gym memberships and $65 planners but as far as sustainability and success the positive outcome tends to be low for many people. There’s nothing wrong with gym memberships and $65 planners, but if you give up in 2 weeks you’ve wasted your time and money. I’m going to tell you how you can set goals and win.

The most important thing to understand is why most New Year’s Resolutions fail.

You fail to reach your goals because you fail to understand how the human mind works when you are setting them.

Oh man, that’s a problem. But guess what? Every problem is an opportunity.

How to set goals & use problems as opportunities

I am ALWAYS telling my staff this because it’s the truth. I’ve achieved to where I am solely because I was able to take negatives about my situation, personality, and behavior and then transmogrify them into positives.

transmogrify your "bad" behavior and you'll always win.

In my case, I have the ability to hyper focus on 1 thing. It can be a big problem because the house could be burning down and I’ll still not want to get up to stop what I am doing. I figured out how to trick myself to turn this on and off. Similarly the problems I face in life, every time I’ve solved it something better came along later.

So let’s ignore the problems for now and talk about strategy. Let’s use the problem of not understanding how the human brain works to actually understand it and use it.

Here is an example: If you wanted to lose weight and your normal diet was to eat a lot of crap food and drink a gallon of soda every day you might be tempted to say, “Next week I am going to immediately stop consuming bad food and I’ll only eat lean protein and vegetables from now on!”

No, dude. You are probably gonna fail.

The person that does not fail in this example is an exception that probably makes up a tiny percent of the population (major congrats to them). People don’t like change. In my MMA and bodybuilding days every January the gym would be flooded with people incorrectly using the machines and by the end of January the gym would just be the regulars again. Did those people suck? No! They just set themselves up for failure by not understanding how the human mind works.

MAke your New Year's Resolution work - Super Mario style?
When you set goals you can’t slam your butt immediately down the Super Mario chomp chomp of life and expect to win.

People exist on various vibrational levels and none of them are bad – just different. To move from your starting level to a higher vibrational level is like jumping from Canada to Texas or becoming an Olympic athlete in 1 week. You just can’t do it. The distance is too wide.

Unrealistic Pressure:

The idea of a New Year’s Resolution puts a lot of communal pressure on people to “get it right”. All eyes are on you. Everyone is doing it. Peer pressure! But guess what? When we make mistakes our brains want to give up and go back to what we used to do. How do we fix this?

1. Make goal setting a daily and weekly part of your life no matter what time of the year it is.

2. Create small, realistic goals that add up to bigger goals.

I'd describe my average day as a butt flamingo that crashes through a window like Batman. Here's how I manage it.
I’d describe my average day as a butt flamingo that crashes through a window like Batman. Here’s how I manage it.

Weekly / daily task review:

If you know what you want to achieve you won’t need to spend much or any time on revisiting your big picture, but if you are still shaky and finding your path you may want to make a list of what you want to accomplish this year and even for the next 5-10 years. If you have trouble staying focused on the big picture you may want to keep this list visible in your workspace. If you don’t know your big picture your goal can simply be to experiment with several things that you enjoy to see if your big picture reveals itself this year.

I review my task list and strategy every night and/or morning for each day. Once a week I meet with Harknell to discuss bigger picture items that we have to collaboratively solve for my business.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Manage change instead:

Understand that these goals WILL change a lot – and sometimes even completely. That’s why I’m looking at them at least once a day and adjusting them. In theory I could have a day where I have to go into NYC on business (like this week) where I lose an entire day. Or like last year where I lost almost the entire year to eye surgeries and recovery. Obviously when I had eye surgery my task list changed almost completely. I had to get help from people to do things I would have normally done. It sucked but I still pushed forward the best I could with what I had.

Your goals are only guides to give you a baseline of what’s up. Your job is to manage change, not to be a robot. This is not about “getting it right” or being perfect.

You fail because you focus on perfection.

Be flexible:

List out all the stuff that you want to accomplish this week and imagine that they are in a reserve pool that you can flow out into the next day or week of free time depending on how your life is going. Realize that you are probably going to have to double the amount of time you think you need for most of these tasks. You might have to move some of those tasks to next week – that’s why I look at it as a pool. It allows for flexibility within a real life. To start you may want to test how much you ACTUALLY get done for the first week so that you don’t overload yourself and set yourself up for failure.

Start small:

There’s no shame in starting with just 1 thing for the first week. We all have lives and unpredictable events in our lives. Some of us work day jobs in order to be able to afford to go for their actual job that they want. All of these things can impact or destroy our goals for the week. Be at peace with that. If your tasks have to go back into the pool because your day job forced you to work 80 hours of overtime simply slide the task into your next available free slot, repeat the weekly strategy meeting and readjust your timeline. This is reality. Life happens. There will never be a perfect time to start this. If you think that you are just making excuses to not move forward and that’s the topic of another post entirely.

