Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Little More Every Day

It sounds tempting, doesn’t it?  Take time off.  You don’t need to be in your Purpose.  You don’t need to do any work.  It’s your day off.  Or it’s late at night.  Or it’s early in the morning.   Or you’ve already put in a full day.  Or you’re tired.  Or sick.  Or busy.  Or distracted.  Or discouraged.  Give yourself a break.
            But what if doing your work turned out to be the most restful and the most energizing choice you could make?
What if Malcolm Gladwell was right when he said in Outliers that you need 10,000 hours to get really good at your work?
What if Brian Tracy was right when he said putting in one extra hour a day in your chosen field of study will put you at the top of your profession in three years?
What if, by putting in just a little extra now, you could speed up the process of your success by a day, a week, a month, or even a year?
Would that make it worth working a little harder now?
Looking back, would you have worked a little harder when you were younger if you knew then what you know now?
What would you give up to reach your dream?
Would you give up or cut back on entertainment?
Would you give up or cut back on your hobbies?
Would you give up or cut back on all but the most crucial relationships?
Would you give up as much as possible if you could reach your goal now?
Would you monitor your time more wisely?
Would you take better care of yourself?
What are you willing to do?
You may not be willing (nor should you be) to sacrifice your loved ones, your health, or yourself to reach your goals.  But can you push yourself just a little more?
In a recent blog, Steven Pressfield calls it the difference between 14% and 15%.  It’s only 1%, but it can make all the difference. (
Here’s are some examples:
·      If you can get up just 30 minutes earlier a day, you can add 2 ½  hours a week to reaching your Purpose.  That’s 10 hours a month and 120 hours a year.  It’s 240 extra hours a year, if you get up an hour earlier.  (That doesn’t even include weekends.)
·      If you can listen to audio books or educational materials in the car and you drive 30 minutes one way to work and 30 minutes back, you can add five more hours a week to your Purpose.  That over 200 more hours a year.
·      If you walk 30 minutes a day, and listen to audio books or other educational materials, that will add another 120 hours a year.

In other words, without drastically altering your lifestyle, you can add over 500 hours a year towards your Purpose. Will you do it?  Only you can answer that question.  Can you do that?   Yes, you can.
You can Get Started and Keep Going, a little more every day.  It will make a big difference.

Can You Lose Your Muse?

            Can the Muse leave?
            Will I wake up one day and find her gone?  Will I look at a blank screen or a blank page and have nothing more to say?  Will inspiration vanish?
            It’s possible, but only under one condition:
She will leave me if I don’t love her.
If I don’t do my work, if I ignore her, if I ignore the gifts God has given me, then eventually she will leave. 
I’m not an expert on women, but I know that they don’t like to be taken for granted, abused, or ignored.  She has things to tell me, but despite her power and wisdom,, she will not force herself upon me.  She will wait until I am listening.  She will wait until I am fully engaged and attentive.
Now, it’s possible that after months and years of ignoring her, I might wake up to the truth and begin doing my work again.  If so, she might come back, but she will take a while.  She will want to know that I am sincere.  She might be hesitant and I will have to work for a while until I see her again.  But why would I want that?  Why would I want to start all over again? 
This is why I work every day.  This is why I pay attention every day.  This is why I write every day.  I don’t want to miss even one day with my Muse.  This is not a fear-based decision.  This is a commitment based on the knowledge that I am following God’s plan for my life.
Today is my day off.  I have no obligation or contract to do any work.  I could be watching a movie or taking a nap or reading comic books or playing an online game.  But the truth is, I do have an obligation.  I am obligated, by God, to love my Muse.  I was created to do this.  We all were.
I have a friend who teaches yoga.  I don’t know the first thing about yoga, but I know she’s following her Muse.
I have another friend who is a retired teacher.  When I was his student, he introduced me to the writings of Kurt Vonnegut and changed my life.  He still teaches me things decades later.  He’s following his Muse.
I have another friend who wants to work with autistic children.  She’s in an extremely difficult situation of her own, but she keeps planning, doing what she can, and moving forward. She’s following her Muse.
I have a friend who loves teaching people how to invest wisely.  He’s spent hours of his own time studying the market, creating a formula, and educating others on financial matters.  He’s following his Muse.
The list could go on.  Sadly, the list of people not following their Muse is even longer.  But there’s nothing I can do about them, other than hope they have the good fortune to become miserable enough or aware enough (or both) and start their work.
There is one other possibility.  The Muse may not leave, but she may pull you in a different direction.  This is a topic for another time, but if you are doing your work, you will find your new path.  James Altucher calls this reinventing ourselves.   But until or unless that happens, keep doing what you’re doing.
As for me, I feel very fortunate.  God has blessed me greatly.  My books are waiting.  My work is waiting.  But my Muse is here and I’m listening.  Your Muse is with you, too.  Do your work.  You will see him or her.  Your Muse won’t leave.  She can’t.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Things I Fear

