Archive for April, 2015

createbetterI have a nephew who is burning up the track these days. He just set a freshman record at his school. He’s running the same events I ran in high school but with much more success. His freshman times are already eclipsing what I ran as a senior. As I hear of his exploits though I have to look back to my own “glory” days. Then I look at myself in the mirror and think, “What happened?” I’m almost twice the man I used to be (I’m getting better), and I’m talking size not maturity (though hopefully I’ve grown in that way, too).

As far as I can see, what happened was motivation, or at least a switch in motivation. You see when I was competing, I had something to live up to. I had a crowd I didn’t want to look bad in front of, especially when my dad came. I wanted my name announced in the morning as one of the people who placed in the meet. I wanted to hear the people shouting my name. I wanted to please my coach and then of course there were the girls, but that’s a different story for a different day. Look at all of that. It was all about competition, I wanted to win. When there was nothing left to win, for me there was no reason to run. I was almost exclusively extrinsically motivated, motivated by the opinions and reactions of others. When the races and the crowds went away so did my motivation to run. Extrinsic motivation of this type goes away.

What we need is intrinsic motivation—motivation from within. I’m not talking about self centered ness. Look at all the things I wanted from track again. They may have been all about what others thought but they were about what others thought about me and, as such extremely, self-centered. I’m talking about doing things because they are the right thing to do. Trying to make the world a better place. These things are motivated in my life by faith and an internal compass toward the greater good.

I don’t run very often anymore. It’s a little tough on the joints but about ten years ago, I had a wake up call. Overeating, no exercise and pushing myself past exhaustion, mainly to please other people (extrinsic), left me in the hospital. I saw something needed to change and I began to walk, every day. I still do that and it has done me a world of good. I don’t do it for the roar of the crowds or for someone else’s approval. I do it for me. It’s my quiet time. It helps me to focus, to get my day in order, to see things more clearly. Most importantly, it helps to strengthen me so I can do some good in this world. The motivation is different and it’s really good. So long as my feet will hold me, I will do this for life.

What motivates you is important. If you’re motivated by external circumstances, your motivation will wain when circumstances change.

Why do you want to create a better life?

createbetterTwo of the deadliest words to the creative process are “I wish.” You know, “I wish I had more.. I wish I did this… I wish I had known…” the list goes on and on. Here’s what I want you to do:

STOP Wishing!

I hear people say “I wish I had this.” “I wish I had that.” Well you don’t! The real question is, “What do you have?” Start there. Look, there aren’t any fairies, or genies, or wishing stars. Those things don’t exist. What you need to do instead is do something. Start something. Do it now! Every step you take can be a step closer to where you want to be. Even a misstep is a step. If nothing else, it gives you something from which to learn and move forward.

You see wishing makes you focus on what you don’t have and it’s paralyzing. Start with what you do have and do something with it. Find something you’re missing? Don’t wish. Find a way to get it. Find someone to help you or find a way to do without it. You might have to get creative. You might have to skip a few steps for now, but you can keep moving forward. What do you have right now that you could use to start?

Of course you don’t have everything you want. It’s part of why you’d take the time to read something called Create a Better Life. We’re working toward something. So find an idea and move toward it.

Stop wishing and start creating a better life.

This is one of those “late night, had a dream, can’t go back to sleep until I write it down” kind of messages. It will be short and to the point and my hope is it will make sense in the morning. I’m about three months from being a grandfather for the first time and I could not be more excited about it. In my dream there was a church next for to my grandchild’s house and it was covered with fake bats and all kinds of horror stuff. The pastor was decked out in all kinds of vampire gear, the whole thing had the feeling of evil to the point where, thinking how much this would score my grandchild, I said, “This is going to shut down if I have to shut it down.” Then I woke up. As I lay there trying to separate dream from reality, I had a thought. “What if the guy was just trying to creatively reach his community?” I mean that’s a big part of what this blog is all about. If that’s what it was, when does creativity go too far.

I remember another time, I took my youth group to a Christian concert near Halloween and the lead singer of one of the bands came out in full skull makeup ala Danzig. He made one of the most absurd comments I have ever heard, stating that Halloween had it’s origins in Christianity and Christmas didn’t. I knew what he was getting at. Halloween was established by the church as a way to honor the saints who had gone before and there are some elements of our Christmas celebrations that have been borrowed (and redeemed, I believe) from paganism. But since Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, I think he was a little off the mark. He was trying to defend his decision to dress for Halloween, but he really missed the mark.

Thinking of these two things bought me to the two questions we must ask ourselves as we attempt to use our creativity to serve the Lord, especially in the context of the church. The first one analyzes our motives. “Am I attempting to honor God?” This one asks, “Is my heart in the right place? Am I tryout to do good in the name of God or just indulging my own whims? What’s my motivation?” Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things…” so this question is vital.

