was successfully added to your cart.
Category

MIND

What are the Top 10 Words in ACIM?

By | books, SPIRIT | No Comments

“You can’t know a book from its cover, especially the amazingly generous 1300-page psycho-spiritual teachings of ACIM,” says Andrew Allansmith who has been a student of A Course In Miracles (ACIM) for a few decades.

Andrew-Allansmith-Spiritual-Ear-ACIM-study-group-Santa-Cruz-California-teacher-10-top-words-book-teaching

One of Andrew’s favorite quotes in ACIM is, “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” T-26.IX.6:1

“I was in serious pursuit of a spiritual awakening. I tried different spiritual paths. In 1993, I stumbled on A Course In Miracles and the other books dropped away in the first week when I started studying ACIM. Since then, ACIM has become the catalog of answers that I trust. I continue to intellectually challenge ACIM, but I no longer question it. I challenge it to bring me the answers. I know they’re all there to release my fixation on being separate, vulnerable and even human. I’m delivered from being human. That’s a limit. I’m released,” Andrew said.

“ACIM helped me let go of the thought that I’m a who. All humans are who’s. Who’s are vulnerable. Who’s have something measurable to lose or gain. What you are in ACIM has nothing to gain because it’s touching everything with your true Identity. It’s a whole different way of thinking about identity,” Andrew said.

Andrew-Allansmith-Spiritual-Ear-ACIM-study-group-santa-cruz-california-teacher-student-teaching-leader-book-teaching

Andrew Allansmith leads a weekly ACIM study group in Santa Cruz, CA.

“I was preparing for an annual gathering for our study group in Santa Cruz and I got inspired. I was so busy preparing for this gathering. I was doing Holy Spirit as a topic and it occurred to me how many times the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the book. This led me to look up the most common words. About four hours ensued. It happened all at once. I did the research at a mad pace in a single setting. It was so exciting because I had never seen the book sliced this way,” Andrew said.

“I used a combination of internet research and Excel. The course is available in ASCII. I used some software tools for the legal industry, a word count function. Then I realized I needed to combine some words that had similar meaning,” Andrew said.


These top 10 words offer a quick insight that this long-time ACIM student and teacher finds accurate to the core messages.

Here are the top ten words used in ACIM:

#1        God, Father                           3,192 uses

#2        See, Look                               1,781

#3        Truth, True, Truly                 1,603

#4        One, Oneness                      1,584

#5        Gift, Given, Give                  1,549

#6        Mind                                      1,308

#7        Thought, Think                    1,297

#8        World                                    1,285

#9        Holy, Holiness                     1,281

#10      Real, Reality, Realize          1,264


“In making the Top ACIM Words list, I had to make some choices. I omitted prepositions, pronouns and such, to get to the meaty words. If I included the word ‘I,’ it would be the clear number one word.  The personal nature of the book and author is obvious with over 5,000 occurrences of ‘I.’ In the first half of the book, that ‘I’ is Jesus almost exclusively, as the author coaches the reader through an understanding of how to release the ego and all of its pains once and for all,” Andrew said.

Top-10-Words-ACIM-God-see-truth-oneness-gift-mind-thought-world-holiness-reality-Andrew-Allansmith

Here’s Andrew’s take on a message using these words:


With God (#1) you Look (#2) through the Truth (#3) of Oneness, using the Gift of Mind, to Think about the World’s Holy Reality.


Otherwise, using your ego as a guide you continue to see its UNHOLY reality.

And here’s a message using them in countdown:


The Reality (#10) of Holiness (#9) is hidden by the World (#8) until you Think with the Mind that was Given you from Oneness to Truly See God.


“We could come up with a dozen other sentences using these words. There are so many gifts in this book. After 23 years of studying ACIM every day, I continue to find new powerful mind-healing messages that bring me peace and understanding. One of the gifts is shown by my assembly of these words. I can reconcile the Love of God with the biting tragedies of the world. This is no small gift,” Andrew said.

“The Course knows you are a belief addict and a relationship addict, abusing both with your ego. Using its mind-healing direction by working the 365 daily ACIM lessons, you can see all of your world and every fellow being in it with meaningful thoughts instead of the meaninglessness at the behest of your ego,” Andrew said.

CLICK HERE to buy ACIM now.

“The real number one word is the author, ‘I.’ I had a shift in my knowledge of ACIM. God is this primary topic. After all the years I taught this book, it still teaches me how to live a better life. I’m more comfortable and happy. And to find out that God is in the book as number one. ‘I’ outnumbers ‘God by a lot, by 50%. The ‘I’ is the author, and it’s not Helen Schucman. I had to surrender to the idea that this is a very personal narration by Jesus about God, about God’s way. It’s God’s way for me to return to peace,” Andrew said.

Andrew Allansmith has been a teacher of ACIM since 2004. He is the Founder of Spiritual Ear, an organization dedicated to making PURE ACIM study tools.

God is in everything I see because God is in my mind. ACIM W-pI.30.1

 

Spiritual-Ear-logo-ACIM-study-tools-Andrew-Allansmith

750 Words: A blogging tool to help you write faster

By | habits | No Comments

The purpose of 750 Words is to provide accountability for people who want to write at least 750 words a day. It’s an awesome site created by Buster and Kellianne.

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia CameronIt’s a digital tool for keeping “morning pages,” a technique recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Her recommendation is to start every day with “stream of consciousness writing.” She recommends writing three pages of longhand, or the equivalent of about 750 words.

750 Words is a community of writers where (digital) writing is the main goal. It’s not about socializing or promoting your blog or books. It’s all about writing and tracking your progress over time.

I’ve known about it for several years, but didn’t get serious about it until recently. I’m so glad I finally did. My writing speed has improved dramatically.

Why use 750 words as a blogging tool?

When you write here, no one is watching. You enter the space, write without any judgment, and watch your progress build over time.

It’s a tool that can free you up to write faster. If you’re having trouble meeting your blogging goals, this is the solution you’ve been seeking.

Start with a clean slate every day

Each day when you log in to 750 Words, you begin with a blank page. You don’t have to click here or there to get to your blank page. It’s the first thing you see. It’s so simple that even the technically challenged can manage it.

You get a quick overview of your stats for the current month. If you start writing, but don’t reach the 750 goal, you get a slash mark for the day. If you exceed 750 words, you get an X in the box for that day.

You see today’s date and you’re ready to get started. Here’s a sample from a writer at ProfHacker:

750 Words ProfHacker writing sample writer's bootcamp

This screenshot from 2010 shows that there were 263 patrons at the time. Today the site has more than 3300 members.

Connect with your readers

Blogging is about producing interesting content that other people find entertaining or otherwise useful. Because there’s no “publish” button in 750 Words, you feel free to say what’s on your mind in an honest and courageous fashion.  The faster you write, the more authentic you’ll be.

This is a great tool to knock out a blog post draft in 10-15 minutes. By staying liquid and real with your writing, you’ll attract more readers. If you over-edit, you can come across too stiff or sterile.

750 Words mindset writing introvert positive uncertain thinking future

One of the benefits of having a blog is that you can go back and make edits at any time. There’s no need to spend too much time making sure every sentence is perfect. You can always go back and make changes tomorrow.

Generate content you can use later

As you’re writing from your stream of consciousness, you’ll come up with interesting memories, cool quotes, and good ideas. These are useful sentences and paragraphs you can add to your growing database of content.

This is a great way to get your thoughts in writing and generate a bunch of blog post ideas day after day. I usually write more than 750 words. As soon as I complete my daily entry, I copy/paste my text from 750 Words to Evernote so I can easily search for keywords later.

Daily practice helps you write faster

It provides you with statistics telling you how fast (words per minute) and how much (total number of words) you write on any given day. You compete with yourself to become a more productive writer. Here are some sample stats from Marian Schembari. On this day she wrote 78 words per minute and completed her 750 words in 10 minutes. Are you tracking your writing speed?

750Words Marian Schembari words per minute distractions

Get in the habit of writing every day

If you want to be a successful writer, the daily boxes and occasional badges motivate you to establish the daily habit of writing. Here’s what it looks like when you write every day of the month.

Kristen Grainer writing streak 750words badges

Notice that it took Kristen 12 minutes to write 750 words on this day. Since all the boxes are complete with an X, it means that she wrote every day in June. Check out Kristen Grainer‘s beautiful blog at Shutter & Spice.

Get some insight into how you’re feeling

In addition to providing statistics on your writing habits, you also get colorful pie charts on some of your overall feelings based on what you wrote. The faster you write, the better. This gives you insight into what topics you may or may not want to handle today.

750 words Feeling Pie Charts concerned about

Get a good idea of what’s on your mind

After you’ve completed your words, you get a visual picture of what topics were on your mind. On this day, I had an intention to write about my education. Based on my word cloud, I can see that I stuck to my topic.

 

frequently used words word cloud doctor lorraine haataia 750 words

 

If you don’t write with a specific intention, you can do some free writing and find out later what was most on your mind that day. It’s a fun discovery tool either way.

Connect with other bloggers

Although 750 Words isn’t designed for networking, you can see user names of other members and, in some cases, connect with them through social media. You can also keep an eye on 750 Words Facebook page for updates and ideas.

