Double Bottom Lineage

Pardon the dust on this blog – a few months back I fell into a rabbit hole. It came in the form of a business model called The Double Bottom Line.

Have you heard of it?

If not, let me explain in brief. Because it is very much worth knowing about. The double bottom line is a business model and brand foundation in which a company measures its success by both the profit it pulls in and the profit it gives out. It’s combining profitability and responsibility into a “not-JUST-for-profit” business formula.

Sounds a lot like cause marketing, right? Wrong. Double bottom line is not an initiative. It is intrinsically linked with a brand’s purpose from the brand DNA up. The profit depends on the purpose, which is what makes it different from other for-profit businesses. And its purpose depends on its profits. Which makes it different from non-profits.

Making money is essential to a double bottom line.  And, as it is turning out, inevitable as well. From the looks of the way consumers are responding, the double bottom line is the golden goose egg in today’s economy. From the Yale school of business to the billionaire Richard Branson, it is being applied to create incredible success across the board. The double bottom line is being touted as the differentiating business success strategy of the 21st century.

Take, for example,  an epically successful double bottom line brand by the name of Pandora. On a very high level, this brand’s second bottom line is to freely connect harmony and humanity. And on a more day-to-day level, they put this second bottom line in action by bringing music into schools where a lack of funding had cut arts and music programs.

And it was this second bottom line that secured start up funding for Pandora from a VC firm that invests only in double bottom line brands.

Yep, as crazy as it sounds, there are a growing number of VC funds out there who will only invest in brands that have a double bottom line. Now, as you can imagine, few people have their fingers more firmly on the pulse of success strategies than venture capitalists. It’s essential to protecting their investments. And while they are investing base on the results they see, I’m taking a moment to focus on the reason for those results.

What is the secret sauce in double bottom line branding that makes it so success savvy, anyway?

As with most intrinsically brilliant creations, the answer is actually quite simple: People are responding so authentically and powerfully to the double bottom line because it speaks to the very heart of who we are. Underneath it all, we – you and me alike – are all double bottom line enterprises.

We are born that way.

Think about it: We are human, with a need to feel safe and experience all the pleasures of life (which we can do when we have a profitable business that gives us financial security). And we are spiritual, with a need to feel our greater connection and discover meaning in this thing called life (which we can do by offering our unique gifts in a way that benefits the world in a bigger way).

This duality is at the heart of who we are.  It is, literally, the way in which we were born to express ourselves. So when you bring these two parts of you together into a single brand expression, shazam! A switch is tripped. And the real power starts to flow. And that power has a name: You.

Suddenly, you bring ALL of you to the game of business and the game of life. How could a unified force like that ever be anything other than unstoppably successful?

When you double down on your bottom line, you immediately begin operating from a more powerful and authentic place inside yourself. And in doing so, you connect more authentically and powerfully with consumers in your marketplace. As well as family, friends, and everyone else in your life.

We all have within us, amazing things to share. And there is nothing, nothing at all, wrong with making money doing just that. Money is not the root of all evil. It is a powerful ally for good – the more you make, the more you happiness you can spread, in both your life and the lives of others.

The business world is, at long last, offering us the opportunity to be ourselves. Our whole, real, true, unstoppable selves. Nothing could be more valuable. Nothing could be more fulfilling. Nothing could bring the walking dead of the corporate world more quickly back to life.

And there in lies the double bottom line of Branding Powers: To build brands that allow what you do for a living actually making you feel more alive. And by alive, I mean brimming with vitality professionally, personally, financially, socially, creatively and spiritually.

The marriage of personal satisfaction and professional success is no longer a pipe dream. It’s now a very real, very proven, quickly growing business model that the entire world is readily adopting. And it’s just waiting for you.

How ‘bout them double bottom line apples?

©2012 THE BOOK OF DUH, Merry Carole Powers, Sarah Feit Cornett

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ZOMBIE BBQS

Happy Memorial Day!

For the most part, when the vast many of us think about this day, the things that readily come to mind are barbeques, getting together with friends and family, the onset of summer and, of course, a blessed, always welcome, day off work!

All good stuff, admittedly.

And while we all know, in the back of our heads, that the holiday is really about those who have fought and died for us, truth be told, that notion usually isn’t what’s at the forefront of our holiday festivities. Yes, we are grateful. Yes, we may take a moment to remember, perhaps even visit a gravesite. But is that really all those people deserve?

