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Am I a Liar? Should I Be? Struggles with the Creative Conscience.

Am I a Cog, or Cogh?

Am I a cog, or Cogh?

I was watching a piece a couple of weeks ago on Elaine Stritch on CBS Sunday Morning – she passed away recently at a respectable age, and having lived what by all accounts was a full and successful life. She had a great, interesting, and varied career, but what I always appreciated about her was that she always seemed to be fearless – especially as she got older, she’d put herself out there, warts and all. The funny thing is, as she admitted quite openly as she got older, she actually wasn’t.  In fact, she said that she was always scared, especially before a performance, and that in her case it led to some self-destructive habits for awhile.  Which, in my mind, made her all the more fearless.
I admire that. It’s courageous, and human and, maybe, living that way helps us all by reminding us that, in this age of perfect positioning and photoshopped perfection, just underneath the silly veneer are flawed, struggling, striving, unsure and inevitably imperfect human beings.
I think we need more of that sort of thing. A Lot More.
So here’s the thing – seeing the piece on Ms. Stritch poked at me a little bit. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been struggling with a difficult decision for far too long now. And, now that I have a book coming out, it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Professionally, I’m a senior copywriter/creative director and brand strategist, and it’s been a pretty good gig.  I run my own little ‘agency’ (a word which, even now, sounds a little inflated, even though we certainly do agency-level work).  Like most creative shops, we’re a small group of full and part-timers and by-project specialists. We create ads and messaging and figure out brands and find new opportunities for small and medium sized businesses.  In other words, full-service, just not full of ourselves.

Then a few years ago, to be completely honest, I started pulling away a little bit.  We’d gotten a bit bigger – simply in response to client needs, not because we had some well-considered growth strategy – and we were making a bit more money which, in an up and down business like advertising, is always welcome.

But I also noticed clients starting referring to us as marketers.

The first time it happened, I shrugged it off. Clients don’t always get the nuances of our industry, I told myself.  There are differences between creatives and marketers – copywriters, designers and creatives are idea people – we figure things out and create the new, the interesting.  Marketers, to my mind, anyway, are the spreadsheet people.  The numbers people; shiny, near-corporate types who serve as a conduit for our ideas, and are experts at bringing them to the marketplace.

Not that they’re bad people, mind you – far from it, actually. Most are quite nice. They’re just not the way I’d defined myself and my profession.

The problem is, it happened more and more. “This is Larry.  He’s our marketing guy.” Sure I’d smile when they introduced me this way; it was a good way to mask the cringe.

You see, the real reason it bothered me was that it was becoming True on some level: the more we allowed ourselves to be defined by our clients because it was a profit opportunity, rather than a creative opportunity based on what we love and do best, the more we became became marketers.

In my own mind, we – let’s be honest,  I – was selling out.

Tough stuff, especially when it’s true.

But I didn’t make a change, I just shouldered the burden.  The economy stinks – it did then, and it still does, regardless of what they’re selling you on CNBC.

And I have two daughters and a wife that I would die for in an instant, and that I need to support.  So I sucked it up and stayed with the bucks.

But here’s the thing: from when I was a kid I always hated this sort of thing.  I’ve always felt that materialism and corporate greed and self-justification are the things that wreck us, and are wrecking this world of inequality and simmering anger.

Creatively, That’s the theme that underlies much of my fiction – it drives me.

And yet, Professionally, I’d come to accept this.

Which, as you can imagine, created quite a bit of tension inside.  It’s a tension that I explore, I’ve come to realize, in Cogh and The Machine: a children’s book for adults – my book that’s coming out in the next week or so – at least on Amazon while I decide whether not not I should look for an agent.

And its also where I run into some trouble.  I guess that things are reaching a bit of a head.

You see, I’ve long wrestled with how to put myself out there: How does a copywriter and brand strategist who secretly hates the worst of the corporate mindset, the banality of marketing and the soullessness of a materialistic, consumerist culture present himself?

When I look back now, I realize that this inner rift wasn’t just a minor thing to brush aside.  In fact, I think it pretty much explains why I keep pulling down our business web site, and haven’t had a personal portfolio up in years.  And trust me, we’ve done some really great work.

I just didn’t feel like I was ‘all in’ on some level I guess, so maybe having them down or in development or whatever also meant, for me anyway, that I hadn’t committed myself to being some kind of a marketer.  That I wasn’t on some level agreeing with rampant consumerism.  That I was holding out – or at least not wholly in agreement.  That part of my soul was still intact maybe.

