Challenge Yourself

Do you ever get bored with what you’re doing? Maybe it’s time to push yourself a bit further. Take on a challenge.

This challenge can be physical, mental, or spiritual, depending on what you need at the moment.

Here is my Challenge:

I just switched majors, from Accounting to Art Studio. (Yes, I know this is a bit of a jump, but it’s a change from something that will pay well to something that I actually enjoy.) In order to complete my degree in 4 years, including a Business Minor, I have to take a rather hefty course load. This semester I am signed up for 22 hours. (15 seems to be a common number, though I have not taken less than 16 thus far.)

I had an advisor tell me that you can’t take that many hours. Her response might have been similar if I had told her that I was going to the moon. “You CAN’T do that.” Which I found rather odd, since I have been signed up for the classes for about 6 months now, and she was the one who ok’d my schedule in the first place. πŸ˜€

I know this semester is going to be challenging, but I also know that I can do it if I manage my time well. If it turns out that for some reason I can’t, I still have a grace period of a couple weeks where I can drop some classes to a “normal” level with no repercussions.

So what about you?

What challenge are you going to take on? Push yourself (but leave an out if you need it).

Read Something Out of Your Comfort Zone

I am an avid reader (who has been frustratingly without time for pleasure reading here recently.) With a wide range of interests, I have far too many options when it comes time to choose the next books to read. Even with this many options, I frequently find myself reading similar types of material. In order to stretch myself, I try to peruse different “foreign” sections occasionally.

I am not a poetry reader (much less a writer… if I write it one should not be surprised when it starts with “roses are red, violets are blue”). However, sometimes an author or book will catch my eye and I’ll give it a try. Recently one did just that. After chasing the book down at the library I picked it up and have just begun reading it. For some reason, this poem caught my fancy.

By: Tom Disch
From: Yes, Let’s

A is an Apple, as everyone knows.
But B is a …. What do you suppose?
A Bible? A Barber? A Banquet? A Bank?
No, B is this Boat, the night that it sank.
C is its Captain, and D is its Dory,
While E – But first let me tell you a story.
There once was an Eagle exceedingly proud
Who thought it would fly, in the Form of a cloud —
Yes, E is for Eagle, and F is for Form,
And G is the Grass that got wet in the storm
When the cloud that the Egale unwisely became
Sprinkled our hero and all of his fame
Over ten acres of upland plateau.
So much for that story. Now H. Do you know?
H is the Hay that was made from the Grass,
And I’s the Idea of going to Mass,
Which is something that only a Catholic would do.
Jews go to Synagogue. J is a Jew.
K is for Kitchen as well as for Kiss,
While L is for all of the black Licorice
You can eat in an hour without feeling ill.
M is for Millipede, Millet, and Mill.
The first is an insect, the second a grain,
The third grinds the second: it’s hard to explain
Such a process to children who never have seen it —
So let’s go to the country right now! YEs, I mean it.
We’re leaving already, and N is the Night
We race through to reach it, while P is the Plight
Of the people (Remember?) who sailed in that Boat
That is still, by a miracle, somehow afloat!
(Oh dear, I’ve just noticed I’ve overlooked O:
O’s an Omission and really should go
In that hole – do you see it? – between N and P.
No? It’s not there now? Dear O, pardon me.)
Q is the Question of how far away
A person can travel in one single day,
And whether it’s worth it, or might it be better
To just stay at home and write someone a letter?
R’s are Relations, a regular swarm.
Now get out of the car – we’ve arrived at their farm!
S is the Sight of a Thanksgiving feast,
And T is the Turkey, which must weight at least
Thirty pounds. U is Utopia. V …
V simply Vanishes – where, we can’t see –
While W Waves from its Westernmost isle
And X lies exhausted, attempting to smile.
There are no letters left now but Y and then Z.
Y is for You, dear, and Z is for me.


Find something that is a bit out of your normal comfort zone and give it a try. You might just be pleasantly surprised by what you discover!

Creating a Clutter Free Desktop

I’ve got a lot going on right now, so I need to be able to focus. If you’ve spent any time around me, you know that I don’t do fixed focus and single-tasking very well. Indeed, as I write this I am sitting outside watching traffic go by, listening to the iPod and writing (all while avoiding studying for tomorrow’s exam). This is not my ideal productive state, though I do manage to get some quality work done in similar environments.

