Read & Watch

The same old song: Our jobs as creators and fans.


Whether you create (and you do) or are a fan of art (and you are), may this post offer you comfort, inspiration, or something in between.

With love,



To the Creators.

I’ve been giving variations on the same talk for a long time now, and it was beginning to make me feel like Peggy Fleming skating to a medley from Fiddler on the Roof. Perhaps this is what Fleming’s audience would want to see – left to our devices, we often want what is smooth and familiar and instantly warm.

 – Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies)

As the reader, I of course rooted for Lamott to give a brand-spankin’ new talk. One delivered from a place of fresh truth, freedom and expansion, happily assured that her audience would rise to meet her with thunderous applause and the adoration of a thousand fiery suns.

Turns out, when Lamott DID change up her talk, it was an unmitigated disaster. Sonorous silence, but for the lone cricket chirping away, looking for his mate. (It’s possible that I made that detail up being one of my own grade A biggie speaking fears. Yours too?)

As a fan of people taking big risks, swinging out and saying the truth, it’s really important, (and feels like it’s my civic duty) to point to a couple of contributing factors to the public speaking nightmare that unraveled on that stage.

1) The first is that she didn’t prepare. And the talk, in her words, bombed. We know this: if you’re a speaker, you must prepare and practice and train like it’s your job…’cause from the stage, that IS your job. Fin.

2) The second fact is that the crowd was disappointed that they weren’t getting exactly what they were thirsting for. Which is what she’d been delivering time and time again and they were used to it. They knew what to expect. Kinda like when you go to sip your wine and realize all too soon that you’ve sipped your kid’s milk. Kinda like that, but more cerebral-like.

And frankly, that’ll happen any time we deviate from the script that is “smooth and familiar and instantly warm”.

Which is why so few deviate from the script.

Which is ALSO why there is so little new, fresh and evolved. And that there are so many creative one-hit wonders (who succumbed to the Impostor Complex.)

Remember Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous TED talk on creativity and genius? It’s 19 wise and entertaining minutes that speak in part to her process facing the question: ‘How do I pull off “Eat, Pray, Love” again?’

In short, two words:

You don’t.

Or, in her words:

And it’s exceedingly likely that anything I write from this point forward is going to be judged by the world as the work that came after the freakish success of my last book…it’s exceedingly likely that my greatest success is behind me. Oh, so Jesus, what a thought! You know that’s the kind of thought that could lead a person to start drinking gin at nine o’clock in the morning, and I don’t want to go there. I would prefer to keep doing this work that I love.

The fear of a success and the subsequent “how do I top that?” is a bona fide fear that is revealed to me in hushed tones time in time again by my brilliant coaching clients:

“I’m terrified that this (project, book, launch, business, endeavour, talk etc) will be such a screaming success and I won’t be able to top it, or deliver again”.

While Elizabeth Gilberts’ follow-up “Committed” wasn’t a flop the way Lamott’s talk was, it wasn’t the screaming success that “Eat, Pray, Love” was either.


Neither Lamott nor Gilbert allowed that to stop them. Which is why you know who they are to this day.They are brilliant women, prolific artists and communicators who kept doing the work and DIDN’T become one-hit wonders.

If you’re an artist and you experience success, you will undoubtedly ask yourself:

‘How do I pull off my own personal version of “Eat, Pray, Love” again?’

I repeat:

You don’t.

You’ll create anew. That is, if you heed the Big Point of Gilbert’s talk:

Maybe [artistry] doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished … it starts to change everything.

It’s not about you, Dear Artist. It’s bigger than you.


To the Fans.

A confession. If I ever went to see Peggy Fleming, I bet I’d want to see her skate to a medley from Fiddler on the Roof. If I ever saw Anne Lamott talk, I suspect I’d want to hear share some of the stories that I know and love of hers. And if I ever saw Lauryn Hill in concert, I’m fairly certain I’d want to hear her perform “Doo Wop (That Thing)” from her brilliant 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”.

Because I like what I like and sometimes I like that which is “smooth and familiar and instantly warm”.

I don’t love the new and experimental. There. That’s my confession. And it’s a big one.

Which is why this piece by Talib Kweli Greene about the backlash against Lauryn Hill struck me so.damned.hard.

Where have I been treating artists like products?

“The artist is a human being, not a product. Sure, the artist makes products that are for sale, but the artist is not forever in your debt because you may have purchased a product from them at some point.”

Where have I expected to be pandered to?

“Artists make art for themselves. Art is an honest expression. Artists who pander to their fans by trying to make music “for” their fans make empty, transparent art. The true fan does not want you to make music for them, they want you to make music for you, because that’s the whole reason they fell in love with you in the first place.”

