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.

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.


Change for Good - At Any Age

"Your life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change."-Jim Rohn I remember asking a forty-something at a New Year's party, "What's your New Year's resolution?" He just shook his head and said, "I didn't make one. I just break them anyway. What's the point?"

“Wow,” I thought. “That’s like giving up hope.” I believe in hope and I believe we can change for good - at any age. One of the great blessings of being human and being alive is we can choose to do things differently any time we want.

Our history doesn’t need to predict our future unless we let it. Just because we’ve broken resolutions in the past, doesn’t mean we can’t honor them this time.

The secret is to believe it is possible. As Brene Brown says, "I will choose how the story ends." We can also choose how the story STARTS.

What will you change today to give yourself a FRESH START on life?

Long-time friend and Hall of Fame speaker Glenna Salsbury wrote an inspiring book on this subject entitled, “The Art of the Fresh Start.” The premise of Glenna’s book is that "most resolutions - no matter how well-intended - are doomed to fail for one often overlooked reason: they are incongruent with our dreams and values."

I think there's another reason our attempts to change often fail. We focus on what we don't want instead of on what we do.

My clarity around this was triggered by two emails our office received last week. The first said, “Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.”

The second said, in response to our request to change the day and time of an appointment, “I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Yikes. When we tell ourselves (and others) what NOT to do, we actually increase the likelihood the unwanted behavior will happen. For example, what do you think about when reading these phrases?

“I don’t like it when you interrupt me.” “You need to stop being late all the time.” "We can't afford to make mistakes in that meeting." "No need to get nervous before that presentation."

The words “don’t,” “stop” “won’t” and “not” are “ghost” words. Our mind doesn’t register them. When they’re paired with an unwanted behavior, “Don't worry,” or “I won't eat carbs" or "Stop hitting your sister” we pay attention to, produce, and perpetuate the very behavior we DON’T want.

That’s why, when that company rep said, “Don’t hesitate to call,” they introduced the word “hesitate” which means we’ll think twice before contacting them.

It’s better to say, “Please call if you have questions.” or "We look forward to hearing from you …”

For many people, the word problem means “something’s wrong.” Why give customers the impression something wrong if there isn’t? How about a more gracious, “That will work fine” or “Yes, he’s open at 4:30 and I’m happy to book that time.”

Words matter. It’s in our best interests to mindfully select words that focus on the DESIRED vs. the DREADED behavior because we get what we focus on.

This applies to what you want to change. Instead of using language that focuses on what you DON’T want; use words that state what you DO want. For example:

“I will stop sitting all day at work” becomes “I get up from my desk and take two ten minute walk breaks every day.”

"You need to stop interrupting people” becomes "Let people finish what they're saying."

“I don’t eat carbs” becomes “I love eating lean, green and protein.”

“I don't want to be nervous before that presentation" becomes "I welcome this speaking opportunity and will walk in with confidence."

Please note: switching the words we think/say transcends “semantics.” Choosing words that keep the desired behavior top of mind helps us - and others - change into being the quality of person we want to be.

To help achieve that, here are quotes on how we can change for good - starting now. You might want to print them out and post them where you see them everyday to keep them in-sight, in-mind so you keep them top-of-mind. Enjoy.

1. “Never say anything to yourself you don’t want to come true.” – Brian Tracy

2. "Life has no remote. You've got to get up and change it yourself." - Pinterest post

3. “If you’re brave enough to say good-bye, life will reward you with a new hello.” – Paulo Coelho”

4. “Look closely at the present you’re constructing. It should look like the future you’re dreaming.” – Alice Walker

5. “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” – Martin Luther

6. “There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk." - Jean-Paul Sartre

7. “Your future depends on many things, mostly on you.” – Frank Tyger

8. “You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” – Mary Pickford

9. “Live out of your imagination, not your history.” – Stephen Covey

10. “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." - Pablo Picasso

11. “The only thing keeping you from what you want is the story you’re telling yourself about it.” – Tony Robbins

12. "And suddenly you know it's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings." - Meister Ekhart

13. “Do you know the #1 precursor to change? A sense of urgency." - John Kotter

14. “Change before you have to." - Jack Welch

15. “You can’t start the chapter of a new life if you keep re-reading the last one.” Pinterest post

16. “May your choices be based on your hopes and not your fears.” Nelson Mandela

17. “Don’t tell it like it is, tell it like you want it to be.” – Esther Hicks

18. “To make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.” Richard Feynman

19. “The only danger is not to evolve." - Jeff Bezos

20. “How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." - Anne Frank

And a final quote from the incomparable Anne Lamott. It’s a long one and a good one. Wishing you a juicy year – and a juicy life.

“What if you wake up some day and you’re 65 or 75, and you never got your novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing you forgot to have a big juicy creative life of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.” - Anne Lamott

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Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create a quality life-work that adds value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books Tongue Fu!, POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? have been featured in NY Times and presented to Capital One, National Geographic, Boeing, Intel, NASA and Accenture. Want Sam to share her inspiring keynote with your group? Contact


Are You Honoring Your Intuition?

“There is a voice that speaks without words. Listen.” – Rumi One day last year, I re-read the Year by the Water manifesto that was downloaded to me while driving along California’s Pacific Coast Highway. It reminded me that my original plan was to not plan every minute of every day. I vowed to do the “opposite of my always” and cooperate with what wanted to happen instead of control it.

I was in Tampa and was scheduled to take a train to Savannah where I was speaking in a few days. However, a little voice whispered in my ear, “You don’t have to take the train. There are no options on trains. If you see something intriguing, too bad, so sad. You can't get off and explore, you just whiz on by. Why not drive?”

I cancelled the train and started driving. Instead of planning the day and locking myself into a hotel reservation, I decided, "I'm going to make it up as I go along so I'm free to follow up on whatever catches my interest." Here's a replay of what happened.

I check the map to see what’s ahead. Wow. Marineland, the world’s first oceanarium and the first in the United States to offer a dolphin encounter, is 89 miles away in St. Augustine. I’ve always wanted to swim with dolphins. Here’s my chance. I call and ask, “Any openings for this afternoon?”

They do, which is how a couple hours later, I find myself swimming with Zach The Dolphin. What a thrill to get in the water, meet Zach face to face, stroke his rubbery skin and look him in the eye.

There’s only three of us in our group so our guide turns it into a mini-training session. She asks, “Would you like to give Zach a command?”

“Would I like to give Zach a command?!”

She tells me, “Point your finger to the sky.”

I do and Zach stands on his tail and zooms across the pool. He swims back for his reward, gulps it down in one swallow and waits, eyes bright, for what’s next.

The trainer says, “This time, circle your finger three times.”

I point my finger to the sky and twirl it three times. Zach nods, takes off, dives deep and then LEAPS out of the water into a triple back flip.

I can’t help myself. I thrust both arms up in an exultant Y (think Y-M-C-A.) I am filled with wonder, gratitude and excitement, all at the same time.

And to think, I didn’t even know Zach existed a few hours before! This wouldn't have happened if I hadn't honored my instincts and acted on that whim. What is a whim? It’s a “Sudden desire or change of mind, especially one that is unusual, unexplained.”

However I believe whims are more than a "sudden desire or change of mind." They may seem “out of the blue,” but I believe they happen for a reason - a good reason.

Here’s what I mean. I saw security consultant Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, interviewed on TV. He told the reporter that debriefing people who had been assaulted revealed something profound. When he asked them, “Did you have any warning?” guess what they all said? “I knew something was wrong.”

Their gut had warned them they were in danger, but they let their intellect over-ride their instincts. They looked around and thought, “It’s broad daylight. I’m in an armored car. There's people around. I’m being silly.” They discounted their sixth sense.

