Steven Pressfield: Your whale

Which idea, of all those swimming inside your brain, are you compelled to pursue the way Ahab was driven to hunt Moby Dick? Here’s how you know—you’re scared to death of it.


The whale is your unwritten book, your unsung song, your calling as an artist. You die grappling with this thing, lashed to it, battling it even as it takes you under. But your death is not a mortal death. You die instead the artist’s death, which leads to resurrection in a higher, nobler form and recruits you to the next hunt, the next chase, the pursuit of the next Thing You Love.

Is there a White Whale out there for you?

You’ll know that whale by these qualities:

Its accomplishment will seem beyond your resources.

Your pursuit of it will bear you into waters where no one before you has sailed.

To hunt this beast will require everything you’ve got.

You may have started, like me, as a junior Mad Man, scripting jingles for canine kibble. There’s nothing wrong with that. You may have prostituted your talent, sold out to the Man. I have, a thousand times. It doesn’t matter. I forgive you and I forgive myself.

Each incarnation is an apprenticeship, if you live it that way. Are you slaving now in some sell-out job? Are you living a Shadow Career instead of your real calling? It’s okay. It’s all part of the journey.

What you learn in Wrong Career #1 will serve you in Off-Key Career #2 and in Out-of-Kilter Career #3, and the wisdom you acquire in #1, #2, and #3 will form the foundation of Real Calling #4 (or #5 or #6 or however long it takes.)

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Write a new truth

“Write down your new truth. Make it exactly opposite of your greatest fear.”

~ Suze Orman


When you clarify your Vision and your Purpose you are taking Suze Orman’s advice to heart. You are writing a new truth for yourself. And then acting on it. At first in small steps, and then in ever more confident strides.

In my early twenties, a couple of years out of college, I left the family business — a tire store in South Florida. I headed to New York City for the glamour of living with my friend Gil in a dark 440-square-foot apartment in Hell’s Kitchen.

I fell into freelance proofreading because that’s what he was doing. And in the City they paid decently for simply being literate. For me the freedom was heady. I could log heavy hours at crazy times of the day — which really means night — late late night — and make adequate cash for our minimal load.

I took 7 vacations in one year. It was beautiful … until it wasn’t. I remember suddenly feeling stuck. Like there was nothing I’d ever be able to do to get myself out of the proofreading life. My eyeballs were burning from the outside in. Words — once magical to me — became mundane. Tiresome even.

One day I quit. My boss took me into his office and expressed how much they enjoyed working with me.

The conversation went something like this:

Boss: Why are you quitting? We love the work you do here.

Me: I can no longer be a proofreader. I’m dying inside. I’ve got to be me, man. I’ve got to be free. I’ve got to express myself!

Boss: Well, what do you want to do?

Me: Umm, I don’t know. But I refuse to proofread any more!

Very Cool Boss: Got it. But what are you interested in?

Me: You know, I spend all my spare time in the Graphic Design department. I love the cutting and pasting, the creative aspects, doing whatever I can to help out there.

Way Cooler Than I Ever Imagined Boss: I’ve noticed. They love you in there. OK. I accept your resignation from proofreading — only if you’ll come work in the Graphic Design department.

Me: Really?

Boss: Yeah, and we’ll pay you more.

Me, later on the way home, thinking: That’s all I had to do? Make a decision I would no longer accept my current place in the world??!!

The Graphic Design department was like advanced kindergarten to me. You got to draw and construct and design — all manner of fun projects came through — and you got paid to play. I was in bliss heaven.

I had written a new truth in my mind and reality shifted quickly to accommodate the new perspective.

That’s happened to me several times since then. Almost always it’s preceded by a feeling of being mired in a place of stagnation … and then in a burst of intensity I release this new thing from me. What gets released is a new desire I’m longing for urgently. I make a move in the new direction. Then another and another.

Reality always shifts when you demand it.

Excerpted from Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within

A question for you: Is there a new truth you want to put out there?

Write it down.

Then go relax, like Love Bear. Ideas will come.


The spirit of modern bohemia

Confiscated from Wikipedia (which confiscated the quote):

The impish American writer and Bohemian Club member Gelett Burgess, who coined the word blurb among other things, supplied this description of the amorphous place called Bohemia:

To take the world as one finds it, the bad with the good, making the best of the present moment — to laugh at Fortune alike whether she be generous or unkind — to spend freely when one has money, and to hope gaily when one has none — to fleet the time carelessly, living for love and art — this is the temper and spirit of the modern Bohemian in his outward and visible aspect.

