Delve into Your Dreams

I spoke at the Los Alamos Rotary Club this week. It was the second time I had presented to their club, the last time being almost three years ago. I was invited back because November is Foundation month, and since I was a Rotary Scholar, they wanted to hear how the Rotary Scholarship impacted my life. Recounting the many ways in which those first interviews for my scholarship formed who I have become was easy, since they were practically the beginning of the rest of my life. 

I also took the opportunity to present the work I've been doing with my book. Before the meeting started, I introduced myself around and took the opportunity to talk with some people. One woman asked, "What will you be talking about today?" I told her my book and topic was about finding funding to do what you love. The woman, about 70ish, said, "Oh! I am way too old for that, but I just learned about this amazing effort being done to help protect giraffes. Everyone thinks giraffes are safe and in no danger, but it turns out they are! So they've developed this technique to transport the giraffes because they are so tall and unwieldy."

What a wealth of enthusiasm! I made sure to tell her right then and there that she certainly wasn't old enough to pursue her passions and it sounded like she even had her project pinpointed. I also made a point of bringing her up multiple times in the presentation. When you take the time to think about what you would do if anything in the world were possible, you'd be surprised at how some "impossible dreams" are already mapped out for you. Do yourself a favor and delve into your dreams sometime, you might find some treasures!

Don't Wear Yourself Out

I know, I know, I've been pushing you to add in more research and time to write, so why am I saying "Don't wear yourself out?" Seems contradictory, doesn't it? I limit my number of applications each year to only one or two major programs, and perhaps a few small applications (e.g. for conference scholarships) sprinkled in. Much more than that and I feel like I'm depleting my resources. 

We know a few dance and yoga teachers who go full speed ahead, teaching five, six, seven, eight classes a week. But inevitably, they all hit a wall. And they don't come down softly. It's like juggling too many balls until they all crash at the same time. You don't have time for crash, let alone have a backup plan for the downfall. It just happens where things all unravel at the same time. 

Spare yourself, it's not a pretty picture. Applying for a fellowship, scholarship, or grant takes a large toll on you mentally, physically, and emotionally. It's better to save up your creative juices and focus on the few big things that you want instead of tossing your valuable energy to the four directions. Once you have those refined applications, you can always come back to them and alter them for another project later. 

Save up your motivation and your passion for what you truly want to be doing. It will shine through the writing and the project, which will make you a better applicant. Plus, working on the application will be more fun that way!

Ten Minutes a Day

I've said for a long time that I wanted to learn guitar. I thought I'd have time to do it when my husband and I lived in a National Park (where there was no internet, tv or cell reception). I certainly had the time, but I didn't dedicate the time. Last month, an event renewed my interest in making this goal happen. I voiced my interest to my dad, a musician, and within a few weeks, he turned up at my door with a guitar he'd bought for me. 

That evening, I kept in mind that I'd pick up the guitar and start learning as soon as I finished making dinner . . . as soon as dinner was cleaned up . . . as soon as I'd put my daughter to bed. And you can probably guess, I never got around to playing that evening. The time in the evenings is just too tight. 

So what did I do? I brought the guitar to work with me the next day and just pulled it out for ten minutes during my lunch break. I only practice about ten minutes a day, and only on week days, but it's beginning to pay off (thanks to YouTube tutorials and encouragement from my patient coworkers). 

So how does this relate to getting funded? If you wait until you HAVE the time to work on researching or preparing your application, it's never going to get done. You have a leg up in that you don't need to buy the instrument to get started. You already have what you need! So find that ten minutes in your day that you can use to make an investment in yourself. 

There is No Such Thing as a "GOOD" First Draft

When I was writing my book, I joined a writing class that gave us time to dedicate to our work. The first part of the day was for talking about our processes and then the rest of the day was dedicated to just . . . writing. Some people um'd and ah'd about what to write, but I quickly learned that I just needed to get going. The best lesson from this class was: there are no good first drafts. 

If you are finally at the stage of putting some ideas down on paper, don't be intimidated. The first words you ever write will probably be long gone by the time you actually submit your application, but you have to start somewhere. Oftentimes, writing things down can help you think abut exactly what you want (and need) to say. It's a tool to clarify your thought processes. 