I think many of us discount our sixth sense. We get these intuitive nudges, these alerts, but we ignore them. Or we get whims, but we’re too busy to follow up on them.

My epiphany was, “If we have instincts that alert us when something’s about to go wrong; don’t we also have instincts that alert us when something’s about to go right?”

If we have a sixth sense that alerts us to dissonance (something to avoid) don't we also have a sixth sense that alerts us to resonance (something to approach)?

I’ve come to believe that when something breaks through our filter and catches our attention – for better or for worse – we're supposed to pay attention. If our gut instincts tell us this situation is toxic, we're supposed to head the other direction. If our gut instincts tell us this is a congruent opportunity, we're supposed to head toward it.

Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In my experience, chance favors the aligned mind. If I get a whim that’s in alignment with my instincts and interests, I pursue it. Every time I do, I am delighted with a beneficial discovery I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

Whims aren’t an accident. They are not simply a coincidence, blind luck or serendipity. Beats-the-odds opportunities are a sign the universe is showing off. It is working overtime to connect you with someone or something that will enhance your life. Whims are your best future meeting you halfway.

Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “If prayer is you talking to God, intuition is God talking to you.”

Do you honor your instincts? Your sixth sense? Do you listen to the voice that doesn’t use words – or do you over-rule your intuition with your intellect, logic and rationale? Do you ignore whims or promise yourself you’ll follow up on them “later?”

That's a mistake. These aligned opportunities won’t be there later. They are a sublime confluence of you being in the right place at the right time, right here, right now.

Roald Dahl said, "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."

From now on, honor your instincts, act on your whims. Understand your intuition is trying to do you a favor. It has your best interests at heart.

It is doing its half. All it asks is that you do your part to meet your best future halfway.

When you believe this and do this, magic shows up - and your life just keeps getting better and better and better.

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create a quality life-work that adds value for all involved. Her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE and books - POP!, Tongue Fu!, and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - have been featured in NY Times, Forbes, INC and presented to NASA, Intel, Cisco,YPO & EO. Like Sam to speak at your next conference? Contact


What If We're Here to Connect the Dots?

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs Steve Jobs was brilliant. And I disagree with him on this.

I think we can connect the dots looking forward and backwards.

And we can do more than trust the dots to connect in the future.

We can act on dots to create a better future – for ourselves and for others.

Here’s what I mean.

We’re being sent dots all the time.

Dots are experiences, opportunities, ideas and individuals.

Our role is to pay attention to them and look for patterns.

We’re supposed to collect the dots, connect the dots, and act on the dots.

When we do, pictures emerge. Pictures that make sense.

Remember those “Connect the Dots” coloring books we had growing up?

Each page had a random collection of numbered dots. The goal was to connect them. When we did, a picture emerged. Voila! It’s a cat. It’s a cloud. It’s a car.

I think the same thing happens in our life when we connect “dot thoughts.” A picture emerges that wasn’t clear before, that all of a sudden makes sublime sense.

For example, two years ago, Inga Canfield introduced me to a writing colleague Kristen Moeller.

Kristen found out I was visiting Boulder asked if I knew Erin Weed, who runs a speaker training company called Evoso. I didn’t so Kristen introduced us.

Erin and I had a delightful connection and have stayed friends. Last month, she got in touch with a question.

When I emailed Erin back, on impulse, I added a sentence saying, “I’ll be back in Boulder this summer. Know anyone who’s looking to rent near Wonderland Lake Park?”

Erin got back five minutes later to say a good friend – a fellow speaker/author – had a place near Wonderland Lake Park and was looking for a tenant.

What are the odds, right?

I immediately followed up (dots have a window of opportunity, we’re supposed to act on them in the moment as soon as they come to our attention) and connected me with her friend, Debra.

Debra Silverman and I hit it off. Now I’ve got a wonderful new friend (and simpatico professional colleague) and a marvelous place to stay this summer, right where I hoped to be.

You can’t make this stuff up.

You can only pay attention to the dots and honor them when they show up.

In particular,“dot thoughts” that come to us out of the blue. As in, “Add a sentence to the end of your email asking Erin if she has a rental referral.”

We’re supposed to act on “dot thoughts” even if they don’t make sense. Especially if they don’t make sense.

Because “dot thoughts” aren't coming from logic, they’re coming from a sixth sense.

You can call these “dot thoughts” anything you want. Providence. God. The Universe. Divine inspiration. Gut instincts. Angels. God winks. Nudges.

I think they are our best future meeting us halfway.

One of the most important lessons learned form my Year by the Water is that when we honor and act on dot thoughts, kismet shows up.

Or what I like to call SerenDestiny.

SerenDestiny is a charmed life where the light is on in our eyes because we’re connected with congruent individuals and activities.

I have a theory about this.

We’re not in this alone.

It’s hubris to think we’re the only ones creating and/or controlling our destiny.

Here’s what crystallized my clarity about this.

I was watching a TV interview with security consultant Gavin deBecker, author of The Gift of Fear.

Gavin told the reporter that he makes it a practice to debrief people who have been assaulted, hijacked or kidnapped.

His first question to them is, “Did you have any warning?”

Guess what they all say? “I knew something was wrong.”

But the vast majority allowed their intellect to over-ride their instincts.

They didn’t see anything “wrong” so they dismissed their fears.

They thought, “It’s broad daylight. There’s no one around” or “I’m in an armored car with bodyguards. What could happen?” and over-ruled the sixth sense that was trying to protect them.

As he described these instincts that warn us when something’s about to go wrong, I thought, “Doesn’t it also make sense that we have instincts that warn us when something’s about to go right?

If we have a sixth sense that alerts us to dissonance, don’t we also have a sixth sense that alerts us to resonance and congruence?”

I believe our instincts and intuition have our best interests at heart.

Just as they alert us to individuals, ideas, and activities that are “wrong” for us, they also alert us to individuals, ideas and activities that are “right” for us.

When we honor our resonant sixth sense alerts, we are led to congruent people and opportunities we would not have met or experienced otherwise.

So, what’s the point?

If you want a life that transcends what you think it can be, what you can logically make it to be, start looking for congruent dots, start acting on resonant dots.

When you act on “dot thoughts” that nudge you to connect with this person, write out this idea, act on this opportunity, seek out this experience, a picture will emerge.

A picture of a charmed life that is better than you could have thought up yourself.

A life of SerenDestiny where you’re connecting with congruent individuals, experiences and opportunities that create a life that just keeps getting better and better.

Because you’re not doing this alone. You’re dancing with life.

So, yes, Steve, we can connect dots looking backwards and forward.

I met Inga, who connected me with Kristen, who connected me with Erin, who connected me with Debra, who connected me with this divine new home. I am grateful for those dots.

Now it’s time to do my turn. To connect those dots looking forward. To do my half to thank the other half.

I can do that by initiating and introducing dots to others.

By sending dots - opportunities, ideas, individuals and experiences - to other people so they can create a future that’s better than they could have imagined.

Collecting, connecting and contributing dots creates a rising tide raising all involved.

It’s a way to do our part and to become a part of a congruent circle of life.

And yes, we can do this in our personal life and in our professional life.

In our personal life, instead of waiting for opportunities to come to us, we can initiate interactions with simpatico individuals and align with opportunities that will create a better quality of life for all involved.

In our professional life, instead of being passive, we can proactively envision and initiate connections with and for clients and colleagues.

Starting today, keep your antenna up. Look around. What dots are trying to get your attention? How will you honor and act on them to set your SerenDestiny in motion?

How will you honor what is being contributed to you - and gift it back by creating and contributing dots to others?

What Does Happiness Mean to You?

When I ask, “What does happiness means to you?” I often get long pauses or blank looks. If we can’t define happiness, how are we supposed to know it when we experience it?

