Trying to feel productive and playing catch up (again)…

Today, I am going through old emails…mostly relating to The Start Experiment

With The Start Experiment, I find myself doing this on the weekends…”playing catch up” from the previous week.

Day 13 task was easy:

Day 13: Hollywood

Someone mentioned in the Facebook page that some of the Start Experiment content was too easy or too short. To that I say, “Boo Hoo.” You guys didn’t sign up for something long and tedious. I want these ideas to be like we’re having coffee together. That I’m offering up a question or a challenge or like today, telling you about something that I think is awesome.
Today’s challenge, and it is one, is to go see the movie “The Way Way Back.” It’s maybe the best picture of what it means to lose your way and find it again I’ve seen in a long time. I absolutely loved it, to the point that if it was out on DVD I’d show clips during the Start Conference. At the bare minimum, watch the trailer today.

That’s what I did.  Check it out here:

Now with Day 12, we have been tasked with the following:

Day 12: Temperature check.

It’s day 12, the midway point.
Time to see how things are going.
In your journal, answer these 3 questions:
1.     What went well the first 12 days?
2.     What went poorly?
3.     What will I do differently in the second half as a result of the answers to the first questions?
If you’re so inclined, share your answers on Facebook!

To “make progress” I feel like I need to write about all this shit, but it’s not really required.  I’m just an anal retentive freak about all this stuff.  Anyways, with regard to the above task…I broke down my writing about this Day 12 task into a 10 minute segment.  Here goes.

1.  The first 12 days went well…better than the first 12 of Round 1.  I made considerable progress on my goal/risk last weekend, but this week failed to look at any of the suggested tasks until today.  So, while I’ve made progress, I still feel like a slacker.  I guess the reality is that like much of everything else in my life, I take the “rules” and bend them to fit the way in which I feel they best apply to my life.  It’s really as simple as that.

2.  What went poorly?  The fact that I seem to procrastinate on these daily tasks.   The reality is that they aren’t difficult and if I just committed to them I wouldn’t find myself “playing catch up” each weekend and feeling like I’m stressing about this stuff during the week!

3.  What will I do differently during the second half as a result of these questions?  It’s simple, really…I suppose I will make a point to process my email as it comes in and deal with these tasks on a daily basis…considering the ease of the daily tasks thus far.  I just need to actually “do” it – rather than just think about it and deny the fact that the emails are in my inbox.   (I know  they’re there.)

Well, that was easy.  On to the next task…working backwards to Day 11:

Day 11: Space, the final frontier.

Social media is great. Facebook is awesome. Emails are fun, but the truth is, geography still matters. The space you do your work in impacts the work you do.
And the same is true with chasing a dream.
Today’s task is to write a paragraph or two about your dream space. Are you looking for a cabin in the woods to write a book in? Do you need the energy of a downtown coffee shop to really create? What’s your dream space? Describe it in your journal so that in the future if you get the chance to build it, you will have a road map.

This one is a good one…and a simple one.  Write a paragraph or two about my dream space? Easy…I’ve got a few minutes remaining in this current pomodoro to simply bang it out so here goes:

My dream space is part of the current goal/risk in this round of The Start Experiment.  It is my future homestead…an acre or less (to be determined) of undeveloped land that will effectively be leased from my parents to form my homestead.  This space will house my future gypsy wagon and eventually a small shed that will serve as an office and/or workshop.

There’s actually a plan and a method to the madness of this idea.  Much of it has been ideas that were actually formed into concrete ideas and have taken form as a result of actions taken place during The Start Experiment.  I’ve bounced many ideas about all of this off people involved in this and have received much inspiration and motivation from them as well.   It’s amazing.

That’s it!  Day 11 task complete and this current pomodoro isn’t even up yet!  I feel productive!

Moving on to Day 10:

Day 10: Success is a better teacher.

People always says “Failure is the best teacher.” That’s stupid. Success is the best teacher (and a whole lot more fun). The problem is that when we succeed we very rarely stop to ask why we did. We celebrate. We cheer. We move on and leave all our lessons behind us.
Today’s task is to review one of your past successes. It doesn’t have to be related to your current audacious dream. Maybe you lost weight. Maybe you got an A+. Maybe you mustered up the courage and asked her for her phone number. Big or small, something went well.
Why did it? What can you learn? What can you repeat and apply to your current dream?

Strangely enough…this particular day’s task wasn’t even in my email inbox.  Perhaps I felt like I had already done it…but the reality is that I likely accidentally filed it with a bunch of other emails when trying to manage what I needed to process and “do” as opposed to filtering through the trash that I get, which is really just a bunch of crap that I really should “unsubscribe” from…but can’t muster up the courage to actually do so, because for some reason I think this stuff still applies to me in some way, shape or form.  Except that it really doesn’t.

