Categories
Inspiration Minimalism Writing

Minimalism and Creativity

In the book Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon writes:

” It takes a lot of energy to be creative. You don’t have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.”

“Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon, page 119, para. 1

While I have written about that in the past, about eliminating the unimportant to liberate your time to focus on the important, I have never went into the details about how minimalism truly applies to creativity.

I must confess that the reason I’ve not covered this in depth was because I didn’t understand it myself.

I’ve always used minimalism as a tool to liberate my time and money to focus on things like success and family. Whenever I liberated a chunk of time, I used that time to clean my house, care for my kids, or study subjects that I believed would contribute to my long-term success.

This round I decided to do things a bit differently. When I quit my job I knew I was burned out, completely frustrated, and more than a bit disillusioned. I needed to step away from my normal habits and routines entirely just to recover.

So I gave myself permission to play. I tinkered with the television that the kid gave me. I allowed myself to read novels. Instead of banging my head against a keyboard every evening I made it a habit to play video games and watch a nightly movie. Instead of trying to force myself to write, to read and study and continually improve myself, instead of tinkering with Word or other writing programs to figure out how to format and use the programs to build better books, instead of reading books to improve my writing craft and search for ideas, I stripped it all away.

I literally said “fuck it.” I picked an ancient text editor and focused upon the words instead of the formatting. I allowed myself to write about whatever instead of trying to force myself to focus upon a single subject. I gave myself permission to use my time in ways that I’ve always considered wasteful and allowed my mind to wander.

I didn’t allow myself to think about what I could really write that would be helpful or make money. Aside from my daily goal of writing a single blog post, I allowed myself the freedom to do as little as possible. I used my minimalism, my freedom to spend my time however I like, to do just that for a change.

Which is why I skipped posting yesterday.

I made a pledge to write about the first thing that came to mind each morning, every morning, regardless of subject matter. I didn’t censor myself which is why I’m sure you’ve noticed that my language has changed. Instead of thinking “what can I write for somebody else?” I asked “what is something that I would want to read?”

Yesterday morning I awoke with a story playing in my head. It’s about a grandma who loves her kids, her dog, and her movies. While pursing these passions she discovers what she believes to be the Mother Lode of movies – only to realize that she’s uncovered something evil instead. Now she’s got to decide what she’s going to do about it.

The story was so vivid I could see it from the woman’s eyes. I could feel the things she felt and even smell the things she smelled.

So I started writing.

I didn’t do a single thing on my house yesterday. I didn’t check my email, work on this blog, or even feel the desire to take a break. If not for my kid making me, I doubt I would have taken the time to eat.

All that existed was the story, and I felt driven to get it out of my head. I went to sleep thinking about that story and was awakened with the same passion.

That story would have never came to me if I hadn’t allowed myself to eliminate the things that I had previously considered essential. If I hadn’t allowed myself to “slack,” if I hadn’t allowed myself to read novels, watch movies, and play video games, if I hadn’t allowed myself to “goof off” instead of work, I wouldn’t have given my mind the freedom it needed to imagine.

Sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack. We need to stop worrying about what we “should” be doing and allow ourselves to relax and have fun instead. And at its core, this is what minimalism is about. By eliminating as much stuff and as much tasks and as many obligations as we can, we allow ourselves to get bored. We give our minds the freedom to wander.

And when we do that, amazing things can happen.

I don’t know what is going to happen with that story. All I know is that I’ve written over 3,000 words this morning alone. I feel a passion, an aliveness that I haven’t felt since I was a child when I would fill notebooks with stories and doodles instead of doing my homework. And I am going to embrace that sensation.

We have become so wrapped up in duty, we have become so sucked in to chatting with friends and updating our timelines that we’ve forgotten who we are.

And minimalism can help us regain that.

Turn off your computer. Cancel your appointments. Change your routines. Eliminate everything you can eliminate. Allow yourself to become bored.

Because that is when the magic happens.

Have you ever allowed yourself to completely mix up your routine, to eliminate everything that you can eliminate in order to truly experience boredom? What happened? Please share your stories in the comments below.

And if I miss another post, you will know what I’m doing. I’m busy getting this story out of my head.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Productivity Writing

When Older is Better – An Apology to the Creator of Vim

I first encountered the text editor Vim back in the late 1990s. I needed to edit some configuration settings in my first Linux install ever and the tutorials I found all told me to use Vim.

I cussed that program until the ears of the guy who created it had to burn. I hated that text editing program with a purple passion so I abandoned it with glee as soon as I completed my task.

A few years later I found myself with an ancient Windows 95 laptop that was far too old to even think about using Windows so I installed Damn Small Linux (DSL Linux for the polite) on the machine to restore functionality. My goal was to do a bit of surfing and to write my journal entries on that old beast. I was far too broke and entirely too stubborn to discard a laptop that was perfectly functional, if old and slow.

I hated the graphical text editor that came with DSL. I can’t remember why I didn’t like it, only that I did. When I eventually discovered that the battery on that ancient laptop lasted a lot longer when I used a shell (think really old school – no pictures), I cringed and tried to use Vim once again.

It wasn’t pleasant but I figured out how to operate the program enough to do what I needed. I used Vim on that laptop daily until that old computer died.

I forgot about Vim after that but after spending this last decade trying to find a blessed program that was comfortable to write in, a program that didn’t randomly delete chunks of my file or whatever, and didn’t cost a small fortune I became so annoyed that I decided to try again. I installed Vim on my writing computer and told myself that I would learn that program or die trying.

I spent the first few days searching up how-to pages but managed to knock out a few paragraphs. There was a bit of cursing involved but with this hillbilly, that’s par for the course.

But when I decided to move a chunk of text around, things changed. I looked up a tutorial and discovered that two teeny-tiny commands would allow me to rip a chunk of whatever size from one place and either delete it, create another file with it, or move it wherever in the document I desired.

Oh. My. God.

Anyone who has used a standard word processor like Word or even a basic graphical text editor knows what a nightmare that can be. You’ve got to fight with the mouse to highlight the chunk (the bigger the chunk the greater the pain), then scroll to where you want to stick it, and pray that it pastes it properly. It took what used to be an event I dreaded and made it amazingly simple.

Then I discovered that when you add another command to the process called folding, the task gets infinitely easier. You can fold up chunks of a document so that you only see the headings so that you can actually SEE the spot where you want to go. You can arrange those folds however you like in a way that is only seen in a Wordsmith’s wet dream.

I wasted 20 years of my life and thousands of dollars searching for a program that would allow me to write and edit my words easily. And I am more than embarrassed at the fact that I possessed the perfect program the whole time. Even more embarrassing, that program is FREE.

Bram Moolenaar, I owe you an apology. I have cussed you and your program for more years than I care to admit. But I am mature enough to admit when I’m wrong so that is what I am going to do.