It is a light and graceful philosophy, but it is the Gospel of the Moment, this exoteric phase of the Bohemian religion; and if, in some noble natures, it rises to a bold simplicity and naturalness, it may also lend its butterfly precepts to some very pretty vices and lovable faults, for in Bohemia one may find almost every sin save that of Hypocrisy. . . .

His faults are more commonly those of self-indulgence, thoughtlessness, vanity and procrastination, and these usually go hand-in-hand with generosity, love and charity; for it is not enough to be one’s self in Bohemia, one must allow others to be themselves, as well. . . .

What, then, is it that makes this mystical empire of Bohemia unique, and what is the charm of its mental fairyland? It is this: there are no roads in all Bohemia! One must choose and find one’s own path, be one’s own self, live one’s own life.

Is that not the very definition of the American dream now . . . in city or suburb or far flung rural isolation, “. . . to find one’s own path, be one’s own self, live one’s own life?”

Thou shalt expressify



It can’t keep us from our purpose, unh uhn

But doesn’t everyone want to be happy?

Maybe not. Life is too short to do what doesn’t matter, to waste your time on things that don’t amount to much. What we all want is to know our time on earth has meant something.

We can distract ourselves with pleasure for only so long before beginning to wonder what the point is. This means if we want true satisfaction, we have to rise above the pettiness of our own desires and do what is required of us.

A calling comes when we embrace the pain, not avoid it. Tragedies, unfortunately, are inevitable. Bad things happen to good people, whether we want them to or not.

What determines our destiny, though, is not how successful we are at dodging hardship but what we do when it comes.

Pain and suffering, though intimidating obstacles, are not strong enough to keep us from our purpose. In fact, they can sometimes be the very catalysts for such discoveries.


“The morning that transformed my entire life”

During the 2008 crash Hal Elrod suffered through a financial collapse. Which spiraled into an emotional collapse. Depression and thoughts of suicide came . . . then this. This realization, leading to this change:

Our outer world will always be a reflection of our inner world. Our level of success is always going to parallel our level of personal development. Until we dedicate time each day to developing ourselves into the person we need to be to create the life we want, success is always going to be a struggle to attain.

I ran straight home. I was ready to change my life.

Our First Challenge: Finding Time

I knew that the solution to all of my problems was that I had to commit to making personal development a priority in my daily life. This was the missing link that would enable me to become the person I needed to be able to consistently attract, create, and sustain the levels of success that I wanted. Simple enough.

. . . . . . .

Aw, Come on –Not in the Morning!

Then, I considered doing it in the morning—but I resisted. To say that I was not a morning person was a gross understatement. The fact was, I dreaded getting up in the morning, particularly waking up early, almost as much as I hated running.

But the more I thought about it, the more a few things started to make sense.

By committing to my personal development in the morning, it would give me a positive motivational kick-start to my day. I could learn something new in the morning. I’d likely be more energized, more focused, and more motivated for the rest of my day.

. . . . . . .

By doing personal development in the morning, I wouldn’t have all of the excuses that accumulate during the day (I’m tired, I don’t have time, etc.)  

If I did it in the morning, before the rest of my life and my work got in the way, I could guarantee that it happened every single day.

Finally, I just didn’t really see any better time to do it.

. . . . . . .

Our Second Challenge: Doing What’s Most Impactful

Then I encountered another challenge—what was I going to do for that hour that was going to make the biggest impact and improve my life the fastest?  

I could read, but I’d done that before, and I wanted this to be special.

I could exercise, but again, that wasn’t getting my juices flowing.

So, I pulled out a piece of blank paper and I wrote down all of the most life-changing personal development practices that I had learned over the years, but never implemented—at least never consistently.

Activities like meditation, affirmations, journaling, visualization, as well as reading and exercise. I chose the six activities that I thought would have the most immediate and dramatic impact on my life, assigned 10 minutes each, and planned to try all six the next morning.

. . . . . . .

The Morning That Transformed My Entire Life 

Teeth brushed, face washed, and a glass of water in hand, I sat up straight on my living room couch at 5: 05 a.m., feeling genuinely excited about my life for the first time in a long time. It was still dark outside, and something about that felt very empowering.

