Monday, November 30, 2009

Time to Grow

"Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging."
~ Joseph Campbell

Coach Sherrie says: I tell my students to throw away the mistake and keep the lesson. They love the symbolism of tearing up their mistake and keeping the lesson for posterity.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Life Responds By Corresponding

"The principle of life is that life responds by corresponding; your life becomes the thing you have decided it shall be. "
~ Raymond Charles Barker

Friday, November 27, 2009

Secrets from the Memoir Coach

Secrets from the Memoir Coach: How to Write Your Life Story

Ina Hillebrandt

If you need an incentive to write your memoirs, consider these points...
More people may be interested in your memoirs than you think -- not just family and friends but also people in the same profession or with similar experiences, or those who have lived in the same parts of the country.
Memoir writing is easier than ever before, thanks to new technology and the availability of professionals who can help you, usually at a reasonable price.
Throughout my experience in helping writers, I have found that once they are assured that people will actually want to read what they write, authors’ next concerns are where to start and how to organize their life stories. But it’s really easier than it seems.
Structure. Writing about events in chronological order is the simplest structure to follow. If you’re dealing with a shoe box full of notes that have accumulated over the years, it’s usually not difficult to sort them by date. Also consider variations in structure, such as flashbacks, which can be useful for adding interest and for showing readers how recent events relate to much earlier ones. You can also structure memoirs by topics or by milestones in your life.
Example: I recently helped a client write memoirs that were structured according to the many houses that she had lived in.
Mistake: Thinking of your memoir as a novel in which all the events have to be woven together. In fact, memoirs can be structured as a collection of short stories that aren’t necessarily related -- or if they are, readers will make their own connections.
Audience. If you’re writing for family members, you may not need to describe in detail relatives whom readers are likely to know. On the other hand, if your memoir is also aimed at former business colleagues, more thorough descriptions will probably be necessary.
As you start writing, it’s helpful to remind yourself of past events, which can be a great source of inspiration. Examples...
Old pictures, scrapbooks, home movies and letters.
Classmates, old friends and relatives you may not have spoken with in many years.
Your earliest memories. In my case, it was when I was two years old and my father came home from World War II. (My aunt told me to say, “Hubba-hubba,” when he walked in the door.)
There are many resources available to aspiring memoirists today...
Learn from the pros. One of the best ways to learn about memoirs is to read what others have written. Two of my favorites: Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (Scribner) and Michael Caine’s What’s It All About? (Random House).
Though it’s not a memoir in the conventional sense of the term, Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Ballantine), about the legendary racehorse, is written in an excellent narrative style.
Computer assistance. Today, people do most of their writing on a computer with a word-processing program that checks spelling and grammar. But if you dislike typing, consider using a speech-recognition software program that lets you dictate into a microphone attached to your computer. The program converts what you dictate into a text file.
If your computer doesn’t have a speech-recognition program, you can buy one for about $50 to $200 from Staples, Office Depot and other retailers. The leading program is Dragon Naturally Speaking made by Nuance Communications (
Typists. If you prefer writing in longhand, you can hire a typist to transcribe what you write for about $3 to $5 per page, depending on where you live. And depending on how legibly you write, a typist can usually transcribe 1,000 to 1,500 words an hour.
Writers groups. In most parts of the country, there are groups of amateur writers who constructively criticize each other’s work and who often invite professional authors to offer advice and inspiration. To find a group, enter “writers group” plus the name of your city into your Internet search engine. Most groups welcome new members and are either free or charge about $100 or less in yearly dues.
Caution: Not all writers groups are helpful. A client of mine showed a memoir to a writers group only to be criticized for writing about the South and using Southern expressions in her dialogue. In fact, those were key strengths of her memoir.
Best: Attend a few meetings. If, after each session, you feel energized and inspired, it’s probably a good group for you.
Editors. Should you hire an editor to assist you before you start writing or publish? Probably not, if your memoirs are meant only for family and close friends. But if you have a wider audience in mind, an editor is almost a necessity -- because even the best writers make errors.
Friends with editing experience will often help out free of charge. Otherwise, you can find an editor for hire by phoning the English departments at local colleges, contacting a local writers group or searching for “editors for hire” on the Internet. Also, the Independent Writers of Southern California (323-653-4555 or 877-79-WRITE, can often put people in touch with an editor, regardless of where you live.
Before hiring an editor, talk with three or four references to make sure that the editor has worked satisfactorily on memoirs similar to yours. Cost: About $2,000 per book, half of which is usually paid up front and the remainder on completion of the editing.
When you are ready to publish your book...
Have the typewritten manuscript copied and bound at retailers such as FedEx Office for a typical price of $13 to $15 per book.
Self-publish by one of the companies that specialize in this type of printing, including Infinity Publishing (,, and Cost: About $8,000 for 1,000 copies of a 200-page paperback book.
Create a Web site for your memoirs. This has the advantage of letting others comment on your work. Cost: $250 to $1,500 or more to set up a Web site (includes producing three designs for approval, and should be easy to use and have tools that bring visitors to your site) and $25 to $50 a month to maintain it -- update information, forward or handle e-mail and forward book orders to the author. To find a Web site designer, look for a site you like and contact the Web designer. Or ask friends who have a site to give a recommendation.
Important: To prevent others from profiting from your memoirs, copyright them. Cost: $45 from the US Copyright Office (202-707-3000,
Also, be aware that there can be consequences if you criticize or discuss the private lives of people who aren’t public figures (and sometimes even if they are). Safeguard: If your memoir is critical of any living person, retain a lawyer familiar with publishing to review the book. Cost: $5,000 to $10,000. Ask what the cost will be before engaging such an attorney.


