Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seth Godin's essay "The chance of a lifetime"

Heading into the new year, Seth Godin reaches back for words that still resonate.
Here's a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, "I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing." Because that's what seems to be going around these days. Fortunately, though, not everyone will have to confess to having made such a bad choice ...

Before you finish this paragraph, you have the power to change everything that's to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great?
In other words, Refuse to be Afraid. And that chance you were going to take someday? Take it. Now!

Make it a great New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Answer these 2 questions and occupy your life

Two more questions to ponder in addition to the other two.

Why am I here? What am I doing here?

For too many of us, those are two different questions.

Why am I here? What is the purpose of the finite time I'm spending on this plane of existence? Everyone is here for a reason. I'm not convinced it's "a" reason – many people spend too much time trying to ascertain the single solitary best use of their lives. The choices are innumerable, but it's important that you settle on a purpose that suits your self.

What am I doing here? What are you actually doing, in comparison and in contrast to what your mission on this planet is?

When the answers to those two questions are in sync, you find something closer to serenity. The path ahead is more clear; decisions about which path to take are easier.

So: Why are you here? What are you doing here? Are the answers to those questions the same, or do you have some adjustments to make?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A private Armageddon

I was poking around some old columns and found one I wrote after the death of Johnny Cash, that volatile contradiction of a man and brilliant entertainer who seemed to find a modicum of peace in his later years. My thought was that we all face the "Endtimes," that is, the end of our time on Earth, and although we may very well miss the second coming of Christ in our lifetime, we face the same questions at the end that John heard in his famous dream.

Is your life hot, cold or lukewarm?

Here's what occurred to me back in 2004:
Cash shared an authentic love of God even though – or maybe because – he had a dark side that made much of his life resemble an impending train wreck. Especially after he met and married June Carter, his songs of killers and rebels blended with gospel tunes in a mix that made no obvious sense but sounded perfect anyway.

“I believe what I say, but that don’t necessarily make me right,” was the quote this weekend from a 2000 Rolling Stone interview. “There is a spiritual side to me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.”

That dichotomy in Cash hit home with me, because I think we all struggle that way with darkness and light. No, I never “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” but like most people I’ve made enough missteps in life that I am uncomfortable talking about faith because I know for certain I am not holier than thou.

I think that’s what Cash meant in that interview. As time goes on, I think that while it’s interesting to speculate about Armageddon – that final struggle between good and evil that’s described in mysterious terms in the book of Revelation – we each spend our lives in kind of a private Armageddon. Every day we can decide whether we’re going to seek the truth or chase after the beast. Sometimes it’s an easy choice, and sometimes it’s like walking a tightrope over a ring of fire.

No one knows the day and hour of the “real” apocalypse; no one knows the day and hour of his own death, but the choices are the same, just on a different scale. In those last four albums, I believe his impending death was always close to Johnny Cash’s thoughts, and the choice of songs reflected his personal Armageddon. I also have a strong feeling that he won the war and is now at peace.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tis the season

It's a most amazing and inspiring story, of overcoming hardship (no room at the inn) and government red tape (everyone return to their hometown to register? Really?) to bring a child into the world who from the first was a beacon of hope.

However you celebrate this time of year, or even if you don't, please accept this in the spirit of peace and joy it's intended:

Merry Christmas.

Cross posted to Uncle Warren's Attic.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Life lesson No. 46 while walking the dog

Given the option, it seems Willow will keep playing forever. Once she gets it into her head that it's time to chase a ball, she will chase and retrieve, chase and retrieve, over and over again.

And she won't take "enough" for an answer. If the ball is within my reach – and often when it isn't – if it doesn't appear that I'm interested in pitching it, she will lie in wait with her tail pointed in my direction, ready to pounce on anything tossed over her head, whining. And whining. And whining. Until finally, I reach down and toss the ball. So she can chase. And retrieve. And chase ... Inevitably she will convince me to throw the ball at least a few more times than I thought I wanted to.

Yesterday was our first walk in a new place, and Willow did her usual dance once connected to the leash. She will grab the tether with her teeth and make a show of trying to chew through it, while dancing and prancing around me. After a few moments she settles into the rhythm of the walk — except, of course, for when she is stopping to investigate interesting odors on the ground.

It wasn't long before we both were walking along the path at a brisk pace, and I reflected how good she was at this unnatural task of traveling while attached to a long rope-like device. How good she is at chasing the ball or her beloved orange disk. How well she stays close enough when we are walking our property without the leash, and how well she knows that "Willow, come!" means she needs to run to my side.

"Willow," I said, "I can't think of anything you're not good at — except maybe quitting."

And there, I realized, was the business/life lesson to be learned from the puppy today: Be good at what you do. Be good at everything except maybe quitting. It's the secret to her success.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A place for books

Call me a Luddite.

The news story I posted from 2001 the other day was actually my second choice for a post. What I really wanted to do was reprint the column I wrote not long after, expanding on the thoughts expressed by the man who tried to circulate a petition supporting something called the Constitutional Rights Clarification Amendment.

The problem was, I couldn't find that old column. It may be on the hard drive of the home computer I was using in 2001, which is in a storage container. But it's apparently not anywhere on the Internet anymore, because the Great and Powerful Google couldn't deliver it to me. No doubt it's preserved on paper somewhere, although I can't find a printout - but there are collections of the defunct Green Bay News-Chronicle here and there that must have the original column.

