In his book, Effortless author Greg McKeown talks about breaking up work into microbursts. And this concept has really affected how I do things. It’s only been a week and a half since I learned the concept and I’m already seeing a difference.

I love this word. Not only do I love what it means, but I also love how it sounds. ‘Micro’ doesn’t just mean small. I associate it with high-tech sciency stuff. ‘Microscope’ ‘Microdose’ ‘Microbiology.’

And ‘bursts’ takes me back to elementary school when my mom would put a pack of Gushers in my lunchbox. Bite into them and a burst of sugary syrup detonated in your mouth like a delicious grenade.

What does it mean? Rather than look at your list of stuff to do for the day and start chopping away monotonously for hours, break up your day into microbursts of productivity.

We know that adult brains max out in holding attention to the same thing at about twenty minutes. What we normally do when we do stuff for more than twenty minutes is to continually renew our attention like refreshing a browser. But McKeown says why fight it? Use it.

So, now I do my best to think of work in ten-twenty minute increments. Often I feel like I could go on for longer, but I make myself do something different. Usually, something that doesn’t feel like it’s using the same kinds of energy. For example, if I’m working on something while sitting at my computer (lots of tasks involve this) I’ll go unload the dishwasher or go check the mail. Something that doesn’t require making decisions and gets me moving.

Then when I return to the computer I feel like the energy reserves have charged up enough to deliver another microburst of concentrated work done. I’m starting to feel this accumulate in meaningful ways. After ten days of this mindset, I’ve noticed my stress levels feel less erratic. Here’s hoping that continues.

How do you get so much done? I’d love to hear your techniques.

Thanks, y’all!


Done for the Day Lists

In his book Efforless, Greg McKeown introduces an idea he calls the ‘done for the day list.’

I’ve kept various forms of ‘to-do lists’ for much of my adult life. And the thing I can confidently say about them: they never end.

I think this is true for lots of people. There’s always something to do.

My first job was at a fast food joint called Chicken Express in Fort Worth, Texas. One day we had no customers, the floor was clean, the back was stocked. There was nothing to do…so I thought.

The owner/general manager came in and saw us standing around doing nothing. Next thing you know, I’m cleaning out one of the deep fryers. It was cumbersome and gross and I learned a valuable lesson. Even when I had nothing to do, if the boss is around, never look bored. Because he will ALWAYS have a task to assign.

Ironically, I often treat myself the same way my boss treated fourteen-year-old me. I rarely let myself do nothing. And when I do, I can’t help but think of all the stuff I could be doing instead of self care.

What a gift it is I can give myself: time to just do nothing and not feel bad about it.

Back to lists…

If I populate my lists with stuff I would like done, they’ll never end. So, now I’m adopting this idea of a ‘done for the day list.’ It’s a list of stuff that I would like done by the end of the day. Once I cross it off, I am done for the day. Even if I have things I could really use the time for, I can’t give in. I have to come to an agreement with myself that this time belongs to me for rest, relaxation, recovery and fun. A true break from work.

This is a work in progress because I still often make my lists bigger than a day can handle, but I’ll learn with time.

Do your to do lists stress you out as much or more than they help? What would it look like if you made ‘done for the day lists’ instead?

Thanks, y’all!

Your Art Is Not For You

I used to see my creativity as selfish. I wanted to write a great screenplay so I could make money and gain professional clout. I acted in roles, because I hoped it would lead to something better.

By seeing my art as a means of personal gain, I undercut what I now know is the most important aspect: art is for other people.

The Matrix did a lot for the Wachowskis, but the reason it mattered, was because it affected people who saw it. We left the movie theatre changed. The movie industry itself changed.

Now I see art for what it is: a way to affect others.

So, now when I create something I don’t ask ‘what will this do for me or my career’ and instead I ask, ‘how will this change others for the better?’

I still hope that something I make will help me, but that’s now secondary.

When I wrote the book Improv Made Easier I was able to finish it, because I had a larger purpose than just adding a notch to my own belt. I really want to help make improv easier and more accessible to more people. I knew the techniques I was teaching helped resonate with students, so I put it in a book and sent it out in the world to help others.

What are you creating and who’s it for? What change are you aiming to make?

