Is the Light On in Your Eyes?

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I recently had an opportunity to speak for a national convention in San Diego on the topic of “Is the Light On In Your Eyes?” The conference theme was “Reflections on Success.” I started by saying many of us spend more time reflecting on what movie to watch this weekend than on what we’re going to do with the rest of our life.

Many of the audience members had been running their business for 10-30 years. Many have so many different projects and people counting on them, they feel they can’t take time off. Many work 60-70 hour weeks and haven’t taken a vacation for years. Some are ready to retire, but don’t want to do “nothing” and can’t imagine what they’re going to do NEXT that could be as satisfying and productive as what they’re currently doing. Many don’t have a succession plan in place and don’t want to see the business they worked so hard to build go down the drain.

I told them we were going to spend the next ninety minutes reflecting on what’s working, what’s not and what we’re going to do about it NOW. I shared a quiz to help them figure out in 4 minutes what’s supporting their happiness, what’s sabotaging it.

One of the options we talked about is the value of integrating our passion into our profession so our hobby it’s no longer something we never do because we’re “too busy.” Many people told me they don’t have time to do the recreational activities that used to bring them joy. I told them, they can COMBINE their recreation WITH their career in a win-win way – instead of seeing them as being mutually exclusive.

Here’s what I mean.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the largest networking organization in the world. After hearing about my full calendar of speaking, consulting and traveling, he asked, “What do you do for fun?”

Long pause. I finally dug deep and came up with “I walk my dog around the lake.”

Please don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do work that makes a positive difference … it’s just that I was going 24/7.

That conversation and several other wake-up calls motivated me to set out on a Year by the Water. I didn’t abandon my business … I just took it on the road. As James Taylor said when he took a break from touring for a year to compose new lyrics and produce a new album; “I didn’t quit work – I did a different kind of work.” .

What I’ve learned the past 18 months disrupted everything I thought I knew about what true success looks and feels like: I discovered:

* we don’t have to be torn between two worlds – we can have the best of both worlds.

* hard-work is over-rated – fun is not a four letter word

* it’s not always better to give than to receive

* people can’t jump on our bandwagon if it’s parked in the garage

* change doesn’t require courage – it requires trusting that the only way to know is to go

* to create the quality of life we deserve, we need to stop watering dead plants

* it’s not selfish to put yourself in your own story

* waiting is a prescription for regrets

* we can can combine work and recreation and leverage what we’re good at – for good

* someday is not a day in the week

* we don’t have to put aside what puts the light on in our eyes – you can integrate it into our daily life in a way that makes us even more balanced and blessed.

Want an example of what I mean?

When I lived on Maui, I had a friend named Kathy who was a 4.5 tennis player and a Realtor. We played a couple times a week until the economy slumped and she told me she was “too busy” finding clients to play tennis anymore. I suggested her hobby wasn’t an indulgence she do only when she had spare time – it was a competitive edge that could give her access to ideal clients. I suggested she approach the concierges at the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (both 5 diamond properties catering to affluent travelers – Kathy’s target demographic) and let them know they could recommend her to guests looking for a good game of singles. They eagerly did this because Kathy had lived on the island for years, was a respected member of the community, and they trusted her to make this a good experience for their resort guests.

This turned into a win for everyone. Within a month, Kathy was back to playing tennis 3-5 times a week AND had several new clients buying houses. She didn’t offend anyone with hard selling. It was natural while sharing an iced-tea after a satisfying match, guests would ask “What do you do?” When they found out she was a Realtor, they’d often ask if she had any properties for a good price. Not only was Kathy back to being outside doing a hobby that put the light on in her eyes – it became an organic marketing tool that kept her visible and became her secret sauce to success in a down market.

Want other ways to figure out how you can be creatively productive? Want to figure out how you can integrate your passion into your profession? Want to leverage your years of experience into a legacy message and mission that make a positive difference?

Check out my SerenDestiny site where I share posts on what TRUE SUCCESS looks and feels like for me and for people I had an opportunity to interview in my travels. Hope you find it inspiring and it helps you take responsibility for creating a more meaningful life now … not someday.

I am a woman on a mission to remind people the clock is ticking. Not in a morbid way, in a motivating way.

It is NOT selfish to do more of what matters to you, it is smart. Integrating what’s truly important into each day is not an indulgence; it is an investment in a healthier, happier future.

Stop waiting for the life you want. Figure out what puts the light on in your eyes and start doing it more of it NOW. You will never regret clarifying what true success means to you and integrating more of that into your life … you will only regret not doing it sooner.