I attended a convention that featured a session on “The History of Happiness” presented by a professor who had written a book on the topic. He spent most of his sixty minutes quoting ancient philosophers like Aristotle and Plato. He left time for one question.

The gentleman next to me raised his hand and said, “What’s your definition of happiness?”

Dear in headlights. The professor stumbled and mumbled and finally confessed he didn’t have one. There was an almost audible gasp from the audience at this surprising revelation.

The gentleman next to me wasn’t about to let him off the hook. He said, “You’ve studied this topic for twenty years. Surely you have your own definition.”

The professor realized he wasn’t going to dodge the question and admitted, “Well, if I have to give a definition, I guess I’d agree with Stendahl, “To describe happiness is to diminish it.’

That was it. End of session.

Wow. I turned to the man next to me and said, “I so disagree with that. I think defining and describing happiness helps us be more alert to it and appreciative of it.”

He nodded in agreement. I asked, “When was the last time you were happy?”

He thought about it for a moment and then smiled. “My daughter called last week from her hospital to ask for my advice. She is a physician who has gone into my specialty of internal medicine. She had a patient on his death bed and they hadn’t been able to diagnose what was wrong. I asked her to list all his symptoms. I got a hunch based on what she told me and asked if they’d tested for a rather rare disorder. They hadn’t. She called back to say the hunch was right. They’d started treatment and it looked like they’d caught it in time and he’d recover.”

I told him, “That’s happiness. To have an adult child who respects you enough to go into your profession, who seeks your advice, which saves a life, and for you two to get to share that?”

“You’re right. It was satisfying on many levels.”

I persisted, “So, how would you define happiness?”

“I guess I’d define it as being able to share meaningful activities with the people I love.”

“Anything else?”

“Hmmm. Yes, being healthy, and helping others to be healthy, goes into the mix.”

“Put that together - being healthy, helping others be healthy, being loved and sharing meaningful activities with the people we love – that’s a pretty good definition of happiness right there.”

How about you? When was the last time you were happy? What did it look like and feel like to be happy? The clearer you are about defining and describing what happiness means to you – the more alert to it and appreciative of it, you’ll be.

I’m collecting definitions of happiness for SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week and hope to include yours. Being happy means different things to different people, and my goal is to share different perspectives to facilitate a comprehensive , well-rounded discussion of this topic.

Will you please take a moment to share your (under 50 word) definition of happiness here?

Here are inspiring quotes to kick-start your thinking. You may see an ingredient that deeply resonates with you and you can include it in your description.

Once you’ve crafted that definition, post it where you’ll see it every day. Keeping it in sight, in mind will keep it top-of-mind which will help you be more aware of when you’re happy. Being conscious of our happiness is the key to experiencing it more deeply and appreciatively. Here are those quotes. Read ‘em and reap.

1. “There is only one happiness in this life: to love and be loved.” – George Sand

2. “A happy person experiences frequent positive emotions (e.g., joy, compassion) and infrequent - thought not absent - negative emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, anxiety).” – Sonya Lyubomirsky

3. "My happiness depends on me, so you're off the hook." Esther Hicks

4. “Happiness is not ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

5. "A smile is happiness found right under your nose.” – Ziggy (David Wilson)

6. “The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in the little details of daily life.” Wm Morris

7. “Folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

8. “Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: A feeling you have been honest with yourself and those around you, a feeling you have done the best you could in your personal life and in your work, and the ability to love others.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

9. “Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment.” – Webster’s Dictionary

10. “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I pay attention and practice gratitude.” – Brene Brown

My definition of happiness? “Making a positive difference for as many people as possible, while enjoying healthy, creative, connected relationships with family, friends and Nature.”

By the way, I agree with all the above definitions, in particular that we must make up our mind to be happy - and that paying attention to and being grateful for what’s right in our world - is the key to doing that.

I look forward to seeing your definition. And thanks for sharing this with others, so we can collect definitions from around the world and create a global resource of what it means to be happy.

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?

IF Something Goes Wrong, Just Yell "PLOT TWIST" and Move On

The Secret Sauce to SUCCESS? Being a quick study.

If something goes wrong, just yell "PLOT TWIST" and move on.

The quicker and more proactively we respond to a "course-correction," the quicker we can turn that experience into something that serves us rather than sabotages us.

As the saying goes, "There are no mistakes, only lessons."

It's NOT Too Late To Do What You Want to Do

“The world was shocked to learn I wrote a bestseller at 66. No matter how long you live, you have stories to tell. What else is there to do but head off on the Conestoga wagon of the soul?” – Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes When people tell me they wonder if it's too late to pursue their dream, I share this eloquent response Frank McCourt gave in the Q & A following his keynote when one of our Maui Writers Conference attendees asked, "Did you ever give up hope?"

If your goal is to make a difference, you have a right and a responsibility to get your work out of your head and into the world. Have you ever thought of it that way? If your creative project might benefit others; it’s almost selfish to keep it to yourself.

Dreams in your head help no one. Sharing your creativity doesn’t come from arrogance, it comes from service. It’s an offering, a way of saying “Here’s something I feel, believe, have learned or created. I hope it might be of interest and value to you.”

Yet, many people start with the best of intentions and then life intervenes. They get distracted, busy, overwhelmed. Doubts creep in and they start wondering if they're too old. They put their project aside – and never get back to it. That’s a path to regrets.

Pilot Chuck Yeager said, "At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results."

If you want results instead of reasons, select a quote from below that resonates with you. Post it where you’ll see it every day. It's a tangible way to keep your intentions in-sight, in-mind vs. allowing them to drift out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

“If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re a waiter, not a writer.” – Dan Poynter

“Nothing works unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

“Every creative project needs a spine. What’s yours?” – Twyla Tharp

“When asked "what was the secret to finishing your 500 page masterpiece The Power of One?' author Bryce Courtnay growled, 'Bum glue!”

“Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel or an empty stage … and you need to jump into it.” – Julia Cameron

“If my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live, I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov

“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

“Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” – Peter DeVries

“If you are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, the problem is, you’re thinking like an amateur. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, does his work, keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” – Steven Pressfield

“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin

“I made a startling discovery. Time spent writing = output of work. Amazing.” – Ann Patchett

“Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it can be a lot of fun until you get the bill.” Christopher Parker

“It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer

“If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me? You are a human being with a unique story to tell. You have every right.” – Richard Rhodes

“The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein

“Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle

“If you want to be certain, you should never attempt anything creative. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don’t know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination.” – Mark Burnett

“When I am writing, I am doing the thing I was meant to do.” – Anne Sexton

“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong

“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.” – Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson

“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler

“When you speak, your words echo across the room. When you write, your words echo across the ages.” – Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul author Bud Gardner

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind has to know it has to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck

“Planning to write is not writing. Writing is writing.” – E. L. Doctorow

“I think the worst, most insidious procrastination for me is research. I will look for some fact to include in the novel, and before I know it, I’ve wasted an entire morning delving into that subject matter without a word written.” – James Rollins

“There’s a trick I’m going to share with you. I learned it almost twenty years ago and I’ve never forgotten it, so pay attention. Don’t begin at the beginning.”– Lawrence Block

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You work and write; you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott

“I write because I cannot fly, but words can, and when they land, worlds appear.” – Susan Zeder

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May

“Do you know the #1 precursor to change? A sense of urgency.” John Kotter

It’s time to feel a sense of urgency about getting your creative project into the world. What’s the story you’re born to tell? The insights you're supposed to pass along that could inspire or enlighten others? The artistic project you want to create?

The time to share it is NOW. As Bob Greene says, "I've heard every excuse in the book, except a good one."

I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of people craft quality creative projects.

In all that time, I’ve never met a single person who was sorry they got their creative project into the world; I’ve only met people who were sorry they didn’t do it sooner.

