The HAPPINESS BOX from Sam Horn's SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week Book

It has been wonderful hearing back from people how helpful the Happiness Quiz-Box has been in helping them identify ONE THING they can do to be happier now, not later.

As promised in the Audible recording, we wanted to provide a sample of it here - with instructions - so you can print it out and fill it out with a friend or family member.

Here's how it works. Have you ever played a word-association game where someone asks a question and you’re supposed to say the first thing that comes to mind? For example, if I say, "Hawaii," you might say "Beach." If I say "Dog," you might say "Cat."

The goal of this exercise is to listen to and honor your GUT - because it has the answers to your HAPPINESS TEST.

Promise to write down your first response to the following questions. No censoring or second-guessing what comes up. Your first response is usually the most honest response and that's the goal. This is the one place you get to express what you might have been hiding or denying because it wasn't "nice" or "politically correct" to admit.

Sam Horn’s Happiness Box

Happiness Quiz.jpg

Please print out The Happiness Box in the photo above.

Now, answer the following questions in the appropriate square.

Square 1: “What are you DOING in your life that you WANT TO?” Walking your dog? Spending time with your kids? Getting out in nature on weekends? Going to concerts? Doing meaningful work?

Square 2: “What are you NOT DOING in your life that you WANT TO?” Not starting a business? Not dating or meeting your soul mate? Not writing? Not traveling? Not working out? Not getting enough sleep?

Square 3: “What are you DOING in your life you DON’T WANT TO?”  Commuting two hours a day? Over-eating? Spending too much time on social media or watching too much TV? Working on the weekends?

Square 4: “What are you NOT DOING in your life and you DON’T WANT TO?” Yes, this is a double negative. It’s important though because it identifies toxic, unhealthy, unwanted behaviors you've quit and are successfully keeping out of your life. Maybe you used to smoke and don’t anymore, and you never want to pick up a cigarette again.

When you’re finished, circle your responses in Square 1 and 4. Those are what I call the “Bill of RIGHTS.” They’re what’s “right” with your life. They’re contributing to your happiness

Circle your answers in Square 2 and 3. That's what’s “wrong” with your life. That is what is compromising your happiness.

Please note: none of us are perfect so we will always have things “wrong” with our life - things we’re putting off.

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 things youwant to do?

John Foster Dulles said, "The mark of a successful organization isn't whether or not it has problems; it's whether it has the SAME problems it had last year."

Would you have given the same answers in Square 2 and 3 a month ago or a year ago?

Square 2 and 3 are where SOMEDAYS lurk. They nare regrets waiting to happen.

They are the priorities that, at some level, you're promising yourself you'll do someday when you're not so busy, when you have more money, or the the right person, or the right set of circumstances ... whatever.

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

If you want RESULTS instead of reasons and regrets, it’s time to start acting on at least ONE THING in Square 2 or 3.

You may be thinking, “But Sam, it's complicated. I have so many responsibilities. I;m kind of locked into this situation. There’s not a lot I can do to change things.."

I understand. The good news is, you don't have to quit your job, abandon your responsibilities or win the lottery to improve your quality of life.

All you have to do is identify one thing you can change in Square 3 and it will often free up time, energy and motivation to do something about what's in Square 2.

What I have found is that if you carve out ONE hour a week for something that puts the light on in your eyes, that lifts your spirits and makes you feel good, that is just for YOU - it can compensate for the other 95% of your life that is a compromise or out of your control.

As Thomas Edison said, “There is always a better way to do something, find it.”

A young woman who had been the lead in her high school plays and active in community theater had come to NYC with stars in her eyes. Two years later, she was still waittressing, sleeping on a friends' couch, and going to one audition after another with no success.

She was about to go home with her tail between her legs. What she wasn't doing in Square 2 was having fun or making friends. What she was doing in Square 3 was getting rejected all the time at auditions and doing a job she hated to pay bills.

These were big problems, but there was an "easy" fix that only took 90 minutes a week and only costs $25. She started going to Daybreaker. (Read their fascinating backstory here.)

Daybreaker is a morning dance party that meets at cool places (an art loft, historic theater, museum or cruise ship) so she gets to experience the city. It has a welcoming committee at the door (instead of a bouncer) so she feels included instead of anonymous or at risk. It features yoga, healthy snacks and uplifting dancing where EVERYONE is on the floor having a fabulous time. It's from 6 am - 8 am so she can still be at work by 9 am. And at $25, she can afford it on her budget.

She said, "I made more friends in two hours than I have in two years. Plus, I'm finally part of a fun community that I enjoy being around and look forward to being with."

Her story shows we don't need more time or money to be happy, we need more ingenuity.

Please note: this didn't require a major life overhaul, it did require taking responsibiity for improving her quality of life vs. kvetching about it. She can't control everything (whether she lands a role on Broadway), she can control doing one thing every week that makes her like her life. Instead of feeling powerless and hopeless, she now feels powerful and hopeful.

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

Please understand, it's not selfish to do one thing every week you enjoy and look forward to, it's smart. It’s not indulgent, it’s an investment.

Post your Happiness Box where you'll see it every day as a reminder that the quality of your life is in your hands. What will you do today your future self will thank you for?

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create the life, work and relationships of their dreams. Her books have been featured in NY Times, on NPR, and presented to Intel, Capital One, Cisco. Want Sam to host a SOMEDAY book club for your community or organization? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

Readers' Guide for Sam Horn's SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week

Remember, we're all in this ... alone." - Lily Tomlin

Thank heaven, we don't have to be in this all alone. We have the option of going it together. One of the goals of the SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week book is to catalyze conversation about what really matters.

Too often, we get busy and weeks (months? years?) go by without us talking about long-term goals or dreams that get pushed aside. It's easy for our values and priorities to get buried in the day-to-day and for resentments to start building up.

That's why I ended every chapter in my new book with 3-4 questions you can discuss with friends or a family member so you can go deep into the insights and talk about how they pertain to your personal and professional life.

Did you relate to the story that opened each chapter? When has that happened to you? What did it bring up for you? Whether it's "driving into hurricanes" or "watering dead plants," how did the real-life examples from myself and others prompt a fresh perspective?

What about the insights, exercises and quizes? Were they relevant for you? How so? What changes will you make - what action will you take - on something that's important to you?

The ten hacks and action steps are designed to elicit epiphanies around your health and happiness. Are you leading a meaningful, purposeful life? If so, how will you continue to do what puts the light on in your eyes? If not, what will you start, stop or do differently?

You might want to work through the book chapter by chapter with a friend, walking group, or book club. Assign a chapter a week (feel free to adapt that to suit your timeline) and lead a discussion where everyone has opportunities to share personal and professional AHA's. You might want to rotate who facilitate's the discuussion so everyone gets a chance.

Many people have told me these questions have led to some of the most honest conversations they've every had. One couple said filling out the Happiness Box together put the affection and romance back in their marriage. She said, "Little resentments had started piling up because we weren't talking honestly about the sacrifices we were making. We posted our Happiness Boxes on the frig so we can see them, update them every week, and figure out how to "swap time off" so we can each do one thing we enjoy."

And if you live or work by yourself and don't have anyone to discuss these questions with, reach out. Maybe there's a college friend you haven't talked to in awhile, a neighbor you used to live next to that you miss, a colleague at a previous job you really enjoyed.

Studies show we're "lonier" than ever. A February 9, 2019 New York Times article IsLoneliness a Health Epidemic? said it's a "sad reality of modern life."

But you can change that. Who is someone you know who would welcome a weekly opportunity to work through these structured questions together? It's an opportunity to talk honestly about what's working in your life, what's not, and what you plan to do about it with people who care, with people who have your back and front.

Research done by Harvard shows that "Relationships are THE key to enduring happiness." A primary point of the book is that meaningful conversation and connection about what matters is what will matter in the long run. WAITING for someone else to make the first move is a prescription for procrastination.

The goal of the SOMEDAY book is to be proactive, not passive, to take responsibility for our own happiness. One way to do that is to create a community you'd like to be part of. Discussing these questions can create a closeness that counteracts the isolation our culture.

One more suggestion? If you've read the book, you know it has more than 200 thought-provoking quotes on how we can create the quality of life we want now, not later.

In addition to answering the questions in this Readers;' Guide, you might also want to select a favorite quote from each chapter and share that with your group. Whether it's Esther Hicks' "My happiness is on me, so you're off the hook," or John Legend's "The future is already here and we're already late," theese inspiring quotes also have the power to provide insight.

And you might want to get the SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week Journal(which features a quote a day) so you can hold yourself accountable for reflecting on - and acting on - your intentions so you can turn them into a rewarding reality.

Readers’ Guide for Sam Horn's SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week 

LIFE HACK 1: EVALUATE Your Happiness History

Chapter 1. Play Hooky for a Day

1.     How would you spend your free day or afternoon? What would you do if the people you’re responsible for would be taken care of, and there would be NO repercussions?  

2.     What are three things you would not do on your day of hooky? Why?

3.     What were your answers to the boxes in the Happiness Quiz? Were they surprises? 

Chapter 2. Remember the Golden Days

1.     What were your top five priorities? What do you spend the most time on? Do your lists

match? If so, how so? How are you able to live in alignment with what matters to you?

2.     If your lists don’t match, why? What’s going on to cause the disparity?

3.     What questions from the Happiness Interview produced an aha? What insights did you get from delving into what is contributing to, or compromising, your happiness? 

Chapter 3. Adopt a Sense of Urgency

1.     Which of the reasons people gave for waiting resonated with you? Please elaborate how each particular reason has prevented you from doing what would make you happier?

2.     Did you do the pretend S.E.E.? What would you do if you only had a week to live? Is there some way you can actually do that, even part of it, now not someday? How so?

3.     When is a time you didn’t wait to do what was important to you? What gave you the clarity and confidence to act instead of procrastinate? How did it make you feel?

4.     Who do you know who you think of as “happy?” Who is a shining example of someone who DOES what they want now, not someday? What can you learn from their example?

LIFE HACK 2: GENERATE a Today Not Someday Dream

Chapter 4: Clarify What You Want

1.     Were you fortunate enough to have a calling, mission or passion project downloaded to you? What was it? Did you act on it? Why or why not? How has that affected your life?

2.     What is the mission statement you crafted? Where will you keep it in-sight, in-mind so it can help you make decisions that are in alignment with your purpose and true priorities?

3.     What do you want more of in your life? What would make your life more fulfilling? How you will give time to it to this week – instead of floating and waiting to do it someday?

Chapter 5: Put a Date on the Calendar

1. What would you like to experience or achieve by the end of this year? What is your Today, Not Someday Dream? When will you launch it? What “do-date” did you put on your calendar?

2. Now, start filling in the W’s … where, when, who, what, why. Who will you discuss this with so they can help you fill in the blanks so your dream goes from vague to vividly clear?

3. Where will you post your dream so it stays in-sight, in mind, and you are constantly re-inspired to do what you said you wanted to do?

LIFE HACK 3: ABDICATE Harmful Beliefs and Behaviors

Chapter 6. Just Say No to Nay-Sayers

1.     Do you have a nay-sayer who is telling you it’s wrong, foolish, or selfish to pursue your dream? Who is that person? What are they saying? What’s their real agenda? How has this person impacted you, up until now? Have they caused you to question yourself? Have they undermined your clarity, your courage, to grow and move forward?

2.     What will you do to speak up for yourself next time this person tries to undermine you? Or, what will you do to disassociate from this person or reduce their power over you?

