What Life Do You Really Want? [9 Questions to ask.]

You can get there from here.

One of my dearest acquaintances was born in China. She was still a little girl when she moved to the United States and at the time, she looked different, sounded different and she was small. Because she was always getting picked on, she was unhappy. To top it off, she’d left behind extended family, aunts and uncles, cousins and ancestors. Helen felt sad in the new country.

In her family, boys were favored over girls because they were to take care of aging parents, they were in a new country where they could become anything they wanted to become. Her brothers did not fully appreciate those opportunities. Helen was not constrained by Chinese customs.

“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”
― Ella Fitzgerald

Helen lived in America and she too could be anything she wanted to be. Helen was creative, somewhat untraditional and found her own opportunities. She became interested in martial arts. It gave her confidence and a sense of self-empowerment. Through effort and diligence, she trained for the Olympics and went on to win a Gold medal.
And that wasn’t the only dream she had.

Since then, Helen has become a stage and film actress, a musician with the group Wednesday Wine and founder and co-owner of the American Institute of Alternative Medicine. The Institute has recently celebrated its 20th year. In addition to her other talents, she has proven to be a gifted painter. She has displayed and sold her work in various spaces around Columbus, Ohio and elsewhere. She has barely reached the middle of her life. (See more about Helen here.)

So, what does that mean for you?
Is it okay to change your life trajectory? It happens all the time. People may have plans for you. They may have spoken things over you or your destiny that you didn’t want. What about your plans? You may have “outside the box” ideas. You may have a vision for a big life. You don’t have to let people talk you down. You don’t have to give away your power by agreeing with other folks’ definition of you.

This is your life. You have the right to pursue your happiness. Follow the tracks to your dreamsYou must find the strength to live the way you feel called to live and no one can do that but you. You may be facing down heavy opposition; you may be butting your head against tall expectations. What’s in your heart? What makes your soul sing? Are you doing it? Are you even close?

You may realize like I did, that people don’t always get it right, even if they mean well. It wasn’t a terrible thing being an artist, but it wasn’t my passion. When I finally realized it, I had just moved to a new city, with a new relationship, a new circle of influence. When I said out loud, I am a writer, they had no reason to doubt it. A clean slate made transitioning easier for me. How can you start fresh?

I eventually ran into people who knew me as an artist. And even now, after writing seriously for 13 years they resist the idea of my being a writer. They think I will go back. I won’t. I’m certain of who I am even if they aren’t. Life is so short. It’s meant to be fulfilling and enjoyed. I found people who understood my vision for my life and they encouraged me.

What is the song in your heart? Whatever it is, let us hear from you so we can cheer you on!

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Teaching old dogs, learning new skills, learn blogging

The Revelation

I’m sitting on the couch with my then-boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. We are with his mother a petite and loving woman who I respect and trust. Someone mentions my eighteenth birthday which is about a week away and right then, I get smacked with a realization: I have no life plan.

People considered me artistic because all creative stuff was easy for me. Classmates said my name in the same sentence with “famous artist” a lot. But no one hands you the playbook. No one had the slimmest notion of how an artist becomes famous.

When the strobing Times Square ball drops, I feel rising panic during the countdown. The spectacular landing has everyone whooping “Happy New Year!”

I explode in tears.

“What’s wrong?” his mother asks.

“I’m graduating this year and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life!”

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young.” ~Mark Twain

Today, sitting in the bright afternoon of a beautiful day, I think back to that younger me. No one ever asked me if I wanted to be an artist. It was tacked onto me early in life until it became the rote answer. What’s really funny? That wasn’t what I spent my free time doing. I spent it writing. At that time, not much about life made sense to me and I lacked any sense of purpose. I had no clear vision for my life. The person who led me to my true calling was not yet born and would not arrive until my late 20’s. It would be 13 more years until my purpose crystallized. I would, however, continue closet writing.

Like many kids her age, my daughter became involved in cyberhoods like Facebook, Myspace and online journaling. It was all new and confusing. Curiously, I wanted to learn more. What do people write on a web log? She helped me set up a blog and it sat forgotten for two years. My daughter found a writing group. I went once and was hooked. When I (re) discovered my true passion–writing–life started making sense.

I developed plans. (Learn how to be a great writer.) I had a goal. (Get published.) I developed layers and evolutions of plans. Who knew the computer age would make so much sense to me? But, that very thing, casting words into The Net through blogging, fueled the next phase.

What’s next for you?

It’s never too late to start learning. Consider your own life. What abilities do you possess? What abilities do you want to acquire? Each new skill lays the groundwork for learning another. By seeking out people who can teach us what we need to learn, it’s possible to learn more very quickly. It might not seem like much forward progress. Then one day it opens the door for an unexpected opportunity. Those opportunities can change our lives.

When I learned to type, (not pecking but real typing) it opened the ability to jot down ideas while observing, being a transcriptionist (it pays!) and not hunting letters on my keyboard. The ability to type means faster transition from idea to intellectual property. (Writing books, stories, blog posts, white papers, case studies.) All the abilities I’ve learned over the last 10 years (how to blog, tweet, chat and Uber conference) I now use in my work life. These were not available the day I graduated from high school, but I determined to keep reading and educating myself.

What if I had believed that old adage, You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? 

The key to a fuller life, discovering your potential is being curious and the desire to keep learning. What is it that you’ve always wanted to know? Always wanted to try? Today, make a quick list of items. Have you always wanted to paint? Write? Wanted to take up kayaking? Photography? Who knows what magic awaits by just taking the first step.

Share your list with us. We’ll encourage you and cheer you on!