Life will happen. Plan for that and be flexible with small, achievable goals.

EXAMPLE: If you want to lose weight your tasks would look something like this:

1. Stop drinking soda. If this is tough stop drinking it for 1-3 days per week and work up to 7 days a week.

2. Stop eating fast food. Feel free to use the same 1-3 day duration to start and then work that up to 7 days.

3. Exercise. This can be a short walk once a day, moving up to a workout in your home once a week.

4. Increase exercise level. Work out at home 2 and then 3x a week. Consider joining a gym but only do that if it will help you exercise more and won’t be a deterrent. (I work out 5 days a week and don’t have the time to join a gym anymore because doing it at home means that I will do it. Understand your quirks and work with them instead of trying to make yourself some impossibly perfect automaton.

No one gives a crap how you achieved it, they only care that you did it.

You are building a house, not making it magically materialize in a second:

Imagine your biggest goal is like building a house. Your small goals = molecules of each brick. Your bricks = bigger goals or milestones. You don’t start out achieving a brick. That’s too big and almost impossible. You get the molecules and build your first brick, then your second brick, then before you know it you have a house. Your work processing this along the way is CRITICAL TRAINING for you being able to handle the increased responsibility that will inevitably be your reward for success.

Your process is more important than the actual goals.

Your process will have evolved your brain toward making good habits and it will also hard wire achievement into your personality. When you get to a more advanced level you’ll actually have the ability to handle the pressures that come with it. I can tell you right now that the me of 7 years ago could not handle the me of today’s life. The process was more important than the actual tasks. I had to go through all of that to be able to get through all of this.

People might be shocked today to know that I was a chunky kid with no athletic capabilities whatsoever. That chunky kid evolved into being fit and the first female black belt from the police training facility where I founded multiple self-defense classes. I didn’t do that overnight, nor did I have access to the best food and equipment.

I used to drink 3-6 cups of soda a day as a kid. As a very fit adult soda smells and tastes disgusting to me. You will almost never see me drink it because I just hate it. I vibrate on a different level that that now. When I was a kid I would have thought you were insane because it was what my entire family drank – I rarely drank water. The act of seeking out small goals distracted my brain from the length of the journey. I made those bricks and then made more and more bricks. I evolved myself from being an overweight low achiever to a very fit habitual overachiever.

This transformation could not and did not happen overnight.

If you focus on how great it feels to achieve something small that adds up to something large you will lose track of time and notice you’ve achieved a big thing before you realize it. Start small. DO NOT start large. Realistic achievement motivates the human brain to keep going – not trying to climb Mount Everest in a day. I actually knew someone who wanted to start hiking and decided to go on a 2 week long hike as their first hike. They ended up failing badly. The came home needing surgery because because they were not in the physical shape needed to accomplish this.

Start small. Your process is the most important thing.

This is the main concept you need to grasp before you can do anything. If you keep chunking your tasks into tiny things, resetting your expectations every day when you review your list, and focusing on your process rather than how much you’ve achieved you’ll be empowered to adjust your plans for the amount of willpower and stress level that you may be experiencing in life. That’s when you will really start to shine.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni

Real Talk

Q&A WEDNESDAY: 3 things we can learn from Mariah Carey’s performance video on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest

Unless you have been hiding under a rock you have no doubt heard that Mariah’s Carey’s performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest did not go well.

New Year's Eve 2016 In Times Square - Mariah Carey: Dick Clark's Rockin New Year's Eve

This week’s question is from Kara:

“This [post that explains the situation] is all anyone’s talking about right now, and this article is the first I’ve heard from an even remotely business standpoint on the whole thing.

As you’re a public speaker and a C-level businessperson, I’m curious, what is your take on this — and what would you have done at the time/be doing in the potential aftermath in her (team’s) shoes?

tl;dr is there anything a visible presence like you or like myself can learn from this incident?”

Yes, there is – and none of it was told to me before I achieved any sort of success. I wish it had been.

1. Trust should be earned, not given.

I can probably count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve done a speaking gig and everything has gone smoothly. Technical errors happen quite often and it doesn’t matter how famous or not famous you are. I feel like there was no way Mariah’s team could have known that things would go this badly. It actually seems that she and her team were trying to be nice and to work with the DCP team when they were unable to activate her in-ears. To me this is a shame – I am willing to bet they will never trust anyone again in the future. I work with celebrities all the time who don’t trust easily at first and open up to me on the last day of our time together or the second time we work together.

This is why.

