Tag Archives: life coaching

A Message to Late Bloomers: Why You Should Never Give Up

DSC_0598“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” –George Eliot

Hello friend,

POTENTIAL. What a wistful, fantastic, cursing, disappointing, and utterly pregnant word!

I have spent much of my life pondering this loaded concept. Many times have I thought or written, “The thing that saddens me most is wasted potential.” It has always broken my heart to see people settle or “underachieve” what I believed their potential to be (as though I had any right to be the judge of such things). I have, no doubt, written many times about it in my journal.

Here is one such instance, a small piece of a long entry I wrote one rainy night in Spain way back in 1997. I had been carrying on about how sometimes goals don’t push me but rather serve as limits to my growth, and I made the link as follows:

“It is all about what is possible. It leads to, or perhaps is the same as, the discussion of potential. In fact it is the same. There is that saying that God’s gift to you is your talent or potential, and your gift back to God is what you do with it. The saddest thing in the world is wasted potential (a.k.a. wasted gifts, wasted talent). I speak of this at every level, from mathematics to the ability to love to being the one to lead the big change in the world towards salvation. We must never settle! Never! That is the greatest tragedy. It pains my soul to see it. I see a girl like Marty in Beautiful Girls or Leah, and I just want to grab ahold of them and shake them, and simply say, “Never settle. There is so much inside of you. Do not be less than you can be.” It is everywhere, but I can see it in the girls of North Dakota, never seeing past the high school boyfriend, never giving themselves a chance. The tragedy. I hate to conjure that look of dead eyes in a woman that once had such a propensity for life. We must never settle!”

I have been pretty passionate about this idea over the years. I think that is what drew me to Life Coaching. You see, people don’t come to a Life Coach to be healed or fixed or made whole again. They don’t need all of their problems solved. No, they arrive whole and say, in essence, “I want to be my best. Let’s partner up to get me there!”  That makes my heart jump.

 Of course, the person on whom I have spent by far the most time and energy pondering, assessing, diagnosing, prescribing, monitoring, consoling, encouraging, and journaling about is myself. Like most people, I am probably my harshest critic. But, I am also the person I look to—usually via my journal—as the last one to believe in me and my potential when it feels like everyone else has forgotten or lost interest.

I have always believed that I have tremendous potential. I have daydreamed the biggest dreams of all for myself, things like truly saving the world with my ideas and actions. I have believed, at least once upon a time, that that power was in me.

Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall! As I said, with great gifts come great responsibilities. Because I believed I had such magnificent gifts, my disappointment in myself—not to mention the guilt and shame—in not having made much of an impact on the world has been quite profound. I cannot believe, sometimes, how far off-track I have gone from where I once seemed to be heading. It is, when I take the time to fully consider it, quite disheartening. I have failed to honor my gifts by not using them to their fullest good. I have—shame of all shames—not lived up to my potential.

If you are at all like me and are wishing you would have done better, I have something to tell us both today:

It’s not over, friend! It isn’t. It is just starting, actually. Right now. In this beautiful moment. You have the amazing opportunity to start fresh and be better. No, not just better. You can be the person you have always—or even just once upon a time—imagined yourself to be. Look, I am not saying you are going to fly to the moon or play in the NBA; some dreams are time-specific, and you can actually miss your window. That stinks, I get it. But you are not too late for most things. Not even the DOING things. Want to learn the guitar (I do!)? Want to learn to speak Italian? Want to be better at your job? Want to get trained for a new job? Almost anything you can think of, you can still do. I wanted to have written several books by now. I haven’t. That’s disappointing, sure. But it’s not a death sentence. I still want to write them. So, I am using my failure up to this point to motivate me to be more focused going forward. Einstein said, “You never fail until you stop trying.” So get up, acknowledge that you haven’t hit every shot so far, and get focused on what you are going to be starting NOW. Notice I said “be.” Like I said, you can still DO most anything, too. You can start today, and things will still take lots of time and persistence. And there is value in the striving, of course. But the thing that is definitely yours for the taking in this very moment is your BEING. No matter how you have been so far in your life—selfish, impatient, unforgiving, greedy, unfocused, undisciplined, mean, weak, timid, insecure, afraid—you can choose to BE better and achieve it instantly. It is not as easy as it sounds—you have to KEEP choosing it over and over and over—but it is that simple. JUST CHOOSE TO BE HOW YOU WANT TO BE, AND KEEP CHOOSING IT. That is self-improvement. The DOING stuff will follow; I guarantee it. Imagine how choosing to be BRAVE would translate in your life. How would FORGIVING look on you? Picture yourself KIND. Try on AUTHENTIC (I love that one!). You can be what you see! Choose to be. This itself is an act of courage. But it is the greatest gift you will ever give yourself. So do it. Be courageous. Stand up for the greatness that you KNOW is inside you. Stop playing small. Sure, own your shortcomings. But don’t let them own you. Own your past. Just don’t live there. The old stuff doesn’t define you. YOU get to do that, starting now. And with every NOW that shows up, you get to redefine. So, make sure you define yourself as amazingly as you really are. Name it and claim it. It is time to play a bigger game. And the game starts NOW!!!

Okay, I admit that it feels much better to think about my life that way than it does when I lose myself in disappointment and regret for all I haven’t been and done. It is probably time to take my own advice. After all, despite my disappointment in my past, I truly have never stopped believing there is greatness in me. I think it is time that I rise to it. Better late than never!

How about you? How have you done so far in relation to your potential? Open up your journal and start with a little report card of your life to this point compared to the expectations you had for it. Have you done the things you believed you could or should do? Have you been the kind of person you believed you would be? What things have you lived up to? Where have you fallen short? Of what are you most disappointed in yourself? Did you feel like you were one of the people I addressed my message to? Can you let the past go? Now, change gears. Write about your potential. What kinds of things do you see yourself doing? If your best self showed itself, what characteristics would you have? How different would that feel to you? Try them on! Imagine the feelings. How is it? Do you feel elevated? Happier? Do you believe that you have the power to choose those characteristics in this moment? Are you ready to make that choice? How much better do you choose to be? How excited are you about all of this? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you ready to bloom?

Own your magnificence,

William

P.S. If today’s message resonated with you, I am so glad! Please pass it on. Let’s bloom together!!!

All-In, or Hedge Your Bets? A Question for Dreamers

DSC_0769“Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make.–Rick Warren

Hello friend,

In the questions I wrote to you at the end of last week’s letter, I somehow scratched the surface of a topic I have been denying for a very long time. That scratch, however small, has broken open this week, revealing a massive abscess that has been festering far too long in the buried depths of my mind, where I had tried to keep it. Denial is a powerful force, and despite my philosophy of life being based on self-knowledge and the complete ownership, acceptance, and celebration of who I am, I have used the cancerous powers of denial to escape accountability for failing at my biggest of dreams. In that failure, I have been false to my Truth, not allowing the best parts of me to shine through to be used to their fullest to serve the world.

I have been frustrated with the Universe. I have grumbled about the unfairness of Life, how it does not allow me enough time to pursue my passions fully in order to help me maximize my potential. If I can blossom—I have often thought to myself—what I have to give can help to “save the world” and make for a more peaceful, authentic, and happy existence for so many. But the Universe—with its mere 24 hours in a day and bills to pay and soccer practices to get to and such—is not supporting me in that. It is not making it easy on me. It is not, as it turns out, a wish-granting factory. That is extremely annoying to me. It makes it feel like a conspiracy against my dreams, with all of my efforts to advance being thwarted by the constrictions of time, money, and obligations.

So it was that I arrived at the last paragraph of last week’s letter to you, which was about whether or not I had moved any closer to my dreams in the last year. The pertinent questions started flowing out of my mind, things I wanted to ask you so that you might dig deep and know yourself more fully. Then, out of my fingers came the question that opened up the long-festering issue that, in a lot of ways, defines my existence: Does it make any sense in this crazy-busy world of ours to have more than one thing that you are really passionate about and want to give your time and energy to? It stopped me in my tracks. It was like I walked face-first into a wall. I couldn’t help but just stare at the question in front of me. Psychologically, my defenses started to go up. “The question is for the reader. Just move on. Finish the letter! But here I sit, one week later, and I haven’t moved on.