I just binged Cobra Kai season 4 today. I love that show so much and I was so excited for this season. By creating this show, they affected my life by entertaining me and providing me with a world of characters to escape into.

What’s the change you’re looking to make? Who’s your art for? If you’ve never thought of it like that before, I invite you to. Might change how you see your own creativity.

Thanks, y’all!

Shame Ain’t STopping This

I haven’t written in this blog since October 12, 2018. Three plus years ago.

When I thought about writing another post, I would feel shame for not having written any in so long. And that feeling kept me from sitting down and doing this.

Unfortunately, shame holds me back from doing a lot of stuff.

Well, not today. The truth is, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. I didn’t promise anyone I would churn out weekly posts. And even if I did, so what? This blog is free. Few people ever read it. I don’t have it to accomplish a goal other than to give myself a space to play with words and thoughts.

So, I’m back. I doubt anyone but me cares, but that’s more than enough. I need to care about stuff. Apathy comes with low energy and depression which all love to dance in my brain.

And if my blog helps others, bonus!

Now, shame has stopped me from completing another task that’s important to me. I had a podcast called ‘Improv Breakdown.’ I published twenty episodes. I recorded ten more. Never released them. At first, it was depression that stopped me. After a while, it was embarrassment. Here I asked ten busy professional people to sit down with me for an hour and I still haven’t released those episodes yet?

I could justify some of it with logistics. My computer crashed. I lost my editing software. Blah blah blah. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. I have them. I can figure out how to finalize them and publish them and that’s what I’m going to do. All the shame and embarrassment I feel about sitting on them for six months is no longer strong enough to stop me.

Here’s to 2022!

What If I Didn’t Beat Myself Up Over A Mistake?

I very much want to call myself a series of awful curse words.

I just got home (half past midnight). Left at 2:30PM. When I opened my door just now I realized that I didn’t leave any lights on. Meaning my puppers (Westley – pictured below) has been in a very dark apartment since sundown.

My dog means the world to me. I love him. I would never intentionally do this. Every other time I’ve ever left I’ve made sure lights were on and music was playing for him. I don’t know if he appreciates the music, but I figure it’s worth the chance.

Leaving him in the dark was a mistake. My girlfriend is out of town and I’ve had a particularly busy week. And amidst all the logistics I’ve been handling I simply forgot.

Now, the old me would not hesitate to call myself everything in the book:

You idiot. You piece of shit! You’re an awful dog dad! How dare you! I feel terrible.

And I was just about to bring on the barrage of internal insults when I had a new kind of thought:

I very much want to call myself a bunch of bad things.

As odd as this sounds to say, simply taking a step back from having the thought and instead thinking about the thoughts before I thought them gave me a brief pause. In other words, before I had the chance to call myself anything, I simply realized that I was going to that.

By thinking this thought and giving myself a second of hesitation before verbally flogging myself I realized that absolutely no good would come from this. My dog would not in anyway benefit from me hurting myself.

If I felt bad about what I did, he would not be affected positively in any way, shape or form. What he needed was my love and attention. He needed to be walked. He needed to hear my voice tell him he’s a good boy. And he needed belly rubs (so many belly rubs).

That’s what he needed to help him heal from a traumatic day.

And I could provide him with all those things. But doing say did not require me to hate on myself. Not only did it not require it, it would not in any way be aided by me doing so.

This is weird to me.

My knee jerk reaction to realizing a huge blunder has always been to throw shade on my psyche. To not do so feels foreign. To be honest it feels like cheating.

My brain is thinking: Why do I get to skip out on a punishment when I caused my dog pain?

And I think the answer is, ‘because I can’t go back and prevent the pain I caused, but I can – in the present – prevent more pain from being caused.’ If inflicting pain on myself (even just mentally) won’t help my dog, but will hurt me, why should I engage with it?

My assumption has always been that if I punish myself it will help me not do this kind of thing again in the future. But does it? The psychological wake up call of realizing the mistake was probably enough in and of itself to remind me to avoid this from now on. Maybe I don’t need self flagellation to help me remember something.

Right now my brain is tempted like crazy to curse at myself. Because I always do this, my neural pathways want to cut thru the same groove they always do. But I’m holding it at bay. This could be the start of a whole new trend for me psychologically.

