Contributing vs. Accomplishing

contributing vs accomplishing

Contributing vs Accomplishing.

Which are we chasing?

In our current world, there is a lot of focus on accomplishing: more followers online; 6-figure revenue and then maybe 7; more investment; the promotion; the better title to go along with it; our goal time in the marathon.

While pursuing mastery is a deep human desire, what if this desire for mastery could be framed in service of contribution? Around the question of how we might use our gifts to give back, to put a positive dent in something bigger than ourselves, to serve others - versus how we can get somewhere bigger, better, and faster?

Some possible questions to ponder.

Inspiration credit: For the spark of this question, Damond Boatwright. For the stunning flowers, Amanda Schulze.



Many entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers who have been at their craft for awhile have had the experience of finding their work, their products, or their content repackaged, duplicated, or plagiarized by others at some point in time. Sometimes, it’s a newer entrepreneur or artist taking “inspiration seeking” to a whole new level. Other times, it’s a massive corporation or brand that has used the work of an independent artist without permission.

Most entrepreneurs and makers I work with deeply value creativity and originality - meaning that it can be difficult to look around and find that someone else has seemingly copied our idea, our product, our content, or in some cases, our entire brand. (A dear friend and client found her entire business - the name, the logo, the website, and even the social media images - plagiarized and up and running as its own business in Asia).

On the flip side, when working with new entrepreneurs and coaches, one of the most common things I hear as an intended early step is “I’m going to go out to [insert name of someone I want to be like]’s site and see how she did it.”

While seeking inspiration can be helpful, the greatest inspiration often comes from looking within - or looking around out in the world - versus looking at other people’s websites or products, especially if those people are in the same industry as we are.

Below, some thoughts on what to do if you feel like you might fall on either side of this equation.

If You Think You Might Be the Copycat:

Have a heart to heart with yourself.

Ask yourself: are you seeking inspiration, or have you moved into imitation? Signs that you might have moved beyond the “inspiration” point: repackaging phrases, content, other people’s wording, descriptions, products or programs; visiting certain websites regularly for inspiration; becoming a bit of a cyber stalker of your favorite entrepreneurs or brands.

Seek inspiration from outside of your industry.

Find inspiring people who do distinctly different work than you do. Get curious about cool things happening in other industries. Ask yourself if it serves you to follow the people who you’re following in your own industry. 

Stop looking around and start looking within.

Take the time you’ve been spending on other people’s websites and LinkedIn pages and Instagram accounts and blogs and redirect that time into reflection and quiet space. Meditate. Go for a walk in the woods. Take time to find your own voice, your own style, and your own way of thinking about and speaking about things. 

Consider: what could be possible if you trusted yourself enough to create your own content and tune into your own ideas, rather than pulling from other people’s?

And what’s currently getting in the way of doing so? Is it a lack of confidence? A lack of trust in yourself? Not being able to find your own voice or your own perspective? Get quiet, spend some time tuning inward, and see what you discover. 

As Marie Forleo, who is often imitated but will never be replicated, says:

“The world needs that special gift that only you have.”

If you think you might have a copycat:

Pause. Take a deep breath. 

In talking with entrepreneurial soul sisters about this topic, I’ve discovered that this can be one of the most hurtful and most triggering things that we encounter as entrepreneurs. We pour ourselves into our businesses, and to find our content recreated, oftentimes by people we historically have trusted, can be a particularly awful experience. First things first - we need to pause and take a deep breath. 

Ask: Is it True? 

Take a page from Byron Katie’s book. When we feel that parts of our business have been repackaged or recreated by someone else, we can ask:

“Is it true?”

And, “can we be absolutely certain that it’s true?”

Oftentimes, the answer - especially to the second question - is no. We cannot be absolutely certain that it wasn’t just a very intriguing coincidence. These questions can help us to move out of a place of unhelpful inner dialogue, and into a place of calm acceptance. 

Remember that it is inevitable. 

If we put our content out into the world, it will be available not only to our communities and our clients, but also, of course, to our competitors. As Seth Godin says, “The easiest products in the world to develop, option, license and get to market are copycat products. They are beyond reproach. They feel safe.”

The truth is that many people want what is easy and what is safe. As a result, copycats will not go away anytime soon. That said, copycat products are rarely as good as the originals. Often the originals are creating more than a product or service; they are disrupting an entire industry and forging a whole new path that others will want to follow.

This is part of the package, and how awful would it be for us to hold back on our content or ideas, for fear of others stealing them? This would be a modern day version of The Miser and The Gold - tragic for everyone involved.

Take a page from my friend Mike’s book. 

A few months back, I asked him how he felt about the number of people who have openly expressed a desire to create an exact replica of the organization that Mike has created. His response? “Good luck! It’s a lot of f$#king work.”

I can’t help but smile to myself each time I think of his response.

Take Oprah’s advice.

“How far you are from the center - from the diveness of yourself, your source energy, that which created you - is how out of sync you are with your life. When you are aligned with this, nobody can touch you.”