Make 2018 the year you contribute your creativity to the world.

– – – – – –

Sam Horn is the CEO of the Intrigue Agency. Her TEDx talk and books – POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes and on NPR, and have been presented to such clients as Boeing, Intel, Capital One, NASA and National Geographic. Want Sam to share her inspiring keynote with your group? Contact

Spring Free From the Comparison Trap

Do you compare yourself to others? As Dr. Phil asks, "How's that working for you?"

Comparison is a see-saw. It perpetuates a one up - one down dynamic. When we compare ourselves to others, we either feel inferior (people are better than us) or superior (we are better than other people). Neither feeling is healthy.

We don't want to feel better than other people; that's arrogance. And we don't want to feel other people are better than us; that's unworthiness.

The goal is to have a solid self esteem, a centered core of confidence we carry with us wherever we go ... that doesn't depend on where we are or who we're with.

How do we do that?

Instead of putting ourselves down ("You're such a loser," "What a klutz," That was stupid") or comparing ourselves to others - we admire, aspire or appreciate.

Here's an example.

A woman from my “Got Confidence?” workshop told me, “As a result of your program, I rejoined my gym. I used to go three times a week, but had gotten out of the habit. Believe me, my body had paid for being a couch potato. I walked into the aerobics class, took one look at all those hard bodies leaping around in their leotards and was tempted to head home and inhale a pint of Haagan Das.

Then I remembered you saying, ‘If you don’t quit comparing, comparing will cause you to quit.’ You were right. I was about quit something I wanted to do because I was comparing. Instead I admired, ‘Good for them for being in such good shape' and then aspired, ‘How can I get back in shape?’ Not by going home and dating a pint of ice cream. I'm back to working out three times a week.

Every once in a while, I’ll glance at the people around me and start to feel intimidated. Now though, I know If I keep focusing on how they're doing better than me, I'll get demoralized or depressed. Instead, I switch my attention back to my goal, which is to be fit and healthy and to give myself props for effort. That motivates me to feel good about myself and to continue instead of quit.”

How about you? Do you compare yourself to others? Does any good come out of it?

It's natural to want what others have or to feel bad when they've got something we don't. We look at their glowing Facebook update, fun vacation photos or latest promotion and feel jealous. The problem is, jealousy don't help, it hurts. It causes us to lose sight of our own value, to question our own self worth.

Get crystal clear about this, "Comparison is the root of all unhappiness and the ruin of self-esteem."

From now on, follow my friend Maggie Bedrosian's advice to switch envy to appreciation. Maggie told me, "During lunch at our annual convention, everyone went around the table introducing themselves. It turned into a brag-fest. This person had just been on Oprah, this one just had a speaking tour in Europe, this one just got a six figure book deal.

I found myself shrinking in my chair, feeling smaller and smaller as everyone shared their latest triumph. I had been happy with my career until I heard what everyone else was doing. I snuck back to my room after lunch. I was so discouraged. I felt like I didn’t belong. I was going to skip the afternoon sessions when my eyes fell on the photo of my husband and son I take with me when I travel. Just seeing their faces reminded me how much I love them and how happy I truly am.

I impulsively slipped their photo in the back of my plastic name badge. The rest of that convention, anytime someone waxed eloquent about where they'd just been or what they'd just done, I would peek at that photo and it would instantly re-center me in how 'm already wealthy in what really matters.”

How about you? Do you ever feel small when people trot out their latest achievements? Do you feel envious while scrolling through other people's social media posts?

How will you re-center yourself in the midst of all that? How will you remind yourself of who and what really matters to you? What will you do to turn envy into appreciation?

Remember, if you feel your life is like a see-saw, you might be depending on other people for your ups and downs. Jump off the jealousy see-saw. Spring free from the comparison trap.

Theodore Roosevelt said it 100 years ago and it's as true today as when he first said it, "Comparison is the thief of joy."

If you're feeling discouraged, stop looking OUT at OTHER people's lives and sart looking IN at YOURS. Turn envy into appreciation by focusing on what you've GOT instead of what you've NOT. Stop doubting and dissing yourself and be grateful for what's right with your world.

As Brian Tracy says, "Never say anything to yourself you do not want to come true."

If you do, it will result in a centered core of confidence you carry with you everywhere you go. And isn't that what we all want?

You've Got to Have a Dream for a Dream To Come True

As I interview people for my upcoming book, I’m saddened to hear how many are so overwhelmed by their many obligations, they have given up dreaming. This story of a young dad has stayed with me. He said, “I commute two hours a day and work in a job I hate to pay bills. We've got three kids under the age of five so my wife and go from the moment we wake up to the mment we go to sleep. I don’t dream anymore; it’s too painful. I just keep my head down and do the best I can to get through the day.

I told him, “That’s why you need a dream. Otherwise, years will fly by and before you know it, you’ll be looking back wondering, “What happened?!”

He pushed back, “You don’t get it. I’m exhausted. I don’t have the time or energy to dream.”

I told him, “I do get it. It’s just that, instead of seeing exhaustion as a reason for NOT dreaming; it’s even MORE reason to dream. That’s not my opinion, that’s based on research done by “The Grand-Daddy of Goal-setting.” Dr. Edwin Locke reports that ‘specific, challenging goals lead to higher performance than no goals because they direct attention and mobilize effort.”

In other words, if you want to be happier, you need to direct attention and mobilize effort towards a meaningful life goal (that’s all a dream is) so you have something to look forward to, something that gives your life meaning and momentum.

He said, “Okay, I get that. It’s just been so long since I’ve allowed myself to have a dream, I no longer have one.”

I told him, “The good news is, there’s a four-minute exercise that can help you identify a personally meaningful dream that can help you be happier. The dream doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to take time, money and energy you don’t have. It can be something small YOU want to do that could make life a bit better.

Please note: if you’re busy, tired, and tempted to skip this exercise, please rethink that.

A career coach told me, “Sam, you know what surprises me, even after all these years? Many people spend more time deciding what movie to watch than what to do with the rest of their life.”

The average movie is 120 minutes.This quiz takes 4 minutes. Surely identifying a dream that could lead to a happier life is as important as watching a movie. Think of it this way, this exercise is a four-minute mental movie of a life of your dreams.

Sam Horn's Four Minute - Four Box Happiness Quiz

“Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem

Have you ever played a word-association game in which someone asks a question and you’re supposed to say the first thing that comes to mind? For example, I say, “Soup,’ you say “Sandwich.” I say “Horse,” you say “Carriage.” I say, “Hat,” you say “Trick.”

That’s what you want to do in this quiz. Please don’t second-guess your answers. Your first response is usually the most honest response, and that's the goal.

1. Please label the boxes in the square below: Box 1 is upper left. Box 2 is upper right. Box 3 is lower left. Box 4 is lower right. Put the word DOING on top of Box 1. Put the words NOT DOING on top of Box 2. Put the words WANT TO to the left of Box 1. Put the words DON’T WANT TO to the left of Box 3.

2. Write in Square 1 your first responses to this question: “What are you DOING in your life you WANT TO?” Doing work you love? Renovating your house? Walking your dog? Dating someone you like? Getting out in nature on weekends?

3. Write in Square 2 your fist responses to this question: “What are you NOT DOING in your life you WANT TO?” Not spending time with your family? Not exercising? Not writing? Not going back to college to get a degree? Not traveling?

4. Write in Square 3 your first responses to this question: “What are you DOING in your life you DON’T WANT TO?” Commuting two hours a day? Over-eating? Fighting with a spouse? On a time-wasting committee? Watching too much TV or spending too much time on social media?

