I Wanted to be an Architect

architectGrowing up I also wanted to be an architect. But when I saw the amount of engineering that went into design, I took a different path. But the cool thing is that I still get to create.

Whether I am taking photos, painting, doing construction, or leading seminars and workshops, I still get to create something from nothing.

The path may not always go where you thought it would. Life is about embracing that unknown.

Focus – on Dreaming

Selected Life Lesson
On starting my business; the hardest part was to just do it or put my thoughts into action.
-Connie D’s Life Lesson from Monticello, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
Take a quick look at the volume and issue number of this week’s Focus. Five years and 52 issues. This is the final issue of this fifth year of the Focus emails. For those who have been subscribers since the very beginning, that means you’ve taken in 260 lessons. For those who are new, I hope you’re finding value in these cherished life lessons.

I chose Connie’s lesson today because there are a lot of things on the horizon for me in relation to my business, and this lesson is reminding me that I need to keep looking forward.

It is here in this moment that I am reminding you to chase your dreams. To put fear aside and do it. Start that business. Paint that painting. Fly that kite. Dream; and live.

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FOCUS: To Do Lists

Selected Life Lesson
Hard work yields results.
-Daniel F’s Life Lesson from Independence, Kansas

Richard’s Thoughts…
Last week I checked off a new item on my Life To Do List. Before I tell you what it was, I must ask, “How is progress on your list going?”

In our busy lives, it can be easy to forget about all the things we want to do — it happens to me too — but you mustn’t. The list is for you to experience; it is not for dust collecting. That is precisely why I recently dusted mine off and made it happen.

I sold a painting! 7th Heaven was from years ago in my early days of painting. John Elway was a sports hero of mine, so it was natural that I painted him holding the Vince Lombardi trophy after Super Bowl XXXII. The purchaser said he liked it because it symbolized victory. The day he purchased it from me, we both experienced victory.

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Be Original

In the land of so much noise, we have to pick and choose what messages we actually pay attention to and let into our lives. I have actually become pretty strict with what I let into my life now, and it is a goal of mine here in 2013 to be super-focused.

But it is hard with all the noise that bombards my e-mail inbox and news feed. However, as our world get noisier and noisier, the spammers and junk mail continues to flow in at seemingly faster and faster rates.

I can hardly keep up with it. But one piece of spam I got last week was the last straw for me:

Spam has to be originalThis came to me via Twitter, and I laughed as I read it. I get this message a few times a month and I’m tired of it.

Not because it is annoying (it is). But because it is unoriginal. Seriously. Get creative. Do something to make me click on the link if you’re so desperate.

But this Twitter spam message isn’t the last straw. We all do it. We do the same thing everyone else is doing. We Tweet what we’re eating even when our resolution is to eat healthier. We bitch about politics without understanding policy. And we keep doing it.

I think that is why I don’t post 3-4 times a week, but rather once or twice. I want whatever I create to be original. To be new. Each time I sit down and write, or paint, or sing, or whatever, I want it to be amazing and not boring and over-done. I have one chance in my life to be original and amazing. So do you.

You’ve Been Fired. Now What?

Three weeks ago I was let go from my job. There I said it. Taking the stairs down for the last time was definitely an emotional experience. And as I stood in the lobby of our office building in the Flatiron District here in the big city, I held back my tears. But the first of what would be dozens of texts began to stream in.

I walked the block-and-a-half to the subway to go home to drop off my bag. You see, I had tickets to what turned out to be an amazing show for that evening. Usually on the train I read, either the news on my phone or a physical book. But I could do neither. I stood, holding the cold metal pole, stunned. I never in my life had I imagined that I would be fired.

Sure, I’ve lost an election before, but it wasn’t re-election. In a sense, I just wasn’t hired then. But now I had been given the pink slip, which ironically is white. Which makes me curious where that terms came from.

By the time I got home, still stunned, my roommate had made me tea. I walked into the hallway, dropped off my bag and entered the kitchen. He asked me what had happened. And as I began to talk, I lost it. The tears finally came. We sat on the couch, drinking tea while I cried. And it was cathartic. I let it out. My unhappiness. My anger. My shock. And my worry.

