5 Steps to Challenge Success

This goes in the “easy in theory, hard in practice” bin. Just like constantly attempting to be IN it is a constant practice.

Daily, consistent work is not my strong suit.

Are you the same?

I’ve had need over the last few weeks to focus on achieving a goal. Thinking about what helps us to achieve, makes those tricks repeatable and breeds more success.

So to remind myself as much as anything, here are my 5 tips to pushing through and staying the course that I think are applicable to any agenda:

1. Start
2. Focus
3. Challenge
4. Flex
5. Share

Easy right?

Well if you’re like me, perhaps a little more depth and explanation is needed. So let’s take each part in turn.

Note: A physical challenge variation on those themes appears today over at my side-project Tredecem — the halfway point of my 6-pack abs challenge to raise funds for Pencils of Promise.


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

This should be the most straightforward, easiest, simplest, accomplishable step. “Just do it” right?

How often do we just not?

We know we should do the work. We ruminate on the work. We want to do the work. We plan the work.

We find crazy ways to delay and postpone just simply starting the work.

Starting often poses the biggest obstacle.

We procrastinate. “Oh but I work better under deadline.” Right? While that might be true, it doesn’t get the good work done.

What of projects with no deadline? Those big life projects we really want to achieve? Or ones that actually take consistent practice?

We have to start. Not do laundry, wash the dishes, rearrange our desks, check Twitter one last time, make a list, work on that one little quick thing… No.

Stop it.

What are you delaying?

Now start it.


Ok, we’ve — however begrudgingly — started. Kudos to us.

But now the reason we didn’t want to start (it is hard, mundane, boring, challenging, outside our comfort zone…) rears it’s ugly head and we want to quit.

1 – Don’t.

2 – Refocus.

I’m not just talking about truly focusing on the task at hand here though that of course is important. What I mean by “focus” is concentrating on the right part of what we are doing to insure that it is we continue doing it.

If we fixate on how much we don’t want to be doing the task at hand — be it making phone calls, entering data in a spreadsheet or holding a seemingly endless plank — the more it is going to suck. Finishing is going to be that much harder and likely we aren’t going to do a good job.

If we shift our focus to a positive horizon, breathe deep and relax into it, then the task becomes easier and we manage it much more effectively. If we embrace the suckage and then tuck it away, we are freed to focus on the good and right.

And more (seemingly) quickly will complete the assignment and move on.


This is another variation on the delay tactic that prevent us from starting. Don’t put your sweat into the small stuff.

If the task or achievement is too small, likely we won’t do it.

I know the reciprocal is true — that the big is daunting so we shy away from undertaking it — but that is the important work. It is supposed to be hard. The difficulty reminds us that it is important.

We must challenge ourselves big so we accomplish big.

This can take the form of setting ourselves to a daily practice (hello “I will work on Italian 20 minutes a day for the next month”) or giving ourselves some big life goal that requires consistent work to achieve. Once we are started and working — if the ideal big enough — it is that much easier to set ourselves to the work to continue.

Once we get going, we don’t want to break the string of successes. It isn’t worth it.

Seeing how far we have come, how much time and effort we have already put in towards the large or consistient, helps us stay the course to completion.


Every great plan needs some degree of flexibility and room to adapt… we just can’t get carried away and derailed.

It is important to take breaks when we need them and be kind to ourselves when we slip but we have to avoid allowing that to slippery slope into breaking faith entirely.

We are really, really, exceptionally good at talking ourselves into and out of doing what we ought. (see #1-3) So we must keep our deviations constrained. We have to be honest with ourselves and call ourselves on our own BS.

I find it is helpful to thus call the delays-slips-misses-self-convinced-breaks what they are: cheats.

We can and should allow ourselves to splurge. But we must keep it in mind that we are indeed splurging and we will refocus and rededicate back to the real work. For the rule is more important than the exception.


Social Pressure. Again, we are admiringly good at creating for ourselves the most flimsy of reasons for not doing what we know we ought to do. Peer pressure can work towards our advantage.

If we share our goals with others, with the reasons behind them, we self obligate into achieving them.

It also makes it easier when social pressures are working the other way and on the side of our splurgy gremlins.

How many times do we hear: “Oh just take a break for a night and come out.” or “You don’t want to miss this one opportunity right?” In those moments, if we have laid the groundwork previously, instead of trying to explain or — worse — giving in, is easy and quite effective to say:

“I wish I could but you know that goal I am working on that I told you about that is super important to me? I really got to do that.”

This is actually a win, win, win, win: We are more likely to start because we just said we are going to (Start). We have rededicated ourselves to the purpose, concentrating on the positive (Focus). We feel more obligated to do the work because we are giving up something to do it (Challenge). And we saw the splurge for way it was but — this time — chose to not take it (Flex).
"actions speak louder than blogs" #realitycheck #travel



Oh and through it all…

Always Be IN,



PS – Did I mention I am halfway through my abs challenge? Public Accountability right? I’m raising money for Pencils of Promise and you can help! If you are short on $, a click and a share are free and help me for my Social Media Class. Feel good of the day.




