2019 was a year of personal growth and reflection. I understood, finally, what it would take for me to get to where I want to go — and what I must do to get there. Commit to learning more about Amazon ads and other book marketing strategies. Reintroduce a dedicated writing time into my day and stick to it. Run early in the morning … before the sun rises. Take time off to play and rejuvenate. Not be so hard on myself. Some of those won’t be easy or comfortable. Some I don’t really want to do. But sometimes changing your life means changing your habits, and that’s downright scary. [Read more…] about Off the Grid in 2020
Temperatures dip consistently below zero. Black Friday sales ads dominate the airwaves. The sun rises later and sets earlier. And soon, if you haven’t heard them already, Christmas songs will bombard us everywhere we go. Sure signs that we’re in the homestretch as 2019 winds down.
At the beginning of 2019, I started off pumped. This would be a year of transformation and personal growth. I took it seriously, too. Devoured books on productivity, leadership and high performance (High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard; Company of One by Paul Jarvis; Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt; The Latte Factor by David Bach … to name a few). Set goals — actually wrote them down and reviewed them daily. Enrolled in online training and attended webinars. Published a book. Trained for, and completed, a marathon.
It’s mid-November, and I’m still pumped. I’ve pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. I’m not the same man I was when the year began. I have been transformed. And that has me asking several questions. One in particular…
Am I Headed in the Right Direction?
As the year draws to a close, something about my accomplishments feels hollow. Don’t get me wrong… Running a marathon and publishing a book are huge accomplishments. Instead of just talking about doing something, I showed up daily to do the work — even when I didn’t feel like it. Looking back on this journey, I realized that I was, in part, chasing someone else’s dream. I was no longer certain that I was headed in the right direction.
After reading so many books and completing various training courses, processing so much information on how to become more efficient and productive overwhelmed. I devoted too much, perhaps, time to figuring out the processes and hacks that would potentially make me more productive — elevate me to that realm of high achiever — than actually doing the work I love. Even more time spent watching and helping others realize their dreams than building my own. As they entered the homestretch, I still hovered around first base. I knew something had to change.
In these final weeks of 2019, I’ve turned my focus back to the things I love to do: writing, running, cooking/baking, reading, visiting museums, et. al. I’m showing up to be present in all that I do instead of being overly concerned about how to do these things more efficiently. Really, who was I kidding? Trying to become more productive is like binge watching Amazon Prime. Watching every episode of Jack Ryan (John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce excel in this series if you haven’t checked it) is just another way to put off doing the work.
We each have our own rhythms and processes that energize us in the homestretch. What works for one person may not work for you or me. And I’m okay with crossing the finish line at my own pace and in my own time. Because it’s all about the journey.
And now I know I’m headed in the right direction.
Do you spend too much time planning than working on your goals? Are you happy with what you’ve achieved so far this year? What can you do differently in the next six weeks to ensure your continued success? Click Reply to let me know. I love hearing from you!
In November 2015, I pulled the plug on social media — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogger. Then I went beyond that. I limited my use of e-mail, kept the TV off during the day (until my partner came home from work and turned it on), sent few text messages and, when I wasn’t working at my day job, kept my mobile on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode.
I went dark, off the grid. This was, in part, inspired by a story I’d read two years earlier about a family that decided to live like it was 1986 again. No computers, internet, or cell phones. And they dressed the part, too, with mullets and cut-off jeans. They brought 1986 to the 21st century to embrace the simplicity of that era. That said a lot, to me anyway, about how we’ve evolved — and the role technology has played in that evolution. Would I want to return to 1986 (I was thirteen then)? Probably not.
While I didn’t go to that extreme, I required a much-needed timeout from social media because I felt overwhelmed. At that time, I was working on the rewrite of a novel and trying to stay current on industry trends. Suddenly, I felt like everything was coming at me fast and furious. On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or my inbox, the bombardment was unrelenting: ‘advice’ on holiday book marketing, or writing and selling your novel, or how authors can use Facebook Lead Generation Ads, or how to grow your followers, et. al. Overwhelmed, I couldn’t hear myself think, didn’t know how to proceed.
Being overwhelmed had a spiraling effect. I don’t know how to move myself forward, couldn’t concentrate, and then procrastination set in. And boy, oh, boy, did I embrace procrastination! Frustrated (and it was all my own doing) because I wasn’t making progress, wasn’t pushing the boundaries, wasn’t bringing my writing projects to completion. Everything stalled, and I was left flailing.
So, I went dark, off the grid. For two weeks.
