The valuable time of maturity (in life and work)

I normally would go to great lengths to connect a piece of prose or poetry to some pithy business concept before publishing it on this blog, so as to not go all la-la on you. But sometimes it doesn’t seem necessary.

So here you go, and I’ll leave it to you to connect it to work/business if and how you wish. Note: This is one of several translations of the piece “The Valuable Time of Maturity”:

“I counted my years and discovered that I have
less time to live going forward than I have lived until now.

I have more past than future.
I feel like the boy who received a bowl of candies.
The first ones, he ate ungraciously,
but when he realized there were only a few left,
he began to taste them deeply.

I do not have time to deal with mediocrity.

[ . . . ]

People do not discuss content, only the labels.
My time has become too scarce to discuss labels,
I want the essence, my soul is in a hurry…
Not many candies left in the bowl…

I want to live close to human people,
very human, who laugh at their own stumbles,
and away from those turned smug and overconfident with their triumphs,
away from those filled with self-importance,
Who do not run away from their responsibilities
Who defend human dignity.
And who only want to walk on the side of truth and honesty.

The essential is what makes life worthwhile.

I want to surround myself with people,
who know how to touch the hearts of people ….
People to whom the hard knocks of life,
taught them to grow with softness in their soul.

Yes …. I am in a hurry … to live with intensity,
that only maturity can bring.
I intend not to waste any part of the goodies I have left …
I’m sure they will be more exquisite than most of which so far I’ve eaten.

My goal is to arrive at the end satisfied and in peace
with my loved ones and my conscience . . . ” 

by Mario de Andrade (San Paolo 1893–1945)
Poet, novelist, essayist and musicologist from Brazil

The end of 30 blogs in 30 days

To fully immerse myself in the new world/work that is, since mid-July 2018 I’ve been writing 30 blog posts in 30 days. (You can read the whole sequence at

The 30-in-30 is one of the most useful exercises I can suggest for someone starting a new business, changing up their existing business, or just needing refocusing. It’s also a powerful way to fire up any new offering or habit you want to truly internalize.

There are several reasons why it works. Switching our brains into regular content-creation mode—and having the commitment and responsibility to regularly share your thoughts with the people in your community—these have almost magical powers.

We are reminded, most basically, that we are capable of developing new habits or returning to old ones; we haven’t forgotten how.

We know that tomorrow morning (or evening, or whatever daypart) we have to have something to write about, so our minds can be taught to switch over to a much more observant mode.

We notice more of the details of life that may be in some way relevant to our work.

We hear things that resonate with the topic area we’re writing about, and they stick. At least 5 times a day, I’m reaching for a scratch pad and pencil, or for Evernote, to capture something I’ve heard that might turn into good fodder for the next writes.

Since every day we’re touching in with our core values and core topics, we more easily stay in tune with the heartbeat of what we do and why we do it, and less likely to be led into mindless minutia.

And at the end, it creates a body of work we can invite people to come into and to share.

I’ve enjoyed doing this, and if I weren’t going on a voyage that’ll take me out of wireless range, I would probably keep going.

Interested in doing your own 30/30? Drop me a line. I’ll share how I do it and will happily volunteer to be one of your accountability buddies and your cheerleaders.

And if you worry you’ll run out of ideas, I’d love to share my idea-generation tactics with you, so you’ll literally never run out of things to write about. I offer a zippy little coaching hour just for that:

Six clues that help keep me super-energized even “at my age”

Self-employed people often have a favorite book or books they keep on their nightstand. Usually, it seems like it’s a business book, something teaching core wisdom. Or it’s an inspirational tome by Michael Gerber, Tim Ferriss, or Seth Godin, or a dog-eared copy of Think and Grow Rich or The War of Art.

Anyone sneaking a look at my book stack these days would be disappointed to see that, of all the books that have come and gone, the only one that stays next to my bed constantly these days is How to Be Well by the functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman. Yep. A book not about keeping my business healthy, but keeping my whole life healthy.

I had been running my business in spite of how my body was doing, thinking it was just my age that was slowing me down. After all, I ate well, exercised, all that magazine-cover stuff. Must be something out of my control, right?

