Thursday, June 23, 2011

#trust30 - Day 20: Speak Less

Speak Less by Laura Kimball
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I once received a fortune cookie that read: “Speak less of your plans, you’ll get more done.” What’s one project that you’ve been sitting on and thinking about but haven’t made progress on? What’s stopping you? What would happen if you actually went for it and did it?

(Author: Laura Kimball)

One project? I have half a dozen.

But one stands above all the others right now. I woke up at 4:30 this morning thinking about it, about how to make it happen and what it might look like. It's a speaking project, a presentation I tentatively call On Courage that will serve two purposes: first, it will bring history to life for kids in a way I don't think most of our classrooms do today; and second, it will encourage them to find their own courage and seek their own dreams.

What's stopping me? Time, and fear, and that little voice of insecurity that says What makes you think you can connect with kids? Who are you to even try to reach schools? Why would they listen even if you can make contact? You know, the usual stuff.

What would happen if I went for it? Well, in the worst case the little voice is right, people laugh at me--and I learn what I'm doing wrong and perhaps gain some idea how to do it differently in the future. In the best case, it's a great success--and I open a whole new avenue to chase my dreams.

So much for the little voice. So much for excuses. I'm inching forward!


#trust30 - Day 19: Facing (And Fearing)

Facing (and Fearing) by Dan Andrews
Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trusting intuition and making decisions based on it is the most important activity of the creative artist and entrepreneur. If you are facing (and fearing) a difficult life decision, ask yourself these three questions:

1) “What are the costs of inaction?” I find it can be helpful to fight fear with fear. Fears of acting are easily and immediately articulated by our “lizard brains” (thanks Seth) e.g. what if I fail? what if I look stupid? If you systematically and clearly list the main costs of inaction, they will generally overshadow your immediate fears.

2) “What kind of person do I want to be?” I’ve found this question to be extremely useful. I admire people who act bravely and decisively. I know the only way to join their ranks is to face decisions that scare me. By seeing my actions as a path to becoming something I admire, I am more likely to act and make the tough calls.

3) “In the event of failure, could I generate an alterative positive outcome?” Imagine yourself failing to an extreme. What could you learn or do in that situation to make it a positive experience? We are generally so committed to the results we seek at the outset of a task or project that we forget about all the incredible value and experience that comes from engaging the world proactively, learning, and improving our circumstances as we go along.

(Author: Dan Andrews)

1) What is the cost of inaction?

Inaction keeps me on my current path. I continue to do well at my current job, making steady money, receiving a four- to ten-percent raise each year. Perhaps I rise to manager, then director, then vice president. And all the while I wish for something else, something more fulfilling. And my kids learn how to be workaday dreamers, defeated by their own fear, dissatisfied and pining for different lives, instead of learning how to make their dreams real.

2) What kind of person do I want to be?

I want to be joyful and courageous. I want to tell stories people want to hear. I want to radiate that contagious joy that makes people wonder what I have and want the same for themselves.

Above all, I want to fearlessly seek my dreams, so that my kids--and anyone else who cares to see--can know that dreams are not beyond reach, that passion and courage and patience are enough to bring them to life.

3) In the event of failure, could I generate an alternative positive outcome?

I believe I could. After all, very few writers make good money on only one income source. If I structure my endeavors properly, writing books will only be one of a number of income streams, and maybe not the biggest. Failure there will only open the door to success elsewhere.

So what am I waiting for? Nothing. I'm inching forward already. Soon I'll be crawling, then walking. Before long I'll be unstoppable.

Who else is ready to chase their dreams?


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#trust30 - Day 18: Dreams

Dreams by Michael Rad
Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write down your top three dreams. Now write down what’s holding you back from them.

(Author: Michael Rad)

My top three dreams:

1) To get my book into readers' hands.
2) To inpire kids to a) love themselves and seek their own greatness, and b) love history and stories and seek knowledge more than entertainment.
3) To provide my family a life that allows them to chase their own dreams.

What is holding me back?

1) Time. Brilliant books, a brilliant web site, and brilliant ways to engage kids all take time to create.
2) Fear. The fear of getting it wrong, of not being brilliant enough, of being rejected.
3) Knowledge. To avoid getting it wrong, I have to increase my knowledge. See Time above.