Then I quickly changed and while I walked back to the subway to go see my show, I responded to as many texts and emails as I could. Then I got to the show and tried to turn off my mind and take in the experience. And I did. After the show, I went to Shake Shack with my friend Vikash who had attend the show with me. It was just what I needed. The time with a trusted friend (but the chocolate and peanut butter shake helped quite a bit!) basically re-set my attitude.

As we sat there and conversed together and with the New Zealander working at The Shack, Vikash was more than excited. We was excited because he knew I had wanted more time to do the things I am passionate about. Writing. Painting. Speaking.

When I woke up Thursday, only an hour later than normal, I got right to work. I started writing again. In fact, the week after being let go, I had a blog post up each day of the week. I don’t remember the last time that happened. I am building online partnerships. I did one painting already. I’m looking forward to getting my camera out soon too! I’m working on a video script now as well. I’ve been on a few interviews. I have even sent my novel out to an editing team. And I’m relaxing. I’m breathing.

hire a great speakerIt only took me 12 hours to take the events from the afternoon of May 2 and turn them into something positive. Sure, I still have depressed moments as I truly enjoyed the experience and the team I spent 13 months with. But I constantly remind myself that in the end, it is the journey. It is the experiences. It is the people that matter in my life. Not the job. Not the name on the paycheck. It is the people that come in and touch my heart.

Sure I’m worried about the next paycheck, or rather, getting a paycheck again. But for right now, I am eager for the road ahead. The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to share them with you here.

If this experience has taught me anything so far, it is that I really do believe in possible.

Review: Proust Was a Neuroscientist

I have been wanting to read this book for awhile, and it was definitely worth the wait. While it was not a page-turner in the sense that I couldn’t put it down, the book for the most part, provides the framework for neuroscience research past, current and future and how art often times, when given the opportunity, can work hand in hand with science.

In Proust Was a Neuroscientist, by rising star author Jonah Lehrer, we see first-hand the connection between the arts and the sciences.

The first chapter of the book takes a loot at Walk Whitman and the quote to begin the chapter sets the stage, “The poet writes the history of his own body,” said Henry David Thoreau. And isn’t that the truth with all artists? With every book I write, every blog post, every video, every speech, every photo and every painting, I am telling a tiny portion of my own story. Whitman obviously agreed saying, “The body and the mind are inseparable. To whip a man’s body was to whip a man’s soul.” And it is this idea that begins to show how we as human beings truly feel everything in our lives, whether we know it or not. Everything we do, everything we experience is interconnected, thus, the substance of feeling is born.

Something I take great pride and passion in is learning. It is paramount to my life not only as a write and speaker, but as a person. I value growth. And George Eliot in the chapter, “The Biology of Freedom,” showcases how man’s mind is not set in stone. In fact, she argued that the mind was “not cut in marble.” Lehrer writes with incredible prose:

“Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending,” Eliot confesses in Middlemarch. Our situation provides the raw material our of which we make our way, and while it is important “never to beat and bruise one’s wings against the inevitable,” it is always possible “to throw the whole force of one’s soul towards the achievement of some possible better.” You can always change your life.

We can always change our life. It is about believing that you have the power to do so; to make the changed needed.

If science teaches us anything it is that we don’t know much. But if life teaches us anything is is that we are always learning, always challenging and that eventually, science can (and often does), provide the how and the why something is happening.

Overall, this book deserves a read. The last few chapters seemed to lack the punch of the first half of the book, but nevertheless, the fact still remains, art and science are linked. Very linked. You just have to want to listen.

Newsletter: Execute Now

This is part of my monthly newsletter (which is free, by the way)! Sign up here to get it delivered to your mailbox each month!

The definition of execute is quite dramatic: “to carry out; accomplish; to execute a plan or order. But it is definitely true. I mean, think about it.

When you take a plan or an idea and you decide to make it happen, you execute it. You take the plan and put it into action. That’s why this year is going to be exciting.