As I crept into my fifth and sixth decades on the planet, I started to see the small physical breakdowns common for people in my age bracket. Knees and shoulders started to hurt. I caught viruses more easily. I didn’t sleep as well, and little ailments and glitches would interfere with my ability to think well, work hard, and operate creatively on certain days. The machine of my body—which drives how well and easily I can do my work—was slipping into disrepair, and I was letting it, by pleading powerlessness.

Sometimes it takes a special resource to get through my preconceived notions, and this one did. It’s as though I’ve gotten a fresh, clean slate to work with. I’ve sunk deeper into my own core, past the layer of “how to run a business” and on to an even deeper spot, “how to run myself, so I have the power to do anything I’m called to do.”

Cool, huh?

What I love about How to Be Well is the way it’s organized. He outlines six pillars of keeping our bodies and minds well and capable, roughly divided into Eat, Sleep, Move, Protect, Unwind, and Connect. Each section has several 1-2 page subsections of easy-reading, actionable suggestions without any of the dense science found in similar books. It’s playful rather than dogmatic, with the topics in each area accompanied by fun, colorful artwork.

These are just a few of the habits (or habit-enforcers) I’ve already extracted from the book that have become priceless in supporting my life as a self-employed person:


Mastering the Nourishing Smoothie: I can whirl up a meal-in-a-blender packed to the seams with vital nutrients and never depend on manufactured snacks or plastic-wrapped foods (with all of their debilitating sodium, sweetener, and chemicals)

Eat Dinner Earlier and Breakfast Later: Giving my body a longer window to rest between “eating events” has easily doubled my energy, effortlessly dropped excess weight, and eliminated a lot of the mind fog of the typical American eating pattern of constant meals and snacks (and the insulin spikes that come with them).


Restore Your Ancestral Connection to Dark: I find myself out in the darkness more now, and it helps me to get more and better sleep. I hadn’t realized how things like LED bulbs were completely messing with my sleep patterns. (Great for saving money, lousy for reading before bed.)


Just Move (As Much as You Can): Grabbing any opportunity to keep your body in motion, even if it’s just getting up and walking around between tasks for a minute.

Play Like a Child: I hadn’t realized how I had so thoroughly brainwashed myself into thinking that movement/exercise had to be going to the gym, running on a treadmill, or powerwalking in order for it to “count.” My eyes now look for opportunities to be a kid again, climbing on rocks, walking the balance-beam of a landscape timber, or just digging in the dirt.


The Burden of Toxins: A Doctor’s Manifesto: Becoming cognizant of all the chemicals (many not adequately tested) I ingest and inhale and smear on my skin was massively eye-opening.

Give Your Mitochondria What They Need: Wildly helpful, and singularly responsible for the fact that I can work the hours I do in a way that’s healthy and joyful, not a Bataan death march of endless work. I heart my mitochondria now.


Smile. Laugh. Repeat. I hadn’t been doing ANYWHERE near enough of this (which triggered a cascade of funny reading, watching, and play).

Give Yourself a Massage: Who knew you could do this?  I do now.


Gather. Eat. Commune.  I’ve rediscovered the joys of gathering together with other people—enjoying good food, different energy, creativity-stimulating conversations. It’s not hard (even for this introvert) and it’s shifted everything.

Pursue Purpose, But Don’t Chase Bliss: I’ve discovered that the pursuit of “bliss” is not rewarding for me, but staying tightly connected to my various purposes in life—through a variety of activities and reminders and tactics—has elevated me in a way that five decades of previous life didn’t. Wildly wonderful.

I initially took the book out of the library, but now I own my own hardback copy, and it’s never going into the thrift store pile. Check it out at

Do you have an unorthodox book that’s been an unexpected spark for your work? Something off the beaten track that’s really lifted you up?

I’d love to hear about it.

The unexpected, the unplanned

“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.”
—Carl Sandburg

Make sure you set aside a little time and space in your calendar today . . . for no reason in particular.

Inspiration and magical coincidences can’t thrive in the three-minute spaces you allow between obligations on your almighty Calendar. 

Things can get a lot more complicated (Part 2)

(standing on my head and looking at Part 1)

Another view, from the brilliant Seth Godin:

“Sometimes, we’re so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe?

We skip reading the whole thing, because it’s easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant.

