Ripple Effects

One of the most important lessons-learned from my Year by the Water has been the ripple effect rewards of setting something new in motion. ripple effects

For example, earlier this year, long-time friend Dewitt Jones (renowned National Geographic photographer) shared on Facebook that he’d be a guest expert at a private photography workshop at Monet’s Garden led by Charles Needle.

I immediately signed up even though:

  • I’m “not a photographer”
  • I don’t know a thing about f-stops, shutter speeds and ISO numbers.
  • The other members of the group all had serious chops and years more experience
  • I only had my trusty iPhone,not a professional-grade Nikon or Canon.

How could I pass up this one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience and write about one of the Seven Wonders of the Water World?

Imagine my surprise when, the very first day, Charles and Dewitt touted, and tutored us in, in the marvels of the iPhone.

Although they continue to use their “big boy” cameras - they’re big fans of the smart phone’s ability to capture a moment in the moment and the multitude of FREE apps that can “let the play begin.”

Within an hour of our first lesson, everyone was oohing and aahing with amazement at how an “ordinary” picture could become an “extraordinary” picture with a few trial-and-error taps of the finger.

We learned that anything can be art.

Anything can be art

For example, I snapped a shot of my salad at lunch.  Granted, this is France so it wasn’t your everyday salad.  It featured delicate peels of pear and fresh lilac nestled in lettuce leaves that tasted as if they’d been plucked from a field that morning.

Thanks to SnapSeed,that snapshot turned into this lovely abstract image.

We wrapped up our week in Monet's Garden at “Golden Hour,” my favorite time of day as this was when the trades died down on Maui and my sons Andrew and Tom and I would head to Keawekapu Beach to play in the golden light before sunset.

That final night in Giverny, we strolled together down its charming main street to Hotel Baudy where Monet used to hang out and paint.

As we walked up, I saw Dewitt and his wife Lady Lynette sitting outside, contentedly sipping a Kir. Dewitt had hung his baseball hat on his knee instead of the table so he wouldn’t forget it.

I laughed out loud, snapped a shot and said, “Guess what the caption is for this photo?

KNEE CAP!”    Bada boom.

knee cap

A couple minutes later, thanks to an easy-to-use app called SparkPost, I was able to produce this text image which will always bring back fond memories of that very special week and moment.

Over dinner, I suggested we do something my master-mind buddy Mary LoVerde (author of Stop Screaming at the Microwave) taught me.

As Mary explains, “Our annual summer vacation was a water-skiing trip to a lake eight hours away.  On the way there, we were full of anticipation so the drive went by quickly.

The trip home, not so much.  We were all tired, sun-burned and grumpy so, to prevent back-seat bickering, I invented the ‘Best Game.’  Best moment.  Best meal.  Best laugh.  Best new person met."

She continued, “This became our family tradition.  After every gathering – whether it was Thanksgiving, Christmas, a birthday or graduation - everyone got a chance to create a category and lead a round-table of answers. It’s a wonderfully bonding way to reflect upon, re-experience and celebrate our favorite moments.”

I agree with Mary that when people are gathered, it’s more fun for everyone to facilitate a meaningful shared conversation rather than swap small talk.

So, at our "last supper" in Giverny, I suggested we play Mary's “Best Game:

One by one, participants shared a stand-out memory – whether it was walking into Monet's Garden for the first time and having it take their breath away - or the fact that ten people could photograph the same lily pond and each would come up with a different point of view and perspective about what they saw.

When it was my turn, I said one of my epiphanies from our week together was what a delight it was to discover a new, instantly-rewarding skill at this stage of life.

Most skills have a long, often frustrating, learning ramp.

For example, If you want to learn to play the piano, it will take years of practice  before you get to the point where you can sit down and make beautiful music.

To play quality tennis, you need to hit thousands of forehands, backhands, serves and volleys before you can put them all together and enjoy satisfying games/rallies.

But with smart phone photography, you can have a good time and get decent results - with NO frustration or learning ramp - almost right away.

For me, that was a mini-miracle.  I am WAY over on the letf of the "techie" continuum. Things that come easily and naturally to others are “geek” to me.

But Charles, Dewitt and Jack H. Davis made this so easy to understand and do, it became a fully engaging creative process that produced gratifyingly satisfying results almost immediately – for FREE. Such a deal.

