Ashley Kelly

Treat others like Yay Onions

Ashley Kelly

Today is a great day to say…

I love you

I’m proud of you

Thank you

You’re beautiful

You’re awesome

You’re doing a great job

It’s always a great day to express your gratitude, your love, your kindness. I think we underestimate or forget how powerful sharing positive words can be.

My boyfriend and I volunteered at an organic farm in Costa Rica for a week last April. Even though we were only there for a short time, it was one of our favorite experiences during our year abroad. While having a conversation over lunch one afternoon, this particular topic came up and one of the owner’s of the farm mentioned an experiment aimed at highlighting the potency of our words.

It’s a simple experiment —we’ll call it Yay Onion/Nay Onion — where you cut an onion in half and put each half into a separate jar. I’ve also heard of this done with an apple as well. Over the course of a week or so, you’re supposed to speak to Yay Onion with lots of praise, love and positivity and Nay Onion gets spewed mean spirited hostility.

The result?

Yay Onion remains unscathed and Nay Onion rots into a gross ball of mush (poor Nay Onion).

I haven’t conducted the experiment myself to see the results first-hand, however, I do believe in the power of words — positive and/or negative — when spoken to others and to ourselves. And, even though we might not actually rot the same way as poor Nay Onion, there’s no doubt that negative words can leave us feelin’ pretty rotten.

This idea was hypothesized by a Japanese ‘scientist’ and entrepreneur named Masaru Emoto. He began studying water and his opinion is that our human consciousness, the words we speak and the thoughts we think can impact the molecular structure of water.

He divided small amounts of water into petri dishes and grouped them into the ‘Goodies’ and the ‘Baddies’ (not actually what he called them in his study…at least I don’t think). He said nice things to the Goodies and mean things to the Baddies and then the petri dishes were frozen.

The result?

The frozen Goodies produced beautiful crystals and the Baddies formed ugly crystals.

At first read, your thought might be ‘ok, sure who cares’, however, since our human bodies are composed mainly of water, maybe there’s something to it.

Unfortunately, it turns out that there are a lot of holes and errors in Mr. Emoto’s work. Despite that, I still like the idea and that small new-agey part of me wants to believe that maybe it’s true. I mean, clearly this dude really believed it.

From my own experience, I notice that if my vibe is good and that’s what I’m putting out into the world, then that’s exactly what I receive back — from people, from animals, from the universe.

So, the takeaway for today is that it can take just one act of loving kindness or one compliment to change someone’s day and start a ripple effect of goodness.

Tell your partner how much you appreciate them, tell your mom she’s awesome, compliment a colleague, thank someone you’ve been meaning to.

Help keep the molecular structure of our water beautiful by treating people like Yay Onions.

It’s always worth it.

Not sure if you should publish your piece? Read this.

Ashley Kelly

So you’ve written something.

You’re not sure if it’s any good. You don’t feel like it’s ready yet.

You keep tweaking and fiddling around with it hoping that the next change is the one that’s going to perfect it.

You sit on it and come back to tweak it again later with fresh eyes.

I totally get it.

You want it to be good.

Reeeeally good.

I’d assume that if you want to share something you’ve created, it’s with the intention of providing value to someone - whether that be advice, entertainment, education or enjoyment.

And it’s amazing that you want to provide your audience (even if it’s an audience of one) with that value.

So, write what you want to say and not just what you think your audience will want to hear.

Don’t lose the wisdom in your message because you’re trying too hard to perfectly filter it.

Done is better than perfect...and perfect doesn’t exist anyway.

Write your message exactly the way you’d say it. The way you would actually say it.

Because maybe what you have to say is exactly what someone needs right now.

Start there.

Put it out there.

Thank you for creating something and sharing it with the world!



An accidental minimalist on what's necessary and enough.

Ashley Kelly

Everything I own fits into one bag.

Literally.

I’ve been slowly purging my belongings over the last ten years.

I’ve moved a few times over the last decade - had a roommate, moved out, moved in with a boyfriend, changed apartments, broke up and moved out, moved in with someone new.

Each time I had a move I thought it would be a good idea to evaluate what to keep and what I needed let go of.

It always amazed me how much stuff I accumulated. And, I considered myself someone who didn’t have that much stuff to begin with.

