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Celebrating 9 years of connection, questions, inspiration, adventure, and more

Welcome! And hooray!

After over nine years of blogging, dinners, questions, and exploration, I thought it was time to spruce things up. You may notice a new look on my pages. (If you see any “bugs” or places that need attention, let me know.)

Project Exponential now redirects to my personal site. Dinners in NYC may resume, but they’ll be adjusted according to scale and demand.

In the meantime, I’m taking on a select number of coaching clients and will consider consulting and writing projects upon request. If you’re interested in working together, you can reach out.

I’m grateful to be on this adventure with you. Thanks for being here.

Dream chasers

Many years ago, a coach gave me an assignment that altered the course of my life. I’d like to share it with you, in hopes it might have a similar impact on the way you choose to live.

Write down a list of 50 – 100 things you’d like to do before you die.

My original list contained 88 items, a list of tasks ranging from intangibles to concrete — simple pleasures of learning how to tie a tie, to the (at the time) seemingly lofty goals of being in a movie, finishing a marathon, and being comfortable in my own skin.

I’ve revisited this list several times throughout the years. It’s acted as a guidepost for finding my passion and sorting out impulse from destiny. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide whether life choices are due to circumstance or something more intentional. One of my biggest fears is missing the boat, never finding true happiness and failing to follow my bliss. This list helps. It’s been an anchor.

Not to mention, it’s difficult to forge ahead if you don’t have a direction. I didn’t always know this and found tremendous challenge in commitment. But believe it or not, if you focus your efforts, you’re much more likely to get it done.

I’ve sat here and debated whether sharing this list is the right thing, but I have chosen to do so with the hope that it inspires at least one person to chase after their dreams. That’s worth a vulnerable moment.

Some items are outdated. Some I consider now and have no desire for it. Others aren’t even realistic. The point is to allow yourself to play, to dream, to explore. If you don’t “go there” in your mind, how could you any way else? Once it’s on paper, you can always return to it and assess if it’s probable or something you’d actually like to direct your energy towards.

First, create a block of time; carve it out on your calendar and set aside one hour to just write. Don’t pause to question. Just go. You might surprise yourself. I’d love to hear how it goes.

The point is, you’re never “too old” to start dreaming again.

What’s getting in the way of your dream chasing?

Note: this list was written in 2004. The “X” indicates completion. Italicized items are in process…

  1. Write/publish/sell a book
  2. Get published in a magazine X
  3. Display work in an art gallery X
  4. Do a triathlon X
  5. Backpack South America X
  6. Inspire/help a “troubled teen” X
  7. Be a counselor X
  8. Get my masters (possible Ph.D.?)
  9. Volunteer again in a different country X
  10. Learn how to cook well X
  11. Go back to New Zealand
  12. Get better at guitar
  13. Play basketball again X
  14. Play soccer again X
  15. Go to Canada X
  16. Go to Seattle X
  17. See Egypt
  18. See Tibet
  19. Fall in love again X
  20. Live in a house with a green garden, beautiful flowers X
  21. Learn to salsa dance X
  22. Be in a movie X
  23. Own a small shop (gift/crafty type? or coffee?) X
  24. Improve 1/2 marathon time
  25. Buy a piano
  26. Study in a Buddhist center (retreat? school? etc.) X
  27. Learn moderation and balance X
  28. Learn a language X
  29. Have a flower garden X
  30. Grown own veggies X
  31. Hike the Grand Canyon
  32. Paragliding X
  33. Windsurf
  34. Surf X
  35. Go to Maine/Boston during fall X
  36. Taj Mahal X
  37. See a penguin in the wild X
  38. Learn how to juggle
  39. Go sailing X
  40. Hot air balloon! X
  41. Swim with dolphins
  42. Scuba dive
  43. Have my own art room/studio
  44. Camp in Yellowstone X
  45. Be a bridesmaid for [name protected]’s wedding X
  46. Own a scooter/motorcycle/moped X
  47. Drive a convertible, windows down, music up
  48. Spain
  49. Scandinavia X
  50. Southern Italy
  51. Be a bartender X
  52. Visit Westminster Abbey
  53. Tour Switzerland on a bike
  54. Learn how to tie a tie X
  55. Live/work abroad X
  56. Cruise to Alaska
  57. Visit Cuba
  58. See Jonny Lang in concert X
  59. Own another husky or dog X
  60. Learn how to ski better X
  61. Become less stubborn, prideful, more patient X
  62. Get rid of “perfectionist” X
  63. Walk through Big Sequoias
  64. Make a candle and give it to someone X
  65. Encourage someone to “be better” X
  66. Take a friend to a Day at the Spa X
  67. Be comfortable in my skin X
  68. Work on set/backstage X
  69. Family – one day
  70. Learn to say “no” X
  71. Become friends with a Tai Chi instructor X
  72. Host a very successful party X
  73. Go on a date in NYC X
  74. Be a travel writer/photographer X
  75. Take care of myself (don’t let self go)
  76. Get faster, fitter, leaner, healthier
  77. Improve diet X
  78. Cliff dive X
  79. Go on a rafting/canoe trip X
  80. Live by the sea
  81. African safari X
  82. Run on the Great Wall
  83. Find my purpose, align with passions X
  84. Marathon X
  85. Participate in a drum circle X
  86. Visit a reservation X
  87. Milk a cow X

Get lost or change

When was the last time you scared yourself?