In my office, I work with some extremely talented people. For weeks, even months, two of my colleagues have been brain-storming a management plan. They round and round, talking about the components and the structure and the desired outcome. This week, I had the pleasure of being asked my opinion on their process. "Just start writing it," I told them, "you have been thinking this thing to death and it's time to put it on paper." The next day, they started writing. At lunch, I asked how it was going. "It's almost too easy, I feel like we're leaving something out," they told me. I posed an alternative, "Or maybe all your planning and talking about it made it so that the work is actually done and all was left was to write it out."

If you're waiting until you have everything figured out to start writing, you'll be waiting forever. Sit your butt down and get a draft done. It'll be a start, but from there, you'll overcome the hurdle "starting" your application and coming back to revise your thoughts will be much easier. I promise. Give it a try. 

Rainy Day in Santa Fe

It's rainy here today. Appropriate for the first day of fall. Since we don't get tons of precipitation in New Mexico, a cozy rain is always appreciated. One of my favorite things to do on a rainy day is curl up and dream. Dreaming is a big adventure for me. It's my favorite phase of preparing applications because anything is possible. In this cherished state, I can let my thoughts wander to the near future or the far, to a project in my town or to a country far away. I can be doing the same work as I do now, or I could be doing something completely different. Dreams are lofty and fluffy and wonderful ways to envision the journey of life. 

You don't need to have a rainy day to dream. Taking a walk or even just sitting on the couch, listening to relaxing music can allow you to let your mind wander. Try it sometime. Don't force it, just see what thoughts come into your head when you allow some free time. I have a worksheet that I use with groups when I give workshops. It comes directly from my book, which is full of resources to flesh out your future fellowship application. Once you plant an idea of what you want to do, you'll find that opportunities will start coming into your field of vision. And if you're interested in pursuing them, I can help you along the way. Happy dreaming!

Making Your Passion Persuasive

In ninth grade, we were assigned to write a paper on something we were passionate about. Even back then, I felt so violated and distressed about how humans treat mother nature. I wrote about how we needed, as a species, to change the way that our selfish behaviors destroy the planet. I got a C- on my report. I completely shut down, thinking that my topic was stupid or unworthy. In fact, it was how I stated my feelings. 

Capture Your Passion

Capture Your Passion

In order to be successful and persuasive in the fellowships sphere, you have to CARE about something. Passion drives you study and pursue a topic, but oftentimes our feelings block logical argument and articulate dialogue. This certainly happens to me when I try to calmly discuss politics. 

This also happened to me when wrote the first draft of my Fulbright statement of purpose essay. I wanted to describe how beautiful the Senegalese culture is. And yet, the words were so . . . dull. I couldn't articulate my feelings of love, sophistication, implication in an essay form because they were just so visceral to me. Not being able to describe how the dance made me feel was a just roadblock. 

If you are lucky enough to be passionate about something, how do you transform it into a document or relatable form? I think it helps to bounce ideas off of other people. When you have a vision in your head, it's hard to know which parts of it are coming across when you describe it. Write down, or talk about your topic and then have someone who is unfamiliar with the subject read or hear it. Ask them to repeat back what they heard, and start to note the gaps in the story. 

Having a passion is one of the great joys and distresses in life. Caring so deeply about the planet, or protecting children from abuse, or an element of culture is a gift. So try to use that gift to make a difference in the world. But don't get discouraged if your first attempt to communicate falls flat.  

Surprises Await

When I talk to groups about my book, Funded!, I liken the process of getting fellowships to getting a wonderful present. You know how wonderful it is to get a box on your doorstep? I think that secretly we all order things online so we can forget it was us who bought the thing; we can pretend someone else bought us a present. So how wonderful is it to get a "gift" in the mail? Now imagine that it's a letter saying, "Congratulations! We have selected you to be a _______(program of choice) Fellow!" Or even better yet, imagine that it's a check for $500 or $1000 or $25000? How awesome would that be? This has happened to me and each time, it's the most wonderful feeling. 

