What 2016 Taught Me – The Year in Review

2016 was a roller coaster ride. There were supreme celebrations, unexpected obstacles, health tragedies and recoveries, humbling moments, transformations and trying to make sense of it all. I realized sometimes you just have to surrender to life. Everything happens for a reason.

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How empowering is it to know you actually get to create your story? As a recap for this year, I decided to post what I learned in hopes that it could somehow help, guide and inspire you.

Disclaimer: I have no fancy degrees. I can only offer my honest experiences from what this year taught me.

If I had one piece of advice:  Everyone wants to feel needed, validated and secure.

The absence of meaning, the loss of self-identity and the lack of devotion to something are the strongest challenges we face. If we can find ways to complete these needs and offer them to others, we will truly live happy, complete and balanced lives.

What’s the greatest gift you can give: Give the people you love your full TRUST, potential and attention. We are only validated when we are acknowledged.

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Actions speak louder than words: I have heard this all my life but it rings true. It’s not what you say but what you do that defines you. And by you doing things, you give others the courage and inspiration to do it, too.

Health is imperative: This includes your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical self. Combining conventional medical approaches with appropriate alternative therapies to create the most effective healing program is essential. Disease is more than physical. We are born with a self-healing program inside us that is designed to be capable of fixing anything – our bodies are the perfect machine. Nature has also given us every resource necessary to heal. Healing spiritually in conjunction with contemporary medical treatments is a win/win. Our bodies are living history books of us! Our health becomes a living, breathing biographical statement that conveys our strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears. Bear in mind, I’m not saying that we should blame ourselves for becoming ill, but rather recognize that illness develops as a consequence of behavioral patterns and attitudes that we do not realize are biologically toxic until they have already surfaced.

Avoid power symbols: We have structured our lives around money, authority, title, beauty and security… and at what cost? (Trust me, I have been very guilty of this and still need work) We need to break free of these beliefs that no longer serve our personal development. Unplug from these symbols so they no longer have power over you. You are an original! No one has or ever will be like you – you are one of a kind. Take advantage of that knowledge and declare yourself extraordinary.

Coping vs. Healing:

  • Coping: You have learned a more constructive way to deal with the pain/issue but it isn’t healed.
  • Healing: Permanent healing is when you are in full balance (Mental, Spiritual, Physical, Emotional).
  • You want to HEAL. (I am still working on this, too)

Even the ‘winners’ have downtime: When you read about world-changing people, you find there’s always an ‘exile’ season. They experienced an apparent failure that set them back, but ultimately enabled them to fulfill their purpose. It might have seemed like an unproductive period to most but these were the most important times.

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Death: Death is not a failure to heal. We are born at the perfect moment for our energy to enter this earth and there is a perfect moment for us to leave this earth.

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Process-oriented with instant gratification: Yup, that’s our culture and we love our goals, resolutions and results…quickly. This has worked for and against me throughout my life. It’s enabled me to push through to completion because I love the feeling of finishing things, but at other times, when I’m considering starting something that I know will take a while, I have a tendency of freezing up and not assigning the proper timeline to get it done/get motivated. I have succumbed to the fact that this is a process for me and it will take the rest of my life to perfect. It’s not a goal of achievement but an ongoing goal of process and an ever-evolving experience. In a culture that seeks instant results, we must learn the beauty of effort, patience, and perseverance.  Be strong, present, and steadfast.

People Pleasing: I suffer from this tremendously. So now I ask myself –

  • What am I trying to prove?
  • To Whom?
  • For What?

What makes you memorable on social media: We all post and want those likes and approvals (see first learning). From all the posts I’d consider ‘successful’, I noticed they all incorporated the following.

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  • Social Currency: We share things that make us look awesome whether it’s the full truth or not.
  • Triggers: We remember what’s top of mind.
  • Emotion: When we care (good or bad) we share.
  • Public: Build to show, build to grow.
  • Practical Value: It’s some form of information you can use (and share).
  • Stories: Information that can be communicated under the guise of idle chatter.

You have control over NOW: The moment you accept total responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you claim the power to change anything in your life. Create the life you deserve to live in this present moment.

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Framily: This is my combination of family and friends. Being adopted, it is not about a blood link for me. My family, or framily as I call it, consists of the people that truly ‘have my back’, know when I need something before I need it and don’t hesitate to be my biggest cheerleaders when I do something great but also constructively criticize and share necessary feedback when I am plummeting down the wrong track.

*If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you*

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Patience: I struggle with this, too, but if achieved it’s truly the most genuine expression of confidence, acceptance, serenity, and faith in your own ability.  It’s a sign of strength.