5. Write in Square 4 your first response to this question: “What are you NOT DOING in your life and you DON’T WANT TO?” Yes, this is a double negative. It’s an important question though because it identifies toxic/unhealthy behaviors you're avoiding. Maybe you used to smoke and don’t anymore, and you never want to pick up another cigarette. Maybe you don’t want to work sixty hours a week and you’re not.

What Do Your Answers in The 4 Minute - 4 Box Happiness Quia Mean?

“They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

Take a few minutes to go back and fill in anything else that occurs to you. Gut responses are often the most enlightening, however others can offer additional insight.

When you’re finished, look at the responses in Box 1 and 4. That’s what’s “right” with your life, what’s contributing to your happiness.

The answers in Box 2 and 3 are what’s “wrong” with your life, what’s compromising your happiness. These are priorities you’ve been neglecting, putting off, promising you'll do someday when you have more time, money, freedom … fill in the blank.

Please note: we’ll always be things “wrong” with our life. None of us are perfect. The question is, “HOW LONG?” How long have you been doing these things you don’t want to do? How long have you not been doing the things you want to do?

You might be thinking, “But Sam, it's complicated. I’m locked into a golden handcuffs situation. I don’t have the luxury to act on what's in box 2 and 3.”

Au contraire. If you identify one thing in your life you really care about and carve out time for that, it can compensate for the 90% that is a compromise or out of your control. As Thomas Edison said, “There's always a better way to do something, find it.”

That young dad? One of the things he wasn't doing was watching football with friends. This was a fairly simple fix. Instead of waiting until he had more time, (not going to happen, do you know anyone who has more time than they used to? The truth is, we’ll never have more time than we have right now); he and his wife set up “friend dates.”

The first and third Monday of every month (in season) he heads to a friend's house for Monday Night Football. The second and fourth Monday of every month (in season) his wife heads to her friends’ house for a night of cards.

This change did not require a major life overhaul. It cost nothing and takes 6 hours a month. But it’s two nights a month they both get to do something that makes them happy. It shows how acting on one thing from Box 2 can have a ripple effect that prevents regrets and positively impacts other areas of your life.

Please note: it is NOT SELFISH to take six hours a month to do something that makes you happy; it's SMART. In the midst of taking care of others, you have the right - and a responsibility - to take care of yourself. What you want matters, and it's up to you to keep it in your life instead of abandoning what makes you happy.

How about you? What did you put in Box 2 and 3? How will you act on one of those priorities today so you have a dream come true now, not someday?

The Woods Would Be Very Silent If No Birds Sang Except Those Who Sang Best

"The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best." - Henry Van Dyke Have you been thinking about creating something - a song, poem, book, blog or screenplay - but worry it won't be perfect?

I talked with a woman who’s been working on her book for five years. When I asked why she hadn’t pulled the trigger on it yet, she gave a lot of reasons (she hadn't had time because she’d been busy at work, she needed to take care of her mom who had gotten sick, she’d broken up with her boyfriend, etc.)

But what it really came down to was … doubts.

Doubts the book would succeed. Doubts that all the work would be worth it. Doubts about what other people would say or think.

I told her, “Perfectionism and procrastinating kill creativity. Put a date on the calendar. Until you do, your project will never get done. You’ll just keep coming up with reasons to put it aside.”

She said, “But how will I know when it’s ready?”

“You won’t. You just need to make a decision you’re going to get it out the door. You just need to get crystal clear that you’ll always regret it if you don’t finish it.”

I added, "My favorite line from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants was when she rushing to finish a skit in her first year at SNL and Lorne Michaels told her to wrap it up.

She protested, 'But it’s not ready.'

Lorne laughed and said, 'Tina, the show doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.'”

It's time for you to pick an 11:30 for your project.

Because if you don’t, chances are your project will never get out the door.

Our bestselling authors at the Maui Writers Conference - from Frank McCourt to Carrie Fisher to Mitch Albom - didn’t agree on much, but they did agree that they'd still be working on their books if it weren’t for their publisher's deadline.

We can always tweak things. We can always make our project better.

But creative work is better DONE than PERFECT. Because if you wait for it to be perfect, it will never get done.

I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes about perfectionism, procrastination and creative work.

You might want to review these, pick a favorite and post it where you can see it every day to remind yourself that, as Henry van Dyke said, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”

Your creative project - whether it's a book, screenplay, poem, story or song - may not be the best; but it may be just what someone needs to see, hear, be reminded of THAT DAY.

1. "Procrastination is often misspelled as perfectionism." - Pinterest post

2. "Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou

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

4. "When perfectionism is driving ... shame is always running shotgun." - Brene Brown

5. "The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you're the pilot." - Michael Altshuler

6. "Fear is boring." - Olympia Dukakis

7. "I didn't come this far to only come this far." - poster in library

8. "May your choices be based on your hopes and not your fears." - Nelson Mandela

9. "Don't tell it like it is, tell it like you want it to be." - Esther Hicks

10. "One person can make a difference and everyone should try." - John F. Kennedy

11. "You don't have to be brave to be courageous." - Sam Horn (more about that here)

12. "The only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve is fear of failure." - Paulo Coelho

13. "Your life expands or contracts in proportion to your courage." - Anais Nin

14. "In any given moment, we have a choice is to step forward into growth or step back into safety." - Abraham Maslow

15. "I think writers are too worried it's all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you." - Asha Dornfest

16. "Thinking 'Here goes nothing' could be the start of everything." - Drew Wagner

17. "What makes you different or weird - that's your strength." - Meryl Streep

18. "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create." - Buddha

19. "I don't think my story is over yet." - Serena Williams

20. "Working hard for something you don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion." - Simon Sinek

21. "You become what you believe." - Oprah Winfrey

22. "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away. - Pablo Picasso.

23. "Here's a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you're alive, it isn't." - Lauren Bacall

24. "Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother." - Kahlil Gibran

25. "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." - Anne Lamott

26. Art enables us to to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." - Thomas Merton

Yes, getting your creative work out in the world can be scary. You know what's scarier? Regret.

It's time to pick a "11:30" to finish your work and get it out in the world - no matter what

The world needs more people willing to contribute their creativity.

We need to hear your song. Express yourself. Add to the symphony of life.

Change Can Be Scary. You Know What's Scarier? REGRET

I'm working on my next book SOMEDAY is Not a Day of the Week and writing the chapter about WHY people stay in unhappy jobs and relationships. This is the lead quote. "CHANGE can be scary. You know what's scarier? REGRET."

What do you think?

While on my Year by the Water, I interviewed people across the United States and asked "Are you happy at work? If so, why? If not, why not? And if why not, why do you stay?"

Here are just a few of their answers. • I can’t afford to leave. (I need the paycheck. I’ve got bills, a mortgage, college.) • I’ve got people counting on me. (Kids at home. Parents with health challenges.) • I’ve worked too hard and too long to leave now. (I'm vested, I've got tenure, seniority) • Work sucks. That’s just the way it is. (“You work hard and then you die” philosophy.) • There aren’t other options. (I don’t have the right education, contacts, connections.) • This is as good as it’s going to get. (I live in a small town. I’m too young, too old.) • Change is scary. I rather stick with the status quo (the devil I know) than take a risk. • I keep hoping things will get better and I’ll get the recognition/respect I deserve. • I’d feel like a failure if I quit. I don’t want to disappoint people or let them down. • It’s selfish, irresponsible, to follow my bliss or do what I really want to do. • I plan to do what makes me happy someday when I retire, have more time, money, etc.

In my book I go into detail about why it's so important to create more meaning on and off the job now, not someday.

I'd love to hear from you.

If you know someone who feels "stuck" in their current situation, I welcome hearing about the reasons and responsibilities that are keeping them there and what they'd like to do instead.

Or, if you've successfully changed your life - for good - I'd love to hear how so others can learn from your example. What finally motivated you to change. What challenges did you face? How did you persevere through them.