A lot of stuff stored on computers 10-20-25 years ago is pretty tough to retrieve. It's not common to find a device anymore than will read a 5 1/4" floppy disk of data generated on a Commodore 128. If you didn't make a hard copy, it may be as good as lost forever.

This compatibility issue is at the root of why I'm reluctant to give up paper and books - you know, those information storage devices made out of dead trees. I don't need a certain software or hardware or any electronic device to read things I wrote in 1972 - I just need to find those notebooks and use my eyes. The pen or pencil or typing on paper still works just as well as it did then.

Last week I attempted to take Seth Godin up on his offer of a new, free book: The Flinch by Julien Smith. The catch: The book is only available via Kindle.

I don't have a Kindle, nor do I currently have the money to buy a Kindle. No problem – there are free programs that allow you to read Kindle ebooks on your computer. Except that Kindle for Mac only works on computers equipped with a later Mac OS system than mine, and I don't currently have the money to upgrade. My only options to obtain this "free" ebook, it seems, involves spending money I don't have.

I would be more than willing to spend $5-$10 for a book that can be read 200 years from now, but I'm less inclined to spend $80-$100 to buy software or hardware that will obsolete in less than 10, so that I can have the same book for free. The first thing I usually do when I download an ebook is to print out a hard copy so that I know I will always have it.

We're talking about the storage of ideas and information. One technology (print) has proved to be fairly reliable for centuries. The other (digital) is constantly evolving, and ideas and information published with earlier versions are constantly becoming harder to access. As a result I believe hard copies will be important for a long time to come.

J. Paul Getty is credited with giving the advice, "Watch what the herd does ... and do the opposite." My observation is that the herd is abandoning paper and rushing from electronic toy to electronic toy. That's why I'm more convinced than ever that books are a better long-term investment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

About those other 9 Amendments

Like the good twit that I am, I decided to get in on the big #FreetoTweet event Thursday for Bill of Rights Day. Using every one of my 140 available characters, I wrote:

#FreetoTweet - Free to tweet, speak, worship, publish, assemble, petition, bear arms, protect person and property, etc.
I pushed the "Tweet" button and went to see what my fellow hash-markers were saying. After a while I thought maybe I'd misunderstood the purpose. Almost all of the messages were about how great the First Amendment is. Many of them advertised sweepstakes and sales related to Bill of Rights Day. Somebody had a contest going - best First Amendment tweet wins a scholarship.

Well, I am as big a fan as anyone of the First Amendment. Free speech, the freedom to worship as we please, publish what we want, peaceably assemble and give grief to the government (I paraphrase) are all rights that ought to be etched in stone.

It's just that, well, Thursday was Bill of Rights Day, not First Amendment Day.

It's as if everyone decided to ignore the right to own and carry weapons, the right not to have a standing army in the neighborhood, the right not to have your person and property searched or seized without probable cause, the right to remain silent, the right to a speedy trial by a jury of peers, the right to face your accusers, and the right that states and the individual have to any and all powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.

Oh. Wait. Everyone has decided to ignore those rights. Sorry.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Bill of Rights Day

To mark Bill of Rights Day and to celebrate the new look and name of this blog, here's a little something I wrote for the dearly departed Green Bay News-Chronicle for July 7, 2001 ...
July 4 festival-goers lukewarm about Bill of Rights

Americans celebrated the nation's 225th birthday on Wednesday without apparently having a firm grasp on what we were celebrating.

In a survey taken during Green Bay's Celebrate Americafest by the Libertarian Party of Northeast Wisconsin, slightly less than 60 percent said they were unwilling to support what the pollsters called the Constitutional Rights Clarification Amendment.

The problem is that the "amendment" has already been passed - more precisely, the 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights, which were printed verbatim on the petition.

Eric Christianson, vice chairman of the local party, said that only 11 of the 232 people who were surveyed realized they were reading the amendments that recognize freedom of religion, speech and the press, the right to bear arms, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection against self-incrimination, and the other tenets of the Bill of Rights.

Some people signed or declined without reviewing the document very carefully, but most took the time to read it through and ask questions about some of the issues, he said.

"My favorite response is from the guy who declined to sign saying, 'This would interfere with the judicial system because there's a vagueness inherent to the Constitution and this would make it black and white,'" Christianson said.

The response that Christianson said was either the scariest or the funniest was from a man who identified himself as an off-duty police officer.

"He said he knows all about the Constitution because he works with it every day," he said. "But then he handed it back and said, 'I can't sign this - there are portions of this with which I disagree.'"

Bob Collison, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin, said the results reflect his belief that Americans are not very well-informed about what is happening in politics.

"They'll parade in the name of freedom, but ask them about these issues and they really don't come down on the side of freedom," Collison said. "When you come down to it, even during the Revolutionary War a minority of people were involved in the fighting. It's always a minority that makes the changes."

The Constitutional Rights Clarification Amendment

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

2. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

3. No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Under construction

The "A Scream of Consciousness" reboot of this blog appears not to be working ... so your humble host is working on new options. Please enjoy the fun at Uncle Warren's Attic in the meantime.