An Uneasy Relationship
Now it’s 2019, and I haven’t gone off the grid again. As a self-published author, I recognize and appreciate that social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — can be powerful tools in the promotion of my author brand. It’s still not something that comes easily or naturally to me, but I’m grateful for the exchanges on Twitter and Facebook that connect me with other writers/artists facing similar challenges. Holed up in my own world, I’ve become part of a community that supports and encourages each other. And it’s great to connect with readers, too.
Social media has a way of sucking you into the vortex. A decision to check in ‘quickly’ on Twitter can blow apart your day. That’s why social media is both my friend and my enemy. I took the timeout because social media felt more like my enemy.
My enemy. Because, real or imagined, some days social media has dominion over me. Am I engaging enough? How many likes did my post get? Has anyone responded on Facebook? I get all worked up about if I’m doing it right, if I’m doing what I should be doing to be successful (if I’m listening to all the expert advice out there).
The social media world is constantly evolving. Late in 2018, as I started to catch up to some changes that had occurred in recent months — and realized I was far behind in the game — I panicked. I felt like I immediately had to get up to speed. Overwhelmed, I couldn’t think, couldn’t focus and, worst of all, couldn’t write. I took a day and a half to step back, breathe and then come up with a plan to move forward.
You Need a Plan
When I went dark three years ago and pulled away (briefly) from social media, I was happy with the results. I wrote. More focused, my productivity skyrocketed. That meant I ran more, and got out of the condo to explore my neighbourhood, discovering new restaurants and shops. I read more, challenged myself in the kitchen and organized my spice cupboard (the latter is back in a state of disarray). I felt relaxed and, at the end of each day, a sense of accomplishment. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
The exercise made me realize, as an indie author — or any artist these days — you can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to social media. But you still don’t have to let it rule the day. Yes, writers like Stephen King, Paulo Coelho and Jodi Picoult use social media (and brilliantly at that), but if you asked them I bet they’d tell you they had a plan for social media management. You need a plan, too, but one that you’re comfortable with and let’s you pursue your creativity your way. It’s a little like writing or painting or making music … you have to find your voice.
The Wake-Up Call
In December 2018, I realized I needed to make changes to my daily schedule if I really wanted to achieve my goals. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel fulfilled … like I had squandered the time gifted to me to live out my purpose. I wasn’t tending faithfully to my dreams. That need for change led me to read books by Brendon Burchard, Brené Brown, Michael Hyatt and Keith Ellis — so I could be inspired to do what was necessary to live my best life ever.
I was excited, energized, pumped.
But nothing changed. Why? I couldn’t break the cycle of self-sabotage. After all these years, I was still afraid of what people would think of me for daring to be a writer. That they’d ridicule me (which people did and still do) when I talk about my dream of writing full-time. “Stick to what’s safe,” they told me. Or, “How many books have you sold?” they’d ask mockingly. “I could never do that.” And I took their fear and owned it.
In January, working the flight to London, something felt off. Usually excited to go to London, I felt numb. Listening to my colleagues talk, a calmness invaded my heart. I went quiet. I realized this wasn’t my dream. Sure, it’s great to travel the world. Having 13-14 days off each month? Freakin’ fantastic. Great benefits? Absolutely. Starting my day in the middle of the night, stuck with rude passengers and colleagues at 35,000 feet for hours, and beyond exhausted for 24-36 hours after returning home? Not my dream.
It was time to start marching to the beat of my own ambition.
The 30-Minute-a-Day Social Media Diet
I didn’t quit my job. I focused on expressing my truest voice instead of constantly giving myself over to distractions and unfulfilling activities. On the top of my hitlist? Social media.
I have an active presence on three social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. That is the order I give them priority. And now, each network gets only 10 minutes a day of my time. How do I do that? I use Screen Time, Freedom and StayFocusd.
Screen Time: Available on iOS, it lets me set a daily allotment of time for each app. When the allotted time runs out, access to the app is blocked. Be aware, though, that it’s easy to ignore the limit set, so it also requires self-discipline.
Freedom: This app allows me to block websites as well as apps on my iPhone for the time period set (make sure you create a block list).
StayFocusd: A Google Chrome extension, it allows users to limit time spent on certain websites and block access to the internet (Nuclear Option).
Three apps, using them 10 minutes a day, produces the 30-minute-a-day social media diet.
That’s how, finally, I’m mastering my day, taking control of the agenda and direction of my life.
Do you have a plan for social media management? How is it working for you? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Every day is an opportunity to become the best version of ourselves, to push yourself to go higher. If I’m at home in Toronto, that means getting out for a long run — as long as it’s not -20°C or colder, and I’m not fighting a cold. That means, on the days I don’t ‘feel like’ writing, I show up anyway and do the work. That means that if I’m the recipient of rudeness, intolerance or impatience, I act with love and acceptance towards that person and, still, wish them goodwill.
