May 6

The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful will win.”

“The reason sport is attractive to many of the general public is that it’s filled with reversals. What you think may happen doesn’t happen. A champion is beaten, an unknown becomes a champion.”

“The mile has all the elements of drama.”

Roger Bannister

May 6, 1954 is a legendary day in sports and human history. Here’s why: It’s the day that Roger Bannister, a British medical student, made history by breaking the four-minute mile. Just about everyone thought it was impossible do: The medical community warned that a runner’s heart would explode at the pace needed to run a mile in under 40 minutes. Even Roger thought it might be true, but he ran it anyway.

But here’s something even more amazing I’ve learned about Roger, thanks to my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert’s fabulous Success Hotline (973.743.4690): he only trained 45 minutes a day! That’s right: while his competitors were practicing long hours, Roger put in less than 60 minutes a day. After all, he was a medical student with a full work-and-study schedule; he didn’t have any stray minutes to spare.

But as Rob says, “It’s not how much time you put in, it’s how much you put in the time.” Roger made up in intensity what he lacked in quantity. He’s surely a beacon of inspiration for of us who have limited time to write each day. If Roger could run his way into the history books footfall by footfall, well then, we can write our way in word by word. And as Roger proves, we don’t need tons of time to do it, we just need commitment, focus, intensity, and discipline.

Here are two more fascinating facts in this story. First, right after Roger broke the barrier, other people left and right began running four minutes miles. By proving it was possible, he made it probable. Second, when Roger ran his way into history, he was rebounding from a huge defeat: He had just recently competed in the Olympics, but failed to medal, though he was England’s great hope. After wiping out in the Olympics, instead of giving up, he set an even bigger goal: becoming the first man in history to run the four-minute mile — and dedicated himself to it. Now that’s persistence! Ultimately, Roger hung up his track shoes and became a world-class neurologist. He was also knighted, not once, but twice. What a story — write on!

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Get Started!

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Goethe

Get Started! Do you have an idea you’re fired up about? Instead of simply thinking and dreaming about it, take action! Make something happen. Get it down on paper. Get excited and energized about it. The more you write, the more you’ll want to write.

Take action — this message was at the heart of the workshop “Write My Book: Surviving and Thriving,” hosted by Andrew Marotta, an author, educator, and engine of enthusiasm (https://andrewmarotta.com/).

Talk about being fired up! When Andrew describes his writing journey, you can see the sparks flying! He’s the author of The School Principal: Surviving and Thriving and The School Leader: Surviving and Thriving, two inspiring handbooks on creative leadership. He and his workshop team, Marlene Froelich of EduMatch Publishing and Rick Jetter, educator and author, offered some practical tips on putting pen to paper and fingers to the keyboard:

Harness the Power of One Idea: All you need to get started is one idea that you’re fired up about. Andrew’s writing journey began when Dr. Rob Gilbert* heard him speak about his experiences and insights as a high-school principal and urged him to write a book and get his ideas to a wider audience.

Get it Down: Whether you’re experienced or aspiring writer, your biggest challenge is getting your idea out of your head and onto the page. How do you get started? You simply start. Get a notebook or open a computer file and just start jotting your ideas down. Once you open the spigot, they’ll keep coming. Soon, as Rick Jetter says, you’ll get “addicted” to the process and you’ll be off and running.

Share and Serve: When you have a goal that’s bigger than you are, your words and ideas take flight. Think about who you want to reach, why you want to reach them, what impact you want to have. And think big! Andrew’s goal is to get his message about surviving and thriving out to every principal in America. What’s yours? Who do you want to reach?

Keep Going: Writing is a journey — you’ll hit potholes, but just keep moving forward. You’ll make mistakes along the way. So what? Fix them and learn from them and grow from them. Momentum matters.

Bravo, Andrew — inspire on! And now, emboldened and encouraged, let’s all make a difference by writing on.

*Check out Dr. Rob Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline: 973.743.4690

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Relaxed Minds

Albert Einstein is believed to have invented the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. Evidence is mounting that taking breaks from mental activity boosts productivity and creativity. The reverse is also true: Skipping breaks can create fatigue and stress.

A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Our mind becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest to recover, much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of reps.

“Short and frequent intervals of study” — that’s the advice one of my high-school teachers gave us about studying. It turns out, she was right. Working intensely, even for 15-minute periods punctuated by breaks can be more productive than sitting long hours at a desk. Breaks also encourage flashes of inspiration. A few brain-boosting ideas:

Listen to a guided meditation for 10 or 15 minutes. There are tapes and CDs that promote relaxation and mental refreshment — and reduce muscle tension. Just put on a pair of headsets and you’re off.

Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Walk away from your desk. Find a quiet place, where you can sit, close your eyes, smile to yourself and take a few deep breaths. Imagine tension, stress and anxiety leaving your body as you breathe out, and peacefulness, positivity and relaxation filling your mind with every breath.