I pulled out my list of life-changing personal development activities I had learned over the years but never implemented. One by one, I implemented each one.


Sitting in silence, praying, meditating, and focusing on my breath, for 10 minutes. I felt my stress melt away, felt a sense of calm come over my body and ease my mind. This was different from the typical chaos of my hectic mornings. 

For the first time in a long time, I felt peaceful.


Having always made excuses why I couldn’t find time to read, I was excited to make time this morning and start what I had always hoped could become a lifelong habit.

I grabbed Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich, off the shelf. Like most of my books, it was one that I had started, but never finished. I read for ten minutes, and picked up a few ideas that I was excited to implement that day.

I was reminded that it only takes one idea to change your life, and I felt motivated.


Having never before harnessed the power of affirmations, it felt amazing to finally read the self-confidence affirmation from Think and Grow Rich aloud. The affirmation was a powerful reminder of the unlimited potential that was within me — and within each of us.

I decided to write my own affirmation. I jotted down what I wanted, who I was committed to being, and what I was committed to doing to change my life.

I felt empowered.


I grabbed the Vision Board off my wall. I had created it after watching the movie The Secret. I rarely took time to look at, let alone use it as the visualization tool it was intended to be.

For ten minutes, my focus shifted from image to image, pausing at each one to close my eyes and feel, with every fiber of my being, what it would be like to manifest each into my life.

I felt inspired.


Next, I opened one of the many blank journals I had purchased over the years. Like all of the others, I had failed to write in for more than a few days—a week at the most.

On this day, I wrote what I was grateful for in my life.

Almost immediately, I felt my depression lifting, like a heavy fog which had been weighing me down. It wasn’t gone, but it felt lighter.

The simple act of writing down the things I was grateful for lifted my spirits. I felt grateful.


Finally, I got up off the couch, remembering what I’d heard Tony Robbins say so many times: Motion creates emotion.

I dropped down and did pushups until I couldn’t do one more. Then I flipped over onto my back and did as many sit ups as my out-of-shape abs would allow.

With six minutes left on the clock, I inserted one of my fiancée’s Yoga videos into the DVD player, and enjoyed completing the first six minutes of it.

I felt energized. It was incredible!  

I had already experienced what was one of the most peaceful, motivating, empowering, inspiring, grateful, and energizing days of my life—and it was only 6: 00 a.m.!

Nothing Short of a Miracle

For the next few weeks, I continued to wake up at 5: 00 a.m. and follow through with my 60-minute personal development routine.

. . . . . . .

My stress levels dropped dramatically. I had more energy, clarity, and focus. I felt genuinely happy, motivated, and inspired. Thoughts of depression were a distant memory.

You could say I was back to my old self again—although I was experiencing so much growth, so rapidly, that I was quickly surpassing any version of myself that I had ever been in the past. And with my newfound levels of energy, motivation, clarity, and focus I was able to easily set goals, create strategies and execute a plan to save my business and increase my income.

Less than two months after my first Miracle Morning, my income was not only back to the level it had been at before the economy crashed, it was higher than ever before.

I knew this powerful morning personal development routine was something I would eventually start sharing with my private coaching clients, so I needed a name for it. 

Considering that the transformation I was experiencing was so profound and happening so fast — having gone from broke and depressed to financially secure and excited about life, in less than two months — that it felt like a miracle, the only appropriate name was The Miracle Morning.


When one door closes another door opens, but it can be Hell in the Hallway

When one door closes, another one opens, but it can be hell in the hallway. 

The hallway is that place between jobs, between relationships, during a major illness or after a permanent change or crisis. Life as you know it has ended, and you’re not sure what’s coming next.

. . . . . 

The hallway in contrast is marked by a definite door closing, an unmistakable shift in circumstances. It’s a change that initially might beat you down but inevitably calls you higher. This experience is an opportunity for nothing less than spiritual transformation.

. . . . . 

All hallways begin with something that has ended, and the experience might look and feel like profound loss at first, might seem as if your life has gone terribly awry.

But change is the only way life can be made better, and “better”often requires leaving behind what was merely good.

. . . . . 

[Take] fighter pilot Charlie Plumb, who was shot down and held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for six years. He first considered it a colossal waste of time. Yet years after he was freed, he said it was a “beautiful gift.”

A gift!

Trapped in an 8 by 8 foot cell, not knowing whether he would live from day to day. He said nothing could have taught him more.

