On (almost) losing my suitcase and finding my PURPOSE: A Metaphor from Kelly Diels

Lots of years ago, I had a series on my blog of interviews with friends, colleagues and people I thought were up to really aligned THINGS called “Thing Finding Thursday”. It’s long gone, but a google search will yield sweet fruit (like this early interview w/ Danielle LaPorte and this hilarious conversation with Jen Louden).

I had co-created said series back then with Kelly Diels. (And if you don’t know Kelly already, she is a writer, marketing consultant and rampant feminist. Her current THING is writing about the online 'Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand' and developing effective and ethical marketing practices so we can transcend it. It’s good. She’s good.)

So, back to the series. I was poring over the interviews and transcripts for research in advance of a webinar I’m hosting next week called “What IS your Starring Role?” This not knowing what the Starring Role IS can be a place of suffering for so many who feel called forth...but to what, they don’t know.

Their exact words:

“I WANT to step into my Starring Role, but I don’t know WHAT my starring role IS!” 

Hence, the webinar.

And I recognized that I use the “Starring Role” language synonymously with “THING”...which is actually code for “PURPOSE”. And stepping into it, is about sovereignty, mastery, excellence. Mmm HMM.

And in my review, I came across this post from Kelly. It rang true in 2011 and it still rings true today.

Without further ado, I give you:


Prince George. As I step off the plane into the summer sunshine, I'm lit and light with anticipation. After two months apart, I'm about to spend a week with my loverloverman.

My week of wonder, however, is still a few hours away: I've got to get a shuttle to the bus station and then a bus to Smithers. But time with my man is closer than ever and that's all that's on my mind. It's everything that's on my mind. There's no need for dilly-dallying and dawdling in the airport, picking over magazines or picking up snacks and sustenance. No, I'm carrying everything I need in my laptop case, my purse, my hands, my heart. And so I head from the plane right through the airport, straight for the shuttle and step inside. I'm buoyant. Light. Travelling light.

I'm the first one in. What is taking everyone else so long?

They start trickling into the shuttle, sloooooooowly and inelegantly loading their bags and suitcases into the back, taking forever...Effing baggage. Let's go!

Oh wait. I'll be right back. That's what I exclaim to the shuttle driver as I leap out of my seat, out of the shuttle, and back into the airport.

For that one lonely suitcase rounding the carousel. My suitcase, the one I'd left behind in my enthusiasm to get where I was going...without my things.


I almost did. And I'm not the only one. Airports and airlines have claim desks full of stray suitcases. People forget their things. If they thought about them, they'd know where they were, what they contained. Their things aren't lost, exactly. They just need to be claimed.

It was the same with My Thing. I'm a writer. I always knew I was a writer. From the age of eight I knew I could and would and should write essays, articles, books.

But I resisted being a writer because I read too much. I read Little Women: Jo scribbles in the attic and later lives in a single room in a rooming house. I read Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and was not seduced by the existential anguish of an undiscovered genius. And then I read Down and Out in London and Paris wherein George Orwell decides he's a writer, lives in a bug-infested rented room and - when he's not working hellish hours in a hellish kitchen - sells his clothes to buy bread to survive another day.

True story. And not one I care to emulate. Attics and garrets, they grow tiresome. Poverty is not my thing...and so neither was writing for a living.

And so I always knew writing was My Thing but I chose to leave it behind. I walked out of the airport and into my life without my suitcase. Without My Thing.

And that was fine(ish). I went to university, I got great jobs, I did well, I made money, I worked in the city and lived in the suburbs, I lived well. Everything was ok.

From the outside. I got up, got my girls to daycare, went to work, did it well, picked up my girls, made dinner, put them to bed, watched TV...and wondered:

Is this it? Is this what I'm living for? To collect a paycheque to pay for daycare and cable?

And that wasn't it. That wasn't my thing and I knew it and I'd always known it. Because My Thing just wasn't practical. How would I make it a career? How would I make money?

And those are the wrong questions to start with.

When you're finding your thing, start with this:

What would I do for free? What do I do even though no one pays me?

The money and career questions (and answers and plans and plots and schemes) come later. Because Your Thing doesn't have to be a full-time job, a career or even make you money. Mother Theresa had a thing. I doubt it paid very well.

(My children pay even less and I'm in that gig for life.)

So put aside the practical questions and be truly, madly, deeply impractical: what do you need to do? What would you do for free?

And then do that. You don't have to quit your job. Just start doing your thing. You and your thing will find your way together.