I think I have written this story before, but it bears repeating. A few years ago, when I was in the midst of my revival of my passions and really full of energy to finally start living my purpose on this Earth before it is too late, I used to read a blog every day called “The Daily Love” by Mastin Kipp, that was all about those kinds of thoughts. Well, one day, Mastin posted a video of himself as the subject of an interview by his girlfriend. At the end, she asked him if he had one thing he hadn’t said or would really like to say to his audience. He turned directly into the camera and, after a warning to remove the children from the room, said, “F*#%ing ditch Plan B!! Go all-in on Plan A! Plan B is a f*#%ing distraction from your dreams. When you go all-in on Plan A, not only will Plan A happen, it will be better, because what The Divine has in store for you is so much greater than you can possibly imagine and it’s not going to look anything like you want. Please ditch Plan B.

It was like a jolt of electricity went right up my spine. The goosebumps were immediate. He was talking to me. He found my weak spot. I thought of my writing dreams immediately. I was energized and eager to go all-in on the spot. But then the fears, doubts, and excuses started creeping in: “Yeah, but I have kids to feed and bills to pay; I can’t just go ALL-in.I hated that thought, but I gave it credence. So I kept on in my usual ways.

Sure, I pressed harder on my dreams, but I kept them dispersed pretty widely. I started my Life Coaching training, which is directly related to my big dream of writing to change people’s lives. I took a career move that would reduce stress and distractions and allow me more time with my kids and more energy for my other pursuits, including writing. Then, I also started my skin care business, which was intended to free up more time and energy in the long run for the writing. All of these things have been positives in theory—they speak to my heart and are intended to help the cause—but they also have taken up tons of time and energy. As I look at them now, I can see that, at their core, they are my Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D. They are safety nets. Enjoyable and meaningful safety nets, but still, at the end of the day, just safety nets.

I have been dodging this issue of just going all-in on Plan A for all these years behind my justification that I need to keep guaranteed money coming in so the bills can be paid. It’s a legitimate-sounding excuse, and I have clung to it with all my rationality. And hey, maybe I still should. Is it selfish to take a financial risk for my family in order to pursue my personal dream? How does one give himself permission for that? Is it brave to do so, or merely self-indulgent?

I am wondering, though, if it is just plain cowardice that keeps me from narrowing my options to Plan A/writing only. Am I scared that if I go all-in and can’t make it go, that I will have blown all of my options and left my family without income? Or maybe I am scared that failing at my biggest dream will be a devastating blow to my ego, as I will have no excuses if I have focused all my energies on it. Now I have built-in excuses because I don’t “have” time to devote myself fully to the writing. What I am doing is still not making my dream happen, but I guess I am making that more palatable by bleeding slowly out rather than being bombed to bits by going all-in and failing. The more I think about it, the more cowardly this seems. It is weak. I know there is the family excuse—and I could stomach this course much less easily if I was single—but that is not sufficient.

So, what am I going to do? Is my shame from the admission of cowardice going to be enough to get me to change course, to throw caution to the wind, eliminate my other interests and potential income sources, and go single-mindedly at my writing as though there is no other option for me? Honestly, I don’t know if I can do that. I hate how scared I am about staying financially afloat. On the other hand, I hate how far I feel from making my big dream come true. And frankly, I am greedy. I want to be able to pursue all of my passions and interests at the same time. I have said before that I am spoiled. I feel like there should be time for everything that I want. I understand that I probably have more hobbies, curiosities, and passions than most people, and darn it, I want the Universe to accommodate the way it made me. I don’t want to “be realistic” and narrow my allowances to only one pursuit because that is all the clock says there is time for. I want to be me: idealistic, optimistic, and fully believing that I am going to change the world with more than one of my gifts. Perhaps I am delusional. Perhaps the combination of my spoiled nature, my greed, and my delusions will keep me from ever going all-in on my biggest dream and thus keep me from ever really succeeding in the way I imagine that I will. But maybe this letter has been the beginning of something for me. Maybe in finally stepping out of my denial and facing this issue head-on for the first time, I will actually make a move toward “reality” and narrow my focus to writing only. Perhaps it is not a bridge too far for me. I am glad to have at least begun the negotiations.

How about you? Have you gone all-in on your biggest dream, or do you spread yourself thin amongst other things that don’t speak to your soul as loudly and clearly? Open up your journal and think about your version of reality and what that allows you to do. What is your Plan A? When you close your eyes and imagine yourself in your dream job and giving your gifts to the fullest, what do you see? How dedicated are you to this vision now? Are you either living it or making your best efforts to see to it that you will get there as soon as possible? If not, why not? What holds you back? Is it the usual trappings of a secure job and needing to keep a certain lifestyle going, or is it a lack of self-belief? Do you believe that if you put all of your eggs in the basket of your biggest dream, that you would succeed at that dream? How sure are you, either of failing or succeeding? Could your gift make the world a better place? Does your answer to that question influence how passionate you are in pursuing it? How much denial do you live with around this issue of your dream and your life purpose? If it is true that most of us are not doing well in the pursuit of our passions but have instead settled for something “safer,” doesn’t that suggest that we must live pretty deep in denial? After all, how well could we live with ourselves if we consciously ignored our calling? Not well, I am guessing. So, back to my original question: how many passionate pursuits do you think we are allowed in this lifetime? Is it best just to stick to one? What is one thing you can do today that moves you closer to your Plan A? What are some aspects of your Plan B or C or D that you are willing to give up in order to put more resources into your Plan A? What is the worst that could happen by going all-in on Plan A? Could you live with that most negative outcome? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are YOU ready to go all-in on you? 

You are worth your best,

William

P.S. If this post spoke to you and made you think deeper about who you are, please share it with others who might appreciate it. Let’s raise self-awareness together! Thank you.

The Birthday Question: Am I Any Closer To My Dreams This Year?

DSC_1153“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.–H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Hello friend,

It’s my birthday weekend! In the midst of celebrating with my family and the accompanying sugar coma, my birthday tends to be a contemplative time, too. I think a lot about how my life is going, highlights and lowlights from the previous year, and what more I want to do before my time on Earth runs out. One thing I never really wonder about anymore is how happy I am. I haven’t had to question that in many years. I am aware of it, of course, because of my daily journaling, but it’s pretty clear to me that my happiness runs deep. With that question not weighing on my mind, I have found myself this weekend pondering a different idea. The issue I really want to settle up with myself on is this: With all of my passion and my blog posts about getting people to identify their dreams and take steps to live them, have I moved any closer to my OWN dreams since my last birthday?

Hmmm…that’s a tough one. Well, maybe it’s not so tough to figure out, but it is almost certainly going to be tough to accept the truth of the answer. On first blush, I would say that I haven’t moved anywhere, that my dreams are just as far away on this birthday as they were on my last. After all, I am still not making any money as a writer. Or as a speaker. Or as a coach. Okay, this exercise is already depressing me! It can’t be as bad as it looks on the surface. Or can it? I actually feel better about where I’m headed than what the surface says, so there must be something to be found with a deeper look.

Because I need to hear some good news after that dreary peek at the surface, I am going to start with the positives. First and foremost, my passion for my kids and to be the best father I can be is going quite well. I am working completely around their schedules, and we are getting tons of quality time. That is my biggest win by far. I’ll take it! That one is sort of in a separate category, though, different—but should it be???—from my career aspirations and the other drumbeats of my soul. So, I am claiming it as a definite positive but keeping it in its own discussion for now.

How about the rest of those hopes and dreams? Well, at my last birthday, I was early in my first class in my new pursuit: Life Coaching. How has that venture progressed? On the positive side, I worked very hard for several months, learned a lot, and greatly improved my coaching. And I loved the work and the difference it made in people’s lives. Yeah! On the downside, as Summer approached and Life got busier than I wanted it to, instead of doing my usual routine of trying to do everything but not having enough time to do anything well, I actually made the conscious decision to put my training and business start-up on the back burner while other things took center stage. Even though I know what my next class choice is—I even bought the textbook already—I haven’t felt free enough to pull the trigger on enrolling yet. So, on the Coaching front, I am mostly giving myself a failing grade because of the way I am currently stalled. It is disappointing.

I guess that when trying to determine how well I have done in a year in my big dream areas—my big rocks–it takes a multi-dimensional perspective. It is not just about where I am in relation to the goal. I must also take into consideration which direction I am heading and how much momentum I have going that direction. With the Life Coaching, for example, I actually made a lot of progress from where I was a year ago, but right now I don’t feel so good about it because I am essentially stalled out, carrying no momentum in the direction of my goal.

