“There can be no significant change in the world unless we first have the courage to change ourselves. In order to change ourselves, we must first believe we can. That’s exactly what the figureoutable philosophy is all about.”
–Marie Forleo, author of the New York Times number one best-seller, Everything is Figureoutable
Can you think of a time in your life when you really, really wanted something that seemed hard or even impossible, but your desire made you so determined that you threw caution to the wind, ignored the voices of “reason” telling you that you’d look like an idiot for trying, and just went all out for that thing as if your life depended on it? I think most of us have experienced this on some scale, whether we realise it or not.
This is what New York Times best-selling author, teacher, philanthropist, and all-round wonderful human being Marie Forleo calls the “everything is figureoutable” philosophy.
Something magical happens when we’re able to get into this mode; suddenly, in the face of extraordinary odds, we discover deep wells of self-belief and motivation that we never knew we had.
We find creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. We suddenly realise we have vast untapped power within us, that we can achieve mammoth tasks with an almost super-human strength.
There’s a stubborn tenacity deep in my soul that I know I can call upon when I need it. This instinct has been a loyal friend to me in tough emotional times, as well as helping me pull off difficult things in my working life. As a teenager it gave me strength and focus to achieve a perfect grade on an art project that I was super passionate about. It’s helped me save relationships I felt were under threat, apply for (and get) dream jobs and assignments despite the noisy roar of imposter syndrome in my ears, and teach myself how to succeed on my own terms, when there wasn’t a blueprint or an easy map to follow.
Even though I hadn’t yet heard Marie Forleo’s mantra, “Everything is figureoutable”, this is the belief that kicked in when my beloved dad, who had just been told he had about five weeks left to live, semi-jokingly expressed regret that he wouldn’t be able to see a film he’d been looking forward to. (I can’t stop him from dying, but I can bloody well make sure his last few weeks on this earth are as enjoyable as possible, I thought.)
It’s a fierce feeling, a powerful feeling. It transforms me from a polite English woman and recovering people-pleaser into an unstoppable force of nature to be reckoned with.
But it’s also… exhausting. It’s not a mode most of us can be in fully, all the time. It requires us to give everything we’ve got, to make an 110% commitment to whatever problem we want to solve, or thing we want to achieve.
When I got that top grade in my art project, my French grade suffered. When I spent the week tweeting and blogging up a storm to create a viral campaign with international press coverage that got the attention of Marvel Studios and most of the cast of the Avengers movies to cheer up my dying father, I neglected my husband and daughter in favour of the glow of my laptop screen (I also definitely didn’t shower as often as I usually do). When I was busy consuming every single bit of information about growing a website’s traffic through SEO that I could get my hands on, and was obsessively testing out the strategy that eventually helped grow Verily’s traffic almost five-fold over a nine month period, I wasn’t also testing out intense Instagram and Facebook and email list-building strategies at the same time.
In short, the secret of the “figureoutable philosophy” is that you have to choose the things you want to figure out wisely. You have to say “no” to a lot of good things, so that you can say “yes” to one exceptionally important thing.
Marie Forleo explores all of this and more in her new book, Everything is Figureoutable. The book is a practical guide to relentless optimism, full of tools to help you ignite this fire in your heart when you face any challenge in your life that you want to overcome.
It will help you figure out how to live a life you love and make the world a better place, and how to choose which problems to solve so that you can actually make progress.
I first came across Marie Forleo’s work back in early 2016, when I found out about her world-renowned online business class, B-School, via the lovely Hilary Rushford (who I had been following on Instagram for a while at that point). It wasn’t the right time for me to take it back then, but I started watching her inspiring YouTube show, MarieTV, and signed up for her emails, which quickly became my favourite newsletter to appear in my inbox on a weekly basis.
One of the things that originally encouraged me to come back and engage with her work on a deeper level was an email from her team in response to my query about whether B-School would still be running in future years. I was so used to being sold to in a stressed-out, pushy “buy it right now, otherwise you might never have the opportunity again!” kind of way, that I was genuinely moved and inspired by the thoughtful, warm response I got to my question, telling me not to worry because B-School wasn’t going anywhere, and that I could absolutely take it another year when the timing was better for me. It was at that moment that I knew Marie was genuinely on a mission to help everyone she encountered to flourish on their unique journey; only the real deal would be able to attract such deeply thoughtful and wise people to her team.