For me, my goal for this year was simple: Build Something. I thought I had been building something, and to a certain extent I was, but I needed to shoot bigger. Now for 2012, I’m not sure what I am going to build, but I’m slowly getting clarity on that.

Why Now?
You may be asking yourself: Why Richard, are you executing your plan now? Haven’t you been doing that for the past five years?

Well, that is a complicated answer. But it is yes and no. I thought I was. But then I realized after two recent conversations that I really was not executing on my goals.

So now, I am doubling-down and working to make it happen.

What If I Fail?
What is the worst that can happen? I don’t reach this goal and I find something else to chase after? I lose some time? I lose some money?

I can chase another passion. I can find time. And I can always make more money.

Failure is a part of life. In fact, it’s essential. Think about it: What if you won at everything you did?! How would you ever grow?

An old saying in this genre goes something like this:

Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

And “turkeys” can mean anything. It can mean your friends. Your family. Your coworkers. Your significant other. Anyone who says you can’t do something. Maybe they are right that you won’t be successful, but only you will know the outcome if you do something about it.

Don’t Procrastinate
Years ago, I fell in love with Ellen DeGeneres. This was before her hit daytime talk show back when she was doing stand-up comedy. Her set had a great running joke about how easily distracted she was working at home.

Her line at the end of the set was simple: “Procrastinate now. Don’t put it off.” While it is a funny line, it is not how anyone with a dream or goals should think.

If you don’t do something about your dreams and your goals, who will?

It is your story to tell. It is your movie script to write and your painting to paint.

So what if you fail? I mean, seriously … so the hell what! Go make it happen.

Take the plan and execute it.

Focus on the Keys to Success

If I had all the answers, I probably wouldn’t be living in an apartment in New York City. I’d be governor or senator or the creator of Google or something. But I don’t. Not many of us do. But one thing I know is how to not find the answers.

What’s the key to success? I believe 37 Signals, a brilliant cloud-based apps designed to assist in collaboration, information sharing and making decision for people and businesses, has that answer.

Useful is forever – Bells and whistles wear off, but usefulness never does. We build useful software that does just what you need and nothing you don’t.

It works for them (and by the way, I am a business and personal user of their Basecamp app), and I believe it works for life too. I have made no secret that I have a lot of passions and sometimes that has gotten the best of me. I like do put my time into a lot of different things. I love sports and politics and education and art and exercise and the study of life. But there is not enough time in the day for me to do all those things. Therefore I have had to pair down what I do.

Sports. I used to watch a lot and know all the pertinent stats. Now, if you ask me, I couldn’t tell you who won the NCAA Men’s Tournament last year. I have changed that value. I still love sports, but I don’t devote my limited resources to as much of the game and facts. This has given me more time for …

Politics. I have always cared and always will about politics and policy. Election years are always fun for me especially as a past candidate but with my recent addition of an iPhone to my life, I am able to read more about current news than ever.

Education. This can be taken one of two ways. I love learning and I love learning about learning. The latter is new to my life so I have had to change my devotion to …

Art. I used to do a fair amount of photography and painting. Since moving to New York City, I have done a bit of photography, but no painting. Whether it is an energy, or a time thing, I just haven’t felt the desire to pick up a brush. But that’s okay because I need that time to …

Exercise. Obviously I am training for a marathon. And if you have never done that, it takes a lot of time to do so. But I’m enjoying that journey. But that still leaves …

Life. I need to live and so do you.

That’s why you need to know what your life is going to be about so you can cut out the things that don’t fit into the core of your app; your life. Once you strip the bells and whistles, you will be able to make more possible in your life.

(photo credit: jayneandd)

September At a Glance

I’m going to try to do this little review post at the end of each month and it will be in three parts. (Previous Months: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugust)

Top Posts for September

Life Size Jenga – June 28, 2010
Break the Cycle – June 15, 2011
Live Laugh Play Dream is a Reality – September 19, 2011
Get a Yearly Physical Now – January 25, 2011
My Minimalist Lifestyle – August 2, 2011

Progress Towards my Goals

I wrote about what I’m striving for in 2011 at the beginning of the year.