I’m sorry to Westley that he had to suffer for me to learn this lesson, but in the long run I think he’s fine as long as I keep the belly rubs coming. =)

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Gotta Change My Story

Just over four years ago I moved to L.A. with $20,000 in savings. I worked hard to save that over years in Chicago and on cruise ships. I was very proud of myself. I felt great about moving here with such a piggy bank.

As of September of 2017 I have no savings. I’ve been living paycheck to paycheck watching my bank account nearly zero out every time I pay rent or another bill. This is all new for me.

I moved to Chicago with savings and managed to earn more than my expenses within the first two years. The lowest my savings ever dipped those first two years was $1500. What can I say? I tend to live pretty cheaply. I’m good about not spending too much on unnecessary things.

It’s now mid March and I’ve been working like a crazy person for months. One of the reasons I can’t stow away any savings is simply because L.A. is incredibly expensive. I never had a car in Chicago. The gas, insurance and maintenance on a car was a huge new expense in and of itself. Not to mention the doubling of rent (I had a really cheap place in Chi-town), and the lack of income.

In Chicago during those years I could find work. And work beget work.

Here in L.A. I have some work, but not enough. And when I work to make enough, I barely have time to breathe. I certainly don’t mind working hard, but working hard and still saving zero dollars is quite taxing on my already depression/anxiety prone psyche.

And while all the logistics of work and life in L.A. are absolutely difficult, they’re not my problem. They are the circumstances, but my problem is internal. It’s how I see myself.

Right now my brain is firmly set in the mode of being disappointed in myself. I came to L.A. to not be another statistic who moves back home crestfallen and beaten up. To me, that was the equivalent of ‘Game Over – you lose.’ And the fact that I recently celebrated my fourth anniversary, but I’m the most broke I’ve ever been – not to mention the most stressed out – is killing me.

I see myself as someone who lost $20,000 by not managing my life correctly. I see myself as someone who has thus far been incapable of earning enough money to live in this town. I see myself as a failure. A broke, depressed mush who is no longer young. I’m not full of potential with my whole life ahead of me.

That’s how I see myself.

And it… has… got… to… change.

I wish I was writing this post with a clear plan. ‘Here’s how I’m going to change my self perception in four bullet point steps!’

I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know. I don’t know how to change the adjectives I associate with me.

Motivational books and videos, exercise, friends, meditation, dogs and many other things help me to feel happier. But so far, none have helped me to flip the script.

The story will change. I will look at myself with love, compassion, forgiveness and a playful wink. That will happen. Not sure when. Not sure how.

Just writing this down because I need to remind myself that it will. That I’ll figure out something. I’ll learn something new. Something will come into my life that will help me understand how to do this.

Thanks, y’all!

I Have to Be ‘That’ Guy

For as long as I can remember the fastest way for another human being to make me not like them was to demonstrate an unearned confidence. Ever met that guy? I use the word, ‘guy,’ because in my experience they have been overwhelmingly male. Maybe 90/10 in favor of men more than women if I were to guess.

That guy is always talking about his next big thing. ‘Bro, that business I invested in is about to blow up!’ ‘Dude, I’m gonna make this sick film. There’s gonna be vampires and aliens and elves and shit.’ ‘Oh yeah. I’m gonna hook up with that chick over that tonight.’ Etc. These guys talk about everything they’re going to do as if it were a forgone conclusion.

Bragging is generally something I don’t love to begin with. But to brag about something you have not yet done when you’ve displayed no previous pattern of ever doing anything big like it before – it feels so fake to me. Kind of like cheating.

The bragging is something you need to earn, damn it! You can’t just brag about running a marathon in the future. I’ll be the first to congratulate you after you cross the finish line, but until then I remain skeptical. And turned off from any desire to spend time with you in any social context.

However, it’s entirely possible that my severe reaction to this otherwise harmless behavior may have deeper roots than simple distaste. Why did I care so much about what other people did? I never quite knew. But lately, I’ve thought about it some and come to a potential realization:

I think I have to become like those guys in order to improve myself.

What do I mean? I mean, I think I’m going to have to talk about big future projects as if it’s a forgone conclusion – that they are absolutely going to happen. Talking about future projects much at all is something I try not to do very often anymore. I don’t talk about them much, because there is a fear in the back of my mind that constantly whispers, ‘What if you can’t do it?’

