Life Story Project: We Are All Living Our Own Project

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Inspiration can be found in so many corners of our lives and one of my favorite places that really touched my heart was on the television show Life Story Project.  The show was aired on “OWN:  The Oprah Winfrey Network” and then unfortunately was cancelled due to network issues.  Andrea Syrtash and Dale Curd were the two hosts on Life Story Project and when I saw it was discontinued last year, I decided to write to Andrea to express my love for the show and for her compassionate way of exploring and questioning people’s hearts and lives on the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada about real life topics.  Andrea quickly responded to me and we connected instantly bringing us to a new found friendship where inspiration and support continues to live on.

Life Story Project is about people’s stories and how connection, courage and vulnerability bring us inspiration and promotes personal growth and development within ourselves.  This 4 minute sizzle reel video clip of Life Story Project perfectly describes what the show was all about and I cannot describe it any better than Andrea and Dale.  It’s actually something to be felt.  After watching the video, please read the interview I was able to have with Andrea where we dig deeper into the details of the show and how inspiration touched her heart and life as well.

JJ:  “Can you briefly describe the inspiration behind your show Life Story Project?”

AS:  “I was cast to co-host the show and didn’t create it; but my understanding is that the creators (Mitch and Dale) were inspired by the fact that everybody has a story and that we don’t generally take the time to find out about peoples’ experiences. Intimate conversations about life-changing moments took place on a couch placed in the middle of busy parts of the city. This was to remind the audience that life is happening all around us and everybody is experiencing something significant.”

JJ:  “What was it like calling out to people to come and sit on the famous purple couch and have a conversation?”

AS:  “I’m an extrovert, so it’s not tough for me to engage people in conversation! I did wonder if they’d be open to having an intimate conversation with the cameras rolling; but I think the fact that “OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network” was on our sign and the consent forms helped. Even if people didn’t immediately trust me or my co-host; I think they trusted her and her brand. My co-host and I got rejected a fair bit but I was still surprised that so many people agreed to be interviewed by us and were so open and honest during the recorded conversation.”

JJ:  “How did you choose your life topics to talk about?”

AS:  “Every episode had a contrasting theme (Triumph & Failure, First Moments and Last Moments, Love & Regret etc). The creators wanted to pick themes we all have running through our lives and show the highs and the lows.”

JJ:  “So many inspiring stories were told on your show by the people on the streets of Toronto, you must have felt that inspiration the same as your viewers did like myself.  What was it like hearing people be so emotionally vulnerable?”

AS:  “Hosting the show was uplifting, inspiring, draining and eye-opening. Viewers saw a small percentage of all the interviews I conducted over the 4-6-week shoot. We generally shot for over 8 hours in the blazing sun and sat down with each guest for anywhere from 10-45 minutes. The stories were incredible and I was in awe of how open, honest, vulnerable and real the people I spoke with were. They were wise and articulate and their experiences had a deep effect on me. I often found it tough to sleep after a full day of shooting as I’d review some of the extraordinary stories I heard! Many stuck with me and I still think of them today…”

JJ:  “Was there ever a strange incident that happened when you were trying to recruit people to sit on the couch and talk with you?”

AS:  “We decided that we never wanted to convince people to share something that they weren’t comfortable freely sharing. Both my co-host and I have this thing where people easily open up to us and we feel fortunate that people trust us this way; but sometimes we sensed that people shared more than they wanted to! I recall one incident in which a guest mentioned a very personal experience that she had never told anyone and I felt discomfort as she was describing it because I could tell she was uncomfortable. She returned to the set later that day and asked that we wouldn’t air her story. Of course we were happy to oblige. We didn’t want any participant to regret coming onto the couch for an interview…”

JJ:  “If you had to pick one inspiring story that you heard, which one would it be?”

AS:  “There were so so many inspiring stories. I think about a guest who was deaf and her parents didn’t teach her sign language so she had no way to communicate until she was about 4 years old. She talked about having a voice and not taking it for granted…which was pretty incredible to hear from someone who can’t hear herself speak out loud.  I think about the firefighter who almost died in a blaze (intentionally taking off his oxygen mask) because he felt like a failure and how now he teaches other men in service to be vulnerable heroes. I think about the woman who loved her husband so much that their code word for ‘I love you’ was ‘oodles’ and how after he tragically died of cancer in his 30s, she found a letter from him that said he wanted her to find someone who loved her half as much as he did. Honestly, there were moments of inspiration in every interview. It’s tough to pick one!”

JJ:  “What day of the week did you tape your show and how many hours did it take?”

AS:  “We taped the show every day of the week (as far as I recall)! I had days off since my co-host and I alternated days. The weekend interviews had a different pace than the weekday interviews since people are generally in a different head space during the busy work week…”

JJ:  “What were some of the Toronto locations you chose to film your show in?”

AS:  “The show was filmed all over the city in locations like The Beaches, Dundas Square, King Street West, The Distillery District, Centre Island and more…”

JJ:  “I am very sad that Life Story Project is no longer on the air, as are many fans.  Where they can go now to watch some clips?”

AS:  “I’m sad about it, too! I’ve heard that occasionally a re-run will air; but episodes aren’t available yet on-demand.  There are some clips on YouTube but not all of them.”

JJ:  “Do you see a possibility of making a similar show in the near future?”

AS:  “I enjoy connecting with real people in a truly unscripted way. Life Story Project was genuinely spontaneous. Even if the guests were briefly pre-interviewed; Dale and I never knew much before the guests sat down to have a conversation with us. I’d love to do more shows that explore human relationships and highlight peoples’ incredible stories.”

