Dealing with the Facts

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Years ago, I read Marshall Goldsmith’s book, MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It. At the time, I was dealing with some personal challenges and needed to get myself back on track. Here’s one passage that continues to resonate with me.

Waiting for the facts to change–instead of dealing with the facts as they are–is a common response to a setback. It’s the response of the owner of a dying business who refuses to cut costs or lay off workers during a continued downturn because a turnaround is just around the corner. It’s the response of a shopkeeper in a decaying part of town who gamely sticks to his product line and his way of doing business even as customers disappear, revenue shrinks, and neighboring stores shut down. The area will come back, he thinks; it can’t simply vanish.

When people wait for discomfiting facts to change into something more to their liking, they’re basically engaging in wishful thinking. It’s the opposite of over-committing because it leads to underacting (or under-committing and not acting at all). Instead of doing something, you’re frozen in place while you wait for a more comforting set of facts to appear. In a world that’s constantly rushing forward, this is akin to moving backward. That’s a mojo killer.

When the facts are not to your liking, ask yourself, “What path would I take if I knew that the situation would not get better?” Then get ready to do that. If the world changes in your favor, you haven’t lost anything. If the facts do not change, you are more ready to face the new world.

Source: MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It by Marshall Goldsmith


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Reawaken Your Creativity

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

At this time of year, it can be difficult to motivate ourselves. If you’re experiencing the winter doldrums, try reawakening your creativity with one of these suggestions.



Buy the Artichoke

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

While reading Chellie Campbell’s book, The Wealthy Spirit, I came across this entertaining and inspiring story about risk-taking.

Amy Frelinger, one of my class participants, came in one afternoon exasperated about an experience she had at the grocery store. She had seen an older woman in the produce section looking over the artichokes. The woman picked up one, then another, of the vegetables, turning them around and around in her hands, frowning. Noticing Amy watching her, she smiled and said, “I don’t know how to cook these, do you?” Amy said that she did, and gave her some simple directions on how to steam the artichoke and then eat it with melted butter.

Another woman overheard the conversation and chimed in with the suggestion that she dip it in herb salad dressing. Soon there were several people making suggestions on different ways to cook artichokes, encouraging the older woman to try it. The woman listened and seemed to enjoy the conversation, but eventually she put the artichoke back, saying, “I’m just not sure about this.”

Amy was aghast. She was incredulous that the woman couldn’t take the risk to cook an artichoke. “It only cost $1.49!” she exclaimed. “How big a risk could it be?”

Step outside your comfort zone today. Take a risk. You don’t have to quit your job, get divorced, or move to another country yet. Practice with little risks. Shop at a different grocery store. Drive a different route to work. Try out a new restaurant. Watch a foreign film with subtitles. Cut your hair. Go to a concert. Sleep on the other side of the bed.

Cook an artichoke.



Life is Good

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

During my cancer journey, I noticed one of the patients at the Juravinski Cancer Centre wearing a T-shirt with a grinning stick figure and the message: Life is Good. I asked about the T-shirt and learned that it was part of an apparel line launched by two enterprising young men in Massachusetts. Many cancer warriors throughout Canada and the United States wear these T-shirts during their treatments.

Here’s the inspiring story of Life is Good…

The story of Life is Good begins not with the company’s founding but in the childhood of Bert and John Jacobs. The youngest of six children, the two brothers grew up in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. Life in the Jacobs household was, by many people’s standards, hard. The second floor of their small home had no heat. Their dad had a temper. And they couldn’t always afford basic necessities. Their mom, Joan, joked that she bought them food they didn’t like so that it would last longer.

Despite all of this, Joan was a resilient and cheerful woman who focused on the positive. Every night at the dinner table, she asked all six children to share one good thing that happened to them that day. As the kids talked about finding a Rolling Stones CD at the dump, hearing a funny joke, or learning something cool in school, the energy of the room transformed. Everyone started laughing and smiling. Joan’s optimism lifted them up. “I like running out of money,” she would tell them, “because then I don’t have to worry about what I need to buy.” From her, the boys learned that joy comes form our mindset, not just your circumstances.

In 1989, when they were in their twenties, Bert and John started a business designing printed T-shirts, which they sold on the streets of Boston. They also traveled up and down the East Coast, selling the shirts door-to-door on college campuses, each time making barely enough money to fund the next road trip. They slept in their van, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and showered when they could.