When I started this process, I didn’t have an end goal in mind. I didn’t set out with the intention of only owning a few items or with a specific aesthetic agenda. I didn’t really know what minimalism was. I wasn’t striving for it. I stumbled my way into it accidentally.

Really, I found it annoying to pack and move my stuff around so I wanted less of it.

As time went on, I started liking life with less stuff. I liked how I felt and how my home felt with less clutter.

Less baggage.

I decided that the things I would keep in my life needed to serve a purpose - either as a useful tool or something that brought me joy.

And, I liked that.

Earlier this year, my partner and I left home to begin a year journey of travel.

Part of getting ready to leave included a real assessment of what we were going to bring with us.

After giving away all our furniture, donating clothes and a bunch of other stuff, we were left with one backpack that housed all our belongings.

We really made an effort to bring only what was necessary and enough for us at this juncture in our lives.

I’m not saying that minimalism means living out of a backpack and blindly disposing of all your things. I also don’t think it’s about simply surviving on the bare minimum.

To me, minimalism is a practice in consciousness of what’s necessary and enough.

As you change and as your circumstances change, what’s necessary and enough will change too, and that’s ok.

For me and my partner, living out of our backpack is what’s working today. If we decide to stop travelling and settle down in one place, our needs and what’s enough for us at that time will be different than they are today.

There’s a notion behind minimalism that more does not equal better. I think a better way to put it is that more may not equal better...and equally less may not equal better.

Sometimes less is better and sometimes more is better. I think it depends on circumstance.

I also don’t think it’s helpful to create an enemy to fight like capitalism, media, advertising, or what ‘they’ put in front of us.

Whatever is ‘out there’, is going to be ‘out there.’

Minimalism is about being deliberate, intentional and conscious. It starts with you looking at yourself and at your life. Looking at what’s valuable and meaningful to you and why?

And evaluating and re-evaluating what’s necessary and enough as you move through the evolution of your life.

You can choose to consume mindfully.

You choose what you say yes or no to.

The ‘enemy’ isn’t out there.

Minimalism starts with you.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself.

Do I really need this?

If yes, why do you think you need it?

Is this really necessary?

What’s enough?

What’s meaningful to you and why?

Is this something that makes my life better or brings me joy?

How to acquire confidence and become a better version of yourself.

Ashley Kelly

Sometimes, it can feel like everything around us has been constructed to make us feel not good enough. With every swipe and scroll comes another reminder of how we’re not successful enough, not hot enough, not smart enough, not rich enough, not cool enough, not whatever enough.

It’s easy to start drowning in the comparison game and start beating ourselves up.

I do think there is such a thing as a healthy dose of discomfort, but going too far down this path is just painful, not useful and definitely not conducive to building confidence.

I recently read The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz and he stated in his book that:

All confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence.

This got me thinking.

So, what exactly is confidence?

The dictionary defines it as a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

To me, this means to trust.

To trust yourself.

And in order to build trust whether, with yourself or with others, the key is action.

Action is how you acquire confidence and action is how you develop it.

"To think confidently, act confidently. Motions are the precursor to emotions." Dr. George Crane - Applied Psychology

I started thinking about the people in my life who radiate with true confidence. How do they behave? What do they do consistently?

And, I started reflecting on times in my life when I’ve radiated with confidence and the times in my life when I haven’t.

What was I doing during those times? How was I behaving during those times?

One particular story kept coming up in my thoughts.

I remember being nine years old. Our family moved to a new town and I was about to start 5th grade at a new school.

I was scared. I was dreading it.

I was sad to leave my old friends and have to embark on this journey of making new ones.

I remember telling myself on my first day of school that going home friendless was NOT an option. At recess, I was going to talk to everyone I could, share my snacks, invite myself to play games and be my silly self.

And that’s exactly what I did. I crushed it.

I made lots of new friends (some I still have today).

I also made a significant change to my beliefs that day. I believed that making new friends and meeting new people was fun and I’ve kept that belief with me throughout my life.  

Nine year old me trusted herself (at least on that day) and she took action even though she was terrified. It was a profound confidence building moment in my life. 

When I need to draw upon some inner self-confidence, I often think about that girl. She had that confidence in her then, which means, I still have it in me now.