I was wrong to dismiss the ancient text editing program Vim. You have created the best damn program for writing books, blogs, journal entries, and anything else a writer wants to write. I’ve just sent you a small donation and I intend to send more as money allows.

Thank you, Bram Moolenaar. Thank you from the bottom of this old woman’s heart.

If you happen to be a writer, you need to use Vim. You will curse that program until you’re hoarse the first few days because the way it works and the commands you use will be utterly unfamiliar to you. Keep a browser tab open and search for whatever it is you want to do. Make some notes as you go along, and don’t hesitate to look for tutorials to learn how to do stuff you think is completely impossible. Chances are there’s a command in Vim that will let you do whatever it is by punching a couple of letters.

I won’t go into the details about basic Vim commands here. There are pages enough about that subject so there’s no point. I am just going to tell you that Vim has changed my entire writing life for the better.

I cannot thank Bram enough.

We have all been programmed to believe that newer is better. Newer models, newer features must always be better than the old and tried and true. For writers, that means that we spend small fortunes on programs or subscriptions to programs that are supposed to make writing easier. Yet I have discovered that a 30-year old program, a 30-year old FREE program trumps them all.

Don’t dismiss the old stuff, folks. You may find yourself eating your hat like I have with Vim.

Do you have something old in your life that you’ve found more useful than the modern stuff? Please share your stories in the comments below.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Happiness Life Success

You Have One Life

Life is not like a video game. At the end, you can’t put more money into the machine to buy a do-over. Just one shot, one chance…

…and then it’s gone.

How do you want to spend this priceless resource?

Do you want to spend it living someone else’s dream, or yours?

Many of you are living someone else’s dream. You’ve been told that to be happy, to be successful at the game of life you must be rich. You must have the fancy house and the new car. Oh, and don’t forget, you must get the job.

And the spouse.

And the kids.

You’ve got to buy the fancy clothes, even if you’re not comfortable wearing them.

You need the big television, because you’re nothing without it.

Your homes must be perfect or otherwise you are a failure.

You trade your lives for these things so ask yourself:

Are you happy?

In the end, when you are hooked up to machines breathing your last breath, will it have been worth it?

One life.

Just one life.

When will you start living it for you?

Categories
Education Goals Inspiration

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

One semester down; 19 to go.

We can do 19 semesters.

When I shared that fact with my daughter Katie (who is studying for her Bachelor’s in Health Science now), she announced that it sounded so much easier that way. She had been a bit depressed at the fact that she just committed four years of her life to not only working full-time, but studying full-time as well.

Unlike my Katie, I am only capable of going to college on a half-time course load. The thought of taking four years to acquire a two-year degree would be depressing but 19 semesters?

I can do 19 semesters.

To monitor my progress, I decided to take the suggestion of reader Belinda to heart. She used a five-year journal to keep track of her progress as she stopped smoking and sorted some health issues. I decided to follow her lead and use the multi-year journal format to keep track of both my long and short-term goals. With each passing year, I will be able to look back and see how far I’ve come.

It will help me gain perspective when I feel as if I’m not making any progress.

How do you maintain a positive perspective as you work towards your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Organization Productivity Time management

My Minimalist Daily Planner

I have spent a small fortune on planning and productivity apps over the years. I’ve vacillated between paper and digital so many times that it borders upon the ridiculous.

While I wanted to go completely digital, not one of the apps I purchased could accommodate my needs so I would end up purchasing even more apps, make the process more complicated, and give up as a result. If I found one I liked it would be out of date within six months to a year unless I paid even more for the new version or moved on to something different.

Paper planning methods were just as annoying. While the Bullet Journal method worked to a degree, I found myself having to migrate to new notebooks so often that it felt like I spent more time migrating than I did actually using the thing. The closest thing to paradise I discovered in the paper realm was a hard back planner that made my wallet scream.

Even worse with the paper methods, I quickly built up a large supply of used notebooks, which is far from ideal when you live in a tiny house.

After my last round of experiments I decided that enough was enough. My goal is to simplify my life, not make it more complicated with stacks of notebooks or constant app purchases.

I wanted a planning and record-keeping method that would use a minimum of space, could be easily viewed on different devices, not be locked into some sort of specialized software, and not cost a single penny.

Since that doesn’t really exist out in the world, I made one.

I modified the original idea in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I created a series of folders, naming them in a way that would cause them to sort automatically by date. I eliminated the need for monthly folders with my naming procedure and got to work.

Daily Folders sorted by date.

Each day gets its own individual folder that is named by the date and day of the week. Within that folder I created a text file for my work shift, and individual text files for anything I needed to remember upon that day or tasks I wanted to accomplish.

As the day progresses I rename the task files, placing an “x” in the front of the file name to mark the task as completed. I file relevant documents within that folder by naming them accordingly. A quick search on my computer will bring up personal items, photos, or whatever I am searching for without having to dig through the folders individually.

Daily tasks and notes are stored in the daily folders. Note the “x” in front of the completed tasks.

On the days I have time to journal I create a simple text file in the daily folder to log my personal thoughts.

Recurring tasks get copied into each daily folder in advance based upon when I want to take care of them. While I do keep a separate file with a list of tasks that I don’t need to do on a specific date, that is simple enough to maintain. I just borrowed the old plain-text format from the Taskpaper app I purchased ages ago and access the file from any plain text editor now that Taskpaper is no longer supported.

It has been a few months since I started experimenting with this method. To my surprise, it meets my needs perfectly. I am able to not only keep track of my daily life even on the go (provided I sync beforehand or have wifi access), I can even scan in any journal entries I decide to write by hand so it has actually ended up being a bit better than any method I have tried in the past.

While it does take a few minutes to create a new set of files each month I have no doubts that task could be automated if one ever decided to write a script for the process. I find it meditative to create them manually at the moment so I’ve not been motivated to even bother.

Accessing the Planner on the Move

I recommend storing the main folder (named by the current year) in the cloud if you want to access your planner on the go. For simplicity’s sake, create a folder inside the annual folder named “@Upcoming Schedule” to separate your archives from your future plans.

When you want to create a note for a future date, create a folder for that particular date and insert the note inside. You can copy emails, PDFs, or anything in there as a reminder.

This method is extremely simple and quite effective once you develop the habit of checking your daily folder every morning. I move the previous day’s folder up one level into the annual folder before opening up the folder for the new day to get started.

If you are sick and tired of experimenting with planning methods or paying a fortune for apps and paper planners you may want to consider trying this method. It is simple, platform-independent, future-proof, and completely free.

Even better, you can customize the method based upon how you work and keep track of things in a way that you find most comfortable.


What methods have you tried to keep track of your daily life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Happiness Life self-improvement Time management

How Do You Spend Your Time?

“To come but once into the World, and Trifle away our true Enjoyment of it, and of our selves in it, is lamentable indeed.”

William Penn (1706). Some Fruits of Solitude, in reflections and maxims relating to the conduct of human life.