Bottom Line/Retirement interviewed Ina Hillebrandt, founder and president of Los Angeles-based Pawpress (, which offers a wide range of services to writers, including editing, coaching and help with self-publishing. She is author of How to Write Your Memoirs (Pawpress).

Coach Sherrie says: Keep your eyes open: I plan to start an on-line class in Life Story Writing sometime in the first half of 2010.
Send me an e-mail if you're interested: or

Thursday, November 26, 2009


"He who lives in solitude may make his own laws." (Publilius Syrus)

"An ivory tower is a fine place as long as the door is open." (Darby Bannard)

"There is no companion that is as companionable as solitude." (Henry David Thoreau)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Marry Your Muse

Check out Jan Phillips "Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Committment to Your Creativity."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Art of Perfect Timing

The Art of Perfect Timing
By Martha Beck
Following Your Internal Clock

Most "timing's perfect!" enthusiasts don't need these kinds of tests. They're constantly aware of their internal timekeepers, respecting information and intimations, preparing to avoid danger or pursue opportunity. By contrast, people who bewail their bad timing often ignore, even actively reject, facts and premonitions that could help them better plan their actions. True, everyone is subject to good and bad events. But the laws of probability mean that extreme strokes of fortune, positive or negative, occur rarely and end quickly. If you ask people (as I often do) how they make decisions, "lucky" people will talk about tuning in to information and instincts, while "unlucky" people often mention pushing away the uncomfortable feeling they were headed for trouble.

Jackie and Cleo are classic examples. They both knew that their industry was in trouble, and they both had strong hunches that they'd be laid off. Jackie reacted by clinging ever more tightly to her doomed job; Cleo started planning a different life. Each woman sensed the ship was sinking, but Jackie lashed herself to the mast and frantically swabbed the deck, while Cleo calmly launched a lifeboat.

So how do you tune in to your timekeeping impulses? Ironically, the only way to access your inner guide about the future is to fully occupy the present. By noticing everything you're feeling—physically, emotionally, and intuitively—in any given moment, you maximize your awareness of the "exquisitely refined" nonverbal timekeeper nudging your noggin. These are the strategies I've found most effective at keeping me in the right place at the right time:

1. Take a relaxed breath and exhale fully. Before inhaling again, rest in the pause between breaths. Focus on your heartbeat and the pulse in your hands, feet, and scalp. As you return to breathing normally, remain aware of your pulse throughout your body. This anchors you in the present and keeps you calm during the next steps.

2. Acknowledge that you can't change anything that's already happened. Sometimes that's a shame, but it's just plain true.

3. Accept that many things about the future are unknowable and beyond your control. Scary? Oh, yes—but again: true.

4. Recognize whatever's happening right now (you'd be amazed how often we try to deny what's going on). If the present is miserable, this step can hurt—but not nearly as much as living with the consequences of denial.

(Cont. on next page)

Perfect Timing (cont.)

5. Pull an Eckhart Tolle: Shrink the focus of your attention to this present moment. Are you going through a divorce, bankruptcy, or similarly difficult experience? Maybe—but right now, you're just reading this. Be here now. When you plan, plan here now. Don't preemptively grapple with circumstances that don't yet exist. Living this moment in peace, tuned in to your inner timekeeper, will lay the groundwork for the best possible future.

6. Go back to sensing your pulse throughout your body (this returns you to a peaceful place if you've been unsettled), and ask yourself what you feel you should do about each situation in your life. As you begin articulating what you know or suspect about the right course of action, your body will relax. Even if things look scary, accepting the truth brings peace.

