To the Young, Broke, Lost, and Extraordinary: Part Two

A young man named Karl wrote me asking for advice. In Part One, I talked about Jobs vs. Careers and how to be the kind of person anyone would love to know. Here, in Part Two, I answer the rest of Karl’s questions.

from Best Joel Osteen Quotes

Will I be able to pay my own bills?

Like I said in the ‘Jobs’ section, employers always want good people who WORK HARD. So hopefully, you can get and keep a job. Remember to be flexible about where you live: a lot of people around here pay a lot to live in town when they could save money living out in the country and driving in each day. Also, remember that we live in a consumer society (whatever you live, it’s becoming more like the USA in that way, I’m sure) and there’ll be companies trying to sell you things your whole life. I’m not saying to buy nothing; just buy the things you care about most. Movie buff? Buy that new DVD but not that album. Buying less is equal to earning more in some cases.

Many areas and countries also have programs or assistance to help students (and former students) figure out how to manage their finances. Online also has more help than you’d imagine. Just by ‘Googling’ your question I found a lot of good articles. There is help out there — and people who care.

from engelta.hubpages.com

I feel lost. I have no courage at all in facing the reality I am living on. 

First of all, know that fear is normal and healthy. We are all afraid when we are attempting something new, scary, or momentous. Being age 20 heading for 21 is assuredly all these things. You’re doing great. In fact, you’re rockin’ it out! Because you’re reading this, you’re looking for answers, and you sense there’s something better or more out there. That’s WAYYYY ahead of a lot of people your age.

I know feeling lost sucks. One of the things that’s been great about aging to 37 is that I still feel lost sometimes, but I now have the faith and the insight that being lost is sometimes the first step to being found. At age 20 I’d written two screenplays but then just lost all interest in writing more. I wondered what was wrong. For six months I thought I might not be a writer anymore and the idea saddened me. I was lost. Then I got a new story idea, and tried it as a novel — and BAM! I loved it, and found my true calling. But I never would have started it if I hadn’t ‘lost’ screenwriting. Just trust that this feeling is important and will take you to the amazing place you are supposed to go.

Another thing I’ve learned is ‘Fake it until you make it’. Which means basically that you just start acting like the person you want to be — the courageous, excited graduate that can’t wait to take life by the horns and charge off to their grand destiny. I know, it feels fake. It feels hard. Everyone will know you’re a fraud. Except, they won’t. Because we’re ALL doing this, especially us more mature adults — we’re all faking our way through being parents and teachers and mentors and self improvement blog writers — we’re all lying… and we’re not. That’s kind of what being an adult is, a lot of on-the-job learning, and lot of saying ‘yes’ when it scares us, and a lot of doing our best and letting the rest go.

I know this doesn’t sound helpful, but now you are like the rest of us. And while that may be scary, know that every one you love and admire has been in the same place you are now.

And know that it does get better. So, SO much better. I enjoyed my teens. I liked my 20s. But I’ve freakin’ love my 30s. Your best years are just starting: you’re going to discover so many things you love, things you didn’t existed. You’re going to become an expert in subjects, in important things that change people lives and in trivial things that most people think are stupid but a few people will revere. You’ll see sights more beautiful than you thought existed, and meet people you feel lucky to be on the same planet as. You’ll start to see life as a game and you’ll start getting that cocky, king-of-the-hill feeling because you know how to play and play well. You’ll build mountains out of molehills.

from
inspirationalpicturequotes.blogspot.com

But I do remember that at your age I wanted clear, straight answers, not a lot of details and ‘feelings’. As a young writer, if I had a problem, I wanted a solution. Right there. Right then. Obviously, I don’t know your life (though I’m happy to hear more) but here’s the short and sweet version of my advice to you–

Katherine Cerulean’s Guide to Getting From 20 to 37 With a Minimum of Heartache and a Maximum of Superhero Awesomeness:

  1. Take care of yourself. Learn to cook. Learn healthy foods you love. Go easy on the sports that ruin your body, but exercise in positive ways that will keep you trim, healthy, and happy. Use protection during sex, every time.  Make time for the activities you enjoy.
  2. Be the person you’d want to know. The ‘Golden Rule’ really helps. Treat your girlfriend how you’d want to be treated. And your family. Be the employee and coworker you’d wish to have. Be kinder than you have to be. Basically, you can ‘get away’ with acting like a selfish, lazy jerk — but in the end you always lose something — your lover, your friend, your chance at a promotion. Forget that crap and be the person everyone wants to know. Be a hero.
  3. Work hard. I’ve emphasized this again and again because I think it really is the key to my success. When you’re willing to work hard, you don’t mind doing the dishes, helping out your coworker, and submitting that resume for the 40th time. Do it with a smile if you can.
  4. Figure out what you want most and go get it. Discover what you really love and keep learning, working, and fighting for it.
  5. Trust the universe. Whether you pray to a god, gods, or just feel that something larger and more important than us is out there, know that you are just where you’re supposed to be to end up where you’re supposed to go. When you desire anything, remember that you are really asking for ‘This, or something better’, and keep an open mind if your first wish isn’t answered.
  6. Never spend time with people who belittle, hurt, or upset you. I know it’s hard when you’re young, but you need to know that you are strong and awesome and you rock. When you are heading out to spend time with someone, do you feel excited, happy, and peaceful? If not — cut them out of your life. Find people who believe in you and share your hopes and dreams. And remember that Jim Rohn said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’
  7. Enjoy life — say yes to adventure. As long as it’s not life-threatening, say yes to new things, weird ideas, awesome projects, and once-in-a-lifetime moments. Life actually does pass pretty fast and you’ll want to look back on your 20s with a lot of great memories.
  8. Become a master at life. This is a phrase of Jack Canfield’s and it means to me that you should use everything, every day, as a feedback loop. Hated feeling hungover? Don’t do that again! Love watching a sunset? Remember to do that more. Write down healthy meals you like, fun exercises, and hobbies that make you feel alive. You’d be surprised how great life can be if you just string together a million little things that you love to do.
  9. Beware the BIG things. Children. Drugs. Jail. Home ownership. Some of the best and worse things about life can turn your world upside down. It can make work harder, moving around and adventures more difficult, and even can kill you. So, like the places on old maps that read ‘Here be dragons’, just remember to slow down and be very careful when you approach these things. Just say no to that dumb friend who offers you drugs or a smoke. Use your birth control. If something seems like a dumb idea, just don’t do it, go home, and maybe get some new friends. When you’re ready for the big, good things, you’ll enjoy them far more than adding something big now on top of all your other worries.
  10. Find your people. Join classes, websites, walk around museums, start a website — but most of all keep looking for people you really like, who share your interests, and make your world a better, more beautiful place.
  11. Find out what you were put on this planet to do.  And then go do it.