Should you use 750 Words?

Write Fast Bryan Hufford bookThis is an awesome tool I highly recommend. Regardless of how busy you are with other activities in your life, this tool can help you get more focused on your writing.

If you want to be a consistent and successful blogger, 750 Words can help you establish three essential habits necessary for being a productive blogger:

  • write daily
  • write fast
  • edit later

A dog’s resolution: play every day

By | dream, Pets | One Comment

“What’s the point of making a resolution if I’m not going to keep it anyway?” I asked my dog. It was the first day of the new year.

He rolled over and gave me his, “uh oh” look. If we’re going to have this conversation, please rub my belly. 

Dog owners face hilarious struggles.

“Well, there are some things I’ve been trying to do for many years. What’s the point of trying if I never keep my resolutions?” I asked.

“That’s your choice,” he said. I could read it in his eyes.

“Huh? Are you saying it’s my fault?” I asked.

“I didn’t say that. You did,” he moaned.

“Why is it that some of the things I’ve wanted for so long just don’t happen?” I asked.

“It means that you really don’t want them . . . yet,” he moaned with great empathy, begging me to play.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

I knew what he was thinking. When you want it bad enough, you will make it happen.

“Make it happen? But I have too many distractions keeping me away from what I really want.” I told him.

He shifted his head sideways and moaned in his deep alto moan. It’s the same look he gives me when he wants something. Do you? Really? What’s stopping you?

 

“Well, you know, it’s all the stuff that’s been going on. I have to take care of all the people I love, and you. I’ve been going here and there. And I’ve been trying to do what’s right.”

He tweaked his head further. Right for whom? 

“Well, I don’t know. Everyone.”

He gave me the look. Are these people happy with you? 

“Well, I suppose their happiness doesn’t have much to do with me.”

“You’re getting somewhere. Continue,” he spoke to me through his hopeful eyes.

“I know what you’re getting at. They’re going to be happy or miserable regardless of what I do.”

Anything else? he yawned. He’s heard this story many times.

dog-yawning

Researchers find that dogs’ yawns are cued by their owners.

“They’re busy with their own lives. I know I need to do what I know is best for me and that’s the best thing I can do for everyone.”

I cuddled up close to him and gave him a hug. His tail picked up wagging speed. He spoke to me in body language, “That’s right. Let’s do it. Let’s play. See you already know what you need to do. What have you been wanting for so long that you aren’t doing? 

“Nothing, it’s just me. I’m the one who hasn’t been keeping my resolutions. I have no one to blame but myself. I really want to make this resolution. I know I need to make this resolution and then do what it takes to make it happen.”

Yes, and what else? he wondered.

“I need to develop the right habits so that I do what I need to do every day until my resolution becomes my reality. If I don’t make a resolution, my dreams are unresolved anyway. Deciding not to make a resolution means I’m giving up myself.” I looked him in the eyes.

Your dog might save your life.

He stared back looking bored. I felt like he said to me: You speak the truth.

“I do? I guess I do. What now?”

He started circling around me, like he always does when he wants me to get into action, wants me to play. Make your resolution on the first.

“The first of what?” I asked.

He ran to the door and looked back at me wagging his backside. The first of everything. The first of every year and the first of every month. First thing every morning. Right now! Do you resolve? Or do you not? 

“I get it. I got it. I’m resolving to do what I want to do . . . what I need to do.” I opened the door. He dashed around the back yard searching for his stick. He found it and ran to me. I threw the stick and he brought it back to me. I threw it again and he brought it back to me again, this time with a little more slobber. I knew I could throw it for an hour or two and he would stay in the game.

He wants to bring me the stick. He never lets me down. I throw the stick again, but this time I resolve to run with him. He beats me to the stick, but turns back to give it to me.

I dash off in another direction, and he chases me with the stick still in his mouth. He follows me wherever I go. I freeze and turn around to look at him. He drops the stick near my feet. He leans back with full attention on me, ready to take off the moment I grab the stick.

As I stare into his eyes, I know exactly what he’s thinking. I resolve right now to bring this stick to you. Are you willing to stay in the game? 

I drop my head back to look up at the sky. The sun is out of reach, yet I enjoy its warmth. My resolution is like the blinding sun. It’s out of reach, but just the thought of it brightens my day. It warms my heart.

I need to chase my resolution every day. I must master my game. I need to get fired up about playing every day. I got a burst of energy and threw the stick one more time. As he was running back to me with the stick, I felt a sudden sense of power. I got the crazy idea that I could throw any wish out to the universe and it would come back to me. I felt great!

We went back inside. I noticed a book that a successful friend loaned me a few days ago. He said it was a game-changer for him. I sat down and looked at the cover. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions for LIFE. I started flipping through the pages and randomly got caught up in chapter 5, the Plan and Do chapter. I was hooked as soon as I saw these three questions:

  1. What do you want?
  2. What does it cost?
  3. Pay it.

Get it done when life gets tough: Advice from Julie A Fast

 

 

Get it done when life gets tough: Advice from Julie A Fast

By | authors, books, coaches, MIND | 4 Comments
Julie A Fast, Best Selling Author, Speaker, Columnist and Consultant

Julie A Fast, Best Selling Author, Speaker, Columnist and Consultant

I recently interviewed Julie A. Fast, a five time bestselling author, mental health in the workplace advocate, professional speaker and ePublishing pioneer. Julie has sold over 300,000 books, created her own radio show, was recently interviewed for People Magazine and was the original consultant for Claire Danes on the Showtime series Homeland. Julie does all of this while living with an illness that challenges and limits her work ability.

Julie’s bestselling book Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track shares the secrets of her success. I asked Julie, “How can we create a life where we are able to get things done even when life gets tough?” Her provocative and transformative answers changed the way I view my own work and I believe they can do the same for you.

There are people in life who can profoundly change the way we approach personal and professional challenges in a single conversation. Julie is one of these people. Throughout our conversation, Julie stressed the importance of having strategies in place we can use when life gets tough. She added, “Whether you’re going through stressful times due to relationship issues, work related worries and health concerns or even a feeling of hopelessness, your ability to take action and get things done doesn’t have to suffer as well.”

CLICK ON IMAGE TO BUY Get It Done When You’re Depressed by Julie A. Fast

Julie knows this from experience as she had to figure out a way to work successfully despite the limitations created by her bipolar disorder. I asked her how she gets so much done while faced with daily challenges and she shared four of the tips from her book Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Life on Track and how we can all apply them to our professional lives.

Julie replied, “You have to create a working world that fits your challenges in life. Because my bipolar disorder affects the type of work I do and the amount of time I’m able to work, I need systems in place that let me be successful despite my limitations. I knew that I had to become super efficient if I wanted to support myself on part time work, so I experimented with new ways to get myself out in the world and when they worked I knew it was time to share the strategies with others who struggle to stay professional and productive on the tough days.”

Julie told me she originally wrote the book for people who are depressed, but after years of comments about how the principles are so universal, she brought her ideas into the business world where she teaches professionals to stay focused and productive no matter what is happening in their personal lives.

I had a great time talking with Julie about her work philosophy. We had a lively discussion about the strategies in her book and how anyone can use them when an extra boost is needed to move forward in life. The following is an overview of how you can immediately apply Julie’s strategies to your life and learn to get things done whether you’re . . .

maze-cartoon

  • going through relationship difficulties
  • facing financial fears
  • in pain
  • low on the mental energy to work at your full potential
  • having focus and attention struggles

Just to name a few!

Here are four strategies Julie shared:

1. Don’t Wait Until You Want to Do Something

Julie’s life changed the moment she realized she could actually work even when seriously depressed. “I kept waiting to feel better to get started on a project. I thought I had to feel like working in order to work. The reality is that you don’t have to want to get things done, feel like working, feel good about your work or even believe you have the ability to do the work in order to move forward with a project. I taught myself to get started and wait for the positive feelings to come out of the work itself. We’re taught to base our actions off our feelings. But if you wait to feel like getting into action when life is tough, you won’t get much done. This always means the work is going to be harder to accomplish than when you’re feeling well, but at least you will have an end product when you work first no matter how you’re feeling.”

motivation-is-when-your-dreams-put-on-work-clothesJulie then explained that in the past on the days when a project felt so overwhelming she didn’t even know where to start, her brain would shut off and she would sit in front of her computer and cry in frustration. One day she thought, ‘What would happen if I just picked up my hands and started to write even though I don’t feel good or even feel capable of working? What if waiting until I feel better and want to write isn’t a good plan?’

She decided that getting something started was the only way to feel better and not the other way around. She realized she often wanted to keep working once the work progressed and that her mood was telling her she didn’t want to work when she actually did.

Julie doesn’t believe in motivation. Instead, she believes that on the tough days we will never feel motivated. She wrapped up this strategy with a statement I believe can change the way we see our professional lives. “I believe that action no matter how you feel creates the motivation needed to keep going. We often get it backwards,” Julie said.

2. Think Like an Athlete

Julie follows professional athletes intensely. She studies how they handle their wealth and personal relationships and yet still manage to get out on the field and do their work. She asked herself how successful professional athletes who are pulled in every direction can perform at a specific place and time under extreme pressure without letting their personal lives get in the way.