7. Follow through on any ideas you've had about preparing for your optimal future.

8. Stay alert to new hunches, and change plans accordingly.

The more often you follow these steps, the more your life will seem blessed by good luck. You'll realize you're a walking gold mine of subconscious predictive information. The more you test the validity of that information by acting on your instincts, the more accurate your predictions will become. Research shows that making and correcting missteps is the best way to develop any skill. And anticipating circumstances that might change, to avoid potential problems and seize opportunities, is very much a skill. As you pay attention to your internal timekeeper and learn from your mistakes, you may eventually hear yourself rhapsodizing, "The timing's perfect!"

That's what happened to Jackie. She spent weeks after her layoff applying for similar jobs, knowing all the while that there were none to be had. One day she finally admitted what she didn't want to know she knew: Her current job-seeking strategy was hopeless. Acknowledging this made Jackie feel oddly peaceful (since she'd known it all along). She also felt a deep sense that she'd be fine, if not in exactly the way she might have expected. Jackie decided to trust that hunch—not because she believed it but because it felt marginally better than panic.

A few days later, Jackie ran into a high school friend, Steve, a criminal defense lawyer whose practice was booming. Steve was looking for someone with financial savvy to be his CFO. Jackie's training wasn't quite on target, but they had such a pleasant conversation (partly because of Jackie's newfound mellowness) that they agreed she'd try filling the spot for a week.

That week ended up lasting indefinitely. Jackie loves her new job and appreciates that the less daunting hours mean she can live as well as work. This has improved her relationships with her husband, her two children, and her own instinctive timekeeping self. Sometimes she e-mails Cleo (who's loving Nepal) about the "amazing luck" they both had just when things looked grim. Since they're on opposite sides of the world, one usually e-mails while the other's sleeping. But they don't mind. They just keep learning new ways to make the timing perfect.

Martha Beck is the author of six books. Her most recent is Steering By Starlight (Rodale).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Must Love the Fool In Me

“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries”

~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guide to Finding Your Passion

The Short but Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion

The joy that results in doing something you love.
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” - Arnold Toynbee

by Leo Babauta

Following your passion can be a tough thing. But figuring out what that passion is can be even more elusive.

I’m lucky — I’ve found my passion, and I’m living it. I can testify that it’s the most wonderful thing, to be able to make a living doing what you love.

And so, in this little guide, I’d like to help you get started figuring out what you’d love doing. This turns out to be one of the most common problems of many Zen Habits readers — including many who recently responded to me on Twitter.

This will be the thing that will get you motivated to get out of bed in the morning, to cry out, “I’m alive! I’m feeling this, baby!”. And to scare your family members or anyone who happens to be in yelling distance as you do this.

This guide won’t be comprehensive, and it won’t find your passion for you. But it will help you in your journey to find it.

Here’s how.

1. What are you good at? Unless you’re just starting out in life, you have some skills or talent, shown some kind of aptitude. Even if you are just starting out, you might have shown some talent when you were young, even as young as elementary school. Have you always been a good writer, speaker, drawer, organizer, builder, teacher, friend? Have you been good at ideas, connecting people, gardening, selling? Give this some thought. Take at least 30 minutes, going over this question — often we forget about things we’ve done well. Think back, as far as you can, to jobs, projects, hobbies. This could be your passion. Or you may have several things. Start a list of potential candidates.

2. What excites you? It may be something at work — a little part of your job that gets you excited. It could be something you do outside of work — a hobby, a side job, something you do as a volunteer or a parent or a spouse or a friend. It could be something you haven’t done in awhile. Again, think about this for 30 minutes, or 15 at the least. If you don’t, you’re probably shortchanging yourself. Add any answers to your list.

3. What do you read about? What have you spent hours reading about online? What magazines do you look forward to reading? What blogs do you follow? What section of the bookstore do you usually peruse? There may be many topics here — add them to the list.

4. What have you secretly dreamed of? You might have some ridiculous dream job you’ve always wanted to do — to be a novelist, an artist, a designer, an architect, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a programmer. But some fear, some self-doubt, has held you back, has led you to dismiss this idea. Maybe there are several. Add them to the list — no matter how unrealistic.

5. Learn, ask, take notes. OK, you have a list. Pick one thing from the list that excites you most. This is your first candidate. Now read up on it, talk to people who’ve been successful in the field (through their blogs, if they have them, or email). Make a list of notes of things you need to learn, need to improve on, skills you want to master, people to talk to. Study up on it, but don’t make yourself wait too long before diving into the next step.

