Lake Barkley: End of Year Reflection

I love the line between the old and the new, so much so that New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday. This time of year, without fail, I begin to crave reflection. What did I love about the past eleven months? What did I learn? What did I accomplish that I'd hoped to? What is still on the list? And with reflection comes looking forward as well. What do I hope to achieve next year? What actions will I take to make it happen? What will I let go of? Where will I go? What will I create? 

It's easiest to focus on answering such thoughtful questions when not distracted by the to do, to clean, to call lists that we live with every day, so an escape is necessary. Last weekend I headed up to Lake Barkley for about 48 hours, but you don't even have to travel. Consider an afternoon at a coffee shop you don't normally hang out in, sans laptop, as a simpler option. Here are some questions to answer during your escape:

  • What will my life look like in one year? (Describe one ideal day in as much detail as possible.) Follow your description by listing goal-related things that jump out at you from what you've written, like waking up earlier, having a new project at work or a new job or career, living somewhere different, buying a home, mid-day workouts, growing vegetables, etc. 
  • Where will I travel? 
  • What are the big things I will accomplish? 
  • What are the small daily habits I will master?
  • What will I learn more about or learn how to do? 
  • Come up with any other list categories that suit you, maybe people to know, or events to attend, or things to save money for.

Let me know what you learn about yourself! Does anything come up that surprises you? What's your biggest goal? 

Here are some pics from my time away at the lake. Happy reflecting!

Why It's Not OK

The unthinkable has happened. I was sure, many months ago when there were double digits of candidates in this race, that Hillary Clinton was our next president. I hadn’t even decided who I may vote for or who I wanted our next president to be, but I felt sure it was her race to win. She’s been preparing for this for a very long time. She has experience. And it’s time in our history to show that we can have a woman in the white house. I thought. 

And now this.

The Trump campaign was worse than a train wreck. It was a train wreck that caused your house to burn down. For those of us who are victims of rape or sexual assault, we were horrified at his comments and at the allegations that have come forth from so many women. For many people in this country and all over the world, his words of hate, his promises of separation and violence, it was just shock and terror followed by more shock and terror. 

Hillary won my vote not just because of her agenda, which I support much of, but also for her poise, her experience, her strength, and her values. But that's not what this post is about. 

If you have republican values, I respect that. We all have a right to what we support politically. I’m not saying you’re wrong. But you should have admitted defeat in this race when Trump was given the nomination. He was not the right republican candidate, he is not a man fit to lead this nation in beliefs, in words, or in temperament. It was optimistic of you to think that a vote for him represented your republican priorities when a vote for him represented hate. We have elected hate to the white house. 

He is 100% made up of hate. 

In a news-minded group I’m part of online, a lot of the quiet Trump voters have come out to say, “Finally! After 8 years! We’ve been waiting and now we have our chance! Oh yeah, and I’m not a racist, sexist, bigot.”

You should have waited four more for an actually qualified, prepared, and deserving candidate. I’m sure that would have been a hard sacrifice to make, but it would have been the right choice. 

A friend of mine texted me a month or so ago and said, “you should write a blog post about how you’re in the entertainment industry and have never been grabbed by the —" I wrote back, "I can’t write that, it’s not true.” That did happen to me, exactly that, by a stranger, who when I said “What are you doing!? No!” replied “Give it a minute, you’ll like it.”


That wasn’t the first time I was sexually assaulted either. I speak for many of the women in my life as well who are survivors of sexual assault (more of us than not) that this morning we feel like victims rather than survivors. Many of us feel like our country just said it was ok, those horrible things that happened to us, and that we’re crazy for thinking otherwise. Which is exactly the mentality that had me not speak up about what happened to me the first time at 18.

This morning I woke up and my country has made me feel like a victim instead of a survivor. You are not behind me. You have not strengthened me or lifted me up or stood with me. 