“Have you noticed that these athletes can be under unbelievable personal distress and yet still perform? I taught myself to do the same.” Julie realized that professional athletes know how to turn off the psychological noise and let the body do its job. Just like these top class athletes, Julie stressed we can also walk into pressure situations and no matter what we are feeling give the performance of our lives. She uses this technique for the basics such as cleaning her kitchen to the big events such as a keynote to hundreds of people.

Business Finish Line

Think like an athlete!

“On some days, especially before I got control of my illness, I would be crying on the way to an event, perform to my absolutely best ability and then go back to being depressed right after the event! I’ve learned to think like an athlete and give my best presentation on schedule. It allows me to perform no matter how I’m feeling. No matter what is going on in our lives, we can perform like a magnificent athlete when required,” Julie told me.

3. Wait to Judge Your Work

Julie told me the story of how she would try to work when not feeling her best and a voice would come up that said, ‘This work isn’t good enough. People will put it down. It’s not professional Julie!’ This created a feeling that the project she had to get finished wouldn’t be of high enough quality, so what was the point of even trying?

“Stress often leads to a self critical voice that will always judge your current work negatively,” Julie explained. “When life throws you a curve ball, you’re almost always incorrect if you judge your work in the moment. This is especially true if your challenges involve depression, anxiety or ADD symptoms. Waiting to judge my work until it was over saved my career. For example, when I have a speech, I remind myself to do my best and let the critical voice just float there on its own until it has no audience and has to leave! When I walk off the stage, I immediately say to myself, ‘Good job Julie. You can go through your work later and see where you need to improve, for now there is no judgment. Go meet your audience and enjoy yourself.”

Julie still hears the critical judgmental voice while she’s working, but it no longer gets to affect her work negatively. “I’ve gotten so good at this that I often don’t even look back at an event with criticism.” This strategy led to what she calls her big writing epiphany. “I realized the work I did when the judgmental voice was raging was just as good as the work I did when I was in the flow. I was depressed for a large part of the time I wrote Get it Done, but readers can’t tell at all. Listening to my judgmental voice while working was pointless as it was mostly lies!”

4. Be Your Own Drill Sergeant

I asked Julie for her favorite in the moment strategy to get things done. She chose 
Be Your Own Drill Sergeant as she told me it works on the worst days when you don’t even feel you can get out of bed and put your feet on the floor. “I’ve experienced severe depression for all of my adult life,’ Julie told me. “It’s great to have big ideas on how to get better, but I needed help on the days I was so depressed I could hardly lift a toothbrush.” Julie stressed that we all have days like this when life gets too overwhelming.

Be your own drill sergeant!

Be your own drill sergeant!

“If you’re going through a breakup or just lost your job, you need a way to keep going professionally. I had to find a way to break through my sadness and inertia in order to meet my contract deadlines and make money.”

Julie told me how many years ago when she was teaching herself to live with her illness she started to replace the hopeless thoughts with the intense and aggressive voice of a drill sergeant. “Get out of bed Julie Fast! Throw off the blankets, turn your body and put those feet on the floor!” This voice cut through the fog and got her body moving.

She then thought of how she could summon up a voice to help her on the days she couldn’t do it alone. I laughed when she told me her favorite voice, Scarlett O’Hara! “Ok Miss Julie. Fiddle dee dee. If I can save Tara, you sure as heck can fight this feeling and open that computer!” She now asks all of her audiences to conjure up their own drill sergeant whether it’s a beloved grandfather or a figure from a movie when they need that extra push to get started with the day.

Get-It-Done

After Julie shared her four strategies, I realized that I’ve also created tips to help myself through the days when my writing doesn’t flow or I feel overwhelmed with all of the work I need to do. She encouraged me to hone these strategies and make them a part of my work life so they will be there when I really need them.

Julie reminded me that her book and her work in general whether it be in a mental health or corporate context isn’t about learning her way of doing things. It’s about finding what works for us individually and then applying the strategies on the days we need that extra push to get started.

In the introduction to her book, Julie sums up the number one benefit of her book: “Getting things done is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself, which is automatically an antidote to depression.”

How to accomplish a BIG GOAL: Get in the right position

When you look through Julie’s book, you can see that her strategies are succinct and short to prevent adding more stress to an already difficult situation. I like that I didn’t have to read the entire book at once and am pleased that I can use her strategies while my life is going well, but I just need that extra nudge to start and stick to my goals.

Julie ended our interview with a final word of encouragement, “Get It Done When You’re Depressed isn’t about getting out of tough times. It’s about getting things done while you’re going through tough times. Then when life gets back to normal you don’t have to go back and repair your professional life. Instead, you can devote your energy to moving forward!”

We only covered four of the fifty tips in Julie’s book so I’m sure you can imagine how much more productive you can be when you learn them all. I encourage you to explore Julie’s other 46 strategies and change your ability to get things done starting today.

For more information on Julie’s work, please visit JulieFast.com. You can join her social media world on Twitter@JulieBipolar and read about her current ways of getting things done on her Facebook page Julie A. Fast. Julie’s books are available at all major bookstores and around the world on Amazon.

Sick and tired of dieting? CLICK ON IMAGE to gain the mental power to achieve your fitness goals. This is how you can begin living the life you've always wanted to live.

Sick and tired of not getting it done? CLICK ON IMAGE to begin your 90 day mental fitness challenge. You can start living the life you’ve always wanted!

How to write a book in 30 days

By | authors, coaches, education, POPULAR | No Comments

Have you been struggling for years to complete a book? If so, don’t worry. This is a common problem that many writers face. Are you ready for the secret of how to write a book in 30 days? “Go Write and You Won’t Go Wrong. It’s that simple,” says Michael Ray King.

Michael has helped hundreds of writers get un-stuck and finish the books that have been in them for years. Here are some of the tips he recommends to his clients:

Find a good place to write.

Find a place that’s pleasing to you. It can change from day to day. When you purposely go to these places, you’re already starting. On your way there you start formulating things in our head. A lot of creative work is done before you even start writing.

“I like writing in a restaurant because it has a lot of white noise. I can’t write at home because there’s a lot of children noise I can’t ignore,” Michael says.

CartoonWritersBlockKing

Consider your sound environment.

Music is a good writing trigger, as long as you know what genre works best for you. “Music with words can be especially inspiring when you’re writing poetry. I get the melody and it helps me pick up meter. It’s a fun poetry exercise,” Michael says. “But if you listen to songs with music, be careful not to plagiarize.”

Stay with your passion.

This is the most vital aspect of writing any book. You have to love what you’re writing. You can’t do this if you’re questioning yourself all the time. It invites a critic and a judge. You may have to go back and review a few prior paragraphs to refresh where you are, but move on. You need to love your writing from the very beginning, from the first draft all the way through the marketing of it. 

The first draft doesn’t need to have good grammar and continuity. Some people don’t like chaos, but if you’re truly creating from the heart, your words will seem chaotic at first. The stuff you’re writing fresh off the cuff doesn’t match up with the edited stuff so if you try to edit when you write, it feels like there’s a bug in your writing. This can bring you to a halt. Save the editing for later.

Michael allows writers to talk about their issues. Lots of issues come down to the personal judge and critic. “Writers have set patterns like this and that’s exactly what they need to change,” Michael says. 

Use index cards.

“I press people to use index cards. Get a specific pen you identify with your writing,” Michael says. If you have something special you connect with your writing, such as a pen, a desk, or a set of index cards, it’s a trigger to start writing.

Too many people de-prioritize their writing. In order to get your writing done, you have to prioritize it. If not, everything else will take priority over it.

Begin with one card. Write the title of your book. Be creative. You can change it at any time. Working with index cards is an ongoing process. Make a card for each chapter and section of your book. You can continue adding and reorganizing the index cards the whole time you’re writing your book. You can continue to shift them around at any time. Interacting with the cards gives you a hands-on approach allowing you to tap into your internal creative nature.

“When you digitize things, you’re taking out the human element. By using cards, you’re stay in touch with your creativity. There are huge advantages with computers, but they can also distance you from your creativity,” Michael says.

MichaelRayKingIndexCards

Michael Ray King’s index cards for his book on How to Write a Book in 30 Days.

“I’ve had people do the cards in a different way, but that’s ok,” Michael says. He believes that if it works for you, then it’s right for you.

Lots of people take five or more years to write a book. You don’t need that much time to write most books. If you’re writing a historical fiction novel and have to do a lot of research, it’s going to take longer.

Write at least 750 words each day for 30 days.

“You have to get to the point where you want to write the book so much that you’re writing because you want to get your message out, not just because you want to meet your daily word count or complete an index card. For some it may feel somewhat of a selfish priority,” Michael says.

If you’re writing what you know, then you should be able to knock out a first draft quickly.Having a plan for completion is important. That’s one of the biggest benefits of deciding to write your book in 30 days. Michael holds classes and webinars on How to Write a book in 30 Days.

GoWriteAndYouWontGoWrongLogo

Address the critic and the judge separately.

“That sentence isn’t constructed well,” you might be telling yourself. “Who are you to think you can write a book? Who would want to read this?”

“Put these voices in solitary confinement prison until you’re done with your first draft,” Michael says. “These voices just get in the way of creativity. Nuke them. Blow them up. You never need the internal judge. These critics will rob you of your book. If it’s happened to me, it’s happening to other people.”