How about my big dream: writing? Well, one thing that is conclusively positive is that I have worked consistently hard at getting these letters out to you each week, building up the library of posts nearer to the level of potentially creating a book out of them one day. I quite like some of them, and I definitely feel like Journal of You is going in the right direction. Yeah!

My other major writing project—what I call “TJP”, short for The Journal Project—is a different story altogether. This labor or love has sat dormant for much of the year due to time constraints, which truly pains my heart on a daily basis. I am miles and miles from my goal. That stinks! On the other hand, I have been more diligent about it in recent weeks and am ever more determined that it is a worthwhile endeavor. So, while the position is terrible, the direction and momentum are trending positive, which somehow makes me feel pretty good about it. (As it turns out, I find that the direction/momentum thing holds more sway over my attitude than does my actual proximity to the goal. I could be right near the goal, but if I am not feeling myself going passionately that way at the moment, I don’t feel good about my situation. But even if I am only at the beginning of a long haul—and TJP is a very long haul—if I am rolling and believing, I am loving that situation.)

I have tried so hard to be single-minded on these priorities and not allow for distractions and laziness to creep in. My dreams don’t suffer those well at all. Time is of the essence, and I hate when I am not on task. However, somehow a wildcard entered my life this year and threw everything for a loop, stealing time and energy from the other big rocks that I have mentioned (it reminds me of the old Allen Saunders quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.). My skincare business seemed to just fall into my lap, and I have been wrestling with it ever since. On the one hand, I am resentful of it for stealing that time and energy from my more obvious dreams. On the other hand, I can’t help but see that it has the potential to return all of that time and energy—not to mention income and fulfillment—back to me in the future. So, it is a tough one for me, as I am not at all a compromiser and hate to see my other priorities get sacrificed in the least. And where am I with this one anyway? Well, it was not at all in my life on my last birthday, so by default you could say I am way far into it and doing well. In reality, I have a long ways to go before I feel I am doing well with it. And while I am headed in the right direction, momentum is tough to come by. The jury is out.

So, am I closer to my dreams here on my 43rd birthday than I was on my 42nd, or am I just a year closer to the grave? Maybe some of each. On the Life Coaching front, I am actually closer but am feeling further away. On my writing, I am closer, but not nearly as close as I hoped I would be. Depending upon one’s perspective, my glass could easily appear either half-full or half-empty. The results of my wildcard may determine to a great degree which view is correct, but I am going to go with the positive side anyway. Though the big results are not there yet, it has never been more clear to me that I am working on things that speak to my soul and are going to be of service to others. That means the world to me. And even though I feel the frustration and deep disappointment of leaving important pursuits out of my schedule, I am comforted by the fact that the tasks battling for my time and attention are things that I love to do. So, yes, maybe I am a little bit closer to my dreams on this birthday. I will just keep following my heart, one grinding step at a time. Surely my dreams will materialize along the way if I just keep going. Right???

How about you? How much closer have you moved toward your hopes and dreams in the past year? Open up your journal and give yourself a little Year in Review. Relative to your biggest dreams and the life you have imagined, where were you one year ago? Were you only beginning to consider your dreams, or were you already living the dream? What has happened since? Have you taken any bold steps or a giant leap of faith, or have yours been baby steps? Have you taken steps backward? Toward which dream have your biggest strides been made? How many different “big dream” categories do you have? Does it make any sense in this crazy-busy world of ours to have more than one thing that you are really passionate about and want to give your time and energy to? How willing are you to put one of your dreams on the back burner to pursue the others? How long are you able to neglect one of your big dreams before it starts to affect you, before you start feeling guilty or antsy or depressed? In relation to your big dreams, where do you think you will be next year compared to where you are now? A lot closer? A little? “Further away” is NOT one of your choices! Dreams give us hope. The pursuit of our dreams gives us life. It is my deepest hope that you are in hot pursuit of yours. Are you? Leave me a reply and let me know: Have you closed the gap on your dreams this year?

Don’t ever stop,

William

P.S. If this post resonates with you, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share it with your family and friends via social media or old-fashioned word-of-mouth. My hope is to positively impact as many people as possible every week, and I need your help to do that. Thanks in advance for your support.

How to Change and Still Be Yourself

DSC_0405“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anaïs Nin

Hello friend,

I have been at war with myself lately. I seem to be constantly wrestling with these questions: “Should I or shouldn’t I???” “Do I dare?” “Is this overkill?” “Am I just being annoying?” “Are my friends and acquaintances losing more respect for me by the day?” You may be wondering what vitally important topic I could be feeling this much angst and drama about. What could be so troubling to my usually-easygoing mind? Is it Love? Money? Freedom? World Peace? No, it’s bigger. It’s much bigger. It’s FACEBOOK!

I have shared with you before that I have been embarking on some pretty major career changes in the past year. My “regular job” has entirely changed fields. In addition, I have embarked on two new career ventures on my own. You see, one of the things I have come to know about myself—it has become crystal clear in the last couple of years—is that I should not have a boss. I do much better working for myself: setting my own standards and not having to answer to anyone or be let down by anyone. I crave independence.

Of course, as much as I want to do my own thing, I also have no real entrepreneurial spirit. PROBLEM! I am not inclined toward sales at all, as I have no interest in making people uncomfortable or telling them how great I am. It just doesn’t feel like my nature. I am inclined to help people, to make their lives better, to give them more choices and more freedom. I am inclined toward partnering with people to reach their highest potential. That really lights me up. That is who I am.

This calling to help people live their best lives provoked me to start Journal of You and these weekly letters to you. It also led directly to my two new businesses. The first one seems an obvious choice for my skills and calling: Life Coaching. The second one takes a little more explaining. I have become an independent consultant for a premium skin care company. The wrinkle here—pardon the pun—is that it involves direct sales. I have to actually put myself out there and tell people about the products and business opportunity if I am going to achieve that financial freedom that I long for. Argh!

It is just SO difficult for me to do that! I do not like salespeople. Not at all, I mean. When I spoke to my brother last month about this job and told him it involved talking to my friends and family about these products, he said, “Whenever a friend of mine approaches me with anything like that, it just makes my skin crawl.” Me, too. I am super cheap. I hate spending money. Thus, it makes me doubly uncomfortable when someone I care about asks me to spend money, because then obligation and guilt enter the equation. It is difficult to say no, but if I don’t, I may resent the entire experience and the friend later. So, I mostly just avoid people selling anything of any kind. And now, that includes me.

It probably sounds like the easy and obvious answer is to just quit this business and focus on the Life Coaching and the writing. And sure, I might be less stressed if I did that. But there is a problem: I actually believe in it. I do. The products work like nothing I have ever seen before, and the way they improve people’s confidence is so uplifting and right up my alley. If it were only for those things, I would definitely still quit the business without a thought. However, there is something much bigger going on with this company. There is a chance to directly help people make astounding shifts in their future by joining as a consultant (a.k.a. salesperson). I have seen a few family members and friends, within a couple years’ time, change their lives to the point of having total time and financial freedom. I have seen others make smaller changes, like going part-time and getting to stay home with their kids, paying for college funds, going on dream vacations, or retiring their spouse. The examples go on, but the key is that this business, like Life Coaching, taps into my calling to help people live their best lives. I truly believe that it is a gift and a way out and up for so many people.

So, I am stuck. I have world’s biggest aversion to selling, and yet I really want to give the people in my circle this amazing opportunity. And frankly, I want to give myself the opportunity. I want to succeed in the way that I have seen others succeed, because I am desperate for that time and financial freedom for me and my family. The way I will get that freedom is by sharing this business with others. It is the beauty of it. It is also the curse of it in my case. Sharing it with others—educating them–is a huge deal, because people need the tools to make an informed decision that could be the key to their family’s future. It is big stuff.

So, on one hand, I have something that feels like it is completely not in my nature. On the other hand, it is exactly who I am. I am torn. This is my own civil war. And this is where Facebook comes in. I have vowed to myself to only ever post things that are authentic to me, that feel like a representation of who I am. The way my skin care business runs is by connecting to my network, most commonly through Facebook. So, I suppose the crux of my war is, “Can I post about my business—i.e. sell—and still be authentic?” This question causes me much stress. I guess that, for me, it represents a much bigger question: How do you “Be Yourself” while trying to grow and change your life? I think of the quote, “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” I know I have to go well beyond my comfort zone in order to achieve the goals and lifestyle I am shooting for. My challenge is stay true to my principles and my purpose while taking my activities past my normal limits.