3.     Who is a cheerleader who supports what you’re doing? How does this person help you grow and encourage you to be all you can be? How will you spend more time with this person so they give you the energy, tools, clarity and confidence to proceed?

Chapter 7. Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go

1.     How do you feel when you walk into your home? Where would your home rate on the Clutter (1) to Clean (10) Scale? How does that affect you? Do you feel guilty, stressed or frustrated with how things have piled up? Or do you feel proud, at peace with how well-designed, organized and beautiful things are?

2.     How much time do you spend cleaning, repairing, buying, renovating your stuff? Is that a source of enjoyment, a burden and chore, or something in between? Explain.

3.     Are you ready to down-size your home and/or release some belongings? How will you do that? Who else is impacted by this? How will you negotiate this with them? What could you do with the resources that would be freed up when you have less to take care of?

Chapter 8. Stop Driving into Hurricanes

1.     Can you relate to the “Why am I driving into a hurricane” story? What commitments are you keeping because you said you would? What are the consequences of that?

2.     Is there a time you “broke a promise” and, instead of it being a catastrophe, it actually led to a better situation? Please describe what happened.

3.     What is a stormy situation you’re in right now? Do you keep driving into this hurricane because you want to honor your commitment? Can you approach them, tell the truth as fast as you can, and explore options that have the potential to be a win for all involved?

LIFE HACK 4: INITIATE Daily Actions that Move Your Life Forward

Chapter 9. You Don’t Have to Know to Go

1.     Do you see yourself as brave? Why or why not? When is a time you tried something new and it worked out well? How can you tap back into that confidence and tell yourself, “If I did it before, I can do it again?”

2.     Were you brought up to see the world as a scary, dangerous place or a safe, adventurous place? How has that impacted your willingness to venture out on your own?

3.     What is something new you want to try? Are you getting conflicting advice? What’s your gut telling you? What if you took the bolder of the options and figured it out on the way?

Chapter 10. Honor the Nudges, Connect the Dots

1.     Do you make room for whims? Why or why not? When was a time you honored a nudge and acted on your intuition? What happened as a result?

2.     Do you think this is a lot of hooey? Does your intellect over-ride your instincts? Or, do you agree that if we have a sixth sense that alerts us to what’s wrong, we also have a sixth sense that alert us to what’s right? What are your beliefs about this?

3.     How will you honor the instincts that have your best interests at heart? How will you connect the dots, act on “coincidences” that beat the odds, and align with aligned individuals and opportunities that show up that “feel right?”

Chapter 11. Put Yourself in the Story

1.     Would you say you’re putting yourself in your own story? How so?

2.     When or how do you take yourself out of the story? Why?

3.     What was modeled for you about serving others? How has that supported or sabotaged your happiness? How will you strike a healthier balance between serving others and yourself? What is something you’ll do “just for yourself” this week? 

Chapter 12. Prevent the Rubber Band of Routine from Snapping Back

1. Have you found, despite your best intentions, that the Rubber Band of Routine snapped back and you’ve reverted to old ways? How so?

2. How will you use language to focus on what you do want instead of what you don’twant? For example, how could you turn empty days into open days?

3.What metrics will you assign to your dream so you have a measurable way to hold yourself accountable? How will you give yourself a “second chance” to get this change right and persevere to bring your life into alignment with your true priorities vs. reverting to old habits?

LIFE HACK 5: CELEBRATE What’s Right with Life, Right Here, Right Now

Chapter 13. Live in Day-Right Compartments

1.     Do you have a morning practice? If so, what is it? If not, why not?

2.     Do you find yourself getting caught up in the busyness of the world? Do you feel you’re losing connection with yourself and others? How so?

3.     What will you do to create a mindful ritual in the morning to get your day off to a good start? How will you belly-breathe or bring your mind to the present moment by using a SOMEDAY journal (or the equivalent) to keep the Happiness Hacks top-of-mind?

Chapter 14. Get Out of Your Head and Come to Your Senses

1.     When was the last time you saw something as if for the first or last time? Describe what happened and what it felt like.

2.     Do you have a busy, stressful life? What is the ongoing impact of rushing, rushing, rushing and always feeling “an hour late and a dollar short?

3.     Would you say you have “juice” in your camera? Do you look at the world with fresh eyes? When, where and how will you get out of your head and come to your senses?

Chapter 15. Get a Move On

1.     Would you say you appreciate your freedom of movement or do you take it for granted? What are you currently doing to take care of your body and health? Elaborate.

2.     What are you doing that is harming your body or jeopardizing your freedom of movement? Sitting? Smoking? Eating and drinking the wrong things? What? 

3.     Do you have a car? Is it a source of frustration or a source of freedom? When and where will you go for fun – by walking, driving, biking, flying or training - because you can?

Chapter 16. Free Up Time for Fun

1.     What do you do for fun? Do you have a hobby? Play a sport? Sing? Garden? What?

How often do you do this? How does it contribute to the quality of your life?

2.     What did you USE to do for recreation? Is that out of your life now? Why? Do you feel it’s frivolous, that you have more important things to do? Explain.

3.     How will you carve out time to have a good time? How will you bring more joy into your life? When, where and how will you do something that puts the light on in your eyes?

Chapter 17. Be Wealthy in What Matters

1.     Growing up, what were the messages you received about money? 

2.     On a scale of 1 – 10, how satisfied are you with the amount of money you make and have?  Do you have “enough” or is lack of money undermining your quality of life? Explain. What is your “number?” What do you envision happening when you reach it?

3.     How are you wealthy in what matters, right here, right now? Give an example of what you will do to imprint and appreciate your “good fortune” this week. Has a dream come true and you haven’t really acknowledged it? How will you rectify that?

LIFE HACK 6: AFFILIATE with People Who Have Your Back and Front

Chapter 18. Launch Your Ship in Public

1.     So, what is that venture you want to launch? Who has supported you, cheered you on? What have they done to help you achieve your goal and do what’s important to you?

2.     Who has cautioned you, told you (“for your own good”) that what you want to do won’t work or isn’t a good idea? What impact has that had on you?

3.     How will you take your dream public and give others a chance to jump on your bandwagon?  Will you create a vision board and/or host a Today, Not Someday party? Where did you post your vision so it stays in-sight, in-mind?

Chapter 19: Create a Community of One

1.     When was a time you had a room – or road – of your own? What did it mean to you? Where do you go now to escape? What do you do there? Why is it important to you?

2.     Ae you an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? How do you take responsibility for getting the right mix of being social and being solitary?

3.     Can you be alone without being lonely? Are you comfortable going places by yourself because you can connect with your surroundings and turn strangers into friends? How so?

LIFE HACK 7: INTEGRATE Your Passion and Profession 

Chapter 20. Blend Your Work and Recreation

1.     Did you used to see your work and recreation as separate? If so, why so? If not, how did you get clear you could have the best of both worlds by combining them?

2.     What skills, talents, hobbies do you have that you can integrate into your work? How can you integrate your passion and purpose into your profession so it benefits all involved?

3.      What do you currently work hard at? How, like the realtor/tennis player, can you combine your job and joy and make it more rewarding now, not later?

Chapter 21. Don’t Wait for Work You Love; Create Work You Love

1.     Do you love your job? Do you feel you’re adding value and contributing? How so?

2.      If you don’t find your work satisfying, why not? What talents or skills are you not having an opportunity to use or get credit for?

3.     What are your Four I’s? How could you leverage them into a paying career where you get paid to do it for others – or teach it to others? What is your next step? Will you visit crafts fairs to see how people have turned a passion into a profession? Elaborate.

LIFE HACK 8: NEGOTIATE for What You Want, Need and Deserve

Chapter 22. Stop Trying to Make People Happy; You’re Not Chocolate

1.     Are you too nice for your own good? Are you a people-pleaser who orders pasta you don’t want? How so? How does this impact you and the people around you?

2.     Have you been taking yourself out of the picture – and habitually putting others first? Was that modeled for you growing up? Why do you do that? What are the consequences?

3.     What is a specific situation where you haven’t been clear about what you want? How will you rectify that by saying what YOU want up front, now and in the future?

Chapter 23. If You Don’t Ask, the Answer’s Always NO

1.     When is a time you asked for something you wanted – whether it was a promotion, project lead or pay raise? How did you prepare? What was the result?

2.     When is a time you waited for someone to “do the right” thing, act on your behalf or give you what you deserved? As Dr. Phil would say, “How’d that work for you?”

3.     What is a situation you’re unhappy with right now? Which of the Four A’s have you used? How will you alter the situation by using the 5 P’s of Persuasion to increase the likelihood of improving this situation?

LIFE HACK 9: INNOVATE a Fresh Start

Chapter 24. Quit Watering Dead Plants

1.     Is the majority of your life out of your control and not to your liking? How so? Does this challenging time have a timeline? Can you “make your mind a deal it can’t refuse” so you are able to keep things in perspective?

2.     What do you currently do to maintain a positive perspective, to have something to look forward to in bleak times?  How do you stay focused on what you CAN control?

3.     Are there dead plants you can stop watering? What can you quit that is compromising your quality of life? How can you innovate a fresh start if you are going through dark times to keep the light on in your eyes?

Chapter 25. Do the Opposite of Your Always

1.     Would you describe your life, career or long-term relationships as an aircraft carrier? How so? Is it a successful carrier? Are people counting on you to stay on the carrier?

2.     Are you ready to fly off your carrier now and then so you can be by yourself or so you can be yourself? Where on earth would you like to go? What do you want to do?

3.     What is a local place that could be your Utah, the Third Place where you could go to work on a priority project? When will you go there? What will you work on there?

LIFE HACK 10: RELOCATE to Greener Pastures

Chapter 26. Give Yourself a GFS - Geographic Fresh Start

1.     Would you say you’re a roots person or a wings person? What does that mean to you?

2.     Are you happy where you are in your current home? In your neighborhood, city and state? If so, what do you like about it? If not, what don’t you like about it?

3.     If you could move, where would you go? What would it take for you to move? Imagine it in full detail. Write out the steps to move this from being a vague idea to a vivid reality.

Chapter 27. Come Full Circle

1.     When was the last time you were in your hometown? What memories did it bring back? Did you reconnect with people that influenced you? Did it catalyze a new creative direction that could be a satisfying full-circle way to come home to who you truly are?

2.     What used to light you up, but it feels like it might be a retreat or regression to “go back there?” Do you worry it’s thinking small instead of thinking big? Could it actually be you’re going “home” to who you are at your core, your best self?

3.     Do you agree with Ram Dass that we can be “at home” wherever we are and that “home” is a mindset, not a location? Where do you feel most at home?

Chapter 27. Welcome What’s NEXT

1.     Are you ready for a fresh start, for a new adventure? What NEXT could put the light on in your eyes?

2.     Do you agree with philosophers that living in the now is the miracle – or do you believe happiness can be a balance of the past, present and future?

3.     How will you keep your antenna up for a NEXT that’s in alignment with your values and priorities? What will you say to yourself when that opportunity arises so you act on it?

Hope you're found these questions inspiring, insightful and useful. Even more importantly, I hope they've motivated you to get crystal clear on your values and priorities, and that you've taken steps to create a life that is in alignment with them now, not someday.

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of The INTRIGUE AGENCY and TEDx speaker, is the author of POP! , Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? which have been endorsed by Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Marshall Goldsmith, quoted in New York Times, Forbes and Fast Company and presented to National Geographic, NASA, Intel, Cisco, Capital One, YPO. This Readers Guide is from her latest book SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week, endorsed by Geneen Roth, Dorie Clark, Kamal Ravikant and Sheri Salata (fomer Executive Producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show) who says Sam is "one of the brighest lights and most accessible wisdom-sharers in our culture today."