And I’ve found that it’s not just me; this little rift is actually pretty pervasive in the advertising community.  Maybe it’s because most of us are at heart creatives who somehow managed to find a good paying gig and work with like-minded people, and not Wall Street wannabees – I don’t know.  But what I do know is that, having spoken with enough of them, and read their posts and comments, they’re not all in with the push push push sell sell sell mentality that’s coming from clients who are celebrating Christmas in July because there might be a way to make a buck there.

But most of us keep it quiet.  At least on the outside, though if you want to see what a lot of us are really thinking, I’d recommend checking out The Creative Confessional.  I’ve been in the top ten more than once….

But here’s the thing – I still LOVE copywriting, brainstorming and figuring out how to help businesses get their message out there.  The creative process, while often painful, is awesome. And as I’ve said many times, I fully support Capitalist Economies, but absolutely abhor Capitalist Societies.

It’s a tricky business.

So I’ve been struggling a bit, now that I’ve got a book coming out and another in the Fall, with which persona to present to the world, and how. Cogh explores the corporate mindset, the roots of inequality and the problem with a profit over people approach – it’s angry Dr. Seuss in a way – especially as it’s written in verse. Checkin’ for Deads (coming out in the Fall) is a first-in-a-series urban fantasy mystery.  Sure, it’s got demons and ghosts and missing children, but on another level it’s all about the unfortunate effects of a hollow consumerist culture that’s embraced materialism for a little too long.

So what do I do?

Do I have one blog for thoughts like these – where I’m coming from as an artist and socially aware and opinionated writer – and ANOTHER for the other side – the business savvy award winning copywriter and brand strategist guy, with the portfolio and the insightful articles about advertising and branding and such?

Is that the safe way financially and careerwise?  Is that the smart way?

Or do I go All In?  Warts and All, as Ms. Stritch would have done?  As James Altucher did – and still does – so truthfully and successfully.

A while back, some of you may remember my quest for The Should.  I haven’t abandoned it by any means (despite my lack of updates), but I think instead of the smaller day-to-days, which I’ve been marginally successful at being aware of, trying to keep that in mind has opened up some larger issues – like this one.

What do I do?

Here’s the thing: I’ve learned the hard way that the only unassailable position in life to to Tell The Truth.   No, it’s not the easiest, but it is the strongest. And you get to sleep better at night.  As Cogh tells the Great Hardstrom, King of the Corporation, and his lackeys at their first chance encounter:

“The truth I do tell, every time,

I am True,

Mostly because lies

Are a burden on you.

But don’t think me a saint,

It’s because I am lazy!

To remember all lies,

Well, such effort is crazy.

The Truth is much easier

For it’s always at hand

A comforting constancy

That You may think bland.”

At this all did shrink back,

These brash words, they unnerved

For they echoed far back,

And ‘gainst what each now served.

All but One, that is, and

He leaned forward for more

Thinking, ‘Something ’bout this one,

Confident, strong and sure.’

I sense value inside him

A great raw vein of gold

Which I’ll mine and I’ll use

Well before he gets old…

“What is your name, son?

You seem ‘bove all of this.”

“Well Sir, it’s Cogh…”

A great gasp! And a hiss!

“A Cog!” he exclaimed,

“We need one like you badly!

C-O-G Cog!”

He Bit sounds off quite Madly!

“Yes you’re just what we need,

You’ll be our perfect fit.”

But Cogh, he did notice

Asked ’bout him, not a bit.

“C-O-G Cog!

You have made my day!”

That he spelled his name wrong,

Cogh did not want to say –

And Swept up in that moment

He allowed himself to

Do a tiny wrong thing

He knew he shouldn’t do

“Yes, that is my Name,

I hope I can help you!”

Like I said, it’s a struggle, but not just for me, I think. The beta read touched a lot of people deeply; their responses were passionate.  Maybe reading Cogh will help some more people – I hope so, anyway.

And for me?  I’m  good at giving advice.  Maybe – no definitely – it’s time to take my own.


Are YOU missing The Point on Inequality?

Food For Thought. And Action.

Food For Thought. And Action.

I read this article by Nicholas Kristof this morning and thought it was, as he often is, spot on. So I shared it on Twitter and, later, on Facebook. In short, the article’s about an American Dream now on life-support at best, and touches upon the issue of ever-increasing Inequality and its impact on a struggling, and sinking, middle-class.