And I welcome any suggestions you might have to make this a more vibrant corner of the blogoverse. Send me an email or leave comments. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fleeing the screens

I'm spending today away from electronics - gotta do that sometimes. I hope to scratch out some direction with pen and paper - will let you know what I learn. Check back here over the next few days and beyond.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our deepest and highest impulse is to peace

Somewhere near our core is a violent impulse, and so there will always be men and women who choose force to get their way – and we must be vigilant.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Smoke and mirrors

It's troubling news that a significant amount of the Black Friday business boost came because people were putting it all on credit:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wow. Just wow.

It was a hectic and crazy summer, and we missed almost all of the movies we wanted to watch. Now that the DVDs are coming out, we're starting to catch up. Thor? Pretty good, entertaining at least. Captain America? Very good, worth seeing again. X-Men: First Class? Enjoyed it while we were watching it, but I can't remember a thing about it right this moment. Talk about in one eye and out the other ....

Last night we watched Super 8.

Wow. Just wow.

Let me get back to you when I've come down a little bit. They don't make many movies like this one anymore.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Show up and do the work

Want to be a great guitar player? Get a guitar and play. Want to be a world-class writer? Write. Want to be a legendary filmmaker? Start making films.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to build something so people will come

If you've never seen the film Field of Dreams, do yourself a favor: Skip this post until after you've corrected that error. Everyone else, please keep reading. Thanks!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Uncle Warren's Cyber Monday Blowout

Here's your chance to have the books, the music and other odds and ends for Cyber Monday.

Know the lines

In the dream I was performing in a stage revival of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and three of us were rehearsing. I'd been doing fine when I had the words in front of me, reading the script, but now we were on the stage and I had no idea what to say.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day of thanks

I am thankful to be living in a place where, ostensibly at least, my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are considered inalienable.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unplugged and loving it

[Found in notebook, written April 20, 2011]

In his influential book Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money (I describe it as influential because it has influenced me so deeply), Rabbi Daniel Lapin encourages his readers to make goals and delve into their life’s purposes but not before spending two or three days avoiding all electronic screens. Those brightly colored images have a mesmerizing effect, much like a deer confronted by headlights, Lapin said. Better to clear the mind before focusing on weighty matters.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A ride on the time machine

We had a substitute teacher that day. She was older than our regular fifth-grade teacher at Elementary School No. 1 in Little Falls, N.J.

Monday, November 21, 2011

W.B.’s Book Report: Letters of a Self-Made Failure

Here is a timely relic from nearly 100 years ago. Maurice Switzer wrote a series of 10 letters, ostensibly from a man who took a circuitous route to contentment and addressed to his younger brother, who is newly embarked on this adventure we call adulthood.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

W.B. at the Movies: Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

Tinseltown has wanted to make Ayn Rand’s dystopian epic for a long time. The proposals included and all-star love story in the 1970s, with Faye Dunaway as Dagny Taggart, Robert Redford as John Galt, and Clint Eastwood as Hank Rearden. Most famously in recent years, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie wanted a crack at the story of an overbearing government and its corrupt corporate co-conspirators living parasitically off the creativity and labors of the true innovators and entrepreneurs among us.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy your life

I am not one of the 99 percent – and neither are you.

I am not one of the 1 percent – and neither are you.

The masses are an invention. There are no “masses.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

The scrap of dialogue that defines the lead character of my novel in progress

“But they’ll kill you! You’ll die!”

“I’m going to die anyway, someday,” replied Raymond Douglas Kaliber. “So I may as well do the right thing until then.”


Thursday, November 17, 2011

What it all means

Of late I’ve been using the blogosphere to write about more apolitical themes than I did in previous iterations - things like confronting the fear in your heart and living in the here and now - things like “we become what we think about” and “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

So what’s the point? Why am I writing about stuff like this? (Besides the obvious point that I’d love for you to buy the corresponding books and read what I’m saying in more detail.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Take a stand

In a memorable scene from one of my favorite movies, Serenity, a dying character grabs the hero and says, “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe.” The film in many ways is about the power of belief, the energy that comes when you invest yourself in a decision to take a stand.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What’s with all the anger?

Everyone’s so angry in the glowing box and in the talking box and in the boxes on the political pages and websites. Why are they all so angry?

Monday, October 31, 2011

And next, The Imaginary Revolution

Back in 1988 an image jumped into my mind, and I jumped up from whatever it was that I was doing, and I wrote it down:
It’s hard to believe that the brilliant bands of light that sweep across the night sky haven’t always been there. Great poets have written wonderful romantic songs through the years about the effect those gleaming streaks have on hearts young and old — so many songs in so many years that we must be reminded from time to time that, before the imaginary bomb, there were no rings around the Earth.
I had begun foundering around with an idea for a novel called The Imaginary Bomb, but until I wrote that paragraph I didn't know where to go with it. But now I had an ending — a destination, if you will — and all I had to do was take aim and write the novel that preceded it. Sure enough the story was essentially completed a few weeks later. (Why it then took 20 years to publish is a whole nuther story.)

I tell this anecdote because over the weekend, I wrote the end to The Imaginary Revolution, a story that has been on my mind for about four years or so and which I've started and stopped several times but foundered. I even started podcasting the early chapters of the first version in hopes it would motivate me to plow ahead. But still I foundered; I generally knew the whole story but, I now realize, I had no ending, no destination.