With your permission, I might include your story in the book so other people can be inspired by your example. Thank you in advance for contributing your insights on this important topic.

Enjoy, Imprint and Appreciate the CIRCLE OF LIFE

As I sit here at the midnight hour and hold Baby Hiro, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Circle of Life. Mother Teresa said “Joy is a net by which you catch souls.”

I have had the joy these past few months of spending time with a few of my favorite souls – and two new souls.

When my sons Tom and Andrew called to let me know they and their wives – Patty and Miki – were having babies, and asked if I would I like to spend time with them in Boulder and Brooklyn; the answer was an instant yes.

That led to several months of bliss where I’ve had the opportunity to go to the Denver aquarium, stroll the farmers market, and enjoy street festivals, museums and picnics at lake parks with Tom, Patty, Mateo, and Natalia.

Some of my favorite times have been the simple times, e.g., singing Mateo to sleep after reading him “Good Night Moon” and “Llama, Llama, Red Pajama,” him taking my hand to lead me to the playground, watching him play Jungle Gym (Jungle Tom?) on his dad, baby Natalia chortling in delight as she gets her frequent flyer miles from Patty, hanging out on the couch together and watching Hidden Figures.

And now I’m in NYC with 10 day old Baby Hiro and Andrew and Miki. Is there any deeper joy than a brand new baby resting peacefully on your chest? I gaze at him and think what a miracle he is – what every child is – and how fortunate I am to share these early days and late nights together.

Part of the joy of this experience has been spending time with Patty’s family – her Mom, Dad, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces – and experiencing the encompassing, enduring support of a loving family.

Add to that the full-circle joy of talking on the phone with my sis Cheri and marveling about “Long Days, Short Years” and how it didn’t seem all that long ago that Tom, Andrew and Christy were newborns, bouncing in their jolly jumpers, getting their drivers license and going to prom.

Andrew and Miki have a steady stream of friends coming by to ooh and aah and welcome Baby Hiro to the world, which has made his arrival even more special.

Being surrounded by three different generations is like a “Circle of Life” come true. As I gaze at Zen Baby Hiro, I am filled with gratitude for the blessing of being able to spend this time with my sons, their soul mates, children and community of friends and family.

As the lyrics from the title song of the Disney movie Lion King say, "From the day we arrive on the planet And, blinking, step into the sun There's more to see than can ever be seen … ... It's the circle of life."

As Mateo, Natalia and Hiro arrive on this planet and step, crawl and blink into the sun, there IS more to see than can ever be seen ... and I’m doing my best to imprint every joyous moment of this circle of life, this circle of love.

baby hiro

SOMEDAY Quote #65: Working Hard For Something We Don't Care About is Called STRESS. Working Hard For Something We Love is Called PASSION.

Kudos to Simon Sinek for this important distinction, "Working hard for something we don't care about is called STRESS. Working hard for something we love is called PASSION." Simon's right. Working on something meaningful makes all the hard work worthwhile.

In fact, it transforms hard work into a "labor of love."

This is one of the many things I love about being a writer.

Hours can go by and I'm not even aware of the passage of time.

That, of course, is the sublime state of FLOW.

Flow is when the world fades away. when we're so immersed and absorbed in what we're doing, it becomes easy, effortless, a joy.

Athletes know what this is like.

Artists, musicians and creatives know what this is like.

Anyone who's ever been in love knows what this is like.

When are you in this state of flow?

When are you working hard, but it doesn't feel like hard work, because you're doing what you love?

One of the best ways to set up SerenDestiny is to have something we're so passionate about, we gladly invest time and effort in it because it doesn't feel like work, it feels like a joy.

What is that for you?

simon sinek

SOMEDAY Quote #64: My Imagination Won't Turn Off. I Wake Up Excited.

Hollywood producer/director Stephen Spielberg said, "My imagination won't turn off. I wake up excited." Is imagination an active part of your life? Do you wake up excited about your day?

A client recently told me she grew up dreaming. Like me, she grew up in a small town. Books were her window to a fascinating world somewhere "out there" beyond the confines of her isolated mountain valley. She always knew she wanted to be an author when she grew up, and that's exactly what's happened.

Yet, she's a single mom these days and her time is filled with taking care of her two kids and dealing with school activities, sports, music lessons, homework, chores, financial concerns and everything that goes along with being a solo parent/provider. She writes when her kids are at school and sometimes after they go to bed ... if she can stay awake.

She has a contract for her next book, but the ideas aren't coming. She told me, "I'm too exhausted to think. I have so much to do, I don't have any energy left to be creative."

I told her, "Do you know we have mind time when we go to bed? Mind time is the 5-50 minutes we have to think before we fall to sleep. Whether you wake up exhausted or excited depends a lot on whether you're putting your mind time to work for you or against you.'"

I asked her, "What do you usually think about when you go to bed?'

She laughed and said, "I debrief the day, what happened with the kids. what didn't happen with my book. The next thing I know, the alarm goes off and it's time to get up."

I suggested, "From now on, put that mind time to work for you. Instead of mentally regurgitating that day, picture what you want to happen the next day. Imagine the kids getting along at breakfast and getting off to school on time. Imagine sitting down at your desk and the words coming so fast your fingers can hardly keep up. Imagine wrapping up for the day and feeling satisfied with your progress. I call that 'forward focus.' It's a better use of your brain because you're giving it a road map to follow."

At our next session she said, "Sam, that concept of mind time has made a huge difference for me. You're right. I'm going to be laying in bed anyway. I might as well focus on what I do want instead of what I don't."

How about you? What do you think about when you go to bed? I've found many of us spend our mind time worrying, regretting or resenting. No wonder we wake up exhausted.

From now on, spend your mind time imagining what you do want instead of what you don't. Debrief the day if you wish; just make it purposeful. What worked? What was meaningful, productive, satisfying? How can you do more of that tomorrow?

What didn't work? What was frustrating, ineffective? How will you do that differently tomorrow? Picture what you prefer in your mind's eye. Envision it unfolding just the way you imagined it. Put your brain to work for you instead of against you.

Want your dreams to come true? Imagination + action = ImaginACTION.

Promise yourself, tonight - and every night - you'll use your mind time to focus forward and envision what you do want so you wake up excited and raring to go.

Add some inspiration to your ImaginACTION by picking a favorite quote from the ones below. Then post it where it will stay in sight- in mind to remind you of the power of using your mind time - for good.

1. "A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities." - J. R. R. Tolkein

2. "Live out of your imagination, not your history." - Stephen Covey

3. "Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." - Harriet Tubman

4. "Imagination is the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not; it is the foundation of all invention and innovation." - novelist J. K. Rowling

5. "Dreamers are mocked as impractical. The truth is they are the most practical, as their innovations lead to progress and a better way of life for all of us.” - Robin S. Sharma

6. “Look closely at the present you're constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming." - Alice Walker

7 "There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love." - actress Sophia Loren

8. “When I am completely myself, entirely alone during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly." - Mozart

9. Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet." - Victor Hugo

10. "So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." - Christopher Reeves

11. "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt

When Lupito Nyong'o won her Academy Award, she looked straight into the camera and into the eyes of millions of people in the television audience and said, "No matter where you're from, your dreams are valid."

Not only are dreams valid, they're -oh-so-valuable in turning what you see into reality. Summon what you want when you go to sleep so your dreams become inevitable.

Want more ways to put your mind to work for you?

Check out my books ConZentrate, What's Holding You Back?, POP!, Got Your Attention? and IDEAPRENEUR. Hope you find them intriguing, inspiring and useful.

stephen spielberg

Day Right Quote #63: If I''m Not Willing To Do It TODAY, What Makes Me Think I'll Be Willing To Do It Tomorrow?