It’s not about you, Dear Fan. It’s bigger than you.

Where have I felt like an artist owed me something?

“However fans are not your boss, and listening to them when it comes to creative decisions is a slippery slope. I am not obligated to make the same album over and over again just because fans demand it. I am allowed to try new things, succeed at them or fail at them.”

Yes. Yes. Yes yes yes yes.

With every fibre of my being, I know this to be true:

You are allowed to try new things, Talib Kweli Greene. You will fail and you will succeed.

You are allowed to try new things, Anne Lamott. You will fail and you will succeed.

You are allowed to try new things, Elizabeth Gilbert. You will fail and you will succeed.

You are allowed to try new things, Tanya Geisler. You will fail and you will succeed.

You are allowed to try new things, dear reader. You will fail and you will succeed.

(Understanding what success and failure means is up to us, individually.)

Do what comes next. Write the next book, take the next stage, launch the next THING, create the next project, paint the next canvas.

It may well become an unmitigated disaster. And it may not be.

The Point.

If you’re a creator (and you are), your responsibility rests in finding your own edges. In staying open to the gifts that you will receive from an unimaginable source. In giving yourself wings – big flappy wing of expansion, and plenty of room. Taking off requires that.

If you’re a fan (and you are), your responsibility rests in celebrating what you have appreciated about the artist’s work and to allow them their own space to evolve. It’s true, they may pass us over and fly off to new lands we don’t care to visit. It’s a risk we all must take together. It’s called progress. (And? It wouldn’t kill any of us to challenge our palate, she said pointedly to herself.)


Making our Heroes into Zeroes and other forms of Hero-Worship are unpacked for discovery in my new collaboration with Lauren Bacon: Beyond Compare. Get on the list NOW and gain access to this weeks’ brilliant interview series with Amy Palko, Sarah Bray, Ronna Detrick, Paul Jarvis and Julie Daley (and a chance to win a copy of the complete digital program).



Today, I’m a Mama-missing Mama

I’m looking outside my office window, willing the lilacs to burst into their signature colour and fragrance. It would be a Brenda Geisler birthday miracle. She was pretty powerful and could bend time and space, so I half-expect the buds to transform before my eyes. But stubborn and tired from a viciously bitter winter here, the flowers are two weeks from blooming.

So I turn my thoughts to her other favourite things. Shared favourite things. And it’s a long and luscious list.

Crisp white linens. Apples and cheddar. Holt Renfrew credit cards. Belly laughs. Trooper songs. Tennis played on clay courts. Popcorn. The Sound of Music. Meaningful conversations. Dreaming + scheming. A cleansing cry. Silk. Simple design warmed up with riotous colour. Keeping the peace. Cherries jubilee. Picnics. Oysters. Gardening. Harry Belafonte. Learning.

One of my most prized possessions is an 11-page letter she wrote me when I was 17 and took a trip to California with my best friend. She, my Dad and sister were leaving for a Maine junket before I returned so we were to be apart for up to three weeks. I am missing pages 1 and 9. It is one-part instructive (be sure to use the feta in the fridge and enjoy the tomatoes off of the vine before the squirrels do), one-part diary, (we sold that beater of a car, your sister’s boyfriend broke his ankle “He is unlucky. How will they go on dates?”), and one-part poetry (“Please don’t be afraid of the sounds that this house makes. It’s a big, old rambling house that creaks and groans with the weight of its age and the lives of the people who have been blessed to live here.”) All parts wholly, purely love.

Yes, she had a soft voice, sweet handwriting and strong opinions. She would have been…no wait. I can’t tell you her age. She wouldn’t have liked it.

During her Shōgun phase, we were required to eat everything with chopsticks. Even stew. She wrote letters to the editor. Frequently. M*A*S*H episodes directed by Alan Alda were overly indulgent. Thank you cards were a must…but not birthday cards. The national anthem wasn’t ever to be trifled with. And she made phenomenal trifle…no apologies for the Cool Whip.

When you clink glasses, you must look the other person in the eye. Or else it doesn’t count.
When you pray, you must pray with full heart. Or else it doesn’t count.
When you sing, you must sing from your soul. Or else it doesn’t count.
When you hug, your hearts must touch. Or else it doesn’t count.

She could never quite pronounce Ellen Degeneres, mille feuilles, nor arugula, and she never did make it to India, but she did leave behind a legacy of love and wisdom.

