30 Weeks to Awesome: The story of writing my first book. Part 2.

In this recent post, I wrote about how 30 Weeks to Awesome came to be. The motivation and nudge to get it done (a course with a contest that would reimburse tuition for said course) and the re-purposing of a course I created previously. In this post I will share why I believe in 30 Weeks to Awesome, as well as some lessons learned attempting to share the book with others. 

Why 30 Weeks to Awesome?

I think life is a journey and that we should always be continually trying to improve our lives, search for happiness, and to be better people. Some people think that trying to be better means they have to be unhappy with who they are now. I disagree. I think we can have love and compassion for our current selves, while simultaneously striving to be a better version of ourselves. It is an evolution that I hope will take a lifetime, because otherwise I would feel stalled. We are not perfect and we never will be. To think that we are somehow who we are meant to be sounds to me like a horrible way to live one’s life.

From this standpoint, I believe that healthy habits are the building blocks to living our best lives. We have limited decision-making capacity each day. By removing the necessity to make a decision to do something, we take care of our base (the building blocks) without having to work at it and use some of our daily decision-making capacity. From there we can do what’s next in our day.

These healthy habit building blocks are going to change overtime. You can look at any number of amazingly successful people who root their day with healthy habits, and realize that those blocks change overtime. One month you may focus on meditation. That could become an integral practice for the rest of your life, or it might drift away for a few months before you bring it back, possibly in the same form, possibly in a different form. When you are trying to start the habit, it takes conscious effort before it becomes part of who you are. This could be in terms of routine (I meditate every morning for 15-20 minutes). Or it could be simply how you make decisions (I home cook most of my meals, which means I had leftovers to bring to work to lunch today and therefore I do not need to go out to buy lunch like I used to).

I believe that for many people, building healthy habits slowly over time is the best way to achieve lasting change.

Surely, there are times where someone will get so fed up with their way of life that they will take massive action and actually have it stick for the long term. What do I mean by this? A program such as Whole 30 is right for some people at some times. Depending on your previous way of eating, this can be a massive undertaking. You remove a whole lot of foods, then slowly add in, but ultimately completely overhaul your way of eating. Some people will do this, feel great, and stick with it. Others will do it, feel great, but then slowly return to their previous way of eating. This person could go even further and adopt worse ways of eating than before the massive changes because they rebel against the restrictions that they were only able to maintain for a few months. More people than not are going to rebel against really massive, strict changes. This can be referred to as yo-yo dieting, and we know that considerably more than 50% of people who lose weight on a diet gain all or even more back within 2-5 years.

Thus, with 30 Weeks to Awesome, my hope is that readers will be able to manage a small task each week that builds over time. If you slowly add more vegetables, other foods will subside at a sustainable pace. The book also focuses on a variety of healthy habits from choosing healthy fats to eating out to getting outside.

Another of my core beliefs that influences me as a coach and attorney, is that each of us is unique. I do not believe that there are enough resources in our environment that encourage us to discover and listen to what we need in any given moment. Thus, in 30 Weeks to Awesome, most weeks I encourage the reader to pick a goal that is right for them. This is in the same way that I might work with a client in a coaching session and ask them what their next step is. Usually we know better than anyone else what the next right step is, but sometimes we need a nudge to realize it and to listen to our own intuition.

While the book is simple and short, I believe that this is one of its values. There is no lack of health information in the world, but there is a lack of action and follow-through.

What I have learned from marketing?

Self-publishing is easy. Educating people that the book exists and why they might want to read it, that is a whole different process. Interestingly, should you be worried about this part, know that even authors who have publishers have to do most of their own marketing. The publisher will work on getting it into stores (which I have had to do on my own) but the author must get the readers. This is why publishers focus heavily on an author’s “following” or ability to let people know about the book when deciding what books to publish.

We have an amazing opportunity right now in which we do not have to wait to be picked by others to publish a book to share our ideas with others (Seth Godin’s words). I believe this has intrinsic value, and is an opportunity we should all consider taking advantage of. However, just because you put something out in the world does not mean that the work will magically get noticed by those who want what you have on offer.

I learned that most bookstores work with distributors to get books and they do not want to work with self-published authors.

I discovered one distributor that I could work with. However, while the prospect of getting my book out to more people was exciting, if I signed with them I would not be able to sell it anywhere else. I didn’t want to lose control to take my book to local stores and others.

Selling has pushed me outside my comfort zone in many great ways. I think it is really important to do things that are not comfortable, and marketing my book has been a clear way to make me do this. I have gone into a number of stores cold and asked if they would carry 30 Weeks to Awesome. Most of the time I was rejected, but sometimes I succeeded. Four locations in my hometown carry it, one in a town in California that I visit often, and my biggest win – the Fireworks Galleries in Seattle now carry it!! This is (probably) the most popular store in the Seattle airport.