“I had a coach who put me to the grindstone. I’m a totally different kind of coach,” Michael said. “You can throw everything into your book. Overwrite. If you think it’s cool or if it’s your truth, just put in in there. If you think it might tick someone off and you decide to leave it out, then you’re not writing properly.”

“There’s lots of diversity out there. Not everyone is going to agree with you. If you write vanilla, you won’t get anywhere. Howard Stern and Connie West don’t have filters, but we place filters on our views. Your views have more credence than these guys. Don’t censor yourself when you have truths to put out there. Don’t hold back,” Michael says.

Lots of writers tend to want to read over their stuff before moving on, but avoid it. New writing is going to be rocky at best. Wait until you rewrite and edit before you smooth it all out. 

Calliope - Muse of Epic Song: Writing Tablet

Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry

Welcome the muse.

Some writers say “my characters took over my book,” When this happens, it means there’s some mystical thing going on. “This means that you’ve allowed yourself to let your creativity run wild. When you can do this and maintain it, it works,” Michael says.  

Some writers say, “The book practically wrote itself.” When this happens, it means you’ve been able to get past the critic and let the book out. The muse is a special writing phenomenon. “I’ve even done this with sports or ballroom dancing,” Michael said. “You can get in a mode when you feel like your actions are being channeled. You don’t know where it’s coming from.”

“You can’t induce a muse. But when she shows up you better get to the computer and write because when she goes away, you might not see her again for a while. You can feel great about your writing, but that time with your muse is special. In 14 years of writing, I’ve never been able to force the muse to show up,” Michael says. 

Goodreads has hundreds of quotes from famous writers all the way back to Aristotle and up to modern day people. If you’re feeling stuck, read some qoutes from famous writers. It can help you get un-stuck.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. E.L. Doctorow

“Don’t count on your muse. Even when she doesn’t show up, you need to get to the point where a day without writing is like a day without sunshine,” Michael says.

Don’t talk to non-writers about your book.

When you’re writing, especially a book, do not talk to non-writers about it. They will rob you of your zest. They won’t do it on purpose. If you give them a plot line, you beg the judge to come in. You might think, “that’s so much better than what I was thinking.” If they say “that’s been done before” then that will take the wind out of you. Tell people you’re writing a book, but don’t discuss the particulars of what it’s about. 

Find a trusted writers group.

Find a trusted writing support team with people who are actively writing. If you have synergy, it really helps. “That’s why my clients keep coming to class because it keeps them rolling,” Michael says. “It’s very motivational.”

“Lots of writing groups are social clubs. They’re not progressive. There’s often not enough encouragement to get your book out to market.” Michael says. “You have no business being in a critique group if you’re writing your first draft. If you do, it’s like asking the judge to destroy you. Most critique groups are nothing more than ego stroke groups. People will go in, read, and get feedback. It not only hinders the process time-wise, it handcuffs your creativity. It bottles you up. That’s what I’ve seen and learned. Let your horses run wild and then corral them. If you have a good editor later, that’s all you really need.”

Bridget Callaghan, Michael Ray King, Jeff Swesky and Nancy Quatrano at a Method Writers book launch event in Palm Coast, FL in October 2012

Bridget Callaghan, Michael Ray King, Jeff Swesky and Nancy Quatrano at a Method Writers book launch event in Palm Coast, FL in October 2012

Good writers groups encourage each other. “When I was a part of the Rogue Writers, the energy and synergy in those meetings were off the charts,” Michael said. “It’s a group that started in 2003. People in this group have written multiple books. When you’re around people who are really making it happen, you get caught up in it. That’s a good writing group.”

“You’re either a wanna be, a gonna be or an I am. There was a time when I was waffling between a wanna be and a gonna be. You want to get to that I am place. Write the book so you can say, I am an author. A good writers group will inspire this,” Michael says. “Being able to match personalities is critical. I hand picked people for the Rogue Writers. I wanted everyone to encourage each other and write books. We wrote together. Four of us wrote a novel together and a book of short stories.”

“You’ve got to be able to have fun together and still work. We’d play writing games. We’d laugh until we cried. Four people writing one novel is very interesting. You’ll sometimes see a collaboration of two people, but rarely four. We’d just sit there. We had a big timeline on the wall. If you make it too task oriented, there’s too much opportunity for friction and you squelch creativity,” Michael said. “Our meetings weren’t so much about sitting and writing. They were more about coming together to talk about what we had written.”

“I’m not a big fan of accountability to others. I think writers need to be accountable to themselves first. Set up a spreadsheet to track your word count toward the completion of your book,” Michael says. “I have a friend who posts her word count on Facebook. It’s her own accountability and can be inspiration to fellow writers at the same time. Word count isn’t the only measure, but it can be a barometer.”

Get a writing coach.

“I managed people for 20 years in retail. What I learned is that it’s a good thing to hire people better than me. I’m a big fan of personal coaches. A woman named Janice coached me in a business and personal way. We’d talk weekly to find a balance in life. She encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. The biggest thing she taught me was that you don’t have to know things intellectually. I know things from internal channels. When things line up, I know it’s right. I’m intuitive. Stop trying to force things and trust your instincts and move forward. When you have your internal talks, just started trusting yourself.  She took me out of programmed negativity and put me in positive state of mind,” Michael said.

“A book shouldn’t feel like a huge monstrosity. Most people can write their first draft in 30 days just by writing for about an hour a day,” Michael says. “It’s simple but not easy. It takes a lot of discipline. If you don’t finish it in 30 days and it takes 45 or 60, you’ll still be happy. I’ve found that about 20-25% of the people who take my class finish in 30 days. The bulk of the people finish in 45-60 days. Some take 90, and a few never finish at all,” Michael said.

After your book is written, it’s time to move on to the editing process.

How to write a book in 30 days: Write the draft before you edit

Michael Ray King is the author of Go Write and You Won’t Go Wrong: Write Your Book in 30 Days! He’s a five-time award winning author. In addition to conducting classes, he is also a personal writing coach. He lives in Palm Coast, Florida.

funny to do list cartoon

10 productivity tips for a smarter to do list

By | habits | No Comments

Do you have a to do list with hundreds of items you can’t seem to get done? Each time you add another item to your list you have good intentions. But at a subconscious level, you know you’re just adding one more thing to a growing list of things that don’t get done. If this sounds familiar, don’t despair. Here are ten tips that will help you check more things off your list each day:

  1. Choose an app you can access on multiple devices. I’m currently using Appigo Todo while my husband favors Todoist. If you partner a lot with friends or family to get things done, you’ll love the collaborative features in Wunderlist. Or perhaps you fancy something even more social like Listography? Whatever you do, be sure to choose a tool that has a user-friendly interface on your computer, smart phone and any other devices you use regularly.ListographyLogo
  2. Begin each item with one action word (a verb). This makes it easy to identify what you need to do: CALL to reschedule massage; TALK to a stranger; REPAIR flat tire on bike; LEARN how to make homemade sauerkraut.
  3. Break projects down into doable chunks of time. As an author, it doesn’t do me any good to have a task like “write eBook.” It makes much more sense to make this a project and then list the various tasks such as “write chapter 7” and other similar action items as subtasks of this project.
  4. Schedule time on your calendar to complete items with deadlines. If you have an important deadline, it’s ok to keep it visible on your to do list, but it’s even more important to make sure that you’ve blocked out ample time to complete it.
  5. Avoid duplication. It doesn’t make sense to put “unload dishwasher” on your to do list because you can see when the work needs to be done. The same rule applies to housework or email. When your bath mirror becomes spotted enough to bother you, clean it. If you have rules and features set up to manage your email effectively, then you’ll have visual cues in your inbox and folders to let you know when you need to work on replies.
  6. Tweak and customize your list until it works well for you. The best to do apps are full of features that allow you to filter and sort so that you see what you want to see when you need to see it. Adjust tabs, colors, priority levels, repeat functions and other tools regularly to be sure you’re seeing and doing the things that matter most.
    CartoonToDoList

    .

  7. Ignore your to do list one day a week. Putting things on your to do list can give you a peace of mind that you won’t forget to do important things. But it’s also crucial to give yourself time to do things spontaneously or choose to do things that aren’t on your list.
  8. Review your to do list once a week. Update tasks that are partially complete, add clarity to tasks you entered on the fly, re-prioritize most important tasks for the upcoming week, and delete as many tasks as possible that are least important.
    funny to do list make vanilla pudding

    don’t forget to add funny things to your to do list

  9. Evaluate your overall effectiveness and productivity every month. Some people have a tendency to be very focused in their work and social ventures while others have many interests and thrive on the stimulation of new ideas. If you have the feeling that you’re never getting enough done, it may mean that you need to find ways to simplify your life and stop doing some things that aren’t important to ensure that you have enough time to do the things that are most essential. Reflect on what old habits may be holding you back and what new habits you want to establish.
    list of things to start doing

    list of things to start doing

  10. Read your mission statement every morning and every evening. If you don’t already have a mission statement, begin by writing something simple. As a writer and continuous improvement expert, my mission is to provide tips to improve people’s lives. Although it’s common to hold a number of roles at any given time, it’s important to make sure that the things you put on your to do list support your main purpose and biggest responsibilities. Knowing that you’ve accomplished your most important tasks and projects allows you to rest well with a sense of fulfillment at the end of each day.