Concern with where we’re going, both as a nation and as a civilization, is at the forefront of my thinking most days; the increasing influence of money, and our subtle transition from a Capitalist Economy to a Capitalist Society in seemingly so few years is both frightening and sad. It does not bode well for our future and, on a personal level, I cannot bear the thought of my children becoming a part of a present and future where the worth of absolutely everything – art, music, relationships etc. – is solely assessed in terms of monetary value. This idea of defining all things primarily in terms of equivalent material or monetary valuation to determine their worth is the hallmark of what I define as a Capitalist Society.

While I remain a fan of true Capitalism from a solely economic perspective – that is defined, simply, as a fair and level playing field where hard work is rewarded, often in the form of monetary or material gain – I am mortified by the application of that principle to every facet of life. You like playing guitar? Can you make money with that? What’s the most successful career? The one that makes the most money of course! You like to express yourself through drawing? Worthless, unless you become a famous artist. It is a society that rewards Fame for fame’s sake, rather than appreciating fame as being a natural by-product of having worked hard, created something worthwhile or contributed to the world simply because you were driven and passionate about something real for the sake of doing it in and of itself, and not just for the bucks and leverageable exposure.

Sadly, that thinking has become pervasive and, by many, accepted. And, in my opinion, it is becoming taught and encouraged as the acceptable norm by corporate lobbyists and corrupt politicians who no longer consider themselves to be public servants (as they are intended to be), but instead as an elite ruling class that defines their constituents as “The American People” as if they are a herd to be manipulated, a species apart from the shepherds of Washington. You even see in in the Common Core controversy, where private, for-profit companies create agendas and materials not to truly educate, but instead to make people ‘job ready’.

The purpose of education is NOT to get you a job: the point of education IS to provide one with a broad and well rounded foundation – a toolset – that enables and empowers us to think for ourselves, to explore, to be curious, and to live a rich and varied life.  It is not to train us with a punchlist of company-mandated skills to make us just viable enough to gain access to our cubicle. To be so narrowly hyper-trained in such a way as to be only useful in context of a company’s need only enables us to be used until it becomes financially advantageous to discard us, but until then to keep us going so that we can make just enough to survive and maintain our existence as ‘consumers’, with the job of greasing the wheels of an economy predicated on consumption rather than creation while contributing to the tax base and gifting politicians and pundits a talking point because the unemployment rate has dropped by an (artificially manipulated) tenth of a percent in an election year.

(And – a shameless plug for me – these are all issues that drive my upcoming book Cogh and The Machine; A Children’s Book for Adults – which will be available via Amazon etc in a couple of weeks.)

But here’s the thing: when I shared the Kristof article, and when I talk about these things, some people seem to think that I am frustrated or interested because I’m having trouble. And I think that that response too is a symptom of a Capitalist Society.

You see, I heard from a friend earlier when I shared the NYT piece and he asked, quite sincerely and in confidence, “Are you doing okay? Having trouble meeting the bills?”

The answer to that is I’m actually doing fine – my business is good, the bills are met, the power’s on and the kids are fed. I don’t have a Lear jet, nor do I want one.

But the thing that strikes me most about that question, while well-intentioned, is that it throws light on a not too often admitted reality behind this issue of inequality: the assumption that you’re angry because you’re not getting your share.

And the implication of this is, of course, that if you were doing fine, you wouldn’t care.

In my case I care because it’s wrong. Morally, ethically – even spiritually. I care because it’s not fair or right. I care because businesses need to do the right thing by their people first, rather than seeing them as a necessary expense on the balance sheet. My friend Dan says I have nobility issues and, yes, some days I’d like to get my hopefully hypoallergenic horse, grab my sword and slay the Dragon.

Maybe that’s what I’m doing when I write – there’s no promise of reward for all of the hours of work, but as I’m a lousy rider and the Dragons keep hiding, it’s my way of doing right by this world using the tools I’ve been given.

But either way, I think, as a people – from a humanistic standpoint – beyond the new ‘values’ of our Capitalist Society, I think we have a moral obligation to fight this sort of injustice, and live our lives so that we make those around us better somehow. That’s what counts. That’s the salve.  That’s what fills the hole that something bought won’t. It’s true.

I’m not suggesting that we redistribute wealth, or tax the rich.  But I am suggesting that corporations, by and large, have become behemoths with undue influence and not a stitch of moral thread.  Look around: of course productivity’s up!  In an economy that will never truly recover, despite what the pundits on CNBC spout when they point to strangely massaged financial indicators, people know that if they lose their job there’s not another one around the corner.  That’s why the real rate of unemployment is far higher than whatever they’re putting out there in the media – because people have given up and left the game, and those folks no longer get counted in the figures. And if you don’t get counted there, in the Capitalist Society, you don’t count at all, do you?  So yes, there are job cuts, but the same amount of work still needs to be done – it’s just that last man employed gets to do it all – great for productivity, bad for humanity.  He or she is scared, so they suck it up and keep working harder for fear that they too will join the great sea of those who are no longer employable.  And so, yes, productivity goes up. The folks up top get richer while the folks at the bottom get a little more stressed.