Eat an apple. In the middle of a busy day, when you feel rushed, take a few minutes to eat an apple (or another favorite fruit). Just do it very slowly. Notice the flavor, the texture, the freshness. After a few minutes you’ll feel much calmer and less stressed.

Energize yourself with H2O. Drink a full glass of water, then splash some water on your face: warm to relax or cold to wake up and make yourself more alert.

Do something artistic. Write a short, funny poem. Draw a picture or doodle. Take a few photos of your surroundings. Let your creative side shine!

Get moving: Leave your cell phone behind and head outside for a brisk walk. Shake off stress and fatigue. Walk even faster, raising your heartbeat and letting both your mind and body relax and recharge.

A relaxed mind is a creative mind: Just remember this and write on!

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Run Farther

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” William James

How easy it is to stop running before we’re even tired and how much we lose when we never hit that second wind! Have you ever done this with your writing — gotten to a certain point where a project gets tricky and more demanding — and just put it away because you didn’t feel like wrestling with it?

Truth be told, there probably isn’t a writer around who doesn’t have a few of those half-hearted, half-baked stories or essays or plays or poems hidden away somewhere and languishing.

What is there about hitting that first speed bump that discourages us and keeps us from pushing forward and finding our second wind? How can we get push ourselves “far enough on our first wind to find out” that we’ve got a second wind? How can we tap into those reserves of energy and staying power, and keep gong when other people quit?

We can remember that it’s “the start that stops most people.” As my coach and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert* says so well, getting started is the hardest part of any project. Once we start, the law of physics works in our favor — “a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” So just start!

We can push ourselves to do more than we think we can — more than we expect to do in any given writing session. Just working 5% or 10% more time — pushing yourself past the point when you feel like stopping — can propel you into a second wind. And that new burst of energy can give you the strength to keep going.

We can remember that when we find our second wind, we also often find hidden treasure. I’ve found that whenever I push myself to the point where I get that surge of renewed energy, I enter a zone where fresh ideas and sparkling words are waiting for me. But I need to tap into that extra staying power to unearth them.

We can remember that we always have extra gas in our writing tank. We’re creative beings. Out minds love being stretched and challenged. When we feel tired but push on past those feelings, which are often fleeting, we are often delighted and amazed to find that we’re never empty. Our minds are like Artesian wells — the more water we pump, the more there is.

So let’s run far today — let’s be second winders as we all write on!

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Something Wonderful

Some  People

Isn’t it strange some people make

You feel so tired inside,

Your thoughts begin to shrivel up,

Like leaves all brown and dried!

But when you’re with some other ones,

It’s stranger still to find

Your thoughts as thick as fireflies

All shiny in your mind!

— Rachel Field

 

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Wandering Well

A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

“It’s the job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”

“A pen is to me as a beak is to a hen.”

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
JRR Tolkein

“Not all those who wander are lost” — what an inspiring and consoling thought from that master wordsmith, JRR Tolkein! I’m sure you’ve all been there — I know I have: things seem to be perking along and suddenly, thump! crash! crunch! thud! Everything seems to be tumbling to the ground in a muddle.

When this happens, it’s easy to feel lost. It can really help to remember that you are not lost, but wandering — you are finding your way, only it may not be exactly the way that you expected or envisioned. I’ve done my share of wandering in the forest of words and here are a few things I’ve learned that may be helpful:

Wandering isn’t a waste: When you find that you’ve somehow fallen off the path you were on, you first reaction may be to panic and feel that you are losing momentum. But consider this: the path you were on may have been a hidebound, limited one that couldn’t supply you with what you need to discover to make your work better, truer, deeper. So don’t freeze, “freelax” as Alex used to say. Trust that something new and exciting awaits you.

Wandering can be refreshing: Sometimes, we can become almost mechanical in the way we approach whatever stage of a project we happen to be in when things start to fall apart. This can be a sign that we aren’t bringing as much creativity as we’re capable of to the job at hand. That’s why being forced to halt our forward march can actually be instructive. It may be showing us that we are putting too much head and not enough heart into what we’re writing. 

Wandering can be wonderful: If we can let go of the fear factor and just let ourselves jump into the mud puddle instead of stepping over it, we can rediscover the fun and sense of wonder that make wordsmithing such a joy. So don’t be afraid to dive in and get messy — and write on!

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Letting Go

“You’ll never ‘get a grip’ until you learn to ‘let go.’” I have no idea who said this, but it must have been someone who knew a lot about life. IT might even have been a writer.

How often are we “gripping” too tightly when it comes to our work? We want a story we’re penning to go down a certain path. We have certain plans for a character we’ve created. We have an essay rumbling around in our head that we believe should make a certain point.

We all crave certainty, don’t we? We want to know how things turn out. We want to know that if we put in a certain amount of effort, we’ll get a desired result. We want our coffee one way and our pancakes another.