I'm working through the fear. I'm building my knowledge. So really, the only obstacle left is time. And I have enough of that.


#trust30 - Day 17: Invent the Future

I'm farther behind than I care to figure right now. The last week has been fantastic--a great HNS Conference, followed by Disneyland and a very informative work conference. I'll blog about the HNS Conference soon.

In the meantime, though, let's continue the Emerson prompts!

Invent the Future by Cindy Gallop

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: ‘In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.’ I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.

(Author: Cindy Gallop)

This has always been one of my biggest hang-ups. Great ideas always came from outside; they were always the product of others' imaginations, others' brilliance. Never mine. You could say that when life called for great ideas, it was someone else's job to discover them and mine to take advantage.

I know better now. How many great ideas have I failed to act on because it wasn't my job to come up with them? How many great ideas have I seen advanced that I didn't encourage, because it wasn't that person's job to come up with ideas? Or because it was too hard? Or because if it were really a good idea someone else would already have made millions from it?

It's my idea to come up with the good ideas that decide the course of my life. And my ideas are swirling in my head now, swirling and landing on this blog and my computer and a hundred loose pieces of paper. And as they swirl, my future takes shape.

What is it? Simple. I'm making history exciting and fun again. Because that's what it is. History is love and courage and battle and building and people with huge dreams creating a huge world. It's stories and questions, inventions and trials, great leaps forward and small steps backward. And every minute of it leads right to where we are now, to who we are now, and tells us who we are. And who we are determines our future.

How did we ever manage to make that boring?

My future is passion and stories, thrilling talks and engaging internet content and making the old new again. My future is helping people discover who they are by showing them who we were. My future is history. What's yours?


Friday, June 17, 2011

#trust30 - Day 16: Wholly Strange and New

Wholly Strange and New by Bridget Pilloud

When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can you remember a moment in your life when you had life in yourself and it was wholly strange and new? Can you remember the moment when you stopped walking a path of someone else, and started cutting your own?

Write about that moment. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, let the miracle play out in your mind’s eye and write about that moment in your future.

(Author: Bridget Pilloud)

I don't think this happened in a single moment for me. For me, the "wholly strange and new" moment has taken years.

When my son arrived, I knew I would spend my life making his world better. When my daughter arrived, I remembered that purpose. But neither time did I have any idea how I was going to do that.

When I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing and sharing stories, I felt a huge sense of relief at finally knowing who I was. But the goal still seemed hopelessly out of reach and unrealistic.

When I left the Army, I knew a phase of my life had ended and another needed to begin. But it still seemed hopelessly unrealistic for writing to be the major component of that new life.

When I finished my first book, and my second, and third, and fourth, I felt a rush of accomplishment. But still the dream seemed no more realistic or responsible.

When I completed my Discovery! training, I knew I had to figure out how to live my dream. But I still had no idea how to get there without putting my family's future at risk.

It wasn't until I heard Dan Miller explain a simple truth--that we are more likely to make real money by doing what we are passionate about than by spending five days a week at a secure job that doesn't engage us--that I realized my dream wasn't just something to do in my off time. It wasn't until then that I stopped worrying about whether my dream was realistic and started working to make it real. I suppose if I have to pick a single moment, that was it. But that would never have happened without all the years that came before.

I'm not there yet. But every day it comes a day closer. Every day is wholly strange and new in some way.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

#trust30 - Day 15: One Thing

One Thing by Colin Wright

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take a moment, step back from your concerns, and focus on one thing: You have one life to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted. Sounds simple, but when you really focus on it, let it seep into your consciousness, you realize you only have about 100 years to get every single thing you’ve ever wanted to do. No second chances. This is your only shot. Suddenly, this means you should have started yesterday. No more waiting for permission or resources to start. Today is the day you make the rest of your life happen. Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and how you will achieve that goal. Don’t be afraid to be very specific in how you’ll achieve it: once you start achieving, your goals will get bigger and your capability to meet them will grow.

(Author: Colin Wright)

I've always wanted to publish a book. Shocking, I know, since that's all I've talked about here for the last two weeks. But it's true: to publish a book, to see my name in print, to see people enjoying my words, drawn out of their worlds into one of my creation for a while and coming back for more--that's the goal that's left when I narrow all my dreams to one.