The second question is closely related and would have helped the young lead singer and a lot of other people along the way. “Does this ACTUALLY honor God?” It says, “My heart’s in the right place, but will what I am about to do actually succeed at honoring God?” The thing is the answer to both of these questions MUST be “yes” and we need to have that answer to both questions before we proceed.

Does that make sense? I’m going back to bed.

createbetterIt’s like learning to fly.

I hear voices. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy. (At least I don’t think I am.) My guess is you hear them too and as I launch into a project like this, I hear them more often.

One says, “Who are you?” “Why should anyone listen to you?’ It’s one I can’t deny. There’s this huge temptation to wait—wait until I’ve done more, accomplished more, reached some nebulous level of success so I can say, here’s how I did it. I’m a success (and the implied, “and you’re not…) and here are are ten or fifteen “tried and true” steps to do what I’ve done, so you can be like me. The truth is, I’m not there yet. I still desire a better life. I’m still not everything I want to be. Is that okay? Maybe it is.

Another voice chimes in. “You’re not enough.” I’d be willing to bet you’ve heard that voice too. Do more. Accomplish more. Become better looking, bigger, smaller, smarter, whatever. Once you attain the unattainable, then you’ll be worthy. Why do I say unattainable? Because that voice is never satisfied. It always wants a little more, or a lot more.

But then I heard another voice, a smaller, more soothing voice, the voice of truth. That voice whispers, “Take them along. Invite them to join you. Create together.” I can’t give you ten or 15 steps to become like me, but the truth is, I don’t want you to be like me. I want to help you to become your best you. Let’s face it, success means something different to everyone who pursues it and if we’re not careful, it too can become unattainable, as we keep pushing the standard forward. I’m not a raging success. I still want a bit more out of life. I’m still creating a better life, but I’ve had a good one, when, and I think this is the key, I’ve allowed myself to enjoy it.

There’s no step by step process. There’s a dream, a vision, a goal, a place where we want to be and there’s where we are today. Maybe the distance feels like miles or decades or thoroughly unattainable. I can’t help you get there, because I don’t know where “there” is. What I can do, is help you to take the next right step, to help you keep moving forward, to listen to the right voices and put aside the wrong ones. You see if we focus on the goal, all we will see is the distance between where you are and where you want to be. That can be maddening. What if we could just learn to revel in the steps? What if we could learn to celebrate the achievement of being one step closer. All of the sudden life becomes a celebration. We begin to enjoy the journey. Wouldn’t that be a better life? Of course we want still want to reach the goal. The difference is the attitude we take with us on the journey.

Of course, more voices chime in. They’re the “What it’s…” What if people think you’re not qualified? Some people will. They’re not the ones who will join me on this journey. They’re not my tribe, wish them well and move on. What if you make a misstep? I’ve decided to share them too, because there always are some on any journey and learning to learn from them and work in them is another key to a better life. Of course the biggest ones is “What if you fail?” First of all, failure isn’t fatal. It can be a great learning experience. Sometimes it’s even the fork in the road that leads to a better path. This last what if is the most dangerous of al because most of the time it will keep us stuck, thinking the journey is pointless, so we stay where we are, never trying to get to the goal.

My friend Libby, tells this story of a little bird in a nest. The time has come for him to spread his wings and fly, but fear is holding him back. “What if I fall?” he says. The mother bird’s response is priceless. “Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

Dear friend, let’s learn to fly.

Let’s create a better life.

createbetterThis was one of those days when the deadlines caught up to me. I didn’t make it by the end of my WordPress deadline. Even so, it’s important to work at your creation every day. Many of the days from this point further will be on the topic of content creation.

Creating useful content is really what it’s all about. Today I am working on the questions each of us need to ask ourselves as we set about the journey of creating a better life. These are what I came up with so far:

1. Why do you want to create a better life?
2. What do you bring to the table?
3. What are your gifts and talents?
4. What are your interests?
5. What’s your expertise?
6. Who can you help?
7. How can your experiences help others?
8. Where are your opportunities?
9. When are you going to start?
10. Where are you going to begin to share your information?

How can you start creating your content? It starts by asking what do you know that other people need to know? In the beginning, just write down everything you can think of. There are no bad ideas at this point. Then once you’ve spent some time thinking about them, begin to edit. Look for the things that combine your abilities/talents/desires/experiences with things that can help others. When you have isolated those things, find the best one and focus on it. Then begin to create your better life.

createbetterWell we’ve made it two weeks into what is essentially a seven week project and once again it’s time for a break. There are so many reasons to do this. It allows us to recharge our creative batteries. It allows us to pursue other interests but most importantly it allows us to give attention to what’s really important.