Getting to know Marie’s work felt like a kind of homecoming for me. I had never come across anyone in the public sphere who embodied all the things I aspired to so whole-heartedly. She articulated things I had always held to be true without really knowing why. Slowly, seeing her and her team model all these principles I held so dear, I started to feel less alone, and more confident in the way I tried to live and work.
Her work helped me to stop listening to the voices in the culture around us that told me it’s naïve and unintelligent to be an optimist; there’s room to be positive and solutions-oriented, while also being realistic and rooted in truth.
Marie is living proof that you can make compassion your guiding principle without being a pushover; you can be strong and kind.
When you’re feeling insecure, one of the most powerful things you can do is to shine your light, your attention, your energy outwards, rather than continuing to focus inwards; make life better for someone else, shower them with love, make yourself of service to someone else, and you’ll soon forget your insecurities.
Marie taught me that being multi-passionate is okay—in fact, it can be a great strength.
She showed me a way to make peace with the seemingly conflicting desires and interests I feel within myself, and learn to navigate my way through a life filled with curiosity and variety. I don’t need to make myself smaller to fit in.
She constantly reminds me that the way through overwhelm is to put creative blinkers on and focus on one thing at a time, that simplifying what you’re working on can hugely amplify your impact, and that being honest with yourself about what you really want (and what you’re really willing to do to make it happen) is key.
In 2017 I had the opportunity to work with her and her wonderful team as a freelance copywriter, which was a blessing not just as a wonderful opportunity to learn and stretch myself, but also because doing the work was profoundly healing for me, on a personal level.
It helped me realise that over the course of some very hard years, I had slowly lost touch with my intuition, getting into a bad habit of numbing my instincts and desires because I mistakenly believed that ignoring my own needs would help me serve others better. The weight of my perceptions of what people needed and expected from me started to feel too heavy to carry, but I didn’t know what to do about it, so I soldiered on. My ability to make wise decisions suffered, because I couldn’t tune in to what I wanted and needed anymore.
One of the first MarieTV episodes I worked on was this one, on learning to tell the difference between fear and intuition to help you make better decisions. A few months before watching this episode, I’d been faced with a big career decision, and had been so out of touch with the difference between expansive fear or excitement and the genuine intuition that something’s not right that I had been frozen like a deer in the headlights, allowing myself to be guided by what others wanted from me rather than what would be best for me.
The tools Marie shared in that episode helped me heal my decision-making ability and feel more in touch with my intuition than ever before. As I watched and re-watched the episode, I felt something click back into alignment in my brain and body. Relief flooded through me, and I knew it was time to start finding a way back to myself in other aspects of my life.
I eventually invested in B-School myself in 2018, and it’s such a rich resource that I’m still unpacking everything I learned (and, I know I will be going back to it again and again for years to come).
Slowly but surely, I’m learning to create a business and life that I truly love. My working relationship with Louise, Head of Storytelling at Marie Forleo International, has developed into a deep and precious friendship, and I’m constantly inspired by watching how she, Marie, and the whole team go about their work with such dedication, passion, and creativity. The way they approached the Everything is Figureoutable book launch is such an incredible example of what it means to believe wholeheartedly in an idea and then share it with the world with extraordinary, infectious joy and enthusiasm.
These days, whenever I’m having a bad day, or am faced with a challenge that feels like it might be too big or too heavy, I find myself repeating “Everything is figureoutable—I’ve done hard things before, and I can do them again,” to myself.
I hope that whatever challenges you face in life, and whatever dreams you’re harbouring inside your heart, you can find strength and courage in this powerful little phrase, too.
PS You can catch the interview I did with Marie about the power of optimism for Harper’s Bazaar this way, as well as my article about the “everything is figureoutable” mantra over on Brit + Co.