I know I'm supposed to dream about nobler things: curing a disease, or teaching kids about the world, or improving humanity in some way, or watching my kids grow into great leaders and pillars of society. Those are all the dreams I used to admit to. But then I realized something: I can't teach my kids to follow their own dreams (which is the only way they'll become pillars of society, or even complete adults) unless I can show them how I follow mine. So the way I accomplish all those noble, lofty goals I've always voiced is by selfishly following my dream.

So how does it happen? I've finally decided it happens with this book. Here's the timeline.

- This weekend, I meet with two publishing professionals to pitch my story.
- By the end of August of this year, the manuscript is complete.
- By the end of October, I'm finished editing and ready to send the polished story to agents.
- By the 1st of January, 2012, one of two things has happened: either an agent has agreed to represent the manuscript, or I have published it as an ebook on Kindle and iPad.
- If it's with an agent, I start the next book and wait for the publishing world to inch forward.
- If it's an ebook, I start the next book, begin advertising this one everywhere I can, and put a print version together. By the 1st of April, 2012, the book goes to print.
- After that? Either I become my own agent and publisher, or the industry gets interested and a publisher contacts me. That's a bridge I can figure out what to do with when I get there.

Either way, it's going to be a fun ride. The publishing world is changing--and I plan to ride the wave as long as I can.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#trust30 - Day 14: Alternative Paths

Alternative Paths by Jonathan Fields

When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world buzzes about goals and visions. Focus. Create a vivid picture of exactly where you want to go. Dream big, then don’t let anything or anyone stop you. The problem, as Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling Upon Happiness, is that we’re horrible at forecasting how we’ll really feel 10 or 20 years from now – once we’ve gotten what we dreamed of. Often, we get there only to say, “That’s not what I thought it would be,” and ask, “What now?” Ambition is good. Blind ambition is not. It blocks out not only distraction, but the many opportunities that might take you off course but that may also lead you in a new direction. Consistent daily action is only a virtue when bundled with a willingness to remain open to the unknown. In this exercise, look at your current quest and ask, “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” They’re always there, but you’ve got to choose to see them.

(Author: Jonathan Fields)

An exercise in brainstorming today. The question, in a nutshell, is What am I missing? What can I do to realize my dream, other than writing books?

But the real question goes deeper. It's not what, but why? Why do I want to write books? Why do I want to meet that kid reading my book on an airplane?

Because I'm not just in it to write books for people to read. That's big--but it's not big enough.

I'm in it to share stories. More than that, even--to share a passion. Because once upon a time, a teacher sparked a passion in me for history. Not for dates and events and names. For real history. For the stories behind the dates and events and names. For the stories about what it means to be human, about why we are who and what we are.

I want to spark that passion in others. I want people to read my work and be inspired to learn more and share stories about what they have learned with others.

And I can do that with more than just books. I have a few ideas:

- This blog.
- A podcast for which I already have a format and outlines for sixteen to eighteen episodes.
- A website to be designed, which in my dreams eventually grows into a sort of wiki for military history.
- A project in work I call the Battles List, a crosslinked list of every battle in history. Ties in with the wiki above.
- A presentation called On Courage, which I will start delivering at schools and other organizations this fall.
- An online game/multimedia experience that allows users to experience historical events, not just read about them. This one is in its earliest concept stage.

I add ideas to this list every week. Some of these may not happen; most probably won't happen in exactly the form I imagine today. But I refuse to limit myself to writing books. It's a start--but it can't be everything.

And the secret to having good ideas is having a lot of ideas. So I let the ideas flow.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#trust30 - Day 13: Surprise Yourself

Surprise by Ashley Ambirge

I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think of a time when you didn’t think you were capable of doing something, but then surprised yourself. How will you surprise yourself this week?

(Author: Ashley Ambirge)

This happens more and more as I grow older. When I was a kid, there was nothing I couldn't do with just a little more effort, and even if it turned out I couldn't, I could make excuses for the failure--or just ignore it as if it hadn't happened.

As I grew older and the price of failure seemed greater, I started wondering whether, in fact, I could accomplish the things that seemed too hard. And something changed: gradually, I stopped telling myself I can do it and started believing that little voice that says no, you can't. That's when the cringing started. It was easier to stay where it was safe than to take a chance.

