Posts in Life
Release the Pressure to Unleash Your Creativity

Nearly two years ago, Heather and I transformed Life and Whim from a blog, which we had started a year prior, into a business. Heather manifested a dream to create and launch a collection of northern Michigan-inspired apparel and accessories on our online store. It was both a stressful and exhilarating experience.

In anticipation of the launch, we spent a tremendous amount of time laying the groundwork by creating content in order to build an audience, being active on social media, and forming relationships with “influencers” who could help us spread awareness of our new entrepreneurial endeavor.

We did this work while running the marketing agency we’ve owned together for more than a decade. It’s the means through which we make our living. And, to be honest, we neglected our agency for a time as we chased our dream of building a lifestyle brand through Life and Whim.

We had really high hopes for the launch of our store. We envisioned a day, in the not too distant future, when Life and Whim would become our full-time endeavor. But things didn’t work out the way we expected.

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Plan Microadventures to Make Your Weekend Feel Like a Vacation

The typical overworked and overstressed American limps into most weekends. 5 p.m. on Friday is a finish line that leads straight to the couch. The rest of the weekend is a blurry haze of obligations, errands, and other tasks that couldn’t be accomplished during the workweek. Instead of going into Monday refreshed and recharged, we enter the new week just as exhausted as we left the previous one.

 

The cycle repeats over and over, intermittently interrupted by vacation time. The thing is, we’re not particularly good about taking vacations. The Society for Human Resource Management found that while employees who take more vacation are happier and more productive, the average worker took only 17 days off in 2017. Another recent survey found that the average U.S. employee takes only half of their allotted vacation time. Moreover, in today’s “24/7” always-on work culture, vacation often means merely working off-site.

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15 Reasons to Have More First Moments

While spending way too much time inside over the past week as the polar vortex descended on the Midwest, Heather and I started planning our summer bucket list. On the agenda are some classic favorites, such as camping trips with friends, beach days in Sleeping Bear Dunes, backpacking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and lazily exploring northern Michigan’s quaint coastal towns. 

But a bucket list wouldn’t be complete without adding some new adventures into the mix. Routine has its benefits, but life—especially in adulthood—can get stale without the pursuit of more first moments. 

Think about the last time you learned a new skill, hiked a new trail, visited a new country, or formed a new relationship. Recall what it feels like to expose your family to new experiences, and to see the wonder in your children’s eyes. These are the moments—“First Moments”—that make us feel alive, create lasting memories, and remind us that how we spend our days is how we’ll spend our lives.

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Make Your Everyday Place Your Happy Place

For years, while living in urban and suburban environments, Heather and I would look for opportunities to escape to our “happy place.” When the stress became too much, the busyness crept in, and we just needed a moment to catch our breath, slow down and spend time in nature, we’d head north. Most often, Traverse City, Michigan, was our destination.

We would spend a long weekend recharging, hiking the trails and exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes, eating fresh food, and breathing in the crisp air. After a few days, we would begin the trek home, and spend much of the four-hour drive fantasizing about how nice it would be to spend all of our time in our happy place while lamenting how unrealistic the whole idea was. After all, we had a family to raise, businesses to run, and responsibilities to look after. Maybe after we retire, we’d conclude, while exiting off the highway.

But year after year, the allure of our happy place would keep pulling us back, and that nagging desire to make our intermittent escapes our everyday existence persisted. The obvious and irrefutable logic of the truth we were denying was inescapable: We only have one life to live, so why wait until retirement—an uncertain, future outcome—to live how we want, where we want?

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Training the Mind: The Most Important Workout You’ll do in 2019

Here I sit, alone, at the keyboard, staring at the blinking cursor. It’s the new year and time to publish a new post on our blog. I have high expectations—I want to write something insightful, helpful, and that strikes a chord. Yet these expectations are crippling. All I can focus on is the outcome, and I fear that the result of my work will be nothing but banal meaninglessness. More drivel. Just another insignificant drop in the ocean.

So my mind races. The very thing—focus—that is required to achieve the outcome I desire—insight—escapes me. The shorthand for this state of paralysis is writer’s block.

It’s a strange thing, writer’s block. It’s not like I forgot how to write. Writing is merely the act of putting down words on paper. As Seth Godin likes to say, it’s not like anyone gets talker’s block. You just talk, and the words dissolve into the ether. And I guess that’s the rub: These words are staring me in the face. They’ll exist for all time, and will be subject to the judgment of others. Hence, the high expectations. 

 In moments like this, as I’ve learned over time, the only way out is to confront the constraints head on. Write what you know, as they say, and right now all I know is that I’m trapped by my mind. So here we go.Most people, who are desirous of a future result, want to get there as fast as possible. They set an ambitious goal and try to accomplish it quickly, which typically leads to failure, burnout, and frustration. 

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To Achieve what You Want, Try Checking in with Your Future Self

In the moment, change can seem impossible, because change takes time. You may have a strong desire to lose weight, start a new career, move to a new place, or start a movement around new ideas, but the enormity of the outcome you seek gets lost in the everyday craziness of your life. There’s such a large gap between who you are and who you want to become that it seems foolish to even try. 

Most people, who are desirous of a future result, want to get there as fast as possible. They set an ambitious goal and try to accomplish it quickly, which typically leads to failure, burnout, and frustration. 

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The Most Important Contributor to Happiness, According to Science

In the summer of 2017, I spent months in a state of inaction, wrestling with myself about a problem I was facing. I had an idea for a book I wanted to write, but I was worried that a publisher wouldn’t be interested in it. I wrote and rewrote book proposals, researched literary agents, and weighed pros and cons. 

I was worried that the book wouldn’t be good enough. I feared being rejected by the traditional publishing industry.

Around Labor Day, I had an epiphany and came to a resolution: Just write the damn book. After all, how was I to know whether the book was good enough until there was an actual book in existence to judge?  

Six months later, the book was published. But I didn’t go the traditional publishing route. Shortly after I started to write the book, I decided to self publish. With action, the right decision became clear. I wasn’t going to put my dream into someone else’s hands. I didn’t want to relinquish creative control to a gatekeeper. I decided to succeed or fail on my own terms. 

By assuming control, the weight of the anxiety I was feeling lifted. The inertia of inaction eased and was replaced by the joy of autonomy.“We better jog it out,” I said to my wife Heather.

She glanced up at me, strapped on her pack, and without a word headed down the trail at a good clip as the rain began to intensify.

We were in the middle of a getaway weekend, and in the midst of hiking through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, on our way to the City of Marquette in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. It was my idea to stop in Pictured Rocks, one of my favorite places to hike, since it’s on the way (more or less) as you drive west through the peninsula from the Mackinac Bridge. 

Heather was up for hiking, as she always is, but there were a few details that I probably should have thought through a bit better. 

For one, we only had about two hours to spare and seven miles to hike over mildly rugged terrain, which wasn’t going to leave us much time to linger at the points of interest along the way, including majestic waterfalls and iron ore-stained cliff formations. 

Two, I forgot to take into account that there are not many easy dining options for long stretches in the Upper Peninsula, so we were forced to skip lunch in order to get the hike in. Heather is not a big fan of skipping lunch (ever see those Snickers commercials?).  

Finally, I didn’t look real closely at the weather—if I had I would have noticed that a storm was scheduled to roll in precisely at the time we were to reach the 3.5 mile turnaround point on our “out and back” hike. Hence, the need to “jog it out.”

When we reached our car—cold and soaked from head to toe—I tried to put a “look on the bright side of things” spin on the situation. Again, a glance but no response as Heather wiped mud off...well...pretty much everything.

 

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