“There’s great value in getting blown out of the sky once in a while,” Plumb said in a speech. “There’s great value in that wakeup call that forces you and me to re-examine the way we’re doing business. Said a little differently, adversity is a horrible thing to waste.”

(emphasis mine)

Excerpted from Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door: How to Move Gracefully through Change into Renewed and Abundant Life by Ellen Debenport


Jewel: On growing up in bars

Singer and songwriter Jewel grew up in Alaska, performing in bars with her father from the age of 5, when she learned how to yodel and became a draw:

Singing two nights a week and having a front-row view of the mating rituals of drunks and barmaids was another adult education in more ways than one. I have always had a poet’s heart, and I felt honored somehow to watch unnoticed as people lived such raw lives in front of me.


So many characters and faces that will forever be engrained in my mind. The smell of stale beer and vomit as we did our sound checks before the doors opened. As I got older, my favorite places to sing were biker bars. The bikers were always protective and sweet toward me.

When I was about twelve, playing at the Trade Winds biker bar in Anchorage, a man was outside foaming at the mouth, overdosing on PCP. Angel dust, I remember a woman whispering to me. When I saw the red lights flashing through the window, I set my mic down silently mid-song and walked from the stage to the bathroom so I wouldn’t get kicked out for singing in there underage. I knew the routine.

A couple of the biker men saw me do this and nodded to their women, who silently followed me to keep me company. The bathroom was long and narrow, and I remember the women coming in, drink making them warm and wordy. We sat on the toilets, the doors all flung open, and two sat on the sink counters, all of us looking at each other in the long mirror above the sinks.

The stalls on each side of me were occupied by women weathered and road weary, bleached blondes, brunettes, and one redhead, all wearing acid-washed jeans, tank tops, and leather jackets. Slight variances on the same theme. My stall in the middle, startling in contrast. A twelve-year-old wearing a long-sleeved shirt buttoned up to the very top button, showcasing a whimsical and heartbreakingly sweet pattern of kitty paw prints in beige. Long honey blonde hair straight as sticks tucked behind my ears, posture erect as I visited with the ladies, glad for their company.

The brunette on the sink wore fringed boots that hung off the edge of the counter.

“You sing real nice, kid. Real nice.”

“Thanks,” I said, enjoying the compliment.

“You know, my old man is finally gonna make an honest woman of me. The son of a bitch,” she said, to several chuckles from the other stalls before she continued. “You guys should sing at our wedding.”

I knew not to accept gigs on my own, and so I said, “My dad handles all of our bookings, but I’m sure we would love to sing at your wedding.”

In most bars I felt invisible, but it was always the bikers who kept an eye on me, sensing my vulnerability the way only other outcasts can. Bikers had their own code of ethics, which was palpable to me even at that age. With time I learned to be street-smart and to trust my instincts elsewhere in barrooms. I had to.

When I was about nine, a man in Alice’s Champagne Palace placed a dime in my hand, folding my small fingers around the cool silver, and said, “Call me when you’re sixteen.”

Another time I was walking to the bathroom, and as a man passing by caught a quick glance of me, he said casually, “You’re going to be a great fuck when you’re older.”

I learned to let my energy expand only on stage. Offstage and between sets I stayed small and drew little attention to myself. My dad made rounds and visited with patrons, and I would entertain myself by looking in a Michelob beer mirror, learning how to move each muscle in my face.

In fifth-grade science class we were told about involuntary muscles, and how we couldn’t move them, so I set out to prove that wrong, starting with my lower eyelids. I mastered moving my ears in all directions, isolating my lower eyelids and each nostril separately, and each quarter of each lip independently.

I loved to observe people. I watched love and life play out in a million ways, but one of the best things I learned was this: You don’t outrun pain. I saw men and women in those barrooms all trying to outrun something, some pain in their life—and man, they had pain.

Vets broken and drifting, abused women, abused boys who had grown up to be emotionally crippled men. I saw them all trying to bury that pain in booze, sex, drugs, anger, and I saw it all before I was able to indulge in many of those behaviors myself.

I saw that no one outran their suffering; they only piled new pain upon their original pain. I saw the pain pile up into insurmountable mountains, and I saw the price people paid who buried all that pain, and along with it their hope, joy, and chance at happiness. All because they were trying to outrun the pain rather than walk through it and heal.