So no, I’m not speaking up for personal reasons.  I’m speaking up for moral ones.  For the Should.  For what we Should be doing.  For what businesses Should be doing.

For what we all – every single one of us – Should be doing.  But we’re afraid to stand out. To rock the boat. Not now, not in these tenuous, quietly fearful times, right?

You see, it’s not ok to ignore the bigger picture, just because you yourself are doing ok for the time being. People need to speak out, but as I’ve often said, if you’re treading water to survive, if your raise your hand – or fist – in protest, you go under. The people who make policy and profit know this.  In a lonely connected world where we willingly, maybe desperately, reach out and make public our opinion or try to find friendship via the perceived sociality of blogs and social media knowing full well we’re being dumped and sorted into a hundred databases, it is becoming increasingly easy for giant corporations and collusive  governments to manipulate the masses and keep them at bay.

But at the same time, even knowing that that is the reality we still must speak out.  And we can’t just gripe on the internet – we must Do. We can’t go silent, and accept and bleat and eat until we are sheared.  I get frustrated because not only in myself, but in every single person I meet I can see such great and unrealized potential.  And as a writer I can easily imagine what a true and gentle Utopia we could achieve if we listened within and did as we Should.

So yes, we all should be concerned with inequality, even if we ourselves have yet to be stung by it.  It is a moral and human obligation that is not, as it’s so often wrongly portrayed, some liberal mission to hand out a ‘free lunch’ to some mythical wards of the state – you know, that bunch of deadbeats living large on food stamps (rubbish), or socialism (get a dictionary). Instead simply the right thing to do. Something that transcends politics and profit.  And, yes, corporations also share this responsibility – even above their responsibility to their shareholders.  Within our Capitalist Society we have forgotten what is really important, and become, perhaps, too frightened or complacent to take a stand.

But I think that we must, and I’m not alone in my thinking.  And I know that I, at least, Should.

I’m concerned with where we’re going, and trying to figure out a way to fix it before we get there.

If you have children, or a soul, you understand.




P.S. For those of you wondering, the irony of the Ayn Rand quote is not lost on me – but I’d suggest considering this perspective from the Washington Post 😉

100 days of Should: Building Toward a Leap?

Is it time for a leap?

Is it time for a leap?

Here’s a confession: the Should has been muffled lately. I’ve been crazy busy – new clients, old clients, trying to get Cogh and The Machine (my current book) prepped for Amazon, along with new cover art, keeping up with kids, Jen – even the dog. Life becomes a fast blur, and I can’t believe it’s already Saturday. Again.

But I’m trying to stay true to my promise during all of this – and I’ve been taking little daily notes on what’s going on. To be honest, the Should is working, but it’s hard. Still, too often, I know what I Should do but am not doing it. Little things are easy, but I sense some awfully big decisions lurking in the depths – radical changes. I Should listen to them, but the reality is I have a family to take care of and these changes might affect us economically for awhile in a tough economy. So, to be honest, I am muting some of those Shoulds right now. But that’s a rationalization, right? I know I shouldn’t…

Anyway, below are some small thoughts from the week – daily mental Tapas, but recipes all using Should as a main ingredient. Enjoy!

– – – – – – –

One of the things that’s begun to open up for me as I start to adopt my Should lifestyle, is not putting things off – especially what I’d like to say – my opinions and such that, normally, I keep to myself, or in close-quarters conversation. Quite frankly, I think that I keep some of them to myself out of what I used to think was a rational, practicality – a ‘don’t say that or it’ll come back to bite you’ mentality.

I guess that’s maybe a rationalized mentality. Perhaps living the Should life requires courage…

– – – – – – –

I ran into a client and friend today, and he mentioned that “I must’ve been bored on Friday’, because he saw that I was active on Facebook. Actually, I wasn’t – I’d just hit the ‘post to FB’ setting on my twitter account – but it also shook me a little. I have friends, clients on FB – and I’m not actually all too hard to find on the ‘net anyway. So It also now occurs to me, for the first time, that there might be a danger in putting it all out there. True authenticity is dangerous, but also so much more powerful than a carefully curated veneer. And, maybe, it’s also self-filtering; maybe by being as straightforward as possible it’ll bring me closer to where I sense I need to be, and how I need to live. Yes, I know I Should do this – there it is again. You see, I know that if I don’t – if I don’t leave it all on the field for this little experiment – then it will, inevitably, be a failure.