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Sam Horn, Founder. CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, helps people create quality, one-of-a-kind communications that add value for all involved. Her books – including IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! POP!and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured on NPR and in Fast Company, INC, New York Times and presented to National Geographic, Boeing, Cisco, Capital One, NASA. Want Sam to share her keynote with your group? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

What’s Your Review-Preview? Are You “Piloting” Your Time?

Michael Altshuler says, “The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot.”

Yet many of us DON’T feel like we’re the pilot of our time. Months (years) blend and blur into each other. Time races by and many of us feel we’ll never get caught up.

This is an antidote to this. One way to “get caught up” is to reflect on all the good ways our time has been spent this past year – to identify and honor the people, places and experiences that have been a good use of our time. national-press-club-group-picture-12-10-2010-2

These questions can help you do that. I’ve used variations of them at Review-Preview gatherings with friends and family and at National Press Club salons.

Taking the time to answer these questions an excellent way to “connect and reflect” and honor who and what has impacted you this past year – and why. Then turn your attention to the new year and clarify what your’re looking forward to – what you can do, see, think and feel to “pilot” this upcoming year so it will be TIME WELL SPENT.

At the end of his life, when finishing his book The Last Lecture (which was his “message in a bottle” of life-lessons he wanted to pass on to his kids), Randy asked himself what he knew for sure and it was this:

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt; just how we play the hand. Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”

You might want to print these questions and share them over a meal with friends or family or at an upcoming staff meeting with employees. They can lead to a meaningful discussion about what really matters, which in itself it time well spent.

P.S. I’ve included my abbreviated answers to these questions at the end to kick-start this process. Enjoy, and happy, healthy holidays to you and your loved ones.
Review of the past year:

1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
3. How did I change? What new beliefs and behaviors did I adopt?
4. What’s a meaningful achievement I’m proud of?
5. What happened that was unexpected or surprising? How did it affect me?
6. What will I remember about my health from this year and why?
7. What was my biggest challenge – lesson learned the hard way?
8. What did I NOT find time for?
9. What is the best book I read or movie/TV program I saw?
10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?

PLEASE NOTE: When previewing the coming year, you might want to state your intentions in the PRESENT OR PAST TENSE as opposed to the FUTURE tense. Why? Our subconscious believes what we tell it. Saying “I’m going to meet … “ or “I will achieve …” comes across as wishful thinking. Saying, “I loved meeting … “ or “It was so satisfying achieving that …” is perceived as a statement of truth. It helps turns our hopes into a “done deal.” This is a way to practice ADVANCE GRATITUDE. By focusing on what we would love to happen in the new year, we facilitate that happening. Envisioning a life, business and career we love helps to create it.

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Preview of the coming year so you can “pilot” your time and ensure it is spent on the “right things.”

1. A particularly satisfying achievement this past year was …
2. A new place I thoroughly enjoyed discovering/exploring was …
3. I am so glad I got to meet and spend time with .. S/he really impacted me because …
4. I loved acquiring this skill and/or getting back into this hobby because …
5. I am grateful for doing this spiritual practice …. It made every day more …
6. I will always be glad I took better care of my body/health by …
7. I finally made time for …
8. One way I contributed and gave back was to …
9. Something that really added joy and/or FUN to my life was ….
10. One of the most important ways I changed was to …

Sam Horn’s abbreviated responses to the Review of 2016. Charles Bukowski said, “Time races by like wild horses over the hills.” Taking the time to answer these questions can help you “pilot” your time so you’re making the most of it in the new year.

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1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
(Sam – swimming with Zach the Dolphin at Marineland in Florida.)

2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
(Sam – Mary Loverde for teaching me to abandon absolutes and that receiving, receiving, receiving is as important as giving, giving, giving.)

3. How did I change?
(Sam – I actually started eating vegetables – can you say kale and spinach?! – in greenies and liked them! Thank you Wildfit!)

4. What was a meaningful achievement (or skill acquired, dream goal realized) I’m proud of?
(Sam – Attended a workshop with Charles Needles and Dewitt Jones in Monet’s Garden in France – and learned to use my iphone camera to produce quote-images I post on Instagram. It’s fun, purposeful and a source of instant creative gratification.)

5. What happened that was unexpected? How did it affect me?
(Sam – Almost passed up an opportunity to speak in China because of unexpected doubts. What was unexpected was it was unlike me to “play it safe.” I re-committed to being adventurous and bold instead of being cautious and wary.)