from habitualbliss.tumblr.com

Lastly, an itemized list of what I would do in if I was in your shoes —

  • Buy your girlfriend flowers today (or write her a handwritten note about how much she means to you).
  • Google for resources to help you get confident about your finances.
  • Google to find mental help resources for graduates stressed out about money and being ‘new adults’.
  • Get a local job right away.
  • Work hard.
  • Spend little.
  • Feel like a great and valuable worker.
  • Make a budget and stick to it.
  • Spend a weekend really questioning how excited you are about your degree.
  • If you’re excited, work on it in all your spare time like it’s a magnet pulling you toward your perfect job.
  • Email people who have your dream job, asking politely how they got started.
  • Train, learn, and improve to make yourself the best candidate.
  • Look for jobs and internships online.
  • Keep saving money if possible — even a tiny cushion helps.
  • Talk to your girlfriend about her hopes and dreams for the future and tell her you want to help her and be a part of that future, if possible.
  • Help those less fortunate. It will make you feel capable and grateful.
  • Buy or rent self improvement books and read them (or listen to books on CD). If that’s not possible, search the web for self improvement sites and free podcasts.
  • Get more fit — especially take walks in nature, because it will calm and center you.
  • Keep looking for the right job or opportunity in your field. Or look at going back to school if some other field is more exciting to you.
  • Trust yourself. Write down lists of goals for each week (even small things), and for each month.
  • Look back in a few months and be proud of your successes.

    from
    BookBub

In the end, it’s a little like the game ‘Minecraft’. Childhood was a world. And so is high school and college. Those worlds were once scary and unknown. Unmapped. You started with nothing but maybe a stick. You knocked down a tree, built an ax, then built a little,  sad-ass house to keep the biggest spiders away. But by graduation, no matter how many hardships you’d endured and how hard you’d had to work — you knew that world. You’d visited every nook and corner of the map. You had armor and knew which monsters you could best and which ones to avoid. You’d built a chest, and a forge and your house was sweet and awesome. But then you start a new world after college and are shocked to be back with one little stick and a giant, dark, unknown world covered in spiders (and Eldermen!).

So that’s my imperfect analogy. Of course you feel lost. And a little afraid. We all do when we start something new and vast and exciting and unknown. But you’ve got what it takes; you’re the hero of your own story. And just like in ‘Minecraft’, you have to work hard to build your perfect life, one piece a a time.

But remember, life’s also a game and a fun one. Things will get better, easier. You’ll find or make the tools you need. You’ll discover amazing new vistas. You’ll win. And you’ll learn.

And when you reach age 37, you’ll probably come across something from this time and smile, and wonder what you were so worried about. Your older self will wish he could have reassured you that it was all going to work out great. He’ll probably whisper under his breath, ‘Don’t worry — you’ve got this kid.’

And he’ll be right.

from thegoodvibe.co

Advertisements

Welcome to 2018

Happy New Year! And congratulations! I know 2017 got off to a bit of a slow start for you, but man — you picked up the ball and ran with it. The last eleven months have been full of hard work, new challenges, and amazing accomplishments. You might not have gotten everything completed on your resolution list but you achieved a lot! You’re better positioned to live your dreams than ever before. And maybe more important than WHAT you’ve done is the ATTITUDE with which you’ve done it. Wow — you are an inspiration to all you meet.

from luna---belle.tumblr.com

from luna—belle.tumblr.com

Eleven Months Earlier

Things didn’t look so good. The best of intentions at New Year’s ran smack dab into the harsh wall of reality. It was kind of funny actually; it was like the moment you got serious all the little monsters and bugaboos crawled out of the woodwork and made you set aside your big dreams to deal with them.

By the end on January, things were ‘back in hand’ but you were exhausted and wondered if you could ever regain your momentum and make this the year that mattered and that changed everything.

by David Hirst

by David Hirst

How You Made 2017 Into a Rocket Ship

As the calendar turned to February, you started to feel excited again. Unreasonably excited. Sure, you were still tired, still bruised from your battles. But deep in your heart you started wondering if those January monsters were not just guardians at the gates and now that you’d bested them, you were in exciting, new territory. The year was young, the year was yours. And you were ready to fulfill the promises of January 1st.

All you needed was what every adventurer needs — a faded but trustworthy map; a bag of food — fuel for the journey, a mind for exploration, and heart full of gratitude for this chance, this trail. You looked about yourself and gathered:

THE MAP

You had a list written and printed out, that clearly defined where you most wanted to go this year and step-by-step for how you would get there. You took this map and placed it where you would see it every day and could check it off as you got closer and closer. It was so exciting as the months passed to see your progress. Standing at your destination at year’s end, you couldn’t imagine how you would have made it without it.

