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. 

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.


You can wait for a sign until it falls on you

The title of this post comes from a catchy chapter heading from a book I read more than a decade ago. It was one of those “how to attract abundance” books that intrigued me back then, as I explored my relationship with money.

Confession? I didn’t make all the way through the book. I’m not cut out for those chatty books written by entrepreneurs who fall into the category I think of as “extraverts-with-a-capital-E who treat every life event as an opportunity to network and sell something, and love it.”

But I found that book as I was decluttering recently, and as I packed it into the library donation box the booked fell open to that page again, and I saw that line again: “You can wait for a sign until it falls on you.”

The funny thing is that I actually DID have a sign fall on me once, giving me a bloody head, a concussion, and a headache that lasted about a year. As I was leaving a small-town grocery store in Australia, a macho-looking dude was trying to show off his muscles for some passing girls, and stretched his arms up to rest his hands on the sign above the door. It was a sign painted on a piece of lumber that was 4″ by 12″ by about 8 feet long, and the sign promptly fell and cracked me in the back of the head.

But that aside, I understand the wisdom of that pithy little statement. How many of us are waiting for
…just the right moment to launch this or that
…an opportune time to sever ties with a client that drains us
…bolt-from-the-blue inspiration to create a new offering for our business
…the elusive “free time” to really think through where we’re going
…that “busy spell” to end before we can start taking care of ourselves?

We’re waiting for a sign. Not just a little sign, like the tent card that sits on the table where you eat lunch. No, a big fat sign, the kind we can’t say no to, the kind that whacks us on the back of the head and says, “Hey! Knucklehead! Are you paying attention? The right way’s over HERE.” And then we will 100% certainty about the wisdom and possibility of it all, and we all live happily ever after.

You will wait a long time, in my experience.

The best ideas don’t always hit you in the head, clamoring for your attention. Oftentimes, the best ones show up to the party unannounced, wearing earth tones, speaking quietly, giving you a side-hug goodbye as they leave. There’s something about them you like, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

And you wake up at 2:00 am thinking about those ideas. That book that would be SO much fun to write. Or that group you could start which would be good for you AND other people. Or that new class that answers the questions a lot of your clients have these days.

Or that thing you’d rather be doing with your life.

Get up at 2:05 am and write that one down, wouldja? And the next day, future-cast yourself into having done it already. How do you feel? What has it solved for you? Are you smiling?

Consider not waiting for the sign to fall on you. It might not even be the right sign.

Your destination will be all around you

I’ve never been very interested in relying on a GPS device in my car to get where I’m going.

I’m one of those crazies who loves maps, and I want to know where I’m going by seeing it on a map. I like knowing what’s on the way, just off the route. I like knowing whether I’m going east or west, and what landmarks exist that can help me to orient myself. I like to see the hospitable things along the way, like where I might buy some apples, or a friendly place to stop in for a cool drink and a snack. I like to know where I am, so, if technology fails, I can tell someone where to find me.

Even as we’ve entered the age of digital maps on Google, I still want to SEE where I am going by looking at a map, not be told step-by-bite-sized step by an electronic voice. The latter tells you nothing about where you are in the big scheme of things when you get there. And when you don’t know where you are, you don’t know how to get home if your gadget can’t figure it out.

The GPS approach to business doesn’t appeal to me either. There are so many formulas out there to get us to “success.”

Do this.
Be this way.
Then do this.
Then buy this.
Then go here.
Then write this, say this, sell this, herd them into a pen, funnel them into your mailing list, sell sell sell, all under the disguise of helping people.

Then you’ll be rich like your business guru (except you probably won’t). You will have reached the outcome they assured you was the right one, and the happy electronic voice will say “You’ve reached your destination.”

That isn’t too interesting to me either. I’m on a new path every moment of every day, with a map in my heart that shows me how I want to feel at the end of the day, where I want to wind up, and all the unexpected beauty and kindness that’s available all along the way.

I’d be interested in a nightstand GPS device that, every night when I lay down, whispers quietly to me, “Your destination is all around you. Nice job on the trip today.”


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:

The moving walkway: How knowing our own patterns can keep us on target

Once, while sitting at Denver International Airport waiting for a crowded flight, the only empty seat to sit down was at the end of one of the many moving walkways that whisk people quickly to their gates.

The tinny little electronic voice—a pleasant woman-robot’s voice—droned on and on,

“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”
“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”
“Moving walkway is nearing its end. Please watch your step.”

In between each repetition, there were three seconds (ask me how I know).

I should’ve moved (standing would have been better, right?) but I couldn’t. I was mesmerized by a pattern I kept seeing.

People would step off the moving walkway with their bags, and then do a 180-degree turn and walk back the way they came, to a gate they’d passed. The gate was usually halfway back to the start of the moving walkway. Sometimes they had to run back.

