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Personal Development with Gray Miller

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Defining Moment: the Defined Life

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“One more thing…” – Steve Jobs

It may be obvious, but it bears saying: unlike the Highlander, when it comes to the Defining Moment there can be more than one. If you’ve tried this process on one of your dreams, close your eyes, take a breath, and ask yourself: What would I really like?

Poof! Another Defining Moment is born, and you can start the whole process over again. It is something that gets easier with practice. You get better at understanding just how many resources you have available to you. You get better at identifying risks and implications. The whole process can move faster, and notebooks filled with the processes are really fun to go back and look over. It’s like a scrapbook for the inside of your brain.

Reverse Engineering

There’s another neat thing about Defining Moments: when you’ve gone to that much trouble to create one, you also acquire more skill at identifying them when they happen. There may be some moment – seeing your child smile as you play with them on the floor, letting a well-turned sentence flow out of your keyboard, that burst of endorphins as you get most of the way through your workout – when you suddenly realize that you feel happy. A little voice inside may take note of that moment and say “*Ah ha!*” and file it away.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could start to shape your life so that moments like that happen more often. What is life, after all, but a series of moments one after the other. I’m not saying it has to be a constant effervescent experience of liminal consciousness, now – remember, this is a blog about how to make hard times happier, not how to be happy – but you can learn how your relaxing and quiet times are Defining Moments as well as the exhilarating experience of meeting a challenge and overcoming it.

Pay attention. Defining Moments are all around you, and there’s only one person who has the responsibility to both find and create them. You know who that is already; the question is when will you get around to doing something about it?

“What. Are you. Prepared. To DO?” – Sean Connery, The Untouchables

The Defining Moment: Courage Overcomes Expectations

Not Much Left

There’s really only a few last things to say now that you’ve figured out your Defining Moment, found a way to make it happen, and analyzed the results. You know now one of two things: what it’s like to do it, or what it’s like to not bother with the whole process.

That’s fine. It’s impossible to do all the things you read about, or all the things that you want to do. This might be one of them, kind of like running a marathon is for me. Not only that, I can give you two reasons why your life becomes harder once you actually go through this process and figure out what your Defining Moment is.

Courage is for the Fearful

“Life rewards those who move in the direction of greatest courage.” – Franklin Veaux

You have to remember that it’s impossible to be brave without being scared. Bravery, courage, those are what happen when you’re scared but you do the necessary thing anyway.

The hardest part of the Defining Moment is having the courage to admit what your dream actually is. It almost certainly is not what you are doing now, or what other people expect you to do; if it were, why would you be reading this? As the previous chapters have shown, it’s not hard to actually make it happen – it’s simply a matter of taking the time to do the work.

The hard part is when that dream runs against your external expectations. When you tell people (or just show them) that you’re going to be sailing on the lake even though everyone knows you can’t swim; when you say you’re going to write a book when everyone knows you’re actually good a math. The world is full of stories of people who have had to counter the expectations of their environment and the people around them in order to make their Moment happen.

It’s hard, but it’s doable. In some ways it becomes easier because you’ve got an external opponent to work against. I know that there was a moment in boot camp when I would have given up except for one thing: I was not going to let my future father-in-law be right in his expectation of my failure.

So I succeeded, instead, just to spite him. Ooh-Rah!

The Harder Part

Sure, it sucks to be the only one who believes in your dream. But what if you don’t even have that ally? What if you go through all the analysis of the first few chapters and you’re left looking at a piece of paper that has something on it that contradicts your own expectations of yourself? Opera? But I’m in my second year of business school! or Stay home with my daughter while I build my niche website? But I’m supposed to be the breadwinner! or even just I can’t do that for a living, because I enjoy that, and I’m not supposed to like my job.

If that’s what you’re facing, it’s a much harder path to navigate. In fact, I will be blunt: it’s beyond the scope of this website. That’s the kind of thing where you might need to look for the help of a therapist and do a whole lot of internal work to get to the point where you and your expectations of yourself are on the same side.