THE FUEL

You can’t get anywhere on an empty stomach. So you found new inspiration — from a blog, a book, a new Pinterest board, and new friends. Maybe you read these wonderful books —

from the American Library Association

from the American Library Association

from Amazon.com

from Amazon.com

A MIND FOR EXPLORATION

As you watch the clock tick down the minutes until 2018, ‘Champagne’ glass in hand, you realize that most of your success this year came from changing your attitude. In fact, you’re a little angry it took this long to learn how to live your dreams. It’s not easy, but it sure seems simple now. You take a breath and realize that now is right on time. You were finally ready this year to become the champion you’ve always known you could be. So what if it took awhile to reach this place — it was SO worth it. You realize that the best things about your new mindset were —

  • finally embracing failure as a stepping stone
  • forgiving yourself, forgiving yourself for everything
  • seeing hard work as essential and exciting
  • seeing play as essential and exciting
  • knowing 100% that you were capable of becoming this amazing person you’ve now become
  • learning to laugh and enjoy the adventure

    from fodors.com

    from fodors.com

A HEART FULL OF GRATITUDE

I know. Back in late January you didn’t feel so grateful. It was cold (sometimes). You got sick. And mostly, your dreams felt at a standstill. But then you realized how lucky you were. Very, very lucky. You had amazing talent, unerring taste, and a dream that you never stopped thinking about and working toward. And you were now in a position to be able to follow that dream — even just a little bit — every single day. You had the drive and determination to turn your goals (your map) visible. And people now STARE in disbelief. They think you got lucky. And you get a little teary-eyed because you did get lucky, you got you — this amazing, able, fantastically dedicated person who said ‘Screw it; I’m going to be the exception. I’m going to be exceptional.’

And every day after that, all throughout 2017, you thanked yourself each day for being the person who went for it and chased after your dreams so hard. And you were also thankful to everyone and everything else that made 2017 such a success.

CONGRATULATIONS! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Now it’s time for those 2018 goals…   🙂

The Inelegant Balance Between Being Right and Becoming Better

dbf00f8141ccbed0cb54ca6b44999537

Now, we all want to be right — to be smart, admired, to think for ourselves and not let anything sway our convictions.  But at a certain point does certainty inhibit progress?

cf7d5e87dfa121d8a64ce83ccfcd70dd

I’ve been asking myself this question a lot in 2015.  Firstly, as I move forward toward becoming a professional writer, I have started thinking more about what audiences want — and deserve.  A little background: I’ve been a follow-your-vision, write-only-what-interests-you, write-what-you-love-and-the-money-will-follow type for years and years now.  And as I started to discuss the idea of writing more toward the audience’s desires with other writers, I heard my own arguments returned to me again and again.

“I think you’ll be more successful if you just follow your heart.”

“It’s more interesting to just create what you like.”

“Doing what others tell you and chasing popular opinion is no way to live your life.”

948288daf2aa2206ad947f717e438c07

True.  True.  True.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that just being self-satisfied with ‘being me’ wasn’t — actually — helping me get better.  I wanted to take the confidence (and experience) of listening to my inner voice and pair it with something more — with the tumultuous seas of outside opinion.

Rarely has the universe responded so quickly as it did now. 😉  Within weeks of seriously starting to think about this issue, I was challenged with a huge question — Did I want to be right, or better?

I had sent my newest novel, the 1810s-set Society & Civility, out to several friends for feedback.  But this novel — you have to understand — it had become such a favorite with me.  Ever since I’d started it last fall, I had enjoyed its world and characters so much, reread it several times almost just for fun, and thought it was a huge step forward for me as a writer.  It was a lark, a love story — and the best thing I’d ever written.  SO.  When the reviews came in there was a lot of love (most rated it 7 to 8.6 out of 10) and a BIG problem.  Toward the end of my story it totally breaks with the whole Jane Austin genre.  I knew that might be a problem, which is why I’d sought feedback before completing any more drafts.  People didn’t understand or like ‘the twist’ (as it came to be called).

I held out hope that my sister (the last of my beta readers) would feel the same way as I did and ‘get it’ as it were.  Then the crushing blow came — she felt the exact same way as the other readers.  So my perfect novel wasn’t considered by others to be perfect at all — now what?

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Well, here was the puzzle of pleasing the audience writ large: they loved the book except for the twist.  Did I hold fast and complete it as was — the way I loved it — or should I change it?  I knew I could just brush off the opinions of these smartest, kindest friends — all creators and lovers of this genre — and tell myself that *my* audience would totally get my choices — whenever and under whatever rock I’d find this mystery group.

But– but.  In my heart of hearts I knew these were my readers — and I’d let them down.  I could always have a copy of *my* edition, but now what?  Didn’t I want to challenge myself and make a story everyone could fall in love with?  Didn’t I want to become BETTER that I was?  The answer — after only thinking about quitting writing six times in one morning — was yes.

fatfreedom.net

fatfreedom.net

So far the rewrite is going well.

So when you come up against that question, that challenge — should I listen to others or go my own way? — I would ask yourself:

  1. WHO is giving you this feedback?  Are these people you respect, people you want to emulate, or people who have valuable experience?  There no point in following someone down a road you don’t want to travel anyway.  In the example above, I had every reason to admire these readers and believe that they would give good advice.  In a different example, a co-worker was recently applying for a job I’d previously held for two years and I offered to help them out and answer any questions they had.  They pretty well blew me off, believing they already knew ‘everything’ about the position.  I was someone with insight and a desire to help — and that could have been a powerful resource to help them if they’d been willing to listen.
  2. WHY are they telling you this?  Some people just like to complain, nitpick, or put others down and you should never be using these people to judge your work or your life.  But if you’ve asked someone for their advice, you should listen because you probably thought they had something valuable to say — you know, before they told you what you didn’t want to hear.  And if you are creating products you want people to buy, consume, or love — you need to listen double-hard.  Most likely, they are disappointed — and now they are trying to help you — maybe imperfectly, maybe in the human language of anger or frustration — but what they take the time to tell you are the words a hundred other customers may have walked away with still written in their hearts.
  3. Are YOU 100% happy with your results?  If the answer is yes, you’re done.  Stand firm.  Tell the rest to go to hell and hold true to your path.  Discover your fans and let them discover you.  But… if in your heart you know you could be better, then listen.  Acknowledge that you may be very good — you’re at least very smart and full of potential — but you not as good as you could be.  So learn a better way to jog, take a class to improve your painting skill, and be open to starting anew on that book.  If you see a gap, you owe it to yourself to bridge it and get better.  Even if the gap is just between the audience’s expectations and your design.
  4. Are you EXPERIENCED enough to weed out the noise?  This is high-level stuff, this balancing of being true to yourself and listening to others, and I want you to side 100% with your heart and intuition until you’re ready for this level 16 challenge.  Keep in mind that you always get to decide in the end — listening to others and getting feedback is nothing more than offering you more options to choose from.  And like I said, beware unsolicited advice, negative people, and anyone who truly doesn’t ‘get’ what you’re trying to do.  You really are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff here (okay, not really 🙂 — what you are looking for is that small bit of advice that interests you, challenges you, and makes you say ‘Damn it — they might be right’.
  5. Will this help you get BETTER?  In the end, it doesn’t matter if the critics are right or wrong if their advice hurts your progress.  Weird but so true.  With young writers, my secret feeling is ‘Yes, you are not there yet, but all you need is ten years of enthusiastic hard work.  Then you’ll be great.’  No one really wants to hear that, they want the shortcuts — but you can still bleed from those cuts.  Don’t wound yourself upon the opinions of others if you’re not ready.  I loved my first critique group but then came a time that I felt I must withdraw, and grow in secret like a mushroom, pushing out of the leaf litter and into the sun only when fully formed.  And now I’m ready to face the light.