So today, another request: please clink, pray, sing and hug like it counts. And above all, as ever…

Don't postpone joy

On cooking shows, mystery ingredients, transformation and Amy Palko

Cooking shows are one of my guilty pleasures. Specifically the kind that challenge the chefs with mystery ingredients.

Ooh…what will they do with that processed cheese and shredded coconut? Those morels and doughnuts?

Because, of course, the real question is, what would I do with the processed cheese and doughnuts.

The rub, of course, is that the judges expect the chefs to transform the ingredient into something symphonic…but not so very much that the essence is compromised.

This is where it gets tricky.

It’s easy to hide processed cheese in a mélange of emmental and kirsch to make a cheese fondue. Quite another to transform it in such a way that the, umm, ‘integrity’ and essence of the processed cheese not only remains in tact, but is in fact, highlighted. The star of the dish.

Tricky to be sure.

Stepping into your starring role, and frankly ALL transformative journeys, can feel like a high-stakes version of this sort of cooking show.

I THINK I want to step into my starring role, but what happens when I go deep? Will I discover something that will compromise the essence of who I am?

Ah. Here it is. The essence of the soul cannot be transmuted.

[Tweet “The essence of the soul cannot be transmuted.”]

And Step into Your Starring Role is about getting to the essence of who you are. The role you were born to play…THAT role is YOU.

Got that? Your starring role is YOU.

As the luminous luminary Amy Palko discovered. And thank sweet merciful heavens she did.

In her words.

Before Step into Your Starring Role, I was really in a place of confusion which was circling around feelings of invalidation. I was casting around for guidance on what the next step for me on my journey was, and I was coming up with nothing. I couldn’t see even a fragment of a “big dream” that felt authentic to me. And so I was investing time and energy, albeit reluctantly, into dreams that I felt were “sanctioned” – dreams that I thought it was ok, even natural, to aim for. But they were a wrong fit. And so I ended up treading water, while in my heart of hearts, what I knew I really wanted was permission. Permission to want what I want.

The new reality is that my dreams are not someone else’s dreams. And that my dreams and their dreams can coexist without cancelling one another out. That we can all want what we want, and that’s a beautiful thing. I now see that my search for permission was leading me back to me, because I am the only one who can give it.

Amy-Palko-option-1I can write poetry. I can do goddess readings. I can tell stories. I can commune with the sacred feminine. I can generate real and resonant connections just through sharing my truth, through sharing my heart. And that this can be enough. That I am a juicy creatrix, and that I can either deny that part of myself, or I can let it free… and life feels so much better when I let it free.

And if that were all not enough, I have also aligned with my values in a way I never knew possible. I have learned ways to deal with my critics, both inner and outer. I have found out that making the ask makes everything so much easier… and that ease is not a dirty word.

I have learned that my starring role is to be Amy Palko. And that I don’t need external validation to step into that role. I just need to give myself permission to live it. And I do.

SIYSR has made it possible for me to stop pushing and start allowing. This looks like welcoming interns to help me hold the energy of my Goddess Guidance group. This looks like travelling to San Francisco to co-host a workshop on women’s desire. (TG note:: if you’re in San Francisco…you MUST check out Liberating Lilith…sublime. If it weren’t the same weekend as my daughter’s birthday, I would be there in a heartbeat.)

This looks like curating a new poetry collection. This looks like feeling out the edges of a larger writing project that is sitting on the cusp of articulation. All while continuing to deliver in my business. In fact, knowing that my business benefits exponentially when I take care of my number one resource – me.

Can you feel the deep sense of ahhhhhh in that? The essence of Amy Palko remains in tact, in integrity. The results? Deliciously symphonic.

So…getting ready to Step into Your Starring Role? Doors open March 17th. Get on the list for early bonuses.

What’s the axle around which your work revolves?


My daughter is learning about simple machines in school right now. You know…inclines, wedges, screws, levers, pulleys, wheels and axles…that kinda thing. She’s been arguing the case that without the axle, pulleys and wheels don’t function properly, and as such, they’re the most important. (Axles for the win, said very few people, ever.)

So, naturally, I’m thinking about axles. And how it relates to the core of what each of us does. How freeing it is to see and know the axle around which all of our work revolves. And how the work we do REQUIRES that axle for revolution. Circular. And stable. And guess what loathes stability? Yup. The Impostor Complex.

Take Erin Giles. She is a wildly brilliant new mama of two. She has a heart the size of all the Southern States (and a sweet accent to show for it). She is powerful and innovative and loves fiercely. My kind of woman.

Two years ago, she invited me to be a part of her End Sex Trafficking Day campaign. I was honoured and of course, keen.

She’s a woman up to incredible things. AND a former Step into Your Starring Role participant.

In her words.