6. Experiment, try. Here’s where the learning really takes place. If you haven’t been already, start to do the thing you’ve chosen. Maybe you already are, in which case you might be able to skip to the next step or choose a second candidate to try out. But if you haven’t been, start now — just do it. It can be in the privacy of your own home, but as quickly as possible, make it public however you can. This motivates you to improve, it gets you feedback, and your reputation will improve as you do. Pay attention to how you feel doing it — is it something you look forward to, that gets you excited, that you love to share?

7. Narrow things down. I recommend that you pick 3-5 things from your list, if it’s longer than that, and do steps 5 & 6 with them. This could take month, or perhaps you’ve already learned about and tried them all out. So now here’s what you need to ask yourself: which gets you the most excited? Which of these can produce something that people will pay for or get excited about? Which can you see yourself doing for years (even if it’s not a traditional career path)? Pick one, or two at the most, and focus on that. You’re going to do the next three steps with it: banish your fears, find the time, and make it into a career if possible. If it doesn’t work out, you can try the next thing on your list — there’s no shame in giving something a shot and failing, because it’ll teach you valuable lessons that will help you to be successful in the next attempt.

8. Banish your fears. This is the biggest obstacle for most people – self-doubt and fear of failure. You’re going to face it and banish it. First, acknowledge it rather than ignoring or denying it. Second, write it down, to externalize it. Third, feel it, and be OK with having it. Fourth, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Usually it’s not catastrophic. Fifth, prepare yourself for doing it anyway, and then do it. Take small steps, as tiny as possible, and forget about what might happen — focus on what actually is happening, right now. And then celebrate your success, no matter how small.

9. Find the time. Don’t have the time to pursue this passion? Make the time, dammit! If this is a priority, you’ll make the time — rearrange your life until you have the time. This might mean waking earlier, or doing it after work or during lunch, or on weekends. It will probably mean canceling some commitments, simplifying your work routing or doing a lot of work in advance (like you’re going on a vacation). Do what it takes.

10. How to make a living doing it. This doesn’t happen overnight. You need to do something, get good at it, be passionate about it. This could take months or years, but if you’re having fun, that’s what’s most important. When you get to the point where someone would pay you for it, then you’re golden — there are many ways to make a living at that point, including doing freelance or consulting work, making information products such as ebooks, writing a blog and selling advertising. In fact, I recommend you do a blog if you’re not already — it’ll help solidify your thinking, build a reputation, find people who are interested in what you do, demonstrate your knowledge and passion.

I told you this wouldn’t be easy. It’ll require a lot of reflection and soul-searching, at first, then a lot of courage and learning and experimentation, and finally a lot of commitment.

But it’s all worth it — every second, every ounce of courage and effort. Because in the end, you’ll have something that will transform your life in so many ways, will give you that reason to jump out of bed, will make you happy no matter how much you make.

I hope you follow this guide and find success, because I wish on you nothing less than finding your true passion.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Confucius\n/

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writing A Memoir

Are you working on a memoir? We can move our projects along with these simple strategies:

1) Get focused. Being clear on your concept and purpose is a large part of the battle. If you aren’t sure of your focus, jot down the first thing that comes to mind and get started. It’s okay if it evolves as you proceed.

2) Set a schedule and deadline. You don’t have to write every day, or finish one hundred pages a month. If you can only devote an hour on Sunday afternoons to your writing, make that sacred time and stick to it. Making a personal commitment to having something to show people by a specific date, like your birthday next year, can speed things along. Especially if you tell them about it.

3) Blast through a draft. This may be the hardest thing for most people to do. Just write. Don’t look back. Don’t even think of rereading or editing until you’ve written at least twenty more pages. Otherwise, you could die with seven pages that you wrote seventy times.

4) Get help. You may not be able to hire a high profile ghost writer, but you can find a writing group, take a class, or read books on writing. You may be able to afford a few coaching sessions, or help from a reasonably priced editor.
Follow these guidelines and you can follow the example of Paul Ohrman, who wrote his 286 page autobiography, Living to Serve, in just under two years. His second volume, a World War II memoir, took even less time.

Write now: set aside an hour and write a purpose statement for your project, and set up a writing schedule. If you already have a purpose statement and schedule, spend the hour writing. If you are still searching for a concept, do some freewriting to uncover one.

Hang On With All Your Might

"Bear in mind, if you are going to amount to anything, that your success does not depend upon the brilliance and the impetuosity with which you take hold, but upon the ever lasting and sanctified bull doggedness with which you hang on after you have taken hold. "
~ Dr. A. B. Meldrum