After all, we’re not just creating a better life so that we can live as crazy workaholics, because frankly, that’s not a better life. No we’re creating a better life so we can live a better life. Invest this time in the people you love. Worship your Creator. Do something you truly enjoy. Take the time to relax and unwind. Sure, if you get an earthshaking idea, take a little time to record it, but spend your time in the moment today. Be present with the people you love. Enjoy where you are on the way to where you’re going.

In the midst of creating a better life be sure to also live a better life.

createbetterI’ve heard it said a lot of times. Hey, I’ve even said it. “I have a lot to offer.” Well that’s great, but now it’s time to get specific. What are you going to offer to your people? When you post that first landing page, what are you going to offer people? It’s time to start getting specific.

The way to decide this is to look at a couple things. The first thing goes all the way back to the beginning. What is it you want to accomplish? Who is it you want to help? Next, look at your elevator pitch. Note how this quick description of your product shows it’s essence. From there, it’s time to refine and define your product. Your first way to deliver what it is that you do. What will it be? Here are a couple of suggestions.

1. A Webinar: Generate an hour of useful information that will truly help people in the way you want to help them. Search the web for a way to deliver your content, then begin to approach the people on your platform telling them that this will be available on such and such a date and promote it. You may want to do a test run ahead of time to work out the bugs and make sure the technology cooperates. I will share more on this in a future post, as this will likely be a vehicle I will use.

2. A Podcast: Podcasts can be a great vehicle for spreading information and there are several good online vehicles out there for delivering them. Research the ones that will work for you and give it a try. There are a few things to remember about podcasts. First, this ain’t Field of Dreams. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. You’ve got to be building your tribe through social media, blogging, etc. Secondly, consistency is king. If you’re going to podcast, you have got to deliver your content on a consistent basis or your audience will tune out. Listen to a few podcasts, develop your voice and deliver your content.

3. An e-book: E-books are a great way to share information. I’ve written quite a few. They don’t have to be long, they just have to be filled with useful information. You can go as simple as converting a Word document into a pdf and making it available for download, to working with a service that will make it available for e-readers and even print. I like to use because they are connected with Amazon and you can automatically make your books available on Kindle and in print on Amazon for free as well as buy your own books at a deep discount for live appearances. You can see a list of my books and resources here.

Needless to say there are a lot more things you could offer but I hoped you noticed that each one relies on the importance of building your tribe and doing your best to give them vital information.

What I am doing: While I have written several books and have tried my hand at podcasting, Create a Better Life is a brand new venture. I’m basing it on my experiences as a life-long creative, professional creative and my more recent experiences a speaker/blogger (I’ve been working at building that for over 15 years). My first offering for Create a Better Life will be a webinar and a workbook based on these posts as well as expanded information. I will also be making a print version of the book available. In the webinar, I plan on offering some coaching services and a live workshop.

This is one of the things I am working on to Create a Better Life. What are you doing?

createbetterIt’s a travel day today so this will be a short post. I have decided to make a course correction on this project today. Remember I told you, you were going to see all of these too. After much research, I have decided that while I am still planning to do the day-long workshop and elements of that will continue to figure into these posts, the time frame is changing. Before I go live with the workshops, I am going to release several other projects including a workbook based on these posts, and several online classes, webinars and resources.

The reason I share this is to show that along the course of a project it is vital that we continue to study and look for more effective ways to do things. One of the essentials to the type of workshop I am planning is to have resources that will allow people to continue the process. Developing these items first will allow me to have them on hand when I do the first workshop. In addition, these items will allow further testing of the principles, etc. One of the things I have noticed as a creative over the years is it is a lot easier to create something I can do than it is to help someone else apply my ideas to what they do. These earlier developments will allow me to help a lot more people than I can in a live event, get a lot more people interested in attending a live event and help me to build a much better live event.

Do you have any course corrections you need to make on your project? Have you hit any snags that might make you feel like giving up? Do not give up. Make a course correction. Look at the things you can do right now and keep going. There is a way to do your project. Take the next right step and keep going.

That’s one of the ways we create a better life.

createbetterSo far I’ve done everything about practical things to do to bring a project to the world, and we will get back to that tomorrow, but for today I want to explore things we can do (or not do) that will impact the quality of life we actually live. In the quest to live a better life, these cannot be overlooked. Ignore these and you will not have a better life.

1. Make good choices. This one is overarching. It covers all the rest. Basically it involves thinking before you act. How will this choice effect the rest of my life? Will it move me forward or hold me back? Is this choice right or wrong? Will this help or hinder? Will this mess up my reputation or credibility? Asking these questions before we make choices will go miles toward helping you move forward.

2. Learn to say “no.” We are surrounded by countless opportunities to do good things, but not all of those good things move us forward into our life’s mission. Will doing this move me toward my dream or prove to be a distraction? Is this something the person asking truly needs me to do or is someone else better suited to help? Please note: This doesn’t let us off the hook from serving others, especially in an emergency, it’s meant only to help us focus our efforts. Stay on mission!