It’s time to change your personal policies and procedures

Looking for more ways to increase your productivity? Buy this terrific book by S.J. Scott now . . .

It’s time to change your personal policies and procedures

By | habits | One Comment

If you’ve ever worked for a company with established policies and procedures, you understand the concept of playing by the corporate rules and hidden commandments. These policies, procedures and unwritten rules are developed over time based on situations that come up in the normal course of business. Smart leaders know that if something frequently goes wrong at a particular point in the process, they need to change a policy or procedure to help ensure that the process flows better in the future.

cartoon 10 commandments

You can apply the same principle to your own life. In fact, you’ve already done so many times without thinking of it in these terms. As your personal life circumstances change, you make adjustments. And sometimes other people mold you to their ways, especially if you live or work with them.

You can probably recall a time not too long ago when either you or someone you know made a general statement about what they do or don’t do. Here are a few examples of personal policies or rules:

  • “I don’t eat bread,” says a celiac who knows it will make him sick.
  • “I always choose ground travel,” says the person who fears flying.
  • “I don’t eat meat,” says a vegetarian who feels more energetic when she avoids it.
  • “I can’t work until the kids start school,” says the mom who wants to stay at home with her children.
  • “I always wake up early,” says the person who works the early shift.

These are verbal declarations of informal policies that help you manage your life and keep it running as smoothly as possible. These policies give you a sense of control over your health, relationships and even your fears. Once you become conscious of your own personal rules or policies, you’ll start to notice them in others as well.

policies and procedures

Policies and procedures work together. If you decide to change one of the rules you live by, it’s likely to affect one or more of your procedures. If you’ve ever tried to change one of your rules, you may find it difficult to do so because you’re habitually conditioned to carry out procedures that support your unwritten policies.

If you know someone who has tried to quit smoking (incorporate a new life rule/policy), they’ll often say it’s hardest at specific times during the day (their normal procedures). Smokers take breaks together, have lunch together and have mini-processes in place to support their habit: purchasing cigarettes, stocking up to make sure they have enough with them for the day, bringing the right kind of outerwear to smoke outdoors and so on. Not only do they have to overcome the physical addiction, they also have to change their processes and possibly even face resistance from friends.

You have a series of mini-procedures you repeat on a regular basis. You may have a certain way of preparing your breakfast, getting ready for work, doing various tasks at work, doing the laundry, or relaxing in the evening.

Once you’ve fully adopted a procedure, you tend to go into “auto” mode. The good thing about this is that it allows you to effectively use your time. When you’re in “auto” mode, you can multitask by thinking or doing other things at the same time. It’s the same concept that people use to drive while talking on the phone or work while watching TV.

The not-so-good part about going into “auto” mode is that you can fall into repeating a procedure day after day even if it no longer serves you well. You start to do things automatically without considering whether or not you should continue doing the same things over and over again week after week.

If you’re happy with your life just as it is, keep doing what you’re doing. Chances are you’ll get the same results until circumstances change, and eventually they will. Just as there are no bad habits, there are no bad policies or procedures. They’re all effective in producing similar results as long as you’re somewhat consistent with them.

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Habits

Assuming you aren’t living in a constant state of bliss, you may want to make a conscious effort at evaluating some of the policies and procedures you’ve accumulated over your lifetime. Here are a few suggestions you may want to consider:

  • adjust your sleep time in order to have uninterrupted time to work on a goal
  • brainstorm ways to cut out time-consuming activities in your life such as social media or TV
  • upgrade and learn to use new tools that allow you to accomplish your work quicker and easier
  • schedule time in your days and weeks to complete your most important tasks
  • downsize your home to simplify your life
  • add more physical activities into your daily routine

Once you have this new awareness, you’re better positioned to evaluate which of your policies or procedures you want to modify. When is a good time to begin making these adjustments? The best time is now!

How to Get Happy Now Via Habits, Goals, and Resolutions

By now your inner voice is probably speaking to you . . . telling you what you need to change. What personal policy do you need to change? What procedure needs some editing? This might be the natural remedy you’ve been searching for. When you need some strength to work through adjustments, focus on the benefits you’ll gain after you make the change. Once you make a change, please come back and share your story.

If you’re not ready to edit your own life yet, begin by helping others who are eager to change.

change.org

10 Tips from a Silicon Valley author in love with hiking

By | authors, books, Natural Remedies | One Comment

Do you hate to exercise? What if you could find a way to work out for four hours solid every week and not mind a bit?

Miriam Nuney, a transplant from the flat plains of Illinois, has lived in Silicon Valley for decades. Once the hiking bug bit her, she dragged her husband out with her, convinced the exercise would do them both good. After shedding many pounds and getting into the best shape of their lives, they started inviting people to join them to discover the joys of getting above the stresses that technology can’t cure, but nature still can. Here’s what she has to say about hiking:

Ever go hiking with a group of friends?  There’s nothing like chatting the hours away, huffing and puffing up the hills and skipping along the trails, breathing fresh air, and staying blessedly away from all those handy tech-gadgets and cell phones that seem to be running our lives instead of making them easier.

Hikers on bridge Miriam Nuney IMG_2235

Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

You’ve probably even seen hiking venues along your commute route and not even been aware hidden paths are calling for you to tread on them next weekend. I should know. You were me.  And boy was I surprised to find dozens of parks and designated open space areas ribboned with public trails just waiting for me to explore. So I did.

After years of hiking in the hills above California’s famed Silicon Valley, where the burning desire to escape confining cubicles and intrusive technology reaches dire levels, I can assure you there is nothing better for your physical and mental health than escaping into tantalizing wilderness and letting your cares and worries drop away for a few hours.

Hiker in woods Miriam Nuney DSC_0221

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

I’ve hiked with people who’ve achieved significant weight loss (we’re talking forty+ pounds!), recovered from spinal and knee surgeries, reduced to the bare minimum medications for chronic asthma and diabetes, and recuperated from bike and running injuries.

All from simply putting one foot in front of the other–again and again.

Walking is a natural human activity, so . . . if you can walk, you can hike.

Hiking generally means getting out into a large park and walking on dirt trails, usually including climbing hills, and occasionally crossing streams and clambering over fallen tree limbs. Yes, nature has a way of reminding us it has an awesome power we can’t control, but hey–humility is good for the soul. Learning to let go of problems we can’t do anything about is one way to alleviate unnecessary stress.

Hikers crossing stream Miriam Nuney DSC_0352

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

And don’t make any excuses about being too old–or young.  I’ve hiked with 10-year old kids who had more energy than me at the end of the hike, and a frail-looking 72-year old Chinese woman who carried water from her wells at home to keep fit.

In fact, she had the last laugh on us on one of our more challenging hikes at the Pinnacles National Monument in central California. This hike includes clambering over incredibly steep steps carved into a sheer volcanic mountainside, fortunately with sturdy handrails for those of us with a fear of heights. Afraid she might fall and break her hip, we dogged her every stride despite her protests she was “quite capable, thank you.”  

2012-03-10 Miriam Hiking Pinnaccles 058

Photo courtesy of hiker Joan Kushner.

We made it safely back to the parking area for a picnic lunch, and wouldn’t you know it–the youngest in our group slipped on a quarter-inch of low-lying water on the pavement and went down on her hands and knees!

A few minutes later we squished together on a picnic bench. I perched next to her on the very end and crossed my legs, only to find myself teetering off bench and onto the ground. Our Chinese friend couldn’t stop laughing at me. Trail hazards be damned!  It was the modern conveniences that got the better of us.

HIkers checking the trails Miriam Nuney DSC_0322

Photo courtesy of hiker Denise Herbst.

Before you head off hiking, here are ten safety precautions you should follow:

  1. Check the park’s website for trail conditions, maps, and entrance fees.
  2. Bring one friend…or more!  It’s unwise to hike alone.
  3. Estimate your time on trail–generally you hike at half the speed you walk.
  4. Bring 16 oz of water per hour on trail, and bring snacks such as nuts, granola bars and fruit.
  5. Wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and socks (jacket and gloves as needed). 
  6. Pack a basic first aid kit with bandages, a pain reliever and any special meds you need.
  7. Hike in the daytime. Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk due to bugs and critters.
  8. Check weather forecasts and be prepared for even the slight possibility of bad weather. 
  9. Pack a spare change of clothes and extra water, and leave in the car.
  10. Anticipate making your way out on your own. Most trails do not have cell phone coverage, so don’t assume help is a quick phone call away. 

hiking cartoon

Don’t let the unknown outdoors stay unknown for long. Get out there and embrace it!  There is nothing more real than getting out into the hills and meeting head-on the challenges of nature and, best yet, overcoming them.

Hiking Group Picture--Miriam Nuney

Photo courtesy of hiker W. Douglas Lamb.

If you live in Silicon Valley or you’re planning a trip in the area, be sure to check out Miriam’s eBook, 101 Great Hikes Above Silicon Valley, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. To join their hiking group at no charge, send an email to JohnMiriamNuney@aol.com. For comments or suggestions about this blog post or her ebook, email Miriam directly at MNuney@aol.com.