I did have a file in my I-Rev folder called "the last chapter," because based on that earlier experience, I suspected I needed the ending first. But I had a lot of files in my I-Rev folder, including several versions of the opening chapters. I looked through those files over the weekend.

And I realized Sunday morning how the last chapter needs to end. Wow.

It was like, err, a scream of consciousness. Now I can't wait to go back and fill in everything that happens before the end.

There's nothing that energizes any project more than having a goal, a destination. Otherwise it's just a lot of foundering about. Life being a foundering kind of exercise, it's easy to forget that simple fact.

Where do you think you're going?

Steve Jobs' final words

His sister's eulogy is a magnificent tribute and description of a man who lived every moment of his life. He gave us a lot to think about.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Answer these 2 questions and own the world

... perhaps not quite the world, but you will definitely own your reader. And if you connect with your reader, you stand a better chance of getting your message across. That's why we communicate, isn't it? To convey a message.

You have only seconds to convince the reader to pay attention. In those few seconds you must answer these two questions, or the reader will go no further.

1. Why is this important?

2. Why should I care?

Answer these two questions and own the world. It makes no difference if you're writing or telling a news story, a headline, ad copy, a press release, the Great American Novel or a grocery list. The person thinking about reading, hearing, watching or otherwise consuming your work needs to know the answers, or you've lost him/her.

And the first person you need to convince is you. If it's not important to you and you don't care, move on. You'll never convince your audience.

Know why this is important, and why you should care, and you have begun to create something good, perhaps great.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Finding peace

Few things calm the soul and relieve stress like spending a portion of the day with a cat in your lap, preferably a purring one.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A chat about embracing Monday

Something about Monday gets a person questioning the whole deal. Ostensibly it's the start of another new work week; ideally you've taken a couple of days to rest and recharge so you can dive with enthusiasm back into the tasks you've chosen for your livelihood.

So why does Monday have its reputation? You know what I'm talking about.

Maybe it's time to wake up and embrace this life that you've been sleeping through.

The other day Wally Conger and I spent a fun hour talking about the whys and wherefores of my new book, A Scream of Consciousness: Wake Up and Embrace the Present Moment. You know, the one I've been mentioning here with the cover photo of Willow embracing a sunny winter's morning.

We talked about the book, zombies, creativity, happiness and following through on the promise of being alive moment by moment. He also had some nice words to say about my previous project, Refuse to be Afraid, which seems to be more timely day by day. And Wally – who has a big new project of his own about to break out this week – has made our conversation available for free to his friends, and now mine.

I'll let Wally take it from there. I hope you'll click in the right places, enjoy the conversation, and sample the book(s) over there on the right rail.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The power of short books

Books are getting shorter. The Domino Project launched by Seth Godin and friends has been publishing a series of manifestos, as they call them, all fewer than 100 pages and 5.25" by 7.5" – and all of them pack quite a punch. They took it to an extreme Wednesday with the release of what they're calling a "one-page book," a poster detailing the federal budget.

My own A Scream of Consciousness and Refuse to be Afraid run about 90 pages, in part because, well, I said all I needed to say in that space.

In his introduction to his translation of Abandonment to Divine Providence, a k a The Sacrament of the Present Moment, John Beevers writes:
Short books often have great power. A few that come to mind are Thomas à Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, the Communist Manifesto, Paine's The Rights of Man, Rousseau's Social Contract, St. Thérèse's The Story of a Soul and, of course, the Gospels. There is a very human reason for this. Most people have neither the time nor the inclination to plough through a five-volume treatise. They want the message, whatever it is, given to them in as few pages as possible. This is no new phenomenon. Pamphlets may not give as much enjoyment as a many-volumed book, but it is arguable that they have had vastly more influence.

And it is not only the reader who is affected by a short book. Its writer is. The effort, whether conscious or not, to concentrate his thought into a hundred or so pages instead of a thousand, gives this thought a sharpness and urgency which would inevitably be diffused over many volumes.
I would heartily recommend the Domino Project books – Godin's We Are All Weird or Poke the Box, Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli, Anything You Want by Derek Sivers, or Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, for example – or of course my own humble efforts (see the right sidebar for previews).

I'm not going to suggest that these are as good as those books Beevers rattled off, but they do pack a punch, if I say so myself.

The Sacrament of the Present Moment, of course, plays an integral role in the ideas in A Scream of Consciousness. From the pages in the Amazon preview I think Beevers' translation might be a little more accessible than the one I read by Kitty Muggeridge, but it's the ideas of Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade that resonate in any case.

Happy reading!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy your creativity

Each of us is given the power to create our lives. With your mind and your hands, you can create objects of beauty, useful tools, the great American novel, the next Big Thing, and, yes, wealth.

The only limits on this power are the limits you invent: I don't have the time. I don't have the money. I don't have the talent. Some greedy SOB won't let me. The government won't let me. Corporate goons won't let me. Illegal aliens are stealing my opportunity. Union thugs are preventing my progress.

You invented all of those limits, or you bought into the lie that "I can't." But you can.

What would you like to create with your mind and your hands? What have you already created? Let the rest of us see.

Create it. Share it. It's easier than ever to do both.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Here's your blank page. What are you going to do with it?