I believe you can get 95% of the way to your goal under your own steam, keeping your secret counsel, and trusting your instincts.  But when it comes time to finese the final pieces, to push yourself further than you know how to go, you have to seek, to see beyond your own faith and fallacies, to press and push yourself ever upward — to become more than you are, more than you thought you could be.

To stop being good and to become truly great.

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

 

Back — and Better Than Ever

Hi there.  Remember me?  Sorry for the long absence since my last post, but I hope once you hear what I’ve been up to,  you’ll approve.

Found on graphicdesignjunction.com

First  of all, I want to say thank you to each and every person who follows this blog.  When I started writing here, I was imaging you all — you wonderful, creative, and inspiring individuals who I’m honored to write to — but I had no idea how fast this would come together or what fun I would have.
And I feel like this is a big moment of change for a lot of us.  My life is changing more than it ever has and in wonderful ways (more on that in my next post), and I feel like our journey together is also beginning an exciting new phase . . . if you’re willing to continue adventuring with me that is, and I hope you are.  It’s going to be very exciting.

One reason I’ve been MIA recently is that I made you a present.  Oh, I know, I shouldn’t have.  But you guys are too awesome and I just want to share everything helpful I can with you.
So, without further ado, I present my 2013 self improvement book, How to Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living Your Dreams — now available as a FREE WEBSITE with fun links and awesome quote/pictures.
Cover by Sarah Cerulean madnessofart@gmail.com

Cover by Sarah Cerulean
madnessofart@gmail.com

My book will still be available on Amazon as a paperback or an ebook (and it’s a charmer), but I want everyone to be able to dig in, see how they like it, and share it without the awkwardness that comes from trying to turn a work of love into a dollar sign — and I do love you all and want to see you succeed beyond even your wildest dreams.  And if my book can help you in even a tiny way, then it will have succeeded in its purpose.
In a nutshell, How to Come Alive is the twenty-five ideas that have helped me most in living the life of my dreams.  Even though I have big goals I’m working on right now, I’m already tremendously happy in my life and it’s not just luck — it’s moving continuously toward those very things that make me feel most alive.
A word about consumerism: I love buying things from people and companies that I love and that do great work, and I do think it’s a shame if we start to believe that everything should be free.  That said, I hate the fearful, mercenary attitude that I see in some creative self promoters.  They are afraid they can’t make a living at this, so they get ‘tough-minded’, and you feel as if they are asking to turn out your pockets to pay for their coffee habit.  Nobody wins.

Found on laurenconrad.com

For myself, I reject the status quo.  I’ve worked hard on my craft for 16 years.  I love writing.  And you know what?  I’m going to be just fine.  In fact, I’m going to be awesome.  This is what I was put on Earth to do, and one day you’ll say you knew me when — and none of that awesome success is dependent on me tweeting ‘AVAIL ON AMAZON 99CENTS NOW!’, asking a few hundred nice strangers to buy my book, or trying to guilt people into helping me mainline caffeine.
What I want, much more than money, more even than to make this calling my vocation — what I want most is to share the magic, joy, beauty, and perfection of life with you.  This world is amazing, you are amazing, I am amazing.  So if you get a chance, visit my ‘Come Alive‘ site, look for something that moves you, and start living the life of your dreams.  Cause if I can do it, flippin’ believe you can do it.
I will ask one thing — if you enjoy what I do and know of someone else who might enjoy it, share it.  And I promise to keep sharing on this website the awesome, magical things I find that inspire me, and together, we’ll keep moving forward toward a future so bright it burns our eyes.
c294d8327373a5d576927c9c2be18fb1
Thanks again for making the first two years so enjoyable.  I look forward to many more.
Now go enjoy your present — inspirationlivingdreams.wordpress.com.

Attention: You’re Awesome and You’ve Got This

Recently my sister caught up on reading my last few blog posts and, with a moan, called them ‘challenging’.  She wasn’t against the content or the ideas — I think it just seemed like a lot to take in after a month of busyness and bad eating, and sitting here in our unheated house with intermittent water issues.

The journey can seem long and our goals mighty, but what I don’t probably talk enough about here is how freaking amazing, fantastic, gorgeous you are (all of you, not just my sister 😉 ).  You are improving, learning, and growing all the time — and you’re still pursuing your hopes and dreams with amazing tenacity.