101 Great HIkes Above Silicon Valley by Miriam Nuney s260x420

Book cover photo by Robert L. McQueer.

How to make your vacation last a lifetime

By | education, GO, NONPROFITS, travel | 9 Comments

Have you ever splurged on a vacation only to return home feeling remorse over how much money you spent? You try to convince yourself that it was worth it, but the hotel, restaurants or sites didn’t quite live up to your expectations. Or perhaps the weather wasn’t what you had hoped for. The time flew by and now all you have to show for it is a few tourist photos and a big credit card bill.

vacation beach picture cartoon PC Vey

“I just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime vacation,” my friend told me. “I’ll never go there again. It was a tourist trap!” RD

What if I told you there was a way you could avoid tourist traps and make your hard-earned vacation dollars last a lifetime?

Elley Ho showing Asante Africa students their pictures on the camera screen

Elley Ho showing Asante Africa students their pictures on the camera screen

Have you ever thought about donating your vacation to a cause? I recently met an amazing woman who not only thinks about it, but she actually does it. She’s the ultimate voluntourist who loves to travel to developing countries. Offering her photography and education skills, she volunteers her summers to reach out to help people in rural communities in countries like Peru, China, Nepal and Africa.

Here’s what Elley Ho said when I asked her about her recent trip to Africa:

Why do you choose to spend your vacation time volunteering?

I’ve always been fascinated about the worlds beyond where comfort is out of reach but I’m surrounded with plenty of simple beauty. Volunteering is the best way to enjoy this path less traveled. Whenever I give, I end up earning more and that fulfills my inner self.

Elley Ho preparing to shoot an interview with an Asante Africa teacher

Elley Ho spending time with Tanzanian students during filming at a local school

How did you apply your talents to help Asante Africa? 

With my previous volunteering experiences, photography skills and passion for education, I was invited by Art Director Heward Jue to pull together a project proposal for Asante Africa Foundation, a well established nonprofit based out of Oakland, CA. Subsequently, we were awarded the Getty Images Creative Grant of $20,000 which supports photographers who use imagery to promote positive change in the world. This grant helped us to actualize a film and print campaign for Asante Africa Foundation, showcasing how the work of the organization has profoundly transformed the lives of thousands of African children and their communities.

In July 2013, Heward and I went to Africa to film scenarios that highlight the transformations made possible through education. Thanks to the local Asante Africa staff in Kenya and Tanzania, we were able to locate the resources we needed to make the filming happen. They went out of their way to help us with our production. 

For example, one staff member from Asante Africa knew people who worked in the hospital, so we were able to do a shoot in the facility. The children featured in the film were also carefully selected by the staff who knew the potential of the students, all recipients of Asante Africa scholarships. 

Elley Ho and Heward Jue with Asante Africa students in Kenya

Elley Ho and Heward Jue with Asante Africa students in Kenya

What challenges did you encounter during the filming?

In one of the scenes we were looking for a rough neighborhood so we could portray the issue of child soldiers as a haunting reality in Africa. We felt uneasy about exposing ourselves and our equipment in the slum area while being barracaded by locals wondering what we were trying to accomplish there. Luckily, one of the staff members lived close by so he knew which people from the slum could help safeguard our visit.

When we were filming at a local village, one of the male villagers gave us a hard time because the school principal affiliated with Asante Africa reported him for marrying off his daughter at a young age. After hours of negotiation our local staff was able to come up with a solution with them and we got to accomplish what we needed to do. 

Behind the scene with Elley Ho filming at a slum in Narok Kenya

Behind the scene with Elley Ho filming at a slum in Narok Kenya

What did you learn about Asante Africa?

The thing that struck me the most about Asante Africa is that they have the best staff. The organization only hires local Africans. Their lives are empowered because of the job opportunities and training they’re given through Asante Africa. Not only are they super friendly, but these people are very dedicated to what they do. They aren’t afraid of trouble.

Asante Africa addresses needs at multiple levels to ensure the communities at large will grow as they open more doors for students to have the education and skills to become future leaders. Not only do they build infrastructure to improve the physical environment of the schools, they also look at other needs of the community at large. They provide training programs for students to become future leaders, and  programs to empower women to learn about women’s health, thus elevating their attendance in school. 

Elley Ho in Narok Kenya with a teacher and his family who volunteered to be actors

Elley Ho in Narok Kenya with a local teacher and his family who offered to be actors

What did you learn from your experience?

I learned that Africans are good problem solvers. They don’t get caught up in their emotions when dealing with hardships. They’re born into circumstances which teach them that life is difficult. They deal with what comes to them. They don’t give up easily.

We saw barefoot children walking miles back to home after school. As our car passed by them, they waved at us with big smiles. They didn’t ask if we could give them a lift. They know what they deal with is part of life and they accept the challenge.

Elley Ho shooting the local Maasai in Arusha Tanzania

Elley Ho shooting the local Maasai in Arusha Tanzania

What was one of the best things that happened during your stay in Africa?

We met a boy on the street in a rundown neighborhood in Arusha as we were scouting for a location for the filming. He kept waving at us with a million dollar smile on his face. We couldn’t resist but to walk over. It turned out that he spoke good English and was able to answer all the questions we asked. He told us that he lived with his aunt and sister. “My father died. He kept throwing up every time we saw him,” he told us. We asked him where he lived. He couldn’t give us an address, but he told us to turn this way and that way and walk straight and so on.

He said his favorite subjects were math and English and he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. He said it all with full confidence on his face. When I looked into his bright beautiful eyes I couldn’t resist to believe that with a little help he could become a pilot. We talked to Albert, our scholarship coordinator, who proceeded to ask the boy more questions. After all was said and done, I asked Albert if this eight-year-old would qualify for Asante’s help. He said the boy met all the criteria and he would return do a home visit to get more information.

This boy’s life may be forever changed, all because of his eagerness to give us a big smile.

African way of praying in school

African way of praying in school

What advice do you have for people thinking about donating their vacation time to a cause?

Go abroad and interact with the locals in their reality. Contribute what you can to the local communities. You’ll come back feeling you have done something way beyond what a typical beach resort vacation can offer.

Who knows, you may even change a life for the better?

Learn more about Elley’s experience from her perspective on her blog post: Getty Images Creative Grant 2013.

Ossob Mohamud warns that you shouldn’t do something like this unless you’re truly invested in helping beyond your vacation days. You need to be willing to “help address the root institutional and structural causes of the problem,” he says. Guardian Africa Network

Mike Carter is a board member of Asante Africa who helped out with Elley and Heward’s award-winning film project. If you’re like Mike, Elley and Heward and there’s a voice inside you telling you to go and make a difference, then do something about it.

Go Away! And Other Good Advice Parents Should Give Kids

Elley Ho teaching in Nepal through the Nepal Education Initiative Organization

Elley Ho teaching in Nepal through the Nepal Education Initiative Organization

The next time you’re planning a vacation, check out your options with Global Vision International, The International Ecotourism Society or another similar voluntourism organization which offers trips starting at 7-10 days. Elley is a board member of the Nepal Education Initiative Organization and she welcomes you to go to the rural villages in Nepal to help out. Wherever you decide to go, do your homework to make sure you sign up with a reputable organization that’s a good match with your talents or interests. Your next vacation can be one that you and the locals will never forget.

Who knows, it might even change your life for the better.

Take a Big Sip of Water and Speak Up a Little Louder

Asante Africa logo

3 BIG Benefits of Flexibility Exercises

By | dream, love | No Comments

man splitTommy Cooper asked his personal trainer if he could teach him how to do splits.
“How flexible are you?” his trainer asked.
“I can’t make Tuesdays,” Cooper said.

Are you ready to loosen up?

Imagine putting on a pair of loose pajama pants. You feel the softness of the fabric as you pull them up your legs and over your hips. You tie the drawstring, just enough to keep them up. They’re adjustable and comfortable.

Now put on a pair of pants that are tight. You suck in your stomach and shimmy to get them around your buttocks. As you struggle to pull up the zipper and fasten the button, you feel the strain in your waistline. You immediately begin to feel tense and cramped.

Strive to be more like your favorite pajamas. They’re simple but strong, soft but durable, symmetrical but flexible. They have plenty of wiggle room to allow for the movement of your body, thoughts and dreams.

You’re probably familiar with some of the foundations of fitness: strength, balance, endurance and flexibility. These are important not only for maintaining your physical health but also your mental and spiritual health. By practicing flexibility exercises in these areas of your life on a regular basis, you stand to gain three BIG benefits:

1. Become a more likable person.

Stretch your relationships. Who do you like to be around? Positive people who share your interests, profession, genes or personality, right? They comfort you without challenging you too much. When you’re interacting with others, you’re literally spending your time (your life) with them.  Surprise people with deep questions like, “What’s it like to be you?” Invite yourself into someone’s personal space one day and back off the next. Exercise your thoughts and consideration by giving your full attention to the people around you. Your days and your relationships are among your most valuable assets.

yoga group pose men womenConnect with strangers. Experiment with various activities which give you opportunities to interact with others. MeetUp is a great way to find others gathering for a common purpose. Be an active participant open to learn. Talk a little. Listen a lot. Imagine what life would be like if you happened to be the person you’re talking to. As you take time to partake in the stories that shaped their lives, it’s easier to understand their perspectives and beliefs. It can be an enlightening exercise for you as well as others. Give people the gift of not only of your physical presence, but also the presence of your mind. By practicing the art of connecting with others, not only do you gain strength, but so do others around you.