A friend of mine had a big hand in changing that. A couple of years ago, he and his family were vacationing with us at my parents' cabin in Colorado. It sits at 8,200 feet; hike a mile or two up the trail and you can see the Continental Divide. And my friend, a triathlete, asked me if I'd ever been up to the Divide.

Of course, I hadn't. It was too far, or I didn't have the right equipment, or there was nobody there who could go with me, or it would take too much time, or any number of excuses. The truth was I wasn't sure I could do it, so I didn't try.

Well, let's go, he said. And those three words stripped away my excuses and asked me to look at the challenge from a whole different angle. Not It's too hard, I can't, but Maybe I can. And even if I couldn't, why not find out how far I could get?

To make a long story longer, we went. And we made it--not to our stretch goal, which was Summit Peak, three miles past the Divide and two thousand feet higher--but to the Divide itself, twelve and a half thousand feet up and nine and a half miles from the cabin. And back. In a day.

I suppose some would count that a failure. I did not. I do not. That was the day I remembered how to dare.

So this week, I'm headed to San Diego with my family to attend the HNS Conference. Three hundred writers, agents, and editors, all passionate about writing or publishing historical fiction, many of them already published or working in the industry.

What business do you have being in the same room with the likes of Diana Gabaldon and Harry Turtledove and Margaret George? the little voice asks.

Simple. I am passionate about writing, about history, about sharing stories. Just like they are. Just like they were years ago when they started. And years from now--I don't know how many--I mean to be where they are now.

Can I do it? I'll find out one day at a time, one step at a time, one word at a time. Just like my friend and I climbed nine and a half miles to the Continental Divide.

I don't remember if I ever thanked you for that, friend. But thank you. Your three words changed my life.


Monday, June 13, 2011

#trust30 - Day 12: Fear

I'm only three days behind now. Here we go with Saturday's prompt:

Fear by Lachlan Cotter

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is fear holding you back from living your fullest life and being truly self expressed? Put yourself in the shoes of the you who’s already lived your dream and write out the answers to the following:

Is the insecurity you’re defending worth the dream you’ll never realize? or the love you’ll never venture? or the joy you’ll never feel?

Will the blunder matter in 10 years? Or 10 weeks? Or 10 days? Or 10 minutes?

Can you be happy being anything less than who you really are?

Now Do. The Thing. You Fear.

(Author: Lachlan Cotter)

This one is easy.




And I'm doing it right now.

Seriously. What's the worst that can happen? And what's the best? Weigh those against each other, then get up and do what you need to do.


#trust30 - Day 11: My Divine Idea

I am four days behind on my Emerson prompts, but with luck I'll get caught up today.

I'm on vacation with my family, heading to California for the HNS Conference in San Diego this weekend. Posts will probably be a little spotty for the next two weeks--but I'm committed to finishing this challenge. That said, on to Friday's prompt:

Divine Idea by Fabian Kruse

Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours?

(Author: Fabian Kruse)

You know, I've spent my life trying like crazy not to be an imitator. I've often rejected courses of action for no better reason than others were taking them. Which means I've rejected good ideas just because they weren't mine and other people thought they were good. Emerson aside, how is that a good thing?

I suppose it would be fine if I were refusing to go someone else's way and instead coming up with my own idea and following that. But that's not how it usually plays out; usually, I reject the popular notion with no alternative of my own. Far from taking the road less traveled (mixing Frost with Emerson here), I choose not to take the well-worn path--and instead stand there, going nowhere. And ridiculing those following the crowd.

But at least they were going somewhere. Accomplishing something, however small it seemed to me. Standing there, making fun of them, I went nowhere.

So maybe that's my divine idea. It isn't enough simply to reject what others are doing. You must come up with your own plan, decide where you want to go and how you want to get there, and take action. Follow the road less traveled or blaze your own trail through the wood. Or follow the crowd, if they're going where you need to be. Maybe you'll see a shortcut along the way, or a better way to get there. Maybe when you turn aside to take it, some of them will follow you.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

#trust30 - Day 10: My Personal Message

Your Personal Message by Eric Handler

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is burning deep inside of you? If you could spread your personal message RIGHT NOW to 1 million people, what would you say?