Facilitator’s Guide for Hosting a Salon, Book Club or Accountability Group

"You're not alone. I will stand by you, I will help you through when you’ve done all you can do.” – Rascal Flatts

Do you wish you could talk about things that matter with people who:

  • are going through the same things you are and can relate?

  • listen without interrupting and who genuinely care?

  • offer support and encouragement and stand by you?

If so, like the Rascal Flatts lyrics say, you’re not alone.

A study by healthcare provider Cigna found that “most Americans suffer from strong feelings of loneliness. Nearly half say they feel ‘left out,’ and 13% say that zero people know them well.” Zero!

That’s why I’m sharing guidelines on how to facilitate a salon, book club or accountability group – in the hopes you’ll take the initiative and choose to organize and host one in your area. 

Business advisors told me I should charge for this process.

I understand why they're suggesting that. I did that with Tongue Fu!® We certified people around the world and taught them how to offer workshops on our trade-marked process and get paid for it - so I’m well aware that’s a viable option.

After thinking about it, I’ve decided to make these step-by-step instructions available to EVERYONE for free. Here’s why.

I am a woman on a mission to counteract the loneliness and isolation that are epidemic in our country. 

We all want, need and deserve opportunities to have honest, meaningful conversations with people about what really matters in life. We all crave opportunities to gather with like-minded souls and be part of a community where everyone has opportunities to connect and contribute.

And someone's got to take the lead. Someone's got to go first. Someone's got to say, "I know how much I would like this, so instead of waiting for someone else to take the inititiative, I will ... now not someday."

My hope is that these guidelines help you gather people together - whether it's 3 or 30 - and facilitate a “rising tide” experience that elevates all involved.

All I ask is that you credit the SOMEDAY book and help spread the word about its message. That might include taking a picture of your group (with people’s permission) and posting it on social media. Sharing a review of the book or TEDx talk. Arranging for me to speak to your organization or at your industry conference. Anything you do is appreciated.

Please note: people asked me to please provide step-by-step instructions so this document is, shall we say, comprehensive.

Please understand, you don’t have to do all of this or any of this. 

The goal is simply to create a supportive, interactive gathering where eveyone has opportunities to talk honestly about what’s going on in their world that’s working - what’s not - and what they're going to do about it. 

Please feel free to adapt these guidelines so they congruent with your voice, vision and values, so they're in alignment with your group's goals. 

Sam Horn’s Guidelines for Hosting a Book Club, Salon or Accountability Group

  1. Fill out a W5 Form to clarife your W’s. This will serve as your North Star and help you plan an event that's rewarding for all involved. 

What? Do you want this to be a:

  • 30-45 minute virtual conversation on Zoom, Skype, Go to Meeting?

  • 45-60 minute brown bag lunch discussion?

  • 90 minute book club on a weeknight?

  • 2-3 hour relaxed brunch or afternoon “salon” on a weekend?

Where and When? Do you want this held:

  • In an open board room at work or a conference room at your office?

  • In your home or on a friend’s patio or living room?

  • In the meeting room of your condo or neighborhood association?

  • In a private room at a restaurant, community center or library?

  • On what month and day? What is the start and ending time?

  • Do you have the exact address on the invitation with driving directions, public transit directions and parking suggestions?

Who?  Who do you want to invite? Who would you like to attend?

  • Personal friends, neighbors and family members?

  • People from work or your industry who have a similar type of job?

  • Boomers? Millennials? Retirees? People of all ages?

  • Women only? Men only? Couples? Jobseekers? Diverse mix?

  • Half people you already know – half people who are new to you?

  • An ideal group is between 3-30 people. Smaller groups allow for intimate conversations. :arger group allows for more meet & greet.

Why will it be a win for attendees? What will motivate them to show up? Will they have an opportunity to:

  • Bypass chit-chat and discuss topics that really matter?

  • connect with long-time friends they don’t get to see very often?

  • socialize, make new friends and grow their community?

  • Gain insight into what could make them happier now, not someday?

  • Hear stories and insights about life and share some of their own?

Why will it be a win for you? Why will it be worth you initiating, organizing and hosting this?

  • Does it give you satisfaction to bring people together who might be feeling disconnected, isolated or way too busy?

  • Do you know SOMEONE has to take the first step – or it won’t happen – so you're that someone who is going to make it happen?

  • Do you want to put together an interactive event where everyone has a voice and gets to contribute and connect – instead of a standard “sage on the stage” format?

  • Are you tired of small talk and want to give people a chance to go deep and tell the truth about what’s really going on in their life?

  • Are you ready to be a servant leader who is appreciated because you’re a convener who creates a “rising tide” communitys?

2. Create a one-page invitation to the event. 

a. Why one page? Because the shorter and clearer this is, the more likely it is people will conclude it’s well-organized and want to participate.

 This can be an email you send out – or a paper announcement you pass out. You might want to feature a photo and description of the book (this is available on Amazon so people know the purpose of the gathering).

b. Make this warm and welcoming so people know why you’re excited about this event and believe it will be time well spent for everyone in the room.

c. You're welcome to use the W5 Form as your format. It quickly communicates the W’s (What, When, Where, Who, and Why) so people are clear about “the flow of the show” and feel they’ll be in “good hands.”

d. You might want to use EVENT BRITE so you have a system and site to promote the event, collect registrations and track RSVP’s. https://www.eventbrite.com/organizer/overview/

 e. Feature your contact info so people can get in touch to ask questions.

f. Indicate if there any costs, how and when to make payment, and to whom. Cash? Check? Credit card? In advance? By a cut-off date? Pay at the door?

g. What should they bring? Their copy of the book? A notebook? Food or drinks? People often want to contribute so give them something to bring.

3. Determine Costs and Expenses:

  • Will you be providing refreshments? If so, plan a sufficient variety to suit people’s different dietary needs and requests.

  • Do you have enough plates, glasses, forks, napkins, serving trays?

  • Do you want to make this potluck? If so, how will you ensure people bring a range of items – main dish, veggies, salads, beverages, drinks - instead of 10 desserts or ten bags of chips?

  • If you’re catering this, what are the projected costs per person? Charge an appropriate fee so you are not “out of pocket.”

  • If this is at a restaurant, indicate whether people will pay for their own meal, how so, or if that is included in the cost of the ticket.

  • Is there a room rental, bartending, cleaning fee or other expenses that will be incurred that need to be included/covered in the ticket fee?

  • Will books be provided? If so, who is paying for them? Or do attendees need to purchase books in advance and bring them?

  • Will books be for sale at the event? If so, Amazon often sells books for $10 off and no shipping. If you want, you can buy the books at a discount from them or other major retailers like Barnes & Noble, 800 CEO READ or your favorite independent bookstore, and sell them for a small profit to offset and help cover expenses.)

  • Do you have a sponsor – an organization or a generous donor – who is covering the costs of the event? If so, how will you publicly acknowledge and thank them?

4. Provide an agenda and suggest how people can prepare in advance to make the most of the event. You might want to:

5. Tips for Facilitating a Fun, Focused Conversation

  • Let people know in advance they can TRUST you to honor your time commitments. 

  • If you say you’ll start at 6:30, start at 6:30 even if some people are late. If you don’t, the agenda goes down the drain and people feel short-changed and frustrated. Honor people who are on time, not the ones who aren't. This sets a precedent for future meetings because your reputation is you ALWAYS start and end on time.

  • If you said you’ll stop at 8 pm, stop at 8 - even if people are in the midst of fascinating conversations. Graciously tell people they are welcome to stay longer if they choose to - however the event is officially over for those who need/want to leave.

  • Ask people to keep their comments to 3 minutes or less so EVERYONE has a chance to talk and enforce that rule. If you let ONE person ramble or dominate the discussion, the event will quickly go off the rails. If necessary, interrupt and say, “Thanks Bob for bringing that up. Who else has a story they’d like to share?” or “I’m so glad you pointed that out, Bev. Who has a different perspective or a similar experience?”

  • Appoint a timekeeper to give people a heads-up 15 seconds before their time is up. Speak up if they go over and direct the conversation to someone else. The group will appreciate you being fair and holding everyone accountable for honoring time limits.

  • Think of yourself as a conductor and the group as an orchestra. The goal is for EVERYONE to participate. Look around the room. Who hasn’t spoken up yet? Let quiet people know you want to hear what they have to say. You might ask, “Sue, what did you have in Square 1 of your Happiness Box?” Everyone looks to you as the leader to make everyone feel included, not just the extroverts or vocal few.

  • Establish ground-rules up front so people are treated with respect and feel emotionally safe.

  • For example, you might want to agree everything that is discussed in the group is PRIVATE. No sharing what’s said with others outside the room unless you ask for and are given permission.

  • No arguing. People have the right to share their experience without being told they’re WRONG.

  • No coaching. This is not about giving ADVICE or trying to FIX people. This is an opportunity to share what’s really going on in our life and get support.

  • What other ground-rules would ensure people can talk openly?

  • Post these ground-rules on a wall or poster board, or pass them out to everyone at the outset.. There are rules of the road that ensure everyone can drive safely. These rules ensure people can converse safely. Reference them at the beginning of the event so everyone agrees to honors them.

  • As a convener and conductor, it's also your role to keep the pace of the event moving forward. Have a variety of questions planned out in advance. If, for some reason, a question doesn’t elicit enthusiasm or the discussion and energy “sag,” switch to to a different subject to maintain momentum and keep interest high.

  • How to come up with intriguing questions? Review the SOMEDAY Readers’ Guide at the link below. Select 5-10 questions you think are relevant and timely that could catalyze an interesting conversation. 

  • https://www.intrigueagency.com/serendestinycom/2019/4/1/readers-guide-for-sam-horns-someday-is-not-a-day-in-the-week

  • If you have people fill out the Happiness Box, follow-up questions might be: What did you put in Squares 1 and 4? What did you put in Squares 2 and 3? What surprised you? What didn't? Any epiphanies? What is ONE thing you could change in Square 3 that could open up time, energy and resources for something in Square 2?

  • Or ask, “What’s your favorite adventure from Sam's Year by the Water? Why did you relate to it? What did it inspire you to do?”

  • Be sure your last question is action-oriented. “So, what is ONE dream you will set in motion – or ONE priority or passion project you will spend more time on – starting today, not SOMEDAY?

6. Bonus Tips for Hosting Events That are a Success For All Involved

a. Have a sign-in sheet and name tags at the door to facilitate people getting to know each other. Ask a friend to stand at the door, greet people and make introductions, so people feel welcome as soon as they arrive.

b. You might want to start by asking everyone to give a 1 minute intro (and when you say 1 minute, you mean 1 minute.) Announce you’re “putting your schedule where your values are.” The goal is to set up meaningful connections and sharing personal introductions will help do that.

c, If you don’t want people to give “boring” introductions where they simply explain “what they do,” suggest they share something surprising about themselves or something they’re looking forward to. You might want to go first, or ask someone to kick things off who will model an intriguing into.

d. People are usually so appreciative of the connections they've made, they want to stay in touch and "continue the converesation." If so, invite people to exchange business cards, or you can circulate a “Contact” sheet where people share their email or phone number and send that list to everyone with your follow-up thank you note. 

