Lessons from a year of courage

At the beginning of each year, I look back on my most memorable moments – the brightest and darkest – of the last 12 months.  For each memory, I ask myself: What lesson have I taken from this experience?  I’m scanning for faulty lessons.

Sometimes we learn the “wrong” lessons; lessons that disempower us and prevent us from moving forward freely.   A broken heart can have us decide: I’m never going to allow myself to fall in love so easily again.  Low sales during a launch can have us believe: I’m never going to be successful.

Believing those things will never lead us to our desires.  As part of my end-of-year ritual, I look to upgrade any beliefs that aren’t serving me and the world.  Once I reflect honestly on what lesson I’ve already taken from each experience, the question I ask is: What empowering lesson can I take from this experience?

I’ve decided to share my experiences and lessons from the last 12 months with you here, in hopes that they help you somehow, too.

Thank you, 2013.  You broke my heart into a zillion pieces and showed me what I’m made of: tender, beautiful, love confetti.  2014, I’ve got this.

February : A month in Central America

central america I wanted to travel for my whole life, but it took me until a few years ago to really get started.  When designing my current business model, it was important to me that I discover the way to be of highest service to to women I serve, while having a great lifestyle for myself.

When my boyfriend shared that he thought a solo-trip was in order for February, I asked myself: What do I really want?  I knew I wanted sunshine and sister time.  Within 5 days, the itinerary was set, and I jetted off to spend a month traveling through Central America, meeting up with different girlfriends along the way.  A quick visit to girlfriends in Panama; a week in Guatemala with two old friends; 10 days in Costa Rica, solo and with friends; a week in Puerto Vallarta for a small getaway, followed by a big bachelorette party.  24 girlfriends in just over 3 weeks, and more beautiful conversations than I can count.

LESSON #1 : Sisterhood is absolutely key to women’s freedom.
I knew this before, but it really hit home on this trip.  My friends and I talked about everything – love, finances, business, babies and bras.  I came home feeling held in that special space that only a loving and supportive sisterhood can provide, knowing that no matter what the year would bring, my women would have my back.  It turns out, I’d need them…

March 2nd: I spoke in front of my biggest audience yet

speaking at IINI love to coach, write, lead retreats, and teach workshops…but public speaking totally freaks me out.  Every time I have a talk booked, I start secretly plotting to get sick and not be able to make it.  I’ve never fulfilled on my sabotage plans, so I keep showing up, but whoa.  A talk in front of many thousands of people?!  ‘Twas scary.

LESSON #2 : Sometimes, we’re better than we think.
Not only did I not totally suck, I was actually good!  The millisecond moments (that felt like an eternity) where I lost my place, were imperceptible on camera.  Huh.  Maybe if we were less hard on ourselves, we’d enjoy the experience more…

March 24th : I walked on fire

firewalkI have never described myself as a “daredevil,” and it’s possible that I never will.  Bungee jumping?  Skydiving?  No thank you. I don’t even usually even attempt the advanced poses in yoga class.

So when my friend, Mastin, invited me to Tony Robbins’ Unleash The Power Within event, I thought twice when I found out fire walking was involved.  That was until I found out that my grandmother walked on fire many moons ago.  If granny can do it, I can do it.  You can read the whole story here, but suffice to say, I still have feet.

LESSON #3 : Unless you’re in the right state, your strategy won’t succeed.
What Tony taught us is that regardless of how much we understood the game plan, we had to get in the right state to succeed. In other words, if I had walked onto that fire timidly – full of certainty I’d burn my feet off, slumped over, overwhelmed with nervous energy and fantasies of tripping into the fire – no matter how much I knew what strategies to employ (look up, not down; walk at a normal, direct pace), I would fail. I needed to be in the right physical, mental and emotional state.  When I really realized how much things like bad posture and distracting thoughts were ruining my well-laid plans, everything changed.

April 1st : Swimming with Manta Rays

manta raysI have always been afraid of the ocean, because I didn’t know how to swim.  As a child, I attempted level 1 swim classes 3 times, before giving up.  I was too scared to even put my face in the water.  I’ve spent more time in the ocean in my adult years, and have found that I enjoy wading in to not-too-deep, not-too-cold, and not-too-treacherous water.  If it’s just right, I’m in.  But open ocean?  Oh, hell no.