And trust me when I say that I’m good enough to fool you all. And even myself – for a time.

But that’s not why we’re all here, is it?

– – – – – – –

Today, again, the concept of this being a ‘practice’ – like meditation: mindfulness is key. It’s easy to forget to ‘listen’ for the voice, much less to actively ask yourself ‘what Should I do?‘ in the hectic swirl of the day But I’m happy to say that when I did manage to remember, even the simplest decisions became clearer, and the results better. For example, it’s 6 pm, and I thought I might have a cup of coffee. Normally, a no brainer, but now – with some effort – ‘Should I?’. And my immediate answer was, of course, no. As it is, I don’t get to bed early enough, and I knew – now that I’d self-prompted – that I simply shouldn’t because maybe in not having the coffee, maybe I’d get to bed that much earlier (a nagging issue with me). And, Maybe, doing so would impact to other things. Plus, even in simply stopping to ask myself, I also asked, well, why? Sure I liked coffee, but why was I going to have a cup this late in the day? Not because I was tired, but because – I decided – I was bored. I wanted the quick buzz. Like I said, I do have an addict’s predisposition to things – never been a gray-area guy.

So I didn’t have it, and it was good. And maybe the real lesson there was to address why I’m bored – and do something about it….

– – – – – –

I had Olivia home this morning, as we’re opting out of the ill-conceived, poorly executed and for-private-corporate-profit agenda known as the Common Core. Jen was at work and I figured that, after my morning routine of book edits and a workout, Olivia could come in to the office with me for awhile before I took her into school. She’s becoming a good artist, and my office is a pretty creative environment. Plus, she was excited about coming in to work with Daddy. Me too. But somehow, my edits ran long and I still wanted to get in a workout, so I ran upstairs to change. She was on the couch using her iPad.

“Hey”, I said. She looked up, eyes bright.

“Hi Daddy. Are we going to go to work now?”

“Um, yeah” I said. “I’m just going to work out quick, shower and then we’ll go.”

She deflated a little. “Oh, ok Daddy.”

“You ok?” I said.

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

I changed into my gym shorts and started the dvd downstairs.

Then I heard it.

‘I Should skip today and take Olivia to work.’

My rational mind said exercise was good. I’d still take her to work, right?
I listened to the Should. Off went the dvd.

“Hey, I’m gonna skip today,” I said as I came back upstairs.

“Yay!” came the cheer. Big smile. Both of us. And it was great.

Listen to the Should.

100 Days of Should: Musings on Harry Potter, Art and Hope

Argus Filch, Role Model.

Argus Filch, Role Model.

I think my favorite scene in Harry Potter, Deathly Hallows pt 2 is when the battle’s over. Harry’s met Hagrid, and walked through the battle-weary survivors. Everyone’s bloodied and exhausted but, despite the massive events which have just taken place, and though stunned and still in mourning, they’re already starting to move on.

And the point that drives this home the most – amidst all of the rubble and death and size of the whole battle that’s barely just passed, is when Argus Filch, the ornery, crusty caretaker, tosses a piece of rubble out of the way and just get’s back to the business of living – in his case, sweeping against a mountain of dust and broken stone.

It kind of gives me an odd hope, this scene, that no matter what happens, or how tough things are and seemingly hopeless, and even when our world falls apart – and it does, from time to time – the important thing, that constant, is to just get on with the business of living, or normalcy, once again.

Because, honestly, what’s the alternative? Even if the most tragic thing happens, even when we don’t get by by the skin of out teeth, and Neville Longbottom doesn’t get that sword and show up at just the right, and most unlikely, of times, the answer’s the same either way: we pick up and start sweeping aside the rubble. Right away. Otherwise, we lose, or get stuck, or just stop living.

Because if we just take that step, and get back to the smallest modicum of normal, we move forward.

And put the bad behind us, where it belongs.

And this, like the best of fiction, or the arts, gives me hope. Especially in a time when the signs are overwhelmingly against a good outcome for the world given it’s current trajectory. A step is a start that we sorely need. Take one, add another and momentum can build.

Perhaps, like so many things, these little snippets from my mind are actually messages to me as much as they are to the nice, usually quiet folks who thank me for putting this out there – most often directly and privately.

