Showing Up.

It is scary to have 1000 words ahead of you and no idea where they’re going to come from. Especially at 11:34 p.m., which is exactly when I am writing my first (productive) words of the day.

Even if you don’t share the same writing goal as me, I’m sure you can relate, in some way, to finding absolutely nothing inside of you when you need to put the pedal to the metal (for example, I first wrote that as “petal to the medal,” which makes no sense at all).

I’m not supposed to be writing this. I’m supposed to be working on the very project I set out to work on this month. And yet, I just want to make my word count tonight so I can go to bed.

These are the things I’ve been doing for the last two hours: Check Facebook. Post to Facebook. Check Twitter. Post to Twitter. Think about how tired I am. Check Facebook again (no notifications). Start to write. Stop. Make snack. Conduct a short debate on which will be my nightcap: coffee or tea? Come to the conclusion that such a debate is moot because coffee always wins. Start writing a NoExNo email. Become suddenly and inexplicably fascinated with what that one girl from high school is up to. Realize I am nowhere near where I need to be before I can go to sleep, and I start writing this.

Somewhere closer to 12 a.m., I wish I was stronger. That after a busy day, I could just sit down and create masterful and poignant work every single night.

So I check Twitter again. This time, I see that my friend Dan has tweeted the following quote:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” – Pablo Picasso

And then I get it. Tonight I was just going through the motions.  I was only writing so I could check my 1000 words off my check-list and be done with it already, quality be damned.

I was phoning it in. And yet, I was still doing the work.

Have you ever had your best workout when you least wanted to go to the gym? Have you ever wanted to stay in but then went out and had the night of your life? Have you ever found inspiration from something you did by mistake?

You have to show up to reap your reward.

The point is: unless you do the work, you’ll never know what will come of it. For better or worse, you owe yourself a shot at doing something great.

It starts with showing up.

Now do the work.

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The Value of Short-Term Goals

Let’s face it. It’s easy to let life get in the way of the things we want to do. We may want to go on a vacation, we may have an idea for a play, we may want to lose those extra pounds, we may want to start a business, we may want to make healthier choices for our lifestyles.

But we don’t follow through. Instead, we let day after day go by without making steps toward who we want to be.

Sometimes, thinking about the forever-ness of a goal can be daunting.  What if I never get to eat a pastry again? What if I find out the premise of my screenplay sucks? What if removing alcohol from my diet makes me realize I’m better off without it?

The truth is, making a commitment to self-improvement is scary.

I think that’s why the concept of making short-term goals is so appealing. In a sense, you are biting off just a small chunk of the giant Life Bagel you’ve been too afraid to endeavor to finish (apologies for this metaphor for those of you trying to lose weight).

This month (via No Excuses November), you are testing your own limitations in a safe and non-committal way.

As they say in What About Bob: “Baby steps.”

It’s also easy to lose sight of the value of a short-term goal. Just because you are only committing to do (or not do) something for a month doesn’t diminish its value to you in the long-term. The most important thing you are doing this month is proving to yourself that you are stronger than you think– if even for 30 days.

It is entirely possible that on December 1, we’ll all go back to our excuse-heavy lifestyles. It’s also entirely possible that we’ll go back even sooner than that. But from the stories I’ve heard from you and the progress I’ve seen, I am confident that if we work hard, NoExNo doesn’t just have to be a blip on our radars.

You don’t need me to stop yourselves from making excuses (as much as I’d like to take all the credit). All you need is to STOP making excuses and START taking action.

Yes, it will be hard. Sometimes, it will suck. Most of the time, you will be happy you did it. I said MOST of the time!

I challenge you to think of ways to extend your short-term goals into long-term ones. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I suppose we have 30 days to decide that.

Baby steps.

When the WORST Time is the BEST Time.

For a lot of you, November is a busy month. I had a conversation with a friend yesterday discussing all the reasons No Excuses November happened to have occurred in the worst time ever for me.

This month my hours increased at work. This month I’m running 35+ miles per week for marathon training. This month my parents move out of my childhood home. This month I have various “social obligations” to attend to (e.g. day drinking, night drinking, day into night drinking). So things are pretty busy even without my NoExNo goal looming.

Hearing this, my friend told me, “You don’t have to do this. Don’t kill yourself because you know people are watching. It’s okay if one night you don’t write 4 pages. No one needs to know.”

But that’s not the point of this at all. I’m not doing this because people are watching (hello, people!), I’m doing this because I NEED to. I need to learn that it’s possible to write and make progress even when it feels like I can never catch a break. Even when I can’t keep my eyes open. Even when all I want to do is watch every episode of “Arrested Develpment.” Twice. Even when I think that every word I type is rubbish.

What is the main obstacle you are facing this month? Are you overwhelmed? Or are you inspired by the challenge?

There is never going to be a month better than this one because this is the month you’ve chosen to start something. In fact, I think it is the best month for that very reason. If you can accomplish something when things are crazy, you have NO excuse not to do it any other time.

Now is probably the worst time to start something. But it’s also the BEST time.

You’ve started something this month. Now finish it.

A Month Without Excuses

I am BLOWN AWAY by the response No Excuses November has elicited. This email is going out to 38 people. Yesterday morning, I hadn’t even written the introduction email I sent out yesterday. I didn’t think that so many people, just like me, were tired of making excuses. You are getting this email because you want to make a change in your life. And if you’re my mom, you are getting this email because I shamed you into participating because your 80 year old mother was doing it (hi Mimi!).

No matter the reason you decided to reach out and ask to be added to this list of NoExNos (that’s a working abbrev), you have decided to make November a month without excuses.

Have you thought of what you want to commit to do (or not do) this month? While some of the people I talked to were still undecided about what they wanted to accomplish this month, a LOT of you knew exactly what you needed to do. Like you had been sitting on that ONE thing you keep letting slip away into Excuse Land (the place where dreams go to die). So if you haven’t chosen your goal yet, let your gut decide. Try not to over-think it. Make it simple. Make it tangible. Make it count.

Today someone asked me what the point of this was. Wouldn’t we have the same excuses now that we did two days ago and will have in December?

Yes. We will always have excuses. November isn’t this special, magical month. Unless we make it that way. This month, we are testing what we can do in a month without excuses.

What if you went to the gym even when you were tired? What if you edited your essay until 2 in the morning on a work night? What if you stuck to your running goals even when it was raining? What if you wrote 4 pages of a screenplay with pen and paper because your computer doesn’t have enough memory?

You will always have excuses. But let’s see what happens when we think about why we’re REALLY making them. Are we afraid to fail? Are we afraid to succeed? Are we just lazy? Let this month teach you about WHAT YOU WANT and WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF.

In The War of Art, screenwriter Steven Pressfield wrote:

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

What are you waiting for?

It’s time to give up on giving up.