We skip engaging with customers . . . because it’s quicker to assert we know what they want.

We skip doing the math, examining the footnotes, recreating the experiment, because it might not turn out the way we need it to . . .”

—Seth Godin, The Hard Work of Understanding

In our work, I think working to BE SURE we understand Our People is the single most important activity we can make time for.

We all try to figure out why a product/service isn’t selling, why we can’t seem to reach the right people at the right time through marketing, why someone didn’t react positively to our carefully-shaped workshop or coaching. If we’re smart, we go to other people outside our well-worn sphere of influence and ask them for a second opinion. If we’re REALLY smart, we step into the fire and ask our ideal people themselves, even if it’s uncomfortable to do so.

In work, it’s a careful artform to ask people, “What were you thinking/feeling when you decided (not to sign up for this)?”  Or “What would’ve made that a better/more useful experience for you?”  Or exploring what they really want right now, running the risk that what they really want isn’t what you want to offer.

And in the rest of life, taking the time to be sure we understand—even if we don’t agree, or don’t respect what someone’s saying—is possibly one of the most useful skills to cultivate.

Seeking to understand isn’t tit-for-tat.
We can do it even if it seems no one around us is bothering.

Things can get a lot more complicated (Part 1)

My friend Dick used to have this as his email signoff:

“Things can become complicated when you actually try to understand them.”

I’ve always loved that because it’s so uncomfortably true, and because it’s true across the full spectrum of our life and work. It’s ESPECIALLY true for those of us who are on the path of working for ourselves, doing our heart’s work.

And nowadays, with so many people rushing to air their snap judgments on social media—judgments often based on biases, half-truths and hearsay—it gets more and more dismaying every day. Or it can.

There will be people who do not understand what you do, and may even belittle it.

There will be people who do not see the benefit or the worth of what you offer.

There will be people who don’t want to listen or to follow your guidance because they don’t see why it all has to be so hard.

There will be people who don’t understand why you can’t just change your way of working to fit their way of working.

There will be people who do not understand or respect your values, your lifestyle choices, or your priorities.

And there may even be people who speak ill of you in public spaces (think reviews, Yelp, Twitter) because they won’t or can’t take the time to understand.

We all have the occasional day where, in our mind’s eye, we seem surrounded by all these faces frowning at us in puzzlement.

But amid all of those faces (and hopefully outnumbering those faces) there will be the faces of people who get you.

Who are listening and nodding as they read what you write.
Whose curiosity is being spiked by something you said.
Who tell their friends about you.
Who will pay for what you offer because they believe in you.
Who will help you do what you do better.

They’ve taken the time to understand. And now that they understand, they’re on your side.

Look for them. Care for them. Take time to understand them.

They’re the ones you want with you on this crazy journey through life.

(Wouldn’t you know, I just couldn’t stop talking about this. Read Part 2 here >>)

Say no to something today

Derek Sivers woke us up nearly a decade ago with the revelation that decision-making can be a binary process:

“Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered.
If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say ‘no’.”

The concept here? It’s this: When you start saying “no” more, it frees time for those things that come along which make your spirit and your heart snap to attention and say, “hell yes.” (Think opportunities, clients, partnerships, ideas.)

Want to practice that with me today? C’mon. It’ll be fun.

Say no to something that’s less than “hell yes” today. (You can be SUPER nice about it.)

Something you might have automatically said “yes” to before today.

Just say no.

Trust that the space you’ve protected will be soon filled with a delicious “yes.”

In fact, I can suggest some small-bites actions you can use to fill that “no thanks” space:

  • Two minutes:  Contact a past client this morning, one that you really enjoyed working with. Ask how they’re doing. Don’t sell anything. Just be interested and caring and genuine. Send your positivity out there into the world, and release it without strings attached.
  • Five minutes:  Write down three things you’re grateful for today, and describe them (it makes them come to life in your brain). If you’re grateful for a new client you just got, describe what they do, the moment you first heard about them, how you felt, etc. Think of this as a beacon you’re sending out to the world: Thank you. I’m paying attention. More, please.
  • Thirty minutes:  Sift through things you’ve written or published recently (past year). Find something you feel really gave value to the people you most want to serve in this life. Wherever you published it, find a second place to publish it. If it’s a blog post, publish it to Facebook or Instagram. If it’s an article you wrote, take a piece of it and make an actionable blog post. If it’s a series of emails/posts/etc., ponder making it into an eBook or an online course. You don’t have to figure it all out…just think about it and plant the seed.
  • One hour: Block out an hour on your calendar just for some joyful planning and daydreaming about your business. Brew your favorite beverage, find some music you love (without words), sit in your most comfortable spot. Make it a party just for you and your future.
  • Your choice: Spend some time decluttering your email inbox. Wait — listen for a second. Maybe getting to zero inbox isn’t possible for you right now, but those emails that have been sitting in your inbox forever gathering dust? They are, in their tiny nagging way, pulling energy from you that you NEED for other, more useful tasks. If you can get rid of 50% of backlogged email, you will be amazed at how much lighter you feel. George Kao has a great article on how to approach this with joy:
  • Nothing at all:  There’s no need to fill the space. (Just be clear, be compassionate, communicate, and trust.) But when was the last time you just did nothing?  Quieting your mind, looking at a beautiful image or piece of art, walking slowly around the block and letting your mind stray wherever it wanted, unleashed? A favorite book for me to give me ideas is How to Be an Explorer of the World (or any book by Keri Smith…lovely stuff)

Life is too short to waste our time on things that don’t light us up.


The unexpected joys of insomnia

I don’t get enough sleep. I know that. There are several reasons for that, none of them easily remedied, but there is one fringe benefit to it: I’m learning a lot.

Around 3:00am, my body decides it would prefer to get up, move around, drink water, and stare out at the Moon (and lately, Mars). When I can coax it into laying back down, I try to keep it entertained by listening to podcasts.

Generally, the podcasts in my playlist relate in some way to storytelling, doing work that matters, taking better care of our hard-working bodies and minds, or having a balanced and meaningful life. Good Life Project, Sounds True, The Minimalists, The Moth, Caffeine for the Soul, The Urban Monk… All have populated the pre-dawn hours of my life recently.

Here’s something fun that happens, though. My “other brain” is still listening even after I’ve fallen asleep, and it’s paying close attention.

Invariably, I’ll wake up again “for good” at 6:00 am, with one earbud still plugged into one ear, my iPod wedged in my armpit, and the podcast long finished. But I’ll remember very clearly something I heard while I was sound asleep. I stumble to my desk, grab the nearest pen-like object, and write a few words down that allow me to go back and find it again (there’s a special place in heaven for podcasts with transcripts…)  At the very least, it’s good food for thought, and at its best, it’s the answer to a perplexing question I’d been carrying in my heart.

It happened on Tuesday. And I’ve never shared this with anyone before, but I wanted to share today’s with you. It’s a little magical.

I woke and scribbled down a line from Alisoun Mackenzie’s wonderful “Give to Profit Podcast” in which she explores how to use our work and our businesses as “an opportunity to be kind.” I could remember something beautiful, so I went hunting for it and eventually found it:

“I didn’t have the time to keep my charitable giving separate from my business. So I brought my desire to make a difference in the world into the heart of my business.”


I’d been thinking about the mindset that many good people are attached to, the one that goes like this: “I need to make a lot of money with my business so I can support the causes and charities that matter to me. Once I’m bigger and have tons of cash, I’ll finally be able to give to those causes/volunteer more/change the world.”

Is that true? Do we have to wait?

Isn’t that something like, “I’ll be a nice person just as soon as my life is better”?

“I’ll stop patronizing that awful local business just as soon as a new one starts up”?

“My job tires me out too much to look for another job”?

What lies at the heart of your business? What can you be doing now with the work you already do, that doesn’t require any special income level, any special success metrics? How can you shape your business to be an engine for good – AND a livelihood that supports you?

Alisoun’s podcast is just brilliant, by the way:

My actions are the ground on which I stand

My actions are the ground on which I stand. —Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve been living in the world of words lately. As I try to grow this budding new “business” of mine (though that doesn’t seem a good description of it) I spend hours and hours writing, researching, listening to words of wisdom, and exploring.

I was talking with a client the other day who has been working on trying to build his business for some time. He has wonderful systems in place, a good vision statement, and beautiful product & service offerings designed.

