Free and Clear: A Book and A Chat About Getting Unstuck

6 min read

My friend Shira Miller wrote a book, and I'm in major fangirl mode that she got published. What’s even better: she writes about overcoming mental blocks that have dogged me all my life.shira-outdoor-photo_may-2022-lowrez-617

Shira Miller

I've fangirled Shira for over 20 years since we first met at the GA chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is a brilliant PR strategist who successfully maintained an inspiring personal wellness transition for decades.

And she always makes me laugh.

That's the Shira you meet in her book and in this video interview:  funny, approachable, empathetic, and packed with actionable steps for anyone who ever suffered from imposter syndrome and negative self-talk. (🙋)

The book is illustrated with real-life stories of getting unstuck, including Marie Incontrera of Incontrera Consulting, a firm that works with Dialogue on our organic social campaigns. Marie talks about her "pivot with purpose" from pursuing a professional music career in New York to launching a digital thought leadership agency.


Marie Incontrera

Three key takeaways from the interview:

  • Build trust and self-confidence in yourself by practicing self-compassion. Is your inner voice an inner saboteur? Or does it sound like the way you would talk to a beloved friend?
  • Create a “reverse bucket list” of everything you’ve accomplished, print it, and go back to look at it regularly to refute your own self-criticism.
  • Be aware that humans are hard-wired for negativity. It takes practice to be positive. Like regular exercise, once you start practicing, you will build this muscle and learn to trust yourself more to help you get unstuck.

Watch the full interview or read the lightly edited transcript below:


Nora: Shira, why did you write this book?

Shira: After years of getting stuck and unstuck, I figured out that this is my superpower. I am not only excited about things I've been able to do on my own and getting unstuck, but I'm really passionate about helping people reach their full potential. There were a lot of lessons to be learned and shared to help others get unstuck.

Nora: That is how I've always known you. Your own story is so inspirational. Who do you think should read this book?

Shira: Anyone who has felt stuck. I have done a major healthy living transformation, going from obesity to a healthy weight. I went from divorce to finding lasting love. I overcame a business failure to thrive in my career. And now I'm living a purposeful life.

This book is for anybody who has felt stuck, whether in your career, in your love life, or your wellness. You can overcome those obstacles; I guarantee that. The book provides a step-by-step guide to try to help you do that.

Nora: That's what I loved about the book because I really thrive on process.

The part of Free and Clear that resonated the most with me was about not trusting yourself. I think most people who know me would be surprised that I lack confidence, just as I'm surprised whenever I hear any accomplished person lacking confidence.

What are the first things I should do to start to get unstuck?

Shira: It's important to start building trust and self-confidence in yourself. I recommend starting by practicing self-compassion. You know that inner voice inside your head where you berate yourself? That's called an inner saboteur.

If your best friend came to you and asked for advice on a situation, would you sit there and berate her, or would you listen respectfully? 

Self-compassion is treating yourself just as you would a friend. Here's a practical exercise  I call a reverse bucket list. Create a list of everything you've accomplished. Put as many things as possible on that list. It might be: I got into a great college. I paid off my student loan debt. I raised a wonderful family. I created a career I'm proud of. List everything that you can think of.

When you do that, print it. Go back and look at it. It's your evidence. It's something you can't argue with, even when you try to be critical of one's self. You realize if you could accomplish those things, you can get unstuck in this area as well.

Nora: That sounds so obvious and simple. And yet, I don't typically stop to think of the accomplishments. A lot of us tend to replay the negatives.

Shira: Humans are coded to have a negativity bias. That's in our DNA. You actually have to work to try to notice the positive. And especially when you're building self-confidence, it's got to become something conscious. It's like exercising. Once you start practicing, you will build this muscle, you will learn to trust yourself more and it helps you get unstuck.

Nora:  I never knew that about negativity. It just feels like the natural way of being. I guess because it is.

Now tell us about your wellness journey, which is so similar to my recent one. What do you recommend for people seeking the physical aspect of trying to get unstuck?

Shira: It's amazing that when you start adopting fitness and making wellness a regular part of your life, science has shown that it actually makes you smarter. You think more clearly. There's a lot of evidence behind it. I've got it all detailed in the book because I love talking about it.

When you choose fitness, not only is it an act of self-love, valuing your wellbeing, but it is going to make you more effective in every aspect of your life.

Once you decide to start feeling better,  break it down into "I want to feel better, I want to start moving three days a week or four days a week."

When you start making that intention, make it a part of your life by putting it on your calendar. Book it just like you would book a lunch or a work meeting or strategy session or whatever. Put it in your calendar and protect it.

Nora: Marie, you're featured in Free and Clear about your journey to get unstuck. I had no idea that you had played Carnegie Hall! And now you own a thought leadership and social media agency. So that's a really big pivot. How did you get unstuck?

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Marie is at the piano in this image from Carnegie Hall

Marie: I was working as a jazz musician in New York for ten years. The thing they don't tell you about jazz in music school is that you can be at the top of your career and you can also be broke. And I was both of those things.

I had a big band and, as far as big bands go, we were very successful. We were playing all the big venues. We were the only big band that did that kind of music. So if you wanted that sound, you had to hire us.

I decided to rent Carnegie Hall to see what it would do for my career. It was very stressful. It cost $40,000 for one night. The year before, my take-home pay was $15,000 after all my expenses. This was just an unfathomable amount of money for me to raise, but I did it.

After Carnegie Hall happened, I didn't get out of bed for a week. I said, okay, something's wrong. Something's really wrong. I'm in the wrong place.

So I pivoted. I decided to give myself six months to grow the small business I started while raising the Carnegie Hall funds. Six months turned into a year, which turned into three years. I took my creativity and put it into business.

Nora: That took a lot of courage. And now you're building wealth for others, creating jobs and taking it to a completely different level. That's super awesome.

Shira, thank you for writing the book. I like that kind of specific direction and things I can actually do.

Marie, thank you for sharing your story because that's I think I think a lot of us have been in places where we needed to make a shift.

Have you made a purposeful pivot? Have you made a reverse bucket list? I’d love to hear from you. 

Image of Free and Clear by Shira Miller with a link to buy on Amazon


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