It’s very important to make this voluntary. Clarify it is NOT okay for anyone to automatically add attendees to their mailing list and/or to market their business or sell their services without permission and unless someone specifically requests it.

e. Provide paper, pens and flat surfaces to write on. You might want to print a “hand-out” with favorite quotes from the book on one side - and white space to take notes and do the exercises on the other side. This gives people a "tangible takeaway" they can post on their refrigerator to keep their insights in-sight, in-mind and their intentions top-of-mind.

f. Many groups have told me this was one of the most enjoyable events they've ever been part of and they don't want it to end. If that’s the case with you and your group, SET UP A NEXT MEETING in the last ten minutes of your event. Agree to a follow-up date IN THE ROOM so everyone can put it on their calendar. Set up a pipeline instead of this being a "one-off."

g. Provide a stamped envelope so attendees can write a personal note to themselves of what they will start, stop or do differently. Mail these to attendees 4-6 weeks later. It’s a thoughtful “gift” people appreciate.It often re-ignites their commitment to act on their intentions and hold themselves accountable for turning a someday into a today.

h. You might want to play upbeat music when people are entering the room, leaving and during refreshment breaks. Whether it’s Brandenberg Concertos, Herbie Hancock or Dianna Krall, music can establish an instant good mood. Be sure not to play it too loud. The goal is to energize the room, not make it difficult for people to hear each other talk.

i. Stock plenty of toilet paper and guest towels in the bathroom(s). If this is a public place, give instructions how to find the bathroom at the outset.

j. If people ask, “How can I help?” give them a job😊 Studies show that people who are shy are much more comfortable if they’re given something to do – whether that’s taking coats, offering drinks, cleaning up after the party, distributing hand-outs, or signing people in at the door.

k. You might want to provide a feedback form. Let people know you will read every comment and use it to make the next event you host (you ARE hosting more events, right??) even more valuable. What did people like about the event? What could make it even better? What did they find most relevant or inspiring? Any other comments or suggestions?

And did I mention having FUN? If you have fun, they’ll have fun.

Robert Frost said, “No joy in the writer, no joy in the reader.”

Well, no joy in the host, no joy in the group.

What matters is that you’re bringing people together in an isolated world, You are creating community. Center yourself before the event in how glad you are to be doing this and how grateful you are the group is there. 

In the long run, intent transcends logistics. ENJOY!

Katherine Graham said, “To do what you love and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”

The only thing that could be more fun is to do something you love, feel that it matters, and do it with people you enjoy and respect.

That is what you get to do when you organize and host a "rising tide raising all involved" salon, book club or accountability group.

Please let me know how it goes.

It makes my day when people take the time to get back in touch and let me know what a rewarding experience this was for them - and why.

Did you meet people you otherwise would never have met?

Create an event where people felt connected instead of alone?

Are you reveling in the meaningful discussions about shared challenges and successes that everyone in the room appreciated?

Have people already gotten back in touch to thank you for giving them the encouragement and accountability to take action on their dreams?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Until then, best wishes and onward.

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency and 3 time TEDX speaker, is on a mission to help people create the life, work and relationships of their dreams. Her books POP!, Tongue Fu!, IDEApreneur, Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? and SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week have been featured in NY Times, on NPR and presented to Intel, NASA, Capital One, Cisco, Nationwide and National Geographic. . Want Sam to share her inspiring insights with your group? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com 


Are You Putting Your Dreams on Hold?

Palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware asked people at the end of their life their #1 regret. Know what it was?

“I wish I’d had the COURAGE to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Does this resonate with you? Why?

The question is, What are you going to do about it? When are you going to do something about it?

And please don't say, "Someday."

If there's anything I've learned in the past few years, it's that SOMEDAY is not a day in the week. SOMEDAY is a path to - and a prescription for - regrets.

I'm speaking from experience.

Several years ago, I promised myself I'd "pull a John Grisham" and write first thing every morning. That's what Grisham did before he hit it big with his bestselling books. His dream was to write novels, but he was a full-time lawyer raising a family. He could have told himself he was "too busy to write." Instead, he got up at 5 am every day and wrote before he went into work. He's now living his dream because he bet on it instead of putting it on hold.

If only I'd had the clarity and discipline of John Grisham. My good intentions to write every morning lasted a few weeks, then I hit the road for a month of speaking engagements. The next thing I knew my writing project was on the shelf ... again.

It took a health scare for me to finally stop postponing my dream to make writing a priority.

I’d been battling a respiratory infection for weeks, but “soldiered” through it because I had places to be, people counting on me. I kept hoping it would get better. It didn’t.

One morning I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed. A friend rushed me to Urgent Care. After checking my lungs and reviewing my X-rays, the doctor diagnosed Walking Pneumonia. While writing out the prescription, he asked, “Why did you wait so long to get this taken care of?”

I made some mealy-mouthed excuse about being too busy to go to the doctor. He shrugged and said, “You’re lucky. I’m giving you a Z-pack and you’ll be better in ten days. But this was a warning. If you don’t start taking better care of yourself, your body will do something more drastic to get your attention.”

Well, that got my attention and gave me enough incentive to turn my “Someday I'm going to ...” into a “Today I will...”

What Are You Postponing?

“Life, as it is called, is for most of us one long postponement.” – Henry Miller

The question is, why did I postpone what was calling me? Why do so many of us procrastinate on our dreams and true priorities when we know they would make us happier and healthier?

We’re supposed to know better, right? Yet many of us continue to put off what’s important to us, idealistically assuming we’ll always have the option to do them later.

A young father named Jeff told me, “I don’t dream anymore. It’s too painful. I just keep my head down, put one foot in front of the other, and do the best I can.”

Ouch. When I asked what he meant, he said, “I love my family. I really do. But my life is nothing like I thought it would be. My wife and I both work full time. One of our sons has special needs. He never sleeps through the night so we're both exhausted. Maybe someday I’ll have the luxury to do more of what I want, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”

Jeff’s story was a variation of what many people have told me, “Doing what I want is just not an option. I’ve got too many obligations to think about that now.”

How about you? Do you feel your life is not your own? Do you feel your current situation is “just the way it is” and there's nothing you can do about it?

No. It’s not “just the way it is.” Certainly, there are some things beyond our control. Having a child with special needs is beyond our control. Having a parent with dementia is beyond our control. Our company going bankrupt and putting us out of work is beyond our control.

Yet, as Victor Frankl pointed out in his classic Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing - the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

In other words, we may not be able to control what happens to us; we can control what we do about it. You have more autonomy than you think. You may not be able to change your circumstances, you can change the way you deal with them.

The Most Frequently-Given Reasons for Why We Put Our Dreams on Hold

“Do you know the #1 prerequisite for change? A sense of urgency.” – John Kotter Please take a moment to look over the reasons below that people give for not doing more of what they want. Please ask yourself if any of these are true for you.

1. TIME: Are you waiting until you have more time to do what you want? Please understand, you'll never have more time than you have right now. As John Legend says, “The future is already here and we’re already late.”

2. MONEY: CNN Money reports, “78% of Americans say they live paycheck to paycheck.” Some people tell me they don't have enough money to do what they want. Please reframe that. You can be wealthy in what really matters for free. I was in a park yesterday watching a young couple with their toddler. They were blowing bubbles and having a grand time. I thought, “They could have paid thousands of dollars to travel to Disneyland and they wouldn’t be having a better time than they’re having right here, right now.” As Garth Brooks says, “You’re not wealthy until you have something money can’t buy.”

3. FAMILY RESPONSIBILITES: A woman told me, “I took a golden parachute deal from my company so I could retire early. What I didn’t anticipate was both my parents would be diagnosed with dementia. I’m now a full-time caregiver. This is not how I envisioned spending my fifties and sixties.” How about you? Are you so busy taking care of everyone else, there’s no time or energy left for you? Please understand, taking an hour a week do do something that makes you happy isn't selfish, it's smart. As Byron Katie says, "My happiness is on me, so you're off the hook."

4. WORK PRIORITIES: A Gallup poll reports “72% of people are uninspired and unhappy at work, yet 52% don’t take their full paid vacation.” What’s that about? Stanford professor Denise Brosseau told me, “In the Silicon Valley, it’s almost a badge of honor to ‘sleep under your desk.’ Sixty-hour weeks are the norm.” How about you? Does all your work have to be done before you make time for fun? Please understand, it's not indulgent to carve out time for fun; it's an investment in your mental and physical well-being.

5. HEALTH CHALLENGES: Are you dealing with aches, pains, a disability, injury or illness? Or, are you not exercising or eating right, but you're promising yourself you’ll take better care of yourself after the weekend's over? One way to make your life more of what you want it to be now is to start appreciating your "freedom of motion." Here's how.

6. FEAR OF CHANGE: Change can be scary. Know what’s scarier? Regrets. The good news is, change doesn't require courage - it requires clarity. Clarity that life is supposed to be an adventure and it's waiting for us to make the most of it. As author Louis L’Amour said, “We can’t learn anything from experiences we’re not having.”

7. “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT.” A friend delivered the commencement address at her alma mater. The graduates took the stage for a group photo and, with a grand flourish, opened their robes to reveal t-shirts underneath that said, “I don’t know.” Sound familiar? It’s hard to go after what we want if we don’t know what we want. This 4 Boxes of Happiness Quiz can help kick-start your clarity.

It’s Never Too Late – Or Too Early – to Change Things for Good

“Things don’t get better by chance, they get better by change.” – Jim Rohn

Did you relate to any of the above reasons? Please understand, even if these reasons have been true for you in the past, they don’t have to be true for you in the future.

One of the many wonderful things about being a human being is we can change for good - on any given day. All we have to do is identify one thing we’re going to do differently and attach a sense of urgency to it so we’re motivated to do it now, not in the far off future.

One of my favorite success stories about this happened in a conference breakout session in Waikiki. A woman named Beverly raised her hand in the Q & A and said, “I’ve been to motivational programs before. I go home all fired up, then life intervenes, and two weeks later everything is back to same old, same old. Any suggestions?”

I told her, “Have a pretend S.E.E. to give yourself a sense of urgency."

She said, "What's that?"

"An S.E.E. is a Significant Emotional Event. Unfortunately, most are dramatic or traumatic. We get sick, divorced, or fired which forces us to re-evaluate the way we’re living. We realize there are no guarantees which motivates us to focus on what matters now. The way I see it, why not have a pretend S.E.E. so we get the epiphany without the pain?”

“What’s an example of a pretend S.E.E.?”

“We can do one right here, right now. Just ask yourself, “If I only had a week to live, what would I stop doing? What would I start doing? What would I do differently?”

“You’re asking us to imagine we’re going to croak in a week? Isn’t that a bit morbid?”

I smiled, “Thinking about our mortality isn’t morbid; it’s motivating. Sometimes it’s just the incentive we need to stop taking our life, health, loved ones and freedoms for granted.”

She said, “Okay, I’ll play along. If I only had a week to live, I would stop letting fear rule my life and start doing things that scare me.”

“Like what?”

“Like going into the ocean. I watched JAWS when I was a kid. Big mistake. Here I am in Hawaii and I haven’t even gone into the water.”

I said, “Okay, let’s hack that fear. One way to hack fears is to realize they don’t prevent things from going wrong; they prevent things from going right.

Do you know about the protected swim area by the Natatorium where Duke Kahanamoku used to swim? It’s only three feet deep so there’s no way you can get in over your head, and there’s only one small opening in the sea wall so the surf can’t get in … and neither can the sharks. The key to overcoming procrastination is to put a ‘do date’ on the calendar so you don’t wiggle out of your intentions. When are you leaving the islands?”

