What Voice are You Listening To?

"There are always two voices sounding in our ears – the voice of FEAR and the voice of CONFIDENCE. One is the clamor of the senses, the other is the whispering of the higher self.” – Charles Newcomb I love Newcomb’s quote because it captures the emotions we experience when facing new situations and making important decisions at Crucial Crossroads.

We can give in to the clamor of the senses or honor the whispering of our higher self and move our life forward – for good.

The importance of this was dramatically demonstrated in an outing I took with my friend Leslie years ago on New Year’s Day.

I was still living in Hawaii at the time. The winter surf was booming so we ventured out to the North Shore of Oahu to tackle the waves at Hawaii’s famous Waimea Bay.

Leslie and I were both strong swimmers. I paticipanted in the Waikiki Rough Water Swim and Leslie was a “fish” who was completely comfortable in the water. Plus, we were only going to the inside set, not out by the jetty where the really big waves were.

But still . . .

Leslie and I stood on the beach with our boogie boards, wondering, “Should we go in . . . shouldn’t we go in?”

If we went in, we could get turned inside out, upside down and deposited on the beach.

On the other hand, we could have an incredibly exhilarating experience, the thrill of a lifetime.

Twenty minutes later, we were still standing on the beach, wondering, “Should we . . . . shouldn’t we . . . should we . . . . shouldn’t we?”

We finally looked at each other simultaneously and said, “Let’s go in. We’ll never know standing out here.”

I remember as if it were yesterday working our way out past that surf line, hanging onto our boards, gazing out towards the horizon with a mixture of awe and what-have-we done?

An impressive set rolled toward us. We looked at each other wide-eyed, filled with equal parts of excitement and anxiety, wondering whether to go for it. We knew once we committed, there was no turning back. You can’t tell an 8 foot wave, “Sorry, I changed my mind.”

We decided to go for it. We kicked as hard as we could to match the speed of the wave and caught it. The swell lifted us up and shot us forward. Whoosh.

I remember sliding down the face of that wave, cutting back and forth as we rode it all the way in until we scraped our bellies on the beach.

We looked at each other, grinning from ear to ear, nodded in agreement and went back out for another shot of adrenaline. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life. I will always be glad we listened to the voice of confidence instead of the voice of fear.

Are you at a Crucial Crossroads? Do you want to try something new - speak at a conference, launch a startup, write a book, ask for a promotion, go back to college, train for a 10K?

Are you standing on the beach going, “Should I . . .shouldn’t I . . . should I . . . shouldn’t I?’

You’ll never know standing on the beach.

We're not here to stand on the shore, giving in to doubts. We're here to GO IN.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “We always experience anxiety whenever we confront the potential of our own development.”

Do what makes you anxious; don’t do what makes you depressed.

I have never met anyone who regretted listening to the voice of confidence instead of the voice of fear. We don't regret going for our dreams – even if they don't turn out the way we anticipated.

When we act on our hopes (instead of our doubts) and reach out for what puts the light on in our eyes, we feel an inner sense of rightness, “This is how I’m supposed to feel.”

When we retreat, withdraw and give in to fear, the lights goes out. We feel safe, but sorry.

When we believe in our self and bet on our self, things just keep getting better and better.

Sometime this week you’ll come to a Crucial Crossroad. You'll be called to do something that resonates with you, that aligns with the person you want to be, you know you can be.

Which voice will you choose to listen to?

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Sam Horn, CEO/Founder of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create compelling communications that add value for all involved. Check out her books and TEDx talk on INTRIGUE. Discover why her work has been featured in NY Times, Forbes, INC, Fast Company and presented to Intel, Cisco, NASA, Accenture, Capital One, YPO and EO.

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Do You Believe in Bucket Lists?

"The ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When your soul got to heaven, the gods asked two questions, "Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?" - from the movie The Bucket List Where do you stand on the “Great Bucket List Debate?”

Joe Queenan wrote a Wall Street Journal article titled It’s Time to Kick the Bucket List that's triggered a passionate debate online.

Some of the thought-provoking nuggets in his essay include:

• "Nobody needs to go falconing in Mongolia or ride on the back of a nurse shark in Alaska for their life to be complete. They need to raise kids who won’t grow up to hate them. Or take care of their aging mother and make sure she gets a nice send-off."

• “Bucket lists can become obsessive, expensive, painful. They create the impression that life is not so much something to be lived and enjoyed as a series of obligations to be checked off."

• "Get to know where you live better. Forget Mount Fuji, Mount Everest, Mont Saint-Michel. If you live in New York but have never been to Rockaway Beach, Fire Island or the waterfalls in Patterson, N.J,. get cracking."

• "A proper bucket list should be short and highly selective. It’s a bucket list, not a laundry list."

When I asked people on my #LinkedIn page what they thought about bucket lists, I received fascinating responses.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/great-bucket-list-debate-sam-horn/?published=t

Some believe bucket lists are "abhorrent" because they're "morbid and deathly." One said "Bucket lists are for bucket heads." Others say they're a way to "start with the end in mind" and can be an incredibly motivating way to do what matters now so we prevent regrets.

What say you?

Do you have a bucket list?

Yes? Why?

No? Why not?

If you do, what's on it?

What purpose does a bucket list serve in your life?

Other comments?

Let's create a forum on this topic. Eager to hear what you think and explore the pro's and con's of whether bucket lists are worth having.

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What Miracles Await - An Hour Off Our Planned Path?

I am driving from Colorado to Califonia. My waitress at breakfast yesterday asked, "Are you going to Zion National Park?"

When I asked why, she said, "You know it's only an hour away?" I hadn't known.

Thankfully, I had left room for whims and was able to spontaneoulsy take this side trip which has made the whole trip more rewarding than I could have imagined.

By the way, that is literally true. When we partner with life rather than plan every minute of it, what unfolds is better than we can imagine. It opens the door for SerenDestiny (a life where the light is on in our eyes) and we are gifted with unexpected delights that enrich us.

I lucked out as it was a perfect winter day. Sunny and with no ice or crowds on the trails. Let's hear it for off-season.

Hiked up to Emerald Pools and marveled at this natural waterfall in the midst of the Utah desert.

Felt so blessed to be able to immerse myself in this sacred place in such ideal conditions, I decided I couldn't "rush off." So, I stayed the night at this lodge that looked out at, and was surrounded by, these awe-inspiring mountains so I could more deeply imprint and enjoy this sensory-rich experience.

Still can't quite believe this magnificent place was on my way - but not on my radar.

An extraordinary experience and totally unexpected.

How about you?

Are you leaving room for whims - space for SerenDestiny?

Do you listen to intuitive nudges and act on intriguing opportunities that pop up along the way?

Do you cooperate with what wants to happen vs. trying to control every minute of it?

After all, who knows what miracles await - an hour off the planned path?

Day Right Quote #35: I Like To Get Myself In Over My Head

This is the sign of an entrepreneur, someone who sees life as the adventure it's meant to be. Someone who, like Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, likes to get in over your head because you welcome challenges, love being stretched, and even when things are upside down-inside out, you're confident you can figure them out.

Is that you?

BTW - this is an example of an insight-image you can create with SparkPost. If you know me, you know I believe it's important to INK IT WHEN YOU THINK IT.

Well, these days, capturing and communicating WORDS isn't enough. By matching in-the-moment INSIGHTS and attributed QUOTES with an IMAGE, you can create on-brand messages that connect with people and take your work viral.

Want to know how to do that? I'm be sharing that - AND answering your questions - in our monthly ASK SAM call (no charge) on May 17th.

This is our way of staying connected with our community and sharing some of the gee-whiz stuff we're doing and want to share so you can run with it in your own business, career and life.

Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency - at 805 528-4351 - for details and to register.

I like to get myself in over my head . mariss mayer

Day Right Quote #34: Nearly All The Best Things That Came to Me in Life Have Been Unexpected, Unplanned by Me

After an intense and rewarding week of consults, I pronounced yesterday ADVENTURE FRIDAY and decided to go to Estes Park, 30 miles away, because I'd never been there. As I drove into that stunning mountain valley, I saw a white lodge high on a hill. I didn't know what it was, but it looked intriguing, so I started taking roads that led UP until I arrived HERE.

This is the famous Stanley Hotel. You may have seen it in the movie The Shining. Remember Jack Nicholson's immortal words, "I'll be b-a-c-k."

As I strolled the grounds, marveled at the "didn't know that" history of this grand hotel, and gazed at the majestic snow-capped mountains, I was reminded all over again that SECURITY is not the spice of life, DISCOVERY is.

Do you do same-old, same-old, day in and day out? Do you feel locked into routines?

This week, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Change things up. Follow an intuitive nudge to go here, do this. Re-experience the power curiosity and discovery have to put the light on in your eyes. Set something in motion and see what unfolds

Your SerenDestiny is on the other side of routine.

Carl Sandburg is right. Nearly all the best things that come to us in life are unexpected, unplanned

carl sandberg

Day Right Quote #16: It Is Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been

George Eliot said, "Its never too late to be what you might have been" 150 years ago ... and it's as true today as when she first said it. When you were young, who did you want to be?

