My Triple Whammy

Flickr photo by Matthieu Luna

I’ve hinted a bit at parts of what I’m about to write but I realized that I haven’t actually laid out the whole thing that’s going on in my life all in one place – so here goes.

September has been a rough month. Three major things have happened to me and my family, any one of which would be stressful all on its own. I’ll use the popular numerical checklist format to add a little emotional distance…

  1. About three weeks ago, we found out that we have to move. The house we’ve rented for nearly a year in New Mexico needs major construction that will be very disruptive and last months. I work at home, we have kids, and the owner of the house never made any offer about how to resolve that.
  2. The filmmaking seminar business has been really weak and the last two events I did have lost money. I’ve made sure the events have been great and the show must go on but it’s been a big financial hit.
  3. I talked a bit about the problems with my eyesight due to diabetes but it’s worse than I said, really. I need medical treatment at this point and I probably need to get back on some medication.

So – health problems, financial problems and we have to move. That’s been September so far.

But I’m an optimist and a realist. Things could be a lot worse. The kids are good, we’re not starving and Lauren is the love of my life. We’ve adjusting and the adjusting contines.

My experience is that things in my life seem to happen for a reason and it’s a growth process. Our time in New Mexico has been great and we learned something about suburban living; we like some parts of it and other parts we could do without.

I’m a fan of simple philosophy that people like Leo Babauta write about in his great blog Zen Habits. I’m a fan, not an example…but I’m trying. I’m trying to regroup and really hone in on what’s important.

In screenplays, the hero often doesn’t choose to embark on their journey but instead they are forced to by forces beyond their control. That’s a lesson that’s shown up a couple of times for me lately. It came up in the Donald Miller book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years and it came up a few days ago in a conversation with screenwriting expert Derek Rydall. If you believe the universe is rather barren and mathematical, you can call it a coincidence even though that doesn’t explain a damn thing. What I’ve noticed in my life is that sometimes the universe seems to toss out messages to me and I’ve learned to try and listen.

Whatever prevents you from doing your work has become your work. – Albert Camus

The journey I’m being forced into is one where I’m a writer. I loved to California over twenty-five years ago to write and I just haven’t.

I’ve done other stuff. I’ve done things that I loved doing including photography and visual effects and other things that blind people don’t do all that well.  So now while I’m at a fork in the road where I may actually go blind, I’m getting the message that maybe I should write. I can do that, so I’m going to do a lot of that.

I’ll probably do some other stuff because I do but I’m trying to reboot my life yet again and focus on writing and my health and actually walking the simplicity walk.  I want to stabilize my businesses, too and of course, my family is all wrapped up in everything I do.

I feel very lucky. I’ve had so many things happen in my life that went far beyond my wildest dreams and excited to see where this next phase of my life leads. Thank you for being part of it, just by being here.

What You Can Learn From Trader Joe

Lauren and I LOVE Trader Joe’s — a chain of small grocery stores that are in 25 states plus D.C. If you’ve shopped at TJ’s, chances are good you love themm too.

So I found this article from the Fortune really interesting. Some of it relates to my Essentials Project, too.

One example — Trader Joe is twice as profitable as Whole Foods Market per square foot and their secret isn’t more but less selection.

With the greater turnover on a smaller number of items, Trader Joe’s can buy large quantities and secure deep discounts. And it makes the whole business — from stocking shelves to checking out customers — much simpler.

Swapping selection for value turns out not to be much of a tradeoff. Customers may think they want variety, but in reality too many options can lead to shopping paralysis. “People are worried they’ll regret the choice they made,” says Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore professor and author of TheParadox of Choice. “People don’t want to feel they made a mistake.” Studies have found that buyers enjoy purchases more if they know the pool of options isn’t quite so large. Trader Joe’s organic creamy unsalted peanut butter will be more satisfying if there are only nine other peanut butters a shopper might have purchased instead of 39. Having a wide selection may help get customers in the store, but it won’t increase the chances they’ll buy.

Essentials Project : Project Clutter

When I introduced my Essentials Project, I mentioned that I want to start cutting down my possessions to get to what is really important to me. Well, there’s another any of my life that I’ve realized is totally out of control — my projects.

Take a look at that picture. Those pieces of paper list the current projects that are on my plate. I started making a list of what I’m working on last night, typing each one in big letters so I can read them easily on my wall (and using different fonts for each one for clarity and because I love fonts.) Each line is a project that is supposed to be bringing in money.

And yet — I’m not bringing in very much money at all right now.

Once I typed out all the projects, my problem because totally obvious to me; I have way, way too much on my plate. Very very few of my projects are automated. My assistant Crystal is only working on a couple of them and the work she’s doing doesn’t directly relate to brining in income. Almost all of those 21 projects require my work and attention to nearly every details.

I’d saying I’m drowning in projects but let me put it another way — my projects are drowning because of ME and it’s not fair to either the projects or the people who could benefit from them.

So this becomes one area that I really need to cut down to eseentials. I need eliminate, delegate, automate and otherwise do things to let these projects to live and breathe.

Anyone else have the same problem? Do you have too many projects or too few?

Add Erica Goldson To The Hero List

Erica is a high school valedictorian who may have written the best speech ever given in a high school. . Go read it now but here’s a little bit of it.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers.
I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him.
But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave.
I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost?
I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.