Monthly Archives: January 2016

Money, Money, Money, Money–Money!

Author’s Note: My website was down for a week, which delayed this post. Welcome back, blog take six! 🙂 


The recent record-breaking Powerball lottery—along with all of the discussions both online and off regarding what someone would do for or with a billion dollars—brought to my mind several thoughts and observations.

You can look at the event from the downside, in that the brisk ticket sales and media frenzy portrayed millions of Americans, and some neighboring Canadians, as collectively dissatisfied with their lives and somehow believing that an obscene amount of money would provide a cure for that.

Or perhaps, in a more positive light, it meant that people saw that influx of cash as a way to help their families, their communities, and their favorite causes in a big way.

It definitely captured a sort of endearing sense of optimism in that, despite the tremendous odds against winning, ticket buyers who might otherwise hold cynical outlooks on life still believed in possibilities—that their dollar had as much chance as everyone else’s to claim the golden ticket.

Facebook, of course, became riddled with “what would you do if…” discussions. I was somewhat bemused by the number of people who said they’d buy their own island if they won. Personally, I think that living on a small island would be a pain in the ass. I mean, every time you need groceries or prescription refills, you’d have to take a boat to the mainland, right? How about getting your mail? OK, you can have them brought to you, but still…

What about internet access? A life with no movies, no downloadable books, no seeing your friends and relatives and adorable cat videos online? Unh-uh, not me.  I’ve grown terribly fond of having a world of information, news and entertainment at my fingertips.

Besides, I’m much too social a bring to seclude myself on an otherwise unpopulated chunk of land.

Then there were the inane surveys: what body part would you give up for big bucks, or what criminal, immoral or simply stupid act would you commit in order to become instantly, insanely rich? I found some of the responses, as well as the percentages of respondents who concurred, somewhat troubling to say the least. One local radio disc jockey who claimed he would give up a pinky finger made me think, though. I suppose I could live a full and complete (not to mention insanely rich) life without a baby toe. I’m only half kidding.

Yes, I admit I did purchase Powerball tickets myself, before one of the drawings, helping to push the jackpot over the billion dollar mark. I really don’t know why,  as I never play other lotteries, only occasionally buy scratch off  tickets, and don’t really like casinos all that much. Maybe I wanted to be a part of the news story, the historic jackpot. Maybe I liked toying with the idea of going to Ireland with my sister, buying that beach house for me and John, giving generously to small, struggling charities doing great things, and making sure that my siblings, nephews, nieces and close friends never had to worry about finances again.

But would I really want the weighty responsibility of managing that much money, had I won?  I can’t imagine the impact such an enormous windfall would have on my life, my relationships. I can’t imagine that all of the impacts would be good.

Which I guess is a good thing. No, strike that—I know it is. It means I’m not so dissatisfied with my life as it is right now after all. I like most of it just fine, as a matter of fact. And the parts I’d like to change don’t require a billion dollars.

What a wonderful realization.

Want to start your own online writing business? My colleague, Yuwanda Black, has been successfully doing that for years. To get a copy of her blueprint, click Here!

Writing, The Kaizen Way

images (2)    Last weekend, I picked up a book I’d begun reading a while ago, about Kaizen. Kaizen is a philosophy, an approach to creating changes in one’s life and beyond that’s so basic, so obvious, that you might be tempted to dismiss it at first.

As I did, the first time I began reading about it.

In a nutshell, the Kaizen method espouses taking small, doable steps in order to create significant change. The practice, while ancient, gained widespread popularity in the United States when it was introduced to improve organizational productivity in American factories during World War II.  After the war, Japanese manufacturers enthusiastically embraced the methodology in rebuilding their own beleaguered nation, giving the philosophy it’s Kaizen name.

In his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
Dr. Robert Maurer brings Kaizen from an organizational methodology to an individual practice.  As opposed to attempting drastic lifestyle changes such as crash diets or impulsively quitting one’s job, Maurer  promotes practicing Kaizen to achieve a desired state, accomplish a goal or realize a dream by implementing small, seemingly insignificant daily actions.

It makes total sense, actually, and explains why most people abandon New Year’s resolutions within the first few weeks; we vow to transform our bodies with rigorous exercise routines and our personalities with radical shifts in our approaches to life, love and the pursuit of happiness, only to meet up with stiff resistance from the bodies and personalities we’ve built up over years of repetitive behaviors.

Small wonder that most of us surrender within a short period of time and slip back into the comfortable and familiar. Who really wants to conduct a daily war with oneself?

Conversely, why not give our self-esteems a boost by setting goals that are entirely achievable?

Without even knowing I was doing so, I began practicing Kaizen with my writing at the beginning of the 2016, by putting in at least 15 to 20 minutes every morning at my keyboard before I get ready for work. Rather than skimming through Facebook posts or my email inbox as I usually did that time of day, I either start with a blank Word page or open a document I’d started on a previous day, and coax thoughts, ideas and words from my brain or heart onto the screen.

As of today, January 16, I have only missed two days so far—one because I overslept, and the second because I wanted to track down the name and phone number of someone who offered last year to help out in my partner’s business, which took longer than I thought it would.

And you know what? It feels pretty darn good so far. If I had vowed to write for an hour a day, I know I would have faltered early.

Here’s another fact. According to Dr. Mauer (and even Running Magazine), running an hour a day does not counteract the ill effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. We office workers, writers and couch potatoes—even runners–would be doing our bodies a much greater service if we stood up and stretched at regular intervals, or took short walks every 30 minutes or so.

I mean, who couldn’t accomplish that? (On that note I just stood up and stretched.)