What did you want to do?

Where did you want to go?

It's only too late if you don't start now. George Eliot

Lesson #10. It Wasn't a Mid-Life Crisis; It was Mid-Life Clarity

When I announced my plans to embark upon my Year by the Water adventure, most people were happy for me and said something along the lines of, “Take me with you!” A few, however, expressed “concerns. A meeting planner cautioned me with, “Sam, I hope you know you’re taking a risk by taking yourself off the grid. You need to control this story or the business you’ve worked so hard to build may not be here when you come back. You know, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”

A highly successful investor told me, "I'm envious, but I could never just do nothing. I'd go crazy if I didn't work."

Another wanted to know, “Is something wrong?” In other words, “Are you sick, on your deathbed or just having a mid-life crisis?”

I listened to their concerns, and then assured them my decision to take my business on a road trip wasn’t a mid-life CRISIS, it was mid-life CLARITY. I was clear that:

I wasn’t QUITTING work – I was doing a different KIND of work.

I wasn’t doing NOTHING – I was doing SOMETHING that put the light on in my eyes just thinking about it.

There wasn’t anything WRONG with my life – I was taking steps to create a more RIGHT life.

And I certainly wasn’t going to hide this from my business community, I was going to invite them to come along so they could vicariously experience the adventures and insights with me.

What helped me get this mid-life clarity?

Well, a lot of things. One was something my son Andrew told me. Another was a health scare and the doctor warning me I better take better care of myself or my body would do something more drastic to get my attention.

Another was a variety of quotes that served as wake-up calls and motivated me to “get a move on.”

They included Paulo Coelho’s sober reminder, “One day you’re going to wake up and there won’t be any time left to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.”

Another was my clarity of how fortunate I am to be in a position to answer what called me.

I’m not one of the 65 million people (29% of the U.S. population) taking care of a chronically ill, disabled or aged friend or family member. I can operate my business from anywhere. And while I’m not independently wealthy, I’m wealthy in what matters. I have the health, freedom and autonomy to disrupt my life and do things differently.

There was nothing holding me back … so I took eighteen months to swim with dolphins, watch the sun rise over Diamond Head, take a photography workshop in Monet’s Garden, sail the Chesapeake Bay, drive the back-roads of America (and almost over a cliff on California’s Pacific Coast Highway) ... write about my experiences and epiphanies.

I will always be grateful for that adventure. It was one of the most deeply satisfying experiences of my life.

What I didn't anticipate was My Year by the Water ended up NOT being about the water.

Yes, I visited some of nature's wonders - oceans, waterfalls, mountain streams - but what made this experience so memorable and pivotal wasn't the places I visited; it was the disruptive epiphanies that challenged everything I thought I knew about what it takes to lead a meaningful life.

Aristotle said, “An unexamined life is not worth living."

Well, after going 24/7 for the past few decades, this trip gave me the time and space to reflect on my life.

What I discovered, much to my surprise, was that many of my life-long beliefs and behaviors like “It’s better to give than receive” and “Winners never quit and quitters never win” "Hard work is the secret to success" – were not contributing to a quality life; they were compromising it.

As a result of having time to examine what was working, what wasn’t and what I was going to do differently; my life has been enriched in ways that are better than I could have imagined.

I know you’re busy and may not have the incentive or resources to take a road trip.The good news? You don’t have to quit your job, win the lottery, get a divorce or walk away from your obligations to embark upon a "virtual" road trip. In my upcoming book Chase Meaning Not Clicks, you can vicariously experience those put-you-in-the-scene adventures in short chapters, all which can be read in under 10 minutes.

What's even better, ou don't have to wait for the book to come out in early 2018 to benefit from those insights. Here are my top ten lessons-learned. Hope they give you the CLARITY, incentive and inspiration to do more of what puts the light on in your eyes starting today ... not someday.

1. A Life We Love Is Often One Small Change Away

2. We’re Not Torn Between Two Worlds – We Have the Best of Both Worlds

3. Why Do We Keep Driving Into Hurricanes?

4. If We’re Lonely, We’re Not Paying Attention

5. Courage Is Trusting We Can Figure Things Out Along the Way

6. It’s Not Selfish To Put Yourself in Your Own Story

7. There Is No Present Like The Time To Do More of What Puts The Light On In Your Eyes

8. Figure Out What You Want to Do NEXT and Start Doing It NOW

9. Fun Is Not a Four-Letter Word

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One of the great joys of my life is having the opportunity to share my adventures/insights at conferences. If you're planning a program and would like a presentation that gives your participants an opportunity to connect, reflect, and identify what they can do to stop waiting and start creating a life where the light is on in their eyes, contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com. It'd be a pleasure and a privilege to share these inspiring stories with your group so they're creating the quality of life and work they want now, not someday.

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Lesson #9 From My Year by the Water: Fun Is Not a Four-Letter Word

When people ask what prompted me to give away 95% of what I owned and take off for a Year by the Water, I often tell them what Andrew said, “Mom, you’re created a life where you can do anything you want, and you’re not taking advantage of it.” He helped me realize the clock is ticking. Not in a morbid way. In a motivating way. But I was also ready to do the opposite of my always. I love my work, but I was pretty much going-going-going seven days a week. I was exhausted. (Sound familiar?)

Then, like many busy people I know, I came down with a respiratory illness that wouldn’t get better. I “soldiered through” for weeks (got to keep my commitments, right?) until I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed.

A friend took me to Urgent Care. After checking my lungs, the doc diagnosed walking pneumonia, prescribed bed rest and antibiotics, and then said, “I don’t understand why so many people are working themselves to death. You’re lucky we can treat this with a Z-pack. You’ll be fine in ten days. But if you don’t start taking better care of yourself, your body will do something else to get your attention.”

Hmm. What is it with this Puritan Work Ethic? Why do so many of us believe hard work is noble? Why do 55% of Americans NOT take all their paid vacation days? (Fact!) Why do so many of us feel it’s only okay to “play” when all our work is done? Since, for many of us, our work is never done, we never find time to have fun. We just get more and more run down.

I’m supposed to know better than this.

Guess what my major was in college? Recreation Administration! Career counselors kept suggesting I study law or medicine to make the most of my brain, but I grew up playing sports and believed they're at the center of a happy, healthy life. Even though some people told me this was a “joke degree for slackers,” I worked my way through college coaching swim teams, running community centers, organizing sports leagues and was a walking/talking advocate of the benefits of being active outdoors.

Yet, for a number of reasons, for the past couple of decades, I’ve spent more time sitting and spectating than being active. Let’s unpack that for a moment.

As parents, it’s easy for our days to become filled with chauffeuring kids to practices, games and activities while we sit in the car. on the bleachers or on the sidelines. Yet, when I think about my athletic career growing up, my mom came to one of my swim meets and my dad came to one of my tennis matches. That was it. And I didn’t feel bereft, abandoned or unloved. They had their life, I had mine.

As entrepreneurs, or if we have financial and family care-taking responsibilities, we can be in constant biz dev mode, constant got-to-work two jobs to pay bills mode, or constant “It’s selfish to go off and do something my own thing when my parents, kids, friends, neighbors (fill in the blank) need me.”

One of the most important epiphanies from My Year by the Water is, “It’s NOT SELFISH to do something that makes up happy; it’s SMART. It’s not indulgent or frivolous to do something each week that fills us with joy; it’s an investment in a more fulfilling life ... now and in the years to come.”

Please understand, I’m not suggesting we abandon our obligations and only do what we want. I’m suggesting we balance our responsibility to others with a responsibility to our selves to stay happy, healthy and in love with life.

My Year by the Water was SO MUCH FUN. Swimming with Zach the Dolphin. Seeing the sun rise over Diamond Head while riding the waves off Waikiki. Exploring Monet’s Garden. Reveling in a road of my own. Never knowing what was over the next knoll, around the next bend.

Now that I’m on to my next adventure – spending time with my sons, their wives and their brand new babies – I’ve promised myself to NOT let the rubber band of routine snap back and return to being a desk potato.

Like today, for example. I spent a good eight hours at the computer prepping for consulting appointments and working on my new book; but then the mountains called. A friend told me about Colorado Chautauqua I jumped online and discovered it was less than five miles away. I jumped in my car and fifteen minutes later was hiking the golden foothills, exploring the Flatirons and checking out this historic national landmark -which Theodore Roosevelt called “The Most American Thing in America.

So, here’s to fun NOT being a four-letter word. Here’s to fun being an active part of our life (intentional play on words) so we’re enjoying our lives, taking care of ourselves and making the most of our health … now, not someday.

fun is not a four letter word - beach

Lesson #8 From My Year by the Water: Figure Out Your NEXT and Start Doing it NOW

I had an opportunity to speak for a national convention on the topic of "Is the Light On In Your Eyes?" The conference theme was "Reflections on Success" and I started by saying many of us spend more time reflecting on what movie to watch this weekend than on what we're going to do with the rest of our life. Sound familiar?

