leading with your values

What Frustration Taught Me About Value

I have written for as long as I can remember.

Stacks of notebooks clutter my bedside, a drawer in my dresser brims with notes rather than socks, and one of the 4 suitcases I moved to Argentina with is filled exclusively with old journals dating back to 1987.

Writing has always been my therapy, my safe place, my home.

A few months ago, however, I opened the door to writing for brands and businesses besides my own.

Since then, I have been on a daily journey of learning, experimenting, failing and hitting rewind.

Never have I felt so insecure, so exposed. Never have I written, erased, edited and rewritten so many times.

It would be easy to stop.

It would be easy to give up.

But I have never been one for easy.

Because the path of learning is laden with curves and there is no point of arrival, no destination. There are only long stretching streets that bifurcate in one direction or another and all along the way, we encounter frustrations.

For more than a decade I have taught English as a foreign language and simultaneously directed the Spanish for travelers program and during this time I have trained, and even preached, that when frustration steps in, learning stops.

“Learning a language is difficult and students need to be pushed but be careful not to push them too far. Cuidado not to lose them to frustration.”

But today, I am changing my stance.

Frustration doesn’t impede learning. Frustration is part of learning.

It is woven into the path.

In fact, it is quite the opposite.

It is when we resist frustration that learning stops.

We all respond to frustration differently. Sometimes it is anger. Tears may brim our eyes. Often we begin the blame game, either with ourselves or with someone close to us. I have never been good at languages. If he had done his job, I would have been able to do mine. Perhaps it is the universe’s fault. There must be something in the air. Maybe you call a trusted friend and vomit into the phone for a good half hour. Maybe you look to your God and pray for guidance or maybe, you simply give up.

How you respond is unimportant. 

In all cases, you are opposing the moment. In all cases, you are blocking the experience and the sensations that we label frustration. In all cases, you are responding mindlessly rather than mindfully.

When we lean into those sensations, when we accept them, work through them, avoiding the inner dialogues that impede us from relaxing in the moment, we inevitably come out on the other side with a completely different experience, one that teaches us, not only to be unstoppable but also how to open our minds to the moment.

Remember those curves I mentioned earlier?

Well, a few months back I made the mistake most new drivers make. I sped up, I skid out and I found myself blind to the answers right in front of me. I had forgotten to lean.

You see, every expert writer, blogger, or marketer presses the need to add value.

If you want to go viral, add value to your readers.

If you want to get more likes, more shares, more comments, add value.

If you want to nurture your subscribers towards the purchase point, yep, add that sh*t baby.

But what the FECK does that even mean?

I had become more focused on getting my name out there than on the work itself.

And this value they spoke of, it reared its head with obsession.

How could I add value to my readers?

I sent out anonymous surveys asking readers what I could do to add value to their lives. I downloaded dozens of How-to-Add-Value eBooks that looked more like a mishmash of cuts and pastes from Google and Wikipedia searches. And through my tears, my desire to quit drove my determination even deeper. I continued to download, subscribe and follow, cluttering my already overloaded inbox.

Then I realized, it wasn’t about value at all. I was looking for the magic pill, the all-knowing guru, the snap-my-fingers solution to success, stability, and knowledge.

I was looking for happiness.

We all are.

And that is something we will never EVER understand from an eBook, regardless of how great it is.

As for this business of adding value? It is impossible to add value to a value undefined. 

In my furry of frustration, I failed to see this.

Value is not the price of something, nor does it have anything to do with company moral or ethics.

Value is not about free giveaways. Though generosity is lovely.

Values, plainly put, are the things that are important to us.

As for me, I refuse to simply add value.


I am driving down a path paved with values. My values.

And if you are reading this then I imagine we are on the same street, so, my friend, my advice to you today is: remember to lean.