So here’s ten fantastic, encouraging things you need to hear right now —

1. Change your life today —

Found on feedproxy.google.com

 

2. Trust the process —

Found on shinystarrlight.tumblr.com

 

3. Stop comparing yourself —

Found on carrieonblogs.com

 

4. This quote forever —

From my sister

 

5. You have no idea how amazing you can be —

By The Mincing Mockingbird

 

6.  Be passionate, Be present, Be you —

Found on youtube.com

 

7. Let’s sail beyond the horizon —

Found on girlmeetslife.com

 

8. You are more beautiful because of what you’ve survived

Found on beartales.me

 

9. The time has come to actually see the person in the mirror —

Found on theblondevegan.com

 

10. Take a deep breath (you’ve got this) —

Found on vi.sualize.us

 

And finally, say to yourself —

Found on pokememes.memebase.com

 

And Now Introducing… The Point System!

I didn’t want to tell you guys about this till it’d been working for a while, but my sister Sarah and I have been having so much fun with this point system we invented over a month ago and so I wanted to share it with you because it could help make your life even awesomer.  I have never been quite as productive as I have this last month — it’s insane.  So, without further ado —

What is the point system?

It’s a reward system where you earn gold coins and blue coins (i.e.points) for doing positive things that are moving you toward your dreams.  Then you can use your coins to ‘buy’ treats and things you want.  It part of the gamification of life — i.e. to make ordinary tasks as fun, rewarding, and addictive as video games do with their lights, sounds and, well, coins of achievement.

How does it work?

First you decide what type of things you want to be doing daily to get to your perfect, dream life.  For me it’s exercising, keeping the house clean, and most especially writing.  So when I write for thirty minutes, I get one gold coin and one blue coin.  Cycling two miles also gets me one coin of each color (I tend to call such things earning a coin, but as you’ll see different colors have different uses and every activity offers one coin of each color).

And if I have a ‘perfect day’ in which I do all the coin-earning activities that I have written down, I get an extra coin!  Yowza!

What do these coins do?

Well, gold coins are for food treats like dining out or getting a shake, or even buying a carton of ice cream to take home.  That’s right, my base is no sweets and no eating out.  BUT you don’t have to go all out like that.  Even saying you’re earning your Big Mac by taking a walk around your block would still be a great thing.  You decide your point system — just know, if you want it — you gonna have to earn it.

Blue coins buy you non-food related goodies — albums, movie tickets, fun clothes or jewelry.  That’s right, I don’t get those things unless I earn them.  The flip side, if you earn it, you don’t feel guilty about buying it.

So, how’s it been working out?

Fantastically.  It means that just doing simple, good things like cleaning the house or doing yoga (things I didn’t do every day) suddenly are reward situations.  I’m earning points right now sitting here writing to you!  It’s limited the amount of indulgences while increasing the activities that will lead to the life of my dreams.  We all know steps that would get us where we want to go; this helps us follow the path AND feel rewarded instead of deprived when it comes to treats and snacks.

Here’s how you do it —

  1. Figure out your dream life.  Are you fit and healthy?  Is the house clean?  Are you closer to your family members?  Have you written a novel?  Imagine an average day in your perfect life.
  2. Break your dream life down into daily steps.  Want to be healthier?  Take a daily walk.  Have a dream job?  Improve yourself in 30 minute stretches to own that role.  Want to write a book?  Write every day.
  3. Choose four or five areas of improvement.  Mine are writing more, exercise, yoga, and cleanliness.
  4. Choose five or six (or more) activities that can earn you points.  I wouldn’t make these denials (i.e. no sugar before 12:00pm).  Instead make them as positive, enjoyable, and fun as possible (after all, you are replicating a day in your perfect life, so if you love cycling but hate calisthenics — cycle!)  The idea is to enjoy this stuff as much as possible.
  5. Decide what activities you need to do to earn a ‘perfect day’ bonus point (it’s a powerful motivation if you’re close to getting that extra point).
  6. (Optional) Decide if anything loses you a point.  I only mention this because I’m a little sporadic about brushing my teeth as often as is optimal, so I made a rule that if I fall down on my teeth brushing regimen, that day I lose a point.  After you’ve cycled two miles to earn a point, believe me, you won’t want to lose it.  So these are some shiny teeth.  If you chose to do this, I’d make it about a tiny activity that take no more than five minutes out of your day.
  7. Decide how many coins you earn for each activity and how much treats cost you.  This is a matter of trial and error — you want to feel like you get treats pretty often if you’re really hitting it.  If it take too long to earn anything, you’ll lose heart and if it’s too easy you might not push yourself at all — play around with it and see what gets you the best results.
  8. Buy a whiteboard and a dry erase marker.  Write your name at the top and then ‘Gold Coins:’ and below that ‘Blue Coins:’.  Update it each day.  You can also keep a lifetime total if you want to.

Some notes: You can call it one coin or 100,000 coins if that motivates you more.  It’s only an imaginary unit of measurement.  Also, I did let myself go ‘into debt’ a couple of times if something big came up and I didn’t have the coin right then to buy it.  Just make your whiteboard say something like ‘Gold Coins: -25’  and then work your way back to a positive number.

I can’t begin to say how much I’m enjoying this.  There may be a lot of reasons I’m so productive right now (it’s ‘Go Big or Go Home’ time) but I don’t know how I’d make it without the point system right now — it’s that important to my progress.

Best of luck!  Let me know if you have any questions, and tell me about your successes!

Remember: If you earn it, the cake is not a lie.

Katherine’s points (for reference):

Do Richard Hittleman’s 30 minute yoga program — 1 coin (actually one of each color, by I call it one)

Write for 30 minutes — 1 coin

Go cycling — 1 coin for each 2 mile stretch

Clean the house (one load of dishes and ‘pick up’ around house) — one coin

‘Just Dance’ video game done on ‘just sweat’ medium program (10 minutes of dancing) — one coin

Go for a hike/walk — one coin for each mile walked

My perfect day (earns a bonus point):

At least two hours of writing

Yoga

Cleaning

At least one form of exercise

Some treats (and their cost for me):

 Gold coins —

32 oz soda — 5 coins

Candy bar — 5 coins

Shake, Starbucks, or Smoothie Planet drink — 10 coins

Carton of Ice cream, package of cookies — 15 coins

Eating at Mcdonalds, Wendys etc — 10 coins

Eating at a nice sit down restaurant — 20 coins

 Blue coins —

one MP3 song — 5 coin

one album — 20 coins

Movie ticket — 25 coins

DVD — 20 coins

Other items: 2x — 3x coins to each $1 spent

 

Remember: This is a game!  Play around with it and find what motivates you.

