100 days of Should: Building Toward a Leap?

Is it time for a leap?

Is it time for a leap?

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

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

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

– – – – – – –

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

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

– – – – – – –

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

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

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

– – – – – – –

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

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

– – – – – –

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

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

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

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

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

“You ok?” I said.

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

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

Then I heard it.

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

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

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

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

Listen to the Should.

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

Argus Filch, Role Model.

Argus Filch, Role Model.

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

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

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

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

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

And put the bad behind us, where it belongs.

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

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

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

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

100 Days of Should: Thoughts on Day One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100 Days of Should: A New Self Experiment

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

Here’s some backstory:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

But still, I’m in a comfortable rut.

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

And that’s the important part.

I need more. I need better.

I need a life that feels like mine.

So why 100 Days of Should?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And lots of other things, too.

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

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

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

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

I hope you get something out of it.

And that I do, too.

Cogh and The Machine: a children’s book for adults is a dark satire that takes an unblinking look at the the malignant effects of today’s profit-above-all corporate culture on 21st Century America.

Now Available on Amazon.com Cogh and The Machine: a children’s book for adults is a dark satire that takes an unblinking look at the the malignant effects of today’s profit-above-all corporate culture on 21st Century America.