(Author: Eric Handler)

The world does not follow position, or money, or power. The world does not follow inheritance, or tradition, or advanced degrees.

The world follows courage. The world follows those who know who they are and what they want and are willing to stand up and be heard--even at the risk of being hammered down.

Think about it. Who do you prefer to follow--the man with a plan and a message (however imperfect) who makes things happen, or the man with money and credentials and no plan beyond his own self-interest? Donald Trump just discovered the answer to that question.

It takes courage to make a plan. What if you're wrong?

It takes courage to present that plan to others. What if you're wrong in front of God and everybody and they make fun of you?

Well, what if they do? You're still the one who had the guts to stand up. And next time, guess what? They'll expect you to stand up again. Because they've seen you have the courage to. And eventually, they may like what you say and follow your plan.

Courage starts with believing in yourself. It comes from within, not from without. And here's the secret: once you find it in yourself, nobody can take it from you. To lose it, you must give it away.

So here's my message: believe in yourself. Find your passion. And when you have a chance to stand up and show your courage, do it. Even if you get hammered down.

Because one day, you'll stand up and people will listen.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#trust30 - Day 9

Afraid to Do by Mary Jaksch

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson says: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” What is ‘too scary’ to write about? Try doing it now.

(Author: Mary Jaksch)

Too scary to write about? This one's a little tricky. I've never liked watching scary movies or reading scary books, because most of them aren't and the ones that are--well, whatever other people enjoy in them, I don't see it. Maybe I'm just a big, nerdy wimp (do people still use that word?).

I have a few subjects I usually choose not to write about. Violence against children is one, although my work-in-progress at the moment is about a drummer boy in the Civil War. I don't like to write about violence against women, especially the sexual kind. But I have a woman posing as a man so she can be a soldier in the same book, and the heroine in my 6th-Century Britain story has a husband who mistreats her, for part of the story at least.

I have a rule of thumb not to write anything I wouldn't let my kids read. But one of the characters who occasionally taps on the inside of my head is a dead soldier who's been recruited into the war between heaven and hell. So far, no problem--except he talks like most of the soldiers I've known, which is to say he uses a lot of foul language. And he talks about women in ways I wouldn't want my kids to hear. I'll probably have to write his story one day; they don't usually go away after they've introduced themselves. But I'm not sure what I'm going to do with him yet.

But thinking about it, it's really predatory violence, not just any violence, I have a hard time with. There's a certain honesty to violence in the context of war: yes, it's terrible and brutal and ugly, but those who perpetrate it come away with as many scars as those who suffer from it. Bullets don't care who they kill, and women and children often fall victim to them--but killing an unarmed child (or even an armed one) is almost as much a tragedy to the soldier who pulls the trigger as it is to the child's comrades. It's no stretch to imagine a soldier, flush with victory, come across the body of a woman or a child and break down crying, even if he pulled the trigger, even if he did it to save a friend.

It's different when the violence is predatory. It is evil to select someone for death and enjoy the killing, to kill for no other reason than that it gives you pleasure. Especially when the victim is much, much weaker, when he or she realistically has no chance against you. There's only one point of view from which to write a scene like that, because the victim doesn't live through it. And the killer either doesn't realize his actions are wrong or doesn't care. To write that, to do it convincingly, one has to place oneself inside a mind where evil doesn't exist or doesn't matter. It must be terrifying to be inside such a mind, even for a little while.

I have no desire to get inside the mind of evil. I'm much more content in the gray areas, where people can do evil things and suffer from them, where real people live every day and question whether their actions were right or necessary.

I guess that's really what I'm afaid to write. I'm afraid to explore the mind of evil. How can one do that--really do it--and then find his way back to the real world? I'm pretty confident that's what killed Heath Ledger. I have little confidence I would fare any better against the Joker than he did.

Maybe one day I'll be willing to give it a shot. But I won't be writing what I fear tonight. Writing about it is hard enough.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#trust30 - Day 8

I'll be caught up in a few minutes. Here's today's prompt:

Five Years by Corbett Barr

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What would you say to the person you were five years ago? What will you say to the person you’ll be in five years?

