5 simple steps to convert your dreams into reality.

I had several conversations this week with dreamers. They all had interesting ideas that they wanted to bring to life. Which led to our discussions about the next steps on their journey.

Through my countless conversations, with dreamers, it is clear that we do a poor job of teaching people how to bring their dreams to life. Which means that most people have an easier time creating a human than creating a blog. Which is crazy. Or it’s a sign that God wanted more babies than blog posts.

I have spent my entire career bringing ideas to life. First, as a professional advertising creative, then as a t-shirt creator. I ramped up the degree of difficulty when I created The Weaponry, a full-service advertising and ideas agency. Most recently I published the book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? Then I made 80 real fortune cookies, with my real fortunes inside them.

I know how to make dreams a reality. I follow a simple process. And I want to make sure you know it too. Here it is.

5 simple steps to convert your dreams into reality.

1. Dream: Think of the fun, interesting, and rewarding things you would like to create or do. Most people who come to me to talk about their next steps have gotten this far. I’m guessing you’ve gotten this far, or you probably wouldn’t have been interested in this article. Because headlines help us decide. That’s the power of advertising.

2. Write: Get the dream out of your head and write it down. This creates the first real manifestation of your idea in the real world. It makes it tangible and detailed. This physical form of the idea is like a blueprint or a recipe card. Once you have the dream written down you can bring it to life. The more detail the better. You would be shocked how few people come to this step on their own. Most dreams never make it to written form. Yet it is the easiest part of the process. Easy like Sunday morning.

3. Research Once you have your dream written down, do a little research to educate yourself on the topic, process, industry, or whatever you need to learn to get the train moving. Google is your friend. (If you’d don’t know what Google is just google it.) But the key is to do a little research. Don’t analyze things to death. Learn just enough to get moving. Then go. If you are researching more than a week before you take your first steps you are procrastinating.

4. Deadline Give yourself a deadline. Dreams without a deadline are pure fantasy. To get into the non-fiction section you have to constrain your plans with a due date. Or a Do-date. Or a Zippity-do-date. Set a date to take your first action. And set a date for completion. If you really want results, create an entire timeline. And block time on your calendar to take action, Jackson. Again, none of this is hard.

5. Action Get to the doing. Take the very first action. When you do, the next action will magically appear. Like Platform Nine and 3 Quarters. Then just keep taking steps. Always have a bias towards action. Bloggers Note: I once dreamed of writing a blog. By the end of this month, I will have written 800 blog posts. Because I just keep taking action.

Key Takeaway

Bringing your dreams to life is easier than you think. Follow the process. The steps are not hard on their own. Just keep taking steps and soon your dream will be your reality. If your progress stalls, revisit the process. Your problem will be solved by taking steps 2, 3, 4 or 5.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How deeply do you think?

Great ideas come from time spent thinking.

One of the best ways to think is to write.

Writing is like mining for ideas.

But with less black lung disease.

And more Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Every line you write digs deeper into a vein of thought.

The more you write, the digger you deep.

The digger you deep, the more you discover.

If you force yourself to sit down and write for an hour or 2 or 3 you will discover new thoughts and ideas that you had never considered before.

The pencil is your pick.

The pen is your shovel.

The keyboard is your drill.

Write to find new ideas.

Mine deep.

The more you write the more you will reach.

There are deeply buried gems waiting for you to discover.

But the only way to unearth them is with your writing utensils.

Scratch with each stroke.

Tap and type and claw toward those ideas.

Don’t stop short.

Get to the gold.

Discover the diamonds.

Mine for the motherlode.

The clues on the surface give you a starting point.

But the treasure is always deep below the surface.

Well below the obvious.

So write and find it.

Write fast and furiously. (Like Vin Diesel)

Write slow and smart.

Get to the spot where each word feels hard.

And important

And real.

And new

Go as deep

and

far

as

you

can

think

to

go.

Get in a groove. Not in a rut.

When you start something new it usualy feels uncomfortable. A new approach or skill is clumsy and awkward at first. Like an interview with Borat or Ali G. This is a normal part of the new.

Over time, however, things become easier or even second nature and instinctive. You dial in your process. You get in a groove. You find your flow. (And she tries to sell you Progressive Insurance, or tell you to kiss her grits, depending on your age.)