We overthink confidence sometimes as this magical thing outside of ourselves. But it’s not really. It comes from within us and is developed by the actions we choose to take.

During my reflections, there were a few recurring themes. I’ve summarized them below into practical steps and ideas to help you acquire and develop your own confidence. 

Here they are:

1. Show up and stand up straight

My mom used to nag at me when I was growing up…

Don’t slouch” as she grabbed my shoulders and pulled them back while I was sitting at the breakfast table.

She’d ask me...“are you really going out like that?” As I scrambled out the door in my dirty track pants and bedhead.

I used to think, ugh mom what is your problem, as I rolled my eyes at her (to be fair to myself, I was a student at the time).

Turns out my mom had a point and there’s an actual theory behind this called embodied cognition. The concept is that not only do our minds influence our bodies, but our bodies also influence our minds.

You know, when you look good you feel good and when you feel good you look good.

Or how about when you smile you feel happier and you’re happier because you smile.

Sometimes, it can feel hard to change our thoughts. But, it's not that hard to change our posture, smile and make ourselves look a little nicer. 

So, clean up and put your good clothes on.  

Do your hair.

Don’t look like Gollum...seriously.

You can always start here. 

2. Make eye contact and smile at other humans

Okay, I don’t mean walking around with a perma-smile and staring at everyone all the time because that would be weird.

But I do mean when you catch someone’s eye on the train or walking down the street, the person at the store, your coworker, client, friend or whoever you’re interacting with, make eye contact.

In The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, he talks about a concept he learned called eye gazing where you practice maintaining eye contact with people until they break it. The idea is to purposely make yourself uncomfortable with the goal of overcoming that discomfort.

I used to have a long commute to work and I thought it would be fun to try this. It definitely felt strange at first. I’d practice on the train and then in the office and with anyone I was interacting with.

I’ve found this to be a great exercise in building my own confidence and leading interactions with people.

And along with eye contact, smiling helps too, even if the other person doesn’t smile back.

I notice in my own life when I make the effort to smile, I see more people smiling at me.

It keeps momentum positive and, it feels good.  

You’d be surprised how much of an impact this can have on your confidence and life.

3. Move. Your. Body.

Even just a little bit, like for 5 minutes (because you’ll be inclined to keep going - the hardest part is starting).

Get your blood and endorphins flowing.

Do something good for yourself and remind yourself that you care enough to take care of the only body you get in this life.

And if you already exercise, try doing one more rep or go for one more minute than you normally would.

Push.

Just a little further.

Revel in the accomplishment.

Even if it’s tiny.

4. Compliment someone and consciously look for the positive

Tell a coworker that you really like the way they did something or tell your significant other something you appreciate about them.

Positivity has a ripple effect and it gets your mind thinking on a positive wavelength; looking for the good in others, in situations and in yourself.

It can also influence the recipient of your positive words to do the same. 

It’s easy to complain, especially when others around you are doing it. Complaints seem to roll off our tongues unconsciously about the weather, the traffic, our coworkers, our friends, our partners.

Looking for the good requires us to consciously shift our minds in a new direction. People want to be around those that make them feel good. 

When you catch yourself complaining and spiraling down in negativity, try countering your statements with the positive side. Say it out loud. Give your compliment to someone. 

Don’t add to the downers. We’ve got lots of those.

Be someone that lifts people up.

5. Take risks and have an open mind to failure...even if you’re scared

Seems counter-intuitive, I know. 

What if I fail?

Yeah, that’s exactly the point.

You might.

It might epically suck.

But you’ll find with an open mind, you will have learned something and you’re a little stronger than you were before.

This is where you start to discover what trusting yourself is all about.

I teach English online.

I have this one particular student, we’ll call him Tim, who I absolutely adore. Not just because he’s actually adorable, but because he never fails to inspire me.

He shows up every day with a contagiously positive attitude and a big smile.

He tries to spell and sound out new words. When he gets it wrong, he tries again. He doesn't let the fear of embarrassment stop him. And he has the best time doing it.

Laughing at himself, cracking jokes.

Every day, I’m like damn.

This kid!

He’s 6 and he’s my role model.

It’s not always about succeeding.

It’s about trusting yourself to try in the first place.

