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    Prior to the start of his most recent Little League season, I asked my 11-year old son about his goals. “I want to make the All-Star Team,” he offered boldly. He had never hit made an All-Star Team and even though he had been working hard, I knew the odds were stacked against him. So, I told him I thought the All-Star Team was a spectacular goal. Then, I immediately started to manage his expectations. I pointed out all the reasons why the goal was lofty: He was going to be on the younger side, playing against better players, with faster pitching. If nothing else, I told him, he would learn, improve and next year would be his year. The effort would be worth the reward, I said.

    Then the kid proceeded to have the year of his life, batted leadoff most of the season, hit a few home runs and, yes, made the All-Star team. In the fourth game, he hit a Grand Slam to help his team win its game. As I watched him circle the bases, a couple of tears slowly rolled down my cheeks. I realized that I’ve been managing expectations for so long that I’ve forgotten how to dream big. The tears were as much about the excitement I felt for him as they were about sadness I felt for me.

    Early in my career I learned the phrase, “Under promise and over deliver.” It was hammered into my head. It was a battle cry and a way of doing business. We’ve all heard this concept. The premise is that by promising less than we know we can deliver, we manage the expectations. This, of course, allows us to shock the world with results far beyond what anyone thought possible! Our clients (coworkers, friends, family, whomever) will be so thrilled that they will shower us with praise and additional work. (Or at least the latter in the case of the clients.) And because of that . . . we’ll be better people! (Kidding. Sort of.)

    But I’ve found that managing expectations for too long has started to limit my capabilities. It has started to stunt my imagination. It has become such an ingrained habit that I’ve forgotten what’s out there beyond possible . . . as I focus primarily only on what’s in my immediate, tangible view. I have forgotten that it’s possible to make the All-Star Team if that’s what we really want. T.S. Eliot wrote, “Only those willing to risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” Closer to home, my friend posted the picture (above) of herself holding the card that reads, “Dream big live bigger.” (Kudos to my kid for doing both.)

    As I think more about this, it seems we are trained to manage expectations to 1) Give ourselves the opportunity to look good, and 2) minimize disappointment. Neither of those reasons feels tremendously rewarding. The truth is I’d much rather fail while searching outside of possible than succeed while playing it safe (whatever “fail” and “succeed” mean). Or as the meme goes, “Reward is sweetened by risk.” We may succeed playing it safe, but what might have happened if we (*gasp*) didn’t start with managed expectations and just pushed all the chips to the center of the table? What might have been possible?

    Someone recently asked me what I do for a living. And I choked. I made light of A Day Well Lived as “an apparel company” (it’s SO not an apparel company). At the time, I didn’t know why I said that. It was just easier to describe it that way. With more thought, I understand that I was managing my own expectations. I was afraid the person who asked wouldn’t get it and then I’d feel dumb. Because that’s really where managed expectations truly live. In fear.  

    No more than a day or two later, I was asked again. This time, I laid out the entire vision as though I were pitching an investor. I nailed it. I felt empowered. And then my friend laughed and said, “ Oh is that all?” He didn’t have bad intentions. But just as I was about to shrink away and make a joke that minimized what I had just said, I visualized my son running the bases, oblivious to any expectations, managed or otherwise.

    “No,” I said. “It’s even bigger than all of that. I’m done dreaming small.” Someday the kid will understand the importance of his making the All Star Team. Not so much for him. But for me.

    ONWORDS: The ABCs of How You Start Your Day

    ONWORDS: The ABCs of How You Start Your Day

    During a recent morning walk, a friend and I got into a great discussion about ritual and routine. He told me about the Native American ceremonies he had started attended (and I look forward to joining him) and I told him about the basic fundamentals that I needed to create a foundation for A Day Well Lived. I call these actions my ABCs. They had evolved over time, but simply put, if I do these basic things, I know that I am better positioned to consciously move through the day. I call it SWAMI: Sweat, Write, Accountability, Meditate & Intention.

    Sweat: The science behind the importance of exercise not simply for health reasons, but as a tool to fight depression and anxiety is clear. From the endorphin release to the feeling of accomplishment, daily exercise keeps me focused and in the light.

    Write: It doesn’t matter if I work on the rewrite of my book, write a LinkedIn post, or a letter to a friend, I need to write. I find writing to be healing, cathartic and rewarding. Like a workout, I appreciate the feelings of accomplishment (even when I write stuff that may not be fabulous).

    Accountability: It’s taken me a long time to realize that I can’t go it alone. I need help. I check in regularly (if not daily) with friends who keep me on track with my health (Did I workout today? How did I eat? Etc.), writing (Did I finish my 500 words?) and work (How am I tracking on the new ADWL podcast and newsletter prep?).