JJ:  “Andrea you are a relationships life coach, an author and guest speaker on many famous television shows.  What was it like co-hosting with Dale on the show?”

AS:  “While I hardly worked on set with Dale (we filmed on different days); I really enjoyed working with him on this show. He and I are like-minded and believe everybody’s story matters. One thing that you didn’t see, perhaps, is that Dale and I joke around a lot.  We can certainly get serious but we also don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

All of my gratitude to Andrea and everyone from Life Story Project for inspiring my life because in essence, we are all living our own life story project the very best we can. We are all connected, therefore never alone.

You can see more of Andrea’s work on her webpage http://www.andreasyrtash.com/

Love,

Jen
xo

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Being Enough: Fitting In vs. Belonging

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“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
~ Brené Brown

I am slightly obsessed with Brené Brown and if you have never heard of her before, allow me introduce you to her.  She has a Ph.D. in Social Work and has been studying shame, courage and vulnerability for over fifteen years now.  She has appeared on TED Talks, Oprah and has written inspiring books such as The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.

One of my favorite chapters she writes about is on fitting in vs. belonging.   They are not the same thing and one gets in the way of the other.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted.   It’s the disease to please.  It’s chasing down some acceptance and worthiness so we can feel better about ourselves.  “I will feel worthy when…” or “I’ll be whoever or whatever you need me to be, as long as I feel like I’m a part of this.”  It’s an uncomfortable feeling. Remember high school?

Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.  True belonging only happens when we present our authentic selves, imperfections and all.  It’s about self-love and self-acceptance and embracing who we are.  Essentially, it’s the act of courage and unconditional love for ourselves.  You know when you belong somewhere or with someone because you can feel it in your body.  You feel loved at peace and free.

Therefore, fitting in gets in the way of belonging.  It’s the gremlins that set up camp in our heads that tell us “you’re not good enough.”  It’s hard to feel worthy of love and belonging when you listen to this little monster.   The truth is, love and belonging means uncertainty but they still go together.  And according to Brené, those who have a strong sense of love and belonging, have the courage to be imperfect.

I found this concept really interesting because many people believe that fitting in and belonging are the same thing when in fact they’re not.  My question to you is this; are you living your life according to fitting in or belonging?  The next question is why?  Sometimes you just have to say “enough already” and let yourself off the hook.

Much love,

Jennifer Juneau

The Power of Vulnerability: Brene Brown

If you are not familiar with Brene Brown’s work, allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite speaker’s on earth.  She is a researcher, a storyteller and a Texan according to her Twitter account. When we live with vulnerability, we live with our whole hearts which creates a beautiful feeling of happiness. This 20 minute TED talk is so inspiring I highly recommend you take the time to watch it because in the end, we are all enough.

In Honour of Fertility Couples

0507030623501waterlilies9321[1]  I have always been inspired by the fertility couples I have taken care of and witnessing how resilient they are.  The determination and perseverance that so many of them possess is incredible.  When someone walks in to a clinic holding their heart and vulnerability in the palm of their hands and then looks to us to fulfill their dreams, this becomes an opportunity for us to offer support, kindness and most of all compassion.  In putting scientific data aside, we have the ability to help them with the realization that they are not alone in their journey and that it is possible to break their walls of despair and start building a bridge instead.  With every failure there is the desire to acquire and with every disappointment there is the reaching out for enjoyment.  Sometimes tears would end up winning but that does not seem to break their sense of hope.  Coping requires time and attention, it is not all about the physical aspects.  Don’t give up!     -JJ

BUTTERFLY BEAUTY

imagesCAF480VF       “Butterflies can’t see their wings.  They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can.”   -Author Unknown

People are like this too.  When we are unable to see ourselves from the inside out, we actually close ourselves off from the many possibilities that exist.  We have so many beautiful strengths and gifts already inside of us that can lead to anything we are truly passionate about.  Imagine the word “courage” being a beautiful butterfly inside of you with all its colours, strength and perseverance.  If you could only take a step back and start seeing what everyone else is seeing inside of you and realize you already have the beauty, power and determination to spread your wings and fly.  Courage and fear always go hand in hand.  Don’t let fear stop you here though.  The true meaning of courage is to be afraid, but with your body shaking and your heart pounding, to get up and move forward anyway.  Even if you are the only one who understands this, it is the most inspiring way of being able to advance yourself to your highest potential in your life.  When you make a decision or take on an action where a risk is involved whether that may be actual or imagined fear, it becomes the driving force beneath growth.  Another element that co-exists with courage and fear is vulnerability.  In order to be courageous, we must be vulnerable and put ourselves out there along with the fears of being judged and ridiculed by others, even by our friends and family.  This is often easier said than done.  However, vulnerability if seen in a positive light is actually the birthplace for innovation, creativity and change.  Imagine Steve Jobs not being vulnerable and deciding not to express his idea for Apple?  What would have happened?  Since he was vulnerable and had the courage to speak up and follow through on his ideas, despite the critics, look at what happened!  We need to realize that we are all human and we are all afraid of the exact same things and it doesn’t matter if you are an average citizen or a famous person.  The trick is to believe in yourself and remain positive about your beauty, power and determination like the butterfly.  We can achieve this by stopping the external comparisons of others in order to have high self-esteem and start by being more self-compassionate by speaking kindly to ourselves while accepting all of our strengths and weaknesses as they are.  Consider this famous quote by T.S. Elliot; “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” The beautiful Monarch butterfly is able to fly from Canada to Mexico every fall for the winter.  Now that is something.   What gifts do you have that everyone else can see but you can’t?    -JJ