6. Get to know yourself a little more each day

Who even are you?

If confidence is trusting yourself, how can you have it if you don’t know yourself?

'Yourself' is a work in progress and always will be.

Dig deeper and do some self-assessment. Question your assumptions, biases, beliefs, opinions.

Reflect on what kind of person you were today.

Ask yourself who you are becoming?

Look inward, not outward. The more you learn about who you are, the more you can act with integrity and stay true to yourself.

I'm currently reading Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday and this quote really resonated with me. 

“We can’t improve the world if we don’t understand it or ourselves. We can’t take or receive feedback if we are incapable of or uninterested in hearing from outside sources. We can’t recognize opportunities - or create them - if instead of seeing what is in front of us, we live inside our own fantasy. Without an accurate accounting of our own abilities compared to others, what we have is not confidence, but delusion. How are we supposed to reach, motivate, or lead other people if we can’t relate to their needs - because we’ve lost touch with our own?

7. Accomplish tiny goals and do what you say you will

Small things and tiny steps are my favourite.

They build momentum and lead you to bigger things.

They are the foundation of building trust and developing confidence within yourself.

If you said you were going to do something today, like go for a run, bring something to work for a coworker, be on time, start your project or whatever it is…

DO IT.

If you’ve fallen off the wagon, like I have many times, there’s no better day than today to get back on.

It's not always about the big things or the great things we do once.

Building confidence and trust happens in the mundanities of consistency in the small things. 

With each consistent action and tiny accomplishment, you build one more ounce of trust in yourself

Why I decided to quit my job and travel.

Ashley Kelly

I had a good job at a growing tech company.

I was making good money.

I had a fantastic partner (I’m still with that partner btw, just for the record).

Friends.

A fun social life.

I finally got offered the promotion I was waiting for.

And then…

Not only did I turn it down…

I quit.

I know, the epic eat dirt story where I flipped off my boss would be cooler.

But it wasn’t like that.

Things were fine. Better than fine, good really.

I enjoyed the bubble of my comfort. It was pretty cushy.

I liked my job. I liked my life.

So, why would I leave that? Especially when things were good?

When my partner and I got together a couple of years ago, one of our first conversations was about how we both wanted to travel, live in different cities and explore different ways of living.

We were both on the same page.

We agreed one day, we’d leave home and our jobs and go do exactly that.

So when I finally got the promotion I was waiting for (and really wanted btw) the conversation about our lives and what we wanted the next chapter to look like came up.

You know, that question…

If not now, when?

Yeah, that.

I knew that if I said yes to the promotion, that would mean at least another year, most likely more, that I’d be putting in at the company.

Because, when I say yes to something, I go all in.

Don’t get me wrong, part of me really wanted to say yes. Part of me wanted to push off my dreams to someday.

And there it was.

The trap of the proverbial golden handcuffs stood before me welcoming me in with all the luxuries that comfort can buy.

It was tempting.

But the little voice in my head was saying:

And then one year becomes two, two becomes five, five becomes ten.

And before you know it, it’s 30 years later and I’m telling my kids that I wish I travelled and explored life when I was young.

As much as I wanted to say yes to the promotion, it would have been safe. It would have been comfortable.

And if I said yes, I wouldn’t have been saying yes to just a promotion.

I would have been saying yes to mediocrity.

And that’s why we ‘quit’ (my partner and I worked for the same company…so we both quit).

“Mediocrity doesn’t always mean underperforming — it’s a sliding scale and a state of mind. It means settling in and succumbing to stasis. Mediocrity comes from the Latin words medius, meaning middle, and ocris, meaning rugged mountain. Literally translated, it means to settle halfway to the summit of a difficult mountain. It’s a compromise of abilities and potential; a negotiation between the drive to excel and the biological urge to settle for the most comfortable option.” Die Empty, Todd Henry.

That’s what we were saying no to. That’s what we were leaving.

It’s easy not to push yourself. It’s easy to stay complacent.

It’s not so easy to shake up your comfort in exchange for continued growth. To choose to keep climbing to the summit knowing you’ll face uncertainty with each step.

That’s the path we decided to take when we quit.

We left good behind so we could fulfil a dream.

And now, we’re living that dream.

Isn’t that the great escape?

This post was originally published on Medium