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.