Reclaiming ‘Perfection’

Black Swan

Perfection is a dirty word.  Look up ‘perfection’ quotes and you get everything from the funny —

to the downright hostile —

And I get it, really I do.  Trying to be a perfect, flawless person sets one up for heartache.  Some people spend years before realizing that it’s an impossible standard — we are human, we make mistakes.

By the same measure, some people find having too high of standards stops them from producing any creative work at all, from finishing anything.  That too is bad.

But I will fight to my dying day for the idea of perfection.

Why?  Because why the frick else are we here (and by we I mean creators of all types)?  Yes, I’m not a perfect person, not by a long shot.  And my work isn’t perfect, but it’s as close to perfect as I can make it.  I have high standards and love beautiful, amazing works.  Yes, these works could be The Great Gatsby and they could be Sid Meier’s Pirates! I think lots of different things are absolutely impeccable manifestations of their ideal nature — Hannibal is nothing like How to Train Your Dragon nor should it be.  But to me, both take their basic ideas and push them to new heights.

If you are not trying to achieve perfection in a piece of art or a novel, what is your aim?  Pretty good?  Nice stack of paper you got there?  ‘It’s 43% of what I wanted it to be’?

To me, perfection is just the top shelf liquor of excellence.  Being able to create the best version of your best vision.  When I begin a project — I see, I feel, I know the highest, most splendid version of that story exist somewhere out in the universe.  And my years of honing my sense of what I like tell me when I’m getting closer to that best version.  But like Ira Glass says —

KMBA-Ira Glass QuoteSo, while my taste tells me when I’m getting warmer or colder, it’s only my level of craft and dedication to keep going that decides how great the work will be.  Leonardo Da Vinci said “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” and there is an element of truth to that.  I do the best work I can, polish as long as I can, and at some point realise I’ve reached the limits of my powers for this book.  It’s a little frustrating because I know the future me will be able to write it better, but if I’ve worked hard, I feel satisfied that it is as close to perfect as I can make it at this time.

And if it pushes toward perfection, even if that’s a distant star, I smile at it.  I’m proud of Other Gods and A Caged Heart Still Beats and How to Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living the Life of Your Dreams.  Because they are all perfect in a way, in a way humans never quite are, because we can’t rewrite our lives and relive them.

And in the end, maybe that is what I love about perfect works — they were messy, crazy things full of jagged, broken bits and a thousand mistakes.  But in the end, they form a glorious, perfect whole.

And in that sense, maybe I do believe in perfection for people too.

Quote by Sarah Cerulean

Quote by Sarah Cerulean

 

Awesome Day #7 — Meeting With the Mentor

by Lucas Graciano for the Lord of the Rings card game

Yow!!!  Yesterday (on day #7 of my 8 day ‘stay-cation’) I had arranged to meet well-known and respected writer.  I’ve never really gotten to talk to anyone on that level before, and by contacting them, I had brought myself into this whole new range of experience.

I had been quite nervous before our meeting for coffee.  Luckily I didn’t need anything from them, I was just happy for the time together.  And that went surprisingly well.  Except for violently knocking the table when I sat down (and spilling their drink everywhere), I’d didn’t embarrass myself.  I listened politely, answered questions about myself, my family, and the Athens Writers Association that I’d founded, and after an hour we parted on friendly terms.

‘That was easy’, I thought.

It was after that the trouble started.  I was driving to a nearby Publix to pick up ice cream for my sister.  And I found myself starting to cry.  I pulled it together for the ice cream but then bawled just about all the way back to Athens.

Why? you ask?  Well, I’ve thought about it.  Obviously some of it could have just been released after having been nervous, but I did feel strange, Hero’s Journey, strange.  I felt like my blood had been drained away and replaced by some mystical liquid.  I felt altered.  I was not at all comforted by this Mentor.  They’d talked about hardship and long odds, and the struggle even after ‘breaking through’.  I felt like I’ve been climbing mountains for years, trying to become a better writer, and this Mentor showed me a near-sheer cliff and said ‘That’s the only way’.  It was a deep challenge and it nearly broke my heart to look at it.

I remembered a very different Meeting with a Mentor more than ten years back: at a writing conference, I paid to have Patrick LoBrutto look at my first few pages and talk with me for about fifteen minutes.  It was one of the highlights of my young writing life.  Pat was friendly, excited about storytelling, and gentle with a new writer, both telling me it needed work and mentioning a scene he thought was quite good. ‘Quite good!’ — this from the man who worked with sci-fi gods as an editor for Tor.  I think I love him to this day.

But . . .  That was the Mentor I needed then and this was the Mentor I needed now.  I’ve decided part of what upset me about seeing the sheer cliff, that high bar, was that I thought I’d already come a long way.  And I have.  I haven’t had too many chances to be around more experienced writers than I, and especially not world-renowned ones.  I’ve been writing for 16 years and in the groups I frequent, I get a lot of people who look up to me.  I had to realise that instead of being Master of the Baby Lengues, I was now Baby of the Big Leagues.  By reaching out, by starting the Athens Writers Association, by working hard, I had climbed so far and had now passed through the mist, and met this man, and seen the next mountain.  And it’s a doozy.

But it leads exactly where I want to go, and (after all the tears of vexation have dried) I’m grateful for the help and advice, the warnings, and the chance to meet someone truly great.  Some Mentors are cuddly and their advice tastes more like lembras bread than medicine, and then others are a sear-the-flesh-from-your-bones force of nature that arrive to warn you that you’ve passed over the threshold into the dangerous land of elite heroes.

But they know if they can’t dissuade you, if you still choose to pick your shield and move forward, you will stronger than you’ve ever been before.