Up until now, I have been very hesitant about posting about my business. Maybe once per week was all I dared to do for fear of feeling like a phony or having my Facebook friends think I was only on there to sell to them. What I am coming to see now, however, is that I have just been playing small. I haven’t been true to myself, because I actually want people to know about this company. I think it would be a great service to them to get involved in it. It could change their lives. Holding back for fear of their opinions of me was just me being weak and inauthentic. So, I am now beginning the process of convincing myself it is okay to share about the company, as long as that is not all I share. I want to put my other passions out there, too: my kids, Journal of You, and maybe even some Life Coaching ideas as my practice develops. As always, I want my posts to share who I am and also offer something that uplifts the people seeing them, whether that is the smiles of my children or an amazing story of transformation on one of my skin care posts. Happiness and positive change are central to who I am, and I am beginning to realize that it is okay for me to share that in whatever form it takes on a given day. In the end, authenticity must captain the ship.

Amidst all of this doubt and insecurity about posting and sharing transformation stories on Facebook, I received a message last week that put the wind back into my sails. It was from an old high school buddy whom I had not heard from in over twenty years. The essence of the message was this: “I noticed your posts and shared them with my wife. It is time for at least one of us to escape the rat race somehow. Do you have time to talk with her?” It blew me away, truly. One of these posts–that I had so tortured myself over–had gotten through to someone! A few days later, she became one of my business partners and was so excited about her future possibilities. I was absolutely thrilled to have had a small part in what will be a huge event in the story of her life. My purpose was being fulfilled! I could feel that. I was finding my bearings just outside my comfort zone. A new normal was being established. I was alive and well—and completely myself—at my growing edge.

How about you? Where is the end of your comfort zone? Open up your journal and think about the purpose of your life and the fears that keep you from living it. What makes up the real you? What do you believe is your life purpose? What is the best version of yourself? What fears or insecurities keep you from living that purpose and that best life? What gives those fears so much power? How much do you fear looking bad (or fake or dishonest or whatever) in the eyes of others? Why do these people have so much power over you? Have they earned it? Name some examples of times when you have stepped out of your fears and into your purpose. How did it feel? Exhilarating? Liberating? How far out of your comfort zone did you have to go to get there? Was it worth the trip? I think it is true that the people who make it their norm to chase their limits and expand their comfort zone are the most vibrant and successful people. Do you agree? If so, why do you think most of us don’t dare go out on that limb very often? Do you? How true to yourself are you? On a scale of one to ten, how authentic are you? Do you think if you faced your fears and stepped out of your comfort zone more often, that your authenticity number would go up? What is one thing you can do today to take on your fears in the service of living your purpose? I dare you to do it! Leave me a reply and let me know: How can you make a big change and still be yourself?  

Be the one and only YOU,

William

Becoming Okay With BUSY

DSC_0235“I don’t envy ‘busy’. Busy means having a schedule, not living life. What I really covet is leisure and peace of mind. Those who have both, have it all.” –Donna Lynn Hope

Hello friend,

Being busy is becoming like being a slave to your smartphone and disconnected from real interactions with humans. These are supposedly the defining characteristics of we Westerners in the modern age. This is what the older generations shake their heads at us about. This is what yoga teachers, preachers, and bloggers try to cure us of. We are overscheduled, they say. We don’t take time to stop and smell the roses, much less to plant and tend them as they grow. They say we are buried in our screens and always on the go-go-go because we have lost the ability to make essential human connections, especially within ourselves. We go because, they say, we fear what we would find in the stillness of leisure and quietude. We are made to feel guilty for our busy lifestyles.

I admit it: I have bought into all of the guilt-mongering. I feel bad for how busy I am. I arrive at the end of each day and the end of each week feeling as though I have somehow failed in my duties as a human being because I didn’t build some leisure into the schedule, some time to completely shut off my brain and relax. I see all the posts on Facebook about the many great TV series that everyone else seems to be binge-watching. I hear about sitting around after work having a glass of wine. My brother-in-law takes long naps almost every day. When these tales of leisure arrive at my brain, it simply does not know how to process them. It is like a foreign language to me. Having that kind of time available to burn on casual pastimes just doesn’t compute. Idleness truly blows my mind.

It is not as though I feel any disdain for all of the people who are incorporating idle leisure into their daily routine—not at all—but rather that I am in awe of them. I am inevitably left asking myself, “How do you do that???” I just cannot comprehend how there is time available for that when I seem to be rushing from one task to the next from the moment I wake up in the morning to the moment I start drifting off at my desk and have to lug myself up the stairs to bed to prepare for the next day’s gauntlet. I suppose I am a bit jealous of the television watchers, wine drinkers, and nappers—leisure sounds quite lovely, actually—but I am more dumbfounded than anything else.

It is not just the question of, “Where does the time come from?” Even amidst people’s busy lives, for most it seems there are hours before or after work when the magic happens. I guess it is more about, “How does your conscience allow you to take that time for leisure, for idleness?” As I write that, I can see that this is truly the rub for me. The conscience. That little character on my shoulder—I can’t tell if he has a pitchfork or a halo—must have killed his counterpart, because I only seem to be receiving one impulse. That is, to keep plugging away. Do the next thing on the list. Become more efficient. Don’t waste time. Learn. Grow. Improve yourself. Do it. Do it! DO IT!!! The message is relentless. That little guy sure is persistent!

So I go, and I go, and I go some more. All day. Every day.

Don’t mistake me: I don’t want to make it seem as though it is a miserable slog to get through. It isn’t as though I am not doing things just for me or taking care of myself. I really am. I get some exercise. I write in my journal every day. I write this weekly letter to you. I spend a ton of time with my kids, whom I adore. And even though my occupation is not exactly my dream job—I am working on that, too, of course—it works great with my kids’ schedules and gives me the opportunity to fill the rest of my day with so many other things that are important to me. I am quite spoiled, frankly.

But still, each one of my many wonderful things must be done. I must get the exercise; it is non-negotiable. I must have all of that time with my kids until they fall asleep at night. And then, I must write in my journal. I must keep plugging away at starting my new businesses. I must get some pages read before I fall asleep. I must write this letter to you on time every week without fail. These things are all very difficult to squeeze into each day, and I inevitably fail and feel guilty for that failure. It is an endless cycle.

And then there is the long list of things I really, really want to get onto the Must-Do List. These are things that I truly believe are important enough that I should do every day—call it the Should-Do List–but that I cannot seem to make onto the Must-Do List, and because that list is already overfull, these items never seem to make it onto the day’s docket. Meditation, which I find to be extremely important, is on the Should list. There are a million books on this list, including the hundreds on my shelves. I have always longed to learn the guitar, and I even have the instrument and instruction manual in my office. That should be done, even just a few minutes a day. I should make much more time for Life Coaching sessions. I definitely should enroll in some new classes. I should hang out with my wife more. The list goes on and on. And, oh yeah, I should build in some time for leisure.

Ah, leisure. There it is again. As part of my Life Coach training, I had to receive coaching from my peers. The only topic that I could ever think of was, “How do I maintain my ambition for self-improvement but also build leisure into my schedule to achieve some sort of life balance?” The only allowance I ever seemed willing to grant myself was to carve out one night per week to hang out with my wife after the kids went to bed, to watch a movie or play a board game or whatever. I figured that would kill the two proverbial birds with one stone by combining the marriage time and the leisure time, thereby eliminating this built-up guilt from living an unbalanced life. It worked! For about two weeks. Then I drifted back into my usual busy-ness and imbalance. And then the guilt about the busy and imbalance.

What can I say? I think that what I am coming to, though, is letting go of the guilt for being busy. I mean, it is not as though my kids are overscheduled and going like crazy every day. And it’s not as though I am busy with useless things. I am busy doing the things that I love (minus the day job, maybe). I am in constant pursuit of my dreams and self-improvement. That can’t be the worst thing in the world, right? Yes, I know I have to do better about getting more of those Should-Dos—which includes some pretty leisurely things, like the guitar and the meditationonto the Done list. I know I have to make that time with my wife. But I also have to make peace with the idea that I will never stop trying to learn, grow, and improve. I will be busy until the day I die in the feverish pursuit of my dreams. I realize more and more every day—with so much help from my journal—that I am just hooked up this way. I landed on this Earth hard-wired for ambition and personal growth; it is not something I can undo. So what if it keeps me feeling more busy than everybody else? I am learning to live with that. What I want is to feel authentic, true to myself and my purpose. I could try sitting around this evening drinking chardonnay and watching “Orange Is The New Black” or “Game of Thrones”, but I know that no matter how great those things are, I would find myself stressing about wasting my time and how many other things I am missing out on that are more important to me. In the end, I have to be me, even if Me is a guy whose daily To-Do List is longer than the day itself.