“We fly out in two days.”

“Then tomorrow is the day. Schedule a 6 a.m. wake-up call. When the alarm goes off and you’re tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, ask yourself, ‘What will matter a year from now? That I got an extra hour of sleep? Or that I got up, got outside and had a one-of-a-kind experience I’ll always be grateful for?”

“It’s worth a try. But why 6 am?”

“Because sunrise is at 6:30 am and you want to be at water’s edge, ready to step into the ocean the moment the sun rises over Diamond Head. It will be what Hawaiians call a ‘chicken skin’ experience. Experiences are more meaningful when they’re metaphors. You’re not just stepping into the ocean, you’re stepping into a new way of life where you remember your mortality and make the most of your days now, not someday.”

I added, “Here’s my card with my number. Text me and let me know how it goes, okay?”

The next day I received a three word text "I DID IT" accompanied by a photo of a smiling-from-ear-to-ear, dripping wet Beverly.

What dream have you been postponing?

Could you ask yourself, “What will matter a year from now?” and have a pretend S.E.E. to give yourself a sense of urgency so you’re motivated to act on it today?

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

If you results instead of regrets, stop putting your dreams on hold. Bet on them, act on them today .. instead of promising yourself you'll do them someday.

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency and author of SOMEDAY is NOT a Day in the Week, is on a mission to help people create a quality life-work thats 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 Intel, Capital One, NASA, Boeing, YPO, Cisco.

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Is It SELFISH To Do What Makes You HAPPY?

“My happiness is on me; so you’re off the hook.” – Byron Katie Have you ever driven California’s spectacular Pacific Coast Highway? If so, you’re familiar with its many hairpin turns. In the day, you can see what’s ahead and adapt accordingly.

But I made a big mistake and got there at dusk. And what happened taught me a BIG lesson about the dangers of a “put other people first” default.

During the day, you can look ahead and adapt to the hairpin turns. But it was pitch black with no moon, which meant I couldn't see anything. The switchbacks kept disappearing out from underneath my headlights. I had no idea what was coming next. Left. Right. Left. Left. It felt like my brain was sloshing back and forth in my skull. I completely lost my equilibrium even though I was crawling along at 15-20 mph.

I kept telling myself, “I can do this, I can do this. Three hours from now, I’ll be safe and sound in my Morro Bay hotel room.”

Suddenly, a truck zoomed up behind me and flashed its brights. I did what I’d been taught to do growing up in a small mountain valley. I looked for the next pull-out and pulled off the road to let the driver behind me go ahead.

The problem was, the pull-out was shorter than anticipated... and gravel. I started braking. I started sliding. The harder I braked, the more I slid. I finally came to a stop a few feet from the cliff’s edge.

I sat there and shook. The truck was long gone. It was just me, the deserted road, (and I know this sounds dramatic but it's true), my realization that my lifelong default of putting other people first had just about cost me my life.

Sound familiar? Is your default, “No, you go ahead. You go first.”

If you’re a parent, caregiver or leader, this may have become your norm. You may feel it’s your responsibility to put your family, your patients, your employees first.

At what cost? Putting everyone else first and yourself last is an extreme, and any extreme is unhealthy. It causes you to lose your equilibrium. To compromise your own health. To sacrifice your own happiness. And what's worse, it teaches the people around you that you believe you don’t count, that your needs don't matter.

Is that what you want to teach? Is martyrdom the model you want to pass along?

That close call on Hwy 1 made me wonder, “Where did I learn this? How did I learn this?”

Well, as with many things, it started at home. My mom was an example of unconditional love. She was also sick the last twenty years of her life, dealing with the effects of Multiple Sclerosis (which was later discovered to have been a misdiagnosed brain tumor.)

My mom was in pain almost every day. If I put my hand anywhere near her neck, I could feel the pain waves vibrating off it. Yet, she didn’t want to be “a burden” so she soldiered on. I would ask, “Can I help with dinner, Mom? Want me to do the dishes?”

“No thanks, hon, I’ve got it.”

She rarely, if ever, talked about her illness. She didn’t want to be a “complainer.” She always wanted to know what we were doing, what was going on with our lives. She never asked for anything for herself. If we offered, she usually demurred, not wanting to “put us out.”

My mom did what she thought was the right thing, at great personal cost. What we learned from her example though was probably not what she intended.

Yes, we received and learned about unconditional love, and I will always be grateful for that.

We also learned to not ask for help or accept help. We learned to be “strong” and not share our pain. We learned that the last thing we wanted to be was a “burden.” We learned that putting other people's happiness first, and not thinking of our own, was the noble thing, the right thing, to do.

Serving others IS a noble thing. And it’s even more noble when we balance it with serving ourselves. That’s what we want to model – that we take care of ourselves while taking care of others.

How about you? Are you running on empty? Burnout is a clear sign you’re not enforcing your boundaries - or that you don’t have any boundaries. Exhaustion is an indication you are putting everyone else first – and yourself last.

Next time you’re about to say "No, you go ahead. You go first," next time you're about to take yourself out of the equation, ask yourself:

· Am I putting this person’s needs first and not even considering my own?

· Am I sacrificing what I want to give this person what s/he wants?

· Is this a one-time thing – or an ongoing pattern?

· How will this impact me in the moment and over the long term?

· Is there a way I can serve this person and myself at the same time?

· How can I take responsibility for – and speak up on behalf of – my own health and happiness?

Jack Kornfield said, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

Starting today, please understand, it is not selfish to put yourself in your own story, it’s smart.

It’s not indulgent to take responsibility for your own health and happiness, it’s inspiring .

Every time you do, you show it’s possible to serve others and ourselves, and you set a precedent that gives people around you permission and inspiration to do the same.

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What is Your "Pause Before the POP-UP?"

I had an opportunity to attend a book event featuring William Finnegan, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.” I’d been listening to the Audible version of his book and loved his eloquent, insightful tales of growing up in Hawaii as a "haole" and then traveling the world chasing waves.

I lucked out by scoring the last ticket to his sold out program, and promptly did some research so I could ask an intelligent question if I had a chance to connect with him.

As soon as I read this Outside Magazine interview, I had my question. Reporter Matt Skenazy had asked, “Do you have a favorite moment in surfing?”

Here's the gist of what he said, “It’s the pause before the pop-up … that moment when you know you’ve got it … man, there’s nothing else like it.”

I wanted to ask, “What is the writer's equivalent of a 'pause before the pop-up?'”

What I couldn’t have anticipated is that Bill demonstrated the writer's equivalent when he read a stunning passage from his book.

He was describing a day he went surfing at "Cliffs," a popular spot near Diamond Head. As he explaied, his family members were "dutiful, if not particularly enthusiastic, Catholics." After receiving the sacrament of confirmation at age 13, he was "thunderstruck to hear my parents say I was no longer required to go to Mass."

"And so, on a spring Sunday morning, I found myself slowly paddling back through the lagoon while my family sweated it out up at Star of the Sea in Waialae. The tide was low. My skeg gently bumped on the bigger rocks. Out on the mossy, exposed reef, wearing conical straw hats, Chinese ladies, or maybe they were Filipinas, bent, collecting eels and octopus in buckets. Waves broke here and there along the reef's outer edge, too small to surf.

I felt myself floating between two worlds. There was the ocean, effectively infinite, falling away forever to the horizon. This morning it was placid, its grip on me loose and languorous. But I was lashed to its mood now. The attachments felt limitless, irresistible. I no longer thought of waves being carved in celestial workshops ...

I was a sunburnt pagan now. I felt privy to mysteries ... The other world was land: everything that was not surfing. Books, girls, school, my family, friends who did not surf. 'Society,' as I was learning to call it, and the exactions of Mr. Responsible.

Hands folded under my chin, I drifted. A bruise-colored cloud hung over Koko Head. A transistor radio twanged on a seawall where a Hawaiian family picnicked on the sand. The sun-warmed shallow water had a strange boiled-vegetable taste. The moment was immense, still, glittering, mundane. I tried to fix each of its parts in memory."

That, folks, was a “drop the pen” moment. That perfect prose-as-poetry passage could have won Bill the Pulitzer on its own merits. It was so clearly a moment where everything came together - his intelligence, exquisite observational ability, and story-telling powers partnered with the muse to produce that sensory-rich, transcendent passage.

Bill was gracious enough to sign a couple books, one for me and my son Andrew who grew up on Maui and who now lives in Brooklyn, but religiously takes his surfboard to Rockaways (via the subway!) to reconnect with the ocean. You can take the boy out of Hawaii; you can’t take Hawaii out of the boy.

My first words to Bill were, “You may have stopped going to Mass; but you didn’t stop going to church.”

He smiled and we discussed the metaphorical aspects of the “pause before the pop-up.” Here’s the gist of our conversation.

If you surf, you know that catching a wave results from a fortuitous combination of coalescing factors. You have to have the right skill, the right board, the right wave, the right positioning, the right conditions, the right weather. It all goes into the mix.

There can be wonderful waves but sometimes they’re too crowded or getting blown out by a cross-wind, or your board’s too short, or you’re in the wrong spot, or you’re tired (or too old and out of shape) and can’t paddle fast enough to match the momentum. Surfing isn’t always glorious. It’s often a lot of waiting, frustration and missed waves.

However, if you’re lucky, there are also times when a rare and much-welcomed match occurs between your skill, the board and Mother Nature. You’re in just the right position at just the right time, the elements coincide and you’re about to transition from paddling as hard as you can from a prone position to standing up on your board.

In that peak performance moment when everything comes together in a state of flow; there is a flash of simultaneous anticipation and appreciation that your hard work is about to pay off and you’re about to reap the rewards of commitment and kismet.

That is the pause before the pop-up. The writer’s equivalent? Our life equivalent?

Sometimes we grind. Our work becomes hard, frustrating, mundane. The words (funding, success, results) won’t come. We don’t have the skills, tools or right conditions to create what we want. We’re tempted to give up. We’re not sure our efforts will ever pay off.

Then there are those sublime times when everything comes together and we write (or perform or present) better than we know how. We have the right idea, the right time and place, the right experience and expertise, and everything starts flowing easily and effortlessly. We see the story, become the story. We’re no longer over-thinking it; we’re in service to what wants to be said. We’re riding a wave of momentum.

These are the penultimate moments when the right conditions converge, our commitment is rewarded and we know we're about to succeed in experiencing the vision that's been in our head.

Those “immense, glittering moments” (Bill’s term) keep us coming back, make it all worthwhile, are the "cosmic reward."

How about you? Are you grinding away on a project and feeling only the frustration of invested effort that doesn't seem commensurate with results?

Could you instead stay alert to “pause before the pop-up” moments?

Could you remember a kismet experience of matched momentum where you performed better than you knew how - and tell yourself, "I've done it before. I can do it again?"

Could you understand that if you keep your antenna up for it - there will come a time where all the elements come together and your time, effort and hard work will pay off?

And when it does, can you promise yourself you will look around, appreciate it and imprint it so you can re-visit it in your mind whenever you want, as often as you want?

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There is No Such Thing as a NORMAL Day

Have you heard about Burning Man – or been there? My son Andrew and his wife Miki Agrawal were “Burning Man” married several years ago, and said, “You must go.”

So, I am.

You may know of the “Gifting” philosophy of The Playa. It’s part of the culture – the Ten Principles of Burning Man – that were articulated by co-founder Larry Harvey.

Imagine that. A sharing, radical inclusion economy … in the desert amidst the Art Cars.