Dreams Like Strings of Lights

tim-mossholder-168610

Whatever it is you’re dreaming of, take the next step.

It has long been my goal to work for myself, but in my early years, I had been trained that a person got up before the sun, went to work for eight or nine hours and came home beat. For this, you got a paycheck at the end of the week. All the fathers on our street did the same. When our growing family needed more income, my mother traded her night hours tor work in a thankless factory.

All my life, one model: Trade your hours for money.

Then my dad lost his job. After two years he found another job that would pay the bills, but he began dreaming about owning his own business. After a few years, he partnered with my brother and launched. The business did alright for many years, but he didn’t foresee desktop publishing. The business dwindled and found himself again trading hours for dollars, working with my brother in another industry.

Along the way, the mega companies and corporations began to buckle and fold. The idea of being totally loyal to one entity began to sound like putting all your eggs in one basket. You could give a lifetime to a company and instead of retiring fully funded, you might lose your pension, retirement benefits and health coverage.

My dad often spoke about another business model, one I had not really seen up-close. Multiple streams of income. Creatives are largely familiar with this model as they pursue their artistic endeavors. Office jobs, food service, collections, or those other jobs that pay a tiny hourly because they receive tips or commissions. Pursue your painting, crafting, dancing or talent until it financially overshadows the main source of income. Teach your craft to someone not as far along as you are.

There are pros and cons of each, to be sure. As a hustler, you are responsible for everything including taxes paperwork and the next paying gig. As a creative, not wanting to be defined by hourly work, I always had a side hustle and occasionally, the side hustle carried us through between hourly jobs.

How to develop three streams of income? Or four? Or more? There are far more forward thinkers than me. Lots of great people to read, learn from to help you gather steam while stoking your own fire. Ideally, income streams that could be checked on every now and then and earn money without constant attention. In essence, making money while doing other things,  these things allowed you to multiply your efforts.

My goals were simple. I wanted to help others in some way, double my income and stop trading hours for dollars, working by the project for a pre-named chunk of money. Right now, my writing pays for my (part) of the bills. My next stream of income will not only pay for itself but pay me.

It comes down to this: Just start. Start something somewhere. Begin. Take the next step and then figure out the next step. My dad went on to other dreams and started other businesses. He and my brother launched a second business and my brother runs it to this day, nearly 10 years after my dad passed away. His products have traveled the globe. After a few false starts with various enterprises, my intellectual property has graced four countries. I’m pleased with the progress. It seems one leads to another, dreams like strings of lights.

Write down all that you dream of doing. What can become an income stream. Choose one. It doesn’t have to be the easiest, but maybe the one you’re most excited about. What’s your next step?

I’m listening if you want to share. I will cheer you on.

What a dull knife taught me

An acquaintance of mine once found herself in a jam and needed to chop a bushel of tomatoes for a sandwich wagon she would run the next day at an art show. I wanted to help out and offered to chop the tomatoes.

“Show me your knife.”

I pulled it from a drawer. She seemed satisfied enough that it was separated from other implements of destruction. She produced a tomato and asked me to cut it. I pressed the blade to the tomato skin.

I drew it across the skin where it bunched, squashing through the locular cavity. Juice squirted out and seeds dislodged from their placenta. In short, I ripped it with a very dull knife. I’d had the knife a few years and it never occurred to me to sharpen it. With this knife, I’d have better luck making tomato sauce.

“I’ll be right back.” She left through the front door and in her absence I experienced intense tomato shame. What could I do with this poor tomato? Did she want it back? Should I throw it away? Should I keep it? Is a ruined tomato edible? (Yes it is, with salt & pepper, please.) She returned only moments later with a different kind of knife.“Try this.”

I had just started to lay the blade on the skin and it basically fell through the tomato, cutting it so cleanly that I gasped. She laughed and told me when she would be back for them. I couldn’t get over how little effort it took to chop those tomatoes. It didn’t occur to me that I’d been struggling until I wasn’t.

That became a life lesson not only about keeping blades sharp but taking care of “my tools” whatever they might be.  This same lesson informed my decision to get a better word program when my writing became more serious.

Are you trying to accomplish something right now using a dull tool? If you can’t find a way to sharpen it you might need to replace it. The time wasted trying to make it work will be better spent elsewhere.

Do you have a “Dull Knife” story? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for coming by today. I hope to see you next time.

7:30 am Directional Epiphany

This morning in my quiet time, I felt like I was handed a new map, new orders. At first, I didn’t understand it but now I do. Writing about writing reaches a very limited number of my friends and followers.

I want to reach more people with my message but in recent months, that was called into question. What is my focus? What is my message? What is it that when I start, I don’t want to stop? And even more importantly, if the world really does have something I need, what the heck is it?

Many of you may not know that I have a long history of creating art–thirty years! Shocking, I know. And ten years ago, I laid it down to write. I’ve written my million words, now, give or take and it no longer seemed fitting for me to write about writing. It would be like Joyce Meyers talking about talking. Honey, she has a voice and she’s not afraid to use it, but if you know her, then you also know that is not the focus of her message. Her voice and words and ability to speak publicly are tools in her toolbox.

This morning it was like clicking a download button. It seemed I’d been asking a question and didn’t really know the answer to. A flood of information came rushing in like that wave of warm sunlight after the storm clouds finally pass.

And this is your heads up. You’ve been faithful on this bumpy road, but this is something that gets me all fired up again and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It means I’ll be posting every week instead of the once or twice a month of before and increasing it to twice a week. Can you handle that? If not, I understand, no hard feelings. But if you can, if you’re made of more durable stuff, are infinitely curious or just want to see what’s up my sleeve, see you next week!