On the road, they spent a lot of time talking. During one trip, they discussed the way the media inundates the culture with stories of murder, rape, war, and suffering day after day. Though bad things happen and it’s important to know about them, they agreed, the world is also full of good news. They thought of Joan and her ability to turn a light on in a dark room. They decided they wanted to promote her values in their work, to create a symbol that would serve as an antidote to the cynicism they saw in the culture–a superhero whose power was optimism.

John sketched a grinning stick figure on a T-shirt. He called the character Jake. When they got back to Boston, they threw a party and pinned the new T-shirt on a wall. Their friends loved it. One of them wrote on the wall next to the T-shirt, “This guy’s got life figured out,” with an arrow pointing to Jake.

Original Drawing of “Jake” from April 1994

The brothers distilled that phrase to three words: “Life is good.” Then, they printed the image of Jake and the phrase on forty-eight T-shirts. When they set up their stand on a sidewalk in Cambridge, they sold all of the shirts in less than an hour–a first for them. That was in 1994. At the time, they had $78 to their name. Today, they run a $100 million lifestyle brand.

As their business grew, they started receiving letters and emails from people who had faced and were facing difficult life circumstances, including cancer, the loss of a loved one, homelessness, and natural disasters. These people wrote about how moved they were by the Life is Good message, and how they had emerged from their adversity with a deeper appreciation of and gratitude for life.

In 2010, the company launched a non-profit arm called Life is Good Kids Foundation, devoted to children who are living with illnesses, violence, abuse, poverty, and other adversities.The primary program of the foundation is called Playmakers, an initiative that offers training and enrichment workshops to childcare providers like teacher, social workers, and hospital workers. Since its founding, the foundation has trained over 6,000 Playmakers who are working to improve the lives of over 120,000 kids each day. Each year, Life is Good donates 10 percent of its net profits to help kids in need.

Life is Good Website

Source: The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith


The Power of Thinking

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A fan of Jen Sincero’s books, I look forward to each new release. Here’s a short reflection from her latest, You Are A Badass Everyday.

True power comes from thinking what you want to think, regardless of how things appear or what other people say or how impossible your ideas may seem. Your thoughts are what lead the charge through all the obstacles, doubts, and dark nights of the soul that are standing between where you find yourself now and where you’re headed.

Think courageously, think largely, think audaciously, think magically.


More Advice from Gail Bowen

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In one of last month’s G.O.T.H. posts, I shared an excerpt from Sleuth, the latest release from Canadian mystery author Gail Bowen. This informative and entertaining guide provides excellent advice for writers of all genres.

In the Editing chapter, Ms. Bowen adds the following insights to “expert” rules:

1. “Vigorous writing is concise” (William Strunk Jr.). Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style will always be a writer’s best friend. Be concise; be concrete. Cut until you can cut no more. Almost every piece of writing can be improved if you cut it by a third.

2. “Try to leave out the parts people skip” (Elmore Leonard). Deep-six your prologue. The material there is generally back story and can be worked in later. Your first task is to bring your reader into the world of your novel; start the action and write an opening that will keep your reader reading.

3. “Using Adverbs is a mortal sin” (Elmore Leonard). British writer Esther Freud’s advice is even more draconian. Freud instructs writers to cut out all metaphors and similes. I’m with Leonard on adverbs, but when it comes to metaphors and similes I’ve been known to indulge myself. I always feel terrible the next morning, but nobody’s perfect.

4. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be” (Mark Twain). Amen!

5. Don’t explain too much. Give your readers credit. Allow them to be come part of the creative process. If you’ve done your work as a writer, then your readers will do the rest.

6. Read aloud passages in your novel you suspect might be problematic. If there is a problem, then rereading the passage aloud will reveal it.

7. January 24th is the feast day of Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists. I understand he’s available 24/7.

8. Enjoy the ride. Ann Patchett says, “Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.” Most people have to say goodbye to their imaginary friends when they start kindergarten; writers get to keep their imaginary friends forever.

9. Ray Bradbury says the most important items in a writer’s make-up are zest and gusto. I agree. If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re a real writer. Stay the course.

Source: Sleuth by Gail Bowen, pp. 142-143.


A Simple Prayer

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

The following poem written by St. Teresa of Avila has been used a prayer throughout the centuries. Simple in its format, it appeals to anyone feeling afraid or anxious.