Many of the people in the audience were successful entrepreneurs who have so many different projects and people counting on them, they feel they can't take time off. Many work 60-70 hour weeks and haven't taken a vacation for years. Some are ready to retire, but can't imagine what they're going to do NEXT that could be as satisfying and productive as what they're currently doing.

I told them we were going to spend the next ninety minutes reflecting on what's working, what's not and what we're going to do about it NEXT. I shared a quiz that can help anyone figure out in 4 minutes what's supporting their happiness, what's sabotaging it.

One of the options we talked about is how to make our passion - what puts the light on in our eyes - part of our profession. Many people told me they're too "busy" to do the hobbies that used to bring them joy. I told them, they can COMBINE their recreation WITH their work in a win-win way - instead of seeing them as being mutually exclusive.

Here's what I mean.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the largest networking organization in the world. After hearing about my full calendar of #speaking, #consulting and #traveling, he asked, "What do you do for fun?"

Long pause. I finally dug deep and came up with "I walk my dog around the lake."

Please don't get me wrong. I love what I do and I am grateful to have the opportunity to do work with smart talented people who are making a positive difference in the world ... it's just that I was going 24/7.

That conversation and several other wake-up calls motivated me to set out on a Year by the Water. I didn't abandon my business ... I just took it on the road. As James Taylor said when he took a break from touring to compose new lyrics and produce a new album; "I didn't quit work - I did a different kind of work. " I went from non-stop productivity to full-time creativity. I did the opposite of my always and the contrast filled me with joy.

What I learned on my travels is that you don't have to be torn between two worlds - you can have the best of both worlds. You don't have to put aside what puts the light on in your eyes - you can integrate it into your work so you feel more balanced and blessed. You don't have to lose your "hobby" because you're always working, you can leverage your hobby to make your work fun and productive.

Want an example of how this works?

When I lived on#Maui, I had a friend named Kathy who was a 4.5 tennis player and a Realtor. We played a couple times a week until the economy slumped and she told me she was too bus" finding clients to play tennis anymore.

I suggested her hobby wasn't an indulgence she do only when she had spare time - it was a competitive edge that could give her access to ideal clients. I suggested she approach the concierges at the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (both 5 diamond properties catering to affluent travelers - Kathy's target demographic) and let them know they could recommend her to guests looking for a good game of singles. They eagerly did this because Kathy had lived on the island for years, was a respected member of the community, and they trusted her to make this a good experience for their resort guests.

This turned into a win for everyone. Within a month, Kathy was back to playing tennis 3-5 times a week AND had several new clients buying houses. She didn't offend anyone with hard selling. It was natural while sharing an iced-tea after a satisfying match for guests to ask "What do you do?" When they found out she was a Realtor, they'd often ask if she had any available properties for a good price. Not only was Kathy back to being active outside doing something she loved - it became an organic marketing tool that kept her visible and became her secret sauce to success in a down market.

Want other ways to figure out how you can integrate your passion into your profession and keep the light on in your eyes? Want to leverage your years of experience into a new NEXT that makes a positive difference for all involved?

I'm working on a book that shows how to do that, and will be sharing some of the steps on my www.SamHorn.com site and on my LinkedIn page.

You're invited to check out these sample posts to access some of the specific steps on how to create a unique niche ... and shape work you love that matters NOW, not someday ... so you're creating a life-work integration that is personally and professionally satisfying.

Hope you'll visit those sites. You will never regret clarifying what's important to you and bringing more of that into your life ... you will only regret not doing it sooner.

what is your next - do now

Lesson #7 From My Year by the Water: There is No Present Like the Time to Do More of What Puts the Light On In Your Eyes

"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me." - #1 regret of the dying as reported by nurse Bonnie Ware Many people on my Year by the Water talked wistfully of the dreams they pan to do ... someday. Are you waiting until you have more time, money, energy, freedom to do what you really want to do? What if that never happens?

Face it. There never will be a "right" time to do more of what matters to you. You'll never have more time than you have right now. Get clear on what's important to you and begin. Make today the someday you've been waiting for.

I recently did something I've been wanting to do for a long time.

While in Southern California celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister, I decided I was only 90 minutes away from the small town where I grew up and thought, "There’s no present like the time” to return for a trip down Memory Row.

You know how you always hear how SMALL everything looks in your hometown? True dat. The C & H store in Ne Cuyama – which loyally bought our 4-H and FFA animals at the Santa Maria Fair every year – used to seem so far from our house yet it was only a half mile away. I remember tearing there in our hoopy (a golf cart we used to go to the barn and corrals to feed our horses, steers and sheep) to splurge and buy a can of chicken noodle soup, a Babe Ruth bar, a small packet of Fritos and a soda for under a dollar (our food allowance for a summer day and this was way before we starting counting carbs.)

Here’s the high school (104 students on its busiest year) where I learned to play tennis by hitting thousands of balls against the backboard, and where Mr. Adams shaped some talent-shy kids into a decent jazz band. Memories of Cheri playing Pete Fountain’s Stranger on the Shore on her clarinet, Fascination on her saxophone, and us rockin it on String of Pearls, Glenn Miller's In The Mood and A-Train.

Here’s the shop where Dad, the ag teacher in town, spent long hours teaching 3 welding classes a day and building a 4-horse stock trailer from scratch. And the football field where we had our version of "Friday Nigh Lights' with 6 man football. And the rec center where our small community gathered for roller skate nights, cake walks and

Aahh, the elementary school where I ran for student body president against Don Cox and lost by 1 vote because he handed out bubble gum at the polls. (Couldn't be anything else, right? Ha.)

And there’s the school auditorium where I gave my first public speech as 8th-grade valedictorian, (which may not seem like a big deal, but in our small town it was to me.) The night of graduation, our librarian Mr. Bowers pulled me aside and gifted me with a pen and ink drawing he’d done of a mustang standing on a bluff overlooking a herd of horses on a plateau below. He said, “Sam, you’re a mustang. Mustangs join the herd at will, but leave when the herd tries to take them where they don’t want to go.”

Thank you Mr. Bowers for seeing me and for reaching out at an influential age to give me a supportive identity. As Henry F. Emerson said, “Teachers affect eternity. Who know where their influence will end?”

Who could forget the library? I used to ride my horse Joe - a palomino who had two speeds, a trot and an all-out run, he never, ever walked – here and tie him to a tree while I went in with the hopes of finding a book I hadn’t already read.

I devoured everything (even the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain that was far beyond my pay grade, so to speak) but the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley were my favorite. They gave me an all-important window into a fascinating world just waiting to be explored outside the confines of our isolated mountain valley.

The Buckhorn was the only “fancy” place and restaurant in town. We would save our money, sit at the counter and splurge on a grilled cheese and root beer float from the soda fountain. Cheri celebrated her 14th birthday at a pool party here by wearing a daring (and forbidden) two piece bathing suit brought in Catalina.

Our home on Cebrian Street is holding up pretty well for being 70+ years old. I couldn't help but laugh as a tumbleweed blew across the road as I drove by. Brought back images of the tumbleweed forts we built by the side of the house to play with our Barbies (really!).

Some of the memories that came flooding back as I gazed at my childhood home included the chickens in our back yard that would fly-run squawking around the corner as soon as we opened the back door, no matter how quietly we tried to turn the knob. My rabbits in their hutches and me asking Mom and Dad on a freezing winter night if I HAD to feed them that night, asking “Cant it wait until tomorrow morning?” and my folks saying what they always said, “Do the right thing.”

The Christmas we gathered in a circle (including cousins Dan, Jim, Uncle Brick and Aunt Carol) to open presents. My brother Dave tore open his gift, unfolded the white tissue and promptly threw the box in the air, dumping its contents all over Mom who was wearing her best “dress-up” outfit, a red wood suit. Unfortunately for mom, the contents were horse manure, our parents’ clever way of saying Dave was getting what he wanted for Christmas - his own horse.

Now I'm in Honolulu under the historic “Hawaii Call’s” banyan tree. On the drive in from the airport, we drove by Tripler, the pink hospital on the hill overlooking Pearl Harbor, where Andrew was born. There’s Queen Medical Center where Tom entered the world on Labor Day (quite a sense of humor.). I remember watching the finals of the U.S. Open, thinking "This doesn't hurt that much. I can handle it," and that's when the doc gave me the Petocin.

I walked over to the Rainbow Tower of the the Hilton Hawaiian Village which reminded me of the last time my sons and I visited here - to compete in the Waikiki Rough Water Swim. Tom served as crew and Andrew beat me (by a lot) to the finish line - the noogie.

To top off my trip down Memory Row, the musician here at the Beach Bar at the Moana just started playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The boys grew up in Maui listening to Hawaiian music ... Brothers Cazimero, Hapa, Keilii Reichel. Tom surprised me by having Brother Iz's version of this song played at his and Patty’s wedding. As he walked me to the center of the floor for the “Mom’s Dance,” he smiled and said “Thought you’d like this.”