These past few days I’ve had little to do but rest and think. It occurred to me that our lives have gotten so busy that we may not be doing enough thinking. It is only through self-reflection that we can learn and grow; barring that exercise, we run the risk of becoming stagnant.

While theories abound concerning the Afterlife, all that we know for certain is that we only have one life to live. That life, in the grand scheme of things, is woefully short. Therefore, it can only benefit us if we focus upon the things that truly matter. We don’t have enough time to do everything, so it only makes sense that we eliminate the distractions that would cause us to waste this irreplaceable resource.

Consider how you spend your day. How much of your time do you spend engaging in activities that don’t benefit you? Does your quality of life improve when you sit in front of a television, or does that time make you feel inferior because you don’t have the money to buy their suggestions or the skills to live the lives your heroes lead?

If so, then why torture yourself by watching it?

Does it make you feel good to visit Facebook and see the posts of others bragging about their latest meals, purchases, or experiences? Do you feel happy reading the political vitriol that is being shared by your friends?

Does it feel good to wander through a store searching for a particular item, or could a quick online purchase eliminate the need to spend your priceless time hunting for it in a store and then standing in line to purchase it?

The above is just an example of the questions you can ask yourself as you go through your day.

I have been asking myself these very same questions recently. I have discovered a lot about who I am through the asking.

My personal revelations about how I’ve been wasting the priceless resource of my time made me realize that I may not be alone in this situation. Society seems determined to keep our minds so distracted that we don’t stop to consider our actions. It has become verboten to take time away from our lives to contemplate. If we are doing nothing, we are wrong so we fill up every moment with tasks, entertainment, and social media instead.

It makes me wonder if there is a reason why we are discouraged from thinking anymore.

We expend an immense amount of thought about how we spend our money; since our time is irreplaceable, shouldn’t we treat it with even more respect? In the end, while we can always make more money, we are incapable of adding more time to our lifespan.

How do you spend the priceless resource of your time? Are there areas you would like to change? Please continue this conversation in the comments below.

References

Penn, W. (1706). Some Fruits of Solitude, in reflections and maxims relating to the conduct of human life. The seventh edition. T. Sowle: London.

Categories
Life self-improvement Success

Know Thyself

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

Laozi

When you start upon a journey, you must not only know where you are but where you want to go. Otherwise, you wont know which turns to make—or even realize if you have arrived at your destination.

Life is the same way, yet many of us tend to wander aimlessly through it. It is no wonder that we end up feeling lost and dissatisfied.

As you take time for yourself this weekend, contemplate your current situation.

  • Who are you?
  • Are you content with yourself?
  • Is there anything about your current life and circumstances that you would like to change?

Write down your answers in a journal or save them in the comments below.

Categories
self-improvement Success

Beware the Company You Keep

Do not be misled. Bad company ruins character.
(1 Corinthians 15:33, The Bible: An American Translation, 1931).

If you are reading this blog, chances are that you have a goal you are working to achieve. If so, congratulations. It takes a special kind of determination to begin actively pursuing a goal.

Over time you may have noticed that your progress has slowed if not stopped completely. Or perhaps you want to start working on your goal but you have yet to begin.

If this is the case, you may be thinking that the problem is with you. You aren’t dedicated enough or you don’t have enough time. Perhaps you think that you were just born to be a failure.

Before you castigate yourself any further, take a look at the company you keep.

The people we surround ourselves with directly influence who we are and what we are becoming. In fact,

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn.

If your goal is to get in shape but your best friend is a couch potato, guess what is going to happen? Instead of hanging out at the gym doing squats, you’ll end up camping out on the couch with them watching workout videos.

If your goal is to conserve money and build wealth but your friends are perpetually broke spendthrifts, you’ll spend your time at the mall.

If you goal is to declutter your home but your best friend is a hoarder guess what? Your house will never become clean and tidy.

There is a reason for this. Your friends may like the life they lead. They may enjoy doing the things that you no longer want to do. If a clutterbug sees you cleaning your house, for instance, they may take it (consciously or unconsciously) as a judgement against their personal lifestyle choices. So deep down they aren’t going to want you to clean your home. They may not want you to improve your finances, get in shape, or go back to school. While they may encourage you to your face, deep down they want you to fail.

If you fail, they become justified because they never tried. If you fail, you will be just like them. If you fail, they will gain the opportunity to pretend to sympathize with you while they cheer inwardly.

They want you to fail because it will justify their personal failures. They will do whatever it takes to secretly derail your success.

If you have a person like that in your life, run. Unfriend them on Facebook. Block their phone number. Send their emails to the junk folder and avoid them at all costs. I don’t care if you’ve known them since preschool. It doesn’t matter if they promise to always “have your back.” Their secret goal is to keep you down at their level and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

I have had to do this two times in my life. Both were friends I’d had since childhood. Many years ago, the first friend decided to go ballistic after I began making some changes to my life. I dealt with their drama for ages as I tried to figure out why my writing business was spluttering.

Within months of eliminating that person from my life, I was earning enough from my writing to quit my day job. I hadn’t even realized that they were sabotaging things until years later but in hindsight the negative comments, the drama they invariably started whenever I began working on a new blog post or a book, and their insistence that I was “working too hard” formed into a barrier that was impossible to overcome until I cut them out of my life.

I recently noticed a similar pattern with another longstanding friendship. The more I worked towards my goals, the more concerned they became. “You need to stop working so hard!” They stated repeatedly. They seemed determined to keep me chatting for hours online to the point where I would have to ignore them when I was working. When I would ignore their texts, they would show up at my job since they were “in the area” around my quitting time. It would take 30 minutes to an hour to escape their litany of complaints.

I tolerated the situation. They were my friend, I reasoned.

But then I pounced upon the opportunity to go to college.

This person immediately began a series of rants concerning the subject. An unrelated rant left me with the distinct impression that they wanted me to cancel my plans to attend college since they weren’t willing or able to go as well.

I thought I was being paranoid but as the evidence continued to mount over the next few weeks I took a few days away from the friendship to clear my head.

The peace I felt was immense. I had not realized how much stress this person was adding to my life until it was gone. The difference was noticeable enough that others began to comment on my change in mood.

That helped me to realize just how unhealthy the friendship had become.

As I considered the person I want to become I realized that this was not a person I would choose to associate with in my future life. Even sadder, I realized that if I were to meet a complete stranger that was exactly like my friend tomorrow that I would want nothing to do with them or their chosen lifestyle.

I realized that the only thing we had in common any more was the time we had known each other.

It is a hard thing to lose a friend; harder still when you have to actively purge them from your life. Even so, as one must prune the diseased branches from a tree so it can flourish, we must prune away our toxic relationships if we want to grow.

Before you go to bed tonight, think about the company you keep. Do you see yourself wanting to associate with them once you reach your goals? Do they show any indications of trying to sabotage your progress through discouragement or distraction?