Getting in a groove is a great feeling. It’s familiar. Repeatable. Even easy.

But if you are not careful, that groove will turn into a rut. You’ll do the same thing over and over. Without improvement or variation. It becomes old and boring. Or outdated. Like a Hall of Fame hairstyle.

It’s important to find your way. The way that feels good and makes you feel strong, smart and capable. But don’t forget to keep trying new things. Keep experimenting, exploring and growing. Learn the new way. Adjust your approach. Apply creativity. Keep things interesting. Like the Dos Equis man.

Key Takeaway

Grooves are good. Ruts are bad. Explore the new, better and different. This applies everywhere. To your processes at work and home. To foods, travel, music, recreation and getting jiggy. It’s how you improve, keep things fresh, and flex your creative muscles. It’s the best way to find an even better way.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

For more ideas on growth and self-improvement check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? at FortuneCookieBook.com. It offers 80 life lessons the universe is trying to share with you.

I have finally seen a digital copy of my book.

I am in the process of publishing my first book called, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? The book, which has been picked up by independent publisher Ripples Media, shares 80 important life lessons the universe is trying to share with you. Fortunately, the universe shared them with me first and asked me to share them in both hardcover and kindle form. (The universe can be very prescriptive.)

Today, I am far from the romantic notion of writing a book. The fun and fulfilling creative process, and storytelling part of book writing are done. Now I have plunged deep into the mechanics of publishing. We are kerning and leading and deligaturizing. It’s a real literary party up in here.

Learning

I am learning a lot. Including that I am not nearly as irritated by my proofreader as she thinks I have the right to be. I value her like a friend who tells you when you have spinach in your teeth. Or that your fly is open. Or that you have spinach in your fly.

The PDF

I met a fun milestone last weekend. I received a PDF of the fully typeset book on Saturday morning. It was incredible to see a digital copy of the book. It finally looks just like a book. Or at least a Flat Stanley version of a book.

What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? is about 50,000 words, which I was told is a good number to hit for a full-fledged book. (And I don’t want to write an empty-fledged book.) However, I was surprised to discover that the book is 280 pages long. That seems like a lot to write. Which I guess I did.    

On Sunday, I sent a PDF of the full book to some trusted friends to provide a review for the book jacket and for Amazon. It marks the first time anyone but me, my editor, and my proofreader has been able to read the entire book. I felt like a chef at a restaurant sending a new dish out to the dining room for the first time. I hoped the dishes wouldn’t be hurled back at the kitchen door by an angry mob of tastebud-abused patrons. 

The Feedback

I have started to receive their reviews and I am blown away by the things they are saying about the book. They are digging it. They are finding valuable takeaways. They find it to be a quick, and enjoyable read. And I am relieved to not be ducking e-books hurled at my e-head.    

Key Takeaway 

Create that thing you always wanted to create. Share it with the world. Find your proofreader and editor types to help you focus and sharpen your ideas. Your trusted inner circle will provide feedback to help you strengthen and propel your work. The world will be better with your contribution. And you will be better for having shared it.

*If you know someone who would benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why you should keep a notebook with you at all times.

I have recognized an interesting habit among many of the most highly successful people I know. These high performers carry a notebook with them at all times. (Well, maybe not in the shower or scuba diving.) The notebook offers a place to capture great ideas whenever and wherever they are found.

There is a certain type of person who carries such a notebook. It is someone who recognizes that inspiration is everywhere. That you never know where ideas will hit you. And that a busy life has a way of making you forget your great thoughts moments after they arrive if you don’t write them down.

But there is another reality at work. You don’t have to be a genius, highly motivated, or accomplished to carry a notebook. There is no background check or grace period required either. In fact, you don’t even need to have an active project to pack a notebook.

The fascinating reality is that when you carry a notebook and a pen with you at all times, you are more likely to attract ideas and inspiration. You are more likely to notice interesting things around you. You are quicker to recognize the good ideas and the wows of the world.

You will constantly find things to add to your notebook. The ahas. The intelligent. The nearly undetected. The acorns. The inklings. The profound. The hilarious. And the motivational quotes. In fact, this entire post could have been written in a notebook. And maybe it was.