Tom was right. I did like it. And I like that its lyrics are poignantly relevant as I reflect on the 25 years spent in these two homes of New Cuyama and Hawaii – first where I grew up as a child, second where my two children grew up.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, Blue birds fly,

And the dreams that you dreamed of,

Dreams really do come true.

I see trees of green and red roses too

I'll watch them bloom for me and you

And I think to myself,

What a wonderful world.”

It is indeed a wonderful world, and I am so grateful for the many dreams which have bloomed and come true.

How about you? What have you been wanting to do? Maybe it's not going back to what you grew up - maybe it's to start your own business, write a book, give back to your community, get back into a hobby that brings you joy, head out on your own adventure.

Buddha said, "The problem is, you think you have time." Please understand, there's no present like the time - and no time like the present - to do more of what puts the light on in your eyes. What is something you'll do THIS week that makes you smile just thinking of it?

- - -

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create quality one-of-a-kind projects that add value for all involved. Her work - including her TEDx talk and books POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post Bestseller Got Your Attention? - has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC and NPR and presented to clients such as Boeing, Cisco, Intel. Want Sam to share her inspiring insights with your organization? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

there is no present llike the time - blue best

Courage is Trusting You Can Figure Things Out Along the Way

Would you call yourself a brave person? Do you think you're courageous? I've learned that courage is just another word for being resourceful. It's going ahead even when you don't have all the answers. It's trusting you can figure things out along the way.

I got clear about this while sailing the Chesapeake Bay with Captain Jen on her classic schooner. She generously gave me a chance at the helm of her classic schooner the Woodwind (the beautiful yacht featured in the movie Wedding Crashers with Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Christopher Walken and Rachel McAdams.)

What a thrill to feel the sails fill and the boat lift. While beaming from ear to ear, I asked Jen how she got into the business and she shared her backstory.

Jen sailed competitively through college and tried different careers but nothing “stuck.” She and her parents found this beautiful yacht, named her Woodwind, and invested their savings into buying it so Jen could start her own charter business. Jen drove up and down the East Coast searching for the perfect location to operate out of – and found it in Annapolis when she saw the Marriott had an unused dock by their waterfront restaurant.

She walked into the General Manager's office and convinced him it would be a win for the property ("Think of the extra room nights and food/beverage income from new guests.") to allow her to rent that space.

I told her I admired her entrepreneurial spirit and told her the second most-asked question on my Year by the Water was, "How did you get to be so brave?”

I told Jen I never once thought of this as being “brave.”

She smiled and said, “Me neither.”

She told me her folks (both music teachers) owned a boat from when she was a little girl and they often spent summers aboard. Jen remembered them giving her $5 and sending her off in a little dinghy to “get some ice cream.”

She laughed, “I didn’t realize until years later that was their way of getting some privacy. What I also didn’t realize was those solo forays in that dinghy taught me to trust the world. My parents didn’t warn me of the “dangers” of going off on my own. They had confidence I could handle whatever came up, so I had confidence too.”

I told her I had a similar version of that story – except with horses. My sister and I had our own horses by the time we were nine and ten. We would be gone all day, and our folks never worried. They trusted if something went wrong, we’d figure it out. If our horse bucked us off. Figure it out. If our horse ran away with us. Figure it out.

It wasn’t until later in life that I really “got” the enduring impact of those early years. Instead of seeing the world as a dangerous place, my sister and I grew up seeing the world as an adventurous place.

Instead of being afraid something might go wrong, we understood things probably would go wrong at some point, and when they did, it was our responsibility to be resourceful.

We didn’t panic or sit around and wait to be rescued, and we didn’t feel abandoned or think our parents didn’t care about us. We learned we could take care of ourselves - which is the core of courage.

Setting out with anticipation (vs. apprehension) was our norm and Jen’s norm too.

I’ve since learned that for many people, their norm was just the opposite. Their norm was to have over-protective parents who constantly warned them to “be careful.” They weren’t sent off into the world with opportunities to discover their own way; they were cautioned about the danger of strangers and were hovered over by parents who rushed in at the first sign something might go awry.

My folks are gone now – so all I can do is send up heartfelt thanks for giving us a childhood where self-sufficiency was encouraged and where the world was depicted as a wondrous place, waiting to be explored.

One of the reasons my Year by the Water (and my life) has been so rewarding is because I know in my soul that "Courage is simply trusting - that no matter what happens - I can figure it out. Bravery is simply another name for resourcefulness."

After being an entrepreneur for thirty years, and after having the privilege of working with many entrepreneurs in many different industries; I've come to understand that entrepreneurs are explorers and adventurers at heart.

Entrepreneurs revel in their independence. They're not intimidated by uncertainty, they welcome it. They find new ventures exciting (not frightening) because they trust their ability to "figure it out." Instead of being afraid something might go wrong; they jump in and proactively fix what's wrong. They know the world rewards the resourceful.

Do you want to launch something and you're scared? Do you want to start a small business, write a book, learn a new skill, return to a favorite hobby - but you don't know exactly how to do it or you're afraid you won't do it perfectly?

Do it anyway and figure it out along the way.

As my son Andrew would say, "GTS it. GTS = Google that Stuff. You can find out ANYTHING you want to know in seconds. If you put "How can I start a small business? How can I start my own web design agency? How can I get funding for my startup, How can I market my new business?" into search, up will come the answers to the test. There's no mystery how to do things anymore. Experts are sharing their best practices for free and they can guide you on your way.

Print this out and take a friend to lunch today. Use this as a discussion guide to support you in seeing yourself as brave and moving forward what you would like to do.

1: Reflect and look back to clarify your beliefs: Were you brought up to trust or distrust the world? Were you encouraged to explore - to be entrepreneurial? Were you given opportunities to "figure things out?" Do you play it safe? Do you worry about things going wrong or do you expect them to and just get resourceful when they do?

2: Look ahead to clarify what you're going to believe from now on: Start thinking of yourself as courageous. Trust you can figure things out along the way. Instead of thinking, "I don't know, so I can't go," GTS what you need to know. Set things in motion. Understanding that if things can wrong, you can handle them. Picture how fulfilling life is going to be now that you see it as an adventure; how exciting it's going to be to explore new opportunities, go new place, make new friends, delight in new discoveries.

courage - trust along the way.

Lesson #3 From My Year by the Water: Stop Driving Into Hurricanes!

The very first day of my adventure, I was driving to Chesapeake Bay to stay in a beachfront home a friend had graciously loaned me. The only problem? A hurricane was also headed there. As the winds whipped up and I could hardly see the road through the rainstorm, a thought bubble appeared above my head, "Why drive into a hurricane?!" Why to keep my commitment, of course. That's what I was taught to do. We keep our commitments - no matter what. . But this was unsafe. Maybe under the circumstances, it would be okay, even advisable, to "break a promise?"

I called my friend and told her I had changed my mind. She didn't hesitate, she said, "Good decision. There will be another, better time to stay at the beach-house."

An hour later, I was safely ensconced in a historic B & B in Annapolis, half-asleep under a fluffy down comforter. What a relief.

My epiphany? "Where else in my life am I automatically keeping commitments - out of habit or "integrity" - that were made long ago that are no longer relevant or healthy? Where else am I honoring promises I made to people who don't care if I change my mind; they may even applaud or be grateful for my decision?"

My friend Mary LoVerde says this has become a "go-to" phrase in her family. When she or one of her kids is about to head into a stormy situation, they stop and ask themselves, "Am I driving into a hurricane?"

If we know in advance we're heading into a hot mess, and we're doing it simply because we said we would, maybe it's wise to NOT DO IT. Maybe there are other options that are a win for all involved.

Sometimes it's not selfish to break a promise or opt out of a commitment; it's smart.

You may be thinking, "But we've got to keep our commitments. That's they only way people can trust us."

That makes sense and that's what I thought for thirty years. However, this experience opened my eyes to the fact that keeping commitments - no matter what - is not always optimal.

Honoring our "word" is an important characteristic. But a strength taken to an extreme can become our Achilles Heel.

If a relationship or commitment is not working anymore, if it's become toxic or stormy; if you wish you hadn't made this promise and want to change things; why not have a conversation with your client, colleague or partner to get their point of view?

Maybe they feel the same way. Maybe they have an idea on how to adapt or update the agreement so it works better for all involved. Maybe, together, you can come up with a more current, effective course correction and collaboration that benefits both of you.

A colleague told me this phrase, "Are we about to drive into a hurricane? WHY?!" has become part of their family lore.

For example, her daughter and son-in-law dreaded going to his parents' house for Thanksgiving because it was always a war zone. It was a day of uncles, aunts, and cousins all complaining and at each others' throat. Not a pleasant way to spend a holiday, yet this couple went year after year out of a sense of obligation. Even though it upset them to be in the midst of such conflict; they kept doing it because they'd made a commitment.

This past year, they got creative. They got in touch with his folks and invited them to join them on a different weekend at a timeshare they'd purchased. Instead of spending money on traveling to his parents' house for Thanksgiving, they offered to pay the grandparents' way to join them at this beach resort.