Focus on aligning with your center. Put your head down. Make something awesome. Keep creating. And remember that no matter how many words or phrases or pieces of content others might take and repackage, they will never be you. 

Additional Resources, Reading, and Watching:



Beyond the fireworks and barbecues, the Fourth of July provides an opportunity for reflection - what does freedom mean to each of us, and how can we show up and take a stand for the things that matter most - related to freedom in our world, and freedom for other humans?

Below, a few types of freedom to consider.

Freedom From Stuff (and the related impact of stuff):

Freedom From Thoughts and Stories that Don't Serve Us:

  • Try Byron Katie's "The Work." The process? Ask these four questions on any thoughts, stories, or notions that are floating around in your head.

    • Is it True?

    • Can I Absolutely Know that It's True?

    • How do I React When I Think That Thought?

    • Who Would I Be Without That Thought?

Freedom For Human Beings who are being detained in overcrowded facilities at our borders, without access to basic necessities such as soap, and for children who are being separated from their parents:

  • Read the reports. Go to the website of the Office of the Inspector General and see the "Latest Reports" section on the front page. Factual reports on what is currently happening at our borders.

  • Download the Goods Unite Us app to see what causes or politicians you might unintentionally be supporting with your dollars. Search for your grocery stores, your banks, and your services to see where their funds flow.

  • Make a donation to an organization whose work and mission you resonate with. A few possibilities to explore, if you feel called to do so (Note: several of these organizations identify as "center-leaning,” rather than leaning one way or another politically):

  • Contact your elected officials. Get involved locally. Volunteer.

  • Stay informed. Keep turning in even when it feels easier to look away.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

Overcoming Present Bias: Thinking About Tomorrow When Making Decisions Today

future self and decisions

Research suggests that many of us make up to 35,000 decisions each day or 2,000 decisions per hour if we account for sleeping.

We make small micro decisions about things like what to wear and what to eat; we make big decisions about launch dates and budgets and whether or not to accept that job offer. We make decisions that form (or break) habits, decisions that move us toward (or away from) our goals, decisions that build (or sometimes unintentionally harm) connections and relationships with others.

How can we make it easier to make the best decision, especially when there isn’t a clear “best” option? How can we make decisions in the present that move us toward our desired future? And how can we be more intentional about the small, sometimes unconscious, decisions that we make in the moments that have an impact on what will follow?

Research on present bias tells us that we give stronger weight to pay-offs that are closer to the current time. We tend to value immediate gratification over long-term gain.

In other words, we tend to value what our present self wants, over what might be in the best interest of our future self.

We hit snooze because our present self is tired, even though our future self will be stressed out and rushed. We have another glass of wine because our present self wants to, even though our future self will have trouble sleeping. We go to the networking event because our present self feels like we should, even though we know our future self will be looking at the clock, eager to leave.

#YOLO, right?

While #YOLO certainly has a place, the research suggests that if we only value the needs and desires of our present self, we won’t actually form the habits or meet the goals that our future self deeply desires.

One of the tools I use almost daily is a check-in with my future self. I’ve written before about checking in with our future self (5 years, 10 years, 20+ years out) for big decisions related to career or the path of our lives. We can use this tool for small, everyday decisions as well, by checking in with our future self an hour, a few hours, or a day from now.

Here are a few examples of how it’s been helpful for me.

When I was training for Ironman in 2016, I frequently dreaded my swimming workouts. Traipsing to the gym in the middle of the cold, dark, Wisconsin winter to jump into a freezing cold pool, to rinse off in an almost-as-cold shower at one particularly unfortunate local swimming destination, was basically the worst combination of events that I could dream up. Each day, if I had a swim workout on my schedule, I would tell myself, “I’ll do it tonight.” What I quickly learned, though, is that my future self - my evening self who had already showered and gotten ready for the day - never went swimming. My future evening self liked to be home on those cold winter evenings, and my future evening self hated swimming indoors even more than my morning self. If swimming was going to happen, it was going to happen early in the day. (Note: this could also describe why my present self has taken 8 year hiatuses between any triathlon-related activity; she knows how my future self feels about indoor lap swim in the dead of winter).

This week, I stayed up late two nights in a row, eating lingering dinners with girlfriends and talking about life. The second night even involved an impromptu 10:30 walk with the pup - a delightful turn of events for a Wednesday evening, but way past my usual bedtime! When it came time for my optional mastermind meet-up the next morning, I considered skipping it. My current self was tired. But I thought about my future self - and remembered how I felt last time I attended the mastermind. I remembered leaving the meeting, on a beautiful sunny morning, feeling inspired for the rest of the day. I knew that my future self would feel the same this time around - it was even another beautiful sunny morning - and I decided to go. I was so glad that I did.

I know that my future self is always happiest when I bike commute instead of drive, meaning that my present self needs to plan accordingly - both in wardrobe and timing. (Hilariously, this week, my present self totally neglected to check the weather before heading out via bike for a meeting, resulting in my future self stuck in a downpour at the exact time that the meeting ended. #oops. I never said that this framework is flawless!)

