It Is Not About Brushing Your Teeth Today

I have a dentist appointment in a few hours and I have something to admit.

I have flossed twice and brushed my teeth three times — all before noon.

It is not like this is a first date and I want to make sure I don’t have anything embarrassing in my teeth. I am not trying to impress the dental hygienist with my minty fresh breathe.

I know it is silly. They are going to clean my teeth professionally, so if there is ever a day to not brush, today would be it.

But here I am brushing and flossing right up until the minute I leave for the appointment. Deep down I know that if there is something wrong with my teeth, it will be exposed. I won’t be able to hide it from the dentist this late in the game. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking I can make things great at the last minute.

How many of us do that with our writing? We go days without practice and then on the eve of a big presentation or book pitch, we cram like crazy. We think we can make up for lost time at the last minute.

But much like my teeth, no matter how much we work on it at the 11th hour, it won’t make the difference we am looking for.

It is not about brushing my teeth today. That should have started long ago.

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A Tale of Training, Discipline and Nipple Tape

As I wrote yesterday, I will probably never run a marathon.

But I’ve always wished that I could say that I have. Unfortunately, there are two things holding me back…a bad knee and a lack of motivation. The second one is a bigger restraint than the first.

Even though I may never run a marathon, that doesn’t mean I don’t know how. It is pretty simple actually. All you have to do is run.

I don’t mean to say that running a marathon is simple, it is not. It takes a great deal of training, discipline and nipple tape.

I just mean that the strategy of how to run a marathon is something we all can comprehend.

Can the same be said about overcoming fear?

Think about it.

I know I may give in to fear from time to time, but deep down I also know how to overcome it. It is pretty simple actually.

It takes training, discipline and nipple tape. Okay, maybe not that last one.

In his new book, What to do When it’s Your Turn (and its always your turn), Seth Godin compares running to failing.

“Consider our avoidance of feeling tired,” Godin writes.

If you’re unwilling to be tired, unwilling to feel fatigue in your legs, you can’t run a marathon. Successful marathon runners haven’t figured out how to avoid being tired, they’ve figured out where to put the tired when it arrives. If you’re not willing to be tired, you can’t run.”

He goes on to say, “If you’re not willing to imagine failure, you’re unable to be free.”

If we want to do great things, we won’t be able to avoid fear, in much the same way be won’t be able to avoid getting out of breath if we run 26 miles. But that is okay. No one is asking us to figure out a magic potion to avoid fear.

We just need to figure out where to put it when it arrives.

You Miss So Much If You Stop After The Beginning

If you Google The Narrows at Zion National Park you will find the following descriptions:

One of the world’s best slot canyon hikes!”

 

One of the best hikes you’ll ever go on!”

 

One of America’s coolest and most inspiring hikes.”

National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine rated this hike as number five in its list of America’s best 100 adventures.

It has become so popular thanks to its tall majestic canyon walls. The 2,000-foot tall orange-red sandstone structures can be as close as 20 feet across giving you the sense that you could spread your arms out wide and touch both sides.

It feels like you are in a cave that Bob Ross would have painted.

Sounds lovely, right? But if you want to make see the Bob Ross-like beauty, it is going to take some work. Millions of people come to The Narrows each year, but far less see the parts that National Geographic raves about.

The hike begins on a paved path at the top of a valley. The path ends at the base of the Virgin River. That point of the hike is packed. Kids are splashing in the water. Couples are taking selfies. Everyone and their grandma gets to this spot.

If you choose to progress from there, you’ll notice something.

The crowd starts to thin out real quick.

That’s because the only way to keep going into The Narrows is through the river. You may not have to be Michael Phelps, but be prepared to slosh through some freezing cold water. You will slip, slide and swim your way up the river for a couple miles if you want to make it to “Wall Street.”

This has been described as “the holy grail for hikers.” This is the Bob Ross part. All the pictures you see online were taken here.

And guess what?

There are far less people here.

Most of the tourists have turned around and gone home. It was far too much effort to battle the river and after they got a few rocks in their shoes they decided that they had gotten their fill of The Narrows back at the beginning.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Not everyone is able to get to Wall Street. To most, the thought of getting waist deep in water is not appealing.

