The Blog

Life On Your Own Terms

A camel is a horse designed by committee.

~ Sir Alec Issigonis.

This week’s post is somewhat longer than most, but I thought you would enjoy this article by Tom Kerr, who publishes a blog and sustainable living newsletter called Truth and Plenty.  It looks at entrepreneurship and “encore” careers from an interesting angle – and certainly provides food for thought.

Who Dictates How You Live Your Life?

I had a friend named Walker who grew up near Memphis.

"I heard Elvis Presley perform at a little roadside honky-tonk," he told me. "He was still undiscovered, and I was on the prom committee at my high school. So I went back to the committee and they said, 'Yes, we have enough to hire him.'"

"Are you kidding? Elvis played at your high school prom?"

"He would have. But the prom committee overruled my idea. Two years later Elvis was the most famous man in America. I decided right then and there that I would never again let a committee tell me what to do with my life."

Walker was one of the rare ones.  According to the Harvard Business Review, most of us choose careers and lifestyles based almost entirely on the expectations of others. Researchers call it "compliant behavior."

You're taught at a very early age to abide by the rules that groups of others set for you to follow, and to pursue that group-think mentality, instead of your own individual goals, desires, and dreams.

Maybe that "life by committee" system worked for your parents or grandparents, but today it's a dead-end street.

A Harris Poll found that nearly one out of three people who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 a year still live paycheck-to-paycheck.  How is that even possible?

The answer is that 70% of them are in debt up to their eyeballs. That makes it hard to see your path forward.

Retirement used to be something you looked forward to. These days it's something you dread, because you're afraid you'll run out of money.  Instead of a time to relax and pursue the things you love, it can be the most stressful phase of your life.

But it does not have to be.

Each of us needs to take another look at what we have, and determine whether we really own it...or if it has started to own us.

Much of what folks think they own is just borrowed from the bank. They charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege of feeling that you're the rightful owner.

Your level of false ownership is even determined by a committee, one that sits around a desk rifling through your confidential credit reports.  You buy a life they say you can afford, and then pay it off in heavy installments until the day you die.

Marjory Wildcraft understands the issue better than most, because she used to run her own investment company.  Now she raises her own food, barters and sells what she doesn't need, and gets paid to teach other people how to do it for themselves. She enjoys more independence and security than ever before, and has great fun leading a wholesome life that gives back to others in sustainable ways.

But you don't have to go whole hog the way Marjory did.  For example, you can launch your own portable career, which only requires one square foot...just enough to hold your laptop. That's what I did when I decided to rightsize my life. Millions of other people have done the same, and it's getting easier by the minute because of breakthroughs in technology and e-commerce.

They say that a camel is really a horse, designed by a committee.

If you don't want your own retirement future to get bent out of shape, take Walker's advice.  The advice is free...but can make your life rich in ways that are not just financial.

~ Tom Kerr

Conquering Clutter – Part 3

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

~ Leonardo Da Vinci.

A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, or device that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated way. Cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg described his eponymous inventions as a “symbol of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.” The devices include a series of indirect, convoluted chain reactions that are both ingenious and absurd.

Over the years, the expression “Rube Goldberg” has come to describe any confusing or complicated system that deliberately slows progress and inhibits transparency. The IRS Tax Code, health insurance, financial services, the legal system and customer service for large corporations are just a few examples where planners seem to have consciously chosen the vice of complexity over the virtue of simplicity. I think you would agree that we all pay dearly for this choice.

Your personal goal should be just the opposite…to accomplish maximum results with minimal effort.  To achieve this you must actively embrace simplicity, and deliberately remove complexity and confusion from your daily routines, from your relationships, from your business and from your thinking.

Here are a few ways to “say goodbye to Rube” and simplify your life:

1.    Work on one thing at a time.  Prioritize your “to-do” list in order of importance (important isn’t always the same thing as urgent), then focus on and complete the tasks one at a time. No matter how many things are on that list, whether it’s three or ten or a hundred, there’s really only one thing - the one thing you’re doing right now. In spite of anything else, the one thing you’re doing right now is the only thing that you can do, so relax and give it your full attention.

2.    Eliminate the too-many-goals problem. When you set unreasonable expectations for the time available, you increase your stress level and simultaneously decrease your productivity.  Try the 1-2-3 approach instead: for the next 30-90 days, choose 1 goal in each of 2 sectors (i.e., one personal and one professional), and commit to 3 action steps for each goal.