Mariah’s team seems to have done everything right and still this happened. My advice to people who are performers or speakers is to be OK with the fact that you may have to refuse to go on stage unless you get all of the assurances that things are working – especially in a high-profile event like a New Year’s Eve performance. But also know you will be painted as a villain for doing this and you will be faced with many lose/lose situations in your career. Being a villain is part of the job description because people will try to trick you at every turn for their own gain. There is no right answer that you can possibly produce.

Confused about that last sentence? Read the next point:

2. If people know your name you will be a target. You will have haters even if you’ve been as nice as a Saint. Know this.

Here’s a personal story from quite recently:

Random Person: What do you do?

Me: I organize pop culture events with celebrities and we promote education and the arts.

Him: How can you work with such shallow people?

I immediately corrected him. No – no one that I work with is shallow. Quite the contrary – they are all real people. Kind people. Many of these people I consider part of my extended family. You can see how an average person regards celebrity right here in the above interaction. Without having ever met the person (or even knowing which celebrities I work with) it’s automatically assumed that they are bad people. People seem to WANT to discount folks who have achieved.

Armchair hate is now the opiate of the masses.

When you have success – god forbid fame – you cease to be a human being to some. It’s not fair but it will happen and if you want to be upwardly mobile in any fashion you need to brace yourself for this.

I repeat for the folks in the back: Just because this person knew the people I referenced were celebrities – that was all he needed to know to jump to “Those are bad people”.

It’s unfair and judgemental, but you will encounter this even if you aren’t on TV and simply get a lot of promotions at your job. Leaders have targets plastered to their backs. I have had to sit quietly too many times while people online insinuate a celebrity I know said or did a terrible thing when I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE and can tell you that it never happened.

Understand that life is not fair and it’s not a reflection of who you are.

Why do they do this? I call it The Courtney Love Marketing Method.

3. The Courtney Love Marketing Method: Drama (often with you) is how some shrewd people will get attention so they can climb up the ladder.

The first time I ever heard of Courtney Love was when she threw things at Madonna while she was being interviewed by Kurt Loder at the 1994 MTV Music Awards. Madonna eventually left and then Kurt Loder then interviewed Courtney Love on what was at that time the most popular music program on TV. This was, to my knowledge, the first major interview that she ever did. Courtney wasn’t that well known before this interview. This is how I heard about her for the first time.

Courtney did it by screwing with someone who was more famous than her at the time.

It doesn’t matter if you love her or hate her. That’s not the conversation we are having today. (Yes, I anticipated that thought you just had because of point #2.)

Courtney’s actions in this video were a masterful manipulation. Coincidentally it’s also how almost all of today’s news sites now operate. The more clicks a post gets the more money they get from their advertisers. I would also argue that this was a key technique that President-Elect Trump used to get elected this year. People talk a lot about and share aberrant behavior and what they hate far more than they will talk about what they love. Courtney enjoyed a steady stream of press and coverage after this.

People will not stop voting for what they hate or want to laugh at to get stronger with their shares and clicks. We can’t seem to help it.

If you look at who is popular and what is shared in your Facebook feeds – not all of them are people who do what they are told. Most things shared on Facebook are now negative and the biggest problem I hear from my clients is “My work does a lot of good for the world and people – even my friends – just want to share rage posts instead.”

Mariah Carey is doing exactly the right thing by not addressing this head on and letting her team handle it. There is nothing she can say, do, or prove that would clear her in the eyes of the public because the public already wants to hate her. They want her to fail. She’s not a person to them – she’s a thing that they feel has a better life than most and for that “terrible sin” they feel she must be destroyed before she ever walked out on stage.

My best advice to folks who are facing drama is to not rise to it. Stay focused on your work and what you want to do to move forward. Those who matter will eventually realize the truth. Those who won’t frankly don’t matter. You won’t change anyone’s mind with a direct conversation.


When you are a kid people tell you that you can be anything you want and to go for your dreams. I agree with this, but what is not spoken about are the pressures, isolation, and dehumanization that come along with the package. No matter where you are in your career, whether you are just starting out with a small business or a seasoned pro you need to think carefully about who you let into your inner circle and cultivate a community who will still care about you no matter what happens, who you become or don’t become. Surprisingly enough almost none of your friends you begin your journey with may make it to the finish line with you. Be at peace with that because this story is the same no matter who I speak with about their career.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni

2016, General, Real Talk

DAILY REAL TALK: Why we don’t have better representations of women in the media

OBSERVATION: Frequently women (including me) get upset that movies and books and such don’t encapsulate stories for us. This is a legit complaint. I only rarely see someone that I can relate to on TV or in movies. *cough* Holtzmann *cough*


HOWEVER. In my 10+ years of marketing work in geek/tech I’ve had the opportunity to look at many excel sheets of metrics that track responses to ads and responses to different type of media. I’ve created campaigns, executed them, and then reviewed their performance. I’ve been able to look at spending habits, clickthrough rates, and more.