The fear of not accomplishing things makes me not want to tell too many people, because I don’t want to have the conversation later when they ask me about it and I am forced to report that I failed. Hard not to blame me on this one. Those conversations suck.

‘Hey Rich! How’s that crime novel coming you started in college?’

‘Uh…I…Never finished it actually.’



But I have been on a journey of self improvement for a few years now. And while I have seen gains, I’m by no means where I want to be yet. So, I need to keep changing things up. And one thing I am going to change starting now is that I will no longer keep projects secret because I’m afraid I’ll fail. Maybe I will fail. Maybe I’ll fail 10,000 more times. Fine. Then I’ll have those conversations, but they’ll go differently.

‘Hey Rich! How’s that book on improv you’ve been talking about for years?’

‘Not done yet. I wasn’t quite ready to finish it in my early thirties. Needed to learn some life lessons first. But now I’m back at it. Looking at a Summer release this year. Fingers crossed.’

It’s not about ‘not failing.’ It’s about not being afraid of failure and continuing to push past it.

I think I need to start talking about future projects more, because it helps me to feel like I’m being held accountable. Just because I’ll be able to handle those conversations better does not mean I look forward to them. Telling more people about the book I’m going to publish means I’ll avoid more and more of those talks if I finish the damn thing like I said I would.

In regards to being like ‘those guys’ there are a couple of caveats:

1. I would never intentionally ‘brag.’

My purpose and intention for needing to talk about future projects is entirely different. So, I will be attempting to speak of them more matter of factly than pridefully.

2. I would not attempt to bring it up in every conversation.

I always got the feeling that most of those guys sat perched in conversation sniper nests ready at any pause to bring up their big deal accomplishments-to-be. That won’t be me. My goal isn’t to bring it up as often as possible, but rather to not actively veer away from it whenever I’m asked what I’m up to.

So, in the spirit of this, I will publish my book on improv by my birthday (July). That’s my goal. I feel good about it. Also, scared. But I’m just gonna try to push through that.

Thanks, y’all!

Twelve Lessons I Learned from writing 12 pilots in 12 Months

Saturday December 30th at 1:30AM I completed my 12th original pilot script. I started my first original pilot script January 2, 2017 with the intent to finish one for every month of the year.

I didn’t tell a whole lot of people about it, but among those I did tell many thought I was biting off more than I could chew. And they had very good reason to think that. Many times in my life I have set ambitious hopes for myself and fallen short of accomplishing them. One might even call it a recurring pattern.

But not this time. This time I took a big bite and chewed the whole thing. And this is the most ambitious goal I ever seriously pursued.

So, how is it that I was able to accomplish this goal when I’d never come close to doing something like it prior? What made this different? The answer is education.

Below are a number of techniques I used and lessons I learned. All of them helped me to different extents over the past twelve months. I hope they help you with whatever you’re trying to accomplish.

  1. Make sure your goals are realistic

On average each pilot took about 30 hours of my time from soup to nuts. That’s an hour a day. I knew I wasted plenty of time doing unimportant things like binge watching TV and mindlessly scrolling thru social media. There were definitely enough hours in the day to do what I needed to do as long as I made sure to devote the time to it.

It’s unrealistic with my life to say I can set aside four to six hours a day for writing (like Stephen King suggests). The trick is to make sure the goal is monumental enough to matter to you while not being so big that it requires literally more time than you have to give.

  1. Burn the boats

This is a Tony Robbin lesson. If there are no boats, you can’t go back home. You must survive on the island. I couldn’t think of a concrete way to burn my metaphorical boats, so I had to convince myself that I did. I told myself if I could not accomplish this goal then I would have to move away from L.A. I didn’t tell anyone else about this, but I made a promise to myself that I would leave if I failed. Sound harsh? Maybe. But, because of how I convinced myself, it felt real enough to help motivate me.

  1. When you’re not feeling it, negotiate with yourself.

Many many many times I sat down to work when I did not feel like working. Would have much rather played a video game. So, when I was lacking all inspiration/motivation I would have a conversation with myself and give myself a very tiny assignment (see #4) and promise of reward if I completed it (such as an hour of video games).

If that didn’t work I would then taunt myself. ‘What? You can’t sit down and do this one small thing that will take five minutes (or sometimes literally fifteen seconds)?’ I know that can sound like a bully, but for me it was more of an older tougher brother encouraging me with gentle banter.