No matter how hard you try to surrender control, and how much you want someone else to make the decisions for you, what you do today is entirely your choice and your responsibility.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Being fearless

From Seth Godin in Linchpin:

Fearless doesn't really mean "without fear." What it means in practice is, "unafraid of things that one shouldn't be afraid of." Being fearless means giving a presentation to an important customer without losing a night's sleep. It means being willing to take intellectual risks and to forge a new path. The fear is about an imagined threat, so avoiding the fear allows you to actually accomplish something ...

The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds. I can't tell you how to do this; I think the answer is different for everyone. What I can tell you is that in today's economy, doing it is a prerequisite for success.

"Refuse to be Afraid" doesn't mean never feel anxious or scared. It means acknowledging the fear and bringing it under control to the point where you can move forward in freedom. Today, Refuse to be afraid.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A different take on the shirtless dancing guy: Convince a woman

This video from Derek Sivers is very interesting, informative and entertaining, but I see something slightly different than he does.

I love how Derek uses the imagery from a 2009 festival to explain how a "lone nut" becomes the leader of a movement and how important the "first follower" becomes, and I'm not alone. This is an acclaimed analysis with 1.1 million-plus YouTube views as of this writing.

But I disagree about the "tipping point," where he says, "Now here come 2 more, then 3 more. Now we've got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we've got a movement! As more people jump in, it's no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there's no reason not to join now. They won't be ridiculed, they won't stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry."

If you've never seen the video, go ahead, check it out. It's fun. I'll wait.

There's one crucial detail I think Derek missed about the "3 more" who give the dancers the necessary momentum to turn the little party into a crowd. Did you spot it? Because the camera is shaky it's a little hard to see.

At least one of the newcomers is a woman.

It takes 22 seconds for the first follower to arrive, and almost a full minute before a third dancer joins in. But not until the 80-second mark, when the women join in, does the movement really take off.

Until the moment that the first lady starts dancing, it's just 3-5 guys acting goofy. When she gets there, it's a social event. The first female follower makes it more comfortable for other women to join, and you know how men feel about women.

Derek Sivers knows a lot more about marketing and running a business than I do, but I daresay his theory here needs a small amendment. Never underestimate the power of the opposite sex. The first female follower of a movement - or the first male to join a female-initiated movement - can convert a few folks dancing alone into a campaign.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

The book is ready. Although the "official" launch is about a week away, you can have it now.  If you were one of the folks who volunteered to ready the semifinal draft last month, you will get your hard copy shortly after the launch-launch. Call this a "soft opening." After a year or so of tinkering and a month or so of hard labor, it's good to be here and be able to say, "I made this!"

This collection of 15 essays began to form itself into a book when Wally Conger quoted Rhinoceros Success author Scott Robert Alexander’s blog: “No one knows what is going to get your pistons pumping except you. Write your own motivational book! You don’t have to worry about proper sentences, spelling or punctuation. No one is going to read it except you.”

And Wally followed it up with: “Got a motivational book inside of YOU? I bet you do. And maybe someday you’ll be willing to share it with the rest of us.” That was the push that I needed.

I wrote the book I needed to read. After hearing from my test readers, I think it has something to say. I hope you'll agree!

Now that we're on the subject, do you have a motivational book inside of YOU? I believe you do. You might want to get started, and there's no time like now — in fact, there is ONLY now.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Waste no time on hate or judgment

When you throw a ball as hard as you can into the sky, it will arc and fall to the ground some distance away. When you throw a ball as hard as you can into the ground, it will plant itself at your feet. Either act expends a great deal of energy.

Every moment you spend on hate is a moment you could have been loving. Every moment you spend passing judgment on someone else’s words or actions is a moment you could have been working to improve your own words or actions.

It takes energy to tear down, and it takes energy to build up.

There is no more destructive scream of consciousness than: I hate you! or I hate this! There is no more exhilarating scream of consciousness than I love you!

Jesus said a lot of wise things, but he boiled it all down to two essential purposes:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rejecting the tyranny of being picked

On impulse last month, I made two of the best decisions I've made in a long time with regard to this book I'm about to release, A Scream of Consciousness.

First, I popped onto Facebook and asked for 10 people willing to read the manuscript and make suggestions. By day's end I had more than 10, which was a boost of confidence in itself.

Then the suggestions came in, and the book is quickly becoming even better than I'd hoped. From a subtle change to the subtitle to the addition of a closing chapter, all of the ideas from my "editors" have been useful, engaging and constructive – even the tough criticisms, or perhaps especially those.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writing like ...

At various points in my life, I wanted to write like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Seth Godin, Bruce Springsteen, John Sebastian ...

Somewhere along the way while I was trying to write like them, I started to write like Warren Bluhm.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Made for these times

"I keep looking for a place to fit where I can speak my mind..."

The mark of a great artist is that she puts words or images to a thought or feeling that is inside many people but hasn't been expressed in a way that most of us will understand. Brian Wilson is a great artist.

In the song "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times," Wilson puts words and music to the awkward feeling that each and every one of us feels when we recognize there is no one else in the world quite like "me."

"I've been trying hard to find the people That I won't leave behind ..."

