We're Never Too OLD for NEW Dreams

Many people I interviewed during my Year by the Water told me, rather wistfully, that they hoped, planned, dreamed of doing something similar … someday. When I asked why they weren’t doing it now, they gave a lot of reasons including that they felt they were "too old" and had "missed their chance."

Too old? Missed their chance?

I shared my belief that we’re never too old – or too young - to make our dreams come true. Several people were skeptical so I shared two of my favorite stories:

I was in Aptos, CA wrapping up my SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week manuscript to turn in to my publisher St. Martin’s Press.

After a couple of rainy days, the sun came out which meant it was time to get up, get outside, and get moving.

I was walking through Seacliff State Park when two women popped out of their RV and asked me to take a picture of them. “Sure,” I said with a smile, “if you tell me your story.”

Which is how I learned that Sheila had told her friend yesterday, “It’s time to take a break.” June resisted but Sheila persisted. She was even wearing a sweatshirt that said, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

They hitched up their trailer, told their families they’d be back in a couple days, and drove from their home in central California, a couple hours away.

I asked, “What gave you such clarity about not waiting for someday to do what was calling you?”

Sheila said, “I’m an insurance agent. One of my older clients retired last year and bought the huge, fancy Winnebago of his dreams. He drove it to my office to show it to me and to add it to his account. I watched out the window as it took him about twenty minutes to park the darn thing and get out of it. He’s in his late sixties and doesn’t move very well anymore.

He came in, slammed the door, slumped down in a chair and said, ‘I waited too damn long, and now I’m too old to enjoy it.’” She shook her head and said, “‘I’ll never forget that.”

June chimed in, “We’ve taken our kids everywhere - Hawaii, Disneyland, the Grand Canyon. We want to make memories with our kids before they don’t want to spend time with us.”

I asked if I could share their story because they’re such inspiring examples of why NOT to wait until later to do what’s important to us. Later may be too late.

You may be thinking, “I agree with this in theory, but you don’t understand my circumstances.”

You’re right, I don’t. Here’s what I suggest though. Next time you see an arts and crafts show in your area, GO.

Why? They are full of “real-life” people who are walking-talking proof that we're never too old to make our dream come true. Here’s what I mean.

I was traveling through the South. I checked into my hotel on the Savannah Harbor, discovered the Springtime Craft Show was being held at the convention center next door, and went to check it out.

My first stop was at the booth of Toffee to Go. Lisa Schalk, former stay-at-home mom, told me that several years before, she had cooked up home-made white chocolate/macadamia nut toffee to give as Christmas presents to friends and family. They loved her innovative flavors and begged her to make more. She started going to weekend arts/crafts fairs where her toffee kept selling out. She told her husband Jim, a hospitality executive, “I think we’ve really got something here.”

He told me, “I thought people were just being ‘nice,’ until I went with her one weekend and witnessed for myself everyone’s enthusiastic response. People had driven from hours away to buy her toffee in person. We bet on ourselves. I quit my job and we went all in, full-time.”

Fast forward. They just bought a 16,000 foot warehouse, were featured in O’s Christmas issue, and have corporate clients around the country. “People tell us, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky Oprah’s Favorite Things found you.” She smiled, “Luck is a lot of 2 a.m. nights, but it’s worth it.”

I discovered the “Pretty Darn Good Salsa” couple in the next aisle. They created their own special blend with beans, corn, cilantro and secret ingredients for a Super Bowl party. Everyone loved it. They started making bigger batches. After retiring (he was a school teacher for decades), they now hit the road every weekend. He says, “It may be 8 degrees back home, but we know we’ll be in Florida that weekend, visiting our daughter, meeting all kinds of interesting people and hearing their stories, while paying for our retirement. It's the best of all worlds.”

Next I was drawn to a booth featuring wearable art. The proprietor Lynn Shore, told me, “My grandmother, who had the patience of Job, taught me to knit when I was eight. I started hand-crafting gifts for friends and realized, “This isn’t just a hobby; it’s a business.”

When I asked, “What do you like best about these festivals?” Lynn thought about it and then gave a profound answer, “I am inspired by the creativity of humanity. It is a blessing to be here.”

What is the moral of these stories? None of these business owners studied these careers at college. None of them could have predicted they would turn their passion into a profitable and meaningful profession. However, all of them are grateful to have “encore careers” where they’re doing work they love that puts the light on in their eyes and puts money in their bank account.

John Barrymore said, “A man does not become old until regrets take the place of dreams.”

Please don’t let take regrets take the place of your dreams. Please don’t wait until it’s too late.

Get clear on your dream. Ask yourself, “What could add meaning to my life? What am I good at, what do I love to do, that people would pay for? How could I turn my purpose and passion into a profitable profession? How could I craft - or cook up - an encore career where I have the best of all worlds?"

Then get creative and set it in motion today … not someday.

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Sam Horn - CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker - is on a mission to help people create a quality life-work that adds value for all involved. Her work has been featured in NY Times and taught to NASA, Intel, Boeing, Accenture. Want Sam to share her keynote with your group? Contact Cheri@intrigueAgency.com

Want more ways to turn your passion into your profession? Check out Sam's book IDEApreneur.


Someday is the Busiest Day of the Week

"On the last day of the world, I would want to plant a tree." - W. S. Merwin Do you keep promising yourself that someday you'll make time for your creative project or something you really care about?