Hopeful Thankfulness and Responsibility for Change

This morning I awoke after a scant 2 hours of sleep to listen to President Obama speak about enduring hope.

America’s re-elected President, even with election results still coming in, spoke of the “stubborn hope” that persists against most odds and makes us work all the harder for the ideal image we believe in.

I sit at my keyboard this morning in Italy with my own hope-fire burning a little brighter.

Sunset over Brooklyn BridgeYes, I am bolstered by what I see as positive election results in Senate races (go ahead and let the door give you a hard smack on the way out you rape down-players and marginalizers of women’s and all citizen’s rights) and, yes, the Presidential returns.

More than what I heard this morning, I hold close to my heart the words I read yesterday from President Obama to a 10 year old to, in the face of bullying for being different, “treat others as you would like to be treated,” and a reminder that ”what matters above all is the love that we show one another.

Politics completely aside, I have seen that resilient faith, hope and love in action over the last weeks in my friends and acquaintances in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

New York State of Mind

Today also marks 4 years since I moved to New York City. I miss “my city” today more than ever.

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The train stopped on the tracks 200 yards past a rural station.

We were about an hour into a Praha to Vienna trip and as my computer clocked continued increasing I ticked down to 0 from the 7 minutes I had to make my connection back home – the last one for the night. I glanced out of the window and saw conductors and then passengers start to meander past.

My tummy rumbled and I thought again of the somewhat-past-prime vegetables I had removed from my bag in the morning. At the time I thought “I’m going to regret this later.” Indeed. An announcement in German was of little assistance and so I turned to my fellow cabin mates.
Waiting for the Train

“I’m sorry but do you know what is going on?”

“Something on the track ahead… we have to wait.”

“Did they say how long?”


Over the course of the next hour plus, between getting fresh air, stretching on the segmented gravel, and a few picture opportunities, I learned of the accident at a crossroad on our track. I said a silent prayer for the person, family and friends who were all having a much worse day than I. An 140 minute delay is naught compared to life’s other wreckage.

Sitting back in my computer as we slowly made our way down the tracks I mentally prepared for changing arrangements. Again, glancing out of the window I breathed deep for the beautiful sunset over russet trees and fields of green.

My inner voice sighed contentedly, “relax, appreciate what you have and enjoy the journey.”

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Time to Paint

Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27.

Artist StudioAfter three fantastic days in Amsterdam, including perhaps the best day ever complete with finding amazing boots just my size in a vintage shop when I had worn a hole in my old shoes (talk about the Universe rising up to meet your feet), it is my time in the temporary home of the Van Gogh collection that is still swirling in my brain.

Vincent didn’t start thinking about creating a life as a painter until he was 27. I have a particular affinity for this factoid as I had my own little life revolution at the same age. Yet, more largely, it says: It is never too late to start.

Perhaps it screams it.

It is never too late to start on your path to greatness.

Don’t think you have time? Vincent’s entire oeuvre? 10 years. And he considered most of that “practice.”

What is your soul screaming out to do?

Don’t know? That is ok. Painting was Van Gogh’s 3rd attempt at a life.


The important part is the starting.

I’ve met so many who have expressed regret at not studying abroad, not traveling, not switching careers, not moving to a new town, not trying that unknown place (even the one down the street!), not reinventing into a different path. They are seeped in regret and sadness. Lett ing “not” to rule is the the surest way to unhappiness.

I’m also loving this quotation these days: If you want what you’ve never had, try what you’ve never done.

Why not pull a Vincent and dare to do differently?

Pick up your proverbial brush and begin.

Be IN always,



PS – I’m writing between catnaps on a train from Berlin to Prague. Perhaps it is my belly happy with fantastic Tibetan food, but train travel seems to suit my go-go soul. Undaunted by a much improved but still healing smile , I took off from Florence for the fall break with my EuroRail pass and only a vague plan for the week. It has been a pleasant blur of perfection. 

Fallen Caryatid

I sit at my computer and the words just will not come.

Shine onI don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t want to think about it.

I don’t want to explain it.

I don’t want to tell the story one more damn time.

I just want it to go away.

My emotions, you might have guessed, are running pretty high.

I took a tumble during the GoRuck Challenge in Munich over the weekend. Somewhere between renditions of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song you see in this highlight reel, I tripped over a manhole cover while carrying the flag and fell on my face. I broke off half a front tooth and busted up my lip pretty good.

Stubborn chick I am, I finished the challenge and earned my 3rd GRT patch.

That was the easy part.

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