The search for friendship, the search for meaning, the search for "fitting in." Ultimately we won't find complete fulfillment from other people. John Maxwell writes about being in the audience when someone asked his wife if "John makes you happy" and getting surprised when she responded, "No."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The debt conundrum

The car is starting to squeak a lot more than it used to, the suspension may be shot soon, and it's overdue for a transmission flush - but I have to make the monthly payments first. I should be saving up to buy the car that will replace this one - and the computer that will replace this one - and the lawn tractor that will replace the one I bought five years ago - but instead I am spending hundreds of dollars a month to pay the balances on the car loan and the credit cards that I haven't used in more than a year.

And that's the problem with debt. A debt is a trade - you exchange your future income for the money to buy what you want NOW.

The cost of having it now is a little thing called interest. So the $10,000 used car costs you $12,500. Is it worth it to have it NOW? That depends on whether you could have used the other $2,500.

Essentially you are gambling that nothing goes wrong for the life of the obligation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hey - wha hoppen?

I think The Mighty Wind is a charming movie that works as satire only to a point because the makers really do seem to love the 1960s folk music that they're trying to mock. Let's face it, songs like "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" and "Potato's in the Paddy Wagon" are just too good to be as funny as they could be.

My conscience emailed me the other day and said he has begun to refer to me as "the blogger with nothing to say." I could think of no response, which was ironic. Or fitting. Or something.

We're in a season of blowback, a season of seeing what happens when people elected to balance budgets and limit the power and size of government actually attempt to balance budgets and limit the power and size of government. The tantrums have been instructive. Every dollar spent in the name of Big Government has a patron. There is so much to say, and yet it all seems so self-evident.

The heat index outside my office window was something like 93 degrees today. Last time I posted something here, the wind chill was in the 20s. It's time I said something.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Springus interruptus

As we closed out the first month of spring, another 5 to 10 inches of snow fell on Northeast Wisconsin - the kind of thick, heavy snow that bends branches and strains backs. The only consolation was that street and road surfaces were warm enough that the accumulation was not as thick on concrete and asphalt as it was on the bare ground.

In fact our driveway didn't need clearing even though 3-4 inches of white covered the yard that just two days earlier had been showing its first signs of healthy green.

Last year at this time, the weather was so mild by April 20 that I optimistically planted a row of radishes, peas and beans in a corner of the garden. My foolishness became clear with the cold snap and flurries of the first weekend in May. But those flurries were mid-July weather compared to the scene in our yard Wednesday.

On this Friday morning, the only sign of the storm is the bent arbor vitaes that will probably never recover. All of the gunk that snapped branches, dropped power lines and sent vehicles spinning has now melted. The forecasters say sunny and 55 on Sunday, 66-70 by Tuesday. Like all cold storms that interrupt a promise of hope, this one has faded into memory, a diversion more fit for laughter than despair.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The freedom of a puppy's soul

One of the things that Willow likes to do is romp on our bed. It's sort of a wrestling match and sort of a doggie massage session. During these sessions she will either wrap her jaws around my forearm or bite down on my sleeve without actually connecting with my arm.

That's a remarkable decision on her part. It means we can play with a little more rough-housing because we trust each other not to cause harm. We both know that as the one with sharper teeth, Willow could shred my arm to pieces. We both know that as the larger beast, I could probably inflict some significant damage on her. But we choose to play in a way that avoids those things.

There is a philosophical theory that the difference between a human and an animal is that a human has a soul and the ability to know and choose right from wrong. But if Willow does not possess these qualities, how does she know not to chew my hand off? How does a beast with no soul develop the ability to play, and play safe?

No, this is a special creature with a sense of whimsy and a spirit of joy. Perhaps it's a stretch to conclude that my companion is a gentle soul based on the observation that my hand remains attached to my wrist. But I reject the notion that there is no soul behind those devoted eyes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The joy of joy

I enjoy joy. Embracing the thrill of living in all of its colors feels delightful. When joy is the default condition of the day, it’s a banner day.

Willow, our home’s golden retriever companion, is a remarkable example of how to live a joyful life. At 2 years old, she seeks out joy with the curiosity of a child and the wisdom of the joyous.

When I follow her lead, I achieve an unmatchably warm and peaceful contentment. Therefore, any time I am in her sphere of influence, I make sure I throw her ball or her orange disk, rub her belly, hug her with all my strength, or whatever else the moment requires.

This late winter and early spring in Wisconsin have been short on moments of joy. An 18-inch snowfall on the third day of spring will put a damper on almost any mood, and the ghastly political puppet theater now in progress is so tiring that I will mention it here only to make my point.

But Willow has no such shortage. She pranced across the snowdrifts like a miniature whitetail deer, she plays hide-and-seek with the blue ball and whines impatiently when I haven’t found it yet, she is oblivious to the puppet theater, and she comes to me frequently with a look that seems to say, “Relax. Life is joyful. Just live it.”

And so I choose to raise my head and lift my spirits. They say when you have no control over externals, you still have a choice over your internal reaction. The choices are to laugh or to cry; I choose to laugh. The choices are grumbling through my work or pausing frequently to play with Willow; I choose the puppy. The choices are to sink into the mud or embrace the joy of the soaring eagle; I choose the sky.

I enjoy joy. And for my own mental health, as often as I remember, I choose joy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

'There is no try'

"Do or do not. There is no 'try.'" — Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

This little essay from Seth Godin is for everyone who has ever allowed themselves to say, “Oh, I could never do that ...”
I will never be able to dunk a basketball.

This is beyond discussion.