  1. Read more. <– Right on track! You can see my book reviews from all the books I’ve read.
  2. Spend more time in personal reflection (focusing on where I’ve grown and where I can). <–it has been a good month of reflection and direction-finding
  3. Outreach more with my consulting. <– launched my coaching venture
  4. Write. <– Finished the first draft … I will spend this month fine-tuning and cleaning it up before requesting a few editors go through it!
  5. Paint. <– I have an idea so now I just need to do it
  6. Take more photos. <– I need to schedule some time to edit some of the latest photos I’ve taken. You can also check out my store for other photos.
  7. Join a club or recreational sports league. (dodge ball anyone?) <– postponed until the fall
  8. Cook. <– I’ve slipped on the in-depth cooking, but I try to cook a nice meal over the weekends
  9. Entertain. <– Will continue to do it with friends
  10. Ask questions. <– definitely getting better at this one

Other Goals I’m Pursuing

  • Speaking Clients – none
  • Coaching Clients – currently in consultation phase
  • Secure an Literary Agent – haven’t started
  • Blog Post Frequency – Currently on pace
  • Business Income – 26% towards goal
  • Read 16 Books – Completed 12
  • Personal Savings Goal – On pace
  • Pay Off Student Loan – On pace
  • Paint Six Paintings – Haven’t had time
  • Attend 12 Networking Events – Behind pace
  • Take Photos Once a Month – I have gone out four times so far
  • Sell a Painting – not yet
  • Start Volunteering – Began working with The Trevor Project in May!
  • Make 52 new NYC Connections – Must update my tracking sheet

And here we are at the last quarter of 2011! I have a lot I need to do and I am now honing in on the few things that I am 100 percent going to dive into and make sure I get them done. I am also now in the planning phase for 2012 and will report on that later this year! How are you doing?

September Theme



August At a Glance

I’m going to try to do this little review post at the end of each month and it will be in three parts. (Previous Months: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJuly)

Top Posts for August

Life Size Jenga – June 28, 2010
Lessons From my Five Biggest Sports Moments - August 16, 2011
Review: Founding Brothers – May 25, 2011
How to Pack up and Move Across the Country – July 19, 2011
7 Ways Google Voice Can Make Your Life Easier – August 10, 2011

Progress Towards my Goals

I wrote about what I’m striving for in 2011 at the beginning of the year.

  1. Read more. <– Right on track! You can see my book reviews from all the books I’ve read.
  2. Spend more time in personal reflection (focusing on where I’ve grown and where I can). <–it has been a good month of reflection and direction-finding
  3. Outreach more with my consulting. <– launched my coaching venture
  4. Write. <– Finished the first draft … now letting it ferment!
  5. Paint. <– I have an idea so now I just need to do it
  6. Take more photos. <– I need to schedule some time to edit some of the latest photos I’ve taken. You can also check out my store for other photos.
  7. Join a club or recreational sports league. (dodge ball anyone?) <– postponed until the fall
  8. Cook. <– I’ve slipped on the in-depth cooking, but I try to cook a nice meal over the weekends
  9. Entertain. <– Will continue to do it with friends
  10. Ask questions. <– definitely getting better at this one

Other Goals I’m Pursuing

  • Speaking Clients – none
  • Coaching Clients – none
  • Secure an Agent – haven’t started
  • Blog Post Frequency – Currently on pace
  • Business Income – 38% towards goal
  • Read 16 Books – Completed 10
  • Personal Savings Goal – On pace
  • Pay Off Student Loan – On pace
  • Paint Six Paintings – Haven’t had time
  • Attend 12 Networking Events – Behind pace
  • Take Photos Once a Month – I have gone out four times so far
  • Sell a Painting – not yet
  • Start Volunteering – Began working with The Trevor Project in May!
  • Make 52 new NYC Connections – Must update my tracking sheet

August just flew by! Seriously … how it is September already?  This is the time that I usually begin to assess the goals that I set out and hone in on the ones that I believe I will be able to spend the last 90 days of the year on and scrap the ones that just won’t happen. In my September review, I will document that process and give you an update on the final goals I am pursuing for 2011 and where I am leaning for 2012.

August Theme