To truly honor the people who died for us, perhaps we ought to learn to Truly Live.

It seems to me, truly living is becoming a lost art in these times. When I look around me, I don’t see a world of people who look or seem to feel truly alive. I see people exhausted. Bleary eyed and uninspired. Standing on train platforms in a trance. Sitting at tables together with people they love but engaging in their phones rather than their company.

I see lots of people who are undead. But, who, at the same time, aren’t quite alive. And that, my friends, is the definition of a zombie.

Yep, I’m saying it, somewhere along the line, the brutal realities of life as we have created it has turned the human race into a bunch of zombies.

Does that sound harsh? I don’t mean it like that at all. It’s just that, everywhere I look (in the mirror included), I see humans walking around unaware and half dead.

I can’t help but wonder what those brave peeps who died for us would say if they saw us walking through life in our zombiefied state, hearts beating but not pumping us full of inspiration and love.  Letting our jobs, our illnesses and our self imposed limitations suck the life out of us. Letting our doctors, our bosses, our debt and our doubt tell us how to live. All these things equate to dying a little bit inside ourselves.

And I, for one, think we can do better.

Those brave people who died so we could live deserve to see us alive with happiness at the privilege and honor of being here at this party called Life. So perhaps its time we start tapping into the things that make us feel alive.

And for my money, those things are four fold. Passion. Joy. Presence. Love

These are the four horsemen of the anti-apocalypse. And together they make for most pleasant wake up call on the planet.

The only alarm bells they set off are the ones we want to hear. Long to hear, actually.

Passion, Joy, Presence and Love are a powerful elixir. They have the undeniable power to pull us out of our trance like state and make us pulse with aliveness. When you think about it, some combination of these four guide and govern the all of our lives – from the people in our hearts to the books on our shelves. They even have the power to stop or speed up time. With them, time flies. Without them, it drags.

And the beauty of each of these is that they are readily available to each and every one of us. They exist and are accessible inside us as long as we live. Which, thanks to the brave soldiers of wars past, is something we are all currently doing.

So today, to honor those who have died, I, for one, am pledging from here on out wake up, rub the zombie out of my eyes and really, really, reeeeallllly be alive. Join me?

©2012 The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Feit Cornett

On second thought, go ahead … BE A DOUCHEBAG!

Douche bag. D-Bag. Doucher. Douchey. I admit it, for some reason, that word is fun to say. And it has, without a doubt, become the ultimate insult de jour.  However, after a bit of an a-ha moment on a run the other day, my question for you is … why?

Why did being a douche bag ever become a bad thing?

When you think about it, what that particular little gadget has the ability to do is flush out the old gunk that doesn’t belong inside you and could possibly make you sick.

And don’t we all – people and brands alike – carry within us, in the dark and hard to reach places, unhealthy ideas, thoughts, beliefs and patterns that don’t truly belong to us? Things we’ve picked up from people and experiences along the way that do nothing but create unhealthy outcomes in our lives?

In case you are wondering, that was a trick question. Because there is only one answer. And it is yes.

The simple truth of the matter is, every person, business and relationship on this planet could probably use a good mental, emotional and energetic douching.

Flooding all the long held beliefs inside you with the light of awareness is such a great way of doing that. Sending a stream of energy into a dark, possibly contaminated place and flushing it out is the quickest way to amp up the positive energy that fuels you from within.

Isn’t that what meditation, energy work and applied awareness do? And hasn’t science and spirituality alike proven that those things are extremely good for us?

Admittedly, it’s not a pleasant process to snake your way into the deeply personal spaces within where your greatest fears and insecurities are lodged. But whether you are striving to make a success of your business or of the business of living, it is trip of Massengillic proportions that is worth making.

Life loves the lighthearted. And it responds to the clear intention. Knowing that, why wouldn’t we want to flush away the unwanted past that has been clinging to your insides for far too long?  Come on – I double douche dare you!


                  ©2012 The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Feit Cornett

OUTWARDITIS. IS IT PLAGUING YOU?

 I recently wrote a business article about a little something I call outwarditis. It talks a lot about how I see brands suffering in all kinds of ways as a result of looking to outside solutions such as headhunters, advertisers, consultants and so on to solve the long-term issues that have been plaguing their brands.