I believe I simply filed this one away because I had actually inadvertently completed this task in the form of one of my “podcasts.”  What I mean is that I spent some time talking about how easy it is to focus on our failures than to recognize our successes.  For whatever reason, I know this is the case for myself and I suspect this is commonplace with many others.  It takes deliberate work and effort to re-frame reality and focus more of our energies on the positive and the success rather than the negative and the failure.

Moving forward (or backward)…

Day 9: Why we accept “jobs.”

One of the best books I’ve ever read is David Whyte’s “Crossing the Unknown Sea, Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.” I love it so much I will probably blog about it at some point. (Please act surprised when you see it.)
In one passage he explains why it is so tempting to just accept a “day job.”
Here is what he writes:
“The stakes in good work are necessarily high. Our competence may be at stake in ordinary, unthinking work, but in good work that is a heartfelt expression of ourselves, we necessarily put our very identities to hazard. Perhaps it is because we know, in the end, we are our gift to others and the world. Failure in truly creative work is not some mechanical breakdown but the prospect of a failure in our very essence, a kind of living death. Little wonder we often choose the less vulnerable, more familiar approach, that places work mostly in terms of provision. If I can reduce my image of work to just a job I have to do, then I keep myself safely away from the losses to be endured in putting my heart’s desires at stake.”
Wow, that phrase “living death,” has haunted me for a few weeks now.
Is it risky to dream? Yes, but it is far riskier to not.

Not much here that we are actually tasked with…so what I simply did was add this book to my “to_read” list and kept moving forward.

Day 8: Thank you.

When I lived in Atlanta, I got so focused on my dream that I stopped spending time with other people. I went so heads down that I just lost touch with all the people in my life who had helped me get started.
I forgot to say “thank you.”
Today’s task is to tell one person in your life thank you.
It can be an email or a hand written note or even a text message. (Handwritten wins the most.)
In the midst of the swirl of working on something audacious, thank someone in your life for their encouragement and impact in your life.
Give thanks.

This was a most interesting task to work on.  I actually chose to write a thank you letter (email) to my boss…who I am exceptionally frustrated with at the moment.  Long story short, I had moved into a management position to take the place of someone who left our company months ago (actually ~3.5 months ago).  Very little had been communicated to our clients about my presence here and how I would be stepping in to fill the role of a “Project Coordinator” position (even for the interim).

I realized this yesterday as I began making phone calls to the clients to introduce myself to them and inform them of my schedule and field visits with each of our foresters.  My first call was received with frustration on the part of the client regarding the lack of communication that had taken place and his lack of knowledge about who I was, the experience I had and quite frankly a lack of anything other than what he had heard through the grapevine and in passing.  I found this extremely frustrating, because I am the one responsible for talking my way out of the situation that could easily have been prevented by some simple and direct communication with our clients.

However, as I sit here and reflect on life (which The Start Experiment often times causes me to do) – I realized that I have much to be grateful for.  This was an opportunity for me to not sit around and stew about something that drove me crazy yesterday.  It gave me an opportunity to say that while much was left to be desired in terms of communication we can simply leave it at that and acknowledge the good in everything and set the tone for the remaining 6-7 months of this project.  One thing I have learned over the past few years is that it is always better to take the high road whenever possible.  All I hope is that we both have the ability to acknowledge our wrongs and move forward with behaviors that will hopefully prevent the same thing from occurring as frequently.

Again…this is kind of easy once I simply commit to spending a little time on these things!  Moving on…

Day 7: R-rated.

I don’t like being still. I don’t like to pause. Or stop. Or relax.
But rest is every bit a part of chasing your dream as working on it is.
Today’s task, which will seem really easy but ultimately be hard, is to rest.
Hit snooze.
Don’t do anything on your audacious today.
Put it down for the day.
That’s all we need to do today.
Catch your breath.

I remember seeing this email as it came out…I thought to myself, “I got this!”  Boom – I did.

Day 6: Five questions to ask today.