But in 2012, I went swimming with dolphins (and some visiting sharks!), so the invitation to snorkel with manta rays in Hawaii seemed like a fun way to stretch myself again.  Until I found out that we were going in the pitch black of night…

LESSON #4 : The scariest thing may not be that scary.
If you had asked me at any point before April 1st, 2013, what the chances were of me voluntarily hopping into the open ocean in the dark of night, I would have given you a dead zero.  But there’s something about enthusiastic friends that can encourage us to give things a shot, so I did, and you know what?  It was one of the most beautifully memorable experiences of my year.  Once I learned how to be in the dark water and breathe at the same time, while these enormous and majestic creatures danced up to our bellies, I filled my goggles with tears of joy.  The thing I was so afraid of – the ocean at night and all of her creatures – turned out to be a gift of incredible beauty.  Maybe the thing we’re most afraid of is a gift, just waiting to be opened…

April : My first trip to Peru


My heart has been called to Peru for many years, and in April, I finally followed her south.  In this beautiful, challenging, and epic journey, I met a version of myself for the first time: A woman who takes bigger risks because she knows she can handle it; a woman who follows her heart with no good explanation, other than that she believes that her heart is wise; a woman who loves herself the way a mother would love her child.  I shared some of my lessons here and here, and another below…

: Your comfort is dangerous.
I have always valued comfort, because why not?  Do we really need to wear scratchy sweaters and endure awkward conversations to have a great life?  But there’s a difference between choosing cashmere sweaters and choosing to play small.  What if we could learn to be as comfortable as possible while we stretch out of our comfort zone…like wearing a cashmere sweater while giving a speech.  What if we could cultivate a state of ease within ourselves that allows us to be with more of the world?  What if we could expand our experience of what’s comfortable?  That’s what Peru taught me to do.

May 13th : Tango in Buenos Aires

tangoAfter a few weeks in Peru, I flew north to California, then all the way back down to Argentina a few weeks later.  I couldn’t resist – Argentina is another place that had been calling my name, and I knew that it was time to go.  I loved everything about Buenos Aires – our beautiful hotel, the amazing food (dulce de leche ice cream!), the music, the fashion, the gorgeous architecture…but most of all, I loved watching people dance tango.  I found the courage to step onto a few dance floors, but I yearned to be practiced enough to accept invitations to dance with new partners without explaining that I was new to the dance.  I yearned to close my eyes and surrender to my partner’s embrace.

LESSON #6 : It’s good to have a “thing”.
When I started my business many years ago, I put everything else on the back burner, including my art.  Before then, I designed jewelry, made handbags, clothing, dolls and leather journals, and I danced everything from ballet to flamenco to burlesque.  But after my business was born, I put all that aside to write sales copy and learn basic HTML.  And while I’m grateful for all I’ve learned, the truth is, my business made me boring.  I’ve learned that it’s good to have a “thing” – some craft that you can pour your creative heart into.  Tango re-inspired me to find my thing, and I’ve been playing harder ever since.

May 20th : I was a jerk

torontoAfter Buenos Aires, we took the long overnight flight to Toronto, landing in the early morning hours.  My man was speaking at the MastermindTalks event, and I was happily side-kickin’ it…with the exception of the morning we arrived.  I was tired and cranky.

We arrived to the hotel and I promised myself I’d do my best to beat jet-lag.  At 9:30am, I decided to head downstairs and have breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Carrying the bags under my eyes to the front desk, I asked where the restaurant was.  The man behind the desk pointed kindly to the door behind me, then let me know (in that super nice Canadian way) that the restaurant was no longer serving breakfast.  “At 9:30am?” I said. “Yes, we serve from 6-9am.”  “That makes no sense,” I said in a slightly annoyed tone. “People eat breakfast at 6am but not 9:30?  Um…well, okay.  Huh. So…do you have a place you recommend?”

At that moment, I heard “Hi, Nisha!” and turned to see Claudia & James Altucher standing beside me, as they arrived to check in.

F#ck.  I was so embarrassed.  I felt like such a jerk.  Even though I wasn’t close to the crabbiest customer I’ve ever seen, I wasn’t as kind as I could have been, and there was something about being seen by some of the kindest people I know in that state that made the lesson of the moment cut deep.