Do they live the life you want to live, or the life you’re leaving behind?

Do what you have to do.

Much thanks to John Grebe, author of Pray As You Can: Exploring The Diverse Nature of Christian Prayer. His donation of Bibles to my private collection helped immensely as I came to a decision in the situation described above. I received a copy of his book some time ago and I found his thoughts on prayer immensely refreshing.

REFERENCES

Maarten van Doorn. (2018). You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With. Retrieved from https://medium.com/the-polymath-project/you-are-the-average-of-the-five-people-you-spend-the-most-time-with-a2ea32d08c72

Categories
Health Productivity

How to Improve Your Health and Boost Productivity

At first glance the subjects of health and productivity don’t seem to have much in common. One concerns how you treat your body and the other how you handle your time. Yet the two are inextricably entwined. It is only by maintaining and improving your health that you can find the energy to do the things you want (and need) to do.

I must confess that I only understood the correlation recently. Over the years I had noticed a lessening of my energy levels. Considering that I am nearing the half-century mark, I attributed it to age and dismissed it. Everybody slows down when they get older, I told myself.

Over the past two years a lingering dental problem (a lifetime of drinking soft drinks has destroyed the enamel on my teeth) forced me to have several teeth removed. As I began to have the teeth extracted, I noticed a surprising side effect: Every time I had a tooth removed, my energy levels increased. With every single boost of energy, I became more productive in my daily life.

I began to ask questions about this phenomenon. Dental issues can cause lingering infections in the body. By removing the source of the infection, I was reducing the load on my immune system and allowing it to work more efficiently. Instead of expending energy to keep infections at bay, my body now had excess energy that could be channeled into other areas of my life.

I pondered this quietly as I noticed the change. If eliminating the cause of infection in my body could cause such a dramatic improvement in my productivity, could actively caring for my body improve my productivity even more?

I decided upon a simple experiment. As most people in this modern age, I didn’t get enough sleep. I would stay up until late in the night writing or chatting online with friends. As a result I would have to drag myself out of bed each morning and force myself to get to work. Since sleep is essential for health, getting more of it should not only boost my health but increase my productivity as well.

At first it was difficult to train myself to go to bed earlier. It felt as if I was wasting time sleeping instead of doing more important things like writing or cleaning my home. I can sleep when I’m dead, I would tell myself stubbornly when my designated bedtime arrived.

I kept working on my experiment. Since a set bedtime wasn’t helping, I instead started setting my alarm clock a bit earlier. Within a week or so my body would start forcing me to go to bed earlier at night.

I didn’t see much difference at first. I would still be a bit groggy in the mornings as I woke up and began to work. Over time that began to change.

I began to wake up before my alarm each morning, sometimes by several hours. At first I was content to lie there and think but over time I began to get restless. I began hopping out of bed ready to get to work.

I began to feel a restless energy that I hadn’t felt in years. Each time I would feel it surface I would get up and do something. While some of these spurts didn’t last long, others lasted for several hours. Over time, these spurts of energy began to get longer and tiny little health issues I’d attributed to age began to decrease.

My ankles no longer swell painfully after a long shift. My shoulder rarely aches after a busy day scanning purchases. My ability to deal with the daily stress of life has improved. Things that used to upset me are now met with a shrug.

I feel as if I’m doing less yet the evidence around me proves that I’m doing more than ever. My home is cleaner. I write more. I read more books than ever. I even started mowing my own yard instead of hiring others to do it yet I still have time and energy to spare. Even with starting college I now find myself with enough time and energy to get it all done.

And it all started by taking care of me first.

If you find yourself perpetually exhausted and feel as if you don’t have enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done, you can improve that situation by making one simple change to your routine:

Get more sleep.

Sleep is like a magic potion to the human body. It allows it to recharge, giving it time to devote to healing and restoration. It can solve problems that the modern medical community cannot even detect, much less repair. Even better, the solution is free.

So go to bed earlier tonight. If like me you have trouble doing that, start by setting your alarm a bit earlier each morning so that your body will force the issue. Take naps whenever you can. This is especially important if you find yourself nodding off whenever you sit down since this is a classic sign of sleep deprivation.

Take one day each week to just rest. You may sleep the entire day away at first (like I did), but over time you will notice that your sleep periods will get shorter and your energy levels begin to climb.

When your energy levels go up, your productivity will follow.

If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to share it with a friend. If you find that you have trouble sleeping, you may want to consider picking up a copy of Set Your Sleep on Autopilot: Learn How to Fall Asleep Fast by Eric West. In this book he compiled a number of very helpful suggestions. I had the honor of contributing my personal method for dealing with insomnia to this book as well. Over the years I’ve revisited this book several times to learn from him and the other contributors so I highly recommend it.

Categories
Education Life Success

How to Defeat Panic and Accomplish Your Goals

My daughter and I started college this past Thursday. We woke up bright and early to eat breakfast before we got started.

Katie began to cook while I turned on some relaxing classical music. After a brief phone call from Auntie wishing us a happy first day of college, we talked quietly as we ate before settling down in our spots to begin our studies.

I felt my chest tighten the moment I saw the tasks listed in this week’s unit. There was a list of items to read, a video that was suggested to watch, and a number of assignments to complete.

It is easy to become overwhelmed when we start a new project. Our mind gravitates to the big picture and we feel fear as that little voice inside of us screams that we’ll never get it done.

We’ll fail, so why should we even bother trying?

While our lizard brain is trying to protect us, it doesn’t understand is that we don’t have to do everything at once. We don’t have to complete everything in an instant.

All we have to do is focus on one step at a time and plod our way through. We are certain to reach the end as long as we keep walking.

The hardest part is getting through that first moment of terror.

My mind was screaming. What in hell were you thinking?!? There is no possible way you can do this on top of your job and everything else! You are going to fail, just like you failed the other times. You’re just throwing your money away and wasting your time. Quit now while you’re ahead!

I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and waited for the moment to pass. Fortunately for me, this isn’t my first rodeo. When I left my husband I had no clue how I would survive. While I accepted the panic, I picked one thing and got to work.

Since then I’ve managed to raise my kids and build a successful writing business. I’ve accomplished other things during that time as well. While I may not know just how I’ll manage this new project, I know I will do just fine.

I just have to focus on the next step.

The very first thing I needed to do was download all of my reading materials. Once that was complete, I selected the reading assignment at the top of the list and got started.

One by one I went down that list. I didn’t worry about the next step; there wasn’t any point in worrying about it until I reached it. Before I knew what was happening I had reached my first written assignment.

While I may be discussing a college class in this post, the knowledge I used to get through this first week can be applied to anything we want to achieve in life.

The steps are simple:

  1. Close your eyes and allow yourself to breathe through that moment of panic.
  2. Determine the very first step you need to take.
  3. Focus exclusively upon that step until it is accomplished.
  4. Determine the next step and repeat #3.