Rejection: It happens to everyone and hurts like hell. It makes us question our identity and value. Remember, your struggle is part of your story.  Being rejected from something you want often means you are being directed toward something you need…to take the next best step forward.

Digital Detoxes are Mandatory: I became a slave to my devices. If I wasn’t checking emails, I was texting or checking in on Facebook, Instagram, Linked In. It became non-stop and very stressful feeling the need to stay ‘in touch’. As painful as it was, I realized I needed to manage this relationship better.

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  • Change expectations: I started to fall into the trap of being available 24/7 and reacting to everything immediately. Solution? Redefine my availability and stick to it.
  • Out of sight, out of mind: When I see/hear my device go off, I react. Solution? Simply remove it, put it in another room or put it on airplane mode – these will all remove the temptation to check it.
  • Learn when to multitask: I thought I was a rock star because I could multitask multiple projects and be plugged into my social media all at once. Wrong! I was trying to get that satisfaction of completeting things and in the end nothing was being done at 100%. I reconciled that if I’m doing something that requires a very high quality, something represents me or something has time pressure on it, it’s not the time to multitask and play with the device.
  • It’s ok to do nothing: One of the scariest things I ever heard. How could you NOT want to be productive? And then I realized, move slower to go faster. Being unstimulated calms you down and actually allows for reflection which ultimately leads to creation. There is a lot of value in the quiet, simple moments.

Choose to improve: Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become. Remember you are a result of who you were, but where you go depends entirely on who you choose to be from this moment on. (And sometimes you need a little help along the way…)

Circle of Influence: Research has shown that we virtually become like the average of the 5 people we spend most time with. Chew on that nugget of information…

Choose your words wisely: Words have both the power to hurt and heal.

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Your words have an impact on your life and others. You should ask yourself if your words foster love or bring harm. Listen to the people you encounter. If we talk to others and listen, we create the possibility of mutual sympathy, understanding and tolerance.

Nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts forever. You only lose what you cling to. The one constant in the universe is change. What is real is the existing moment, the present that is a product of the past, or a result of the previous causes and actions. Because of ignorance, an ordinary mind conceives them all to be part of one continuous reality. No life story is one chapter long.  No chapter tells the whole tale.  No mistake defines who you are.  Keep turning the pages that need to be turned. Embrace change.

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Allow yourself to be a beginner: When the student is ready the teacher appears. At 35 I thought I knew so much. Yes, I have had many life experiences, but this year humbled me into realizing I am still a student in so many ways and should embrace all the teachers that come into my life. They are everywhere and will teach me what I want to be and what I don’t want to be – both are valuable.

No one owes you anything.

You are not a product of your circumstances:  You are a product of your decisions.  It’s about deciding to NOT let your frustration or fear decide your future.

Be kind to all: Be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.

At this stage in my life: If it doesn’t make me happy, make me better or make me money, I don’t make time for it.

Hours: We all have the same amount of time in a day – how will you use them?

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The 6 Best Doctors: I have this as my screen shot on my iphone. Whenever I’m feeling ill emotionally or physically, it reminds me nature has my back and I will heal.

  • Sunshine
  • Water
  • Rest
  • Air
  • Exercise
  • Diet

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…And sometimes these bad boys can be great doctors,, too 🙂

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Don’t believe everything you are told: Ask questions and be curious. Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Observe and analyze.  When you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

True control is being able to control your mind: To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.

Make self-care a daily priority: How can you help others and be of use to this world if you are unhealthy?

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Never is never right and always is always wrong.

You are an original: Every life is a chance to change the world. Every life is an experiment the universe has never attempted before. Being (who you need to be) + Doing (what you need to do) = Having (what you want to have). This takes commitment and only YOU can do it. Also, remember, that the knowledge you accumulate and share cannot be stolen or removed, it is timeless and ageless, and in many ways just like you.

Replace jealousy with admiration.

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Forgive (if you succeed in doing this, let me know how).

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Give up labels: They only create boundaries and are relevant to a person’s experiences.

Things to Shut Up About:

  1. Your Goals: Plans should be guarded with diligence until you are able to achieve them. Being loud about everything you do enables others to steal them, cripple you with timelines, demoralize you….
  2. Your Deepest Thoughts: What you think about certain topics should be your belief and not what you try to inculcate into others. Learn to understand that your thoughts are your interpretation and not the objective truth.
  3. Philanthropy: Helping another is charitable work and does a whole lot to the development of individuals and our society. Its more value when you do not seek recognition for such benevolence.
  4. Your Lifestyle: It’s simply not worth putting your emotional conditions out to all. Expecting appraisals from people is not necessary.
  5. Your Family’s Dirty Laundry: Not only is it disrespectful and unwise to bring conflicts within your family to others, it devalues you and your family as these stories are usually passed on by the people you told them to which, in the end, makes matters worse.