3.    Declare a “Do Nothing Day” each month and really do nothing that day. Get over the idea that time off from work is automatically time wasted.  The greatest geniuses created space in their thoughts and actions to make room for inspiration to emerge. Leonardo Da Vinci advised, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose your power of judgment.”


Conquering Clutter - Part 2

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

~ William Morris

When we pile up things we don’t use or need, we also accumulate stale energy that can quickly transform into stress. Decluttering your living space makes room for new things to enter, which in turn can help you experience more peace and renewed vitality.

I’ve found this three-part strategy for clearing your home environment a highly effective way to get the job done. You may want to give it a try too.

1. Get rid of “stuff” that you don’t love having around or no longer find useful. Donate or discard clothes that don’t fit or that you haven’t worn for 6 months (a year at most). Toss the old makeup, dispose of appliances, gadgets and accessories you don’t need, and bundle up magazines you’ve already read for trash or recycling.

2. Organize. Start going through all drawers and cupboards in your home one at a time. Choose the messiest one first, empty it and re-organize its contents. Group and store similar items together, so they’re easy to find when you need them. Don’t forget your medicine cabinet - check the expiration dates on your medications, and refill drug and cosmetic items where necessary.

3. Repair and maintain the things you intend to keep. Walk around your house and notice what needs fixing. Is there a piece of furniture that could use a touchup of paint? What about changing any burned out light bulbs, or tackling that leaky faucet or slow drain? Is your car due for routine services such as oil change or tire rotation? And how long have you been meaning to replace a missing button on your clothes?  Keep a list of anything that needs repair and regularly schedule a day for only fixing things. If you have a job that takes less than a minute or two, use your random spare moments to do it right away.  Fixing those smalls things you often put off keeps them from turning into major problems later on, and can give you a great sense of accomplishment as well.  

Conquering Clutter – Part 1

Good order is the foundation of all things.

~ Edmund Burke

You always know it’s the end of January when tax documents from banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions begin to fill your electronic and/or physical mailbox. For me it’s a not-so-gentle reminder that my unorganized box of last year’s receipts and bills (admit it - you probably have one too, even a little one….) needs to be sorted sooner rather than later.  Needless to say, it’s one of my least favorite tasks, and always gets me thinking about the importance of regular “spring cleaning” in all areas of life.  

You know how stressed you feel when you’ve left a few jobs undone for longer than you really would like, and how good it feels to get them done and out of the way!  Here are four tips I’ve found very helpful for tackling money clutter. If you follow through on one each week, your financial life will quickly be back on track and you’ll have a nice system for keeping it there.

1.    Have all your important documents safely stored and conveniently filed.  You might want to invest in one of those systems with colored binders, folders and labels, so that it’s easy to put everything in the proper place on a regular basis.

2.    Get your regular payments scheduled into your calendar and where possible, direct debited.  Electronic banking makes it simple to keep track of due dates, and pay your bills on time all in one place.

3.    Periodically clean out and organize the contents of your wallets and bags. It’s amazing what “treasures” you might find, and how long can lie hidden there!

4.   Go through every piece of paper on your desk and deal with it.  Do one of four things – take care of what’s written there immediately, put it in an “outbox” for short-term attention, file in the proper place for later or permanent reference, or toss it in the shredder or the “circular file”.

Of course, no list is of any use unless it sees some action. So get to it right away – just one task a week, and let me know how you do!

Replaceable Royalty

For so work the honeybees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom.

~ William Shakespeare

If you believe the entertainment value of inside the Beltway politics too often outweighs substance, the latest news from Capitol Hill certainly seems to back you up. Competition for the limelight among legislators and bureaucrats alike has been especially keen in the past week.  Face time in front of a camera seems to be everyone’s most coveted goal. 

I recently came across an interesting article on leadership, and what the author learned about it from keeping bees. Hope you enjoy this excerpt as much as I did.

Bees, we've found, can teach us all a thing or two about life, business and even politics.  

In the bee world, it's the queen that gets all the attention.  But like most things that get too much of the spotlight, she's not all she's cracked up to be. 

Oh sure, the hive can't live without her. If we crush her while we're checking our honey stores, we've got big trouble on our hands. 

And there's no doubt the queen controls the mood of the bees around her. The hive will be angry and nearly unworkable if she's not laying eggs like she used to. 

But the queen is far from an authoritarian. She knows she's at the mercy of the masses. The workers could replace her at any time.  She knows she works for them and if she doesn't get the job done... she's gone. 