It’s not an easy road to follow. It is quite possibly impossible for many people, which is why blogs like this keep coming around. Because you might be one of the lucky few for whom it’s not impossible – for whom the path is simply hard.

And hard is easy to get past. Just put one foot in front of the other, one word after the other, one thing after another.

What are you waiting for?

“Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.” ― Spencer Johnson

The Defining Moment, Part 14: the big question

Encore! Or not.

By now, if you’re following the whole lineup of the Defining Moment, you’ve got a folder of papers, or perhaps an entire notebook, filled with first your analysis of what you want to do, and then all kinds of things about it. You’ve predicted risks and consequences and then checked the accuracy of your predictions; you’ve made a plan for the Moment itself and then done a kind of post mortem (I know, not the most pleasant metaphor, but it sticks), taking a look at the effectiveness of the plan.

Take a moment to reflect on that wealth of data. In some presentations where I do this whole exercise with one lucky volunteer, I have the luxury of several whiteboards. It is a majestic and humbling experience to see someone’s dreams laid out in permanent marker across the wall, seeing all the connections and fears and hopes in one gigantic gestampkunstwerk.

But then, at a certain point, you need to step back. You need to weigh all of the pros and cons and implications and risks in one holistic view and ask yourself the Big Question:

Do I want to do it again?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: you don’t have to. You’ve done that thing once, and it’s entirely possible that the conclusion of your discovery was: Ok, that was not worth the trouble. There are all kinds of things – the Marines, having children, even marriage – that I personally am very glad I did but would never do again.

On the other hand, you may have this strange sense that you didn’t quite do it right the first time. That you or the other elements of the event could have somehow been better, or gotten a different outcome with a different approach. Think of it as trying a different route up the same mountain – the view at the summit may be the same, but the one viewing it will be different for the changed experience.

On the Brighter Side

Then again, you may be so happy that you decide you absolutely want to do it again – as soon as possible! It’s important to remember something about that, though: it won’t be the same. It can be good, it can be better, but it won’t be the first time, and so you are running the risk of comparison. In fact, that can be a completely valid reason for trying something only once: so that the magic of that first time is the only memory you’ll have of it.

You may want to be careful also with that impulse of I want to do it again! One of the risks of doing something that you you’ve always dreamed of is that when your dream becomes reality, reality requires your dream. Chris Guillebeau, in his upcoming book The Happiness of Pursuit, talks about John Francis, aka “Planet Walker“. On an impulse he decided that he was going to start walking everywhere – but people got tired of hearing about it, so he (again on impulse) gave them the gift of his silence. Both of those ended up feeling so good that he kept it up for twenty-two years of walking and seventeen years of silence.

His Defining Moment snuck up on him, but once it was there, it pounced and would not let go. Chris talks in his book about how there were a lot of hard times and hurt feelings and anger from people when John Francis started his work. It’s possible – not guaranteed, but possible – that with a little planning and foresight you can have just as life-changing an event as Mr. Francis, but with less disruption of the rest of your life and loved ones.

It all could be moot, though, because you still have to answer that question from within:

Again? Or not?

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Defining Moment, Part 13: Final Evaluations

The Consequence Hero

Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s one of the key principles of personal development, set down everyone from Aristotle to Covey: you are free to take action, but you are not free of consequences of those actions. Many a parent has shaken their head as they watch their children figure this out (sometimes repeatedly). Then again, many a rebellious child has looked up from their banquet of consequences with a defiant gleam in their eye and said “Yeah? Well it was worth it!” as they take up another bitter mouthful.

That’s what we’re hoping for with the Defining Moment. We’re hoping, when it’s said and done, that you’ll look at the results of your experience and see a whole banquet of consequences. We’re coming up, next week, to a Very Important Question, and so it’s worthwhile to pull out all the notes we made before we did the Defining Moment and checked out just how good our predictions were.

Equality of Expectations

A wise friend of mine believes that the key to successful relationships is equality of expectations. That is, if both parties know what to expect from each other and that’s what they actually get in reality, it will go well. The same relationship applies to your Defining Moment. Was it what you expected?