And as I was writing, it dawned on me that this disorder goes far beyond the business world. Outwarditis has reached epidemic proportions in our everyday world as well.  It can’t be denied that the vast majority of us run ourselves ragged looking for an outward answer to the things that hold us back and make us uncomfortable in our lives.

We devour book after self help book to enlighten us. We blow through therapist after therapist to fix us. We join running groups and meetup groups to create a sense of belonging and mutual understanding.  We pop pill after pill so that we can sleep more, eat less and manage everything from anxiety to attention span.

The list goes on and on. There seems to be this deep seeded cultural belief that the solution lies in somebody else’s hands.

And it’s a shame, because the simple truth is, none of the solutions that will bring us the lasting comfort we yearn for are ever going to be found outside ourselves. Even the ones that give temporary relief eventually stop working, sending people scurrying for higher doses, replacement therapists and latest crazes.

Which is why outwarditis is a terminal condition. It will never, never lead any of us to the source of the actual problem. Which means we will just continue to suffer until the day we die.

But here’s the good news: There is a cure. It’s you.

Within you lies every answer. And looking inward, instead of outward, will lead you to the solution to every mental, physical and emotional disorder in existence. Once you know that, then all you need is some solid guidance, a bit of courage and a boatload of tenacity. That trifecta, applied to what ails you in a consistent, never-surrender kind of way will always, eventually, end in triumph.

Now you would think that would conjure up excitement, but for some reason, it tends to kick up all kinds of fear.

Don’t ask me why, but we as a race seem to fear our own power.  And as a result, our innate ability to create a life filled with passion, purpose, excitement, health, wealth and love sits dormant, gathering dust within.

Eeeek. Doesn’t the thought of that just make you want to give your outwarditis an inwardectomy? If so, join the crew on the Facebook Branding Powers page. We’ll be sure to dose you regularly with tidbits on just how to do so!

© 2012 The Book of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Feit Cornett.

FARTING BUNNIES AND FAMOUS BRANDS

Well, it’s Easter. And I’m just not sure what to talk about … The magical bunny that farts chocolate eggs or the unshaven dude who rose from the dead.

Then again, maybe I don’t have to choose. Because if you stop to think about it for a minute, the two actually have a lot in common.

They both represent the power of pulling off a seemingly impossible deed.

I love the seemingly impossible. It’s always there, just begging to be proven wrong. And one of the things I love the most about being a part of the branding world is that so often brands do exactly that.

Did you know Colonel Sanders had well over a thousand doors slammed in his face before anyone was willing to try his secret recipe?

Brands like Volkswagen, Lacoste and Old Spice have all risen from the dead at one point or another.

And Apple, Amazon, Google and Disney all started in someone’s garage.

Pulling off the seemingly impossible is alive and well in the world of brands. And I love it! It’s a powerful and inspiring reminder to all brands – and all people running them – that there is truly to limit to what you can make of yourself.

And having been a part of the marketing world for as long as I have, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that, with the exception of Colonel Sanders, there really is no secret to the recipe of success shared by all the mega successful brands out there. In fact, it can really be whittled down to just one word.

Faith.

That’s the name of the game on Easter day, right? Well, it’s the name of the game everyday if you are building a brand.

You have to absolutely, positively know beyond the shadow of a doubt’s shadow that you have something totally unique and valuable to offer the world. And the real trick to that is knowing without a doubt that you, as a human being, are totally unique and valuable.

Yet far too few of us on this planet truly embrace that. As a whole, we good people are plagued with doubts and insecurities about our ability to succeed and really leave a powerful legacy behind. It’s the one fundamental difference between the vast majority of us and the stratospherically successful people we all so admire.

Think about it. Can you even imagine ever having heard Steve Jobs say, “I’m not sure I’m good enough to pull this off.” Or what the world might have missed out on if Walt Disney had bought into the whole notion of setting his art aside for a “real job.” Just think how many gazillions of dollars would have been left unmade if after 999 rejections, Colonel Sanders chose to believe in the naysayers instead of himself and throw in the towel.

Luckily that didn’t happen. Of course that didn’t happen. The people who built these brands all had passion for who they were and what they could create. They believed in themselves and their innate ability to bring their unique ideas to life. They knew long before anyone else that they had something valuable to offer the world. If they hadn’t trusted that, believe me, none of us would have little white chords spilling out of our iPod obsessed ears or fighting the SEO war to get our name to the top of that Google page.

We are all capable of making our marks in such a grand fashion. All we need to do is learn to get out of our own ways.