“Living fearlessly is not the same thing as never being afraid. It's good to be afraid occasionally. Fear is a great teacher.”
Michael Ignatieff, O Magazine, April 2007
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Generally it’s not a good idea to be motivated by fear.  First, fear as a motivator tends to block creativity, spontaneity, and joy.  Second, fear as a motivator tends to disappear eventually and is often replaced by apathy or despair.    Still, it can have its advantages sometimes, if not as a motivator, then as a reminder to keep in our Purpose.  I’d like to be in a state of fearlessness at all times, but the following list helps remind me of what I don’t want.  These are the things I fear:
·      Being average
·      Being less than average
·      Not doing my best
·      Not trying
·      Not living out my destiny
·      Giving up
·      Having to explain to God or my children why I gave up
·      Wasting time
·      Wasting potential
·      Wasting my life
·      Leaving nothing for my children
·      Being broke
·      Being sick
·      Being lazy
·      Mediocrity
·      Fear
·      Allowing fear to run and ruin my life.
Most importantly, I don’t want fear to run or ruin my life.  That fear can be a good motivator.  Too often I’ve seen people with huge potential not reach it.  They say it’s too hard and they are afraid of rejection.  Here’s a perspective on rejection:  We survive it.  We think we can’t or won’t, but we do.  Most of us have faced it, personal or professional, and if you’re reading this, then that means you’ve survived it.  It won’t destroy us physically and it doesn’t have to destroy us spiritually.  We simply keep going.
Steven Pressfield told me his first three books didn’t sell.  He was in the business for years before his book and then the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance made him professionally successful.  I’m sure this is true for most people who want something more out of life.  They try and try and they work hard and finally they put out their first big work and…nothing.
Last year I published my first book, A Few Kind Words.  I sold a grand total of eight copies.  I have over 1300 Facebook friends and hundreds of people I’ve known and helped, and I still sold eight copies.  Eight.  And do you know how I feel about it?  I feel fine.
Would it have been nice to sell 800 or 8000 or 800,000?  Of course.  But success will come when it will, and maybe not at all.  What matters is that I did it.  I’m a published author.  Nothing will ever take away the feeling I had when I hit send and published my very first book.  And, honestly, I don’t think about the eight or the number of people, including close friends, who didn’t buy my book.  All that matters is that I put it out there.
Besides fear, the thing I fear most is quitting.  There are times just before I begin to write that I feel distant from it.  There’s no connection.  Then I wonder if I should stop.  But then this fear of not writing, of not striving towards my potential takes hold and I decide even if all I write is garbage, I’m still going to write.  I’m not going to stop.  Oh, it’s possible that I’ll miss a day once in a while, but I’m going to Keep Going.  It scares me to do otherwise. 
In a perfect world there would be no enemies, internal or external, to keep us from living out our potential.  But we’re not in a perfect world.  So we need to be vigilant.  We need to be aware of and guard against everything that would keep us from moving forward.  Fear is not a good motivator, but vigilance is.
Of course the best motivator is action.  When I’m doing my work, fear vanishes.  Everything vanishes except love, joy, and peace.  That’s why I Get Started and Keep Going every day.    As St. Paul said, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Only 80 Per Cent?

“You can't have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic.”

“All the so-called "secrets of success" will not work unless you do.”

Author Unknown

Once more we go to work.  We sit at the computer, or with the open notebook, or the tools, or on the stage, or in front of the classroom, or in the office, and we wonder, “What will I do today?
            Maybe you already know, or think you do.  Maybe you have a schedule or a list of commitments.  Maybe you have a list of tasks that lead to your objective that lead to your goal or goals.  Maybe your day is completely planned and maybe it will even go according to plan. 
Maybe your work is more spontaneous in nature.  Maybe you’re just supposed to show up and see what happens.  This doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean that you won’t do any work; it just means that you don’t know exactly what the work will look like.  Your work may be artistic, or you may deal with people, one at a time, each with different needs and desires. 
Neither of these ways is completely good or bad by themselves.  They are each what they are.  When I begin writing, I rarely know what will happen.  Sometimes the Muse whispers a word, a sentence, or an idea in my ear and I know how to start, but I rarely, if ever, know how it will end.  I just Get Started and I Keep Going.  Perhaps it’s this way with most artistic endeavors. 
Even in situations where there are clear and written plans, surprises may occur, and spontaneity may arise.  In fact, this may happen just as much.  Often, the more I have planned, the more spontaneous I can be.  But I have to show up.
Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” 
I wish it were that easy.  I wish that all I had to do was “show up” at work, make an appearance, and I would be successful.  Perhaps that number is true, but if it is, it makes the other 20% pretty difficult. 
Perhaps you’ve had a job where all you did was show up.  I did.  I showed up and put in my time.  That was about all I put in.  I rarely put in more than the required effort, if even that.  I didn’t put in a good attitude.  I certainly didn’t put in any good work.   Mostly, I watched the clock.  Sometimes, literally.   Yes, I “showed up,” but often I wished (as did others, I’m sure) that I hadn’t.    Even if I hit the 80% mark, I wasn’t successful; 100% of success, (all of success) is showing up and then doing your best.
I’m no longer interested in having 80% of success.  I don’t want 4/5 of a house on the beach.  I don’t want relationships that are almost satisfying.  I don’t want to do work or leave a legacy that’s just at the bottom level of good, that’s just a point above average.  I don’t want to meet only 80% of my financial obligations.  I can’t live that way any longer.  I need 100%.  Or more.
And that’s why I show up almost every day with my writing.  That’s why I give 100%.  Purpose requires this.  My Muse doesn’t want me to be good; she wants me to be great.  She wants me to reach my fullest potential. 
We are all meant to reach our fullest potential.  This I believe with all of my heart.  Not everyone will, but everyone can.  If we are serious about reaching our goals, we have to do more than show up – a lot more.