Don’t feel bad if it wasn’t. We (humans) are really bad at predicting what makes us happy. Dan Gilbert, in his book Stumbling on Happiness, blah blah, blahblah.

OK, look, the reality is: everyone I know who’s done this – myself included – has actually ended up enjoying their Defining Moment more than they expected. I always say that bit about “we’re bad predictors” just in case it doesn’t go that way sometime. But honestly? Way back in the beginning we made sure that the Defining Moment was rooted in passion. That’s in our gut, and your gut usually knows what you like, even if it can’t quite make your brain express it.

It’s likely that when you went through your Defining Moment you totally effed that ineffable something. It’s likely that you’ll actually discover that no, you didn’t expect to like it that much – nor did you expect the ways that you liked it.

But please, if you try this out and your Defining Moment turns out to be less than you expected, let me know. I’m interested in someday finding out what that might be like.

Implications

The implications fall into two categories: Expected and Surprises. We’ve already had a list of possible implications, and you can go down the list saying “Hmm…yep, that one, that one…no, that didn’t happen, but that did…” That process won’t take long, because you’ve already got the notes.

Back in my Big Hair days...

Back in my Big Hair days…

But then there’s the Surprises. Those are the implications that you didn’t predict. For example:  I agreed, almost twenty years ago, to perform with some other medieval musicians for a University play. Medieval music was my hobby, nothing more; I was busy being a single Dad and working in childcare. It will be fun, I thought, just a lark.

What I didn’t expect was that the minute I walked backstage the entire ambience of The Theatre would fill my senses, and lead me to eventually change my major (twice!) and end up with a degree in Dance.

That’s what I mean: an implication that isn’t expected, that means that something in your life is going to change because of what you’ve done in your Defining Moment. It’s actually a pretty scary moment; it’s like that time a certain someone walked into a room and your eyes met and something deep inside said My life just got a bit more complicated. That’s what happened to me when I walked backstage; I knew, deep down, that this was something I needed to have in my life. I spent months fighting it, telling myself it wasn’t reasonable or practical or realistic.

All of those things were true. But it was also necessary. That’s something about the Defining Moment – it’s a great way to learn more about what is necessary for you to be fulfilled in your life.

Unfortunately, what is necessary is often unrealistic, impractical, and unreasonable. That’s why blogs like this one exist. I promise, we’ll come back to this later.

Work It

The final part of this evaluation is a simple checklist. It should have two headings:

What worked?                 What didn’t?

Then just let your brain flow. “The performance came off well. Getting a babysitter was hard. My tenor recorder doesn’t want to stay in tune. Our rehearsals were fun!” Just go through your brain, adding things to the list, and for each one, it either worked, or it didn’t.

If you find yourself writing things that you’ve already put in Expectations or Implications, then you’re getting a little off the beaten path. Expectations were about how you felt about things. Implications were the results of things. The Effectiveness Evaluation is simply taking it action-by-action and asking yourself: did this work?

All of this is leading up to what we’re going to talk about next week: the Big Question. And when I say big, I mean it. It’s a doozy!

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how to make sense of a chaotic world

Framing Ferguson

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It’s a troubling time in America. More than usual.

The events in Ferguson Missouri have affected not just the national dialogue on racism, on police, on the use of force, the right to protest, and what the term “civil rights” really means.

Yet I am hesitant to comment on it directly, for a variety of reasons. The biggest being *I am not there*. Instead I try to listen to the news sources, to the live feeds of protestors, to my friends who are affected to varying degrees. I certainly have my own opinions, but I’m aware that they are at best half-formed, affected by the ways news outlets portray the events as well as the ways people on the ground report what is happening to them.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not every opinion is equally valuable. Similarly, everyone frames the story in their own way – but some frames are more useful than others.

Rough Edges

For example, one of the biggest head-shaking moments was when the police released a video that they alleged was Michael Brown aggressively robbing a store moments before he was shot. At the same time they acknowledged that the officer who did the shooting had not been aware of the robbery. The obvious question to follow was: then why bring it up? It was not only an attempt at a distraction, it was a clumsily obvious one.