Before SIYSR I considered myself a business owner, a coach a consultant even…but not a leader or a teacher. Tanya helped me see no matter what title I used or how good I felt about the work I did I wasn’t fully stepping into my role because I didn’t see myself as a leader. I felt like an imposter and it wasn’t until my work with her that I realized just how important it was for me to claim my role as a leader.

So Erin’s axle is that of leader.

And when she started to recognize that she’s a leader, when she got it, REALLY GOT IT, it’s made all the difference. And it informs all that she does.

Within months of claiming the role as a leader and teacher, I’ve been invited to speak at two engagements that last year I wouldn’t have dreamed I would be stepping up on stage at.

I’m not saying I’m not intimidated still, I’m nervous as can be but I said YES. I’m stepping up and recognizing that the work I bring needs to be heard. 

AND ohmygoodness it needs to be heard. Seriously. She’s inspiring entrepreneurs everywhere to take a good look at their own give-back style that sets them on track to creating social impact (and her free week Mission: Movement Maker starts soon…sign up here).

Her goals for this year

To welcome speaking engagements, offerings and products that I know I need to say yes to and to be confident in doing so. What I’m really happy about is knowing that it’s ok, normal even to be nervous stepping into my role, but doing it 110% in spite of.

As I type these words, Erin is hours of taking the stage at a conference. And she’s going to rock it. As she did on the TEDx stage last year.

So…what’s the axle around which all of your work revolves? Are you claiming it? Owning it? ‘Cause once you do, doors open. Promise.

PS – Speaking of doors, the Step into Your Starring Role doors open March 17th. Get on the list for early bonuses.

How do you want to feel?

Oh, that Danielle. How do you want to feel, she asks.

Like a heat + clarity-seeking truth missile, how do you want to feel locates the core  of it all…and detonates with the light of a thousand suns.

When I first got my hands on the Desire Map, I devoured it and allowed the juices to run down my chin and arms. Delicious fruit can be eaten no other way.

And then, in February, 2013, I was invited by Team D to share my core desired feelings with the Desire Mapper community. I was honoured, touched and a little shy. Naming desires can feel, so, public. Even selfish? Ooooh yeah…THAT. Maybe I’ll be judged for the flimsiness of my desires. Maybe my desires aren’t enough.

You read that correctly. “Maybe my desires aren’t enough.” Given that this is the work that I do, THAT feels hard to admit. Because here’s what I know to be true…at the very foundation of it all, this life, this VERY life is short. And deeply precious. Your purpose is rooted in what you desire. And living a life of purpose, to me, is what it’s all about. Circular sweetness.

It’s called evolution.

In celebration of Danielle’s new site, and my desire for YOU to name your desires, I wanted to revisit my responses from February to see what has changed in the past 11 months. Much has, but not my core desired feelings.

Q+A with Team Danielle (February 2013)

1. What are your core desired feelings? Or even tell us just one.

Joy, joy and more joy.

“Don’t postpone joy” was my Mama’s mantra and it has informed how I’ve lived (and loved) for the last couple of years of my life…which, not surprisingly, have been the most joyful. (Mm hmm.)

And for me to feel my personal brand of joy, I must feel prosperous, gorgeous, generous, in connection and grateful (ever grateful).

2. What have you stopped doing so that you could create one/all of these core desired feelings?

I’ve given up the empty calories of regret. Not postponing joy has required me to stop living in the past. Bemoaning twists and turns, zigs and zags has always left me feeling insufficient, ugly, stingy, disconnected and selfish. Unhooking myself from coulda woulda shoulda’s feels infinitely lighter…more me.

3. What are you doing THIS week to generate any of your core desired feelings?

I’ll be in NYC at the end of the month for the wrap-up day of The Golden Ticket (with Michelle Ward). I’m bringing my family and I just booked a pretty sweet hotel room (with plans to do it up right). That’s mighty aligned with how prosperous feels to me.

(Update:: it.was.a.blast.)

I’m gorgi-fying my work space this week. New paint, new furniture, framing the kid’s art. I’m also gorgi-fying my post-holiday self-care. Things got a little, erm, “festive” over the holidays (read: I apologize if I didn’t leave any brie and prosecco for you). But instead of berating myself with the coulda woulda shouldas, I’ve got a plan in motion that feels as gorgeous as I want to feel.

The desire to feel generous + grateful have led to daily inquiries: Who can I help today? What am I grateful for? Turns out, these are muscles that are quite loose and limber already, so I know there’s an opportunity for me to dive deeper and strengthen them.