The data does not say that there are no women in fandom. It is not that black and white. But it does say something that I don’t think people are talking about:

Women spend less.

Women usually make up about 40-48% on average, depending on the campaign. Men almost always make up 50-60% on average. When it comes to spending money on media, men always have been the slightly higher percentage.

Is it a huge difference? No. It’s actually a difference of about 10-30% on average. But it is enough of a difference that lazy marketers could (and do) sit back and say “let’s just make shit for men.” the data doesn’t challenge that notion enough to change anything from what we have now.

I see a lot of complaining online that women aren’t portrayed correctly. So here is my idea for today. I know it’s a wild idea that I fully expect will get me flamed but:

When you like something, financially support it.

If you like a movie, pay to see it. Buy it on DVD. Give one to your friend.

If you like a band pay to see them live, buy a T-Shirt. Buy it on vinyl.

If you like a convention, buy a ticket. Tell your friends about it. Bring people.

If you like a book, buy it, read it, and share it.

If you are broke: Share it.

What does the data also say? Most people share (and thus promote) what they hate. I see all of you liberal folks out there supporting Trump with your hate shares. Do you understand that you made him popular?

Do you understand that being an asshole is a marketing strategy that has always been utilized with great success. No? Read this book and get back to me. This will also explain to you how Trump got so popular. He’s using these tactics to the letter.

I work with TONS of indie creators. One of the most common things they ask me is “How do I stay afloat when all of my friends are sharing what they hate and leaving me in obscurity?” The answer to that is another blog post entirely, but this is the truth.

Yes, there are assholes in the world, but by and large everything is run by money. Money makes the world go ’round. Even an idealist like me CANNOT survive on love alone.

I see a lot of howling and bitching online but I have yet to see people realizing by and large that if they’d just shut the hell up and buy what they like they would get more of what they like and less of what they do not.

Every band, every cartoonist, every person who does anything hears at least once a day “I love what you do but maybe I’ll buy it next time”.

Let’s just drop the bomb for those of you who miss my comics: I stopped because not enough people wanted to pay me to keep making them. The act of creating those took so much work that it was no longer fun. I’m in my 30s. I am not in college. I need to pay my bills.

So the next time you see something you don’t like, I politely suggest that a better use of your time is to support what you love instead of making what you hate famous by sharing them. I truly believe that if more women (and men) who wanted to see a strong female lead in a Hollywood movie voted with their money that we would have more of it. Women as a group have a ton of spending power.

Women came out in droves for Twilight so heavily that it knocked Marketing folks for a surprise. They didn’t watch Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles enough to keep it alive, and T:TSC was one of the best TV series’ of recent times in my personal opinion.

Writing about what is wrong is important, but if it’s not coupled with intelligent utilization of your spending and sharing of posts power you are wasting your time. Nobody is given anything in life for free. Not you. Not me.

I rarely see feminist blogs elevating women. I frequently see them attacking men which I think is pretty bullshit. That’s not going to fix the problem. I have never fixed a problem by flipping a table on someone ever. And guess what? Historically it’s been mostly men who have financially and morally supported me. It’s been mostly women who have belittled me because I like metal and study guitar and that’s been the case for everything I’ve ever done on the internet in my entire career.

It goes without saying that if you are one of my readers theres a 100% chance that you are not this type of woman. In studies of demographics not based on me the difference between male/female engagement its like 10-30%. But it’s enough to be noticeable and enough to create an impact so that we get a parade of Bella Swans in the movies and only a rare Holtzmann.

Men are not the enemy. Vote with your money and take control of the change you want to see. This is how life works. You actively have to work against your animalistic human rage impulse and do the opposite.

EXAMPLE: Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t scream on the internet and he didn’t yell or accuse people. He simply made good shit, gave the world Hamilton, sought out positivity, and now other theater productions are copying his idea of casting anyone regardless of gender and race into any role.

If he had spent 3 hours a day arguing on the internet and yelling at people to change he wouldn’t have had the time to make good lunch, let alone a successful Broadway show.

How much time does someone spend online arguing? At the end of the day couldn’t that time have been used to make something cool that actually elevates the folks you purport to want to help?


ANSWER: Yes it could be.

It’s pretty sad that while writing this I am actually bracing to be flamed by a particular small demographic of women after I post it. No, I do not think that all women are like this. Clearly I am not like this and everyone I know is not like this. But it happens almost every time I dare to write anything that calls for more common sense and less screaming.