What a brilliant solution. The kids were happy because there was plenty to do at this oceanfront property, and the parents and grandparents were happy because they had together time without juggling everyone else's personalities and demands.

Next time you're about to drive into a hurricane, ask yourself, "Why? Are there options I haven't explored yet?"

You just might discover a better route, a new route, that bypasses the drama and trauma and ends up being a win for everyone.

stop driving into hurricanes

Lesson #2 From my Year by the Water: We're Not Torn Between Two Worlds; We Have the Best of Both Worlds

Years ago when my sons we're growing up on Maui, I felt torn between two worlds. I had two sons I loved and wanted to be with AND had a thriving speaking/training business that called for me to be on the road and in the air. At a National Speakers Association convention on the mainland, I ran into a long-time friend Maggie Bedrosian. We hadn't seen each other since I had left Washington D.C. for the Hawaiian Islands several years before.

Maggie asked, "Sam, how are you?" I started telling her. Before I could finish, Maggie being Maggie, (she must have been an impish elf and wise sage in another life) interrupted me and said, "No Sam, tell me in ONE WORD how you're doing."

Wow, what a great question. It forced me to distill everything I was feeling into one catchall phrase. I dug deep, opened my mouth, and out came "Maggie, I'm … conflicted."

Her eyebrows flew up. "Conflicted? How so?"

"Yesterday morning I was on Keawakapu Beach with Tom and Andrew at golden hour. They were charging into the surf with their boogie boards, riding those waves all the way in until they scraped their bellies on the beach, and then running out to catch another one. It was Nirvana. I didn't want to be anywhere else.

Today, I’m here at this conference surrounded by smart, talented peers, I'm learning new things, speaking on my favorite topic, my brain's on fire, and I'm humming with energy and new ideas.

I feel like I'm constantly torn between two worlds."

Maggie looked at me and then shared this insight. "Sam, the words you use to describe your experience define your experience. You better come up with another word to describe how you feel, because that's how it's going to be."

Smart woman.

That night I couldn't sleep. If I wasn't conflicted, what was I? I kept mentally tasting words, experimenting with them to see if they captured the mix of emotions I felt. Finally it came to me.

The next day I tracked down Maggie. There she was down the hall. I ran up to her and said, "Maggie, I figured it out. I'm not conflicted, I'm … blessed. I'm not torn between two worlds, I have the best of both worlds.”

That describes how I feel now.

I've just had 16 months of glorious adventuring, exploring, discovering, reflecting, and “funning” on my Year by the Water. (If “funning” isn’t a verb, it deserves to be.)

Now I'm here in Boulder holding my beautiful baby granddaughter Natalia in my arms. This morning I was sitting on the floor and playing Lego's with my grandson Mateo.

Last night I was sitting on the couch with Tom and Patty getting caught up, and as they say in Hawaii, “talking story.”

The day before, I was making nutritious greenies, doing “folding laundry meditation, and enjoying Dolores' (Patty's Mom) delicious home-made cooking.

This morning, Mateo is playing airplane on his own private jungle gym, (his dad) and watching his favorite Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood with his mom. It feels oh-so-right.

I look around and realize I once again am blessed to have the best of both worlds … and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. I'm immersing myself in this abundance - this state of SerenDestiny where the light is on in my eyes - and I'm imprinting every sacred moment. Receive, receive, receive. Revel, revel, revel.

BTW - This recognition that I'm not torn being two options (either-or); I have the best of both options (yes-and) is one of the most important lessons-learned from My Year by The Water. I'll be writing about the adventures that led to this understanding in my upcoming book "There Is No Present Like the Time" including:

It’s not CONTROL OR COOPERATE. It’s both.

It’s not PLAY OR PRODUCTIVITY. It’s both.

It’s not SOCIAL OR SOLITUDE. It’s both.

It’s not start with the END in mind or with an OPEN mind. It’s both.

It’s not serve others or your self. It’s both.

Next time you’re feeling as if you're being torn between two options – re-frame what you’re feeling or facing. Isn’t it an advantage to have an abundance of options – to have the best of both worlds? You're not conflicted, you're blessed.

best of both worlds

Life's Waiting. Wade in.

"The longer you wait for your future; the shorter it will be." - slogan on coffee mug the longer you wait for your future, the shorter it will be I was at a beach in Kauai over the weekend. A couple next to me said they'd been looking forward to getting into the ocean but it was "too cold." Meanwhile, a little boy waded in and started splashing around. He was clearly having the time of his life. The couple looked at each other, ditched their cover-ups, and were in the water with him a moment later. The moral of the story? Life's waiting. Wade in.

This theme of "initiating instead of waiting" has emerged as one of the most important lessons-learned of my travels. I remember meeting someone on the beach in Hilton Head, SC. and walking together for awhile. She was really curious as to what catalyzed My Year by the Water.

I told her my son Andrew had stopped me in my tracks and motivated me to re-think my habits by saying, "Mom, there's something about you I don't understand. You've created a life where you can do anything you want, and you're not taking advantage of it."

He was right. As much as I loved my work of speaking, writing, and consulting, my routines had been pretty much the same thing for 20 years. It was time to switch things up. I realized, the clock is ticking, not in a morbid way, in a motivating way."

I realized many of us wait for the perfect circumstances to do what we really want. We wait until we retire or until we have more money or time.

The problem with that? We'll never have more time than we have right now.

Plus, some of us wait to do what we want only to find that when we finally have the time and money, we don't have our health or we don't have the person we wanted to spend our time and money with.

I was also motivated by something my mom used tell me when I was procrastinating. She'd say, "A year from now, you'll wish you had started today."

All those catalysts were enough to get me off my "but's" ("But what will happen to my business? But what will I do with my house and all my belongings?") and set off on my Year by the Water which has been one of THE most rewarding experiences of my life.

How about you? What do you really want to do? Water you waiting for? Are you having the time of your life?

Someday, when you're looking back at your life, what will you wish you had done? What will you be glad you did? What would put the light on in your eyes?

To add inspiration, I'm sharing a few favorite "Set it in motion TODAY" quotes. Hope these motivate you to put your calendar where your values are and schedule in a date and start time so you stop waiting and start initiating more of what really matters to you.

1. "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." - Nelson Mandela

2. "If you don't go; you'll never know." - Robert DeNiro

3. "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't; you'll find an excuse." - Jim Rohn

4. "Are you doing what you're doing today because it works; or because it's what you were doing yesterday?" - Dr. Phil McGraw

5. "Some people never initiate because no one tells them to." - Sam's dad

6 "Exhaustion is not a status symbol." - Brene Brown

7. "I have heard every excuse in the book, except a good one." - Bob Greene

8. "Life offers a second chance. It's called tomorrow." - t-shirt saying

9. "It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis." - M. W. Bonano

10. "You have a life to live. If you're constantly looking back; you're going to walk into traffic." - Jon Hamm

11. "Don't just follow your dreams; launch them." - Sam Horn

12. "The trouble is, you think you have time." -Buddha

13. "Everything you want is on the other side of fear." - Jack Canfield

14. "Once you've done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into action and put your heart on the line." - Phil Jackson

15. "The mark of a successful organization (person) isn't whether it has problems; it's whether it has the SAME problems as last year." - John Foster Dulles

16. "What are you going to do?" "I was going to go upstairs." "No, I mean with your life." - dialogue from the movie The Graduate

17. "The scariest moment is always right before you start." - Stephen King

18. "To feel, think, love and learn; surely that is being alive and young in the real sense."- Freya Stark

19. One day you're going to wake up, and there won't be any time left to do the things you've always wanted to do." - Paulo Coelho

20. "Some people get stuck because they keep telling themselves stories about how stuck they are." - Pinterest post (unattributed)

21. "If you don't have a dream; how ya gonna make a dream come true?" South Pacific

22. "When you get a chance to sit it out or dance; I hope you dance." LeAnn Womack

23. "Life expands or contracts in proportion to our courage." - Anais Nin

24. "Nothing will work, unless you do." - Maya Angelou

25. "I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day." - Albert Camus

- - -

Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create respectful, collaborative, one-of-a-kind communications that add value for all involved. Her work - including POP!, Tongue Fu!, and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - has been featured on NPR and in the New York Times and presented to companies around the world including Boeing, NASA, Intel, ASAE, Cisco and YPO.

The Trip to China That Almost Didn't Happen

I am here in the deserted lobby of the 5 star JiaHua Hotel in Beijing at 4 am, reveling in - and writing about - the extraordinary experiences I’ve had these past few days. What a privilege it was speaking for an appreciative audience of 1800 people at China’s 12th Annual Direct Selling convention. I even had a rather unique Justin Bieber experience (minus the screaming girls) and was mobbed after my presentation by eager picture-takers.

I luxuriated in jasmine hot springs, had my toes nibbled on by tiny fish, enjoyed the benefits of a rigorous head-to-toe Thai massage, and was hosted 24-7 by Ms. Cathy, my gracious interpreter who attended to my every need (pictured here with my lucky Mr. Blue Heron journal, flying with his Chinese brethren). Processed with Snapseed.