The 50 best Times to Move Towards Your Goals

The 50 Best Times to Move Towards Your Goals
  1. When you’re extremely motivated.
  2. When you’re somewhat motivated.
  3. When you aren’t motivated at all.
  4. First thing in the morning.
  5. Before and after breakfast.
  6. During lunch.
  7. After dinner.
  8. When you’re not at work.
  9. When you’d rather watch TV.
  10. When you’re with people who share and support your goals.
  11. When you’re with people who don’t share and support your goals.
  12. When you’re alone.
  13. When you’re bored.
  14. When you’re busy.
  15. When you said you would, according to your written commitments.
  16. When you’re “a little tired.”
  17. When you have a lot of energy.
  18. When you’d rather “take a break.”
  19. When you’ve been told your goals will be reached easily.
  20. When you’ve been told your goals are impossible.
  21. When your Muse speaks to you.
  22. When your Muse remains silent, waiting to see how committed you really are.
  23. When you feel the thrill of new ideas.
  24. When you feel you have nothing new to add.
  25. When you’re in a good mood.
  26. When you’re in a bad mood.
  27. When you feel apathetic.
  28. When you’ve been praised for your work.
  29. When you’ve been criticized for your work, your choices, your personality, or anything else about yourself.
  30. When you see someone else’s work and feel inspired.
  31. When you see someone else’s work and feel defeated.
  32. When you have a mentor.
  33. When you don’t have a mentor even though you were promised help.
  34. When some of the people closest to you complain about your “obsession.”
  35. When some of the people closest to you ignore your work completely.
  36. When you’re cold.
  37. When you’re broke.
  38. When you’re tired.
  39. When you’re hungry.
  40. When you’re scared.
  41. When you’re lonely.
  42. When you’re sick.
  43. When you feel great.
  44. When things feel hopeless and you’ve been told (or told yourself) there’s absolutely no way to reach your goal(s).
  45. When things finally seem hopeful.
  46. When you’re almost but not quite there.
  47. Especially when you’re almost but not quite there.
  48. When you need to Get Started.
  49. When you need to Keep Going.
  50. As long as you’re alive.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm Not Going to Do My Best Tonight

“Rest and be thankful.”

William Wadsworth

Now may not be the time to do my best.  It may not be the time to be intense, determined, focused, and disciplined.  It may not be the time to give my all.  Instead, it may be time to rest, get ready for tomorrow and give my all then.  It may be time to get to bed a little earlier than usual, because today at lunch, I became very clear about what I want.  I got clarity on my goal.  I got focus and encouragement and practical ideas.   I feel directed and enthusiastic.
So, why then, am I not going to stay up until 1:00 in the morning and work until I drop?  Have I lost my focus, my courage, my determination?  No, in fact, I have more than I’ve ever had before.  I also have a sense of the big picture. 
I want my house on the beach. 
But I don’t want to be sick or exhausted when I get there.  I want to be healthy and happy.
In The Dilbert Principle, author Scott Adams recommends “OA5.”  Out at 5:00.  In other words, put in your time, your eight hours, and then go home.  You won’t be productive enough to make much of a difference after that anyway.  In a perfect world I would put in four to six hours a day just reading and writing.  I would put in another hour or two in developing marketing and publicity skills.  I would devote some time to my radio show.  Then I would call it a day.
But I’m not in a perfect world.  My Muse gently reminded me that I am not a professional writer yet.  I have two different jobs and other responsibilities every day that limit me to about two hours a day of writing.  This is why I try to get up at 5:00 a.m. every day; otherwise I’d have even less time to write.  I also read when I can, and as often as I can.  And I work on the business end of my writing when I can, though, at this point, that’s not very much. 
I do what I can when I can.  Fortunately, that’s still a lot. 
When I get home at night from work, I write some more.  I don’t work an 8-hour day.  I work ten hours or more every day, often including weekends.  But at some point, I need to rest, refresh, and get ready for the next day.  It’s not fun waking up tired, which is something I do often. 
So tonight, I’m not going to do my best for my work.  But I’m going to do my best for my health, my body, and myself.  I have a whole new agenda now and a way to conceivably reach it.  And I’m going to do everything I can to reach it.  I’m just not going to do everything tonight.
Here’s what I will do tonight so that tomorrow is successful. 
·      Finish this blog.
·      Review my plans for tomorrow.
·      Make sure my clothes are ready for work.