Imagine, though, a co-worker who says, "I'll never be able to use a knife and fork. No, I have to use my hands."

Or a colleague who says, "I can't possibly learn Chinese. I'm not smart enough."
The plain and simple truth is that pretty much anyone — including you! — can accomplish pretty much anything he/she sets her mind to, assuming you are willing to put in the time needed to do it right.

Says Godin: “I have no intention of apologizing for believing in people, for insisting that we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us.”

This is a message that needs to be shouted, far and wide.

What can you do today to improve the world? Don’t even think about saying, “I can never ...”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spare me The Cloud

I’m not conceiving the advantage of life without a hard drive.

The Cloud seems to be the next stage in the evolution of digital life. Instead of keeping your data in your computer, the cloud hangs onto your software and everything that now is stored on your drive.

I guess the beauty is that if your computer crashes, all your “stuff” survives out there on the cloud. But if I crash and I lose my stuff, shame on me for not backing it all up. What if the cloud crashes? Can’t happen, they say. Yeah, but what if the cloud crashes? Remember a little unsinkable boat called the Titanic?

Yes, I’m a Luddite. I like the feel of a book in my hands, a specific and unique book, not a download onto an electronic pad. I like storing music on vinyl records where it can be mechanically reproduced, not as digital bits that can be scrambled. I like handling cash, and I feel a little cheated when my money all transferred via computer and plastic before I can actually see and feel it. And if I’m going to save my stuff as digital bits, I’d like to have physical possession of those bits, thank you.

Boo, Cloud. I don’t care if you allow me to watch the premiere of "Celebrity Probation" while I’m stuck at the airport. It’s just not the same as holding your stuff in your hands.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Charge ahead and write your own self-help book

Not long ago my old friend Wally Conger made a suggestion to his readers ... or rather he passed along a suggestion from one of his heroes, Scott Alexander: Write a motivational book for yourself based on what life has taught you so far.
“Write down these stories and the lessons you have learned from them. Record your past feelings of desperation and how you picked yourself up. Put together a chapter on where you are heading. Think about all that you have done, the people you have touched, how your faith in God has been tried and tested, the times you cried, the times you laughed and all the love that you have won and lost. You are the sum total of all the experiences that you have had - good, bad and disgusting. It’s all you. It's all good. ...
“I officially declare you a motivational author - WRITE!!! Keep charging and you will keep adding material for future books. Never let an adventure go to waste.”
Wally asked: “Got a motivational book inside of YOU? I bet you do. And maybe someday you’ll be willing to share it with the rest of us.”

That was the day I started writing Scream of Consciousness. Like Refuse to be Afraid, it’s a short collection of essays, so short the audiobook will fit on a single CD. It’s about being alive moment by moment and letting your every expression be a joyful scream of consciousness.

I still have a handful of chapters to complete and some polishing to do, but I’m close enough that I wanted to give a shout-out to Scott and Wally for the inspiration.

And hey - if you haven’t found the inspirational book that really speaks to YOU yet, maybe it’s because you need to write it yourself! What are you waiting for?

(And for more from Wally and Scott, check this out.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three tenets to a true revolution

The three tenets of a peaceful life:

1. Love your neighbor as yourself.

2. Interact with love, not force, not violence.

3. Give more than you receive.

For three years, on and off, I have been writing a story about freedom and revolution, built around a character who has developed the name Raymond Douglas Kaliber. The three tenets are the essentials of his philosophy.

Based on Sirius IV – and therefore a very loose sequel to my first novel, The Imaginary Bomb – the tale follows a revolt against the tyrants who have attempted to rule from Earth, some 8.6 light years away. But as a wise and ancient songwriter said, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” A government established through violent overthrow of a repressive regime can only be repressive itself, as violence begets violence.

It was an Imaginary Revolution. My story tells how Kaliber created a new kind of commonwealth, based in his tenets of a peaceful life.

I can’t wait to share it. I see so much of Sirius IV every day in the headlines, and I wish I could see Ray Kaliber out there working already.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who benefits from your fear?

The fear is ratcheting up again. Again I’m reminded of the scene in the movie V for Vendetta when the mad tyrant Adam Sutler demands that the citizenry be reminded “why - they - need - us!!!”

I turn on the news this morning and the U.S. is leading a coalition to make war against Libya. The fallout continues from the Japan earthquake - literally, as crews continue to work to avert catastrophe at a crippled nuclear power plant. In my home state of Wisconsin and elsewhere, a battle is brewing between the private sector and public employees, with either side claiming the other is motivated by greed. Like the bar patron in V for Vendetta, one is tempted to wonder aloud, “Do you believe that shit?”

The other option is to be afraid. Fear kills reason. Fear leads to irrational decisions. When fear wells up in your throat, the only rational thing to do is to force it back down. Refuse to be afraid.

Then consider: Who benefits when you are afraid? In the story, the tyrant Sutler clearly felt he had the upper hand when ordinary citizens were cowed. A fearful citizenry is more easily led. The forces of tyranny can advance their attack on freedom more easily against people who don’t want to be afraid anymore. They have a tougher row to hoe against people who simply refuse to be afraid, people who see through the ruse and preserve their freedom.