I really believe in this. I believe we find our super powers in our professional endeavors because we are willing to dig so deeply into this part of our lives. Think about the sleep we are willing to lose for our work. The hoops we are willing to jump through. The energy we are willing to expend.

We pour so much of who we are into our what we do for a living. And that makes this area of life an incredible opportunity to become powerful.

And becoming powerful is exactly what I wish for you.  I am investing all my marketing skill and life wisdom and personal passion into creating ways to help brands bust through the doubts that hold them back so that they can authentically create a powerful voice and presence. Build powerful profits. And leave powerful legacies.  Will you join me on my new Facebook page to help me in that cause? It’s called Branding Powers. And I’ve created it because I believe in brands, and more to the point, the people who run them.

On that thought I will leave you. Because, as I mentioned earlier, there are chocolate bunny farts to be eaten.

SPLIT PERSONALITIES

Setting aside those who have been officially diagnosed, split personalities seem to be a popular coping mechanism for the vast majority of the rest of us as well.  In the spirit of complete honesty, I’ve been watching it in myself for years.

Every day, when I walk into the professional world, I transform, at least to some degree, into something that I intrinsically am not. I split from Merry Carole and become “Professional Merry Carole.” A girl who hides certain aspects of who she is and what she believes. A girl who somehow feels her personal truths are not welcome in her professional endeavors. In essence when I get to work, I “check myself at the door.” For the most part, I’m guessing we all do. For some reason, the office door has become a gateway dividing who we are from whom we are expected to be.

It’s true, right? We walk into work and suddenly need to watch what we do, watch what we share, watch what we say and how we say it. (Enter the whole delightful notion of political correctness.)

When the whole notion of jobs and careers came about, it was pretty simple: An exchange of a certain type of talent for a certain amount of cash. But somewhere along the way, things have changed.

The deal we strike these days for receiving a paycheck is very different.  Skill and talent is now the least of what we give. We also agree to be compliant when something does not sit well with us. To be respectful of those “higher up” on the totem pole even if they haven’t done anything to elicit that respect. We are expected to be “politically correct” rather than clear and honest.  To be “professional” when we are not treated fairly or appropriately. And most noticeably, to be willing to work night, day and weekends because, hey, we’re lucky we have jobs.

I see this as alive in those who own their own businesses as I do in those who work for others. The players might sound a little different, but the dynamic is the same. Instead of the boss having the ultimate say, it’s the client. Instead of a supervisor forcing you to work overtime, it’s personal fears of not succeeding that send you working late into the night and all through the weekend.

No matter who we are working for, if we are operating from a place of fear, we are working against ourselves.

And let’s be honest: it is fear that runs the show in the professional world. Fear of losing our jobs. Losing our homes. Losing our livelihood. And while I am as much at the mercy of this dynamic as anyone, I still have to wonder: Should the person holding the checkbook really have the ultimate, almighty say in our lives?

Would we stay in friendships that didn’t allow us to speak freely and laugh openly? Would we go to restaurants that expected us to pay for our food and stay late to wash the dishes because hey, we’re lucky just to have a meal.

No way, right?

I am wondering if, perhaps, it isn’t time to bring more of who we truly are into the work place. Speak authentically.  Share personally. Value our time in ways beyond the paycheck.

The notion that we can truly separate our personal lives from our professional lives is, seems to me, fundamentally flawed.

Right there in the word profession is the word profess. To make an announcement. Stepping into our professional roles everyday we are professing to the world, “This is who I am.” Given that, how could our professional selves not be an expression of our personal selves? And if that’s the case, how can we not want to feel as genuine and authentic as possible.

If we have to play the game to succeed, then I say perhaps its time to change the game we play. There aren’t personal lives and professional lives. There’s just life. And there isn’t nine-to-five Merry Carole and weekend Merry Carole. There’s just me.

Joy is not designed to be compartmentalized. Passion is not designed to be compartmentalized. Authenticity is not designed to be compartmentalized.

We are all meant to have and express these things through every part of our life.

Therein, I’ll bet you, lies the trick to that whole notion of: And they all lived happily ever after.”

© 2012 The Book of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Feit Cornette

 

Human. Nature.

Wow! Traditionally, this is not something you would hear from a Chicago resident in the middle of March, but I am loving the weather!

Sunny. Clear. Seventies.  WA-hooooooooooo! Bring it on, Mamita Naturaleza!