Every time I didn’t feel like working, but managed to find a way to do so was like a mental battle. It’s easy to lose those battles, but the power/responsibility is yours to discover what you individually need to win them.

  1. Every little bit counts

Something as small as just creating a file folder and naming it ‘August Pilot – ???’ was a task. I know that sounds stupidly small, but at some point in my process a file folder needed to get created. So, if I only ‘worked’ for fifteen seconds to make that, I still got to cross a task off the list. And every tiny bit of progress gave me more and more of a sense of accomplishment.

Warning: Sometimes I would feel the urge to do more than the one small assignment after completing it. It’s fine for me to keep going and do more work as long as I count it as bonus work.

In other words, if I promise myself I can go play a video game after creating a blank word doc, but I decide once I’m at the computer that I can go ahead and do one or more other tasks, I am NOT allowed to feel bad if I change my mind and ultimately don’t do those things. I did what I promised I would do and I’m not allowed to feel bad about not doing more than that. If I feel bad about the bonus stuff then I can get more and more discouraged.

  1. The Pomodoro Technique

This insanely simple technique is nothing more than using a timer, but damn it’s powerful. The original technique was specifically about using an old egg timer, but any countdown clock works (cell phone, microwave, etc.). Rather than give myself a task to complete, sometimes I would just give myself a time limit.

‘Okay, you must do something that furthers this month’s pilot uninterrupted for the next six minutes.’

Even if I just stared at the screen and thought about stuff that was better than doing nothing.

  1. Eliminate Distractions

I am still trying to improve at this. I often let text messages, push notifications, my dog or my girlfriend or who knows what interrupt me when I’m working. It’s hard not to.

Here are some ways I eliminate distractions: Put the phone in airplane mode, turn off the wifi on my computer, try to write during times when my girlfriend wasn’t home, ask my girlfriend to plan an hour or two with the dog outside of the apartment so I could be alone, take my laptop somewhere isolated (I suck at writing in coffee shops, but I can sometimes write on a park bench or the library). The crux of this is to identify what is causing you to focus your attention on the wrong thing and create a way to work around that.

  1. ‘Finished’ Not ‘Perfect’ or Dare to Fail

A lot of creative people don’t actually create all that much, because they don’t want to make something that isn’t as good as they want it to be. I get that. I used to love to think of myself as a better writer than others, but since I rarely ever actually wrote it didn’t matter how good my inner thoughts were. A terrible completed draft is infinitely better than the ideas that only exist in your head.

So, just finish it. I don’t know that any of my twelve pilots are great. They may not even be good. But they’re done. And I’m on cloud nine about it. So, just dare yourself to fail. Write the worst scenes with the worst dialogue in the worst scenarios. Once you finish it, it will be so much easier to revise than it was to create. And you will have improved simply by doing it.

  1. The Details Don’t Matter

So many times I would need to know the name of a particular thing that I either didn’t know or couldn’t remember. For example, I was trying to write, ‘He removed his nightstick and held it up in the air.’ But for the life of me I couldn’t remember the word ‘night stick’ (apologies to my brother who served on the Dallas Police Force for 25 years). Now, I could have switched over to Google and searched for it. Would have taken 30 seconds at most. But I really didn’t want to toggle away from the screen I was working on.

I wanted to just barrel thru and write the rest of the scene since I knew where it was going. So, I wrote, ‘He removed his skinny bat and held it up in the air.’ I couldn’t remember ‘night stick,’ but I definitely knew it was not called a ‘skinny bat.’ But I also didn’t care. No one is going to read this first draft but me. And when I’m revising I’m welcome to look it up then. But in that first draft, don’t spend too much time on the minutia. The minutia will almost certainly change with the next draft anyway.

  1. Put it On the Calendar

If you’re like me, you live and die by the Google Calendar. Whatever calendar you use, use it for this. Pick a time block you know you can commit to and note it in your calendar just like you would a business meeting, a doctor appointment or a date. It’s easier to back out of something that doesn’t have a definitive time. 

This technique works no matter what goal you’re trying to accomplish. For example, if you want to master the piano, put in your calendar which 30 minutes (or whatever time you devote daily) of your day tomorrow will be spent practicing? Don’t just say, ‘I need to practice tomorrow.’ Schedule it. And treat it like a real appointment that you would only cancel in an emergency.