Last week I found myself scrambling up rocks, free climbing what I thought was the summit of Longs Peak. After several hours of hiking, circumnavigating ice patches, carefully placing my feet, holding onto rock slabs, and searching for trail markers, I came to the edge of a very, very steep cliff. Heights don’t usually bother me, but this was something else. Visions of misplaced steps filled my mind, and wind whipped my matted hair.

Across this dramatic divide, there was another peak. Clusters of camera flashes sparkled in clear view. Surely, these people were having a much better time than I was. They were on the actual summit. Me? I had no idea.

I began my epic trek at 4AM to get where those people were. I clearly missed the right path. On the way up, I was comforted by headlamps that flickered in front and behind me. I hadn’t seen another climber in hours. I was pissed. And scared.

I spent a few moments trying to collect myself, talking myself into rational thoughts, eventually reaching the conclusion I needed to make my way back down.

Regression is dangerous.

Footing slipped away beneath my feet, and I was reminded of the whizzing sound a small boulder made on my way up. I was paralyzed.

I didn’t do what I had set out to do, and I didn’t want to quit. This is sometimes referred to as “summit fever.” I tried to snap out of it and focus on the down-climb, picking out some semblance of a trail that would transport me safely to the bottom. My partner pointed out the piles of rockslides that surrounded us. I was ferociously sour, and irrational thoughts began to swoon in my mind.

Why the hell did I get myself into this mess? Who does this? I’ve turned into a city slicker and have lost all sense of self. I swore I’d never climb another mountain again, much less go on any hike over three hours. Tears of anger and frustration and god-knows-what-else leaked from my eyes.

When we test our limits, we have to work harder to maintain perspective.

In the moments we’re tired, scared, overworked, and anxious, a record we have no intention of playing can fill the empty spaces of our minds. It tries to convince us of the poor choices we’ve made and the even worse choices we’ll make soon enough. It lulls us into talking ourselves off the ledge of risk and stay on the safest ground possible — the trail everyone else walks on, the stories everyone else shares, the familiar. We forget to widen our gaze and consider the big picture. As a result, our world shrinks, and with it, the possibility of seeing what lies beyond fear’s foggy lens.

“You made it up. You can make it down,” I chanted over and over in my mind. My steps were gingerly, but I moved in the direction of home. When I reached ground that was relatively stable, I finally saw signs of other life. Footprints carved the dirt, and a group of fellow adventurous appearance in the distance.

“Which route did you do?” asked one member of the stock-photo worthy cohort. I suddenly felt self-conscious as I explained, “Tried to reach the summit, but found myself at the top of a pretty big cliff looking over at it, instead.”

The group widened their beautiful eyes. “That’s a much harder climb than the Keyhole Route, and you probably didn’t see another soul. The view must be incredible!”

Narrow focus causes us to miss opportunity.

“Yeah, I didn’t see anyone,” I muttered. I was too focused on my failed attempt to appreciate the view. “That’s so wicked!” chirped the outdoor model. “You did a way harder route.”

I forced a smile and grunted out a few words of gratitude before continuing on. Whether it was the altitude or the early morning hour, I evidently took the wrong turn.  As I continued walking on a now manageable trail, I mulled over their words. Harder. More scenic. Less traffic. Less traveled. Adventurous.

My spirits slowly lifted. It wasn’t until the next day (after I nursed my crushed ego with good Italian food and set my knees to ice), I realized I had a pretty good story.

Great tales are often unplanned. 

What had gone very, very wrong was now a story of risk and adventure. I had something I could share with (and laugh at) with friends. And with it, I was reminded of two valuable lessons:

1. Getting lost is where excitement happens. 

The moment things go wrong is the moment you learn where your edges are, and you are gifted with the opportunity to push past them.  When you veer off-course, you discover surprises and sights you most likely would have missed if you went “the right way.” That, and you’ll come out with a better story to tell.

2. Your perspective determines the outcome.

It’s easy to forget the power of perspective. We have the ability to choose how we consider situations. If we label an experience as negative in our minds, we miss the opportunity to find the lessons to be learned. A simple shift in perspective can separate the meaningful from the mundane.

Get lost or change your perspective. You might be surprised at how very little effort is required for the rewards you’ll take away.