Consume Mindfully: Be thankful for the nourishment good food provides, and be aware of what you put into your body. Think about it before you buy it. Is it really something you need, or just a transient desire (I am known for the latter)? Pay attention to the effects of negative media you consume – this is not all about food, folks! Ask yourself: is it helping me to grow or learn, or is it a form of distraction? Eat less to taste more.

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Changing the Game: Too many people try and change the game before they even learn to play it. Learn it, own it, then change it.

Debate.Decide.DO.

Detachment:  Others call it a law of success or learning how to let go emotionally. I like to think of it as separating ourselves from the expectant pressures that actually block us from living to our full potential. When we allow ourselves to release the emotional attachment to certain outcomes, we open up a new route for ourselves and, instead, find a route to freedom. We learn to let things be how they are instead of creating ideals in our minds of how we think things should be. And we learn to trust that we are where we are supposed to be. After all, trust and faith are the most fundamental components to our success. Detaching emotionally from the outcome of our desires does not mean we lose the desire itself. The key is to hold on to our intention. Our intentions push us to reach our desires.

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Embrace the ‘Chapters’ of your life. Remember the good life isn’t made only of major moments. It’s the everyday ‘ahas’ that bring you close to what you’re wishing for.

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On my website, Three Quarters There, I wrote this at the launch 1 year ago…it still holds true.

Simply put – Your life is your party. You get to create the invite list, the experiences, the décor, the soundtrack. Enjoy the process, but remember as long as you continue to strive for greatness, you are most likely Three Quarters There. That is my life message.

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Start writing your damn story! Cheers to 2017!

Love

Brielle

Venice

This post is dedicated to the Shick Family. They gave me the opportunity to visit this amazing city – a thank you is truly not enough. I also dedicate this to Adam Ponsi and Linda Gomes – their honeymoon in 2017 will take them to this magical city. #stayinspired

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Venice: The medieval city is postcard-perfect. It flourishes with Gothic, Byzantine, Rococo and Neo-Classical architecture. Its intricate network of canals winding through ancient cobbled alleys and under bridges is sublime. Venice is a window into the Italy of the 5th century. Nestled in a crook in northern Italy on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, it is laced with 170-odd waterways, which are spanned by 400-odd bridges. You can see the gondolas which replace workaday motorboats on the canals – you will not see a single car or even a bike.

Venice is built on top of an unstable lagoon. Read: its sinking, and worsening. Recurring floods have only sped up the structural damage inflicted on Venice’s low-lying brick buildings and the priceless St. Mark’s Basilica. A mere 3.3-foot rise in sea levels would put the city underwater—a reality that focuses not on “if” but “when.”

What does this mean -> Go see it now!

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General Info:

  • Currency: Euro
  • Tipping: Most restaurants include a service charge, but 10-15% is appreciated

Hotels:

  • Hotel Villa Braida: Super cozy hotel outside of the actual city (25 min drive and arrangements can be made with hotel staff)
  • Aman Canal Grande: Set beside the Grand Canal – magnificent.
  • Metropole Hotel: A walk from St. Mark’s Basilica. It’s also home to the Michelin starred Met Restaurant (pan-friend scallops coated with black bread crumbs!)

Dining:

A Venetian meal has many courses, and it can take a few hours to work your way through them all—from an antipasto seafood platter (or the classic sarde in saor, Venetian sweet-and-sour sardines) through spaghetti alle vongole (with clams) or risi e bisi (rice and peas) and grilled catch of the day to a cheese platter or tiramisú for dessert. Side note: I loved them ALL!

There are several great places to eat between Piazza San Marco and Ca’ d’Oro. I recommend either the simple yet hearty and authentic fare at Austria La Campana hidden in plain sight on the main drag (or, a bit out of the way, Trattoria Cea), or splashing out on lunch at the excellent Bistrot de Venise, many of its recipes from Renaissance-era Italian and French cookbooks.

If you prefer quick, cheap bites, there are two excellent tavola calda joints selling hot, prepared foods near the Rialto Bridge.

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More places to Eat:

  • Caffe del Doge: Coffee snobs paradise near the Rialto Bridge.
  • Rialto Fish Market: Medieval market is open-sided and offers everything from crabs, octopus, squid, monkfish and more. There is also a horse butcher next door….