I’m not alone either. Katie shared a post this morning that included this passage: 

"I voted for a candidate who I think was more than qualified to be president, but most importantly I voted for a candidate who respects me as a person. You did not. You voted for a candidate who sent me personally, and thousands of other women, into a frenzy last night. Reliving their own nightmares of sexual assault over and over again tossing and turning in bed, hunched over the toilet vomiting and sobbing on the floor. I thought I meant more to you than this? Don't I mean more to you than this?"

I respect your republican values. Some of them I agree with. If you are not a racist, sexist, bigot made up of hate then you should have considered your race lost after the primaries.

My friend DJ shared a lovely post following the results that said, "I love and respect so many of you who wanted this and I beseech you to spend the next four years showing those of us who didn't that it wasn't about misogyny, racism, xenophobia and fear. I love this country and I don't want to leave.Show us how the kind of rhetoric that has been pervasive throughout this campaign can lead to understanding and respect and I promise to listen." 

I am very doubtful that this man will accomplish a successful, positive agenda as president. I am very doubtful his presidency will lift me up as a woman, as a business owner, and likely as a mother too during this presidency. I am doubtful he will do good things for our place in the world, evidenced already in the hours since the results. (To the rest of the world: this does not define us! Not all of us chose this!) 

But, as DJ will, I will listen. I urge you, America, and world, to show us that love is still the driving force for how we treat each other. That equality is something we’re continually striving for, fighting for, standing for. No walls. No violence. 

Despite the bleak outlook this morning, I pray that no matter who our president is, love still trumps hate. 

Touch the Mountain

Last month, I went wild. As in, packed into a backpack all the things I needed to live for three days and set out into the wilderness. I've read some books about the trails out west and even took a class at REI about backpacking the PCT, but have never done so much as more than camping. Suffice to say I was as prepared as one can be for a first-timer. You can only learn so much before you just get out there and DO. 

Day one was the hardest. The hardest day of the trip, yes, but possibly also the hardest day of my life. The 30 pounds on my back only made the steep trail overgrown with head-high brush, the glaring sun, and the swarm of flies that much more grueling. Not to mention that one wrong step could literally cause me to fall off the mountain. 

It took all I could to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, often counting to ten over and over again, or singing Patty Griffin songs to myself. In "Time Will Do the Talking," there's a line that goes, "there are those who like to look and those who ain't afraid to touch." As I sang it through for the third time or so, I thought, "Yes! Here I am, touching the mountain."

There are those who like to look and those who ain't afraid to touch. 

Be the person who isn't afraid to go touch the mountain. 

Here's a look at some of my favorite pictures from the trip! 

E A T S | whole 30

So listen, I believe diets are personal choices just like politics and parenting. There's no reason for any of us to tell someone else what and how they should eat. This is not me saying, "you should try Whole30!" but rather that this has been my experience and take from it what you may. Let's talk!

The Plan

I first did Whole 30 in April of this year. It wasn't about weight loss so much as trying to jump start a more disciplined way of eating and preparing for a heightened fitness regimen. The decision to stick with it 100% and not cheat is the most difficult part. Once you're set on really doing it, the rest comes much more easily. Don't underestimate determination and resolve!

So, what is it exactly? It's a program based on cutting out foods that are inflammatory. You can eat meat, veggies, fruits, nuts (not peanuts - they're legumes!), and oils. You may not eat grains, legumes, and sugars, which includes alcohol. Here's a helpful shopping list! 

My greatest challenge is that I don't like to cook anything that takes more than 10 minutes of prep work, but my greatest strength is that I can eat the same thing for days and not be tired of it. 

My favorite meals:

1. almond crusted chicken or fish with peppers and onion (blend almonds in my Magic Bullet, use eggs to coat protein for almonds to stick). Drizzle veggies in oil. Bake everything for 22 minutes at 400. Pineapple for dessert. 

2. 3 eggs with broccoli and onion and an avocado. I'll bake broccoli and onions in a large batch and use them in my eggs over several days, cooked on the stovetop in oil. Sliced avocado with salt. Pineapple for dessert. 