6. What will I remember about my health – and why?
(Sam – I cracked my ribs and lost my freedom of movement for a few months. Made me re-appreciate what a gift it is to be healthy and to have complete mobility and no pain.)

7. What was my biggest challenge?
(Sam – My biggest challenge on my Year by the Water was learning to see my calendar as having OPEN days vs. EMPTY days so I didn’t revert to a decades-old habit of saying yes and filling my days with commitments.)

8. What did I NOT find time for?
(Sam – Hudson Valley, Walden Pond and the lake where Helen Keller said her first word, “Water,” which is why my Year by the Water is SO not over. )

9. What is the best book I read?
(Sam – Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Proves that “literary” books about the human condition can be kind, insightful and a page-turning read.

10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?
(Sam, my sister Cher who runs my business and who I trust implicitly. My sons Tom and Andrew, their wives Patty, Miki, and grandson Mateo for gifting me with a family I love. My friends who bless me with their generosity and positive spirit. My most important lesson-learned? Connection is the current that runs through my life. It my Holy Grail. You are all with me, wherever I am, and I am grateful. )

– – –
Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert, TEDx speaker, author of POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? is on a mission to help people create one-of-a-kind projects that add value for all involved and has worked with Boeing, NASA, Cisco, Intel and National Geographic.

Waiting for Your Ship to Come In?

I was in California recently to speak for the Central Coast Writers Conference. The day before my presentations, I headed to Morro Rock for an early morning walk.

As I explored the waterfront, watching the playful otters float and nurse their babies on their belly, I noticed some people gathered on the shore, eagerly gazing out toward the mouth of the bay. Curious, I walked over and asked, “What’s going on?”

The man closest to me said, “Oh, the San Salvador is arriving this morning.”

san-salvadore

“What’s the San Salvador?”

“It’s a fully-rigged replica of the Spanish galleon – Cabrillo’s flag ship – that discovered California. It should be here any minute.”

What an serendipitous discovery. To put this into context, every morning I listen to Colin Hay’s “Waiting For My Real Life to Begin” with its haunting lyrics about how many of us wait for our ship to come in. It’s a way to remind myself THIS is my real life and it’s up to me to create what I want – not wait for it to show up.

So, I walked to the point, peering through what the locals like to call a “marine layer” for my first glimpse of the ship. There it was emerging from the fog. A magnificent sight. I laughed as this thought occurred, “My ship just came in!”

This story doesn’t stop there. In fact, it just keeps getting better and better.

The next day I closed my conference keynote with the story of that special moment watching the San Salvador sail into the harbor. I added though that:

“Writers don’t wait for their ship to come in; they write their way out to it.

In fact, entrepreneurs – and writers are creative entrepreneurs – launch their ship. At their core, they’re designed and destined to explore. They set sail with their ideas and stories. They do not wait for perfect conditions. They know the value is in the voyage. They understand discoveries don’t happen in inertia. Setting a vision in motion is what makes it tangible which is where you reap the rewards. Writers understand it’s crucial to maintain confidence in their creative venture. Their role, their responsibility, is to launch … always to launch.”

Well, as soon as I launched that story, rewards started showing up.

A woman came up after my keynote and said, “Sam, my brother in law is actually in charge of the San Salvador Project. I’m sure he’d be glad to give you a tour.” Which is how I found myself interviewing Captain Ray Ashley below decks on the San Salvador the following day.

I hope you’re ready, because you cannot make up the stuff you’re about to read. You know what I’ve learned about stories? Fact is more fascinating than fiction.

What Captain Ray Ashley told me is a quintessential example of what can happen when we get an idea – and the facts indicate this can’t work and the finances aren’t there – but we choose to launch anyway.

This true story proves that if we keep the faith that what we’re trying to build is worthwhile – mini-miracles can unfold if we set our project in motion and give community an opportunity to jump onboard.

Here’s what happened.

The San Diego Maritime Museum originated the idea of creating the San Salvador and asked Ray to head up the project. Ray told me, “As a historian, I know it’s important for origin stories to be associated with a physical object. As soon you turn something conceptual into something concrete (think European immigration to America and the Mayflower); people are more likely to relate to it.

So, we thought the discovery of California (by the Spanish, multiple Native American tribes already lived here) would become even more ‘real’ and relevant if we built a working replica of the ship people could see, touch and walk on.”