Become more tolerant of other people’s beliefs. It’s not worth getting upset with colleagues, neighbors, family members or anyone else because of the decisions they make. Their choices are based on the beliefs that saddle their heart. Notice your emotions as they swell up inside you. Your emotional triggers have all been customized to you based on a concoction of your significant life experiences. Meet, greet or dismiss your emotions as they come to you. Leaders, counselors and comedians make their living helping people with the physical, mental and emotional tightropes that connect them to others. Learn from these people and you’ll become better at walking your own tightropes, finding ways to tap into deeper connections with others by loosening your own saddle. Ultimately, you walk away from nearly every encounter in life free, as you always have been, to act on your own convictions. With practice it becomes quite easy to be agreeable to things that have little relevance in the long run.

2. Improve your health.

See yourself as you want to be. Everyone has needs and wants, and some people have ambition as well. A few people are compelled to achieve big goals like becoming an olympic athlete, a bestselling author or the next Nelson Mandela, while others have smaller objectives like learning to cook, losing 10 pounds or reading a spiritual book. Regardless of how big or small your objective is, it begins with a thought. Thoughts are like seeds–some multiply. One tiny apple seed has the potential to become a mature apple tree producing somewhere between 50-100 apples a year. An apple seed, given the right environment, can eventually produce apples, but it will never produce oranges. The Secret to good physical, mental and spiritual health begins in the thoughts that occupy your mind.

hatha yoga legs over head manStretch throughout the day. Lay down on the grass in the evening and look up. Take a few deep breaths. What do you see? Lift your legs straight up. Maybe you’ll see an airplane flying under your feet. Is there someplace you’d like to go? Slowly lower your legs toward your body reaching your toes toward the ground behind your head. Hold the pose for a minute or so if you can. With regular practice, you’ll be able to flex further. Maybe you can already touch your toes to the ground. Maybe not. Maybe you’ll be able to next month or next year? Maybe never. Release your stretch. Give in slowly to the gravity which is pulling your legs back down to the ground. Look up at the stars. You don’t need to go anywhere special to stretch. Wherever your body goes your mind will follow.

11 Equipment Essentials for Everyday Exercises

Expand or contract your spiritual rituals. Some Hindus, Buddhists, Seventh Day Adventists and other religious systems practice vegetarianism because of their spiritual belief systems. In some cases, they also back up their decision with evidence of physical benefits. Many Muslim women veil their bodies, exposing only their eyes and hands. They do it out of obedience to God or their culture. Some say it frees them from being judged by their looks or their body. Their beauty is reserved for their husbands only. Catholics tell their wrong-doings to priests to confess the sins on their conscious. This sacrament reconciles them with God. How are you exercising your spirit? Try practicing some new rituals or letting go of some that don’t feel right.

3. Generate valuable ideas.

Be a curious lifelong learner. To remain relevant, you need to be willing to do one of two things: adopt to the ways of younger generations or lead change. In some cases it’s good to keep doing a thing the same way if it serves you well . . . at least until it doesn’t. You need to know when it’s time to yield to change. If you like board games, learn a computer game. If you like connecting with people by phone, try texting, Skyping or doing a group video call in Google Hangouts. If you’re passionate about history, find new ways to bring it back to life. Stretch your imagination. Exercise your freedom to think about anything you want.

Make a habit of doing things for the first time. As each new generation comes of age, it comes with its own leaders who have the courage to question status quo. These change-makers bring new ideas, trends, technologies, and more. It’s normal to be afraid of trying new things, but it’s also one of the best ways to grow and discover treasures that are hiding all around you. Check out this clip. This is the first time I ever spoke to an all-male Toastmasters club. This is what it’s like at the amazing the amazing Club 1600 in the Bahamas . . .

Open your heart to other belief systems. Cultural, political, sexual and religious belief systems have been shaping you from the time you were born. Your perception narrows over time unless you take steps to exercise the connection between your conscious and subconscious. When you poo, it doesn’t even occur to you that you’re sitting rather than squatting. Are you pooping wrong? How deep is your squat stretch? You do countless activities each day without consciously thinking about the fact that you’re doing them, not because you choose to, but because you’ve been conditioned to conform to the local culture.

Warning: Old People and Frogs May Trigger Culture Shock

backbend yoga pose womanEach time you stretch your body, pay attention to the things going on around you. When you bend over backwards, it seems as if the whole world turns upside down for you. But you were the one who changed, not the world. When you practice stretching your body and reaching out beyond your psychological or spiritual comfort zones, you’re preparing yourself to be more adaptable to the inevitable changes that are coming your way whether you like it or not.

Your ability to adapt to changing circumstances may affect your lifespan. How flexible are you? Your mental, physical and spiritual flexibility measures are either increasing or decreasing little by little on a daily basis. The direction it’s moving in each area of your life is up to you.

Many centenarians have confident, robust personalities. They’ve been able to grow old, in part, because of their flexibility and open-mindedness. They have good self-esteem. They like interacting with others, but they don’t like becoming dependent on others.

Flexibility exercises begin in your mind. Then they become apparent in your body language. And eventually, if everything goes right, the benefits show up in your spirit.

Off the Mat Into the World logo

Michael Mobbs offers 9 tips for a more sustainable home

By | authors, books, eating, gardening, health, laundry | One Comment

Would you like to cut your living expenses in half without giving up modern luxuries? Me too. That’s why I wanted to meet Michael Mobbs and see his home that’s (almost) off the grid in the heart of a big city. On a recent trip to Sydney, I had the opportunity to meet with Mobbs and get a private tour of his Sustainable Home. Here’s what I learned . . .

SusHouseCover2print.inddSince 1996 Michael Mobbs has lived in a unique house in the center of Sydney, Australia. If you rode by on your bike, you wouldn’t notice anything different from the outside. Only a plumber or electrician working on the inside would know the difference. With three other house friends, Mobbs’ total annual water and energy bills are less than $300 AU or about $280 US. His three bedroom home is about a 40 minute walk from the Sydney Opera House.

He has solar panels on his roof. The electric company sends him a check to pay for the clean solar electricity he puts into their main grid lines.

In 1996 he disconnected the water and sewer. He uses rain water that falls on his roof in place of tap water. He treats his own water that flows from his toilets, washing machine and kitchen sink. The system recycles the water back into the house. He uses the recycled water to flush the toilets, wash clothes and hose his beautiful backyard garden. He doesn’t pay any water or sewer bills. In his book, he describes how the simple wastewater system works.

IMG_8787

Michael Mobbs Sustainable Home backyard water treatment garden

The house is still connected to gas. The annual bill is about $200 US.

“I’m not special, kinda short, have no handy skills and can barely drive a nail. If I can do it, you can too,” says Mobbs.

Even if you do own a home, you may not be ready to generate your own electricity and collect and process your own water. But you can begin with smaller projects. I asked Michael for some tips that almost anyone could apply regardless of where they live. Here are some of his recommendations on how to save money even if you’re renting an apartment.

1. When one of your lights goes out, replace it with an LED bulb. LED lights are much more efficient.

2. Paint interior walls shades of white. This also applies to outdoor areas, such as fences. White reflects light back into your rooms. Avoid dark carpet, walls or furniture. Black eats light while pale colors bounce it around.

Sustainable.House 039

Michael Mobbs Sustainable House

3. Install a water efficient shower head. You can take it with you if you move. It saves the energy that it takes to make the water hot and it also cuts down on your water usage. It can save over 15,000 gallons of water a year in a four-person household. This is especially important if you have one or more people in your household who take long showers. Even if you take short showers, you can relax knowing that the same amount of time will cost less.

4. Get a water and energy efficient dishwasher and washing machine. This can knock up to 50% off your energy and water bills. Efficient ones will use about 10-20% of what the standard guzzlers use.

Laundry Study Shows Americans Have Few Hangups

5. Get the most energy efficient refrigerator possible. It runs 24/7 and is typically the biggest energy-using appliance in your home.

6. Catch rain water if you can. You can use it to water your indoor and outdoor plants. You may be able to do this even if you’re in an apartment and only have access to a small balcony.

SusHouseCover2print.indd7. Grow food you can eat. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can grow mint, garlic, rosemary, lemongrass and other plants suitable for indoor environments or small spaces on balconies. Grow mung beans for your salads in a glass jar on your window sills. Get involved with a community garden if there’s one in your neighborhood. If you have too much of one type of food, swap surplus food with other gardeners.

8. Buy food from your local farmers markets. Fresh produce is always healthier and more nutritious than the store-bought refrigerated stuff.

9. Compost fruit and vegetable scraps to make soil for your pots and/or garden. Even if you don’t have a lot of space you can add worms to your compost and they will turn it into fertile black gold (dirt) in 1-3 months.

Mobbs says a modest meal which includes a small portion of meat puts a much greater strain on the environment than a meal that’s fully vegetarian. We need to think about our overall impact on the environment even outside our homes.