Key Takeaway

Carry a notebook and pen at all times. They are like dream catchers and lightbulb detectors. Convert the empty pages into collections of the valuable and inspiring. Fill your notebook with ideas. Then buy more. They push you to see the world through a notebook carrier’s eyes. Which is the best way to see life.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

The end of daylight saving is a great time to start your next big thing.

In 2005 I went to Iceland during the summer solstice to film a TV show. It was an incredible experience. On the flight from Minneapolis to Reykjavik, I watched what should have been the sunset through my airplane window. But instead of setting, the sun bounced off the horizon and went back up. And I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The sun never set the entire week I was in Iceland. It never got dark. And we never got tired. It was fun and energizing, like being in Vegas. Except the buffets were mostly fish, lamb, and rhubarb.

The atmosphere created a natural high. It was as if we were binging life through the nonstop outdoor activity. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what the counterbalance to this experience was.

I asked our producer Sven (of course his name was Sven) what people did during the winter in Iceland when it was cold and dark for long stretches. He told me that winter was wonderful because people spent a lot of time on their projects. On creativity, reading, art, and making things. And keeping each other warm (wink wink).

Now is a great time to get comfortable and create. But don’t think too much about the weird bird statue in the corner.

The End Of Daylight Savings

Today marks the end of daylight saving time in the United States. Which means it will now be dark by the end of the typical workday. Plus temperatures are dropping and in many parts of the country, snow could arrive any day now. That is unless global warming gives Mother Nature Alzheimers and she forgets.

The Indoor Season

Today we all transition to our indoor season. Which should be just as exciting and interesting as the warm and sunshiney months. Because now is the perfect time to start new projects, or resume those important projects you couldn’t carry while wearing flips flops and bikinis or board shorts.

Create

Now is the time to focus on creating businesses, writing books, reimagining your home, painting, and drawing. Now is the time for making music and playing instruments, even if you’ve never done it before. Because you can learn anything online.

The indoor season is the perfect time to plan your next vacation, your next adventures, or the next chapter of your life. Enjoy the time to think, and to do all the things that thinking inspires you to do.

Key Takeaway

Reframe the way you see the darker and colder part of the year as the exciting indoor season. Embrace and enjoy all of the additive elements it offers. Tap into your creativity and make new things. Think, read, write, and learn. Challenge yourself to make progress towards larger life goals that demand the type of focus the indoor season affords. And let the sunshine of spring find an even better, happier more fulfilled version of you.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

A little creative inspiration for us all from the US Postal Service.

Last week I needed to mail a check. Yes, this sometimes still happens. I went to the drawer where our mailing paraphernalia lives and pulled out a sheet of stamps. And I paused. I was struck by just how artful, detailed and interesting the stamps were. Then my wife Dawn said, ‘Don’t use those. I bought those for Johann.’ (My son Johann is really into trains, as you can read about in Never Be Afraid To Ask For What You Want.)

The stamps that got me thinking.

As I examined the stamps in our Stampatorium, spending far more time engaging with them than I ever imagined I would, I realized the US Postal Service could teach a master class on creativity. Because they infused massive creativity into a space that required none.

These are current US Postal stamps, as of this posting. How cool are these? I mean, it’s the sun, and the sun is super hot. But the design and idea are way cool.

The Stamp

The postal stamp has no reason to be cool or interesting. After all, its only job is to tell the Postal Service that the delivery fee has been paid. It could simply say PAID, and it would have met the minimum requirement. Heck, it doesn’t even need to do that. It could be a black square that you put on your white envelope and that would serve as a signal that the fee had been paid.

America’s first stamp from 1847. I think that is the guy from the Ben Franklin Stores. Although it looks like one of the guys from the 80s Hair Band Reunion Tour, who is now in his 80s.

Pushing The Envelope

Instead, the US Postal Service has created an endless parade of tiny works of art to adorn our envelopes. They are ever-changing, covering every season, every category of honor and commemoration you can think of. And plenty that you would never have thought of. But don’t worry, the Director of Stampology at the USPS has spent a lot of time thinking about it for you.