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  • All’Arco: A neighborhood osteria (casual tavern) that serves wine and cicchetti finger food. Armed with ingredients from the nearby Rialto market, this family run tavern is a must stop!
  • Osteria di Santa Marina: Local eatery with delicious tuna tartare with shaved truffle and tagliatelle with cuttlefish and pistachio pesto….oh and plenty of wine.
  • Antiche Carampane: No fuss, seafood focused trattoria. Sign on the door” No pizza, no lasagna, no menu turistico” Get the soft shell crabs that are deep fried and the tagliolini with baby octopus.
  • Quadri: One of the city’s most highly regarded restaurants. 7 courses…. and so utterly romantic.

Drinking:

  • 1930’s era Harry’s Bar – 1948 Giuseppe Cipriani christened his signature peach bellini cocktail – must have if visiting Venice.

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  • Hotel Danieli’s Bar Dandolo: Sean Connery drank here during the filming of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You can’t help but feel like James Bond here 🙂

Must See / Excursions:

  • Ponte dell’Accademia (at sunrise)
  • The Grand Canal

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  • Piazza San Marco: The famous square is flanked by grand municipal buildings with a triumvirate of tower, church and palace at the end. This was where Venice announced itself to the world. One of the shops bears a statue of St. Theordore, the city’s dragon-slaying patron before St. Mark, and the other a winged lion, the symbol of the city and it’s 1000 year rebuttal of autocratic rule. Prisoners were executed between the columns – yikes!

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  • Santa Maria della Salute: Built in the 1600’s to celebrate the end of the city’s last great plague.
  • Saint Mark’s Basilica: Kill two birds with one stone by being at the Basilica di San Marco before it opens at 9:45am; that way you (a) get to see its treasures and the thousands of square feet of glittering mosaics, and (b) won’t have to wait in a long line, which can stretch the wait to as long as an hour or more later in the day. It consists of onion domes and Gothic spires, statues and gold mosaics. This was an expression of power vs. faith.
  • Pala d’Oro: Do pay the small, separate admission fees to see the Pala d’Oro altarpiece and to visit the Marciana Museum upstairs (great close-up view of the mosaics from the balcony level).
  • Libreria Acqua Alta: “The most beautiful bookstore in the world”. It’s not, but it’s an experience in itself.
  • Doge’s Palace: Be there before 11:35am to take your (pre-booked) “Secret Itineraries” tour, which in 90 minutes gives you an amazing insider’s glimpse into the hidden offices, courtrooms, archives, and prisons from which the true Venetian Republic ruled for 900 years.

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  • San Marco Campanile: The bell tower which actually opens before the basilica itself. Hit this one first for city panoramas from the top.
  • Ca’d’Oro: Venice’s Ca’ d’Oro (Golden House) is a gorgeous 15th century palatial home housing the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti museum. Ca’ d’Oro is one of the best preserved and most impressive of the hundreds of patrician palazzi lining the Grand Canal.
  • Rialto Bridge: Cross over the Grand Canal to the bridge. It’s a Renaissance stone span lined by shops…and food! Take a few minutes to wander the stalls of the Rialto Bridge on the far (S. Polo) side, then thread your way south through the S. Polo district to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

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  • A Cicchetti Crawl: Cicchetti (proucounced “chee-KET-tee”) are Venice’s verison of tapas. These are finger foods from bars called bacari traditionally washed down with an ombra (shadow), a small glass of wine. Cichetti run the gamut of, well, pretty much anything you can stick on a toothpick: calamari (in rings, or just tiny whole octopi), fried olives, cheese, sarde in soar (sweet-and-sour sardines), potato croquettes, polpette (meatballs—of beef or tuna), grilled polenta squares, salami…the list goes on. On the calories I accumulated.

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  • Casino di Venezia: Since the 1600’s people have been invited to throw their money around in elegant surroundings. With the slot machines juxtaposed with Renaiissance art, it’s quite a decandent experience. Caution, you will most likely walk in with more money than you walk out.
  • Take a Gondola Ride
  • Other Trips from Venice:
    • Murano Glass: There was a time when the trade of glassblowing was an elite pursuit dominated by craftsmen in the Venetian Republic, most notably on the island of Murano in the Venetian Lagoon. It’s a must see. The products are breathtaking and $$$. I totally bought gold glasses. It’s the Italian in me.

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  • Giudecca: Run down area home to prisoners and exiles (Michaelangelo spent a few years here in the 1520’s) but it feels like Brooklyn.
  • Shoreditch: artists and musicials – Elton John has a place here.

There is so much here that seems on the brink of falling apart or melting away. While many buildings have been restored, many are still crumbling. This is part of Venice’s appeal. The city dates back to the 5th Century, and emerged as a major world power in the 10th century. It looks it’s age…and that’s what makes it fabulous.