Challenge: This Week, Be A Hero

This is how real heroes usually feel.

I’m headed into the African bush again tomorrow, with a bunch of people who are no doubt asking, “What the hell they’ve gotten myself into?” I have a challenge for you to tackle while I’m gone. In five days, when I come back (assuming I don’t do something foolish involving enormous fanged animals) I’d love to hear how it goes.

Here’s the thing: it’s never the right time for an adventure. In every culture’s hero saga, the first event is that the hero hears a “call to action.” The second event isn’t a fearless leap into the fray. It’s the hero’s refusal of the call. That’s right; every hero from Odysseus to Xena, Warrior Princess, hears the voice of destiny and sprints immediately the other direction.

You see, no one can afford a hero saga. No one has the time. No one is free from other obligations. The right moment to do something heroic feels a lot like never.

We all hear the “call to action” from time to time, and all of us—all of us—say “no.” What differentiates heroes is that they change their minds and head back toward the dragon’s lair, shaking their heads and thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”

When this question appears in your life, congratulations! You may well be headed toward your ultimate purpose. At the very least, you’re having an adventure. And you don’t have to go to Africa; your next heroic task may be to have a baby or change jobs or stand up for yourself. The key is to follow the call—the impulse to do something extraordinarily inconvenient and demanding.

Here’s my challenge for you: If you want to find your passion, know your life’s purpose, meet your soulmate, or feel intensely alive, don’t look toward the fun things that fit logically into the flow of an easy life. Ask yourself, “What am I running away from?” Whatever that thing is, turn around. Walk toward it. Face it and conquer it, or die trying.

Most of the time—in fact, every time but one—you won’t die But you will question yourself every other step, get exhausted, be scared half to death. You’ll regret accepting the call a thousand times. Only when it’s over will you truly realize how grand your adventure felt, and what an awesome story you have to tell.

Take the challenge this week, and see what happens. I’ll meet you back here, having met a few more heroes myself, the hear how it all works out.

I Rest My Pace…Insight From Martha

This week I sliced my thumb nearly to the bone, smashed my knee so hard my head exploded, bought $400 worth of software it turned out I did not need, and spent one long day griping at everyone I saw. This, gentle reader, does not fulfill my self-help motto “live it to give it.” 

At the end of that awful day, bruised and bleeding from both my thumb and my bank account, I realized I had lost the life rhythm of my essential self. I was working flat out and accomplishing very little.

This is not a first for me.

Past experience has taught me that although we all have the same amount of time in one day of our lives, we can put a great deal of life in our days by re-establishing our natural rhythm. It’s not about working harder, smarter or faster; it’s about working in harmony. (Check out this month’s telecourse below to get Terry and Susan’s take on this issue)

The rhythm of our essential selves is like almost every other rhythm in nature. It has two phases which I call “rest” and “play.” When you rest in harmony with your essential self, you feel as drowsy and contented as a cat in the sun. Right now, look back on a wonderful lazy day in your past. Maybe you were falling in love or you just finished a huge project. For some reason, you’ve given yourself permission to just goof off.

For the next ten minutes, give yourself that permission again. For me, it helps to pretend I’m in the company of “resting buddies.” These are real people in my life with whom I’ve goofed off in the past. As I picture them, that energy of loving relaxation comes back easily. It can also help to be around an animal — a horse, an iguana, or a dog — who is just being.

As you stay connected with your essential self through rest, there will come a moment when something piques your interest. You will want to get up and investigate, or you’ll be thrilled by the idea of exploring some area of your life – familiar or unfamiliar. (For me, this often takes the form of something I want to write.)

This is your signal that the essential self has finished resting and wants to play. Let it.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the idea of using the word play to replace the word work. If you have no way to feel playful doing your work, get different work. One of my coaches will be happy to help you.

This is not to say that play is easy. Real creativity, which is the essence of play, can feel absolutely grueling. But ultimately there is a sense of joy and meaning in having done it. The essential self doesn’t mind hard work. But it will reject meaningless work.

Of course you may not always be able to dictate the times when the external world wants you to work or play. So make conscious deals with your essential self (I’ve shown you how to do this in my first-ever video blog) Say right out loud, “Essential self, I promise you, that if you get up now and drive to the office with me, I will spend 2 hours goofing off this evening.” (For me “goofing off” is always watching TV with my family.) Or “Essential self, my body’s too tired to keep playing and I need rest. I’ll play your favorite computer game so you can wind down.” You’d be amazed how your energy cooperates when you make and keep such promises.

This is what I did to get back in touch with my own harmony. Though I felt as if I were slowing down, every good thing in my life suddenly quickens. People who had been ignoring me once again began returning my emails and getting my work done. Once I’d rested deeply, the project I was “playing” on developed with astonishing speed and ease.

You get more life in your time when you find the path of harmony, rather than the path of force. And it really, truly feels as if you have more time in your life, too.

More time. Can you imagine that?


This is the first Easter in 15 years that I’ve celebrated Easter without my beagle, Cookie, who lived a rich, full life, and passed away several months ago. This makes me think of the first Easter I celebrated with Cookie. And a memorable celebration it was. At the time, my kids were little, so we read more…

Strange Book Preview

Hey, everybody! I just discovered this cool program called “wordle.”  Google it!  You paste in a bunch of text, and according to word repetition and frequency, it creates a “word cloud” that represents your whole text in one schmear. Here’s what the first 90 pages of my new book The Team look like in Wordle. read more…

Yellow Is Gold

For the past two weeks or so, every traffic light I drive through turn yellow while I’m in the intersection. Those lights are yellow for much less total time than they are either red or green, but I’ve become a yellow-light magnet. What’s more, as I drive under the lights, it almost feels as though read more…

I’m Creaning Up My Mind in 2010

Hello, dreamy friends! As you know from our frequent conversations, I’m a HUGE lover of Asian philosophy (though I am trying to take off a few pounds).  Finding the world’s wisest book, the Tao te Ching, was one of the two good things that came from my naive college decision to major in Chinese, a read more…