Anyway, I’m not done reading the book yet, and I’m just have two weeks under my belt writing-wise, so it’s still too soon to tell whether or not I’ll remain committed, or what changes will result from this and other small, positive practices I implement. I guess it’s sort of like planting seeds and nurturing them.

It’ll be neat to see what springs from them over time.

My 2016 Whatchamacallits

download (17)   As always happens towards the end of a year, my email box began to fill with newsletters, links to blog posts and notices of webinars on how to make 2016 “the best (most successful, most prosperous, most whatever) year

As always happens towards the end of a year, my email box began to fill with newsletters, links to blog posts and notices of webinars on how to make 2016 “the best (most successful, most prosperous, most whatever) year ever.”

Truth be told, I wasn’t not sorry to turn the last page on 2015. Not that it was a particularly bad year for me personally, but for people I care about, it brought a great deal of heartache, struggle and loss.

Ring in the new, I say.

For many, that means New Year’s resolutions. A couple of articles I read suggested that perhaps, for those of us who make resolutions annually, it’s the terminology that derails us so soon after making them. The word “resolution” is too soft, too iffy; maybe “resolving” to do something is too close to just “trying” to accomplish something—so naturally, after taking a just couple of swings at bat, the majority of us can shrug and say “at least I tried.”

One writer proposed using the words “setting intentions” rather than “making resolutions,” which I kind of liked. After all, intending to do something sounds a bit more determined than trying or resolving. And, in the lexicon of many spiritual teachings, setting intentions enables the Universe (God, Source, Infinite Energy, Quantum Physics, what have you) to help us bring our intended objectives to fruition. So yeah, that’s cool.

More than one article encouraged that we take time to sit down and plan out what we want to accomplish in the new year. Create a course of action, a roadmap for the changes we want to make, instead of just a list. This, too, makes a good deal of sense, a reminder of the old admonition that most of us spend more time planning a vacation than we do our lives.

Author and teacher Marilyn Jennett took the renaming of our yearly resolutions even further, by urging us to call them revolutions instead. Challenge ourselves to make “sudden, radical and complete changes,” she writes. No namby-pamby, make a wish and blow out the candles yearning for things to be different, but rather a real “call to action…a change of paradigm.”

That concept intrigues and unnerves me in equal measure.

As I weighed the pros and cons of these various ways to kick off 2016, I came to realize that I had yet another term for how I wanted to go forward. You see, I really didn’t feel up to massively changing anything in my life as of January first, and I found the idea of laying out a 12-month action plan overwhelming and paralyzing.

What I wanted to do, starting 1/1, was simply reset. Get back to some of my regular writing, exercising and meditating practices that got lost along the way in 2015. Take the consistent kind of baby steps that can eventually lead to big changes.

So that’s what I’ve done. I start my day by practicing mindfulness, a technique of releasing busy, jumbled thoughts and simply focusing on one’s breath as a way to begin the morning feeling refreshed and awake.

I’ve also reprioritized writing in the morning over opening up Facebook or my email inbox, and I’ve begun walking for short periods every day.

No earthquakes here. Just steady, doable practices.

And if I get lost again in 2016, I can reset these practices any day. No need to wait until Mondays or spring or 1/1/17 in order to begin again. In that way, every day is the start of a new year.

So that’s my contribution to the New Year’s resolutions discussion. As of a week ago, I reset my priorities.

Maybe that’s just semantics, saying that I’m “resetting” instead of “resolving,” akin to calling a rose by any other name. . Maybe resolutions can just as easily be called whatchamacallits. Or Freds. Or roses, for that matter.

But hey, it’s been working so far for me in these early days of the year, so I’m sticking with it.

I also wish you whatever it is you want 2016 to be. I intend to make it a great one. Hey, a little help from the Universe never hurts.



Blog Attempt, Take Six

download (12)

I want to be a prolific blogger. I really do.

I want to write posts that inspire, motivate, inform, provoke, amuse and entertain. Make a difference with my writing, even if it’s only in someone’s moment.

But here’s the thing. I have always had this love-hate thing with writing. Some days I absolutely love sitting down and stringing words together across a blank screen. Other days, I would rather lie on a bed of nails.

Plus, I’d rather read than write. After all, it’s a lot easier to scroll through Facebook posts, catch up on back issues of AARP and Smithsonian magazines and keep somewhat abreast of daily news stories than it is to come up with things to write about–and then to actually sit down and do the actual writing. Blogging is hard work.

It’s also a lot safer (as in cowardly) to read and admire the work of other writers than to risk exposing myself as someone who just might not be all that talented or skillful with words. Not to mention being audacious enough to put my ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings out there for others to skim, ridicule or ignore.  Blogging is not for sissies.

I have started and abandoned five blogs over the past several years. When I revisit them, months after the last post, I can honestly say I don’t really regret anything I’d shared on them. I don’t regret what I named them or tried to accomplish through them. I only truly regret leaving them behind, like so many cast-offs, until the purpose with which I started them just doesn’t seem to fit anymore.

But why do I stop posting to them in the first place? Why can’t I commit to them? Why do I always get to the point where I start avoiding the act of writing altogether, sometimes for months at a time, just so I don’t have to return to that latest blog and try to pick up where I left off?

And—more importantly—is it a pattern I can break with this, my sixth attempt at launching a blog and sticking to it on a consistent basis?

Beats me.

All I know is, I keep coming back to writing. I always have. I can avoid it, ignore it, discount it, say that I hate it. But I always come back to it. Always.

I wanted to name this blog “Take Six,” but the dot com URL was taken (it’s up for sale, but I’m not about to pay ransom for it). So instead, I have decided to name this blog after the original ezine and website I launched shortly after getting online over 15 years ago, a labor of love that I stayed true to for nearly a decade.

WriteSuccess. My first website. My Twitter handle. And now, my blog.

Here goes.