Later investigative reporting revealed that even the irrelevant tape was an edited version. The portion that was cut out showed Michael Brown paying for the cigars he had allegedly stolen. Not only an attempt at a cover-up, a clumsy attempt at one.

And that’s just one tiny facet of the whole situation. It’s easy to want to just turn it off and tune it out. I know that following the #Ferguson hashtag on twitter is like trying to drive past a gruesome accident scene – you don’t want to look, but you can’t help it, whether it’s reading the atrocities happening at night or reading the atrocities uttered by hateful people during the day.

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A Bigger Container

About the only useful thing I can think of at a time like this is the cultivation of perspective. Understanding that this is not just about a scared cop and a young man. It is not just about law enforcement, it is not just about race, it is not just about anything. It is not new, it is simply current, and if we have any hope of reducing things from happening like this again it is through finding a place of understanding.

The most harmful thing I can think of would be to ignore it. To refuse to engage in dialogue, to pretend that it doesn’t affect you, wherever you are in the world. If the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza can pay attention, then you can, too. And the people involved – all of whom are human beings, scared, trying their best to make sense of chaos – deserve to be witnessed.

It’s also important to recognize that the world is full of dangers that we haven’t even thought of and also full of joy. It’s hard, but we can find room in our heart for both.

It’s good exercise. Try it out.

The Defining Moment, Part 12: Far Enough?

The Saddest Word is “Almost”

"Reach" courtesy James Jordan, Flickr CC

“Reach” courtesy James Jordan, Flickr CC

Now that you’ve gone through the objective “Positive/Negative” evaluation of your Defining Moment experience, it’s time to go back to your gut.

Did you go far enough?

Much like the question “did you like it?” this is one where the answer will be immediate, followed by a whole bunch of rationalizations. “Well, I maybe could have done it more…” or “What if I would have done this instead of that?” You think about ways you might have taken it further, or perhaps went too far.

It’s ok – cut yourself some slack, already! Go back to the fact that you did it at all in the first place. You did all that preparation, you have stacks of worksheets, and you took the chance on getting what you want.

Stop over-thinking it.

But What if the Answer is “Not Far Enough”?

That’s the hard part. Because in this “choose-your-own-adventure” process, this is the part where I have to say: Go back to part 4: Plan and re-calibrate what “Far Enough” means. You have new information now to factor in along with all the rest of the resources, actions, and also a better idea of what the actual risks are.

It’s entirely possible that the main lesson you’ve learned is that you don’t want this particular thing after all! I remember at one open conference I facilitated an attendee came up and said he had prepared for weeks to give his presentation, because he’d always wanted to be a professional speaker.

“Great!” I told him. “How did it go?”

“It went great!” he said. “Because I figured out that I really don’t want to be a presenter after all!” Personally, I consider facilitating that particular moment of self-discovery a service not only for him but for scores of future conference attendees.

But if the Answer is “Almost…”

Anything worth doing is worth doing twice on the off chance you did it wrong the first time – Int. Assoc. of Skydivers

More often, though, we realize that we just didn’t get it quite right the first time. We caught a glimpse of that Moment we’re striving for, got a taste of that feeling…but somehow we fell a little short.

Nothing to do but pick up the pieces and start over. I’m sorry to tell you that; I know, it’s a lot of work. Especially if it was something that was hard to set up in the first place, it may seem daunting. Or even impossible.

It’s not impossible. It’s just hard. It just takes tenaciousness. One thing that everyone who got what they wanted has in common: they stuck around long enough to get it.

And I can tell you with absolute surety: if you came close to getting what you really want, and you don’t try again – it will haunt you forever.

So save the ghost labor, save yourself hours of staring at the ceiling late at night with a mind full of what if and try again. And again. As many times as are necessary.

Did you go far enough?

DAMN RIGHT I did! What’s next?