And to those people – you know who you are –  you’re not alone. None of us are. Keep taking steps. They say that no one can change the world. But maybe, just maybe, if we keep taking the small steps back to normalcy, and in line with what we really think inside – listening to our Should – and not what’s dictated to us by constant exposure to an agenda-driven media, the larger picture can change, and things can be good and right again.

We just need to decide to not simply stand, sheeplike and stunned, and watch and complain and ignore, but instead to Act. To have courage. And keep moving forward toward what we know to be right.

100 Days of Should: Thoughts on Day One

advice-inspired-quotes-44Turns out that this is going to take some effort.

Day One was an interesting day. I went out with the best of intentions, and the excitement that one always feels when embarking on something new. But what had consumed me in the morning quickly became diluted by the the tasks of the day. I had a photoshoot, a client meeting. Had to work on projects, deal with Life.

It was hard to be completely mindful – I think that’s the right word. Easy to fall back into old habits. I think the mindfulness is the key – and this will have to become a practice if I’m to be successful with this experiment.

What was interesting is that when I was mindful – when I remembered to ask myself in any given situation ‘What Should I do?” – I got a sense that I had something to ‘return to’ in a way – and it was very comforting – even if the decision wasn’t the easy one, or the obvious one, the sense that I had an irrefutable compass was something new and powerful.

And there were immediate returns. Over the course of the day, when I remembered to ask myself the Question – the ‘What Should I Do?” – when I listened and acted, the results were good.

Here’s a simple example: leaving the shoot, I came to a stop sign. Normally, I would have automatically made a left and headed to the office without giving it a second thought. Then, normally, I would have probably drifted into some endless, and unprofitable tasks like checking email and stuff that can always wait. Plus, I rationalized (there’s that word again), that it was nearly 3pm, and I hadn’t yet had lunch and, well, you know….

But instead, I asked myself the Question. And the answer was that I Should make a right, drive over to the next town and do a quick shoot for another client for a website update.

So I did. I worked out great. I didn’t die of hunger. The next day it rained, so I wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway. Plus, I now had a happy client, the day was a little more profitable, and I didn’t have another to-do hanging over my head.

Like I said, little things and mindfulness. So far, so good.

I’ll catch you up on how the rest of the week went over the next day or two, but for now I think this post might run long, so maybe I Should stop….

100 Days of Should: A New Self Experiment

coelho_quoteIf we did exactly what we should – what that little voice inside our head is always whispering, what would our lives look like? If we followed that inner navigation – and acted every time we heard it – would we be happy? Fulfilled? At peace? For the next hundred days, I’m going to try it and find out.

Here’s some backstory:

About a year ago I started a course called Create Your Life with Oli Hille. Basically, I’d been feeling unfocused and bored and restless and this seemed to be a good thing. It was goal focused, and Oli’s a good guy and I thought that having some structure and accountability would be just the thing I needed.

So I wrote out my 3 goals for the next 6 months in great detail and, with great enthusiasm, embarked this new journey. In fact, in the spirit of complete honesty, here are my exact notes from 040413, copied from my Evernote account:

Goal #1:
Finish COGH and Get it out There!:
-Work on Remaining Manuscript Sections/Final edits (#35-#40/epilogue) at least 20-30 minutes daily until complete
-Put in In Design format/ distill Secure pdf/Get copyright/IP protection as needed
-get Dimitry to illustrate logo (save other illustration for later)
-Have Dan P and Chris M read for proof; fix any issues
-Distribute to Tom Spackman, Peter Kelley, Tim Brunelle (?), and Phil Sutfin for feedback and contacts
-Research additional Agents, write query letters (will The Pitch section suffice?)
-Learn about E-publishing options – (already started book – finish it!)
-Get it Published
-If this happens sooner, go back to CFD Book 1 prepped manuscript, review w/Dan on continuity, make few changes and get that published as well – it’s just sitting there and it’s good! Then, back to CFD 2 and the kids books with Olivia

Goal #2:
Build Personal Brand as a Solo Creative:
-Overall: assemble whatever is necessary to BE READY TO RESPOND to these opportunities and queries at a moment’s notice! Do all of the things you NEED to do to have a tight professional and creative digital brand foundation so that you’re ready to explore – remember Portsmouth notes.
-Choose portfolio pieces (copywriting)
-write out short case studies in challenge/achievement format (copy and brand strategy)
-write out CV ‘draft’ to put on Linked In – make professional but not stodgy
-look at Behance as option (not good for radio and other media?)
-Finish Reading ‘Born to Blog’ Book
-Relaunch/Redesign personal blog (move from to to accommodate above AND incorporate creative
Related: learn more about WordPress/get up to speed on html/shortcodes so that I don’t have to rely on anyone else
-Get new, non-LGM cards made to support this
-IMPORTANT NOTE TO SELF: MAKE YOUR PEACE WITH PUTTING IT ALL OUT THERE!  Stop splitting the ‘professional marketer’ (God, I hate the term marketer!) from the passionate socially aware creative, – yes this is dangerous in the short-term, but you (me…hmmm) really want to work with guys like Hahn and Bird and Burton, so take the hit and do better work and you’ll get noticed by the right kinds of people – remember; attract what you want into your life and stop holding on by your fingertips!) Look at your notes from the past 5 years – this is past due!