I wondered what I could gift that might be meaningful and decided to memorize ten poems about the meaning of life. When I meet people, if they’re interested, they’re welcome to select a poem that resonates with them.

I’ll share it and then ask, “What does this mean for you?” I am smiling at the thought of the intriguing conversations this might lead to …

Here’s an example of a poem I’ll be sharing on the Playa. It’s authored by Mary Jean Irion:

“Normal day,

let me be aware of the treasure you are.

Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.

Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.

Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.

One day I shall dig my nails into the earth,

or bury my face in the pillow,

or stretch myself taut,

or raise my hands to the sky

and want, more than all the world,

your return.”

Every single time I re-read Mary Jean Irion’s poem, my soul says “Yes, yes, yes.”

How about you?

Are you rushing through life in search of some rare and perfect tomorrow?

Are you so busy, you don’t have the time to look around and imprint, appreciate and enjoy this day?

When you think about it, there really are no normal days.

Every day we’re alive is a gift.

Every day we can see, smell, taste, touch, hear, feel, think and love is a gift.

Let us not race by this day.

Let us not be so caught up in our deadlines and to-do’s that we miss it.

Let us pause right now, look around, and really see all that’s right with our world.

Let us understand that what we’re seeing and experiencing might not always be so.

But it is so,

right here,

right now,

if we just open our heart, mind, and eyes to it,

if we are present to it and grateful for it,

instead of waiting for a special day or for SOMEDAY.

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What Are You WAITING For?

"It gets late early out there." - Yogi Berra A participant at a recent conference asked in the Q & A, "How did you come up with the title of your upcoming book Someday is not a day in the week"

I told her, "I've met so many people over the past few years who talked about what they were going to do ... someday.

Whether it was take more time for their family, take better care of themselves, or pursue a passion project ... they told me they planned (or hoped) to do it when they're not so busy, when their kids go off to college, when they retire, when they have more money, when things aren't so crazy at work ... fill in the blank.

I shared Henry Miller's quote with the group, 'Life, for many of us, is one long postponement" and told them that many of us wait for perfect circumstances to take action on our dreams and passion projects.

The problem with that? Our future is not guaranteed. The longer we wait, the more likely it is we'll never do what we want to do and we'll end up with regrets."

How about you? What is something you want to do you've been postponing? What is something meaningful that could fill your life with joy, purpose and meaning?

Please read and re-read Paulo Coelho's quote, "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."

It's time to stop waiting and start initiating. You will never regret doing more of what puts the light on in your eyes, you will only regret not doing it sooner.

You don't have to quit your job or abandon your responsibilities, just do one thing each week that makes you like your life. It doesn't have to be grandiose. Just one thing you enjoy and look forward to that makes you a bit happier and healthier."

You might want to read the quotes below and select one that really sings to you. Print it out or write it out and tape it to your laptop or post it above your desk or on your frig. Keep it in sight, in mind so you keep your promise to make the rest of your life the best of your life.

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

"You can't be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, over-thinking it. You've got to go down the chute." - Tina Fey

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

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

"Our life expands or contracts in proportion to our courage." - Anais Nin

"Let us always be open to the miracle of a second chance." - Rev. David Steir

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

"Are you putting aside what you want most for what you want now?" - Zig Ziglar

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

"I want adventure in the great wide somewhere." - Belle from Beauty in the Beast

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

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

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

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

"Perhaps we never really appreciate anything until it is challenged." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"When we neglect what matters most to us, then that becomes what's the matter with us." -Paula Reeves

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

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

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change we seek." - Barack Obama

"Some people get stuck because they keep telling themselves stories about how stuck they are." - Anonymous

"You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." - C.S. Lewis

"We are what we settle for." - Janis Joplin

"Tomorrow is another day. But so was yesterday." - Rene Ricard

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

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

"The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you're the pilot." - M. Altschuler

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

"The most important things aren't things." - Ann Landers

"We don't stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with you one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

"I didn't change. I just woke up." - Pinterest post (I wrote about this here.)

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." - Pablo Picasso (Also attributed to David Viscott)

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan

"My parents always told me I wouldn't amount to anything because I procrastinated so much. I told them, 'Just you wait.'" - Judy Tenuta

"Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun." - Randy Pausch (Click here to discover why many of us only have FUN when our work is DONE).

Please understand, one of these days is none of these days.

Hope this post and these quotes inspire you to set something in motion today that creates a life that's more in alignment with your values and true priorities.

Remember, we're never too OLD for NEW dreams ... and there is no present like the time - and no time like the present - to do more of what puts the light on in your eyes.

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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 Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

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Too Busy to be Happy?

Did you know a Harris Poll reports only 31% of Americans say they’re happy? An exhausted business owner told me yesterday, "I'm too busy to be happy."

I told him, "Please rethink that. Happiness doesn't take TIME, it takes ATTENTION."

How about you? Would you say you’re happy?

I've discovered something surprising - and saddening - in my interviews with hundreds of people in the last few years for my upcoming book SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week.

Many people feel they have too much going on to be happy. They have too many responsibilities, too many to-do's. They just don’t have the time.

That entrepreneur told me, “My wife and I work full-time in our business and we have two kids with special needs. We go non-stop seven days a week. Maybe someday I’ll be happy. I don’t see that in the near future.”

Ouch.

What I’ve learned is that whether or not you describe yourself as “happy” depends a lot on how you define it. (More on that here.)

It also depends on whether you feel you have time for it.

Please understand, happiness doesn’t have to be “happy, happy, joy, joy" like that Peanuts cartoon image of Snoopy leaping in the air, clicking his heels (paws?) and doing a happy dance. It can mean:

* feeling peaceful, content, satisfied.

* being present and quietly grateful to be alive.

* looking at the person you’re with – or the people you’re around – and being really glad to have them in your life.

* getting up from your chair, going outside for a moment and reveling in your health and freedom of movement.

* connecting with an idea, song or painting and marveling at humanity’s artistry.

In other words, happiness doesn’t take time, it takes attention.

When I asked that young dad whether he kept a gratitude journal (which a Harvard study shows is a shortcut to happiness), he said “You don’t get it. Our sons wake up several times a night. We never get more than five hours of sleep and we’re going from the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed. Who’s got time??”

I nodded, “I understand that adding anything to your maxed-out life isn’t an option. What if, instead of counting your blessings, you started noticing them? The first one takes time, the second one doesn’t.”

He told me, “It’s worth a try.”

Agreed. Happiness is worth a try.

Is your life maxed out? Are you going from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed? Do you tell yourself you’ll be happy someday when you’re not so busy?

Please understand, you don’t need more time to be happy.

You’ll never have more time than you have right now.

Stop wishing you had more time and start paying more attention.

The happiness you seek is available any time you want … for a moment’s notice.

You can be happier and more grateful right here, right now at a moment’s notice and in a moment’s notice.

All you need to do is to be more alert to, and appreciative of, what’s right with your world instead of what’s wrong.

You don’t even have to COUNT your blessings. All you have to do is NOTICE them.

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- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, - is on a mission to help people create a quality life-work that adds value for all involved. Her books - Tongue Fu! POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - have been featured in NY Times, Forbes and on NPR and taught to Boeing, Intel, ASAE, Cisco, Accenture, NASA. Want Sam to speak to your group? Contact Cheri@intrigueAgency.com

Are You Taking Yourself Out of Your Own Story?

One reason I'm calling my new book SOMEDAY is not a Day in the Week is because it’s sad to see how many people are working themselves to death, thinking they'll relax and enjoy themselves when things aren't so crazy at work. I’m not making that up. A 2015 Atlantic article reports that job-related stress is the #5 killer in the U.S, causing more deaths than Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

People promise to take better care of themselves when they're not so busy. What if that day never comes?

While on my Year by the Water, I had a crucible moment that demonstrated (rather dramatically) the consequences of putting everyone else first. Hope this story motivates you to put yourself back in your own story and do something this week that brings you joy.

My plan for the day was to drive California’s Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Morro Bay. However, work responsibilities came up that morning, so it was late afternoon before I hit the road. I didn’t think much about it until the sun went down and it got dark. And when I say dark, I mean no moon. no light.

If you've taken this spectacular drive, you know about its many hairpin turns. In the day, you can see what’s ahead and adapt accordingly. But it was pitch black which meant I couldn’t see beyond my headlights. I completely lost my equilibrium because I had no idea what was coming up next.

What made it worse was the road often narrowed to one lane because of construction to fix damage caused by recent landslides. The only thing between me and a thousand foot drop down to the rocks below was a rather flimsy looking guardrail.

A truck zoomed up behind me and flashed its brights. I did what I always did, what I’d been taught to do growing up in a small mountain valley. I looked for the next pull-out and pulled over to let the driver behind me go by.

The only problem? The pull-out was gravel. And shorter than anticipated. I braked and started sliding. I finally came to a stop a couple feet from the cliff’s edge.

I sat there and shook. The truck was long gone. It was just me, the road, and my realization that my default of putting others first had just about cost me my life.

Does any of this sound familiar? That was a rather extreme example of "selflessness," but on some level, is your default to put others’ needs before your own? At what cost?

If you’re a business owner, executive, parent or team leader, this may have become your norm.

Somewhere along the way, was it modeled for you that the meaning of life is to be found in service? There are hundreds of quotes perpetuating this belief that serving others is the right thing, the noble thing, to do.

For example, Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Yet serving others at the cost of ourselves is an extreme … and any extreme is unhealthy.

Self-sacrifice comes at a price. We lose our equilibrium and end up compromising our health and happiness. What's worse is that when we habitually take ourselves out of our own story, we teach the people around us we don’t matter, that what we want and need doesn’t count.

Is that what we want to teach? Is martyrdom the model we want to pass along?

A college counselor told me, “Sam, I don’t have kids, but I do have students. Many are away from home for the first time. They’re lonely, confused and overwhelmed. My heart goes out to them, so I’ve given some my home phone number so they can call if they’re having a tough time. Good idea in theory, not so good in practice. I spend many evenings on the phone mitigating one crisis afterhonoring another. My husband is starting to resent this and I can’t blame him. Plus, I’m getting burned out because I never get a chance to recharge.”

I told her, “Good for you for being there for your students. The question is, are you also being there for yourself? Think about the Law of Unintended Consequences. What we accept, we teach. What are you teaching by not honoring your health and by not having any boundaries around your time and access?”

“But I feel so sorry for these kids. They all have a story.”

“I understand. However, you’re thinking only of their story and not your own. Where are you in this story?”

“But I can’t just cut them off and turn my back on them.”

“I’m not suggesting you be selfish and think only of yourself. I'm suggesting you serve others and yourself. Create some boundaries with metrics. If your boundaries don’t have numbers in them, they’re not boundaries. Instead of being available to your students every single night, what is a fairer balance?”

Suffice it to say, we created a written policy around her “evening office hours” that she posted and handed to her students. They still have an option to contact her in case of an emergency, otherwise there's a step-by-step process for how they can schedue time with her on campus.

She contacted me later to say our conversation, and her new policy, taught her a valuable lesson. “I never realized how much I was devaluing myself by focusing exclusively on my students’ needs. I see now that my compassion for them was at the cost of compassion for myself. My husband thanks you, I thank you." She laughed, "Someday, my students may even thank you for having someone model for them that it’s not selfish to put ourselves in our own story, it’s smart.”

How about you? Are you running on empty? Burnout is a clear sign we’re not enforcing our boundaries. It’s a clear sign we are people-pleasing and putting everyone else first – and ourselves last.