My roomie on this adventure was cherished friend Lynda Davis. Lynda was often up at all hours of the night … not because she couldn’t sleep but because she didn’t want to sleep.  She was having so much fun “binge-playing” with these apps; it was the equivalent of a kid begging for “just one more" before lights out.

So, what’s the moral of this story?

If you believe “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks,” please revisit that false assumption. It could be having negative ripple effects on the variety and quality of your life.

you can teach old dogs new tricks

My friend Donna Steinhorn has George Bernard Shaw's quote on her email sig line:

"We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing."

Promise yourself that if a creative opportunity calls to you, you'll answer the call - even if you’ll be the rube of the group and worry you won’t be “good at it.”

If you see an activity that resonates with you – get yourself there – even if you’ve never done it before and aren't sure how it will play out.

If you’re traveling with a group or sitting around the table with friends and family, suggest the “Best Game” to create a connected, meaningful conversation where everyone shares and celebrates favorite moments.

Try something that’s out of your comfort zone and outside your competency zone,

The ripple effect of what you set in motion could enrich your day - and other people's day - for many days to come.

-     -    -     -

Sam Horn is the CEO of The Intrigue Agency which helps clients and audiences create quality, one-of-a-kind projects (TED talks, keynotes, books, brands, businesses and funding pitches) that scale their influence for good.

Sam's inspiring keynotes receive raves from such clients as National Geographic, Accenture, Intel, NASA and Capital One and her work - including her TEDx talk and books Tongue Fu! POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - have been featured on NPR and in NY Times, Forbes, INC.

She's enjoying the best of all worlds in 2016, traveling the world on her Year by the Water, while speaking, consulting and writing about her experiences and epiphanies.

Start with an OPEN Mind, Not the END In Mind

I have enjoyed every single moment of this private workshop at Monet's Garden with world-class photographers Charles Needle, Dewitt Jones and Jack H. Davis. I've had an opportunity to practice Bucky Fuller's advice to "Dare to become a beginner."

vernon church - flowers

The other participants have years of experience and dozens of lens.  They wear vests with pockets and pull carry-ons stocked with different cameras, tripods and gear.

I am the rube of the group, armed solely with my trusty iPhone.

The good news is, these renowned photographers are all fans of the smart phon'es miraculous ability to allow almost anyone to create gee-whiz images right out of the gate.

One of my biggest lessons of this past week is to NOT follow Stephen Covey's advice to "Start with the end in mind."

It's far more important to start with an open mind.

Here's what I mean.

We trekked to nearby Vernon for a field trip to historical Notre Dame Collegiate Church that was build between the 11th and 16th century.



Charles told us we would discover magic inside if we kept our eyes open.

So I walked in, looking for things that got my eyebrows up - a sure sign of intrigue.


I saw the sun glowing on this baptismal and thought, "THAT'S interesting" and snapped this picture of it.

Now, this image is nothing "special" but it did capture that moment and it's a starting point.


As Dewitt says, there is more than one right answer ... so I kept playing.

Let's try this.

How about that?

Let's get closer.

Wow.  Look at that!!


I keep experimenting - letting my gut be my guide.

As Charles says, "You have permission to play.  There are no penalties. You can have as many do-overs and fresh starts as you'd like."

I kept experimenting with different points of view.

blue reflection baptismal

Little gasps of delight surrounded me as we all experienced the coalescing of something beautiful and unexpected come into focus.

It reminded me ... do you know how Einstein knew he had a good idea?  He laughed out loud.

I found myself laughing out loud with the sheer joy of what emerged in front of my eyes.

Carrie Fisher says "Instant gratification takes too long."

Well, that's one of the many miracles of taking and making images with your iPhone.

In seconds, you can capture and then create something that didn't exist a moment before.

And it's available to anyone with a smart phone who's willing to play.

greeen reflection from baptismal

Little could I gave predicted when I saw the sun glowing on that baptismal that a few shots later, it would turn into this ...

This, of course, is a metaphor waiting to happen.

First, may we all have the courage to try something new and dare to be a beginner.

Second, DON'T start with the end in mind.  Start with an open  mind.

There's no way I could have conjured up these "end" images in the beginning.  I didn't even know they were possible.

Third, keep paying attention to what gets your eyebrows up.  Then, keep playing until something clicks for you.

Then, click it.

Voila!  (When in France, use French sayings:-)'re becoming an artist.

It's fun, incredibly rewarding ... and available to ANYONE.