With that said, I could and should continue to research and try for different places to carry it. Fortunately, the clock has not ended, I still have an opportunity to learn and move my book into different areas.

Is it resonating?

I have received some excellent feedback from some readers. I hear that the book is helping them to focus on healthy habits (as intended). However, I am leading a group of readers through the book and many have dropped off. They get busy and want to pick up where they left off instead of moving on. They tell me they will return. Thus, it is possible that 30 weeks is too long, but I am not sure of the solution. I could encourage readers to go through more quickly to gather momentum. Or, it may be the type of resource that someone returns to for weeks at a time over years. Because of its length I believe that I need to wait more time to gauge its true resonance, but I am encouraged by the positive comments received so far.

What happened with the contest as part of the course I was in through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition? 30 Weeks to Awesome was selected as one of the Top 10 books coming out of the course! I am very grateful for their support and recognition of this project!

You can purchase the book directly from me here, AND I will donate all proceeds to the 2020 Community Assistance Fund – COVID-19 for Southeast Alaska, or you can purchase it (Ebook or paperback) here

Rest away from the office.

As I cleaned my office for the first time in months, I came across notes from a book titled “Rest: Why you get more done when you work less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. One of the first quotes I wrote down is this: “Rest is not something that the world gives us. . .if you want rest, you have to take it.”

As I write this, dutifully obeying a Stay at Home Order from both my local and state governments due to COVID-19, it seems that maybe the world is giving us this rest period, should we choose to take it. This is not to diminish those that are suffering and those that are working to exhaustion. Many healthcare workers are putting themselves at risk on the front lines of caring for the sick and working to pure exhaustion. Other essential workers are working overtime while dealing with their own stresses and families. Even some of us less essential workers are working overtime to pivot our business models to continue serving our communities under new parameters. Many parents now have two full-time jobs between child care and working from home. Others are dealing with their own sickness, or that of a loved one.

Still, for the vast majority of us, things are slowing down. Many aspects of the lives we led a month ago are now on pause. Sure, there are a number of things you could be stressed about, but how could you also take a rest to let yourself recover from the stress and exhaustion that possibly ruled your life a month ago?

This might be in your own life. I have been cleaning and organizing papers that sat in stacks for a long time (hence the notes from Rest). There may be books on your night stand that you haven’t made the time to touch – maybe now is the time? Or that art project you haven’t gotten to? Maybe you have a business idea that you can pursue from home? Or an online class that peaked your interest but now it is easier to commit to?

Consider allowing for unscheduled time and see what happens. You could just sit there for a bit, or go for a long walk, and then do whatever you feel moved to do in the moment. You might feel bored. That might feel really uncomfortable. And it just might be really, really good for you.

You might also explore your work life. If you are working from home and have the flexibility to not work set hours each day, how can you mix up your day? When do you do your most productive work? How can breaks be used to your advantage? This will not work for everyone, but could for some, and you may have flexibility to multitask in a way that your office environment doesn’t allow.

I have found that I work in spurts of different types of work. Sometimes, I work for an hour at 4:45am before beginning my exercise routine (which just might be a bit of procrastination). When working on a deep-concentration project, I can only focus for a couple hours at a time, and then I break for a dog walk or shift to a different type of work. Last week I made brownies in the middle of a workday while listening to a webinar.

We all work differently and have different demands on our time. What feels best to you? You’ll probably need to experiment to find out.

Consider this, again from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in Rest: “When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: they organize their lives around their work, but not their days.” What would your day look like if it wasn’t organized around your work? If you now have kids at home that are getting in your way constantly, how might you work them in more than out? Or move your work around their schedule – and that of a partner?

If your life is a little slower paced right now, I hope you will also find joy in some creative energy, and in some rest. If worried about rest, I can almost guarantee that if you allow some rest now, you will come back stronger when you can get back to the office.

Regret.

The word alone can stir up strong emotions.

Take a moment to think about something you regret, or something you did regret at some point in time.

How do you feel when thinking about it? What shifts within your body?

It probably isn’t a great feeling. But is the pain of regret something that can be useful? And if so how?

My biggest regret involves quitting. At 18, I set out to pursue a long-held goal of completing the Pacific Crest Trail. A trail that travels from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon, and Washington.

The first couple of months were amazing. I had some rough times, but also met amazing people and got into a groove on the trail.

Then, in Northern California, I left the trail for a couple of weeks to help out a family member. When I returned to the trail, my young mind didn’t consider that I might be in worse shape than two weeks prior, and I essentially sprained my ankle from overuse that first day when I was so happy to be back on the trail and get moving.