(Author: Corbett Barr)

What do I say to the man I was five years ago? Boy--what can I say that I would hear? I'd be sure to internalize anything negative and ignore anything positive. Maybe I can try a soft sell:

Lighten up, friend. You're 34. The Army wasn't for you--so what? You've got a whole lifetime to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Cut yourself a little slack.

You're not a failure. You haven't even really failed. You've just figured out something you weren't really cut out to do. The Army's important, but it's not the only place you can make a difference. Time to figure out what's next.

Give the kids a break while you're at it. They'll grow up soon enough; it doesn't have to be today. You'd miss them. Trust me on this one.

And while you're handing out breaks, give your wife one, too. She had just as hard a year as you did. Sure, she's wrong to stay mad so long--but are you making it any better by staying mad back?

So what about that dream? Maybe it's time to start figuring out what it's going to take to make that work. What do you think? Ready to go for it?

Five years from now is a little harder. What do I say to me if I've realized my dream? What if I'm still busting my tail and accomplishing nothing and ready to give up? I'm not going to plan for the second possibility, so I'll talk to successful me:

Congratulations, friend. How's it feel to live your dream? Those four books have been great successes--you've earned a moment to feel proud of yourself.

OK. Moment's over. Remember the other stuff you wanted? How's your marriage? The kids? Is it time to take advantage of your success and pay attention to the more important stuff? When's the last time you gave your time to something that wasn't going to make you any money? Don't forget the reason you started this whole writing thing. You wanted to make a difference, remember?

It's easy to get complacent when you've got what you want. But don't forget how it felt to chase something worthwhile, to spend late nights working on your dream and get up early to provide for your family. Exhausting? You bet. And worth every minute of it.

It's okay to be content. It's not okay to be complacent. Don't get lazy.


#trust30 - Day 7

Only a day behind now. Here's yesterday's prompt:

Dare to be bold by Matt Cheuvront

Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Next to Resistance, rational thought is the artist or entrepreneurs worst enemy. Bad things happen when we employ rational thought, because rational thought comes from the ego. Instead, we want to work from the Self, that is, from instinct and intuition, from the unconscious.

A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. Its only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” - Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

The idea of “being realistic” holds all of us back. From starting a business or quitting a job to dating someone who may not be our type or moving to a new place – getting “real” often means putting your dreams on hold.

Today, let’s take a step away from rational thought and dare to be bold. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to pursue? Write it down. Also write down the obstacles in your way of reaching your goal. Finally, write down a tangible plan to overcome each obstacle.

The only thing left is to, you know, actually go make it happen. What are you waiting for?

(Author: Matt Cheuvront)

This is a question I think about every day.

See, writing isn't a realistic career. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King and John Grisham are the exceptions--most writers don't make enough to write full time. Even many of the published ones need day jobs to support their writing habits. But that doesn't stop people from wanting to be writers (it certainly hasn't stopped me).

And that, of course, is my goal. I don't want just to be published. I want to be read--read by enough people that my family doesn't have to worry about how to pay back student loans or whether we can afford cable TV or high-speed internet or have a reliable car. Read by enough people that I occasionally hear, "Oh, you're that Scott Dalton?" Read by enough people that I can surprise a kid reading on a plane by signing his book.

Ambitious? You bet. Arrogant? Maybe a little.

But that's where realism gets in the way. If you've been reading this blog long, you know I have a good day job. It keeps my family comfortable, and my prospects for the future are good. The realistic thing to do is to stick with it, to climb the corporate ladder and retire in twenty or thirty years with money in the bank.

My dream doesn't care what's realistic, but my bills do. My family does. So I have to find a way to make the dream the realistic thing to do. It has to make money before I can make the leap.

That means I have to build a writing career just like I would build a business. It starts with getting my name out there even before my book (the first of many) is finished. This blog is part of that. Facebook and Twitter play their part as well. I plan to have a podcast starting in the fall (watch for it!), and I have a presentation I'd like to give to school kids starting in the next school year.

Then comes the book. I'll have my first draft finished by the end of August, and the book will be with an agent or published on Kindle and/or iPad by the end of the year.

Then it's lather, rinse, repeat. Next year I write the next book. While I'm doing that, I'm coming up with new ideas, figuring out what's working and what's not, and learning how to do it better.

Sooner or later, the realistic thing to do will be to leave the day job and write full time.