The Defining Moment, Part 11: Positive & Negative

“You Keep on Using That Word…” – Inigo Montoya

When someone says something discouraging, have you ever remarked – either out loud, or to yourself – that “negative reinforcement doesn’t work very well” or something to that effect?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this – and don’t worry, you’re safe, no one is watching. It’s ok, I’ve done it too. But some of you are smiling, because you know what I’m about to say, and the rest of you are wondering what the big deal is. That’s fine, this is one of my personal crusades, along with championing the Oxford comma and the acting prowess of Keanu Reeves. Say it with me:

Positive adds. Negative subtracts. Good and bad have nothing to do with it.

Vedomatic 9 volt type 006 P Long life batteryThe idea of “positive” and “negative” reinforcement is one of the most misunderstood and misused concepts in psychology. It’s usually used in behavioral conditioning situations. However, it is not the idea that making someone feel good is “positive” and making them feel bad is “negative.” These are interpretations that humans put on the words. Positive and negative reinforcement has as much to do with good and bad as a plus or minus sign in arithmetic.

Which is good: 3+4 or 6-2? The question doesn’t really make any sense, does it? Same with positive and negative reinforcement. Positive simply means you add something (“Here, have a cookie!”). Negative reinforcement means you take something away (“No more cookies for you!“). Those examples may seem to be following the good/bad paradigm, but it’s easy to flip them. How about the positive reinforcement of playing the Trololo song at high volume on repeat? Makes for a pretty good “enhanced interrogation technique”, but I wouldn’t call it “good.” If you changed your behavior in the way I wanted and I turned off the music, that would be negative reinforcement – but I sincerely doubt anyone would consider it bad.

Now you know, and you can join the growing ranks of those who do not misuse the phrase.

What’s the Link to the Defining Moment?

We’ve already covered your gut reaction to the Defining Moment. The idea of good/bad in terms of feeling has already been determined.

This frees us up to take a look at the results of whatever it is we did with a clear head. We can start to look at the positive and negative effects of having the defining moment not as a “good/bad” dichotomy, but rather simply as two questions:

What did this add to my life?

and

What did this remove from my life?

Like the other exercises in the Defining Moment process, I like to do this with a big blank piece of paper, just writing things in. “I no longer wonder what skydiving feels like,” negative. “I have a sprained ankle from not landing quite right,” positive. “I have a new podcast to connect with other people,” positive. “Diana became my fifth Patron! She rocks!”, positive. “There’s so much more writing to do, I don’t have as much time to read for pleasure,” negative.

By writing things out like this you can get a more accurate view of the actual effects of that Defining Moment in your life. That will be essential in a few chapters, when you ask the all-important question:

Do I want to do this again?

But that’s foreshadowing. There’s a few more things to do before that, and we’ll go on to the next step in a week, when we look at just how good we were at predicting the outcome. Here’s a hint, but don’t stress it: if you’re like most people, not very.

Defining Moment part 10: gut reactions

How did it go?

All the pieces were in place. You finally got over your fear and took that step (or were pushed by friends or circumstance or both). You put everything on the line that was needed, all the fruits of those papers and those charts and those hours of evaluation…and the Defining Moment came.

As such things do, the Defining Moment went, too. Now what?

Afterglow

The word might make some of you smirk with salacious connotations, but the first thing you need to do after your Defining Moment is nothing. Create a moment of stillness, a place where you can just sit and let the feelings/neurochemicals/aftershocks roll over you. Your brain will start second-guessing and critiquing and re-writing and re-framing the experience soon enough.

In fact, in all likelihood, the first thing your brain will wonder is “Did I give myself enough time for afterglow?” That’s fine; that’s the way the monkey mind works.

But try, for as long as you can, to say “Nope. Need a little more time,” and just sit with it. Maybe try the Ten Breath Waiting Technique. Maybe have a glass of water. Do some yoga. Listen to Free Bird. Whatever it takes, give yourself some time.

It Does Not Mean What You Think It Means

2319494_origThinking beings being what they think they are, though, you will begin to think again. This is a good time to go with your gut; give a simple question:

Did I like that?