The only problem? Their research estimated it would cost $6.2 million to build the ship. The entire annual operating budget of the San Diego Maritime Museum was $4.6 million. So, on paper, the facts and finances didn’t add up. Logically, it didn’t make sense to launch the project.

Thankfully, Ray said, the people in San Diego believed this project was worth doing and the project was approved. It was partially due to that incredibly supportive community that the project team made a crucial decision that directly led to the success of their venture.

They decided to build the ship in PUBLIC instead of in PRIVATE.

Ray told me, “If you operate in isolation, if you’re the only one providing the energy, ideas and vision; sometimes that’s not enough. But if you construct a project in public, well, people see what you’re doing and want to get on board. They’re eager to be part of something they can be proud of.

We arranged for the San Salvador to be built in plain sight, right next to a busy freeway. Within weeks, we had 50 volunteers showing up every single day.

These were ‘lay-people’ saying, ‘Put me to work. How can I help?’ and skilled craftsmen – nuclear physicists, shipwrights, architects – offering their years of valuable experience and expertise.

It was a blessing to have such an incredible team of individuals dedicated to making the project a success. And we needed those volunteers because they helped us persevere through one obstacle after another.

For example, our research showed there was only one wood strong enough and dense enough to carry the weight of this ship, and that was white oak.

The challenge is, there’s not much white oak left. We finally found a supplier and, imagine this, bought up the entire world’s supply of white oak.

Now, no tree grows in the shape of a ship. It took us months to mill the wood into the curves of the hull and sides. When that was done, we applied epoxy to about half the wood to make it waterproof. The only problem was, the epoxy was contaminated. Within 48 hours, the wood had started to curl and rot and was basically unusable. As you can imagine, we were devastated.

Thank heaven for the volunteers. When we told them what happened, one said, “You know, you should call this guy Jim who’s kind of an expert on living oak. It’s not white oak, but it’s close. You never know. Might as well check it out.”

Ray contacted Jim, and sure enough, living oak used to be protected but now it’s overgrown and Jim was able to supply them with enough wood to meet their needs … at a price they could afford.

Good news, right? Yes, but it was only a matter of time before they ran into another seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

It was time to embed lead into the hull to provide the necessary ballast, but the price of lead had skyrocketed and they could no longer afford it. So, they launched a creative “Get the Lead Out” campaign and invited people to donate any lead they might have lying around.

Ray said, “People were coming in with their fish weights, etc. We really appreciated what they were doing, but it would take decades to accumulate the amount of lead we needed, a few ounces at a time.

We felt we had run into a dead-end. Once again, our volunteers saved the day. One said, ‘You know, I used to work for this contractor out in the valley that went out of business. I think they used lead for some of their projects. Maybe they still have some left on their property.’

Captain Ray got in touch and explained his situation to the executive. He said, “Well, let me look around and I’ll get back to you.”

The next day he calls Ray and says, “How much lead do you need?”

Ray says, “180,000 pounds.” The guy chuckles and says, “Well, I’ve got 190,000 pounds of lead and you can have it all.”

Fast forward. The ship is almost ready to launch. The challenge now is they have to get this heavy ship from the boatyard across the highway into the water. The problem is, they’re almost out of money and can’t afford to build what will need to be a steel bridge with rollers to transfer the ship.

Once again, their volunteers come to the rescue.

One says, “Well, I have a colleague who owns a home-moving business. I don’t know if he can help but he definitely knows a lot about transporting heavy objects from one place to another. Why don’t you give him a call?”

To make a long story somewhat less long, suffice it to say, this individual had wanted to upgrade his capacity to move heavy equipment like cranes, so he offered to build the steel bridge for the San Salvador – for free – so he could offer this option to his future clients. Another “insurmountable” obstacle surmounted.

If you’ve ever built something, you know that every contractor uses an operational formula called the TCQ – Time, Cost, Quality – Triangle.

Essentially, it states that if you are willing to pay more money, you can increase quality and reduce time. If you don’t have much money, you may have to cut corners on quality. If you take more time, you can increase quality, but it will also increase costs. These three factors are always interacting, always in play.

However, one rule that is almost sacrosanct in the contracting-building-construction-project management industry is that the longer it takes to build something, the more it’s going to cost.

Guess what?

The San Salvador took three times longer than anticipated to build – and came in only a little over its original budget.

How can that be??

Well, I told Captain Ray I think he and the San Salvador team added a side to the TCQ triangle and turned it into a TCQC rectangle.

captain-ray-ashley

I think they proved that if you go public with your venture, if you ask for help and give people ways to contribute – they can actually reduce costs because they’re using their six-degrees-of-separation to connect you with people who can supply your provisions, remove your obstacles and solve your problems.