  1. Sacrifice

I watched a lot fewer movies and TV shows in 2017 than I did in 2016. I skipped out on a number of fun activities with fun people in 2017 even though I could have gone. But I prioritized this project so high that it was worth it to me to say ‘No, I can’t come to karaoke that night even though it sounds amazing. I have a deadline to meet.’

Like Steven Pressfield said in The War of Art: “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.”

  1. Make Your Goals About What You Can Do

I used to have a goal to get hired to perform on the Second City’s Mainstage in Chicago. I never accomplished that goal. And now I realize that wasn’t a good goal. Because it’s not about what I can do.

I could theoretically have the best audition possible for me and still not got cast. This goal involved factors beyond what I could do. If I could go back in time I would modify that goal to this: “I want to get as good at sketch and improv as possible and try to bring my A game whenever I get an audition for Second City.” That goal is all about me and not about the auditors in the room or any other factor I cannot control.

When I set out to write 12 pilots in 12 months I did not say something like, ‘I will win a script contest this year’ or ‘I will sell a show idea before I’m 37.’ If me accomplishing this goal leads to something else, that’s amazing.  But if it doesn’t, I still did what I set out to do. My mission is accomplished.

  1. Deadlines Are As Important as I Make Them

When I was in school I pretty much always did my homework and got it in on time. I might have procrastinated on an assignment til the night before, but if an all nighter was needed, I did it. I refused to turn in something late. I was raised by a mother who loved me, but did not tolerate or accept lateness in my school work.

Cut to me in my 20s. I rarely ever had assignments handed down to me from an authority figure after college. So, I didn’t do much. I would come up with a project and more often than not let it die on the vine long before I got it done – sometimes before I got it started. I believed that I would get the motivation I needed to write once someone hired me to do so.

But the truth is I never needed someone else to give me a deadline like I thought I did. I just needed to give myself a deadline and treat it as if it was a school assignment. The difficult truth about being professionally creative is that most of us need to prove ourselves before we’re hired to do it. Rarely if ever does someone without a lot of credits to their name get hired to do something for money in entertainment.

So, we need to make our own credits and that usually means self imposed assignments. So, treat them like they’re incredibly important. If a gun was held to a loved one’s head and the gunman said the only way to avoid them being shot was for you to memorize and practice that audition piece or write that screenplay or go workout then you would make it happen. That means you have the ability. You just need to commit to summoning it and following it thru.

Those are the twelve points I could think of that might help. I hope they do. They’ve certainly helped me.

I have no idea what my journey is going to look like as a writer. Currently I don’t get paid to write. I hope that changes soon. But if it doesn’t, I’m still going to write like crazy.

I now confidently identify as a writer. And I’m not going to stop. I’m 100% committed to writing more and more and more for the rest of my life. With whatever it is that you want to do with your life, I hope you can have clarity of your goal and perseverance to accomplish it.

Thanks, y’all!

Make Your Own Psychological Tools

Three years ago I read a book called The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. Essentially the book is about five psychological tools they came up with to overcome certain challenges.

One example is the tool they call ‘Reversal of Denial.’ When you are trying to get yourself to do something that’s hard (like working out) you imagine the pain and discomfort you’ll feel if you do this activity as a cloud in front of you. Then yell (out loud or in your mind) ‘Bring it on!’ Walk thru the cloud and say ‘I love pain’ until you see yourself pass thru it. Then say ‘pain sets me free.’

It takes less than thirty seconds and it’s designed to turn your fear of pain into a desire for it. Basically, it helps motivate you to do the thing you know you should do.

They outline scenarios where people fall victim to pain avoidance, explain the tool and then cite examples where it helped people. The book goes on for four more tools.

I recommend this book with a caveat.

Read the book. It’s fascinating. I recommend trying out the tools to see how they feel. But if you really want to improve yourself, don’t just read the book, try to use the tools and stop. These tools are actually helpful.

But they’re not easy to remember to do all the time. In fact, in the book they talk about how the people who found success with the tools all eventually stopped using them. I know I did. I read this book, got really into it and then at some point without realizing it I forgot all about it.

So, is this book just a waste of time? Nope. It’s a blueprint.