I'm gonna love the look on that kid's face when I make his day.


#trust30 - Day 6

Status Update: Well, it looks like I've lost my hard drive. I bought a cable to hook it up via USB to another computer yesterday, hooked it up--and nothing. I tried it on two computers, and neither could recognize the drive or anything on it. We'll have our IT guy look at it next. Hopefully, he'll be able to recover the data and get it running again.

If not, I'm set back about four chapters. I was working on Chapter 20, and my surviving backup (I lost a memory stick, too, as luck would have it) has the manuscript through about half of Chapter 16. But it's not a total loss: I just learned some history that was going to force a significant rewrite of those chapters, anyway. Here's my excuse.

Coincidence? Yeah, maybe. But it'll work out in my favor.

Which brings us to Sunday's #trust30 prompt. I'm two days behind--but I'll get caught up tonight.

Come Alive by Jonathan Mead

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

(Author: Jonathan Mead)

Let's just put the bottom line up front: If I had a week to live, I would drop everything and spend every minute with my family. Work just isn't important enough to spend that week there. Writing isn't important enough to spend that week doing it. This blog isn't important enough to spend that week here. If I only have a week, I'll spend it building memories.

But that's not really the gist of this question. The real question is how is preparing for the future stealing your todays? In what ways am I spending so much of myself preparing for what is to come that I forget to live now?

Well, here are a few items I could add to my "To Stop" list:
I can stop saying "my wife deserves more of my time"--and start planning date nights.
I can stop saying "I need to get back into the gym"--and block out an hour a day for working out.
I can stop saying "I need to eat healthier"--and go stock up on fruit and veggies.
I can stop reading business books--and start building my business.
I can stop saying "I don't have the time/energy to write tonight"--and start sitting my butt in my chair and setting my watch for fifteen minutes.
I can stop being busy--and start being productive.

How do these goals improve my now? I've already found I'm happier when I get stuff done than when I merely plan stuff. Most of us are. There's a place for planning, but it can't be the end. I make now better by planning as much as I need to--not more--and then making it happen. It's like General Patton said: a good plan now beats a perfect plan tomorrow.

I'm off to make it happen. Get your nerd on!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#trust30 - Day 5

Travel by Chris Guillebeau

If we live truly, we shall see truly. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

(Author: Chris Guillebeau)

I have to narrow it down to one? I could more easily choose the one place in the world I least want to visit.

See, I've done my share of traveling, seen much of the world. I've set foot on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. I've visited Gettysburg and Normandy, walked the battlefields of Waterloo, New Orleans, the Cowpens. I've crawled through Roman ruins in Tunisia and seen the glittering new cities and incredible ancient places of China.

But there are many more places I haven't been. There are the places I want to see just for the sake of seeing them, like Spain or Prague or Rio de Janeiro. There are the places I want to see for the sake of having been there, like Sydney or Hong Kong or Cape Town. There are the wild places--not so wild anymore, and becoming less so by the year--I want to see in case they disappear one day forever, like the Serengeti or the Amazon or the Outback. There are the places I've heard about all my life, the places where people built things or accomplished things that were impossible until they made them real. The Pyramids; Macchu Picchu; Angkor Wat; Hadrian's Wall; the Taj Mahal.

And there are the places that drip with history, the places where a journey would be more a pilgrimage for me than a tour. Jerusalem is one such place. The Sutton Hoo ship-tomb would be another. Istanbul and the ruins of Constantinople might be another, as might Athens.

There are many, many more places I want to see before I die. I'd also love to dive into the ocean depths, down where the only light is what you bring with you, and travel into space. I could travel for the rest of my life and never see everything I want to see. There is simply too much of it out there.

So how do I plan to get there? I have to make it part of my passion. It's one of the beautiful things about being a writer: I can travel where I want, particularly to those places I feel drawn to write about--and call it research. It's all part of the job.

So here I am, nose to the grindstone. Another day in the salt mines. It's a rough job--but, you know, somebody's got to do it.

So--where do you want to go?


#trust30 - Day 4

I'm a day late. I'll be posting the prompts for yesterday and today tonight.

We'll start with a status update: my hard drive appears to have died. With luck, I'll be able to recover my files; if not, I figure I've lost three chapters or more. But I haven't lost my outline--or my passion for this story. It will just take a little longer to finish than I thought it would.