The good news is, it’s not too late to change this default.

Next time you’re about to say yes when you want to say no – next time you’re about to give in and go along instead of speaking up for what’s important to you – next time you're about to compromise your health or safety with "No, you go ahead. You go first" .... STOP!

You matter. What you want and need counts. You can be responsible to others and to yourself. You can serve others and yourself.

Put yourself back in your own story. It’s not selfish. It’s smart.

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Is Work Running Your Life?

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” – Bertrand Russell Are you overwhelemed and overworked? Burning the candle on both ends?

Several years ago, I had breakfast with Dr. Ivan Misner and his wife Beth. Ivan founded BNI, one of the world’s largest networking organizations. His wife Beth is author of Healing Begins in the Kitchen.

While getting caught up, I told them about all the different business activities I had going on.

Ivan said, “Sam, sounds like a full calendar. What do you do for fun?”

I told him, “I agree with Katherine Graham of the Washington Post. She said, ‘To do what you love and feel that it matters; how could anything be more fun?’ The only thing that could be more fun is to do work we love, feel it matters and do it with people we enjoy and trust. That’s what I get to do.”

He paused and then said, “Sam, I think you’re dodging the question. What do you do just for fun?”

Long pause. I finally came up with, “Hmmm, well, I walk my dog around the lake.”

He just looked at me. He didn’t even have to say anything. Even then I knew that was a pathetic answer.

I’m not alone with being too busy to have fun.

An excellent 2014 Time.com article by Eric Barker reported that in surveys, people say they’re “too busy to make friends outside the office, too busy to date, sleep, have lunch, even too busy to have sex.”

Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why are we letting work run our life?

Why, when someone asks, “How are you doing?” is the first word out of our mouth often ... “Busy.”

Is it because we need to feel productive, important, useful?

Probably all of that.

But there’s something else going on.

Some of us are afraid to have fun.

It seems frivolous. Indulgent. Like we don’t have anything “better” to do with our time.

Somewhere along the line we got the message that fun is something we do only when our work is done.

Since, for many of us, our work is never done, that leaves no time for fun.

Some people call this the Puritan or Protestant Work Ethic.

Dr. David Burns defines this as the belief that “My worth as a human being is proportional to what I have achieved in my life.’ That may sound innocent, but it is ultimately counterproductive and toxic because it means our work ethic determines whether we feel we’ve earned personal worth and the right to be happy.

Sound like anyone you know?

All I know is that the conscious or subconscious belief that “Work is the holy grail and the secret sauce to success" is having a devastating impact on our health, relationships and quality of life.

That is not just my opinion.

Study after study shows the devastating impact of working longer hours, taking work home with us, of being so consumed with our job that “52% of us don’t take our full paid vacation.”

I’m not making that up. That’s a confirmed statistic reported by CNBC.

The author of that Time.com article, Eric Barker, interviewed many psychologists who told him their burned-out clients can’t shake the notion that the ‘busier they are, the more they’re thought of as competent, smart, successful, admired, even envied.’”

The toll of that kind of thinking?

Dr. Ed Hallowell, former Harvard University Professor and author of Driven to Distraction, says he’s witnessed an upsurge of the number of people who complain of being chronically inattentive, disorganized and overbooked. Many come to him wondering if they have ADD. He says, "While some do, most do not. Instead, they have what I called a severe case of modern life.”

What I know personally is that back then, (before I launched my Year by the Water), I didn’t have any time, energy or bandwidth left over for friends, hobbies and sports.

The answer to this?

Free up time for fun.

Play dates aren’t just for kids.

Figure out what puts the light on in your eyes and bring it back into your life.

Get crystal clear about what makes you happy, what helps you laugh and love life, and schedule it on your calendar.

To help you do that - because it may mean overcoming years of habitual workoholism - I’ve curated my favorite quotes about the importance of freeing up time for fun.

You might want to print these out and post them where you’ll see them every day.

Next time you’re about to postpone that family vacation or date night because you’re overloaded with “work,” ask yourself, "What is most important to me? What will matter in the long run?"

Next time you’re about to cancel a walk in a park, a hike in Nature, playing a sport, engaging in a hobby or spending time with friends because you’re “too busy,” look at these quotes and honor that play date.

Remember the saying from years ago, “No one on their deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work?’”

Keep that in mind next time you’re about to choose your job over joy. Remember what the Buddha said, "The thing is, we think we have time." Spend your valuable time on what will make you feel most alive.

Have you overcome a compulsion to be busy? Have you created a better balance between work and play? Plese share your experience. I know I'd love to hear it and so would others. Who knows? Your insights may be the right words at the right time for someone to get clarity about this important issue.

Quotes to Remember that Fun isn’t Frivolous, It’s the Secret Sauce to Health and Happiness

1. “Never underestimate the importance of having fun. I am going to have fun every day I have left. You have to decide whether you’re a Tigger and or Eyore.” –Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

2. “Work without love is slavery.” – Mother Teresa

3. “Of all the things that truly matter, getting more things done is not one of them.” – Mike Dooley

4. “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” – Alan Watts

5. “At the end of the day, if I can say I had fun, it was a good day.” – Simone Biles

6. “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” – Victor Hugo

7. “If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to be different yourself.” – Norman Vincent Peale

8. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir

9. “Finding your passion isn’t just about careers and money. It’s about finding your authentic self. The one buried under everyone’s else’s needs.” – Kristin Hannah

10. “Fun is one of the most underrated ingredients in any successful venture. If you’re not having fun, it’s probably time to call it quits and try something else.” – Richard Branson

11. “Success is not about obtaining money or stuff. It is absolutely about the amount of joy you feel.” – Esther Hicks

12. “We don’t stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

13. “The truth is, existence wants your life to be a festival.” – Osho

14. “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.” – Erma Bombeck

15. “In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”- Leo Tolstoy

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 Do YOU Really Want?

Have you been responsible for so long, you habitually give up what you really want?

I was on a budget while traveling on my Year by the Water, so often elected to stay in back-of-the-property rooms instead of in the higher-priced waterfront rooms.

I was in Los Angeles to work with a client and opted to stay in Marina del Ray, about fifteen minutes from LAX. The hotel staff was so enamored with my adventure, they upgraded me to a suite on the harbor.

As the bellman ushered me into my room, I was met with a stunning sunset framed by palm trees and colorful bougainvillea on my balcony. I opened the sliding glass doors, walked out, threw my head back, received and reveled in the evening air and magnificent 180 degree view with pelicans doing majestic fly-byes.

A long-time friend, Glenna Salsbury. called in the midst of my reverie and revelry. She could tell from my voice how happy I was.

She asked, “What’s going on?” I explained how wonderful it was experiencing this room overlooking the marina.

She was puzzled, “You’re on your Year by the Water. Don’t you normally stay at places on the water?”

I explained about my budget. She paused and then said, “Wouldn’t you rather spend six months overlooking the water than twelve months overlooking the parking lot?”

Yes I would. Yes I would.

How about you? Do you habitually give up what makes you happy?

Have you been emotionally and financially frugal for so long, you no longer even ask for what would put the light on in your eyes?

Are you settling for parking lots when OCEANS are what you really want?

I understand the importance of being responsible, realistic and reasonable.

Yet many of us are doing this to a fault.

We have become so accustomed to giving up what we want, it has become our default.

Many of the people I interview for my SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week book tell me it's been so long since they've had the freedom or autonomy to do what they really want, they no longer know what that is.

How about you? Have you been putting everyone else first for so long, you've forgotten what it feels like to put yourself first - for even an hour or a day?

What would you do if you could play hooky for a day - if there were no repercussions and all your responsibilities were taken care of?

What do YOU really want? How can you start bringing more of that into your life?

Granted, as leaders, parents and partners, there are times we need to put what others want first; however there are also times when it’s appropriate to make an exception to our rule – or to revisit and update our rule.

Doing what we really want is a gift that keeps on giving.

I can hardly describe how happy it made me to wake up to water, to have breakfast next to water, to swim in water, to go for an energizing walk along water. It made my soul sing. It set up a happiness ripple effect that positively affected me, and everyone around me, for days.

I could have been in a dingy, dark room overlooking the six-lane highway or parking lot. I could have been in one of those sterile, hermetically-sealed high-rise hotels by the airport that sucks the soul right out of you.

Instead there I was, fully alive, surrounded by people kayaking, paddle-boarding, walking in the fresh air, smiling and enjoying every minute of being outside in nature. (Check out this 57 second video.)

Investing in what makes us happy isn’t indulgent, it’s inspiring.

Life isn’t supposed to be a drudge. We are meant to be happy.

I am not suggesting we can or should do what we want ALL the time. We continue to take care of people. We continue to be financially responsible.

Yet we also take care of ourselves. And that means doing what makes us happy every once in a while – without apology or guilt.

That means getting in, on or by water (or whatever lifts you up and makes your soul sing) instead of giving up what you really want and settling for the parking lot.

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of The Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create a quality life-work that adds value for all involved. Her books have been featured in NY Times and on NPR, presented to NASA, YPO, National Geographic and Capital One. This is excerpted from her upcoming book SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week (St. Martins Press, Jan. 2019) Want Sam to speak to your group? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com.

Are You Treating Your Health, Life and Loved Ones as an Afterthought?

“None of us are going to get out of here alive, so please stop thinking of yourself as an afterthought.” – Anthony Hopkins I just got off my monthly phone call with a long-time friend.

Everyone who has ever met her says, even if they only met her for a few minutes in the hallway, “She made me feel I was the most important person in the world. She listened to every word I said and then said just the right thing to lift me up and move me forward.”

What some people don’t know is she has been dealing with Stage 4 cancer the last two years. She has many 9-on-the-scale-of-10 pain days and never knows which day might be her last.

As a result, she lives every day like it might be her last. That’s not being trite, it’s being true.

I asked her, “What do you wish people knew that you now know?”

“I wish they would emotionally put themselves at the end of their life. It would help them be more mindful about how they spend their time.”

“What do you mean?”

“Mindful means asking ourselves, 'Does this really matter? What will matter in the long run?' When we know we have a limited amount of time, we’re really careful about who we spend it with, what we spend it on.”

Following my call with her, I asked myself, “What am I NOT doing that, at the end of my days, I will wish I had?”

The answer came immediately.

I would wish I had initiated more outings where our whole family got together. I’ve been fortunate this last year to spend time with Tom, Patty and their kids in Boulder and Maui for Christmas, and with Andrew, Miki and Hiro in NY and LA … but it’s been two years since we’ve all been together.

That’s too long. I am the matriarch of our family. It is up to ME to initiate gatherings.

So, I sent them an email asking, “Who wants to run the Bolder Boulder 10K together?”

The Bolder Boulder is the second largest 10K in the country. Anyone can do it. competitive runners, walkers, babies in strollers, even corporate teams in costumes.

This will give us all something to train for, something to look forward to. It will be a wonderful “excuse” to get outside, get fit, and have fun while creating a celebratory and memorable experience.

I can hardly put into words how right this feels.

How about you?

Are you spending your time carefully or carelessly?

What priorities - health, loved ones, your life - are you treating as an “afterthought?”

If you project yourself emotionally to the end of your life, what will you wish you had done?

Why not put a date on the calendar and initiate it now?

Henry Miller said, "Life, as it is called, is for many of us one long postponement."

Are you floating through life, promising yourself you'll do more of what's important ... when you have more time, money or freedom?