Every so often I head over to Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits and see what lifestyle goodness has been posted recently. The latest excursion resulted in a number of posts that I had to catch up on, including one on how to Create a Minimalist Computer Experience. Again, if you have ever seen me on a computer, I am anything but a minimalist. Right now I have three text documents open (one in notepad and two in Open Office’s Writer), one folder open (all 4 of those are for the studying I’m supposed to be doing), as well as three different instances of the Chrome web browser, with a total of 36 tabs open between them.

Up until about 10 minutes ago, my computer’s desktop was cluttered with icons, notes written to myself, todo lists, etc. I followed some of the directions in Leo’s post and immediately felt better. I took a few minutes to sort through the stuff that I had on my desktop; all but 4 of them were either combined, moved, or deleted. Of these 5, one will remain (the recycle bin) and the other 3 are the task lists for projects that I am currently working on.

While I loved my background photo (you can see it here under the “something feathery” category), not only was it quite busy but I’ve also had it for awhile now and was in the mood to change. (I have a small collection of potential background photos, just for when I want to switch it up a bit.) My new background is much more simple and relaxing.

I prefer to leave my start bar legible, because of the clock in the bottom right corner. I like a minimal number of programs running, and consider widgets to be programs. I already had some short cuts implemented, and have been using them for years now, so that advice was nothing new to me.

I haven’t taken the leap of letting Google Desktop index my computer. While I’m sure it would be handy, I just haven’t seen the need. I guess it’s just not my style.

That’s where I’m at thus far. I spent about 10 minutes making my desktop less cluttered, which immediately helped me relax a little. Because of that I can now focus on the tasks at hand and get some important things taken care of. Now I need to make myself study, and then I can spend focus on knocking out some of those tabs… cause I really do have too many open. πŸ˜€

Back in the Saddle

Nope, it’s not horse-back riding… I’m back on my bicycle, and it feels good! (so long as the hill is not too steep or long, of course.)

Until about 4 days ago, I hadn’t ridden my bicycle since December. It’s kinda hard to pack a bicycle in a suitcase (especially since I don’t have a folding bike). I was bicycle-less while in Ireland, and again after returning; not that a bicycle would have done me much good during the hectic month or so of cross-country driving.

Now I’m getting back in the swing of things. Work is going strong, finals are coming to a close and school is starting back up. Since everything is ramping back up to full time, and my wife and I’s schedules do not quite coincide, the bikes are being put back into action.

While I am definitely not in the shape that I was back in December (oh how my legs scream on the hills!) it certainly feels good to be riding again. It’s only a matter of time until I get back in shape (and with the way my schedule’s looking… it’ll be a short time).

Not only is it nice to be back on the bike, but it’s also a step towards one of the goals on my list. Some daily riding with longer rides once a week will be the small stepping stones I need to take to get there.

What did you used to do that you miss? Why aren’t you doing it now? No good reason? Go, do it!

Take a Break

Sometimes you just need to take a break. Stop. Recharge.

Our hectic exam schedule (mentioned here) is nearly done, and we are going to celebrate tonight. No studying, no books, no work. We’re just going to relax, enjoy each others’ company and do nothing.

Do you need to take a break? Perhaps your fuse is getting a bit short, you find yourself disgruntled with part of your life, or everything just seems to be going by too fast. If so, you might be in need of a break.

Your break does not have to be a weekend road trip. It simply needs to be some time taken just for you, doing something that relaxes you. You might want to take a few hours to focus on your hobby, go for a hike, or simply take a nice hot bath with a good book. Whatever you choose, don’t worry about upcoming tasks. They will be waiting when you return, renewed and with more energy.

Take a break. Stop. Recharge!

Upgrade Your Daily Tasks

Quill Pen Do you have tasks that you have to complete on a daily basis? Do you see them as boring, mundane tasks? You can make them more exciting.

This isn’t a post telling you to change your mindset, or your attitude. I’ll leave that to those who are better qualified. This post outlines a simple method to upgrade your daily tasks from mundane to interesting, if not flat-out exciting.

Let’s take writing as an example. We all have to write, even if it is just to make out a grocery list or jot down a phone number. This oft-done chore can be seen as nothing more than that. However, with a simple upgrade in my materials, I have turned writing down any mundane piece of information into a pleasure.

-que lights & music- Enter the fountain pen. No, I’m not using a quill as seen in the above photo (though once I find a suitable feather, I do plan on making one). I purchased a $5.99 Pilot Plumix from Target (you can see it below). It was a cheap and quick upgrade for my everyday writing requirements. Exactly what I needed.