My future self is often cold at restaurants - which means that my present self always needs to pack a sweater, even if it’s 90 degrees.

My future self often spends too much money at Whole Foods when running across the street for a snack between client meetings, so my present self tries to keep granola bars stashed at the office.

The list goes on.

The basic idea is this: when making a decision in the present, fast forward to consider the needs, desires, and goals of your future self. This helps us to make better decisions in the present that we can look back on with contentment at the end of the day, the week, the month - and hopefully, at the end of our lives.

A few additional resources to support the cause:

Observations from May's Social Media Pause

social media pause

During the month of May,  I decided to take a little pause from Social Media.

There was no dramatic fanfare, no big announcement, and no “goodbye for now” post. There was just a quiet step back from the beginning of May until the end.

The reason for my social media pause was the desire to create more white space in my days. While I wasn’t necessarily spending a ton of time on social media, it was typically a regular part of my daily and weekly rhythms. I post regularly about things I’m thinking about in my work and my life, and between posts often check in on friends or other accounts that I follow.

I was curious if its absence could create just a bit more breathing room - a bit more slowness - and a bit more space where other things could reside.

I was quite delighted by what I observed during this time and by the things that did, indeed, fit into these new little spaces of life, created by this month-long pause.

Here are a few of the things I have been reflecting on along the way.

If I want someone to know something, I need to tell them.

Going off social media for a month, I found myself saying “no” several times when asked, “did you see ABC on Instagram?” This exchange made me realize that on occasion in the past, I had assumed that others in my life might know something in my life or my business, simply because I had posted about it on social media. This is an erroneous assumption on a number of levels, and my month-long pause helped to underline my ownership when it comes to communicating important things to others.

If I want to know what’s happening with others in my life, I need to ask.

Going off social media for a month meant that this exchange applied in reverse, as well. No longer could I catch up on others with a quick scroll through Instagram. If I wanted to know how a friend’s race went, I needed to ask her. There was no race recap for me to read during my month-long pause. I found myself appreciating text message check-ins, one on one conversations, and ongoing conversations with close girlfriends on Marco Polo to stay tuned into the everyday happenings of their life.

I read more.

During this time, I read over a book a week. Now, granted, some of these books were short, easy reads. But still. This was more reading than I’d been doing in the months leading up to this pause. I developed what felt like a very luxurious habit of reading a good old fashioned book each night before bed. While I did this on and off regularly prior to the social media pause, the “30 days to form a habit” concept worked really well for me in this case, adding a wonderfully consistent wind-down rhythm to my evenings, which I am excited to continue.

I walked more.

I’m not sure if this benefit was directly correlated, or simply a conveniently timed coincidence given the shifting weather here in the midwest, but in these new little pockets of white space, I found myself on many slow, delightful walks with the dog. Walks around the neighborhood, walks along the bike path, walks in the morning, and walks in the evening before bed. In addition to more reading, this was my favorite unintended and unexpected outcome of the social media pause.

I was less annoyed.

Despite my attempts at a highly curated feed, there’s still plenty of annoying stuff that I find myself accidentally stumbling upon when I log onto Instagram. In a few cases, I noticed that this content was causing my heart to beat a bit faster, and my breath to become a bit shorter. The absence of these little tidbits of annoyance was quite lovely.

I did miss one important thing.

To my knowledge, I didn’t miss too many earth-shattering updates during my social media pause. I talked regularly with girlfriends - catching up on day-to-day, ordinary life events, as well as massive life changes like the arrival of a new baby. I read the blogs and newsletters of people I love to follow. I continued writing on my own blog, and sending out my newsletter to the incredible Zing Collaborative community. I did, however, discover that I missed one very important (to me) thing: the announcement of a Farewell Flow by my all-time favorite yoga instructor, leading me to sign up five days after it was announced, putting me 12th on the waitlist. This was a class that I attended almost every Sunday morning that I was in town for the last year and a half - a class that I called my church. And despite stalking the yoga schedule every week for the possibility of my favorite teacher’s return, I missed the announcement of this class - shared only via Instagram. Since signing up yesterday, I’ve bumped up to 11th on the waitlist, so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for 11 more cancelations, which might just mean that I can say that there were no negative impacts of my month-long pause.

Concluding Thoughts

I did this social media pause as an experiment - to see if it might help me to create more of the white space I’ve been craving. It definitely did, along with delivering a few other unexpected surprises such as more reading and more walks with the pup. As I ease back in over the upcoming weeks, I’m looking forward to observing what I notice along the way.

For More

I recommend checking out Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I discovered this book after doing my social media pause, but after digging into his research, I found it to be incredibly timely coming off my own social media hiatus. What struck me most were his findings related to our addictive patterns with technology. He found that it was not the introduction of the iPhone that made us addicted to our phones, but rather the “like” button on social media - something that triggers a basic human instinct to want to know that we are valued, or that someone is thinking about us. Hear more on the book via this brief podcast from Outside Online, or the Blinkist Summary for a great overview.