Often, the things we wish we had done don't cost a thing. They just involve spending quality time with loved ones, doing things we enjoy, and looking around and appreciating what's right with our world.

And we can all do that, right here, right now if we make it a priority.

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, TEDx speaker, and author of POP!, Tongue Fu!, and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? is on a mission to help people create a QUALITY life-work that adds value for all involved. This is excerpted from "SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week" (St. Martins Press, 2019)

What Will You Do to be Happy TODAY, Not SOMEDAY

I am hosting SOMEDAY Salons across the country to collect real-life stories and insights from people about why they're postponing what's meaningful to them, and to inspire them to start honoring their time, health, life and loved ones now, not later.

I will always be grateful to long-time friend and Oprah favorite Mary Loverde (author of The Invitation and I used to Have a Handle on Life But It Broke) who hosted the first SOMEDAY salon in her beautiful home in Denver.

What a joy it was seeing people dive deep into the Four Minute Happiness Box Quiz and discuss their discoveries about the many important things they're putting off ... for what they think are good reasons.

It's so rewarding to see people talk honestly about how they've fallen into a habit of delaying their true priorites, and to see the light go on in their eyes when they realize that procrastinating on what's important to them is a path to regrets; that the clock is ticking and if they truly appreciate their time, health, life and loved ones, they'll start honoring them TODAY, not in the far off future.

The most meaningful feedback from that first salon is that people are now over-riding their automatic postponement and acting with a Today, not Someday mentality.

They have been motivated to call long-time friends they've been promising to get together with. They've gone outside for a walk at sunset instead of turning on the TV. One picked up and played a guitar that's been sitting on a shelf for years.

Perhaps one of the most meaningful emails I've received is from a woman who has always wanted to meet her soul-mate, a man she admired and enjoyed who cherished her.

She FOUND HIM! He is everything she's always wanted and they're deeply in love. They had a few challenging years where he took care of his adult kids who needed him, and she took care of her parents who had health challenges at the end of their life.

But now, she and her soul-mate are FREE. He's retiring and she has her own business so she calls the shots on her schedule.

But her Puritan Work Ethic keeps kicking in. She grew up care-taking a sibling with special needs and has been a single mom/entrepreneur for the past twenty years, so her default is to put others first, to always be responsible to and for them.

The irony is, she has everything she wants right here, right now. But, despite her intellectual understanding of that, she keeps reverting to her decades-old, deep-seated belief that work comes first and she has to take care of other priorities before she can relax and do what she wants.

Somehow, having fun feels frivolous, indulgent, maybe even selfish. It flies in the face of what it means to be a responsible person who "does the right thing."

But what about having a responsibility to hereself?

What about realizing that her dream has come true and she's not honoring it?

She has a man she loves her, wants to take care of her, wants to travel and spend time together. Her kids are adults and can take care of themselves. Her parents have passed.

Isn't it time she put herself first?

Isn't is time she revels in what's right with her life, right here, right now?

Isn't it time to make her life with her partner her first priority?

How about you?

Have you been taking care of everyone else for so long you no longer even think about taking care of yourself?

Do you realize it's not selfish to do something you want to do ... it's overdue?

Do you realize that when you put yourself first, you free up everyone around you to do the same?

Do you realize that the clock is ticking and there is no automoatic tomorrow?

Do you realize that the best way to appreciate the precious gift of life is to enjoy it while you can instead of promising you'll do that ... someday?

What will you do today to honor your life?

What will you do today to honor your health and freedom of movement?

What will you do today to be happy today, not someday?

Could THIS Be the Best Resolution ... Ever?

Do you have a favorite author who, as soon as you see their name on a blog or book, you know you want to read it? I do. Pulitzer Prize winning-columnist #ConnieSchultz is one of those authors for me. Every single time I read her work, I am uplifted.

This column "Treading Gently Into This New Year" shows why.

In less than 730 words, she writes about what really matters.

As Connie points out, many of us make new year's resolutions to correct our “flaws.” We vow to change this, stop this, go here, do that.

Yet, what really matters is simpler than all that.

Connie put the following message on a handmade coaster in her house so she’ll see it throughout the day and keep it top-of-mind:

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Doesn’t that resonate deep within you? Could this be the best resolution of all?

As I write my "SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week" book, I share stories of people who are postponing what’s important to them.

They tell themselves that someday they’re going to take that vacation, get back into shape, pick up that hobby they used to love, be more adventurous and brave.

Yet a happier, more deeply satisfying life doesn’t have to be about going new places, doing new things, meeting new people.

In the long run, what will matter most is love, kindness and gratitude.

As the Buddha said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Welcome 2018. May we all be a little bit more ...human KIND.

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 #58: Quit Watering Dead Flowers

What a joy visiting Hawaii's famous Talk Story Bookstore, meeting owners Ed and Cynthia Justus and hearing their surprising secrets to building a successful life and business in an out-of-the-way location. Here are a few take-aways from my interview with them. The #1 Prerequisite for a Profitable Retail Business is NOT Location, Location, Location - It’s Clarity, Clarity, Clarity

Their bookstore is on the least-visited major island and in a town of less than 3000 people. Yet they have been one of Hawaii’s Top 50 Fastest-Growing businesses for the past five years. TripAdvisor says they’re THE #1 visitor destination on Kauai.

How can this be? In one word …CLARITY. Clarity is the new location. Clarity about who they are. What they want. What they don’t want. And they stay true to those priorities. Which means gently and firmly enforcing their rules.

For example, you’ve heard “There’s no crying in baseball?” Well, there are no thongs in bookstores. At least not in THEIR bookstore. The twenty-something who walked in wearing her version of an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini was asked to honor their posted sign, “No shoes, no shirt, no shorts, no service.”

The woman who told them she was going to leave her kids in the store while she went shopping across the street? Nope. “This is a bookstore, not a babysitting service.”

PAVE THE PATHS

Ed and Cynthia didn’t have a background in the book biz and didn’t plan on buying a bookstore. They visited Kauai on their honeymoon and liked it so much, they decided to take a leap of faith and stay. How did they make money from the first day they put their sign up, when they had no experience in the industry?

Ed says, “Amazon’s website taught us everything we needed to know about book-selling. Instead of us trying to figure out which books to stock and what to charge, we simply followed the favorites. Why re-create the wheel? Their site told us the most popular books in each genre and the going price for gently-used books.”

I said, “That’s brilliant. There’s an urban legend called ‘Pave the Paths’ which recommends that instead of prematurely installing sidewalks at public places (e.g., colleges and county buildings), it's smarter to wait and find out where people naturally walk and then put the sidewalks there.

That’s what you did. Instead of stocking what you hoped might sell, you 'booked the beloveds' and bought proven ever-greens that have a track record of always being in demand."

Don’t follow The Rules; Follow Your Values

For example, the “rules” say a brick and mortar store has to have a cash register, right? The problem is, cash registers lock you into one location, often in a front corner of your store. What if you have a customer in back who can’t find what they want? If there’s no one around to answer their question, they often leave and don't come back.

Ed and Cyndi don’t have a cash register; they have cash belts. Wearing a cash belt around their waist gives them freedom to wander the store and connect with their customers. While I was there, they greeted every single person who walked in the store. One was always out on the floor, asking people if they were looking for something in particular and then pointing out recommended authors in their preferred genre.

The trend of many bookstores is to offer coffee to attract customers. Well, they tried that and you know what they learned? Coffee sells coffee. Books sell books.

Another “rule” of retail businesses is you need to diversity if you want to grow. So, they added an art gallery with works from local artists. A restaurant. Book clubs. Internet service. Chairs so people could sit.

Guess what they discovered? Those extra services took lots of extra time and effort, created a lot of problems they didn't want or need ... and didn’t boost profits. In fact, Cyndi said, “We found that for every chair we took away, we added an extra $1000 of income. People who sit and read books for free for hours often walk out without buying any books."

The rules say a retail business needs an inventory system. Ed said, “Why? We mostly stock one copy of each book. Why spend a lot of time logging in and tracking single sales? Plus, we handle every purchase so we know what’s selling and what’s not.”

The Secret to Loving Your Life and Work? Stop Watering Dead Plants

As we talked, it was clear to me that one of the reasons they’ve been so successful is they QUIT doing things that didn’t work; that didn’t make money; and that didn’t bring them joy. This frees up time and money for business activities that contribute to their quality of life instead of compromise it.

They quit the belief that bigger is better. They've built and sustained a successful business because they've honored their belief, "If we don't love it; we don't do it. If it doesn't add personal and professional value, we drop it."

Chip Away Everything That is NOT David

I told them, “There’s a (perhaps apocryphal) story about Michelangelo who said, when asked how he creating his masterpiece sculpture, ‘It’s easy. I just chipped away everything that wasn’t David.’"

I smiled and said, "You have ‘David’d your business and life. You have chipped away everything that isn’t congruent with your values and vision. As a result, the light is on in your eyes and you’re successful for all the right reasons.”

So, what surprising lessons did I take away from my time with Ed and Cyndi?

* CLARIFY your values, vision, priorities and policies and STAY TRUE to them.

* Quit watering dead plants and DAVID your life and business.

* Gently and firmly ENFORCE RULES to protect what’s important to you.

When we do the above, we build a successful life, business and career where the light is on in our eyes - and things just keep getting better and better – for all the right reasons.

- - -

Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert, is on a mission to help people create quality projects that add value for all involved. Her work - including her TEDx talk - and books POP!, IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! and Got Your Attention? have been featured in NY Times, Forbes, Fast Company and presented to NASA, National Geographic, Capital One, YPO. Want Sam to share her inspiring insights on how to create a successful life and career at your next convention? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

quit watering

Day Right Quote #57: The Meaning of Life is to Find Your Gift, the Purpose of Life is to Give It Away

Such wisdom from Pablo Picasso, "The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away." Have you found your gift? What is that? How are you giving it away?

A friend gave the commencement address at her alma mater. Some of the grads took the stage and with a flourish opened their gowns to reveal they were wearing t-shires underneath that said, "I DON'T KNOW."

Hah. The perfect answer for students who DON'T KNOW what they're going to do with their degree, career, life.

Many know they want to be happy. They just don't know how to do that.

The thing is, as Leo Rosten said, "The purpose of life isn't to be happy; it's to matter, to feel it has made some difference we have lived at all."

Leo Rosten

Please understand, I'm not saying it's not important to be happy. It is. It's just not WHY we're here.

We're here to make a difference - and one of the surest ways to do that is to identify our gifts and gift them back.

Are you not clear what your gifts are? Want a short-cut to finding out?

What puts the light on in your eyes? Is it singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument or sport?

Is it fixing something, growing something, building something?

Do you have a knack for words, for language, for stories?

What do people admire about you and say, "I wish I could do that" ... yet it comes "naturally, easily" to you?

What do you love to do? Look forward to with eagerness and anticipation?

What brings you joy? Makes you feel purposeful, that you're making a positive difference?

Those are all your GIFTS.

Now, figure out how you can TEACH THAT TO OTHERS or DO THAT FOR OTHERS.

Wrapping your career around your gifts is the surest way to expand your impact - for good.

Don't keep your gifts to yourself. That puts an unnecessary ceiling on their value.

Sharing your gifts is a way to set your SerenDestiny in motion.

Giving away your gifts is a way to scale your service and become wealthy in what matters.

Gifting your gifts creates a "rising tide" ripple effect where more people benefit from what you do well.

And isn't that what we all want?

P.S. If you'd like specific ways to do this, check out my book IDEApreneur.

pablo picasso