How about you? How busy are you? Open up your journal and think about the role of dreams and ambition in your life. How ambitious are you? Are you constantly striving to improve your life, or are you pretty content where you are now? Of your non-working “spare” time, how much of it do you spend on personal growth versus leisure activities? What are your favorite ways to pass the time? As someone who knows none of the current television shows or movies, do you have any recommendations to me that I could make my one guilty pleasure each week? How much do you wrestle with yourself about the way you spend your time? Are you ever bored or can’t think of anything to do? Of course, my first impulse is to ask “What is that like?” because I simply cannot imagine it. Even if you don’t have the same constant force nagging at you that I do, does it seem like it would be a blessing or a curse? I sometimes wonder. What is on your daily Must-Do List? How about your Should-Do List? How often do you get to your Shoulds? Does it annoy you that you don’t, or are you good at letting it go? I am terrible at letting it go. How driven are you to do more? Leave me a reply and let me know: Is what you do enough for you?

Be relentlessly YOU,

William

Which Dreams Are The Real Ones?

IMG_2405“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hello friend,

At 42 years of age, I can now say that I have been following my dreams for half of my life. Oh sure, when I was little, I wanted to play wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and be the lead singer for Loverboy. And then I wanted to play on the pro tennis tour. But really, I always knew I was going to be a doctor. Not because I dreamed about it, but because that is what I was told and what I believed. “You are smart. You should be a doctor.” Doctors were the only “rich people” we knew about as kids. They had money and status, so it was the best thing to become if you had the brains for it. I did, so that was what I was going to be when I grew up. It wasn’t a dream; it was a fact. It was my destiny. I never questioned it. Never thought twice about it.

Until I did. Yes, one day in my twenty-first year, as I was working my way through Pre-Med classes, I began to awaken to the idea that other options existed. It was a slow awakening, with each new day finding me feeling more like a stranger in my own skin. It struck me that I was living someone else’s life. I had taken on faith what everyone had told me all along, and I reflected it right back to them, to the point that I really believed it was my dream to be a doctor. Maybe you could say it was society’s dream. Maybe it was my parents’ dream. Maybe it was the dream of the compliant, uncontroversial son and citizen that I had always been. What I woke up to realize was that it wasn’t my dream at all. It was just my plan.

My twenty-first birthday was my last one spent as a full-time planner. After that, I started dreaming. On my twenty-second birthday, I was performing a monologue in an acting class in New York City, after which my Oscar-nominated teacher announced to the class that I was going to be a big star. I finally had a dream, and I was definitely living it! It wasn’t approved by anyone I knew—not my parents, not the culture that I came from, not my old, safe self—but it was completely me. I had taught myself to dream and convinced myself of the absolute necessity of following my dream if I was ever to feel alive and at peace with myself. Following my dreams was my way of being true to myself for the first time. And as frightening as it was, and as much as I felt alone and outcast, I had also never felt more free.

I never stopped dreaming of being an actor (or a big star). I just started dreaming of other things. Eventually, it felt more authentic to me to leave that life. I dreamed of seeing the world, of learning every skill or subject that caught my fancy, of becoming a professor, and of reconnecting with Tennis, my first love. It was a lot of dreaming, a lot of trying to stay true to what stirred my soul.

And then I had my first child. Suddenly, I had no more dreams for myself, but only for her. What I was doing mattered only insomuch as it made things better for her. That only increased when my son was born. My most passionate pursuit was spending every possible moment with them. If I had to be away from them, it was only so I could provide for them. A personal agenda—and dreams, as I knew them—seemed to no longer exist. I disappeared into my kids, and happily so.

A few years later, though, a part of me began to reawaken. Maybe it was the imminence of my 40th birthday, or maybe it was just time to reclaim myself, but suddenly I felt a bit of a panic about making something out of my life. I wanted to feel that stir of excitement in my soul again. I wanted to feel passionate about more than just my children. I wanted to dream. I began to learn more about living my purpose and following my Bliss. I was hooked!

As I searched my soul, the thing that kept coming to me was The Journal Project, something of an autobiography told through my daily journal entries. It spoke to me on many different levels. I was undaunted by the fact that it would take several years to complete. Something inside me knew that I needed to share my unique voice. It was my new dream. I plugged away at it in my very limited “spare time” for over a year, making slow but certain progress and feeling alive inside from feeding the beast.

It wasn’t long, though, before I became impatient to get my voice out there. I could see myself working on my project with great passion and purpose for years, but I wanted to help people immediately. A new dream was born, and it was named “Journal of You.” As instantly gratifying as Journal of You became, its unfortunate side effect was diminished time for The Journal Project, which was definitely still a big dream. I felt as though I was betraying it, and I began to feel torn. I eventually rationalized my dissonance away by determining to make a book out of these posts that would serve as a companion piece to The Journal Project. All of my writing would become part of the bigger dream. I liked that.

Meanwhile, all of this pursuit of my dreams was having a ripple effect across my life. I decided that my “day job” must become more fulfilling and fit into my life purpose and my dreams. To that end, I began my Life Coaching courses, determined to change lives more directly and deeply. It was wonderful and right up my alley, but the unfortunate side effect reappeared: I had to put The Journal Project on hold altogether to fit my course work in along with the blog posts and the rest of life. Bummer!

Then, as if I wasn’t busy and torn enough, I added my skin care consulting business to the mix. Admittedly, I have never harbored a skin care dream—though it actually fulfills me to help other people feel better about themselves–but rather the dream of one day being my own boss. This is where the hard line between a dream and a plan becomes a little murky. I definitely dream of one day becoming self-employed. It suits my personality perfectly. But self-employment is a concept. To get there, I need a plan. It has been clear to me from the start that this is where my skin care consulting fits in. It is the means to the end that is my dream of being self-employed.

Until this week, I didn’t realize that my Life Coaching business might also fit into the same category. I love coaching people. It excites me to partner with people in the pursuit of their dreams and to help them create their version of a more fulfilling life. Sounds kind of like a dream job, right? I thought so.

Then this week, I had a rare window of time after my kids went to sleep, and I spotted my notebooks and journal from The Journal Project gathering dust in the corner of my desk. It had been ages since I had last worked on it, those notebooks losing their spot in favor of homework assignments and other tasks. My soul and curiosity were stirred. I opened them up and read a few pages. Excitement brewed. I popped open my computer and started to type. I was transported back in time to the days when writing—specifically The Journal Project–was my dream du jour. Intoxicated by the work, I pounded away at the keys at a feverish pace. When bedtime came, my adrenaline was still pumping. It was a real treat. The next night, when I had a few minutes to spare, I ran down to my desk and sneaked a few more passages in, my heart beating like I was getting away with something. It lit me up inside. It was clearly the calling of my soul. My whole system was reinvigorated by it. In that moment, it was obvious to me what was, amongst all of these other pursuits, my real dream.

A couple of years ago, when my mind was coming back to life and reminding me of the need to pursue my passions, I subscribed to a blog by Mastin Kipp called “The Daily Love.” One day, as part of a promotion, he issued a video in which he was the subject of an interview. At the end, the interviewer asked him, “If you could leave your readers just one thing, what would it be?” He turned from the interviewer and looked directly into the camera and said something to the effect of, “SCREW PLAN B! Go all-in on Plan A! Life is too short to do anything but follow your Bliss. Live your dream!” Every hair on my body stood on end. He was speaking directly to me, and it resonated deeply. That memory returned to me this week after working on my Journal Project. Coincidence? I think not!

So, I suppose I have to admit that my skin care business—and yes, even my Life Coaching business—are in the Plan B category. They are just that: plans. They are ways to make enough money (while being self-employed) so I can spend more time writing. Writing is Plan A, also known as “my dream.” I understand that everything is not going to be given to me just because I am passionate about it. I also understand that I will have to earn the time by being more successful at my Plan Bs. Finally, I understand that I haven’t worked hard enough or long enough at my dream to make any demands upon the gods. My head understands all of that. My heart and soul, on the other hand, just don’t get it. It pains me deeply that I am not allowed to work full-time at Plan A. It is my calling, after all. Don’t The Fates understand? Can Destiny not see the injustice in denying me this? Apparently not. This is why artists have patrons. Because they cannot stomach denying themselves their passions and having to work at the tasks that everyone else does. Ah well. I understand that I must earn my way to my full-time dream job by slogging away at the Plan Bs for a while. My consolation is that I love my Plan Bs. Sure, they don’t stir the passions of my soul as much as writing does, but they are still meaningful and fulfilling in their own ways. Onward I go, dreaming every step of the way.