Quill Pen

This little pen has injected some excitement into my writing. It doesn’t matter if I am making out a todo list (of which I have many), taking inventory at work or writing a note for my wife, I enjoy the writing process. I try not to write as fast so that I can enjoy what I am doing, which has also pleasing side-effect of improving the legibility of my handwriting.

While doing research into the various pens that are out there, I have stumbled across various examples of others’ handwriting. Some of these are absolutely gorgeous! They have inspired me to work on consciously improving my script as well. I have long wanted to do so, but never wanted to sit down and do the necessary work. Now that I look forward to writing, spending time doing drills will not be so bad, and will ultimately help me enjoy the process even further.

What can you upgrade in your daily life to make it seem like less of a chore? Maybe fountain pens aren’t your thing (I tried a rollerball pen the other day and loved it!). Perhaps a new kitchen knife that better fits your hand would help you enjoy prepping food when cooking, or a more comfortable seat would make you more inclined to ride your bicycle. Pay attention as you go about your tasks today and see what you don’t like to do. Whatever it is, determine why you don’t like it and see how you can upgrade your tasks!

Targeting A Goal

We have made our life list and narrowed it down to a year’s worth of goals; now it’s time to start achieving those goals!

I’m going to use my goal of “Be financially self-sufficient” as an example, as I feel that it will be the most challenging of my three. But first, let’s recap:

What makes a goal good:

A good goal is clearly defined, actionable and measurable.
My goal, as written, is not a good goal: “Be financially self-sufficient.” Let’s fix that.

  • Clearly Defined – What do I mean by “financially self-sufficient”? I further defined my goal by specifying that I want my income to not be dependent on an outside company; I don’t want to fear that I won’t get enough hours this week, that the boss will fire me or that the store will go out of business.
  • Actionable – A vague goal does not provide a target to work towards. A good goal narrows your aim.
    This is part of the reason that I combined this goal with another: “Have own successful business.” I can work towards building a successful business.
  • Measurable – You have to know when you have reached your goal. Being measurable draws that line in the sand. To cross my line, my business has to provide enough income each month to cover my budget.

Ok, now that we’ve got a good goal to work with “Control my own income by owning a successful business whose monthly income covers my budget” it’s time to get started!

Plan Your Steps

Figure out how you are going to reach your goal, actually write down the steps. This process can be handled in a couple of different ways. You might want to work from beginning to end: the first thing that you need to do, the second, next after that, next after that, reach your goal. You may prefer to work backwards: reach your goal, the last thing you did, the thing before that, the one before that, the first thing you do. Is it easier for you to picture yourself completing your goal, or working towards it? Whichever it is, start at that picture, and work to the other side of your journey.

To build a successful business, I have to:

  • determine where my strengths are
  • figure out how I can use those strengths to provide value for others
  • determine how best to monetize the providing of that value
  • set up a vehicle (business) through which I can share that value
  • begin providing value
  • expand my efforts until I reach my target income

What is the first step that you need to take to reach your goal? Do you need to find out just how big around LBL is, when and where you are most likely to see a moonbow or what strength you want to build your business around? (Probably not, unless you are borrowing my goal list.) Whatever it is, find out! You will probably be surprised how reachable your goal is.

Schedule Your Plan

With a calendar in front of you, lay out a time-line for each step in your plan. Keep in mind that these are not set in stone. Some of them will be take less time than you think, while others will stretch out longer. Don’t be surprised when things don’t go according to plan and be willing to work with these changes.

During this stage it is also a good idea to see how your different goals fit together. Perhaps your goals are large enough that you don’t need more than one or two. If that is the case, allow yourself to put the others on hold. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Two of my goals are relatively easy to achieve, both requiring more in the way of deciding to pursue them than planning and effort. The financial self-sufficiency goal is much more involved. I scheduled the smaller goals so that they serve as much-needed recreation during some of the harder times as I build my business.

Only One More Thing

At this point, the hard part is out of the way… figuring out what you have to do, determining a time-frame to do it in; only one thing is left. Take out that calendar, look at that first step and DO IT!

Breaking It Down

You have created your life list of goals and you have seen my list. Now it’s time to start working on them. But wait! Those are long lists! Of course they are, it’s called a Life List for a reason, you can’t do it in just a year.

Let’s narrow it down a bit so that you really can get started…

Which three of your goals do you want to complete in the next year? Three goals gives you enough to work on so that you can change projects when you get temporarily stuck and so that you can push yourself without becoming overwhelmed.