If you claim it from the carousel (should I? Shouldn't I? Can I? Will I? And 'round and 'round...) and carry it with you on your journey.


Kelly's good, right?


Here’s what I want to leave you with:

At this time, on this day, in this very moment, you may be looking around to the people you see as leaders. You may see a resounding lack of activation. Pay attention to that. That annoyance, irritation, disappointment and even disgust may very well be your Thing, your Starring Role calling you forth. Asking YOU to step into Healer. Revolutionary. Leader.

Join me next Wednesday November 30th for the “What IS your Starring Role?” webinar. Bring your questions...and your desires. Sign up here. 



How are you...


The super moon will want to take credit for me asking, but I really want to know. Reply here and tell me, will you?

My sense is that post-November 8, a lot of assumptions are being made about how people feel, how they should feel, how they shouldn’t feel, what they should do, what they shouldn’t do, what they should say, what they shouldn’t say.

I’ve made a couple of assumptions myself. I know that assumptions can hurt. (And I know the LAST thing this place needs is more hurt ammirite?)

So tell me:

How you’re getting through, if that’s what you want to say.
What’s filling you with hope, if that’s what you want to say.
What spaces you are making in your life, if that’s what you want to say.
How you're surprising yourself, if that's what you want to say.

Tell me about your kid, your fascination with hygge, your desire to start a new campaign, the people you’re rallying, your art, your shifted plans for Thanksgiving, your new music obsession, your newest learnings about your resilience, your new s/heroes.

Just tell me: how are you?

I really want to know. 



Everything’s a teacher.

It is an unmitigated wonder that my daughter still tells me anything.

Because as much as I do my level best to simply listen, to simply be, to offer her my presence and my unconditional love, I fall short. Often. And instead, I counsel. I point out the opportunities, the possibilities, the other ways, the other paths. It has simply got to be annoying as all hell for the poor child.

But yet, there it is:

“What are you learning?” 

Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Because it’s a good question. Maybe the BEST question.

Here’s what we know. Comparison is a teacher. A flashing red beacon that clearly and unapologetically shows us what we WANT as embodied by those that we compare up to and clearly shows us what we DON’T WANT as embodied by those we compare down to. (Lauren and I tackle this more fully and completely in our Beyond Compare self-study program.)

I speak and write often and at great length about how the Impostor Complex is a reliable teacher about what matters to us.

But guess what else is a teacher?




And so worth repeating: joy.

Alllllllllllllll of it.


The real question is:

What are you learning?

And then. OH and THEN:

What are you going to do about it?

A couple of ideas.

Choose differently.
Change course.
Do something.
Do better.
Say no.
Say yes.
Show up.
Stand up.
Speak up.
Vote. TODAY.

Easier said than done? Could be. 
But the alternative is really not acceptable, is it?


PS - We’re opening the doors for The Step into Your Starring Role Academy very very soon. Sign up here for first dibs. Nine months of sitting UP, rising UP, speaking UP, stepping UP and shining UP.


They're just being nice. Aren't they?

Last week I had the sublime pleasure and honour of speaking at a conference hosting 11,000 women engineers (with a smattering of spectacular dudes.)

I spoke at three separate sessions. One for Collegiates, one for Senior Leaders and one for everyone. Each presentation was about the Impostor Complex. How it shows up in leadership, in transitions, and frankly in any place where we are required to grow, expand, and evolve.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 10 times, I’m like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who can tie every English word back to Greek origins (including “kimono”). I do this with the Impostor Complex - behavioural traits like people-pleasing, leaky boundaries, procrastination, perfectionism, comparison and diminishment - I clearly and unwaveringly loop them back to the Impostor Complex like it’s my job.

In each talk, I shared the 12 lies that the Impostor Complex really really want us to buy into. Including “You can’t trust the praise of others.” (Which can also sound like “they’re just being nice.”)

I have a whole spiel on this. About how it’s really up UP for us people-pleasers. How we believe that we have charmed every poor sod into thinking that we are smarter, more competent or capable than we ACTUALLY are. And how when we believe this lie, our pesky integrity has to set the record straight by insisting on clearing the air. Pointing out all the flaws in our copy, sloppiness of our work, gaps in our logic, missed opportunities with our clients.  Call ourselves out for the Impostors that we are.

I also shared a little snippet of an article that I had read on my flight written by a software developer about her experience with the Impostor Complex. As a transgender woman, she has legitimate concerns for her safety. Her teammates know this and keep a close on her when they leave the lab.