Goal #3:
Get down to 200 lbs by October 1st
-Currently 222, so ballpark about 4# per month (doable)
-Follow the Fuhrman approach – it works – don’t get lazy and you’ll be fine and this will all fall into place
– Get blood pressure below 120/80, drink less wine with dinner – maybe just one day a week, rather then the current 2-3
-Get into bed no later that 11:45 each night (maybe try and go earlier?)
-Sleep without sleep aids
-Wake up feeling like I did when I was a kid – vigorous, peaceful, energetic and eager – this relates to above
-IMPORTANT NOTE TO SELF: Reach a state where I’m the Happy, energized, engaged ‘vacation Daddy’ all the time, be a better example of how to live your life and go after your dreams and use your Talents,  instead of being the work-stressed zombie – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, and relates to ALL 3 GOALS!


6 months later, I realized with great frustration and guilt that I’d failed. Miserably. So I signed up again.

And, now, about one year later, I have achieved very few of those great goals that I’d set out to achieve with such hope and excitement.

Sure, I’ve pretty much taken care of Goal #1, but that would’ve happened anyway – I’m a writer, which is sort of like breathing for me. And I drink far less wine now, but everything else? EPIC FAIL.

So now, once again, I’m reasonably restless, unfocused, and yearning for excitement, interest, enthusiasm – this little thing that I can sense is out there, but can’t quite grasp.

Having been touched by the smothering wet blanket of depression on and off over the years, I can say that, some days, it sort of feels like that, but that’s not it.

And yes, I have many great things to be grateful for – starting and ending with my wonderful family.

But still, I’m in a comfortable rut.

In some ways I’m sure that I have an enviable life – it’s just that I’m not satisfied with it.

And that’s the important part.

I need more. I need better.

I need a life that feels like mine.

So why 100 Days of Should?

The question I’m digging at is more of a proof of a theory I’ve always subscribed to: that we all have an inner navigation system – something that, if  listened to and acted upon – would guide us in the exact direction, the exact path we need to be on.

“I Should do that” – that’s what the voice inside says

And yet, inevitably, we don’t. All of us.

We qualify and quantify and justify and put off until another day and simply don’t – mostly out of fear, I think. And in my case, perhaps a bit of laziness.

In some ways, this is in part the battle against Steven Pressfield’s ‘Resistance’ (if you haven’t read The War of Art, go do it. Now.)

But for me, the above goals are pretty much the same things I’ve been writing to myself for probably 8 years or more! I usually write them when I’m away on vacation, energized, around people and relaxed. Removed from the day to day routine – and you can’t spell ‘routine’ without ‘rut’. [Tweet ““…you can’t spell ‘routine’ without ‘rut’.””]

That’s when I can see me, and when people know me only for what I present, and not what they think they know about me. When I’m unconstrained.

And it’s always the same. I want to be a creative and work on great projects. I want to travel, be leaner, happier, more at peace. Energized, taking chances, working with great creatives on interesting projects. Being happy and focused and well rested and actually there with my family when I get home from work at night, as opposed to sitting silently at dinner and nodding.

And lots of other things, too.

There’s nothing the matter with Oli Hille or any other self-help life coaching aids that you might want to use. But during my 100 Days of Should, I’m setting out to discover whether or not we already have those answers that will lead us toward the lives we imagine for ourselves.

I could write out a litany of goals, but that’s not the point: the point is living gradually as we do in real life, and making decisions constantly – and acting on them immediately.

I think it should be a natural process – if our inner voice, our ‘Should’, is really an infallible navigation system to fulfillment, then it should be integrated into our day to day lives organically, right?

So for the next 100 days, I’m going to listen and act on EXACTLY what my inner voice tells me I should do. And I’ll blog about it here and will always be completely – even painfully – honest and transparent.

I hope you get something out of it.

And that I do, too.