3. Let it go. The truth is, we all have baggage, wounds and hurts. Dwelling on these things serves to do nothing but keep us stuck and keep us out of a brighter future. Forgiveness is huge. It doesn’t let the offender off the hook so much as it releases you from the offense. Instead of re-experiencing the hurt every time you think of it, you are free to move forward. Seek healing for your wounds (sometimes the best way to do this is to help someone else).

4. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear is another thing that holds us back. What if we fail? What if we make a mistake? What if? What if? What if? Fear has taken us off mission from the beginning of time and that needs to stop. Some fears are good and self preserving. I’m writing this next to a fifth story balcony. My fear keeps me from jumping off. That’s good fear. But most fear, and it’s ugly stepsister worry, is imagination misused. The key to overcoming fear and worry deals with retraining your imagination. Instead of asking “What if I fail?,” for example, ask the better question, “What if I succeed?” That could make all the difference.

5. Relationships are huge. Pay attention to them. One of the best aspects of a better life is the people with whom we share the journey. Do not ignore them on your way to your goal. Goals are temporary, people are forever. I spend a few years thinking when I reached my goals I could give my family everything they wanted. What they really wanted was me. This almost cost me everything that truly matters. Wise people learn from their mistakes, but really wise people lear from other people’s mistakes. Learn from mine put your vital relationships first. The other side of this is some relationships are toxic. Love everyone, but be careful who you allow to influence you.

6. Take care of yourself. You only have one body and one life and if you break your body, your goal won’t do you much good. Eat right, exercise and yes you do actually need to sleep.

7. Live by faith. This one is actually my number one and some might argue with it, but there is something bigger than us as individuals and principles that are larger than our goals. There is a greater good to be considered regardless of your view of religion. Live a life of faith, honor and integrity.

8. Enjoy the journey. Creating a better life is not always going to be fun or easy. It’s a lot of hard work, but the trials and struggles are part of the story that we create on the way. You might as well enjoy the ride. Joy is a choice. Make it.

9. Prioritize. Keep what’s most important most important.

10. Really live. St. Irenaeus once said “The glory of God is a man fully alive.” The definition of what it means to be fully alive varies from present person, but you know when you are and when you aren’t. We are trying to create a better life, and a big part of that is being fully alive.

I’m of the belief that the future belongs to those who create it. These ten things will help on that journey. There will be times where you will feel like you’re stuck. It’s usually one of these that will “unstick” us. Create through the stuck points and keep moving forward.

Create a better life.

createbetterAs we go through our process, it will eventually become necessary to make an offer. People usually do this with a landing page. Many people say the purpose of your landing page is to add people to your email list. That is only partially correct. Do we want to have more contacts? Yes! Do we want to build a larger audience? Yes, because we want to help more people. And therein is the crux of the matter. Building a large list is important, but we don’t just build a list to build a list so we can sell more stuff. That’s called advertising and for most people it rings quite hollow. We build a list so we can help more people and so the purpose of our landing page is to add massive value to people’s lives. If you do that, they will want to hear from you, they will want to open your emails, maybe even some day buy what you’re selling.

I didn’t come up with this on my own. Oh I suppose I have always known it, and hopefully you have seen on my various blogs that helping people is first and foremost, but I heard someone say what I was thinking so articulately that it really made me look at what I was doing again. I mentioned the webinar yesterday. It was Donna Partow’s Tell Your Message to the World webinar and it was wonderful. I got an email telling me about a free webinar. I hadn’t heard of Donna before but the topic was of interest to me so I signed up. Yes, that means she has my email and I am on her list but I was interested enough to give her a shot. I was really glad I did. Over the first hour, she gave me so much information for free. I couldn’t believe I was getting all this for free and I was blessed. Yes in the last half hour (it was 90 minutes in all) she shared a “for-sale” program that will cost more than I can afford at the moment. That being said, it looks like a really good program that I may check out at a later point. This webinar was more than an ad, it was a wonderful free gift, and I can’t wait to see what she emails me next. She added value to my life.

Think about that last paragraph because it says something. Someone offered something for nothing more than my email address. I took advantage of their offer and was blessed by it. So blessed that I told my friends how great the person giving the gift is and shared links so my friends could also be blessed. This should be the end effect of everything we do online. In building our landing pages, we should attempt to add as much value as we can to people’s lives. This is what builds trust and allows people to consider your other offers.

My landing page will take more than one day to construct, but in the mean time, I have created a page that will catalog all 48 days of this process as I work through it. You can see that page here. As I have the offer more worked out, I will revisit this page.

One of the keys to creating a better life is helping others to create a better life.