Don’t worry about the big picture. It will only make you insane if you do. Just focus on the task that is immediately in front of you.

The journey will take care of itself.

If you have a friend who feels overwhelmed, take a moment to share this post with them. You may be helping them achieve greatness.

On another note, I recently signed up all of my books for the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, that occurs during the entire month of July. Every single book I have listed there will be offered for free or at a significant discount so I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity. You can find my profile here.

Categories
Minimalism Productivity

The Facebook Fast

As time ticked closer to the start of my first semester I began to worry: where would I get the time to attend college? I work more hours than ever at my public job; between that and my writing business (not including my regular household duties) I was already approaching my limit.

Perplexed, I revisited my old friend Minimalism in search of ideas. Minimalism is the art of eliminating the unimportant to provide space for the important. This process is different for everyone. Some may want to eliminate excess stuff from their lives to free up space and finances while others (like me) may simply need to carve some time out in their busy lives to focus on achieving a lifelong goal.

I spent the next several days simply observing my life as I asked the question How do I spend my time? As busy as I was, I knew that I didn’t spend every single moment involved in productive endeavors, so my goal was to locate the primary leak in the ship of my time and eliminate it.

The answer came fairly quickly. Each morning as I sat down with my coffee I would open Facebook to see what my friends had been up to and respond to the messages that had arrived during the night. As I moved through my day, I noticed that I spend a tremendous amount of time responding to messages from family and friends as I strove to accomplish my daily tasks before I went to my public job.

Sometimes these conversations would become so distracting that I would lose track of time and have to rush to finish my necessary tasks before racing out the door.

My evenings weren’t much different. Each night I would plop down in my computer chair to relax and unwind a bit from my shift. I would open Facebook automatically and continue the procedure.

Sometimes I would spend so much time there that I would barely be able to keep my eyes open as I completed my nightly reading ritual before going to sleep.

I asked myself: Did I receive anything beneficial from the time I spent on Facebook each day?

The answer was a resounding no. While it was nice to keep track of my friends and family, there was nothing there that was truly relevant. Whenever someone in my life did share something important, they usually contacted me directly to distribute the news.

I took a deep breath. I have friends who enjoy reaching out to me about the minutia of their day on Facebook. I enjoy hearing from them and sharing pieces of my personal day as well. Could I truly limit or eliminate my time spent on the platform in light of this knowledge?

Eventually I decided to re-phrase the question: Would anything bad happen if I eliminated Facebook from my daily habits?

The answer was no.

I reached out to my friends and explained the situation, encouraging them to use email when they needed to reach me for something important and then I summoned my resolve and eliminated Facebook from my daily routine.

The results were astounding. That very first day I actually found myself bored.

I was so startled at that boredom that I actually celebrated. I’d not experienced boredom—true boredom–since I was a child whiling away my summer months in the Mountains. The sensation was enlightening.

We tend not to realize that the simplest of actions can have immense repercussions. Turning on the television after work can result in an evening wasted. Hanging out with friends can cause one to lose track of time so that they have to rush to accomplish their tasks (if they get done at all).

And turning on Facebook to browse the Feed can result in a journey down the Rabbit Hole of Distraction that can steal a shameful amount of hours from one’s life.

My life has changed for the better since my decision to turn my back on Facebook. Now that I have stopped visiting my Feed, opting instead to check my messages once or twice a day instead of lurking in the lives of others I have more time for myself as well as my studies.

I can wake up, drink my coffee, and perform my daily tasks with time to spare each day. Depending upon when my shift starts, I am now able to grab the occasional nap before I head in so that I can arrive refreshed instead of exhausted.

In the evenings I can turn on some relaxing classical music, curl up with a book, and feel the tension draining from my body at the end of the hectic day.

I am calmer now that I have time to spare. The persistent tension between my shoulder blades is now a memory. I not only feel better physically, my mind is developing a clarity I hadn’t known was possible.

Time is Finite

Each moment we spend, for good or ill, is lost forever. Instead of spending those moments thoughtlessly, manage them as carefully as you manage your finances.

Unlike money, time is something we can never regain once it’s gone.

Think well before you waste it.

What one item in your life can you eliminate to regain your time? Please share your stories in the comments below. If you found this post helpful, share it with a friend as well.

You might change their life for the better.

Categories
Future Me Happiness Law of Attraction self-improvement Success

The Magic of Dreaming

Beep! Beep! Beep!

The alarm clock blares, signaling another day of drudgery. You hit the snooze for as long as you dare, dreading the oncoming day until you finally jump up, catch a shower, and race to work.

You punch in at the time clock only to be greeted by your boss who has a litany of complaints and a hundred things they need you to accomplish ASAP, only to return home so brain dead that the only thing you want to do is scarf down the stale chips in your pantry and crash on the couch.

It never seems to end, does it?

Day by day, you barely have enough energy to survive, much less focus on escaping.

But you know what?

They may have enslaved your body but they can’t stop you from dreaming.

When you collapse into bed each night, imagine that you are laying down in the bed of your dreams. Use the good sheets if you have them and keep them scrupulously clean. Inhale the sweet scent of your pillow and relax because right now, at this moment, you are not a slave. You are free, and you are stretched out in your new life.

Imagine looking around at the tidy bedroom of the life you want. See yourself padding to the kitchen for a glass of milk or a midnight snack. Live your future life each night as you fall asleep.

Wake up a bit earlier each morning, turn on some classical music (classical makes one think of wealth), sit down, and think.

What can you do, right now, that will allow you to live your dream?

Write down the ideas that result from your brainstorming. In time, one of the ideas will click but for now just think.

Take a day off and just relax. Turn off the alarm clock. Cancel your appointments. Turn off the phone and ignore social media. Listen to the music that makes you feel wealthy and walk through your home. Pretend that you’ve made it; you’ve already achieved the life of your dreams.

Does your dream home contain empty take-out boxes scattered all over creation?

If not, then fix it.

Tidy the home of your future while you live in the home of your now.

Once you’re done with your quick clean-up, treat yourself to a long soak in the tub or an indulgent shower. Dress in your nicest comfy clothes and settle into your favorite spot.

For now, at this moment, you are wealthy. You’ve achieved your dream. You don’t have to go to the job. You’ve got food in your belly, clothes on your back, and your time is your own.

How will you spend it?

Perhaps wealthy you would like to research one of the ideas from your earlier brainstorming session? If so, then read a book or watch some videos on the subject. Whatever it is that you see wealthy you doing in a moment of peaceful down-time at home, do it the best that you can.

When you go to bed that night, know that you have lived the life of your dreams for a day. Savor the fact that, despite your current circumstances, they didn’t stop you from resting your body and opening your mind.