At the risk of sounding like a bad motivational poster, the scene at The Narrows is a lot like what we will experience as we chase our dreams.

We begin with big things in mind. We want to write a best seller or create a masterpiece. We dream about doing something that would be described as the top 5 ___ (enter your dream here) by ___ (enter your equivalent of National Geographic Magazine).

It all sounds great at the start. Thus, it is really crowded. Authors are splashing around, podcasters are taking selfies. Everyone and their grandma can make it to this point of their dream.

But then you have to enter the river.

There are currents of rejections. Freezing cold doubts. You will be forced to slosh, slip and slide far more than you would like. And no one will fault you for turning back. You gave it a good effort, but maybe you’ve had enough. We won’t blame you if you don’t want to any more rocks in your shoes.

No hard feelings.

But if you want to see the good stuff, be prepared to get waist deep in hard work. To get to the Bob Ross-level conclusion you’ll need to keep going when the rest turn back.

If you stay with it, you can make it to the holy grail of ___ (your industry). And you’ll notice a few things:

It is beautiful. And there are far less people.

The easiest way to see the awesomeness of The Narrows is through Google Images. If you want to see it in person, it takes work.

Same can be said for chasing your dreams.

(Actually that last thought isn’t entirely accurate. You probably can’t see your dreams through Google Images. It just sounded like a good way to end this post.)

This Is What Inspired Today’s Post About Roadblocks

Every now and then I will get the following question:

Where do you come up with ideas for your blog posts?”

Sometimes it is said with appreciation — like how did you come up with that gem. Other times it is said with abomination — like what part of your brain is missing that made you come up with that dud.

In order to let the readers into the parts of my brain that are missing, I came up with an idea that will show how I came up with the idea for certain posts.

On certain days I will post two items. One will be the regular article, story or recap. The second will be an explanation about how the first post came about. I will try to break down where the idea originated, why I wanted to write about it and how it all came together.

Here’s the first one about today’s post Looking For Roadblocks:

The idea all started when I was watching a YouTube video of Dave Ramsey interviewing Mark Cuban. Cuban was talking about Shark Tank and how the show demonstrates that anyone can start a business and achieve the American Dream. From there he said the following:

Ideas are easy…What good is an idea if you don’t believe in it and you have to believe in it enough to take those first steps…When you have an idea and you get some confirmation of the idea you start looking for roadblocks because people are afraid to do the work or they are afraid to take those steps.”

That quote resonated with me. Probably because I am in the middle of working on a new book and am filled with all those fears that Cuban mentioned.

I figured that if two millionaires are talking about it, maybe us regular folk could learn from it. I can’t be the only one who has those thoughts.

That convinced me that the topic was post-worthy so I started thinking about how I could write about this topic (actually, I first had to Google if roadblock was one word or two words. Once I had that answer I was ready to begin). One way was to just post the video. That would have been fine, but I wanted to write a little more that that. So I had to find a way to tell a story in which I could incorporate Cuban’s idea.

Right around that time, I nearly crashed my car into a roadblock. Yes, that is an actual story. Maybe it was perked up a bit to get your attention — like the part about wiping the sweat off my forehead. Chances are I was already sweaty prior to the roadblock because it is summer in Arizona and I am a generally sweaty person. But the point remains the same.

So I had my overall point. Then I had my way to convey the point. Now all I needed was the ability to get past the roadblocks that were trying to convince me that the post would be no good.

I figured if I couldn’t get past that for this post then I would never be able to.

So here we are. That is how that blog post came about.

 

Side note: You can watch the entire Ramsey & Cuban interview here.

 

Looking For Roadblocks

The other day I was driving and about to make a left hand turn onto a street I had gone down my entire life. I’d made this turn hundreds of times so I was only half paying attention to driving and half paying attention to an audio book.

I nearly drove right into a sign that said “Road Closed.” This wasn’t a tiny sign like the kind your wife gives you when she drops hints about where she wants to go out to eat for your anniversary. It was a giant roadblock, like the kind your wife gives you when you try to check your fantasy football team during your anniversary dinner.