LESSON #7 : I can always be kind.
I said hi to James & Claudia and thanked the man behind the desk.  As I ate breakfast by myself at the cafe up the street, I said over and over to myself: I can always be kind.  I haven’t yet found a time when that’s not true.

The end of May : Epic heartbreak

heartbreakWe broke up.  It sucked, more than I can even explain.  There was no anger, no hate, and nothing anyone had done “wrong”.  It was just what was needed at the time, so it happened.

LESSON #8 : A heart will break open if you let it.
I didn’t die.  I sidestepped stories of blame, felt my feelings fully, kept creating beautiful experiences for myself, and didn’t die.  I even had a boudoir shoot, in commemoration of being beautifully broken-hearted.  It turns out that when you let your heart just break when it’s breaking, it breaks all the way open.  And when it’s all the way open, it’s a bigger, stronger and more open, loving heart.  I’ve never been so grateful for a broken heart.

{5 days later} May 31st : I launched on my birthday

Freedom Devotional - downloadI had a plan and nothing (really, nothing) was going to stop me.  So it didn’t.  5 days after my world turned upside down, I launched…on time.

LESSON #9 : It’s possible to hustle through heartbreak.
I did heartbreak different this time.  I didn’t hide from my friends, eat pounds of pasta and potato chips, and work 24/7 to “keep my mind off of things”.  No, I cried.  I cried in my friends’ laps, cried in puddles of snotty tissues on the floor, cried into bowls of soup and cups of tea, cried into my pillow.  And in between the crying, I wrote poetry for charity – the book I’d been wanting to write for years – on my birthday.  After I stopped crying so often, I collected my thoughts on how I thrived through epic heartbreak here.

Aug 1st : I moved to San Francisco

san franI’ve wanted to live in San Francisco for just about as long as I can remember, and finally decided it was time to give myself this gift. I made the decision to move and within 72 hours, I’d given notice on my apartment, hired the movers, planned my goodbye party, and started looking for my new home.

Since moving, I’ve been asked dozens of times, “Do you miss New York?”  I do.  I miss my friends, my favorite restaurants, the energy, and the social vibe of the city.  But I don’t miss living there.  I needed to live in a place whose energy matched mine.

LESSON #10 : It’s best to live where it’s easiest to thrive.
You can put a plant in sub-optimal conditions, and it’ll do its best to thrive.  I’m the same way, growing my way through the cracks in the sidewalks wherever I land.  But when it comes to choosing a place to call home, I’ve realized how important it is to live where it’s easiest to thrive and creating an environment to please.  Living here means that I expend far less energy in managing my energy, because I feel more easily relaxed and happy here, leaving me with a surplus of energy for work and play.

August : Burning Man

burning manAfter years of having my friends look at me sideways every time I revealed that no, I’ve never been to Burning Man, I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

My gut told me that it was going to make a profound impact on my life, and I received so many lessons there, including some unexpected ones…

LESSON #11 : Your clients will appreciate that you have a life.
When I shared with my clients that I’d be gone for a week with no access to email or phone or anything that would normally keep us connected, they thanked me.  I was completely surprised and totally touched, when they shared with me how inspired they were by my own expressions of freedom to lean deeper into theirs.

There was a time when I was nervous to take a full weekend off, for fear that things would come apart at the seams.  What I’ve come to realize over the years, though, is that being a burnt-out workaholic isn’t inspiring to anyone.  How could I encourage them to live lives of pleasure, freedom and alignment if I wasn’t?  It turns out that sometimes, making a living requires having a life.

Sept 23rd : Being a midwife

NMThe final retreat of my Freedom Mastermind was held at a gorgeous spa in the high desert of New Mexico.

After leading over a dozen retreats, this was the first time that I decided to integrate some of the deeper spiritual work I’ve practiced over the years by midwifing my women through a spiritual ceremony.  It was one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever witnessed or been part of, and the result was a deeper connection to one another and themselves than I’ve ever experienced in a group of women.  I was (still am) so inspired by these women, that I’ve written a poem about their journey.

p.s. for those who’ve asked, there are a few spaces left in the 2014 Freedom Mastermind if you’re interested! Email info@fiercefabulousfree.com right away.