But so often, holding on too tightly can squeeze the creativity and surprise out of a project. It can rob us of the wonder when feel when a story we’re writing takes an unpredictable turn or a character does something that’s uncharacteristic of them. How exciting this can be!

Freedom lies, not in “gripping” the vision we have of something too tightly — in trying to make our idea into an ideal, but it giving something life, creating momentum and then letting it take us someplace we never imagined.

Water flows freely and softly. It doesn’t seek anything but to find its own level. If we let our words flow with the same freedom, the same sense of abandon, the results can surprise both us and our readers.

Write on!

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Fire Starter

A baseball story: “Rabbit” Maranville was a shortstop for the Boston Braves in the early twentieth century. Early in a disastrous season, he and his major-league team lost an exhibition game to minor-league players — a stunning, stinging defeat. After the loss, Rabbit threw his glove against his locker and said, “I can play better than this!” Then he turned to a teammate and asked, “How about you?” One by one his teammates all admitted that they could play better than they’d been playing and right then and there, they decided to do exactly that.

Fired up by their fiery shortstop, the team went on to have an amazing season and beat a legendary rival team in all four games of a series — an amazing feat.*

What’s our takeaway here? The power of one person, one idea, or one goal to start an inner fire — to motivate a major shift by deciding to do more — to put in more effort.

“I can play better than this!” Can we say the same about our writing?

Can we bring more energy, more effort, and more heart to the page? Can we bring a winning attitude to our work?

Energy, effort, and a can-do attitude — all these are within our power. All these are qualities we can cultivate. And when we bring them to our writing, who knows what we can accomplish!

“When you have the attitude and effort, the skill is not far behind.” I keep a piece of paper with this written on it where I see it every day.

Attitude + Effort = Skill. What a simple recipe for success! Let’s remember it today as we all write on.

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*This story comes to us via Dr. Rob Gilbert’s motivational daily pep talk. Check it out at “The Success Hotline Podcast.”

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Energy Boosters

As we all know, writing burns up a lot of brain cells. Since it’s important for us to keep our focus and concentration throughout the day, I’m always on the lookout for easy energy boosters that we can incorporate into our daily routines. Here are a few I’ve just come
across that can help us all stay energized and ready for action:*

Pop some pumpkin or sunflower seeds: These little powerhouses pack a lot of punch when it comes to fighting fatigue. Pumpkin seeds are a top source of magnesium, which keeps our hearts healthy and nervous system humming. Snacking on ¼ of a cup daily will help keep your energy up. The same goes for sunflower seeds: Just a handful (about 2 ounces) provides a full day’s dose of Vitamin E and absorbing this powerful nutrient from a food source like seeds boosts both your energy and endurance.

Stretch and snap back: Research shows that taking a few minutes each afternoon to squeeze your shoulder blades together, stretch your arms and legs, and roll your head from side to side several times raises your heart rate, loosens up your muscles, and improves  your blood flow — all of which increase your energy.

Snack smartly: Eating every three hours can help keep your body fueled and your level of concentration high. Energizing between-meal snacks that can give your body and mind a boost include: nuts, dried fruit, and roasted soybeans or chickpeas.

Take C for stamina: Vitamin C is essential for breaking food down into fuel to nourish our cells. Research shows that eating an orange a day or taking 500 mg. of vitamin C in supplement form can lead to a noticeable increase in energy over time.

Sniff some peppermint or rosemary oil: This is one of my favorite energy tips because it’s so easy — and it works quickly — at least for me. Just keep a small bottle of essential peppermint or rosemary oil (you can find them at health-food or natural cosmetic
stores) near your desk. When you feel your energy flagging, take a few sniffs: It’s relaxing and reviving at the same time. And if you’re feeling tense or anxious about your work, a whiff of lavender oil can be calming and restorative

So soothed, energized, and enlivened, let’s all write on!

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Storytellers Soar

“Who is the most powerful person in the world? The storyteller.” Steve Jobs

“It took me years to understand that words are often as important as experience, because words make experience last.” William Morris

Steve Jobs knew a thing or two about storytelling — after writing the Apple story and making history, he went on to launch Pixar and create “Toy Story” — a wildly popular and beloved children’s film. And William Morris? He was an author and poet who not only singlehandedly revised crafts in England, but created a short-lived, but legendary publishing firm.

Storytellers — what a calling we’ve been drawn to! How much the world needs what we have to offer! Consider the gifts we bring:

We give meaning to the chaos of life: We lift the everyday actions of the world, its drama and its joys beyond the fleeting moment.

We take our own experiences, what we’ve learned and lost and longed for, and turn them into gold — we show people they’re not alone.

We go into the darkness, the fearful places that other people avoid and refuse to look at — and bring back the light of understanding.

We create new words and give anyone who takes a journey with us a place to escape to, a way to leap from the everyday into the magical.

What wondrous powers we have! Let’s use them wisely and well as we all write on!

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