Enthusiasm, combined with practicality, is an unbeatable combination.  I’m ready to move forward now in a way I haven’t been before.  I have a stronger sense not only of commitment, but of the steps I need to take to reach that commitment.   I’m reviewing all the work I’ve done in the last year, with an eye to discard what didn’t work, and improve upon what did.  I’m ready to Get Started and Keep Going.  And tomorrow, I’m looking forward to doing my best.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I Failed

“Act as if it were impossible to fail.”

Dorothea Brande – Wake Up and Live

“Men were born to succeed, not fail.

Henry David Thoreau

About a year ago I created some one-year goals.  I haven’t reached most of them.  This is not blame or sadness or anger.  It is simply a fact.  I made some goals.  I didn’t reach them. Those are the facts.  Most likely, I won’t reach them by the actual day.
In the past, I might have beaten myself up for this.  I would have felt bad.  I would have felt like a failure.  I would have gone through my past with a fine toothcomb and reviewed and relived all the other ways I “failed.”  Then I would have given up
But this time something is different.  I’m not happy, sad, or angry about not reaching my goals.  I’m simply aware of it.  I’m also asking myself, “What do you want to do to about it?”
There’s more than one answer to the question, “What do we do when we fail to meet our goals?”
First, we can quit.  Perhaps our goals were unrealistic.  Perhaps they weren’t what we really wanted.  Perhaps they were just too hard.  Perhaps we should go back to the lives we once knew.  For some, this may be an option.  It’s not my job to judge.  But quitting won’t work for most goal-oriented people.  It won’t work for me.
Second, we can review our goals.  Maybe they were ambitious, but still worth keeping.  Maybe they just need some adjustment.  Maybe they need more time.  Maybe we need help.  Perhaps we need to complete some steps in between, such as finishing school or getting out of debt.
Third, we can renew our goals.  This means we keep them, but we make plans about how to be successful.  In my own case, I didn’t create specific and concrete plans around my goals.  For example, I wanted to read ten books on finance.  I only read six.  Had I planned to read a book a month, reaching my goal wouldn’t have been a problem. 
Michael Masterson’s book, The Pledge – Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life beautifully details how to create a 7-year plan by creating Goals, Objectives, and Tasks.  The Goal is the long-term desire, such as making a million dollars.  Objectives are the large tasks we must undertake to reach the goal, such as start a business or get a different job.  And Tasks are the things we must do each day and week to reach our objective, such as get a new resume or write a business plan. 
This makes my goal my job.  Or, more accurately, my second job.  Though Masterson talks about 7-year goals, I think each of us needs to determine the amount of time we can reasonably reach our goals.  For some it will be longer, for others, it will take less time.
Here are some guidelines, some I wish I had understood and followed this last year, but will implement now:
·      Write your goals, objectives, and tasks down with as much detail as possible.
·      Review this regularly, perhaps every day.
·      Treat the completion of your goals as a job.
·      Make yourself accountable to someone.
·      Complete something every day.
·      Don’t be overly concerned by delays, distractions, or difficulties.  Just get through them as quickly as possible.
·      Be flexible, but keep your goals in front of you at the same time. 
·      It is possible that a goal may need to be adjusted or even eliminated.  This is not common, but it is possible.  But fear or difficulties are not good reasons to eliminate a goal.
·      Get a planner or a calendar and document your tasks, objectives, goals and, best of all, your progress.
·      Decide how much time per day you will devote to your goal.  Do not, in your enthusiasm, overestimate.  Do not, in your fear, underestimate.

Had I done these things, I might not have “failed.”  But I didn’t fail.  I learned.  I also accomplished a lot as a writer.  I had a lot of personal growth.  I learned many new things.  And generally, I feel better about myself and my abilities than I ever have.  Most of all, despite setbacks and difficulties, I never failed to Get Started and Keep Going.  That’s why we don’t fail.