These tools are effective, but they’re not fun or particularly memorable.

That’s why I recommend you craft your own tools. What are the things that you are more likely to remember? What will marry fun with self improvement?

Here’s a silly example of one I created:

I slouch a lot. Walking, sitting or standing with my back straight is not my default position. This constant hunching affects me physically and psychologically. So, I created a tool of my own to help me remember to stand straight up.

When I was a kid in the early 90s there was a video game called Altered Beast. I always loved that game. In every level you began as an average sized man. But as you kicked and punched your way thru the levels four purple orbs would randomly pop out. If you touched them a deep voice from nowhere would say ‘Power Up.’ And you’d get bigger and buffer. Once you got all four you became an animal (were wolf, dragon, bear, etc.).

So, now I try to envision purple orbs pop up in my way. Then I walk into them and hear the voice say ‘power up.’ I immediately stand up a little straighter and feel a little stronger.

Again, I am not telling you to copy my tool (though feel free if you want), but rather to think about constructing your own tools. It’s perfectly okay to start with one in the book and modify it. Let it evolve.

The word ‘tool’ makes it sound like a thing that is essentially not going to change, but these tools are much more malleable than that. They don’t exist outside of your own mind and the inside of your mind is not at all constrained by the laws of physics. Grow the tool, change it, mold it to something that is best for you.

Thanks, y’all!

New Challenge, Old Solution: What’s Your Personal Lynch Pin?

I have been on a quest for just over a year now (really though, my whole life) to be more productive. The goal is to attain the descriptor ‘prolific’ because I crank out the work.

And I’m happy to say, I have seen clear markers indicating progress. Not only can I measure my bit of success by the body of work I have produced (super jazzed about), but also by the challenges I think about.

In 2015 one of the problems that took up my mental bandwidth was clutter. I don’t thrive well in clutter. Never have. But I couldn’t make myself keep thing organized. I could motivate myself every once in a while to cleaning up. I would file every loose paper, respond to every email, sort thru every drawer, etc. Life would be tidy…for a short amount of time. Once I kept things pretty neat for nearly nine days. I felt like a rockstar.

But inevitably the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics would prove itself true once again – over time organization breaks down. And I would live in clutter for months before the next spring cleaning.

I’m proud to say that while I definitely could be more organized, I’m way way better than I used to be. My clutter is relegated to specific buckets (shout out to David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’) and rarely gets to an unnerving point for very long. The difference of course is that I put more energy and effort into keeping it that way. I rarely just set something down somewhere willy nilly. Pretty much everything has a place and it goes there.

One thing I realized tonight is that in addition to the positives, becoming a more ‘prolific’ person comes with new hardships too. For example, now I’m addicted to productivity. When the numbers get low, I get anxiety and depression (old friends who’ve visited me for a myriad of reasons).

YOu know the ghosts in Pac-Man? Depression and anxiety are like my ghosts. When they happen is often a result of me doing something wrong.

I have been sick a lot lately. Nothing serious. I hurt my ankle and had to stay off it for a few days. Last week I had what seemed to be a 24 hour stomach bug. And I currently have no speaking voice and was essentially out of commission for two days. In and of themselves, they are annoying, but not severe.

However, they severely cut into my productivity. And I feel depressed about the time I lost and anxious about meeting deadlines with stuff I could have been working on during those times.

Not fun.

The good news is that the same tools that helped me to become more productive can help me with this problem as well.

I could write forever about the stuff I have learned that has helped me, but the number 1 thing – the lynch pin – was that I did not love myself. I scolded myself. I made myself feel bad about a lot of stuff. And while it’s not impossible to be productive when you live like that, it makes it a lot friggin’ harder. That I can say for certain.

Right now, I’m really not forgiving myself for losing this time. Even though it’s not really my fault, I still blame myself. And because of that, I fall into old habits and beat myself up. Loving oneself comes easy to some people, but to me it might as well be a foriegn language. I’m learning. But it’s easy to forget.

So, check in with yourself. How are you treating you? I hope it’s good. Life sure is easier when you’re feeling love from literally the closest source.

Maybe that’s not your lynchpin problem. Whatever yours is, check in with it regularly. Use the tools that have worked for you to fix it if it got off track.

Thanks, y’all!