Accept whatever answer you first come up with, and if you hear a “…but” forming after the “yes” or “no”, just stop right there. There will be time for buts later.

Admitting that you like something is not a statement of intent. It is not a fault, it is not a commitment, it is not a sin (if that’s a word you find useful). It is a simple evaluation, an honest reaction.

We all have the ability to choose our actions at any given moment, and an astonishing number of those actions are doing things we don’t like. An even more astonishing number of them are doing things that keep us from things we do like.

So it’s already proven that just liking some experience or not won’t fundamentally change your identity. You’re safe. So go with the gut reaction to the question:

Did I like that?

It’s a harder thing than you’d think. However, it can be very useful to untangle what exactly you enjoy about your Defining Moment.

For example: One of the brutal realizations that I had while working on this was that I don’t like writing. It’s always a struggle, and I’d much rather be reading, eating, watching TV, untangling cables under my desk, washing dishes, or even doing yoga than actually writing. However, I also know that I absolutely love having written. Knowing these facts, I don’t waste time trying to pretend to enjoy the act of writing, because there’s no use lying to myself. I use other methods to motivate that habit.

On the other hand, when I’m done with something, I completely relish the feeling that I have created something. Every blog post is it’s own little Defining Moment.

How do you like that?

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Part 9: The Defining Moment Arrives

Do it.

That’s all there is to this step. Oh, there’s more stuff to do, but that comes after. In the meantime, you really have run out of excuses. You’ve marshaled your resources, you’ve come up with a plan of action, you’ve not only calculated the risks of failure you’ve also considered the risks of success.

There’s nothing left. There’s nothing else keeping you from it. So it’s time: let your Defining Moment happen.

Don’t Miss Your Moment

One thing you do need to work on, probably, is the ability to be present in the Moment.

  • Don’t tweet about it.
  • Don’t instagram it.
  • Don’t take any pics at all of it.
  • Don’t start blogging/journaling about it in your head as it’s happening (you know who you are)

Just pay attention. Pay attention to everything – the feeling of your body, your emotions, your reactions. Don’t try to predict what’s going to happen – just experience it happening.

Some Defining Moments are easier to do that with than others. If you’re skydiving, for example, then you pretty much don’t have a choice. Gravity works, and this is happening!

On the other hand, using the example of the person picking up my book in a bookstore without even knowing me that is my Defining Moment, well, I have a ways to go, right? And how can I manage to have it happen “spontaneously”? There’s only one way for that to work, and it’s exactly the same as fishing.

The First Step to Catch a Fish

…is to find a lake.

In the “author” Defining Moment scenario, I have to do a lot of things, including writing a book. But even when the book is out I still need to remember to spend the time at the bookstore. Not watching my book! That would be creepy. And a little sad, I think.

No, the point is that I need to hang out in the places that make my Defining Moment more likely to happen. If that’s wanting to see people pick up my book, then that’s the bookstore, right?

No. Not at all. The place I need to hang out is my desk. My computer. The places where I write. I’m going to end up at bookstores anyway – but in order for the Defining Moment to happen, I need to create an environment where it can happen.

That environment is not a bookstore. It’s a bookstore that has books by me. And while technology is a wonderful thing, the books still do not write themselves.

Is your Defining Moment going to happen on it’s own? And if not…then what are you doing to make it happen?

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The Defining Moment Part 8: Resources

Whatcha Got?

If you’ve been trying out these various exercises – figuring out what your Defining Moment is, working out the details of it, assessing the risks of trying for it and then also trying to foresee the consequences of success – you may be pretty excited. I hope you’re pretty excited, anyway! When you look at the composite parts, it’s a pretty amazing thing to realize just how close your dream might actually be.

Time to step back.

That’s right. I said step back. Because now you need to take a moment to figure out what things you need vs. what you currently have that can help you get to your goal.

These resources need four pages of their own, each with two columns: have and need. The resources are divided into four main categories: People, Skills, Tools, and Information. Let’s start with the “Have” columns, because they’re going to be much, much bigger than the “Need” column, and that will feel really good.