As H.L. Mencken famously said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Don’t let them alarm you. If you are afraid to speak out, speak anyway. Refuse to be afraid.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The aim side of ready-fire-aim

A lot of good business folks have recommended the idea of approaching a project with the philosophy "Ready-Fire-Aim!" That is, get it ready, but don't necessarily waste too much time "aiming" the project, tinkering until all your ducks are in a row. With the flexibility of Internet technology these days, that tweaking can be done on the fly.

So what you've seen this week is a tweak on the fly. (My, that sounds a little risque, doesn't it?) After further due diligence I've reversed my earlier thoughts and decided Refuse to be Afraid is indeed the title that my first non-fiction book will wear for posterity.

What happened? Well, a couple of things that a good entrepreneur or author wannabe should consider before pulling the proverbial trigger.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pink squirrels, fear and the freedom to dream

This is important now: Don’t think about pink squirrels for the next 30 seconds. Ready? Go!

You have a pretty clear image of a pink squirrel in your mind now, don’t you?

And that, simply put, is why I'm going to put out a revised edition of my book Refuse to be Afraid with a new name: Free to Dream.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Respect your instincts

One day when I was 16 years old, I got curious about the cigarettes that a friend had begun smoking out of habit. I asked if I could try one. “Sure,” he said, handing one over, helping me light it and giving a quick demonstration of how to inhale.

My lungs rebelled immediately, and by the time I was halfway through my head ached and my stomach was turning. I extinguished the cigarette and never considered tobacco again.

When I first got out of college, I vowed never to buy anything on debt except a house and perhaps a car. It struck me that if I bought something on credit, a $100 purchase would end up costing me $120 or $180 or more depending on the interest rate and how long I took to pay it off. But I found myself unable (or unwilling?) to establish a substantial savings account. After a year or so, I bought a new stereo system on an 18-month plan.

That felt so painless that I took out a credit card, for “big” items only, of course.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Sacred and the Lore of Attraction

My commute material last week included the audiobook of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I had a few concerns about the book, which were partially addressed in the book There is More to the Secret by Ed Gungor, which I read over the weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Freedom is not for the faint of heart

You are free to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. All you have to do is be prepared to accept the consequences — for example, time in jail or prison, and/or civil suits by people injured in the ensuing panic, or their survivors.

You are free to blame a madman's actions on your political adversaries. All you have to do is be prepared to accept the consequences — for example, looking like a damn fool when the madman's friends confirm he was apolitical and paid no attention to your adversaries.

Freedom comes with responsibility, accountability for your words and actions. It's not always easy to speak your mind publicly, because just as you have every right to express your views, those who hear have every right to offer their opinions in response. Sometimes other people's opinions of yours won't be pleasant.

Never mind what Big Brother said, freedom is the opposite of slavery. The solution to foolish or angry words is a reasoned response. The solution is not silencing the foolish or angry speaker by the force of new law – and the solution is certainly not violence. Not ever.

Freedom is not for the faint of heart. Freedom of speech means sometimes we will hear things we'd rather not hear. Stupid and/or evil folks will abuse freedom, and you can count on that. But the actions of a few do not justify stealing freedom from the many.

Freedom is not a gift of government. You were born with certain, inherent rights. Governments are formed to secure these rights, not create them. The most tyrannical government cannot remove these rights, although (as governments are designed to do) it may impede the exercise of freedom, and often does.

Freedom is the default mode of a human being. We relinquish our freedoms at our own peril. Think hard before you advocate for restricting any of them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

They hate our freedoms

In the aftermath of the unspeakable incidents Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City and elsewhere, many people said the terrorists did what they did because they hate America’s freedoms.

In the aftermath of the horrific incident Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., it’s a bit disheartening to see the extent to which Americans hate America’s freedoms.

Rather than place the blame for the deaths of six people and the wounding of 12 others where it belongs — in the hands of a deranged individual — politicians and pundits have blamed instead the increasingly nasty tone of political discourse in this country, or the availability of guns.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thoughts on the opening of the 112th Congress

The new governor of Wisconsin raised some eyebrows the other day with something noncontroversial that he said during his inauguration speech.

Gov. Scott Walker said, among other things, “Our rights as free people are given by our creator, not the government. Among these rights is the right to nurture our freedom and vitality through limited government.”

Some made a small fuss about the insertion of a supernatural creator into a secular event. They had little recourse, seeing as Walker was quoting from the Wisconsin Constitution when he talked about being “grateful to almighty God for our freedom.”

For centuries and even millennia, humanity has operated on the presumption that some people are better than others, that common people are born to serve superior people, and that the kindest superior people bestow freedoms on commoners who find favor with them.

In 1776 the Founders of the United States of America turned this notion on its head, declaring that we are born free.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Opening the book on a new year

Lyrics to a little ditty I wrote back in the day ...

Live Till You Die

Nobody said that it would be easy,
Everyone said it could not be done,
But nobody said it would not be worth it,
So go for it now — you've only just begun.

There's no shame in failing before the end comes.
While there's life, there is hope, there's a seed.
It's better to try, give it all that you have,
Than attempt to do nothing and succeed.

There's just too many people out there
Not caring if they live or die
There's just so much to find out there —
You can't laugh if you're afraid to cry.

So this is my plea: Live till you die.
There's no reason you should give up now.
Tomorrow's a blank page to write what you wish —
The rising sun will show you how.

Cross posted to Uncle Warren's Attic