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.




Buying Produce in Italy

From the time I touched down in Florence I was craving a salad.

Italian SaladAlmost 24 hours of travel means a great deal of road food and none of it particularly good.

I needed veggies. Stat.

After finding my apartment and getting slightly acquainted with my new home, I went to the little bistro downstairs to enjoy some WiFi and my first Florentine meal. The salad was ample and my body was thankful.

Knowing the craving would return, though, I set off for the market. With my ridiculously little Italian, I thought it would be quite the adventure.

[Read more...]


The Universal FlinchI forgot my book when I left the house this morning so started “The Flinch” on the train into work. I arrived home this evening and I got into a very cold shower.

No, not like that — read the book.

I don’t know how long exactly I was in there but it was at least the requisite 5 minutes.

I listened to all of the screaming voices in my head saying that it was stupid and dangerous and pointless… and I did it anyway. Stepping into the spray. Shivering. Feeling the needle pricks on my legs over and over and over. Counting my breaths.

Even now as I am typing it sounds so foolish because it was so little.

Yes, the inevitable comparison to how others live: As I switched over to hot water I thought about all those that don’t have that option.

I also thought about how I wished I had just talked to the person on the subway platform instead (read the book). I thought about talking to my boys at the bar. It doesn’t really scare me to go into an unfamiliar place alone and sit and either be by myself or talk to someone.

I smiled at some folks on the tubes. Made space for someone who needed a seat. But “no problem” was the only conversation I made. While I know I could have done more, I flinched and talked myself out of it.

Lesson learned.

I also did do was more difficult for me: I came home and got in the cold shower. I’m glad I did. [Read more...]

What are you doing?!

Today I did something, that for me, was quite hard.

Along the way, I was reminded of a few life lessons:

Coffee Lesson: A-B-C

Conversation with self-identified small biz owner in blah field…

Me: “Oh, interesting. Do you blah-di-blah-blah or do you blee-blah-blah?”

Him: “Well what we do is kinda hard to describe actually. See we were on the internet really, really early. I can remember when I…” (after 10min story still no idea what he does)

Me: *tune out*

If you can’t respond to my attempts to connect to what you do (eg “Oh actually we do a blend of both…” or even “That is what you think of when you hear blah right? Actually we…”) then at least have a clear answer to the question of: what do you do?

[Read more...]

On Patience

Well so much for my resolution to blog every week (not counting my book posts). “Best laid plans” and “good intentions” and all that.

I have both my Vermont and NYC blogs begun but not completed and a massive amount of schoolwork to finish before I leave the country (?!) a week from today. Oh my day ‘job’ of niece-nanny has been keeping me fairly occupied.

Right now that means having a very tired 20month-old Lumpkin nap on my chest as I type this on my phone.

Oh well onward and upward…

As we were slowly making our way down the stairs today…one…step…at…a…time I had a few spare moments to contemplate the nature of patience.

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