The queen, we reckon, could teach all leaders - especially our elected leaders - a thing or two. She may be essential... but the health of the hive is far more important than the regality of the queen. 

It's an idea that we should all study. 

I couldn’t agree more.  How about you?

Visualizing Your Dream Life In 5 Steps

We act, or fail to act, not because of ‘will,’ as is so commonly believed, but because of imagination.

~ Maxwell Maltz, The New Psycho-Cybernetics    

Law of Attraction experts will tell you how important it is to visualize exactly what you want to achieve in your life – that you need to picture yourself possessing all the things you desire in the current moment.  But it’s not always easy to do, especially if you’re new to the practice of visualization.

If you have a strong desire to live a happy and abundant life but you’re not sure how to visualize it, here are a 5 tips that will help you get started.

Step #1: Find A Comfortable Place to Visualize

You can visualize while lying on your bed, seated on a favorite chair or sofa, or even in a meditative position on the floor.  Just make sure the place you choose allows you to relax, free your mind, and be comfortable.  Be consistent about returning there often for visualization sessions.

Step #2: Eliminate Outside Distractions

To visualize successfully, you need to focus on the moment.  Clear away any distractions, like your cell phone, your computer, or the television. You can listen to soothing music if it helps you, but don’t engage with anything that might draw your attention away from the exercise.

Step #3: Immerse Yourself in the Visualization

Once you’re comfortable and have eliminated all distractions, it’s time to completely immerse yourself in the visualization experience. Form a clear mental picture of your ideal life and the things you want in it. If it helps, describe the picture out loud. Think about why you want to have all this and see yourself succeeding.

Step #4: Get in Touch With Your Senses

Thinking about what you want isn’t enough — you have to feel it emotionally and physically. Try to embody the experience. If your goal is to enjoy a long tropical vacation, feel the cool ocean breeze and the sand beneath your toes, smell the fragrant flowers, taste the salt air, hear the birds singing at dawn.  If you consistently connect your senses to your dreams and desires, you will eventually feel like you have these things in your life right now. This sets the stage for manifesting what you want.

#5: Repeat This Exercise Every Day

To reap the benefits of positive visualization, make it a habit. Do a visualization exercise at least once a day (or more if you’re up for it), for a minimum of 20 minutes. Continue this routine for at least 21 days in a row. You’ll soon feel more energized and confident, which will begin to attract greater abundance into your life.




See It, Believe It, Achieve It

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.

~ Jonathan Swift

Visualization is a tool that allows us to see what we want to become and guides us to make it a reality. Athletes use it before a big game, businessmen use it before a presentation, and actors use it before a big show to improve their chances of success. The most famous high achievers are some of the biggest fans of visualization – because it works.

But trying to see your success before you achieve it can sometimes be hard.  Happily, there are techniques that can make the process easier and produce more consistent results.

One very effective creative visualization practice is the Theatre of the Mind.  Developed by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of Psychocybernetics, the Theatre of the Mind uses imagination to simulate a possible future.  Dr. Maltz found that imagined experiences were often far more powerful and real than anything in the outside world.  A person selects a particular “mental movie” to play, replacing old negative images running on the mind’s screen with new, positive ones. This mental exercise brings the self-image into alignment with the desired goal, and stimulates the same neural pathways used when performing the actual task or event. In effect, it “wires in” the behaviors needed to achieve success in the chosen endeavor.

Vision boards are another popular aid for creating a desired new reality. A vision board (sometimes called a creativity collage) is a poster board on which you paste images and/or words torn out from magazines. The images can be very specific, for example your new dream house, or they can evoke a feeling, such as deep peace. Vision boards add clarity and feeling to your visions. As with the Theatre of the Mind, selecting and focusing on pictures of who you want to become, what you want to have or what you want to do eventually changes your outer life to match your inner one.

It has been famously (and often) said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Give one of these visualization techniques a try the next time you’re making a success plan for your business or personal life.  At the very least you’ll save a lot of trees…..

Happy New Year!

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,

Whispering 'it will be happier'...

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

January 2018 finds many of us full of hope for a happy future, and armed with resolutions to make it happen. The concept of New Year's resolutions began with the ancient Babylonians, who began each year with oaths to their kings and gods. The tradition continued with the Romans swearing to the two-faced god Janus, who looked both back into the old year and forward into the new.

When you stick to them, resolutions can change the trajectory of your life forever. But hope and good intentions alone are no guarantee of success. If statistics are to be believed, nine out of 10 people have failed to keep their New Year’s resolutions by the time the next year rolls around. Perhaps this explains why some people consider “resolutions” a dirty word, and only 40% of Americans will even make one.