What I’m embarrassed to tell you is … this trip almost didn’t happen. Here’s why.

I’m normally an adventurous person. A frequently-asked question these past 12 months on my YEAR BY THE WATER has been some version of, “How did you get the courage to give away 95% of your possessions and take off on the road … all by yourself? That’s so brave. I could never do that.”

Well, I never thought setting off on this venture was brave. I grew up riding horses. Even when we were 8 and 9 years old, my sister Cheri and I would be gone all day riding with our friends and our parents never worried. If something went wrong, and things often did, they trusted us to “figure it out.”

What if our bridle broke and we’re out in the middle of nowhere? Figure it out.

What if we got bucked off or our horse ran away with us? Figure it out.

I’ll always be grateful to Mom and Dad because the underlying theme of our growing up years was “Life is an adventure; you're supposed to get out in the world and experience it.”

Instead of seeing the world as a dangerous place to be scared of – we grew up seeing it as a safe place to explore. Instead of worrying “What if something goes wrong?” we kind of expected things to go right. If things did go wrong, no worries, we had faith we could figure them out.

So, I was shocked when a course of events led me to “playing it safe” and almost backing out of this China trip. Here’s what happened.

My sister (who’s run my business for 15 years) and I have been negotiating this trip for more than three months. We finally signed the contract two weeks (yes, two weeks, and no, that’s not the norm) before I was to jump on a plane. In the confirmation email, our contact casually mentioned I needed to get a visa.

Need to get a visa?! That had never been mentioned in the three months of negotiating this trip. I’ve had the privilege of speaking around the world – from South Korea to Germany – and never had to apply for a visa before.

I went online to research it and discovered you couldn’t do this online; you needed to go to a Chinese consulate in your state of residence, apply in person and return four-five days later to pick up the approved visa.

Well, that was a deal-breaker.

I’m on the road, my schedule’s fully committed with clients the next two weeks, and I’m nowhere near my home state (not that I even have one anymore).

Plus, the fact that this requirement had come “out of the blue” at this late date made me wonder, “What else hasn’t been mentioned that I need to know?”

Then, a fluke event threw me even deeper into doubt. The day I found out about the visa requirement was the day numerous major internet sites crashed. As you may remember, there were a lot of theories about who caused this and why – and one of the theories was that China or Russia was behind this cyber-attack.

Yikes. Normally, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but all of a sudden I had big trust issues with this trip. I was flying half-way around the world to a country where I didn’t speak the language and was putting myself in the hands of people I didn’t know. What if the internet went down while I was there and I had no way of contacting loved ones? What did I really know about this organization anyway?

There was another factor contributing to my rapidly multiplying doubts. Over the years, I’ve learned to compartmentalize my travels so I don’t get overwhelmed. I focus on one event at a time as the date gets closer, and that works just fine.

But our contact had not sent us ANY details about my speaking engagement. I didn’t know what hotel I’d be staying at, the event logistics or audience profile, whether there’d be simultaneous translation, etc.

We normally have ALL the W’s – Who, What, Where, When, Why – spelled out months in advance on our contract, but that hadn’t happened with this particular client and I hadn’t been paying attention. Red flags were flying.

I’m a fan of Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama,” but I found myself uncharacteristically consumed with doubts and fears about this trip. Normally, I wouldn’t think of backing out of a commitment, but I wasn’t sure I could trust this organization. Should I get on that plane or not?

Well, enter my son Tom and daughter-in-law Patty to the rescue. I called them for advice and spelled out the situation. They had been to China and I trusted them to offer a much-needed fresh, objective perspective.

Thank heaven for Millennials and their wise counsel and proactive mentality.

Two minutes into our conversation, Tom had already Googled where I was staying, (Denver), and told me, “Mom, there’s a place called Mile High Visa that has a courier service that can handle this for you. They’ll pick up your application, process it, and return it to you.

Plus, there’s no need to put yourself at the mercy of someone you’re not sure you can count on. Here’s the contact info for the U.S. Embassy in China. Print it out and take it with you. If anything goes wrong, head there. Be sure to get an international phone card for your cell. And write your contact today and tell her exactly what you need from her to feel safe making this trip.”

Patty chimed in to say there was English signage throughout Beijing so I would be able to find my way around if necessary. “We loved our trip there, found the people very friendly, and look forward to going back some day.”

That was enough to “flip the mental switch” from the left side of the ledger where doubts and fears reside - to the right side of the ledger where faith and trust live.

If you know me, you know I love to juxtapose things. I think it’s the quickest way to make complex ideas (and decisions) crystal clear.

What do I mean by juxtaposition? Get a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center. The left column stands for what’s WRONG. The right column stands for what’s RIGHT.

Or the left column stands for what SABOTAGES or COMPROMISES our effectiveness and success. The right column stands for what SUPPORTS and CONTRIBUTES to our effectiveness and success.

Or, the left column stands for the PAST, the right column stands for the FUTURE.

You get the idea. When you are trying to make a decision, you can put down all the CONS and WORST CASE SCENARIOS (reasons to say NO or NOT GO) on the left. Put down all the PROS and the BEST CASE SCENARIOS (reasons to say YES or TO GO) on the right.

When I did this, it was clear to me that I had drifted over to the doubts and fears on the left side of the ledger because I had AN ABSENCE of INFORMATION.

Anxiety is defined as “not knowing.” I didn’t know what was happening and that absence of information caused a mild state of panic. When we don’t know, we start filling in the blanks, and those blanks often dwell on worse-case scenarios.

But, as Tom and Patty demonstrated, lack of information can be fixed. They gave me tangible resources that helped me regain confidence I could take care of myself and “figure it out” if things went wrong. They filled up the right side of the ledger with their positive experience and expectations that I could have the same.

I needed to do one more thing. When facing a big decision, I’ve always advised my sons to “take the bolder of the options.” I needed to project ahead and ask myself, “Would I regret being a ‘chicken’ and backing out of this trip?”

I think backing out of things is a slippery slope. It’s easy to start being cautious. Playing it safe can become a habit. That’s not who I want to be ... and that's not the path to our SerenDestiny.

George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

We have a choice when considering whether to take a trip – and I mean “trip” in every sense of the word. Trip to a new job. Trip to a new country. Trip to a new relationship. We can stay on the left side of the ledger and focus on worries and worse-case scenarios and talk ourselves out of going.

Or we can focus on the right side of the ledger, secure the information we need to feel safe, see the world as an adventurous place waiting to be explored and experienced ... and GO.

I chose the right side of the ledger and I’ll always be glad I did.

People Can't Jump On Your Bandwagon If It's Parked in the Garage

“If you don’t go, you’ll never know.” – Robert De Niro if you don't go, you'll never know

Many of us operate with the opposite of Robert De Niro’s insight.

If we don’t know; we don’t go. The problem with that?

By definition, anytime we try something for the first time, anytime we launch a new venture ... we DON’T KNOW what we’re doing.

If “knowing what we’re doing” is a prerequisite for moving forward … we never move forward.

Yikes.That’s where GTS comes in. What’s GTS? Let me explain.

A year after my son Andrew graduated from VA Tech with a business degree, we were having dinner.

Andrew had “lucked out” and found a job as an executive recruiter. He was the envy of his college buddies because he was working in a classy downtown office building, making good money and working for a respected, well-connected industry icon who was arranging for him to do neat things like work at events with President Obama and Tony Bennett. Not the normal career trajectory.

Yet, as Andrew talked about his work, I could tell the light had gone out in his eyes. There was no spark. In fact, he used a word I’d never heard him use before. Exhausted.

I asked, “So, are you going down to VA Tech this weekend for Homecoming?”

“Nah. By the time I’d drive down there, I’d only have a few hours before I’d have to turn around and come back. I just don’t have the energy. I’m exhausted.”

Exhausted?!? How could that be? How was it this normally energetic 20-something who "had it all" was feeling burned out?

I asked, “Andrew, what’s up?”

He said, “Mom, I want to quit. I'm grateful for this job, but sitting inside all day at a computer researching job openings and making cold calls is not what I was born to do.”

“What do you want to do?”

Andrew said with a huge smile,. “I want to start a non-profit.”

I have to admit, a conservative person I didn’t even know existed in me popped up and perched on the tip of my tongue. This person wanted to say, “Non-profit?! Do you know how many non-profits are going out of business because donations have dried up? How are you going to pay bills? What about health insurance?”

Thank heaven a wiser voice in me prevailed that asked, “Isn’t this exactly what 20-somethings ought to be doing at this stage of their life?. If Andrew doesn’t go for what he wants now, he may never get a chance later. Good for him for wanting to do work that matters. His dream deserves to be supported, not shut down.”

So, instead of bringing up all the reasons this might not work, I said, “Andrew, you’ve always been resourceful. If you apply yourself and put your mind to it, I know you can pull this off.”

You may be thinking, “But how could Andrew pull this off? He’d never run a non-profit before. He doesn't even know what it takes to make this a success.”