She writes:

I do not exaggerate when I say, "I trust them with my life."

Which sets up a little bit of cognitive dissonance. I trust these eight people with my life, yet I do not trust them to tell me when I've done a good job? How is that possible?


I know.

After each and every talk I delivered, there was lineup of people asking me about this specific lie. How to move past the belief that *everyone* is just being nice and then actually believe their compliments about the work and their capabilities.

You struggle with this too a little, huh?


I’ll tell you what I told them.

The Impostor Complex shows up with no small amount of arrogance. Making the assumption that everyone is just being nice is as impossible as it is dismissive of their intelligence and free will.

Imagine lining up every last person who has ever lifted you, advocated on your behalf, complimented your work, allowed you past the velvet rope of academia, gave you a great mark, review, reference, testimonial, tweet, bit of kindness.

Go ahead. Line ‘em up against that wall over there. Ran out of wall? Imagine a bigger wall. (Make it ‘uge. Ahem)

Got them all there? See them looking at you with the kindness and admiration and respect that they feel for you?

See that?


Deep breath.

What if you just believed them?

Your clients have done their due diligence. Your references have checked out. You passed the test.


You’re simply just not that good at fooling anyone.

Try this instead:

Dare to believe someone when they tell you how remarkable you truly are.

I dare you.

And THEN say the two words feared most by the Impostor Complex: THANK YOU.


Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

We were 45 minutes into our weekly video meeting when he started to transition from niggly to irate. H’Man, the three-month- old starburst of a baby. My assistant’s newborn.

Let’s pause here, I suggested.

She was grateful, but I could sense her internal struggle. She knew she could push through. She wanted to keep our meeting on track. She was driven to honour her work.
AND, she wanted to soothe her babe who had gone from sleeping, to chatting with me, to play time and was now as done as any baby was ever done with waiting.

Let’s pause here, I insisted. No longer a suggestion, but rather a final decision.

We weren’t putting out fires. We weren’t saving lives. We weren’t on the precipice of cracking the code that would change everything.

No. In fact, we were talking about getting our team on-board with creating new accounting systems for my business. Which is ironic. (You’ll see why in a moment.)

So, there are about 100 different directions I could take this. About how we’re trying to build a strong team where (work and life) balance is an actual THING. About the shame I feel in how late I was to recognize that we ought to pause. About how me even making the recommendation could be construed as patronizing, even as it was intended to be compassionate. About, about, about.

But I want to talk about the feeling that I could see that she was experiencing in that moment. Because it’s a feeling I know too well.

If I would just push through, then…
…I would feel good about that. But not THAT.

It’s a dance that plays out so very frequently with all of us.

I am exhausted, but I think I ought to push through. Because:
People are expecting...
I am expecting…
It will mean…

And in each of these narratives lies a story. Could be a true story. Could be fantasy. But I wonder. If you are exhausted, and pushing through is an option rather than a necessity, isn’t it enough to recognize that as such (as in, you are CAPABLE of pushing through, but at a cost) and choosing something else instead? Something like kindness? Something like rest?

Check your narrative.

Trying this out instead: Yes, I CAN do this. But that doesn’t mean I have any business doing it.

There are parts of my business that confound me. It is hard to admit. But there it is. I am baffled by P&Ls, projections and taxation tribulations. Largely because I have kept my head in the sand while I’ve contracted professionals who KNOW these things to HANDLE these things. But it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel whole. It doesn’t feel true. I love my business and want to know it from the inside out. So the fact that my assistant and I were talking about me off-loading a new accounting system to my team makes me chuckle at myself. That Buddha Babe H didn’t just have a message for his Mama. He had one for me too: It’s your turn to dig deeper here, Tanya. Do what you say you want to do. Be the kind of business owner you say you want to be. Figure this out. For yourself.

Just because I can get the help, doesn’t mean I should.

On the other side of me figuring it out is a sense of deep knowing I’ve been seeking for the decade I’ve been running this business. That’s what I want. That’s what I need. That’s what I should do. And can.

Just because you CAN power through, doesn’t mean you should.
Just because you CAN do that job, doesn’t mean you should.


Just because you can pass off that task, doesn’t mean you should. 
Just because you can drink that extra glass of wine, doesn’t mean you should.

What serves what you say you want? What serves the greatest good? What will grow you the most? What edge needs to be explored? What honours your vision?

And again: who do you want to be on the other side of that decision?

Discernment is the key.