    Meditate: Quieting my mind is not easy. If I meditate for 15 minutes every morning, I’m lucky to “do it right” for five (okay three). My mind is all over the map during those 15 minutes. But the practice isn’t so much about those 15 minutes as it is about the rest of the day. With meditation, I respond much more than I react. I’m far more aware.

    Intention: A daily simple reminder to make today A Day Well Lived. With that intention set, I can move through the day with a goal.


    But what about Love, Gratitude, Fatherhood, etc? All important. All parts of my day. I’ve learned that I’m able to love more, feel more gratitude, be a better dad and have more faith in myself if SWAMI comes first. They are all built on my SWAMI foundation.

    When I speak on college campuses, I always lead with a warning that goes something like this: What you’re about to hear is a talk that is based on my life experiences. As a result, all, some or none of it may resonate. Why? Because you’ve had different experiences. I tell the students to interrupt me. I tell them to ask questions or even call bullshit if necessary. I’m good with that. Same goes for knowing your ABCs. We all have different experiences and different needs. We all have a different core and answer to our own unique realities. I know that Faith, for example, is a huge component to the ABCs of many friends and colleagues.

    But what I know to be true for me is simple: If I go more than a couple of days without consciously performing my SWAMI ritual, without my ABCs, chances are I’m a pretty difficult person to be around. SWAMI is the foundation on which my everything gets built. I’m a better person. I’m a better friend. I get more done. I’m better equipped to respond to challenges and less likely to react. And when I put my head on the pillow at the end of the day, I’m far more likely to feel as though the day was A Day Well Lived.

    I’m curious: What’s your SWAMI? What are your ABCs?



    My name is Todd and I’m an addict.

    (Hi Todd)

    I’m not addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping or any of the other addiction types listed here. I’m an addict of a different kind. I’m addicted to my story. (Wait. Please understand that I’m not making fun of addiction. I feel the need to state that right up here in the front. At the top. Everything seems to offend someone. Not my intention.)

    I recently spent a weekend in Sedona with a group of brave souls who traveled to the Vortex in what we thought was a writing retreat. My expectation was that we would write. And write. And maybe write some more. I thought we’d write dialogue, description and character outlines. We wrote a little, but mostly . . . we exposed our addictions to our personal stories (some were recovering addicts and inspiring as all get out).

    I won’t betray the incredibly personal stories others shared, but I can share mine (which is a far cry from incredible and is in fact really quite boring). Mine goes something like this: I struggle with depression on some level of the spectrum. I struggle to consistently live in the authentic direction of my soul. I’ve always sought permission before making any major moves in my life. I watch other people do the kinds of things that I want to do and struggle with the jealousy it brings. I’m afraid of my gifts. I blame. I wear a variety of masks in an effort to…well, you get the picture. I’ve crafted a tale that gives me the excuses I need. Anytime. Just reach into my Official Bag of Fooling Myself, sprinkle a little Sabotage Dust on (enter situation here) and cue the darkness. Being addicted to my story meant I could avoid taking any real control of my life.

    But what I realized this weekend is that’s not how it has to be.

    This is where it’s natural for me to think, “Duh, dumbass,” and start berating the f*ck out of myself. That’s easy to do. But then, that’s just part of the story, isn’t it? That’s what I’ve always done. That’s the addiction. That’s where I go eat some horribly unhealthy meal, make myself feel like shit, lather, rinse and repeat. All the while my Demons are laughing their asses off. So not this time.

    As we studied the different character/personality archetypes the question was asked, “What if you don’t like your archetype?” Or as it relates specifically to me, what if I don’t want to keep falling into the hands of the Saboteur? The response was swift and simple: Change it.

    Story Addiction takes many forms. It can be the thing that keeps us from getting up early to workout (“I’m just not a morning person”) or not expressing ourselves artistically (“I don’t know how to [insert art form]”) to you name it and there’s likely an excuse attached that is part of the story. I’ve gained and lost the same 30 (40?) pounds more times than I can count. Every time I lose it someone proclaims, “Wow! You’ve lost so much weight!” I tell them, “I haven’t lost it, its just misplaced. I’ll find it again.” I get laughs. It becomes part of my story. And I gain it all back. (And then some) We all have our own versions of Sabotage Dust. Believe me, there’s no judgment in that. See it. Honor it. And if you want to join me . . . change it. (So, when I lose this 30 pounds--again!--and you tell me how good I look, I’m going to say “Thank you,” and tell you how fun it was.)

    So this is me virtually looking out upon the majestic red rocks of Sedona (as I sit on a couch in my family room) changing my story. I’ve entered a kind of Story Addiction Rehab. This isn’t a rebranding, either. I’m not covering up anything. I’m uncovering everything. This is owning and telling the story that is really, truly mine. Authentically.