Thankfully, I noticed the sign just in time to swerve into the makeshift lane that was created to allow traffic to pass. From there I turned off the audio book, wiped the sweat off my forehead, grabbed the wheel with two hands and kept on driving.

When we are driving, it is important to look for roadblocks. Not spotting them can take a chunk out of your bumper and your wallet.

In other aspects of our life though, looking for roadblocks may actually be harmful. Let me explain…

I am currently working on my forth children’s book (more about that to come soon). Every time I work on a new book I follow the same pattern. I find an idea that I like. Then I start to outline a book. Next, I stop everything I am doing. Then I spend months convincing myself that this is a terrible idea. I brainstorm dozens of reasons why no one will read the book.

The topic is too boring. The story is overdone. No one wants to read all those puns. And the list goes on and on.

Before I even get started, my writing is crippled by the roadblocks I have created for myself. This would be like never moving my car from my garage because I know that one left hand turn contains a roadblock and will reduce my progress to one lane.

I would never do that while driving. I would take the roadblocks as they come and find a way to get to my destination. Even if I nearly crash, I will wipe my forehead and keep going.

Yet, in writing, I am often stalled because I am too busy looking for roadblocks. Does any of this sound familiar in your life? This isn’t just limited to writing. We do the same in dating, finances and pretty much everything else.

Before we let an idea get off the ground we try to find roadblocks. What makes a person successful is the ability to see past the roadblocks just enough to get started.

Once we get started we are going to come across roadblocks. Maybe my book isn’t going to be exciting enough for some people. Perhaps some readers will not like the 371st pun.

Not everyone is going to like our ides. But rather than have those limitations prevent us from going anywhere it is better to take those roadblocks as they come. Yes they may reduce our progress. Yes they may take a chunk out of our confidence. But no matter what they do, they can’t hurt us more than they will if they prevent us from ever getting started.

Another Example Of Great Writing

The world is full of great writing. So I have decided I will highlight some examples whenever I stumble on them.

Here’s one I came across from Adam Grant & Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity, and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.”

The book features many things that Sandberg learned after the sudden death of her husband. She learned how to find strength in the face of adversity, how to rebound from life-shattering experiences and how to help others in crisis.

One of my key takeaways from reading this book is her line about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. Sandberg doesn’t mean we actually need to up our back exercises if we want to be able to bounce back from devastation. No amount of pull-ups would help us from crumpling to the floor if we found out our spouse had died.

But the image she uses is one we can understand and remember. We have all heard about the importance of having a backbone. We need to stand up for ourselves and not let others walk all over us. We associate it with being strong.

One way to be strong in the face of hardship is to start building our resilience now. The book uses studies done by Grant to show that our level of resilience isn’t fixed. It is something we can grow.

What a great way to show this by using something we all associate with being strong (a backbone) and painting a picture of how we can add to that backbone (building up the muscles around it).

A great line in an awesome book. I highly recommend you check it out.

Does Writer’s Block Exist?

Today I came across this quote from author Tim Ferriss…

To which author Seth Davis agreed…

I am not going to make it a practice of arguing with authors who are way more successful than I am, but upon reading this, my first thought was that I disagree.

Surely, writer’s block exists, doesn’t it?

If Ferriss’ and Davis’ point is that it shouldn’t exist then I agree 100%. If they are saying that we shouldn’t let it stop us, then I am on their side for sure.

But saying it doesn’t exist? Just because we want something to go way or we want to power through it, doesn’t mean it is not real.

Obesity should not exist. We should not let obesity stop us.

But obesity is real. That being said, more than anything obesity can be seen as an excuse.

Maybe what Ferriss and Davis are saying is that writer’s block is merely an excuse. I know I have used it an excuse far too many time.

But it does exist. Right? Saying it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Or does it? I honestly have no clue. I could argue either way.

What do you think? Does writer’s block exist?

If you think it does, maybe you can try this…or this…or this. If you think it does not exist, please help me to understand why. I would love to make it not exist in my writing world.