Working on fellowship applications is not easy. It's an arduous process that takes many months in most cases. But the rewards are plentiful. And best of all, if you submit multiple applications every year, a surprise could be waiting for you at any time. Planting these seeds of joy that could explode into your life unexpectedly is the best present you could give yourself. Try it out, get my book Funded! from any of the vendors listed on my site

When Less (time) is More

Have you ever found that when you have a small amount of time to get something done, you're more motivated? This is certainly how it works for me. I used to block off whole days to get assignments done or designate a whole weekend to cleaning out the shed. But really, when I am pressed for time, I'm more efficient. 

When I was writing my book, Funded!, I gave myself half an hour to write every day. Within that half hour, I aimed to get 500 words written, but if I didn't get exactly that amount, I wouldn't fret. The next day, I would come back and do the same. Had I given myself an hour (or two) to do the same task, I would have sat there not working for half the time and then at the last minute, cranked out the daily limit. 

As my mom says, nothing would get done if there weren't deadlines. And it's true. So if you're looking for time to work on an application (or do the research for your perfect fellowship), give yourself a strict time limit. Designate twenty minutes a day, or use the twenty minutes between tasks to fit in some valuable fellowship time. Giving yourself all day to do this, or worse yet, waiting until you have a whole day free, will get you nowhere. Start today and take just a few minutes to get the ball rolling. Tell me how it goes!

Three Ways to Find Fellowships


When people talk to me about finding fellowships, they ask about how to find the time to look for them. Just the research process is time-intensive. You have to make sure that the fellowship you're applying for is right for you, otherwise, all the work that goes into the application is a waste of time. So where do you find the time to do all this research? 


The Leisure Researcher

Well, I like to tell people that the process can be exciting and therefore can be something you do when you have twenty minutes between activities. Or, on days like today, when I have the whole day free, I can spend some time (even if I'm simultaneously watching a tv show or something) looking into fellowships for my future. This makes the research process almost a leisure activity and something I do while relaxing.


The Productive Procrastinator

Back when I was in school, I would use "productive procrastination" to get the fellowship research done. This means that when I had a more pressing task that I should have been doing, I would instead open a new tab on my computer to do a little research into a fellowship. This way, I was procrastinating yes, but I was also getting some valuable work done. 


The Fellowship Shopper

One of my mentors related looking into fellowships like having an online shopping cart. She likes to go onto her favorite shopping sites and add items to her "shopping cart" without actually buying, it's a way to window shop and idealize what she'll buy when she has the money. In the same way, keeping a "shopping list" of your fellowships that you keep eyeing and putting back on the shelf is a way to become intimately familiar with them over time. Taking glimpses of the sites multiple times will help you know the details of the program forwards and backwards. 


These are three ways that I've found to help do the research and make it fun. I hope you find that one (or all) of these works for your too!

Planning for the Unknown

If you're like me, you like to know the plan . . . and to control it. However, unfortunately that's not always possible. Somethings the future takes a while to reveal itself and plans start getting shaky. So what can a person like me do in that situation? I can plan for the unknown. 

Now, this relates to all parts of life, where I'm living, what job I'm doing, etc. But specifically, what I want to talk about today is planning for the unknown of pursuing your passion. 

A few years ago, my schedule was completely open. I didn't have a specific place I was looking to live or a specific job I was planning on doing. The world was my oyster and luckily at that time, I was able to see the flexibility in this situation instead of fretting about all the uncertainties. 

So what did I do with this abundant openness? I applied for as many scholarships, fellowships and grants as I possibly could. Teaching English in a foreign country? Check. Studying dance? Check. Studying environmental systems? Check. Starting an international program for youth? Check. Instead of putting all of my eggs into one basket, I looked for as many "close fits" to my interest areas as I could find and I gave it up to fate to decide what I'd be spending my time doing. 

Planning for the unknown means putting the options out there and laying down tracks in many directions. Other people call this, "having many irons in the fire." You don't know which one will pay off but at least your heating up your possibilities. Tell me about some of the possible directions you're looking at taking. I'd love to hear what you're up to (even if they're still uncertain)!