    And that other story? That’s not real. That’s not me. (Or, more to the point--I have no use for it anymore.) Somewhere along the line I started believing it was. Somewhere along the line (and if I’m super honest I know exactly when “somewhere along the line” actually happened), I discovered it was easier to sprinkle the Sabotage Dust than it was to fight for my soul. I found it was easier to be sarcastic than honest. (Which isn't to say that sarcasm doesn't have it's time and place.) I found it was easier for me to write that things sucked than to admit they were awesome. Somewhere along the line, I started living like I was learning a new language, as though whenever someone said something, I had to translate it through my story and then respond. I wasn’t speaking from fluency of soul. I didn’t trust myself. Because the story I was living told me that I couldn’t. I became my mistakes. I become the fear. I became the hurt I had caused. I became the addiction.

    I know . . . I’ve been here before. I’ve written things like this before. Repeatedly. It’s been written in a variety of ways, including my favorite, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” And, I usually say to my friend (whom I call the Rabbi) that “I hope this time it sticks.” And he usually responds, “There will be a time when it does. May as well be this one.” I can say, undoubtedly, it is this one.

    There will be haters. There are always haters. Always a couple who will make fun of the words, who will taunt the sentiments. And that’s cool. Everyone has their own stories that are at the root of their responses. I’m good with that. So, if the words start to seem a little different. If the thoughts start to feel a little different. You’ll know why.

    That’s my story. And I’m sticking to it.



    Some time ago, a leading inspirational Facebook page, one that I regularly check out, recently posted a link with a headline of something like “26 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” And even though the picture associated with the link looked uplifting, I didn’t click on it.

    Why? Because I don’t need my faith in humanity restored.

    I think people are inherently good. I think people mostly mean well. And I think people want to do the right thing. I have lots of faith in humanity. Silly as it might seem, not clicking made me feel like I wasn’t giving influence to an idea that I needed my faith in humanity restored. Instead, I wanted to let the Universe know that I feel good about humanity on the whole.

    Do we make mistakes? Yep. Can we be mean? Absolutely. Is there hate in the world? Undeniably. Does that mean my faith in humanity is shaken? Hardly. In fact, the haters, bullies and mean boys & girls of the world only serve to strengthen my human faith. They make me want to be better. They make me want to inspire even more. And they make me want to show my son that good can triumph over evil. The older I get, the less I understand hate, but the more I respect the healing power of gratitude.

    I suppose it’s appropriate that I saw this link on the (nearly) eve of Thanksgiving. It’s natural to get reflective during the holidays and I’ve been thinking about how unspeakably grateful I am for my friends. I know. Duh. Who isn’t grateful for their friends? We all are. But, the truth is, my friends are the reason why I have such faith in humanity.

    I rely heavily on my friends. I’m far from perfect. Flawed. The last several years have been somewhat transformative for me, as I’ve moved closer and closer to finding a way to get “whole.” It’s a journey that is nowhere near complete, and one that has included plenty of one step forward, several steps back experiences. But my friends never seem to waver. In the words of Freddie Mercury, “and bad mistakes/I’ve made a few/I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through.”

    And I’ve come through because of my friends. I get by with a little help from my friends. They help keep me positive. Focused on the good. Believing that I can do and be anything. When you have that kind of support in your life, your faith in humanity is never in doubt. So, now is the natural time for me to simply say, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I’m so grateful for all that you do for me.

    I think it’s unfortunate that the loudest cries often come from the most disparaging voices. I think it’s too bad that senseless crimes and stories of gore seem to generate the ratings. Schadenfreude confuses me. But none of this means that my faith in humanity is shaken. None of this means that I believe dark triumphs over the light. All of this means that we need to work harder to celebrate the random acts of kindness. That we need to be optimistic and grateful. And, more importantly, let’s not use negative headlines to draw attention to the positive.

    I know that the link and authors of the post meant well. I know they weren’t trying to be negative. Not in the slightest. I know I’m overdoing it and overreacting. I suppose I should have clicked on the link. Maybe I’ll go back and do that. But what I’d really like to do is rename the link. I want to save it and share it as “26 Pictures That Show You How Great People Are,” or “26 Awesome Images of Awesome People.” Or maybe, “26 Pictures That Show How We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends.”

    Thank you, friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t do any of this life thing without you.

    ONWORDS: On Passion, Lady Gaga and Vulnerability

    ONWORDS: On Passion, Lady Gaga and Vulnerability

    There’s a pretty amazing story about Lady Gaga making the social rounds. It talks about her ability to live a life of passion by unabashedly and unapologetically being herself. (I’ll refrain from using “authentic” here, as I fear it’s starting to get overplayed and lose its intended meaning.) The piece ends with a question:

    Who would you be and what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

    I love this question. If I totaled all the time that I’ve spent thinking about this question, talking about this question, asking it to other people and meditating on it, I should be an expert (based on the 10,000 hours to master a craft). And yet, after all that time…I’ve never had an answer. EXPERT, MY ARSE!