I had cut carbs out of my diet but recently went back to eating them. Boo. I promised myself I'd eat green again after the holiday weekend.

Then I thought, "If I'm not willing to do it today, what makes me think I'll be willing to do it tomorrow?"

So I went back to green shakes and I'm glad I did.

As Pope Paul III said, "The future starts today, not tomorrow."

How about you? What is it you want more of - or less of - in your life?

Are you procrastinating? Are you promising yourself you'll take action on it .... tomorrow?

If you're not willing to do it TODAY, what makes you think you'll be willing to do it TOMORROW?

Don't delay. Your happiness depends on you beginning it today.

As discussed in this post, you will never regret doing more of what puts the light on in your eyes.

You will only regret not doing it ... sooner.

green shake

Day Right Quote #62: May We Celebrate our Freedom(s) Today and Everyday

Hard to believe a year ago this July 4th weekend, I was driving through the Smoky Mountains listening to Garrison Keillor’s final show of A Prairie Home Companion, broadcast live from the Hollywood Bowl. President Obama called in to give Keillor a well-deserved shout-out for his forty-two years (!) of story-telling that has, as Obama put it, “made us all a little more humane.”

Barack Obama kept trying to focus the conversation on Keillor, Keillor kept turning it back to Obama. Keillor asked, “What are you looking forward to when you’re out of office?”

Obama laughed, “Getting in a car and going for a drive without the Secret Service.”

Exactly. Getting in a car and going where we want, when we want, with whom we want is the epitome of freedom. Yet many of us take it for granted.

As Abraham Maslow pointed out in his Hierarchy of Needs, “Satisfied needs are no longer motivators.”

In other words, once we have food, water, safety, freedom; we tend to overlook them. We don’t miss or appreciate them until they are challenged, until we lose them.

Freedom to is far too precious to take for granted.

This was brought home by an incident that happened years ago during a Christmas holiday vacation in California’s Yosemite Valley.

We were staying at a family lodge that featured snowshoeing and sledding. We lived in Maui at the time, so playing in the snow was a big draw for Tom and Andrew. What we hadn’t counted on was a blizzard that kept us inside. No worries, there was ping pong so we were happy campers.

One night during dinner, the manager confided he was concerned about a couple who were supposed to check in that day but still hadn’t arrived. This was before cell phones so the manager didn’t know if they’d gotten lost or what.

Suddenly, the door blew open and in walked the couple. We gathered round to find out what had happened.

Yes, they’d gotten lost, but here’s the part that made a lasting impression on me ... they hadn't panicked because they were in the United States.

They said they had grown up in Russia. If they wanted to travel internally, they had to give authorities their itinerary. If they didn’t arrive at each checkpoint by a certain time, they came under suspicion and could be interrogated, even arrested. The couple told us they hadn't worried about losing their way to the lodge because they were in America, they had enough food, water and blankets, and they knew they’d be safe until someone rescued them. At least they didn’t have to worry about being tossed in jail.

Their story had an enduring impact on me. I promised to never again take my freedom of movement for granted.

I was reminded of this vow, in an unexpected way, a week after hearing Obama reveal how much he was looking forward to his regained freedom of movement.

I was was navigating some dark steps in a hotel parking lot and took what I thought was the last step, except it wasn't. I fell head-first and crashed into a car, ribs-first.

Ouch! I sat there, stunned in a state of shock. I decided to get up and “walk it off.” That had always been my strategy. If I was playing tennis and twisted my ankle, I found that if I sat down, that injury set in. But if I walked around, my body would somehow, miraculously, heal itself.

So, I walked around until I felt like I was “myself” again. I was okay until the next morning when I couldn’t get out of bed. My whole side ached. Any sudden movement brought a gasp of pain.

I googled my symptoms and self-diagnosed that I had bruised or cracked ribs. (Side note: Yes, I know doctors hate it when we self-diagnose via the internet.)

WEB-MD said that if I did go to the ER, they’d probably take x-rays to see if I was in danger of puncturing a lung, but otherwise they wouldn’t even “tape me up,” as physicians now feel that's an outdated practice that hurts more than it helps. They would, maybe, give me pain meds and advise me to “take it easy” and the ribs would eventually knit on their own.

Hmm. I was flying to Hawaii that day. Perhaps this was naive, but I decided I could "take it easy" in the islands. As long as I sat still or walked without swinging my arms, it didn't hurt too much. It was only when I needed to bend, turn my torso or lift anything (e.g., a carry-on suitcase) that my body quickly reminded me, "DON'T do that!"

I arrived safe (but not so sound) and checked into the beautiful Andaz Resort and Spa, a truly lovely hotel but it is modern which means everything is low. Low beds. Low couches. Low chairs. I remember looking at the bed and wondering how I was ever going to get in it, much less out of it.

I thought, “I know. I’ll go for a walk on the beach path.” I had spent hundreds of happy hours on that path with friends and family when we lived in the area and while I served as Executive Director of the Maui Writers Conference.

Good idea in theory, not so much in practice. Five minutes into my walk, I knew it was a mistake. The narrow, up, down, winding path was crowded with runners, speed walkers and baby strollers, which meant I was dodging someone or something every other minute. Not an option. I headed back to the hotel, feeling like a wimp.

So, what happened? I became a spectator. The next ten days, I sat and looked at the ocean - and didn’t even go in. I watched people swim, scuba, snuba, paddle-board, body-board, kayak and sail - and didn’t get up from my chair.

And you know what I learned? It is a very slippery slope between being a participant in life vs. a spectator. I’ve been active most my life, but here I was sitting on the sidelines watching, not doing.

Thank heaven my ribs healed and I was able to get out of inertia and back in motion. I was once again able to actively appreciate and enjoy my freedom of movement.

How about you? Is freedom a satisfied need? Are you taking it for granted - or using it before you lose it?

Moshe Dayan said, “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.”

Freedom is more than that. Freedom in all its many forms - freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom to work for a living, freedom to pursue happiness, freedom of movement - is one of the great blessings of our life.

John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

This July 4th weekend, may we not just SAY we appreciate our freedom (s), may we get outside and SHOW we understand what a gift it is to go where we please, do what we please, say what we please, when we please, with whom we please.

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Day Right Quote #61: Children Spell LOVE Differently. They Spell it T-I-M-E.

Children spell LOVE differently. They spell it T-I-M-E. Actually, most people spell love as TIME.

Who do you love?

How will you SHOW them that this weekend by setting other priorities aside and giving them your time, undivided attention and full, appreciative presence?

Are you thinking, "I have work to catch up on? Errands to run. Chores to take care of?"

Please rethink that.

Is that work - are those chores - really more important than your loved ones?

I'm not suggesting we set aside work and chores every weekend.

But this is a holiday weekend.

How about making your family and friends your priority these three days?

You will never regret making time for the people you love - you will only regret not doing it sooner and more often.

children spell best

Day Right Quote #60: Our Quality of Life Is Directly Proportionate to Who and What We Give Our Attention To

One time, while discussing how to keep our peace of mind no matter what in a Tongue Fu!® workshop, I put up a power point slide with "No one can make you unhappy or upset without your consent" ... an adaptation of Eleanor Roosevelt's quote "No one can make you FEEL INFERIOR without your consent." A gruff construction boss stood up in the back of the ballroom and said, “Sam, you’re pulling a Pollyanna with this one. You have no idea the kind of people I work with. Do you mean if someone’s YELLING at me, that’s not supposed to make me mad?”

A woman raised her hand and said, “I agree with this because I’ve lived through it.

I’m a surgical nurse. I work with a neurosurgeon who’s a bully. He's the most abrasive individual I’ve ever met. He’s a brilliant physician, he has zip people skills.