The San Salvador team demonstrated the mini-miracles that emerge when we build projects with a TCQC – Time Cost Quality Community – Rectangle.

When you involve your community, they bring so much to the table in terms of experience, expertise, energy and strategic alliances, you ultimately reduce costs and time. Perhaps more importantly, you improve the quality of the experience for everyone involved and you scale the reach and positive impact of your venture.

When I visited Captain Ray that day in Morro Bay, there were lines of an hour or two to tour the San Salvador. People had traveled from around the country to see, touch and walk around the ship.

Ray said, “That was our vision and it’s enormously rewarding to see it come true. We gave donors and volunteers an opportunity to hammer their initials into the keel. We’ve had dozens of families show up where the dad or mom or grandparent proudly pointed out the part of the ship they worked on.

They feel like they’re part of the story. They love telling the story of the ship they ‘helped build.’ They’re so proud to be able to put their hands on something they helped bring into being.”

As I wrapped up my time with Ray, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many ways the San Salvador project is a perfect metaphor for my Year by the Water project.

I too launched a venture when the “numbers” weren’t there. I didn’t have a financial sponsor for this trip. If I had focused only on the logical aspects of this venture, (e.g., “Give away 95% of what I own? Set off into the unknown?!”) it didn’t add up, didn’t make sense … on the surface.

But deep down, I knew this was important, what I wanted to do. I too wanted to explore our magnificent country. I too wanted to travel on and visit bodies of water. I too had faith this project would be meaningful for me and others. I too had to maintain my confidence this venture was worth doing – even when there were no guarantees.

I too went public and experienced an outpouring of support. I received gracious emails from my community saying, “Come to this lake where Helen Keller said her first word, ‘Water.” “I live near Walden’s Pond, come visit me.” “You can stay in our vacation home on Chesapeake Bay.” “Hang out on my houseboat in Sausalito.” “I have a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired cabin in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. You can write there.”

And I’m here to tell you, a year after launching my “ship,” that the secret sauce of a successful project is indeed … COMMUNITY.

Yes, I’ve enjoyed the many places I’ve had the opportunity to experience. Yet it’s the people I’ve connected with who have made this adventure even more meaningful, even more of a QUALITY experience in every sense of the word.

How about you? What is the project you want to build, the creative venture you want to launch, the dream you want to achieve?

If you juxtapose it, if you put a vertical line down the center of a piece of paper, there may be some fears on the left side. Maybe the numbers don’t add up. If you consider only the facts, figures, left-brain logic, it may not “make sense” to head off into the unknown where there are no guarantees. As long as you stay focused on the left-side of the ledger, your project will stay in the boatyard.

However, if you switch over to the right side of the ledger and focus on your faith that this creative project has value, your belief this adventure is worth doing, the meaning it might have for you and others… it will help give you the confidence and courage to set your creative vision in motion.

When you do launch your dream project, be sure to take it public. Tell people what you’re doing. Share your vision. Invite their input. Ask for their contributions. Enlisting your community adds an all-important ingredient to the equation.

A project that may have been unfeasible because it was dependent on the TCQ Triangle is now feasible because you’re adding the secret sauce of community.

You have just exponentially increased your odds of success because you won’t be operating in isolation, you won’t just be doing this for and by yourself.

You will have a TCQC _ Time Cost Quality Community Rectangle that is leveraging a group of people who are doing everything in their power to help you move your project forward because they are invested in its success.

And isn’t that what we want? Not just a meaningful and productive life where we’re fulfilling our SerenDestiny and the light is on in our eyes, but to have the privilege and opportunity to share what we care about with other people who care about the same things.

What is it you want to do? Don’t just follow that dream; LAUNCH it.

dont-just-follow-your-dreams-launch-them

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Sam Horn, Founder and CEO of the INTRIGUE AGENCY, helps people create respectful, collaborative one-of-a-kind communications and projects that add value for all involved. Her inspiring TEDx talk and keynotes receive rave reviews from such clients as National Geographic, Intel, Cisco, Capital One, NASA, Accenture and Boeing. Her work – including POP!, Tongue Fu!, and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company and NPR and MSNBC.

Want more ways to lead a creatively productive life? Check out Sam’s inspiring Year by the Water updates at her site on SERENDESTINY

Updates from Sam’s Year by the Water

I was on the West Coast recently presenting “Got Your Attention?” for a conference.