How to REALLY Change Your Life and Actually Become What you Want to Be

This is true on some level.  Get going, people!

This is true on some level. Get going, people!

This morning I knocked off another 10 pages of final edits on Checkin’ For Deads – my new novel. It was my 27th day in a row that I’d gotten up, grabbed some coffee, and gotten to writing.

And I realized that I was closer than I’d ever been to actually being what I’ve always wanted to be.

Having something truly done – complete, finished – at the ‘sure, go ahead and take a look’ stage – helps. A lot. I have another manuscript – Cogh and The Machine: A Children’s Book for Adults – out in beta read right now. It’s been very well-received; some people have cried. Some have asked if they can give it to someone else that “should really read this”.  Others, without any prompting, have read it twice.  It’s even getting a little interest from the publishing community. Very exciting stuff.

For some reason, when I finished Cogh a couple of months back and started this process of ‘getting it out there’ (and figuring out exactly what that meant), I also decided to put in 10 pages a day on finalizing Checkin’ for Deads – another book I’d written that was actually ‘finished’ 2 years ago.

‘Deads’ was my first-person urban fantasy/mystery first-in-a-series baby before Cogh came along and consumed me, becoming the pushy sibling that demanded all of my time and attention for the past 22 months.

What didn’t realize at the time though, was that when I made my seemingly minor 10-page a day commitment,  I was actually starting to take my dream of so many years seriously.

And somehow, in simply sticking to this small routine, things started to change.

I’ve always had a picture of what I wanted my life to look like – a lot of people do, I think.

For me, it would be getting up in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee (yeah, uh, about that – back on the joe, sorry), and getting to write for maybe 4-5 hours. Then a quick workout, and off to do some interesting stuff out in the world among actual people – which is where I get my ideas. Maybe working on some other projects with some good creatives.

Later, in my perfectly visualized life, I’d come home, spend some real time with my family, and then at night reread what I’d written earlier in the day. Finish the day with a little guitar/gaming/reading – some kind of down time – and off to bed.

Problem was, this picture was always out there; fully imagined to the tiniest detail, yes, but not real. It was on a pedestal up ahead of me: I could see it, but there was always the same stubborn distance between where I was today, and where it was ‘someday’.  And I couldn’t seem to ever make up any ground toward it.

But despite all that, I still believed that somehow I’d wake up one morning and it would all be in place.

As much as we like to think that happens, it doesn’t.

And as much as we’d like to think we should just drop everything and go for it, we don’t. Not if we have kids and spouses and businesses and mortgages and well, y’know, Lives.

But we can’t Not – not if the dream is persistent. Not if we don’t want to sit back at 85 and say, I should’ve…

So what we need, I think, is a practical approach to changing our lives and becoming what we want to be.  And I think I just stumbled upon one.

I realized this morning that, by sticking with my minor daily 10-page-a-day commitment, I was actually ‘trying on’ a new life.

Let’s look at what I’m really doing, right now: I’m getting up, writing, (usually) working out and then heading out into the real world (where, fortunately, I work as a copywriter and brand strategist – creative stuff, most days).

If you paid attention up top, you’d realize what I’m really doing: I’m living a dry run of the life I’ve always wanted – a trial period of sorts, and maybe – especially for those of us who can’t just drop it all and go – that’s a very good thing.

Because what if the life you’ve so meticulously envisioned isn’t what you thought it would be?

Sure, if you left everything and jumped, maybe the net would appear, but would it entangle you and put you in a worse situation?

I’m not trying to be a downer, here: instead, I’m saying that the best way to wholly change your life is to do it in small parts.

Commit to living an hour of your ‘new life’ every day. Just ONE hour.  Exactly like you picture it.

If you want to be a cook, go cook in a commercial kitchen for an hour a day – even if it’s volunteer work.  If you want to be a librarian, go be a page at your local library.  Whatever you want to be, go be it for an hour a day. Every day.  And make sure that you’re not just researching these things, but actually doing them.  Every day.

If you do this, there are only 2 things that can happen:

It’ll either be great, and you’ll gain momentum and do it more and more until before you know it, you’re actually doing it!

Or, it won’t be what you thought it would be. And that’s okay, because you’ll be Free again to choose something new. Without the ‘what if’s’, the ‘I shoulds’ and, perhaps the most insidiously dangerous, the ‘I’m gonna’s’.

So picture what you want your life to look like, and commit an hour a day to living that life for awhile. Try it on and see if it fits, if you grow into it, or if you shed it.

Either way, you’ll know. Now. Not in some imagined future that’ll never come.

And that’s pretty great.