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How Goals Change Over Time, and What to Do About It

The other day I was cleaning out my home office, and I found some old notes. The notes were from more than eight years ago before starting this blog. At the time I was planning to undergo some big changes and attempt a new career as a writer.

As I looked through the notes, I smiled in recognition of many of the items I’d listed so long ago. I’d been to about 70 countries then, and was officially beginning the quest to go to all of them (193/193). I achieved that goal almost three years ago.

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The Snake in the Road: A Lesson in Fear & Perception

Over the past few months, when I haven’t been preparing for my book launch or flying around the world, I’ve also been learning a lot more about “inner work.”

Admittedly, this is an area that is very new to me. I’m pretty good at all the things I’ve used to succeed in life and work thus far—but I’ve come to acknowledge that I lack the skills I need for what I want to do next.

I'll share more about this as I go through a series of processes, both on my own and with some help from a few friends. For now, here’s a story that originally comes from the Buddhist tradition. I've been thinking about how this applies to some areas of my life. Maybe it applies to some of yours, too.

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“Taking Risks” Is Not the Same as “Doing Hard Things”

Recently I’ve been noticing that I haven’t been taking enough risks. I don’t want to be complacent! And I always want to be challenging myself.

I’ve also been saying that I don’t feel like I have a big idea or am doing something hard. For a long time, I could immediately identify a major goal I was pursuing that required a lot of attention, investment, and sacrifice.

But in trying to move forward and make some changes, I think I’ve been making a mistake: taking risks and doing hard things are not necessarily the same.

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“I Can’t Be Jealous of the Past. I Can Only be Jealous of the Future.”

I recently went to see Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, a curious film in the sense that it focuses much more on the subject’s love life than it does her love of art. Still, it was good overall and I’m glad I went.

The film showcases the development of several abstract and other non-traditional artists, including Jackson Pollack. I've always liked Pollack’s work, but I don’t think I understood the audacity of it until seeing this new film.

I often feel inspired when I hear about larger-than-life figures who pursued big ambitions. People like Pollack, and Peggy Guggenheim, did big things.

Then I went home and I thought: “What big thing am I doing?”

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2015 Annual Review: Looking Forward to 2016 (Ready or Not!)

LookingForward1 And…. once more, with feeling! Today’s post is all about the future.

In keeping with this unusual year, the format for this post is a bit different than I’ve done before. I noticed that I was feeling some resistance in writing it, so I finally decided to just sit down and start, without worrying about trying to adhere to a specific style.

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Much of the year feels like it's been spent in a time vortex of some kind. If I could, I’d put the whole year on rewind and go back to January.

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2015 Annual Review: Lessons in Life, Success, and Loss

363846688_2270694504_z Every year I set aside a long block of time, typically the better part of a week, to look back at the year that’s ending and look ahead to the next.

And so we begin the 2015 Annual Review.

I try to live an active life and pursue a lot of different challenges and adventures. Pretty much every time I begin the review, I think, “What a crazy year it’s been!"

In the case of 2015, I began the year fairly well, had the worst thing imaginable happen in the middle, and then managed to close out on a relative high note.

As I sat down to write these notes, I have to confess that I wasn’t feeling super excited. My mind continued to drift toward the negative emotions, revisiting the things that have made me sad. As usual, though, I discovered that there were several good things from the year that I’d completely forgotten about.

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Whatever Happened to the Road Not Taken?

9011806072_5148fceffe_b You’ve heard the story a thousand times.

Two roads diverged in the woods, and the wanderer is forced to choose. One road has a bit more wear than the other, but aside from that, both paths look pretty good. What to do? Since you've heard the story, you probably know the ending.

After some deliberation, the wanderer chooses the road “less traveled by.” And that, we're told, “has made all the difference."

Great story! But did you ever think about what happened to the other road? Maybe it was just a common road, and the wanderer was right to place his foot on the freshly-fallen leaves where few had stepped before.

Or maybe not. I have a theory that the other road was just as good. Maybe it was even better than the road less traveled by, but in the recollection the wanderer has revised his memory to conform to the experience he's had since first choosing a path.

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The More You Improve, The Harder It Gets

I always love a good quest. While flying Southwest Airlines recently (it’s a long story) I happened to pick up the in-flight magazine and read about a guy who’s trying to become a professional golfer.

DanPlan3 The whole article is interesting but isn’t the easiest to read in online format. The short version is that Dan, an ordinary guy from my hometown of Portland, Oregon, is trying to become a professional golfer despite never having much of an aptitude for playing golf before.

Dan pursues the quest partly because he wants to see if it's possible. Does talent come about entirely through "putting in the hours"? Here's a real-life case study to find out.

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Warning Signs That Your Life Lacks a Consistent Vision


You don’t know what to do at the start of the day.

Someone else or some other external events determine how you schedule and spend your time. Sure, you eventually jump into something, but your priorities are not your own.

You are pre-occupied with tactics and short-term opportunities.

Instead of seeing the long-term goal, you see only 2-3 steps ahead. You are a tactician instead of a strategist, in other words.

You are disillusioned with the things that used to bring you joy.

What once made you happy is no longer sufficient. You do the same things you used to, but without the same feelings of anticipation and enjoyment.

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“What Have I Missed in My Life?” Notes on The Novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge

"I think the message in the book is that we all have flaws we can’t resolve." -Amazon reviewer

I recently read Mrs. Bridge, a lesser-known novel from 1959 in which nothing really happens. A boring and largely unsympathetic character ambles though normal life events, rarely seeing her equally boring husband. Their three children have normal childhood problems, and eventually grow up.

Sounds thrilling, right? But underneath the surface, there’s a lot more going on. The novel is essentially about discontent and regret, or about encountering the panic and quiet desperation of an ordinary life.

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The Game Is Rigged, So Learn to Play the Game

You probably learned in kindergarten that life isn’t fair. You can’t always get what you want—and sometimes you might not even get what you need.

When something doesn’t work the way we want it to, we tend to dismiss the process as unfair, flawed, or even fraudulent. “That’s a scam,” you hear about any number of things.

Getting into college, for example, is unfair and flawed. Sure, you can study hard, join the service club, but “the game is rigged” in favor of people who invest in standardized test prep.

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The Best Time Management Strategy: Don’t Find the Time, Find the Why

3325745244_76c62bf2f6_zOver the past few months, I've been interviewing people for my upcoming book on dream jobs. Many of the people I’ve talked to are really busy—they've found or created their dream job, but they also tend to do a lot of other stuff as well. Some of them have side businesses or run ultramarathons on the weekends. Some of them have active family lives. Some of them do all those things... and more. I don't always ask the same questions of interviewees, but one tends to come up pretty often: "How do you find the time?"

I liked this answer I heard yesterday:

"It's less about how do I find time and more about why do I find time. You'll always find time for things that have a strong enough why."

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Lessons in Non-Conformity from Sesame Street

A reader sent me this fun video from a long-ago sketch on Sesame Street.

I love the turning point right at the halfway mark: Dan would do everything that Stan did, until one day he decides to make a change.

“Hi, I’m Dan. I decided I’m not going to do everything that Stan does anymore."

Isn’t this exactly how it works in life? You go along with the crowd, playing follow the leader and keeping your head down. The status quo is maintained—until it isn't.

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