One of the things I heard often in the first wave of the Start Experiment was that picking a risk was difficult. And it is. I agree with that. Figuring out a dream, a goal or a risk is a weird, oft difficult thing. How can you drill down a little closer to what really matters to you? Here are the questions I often use in my own life.
1.                  What do I love enough to do for free?
That’s a cliché you sometimes hear in guidance counselors’ offices in high school, but it’s no less true. What would you do even if no one paid you for it? I blogged for two years and didn’t make a dime. I didn’t need to. I wasn’t writing for money. I was writing because I am a writer and that’s what writers do.
2.                  What do I do that causes time to feel different?
When you really get engaged in your something, space and time seem to shift a little. You’ll sit down to do a little writing before dinner and the next time you look up it’s ten and you never ate. Time gets shifted in when you’re doing what you love. Has that ever happened and if so, what were you doing?
3.                  What do I enjoy doing regardless of the opinions of other people?
Your dream can’t be powered by opinion or affirmation. It has to be bigger than the feedback of a peer or a coworker. What would you do even if no one ever told you they loved it?
4.                  If only your life changed, would that be enough?
If you killed yourself for years creating something and at the end of the experience, the only life that had changed was your own, would that be rewarding enough? If the experience was the lesson and the journey itself was the reward would that be okay with you? Is there something that holds that sway for you?
5.                  Are there any patterns in the things you like doing?
If you’ve got a dream, chances are there’s not just one isolated hinge moment in your past. More than likely, you have a list of moments that are similar and related. What patterns can you see in the decisions you’ve made and experiences you’ve loved?
Ask yourself those questions. Love yourself enough to actually write down your answers. And when you do, show them to someone you trust. Sometimes, we’re so close to the painting we can’t tell what it is and we need someone else to point out the truth.


  1. I love my dreams enough that I would do them for free.  In a sense, that is the big driver to chase my dreams.  While I understand that there is potential to make a profit, the objective for me to chase my dreams is because I think that being self-sufficient, self-reliant and independent is not only important, but I think taking the time to share these skills with others and more importantly provide them with the tools and means to continue doing so on their on and of their own accord is what is important to me.
  2. When I am writing and talking about my passions, time seems to stop.  This is a big reason why I utilize The Pomodoro Technique.  These 25 minute “sessions” help me stay focused and maintain some semblance of normalcy.   My passions and sharing them with others via writing and/or speaking is precisely that which causes time to feel different.
  3. I enjoy the use of cannabis regardless of the opinions of other people.  I began using cannabis at the age of 15, one year after I was diagnosed with epilepsy.  The reality is that while this plant and it’s mind altering capabilities helped me feel “normal” – I never knew why.  There were periods of my life where for various reasons, I chose to remain “sober” – but over the past 5 years, I began to be much more cognizant of how and where my cannabis came from.  Many disagree with my choices due to the legality factor and while we can have this debate all day – my use of this plant is immediately what came to mind when I began thinking about what I enjoy doing regardless of the opinions of other people.  Since learning of the medicinal benefits of the plant with regard to epilepsy over the past 3-4 years, cannabis has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  Currently, I am not using it regularly due to the amount of traveling I am doing and more specifically the lack of a home – but when settled and when I have a safe place to reside, I expect to continue use of this plant in many different forms.
  4. This is an interesting topic of discussion…the question is that if we killed ourselves for years creating something and at the end of the experience the only life that had changed was my own…would it be rewarding enough?  The example goes on to say that the experience would be the lesson and the journey the reward.   Would I be ok with this?  Seeing as I am wired the way that I am wired, the short answer would be “yes.”  I suspect that I would be ok with this because I am a deeply spiritual person and spend much time reflecting, meditating and praying.  I often times think to myself that life is more about the journey rather than the destination…and with this said, this leads me to believe that “yes” – I would be ok with the experience as the lesson and the reward being the journey. 
  5. The last question is about patterns and whether there are any patterns in the things that we like doing.  I believe that life is nothing but patterns and that those who fail to realize this are the ones who are unhappy.  Their inability to recognize the patterns in their lives likely leads them to continue repeating the negative patterns and moreover contributes to their inability to recognize the healthy, positive and beneficial patterns.  This isn’t so much simple math, but merely the powers of observation.

Moving on…

Day 5: Fear gets tricky.

Someone once asked me, “Where do you come up with all these ideas about fear?” I said, “I’m afraid a lot and then I write them down.” Pretty simple process actually.
And I’ve learned something new about fear recently. Whenever you are about to make a big decision. Whenever you are about to change jobs, start a business, or write a book, fear goes on a marketing campaign.
Fear will whisper, “Your current job isn’t so bad! Look how good the benefits are! Look at how nice people are to you. Look at how great this situation really is.” Instead of attacking you and telling you that you’ll fail in the new job, it launches an advertising campaign gear at how happy you’d be if you stayed put.
Today’s task is a simple temperature check. If you’re in the middle of a change, is fear broadcasting a success message at you right now?
If so, how do you refute it with truth?

Seeing as these Start Experiments have caught me during times of transition…I have spent alot of time contemplating fear (which is why these experiments seemed so appropriate).  However, if I think about it, the past few years of my life and really…the bulk of my adult life has been one giant transition (with periods of stability) interspersed throughout.  During much of that time, I spent a fair amount of time analyzing these transitions and attempting to get at the root of what was going on.  Based on things I read, people that I spoke with and re-reading what I had written over the years, I am inclined to agree with the above in that fear is a big driver of what motivates us in life…and as was stated above can only be refuted with the truth!