1. People: Who do you know? Make a list of your family members, your friends, your business partners, your acquaintances. You might want to branch it into people you’ve heard your friends/family/biz partners talk about, too. Basically this is a list of the people to whom you have some kind of access. Don’t let yourself give any “Oh, but they wouldn’t want to help…” answers. WRITE THEM DOWN. They are (I assume) human beings, endowed with free will, and you do not get to decide for them whether or not they’re willing to help. You only get to decide if you’ve got the guts to ask, and if you’re willing to accept what help they want to give.

2. Skills: What can you do? And don’t you dare say “nuthin’ much”, because if you can read this then you are certainly somewhat capable with computer skills. You probably have other skills, as well, and keep in mind that “skill” falls into the realm of “something you can do.” In this case, yes, you probably want to keep it in the realm of your “Defining Moment” – but let your mind wander. One skill that I have that I used today was putting up shelves. How does that relate to my Defining Moment of watching a person pick up a book I’ve written in a bookstore? Well, perhaps the bookstore belongs to an acquaintance, whose agreed to give my book a premium spot on the shelves if I install them. Stranger things have happened; one of the best authors/illustrators I’ve ever read, Nick Bantock, got his start because of a drunken dart game. So if “inebriated cricket” is in your skillset, put it down. Because you never know.

3. Tools: As I mentioned, you’ve already proven your ability to leverage one of the greatest tools ever: the Internet. But don’t stop there. Vehicles are tools. Rooms and houses and furniture can be tools. Clothing, machines, silverware…make a list of all your available things that might help with your Defining Moment. I’ve got a computer, a keyboard, a lot of books on writing, and a schedule that I can use to motivate creation. I’ve got WordPress, which enables me to write this book. What do you have? Cars, roller skates, that weird doodad you got from IKEA that looks so cool if you could only remember what it does…they all count. Write them down!

4. Information: This time do not mention the Internet. Why? Because the Internet is where you go to recall or acquire the knowledge you don’t have. What do you know how to do now? Again, put down everything. Juggling. Pancake flipping. Stripping an M16 in less than a minute. Stitching a wound. Wiring a porch light. Prepping a cigar. What do you know how to do? I know how to write a book; notice I did not say I know how to write a good book. So maybe I’ll put the former in the “Have” column and the latter in the “Need” column on the INFORMATION page.

When it comes to needs, don’t worry about it much. First of all, by doing the “HAVE” pages first, you’ll probably find out you already have most of what is required to get to your Defining Moment. As I mentioned, that’s a good feeling. Any time something does go in the “NEED” section, take a moment to ask yourself “Do I really?” Just once, no need to belabor it – but it’s worth double checking if you’re making up “NEEDS” because what Steven Pressfield calls “The Resistance” is trying to keep you from your goal.

I confess, this whole exercise is something that I love to do in group sessions, because invariably someone comes to an obstacle of some kind and someone else in the class – often a complete stranger – will raise their hand and say “Oh, is that all you need? I can give you that.” I’ve seen it happen with everything from private tutoring in Portuguese to the loan of an isolated cabin in the mountains outside Seattle.

If you’re doing this exercise solo, it might be a little more difficult to arrange that kind of kismet. But you might be surprised if you put it out there that you are working towards a Defining Moment – something you are passionate about, something you love, something that will make you smile so widely – at how many people want to help you make it happen. I’m not one of those people who believes that the universe will re-align on a quantum level to adjust to your wishes. I do, however, believe that Fortune favors the bold and Of course the game is rigged – but if you don’t play, you can’t win. Or, as one of my idols puts it better:

…the threads of circumstance that lead to tomorrow are so tenuous that all the fussing and worrying about decisions is futile compared to the pure randomness of existence.

I must admit I like that.

– Nick Bantock

Note:I didn’t get any feedback the last time I created a worksheet to go along with an entry like this. If you would like to have some “Resource” worksheets created and distributed, just let me know.

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