How about you? How have your dreams panned out? Open up your journal and uncover the depth of the dreams from the many phases of your life? What did you dream about when you were a little kid? Were you just pretending, or did you really believe you would become those things? At what age did you let them go? Was it gradually or instantly? How about your dreams from college or early adulthood? Were you making plans or dreams still at that age? If you were dreaming, how long did the dreams last? Do you still have the same dreams? How many have come true? If you know those dreams are still there but you squashed them in favor of more practical things, do you recall the moment when you decided to settle for less, or was it a slow and imperceptible slide? When was the last time you had a new dream? How did it make you feel? How passionately did you pursue it? How do you feel when you write about your old dreams and things you have settled for? It brings up a lot of shame and disappointment in me, which I am trying to use as motivation to stay focused and more true to myself going forward. How far off is your current career from your dream job? Is your job more of a plan or a dream? How acceptable is it to you to work your plan for a while to set yourself up for your dream? What percentage of people actually get to the dream part? Are you going to be one of them? Leave me a reply and let me know: Which dreams are you following?

Dare to be amazing,

William

What About TODAY?

IMG_1176“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That is why they call it ‘the present’.”

Hello friend,

I have lately been consumed with laying the foundational pieces for my SOMEDAY. I have been busying myself with business plans, launch events, marketing strategies, and brainstorms for future books. The prize that my eyes have been focused on is the giant impact I want my life to make on this world. My whole, long life. I envision it as a big body of work that, over the long haul, positively impacts lots of people. With that recently-acquired long-haul perspective, my actions have been mostly future-oriented. There is a lot of “this will make the next stuff easier” and “keep my nose to the grindstone until I get established” in my thought patterns. Lots of process.

Of course, I understand that operating with a vision of how I want my future to be is essential to working toward that vision more efficiently. I know that I have to keep my eyes on the prize. Big goals are important motivational tools, and they help to put in perspective why it is worth all the hard work. If I don’t remain clear about my dreams and how much they mean to me, I could start sliding again. I don’t want that. I don’t ever want to live by default again, not questioning what I am doing and why. No, from here on out, I am living by design. That is my plan. Thus, I must keep the grand design front and center. That is how I have been operating lately: big picture, full life, long-range plan. Building the foundation.

I have been commending myself pretty regularly in my daily journal entries for doing a good job of chipping away at these big rocks, grinding to get them rolling toward a brighter future. I have stayed on task quite well. After all, many of the things I have been doing—government paperwork, marketing, and building websites, for example—are not at all the kind of work I love to do or that get me out of bed in the morning. Thus, as I said, I have been trying to applaud myself as often as possible for doing these tedious and uncomfortable tasks for the sake of my SOMEDAY. For the sake of my dreams. For the sake of the big life I am trying to live. It is all about the future. I applaud myself in order to make this grinding phase more palatable, hopeful that it will all pay off and that my SOMEDAY shows up sooner rather than later.

But then today, while writing in my journal, I started thinking about “the precious present” as it relates to enjoying this special time with my kids. I know that they will grow up in the blink of an eye. Rather than lament that fact and try to cling to something that cannot be stopped, the best thing I can do is to live completely in each moment, keeping my heart and mind in the present to soak up as much of this love and innocence as possible. Be present! The kids make that so obvious. It is why kids do life so well. They stay in the moment.

Of course, being present is something I have preached about so many times over the years. In all of my most serious spiritual and philosophical writings, it is plain that I am a big believer in the precious present. There is no greater gift you can give to yourself than to BE HERE NOW. That is why I have long been a big proponent of meditation and yoga, which encourage just that. I have used it countless times on the tennis court in helping students—and myself—handle pressure-packed match situations. I encourage it with my Life Coaching clients. Indeed, it is how I prepare for coaching sessions to serve my clients best: I center myself in the present. It is where Life works best.

And this is the realization that made me stop and think today as I was writing my journal. In writing about the value of the present, it suddenly struck me how many of my recent thoughts and actions have been not about the present, but instead about the future. I have forsaken my todays in favor of that elusive SOMEDAY. How can I justify this? Is it acceptable? Am I being hypocritical? How did I lose my way? How do I find my way back to the present? I need some clarity.

Of course, my first reaction when I am told that I am wrong—even by myself—is defense. My first justification is that at least I am not stuck in the past. I think that is much less healthy than focusing on the future. Next, I fall back on the age-old question: how does one remain present and living for today while also being mindful of building a better life for himself and pursuing his dreams? In other words, how do you balance stopping to smell the roses while planning to till them up to plant cucumbers and carrots? I honestly don’t know the right answer to that question. As I said at the beginning, I think it is important to know where you are trying to go in this life, to understand what your purpose is and how you plan to live out that purpose in a way that fulfills you. You have to look ahead sometimes!

Even with that justification, the thought of being stuck in the too-distant future continued to nag at me. Perhaps I have taken the justification too far lately in my quest to launch my businesses and the future of my dreams. I forgot to keep a balance between making the best of today and planning for that even better tomorrow. So I challenged myself: What is one thing I can do today to make TODAY better? What can I improve on from yesterday, for the sake of TODAY? Sure, it could be good for me tomorrow, too, but the point is to get better for NOW. No groundwork-laying. No SOMEDAY book outline or business plan. What habit could help me today?

After brainstorming my countless faults and shortcomings, I decided that the one thing I am really going to make an effort to do today is to be more friendly and outgoing with strangers. I am terrible at this! I mind my own business and use manners, but I don’t put any of myself out there. When I pass people, I try to look them in the eye and give them the cordial nod, but I have noticed that I keep my lips pursed every time. I don’t start any conversations in the grocery line or at the gym. I don’t give enough people compliments that might just make their day. I just don’t engage. Until now. Yes, I am going to do better with this. Starting now, and for the sake of today. I am going to be more present with everyone. I am going to consciously smile at people—with my teeth—when I pass them on the sidewalk, or when they swipe my card at the store or gym. I am going to wish people a wonderful day—with words, not just in my head. Rather than finding excuses to not bother people, I am going to come up with excuses to give them compliments. I am going to share my light. Today. For today. Not because it is some great plan for the future—though, as I write this, it does sound like a good idea to build upon (and kind of fun!)—but because it will improve my little corner of the world right now. I can move forward on those big dreams of SOMEDAY at the same time, too. But it is time to bring my own gift to the present. Today is my day!

How about you? What can you do today to make your life better? Open up your journal and your mind. Share yourself freely in the pages. You will be rewarded for your honesty. Which tense do you spend most of your thoughts in: past, present, or future? What percentage of time in each? How about your actions? Do you spend most of your time on what it takes to get you through the day, or are you building for the future? Are you living by default—just going through the motions—or living by design? How far ahead do you look when it comes to planning or goal-setting? Do you ever get too stuck in the future that you don’t take care of today? How about the past? How much of that do you carry around every day? When are you going to decide to let it go? What is the one thing you can do today that will improve your life today? How difficult is it to do? Why do you think you have waited this long to do it? Are you committed to it? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: How are you going to make a better TODAY?

Choose happiness,

William

This is NOT a Dress Rehearsal!!!

DSC_1094“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” –William G.T. Shedd

Hello friend,

At my Grandpa Mel’s funeral a few years ago, my siblings and I each took a turn at the microphone to talk about the wonderful memories we had of a wonderful man. There were tales of picking berries in his garden or building ships out of wood in his workshop. When my brother got up to speak, though, he told us about an occasion that was not from our idyllic childhood, but, rather, something that had just happened a month before. My brother had volunteered to drive Grandpa Mel into town from the lake cabin where we were all gathered for the weekend. Grandpa was in an assisted living facility at the time, and his mind was beginning to lose its grip on this world. Still, he had lucid moments, and the two of these admirable men shared one in the car that Summer day. They had gone to visit Grandma Jeanne’s grave at the cemetery where Grandpa Mel would soon join her. In a thoughtful moment, my brother asked him what, as he looked back on his long life, he would have done differently if he could do it all again. Grandpa said, “I wish I had taken more risks. I wish I would have branched out on my own in business sooner. I just wish I would have taken more chances.”