Some Super Stamps

As a result, stamps not only are interesting to look at, they often tell an interesting story, or teach a valuable lesson, within the bounds of a one-inch square. In fact, they do such a great job, that people collect them, trade them and sell them. In fact, my head high school track coach, Tom Jennings, had an entire business selling stamps, that all started with a stamp collection he had when he was a kid. And the only reason a kid starts collecting stamps is that stamps are cool and collectible.

Why Hello Stamp!

The Big Question

The postal service saw an opportunity to turn a tiny, forgettable touchpoint into their hallmark. Which should inspire all of us to ask:

Which touchpoints could I turn into differentiators or signatures for my business or personal brand?

As the postal service has shown us, anything can become a signature element of our brand. Just look around. Find the most boring element within your brand, or within your personal ecosystem, and do something interesting and differentiating.

Beautify America though stamps and plants.

My Calling Card

Can’t think of anything? Call me at 614-256-2850. If I don’t pick up you’ll get my voicemail greeting which always has a non traditional message. In fact, people often text me and tell me they are about to call just to hear my voicemail greeting. Which means people call me who don’t even want to talk to me because I have made something boring interesting. You can do that too.

Key Takeaway

Find your special thing. The thing that didn’t have to be special. That usually isn’t. But that you made special. That thing will not only add joy, intrigue, or interest to others, it will make you more memorable.Which means that when opportunities come along, you will be thought of first.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why you are less creative today, and what to do about it tomorrow.

The Torrance Test is like the IQ test, but for creativity. New research on the Torrance creativity scores by researchers at the University of William and Mary show that U.S. Torrance creativity scores have been dropping steadily since the ‘90s. (The decade not the age.)

One of the main reasons for our decrease in creativity is that we are no longer doing one of the most important things you need to do to think creatively. It is not creating Shrinky Dinks, wearing acid wash jeans, or rocking a mullet.

We no longer simply sit and think.

We don’t allow ourselves to be quiet and un-entertained. Today, we have cured ourselves of boring moments with our arsenal of digital devices, televisions, and computers. As long as you have electrical power you have something to do to fill your empty time.

But the ubiquitous digitization of our planet has a devastating effect on our creativity. It is like the burning of the South American rainforests. Or the melting of the polar ice caps. Except what we are losing isn’t trees or ice. It is our creative thinking and innovation.

So how do we solve this?

We need to be bored.

We need to stop entertaining ourselves at all times.

We need to turn our digitals off regularly.

We need to lie quietly in bed at the start and end of the day.

We need to turn our idea generators on and let them run uninterrupted for long stretches.

We need to reprogram ourselves to use these incredible digital machines as tools for creativity rather than time killers, entertainment crutches, and boredom erasers.

Creativity Tip: While you are waiting you should be creating.

Employers need to adjust expectations too. If you expect your employees to respond to emails, calls, texts and slacks quickly, you are programming them to check their digitals often. And that leads to the type of check-in habit that eliminates room to think. Instead, we should slow down our response expectations. And put a premium on regular stretches of total focus on creation, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

Key Takeaway

The longer you spend thinking the closer you get to great ideas. Make sure you spend the time you need to get all the way there. Long, uninterrupted stretches of thinking are where the gold is. So go there. Get yours. You’ll find your quiet time pays off in many valuable ways.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why it’s good to explore options that sound terrible.

Yesterday I grabbed lunch at a Willy’s Mexicana Grill in Atlanta. After I ordered my go-to lunch, The Frito Burrito, I headed for the beverage area to determine how I was going to liquidate my meal.

The beverage area included a Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage mix-master. There was an iced tea section with several suitably southern options. And there was a lemonade department with both lemon-flavored (go figure) and raspberry-flavored lemonade.

I love such liquidation stations. Not just for the variety. But for the opportunity to play mixologist and create my own signature concoction.

But you know who else loves that kind of liquidation station? Little kids.

As I was prepping to Frankenstein my cup I heard a kid tell his Dad about his fun new drink concoction. His Dad wrinkled his nose and furrowed his brow at the thought of the boy’s non-intuitive flavor collision.

Then the boy said something important.

“It sounds bad. But it tastes great!”