And, now? 

I told you I like simplicity! I'm on day 6 for my second go round now. I just stumbled on this website and look forward to trying out some of their asian inspired recipes

The greatest successes are getting into good eating habits at home, becoming more educated and intentional about what I shop for or order, feeling flat tummied for such a long period of time, weight loss (bonus - I lost 8 pounds in April!), and improved sleep. 

Oh, and about that no alcohol challenge? When it comes to socializing and wanting that glass of wine in hand, I'll order a soda water with lemon in a cocktail glass! 

Have you tried Whole 30? Share your favorite recipes or resources with me! Curious about it? Feel free to ask questions!

B R A V E L Y - A new book, and more!

Good morning! I am writing this over iced coffee, of course, except that it's black iced coffee because I'm doing Whole 30 this month. (Yuck face. To the coffee, not the Whole 30. More on that later.) I'm very excited to tell you about what I've been working on lately! My self-development workbook has been years in the making and is coming along, and all of this stems from what I've been developing and wanting to share with you! 

First of all, I'm planning to release it as a book with a workbook companion. If you're like me, most of the time I really love to read people's stories - where they come from, what's been hard, what's been good, what's been wild, and what they've learned - but I also love guided ways to apply new ideas to my own life. So I'll be creating both for you, with expected release dates in 2017!

In addition, I'm creating a planner. I love planners and still use a good ole paper one myself. Over the last several years I've picked up things I've liked from several I've tried as well as things I wish were different based on the way I use it. The planner will also come out next year for the 2018 year. 

That's not all, starting this month (!!!) I'll have a store with related products launching right here. Think mugs and tumblers and muscle tanks and all those things that make your day just a little sweeter. New content is coming too, with fresh posts going up regularly and emails so you don't miss anything important. 

And, because I wanted to give it all a name that summarizes the inspiration behind it... meet "Bravely." 

I can't wait to share more with you! Let's live bravely together. 


What an incredible experience it was to go visit my hometown of Meadville, PA, stop by Hank's Frozen Custard and the house that built me, walk the halls of my high school, and have the honor of giving the commencement address at graduation.

Here are two versions of the video, and the full speech text:

"Never in a Million Years"
Commencement Address
by Kimberly Novosel
Meadville Area Senior High School
June 10, 2016

Thank you Principal Higgins. Hello Class of 2016, teachers and faculty, proud parents, family and friends. 

You’ll have to pardon the southern accent I’ve picked up. I’ve been gone a long time now.

Fifteen years ago I sat in one of those chairs, in this room, ready and so eager for what was to come outside the walls of this high school and beyond the roads of my hometown. Never in a million years could I have imagined I'd stand on the red carpet at the Grammy awards alongside Beyonce, ride four wheelers across the desert in Arizona, take a trip to Paris by myself on a whim, or double stick tape Miley Cyrus into a Roberto Cavalli gown (back when she wore gowns). Never in a million years would I have imagined I'd live in LA, New York, Portland Oregon, and Nashville. Officiate a wedding on a beach in Mexico. Run a half marathon. Publish a book. Survive hurricane sandy and several broken hearts. Start my own artist management firm where I get to do what I love every single day. And truly, never in a million years, would I have imagined I'd be invited to come back to give this speech here today. 

Hellen Keller wisely said, "Life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all." It really is. I am living proof. As you set out into what lies ahead, you are in for the adventure, literally, of a lifetime. Trust me when I tell you that as you sit here today, never in a million years can you imagine the amazing things that lie ahead for you. 

There are a few lessons I've learned in the fifteen years since I sat where you are that you may take with you as you set off on your incredible journey. I won't tell you WHO to be, I'll tell you HOW to be. These are my five BEs. 

FIRST, Be really freaking patient. 

