When I was a kid, I went through really hard stuff. I spent a lot of my youth feeling storm-tossed by the events of my life: moving, death, loss of one kind or another. I also loved the world and found a lot of magic in life.

As I got older, I realized that the magic was real and learned that some of the hardest things for me were the experiences that built my compassion, courage, and strength as an adult. Life also taught me that things didn’t have to be so hard and that how I interpreted events often led me to greater pain as I blamed or rejected myself. Plus, sometimes things were just painful and nothing could change the pain; I just had to find a path forward.

I wish I’d known as a kid that no matter what, my single most important job (other than keeping myself alive and not harming others) was to be ridiculously me in all my quirky, unique, creative ways of being. Some of my most challenging experiences had me thinking I wasn’t okay or good enough and that I needed to be different. Of course, evolving ourselves and growing is our job, too. But I was stuck thinking that other people had something figured out, and I was bewildered. At some point, I decided I would never be able to be what I am not and I let myself laugh more. I let myself play and come to life in a way unique to being me.

Everything I’ve gathered and written in this book is what I needed as a kid. It’s designed to help you see you were invited to your life exactly as you are, and you are who is meant to show up. This is your most important job: to be ridiculously you among the nearly eight billion people in this world. Every single person—­including you­­—has a different purpose, a unique story to tell, and an original life to live. With different talents, likes, and dislikes as well as different hard, blessed, or simply ordinary experiences, we all have many things to learn as well as to teach one another.

You have the potential to do something amazing with your life by being the best you­. You are made of the same stuff as any of your heroes. Like them, you have an important gift, a solution to a problem, a creative force that you bring to the world—a creative force that matters just as much as the bees pollinating flowers and the sun warming the planet. You have an ordinary, extraordinary life that is uniquely yours.

So, what is YOUR genius? What is YOUR passion? What does it mean to be ridiculously YOU? Use this book to help you find out. Explore the book, skip around in it, figure out what ideas work for you and let go of those that don’t. Make the book your own by circling stuff, doodling, pondering the Pause Points, and filling in your answers to questions. Write notes in the margins. Argue with me. Teach me.

Used well, The One and Only You! will support you in discovering and appreciating your gifts, in advancing your own masterpiece in the making. The book also will help you to make better decisions, walk a path of compassion, and discover and appreciate the gifts of others—because the problems of this world are more easily solved when we work together and the pleasures in life are more deeply enjoyed when they’re shared. Onward to thriving!

Love, Nicole