Honestly, I can’t get enough of it. And, from the looks of all the people in the parks, at the beaches, and on the running trails and the bike paths, I am not the only one. The urge to get outside is impossible to resist when Spring rolls around. The good weather seems to bring out so many of our good qualities.

We feel more sunny, like our optimism is programmed to follow the thermostat. We choose to engage with the screen of life rather than the one on our television or computer. And best of all, we actually take a moment to soak up the beauty that is all around us. It’s like our ability to appreciate what’s been there all along goes into full bloom when Spring rolls around.

And, just between you and me, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is something more than the cabin fever of being cooped up for the winter driving that impulse. Because truth be told, nature brings us back to life all the time, not just in Spring. I’m not talking about the busy, happy lives we make. But Life. The energy that beats at the core of who we are.

The human-nature connection speaks straight to the heart of our human nature.  Don’t ask me how, but the beauty that surrounds somehow has a way of connecting us to the beauty that’s within.

The calm. The expansive. The appreciative. The genuine.

I’ve heard it said that the only zen you find on a mountain top is the zen you bring. And I guess that’s true, but still … The majestic beauty of a mountain top… Or a sunset… Or a moonrise… These things awaken something in us.  Something that, in my opinion, lies dormant for entirely too much of our lives.

It awakens our ability to thrive. Nature is always thriving. And it’s always teaching us how to do the same.

Take, for example, the trees and how they show us that the more willing we are to root ourselves into what is solid in life, the more likely we are to weather even the toughest storms.

And the leaves, that remind us not to fight the tide of life’s turning seasons because like it or not, things change. And if you let it, change can bring out a beauty that’s been hidden deep within.

Even that which follows those beautiful changing leaves – the dreaded dead of winter – holds incredible wisdom for us. The reminder that at times, we have to shut down and go deep within to gather what we need to grow into the next phase of life.

When you look at it like that, how can nature not put a smile on your face, right? Ralph Waldo Emerson said,  “Earth laughs in flowers.”  I agree. I say perhaps it’s time we all learn to let a blade of grass get us high without having to smoke it.

© 2012 The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Feit Cornett

Sneaky ol’ Sunshine.

It was a day like any other day. Or so the sun thought.

For many moons, the sun had watched over the Planet Earth. And on this particular day, as he cut his way across the dawn, the faithful sun saw that, although animals still stretched, children still snuggled, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, as always, still wafted skyward, things were no longer quite the same.

A cloud, it seemed, had settled over the Earth, and the world was looking a bit dim. More land was filled than fertile. More people were lonely than loved. And more nations were fighting than friendly. And worst of all, many people were actually starting to believe that this was a permanent condition. It was this last notion that truly baffled the sun. Preposterous, he thought! Had his unfailing presence taught the people nothing? How could they look at him day after day and not know that darkness is always, always, followed by light?

And, so, rising (as suns do) to the occasion, the clever sun hatched a dazzling plan. He reached down and kissed the heart of humanity, leaving behind a single freckle upon every spirit. This freckle was to be a symbol of the sun’s love and, more importantly, a reminder that hidden in even the tiniest imperfection there lies an invitation to shine. Imperfection, after all, is nothing more than just another way of saying “I’m Perfection.” And once people embrace that, thought the sun, all discouragement will surely melt away.

Oh, the joy it brought him to think how much brighter the planet would shine if only each adorable soul who walked upon it could embrace the simple truth of their perfection. Just imagine, mused the sun, if they stopped allowing a little flab to make them feel drab. Or if seeing a buttocks sagging could set their tails wagging. How happy life could be, thought the sun, if something as harmless as a wrinkle could make them laugh til they tinkle!

The thought of it made the sun so happy, that having humanity illuminating the beauty in life’s freckles instantly became his heart’s desire.

So remember, adorable people of the planet Earth: We, each one of us, have been hand picked by the Sun – personally appointed Ambassadors of Shine – to embrace I’m Perfection with a smile.  And in doing so, join forces with the sun, making the world as bright as it can possibly be.

©2012 The Book of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Feit Cornett

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I saw the Academy Award winning movie The Artist this weekend. Wowzer. In this world of CGI, 3-D, surround sound madness, someone actually dared to make a silent movie. Might I say … bravo!

Not just because it was gutsy and completely creative. But, for me at least, because it was an excellent reminder of how expressive silence can be. That movie was able to say more with a single raised eyebrow than most movies do with two and a half hours of dialogue.