That’s true, and that’s where GTS comes in. GTS stands for Google That Stuff. (As you can imagine, Millennials sometimes substitute another word for stuff.)

Andrew thanked his boss for giving him that job opportunity right out of college – and then promptly got online and Googled “How can I start a non-profit?”

Up came dozens of resources – all telling Andrew exactly what steps he needed to take to "get his bandwagon out of the garage" - how to get a license, develop operating procedures, find a team, develop a website and get funding.

In the course of one year, Andrew recruited 20 (!) interns and found a collaborative work space at the Affinity Lab in Washington DC. It was the ideal environment to get other people on his bandwagon. For example, someone a couple desks over would ask, “Andrew, what are you working on today?”

Andrew would say, “I’m applying for a grant,” and she would say, “Oh, I did that last year. You can borrow my grant proposal and use it as a template.”

Or, he'd admit he'd run into an obstacle finding a location for one of his activities, and that person would say, "Here's the phone number of ____. Call her and let her know I referred you to her." Voila, That lead was exactly what he needed to jump the chain of command and arrange for a water-sports event at a local lake park.

Andrew never had to go it alone as he was surrounded by others who shared and supported his vision and had his back … and front.

The result? Dreams for Kids/DC has sponsored hundreds of adaptive athletic programs for kids with disabilities and gotten them off the sidelines and into the games of life. They have sponsored Extreme Recess clinics with the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and United soccer teams, and made a positive difference for thousands of young people through their Dream Leader programs in schools and their annual Holiday for Hope program at Howard University.

The point? None of this would have happened if Andrew had given up before he started because he ... “didn’t know what he was doing.”

If there’s anything I’ve learned after interviewing hundreds of people about how they set their SerenDestiny in motion – it’s that PEOPLE CAN’T JUMP ON YOUR BANDWAGON IF ITS PARKED IN THE GARAGE.

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What do you want to do? What would put the light on in your eyes? Are you hesitating because you don’t know what to do?

Remember – you don’t have to know to go. In fact, the only way you'll ever know is to go.

Get online right now and GTS that dream project that would put the light on in your eyes. . Phrase what you want to do as a question and put it into your favorite search engine – and up will come dozens of resources to help you on your way.

Want to write a book? Google "How can I write a book?"

What to become a ballroom dancer? Google "Where can I take ballroom dance lessons in this zip code?

Want to launch your own business? Google "How can I start my own ___ and then fill in the blanks, e.g., dog walking business, web design business?

Want this year to be your best ever? Want the light on in your eyes? Don't wait until you have all your ducks in a row. GO! GTS what you want to do. And then get your bandwagon (your dream project) out of the garage and get moving.

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Want an update on Andrew Horn? After ensuring the continued leadership of DFK-DC, he has launched a new "bandwagon." Check out TRIBUTE

Want more insights on how to get your bandwagon out of the garage? Check out other posts on Sam Horn's website SERENDESTINY which shares inspiring lessons-learned from her Year by the Water and tips on how you can create a love you love that matters.

What Do I Know for SHORE?

Here at the point in Balboa Park near San Diego, CA. I’m smiling because I’ve decided that, as we near October 1st - the “official” end of my Year by the Water - I’m nowhere near ready for this to end.

As my friend Joan Fallon said, “Looks like this is transitioning into LIFE by the Water.” She’s right.

At this stage and season of life, if we're fortunate, we get to wrap our life around what we know for sure.

What I know for SHORE is I believe water is the best metaphor for life. What I know for SHORE is:

• I am happiest when I am by sun and water. • I am more creative when I am by sun and water. • I am more connected when I am by sun and water. • I am more healthy and active when I am by sun/water.

Ergo, since I am happier and more connected, creative, healthy and active when I am by sun and water … I shall continue to live on, in, by and around water.

I remember reading a poem years ago by Jenny Joseph called “When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple.”

The essence of the poem is that in our “senior years,” we can finally stop playing by society’s rules and start honoring OUR interests, start doing what WE want to do.

I’ve always heard that if we go to a retirement home, we’ll find a lot of people who FEEL like they’re thirty inside who are wondering, “How did it go by so fast? I want it back.”

I don’t want it back. I want it NOW.

What I want is to continue to lead a life in alignment with my priorities and values. Those are:

• Staying connected with the people I love • Creating and contributing work I hope adds value • Exploring and experiencing this wonderful world of ours • Leading a life of SerenDestiny - a life where the light is on in my eyes • Being healthy and living each day in grateful joy

For me, that means being by the sun and water.

How about you?

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So, When Are You Going to Settle Down?

As we wrap up September and head into October, my Year by the Water is supposed to be “over.”  settle down - small I’m getting emails asking “Where are you going to settle down?” or “What are you going to do when it’s over?”

Suffice it to say, I’m not ready for this to be over.  And the words “settle down” are not in my vocabulary.

Why would I want to stop having the best of all worlds?

I remember something James Taylor said while being interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning.  The reporter asked why it had taken him so long between albums.  Taylor said he had been touring non-stop and hadn’t had the time or energy to compose or create.

The reporter asked, “So, you took time off work?”

Taylor smiled and said, “I didn’t take time off work; I did a different kind of work.”

That’s how I feel.  I’m still productive, still speaking, coaching and consulting. I’m just doing it while traveling to bodies of water around the world and writing about my experiences and epiphanies.

I’m not taking time OFF work. I’m working in a new way - an even more meaningful, joyous way.

Sir Frances Bacon said, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity.  We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, melting like a snowflake.”

I know I’m fortunate.  I’m in a season of my life where I have the freedom, autonomy and health to do this.   I have a “portable” business I can run from anywhere.  My sons are grown, out in the world and thriving. As Tom and Andrew told me, “Mom, we got this.”  I understand one of the best gifts I can give them now is to model that we have the power to create our own SerenDestiny - a life where the light is on in our eyes.

So, what’s next?  Well, I’m headed to Pismo Beach where I’ll be keynoting the Central Coach Writers Conference.  Then, on to DC to provide media training for NASA and to attend the Washington West Film Festival.  Then … CHINA.  More details on that coming up.

One of the many reasons I want to continue my Year by the Water is because there’s still so many places I haven’t seen yet.  I still haven’t been to Helen Keller’s lake where she said her first word, “Water.”  I still haven’t explored Hudson Valley, Lake Louise and Banff, and the Great Lakes, (which, by the way, is THE most frequently recommended body of water people say I should visit when I ask for suggestions.)

And, I’m looking forward to returning to Montana.  I was just there last week speaking for Senator Daine’s team.  State Director Charles Robison graciously arranged to take me fly-fishing on the Madison River, which was featured in the movie A River Runs Through It.  Processed with Snapseed.

Alas, I got food poisoning and this guy at the airport was the closest I got to fly-fishing.  So, I’ve got a sun-check (what we used to call rain-checks in Hawaii) to go back to Yellowstone and Big Sky Country.

How about you?  Are you doing what you want to do?  Even if you have responsibilities – you’re raising a family, taking care of your parents, working full-time plus, paying bills, out-of-work, dealing with a health challenge – what is one thing you could do this week that would put the light on in your eyes?  How can you bring more of that into your life on an ongoing basis?

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year it’s how important it is for us to NOT WAIT for some future date to do what makes us happy.

I was having breakfast at an outdoor café near Morro Bay, CA on September 11.  A group of seniors at a nearby table were talking about how the country has “gone to hell in a hand basket” since then.  A rather grizzled gentleman in the group hadn’t said a word.  One of the women turned to him and said, “What do you think, Al?” He growled, “I think every day is a gift and we should act like it.”

Agreed.  Later that morning, I was driving through Santa Barbara on the way to LAX and stopped to get in my daily walk.  I encountered this stirring memorial on the beach by the pier.  I will always remember these flags, one for every person lost at the World Trade Center on 9/11, waving in the sea breeze.  A sobering reminder to cherish  ... every ... single ... day.

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Golden Times

I’m here in Morro Bay this week as part of my Year by the Water. I am filled with sweet and bittersweet memories. This is the where my mom and dad lived – actually nearby Los Osos - for the last years of their life. pelican fly bys golden hour morro rock

I remember holiday family reunions at their home, where my brother, sister and I returned as adults to gather around the table and go down Memory Row. For example, “Remember the Christmas Mom and Dad gave Dave a horse, and they got creative and placed some horse manure in a beautifully wrapped box to surprise him?"

I can picture it as if it were yesterday. Our entire extended family sat in a circle, each of us opening one present at a time. As soon as Dave unwrapped his gift, he knew what it meant. He threw the box up in the air and ran outside. Unfortunately, there was … gravity ... and the manure rained down on Mom’s beautiful red wool knit Christmas outfit.

One year, Dad (aka Warren Reed) rented ten horses and we made like Lawrence of Arabia and went riding over the sand dunes pictured in the background of this photo. What fun we had.

Dad also rented a large red canoe that held all ten of us and we paddled around the bay, getting up close to the herons, otters, seals, sailboats and pelicans.