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been weeping through the entire evening, but now there was a whole new depth and message to the occasion. It wasn’t just about grieving and appreciating my Grandpa; there was a lesson, too. Don’t squander your days following the herd and playing it safe. Find what makes your heart sing and go after it! Take a risk and follow your dream. Take a chance on yourself!

Of course I had heard this lesson before. It is abound in books and movies. There is that emotional scene where the parent or grandparent teaches the lesson to the protagonist—either directly with their words or by dying and thereby making it clear that life is too short not to go after what you love—who is then spurred to glorious action. We’ve all seen it before. But this was different. This was no book. This was no movie, no fairy tale. This was Grandpa Mel. The guy who taught me how to hammer a nail as soon as I could walk and let me build a house with him before I was out of elementary school. The guy who took me golfing and played catch with me in the yard. My Grandpa.

He had always seemed like the perfectly contented family man. He managed a lumber yard until he retired, and then went on to take charge of building homes for Habitat for Humanity, building his local church, and leading his grandkids in the building of the lake house that continues to be the hub of our family gatherings. He loved these projects, and he was in his element leading the crews. He found something in retirement—after tending to the needs of my Mom and my uncle and then securing a comfortable nest-egg for he and my Grandma to retire with—that he had not dared to search for while in the workforce. He found his passion. He never talked about it. Never complained about his lot. Never was bitter toward his family that ensuring a comfortable life for them had kept him from opening up his own business. He was a good father, a good husband, a good man. It was a good life.

Still, there it was. At the end of his days—in his ninth decade on Earth—he was clear about one thing: “I just wish I had taken more chances.”

I have so many fond memories of my Grandpa, and I know that he has rubbed off on me in ways both clear and subtle. From his life, the lesson I learned was the supreme importance of family. I am so glad that he modeled that every day; it never needed to be spoken about. But it was the lesson I learned in his death that was more poignant than anything I ever learned in books or movies. Don’t wait until you are retired to do what you love. Take a risk in order to live your dreams. 

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” –Helen Keller, The Open Door

Over the last few years since his death, I have distilled this lesson learned at my Grandpa’s funeral into a phrase that really resonates with me: This is NOT a dress rehearsal!!! You don’t get a “do-over” for all of this stuff. You don’t get to have that moment with the potential love of your life again, that chance to say what is in your heart. You don’t get a chance to raise your kids again: to go to their games and push them on the swings and kiss them goodnight. And you don’t get the chance at the end to find your passion and your purpose, and to live accordingly. This is not a dress rehearsal. This IS the show! You have to do it now!!!

I feel like that concept has been chasing me pretty hard the last couple of years. Perhaps “chasing” doesn’t adequately describe it; maybe “stalking” is better. “Haunting” is accurate. It permeates my every day: This is NOT a dress rehearsal!!! I have watched my mindset and my entire way of life change since this thought took hold of me. I had been of the attitude that, with my kids so young and me so busy, there was no way I could find the time or energy to pursue my other passions. I was sliding by, skating. I was certainly happy, but there was also something missing. That is when, a few years ago, the haunting started. My first move was to get going on The Journal Project, which was an enormous undertaking. As I worked into the wee hours of each night after the kids went to bed, I realized how important it was to me to get my voice out there. I didn’t want to wait years to get my book published. So, “Journal of You” was born. It has been a true labor of love to write to you every week. But even that was not enough to quell the inner chorus chanting “This is not a dress rehearsal!” So, I went back to school for Life Coaching to pursue another passion. And on and on it has gone: writing, school, coaching, consulting–constantly trying to tap into ways that I can be of service in the spirit of my Life Purpose.

I hear my Grandpa’s message trailing me every day, guiding me and motivating me to stay on the task of living a life filled with passion and fulfillment. I know that requires me to take some risks, to get out of my comfort zone, to stop sliding through life. It pushes me to my own greatness, though. It moves me to measure myself by the standard I want my future 90-year-old self to be proud of, to have no regrets about. I am pretty sure that no matter how bold and authentic that I choose to be from here on out, I will probably wish, at the end of my days, that I had done better. That is just how I am. Still, even though I am today nowhere near to having set up the lifestyle and schedule of my dreams, I take heart in the fact that I am working toward it every day. It is on the front burner. I am trying to become the very best version of me that I can be. I hear the voice of Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” reminding me: “Carpe diem. Make your lives extraordinary.” And I feel Grandpa Mel, too, his spirit reminding me that today is my day to claim myself and my dreams, once and for all. No day but today.

How about you? Have you taken enough risk to live the life of your dreams? Open up your journal and be honest with yourself. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you feel about the way you have lived your life? Do you have regrets about how safely you have played it? How closely have you followed the herd rather than your own inner voice? How willing have you been to step out on that limb and have that uncomfortable conversation? How often have you struck out on your own against the expectations of the people around you, simply because you were hearing a different drummer? How many times have you risked “failure” in the service of your dreams or of happiness? What are your excuses? Financial security? Family obligations? Fear of failure or rejection? I like the quote by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Do you think that by playing it safe now and not taking risks to pursue your passions, that you are actually risking a lot of regret and unhappiness later in life? Which risk is greater to you: the risk to follow your bliss now or the risk of regret later? Leave me a reply and let me know: What force is driving your life? 

Make your life extraordinarily yours,

William

Start Before You Are Ready

DSC_0544“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Hello friend,

Start before you are ready. I first heard those words about a year ago from some self-help guru. I loved the idea! It sounded so brave and bold. Don’t wait until you get all of your ducks in a row. Just throw caution to the wind and go for your dream! I figured that if I was ever given the chance, there was no doubt I would do it. Of course I would! Or would I?

As much as I like to think of myself as totally laid-back and easy, I have some serious perfectionist tendencies. For things I take an interest in, I want to do them exactly right. I like to score 100% on everything. In school, if I had a test with 100 regular questions plus five bonus questions, I was not satisfied simply with getting an “A” or even a 100%. I needed that 105. I had many classes in which I could easily have skipped assignments or tests at the end of the semester because I was so far into—or above–the “A” zone, but my mind could not allow it. Looking back, it caused a lot more stress and took me away from a lot more fun than I care to admit. Such is the curse of the perfectionist mind.

I also have an obsession with competence. Perhaps my least favorite feeling in the world is an awareness of my own incompetence. I hate not knowing the answer! I am extremely uncomfortable and stressed when I start a new job and don’t know the solution to every possible issue a customer might have. If I ask a supervisor or experienced co-worker for specific answers or protocol, I cannot stand to hear, “Oh, you’ll figure it out as you go.” I want the answers. The EXACT answers!

One of the unfortunate side effects of these mind traits on my personality is that, in general conversation, I have a hard time just saying, “I don’t know.” I can get defensive and be like, “Why would I know that?” or make excuses—or even attacks on the inquisitor. It really is an unattractive quality. So is its cousin quality: NEEDING TO BE RIGHT. In any disagreement, I rarely admit that I am wrong. I am not much of a compromiser, either. I like to think that this is because the knowledge and opinions that I hold are based on my thorough study of the issue, and thus, my COMPETENCE.

So, imagine the fireworks show going on inside me when faced with the prospect of making some major, life-changing moves into multiple new careers at the same time. Could a competence-obsessed perfectionist really survive such a deep dive into the new and unknown? Could my ego withstand such uncertainty? Well, we are about to find out!

I made official plunges into two new career paths IN THE LAST WEEK!!! Early in the week, I signed on to become a consultant with a premium skin care company. Then, at the end of the week, I filed my papers with the government to form my Life Coaching company. BOOM! Talk about a jolt to the system and an electrifying infusion of new energy (i.e., chaos) into my life.

And while it is all kinds of exciting to embark on these fabulous opportunities for service and fulfillment, it is also more than a little unsettling (ahem, terrifying). I have had more than one occasion in the last few days to stop and ask myself, “What are you doing to yourself? Why TWO THINGS at once? Why not just get comfortable—and competent—in one thing before considering another? What makes you think you are READY for this, when you are not even trained in one field and have no marketing or accounting skills in the other?”