And not a single client to show for it.

He’s been building the business in his head for a year. Building a website but not publicizing its existence. Building his expertise but not inviting anyone into it. His training is impeccable, his wisdom deep. But the weight of just carrying it around with no one stepping forward to say, “I want what you’re offering, here’s my money” was deepening into depression.

He asked me what to do.
I suggested he physically go out and find a client to work with.
He reminded me he didn’t know any clients.
I reminded him he knew some human beings.
He said that they weren’t interested in purchasing his coaching.
I said, who said anything about purchasing?

My advice was to close his laptop computer, get out of his home office, and ask, ideally in person, someone in his trusted circle (friends, family, cool colleagues) to be his coaching client, so he could try out what—until now—has been beautifully and productively happening only in his head and heart.

I suggested he make it someone who really believes in him and wants him to succeed, but also a) can benefit from what he’s doing, and b) is willing to be perfectly candid with him and give him good feedback.

Yes, I am a big believer in the small, bite-sized action as a powerful catalyst to jump out of torpor. Until the body moves, the brain will not get the picture.

Actions are the ground on which I stand. Thoughts and wisdom-gathering are essential.  But the action of reaching out—in real life—and working with a real human made of skin and bone and muscle and neurons is essential to get it all the click into place, like hooking the train engine up to its cars so you can finally take people on their journey.

Actions are tangible, physical, and stimulating to your brain, body, spirit, and energy in order to start attracting the right people to you.

Actions—even “free” things like the one I’ve suggested to my client—tell the universe, I am here, I am moving, I am ready. See?

In his situation, he didn’t need more learning, more online workshops, more reading, more podcasts, more website tweaks.

He needed action. (And he’s working on it. He has his first meeting next week with his former boss, who was interested in what he’s offering.)

Now that I’ve helped him, I wonder what MY action will be?


Yet another blog post about morning rituals: Yeah, I know. Sorry.

Oh no! Not another blog post about having a morning routine!

Okay, I get that. But I am looking out at all of you and I see that fourteen of you don’t yet have a morning ritual of your own, seven of you have one that you never remember to do, and three more are saying, “What is she talking about?”  I’ll refer to you as the Don’t Haves, the Avoiders, and the WTH tribes.

You three in WTH? This first part’s for you:

The morning ritual is something that’s been written about in Fast Company, Inc., the Wall Street Journal, and about a trillion other publications.  It’s been popular among high achievers for centuries. Marcus Aurelius had a morning ritual. Benjamin Franklin had one.  Mark Twain contributed the often-quoted advice more than a hundred years ago, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day” (translation: get the hard things out of the way first).

The theory is that, by starting your day with some sort of routine that combines contemplation, goal-setting, and various kinds of preparatory activities, you can set yourself up to have a productive, focused, and happy day—by intent, not by luck.

For you Avoiders (which is me sometimes)

There are so many reasons for avoidance. Or so I tell myself.

Leo Babauta (one of my heroes) first wrote about his morning routine in 2007 here.  His routine starts at 4:30am and takes about two hours.  Tony Robbins often talks about his “Hour of Power” and even had a podcast you could tune into if you couldn’t motivate yourself to do it alone.  Hal Elrod has a handy acronym for his version of it, S.A.V.E.R.S. – short for Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribe — which I tried for a while. It took about 30 minutes, and covered a lot of bases.

Each would last about two weeks. Then I’d find all the excuses in the world not to do it.

No matter what it says about me, I found that ALL of these were just too much of a time commitment to be sustainable.  (If that makes me an unfocused slacker, so be it.) I’m a person who does her most inspired work in the early morning within an hour of waking up, and I couldn’t seem to get myself to consistently postpone that creative window with a big block of time for some guru’s prescribed ritual.

I had to find something that was easy to stick with, felt good (not a chore), and had a measurable impact. Otherwise, I’d just be tempted to dive into the day right away.

And finally, for the Don’t Haves:

If you Google “morning ritual” you’ll find at least a gazillion different iterations of this. It might be helpful to take a chance at something like “(name of person you respect)’s morning routine” to see if something resonates. Or you can check out a newish book that catalogs the morning routines of a slew of noteworthy people called My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired by Benjamin Spall.