Not everything you want will happen immediately.  Or this year. Or in your twenties. At twenty-one when I graduated college, I thought I would get "the job” and work my way to the top into my own well decorated corner office in a matter of months or a few very short years. I would buy "the home” and have a family and then turn, like, twenty-seven. (The parents laughed at that but you students will just have to trust me, students, that life actually gets better after twenty-seven.) I was frustrated and full of impatience when just out of college “the dream job” I landed was in an office without any windows. I hadn’t earned the windows yet! No one was going to magically appoint me head of a record label or manager of a major artist just because I thought I was ready. But that job led to working on the TV show Nashville Star, and music videos for Blake Shelton and Josh Turner. That work led me to start an artist development company at which I was my only employee, which evolved into the management company I have now with a business partner and a team where I get to shape the careers of some really talented musicians. 

Instead of “having it all” by twenty-seven, I was still discovering - I was figuring out what I was good at, what I may become exceptional at, about how the music industry was changing because of streaming and social media and what that meant for my career, and I was meeting more people who would provide valuable support to me as time went on. I was moving to New York to try something different and brought some outside perspective and a bit of a thicker skin back to Nashville. I was starting a business so that instead of a well-decorated corner office I’d have a shot at a whole empire. I was becoming a stronger decision maker and a better leader. And I was having a lot of fun while doing it. I didn’t know it at the time, especially in the earlier moments I was buying groceries with spare change, but I was living my daring adventure. 

Those are two very different pictures, aren't they? Know which one I like better? The real one. If I had the first life, I am pretty sure that I would have woken up on my twenty-seventh birthday and thought, "but what now?" instead of, "what's next!?"  I'm not saying you can't or won’t have a family, home, or dream job in your twenties.  I AM saying, don't force it or expect it. Don’t declare yourself a failure for not having achieved a certain level of success by some arbitrary deadline. Keep working hard. Keep exploring and discovering. Learn to love living in the “meantime.” I promise you, life is not that short.

SECOND, Be your own best friend.

My last semester of college I spent in a not-actually-abroad abroad program in LA, interning in MGM's music supervision department where I got to help research and select music for movies. "Maybe I'll stay in LA," I remember thinking. "Maybe I'll work where music and movies come together, and live in Venice beach, and surf on the weekends." When MGM didn't offer me a job at the end of the semester, I was disappointed. But I shouldn't have been. My supervisors could see what I couldn't. I did the work fine, but I didn't love it. It didn't drive me. I wouldn't have spent my days wanting to be there rather than anywhere else. I didn't really love to surf, either. I wasn't asking myself the right questions. I wasn't hearing my own voice loud and clear. Now, even on the really hard days when nothing is going right, I still love what I do. 

Somewhere along the line, I got to know myself. I started asking myself the right questions. I learned to pinpoint my north on my compass, even if it was different from everyone else’s. And I learned to use that compass to make my own decisions, move forward, and not look back.

People will come and go in your life. You are your greatest constant. You can't abandon you. You can't move away from you. You can't break up with you. You can't grow apart from you. Nourish the relationship you have with yourself. Get to know yourself well. Celebrate your strengths. Be honest and kind to yourself about your weaknesses. Love yourself unconditionally. Try new things all the time. Treat yourself with great care. Trust your own gravity to lead you. 

Author Augusten Burroughs wrote, "You will feel a pendulum swing within you, favoring one direction or another. And that is your answer. The answer is always inside your chest. The right choice weighs more." 

Find north on your compass and follow it. Be your own best friend and even in the moments you’re alone, you will not be lost. 

THIRD, Be limitless. 

When I moved to New York, I wanted to find a workout I could afford on a more limited budget. (It’s true that New York is super expensive, y’all.) Prior to then I’d taken the occasional yoga class with friends or maybe ran-slash-walked a 5K for a good cause. Fitness was never my thing. I didn’t grow up an athlete. I wasn’t built for it, physically or mentally. Or so I thought. In New York I discovered that there was a track down the street in a public park – Lucky me! Free fitness! Unluckily, running had always been one of my least favorite activities. “I’m not a runner,” I had said over and over throughout my life. Yet I was determined.