I have to admit, that Voice of Doubt has some good points. It is a lot to take on, and my perfectionist mind will be scrambling to obtain a level of competence that I can be at peace with. And if you look at it objectively from the outside, you might conclude that, indeed, I am not ready. I don’t know much about skin care, and I don’t know if I have enough connections to really make it work in selling it. Heck, I don’t even know if I have the time to sell it. I have been putting many things on hold until my kids get older, figuring—hoping and praying, really—that more time may magically appear then. As for my Life Coaching business, at least I feel competent as a coach. The business part, however, has me quite nervous. I don’t have my website up and running. I don’t have business cards. I don’t know the first thing about accounting or owning my own business. I only know how to coach. So yeah, Voice of Doubt, you may be onto something. In a lot of ways, I am not ready.

But I hear another voice, too, trying to get a word in around the persistent chatter of that Voice of Doubt. This voice says, “Start before you are ready! If you wait until you feel comfortable and competent with every last skill and detail, you will be waiting forever, stuck in the same unsatisfying rut rather than alive in the hot pursuit of your dreams. Your best life is out there, just waiting for you to take a little risk. To reach the sweetest fruit, you have to go out on a limb. Go for it! (P.S. Besides, you ARE ready.)” That voice comes from a much deeper, more grounded place. It makes me nod my head and whisper things like “Yeah” and “I got this.” It feels different, too. It feels real and true to me—it resonates. It brings me a magical combination of peace and excitement that makes me feel certain that I am on the right path. That was the feeling I had in signing my papers this week to start my business, and the feeling I had while talking with my sister about the skin care company. I have come to know that this magical feeling is none other than my soul confirming that I am in my Truth. When my brain and my ego conspire to keep me down and convince me that I am not ready, I listen for that small, still voice inside me that knows better.

So, sure, in some sense—the perfectionist’s, the critic’s, and the ego’s sense—I will never be ready. So be it. I can see now that “Start before you are ready” is a motto for people who are stuck at the mercy of the perfectionist, the critic, and the ego (the combined Voice of Doubt). It is a valuable sentiment. In this moment of clarity, though, I also see that if you can tune your ears to that still, small voice—call it your soul, your intuition, your sixth sense, you name it—you will know with complete certainty that you are ready. I’m ready. I’m starting NOW!

How about you? What is it time for you to be starting? Open up your journal and listen for that still, small voice inside you. What does it whisper when you think about unpursued dreams and risks not taken? What move—big or small—is long overdue in your life? Is it career-related? Regarding relationships, do you need to take a risk by reaching out to someone to see if they belong in your circle, or do you need to cut a cord that someone else is strangling you with? Do you need to move on from something or someone, or perhaps just have a difficult conversation so you can move forward together? Do you think you would be satisfied with only a small shift, or is your soul aching for something major? How much do you try to tap into your intuition when making decisions? How does it speak to you—physical symptoms, emotions, obsessive thoughts, “gut” feelings? Do you trust it? What is the one thing that you make a million “I’m not ready” excuses about, that, deep down in your heart, you know you really must do? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you going to start before you are “ready”? 

You ARE ready,

William

If Money Was Not An Issue…

DSC_1066“Making money isn’t hard in itself… What’s hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one’s life to.” –Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind 

Hello friend,

My life coaching classes have really gotten me thinking lately. Stirred up might be more accurate. You see, one of a coach’s best tools is a powerful question. A powerful question can make you see things in a totally new way, a way that might suddenly provide wonderful clarity on a topic that you have long been struggling with. Often, a coach’s questions cause you to look more deeply into your heart and mind to figure out what really makes you tick and what you really want to do with this wonderful gift called Life. What I have recently discovered is that the question that best grabs me by the collar and throws me up against the wall in its demand to be addressed is, “If money was not an issue, what career would you pursue?”

Of course, it is easy for my mind to run wild upon hearing this question. I mean, “If money was not an issue…” can easily translate into fantasies of living on the beach in Aruba. Who needs a career if money is not an issue, right? So, I must clarify the question. “If you were to make AS MUCH AS YOU DO NOW DOING ANYTHING….” or “If you made ENOUGH TO BE COMFORTABLE-BUT-NOT-WEALTHY DOING ANYTHING…” seem to put it in better perspective for me. The other way that helps me—the husband and parent part of me–get to my most pure answer is, “If you had no wife or children that you felt compelled to provide time, energy, and money for, what career would you pursue?” That one really helps me crystallize the issue, because I wasn’t much bothered by being broke as a single person, but I don’t want that for my wife and kids.

In any case, all of these versions of this question, at their core, simply ask, “WHAT IS YOUR BLISS?” What is your dream? What career thought absolutely lights you up inside? What is your calling? What job will most help you give your unique gift to the world? This topic—following your dreams–is probably my most favorite one in the entire universe. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame, completely compelled by it. I feel so passionate about it for myself and for others. I could certainly write a post to you every week on this topic. I know it is why I have been drawn to life coaching as well. I just really want to see people living in the light of their own Truth by listening to their soul’s calling and following their Bliss. That is the key to living authentically, and I am nothing if not a fan of authentic living.

For me, then, the trouble with this supremely important question—What does your Bliss look like? (and no excuses allowed)–is that it is a trap. It compels me to live out my answer or else feel like a fraud, an untruthful version of me. I just find it so necessary to follow whatever my answer to this question is, because that seems to be the only way to live truthfully to my calling and purpose. After all, I know what my values are. To maintain my integrity, I must be able to answer to the man in the mirror. Living my Truth is the only way I can look that guy in the eye for any sustained period. Thus, I feel even more emboldened to follow my Bliss and live out my dreams. I start plotting my future as a writer, speaker, and coach as though it is the most natural and obvious thing to do–starting immediately, of course!

But then guilt or humility or the voice of Society smacks me back with a “Who are YOU to get do whatever you dream?” and a “Be realistic!” I start to wonder if I am just being a selfish, spoiled guy—which I am, of course—expecting everyone else to make allowances for me to live my dreams. I wonder if my sense of entitlement—the “How could I NOT get to chase my calling? How DARE you stand in my way?” feeling—is justified. Because, really, who else is following their Bliss? Is there really anyone else out there who has not been forced to settle for less in order to keep the lights on or the spouse satisfied? Why should I be so lucky?

But then the relentlessness of my Truth comes roaring back. Along with it comes my dogged determination to not settle for less in my life, to never give up on my endless quest to learn more, grow more, BE MORE, and in that, to be completely and truly ME. This feeling—and indeed, even the logic behind it—wins me over every time I ask myself this most powerful of questions.

I understand that it may seem selfish. Believe me, I have felt the guilt from that jab from my conscience. But I really do think—in theory—that people should be following their Bliss, going after what lights them up inside. It just so happens that it is a lot more convenient to do that when either A) no one else is counting on you for food and shelter, or B) your partner is not simultaneously taking the same kind of risks. I truly want my wife to be happy and fulfilled and following her Bliss. But I secretly hope that her current, stable, insurance-granting job makes her feel that way so that I can continue on my uncertain, not-yet-profitable pursuit of my own dreams. Oh, the ways my mind has to twist things in order to live as though money is not an issue!

How about you? How well are you doing at chasing your dreams? Open up your journal and answer the question for yourself. What do you most want to do with the rest of your work life? Are you doing it now? Are you even in the ballpark? If not, what are the main factors keeping you from following your Bliss? I know that, for me, Time and Money are my biggest, most overused excuses (Time being my favorite crutch), but get creative and specific with your challenges. What is really holding you back? Once you have identified your calling, how patient are you in needing to see results? How do you manage expectations? I really battle myself about this. While in my most generous moments, I appreciate that I write to you every week and that I am taking classes for coaching and thus am working toward my goals, most of the time I am kicking myself for not being “successful” yet and wondering why I can’t just drop my other work to devote all of my time to what I am most passionate about. How entitled to your calling and the pursuit of it do you feel? Which of your current responsibilities or commitments would it be reasonable to let go of to give yourself more time to pursue your dreams? Do you dare announce your dreams to the people around you? Most of us are too afraid to tell others what we really want to be, because revealing that leaves us open to judgment, both about our dreams themselves and about not living them. How much do you share? Are your loved ones supportive of your pursuit? In H. Jackson Brown Jr.’s book P.S. I Love You, he says, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I bet that something—some long-buried dream–jumps into your mind when you read that. Don’t ignore it. Honor it. Consider it.   Then leave me a reply and let me know: If money was not an issue, what would you be doing? 

You are worthy of a big dream,

William