Day 4: Beyond the fuzz.

A year ago, I decided I wanted to be more grateful.

I wrote a blog post about having a more grateful heart. I think being ungrateful and entitled would be an amazing way to wreck the fun opportunities I’m getting to do right now. My goal was to be more focused and deliberate about having a grateful heart, but could a goal get fuzzier than that? Where do you even begin on that? That reads like a Hallmark card, not a goal.

And maybe you are there right now. Your audacious feels fuzzy and blurry and not at all doable.

The first thing I did was ask myself, “What actions would a person with a grateful heart be known for?” Then I came up with a list:

1. They’d tell people thank you.
2. They’d send out handwritten thank you notes.
3. They’d slow down during the middle of a busy day to make sure they hadn’t taken anything for granted due to the push and pace of life.

Then I took that list and I applied the items to my own life. For instance, let’s look at number 3. I run around like crazy when I’m traveling to a speaking engagement. I’m nervous and excited and focused on delivering an amazing speech. It would be really easy for me to completely rush by the hard work that the staff at our company is doing to set up the conferences I get to speak at. How can I make sure I have a grateful heart in real-life situations like that?

Next, I took those real-life scenarios and turned them into actions. For instance, one of my goals was to empty my thank you note box. It’s got 100 cards in it.
At the end of the year, instead of looking at my incredibly fuzzy goal of “having a grateful heart,” I looked at  my (almost) empty box of thank you cards and knew that I hit one of the metrics that mattered to me.

Is walking from fuzzy audacious to real action easy to do? Not always, but I promise that the clearer your goals are, the more likely you’ll actually finish them.

Again, not much of a task here…but the grateful theme is recurrent throughout this round of The Start Experiment.  As previously written, it is very easy to take things for granted and of the utmost importance to deliberately act on these thoughts of gratuity when we feel them.  It is important to acknowledge how grateful we are and even more important to communicate this with others and if we can’t do that then reflect on these thoughts with our creator.  Let us attempt to take less for granted and be more grateful in our lives.

Day 3: Refining your audacious.

One of the things I heard over and over during the first Start Experiment was “My initial goal changed during the process.” This is going to happen. This is natural. This is expected. Knowing that, today’s task is to spend a little time refining your audacious. Knowing what you know from the last Start Experiment, how should you refine your dream? Do three rounds of revision before you settle on your new risk. In the first one ask, “Is my audacious crazy enough?” In the second revision ask, “Is my audacious mine?” In the third round ask, “Is my audacious fun?” Refine until you’ve got a yes on all three.

At this point…I am feeling most excellent because it was last weekend and the previous week where I spent time “refining my audacious.”  Luckily, due to the assistance of many fine people involved with The Start Experiment – I was able to do this and feel less overwhelmed this time around and more able to wrap my head around the audacity that is my goal and my risk.


Day 2: It’s time to admit something audacious.

I’ll go first.
Jenny and I’s audacious goal is to buy a 50 acre island property in Maine someday. We want to turn it into a summer camp where we host families who want to dream together again. The only payment will be your smartphone. Bring a camera, but we’ll be taking the smartphone for a week. There will be archery, art, ocean and a million other things like that.
Is that going to happen at the end of 24 days? Of course not. It might not happen for 10 years, but that’s what makes it audacious!
Your turn!
What’s something audacious you commit to dream about for the next few weeks?

My audacious dream is fairly simple…writing a vision and mission statement for my homestead dream.

Day 1: A New Start.

In the first 24 days of the Start Experiment we picked a risk. Something manageable, maybe even small, that we could hustle on for 24 days. That was awesome. And now, it’s time for a left turn.
This 24 day period is titled “Audacious,” because that’s where we’re going to live for a few weeks. In the next 24 days I invite you to step outside of ordinary and dream about something audacious. Gone is the practical. Death to realistic. It’s time to hope big.
Today’s task is to spend 15 minutes doing just that.
What does audacious mean to you? What might it look like in your life if you were audacious? What is keeping you from being audacious? In your Start journal, spend 15 minutes just reacting to the idea of doing something audacious.

I began falling behind around Day 4 and 5…but after this exercise of spending 2-3 hours on getting caught up with Round 2 of The Start Experiment I am feeling very productive and motivated to spend even more time tomorrow on my my audacious dream as well as my to-do list and maybe even some rest and relaxation this Sunday before another hectic week of travel and being on the road.  If you’ve read this entire blog post…I am very impressed.  I also believe you may want to have your head examined.  That in and of itself is audacious…and if this is you – I’m grateful that you stuck it out with me.  Be audacious!  Be weird.  Do epic shit.

Stay tuned.

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