Starting at a slow pace, I jogged around the track a lap or two before my lungs hurt and I had to walk. I might have been wearing my nearly ten year old Meadville cheerleading shoes. Every day I did this again. My agreement with myself was that I could go as slow as I needed to, so long as I ran further than the day before. I was kind to myself and patient with my improvement. There were tricks I invented to distract my doubting mind, for example I would picture clones of myself cheering me on, or each lap I would think of a new goal for myself, or another person I was grateful to have in my life. And wouldn’t you know, in less than three months I was able to run three miles - a 5K - in 27 minutes. And I actually kinda liked it! I went ahead and bought new running shoes. 

This blew me away. It still does. I believed I wasn’t a runner. I thought it wasn’t in me. I thought I wasn’t capable. But none of that was ever true. After I broke that first huge barrier, there wasn’t much to stop me from breaking more in other aspects of my life. That simple shift in perspective changed me entirely. I no longer look at things as “can’t” and “can” or “able to” and “unable to.” Instead, I see things as “I haven’t tried it yet” or “I haven’t yet learned how.” But everything is possible.

You are capable of more than you can imagine. When I sat where you are now, I wasn’t the star athlete. I wasn’t the valedictorian or even a straight A student. I wasn’t the best dancer in my ballet classes or the best performer in my theatre productions or the best singer in chorus. I actually wasn’t a very good singer which is why I now make musicians and not music. I was - to be honest - average. And that’s because I believed I was average. Nothing has been decided for you. There are no limits placed on you aside from the ones you place on yourself, and it’s entirely up to you to remove them. “You haven’t tried it yet” and “you haven’t yet learned how,” but if you believe you can, you will. You are limitless. 

FOURTH, Be absolutely fearless.

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, said: "fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It's the mastery of fear."

You won’t be able to avoid the storms in life, and you shouldn’t. Instead, you can determine how to approach them. When a buffalo senses an oncoming storm, he runs into it, knowing that moving toward the storm rather than away from it will lessen the time he has to endure it. His courage reduces his suffering. 

I have vowed to live like the buffalo. If something scares me in its greatness, like living in New York City or running a half-marathon or starting a business, I move in its direction. I Whether you fail or succeed isn’t the point. When I wrote my book, a novel called Loved, there were pieces in the story that were parts of my own life. My own secrets. My own mistakes. If I had been too fearful of putting those things out into the world, I wouldn’t have inspired my readers to learn from my mistakes and live stronger, bolder lives themselves. Here’s another example: I’m really quite nervous to be standing up here speaking to you. You’re all looking at me, and listening to what I think are interesting stories and smart lessons and maybe a few funny jokes. Or you may not even be listening which would be worse. But if I had said no, I wouldn’t have the chance to do something that never in a million years would I have thought I’d be invited to do. And honestly, let me just take this in for a second, because this is really pretty awesome. This is a moment I’ll never forget. And hopefully in attempting to master fear today I’ve been able to inspire you a little bit. 

So, whether it means speaking in front of hundreds of people or climbing a mountain or even dedicating the next few years of your life to doing well in college, run toward what scares you. Face the challenges. Savor them. It is surviving the storms that makes life worth living. 

Those are the first four BEs. Be really freaking patient. Be your own best friend. Be limitless. And be absolutely fearless. 

But, most importantly, if you only remember one thing from what I've said to you today, let it be the fifth BE. 

The future you, who could be standing up here in fifteen years. Who could be changing the world by giving shoes to children in need or sharing important news via your own media company or publishing New York Times best selling books, or a thousand other really incredible things, you are already becoming that person. Starting today, the choices you make shape who you’ll become. Not once you are wiser or richer or older, but right now. So I’m challenging you to do your best every day with what you have. Beginning today, you get to decide who you are becoming. 

That's the fifth "be" - no matter where life takes you from here, be your very best self.