While there may not be an instruction manual for life as a whole, Cyndie Spiegel’s new book, Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay, has hope covered. The storyteller, writer, TEDx speaker, meditation teacher, former fashion executive and professor has experienced her fair share of overwhelming darkness and has used it to fuel her mission of inspiring hope in others. Cyndie recently sat down with me to discuss her trying journey, the lessons it’s taught her and what she hopes readers take away from her new book.
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Deciding to Follow Your True Passion
Like any story, it’s best to start at the beginning.
Cyndie Spiegel left her 17-year career in the fashion industry during Spring 2013. After over a decade and a half of dedication, she tells me that there came a point when her ‘cool on paper job’ no longer aligned with who or where she wanted to be in life. She had always loved fashion, and was a successful entrepreneur, but something shifted within her. She felt the calling to pursue her own passion and goals, and to do something different.
Finding the Courage to Transform Your Life
As clear as the call for a life change can be, making one isn’t always easy. Individual circumstances and barriers often stand in the way.
For Cyndie, these challenges manifested in the form of financial stability. Having earned great pay throughout her career in fashion, leaving the field meant giving up the steady income she was used to living on.
Many people are forced to ask themselves the question of “can I afford it” before making a big career shift. Cyndie’s position in one of the most expensive metropolises in the world, New York City, as well as her upbringing in poverty, made her particularly inclined to answer “no”. She tells me that her rent was $2,500 a month at the time and that she genuinely had no one to turn to for financial support. It was just a matter of her ambitions, her savings, and what she could do with those two things alone.
Cyndie ended up relying heavily upon the money she had set aside and also dipped into her 401k. A lack of steady income meant having to forgo many of the things that once took her spare income and time. She put nearly everything she had on the table with a willingness to sacrifice it all for a year.
While admitting that dipping into your retirement savings isn’t always a smart move, Cyndie considers her decision to do so as necessary to her progression. Without firm timelines or an incentive to go all-in, she says, she likely would have stayed in fashion for the rest of her life.
Embracing the Uncomfortable
The tricky thing about going after your dreams is that it’s pretty much never easy. You don’t just go to bed with a dream in mind one night and wake up to plans being in place the next morning. The process takes a lot of personal initiative, exploration and purpose to work.
That’s exactly what Cyndie did during her transition. Fearful of aimlessly sitting around her apartment alone, she decided to use the space to host yoga classes with small groups of local women. It didn’t feel like anything special at the time; things started out small with no more than six members a week and a pot of chai tea. But it ultimately ended up serving as the foundation of her future progress, allowing her to build the confidence, group speaking, instructional skills and community that she thrives with today.
Cyndie says that the cumulative effect of these first learning experiences forced her to challenge not only the tangible, but also mental barriers that had held her back for years. Embracing the uncomfortable showed her that there are many ways to succeed outside of the ‘traditional’ paths she was given growing up. Realizing your dreams didn’t have to mean plenty of resources and a nine-to-five, only a willingness to learn and explore new territory with confidence.
Finding Hope in Overwhelming Darkness
Cyndie’s first book, A Year of Positive Thinking, was released in 2018. Looking back at it now, she’s dumbfounded by how much of her perspective has changed in such a little amount of time.
A lot of transformation came in 2020, when Cyndie faced an onslaught of what could only be described as nightmares. First, her 32-year-old nephew, who she saw as a little brother, was murdered in May, unprovoked, when walking down the street. This was during the same week when George Floyd was killed and the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement began to dominate headlines. Only four months later, Cyndie’s beloved mother unexpectedly passed away. Within a month from that, her older brother went into cardiac arrest and fought for his life in the ICU. Again, this was in the throes of global crisis and COVID-19. While he did miraculously survive, the knock-on effects of the pandemic on America’s healthcare system led to yet another unexpected blowback. It delayed many of Cyndie’s own doctor’s appointments, including a mammogram that would later reveal a breast cancer diagnosis.
That’s a lot to go through in one lifetime, let alone a matter of months. Yet Cyndie tells me that the experiences led her to the mindset she has today, and to discover the ‘microjoys’ at the center of her new book.
Those moments of joy and optimism that often go overlooked in our day-to-day lives are what gave Cyndie hope. Despite facing extremely dark times, doing so taught her to appreciate the little things, create beauty out of darkness, and to find purpose in life’s impermanence.
At its core, the book is meant to inspire hope. It’s a reminder that no matter what happens, there will always be moments of genuine happiness and joy to acknowledge and appreciate. It’s a reminder that life doesn’t have to be perfect in order for us to find satisfaction and contentment within it.
Cyndie makes a point of saying that she is not special in regards to the challenges she’s faced in recent years. Life is unfortunately unfair across the board, and no one’s immune. But she does believe that it’s possible for anyone to grow from struggle and difficulty. For her, that journey began with embracing imperfection and discomfort – and finding the courage to make something meaningful out of both. I highly recommend reading Cyndie’s new book, MICROJOYS: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay, out February 28th for more of her unique and valuable insights.