    But the truth is that I do know the answers. It wasn’t until I read this article for the third or fourth or 50th time that I accepted them. I know the answers. I’m simply afraid of them. The fear keeps me from accepting the answers and instead creates the easy out: “Wow, ummmm, those are really great questions. I don’t really know. I’d have to think about that.” Or “I’d be (insert famous person here).” In an age where vulnerability is still defined as weakness and not courage (read Brené Brown), this is a perfectly acceptable response. Especially if this exchange is followed by uneasy laughter.

    Okay then, who would you be if you weren’t afraid?

    I’d be myself. There I said it. I don’t want to change. I don’t want to be something I’m not. I just want to be comfortable, finally, in my own skin. I want to be me. I want to be vulnerable and crude. I want to be compassionate and sarcastic. I want to be fearless and considered. I want to be collaborative and alone. I want to laugh and cry. I want to be apples and pickles. Hippie and Hip Hop. Because these are traits that make up who I am. (Okay, maybe not hip hop. Can’t really pull that off.)

    Doesn’t seem like it should be much of a challenge, really. On the surface, I think most people might see me this way. But I don’t. I’m not comfortable being all of those things. I feel like a walking contradiction and that makes me uncomfortable. I need to be one or the other. Pick one: Compassionate or Sarcastic. Pick one: Collaborative or on your own. Pick one. Pick one. Pick one. The Lady Gagas of the world don’t care about the contradictions. They all just get put into the blender to create this one amazing, passionate life.

    And that’s where I stumble. I think that in order to live a true life of passion, I need to accept my contradictions. I need to celebrate them as part of a unique concoction that is simply…me. If I consider my “traits” (and contradictions) only as one-off ingredients instead of honoring them as parts of a bigger recipe, a true passionate life will continue to elude me. If I continue to just “pick one,” I can’t be whole. And wholeness is where the good stuff really, truly happens.

    I’m not only vulnerable, sarcastic, considered and funny. Those bits alone won’t make up the whole me. I need to accept that I’m also crude, collaborative and pig-headed. On my own, I genuinely like the whole me—even with several cups full of mistakes and pain. The voices of fear and unworthiness, however, are constantly whispering in my ears, “You can’t say that,” or “You can’t show them that.” What if you’re not perfect?” “They’re not going to like that part of you.” And I believe them, which is what has kept me from ever accepting that I know the answer to this first question. I’m answering it now. Demons be damned. After all, if I don’t accept the whole me, I won’t ever be able to answer the second question.

    What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

    My stock answer to this (and one that I believe) is “I’d find a way to earn a living running A Day Well Lived.” I know exactly what it wants to be. I know exactly where it needs to go. I even know exactly what I need to do. And yet? Here I am answering that question again instead of actually doing anything about it.


    See the first part of this post. Those whispers. Those voices. “What if it fails?” By keeping A Day Well Lived somewhat in a fantasy state, it can’t ever fail. I protect myself from falling short. It allows me to tell people about what it is and what I plan to do without ever having to do it. It allows me to get the “oohs and aahs” and “wow-that’s-really-cool” responses, which gives me a boost of worthiness.

    That’s hardly the recipe for a passionate life, though. Passion isn’t found in the plans. It’s in the actions. So why do I hem, haw and hesitate? Because I’m not allowing the “fearless” and “risk taking” ingredients to be added to the recipe. I’m cherry picking what goes in and what stays out in an effort to “protect myself” from disappointment. (I can hear the line from the movie GOOD WILL HUNTING, “Well, I think that’s a super philosophy Sean…”)

    And this is where the demons and voices really go to work. They sense weakness and they attack. Now they start to mock me for listening to them in the first place. “Seriously? Aren’t you just the biggest p*ssy on the planet?!?”

    But this is bigger than what I might do for a living. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I’d have big, difficult conversations. I’d put all of the ingredients into the blender without fear of what the result might be. I’d stop trying so hard to create the course of my life and let some of the pieces just fall where they want to fall. I’d follow my heart. I’d ignore perfection. I’d write. I’d let more love into my life. I’d stop looking for my worthiness in others and find it in myself. I’d smile back at the person in the mirror and wrap him in a blanket of acceptance and compassion. I’d keep trying to learn how to play the guitar and someday maybe even sing in public. I’d be even more vulnerable, more accepting and I’d answer the first question with a kind of swagger that I lost somewhere long ago. The real irony is that if I did all of these things, the second question and A Day Well Lived would take care of themselves.

    Looking again at the questions: Who would you be and what would you do if you weren’t afraid? The answers are actually found in the headline: I’d live the Life of Passion.