It sounds insane but it works. Taking the time to imagine the life you want to lead, to live in it now, where you currently are, will work wonders not only for your mood but for your future progress. It allows you to escape the ruts that you’ve fallen into, clear your head, and take those first tiny steps towards your dreams.

That was how I started down my path. At first, I took long soaks in the tub to hide from the misery of my life. Next, I started cleaning my home while my husband was away, pretending that I was free from my unhappy marriage and getting my life sorted.

In time I dreamed of a life where I could raise my kids without having to work in a public job. I started brainstorming ways to make it happen.

Since I loved to write and help people, I imagined a life where I could sit at home and raise my children in peace while I typed at my computer. I didn’t know how I would make that happen; I simply pretended that I was doing just that whenever I sat down to write a journal entry or whatnot.

Before I knew what hit me I had a successful website and a number of books published. Those books produced enough royalties for me to stop working entirely.

I started it all by dreaming.

I Have a Confession to Make

I had forgotten about those early days when all I could do was dream. I didn’t even realize until recently that those dreams were the first steps I took to create my reality. If not for dreaming about the life I wanted to lead, living it the best I was able in the moments I could, I would have never been inspired to start this website or write my first book.

Now that my kids are grown it is time for another dream. I’m living it now as I write this.

What do you dream?

Categories
self-improvement Success

The Art of Standing Firm

There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to stand firm in our decisions, when we have to straighten our shoulders and move forward despite opposition from others–and even ourselves.

These decisions can encompass anything. The details don’t matter; what matters is that you maintain your resolution.

The people around you may not understand what you are doing. They may attempt to tease or bully you into changing your mind.

Sometimes the enemy is yourself. You look at the process with dread or simply balk at the thought of focusing upon your goal. You can question the wisdom of your decision or even doubt your ability to follow through, delaying your start as you wait for the stars to align and the perfect moment to arrive.

We are all guilty of this.

I’ve done it personally more times than I can count.

While we cannot change our actions from the past, we can control our actions as we move forward. We can learn from those mistakes, grow stronger, and resolve not to make them again.

Like the oak tree, we too can stand firm. Each time we do, we grow stronger.

What is one decision in your life that you need to stand firm on? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
self-improvement Success

You Can’t Change Your Past

Every so often I encounter someone who shares with me their belief that they cannot be successful.

“I’d love to [insert dream here] but I can’t. My parents were abusive/poor/absent so I’ve got too much of a disadvantage.”

If it’s not some variation of that excuse, they claim that they got married or had kids too soon. Sometimes they’ve even spent time in jail or in mental health/rehab centers.

Many times they tell me that they’re too old to even try.

But you know what?

You can’t change your past but you can refuse to let it limit your future.

I was raised by alcoholics.

I helped my father in his bootlegging crimes.

I turned to alcohol after my father died and didn’t sober up until I discovered I was pregnant.

I had to carry two young children on a three mile journey to the grocery store whenever we needed food because my husband refused to help.

I was committed by that same husband after I made an escape attempt. He told them (among other things) that I’d attempted to kill one of my kids. I was so depressed after that I tried to kill myself.

But you know what? That’s the past.

I can’t change it.

Instead, I placed it behind me the best that I could and moved forward.

I escaped my marriage.

I built my writing business.

I became a stay-at-home single mother in order to raise my youngest child.

I now work to help others learn how to help themselves as I focus on the next step of my journey towards self-improvement.

Excuses are Easy

It would have been easy to throw up my hands and say “I can’t.”

It would have been easy to give in, spread my legs, and find a “good man” to take care of me. Heaven knows that enough of them have knocked on my door and hit on me over the years to establish that.

I could have said that due to the way I was raised that I didn’t have a chance; that I wasn’t raised to amount to anything.

I could have said that I was too scarred from my marriage to even get a job. My husband had me certified insane, after all.

I could have even said that I had my kids too soon and so all of my opportunities had passed.

Hell, I could say that I’m too old to go back to school now. I’m almost 50 so what’s the point?

Fighting is Hard

Every time you make a step forward, you win.

Every time you say “yes, this happened, but so what?” you win.

Every time you ignore the haters you win as well.

And every single time you prove the world wrong you really win.

Is it easy?

Nope.

But winning is worth the effort.

What part of your past do you want to move beyond? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Education self-improvement Success

How to Deal With the Demon of Doubt

After a long night at work I returned home to discover a surprise in my inbox:

“Congratulations! We are excited to inform you that your application has been reviewed and you can start studying at UoPeople in the upcoming term!”

I sat and stared at that email for an hour. I was accepted? Just like that?

They’re joking, right?

I logged into the website. It was real. While they were still processing the paperwork I’d submitted to prove that I was fluent in the English language, I had been accepted to study at their University.

I thought I would be excited. I thought I would shout my happiness to the entire world.

But I wasn’t.

I was terrified.

What in the world do you think you’re doing? My demons raged. You just committed two to four years of your life to acquiring a stupid piece of paper! By the time you get done, you’ll be so old that no one will want to hire you in an office job so you’re just throwing your money away. Just think! That $2,000 could be invested and net you about $200 a year! And just where do you think you’re going to get the time to do this, missy? You’ve got your job, your writing business, your personal investment studies…there is NO WAY you can handle all of this! It’s not like you haven’t tried before. How many times have you failed college in the past when you were younger and had the energy to spare? You’re too tired, you’re too old, and you’re too broke to even think about doing something this stupid. Stop chasing the rainbows!

Doubt = Fear

Every single doubt that we have is simply fear coming to the surface. Every single doubt comes from the negative words people have said to us in the past.

“You’re great at starting stuff but you never follow through; if it wasn’t for me you’d starve.”

“It’s a shame that child was even born. With the parents she was stuck with she’ll never amount to anything.”

“You might have book sense but you don’t have a bit of common sense.”

“I don’t know why you even bother; it’s impossible to get rich so you might as well enjoy what you’ve got right now!”

“You need to stop working so hard and get a good man to take care of you.”

The words may be different but the damage is the same. You internalize those doubts and every time you discover an opportunity to better yourself they come back to haunt you. They force you to question yourself just long enough for the opportunity to pass and you end up wishing that you’d made the leap too late.

How to Conquer the Demon of Doubt

While you may not be able to silence the demons completely there is something you can do to minimize their trauma.

All you have to do is analyze their objections one by one.

Two thousand dollars may net me $200 a year in passive income but a degree can help me acquire a job that pays considerably more than I can earn right now. Jobs that require an Associate’s Degree start at around $24,000 a year in this area. That is 150% more than my current wage. If I invest most of that extra 150% I will more than compensate for the loss of passive income now.

Two thousand dollars would allow me to escape the drudgery of manual labor. Considering how badly my shoulder aches after a busy day scanning at the register, how my feet sometimes swell painfully after my shifts, and the varicose veins that are starting to form on one leg, my body needs that reprieve. It may even allow me to extend my working years even further. Many of my compatriots aren’t physically able to continue doing manual labor into their 70s. Considering how hard I’ve used my body, there is a good chance I won’t be able to either. Because of this, if I don’t spend $2,000 now, the odds are high that another injury will doom me to spending the rest of my life begging for Disability payments.