Please understand there will never be a right time and you'll never have more time than you have right now.

Someday is the busiest day of the week.

You might want to follow Poet W.S. Merwin's example and get serious about your passion project instead of frittering away time and talent on lesser priorities.

As Executive Director of the Maui Writers Conference, I had an opportunity to interview Merwin at our very first Presenters Reception. On a full moon night, under the palm trees on a Kapalua beach, I asked him, "What is one of the most important lessons-learned from your career?”

I'm paraphrasing here because I did not write down what he said (that’ll teach me) however the gist of his remarks was choosing to concentrate on his craft was the best decision he ever made on behalf of his career.

As the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Merwin received dozens of invitations every week. He realized it would be oh-so easy to become part of the “glitterati” and that his work would suffer if he said yes to every request. He and his wife Paula were clear that continuing to live in NYC would mean they would continue to be surrounded by temptations that would pull him away from the work he was born to do. So, they moved to Maui to live a simpler life where he was freer to concentrate on his true priorities.

I thought, "There’s a man who knows what is important to him."

I’ve come to believe this is one of the biggest challenges we face as creatives. We are constantly torn between craft and commerce - between making art and making a living.

I've also come to understand that our environment either helps us or hurts us. If we are surrounded by distractions and demands, our dream projects may never get out the door. It is up to us to take charge of our circumstances so that, like W.S. Merwin, we can concentrate on what will matter in the long run.

Are you taking your creative contribution seriously? if you believe your work will add value, it's up to you to devote yourself to it instead of allowing yourself to waste time on lesser activities that, at the end of the day, won’t contribute to the greater good.

You may be thinking, “I agree with this in theory, but it’s tough to do in practice.”

Agreed. Which is it is so important to establish clear boundaries on what you will and won't focus on. Here are a few best-practice tips on how to do that (culled from my ConZentrate and IDEApreneur books). Hope they help you stay finish your projects and get them out in the world where they can make a positive difference for others and a prosperous living for you.

1. REDUCE time online. Many writers admit they are addicted to their digital devices. To what purpose? How much time do you spend online every day? When you look back at the end of your life, will those thousands of hours have made an enduring difference? Commit right now to policies with metrics. For example, vow to check email and social media only AFTER you finish writing instead of all day, every day. A study by MIT reveals we check our phone 140+ times a day. What a misuse of time that could and should be spent on completing higher-priority work that will have positive impact.

2. Wake and Work. Wake and Work means exactly what you think it means. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Get up, grab your cup of coffee or tea, sit down and apply what Power of One author Bryce Courtenay called, "Bum glue." Tackle other tasks only after you have produced something tangible (two pages?) to show for your efforts. The Psychology of Complettion says we get a thrill of achievement and a boost in self esteem every time we finish something. And, as you know, "rewarded behavior gets repeated." So, if every time you sit down to write, you complete two new pages, you set up flow and forward momentum and feel you're making progress. This feeling of accomplishment will make you eager to come back and pick up where you left off.

3. Find your Third Place. The science of Ergonomics (the study of how our environment influences our effectiveness) says your home is your First Place and your office is your Second Place. If you work on your creative project at your home/office, that’s your First and Second Place.

Ergonomic experts say it’s almost impossible to stay focused on creative projects in your First and Second Place because your environment keeps reminding you of the laundry, bills, client work or household chores you customarily do in that space.

Your Third Place (a nearby coffee shop? local library?) is a public place where you can work in private. Working there kick-starts creativity because it 1) it socializes your work process but without the downside of being constantly interrupted by people asking you to cook dinner or find their backpack. 2) Instead of stalling because you're operating in isolation, you get to piggy-back off the energy of people in the room.

3) Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? If working on your dream project is the only thing you do in your Third Place, it sets up a repeat ritual where the faucet of flow opens up every time you walk in because THAT's what's associated with that environment. Many clients tell me their Third Place is their saving grace. It is the only time and space where they can escape their job/family responsibilities and make their creative priority their top priority.

4. Reduce accessibility. Are people constantly asking to pick your brain? Do you find it difficult to say no when someone begs for your advice, support, time, mind or dime?

Mark off time on your calendar where you devote yourself to your creative project. Set aside certain days (every Tuesday?) where you are available for public appointments and activities. And, instead of letting someone buying you lunch or a cup of coffee, go for a walk/talk so at least you're outside getting fit.

You may worry you will offend people by taking yourself off the grid. You might want to ask yourself, “Am I supporting everyone else’s priorities at the cost of my own?”

it is our responsibility to think big and to think long on our behalf of our dreams.

What is the long-term cost of being available to others 24/7? I am not suggesting we become a recluse. W.S. Merwin isn’t a hermit; he is simply selective about how often he is accessible. He balances public requests with his dedication to his legacy work, which keeps the light on in his eyes and keeps him contributing at his highest level.

How about you? How will you hold yourself accountable for focusing on what will matter in the long run ... now, not later?

Joseph Campbell said, "The big question is whether you are going to say a hearty yes to your adventure."

Remember, someday is not a day in the week. How will you say YES to your adventure? How will you NOT wait to the last day of the world to plant your tree?

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Sam Horn is on a mission to help clients create a quality life-work that adds value for all involved. Her books - including POP!, Tongue Fu, IDEApreneur! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC and on NPR and presented to NASA, Boeing, Capital One and National Geographic. Want Sam to speak to your group? Contact Cheri@intrigueAgency.com.