After failing to stick to any of the mainstream wisdom about this, rather than sink into self-flagellation, I sat with it a while.

I decided, to steal a line from The Martian, that I had to logic the sh*t out of it. So I wrote down my criteria:

Drink and breathe. My body is dry, dry, dry when I wake up, and it’s been running on decreased oxygen levels. We don’t breathe as deeply when we’re sleeping, and not all our alveoli (lung spaces) are on duty at night.  It’s a wonder any of us can think straight. Drinking water and waking my lungs and brain up with some good deep breathing gets the machine jumpstarted again.
Move. Simple. And effective. I’ve noticed that if I move my body before I sit down to write, I can actually…write well. Come up with ideas. Not stare out the window with my pen suspended above the paper. If I don’t get any movement in, my thoughts and creativity are like sludge.
Notice: What’s going right in my world? There’s plenty of time later to think about what’s not, in fact it’s hard to avoid. Making sure I check in once a day with what I’m grateful for has helped me stay sane.
Write: Capture, on real paper, what I’d like to have done prior to sitting down in this exact space again tomorrow.

And all of that has to take less than 15 minutes, or I will. Not. Do it.

A tall order, delivered

Three years ago I attended a workshop offered by local coach Katy Moses Huggins called Kick Start Your Business.  Lots of super-useful stuff eventually came out of that workshop, much of which still drive my work systems.  But the part I implemented immediately, and which has made a massive difference in my work, was her morning ritual, which takes about 10 minutes. It looks something like this for me:

3 minutes of movement.  No rules on this. It’s whatever gets breath, body, blood moving.  I usually click on the coffee pot, set a timer, and do 3 minutes of whatever movement seems to fit that morning.  Stepping up and down the carpeted step down into my family room, walking around the quiet house lifting hand weights, easy yoga positions, wrestling with the dog, or just going outside and pulling some weeds.

1 minute of deep, rhythmic breathing.  I’m a person who routinely robs her brain of oxygen when stressed, by shifting my breathing to shallow, short, barely-useful breaths.  Conscious deep breathing oxygenates my brain and gets me thinking more clearly almost immediately. I couple this with drinking two very large glasses of water; one before, one after.

3 minutes of gratitude.  I never would’ve believed this mattered if I hadn’t tried it. Even on the most stressful of mornings, I force myself to be quiet and think of the people, places, things, fateful life events, everything and anything good that has graced my life and made me what I am. Instead of leaping right into everything that’s wrong and needs to be fixed, I start with what’s right. When I don’t do this, my day plays out entirely differently, and stressors become nightmares.

3 minutes of powerful actions I can take that day to make progress toward the life I want.  I keep a special, inviting multicolored journal and pen on the coffee table to sit and do this part.  It guides my entire day.  Taking a hint from Leo Babauta, I write down my three “MITs” (most important things) that I want to be sure I complete before the end of the day.  And then anything else that my gut says would bring me to day’s end feeling complete, powerful and happy.

That’s 10 minutes.  This short amount of time works for me.  I have a very slow-dripping old coffee maker, and I find that I can usually complete the whole ritual while it’s doing its thing.  Then I can move into my day, which usually involves doing some writing first (daily writing has been one of my goals for the last few years), then working on my MITs.

I’ve never been one who could easily stick to a routine.  I’m just not wired that way.  I follow sparks of inspiration hither, thither and yon, and sometimes I get to the end of my work day and feel as though I had fun, but didn’t get anywhere near the work output I’d hoped for.

This morning ritual has been part of my life for some time now, and I can honestly say that when I DON’T make time for it, for whatever reason (insomnia, early morning crises, etc)  I feel it just as harshly as if I’d forgotten to eat, or was catching a bad cold.  I’m “off” in every way, and at the end of the day, it feels like I’ve been wandering around like a Roomba, running into limitations and turning around and around, covering the territory of my life but sooo inefficiently.

And frankly, there are too many things I want to do with my remaining days here on Earth to waste time that way.

So, yeah. The morning ritual thing has been beaten to death, and I’m sorry. But I still advise you to have one — but craft one for yourself. It’s turned me into a person I never thought I could be.