Now, on to yesterday's challenge prompt:

Post-it Question by Jenny Blake

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? . . . Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Identify one of your biggest challenges at the moment (ie I don’t feel passionate about my work) and turn it into a question (ie How can I do work I’m passionate about?) Write it on a post-it and put it up on your bathroom mirror or the back of your front door. After 48-hours, journal what answers came up for you and be sure to evaluate them.

Bonus: tweet or blog a photo of your post-it.

(Author: Jenny Blake)

First, a mea culpa: I didn't make a post-it note. For two reasons: first, I was traveling. Forty-eight hours ago, I was in Jacksonville, Florida; forty-eight hours from now I'll be there again. I could put a post-it note in my luggage and look at it periodically through the weekend, but somehow I don't think that would be as effective.

The second reason is just as simple: the question I would put on my post-it note is one I think about every day. How do I move on to the next phase of my life?

See, I have a good job. It provides a fine life for my family. It's reasonably challenging and usually interesting. I have a lot of autonomy and can make of it what I want. I like my boss and the people I work with. I am committed to doing it well. I could make a career of it and do very well for my family.

But it isn't my passion. Books, writing, history are my passion. Sharing stories with people who want to listen is my passion. Sparking the hunger for more knowledge in the next nerd just as a professor once sparked it in me is my passion. I want to move on from my job to my passion.

And here's the big deal: I can earn more--much more--in the long run at my passion than at my job. At my job, I'll spend the next twenty years chasing three- or four-percent raises. In a good year I might get seven to ten. Working in my passion, my earning potential will be limited only by my ability to reach people, to show them the scenes in my head and help them see their own as vividly.

But it will take a while for that potential to catch up with what I can do for my family right now. And until then, I have to be patient, develop my passion like a second job, and keep my eyes open for opportunities. That's the hard part.

Sharing stories with you, showing you what's in my head and helping you see your own as vividly, sparking the passion in you just like someone once sparked it in me--that's the easy part. The rewarding part. The fun part. The part that makes it all worth it.

Sharing the journey with you is proving to be a lot of fun, too. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Now--go get your nerd on!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

#trust30 - Day 3

One Strong Belief by Buster Benson

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?
(Author: Buster Benson)
I believe courage is the most important of human qualities. Most people I know might say it's love, or leadership, or patience, or wisdom, or understanding, or intelligence. But they are mistaken--it is courage.

How do I know? Simple. It is courage that enables all the others. Without courage, love, leadership, patience, wisdom, understanding, and intelligence are impossible. In fact--here's a little secret:

Every action starts with courage. Without courage, nothing happens.

Because it's not just about standing up when people are shooting at you, or running into a burning building to save a child. Those are courage, without a doubt; but so is going day after day to a job you don't like because your family depends on you. So is standing up in a meeting and taking responsibility for a mistake. So is telling your wife you forgot to send the check. So is answering a child's question with "I don't know," or telling her "I was wrong." Heck, just getting out of bed takes courage--you know the bed will be warm and soft, and you don't know what the world will bring you after you get out of it.

Courage is choosing a path and taking it when you don't know exactly where it will lead. Courage is deciding to be better tomorrow than you are today. Courage is suggesting a better way to your boss, or your parents, or your husband or wife. Courage is standing up in a crowd of strangers and admitting to an addiction. Courage is sharing your words, or your art, or your ideas, or your dreams with people who might not approve. Courage is taking a stand for or against something.

It's what draws me to military history, to history in general. It's what drew me to the Army. Stories of people who did things that were impossible--until they did them. Spending my days among people who might do impossible things. And little by little, I came to realize one does not have to accomplish the impossible to show courage. I still love the stories, but I no longer look down on those who seek other paths.

I don't always live courageously. I don't always take the hard road, even when it's the right road. But most days I seek to make myself better than I was the day before. Some days, I even share some of myself with people I don't know. That's what a writer does, after all.

What is courage to you?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#trust30 - Day 2

Today by Liz Danzico

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.
(Author: Liz Danzico)
Today was exhausting, frustrating, infuriating, interminable, productive, victorious; I chose to do my work with excellence instead of just coasting along--and people noticed.

You are the person I'm telling.