Which three goals?
I don’t know what your list looks like. I can’t tell you what to aim for this next year. Only you can decide that. You don’t have to choose goals that you think are “achievable”, part of this project is to push you beyond what you expect.

Here are my goals for this year are:

  • be financially self sufficient
    • have own successful business
    • sell my artwork
  • circumnavigate Land Between the Lakes
  • see MoonBow

The first goal encompasses two others (maybe a business selling my art?), circumnavigating LBL will take about a week, and seeing a MoonBow will take one night, with the proper timing. As long as I plan and prepare for these, they are all do-able (the second two easily). Without planning and working towards them, though, I won’t achieve any of these.

Even though I have long desired a business of my own, I wouldn’t expect to have one within the year (and am still not quite sure what I will do.) That’s ok, though, because that is a topic for another day. On Wednesday, we will discuss how to plan our goals so that they can be achieved in a year.

Today’s task:

Your Life List is made and you’re raring to get started. You can’t jump in and tackle them all at once, because you will never get any of them finished that way. Today’s task is to select which three goals you want to target for this year. Wednesday we will lay out our plans to achieve these goals and begin working towards them!

My Life List

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the
things that you didn’t do than by the things that you did do.

Wednesday we discussed the importance of making your life list and you made yours. (You did, didn’t you?) Here is my wife and I’s. We have already completed some of our goals, as evidenced by the mark-throughs. A couple of the lists are only for one of us, but the vast majority are combined goals. The items with a * beside them are continuous goals. Some of the items still need further definition, but at least we have something to begin working towards.



  • Get married to man/woman of my dreams
  • * Best husband/wife that I can be
  • have children – 2-3 in 9 years
  • – decide how want children to end up – this one still has to be defined further
  • visit host family (again/meet)



  • Read all of Bible
  • * Best Christian that I can be



  • * Never stop learning
  • learn to sail
  • learn to fly airplane
  • learn to fly helicopter
  • become fluent in language – able to have conversation w/ native speaker
  • learn Finnish – able to have conversation w/ native speaker
  • start college
  • graduate college
  • take an offensive driving course
  • study abroad



  • be debt free
  • $10,000 emergency fund
  • be financially self sufficient – not be dependent upon a specific company or two for our income



  • have own successful business – something we enjoy running that provides enough income to live comfortably off of
  • sell my artwork



  • visit all 7 continents
  • visit New Zealand
  • stay in bungalo built over ocean on stilts
  • motorcycle trip across the US
  • see the Northern Lights
  • see MoonBow
  • Bike ride across US
  • Visit all 50 states
  • Travel out of US



  • Thru-hike AT
  • Thru-hike Sheltowee Trail
  • hot air balloon ride
  • hang glide
  • skydive
  • bungee jump
  • circumnavigate LBL
  • go rappelling



  • take photography class
  • own running/reliable motorcycle
  • knit sweater
  • learn violin/piano
  • earn black belt



  • live in RV
  • Live in SailBoat
  • design/build own house
  • build log cabin



  • sponsor a child
  • * be generous with time
  • * be generous with money
  • * be generous with emotions



  • have a custom made suit

There is my life list. Monday I will show you how I made it actionable. If you haven’t created your list yet, go back to Wednesday’s post and do that! Monday we will start working on it.

Become A Rockstar

One of the goals on my Life List is to become financially self-sufficient. By this I don’t mean able to pay my own bills (already do that), but not being dependent upon some company that is out of my control for my income. I don’t want to fear that I could lose my job because the boss doesn’t like me, or that I might be let go because times are hard. I want to build my own streams of income so that I have more control over the financial flows of my life. I believe that entrepreneurship is central to who I am.

To this end, I have been doing quite a bit of research about creating small income streams in my spare time. I currently have one project in the works, with plans for another one after that. (More about this later.)

While doing this research, I have run across a number of other people who share my mindset. They are building businesses in order to pursue the adventures in their lives, whether that is traveling, spending more time with their families or just pursuing a career in something they love.

One such person is Cody McKibben, owner of Thrilling Heroics Consulting. Here’s one of the first things that caught my eye: “You can build an awesome business, you can live a remarkable life, and you can do anything and go anywhere you want!” If that doesn’t sum up what I am aiming for, I don’t know what does.

Cody’s mission this year is to “empower as many would-be freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other do-gooders to take back their power, to realize they don’t have to be just a cog in a wheel and take what life gives them.” This is a goal that I want to be a part of, and I am hoping to get Cody to help me make this blog even better.

If you’re looking to live a remarkable life, head over and see what Cody has to say!