-Experimental Beverage Boy at Willy’s

When I heard the boy’s cheery response I felt immense gratitude for humans like him. I am thankful for curious minds who want to discover new options. People brave enough to try things that sound bad, but that turn out to be amazing. Like Ben & Jerry for putting pretzels in Ice Cream. Like Willy, for putting Fritos in my burritos. And for whoever it was that first decided to try drinking the white liquid that came out of a cow. And the brave soul who thought to eat the egg-shaped thing that popped out of a chicken’s nether regions.

Key Takeaway

It is those willing to experiment that discover the great new ideas. They create new flavors, sounds, styles, designs, and processes. They create new genres and shake up industries. They disrupt categories and reveal new possibilities for growth and expansion. Thank you explorers, creatives, inventors and pioneers. And thank you to the little boy and his beverage experiment that reminded me of all this yesterday at lunch. This week I hope you try something new that sounds bad. May you be well rewarded for your curiosity.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why adults should tap into the power of playing Pretend.

When I was a kid we didn’t have electronics. Check that, we had one television in our living room. It had no remote control, so you had to get up and go to the TV to change the channel and volume, or to fix the vertical hold. I didn’t have any video games. Our only phone was wired to the wall. And the only fun things you could do with the phone was prank call your friends, or dial 867-5309 and ask for Jenny.

The Pretender

As a result of my Amish-ish youth, I had to find other ways to fill my time. One of my go-to activities was playing Pretend. It worked like this: I pretended I was someone else with a more interesting life than my own. That’s pretty much it.

My pretending covered a wide range of roles. Sometimes I pretended to be a farmer, doctor, astronaut, or soldier. Other times I pretended to be a professional athlete or a cowboy. I used to pretend to run a chapel in my basement. And my older sister Heather and I even used to regularly play (wait for it…) Brother and Sister! We played together the way we saw brothers and sisters play on TV, or in the movies. Which meant that we got along better and did way more adventurous stuff.

Today I am full-grown-ish, yet I still play Pretend. Because I now recognize that if you play Pretend long enough, and really commit to the part, you can make things happen for real.

How it has worked for me.

College

In college at The University of Wisconsin, I pretended I was going to be an advertising creative. So I declared a major in journalism to learn about writing, strategic communications, and the other isms behind journals. I also declared a psychology major, because I wanted to know more about human thinking and motivation. I realized that declaring a major is simply a fancy name for playing Pretend. Just like kilt is a fancy name for man-skirt.

Entrepreneurship

In 2015, at the height of my employed career, I started pretending I was an entrepreneur, and that I owned my own advertising agency. So I started doing all the things I thought entrepreneurs do. I read books about launching and running businesses. I hung out with successful entrepreneurs. I wrote down all my plans. And I talked to people as if I was a real entrepreneur. Suddenly, real people started asking me if I could do work for them with my pretend business. When that happened, my pretend business instantly became a real business. Just like Pinocchio became a real boy. No lie. And no strings attached. Today that business is called The Weaponry.

Blogging

About the same time, I also pretended that I was a blogger. So I did what I thought real bloggers did. I went to a blogging website called WordPress.com, I created a pretend blog, and I started writing pretend posts. Then, after I had written 5 of those, I started publishing them. Within minutes people started reading them. You, my reader-friend, are proof that I am a real blogger. Because you are most certainly a real reader. (Maybe you could write ‘Real Reader’ in the comments to confirm my Real Reader hypothesis.) My blog has now been read in nearly 130 countries around the world. (Because there aren’t 130 countries crowded into one part of the world).

No ending to the pretending.

Today, I am playing Pretend more than ever. Over the past year, I have pretended to be a cartoonist, an author, a community organizer, a high school track coach, an investor, an employee of a tech start-up, a t-shirt maker, and the owner of a food business. All of these things that I have pretended to be are now in various stages of reality. Just like Kanye West.

What About You?

Are you pretending to be who you really want to be? Are you pretending to do the things you really want to do? It’s easier than you think. Just act like you did when you were a child. You knew what to do then. Simply do the same thing now. And if you pretend all the way, you will get all the way to what you were pretending to be. Just like Jackson Browne. Or Chrissie Hynde.

Key Takeaway

Never stop pretending. It is the first step to creating. It is how you activate your beliefs, manifest your dreams, and live into your vision. Because when you pretend hard enough everyone will take you seriously. Including yourself.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.