I have no desire to spend my sunset years in poverty.

I’ve become so adept at managing my time that I know I am capable of handling a single class. I may have less time to blog. I may have less time to work on my book. I may have less time to hang out with friends and chat but I am confident that I can carve out the time for a single class.

As for the reasons I failed in the past no longer apply. I no longer have to choose between my family and myself. I’ve enough income that I can afford to take a class or two a semester if I pare down my investments a bit. I’m even due for another review over the next month so my income may even go up a bit.

As for the length of time it would take to complete the degree program I have decided not to worry about that. Instead, I choose to focus on the step that’s right in front of me: a single class. I’ll worry about the next steps when I get there, content in the fact that eventually I will reach my objective.

What reasons do you use to knock the demon of doubt away in your life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Education self-improvement Success

Winners are Losers Who Gave it One Last Try

I’ve failed many times over the years. I failed to be cautious one night and ended up pregnant with my first child.

I failed in my marriage.

I failed in my first business attempts.

I even failed in my first attempts to start a writing business.

But when I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and tried again, a future attempt inevitably led to success.

One of my myriad failures is concerning my education. I’ve failed several attempts at college. Every time I was forced to choose between my family and my education, my family won.

While I’ve consistently worked to educate myself using the materials I’ve had available, the dream of having an official college education never faded. While I’d not shared it on this website, I’d fully intended to make another attempt at college once I’d regained my financial freedom. I’d built in backup income streams to attain that goal. My plan was to eventually go into real estate as well as build up my writing business so that my income would not only continue to grow but I could pursue my dream of attaining a college education without money being a major concern.

The amazing thing about dreams and goals is that when you hold them close and work on them consistently, opportunities present themselves seemingly like magic.

The other night I encountered one of those opportunities. I stumbled upon the University of the People, an accredited online college that offers a number of degrees tuition-free. Students simply have to pay a $100 testing fee for the final exam in each course.

I ran the numbers in my head. Each semester is ten weeks long with five semesters in a year. Part-time students can take a single course each semester. By reserving $10 a week from my paycheck I could actually afford to go to college on my current income. If I reserved some money from next year’s income tax refund I may even be able to double up and take two classes starting next spring.

The concept was mind-blowing. I could afford to go to college right now! It would reduce the amount I have to invest each month, possibly change things so that I wouldn’t be able to actively invest on a monthly basis but that degree would open doors to higher paying jobs that are closed to me currently. I wouldn’t be able to invest as much in the short-term but in the long-term, the higher earning potential would more than make up the difference.

It would allow me to work smarter instead of harder as I trod the inevitable path towards my golden years.

I went to bed that night with a mind filled with possibilities. I tossed and turned as I analyzed the changes I would have to make to my current budget and schedule. As attractive as it seemed I didn’t want to leap in on an impulse. I’ve had my fill of impulsive failures.

Logic won out. While the thought of undertaking a multi-year journey towards a college degree is daunting I knew I could handle just one class. If I focused on just one class at a time instead of dwelling on the big picture I could attain my goal of a college education without driving myself insane.

That next morning I screwed up my courage and paid the application fee. While there is always a chance that I could be rejected at least I will know that I made the attempt.

I will know that I am still trying.

How do you deal with failure?

All of us have had failures in our lives. How we handle those failures defines us. Do we throw up our hands in surrender or do we step back, evaluate what we did wrong, and try again until we succeed?

When we’re presented with the opportunity to try again after a failure, do we allow it to pass by due to fear or do we seize that chance? Do we climb back on the horse after we’ve fallen off or do we resolve to never go riding again?

I am climbing back on the horse.

What are you going to do?

Categories
Finances self-improvement Success

The Accumulative Power of Small Steps

I recently achieved a milestone in my goal of restoring the older posts on this blog. By just uploading a single post a day I’ve managed to restore all of the posts from 2009.

It doesn’t take long to restore a single post. I can take care of it in moments before I go on with my day. Yet that tiny little bit of progress each day allows me to inch a bit closer to my ultimate goal.

I do the same thing with my finances. Today I calculated the gross amount of my last raise and transferred that amount into my emergency savings account. While the amount isn’t very much it adds up bit by bit along with the pennies I manage to save in my daily life.

Just by saving money a few pennies at a time and using those savings to invest in the stock market I’ve managed to go from absolute zero to an investment account containing several thousand dollars that provides an extra half months’ worth of passive income each year.

The average person laughs at the thought of baby steps. They believe that a single penny is worthless so they don’t bother to save it. They believe that writing a few words a day won’t ever result in a book that they could publish. If they can’t achieve their goals in a short amount of time they don’t even bother.

When the average person thinks of improvement they think that it’s the massive changes that make the difference but it is the opposite that holds the truth. Tiny little changes hold the keys to massive progress. As with money, those miniscule steps you can make in your day to day life will compound into massive results.

Today, instead of asking yourself how you can build an emergency savings account start tossing your spare change into a jar. As the jar fills, so your emergency account grows.

Instead of asking yourself how to complete a massive project now, pick one tiny thing that you can do each day and watch the progress build.

Don’t worry about the end goal. Just focus on what you can achieve now. The goal will take care of itself if you feed it with daily progress.

What is one thing that you can do each day that will take you closer to your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Inspiration

Counting the Shifts

Having experienced freedom in the past I am likely more spoiled than most. I know the pleasure that comes from waking up when you like and having the freedom to arrange your schedule as desired.

That is why on some days I dread going to work. Even as much as I enjoy my job I watch the clock tick closer to my shift with dismay.

I’ve figured out a way to handle that. I count the shifts until my next day off.

“Two more shifts,” I’ll tell myself as I groggily sip my coffee in the morning. “Two more shifts and I’m free for a day. I can do this. I can do anything I set my mind to. These next two shifts will take me closer to freedom. I can work a measly two shifts.”

When the going gets rough at work I remind myself that every penny I earn takes me that much closer to re-attaining my freedom. I want my freedom, don’t I? I can stick it out a shift or two in order to achieve my goal.

I don’t worry about the long view. I don’t allow myself to think about how long this might take. I focus on the shifts in front of me and keep moving forward.

Every single day I take one baby step closer to my goal. Before I leave for work I do a little bit on this website and work on my next book so when I become frustrated I can remind myself that I’m a little bit closer. Every single shift I remind myself that I will earn X amount of money in exchange for my time; if I guard my finances accordingly I’ll have that much more to invest so I’ll grow even closer.

Sometimes I even count the days until I can invest again or until the next round of dividends will hit my account.

I thought those little mental games were silly until this morning, when I awoke to find a text from a friend.