Every day — with grace, patience and courage — I push myself to go higher.
Don’t Let Fear Stop You
Last summer, I attended a weekly workout group called Move Strong Toronto. The Monday evening sessions began with a warm-up run, followed by a 45-minute bodyweight workout, then a post-workout run. Although I’m a runner, I have no core body strength to speak of, and zero flexibility. So, midway through the sessions, I wanted to cry. I couldn’t do it, couldn’t keep up. I’d failed.
Then one Monday last November, following my crazy morning routine at the time, I was out of bed that morning at 3:30, at my desk writing a few minutes later, then out the door for a run at 5:30. By 9:00, it was decided: I wasn’t going to the Move Strong Toronto workout that evening, which started at 18:45. As a morning person, I’ve always struggled with late-afternoon or evening exercise. Not being able to attend the session regularly either, due to my work schedule, I didn’t know the other participants and felt awkward around them. Why not just stay home and watch TV? The excuses not to go kept piling up.
Maybe it was all the noise the plumber made working to clear the kitchen sink’s blocked drain, but around 16:30 something snapped. I had to go. Why? Sometimes you know you must step out of your comfort zone to push yourself to go higher. For me, this was one of those times.
Arriving at RYU Apparel, Move Strong Toronto’s winter meet-up location, I was the oldest person in the room. As the workout began, it became oh so clear just how much I struggled. It was hard not to be intimidated by the younger, firmer, more flexible athletes in the room. They made it look so easy. I had to rest while everyone else continued, or when my arms and legs felt weak. And yet, when I didn’t think I could do it … I pushed on. There I was a beginner. But if I showed up and kept putting in the time, I’d get better.
That’s how you push yourself to go higher.
Let it be Your Mantra
I’m a writer. Maybe you’re a dancer, an entrepreneur, a social worker. It doesn’t matter. Push yourself to go higher is about being bold enough, daring enough, to do more and to be better. Every day. It gives us an opportunity to hone our skills and develop new ones.
More importantly, it allows us to not miss the present moment and become who we really are.
Do you push yourself to go higher? How has it changed your life? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Something ‘magical’ happened a year ago. Then, however, I didn’t know how much it would change my life, how much it would change the script.
On 17 January 2018, I stopped drinking.
I need a moment to let that sink in. I’ve been sober for one year. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes.
“Why?” many of my friends asked with bewilderment as much as curiosity. I stopped drinking — not because I was pressured to, not because I didn’t know my limit, not because alcohol was ravaging my life — because I had to get my house in order.
Call it an aha moment, a day of reckoning, an epiphany. Naming it isn’t important. But to fulfill my calling and be of service, things needed to change. To keep moving in the direction of my dreams, I had to clean up my own backyard.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Sometimes life speaks to you, yet you purposely ignore what her advice. That was me. By the end of 2018, I’d spent the previous two years on autopilot. Doing the same things over and over again, moving forward yet never feeling like I was getting ahead. Then ending up exhausted and tired of being in my doctor’s office, wanting to know why I wasn’t just sick but still sick. Tired of complaining of fatigue. Tired of the long bouts of insomnia.
Headed for some type of breakdown, it was time for an intervention because I wasn’t ‘happy’ with my life. I wasn’t where I wanted to be or living the life I’d imagined. And if I wanted to bring that vision to life — and not end up stranded or stuck in the same old patterns — something had to give.
Going sober was the first step towards becoming the best version of myself. Oprah Winfrey put it this way: “All of us are seeking the same thing. We share the desire to fulfill the highest, truest expression of ourselves as human beings.” 1Oprah Winfrey, The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations, Flatiron Books, 2017, p. 82
A State of Grace
The past year without alcohol has been like living in a state of grace — honouring who I am and not who others wish me to be. I’ve been, more than ever, committed to the thing that has called me into service: writing. Every day I write, show up to practice my art and hone my skills. Every day I’m being true to who I am.
Beyond living out my calling to write, going sober has helped me to take better care of myself both physically and mentally. I’m more present, more aware of who I am, what I want to achieve and what I must do to accomplish my goals. I have more energy to get through the day. I’ve lost just over 20 pounds and, through a more challenging running schedule and by paying attention to what I eat, I’ve kept the weight off.
Simply put, there is more clarity — of purpose, of what I’m seeking to do and give back to the world. The journey forward may still not be easy, but I’m in it for the long haul.
Therein lies the why.
Sober, I have the greatest chance of living my best life.
Sober, the world will see the truest expression of who I am.
Sober, I’m headed for my best year ever.
Is there one change you could make that would set you up to live your best year ever? Can you commit to making that change now? Click Reply, or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you!