Last year, I was a fraction of a second late handing him an instrument in surgery. He berated me in front of my peers. He humiliated me in front of the team. It took all my professionalism just to continue with the operation and not walk out.

On the drive home, I kept thinking about what he had done. The more I re-lived it, the more upset I got. When I got home, I sat down at the dinner table, told my husband what happened and said, ‘That doctor makes me so MAD.’

My husband had heard this before. He said, ‘Judy, what time is it?’

‘7 o’clock.’

‘What time did this happen?’

‘9 o’clock this morning.’

He said, ‘Judy, is it the doctor who’s making you mad?’

And with that, he got up and left the table.

I sat there and thought about it.

I realized, it wasn’t the doctor who was making me mad. The doctor wasn’t even in the room.

I was the one who had given him a ride home in my car.

I was the one who had set him a place at my dinner table.

I decided that never again was that doctor welcome in my home or in my head. I was no longer going to give him the power to poison my personal life. From then on, that doctor was staying at the hospital and never again was I going to allow him to ruin my precious time with my family.”

Who do YOU take home with you?

Who do you give a ride to in your car?

Who do you set a place for at your dinner table?

Can you decide, right now, that person is no longer welcome in your home or head?

Can you get really clear that you are no longer going to give that person the power to poison your personal life?

From now on, can you leave that person at work (or wherever you encountered him/her) and never again allow him/her to ruin your previous time with your loved ones?

Our quality of life is directly proportionate to who and what we give our attention to.

Our peace of mind is in our mental hands.

There are many people who choose to show up with integrity, who choose to add value.

There are many things right with our world, many blessings for which to be grateful.

If we want a life where the light is on in our eyes, let’s give our attention to the blessings, not the burdens, to what's right with the world vs. what's wrong. Let's choose to focus on the people who act with compassion and treat others with respect, not on those who don't.

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Is Your Rubber Band of Routine Snapping Back?

Full confession. I've shared stories from my Year by the Water about sailing the Chesapeake Bay, swimming with Zach the Dolphin, and watching whales breach off Maui. But the truth? There wasn't a lot of water in the first three months of my Year by the Water.

What happened? The rubber band of routine snapped back is what happened.

In those first three months, I spent only one of every four days on, in or around the water. The other three days were spent in airports, flying, driving to and speaking at conferences, staying in hotels and working with consulting clients virtually or at their office.

Why did I revert to my decades-old habit of filling my calendar with paying commitments?

Well, the day before I left, I had a long conversation with Cheri Grimm. Not only has she been my Business Manager for the past twenty years, as my sister, she knows me better than anyone. As we wrapped up our call, she asked, “What do you you want most for your trip?”

I blurted out, “Well, I know what I don’t want. That's for this to turn into business as usual ... just on the road.”

Argghh. I’m supposed to know better. I focused on what I didn’t want.

Now, in my defense, there were good reasons that burst out my mouth. The weeks leading up to my departure had been intense with dozens of logistics to button up.

Still. When we focus on what we don’t want; that’s what we get. If we tell our kids, “Don’t run around the pool,” what are they going to do? Run around the pool.

If we're playing a sport and think, “Don't double-fault" "Don't strike out" or "Don't hit it in the water," what's going to happen?

If we're dealing with a difficult person and tell ourselves, "Don't let him get under your skin," or "Don't let her make you mad" we're going to do both.

I've been teaching this for years. It's in all my books. So, why did I do it?

I call Judy Gray and ask for advice. Judy used to run the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Society of Association Executives and is one of the wisest leaders I know.

She says, "Sam, think about it. You've been a single mom and solopreneur with complete financial responsibility for yourself and your sons for fifteen years. To you, a full calendar means financial security. It means you can 'breathe easy' because you know you'll be able to pay bills.

When you set off on your Year by the Water, for the first time in a long time, you had 'empty' days on your calendar."

I can only imagine, at some level, that was cause for panic. It's easy to understand why you went back to 'biz dev mode" and started filling your calendar again."

Judy's right. We kept digging into why I kept compulsively booking more commitments instead of honoring my intent to visit bodies of water and write about them.

If I’m honest about it, and I want to be honest about it, ego probably played a role too.

Face it, it’s gratifying to have people value what I do. It feels good to be popular, to be “in demand.” As an entrepreneur, people wanting to work with me is proof of my worth.

However, one of the purposes of this adventure was to give myself time and space to be creatively adventurous instead of working non-stop the way i'd been doing for years.

I want to change this long-held association that a full calendar means I’m needed, valued and financially secure. I no longer want to equate being busy and being "booked solid" with being successful.

Judy says, “Sam, a few years back you got clarity around a similar issue. Remember what I’m talking about?”

As soon as she says it, I do.

The week after my son Andrew left for Virginia Tech, (Tom was already there), I was on my morning walk around the lake when I ran into a neighbor. We hadn’t seen each other for awhile, so we joined up to get caught up.

When she heard both boys were away at college, she said with concern, “You’re rattling around in that big house all by yourself? You must be so lonely in that empty nest.”

The thought had never occurred to me that I should be lonely or that I was living in an "empty nest." I smiled and said, “I don’t have an empty nest, I have an open nest.”

Her eyes flew open. “A what?!”

“An OPEN nest. Empty means no one’s there. I am there. Empty defines my life as bereft, as focused on who’s missing and what’s absent. My sons aren’t missing or absent. They’re happy, healthy and doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing at this stage of their life. We’re still connected and we’re all free to come and go as we please.”

“Wow. I never thought of it that way.”

The second Judy reminds me of this story, I realize it provides the more positive, proactive perspective I’m looking for. I don’t have an empty calendar, I have an open calendar.

In my "previous life", before launching my Year by the Water, empty days = empty bank account. It meant that clients didn’t want or need me, that I was at financial risk.

No more. I tell Judy, “I’m going to disrupt the way I think about this and talk about it. My days aren’t empty, they’re open to explore, to reflect, to create. I don’t have empty time and space, I have open time and space to discover new places, meet new place, arrive at new epiphanies."

In other words, open days aren't cause for panic, they're cause for potential.

Another one of the many things I appreciate about Judy is how practical she is.

She says, “Okay, how are you going to make sure you don't give in to the pressure to say yes to every business opportunity that comes your way? What boundaries will you put into place so you don’t fall back into old habits and work 30 days a month again?”

Good question.

Did you see the movie The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman? Remember the scene where his parents throw a pool party to celebrate his graduation from college? One of his dad’s friends drapes his arm over Benjamin, (Dustin’s character) and says, “I have one word for you … plastics.”

Well, the word I came up with to hold myself accountable for my good intentions and new mindset is metrics.

I realized that if I didn't ground my new mindset in metrics, it would be too vague. It wouldn't be measurable or enforceable (in the best sense of the word) unless I attached numbers to my intentions.

And, the fact is, I still have financial obligations. I still welcome speaking and consulting opportunities. I haven't abandoned my business, I'm just no longer doing it 24/7.

So, I created a better balance of work and recreation. A certain number of days each month are scheduled with speaking engagements, business appointments and client work. And a certain number of days each month are blocked off and kept open for friends, family, adventure ... whatever develops that day.

Those metrics have resulted in the best of both worlds (more about that here.)

How about you? Are you going going, going? Working 7 days a week?

Despite promising yourself you'll take more time "off," do you find yourself filling your calendar again?

Could you put measurable, enforceable metrics around your intentions to set aside time time for family, friends, adventure (or whatever puts the light on in your eyes) so the rubber band of routine doesn't snap back and you revert to old habits?

Reverend David Steir said, "Let us always be open to the miracle of the second chance."

Yes to the miracle of the second chance. And yes to us taking responsibility to create a more balanced life where we spendd time on all our different priorities - instead of just a few of them.

rubber band best