Top 10 Lines From Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life

The last two months, I have highlighted the top 10 lines from two great books about writing (here & here). With so many wonderful writing books to read, I figure I will keep these top 10 lists coming.

This month’s top 10 comes from Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life, a roundup of 30 famous writers and entertainers responding in short essays to their favorite Snoopy “at the typewriter” strip.

Here are what I found to be the book’s top 10 lines:

#10 –

Snoopy, try this when you sit down to the typewriter: Just say to yourself, ‘What if?’ It all begins with ‘What if?'” – Clive Cussler

#9 –

The rules for writing a best-seller are simple: Take an idea you really, really like. Develop it until it is brilliant. Rewrite it for a year or two, until every word shines. The bite your nails, hold your breath, and pray like mad.” – Sidney Sheldon

#8 –

Search your heart and soul for what you have to contribute. Remember, your book must help someone with something.” – Cherie Carter-Scott

#7 –

If the characters and narrative are strong enough, they will hold our interest without any background.” – John Leggett

#6 –

Humor, as Charles Schulz, proved every day, doesn’t have to be of the slapstick variety; his humor came from the small funny things of life.” – Frances Weaver

#5 –

Most of us learn to write well by writing badly for a long, long time.” – Sue Grafton

#4 –

You need not be famous to write something worth remembering, worth preserving, worth publishing.” – Charles Champlin

#3 –

The most important advice I would suggest to beginning writers: Try to leave out the parts readers skip.” – Elmore Leonard

#2 –

An editor can always correct your spelling and fix your grammar, but only you can tell your story.” – Fannie Flagg

#1 –

Some know fame and others anonymity, but my father believed there were no shortcuts to be had in the life of the dedicated artist.” – Monte Schulz

This Is The Best Thing I’ve Read All Day

The bestselling book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero is filled with great thoughts about, like the subtitle says, how we can live an awesome life. I am a big fan of these type of books. I have read chasing your dreams described many different ways. 

But Sincero managed to describe it is a way I had never thought about before. And it is fantastic. It is by far the best thing I’ve read all day. Probably all month.

Birthing your dreams is like… giving birth.  Conceiving the idea is the fun part (hopefully), then you go through insane amounts of fear and excitement and dreaming and planning and vomiting and growing and thinking you’re crazy and thinking you’re awesome and stretching and shape shifting until you’re practically unrecognizable to everyone, even your own self.

Along the way you clean up your puke and massage your aching back and apologize to all the people whose heads you ripped of in a hormonal killing spree, but you stay the course because you know this baby of yours is going to be the bomb.

Then, finally, just when you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, labor starts.  your innards twist and strangle and force you to stumble around hunched over in the shape of the letter ‘C’ while you breathe and pray and curse and just when you think it can’t get any more out-of-your-mind painful, a giant baby head squeezes out of a tiny hole in your body.  Then.  A full-blown miracle appears.

In order to change your life and start living a new one that you’ve never lived before, your faith in miracles, and yourself, must be greater than your fear.”

Like that description? Check out the book here.

To A Writer, There Are Only A Few Things As Rewarding As This

The last month, I have gotten lazy with my writing. This happens around the same time every year. With March Madness in full swing, there is so much basketball to follow that I find my writing gets shifted to the back burner.

My free time gets consumed with basketball — watching basketball, reading about basketball, and anticipating the next game to watch/read about. This doesn’t leave much time/energy for writing.

Sure, I could watch one less game, during which time I could knock out a blog post or two. But I don’t. I convince myself that the writing will pick back up in April. And it usually does.

But all that being said…

To a writer, there are just a few things as rewarding as writing something you are proud of.

No matter how little, or how much I am writing, I still get that hard-to-describe feeling each time I work on a post I am happy with. And I am starting to learn that I need to take advantage of that feeling and use it to my advantage during the times when writing is not the focus of my free time.

If you are a writer, you know the feeling of writing something you are proud of. And you also know that is not always easy to get to that feeling. But once you have that feeling, don’t let it go away easily. Keep writing as long as time will allow. Because sooner or later there will be another basketball game to steal your attention.