Changing your biochemistry

Contrary to what we previously believed, our genes are not fixed. The study of epigenetics proves that our genes are actually fluid, flexible, and highly influenced by our environment.

And here’s the best news, just because you have a genetic predisposition for x, y, and z, doesn’t mean those genes will actually express themselves.

External triggers like nutrition, environment, exercise, positive or negative thoughts, and emotions literally affect your DNA.

So what truly runs in your family: heart disease and diabetes, or donuts and sausage?

How about gratitude and appreciation, or belittlement and abuse?

Change your thoughts, change your behaviors.

Change your behaviors, change your biochemistry.

Kris Carr in the forward to Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin

Procrastination done right (for idea generation)

Oh, you’re going to love this, fellow creators. Procrastination can amp up your creativity.
Of course, it has to be procrastination done right.
Read on. From Adam Grant’s Originals:

An unusually creative doctoral student named Jihae Shin approached me with a counterintuitive idea: procrastination might be conducive to originality.

When you procrastinate , you’re intentionally delaying work that needs to be done. You might be thinking about the task, but you postpone making real progress on it or finishing it to do something less productive.

Shin proposed that when you put off a task, you buy yourself time to engage in divergent thinking rather than foreclosing on one particular idea. As a result, you consider a wider range of original concepts and ultimately choose a more novel direction. I challenged her to test it.

. . . . .

To find out, she gathered data from a Korean furniture company. Employees who procrastinated regularly spent more time engaging in divergent thinking and were rated as significantly more creative by their supervisors.

Procrastination didn’t always fuel creativity: if the employees weren’t intrinsically motivated to solve a major problem, stalling just set them behind.

But when they were passionate about coming up with new ideas, putting off the task led them to more creative solutions. Procrastination may be the enemy of productivity, but it can be a resource for creativity.

Long before the modern obsession with efficiency precipitated by the Industrial Revolution and the Protestant work ethic, civilizations recognized the benefits of procrastination.

In ancient Egypt, there were two different verbs for procrastination: one denoted laziness; the other meant waiting for the right time.

It may not be a coincidence that some of the most original thinkers and inventors in history have been procrastinators.

A prime example is Leonardo da Vinci, whose original accomplishments spanned painting and sculpting, architecture and music, math and engineering, geology and cartography, and anatomy and botany.

Scholars estimate that da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa on and off for a few years starting in 1503, left it unfinished, and didn’t complete it until close to his death in 1519.

His critics believed he was wasting his time dabbling with optical experiments and other distractions that kept him from completing his paintings. These distractions, though, turned out to be vital to his originality.


How your Purpose drives your Vision: An example

I have a friend who’d like to find her life mate.

Her Vision looks like this: She sees a life with an equal partner. One who is energetic and ambitious, as she is. One with whom she can play, chat, romance, forage at the green market, curl up on a couch and watch a movie. Someone who is her considerable equal, with whom she can spar intellectually, grapple with the issues of this era, talk business strategy, and most importantly with whom she can laugh.

That is her Vision. To find her Purpose — the reason she wants a partner — you must ask her, “Why? Why do you want this?”

It’s important to get at what powers her Vision: Why does she hold this particular dream?

What appeals to her about having this play out rather than, say, taking an independent path and forging through this lifetime on her own as an intrepid solo adventurer?

For her it’s about love. Daily love and support. It’s the giving of love, it’s the receiving of love. It’s about the sharing of experience. Day to day. Moment to moment. She’s a strong, independent woman. It’s not that she needs a mate. She wants one. She desires the in-the-trenches camaraderie that comes from living your life out loud with someone else.

That is her Purpose: Living love, sharing experience daily.

Knowing her Purpose — to live and share love every day — that’s a gift! Because she can do that now. She may not be able — yet — to do it with the very same person day to day, but she can live and share love each and every day.

Knowing her deep Purpose allows her to seek out ways to give and receive love as continuously as she is capable. Right now. Today.

There are others with whom she can share experience. There are others crying out to be touched by a caring thought. There are others all around who’d like to run out for a coffee, discuss the charged political atmosphere, be sounding boards for career options, explore spiritual truths.

Others abound…

Opportunities abound…

For one who’d like to live her Purpose, the world is ripe with the chance to do so. Now.

The Vision may take time to achieve…

Purpose can be lived now. Always.

Excerpt from Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within