<Three more shifts,> the text read. <I can do three more shifts. This is going to be a good day for both of us.>

She signed it with a smiley at the end.

When you can’t find the motivation to continue, count the days until your next day off. Remind yourself of the little things you do that take you closer to your goal. You are the Turtle. Each day you may not make a lot of progress but that progress adds up with time.

One day you will wake up and realize that you’ve made it. Just by taking one step at a time, one day at a time you made it to the very end.

You can do this. I know you can, because I have faith in you.

Hang in there, my friend.

Categories
Finances Productivity Success

Why the Turtle Beats the Hare to Success

One of the blessings that come with age is patience. Time has a way of making you realize that instant wealth or success is a fairy tale concocted by marketers to place your cash in their pocket by taking advantage of your impatience.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses how mediocre companies develop long-lasting success. His research demonstrated that the companies that made sudden, drastic changes weren’t the ones who succeeded.

It was the companies that made tiny, incremental changes over time that achieved lasting success.

This principle applies to every single endeavor.

If your house is a pigsty, cleaning it from top to bottom might provide a rush of pleasure as you look upon your freshly cleaned home but it won’t stay that way for very long unless you change the habits that allowed your home to get out of control in the first place.

If your finances are a disaster, a spending moratorium may help you achieve breakeven and get caught up on your bills, but unless you alter your habits to the point where you routinely live beneath your means you are one splurge away from catastrophe despite your best efforts.

This is why the turtle always wins. The hare starts out at a rush, going full-tilt to defeat the challenge in one fell swoop. He may be able to achieve breakeven on his finances by not spending any money for a month. He may be able to deep clean his house in a weekend by tossing a bunch of crap out and scrubbing it from top to bottom. He may even be able to jump start his business income by following the tips in one of those get-rich-quick tutorials.

But none of the hare’s success will last for very long. By the time he completes the massive accomplishment of cleaning his house, catching up on his bills, or bringing in the first few dollars of business income he will be so exhausted he will be forced to take a break. During that break things will go back to what they were before he began.

The story ends differently for the turtle. They start very slow, focusing on one tiny aspect of the thing they want to change. They may make it a personal rule to scoop the litterbox once a day. They may start washing their dishes up as they use them. In their business, they may start out by writing one tiny article or blog post, or by investing a few dollars in the stock market every month. The goal they set for themselves may be so tiny that no one around them even notices at first. Those whom the turtle shares with may even laugh at his progress.

While everyone is clapping the hare on his back for his massive weight loss the turtle will be plucking away in the background, altering the habits that made him overweight one meal at a time. As the hare starts to regain the weight he lost in his drastic fast, the turtle will grow continually slimmer and maintain his smaller figure.

While the hare is out celebrating his business success with his buddies the turtle will be at home tinkering on another aspect of his business venture. The hare will look at his bank balance and realize that his income is dropping. He may get desperate, repeat the actions he did to generate the first flow of funds but then decide that it’s too much work and quit.

The turtle will still be plucking away, happy because his business is steadily growing.

I’ve seen this scenario play out more times than I can count in the writing business and in life. Friends who stopped spending money for a month, who ended up asking me for cash because they’d blown every penny they’d gained celebrating with a major purchase after. Acquaintances who quit their job after making a sudden success in a business venture ending up broke in a town far away because they took their eyes off of the prize for a moment too long.

One by one I’ve watched my writing and business friends throw up their hands and quit. I’ve listened to them rant about the unfairness of it all so many times that I can almost predict what the recent quitters are going to say before they open the chat box.

But I am the Turtle. I chugged away for years before I gained my first success, so when that initial flood of cash began to slow I made a few adjustments and just kept going.

It would have been easy to quit. I was tempted to do just that when I went back to working a public job. All of my writer friends were dropping like flies, going back to their day jobs because the Internet life “didn’t pan out.”

But I didn’t. Instead, I took a long, hard look at my life. I analyzed what I’d done right and what mistakes I had made. Instead of throwing my hands up in surrender I started making adjustments and kept going.

That slow, steady pace is quietly paying off. Month by month I can see a small uptick in my book sales. Month by month I can see a tiny increase in the readership of this website.

Month by month I can see my investments growing, building towards my ultimate goal bit by tiny bit. So far this month I’ve received $60 in dividends and more will arrive before the calendar flips.

This turtle isn’t going to rest on her laurels, however. This turtle will do the same thing she’s been doing since she started. She will keep her expenses as low as she comfortably can and continue her steady march towards lasting freedom.

Whatever you desire in life can be achieved by taking slow, steady steps. It’s not as glamorous as throwing out all of your stuff, going on a financial fast, or hitting the gym in a frenzy but if you want to make a lasting change in your life it is the only method that works.

Stop trying to imitate the hare. It’s the turtle that wins in the end.

Categories
Success

Frustrated? Stick to Your Plan

Last night Murphy’s Law seemed to reign at my job. I awoke this morning with the frustration still eating at me.

The details don’t matter. You’ve probably felt the same, that desire to just say “fuck it” and change your plan.

So what can you do when that desire hits?

You can do the same thing that I do.

You can stand tall, pull up your panties, and keep working towards your goals.

Every single day you need to do something to bring your dreams closer. Every single day you need to wake up and take one step towards your goals.

You may not see any results at first. Like the Chinese Bamboo, it can take years to see progress. Like the Chinese Bamboo, you need to feed and water your dreams every day.

And like the Chinese Bamboo, when the time comes, success will appear so suddenly that you will be amazed.

That was exactly what happened when I achieved my freedom for the first time. I had spent two years of my life writing nonstop as I struggled to support my family. I had almost given up. I had taken yet another public job making shit for pay and resigned myself to a life of struggle.

But I kept writing.

Despite the fact that I had resigned myself to the fact that I would always be forced to work at a public job I still kept working on my plan. Each and every day I wrote a little bit more. I wrote on this blog. I wrote on my books. I would not allow myself to go to bed at night until I had done at least one thing, had taken one step towards my goal.

You know what? It worked. One day I woke up and checked on my progress. My jaw bounced off of the floor. There was more than enough book royalties coming to me to cover three months of living expenses.

I was finally free.

A dream that I had first allowed myself to dream back at the turn of the century had finally come to fruition. A dream that I hadn’t seriously started working towards until 2009 had become reality with a suddenness that left me amazed.

Now I have a new dream. In order to achieve that dream I find myself in yet another public job, earning less as a manager than I would make as an entry-level burger flipper at the local McDonalds and right now that grates, especially after the frustration of last night.

It would be easy to throw in the towel. It is hard when you look around and you feel as if you are barely making progress. You look around, questioning yourself as you wonder if you made the right decision.

Those are the moments that define you. Those are the moments when you discover if you are dedicated to your plan. How you move through those moments determines whether you are destined for success or failure.

I know what I intend to do. In fact, I’m doing it right now.

Are you?