It reminded me then—and still reminds me—of a pattern I’ve finally identified in myself and how I handle personal and professional growth.

I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to new things to learn. I get “shiny object syndrome” like no one I know, at least when it comes to learning. Ooh! A class on managing my calendar better!  Ooh! A webinar on “How to organize your files and photos.” Ooh! A workshop on building online courses!

That, in itself, is a GOOD thing, right?  The desire to be a lifelong learner?

It would be a good thing, except that I go through the workshop, tinker a bit with whatever subject matter it taught me, and then Ooh! A self-care-for-entrepreneurs series! I need that!  I have folders and folders full of the most exquisite knowledge: courses, recordings, ebooks, workbooks, spreadsheets, and a trillion links to things I couldn’t live without when I first learned of them.

In short, I learn, but before I can really solidify the learning into a rock-solid habit in my life, I jump to the next shiny learning object to gather more, and more, and more. Those new skills never become the breakthrough I was hoping for when I paid for them. It’s me, compulsively jumping on the moving walkway and whizzing right past my destination: A calm, profitable, fun, and efficient business that nourishes me.

(When I think I can outsmart this, I then I jump on the walkway going in the other direction with a new push for professional or personal growth, and whiz past my destination going the other way. But I do get some nifty new folders full of abandoned resources out of the deal. Sigh.)

It’s not an efficient way to do things, right?

So I’m making an agreement with myself, right here in front of you: No new educational ventures until I’ve either
a) fully absorbed the lessons and habits of the previous one, and can describe how I’ve achieved the goal of it (a noticeable improvement of some kind that moves me closer to my desired state), or
b) decided not to use that knowledge after all.

Either way, I’ve wiped the chalkboard clean and am ready for something new.

Elaborate/expensive/fun avoidance is still avoidance, no matter how pretty the packaging.

What about you?  What’s a habit you’ve noticed about yourself that’s beautiful on the outside, but perhaps not in your best interests on the inside?




Benefits of the baffled mind: Why so many people end up choosing self-employment these days

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Copyright ©1983 by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words.

A friend sent this to me over the weekend, in response to something I’d written about a personal challenge. (My best days often start with someone sending me a poem in response to an issue that seems unsolvable except by mental gymnastics. Life is good.)

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

I ended up in self-employment because I didn’t know what else to do. There was something pretty fundamental that I couldn’t figure out: How can I earn a living without feeling like crap every day?

I was literally sick ALL the time. I developed pancreatitis from extreme stress and anxiety. I commuted through clouds of carbon monoxide and angry drivers. I had eating habits that created neverending inflammation in my body. All of them a result of trying to serve the needs of my ultimate customers: rich men struggling to get richer.

There seemed no option. This is simply what you DO when you have a mortgage and dental insurance and credit card bills to pay. Right?

I didn’t know what to do.

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

I blame the red-haired videographer who came to our office one day to interview our CEO.

First, she shows up barefoot. No kidding. She was dressed in expensive turquoise and denim, with not a shoe in sight. She hauled up her own equipment, hefting the heavy cameras and other props like they were made of balsa wood. She wore no makeup, just a Mona Lisa smile, a suntan, and hip-length russet hair slung over one shoulder.

I talked to her as she set up. She’d started her own company because she wanted to choose the people she “helped with her work” (the first time I’d ever heard that expression). Originally it was just her, then she hired a couple of other people to help with admin and marketing. She made her own hours, chose her own clients, and won lots and lots of awards for her work.

It took a couple of years to convince myself that her journey could be my journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

Self-employment, I discovered, is an endless ebb and flow of bafflement followed by a clarity that vaults us forward. We don’t have the safe, bland routine of company life; we solve myriad problems, improve the way we do things, explore different ways of earning money, explore different ways of helping.

I am still frequently baffled. And it can be uncomfortable. How to show up as myself in the world. What to offer my clients, and for what cost. Why a particular promotion didn’t work. Where to go next. But it’s not the helpless bafflement of figuring out someone else’s vision. It’s the empowering, mind-expanding bafflement of a puzzle or a mystery novel.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

If you’ve ever spent time sitting next to a stream that’s full of rocks and riffles and logs and waterfalls, you know that song. The obstacles give the water its music. (Conversely, the eerie quiet of a stream moving slowly through a sandy channel seems abnormal to me.)

It’s the obstacles in our work that make it interesting. Each little bump helps us grow bigger and better. Visiting the moving water of other peoples’ work—our clients, for example—can be just as good, and sometimes our eyes can follow the twists and turns of the water better than they can, having become so used to its shape. We can hear what they’ve long relegated to “white noise” and point it out to them, providing clarity and a way forward.

It’s a good life, isn’t it?

Be baffled. It’s the way to your real work, your real journey.