As the Director of Vocational Ag Education for the State of California, Dad spent twenty years and thousands of hours driving around the state, visiting schools, county and state fairs, advising teachers and Future Farmers of America students on their projects.

Within weeks of retiring, he set off on a long-deferred dream to drive across America and visit all the national parks. It was something he’d always wanted to do – but had never had time due to his 7-day a week dedication to his job and serving others.

A week after setting off on his grand adventure, Dad had a stroke. Thankfully, he recovered, but he never did fulfill his life-long dream to see all those national parks.

A couple months after Dad had his stroke, I visited him from Hawaii and we went for a hike at nearby Montana Del Oro State Park. If you’ve been in this area, you know it’s a magnificent golden plateau with a trail that winds along dramatic sea cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great place to watch humpback whales, bask in the sun and sea breeze, and marvel at the foamy waves crashing on the shore below.

You know how you keep your head down when you’re hiking on uneven ground? Well, Dad and I were walking along with our eyes focused on the trail, when a premonition prompted us to look up.

There, fifty yards away, was a full-sized buck with an impressive rack of antlers. We had no idea where he came from or how he got there. There was no tall brush or trees, just an open field. the buck gazed at us without an ounce of fear. We gazed back at him.

If you live in California, you know that bucks simply don’t come out in the open. Even when it’s not hunting season, they usually head the other direction as soon as they get a whiff of human beings. This was so unusual, we both understood it was a gift, a blessing.

And so it is that I feel full-circle blessed experiencing this golden hour at Morro Rock. I am here with my sister and we too are going down Memory Row. Yes, we’re getting caught up on business, but we’ll also looking up in wonderment every once in a while as we marvel at our life-long journey together.

Cheri’s daughter is working in her business and helping with mine. Cheri is so grateful that Christina values what she does and has elected to learn the business and honor what she’s created. We talk about Andrew and Miki getting engaged, and Tom and Patty loving their son Mateo, and marvel that it seems like a few months ago we were riding horses over the dunes in Morro Bay.

midnight in parisAs part of my 60th birthday weekend in Washington DC, my family, friends and I saw Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris.” In that movie, the lead character, Owen Wilson, longs to go back to the era when Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali and Gertrude Stein hung out in Paris together. Through film-making magic and suspension of disbelief, Owen’s character gets his wish and gets to go back in time and kibbitz with these creative geniuses at the height of their powers.

Toward the end of the movie, a woman finds out “Owen” has time-traveled and begs him to share the magic and make it happen for her. Her dream is to go back to the age of the Renaissance and meet Rembrandt, Monet and Matisse.

Owen takes her by the shoulders and beseeches her, implores her to understand what he's discovered, “No, THESE are the golden days, THESE are the golden times.” She doesn’t listen to him. She’s convinced the grass is greener somewhere, sometime, else.

I knew it then and I know it now.

Anytime we are fortunate to be with people we love, THOSE are the golden times. Every day we are blessed with health, THOSE are the golden days. Every moment we get to explore this incredible country of ours and experience her natural wonders, THOSE are the golden moments. Every hour we get to do work we love that matters with people we enjoy and respect, THOSE are the golden hours.

So, here’s to the golden times, the golden days, the golden moments, the golden hours. May we steep ourselves in these blessings, imprint and appreciate them - right here, right now.

Five Ways to Focus on What Matters Most

As 17-time Emcee of the Maui Writers Conference, I had the opportunity to talk with Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin under a gentle night sky at the Presenters Reception of our first Maui Writers Conference. w.s. merwin

The private reception was held on a white sand beach under a full moon. I had just written a book on Concentration   and asked Merwin, (our opening keynoter),“How do you define concentration? How has it played a role in your life?”

He told me that understanding the importance of concentration prompted his pivotal decision to move to Hawaii. I’m paraphrasing here because I did not write down what he said (that’ll teach me …-)

The gist of his decision was that he and his wife Paula knew that continuing to live in NYC meant they would be surrounded by distractions and temptations that would pull him away from the work he was born to do.

As an in-demand winner of a National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes, every night brought invitations to readings, dinners and charity balls. Merwin realized it would be oh-so easy to become part of the “glitterati.”

Merwin concluded his work as a poet would suffer as a consequence, so he and Paula made a bold move to Maui to raise palm trees and live a simpler life so they could focus on their true priorities. As he so eloquently said:

“I love both the city and country. But when I was in the city, I thought about the country all the time. And when I was in the country, I thought about the city some of the time. So, now, I live in the country … and go to the city sometimes.”

There's a man who knows what is important to him. A man who intentionally created a life where he is freer to focus on his top priority. He removed himself from an environment that would pull him off track and intentionally sought out an environment that was congruent with being creatively productive.

I’ve come to believe this is one of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – we face as IDEApreneurs and entrepreneurs. Our environment helps us or hurts us when it comes to “taking our work seriously.” If we are in an environment that surrounds us with temptations and distractions, our SerenDestiny® project may get delayed and/or never get out the door.

What do I mean by SerenDestiny®? It is leading a life where the light is on in our eyes. It’s a result of doing what we love most and do best. It's what happens when we take responsibility for sharing our creative gifts with the world.

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Are you taking your creative career, SerenDestiny® project and legacy work seriously?

I’ve come to believe it is not selfish to sequester ourselves and become a less public person. If we truly believe our work will add value to the world, then it is up to us to stay focused on it instead of frittering away our time and talent on “lesser” activities that, in the long run, won’t contribute to the greater good.

This means setting boundaries and saying “No" to tempting requests for our time, attention and talent that won’t move our priority projects forward. You may be thinking, “I agree with this in theory, but it’s tough to do in practice.”

Agreed. Which is why I think each of us need to create clear, measurable policies about what we will and won’t commit to. Here are a few of my best-practice policies you can put into place to “Create A Cocoon of Concentration” to stay focused on what matters most so you FINISH it and get it out in the world.

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1. REDUCE time online. Check your digital devices ONCE in the afternoon and AFTER you finish work instead of ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

A recent study by MIT reveals we check our phone more than 100 times a day.  That is a misuse of time that could and should be spent on completing higher-priority work that will add value in the world.

2. Devote the morning to your SerenDestiny® project. I call this WAKE AND WORK.

Wake and Work means exactly what you think it means. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Don’t watch the news. Get up, walk the dog, grab your cup of coffee or tea … and then GET TO WORK.

Devoting your early-morning-energy to SerenDestiny® projects leverages that clarity that only comes when you’re not juggling multiple tasks. Tackle other tasks only after you have something tangible (two pages?) to show for your efforts. This sets up a feeling of accomplishment that makes 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) states that your home is your First Place and your office is your Second Place. If you run a business out of your home, 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 household chores or work tasks you customarily do in that space.

Your Third Place (i.e., a nearby coffee shop or a table in the back of your local library) is a public place where you get to work in private … in public. Instead of looking at a blank page and stalling because you have no energy, you get to piggy-back off the energy of others in the room. You’re more likely to achieve that sublime stream-of-conscious state of FLOW where you’re blissfully immersed in your project because you’re interruption and interference free.

Furthermore, does the name Pavlov ring a bell? If you commit to only working on your priority project in your Third Place; it sets up a ritualistic cocoon of concentration where you walk in, sit down and the faucet of flow opens up. The words will come out so fast, your fingers will hardly be able to keep up.

Many clients tell me their Third Place is their saving grace. It's the only time they're able to temporarily escape their other responsibilities and maketheirpersonal priority their top priority.

4. Announce an email sabbatical.

What are you here to do?  Are you frittering time away on things that won't matter in the long run?

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Create an “Out of Office” response so people emailing you receive a friendly yet clear, “Thank you for getting in touch. I am working on my ( … fill in the blank …) this (Day? Week? Month?) and will be answering emails once a week each Monday. If this is an emergency or business communication, please contact my assistant who will happily help you. Thank you for understanding. I’m excited about finishing this (what project?) and look forward to launching it into the world. Your support is appreciated.”

5. Establish an across-the-board policy you won’t meet people for meals on weekdays. Or, offer to meet for a walk-talk in a park so you get outside, stay fit AND stay connected with friends.

You may worry you’re going to offend someone 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 on our behalf … and to think long on our behalf.

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What is the long-term cost of being available to other people 24/7? I am not suggesting we become a hermit. W.S. Merwin isn’t a hermit; he is simply selective about how often he takes time away from his work to be available to the public. He simply balances demands on his attention with his dedication to his poetry – which keeps the light on in his eyes and keeps him contributing at his highest level.

How about you? Is this the year you get your dream project out of your head and into the world where it can make a positive difference for others and a prosperous living for you?

My mom used to tell me, "A year from now, you'll wish you had started today." True dat.

You might want to print this out and post it where you'll see it every day to remind yourself that the ball is in your court to focus on what matters most ... today and every day, not someday.

Want more tips on how to F.O.C.U.S on what you want, when you want? Click here.

five ways to focus Want these techniques taught to your employees or association members? You're invited to contact my business manager Cheri Grimm at Cheri@intrigueAgency.com to discuss your group's priorities and to arrange for Sam to speak at your conference.