LESSON #12 : You are your home in this lifetime.
“We’re all just walking each other home.” ― Ram Dass {TWEET IT}

Oct 11th-13th : LIVE FREE Retreat

Live FreeFor years, my friend Sarah Jenks and I have fantasized about throwing big dinner parties together.  In 2013, we finally made it happen…in a really big way.

We hosted 60+ women for a gorgeous long weekend in Sonoma’s Wine Country for plenty of planning, play and champagne.  It was one of the most fun weekends of my life, and we had so many women share that it was the best event they’d ever attended. (Yes, we’ll be doing it again in 2014!)

LESSON #13 : Keep dreaming.
At our toast during the first dinner, Sarah and I teared up as we told the story of how we’d been dreaming of that moment for years.  And in those years, we could’ve bailed on the idea, because it wasn’t the right time or we didn’t know how to manage the logistics.  Instead, we kept dreaming until our intuition said it was the right time and we had a stellar team in place to manage the details beautifully.  So glad we did.

November : My second trip to Peru

peru 2Just 7 months after my first trip, I went back for more.  But this time, I brought 9 women with me.

On my first journey, I felt a clear calling to bring women back, and guide them through the heart expanding experiences that Peru’s Sacred Valley and magical Machu Picchu have to offer.  It was an incredible trip that deepened my experience of myself as a leader, and showed these women what they’re truly made of.

LESSON #14 : There’s a journey of womanhood that exists beyond biology.
Our biology dictates that the journey of womanhood includes the onset of menstruation, the child-bearing years, pre-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause. But there’s another journey of womanhood that has little to do with our biology, and that’s the journey through self-care, self-love and self-worth.  I outline the whole thing in this blog post, as well as how to create the conditions to support the journey.


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill {TWEET IT}


Take 45 minutes and curl up with some tea or wine. Go through your calendar and write down your most memorable moments of the year and what empowering lessons you can take with you into the coming year.


—> In the comments below, I’d love for you to share some of your best lessons from your brightest and darkest moments of last year. 

posted in creativity + entrepreneurship + lifestyle + relationships + spirituality + travel.


  1. Lauren Rains

    This is such a wonderful post, Nisha. Thank you for sharing all of this.
    This is my first time on your site in awhile, as I had taken a bit of a hiatus from the interwebs, but one thing I really took away from this post and from your facebook posts, is the concept of sisterhood.

    While I pride myself on knowing that I am extremely loyal and love my friends more than anything, I have never really explored a sisterhood among fellow women that are open to that connection. I didn’t grow up with a sister, and while I consider my best friend since 2nd grade my sister, I still haven’t ever done something where I’m with a group of women all looking to empower themselves and we’re in it together, connecting, helping, guiding, supporting. It’s such an amazing thing. I don’t have a “sister” that is my sister in the sense of that kind of connection.
    Those thoughts are a bit jumbled, but this is new to me, so bare with me haha.

    So, I think that this year, among many wonderful things, I’m going to make it a point to make sisterhood a part of my life.

    Here’s to a great 2014!
    - Lauren

  2. Cami

    Bravo! Beautiful blog! So open and honest and thoughtful. What an incredible year it was. Wishing you more fierce, fabulous freedom in 2014.

  3. Nadia Chaudhry

    Hey Nisha,

    I had a lot of big moments this year. But the biggest was gently confronting a friend who had hurt me. It release a lot of pain and challenges I had when it came to friendship. The result of that relationship had spread to my other friends. When I was able to express myself to her, I let go all of it. Now, my friendships are roots with more love, compassion, and sincerity.

    It was liberating for me.

    Thank for writing this, Nisha.

    <3 Nadia

  4. Kevin Diamond

    This is beautiful.

    Thanks so much for sharing. Just heard Srini’s backstage ep on your interview. Plenty of treats from you in the last 24 hours – muchas gracias

    growth comes exactly when we need it to

    Hope you had good holiday(s) and Happy 2014, Cheers

  5. Jill Rowe

    Nisha ~

    Exactly what I needed to read today ~ definitely going to
    Take a moment to do this for myself! Happy 2014 to you love!