As for connection, there’s a way that the first week of the year feels like it’s all ABOUT connecting: like the holidays have shone a light on the relationships that matter. So the work required for me won’t be this week: it will be in ensuring that I keep this light on throughout the year.

4. What are you listening to that gets your core desired feelings revved up?

All music that I can hear in my heart makes me feel grateful.

Iron + Wine’s Trapeze Swinger and Bon Iver’s Holocene are two mainlines for me to feel connected with my own fine self. A little kitchen dancing to Michael Franti brings my family’s heart back to centre.

Old-school Annie Lennox makes me feel gorgeous.

Music that makes me feel generous or prosperous? I’ll get back to you on that.

{Side note: children singing the national anthem and bagpipers in parades makes my heart melt from something that feels like joy, but that includes a confounding cocktail of sweet sadness, frisson, and inexplicably, silliness.)

So this morning, I checked in with the question:: How do I want to feel? And the answer:: As ever, generous, in connection and grateful (ever grateful), prosperous and gorgeous.

What I’m doing in 2014 to keep those lit up.

There’s always room for me to deepen into generosity. There is no doubt that this aspect of my realm wants some more attention. How can I offer more of my time, talents and attention in ways that are helpful, loving, and truthful…this is my continued enquiry. I’m gaining on it.

It’s the “in connection” piece that has been troubling me. Oh, my natural set-point as a 2 on the Enneagram and a Myers-Briggs ESFJ makes good ‘n sure that that I pay extra attention and offer exquisite care to my family, friends and clients. But my list, the lovely human beings who have offered me permission to contact them with my words…I’ve been wanting to find more meaningful ways to connect with them. And so, desire leads to action and I’m currently working on a Monthly Missive (so much more gorgeous than “newsletter”, non?). It will offer Backstage Access to what I’m working on, appreciating, sharing and will invite readers to go deeper in their own enquiry (as desired). And swag bags, yes yes yes…treats every month. (I’d get on the list if I were you. And you can thank Danielle later.)

How do YOU want to feel? Get out the Map.

Get out the map
And lay your finger anywhere down
We’ll leave the figurin’ to those
We pass on our way out of town
Don’t drink the water
There seems to be somethin’ ailin’ everyone
I’m gonna clear my head
I’m gonna drink that sun
I’m gonna love you good and strong
While our love is good and young.

 – Indigo Girls (Get out the Map)

Knowing the answer to how you want to feel WILL transform everything. How you relate, communicate, love, work, cook, sing, plan, parent, create. Everything. Danielle and the Desire Map suite of goodness will guide you through the elegant process of getting to the heart of (what) matters:: your desires.

So…how do YOU want to feel?

Ampersands & Otherselves. (Or, Your Contradictions are Your Brilliance.)

This I know.

You, just like me, want to be liked, understood, seen and heard. Intellectually, you get that not EVERYONE will get you and you’re (mostly) fine with that, as long as YOUR PEOPLE get you. (Though, let’s face it: wouldn’t it be so much nicer if everyone just found you as delightful as you truly are?)

In that desire to be liked, understood, or to fit in, we are super intentional and hyper-aware of what we’re revealing to our world (and NOT revealing.) Which can have us shelving parts of ourselves that don’t follow the script we believe we’re supposed to follow…or that we believe others expect us to follow. Our OTHERselves get edited out, like the mess that’s cropped out of the picture.

To be received as wise, we shelve our goofiness. To be received as powerful, we shelve our vulnerability.

What if you didn’t?

What if you imagined, for just a little while, that not only could we handle your otherselves, but that it would actually offer us yet another place to lean in, appreciate and learn from you?

That your strands of apparent contractions add depth and gorgeous texture to the fabric of your being, designed by your soul?

That the fullness of your expression invites the same in us?

That what you are editing out is precisely what we need?

And moreoever, precisely what YOU need to honour your own intrinsic value of authenticity?

You are tender & fierce.

You are wise & a goofball.

You are warm & an unapologetic truth-teller.

You are deeply pragmatic & wildly creative.

You are this & that.

The two facets are not at odds; they are in complement.  They are the umami & the sweetness. The harmony & the melody. The orange & the purple. The masculine & the feminine.

You’ve been shelving your otherselves for so long that this may feel like a welcome relief or may knot you up even tighter. Just trust me. There is nothing but expansion available to you when you make room for your ampersands.

Witness:: Business magnate & enlightened social activist. NHL goalie & lawyer.  Cyber-punk & pastor. Silver screen star & inventor.

Bring in your ampersands & otherselves

Don’t shelve your otherselves in an attempt to make it easier for us to receive you. Not only can we take you as you are, but we are richer for your ampersands.

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