The problem is often not in the size of the goals themselves, but in setting too many of them.  Author and success guru Mark Ford has a solution. He suggests focusing on just one goal for each of the four big areas of life — health, wealth, relationships, and personal enrichment. 

Another, even simpler approach is to break your one-year resolution into manageable shorter-term pieces.  Select one personal and one professional goal to focus on for each quarter of the year.  Keep it simple, and reward yourself for following through on your action steps as well as for meeting your target outcome.

Like Gandhi and so many others, I believe everything begins with a thought.  Thinking positive thoughts about your resolutions can only increase your chances of success.  Here’s my choice for 2018 - I think this is going to be a good year.  What do you think?

Being Peace

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’

 ~ Luke 2:14 


Are the holidays making you wish you could take some time off from your own life? Does it feel as though things are getting ever more hectic these days, so that you can hardly keep up with the pace?

Well, if it’s any comfort, you’re not alone. On an average day, most of us are faced with an overwhelming variety of choices in many areas of our lives. Faced with almost limitless options and an enormous pile of stuff to do in a day, we are more likely to feel debilitated than exhilarated. More choice may promise greater convenience and comfort, but it isn’t always better for our peace of mind. 

Dr. Wayne Dyer observed that peace isn’t something you ultimately receive when you slow down the pace of your life. Peace, he noted, is what you’re capable of being and bringing to every encounter of your life. Being peaceful is an inner attitude that isn’t dependent on what your surroundings look like. It seldom has anything to do with what the people around you think, say, or do, and a noiseless environment isn’t a requirement.

In his famous prayer “make me an instrument of your peace”, St. Francis of Assisi wasn’t asking for God to provide him with peace. He was asking for guidance to be more like the Source of peace itself. He recognized that being peace is different from looking for peace.

Inner peace isn’t simply about choosing tranquil thoughts when you’re feeling frayed and anxious. It’s about attracting serene, harmonious thoughts and people by allowing “heavenly peace” to shine from within and infuse everything you say and do. In the midst of this busy Christmas season, let us commit to bringing the energy of God’s peace into our daily interactions.

Finding Your Purpose

The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.

~ Mark Twain  

Have you ever felt as if you’re walking aimlessly through life with no purpose or direction?  If you do, you’re not alone.

Many people struggle and fret over finding their true passion or purpose in life. The trouble arises when they may spend so much time worrying about it, that they forget to take action!

If this sounds familiar, and you’re ready to get on track with your life purpose, you might want to try the following 7 steps: 

1. Be clear on your “why”.

What’s driving you to discover your life purpose?  Make a list of all the reasons knowing this will improve your quality of life. It’s a good starting point, and it will keep you motivated when you encounter difficulties along the way.

2. Envision your ideal life.

Start with a description of what your typical day looks like when you’re living your purpose. Write down all the things that make you excited about your life, and include all aspects.  For example, what would you be doing now if you were financially free/enjoying excellent health/in a soulmate relationship?

3. Identify your special skills. 

Look back at the things you’ve done with ease or where you’ve excelled.  Also, pay close attention to what others say you’re good at.  This often reveals a special skill you didn’t realize you had. 

4. Get in touch with your core values.

Living a purpose driven life means being focused what matters most. When you begin to seriously think about this, you’ll probably notice that the most important things are rarely material. 

5. Celebrate and embrace ALL your gifts. 

Who says you can have only one purpose? You don’t have to limit yourself to doing one thing for the rest of your life. When you let go of this idea, you’ll open yourself up to opportunities that you may not have considered before. Go out and explore your many talents!

6.  Step out of your comfort zone.

Too often we procrastinate, pass up opportunities, compromise our health, and do everything except what’s best for us… all because we don’t like to feel pain or discomfort. Most people would rather feel discomfort than face their fears. 

Once you face your fears and get out of your comfort zone, however, that’s precisely when you’re most likely to find freedom and joy. You’ll get to know yourself better by expanding your mind and your abilities. 

7. Take time to reflect.

Meditation is a wonderful tool for self-discovery, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time sitting with your eyes closed in lotus position to find your purpose or passion. Set aside a few minutes every day to sit quietly and reflect on what makes you happy, what you want to do with your life and what kind of impact you want to have. In stillness, most of the answers will almost effortlessly be revealed to you. 

© Clear Simple SOULutions LLC 2017