  6. Elaine Brisebois

    Hi Nisha,

    I truly loved reading this post. What an inspirational year of living you experienced. Thank you for being so candid and open with sharing your personal lessons with us. Wishing you another transformational year in 2014.


  7. PJ

    Beautiful and inspiring! I’m a working mom, so much ‘to do”, so my first instinct was to glance and not read through, but something told me to give myself a few minutes, and I read to the end. So glad I did! It’s time to go to bed yet my mind is alive with great thoughts and inspiration – how can I sleep right now?!? I want to travel and have huge dinner parties with my friends!! I loved your thoughts on broken hearts – I had one for sure, but I didn’t “open it up” – in fact I think I still have remnants in there after 25 years! I was not wise enough then and there were no blogs in 1987 – I want a re-do! haha
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Lex

    Thank You so much for sharing — I got happy teary in a few places and I love reading about your journey.

  9. Gayle

    This was really a beautiful post—I actually read it last night and woke up this morning thinking about it. It made me step back through 2013 and go through what I learned during the year—my year was about resilience and self worth—I discovered how to make fear my ally by living through events and circumstances I never thought I would ever need to do—it was about letting my voice be heard on the outside instead of just letting it live inside my heart—it was about reaching through the tears and discovering how my lack of self worth was keeping me from stepping and being more and more of the best I can be. My year was also about re-connection—in the middle of the year, I re-connected with my daughter who needed to disconnect from me for 2 years to step through some of her own demons—I ended the year with cleaning up some relationship clutter that was chewing at my heart.

    On the completion of your relationship—I’ve come to believe that one of the purposes we are manifest here in this world is for relationships—how well and effective we move through those relationships—whether it’s with ourselves, the planet, animals or someone else—with each phase of that relationship how we treat each other, how we love each other and the respect we give to the individuality of that other being, along with how effective we are when the relationship comes to it’s completion—its about how we do that—without damaging our memories, our hearts or the other’s heart—long ago, when my heart was cracked open and I didn’t know how I would go on—a friend said to me—relationships come and go, that’s meant to happen—so we can experience the joy of another relationship—all this is not to say I’ve been able to “walk my talk”–as I’ve built walls around my own heart and it’s taken years to begin the process of tearing them down—one brick at a time—I would welcome the chance to experience another relationship—with new eyes and a fresh opening in my heart–you have a beautiful heart–I’ve read it here–I’ve missed your posts and read the one about being cracked open–I’ve also read the others where you were experiencing other facets of your being–this past year–for you–seemed to be a huge year of adventure, growth and expansion–I’m glad I chose you to follow!!

  10. Elizabeth

    Thank you for such a personal, heartfelt, heartwarming, moving and beautiful post. I feel like you’ve let us take a close look at your soul ;-)

  11. Ali

    This was so beautiful and inspiring to read, Nisha. Thank you for sharing with us. I am going to take the time to reflect and do the same thing for my 2013 year now! What a beautiful way to take inventory on all of our accomplishments, lessons, and beauty we experienced through the year.



  12. Tracey

    This is my first time here and I love that you share yourself so openly. It is inspiring to me and I am in a stuck place. I am attempting to be with this and accept. Thanks again.
    In Kindness,

  13. Jody

    Nisha, thanks for this. Your honesty, as always, is refreshing and felt especially inspiring to read the contrast of your good + bad moments.

    Wishing you another beautiful year in 2014…

  14. Monika Mundell

    Raw. Honest. Authentically. YOU.

    I don’t know you Nisha… never saw your website, or heard your name. But after reading your inspiring post I feel as if we met… before.

    Thank you, for sharing YOU! xx

  15. Laura Yamin

    I did a similar exercise a few weeks ago. I was able to see how my word slow down call in for major internal changes. 2013 was a year of transition and learning how to take ownership of my time.

    I walked away from a job that was no longer serving. I made a commitment to play more, invest more time on me and being present to my life. In the process, I encounter miracles that I didn’t thought it would be possible. I experience healing in my relationships and well I’ve experience freedom,

    My words this year is all about constant action. I am finally clear what direction I want to move forward so now its the time to just doing the work.

  16. Brianne Hawrylenko

    Hello Nisha,

    Thank you for sharing. I cried a lot when I read this, because I know you are being true to yourself and I respect that so much.




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