“The energy and water needed to keep me alive is about 20-40 times greater than the energy and water needed to run my house. Yes, my house saves over 100,000 liters (about 20,000 gallons) of dam water a year by harvesting the water which falls for free using the natural stormy energy of the skies. But in ten days of eating the typical Australian diet, there’s over 100,000 liters of water needed to grow, harvest, clean, store, package, transport and refrigerate my food. My little tummy uses far more water and energy than my house,” says Mobbs.

Michael Mobbs Sustainable House with Lorraine

Dr Lorraine Haataia with Michael Mobbs in front of his Sustainable House in Sydney, Australia

The costs, designs, products, materials, tragedies, mistakes, truths, and failures of his house and tummy are spelled out in his two books: Sustainable House and Sustainable Food.

“Plug the leaks in your home. When you take steps to reduce your living expenses and environmental impact, you may ultimately reduce your financial stress and have the chance to invest in new opportunities with the money you save,” Mobbs says.

A few years ago my husband and I traded in our big suburban home with a 3-car garage for smaller living quarters. This freed up both time and money giving us the opportunity travel to places like Sydney.

The next time you’re in Sydney, be sure to tour Michael Mobbs’ Sustainable House or see the scaled down version of his home at the Powerhouse Museum near Darling Harbour.

In the introduction of his Sustainable Homes book, Mobbs offers some of the key lessons he learned through the decisions he made with his own home. If you aspire to create a more sustainable home, look for others in your community who are making changes in their homes and lifestyles. You’ll get there much quicker if you share your challenges, successes and fears with them.

Steven Wright recently moved into an all electric house. One evening he forgot to turn off the lights before he went to sleep. When he woke up in the morning to let his dog out to pee, the front door wouldn’t work. 

Take a look at this candid interview with Mobbs as he explains how he handles some of the resistance he faces as a positive change-maker doing things that seem perfectly logical. His advises everyone to have the courage to say, “I can do this.”

It’s helpful when your cohorts share common factors such as weather, jurisdictions and local suppliers. And even better if they have some professional experience that might help to expedite projects. Mobbs happens to be an environmental lawyer by trade. In 2009, The (Sydney) Magazine listed Mobbs as one of Sydney’s 100 most influential people. See the About Michael page on the Sustainable House website to learn more about him.

 Build It Green logo

 

How to get happy now via habits, goals and resolutions

By | habits, holidays, IMPROVE DAILY | 3 Comments

What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming weeks (or months)? Do you have any major goals you’re working toward? Whether I’m talking with an old friend or getting to know someone new, I like to ask these kinds of questions. It’s a good way to get to know people better.

happy here and nowThe way they answer is a gauge of their current state of happiness. Some people light up and describe in vivid detail the vision they’re executing. Others hunch forward and tell stories about of how and why their happiness has been put on hold indefinitely, often because of the noble sacrifices they’re making for others.

When is the best time to do something that makes you happy? The best answer is “now,” and “today,” or “ASAP.” Now is the only time you have and this is true every single day. Your life is happening now right in front of your eyes. Look around. It’s passing by even when you aren’t paying attention.

How about now? Many people miss the power of the present moment because they’re too busy lamenting over the past or projecting into the future. The more you can discipline your mind to stay in the present, to take actions now to design the life you want, the more likely you are to smile more and complain less.

You may admire others who have more money than you, travel more than you do, have better jobs, more fame, or bigger or better whatever. You may think you want what they have, but you really don’t know until you take the opportunity to experience it personally. You don’t know how well it will fit until you try it on or walk in their footsteps. If you did, it might surprise you.

goals list cartoon

Lots of people take time to check in with Facebook, TripAdvisor, Foursquare or Yelp, but forget to check in with themselves. When you feel your mood swinging up or down, make a conscious note of the trigger. Self Check-In. This is a good time to take a moment to reflect on what habits, goals or resolutions you need to make in order to create more emotional up-times in your life. You know you’re getting closer to happiness when you no longer notice the small things that are less relevant because you’re too busy doing what you love to do.

Choose a day of the week to note what habits you need to focus on in the upcoming week. If you have time to slow down and reflect on Sundays, for example, you can reflect back on what went well the prior week and what you want to do different in the upcoming week. Are there new habits you need to put into practice?

Meditation: The Answer to All Your Problems

It can take about 21 days to acquire a new daily habit, so don’t give up if you miss a day. Just pick up where you left off on the next day. Over time your new habit becomes so engrained in your subconscious that you begin to do it automatically. And eventually if you don’t do it, you miss the benefit it provides.

Reflect on your smaller short-term goals each month. Are you doing what you need to do on a daily basis? The first day of the month is a good time to begin tracking your progress throughout the month. If it’s the 10th day of the month, then you know you’re about 33% there.

You can also use your birthday as a milestone instead of going with the first of the month. It feels a bit more personal, even though it can take a little longer to calculate progress. If your birthday falls is on the 29th, 30th, or 31st, you may need to use the last day of the month as the fall-back date for the months that don’t include your number.

What do you think you need to do to be happier? Try a 30 day challenge. Check out this clip by Google Webspam team member, Matt Cutts . . .

Some people like to set New Year’s Resolutions. But you shouldn’t wait for the New Year to come around to kickoff a big goal unless you’ve been preparing yourself for it throughout the prior year. Most people don’t keep their New Year’s Resolutions because they aren’t in the habit of setting small goals all year long. They don’t have the habit of making and keeping promises they make to themselves. If you don’t set and accomplish small goals throughout the year, you’re not likely to accomplish big goals that you blurt out once a year.

goals high-definition daydreams

The most common type of New Year’s Resolution in the US relates to losing weight, exercising more or getting healthier one way or another. Most people have a general idea of what they need to do to be happier, but don’t have the mental will-power to do the day-to-day mundane things that ultimately lead to big results over time. Happiness is as much a journey as it is a destination.

One of the biggest problems with waiting until New Year’s Day to make a resolution is that it seems logical to set big goals knowing that you have the whole year to get it done. The year begins with a few procrastination jokes about why you can’t start yet. Your self-talk can go something like this, “I don’t have to do anything for the first month (or quarter) because there’s still plenty of year remaining.”

By the time the second and third quarter of the year roll around, the self-talk, however subtle, can turn into a self-defeating blame-game, “I can’t do this because of this or that family member,” or “I don’t have enough money,” or ” I’m too young or too old.” If you aren’t getting it done, you’ll find an excuse. This leads to feelings of unworthiness. Psychology Today

Are you happy?

People who keep their New Year’s Resolutions tend to set smaller goals year-round and, more importantly, they keep them. Their smaller goals support their bigger vision. They write down their goals and schedule the daily and weekly activities that direct them toward their ultimate vision.

Every day is the beginning of a new year. Today is the first day of the upcoming 365 days. Consider birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. They can fall on any day of the year. When that day comes around the following year, it’s the beginning of a new year relative to that date. Every day is a good day to make adjustments to your habits and routines in order to create the relationships and environment that bring out the best in you. If something doesn’t go the way you want it to today, start over again as soon as the sun rises.

How to attain authentic happiness in 7 emails

It’s natural to want to move forward and experience life in a fuller way, whatever that means for you. It’s human nature to want expand your space, your influence, your desires and even your things. You can try to do this vicariously through TV, movies and even social media, but if you really want to make the most of your reality, you’ll reach your goals much quicker by spending less time wallowing in passive entertainment and more time taking action to help them to manifest in your life.

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Habits

If your current habits aren’t getting you where you want to go, start making changes today. Here are several things to consider as you make adjustments to your habits, goals and resolutions:

  • Connect with others who share your driving interests. Technology has made it easy to find people who share your passion. Search for clubs or MeetUps in your area so you can build friendships with like-minded friends.
  • Clarify your next steps. Not knowing what to do next is like a having a clogged drain in your brain. You feel stuck, but can’t seem to get past it. When this happens, you may need to get advice from a mentor or someone who has already done what you want to do. I use Todoist to track my next actions and daily tasks.
  • Decide what you need to subtract from your life. People often set goals that are too time-consuming or disruptive to their current lives without deciding what they need subtract. The hours of your days are already full, so you’ve got to let go of less important activities in exchange for the new. Subtraction, in itself, can often relieve you of financial and mental stress which may result in greater happiness.
  • Negotiate small ongoing changes with your spouse or loved ones. As you make changes to your life, you’ll often face resistance from those around you who don’t understand what’s going on. If you’re persistent about making adjustments on a regular basis, then people have time to adjust their own habits and attitudes as they see your progress.

Happiness is not accomplished by amassing a large number of things. If you’re passionate about gardening or animals, you may want to let go of some of the things you have in order to acquire some land. If you want to go off the grid, you may need to invest in a new home or a renovation to make this dream a reality. The same holds true of horseback riding, biking, or any other passion you have.

Let go of unnecessary possessions and self-defeating habits one by one in order to make more room for happiness. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Do it now.

Sick and tired of being held back by your fears? CLICK ON IMAGE to gain the mental power you need to achieve your goals. You can start living the life you've always wanted.

Sick and tired of being unhappy? CLICK ON IMAGE to learn how you can gain the mental power you need to be happy. You can start living the life you’ve always wanted.