Larry Mannino is one of those creative (copy)writer types.

These are some of the things he's been thinking about, in no particular order.

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 to 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’. 

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.

How to REALLY Change Your Life and Actually Become What you Want to Be

This is true on some level.  Get going, people!

This is true on some level. Get going, people!

This morning I knocked off another 10 pages of final edits on Checkin’ For Deads – my new novel. It was my 27th day in a row that I’d gotten up, grabbed some coffee, and gotten to writing.

And I realized that I was closer than I’d ever been to actually being what I’ve always wanted to be.

Having something truly done – complete, finished – at the ‘sure, go ahead and take a look’ stage – helps. A lot. I have another manuscript – Cogh and The Machine: A Children’s Book for Adults – out in beta read right now. It’s been very well-received; some people have cried. Some have asked if they can give it to someone else that “should really read this”.  Others, without any prompting, have read it twice.  It’s even getting a little interest from the publishing community. Very exciting stuff.

For some reason, when I finished Cogh a couple of months back and started this process of ‘getting it out there’ (and figuring out exactly what that meant), I also decided to put in 10 pages a day on finalizing Checkin’ for Deads – another book I’d written that was actually ‘finished’ 2 years ago.

‘Deads’ was my first-person urban fantasy/mystery first-in-a-series baby before Cogh came along and consumed me, becoming the pushy sibling that demanded all of my time and attention for the past 22 months.

What didn’t realize at the time though, was that when I made my seemingly minor 10-page a day commitment,  I was actually starting to take my dream of so many years seriously.

And somehow, in simply sticking to this small routine, things started to change.

I’ve always had a picture of what I wanted my life to look like – a lot of people do, I think.

For me, it would be getting up in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee (yeah, uh, about that – back on the joe, sorry), and getting to write for maybe 4-5 hours. Then a quick workout, and off to do some interesting stuff out in the world among actual people – which is where I get my ideas. Maybe working on some other projects with some good creatives.

Later, in my perfectly visualized life, I’d come home, spend some real time with my family, and then at night reread what I’d written earlier in the day. Finish the day with a little guitar/gaming/reading – some kind of down time – and off to bed.

Problem was, this picture was always out there; fully imagined to the tiniest detail, yes, but not real. It was on a pedestal up ahead of me: I could see it, but there was always the same stubborn distance between where I was today, and where it was ‘someday’.  And I couldn’t seem to ever make up any ground toward it.

But despite all that, I still believed that somehow I’d wake up one morning and it would all be in place.

As much as we like to think that happens, it doesn’t.

And as much as we’d like to think we should just drop everything and go for it, we don’t. Not if we have kids and spouses and businesses and mortgages and well, y’know, Lives.

But we can’t Not – not if the dream is persistent. Not if we don’t want to sit back at 85 and say, I should’ve…

So what we need, I think, is a practical approach to changing our lives and becoming what we want to be.  And I think I just stumbled upon one.

I realized this morning that, by sticking with my minor daily 10-page-a-day commitment, I was actually ‘trying on’ a new life.

Let’s look at what I’m really doing, right now: I’m getting up, writing, (usually) working out and then heading out into the real world (where, fortunately, I work as a copywriter and brand strategist – creative stuff, most days).

If you paid attention up top, you’d realize what I’m really doing: I’m living a dry run of the life I’ve always wanted – a trial period of sorts, and maybe – especially for those of us who can’t just drop it all and go – that’s a very good thing.

Because what if the life you’ve so meticulously envisioned isn’t what you thought it would be?

Sure, if you left everything and jumped, maybe the net would appear, but would it entangle you and put you in a worse situation?

I’m not trying to be a downer, here: instead, I’m saying that the best way to wholly change your life is to do it in small parts.

Commit to living an hour of your ‘new life’ every day. Just ONE hour.  Exactly like you picture it.

If you want to be a cook, go cook in a commercial kitchen for an hour a day – even if it’s volunteer work.  If you want to be a librarian, go be a page at your local library.  Whatever you want to be, go be it for an hour a day. Every day.  And make sure that you’re not just researching these things, but actually doing them.  Every day.

If you do this, there are only 2 things that can happen:

It’ll either be great, and you’ll gain momentum and do it more and more until before you know it, you’re actually doing it!

Or, it won’t be what you thought it would be. And that’s okay, because you’ll be Free again to choose something new. Without the ‘what if’s’, the ‘I shoulds’ and, perhaps the most insidiously dangerous, the ‘I’m gonna’s’.

So picture what you want your life to look like, and commit an hour a day to living that life for awhile. Try it on and see if it fits, if you grow into it, or if you shed it.

Either way, you’ll know. Now. Not in some imagined future that’ll never come.

And that’s pretty great.