Quote from renowned author — “I didn’t get great by being patted on the back; I became great by getting my butt kicked every day.”

Spoken like a true Mentor.

How to Reevaluate Your Life

from lifeinblush.com/blog

When you decide to reevaluate your life, remember: you are not looking for easy answers.  At this stage you are only trying to ask the right questions.

10 QUESTIONS

  1. What’s my dream life?  If you could have anything, no holds bared, what would you be doing, day in and day out?  It’s fine to have a big goal (climb Everest) but try to drill it down to a 24 hour picture.  Dream lives still involve many of the things you are already doing — so what’s different?  Imagine being excited to get to work — where do you work?  What does your house look like?  Who are you married to, if anyone?
  2. What do you want (do you really, really want)?  Dreams and fantasies are often funded by the unbelievable.  “I’d fly off to Paris in my private jet.”  “I’d be married to Tom Hiddleson.”  We think getting a great life is so impossible that we literally make it so; you might as well say you want to live on Jupiter and marry Errol Flynn — it’s as likely to happen.  So instead, take time to get to the heart of your dream — past the money and movie stars — and figure out what you really desire.  Maybe you’ve never been to Paris — but if you saved up all your ‘fast food’ money for two years you could do it (and be much healthier).  And maybe you long to meet intelligent, joyful people and have become discouraged by the potential romantic partners in your job or social circle.  Ask what makes your dream great.  Most times it’s not just having more money in your hand.
  3. What’s making you unhappy now?  Think about the last week or month — what were your most unhappy moments?   Who/where/what did they involve?  It’s hard to admit, but if you don’t come away happy from seeing someone, then that’s someone you need less of in your world.  Life is short, and unless you birthed them or adopted them, you don’t owe anyone your happiness upon this Earth.  We’ve all had friendships and relationships we’ve tried to ‘make’ work.  Well, today you found your get-out-of-jail-free card; I’m officially telling you it’s okay to let things that don’t work GO.  Believe me, you’ll be making room in your life for much better things.  If debt or your weight are making you unhappy then even a tiny step toward a better life will improve your mood.  And if your job is the problem, hang on . . .
  4. Do I hate my job?  I just saw a Pin that said something like ‘When asked what they would reevaluate after winning the lottery, 51% of people said ‘their job’.  Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but it feels right.  To me that also says that, in addition to not liking their job, most people are afraid to leave because of finances.  This is a tough one — we need money.  But how much of it?  Could you get by (and be happier) with less?  Instead of imaging winning the lottery — imagine you already have.  According to one estimate, the worldwide median household income is less than $10,000.  So if you’re household makes more than that, you are already living the high life.  So maybe a different job (even if it paid less) would be something to think about.  And know there are people out there who are paid well to do your dream job; the first step to joining them is acknowledging you’re unhappy where you are.
  5. Am I filling my life with ‘time-wasters’?  Everyone deserves ‘down time’, ‘fun time’, or a break but everything in moderation.  Playing video games can be amazing but 6 hours a day for five years may not lead to a fulfilling life — unless you’re a game designer.  The same way, the amount of human time spent on Facebook is astounding (and I can be as guilty as anyone, though more often it’s Pinerest for me).  Just try to imagine the world, the power, and the individual lives we could build with that excess time.
  6. Why am I sad?  You may not be sad, but if you are know that a few small changes can make life great again.  You don’t need to throw out everything, you just need to realign your life with your heart’s desire.  And if you have a problem that seems very hopeless — know that there’s probably a group, meeting, hotline, or program for people battling the same troubles as you.  Reach out and get help.
  7. What am I impatient about?  For me, it’s becoming a full-time writer and then traveling the world.  And I know I’ll get there.  But when progress feels slow, I wonder if I need to go get a college degree, move jobs, move cities, SOMETHING to prove I’m not stagnant and not going to be standing here in one place forever.  If this is you, and you are doing something that should have the payoff you’re looking for (a breakthrough in job, becoming your perfect weight through a diet) then I suggest you give yourself a place in the future to re-reevaluate that one goal and decide if these small steps aren’t adding up to something big.  For example, I’ve decided to write three new amazing things then look at whether I need a different day job, education, what-have-you.  Until I have those three novels or plays in front of me, I won’t worry about how long I’ve been at my day job while ‘planning’ to become a full time writer.
  8. What’s on my ‘bucket list’?  One of the things about this year is I’ve talked to some older people I know who never have done the items on their bucket list and now wonder if they’re too old.  While I’m a total believer in doing as much as you can as long as you can, it is easier to climb a mountain in your 30s or 40s than your 70s.  Whatever your age, part of the un-fulfillment you might be feeling is because the big things just sit on a distant horizon and never get any closer.  You need to pick a before-I-die goal, pick a date (even if it’s a year or two out) and start planning, saving, and/or training for it NOW.  Our lives are short and precious, leave nothing important undone.
  9. Why am I asking this question now?  You Google-searched for this question (or are just a fan or friend of mine) — why?  Are you fed up with the way things are going?  Have you been trying to make changes but still feel far from your goals?  The important thing is to feel empowered — this is a great moment.  As soon as you start really looking at your life, you may get depressed, scared, and feel hopelessness.  But the important thing to know is that this is an important first step that some people never take.  You are now officially on the road to your dreams.
  10. Am I ready to be bold?  There’s a saying, “Are you really happy or just really comfortable?”  You have come to this place by your choices; some parts of your life work great and some need to be switched or fixed.  But if you are at the point of knowing you need a change, then realize you really have nothing to lose.  Start by cleaning your house and giving some things away, then make that bucket list plan, then start seeing what parts of your life make you happy and what things need to go.  Envision your dream and walk toward it.

from periwinkleporte.files.wordpress.com

 

June 2015 update: Please visit my new site ‘How To Come Alive‘ if you’d like to learn the 25 things that have helped me most in achieving my dreams.