They proved without a doubt that a great smile can light up a screen more brightly than any Technicolor. That really great acting has the power make you feel like you are right there in the moment in a way 3-D never will.  And that computer generated critters and creatures will never create a world more magical than really loving someone.

This movie made it very clear that special effects are a poor replacement for good, old-fashioned specialness. And for my money, the same can be said off the big screen as well.

Special effects seem to have taken over on the stages of our lives as well. For example, how white our teeth are trumps how often we smile. And the way we look in our clothes has taken priority over the way we feel in our skin. Special effects are so dang good at sweeping us up into the razzle dazzle. And hey, I’m the first to admit a little razzle dazzle can be a blast. But in the end, even the most dazzling dodads fade. And when they do, we are left with the simple truths.

Like where you got your fancy education will never matter as much as what you were willing to learn during the times when life brought you to your knees. How big your bicep is will never matter as much as weather or not you’re strong enough to hold a friend. And the size of the rock on your finger can’t possibly shine any brighter than the love that made you pop the question or say yes in the first place.

This movie was such a great reminder of the beauty inherent in simplicity and silence. Seems to me that between cell phones and Facetime and texts and instant messages, life has turned into one big Talkie. The silent moments, like the silent films, seem to have become a thing of the past.

And you know what? I think we miss it. There’s a reason the words peace and quiet go hand in hand. And that deep down, we are all yearning for the great cosmic librarian in the sky to say “SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” and quiet down this blockbuster we call life.

I think somewhere deep down we know silent and simple are keys to contentment.

That thought brings to mind one of my most favorite pieces of writing. It’s called Desiderata. And it, like this movie, is such great reminder. And, might I add, a great way to start the week. Have a great one, everybody!

Desiderata:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. 
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
 Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
 Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

©2002 The Book of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Lorraine Feit

LENT 2.0

Well, it was a big week – Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday back to back – the annual, ultimate splurge and purge!

Having been raised Catholic, Ash Wednesday, and the subsequent season of Lent, was a pretty big deal when I was a kid. We were always encouraged to give up the hardest thing possible to really put our devotion to the test and show just how willing we were to suffer right along with Mr. Jesus. Looking back, it was the ultimate misery loves company kind of thing.

Which, I guess is a nice sentiment, but as I grew up and really started exploring spirituality in a very personal, dedicated way, I outgrew the notion that any kind of God would want me to suffer in any kind of way.

That sent me exploring the whole idea of Lent a little deeper. And here’s what I’m thinking: Maybe lent isn’t about giving up the things that lift us up. Maybe it’s about giving up the things that keep us down.

If you think about it, nothing keeps you down quite like death. And nothing raises you up quite like joy. So giving up the things that make you feel less alive, like worrying, jealousy, smack talk and insecurity, in favor of things lift up your confidence, your hope and your joy is, in its own way, a resurrection of sorts. Raising you up new levels of happiness that are currently buried inside you.

That being the case, it seems to me giving up something for Lent is not about sacrifice. I kind of feel like the concept of divinity increasing though suffering and sacrifice is a misguided human creation that has, unfortunately, taken a hold of a good many. Perhaps all that is required or asked during this time is that you give up any pattern of thought, word or action you currently live by that is not rooted in the highest quality of love and kindness and respect for who you truly are. (Which, in case you are wondering, is a magnificent, joyful, resilient, infinitely potential-filled rock star.)

Every time you are able to give up the habits and patterns of behavior that keep you down, you raise your spirit a little higher from the dark, unknown within, until eventually that awesome little sucker is fully walking around in the light of day. Maybe even prancing a bit. Who knows, souls very well might love to prance. (Double dog dare you to find out!)

In honor of that fancy, prancy spirit, I say we all update our operating systems to Lent 2.0. Let’s define Lent as time that has been “lent” to us so that we can fully focus our energies on the resurrection of our true spiritual greatness from underneath all the doubts and fears we’ve managed to bury it under. Think of it as a reminder that our time in body on this planet, as well as our bodies themselves, has been lent to us for the purposes of growing into a complete understanding of our true, undefeatable nature.

This Lent, I say let’s not sacrifice our happiness in any true way. Rather, let’s realize who we are. Give up who we are not. And raise, raise, raise the roof off this popsicle stand we call life. Whoooop Diddy!

©2002 The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Lorraine Feit