How to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams Today

quotablecards

quotablecards

This is about to be a huge cop out because the answer to the question above is to remove the first two words from the title of this piece — there’s your answer.  But hopefully my explanation will be more satisfying.

There’s a lot of dithering, planning, dreaming, whiteboard and index card use, and fantasizing that goes into planning the life of your dreams.  And that can be good, but even better is the day you take action.  And the best kind of action (to me) is just acting like you’re already living the life of your dreams.

It’s easy to get fixated on the crack, crevice, Grand Canyon-sized hole between where you are and where you want to be.  But when you jump, you don’t look at what you’re jumping over, you look at where you want to land.

For myself, it’s hard to believe that a little over a year ago I had published no books (now I have two), there was no Athens Writers Association (which I founded) and all my dreams of being a professional writer felt like wispy clouds on a distant horizon.  But today I feel like I’m on an express train zipping toward my destination.  How did I do it?  How does anyone?  Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned so far —

10 Tips for Living the Life of Your Dreams

  1.  ‘Fake it till you make it.’  I use to dislike this idea, like somehow you were lying to the world.  Instead, I’ve come to see it as a powerful technique to re-train your brain to see you as a winner.  Instead of seeing yourself as out-of-shape and wanting to eat a donut, imagine yourself as your perfect weight — you feeling amazing in your body, you go for runs, and maybe donuts have lost some of their appeal.  See yourself as a winner making a choice rather than as a loser denying themselves a treat.  This also means you have to starting talking about yourself, your dreams, and your talents in positive terms.  You’re not lying to anyone — you’re just remembering that ‘I just published my first book, and I’m very excited!’ is as true as ’50 agents turned me down so I finally made up a copy and self published it.  I keep them in a box under my bed.’  You’re the hero of your own story, and you’re on a journey —  honor how awesome you are for even trying to make a big change.
  2. Start today.  No one expects perfect; in fact my current favorite saying is ‘Progress not perfection’.  Instead, see what you can do on this day that will echo in eternity.  I’m not kidding — a simple walk could be the start of a lifetime of health and fitness.  Picking up that guitar and playing for five minutes does get you closer to being a master.  No matter how small the action, do it.  But the trick is to see these actions as the beginning of long term habits, not as one-offs that should change everything.  But know this, when you make the time everything does start changing.
  3. Realize that even small actions can put you in elite company.  Now I am not saying you don’t have to work damn hard to get to the life of your dreams, but believe me, you would be shocked how little time it takes to become an inspiration to others.  Most people have un-achieved dreams and just seeing you eat right for a month, or write one book, or even get up on a stage for five minutes can make you someone who’s done what some others never will.  It’s a good feeling to inspire others — and you’ll find yourself inspired to ever-greater heights.
  4. “Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterward.” — Tina Fey.  Just being willing to do something you are unsure about is a surefire way to start astounding yourself.  In the Athens Writers Association, there have been some big, even scary, ideas — like doing our first public reading or publishing an anthology — but that willingness to say “Yes, we can” translates into action and confidence.  People love solution-finders, and they tell others (including your dream-job boss) what bold, great things you are doing and how you were willing to put yourself out there and learn something new.
  5. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.   Truth is, the road to your dreams is scary, often unmarked, and filled with the sensation that you’re going the wrong way.  And that’s when you’re on the right path!  Everything you’ve been doing in your non-dream life is probably stuff that’s been working ‘okay’ for years, but as Jack Canfield says ‘Everything you want is on the other side of fear.’  If you’re serious about living the life of your dreams, be prepared to feel like an out-of-it, loser, miscreant for the next five to seven years.  Then all your dreams come true.  I think it’s a pretty good deal, but damn, it’s not going to be comfortable.
  6. Work hard.  Sorry, but that’s the price of admission.  You have to find something you love so much you’ll give untold hours, weeks, and years to it and still want to give more.  The great thing is, being willing to work hard is all it takes to separate you from the ordinary masses.  And trust me when I say you can work so hard and do great things.  You just need to break free of the feelings you learned in school or in that job you hate and recognize that working hard at something you love is already ingrained in you.  Just remember being a little kid building forts, chasing bugs all day, playing with your friends — back then play was hard work, and you loved every minute of it.  Reclaim your awesomeness.
  7. Let go of what others think. Their life path is not yours.  If you know you’re going in the right direction, then that’s all that matters.
  8. “Do good work and share it with people.” — Austin Kleon.  Part of the ‘living’ vs. ‘planning’ is being willing to share your work (and hopes and dreams) with the wider world.  Now, that doesn’t mean trusting your innermost secrets to the person who always poo-poos your every idea at work.  Dreams are precious things — find like-minded people and get excited.  Take a class, join a group, and then start putting your talents out into the world.
  9. Feel the momentum.  Writing a page a day can mean writing your first novel this year.  Losing a pound a week is losing 52 pounds by next spring.  Don’t worry about falling off or having a bad day, just look for forward progress week to week and month to month.  Using the weight loss analogy above, you could have 70 ‘off’ days between now and next May and you’d still lose 40 pounds.  You could fall off for two months and still come out of the year an amazing champion.   Now you want to be on track as much as possible, but know that keeping going, not being flawless, is the secret to success.
  10. Power though.  When I was writing my nonfiction book last fall, I would sometimes feel tired, out-of-sorts, and like I might not be doing my best work.  But I keep pushing forward — edit if I was too tired to write, work on a cover if I was too distracted to edit.  I looked at it like a football game: it’s great to have a long run and score a touchdown, but even if a play only gets you a few more yards down the field, you are still better off and closer to the goal.  And by the end of the year, magically, I had a real book I was proud of.  No one (not even me) could tell what I’d written when I ‘didn’t feel like it’, or what parts needing to be rewritten five times — in the end it was a great, unified piece.  But it would be easy to still be writing it, waiting for the perfect moment, letting myself off easy when I was tired or busy.

Just dedicate yourself to doing something you love, to achieving some great end, and then put in the time and hard work to make it happen.  Stop planning and start living today.

And . . .

93845a950d70bec42228863d0e9abeeb