It only took days to recover physically, but after the breaks from hiking, I never got back into the mental swing of hiking the trail. Not far north of the Oregon border, I made the decision to quit hiking. To call it quits. I decided I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, complete that goal.

I have now lived longer since that moment than I had lived up to it, and yet this moment is still raw for me. I told a group of people about it recently, and I couldn’t get through without beginning to cry.

Why? I wish that I had kept going. I was tired and lonely. It was difficult. But I think I gave up too easily.

So that sucks and I probably have some emotional baggage that I haven’t dealt with yet, but can there be a purpose to feelings of regret?

Brené Brown, who researches many different human emotions, says that regret is a fair but tough teacher. In her research, when asking people about their regrets in life, she found that most of them are either failures of kindness or failures of courage.

When we fail and feel regret, if it is a failure in these areas, that tells us that we were not living up to the person we want to be. From there we can challenge ourselves to lean in and grow to be that person who we want to be.

My lesson isn’t never to quit. I have quite many things in life, and I’m proud I did so. My lesson is not to quit just because something is difficult. In one night, when things were tough, I ended a deeply-held dream of mine. In hindsight that wasn’t the decision I wish I had made. In the future, I hope to sit with those decisions longer. To quit for the right reasons, not simply a desire for comfort.

Think back to the regret on your mind when you started reading this. Is it a failure of kindness or courage? What principles can you learn from the unsettling feeling of regret?

Stress : what is it doing to you?

While some amount of stress in our lives is necessary, and even good for us, constant chronic stress isn’t. Many of us are so busy and overwhelmed by all that we ‘must’ get done in a day that our body responds as if in a constant state of panic. While our brain may know that we are not under threat of a real attack, our bodies’ biological systems do not. In this state, our stress hormones (cortisol) rise. Our bodies use glucose (sugars) as fuel, rather than burning fat, causing fat storage to build. This can also cause cravings for sugar and easy carbohydrates. If you were to check your blood sugar when stressed, it may be high even though you haven’t eaten anything recently.

While you may not be able to change your life’s circumstances, here are some tips to help avoid chronic stress and therefore burn more fat and function better overall.

  1. Pay attention to your thought patterns. When you find yourself rushing, feeling something is vitally urgent and stressful, etc – try to reframe where possible. You will probably get things done just as quickly, if not more so, if you can let go of the stressful urgency.
  2. Take a moment to take deep breaths and/or build a breathing practice into your daily routine. When you take deep breaths from your diaphragm it sends signals to your body that it is okay and safe. It communicates biologically that there is no immediate threat of an attack. To do this, place your hands below your belly button. Your hands should rise on an inhale and then contract on your exhale.
  3. Exercise can help reduce stress, particularly gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, and tai chi.
  4. Make sure to get enough sleep – 7 to 9 hours per night.
  5. Consider reducing or eliminating caffeine intake. Caffeine has a similar effect as stress does on our bodies, so it can exacerbate all of the problems of chronic stress.
  6. Get outside. Just being in nature can have a tremendously calming effect. Walking outside combines the two and may refresh you to do more work when you get back to it. (If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter to receive an article about the benefits of exercise on our productivity).

Choose one of the above to focus on in the next week. This is a key that could unlock weight loss and more energy, with the added benefit of losing that feeling of overwhelm that chronic stress can cause!

Start the New Year out right with one of these tools.

Make the most of the year ahead. Do not just set a new year’s resolution that is vague. Give it some thought. It’s worth it!

As a distinct marker in time, the new year is a great time to reflect and to plan for the coming year. You may view it as an arbitrary date and therefore rebel against setting goals as the new year approaches. It is arbitrary, but isn’t it as good a time as any? Give it a try!

In this post, I want to go far beyond new year’s resolutions and offer some different tools for you to use to reflect on this past year and to plan for the coming year. Polls show that most people who make resolutions (only about 44% of the U.S. population) make very general resolutions such as to lose weight, save more money, or get a better job. Of course maybe that is because those are the questions that were asked; perhaps most people actually do set more specific goals. Anyway, here are some tools for you to re-think resolutions if you are stuck in a cycle of vague goals that you don’t keep; or maybe you don’t even know if you keep them because they are too vague.

A theme for the year

Last year, on the recommendation of professional organizer Jes Marcy, I decided on a phrase that would be my focus for the year, and then I set or reset passwords to a take on that theme. This serves two great purposes. 1) You are reminded of that theme every time you log in. 2) It is good security hygiene to change passwords regularly. My theme for last year it was to be aware of how I spend my time.

I really like this idea. It is simple but directive.

Here is my experience with my theme of focusing on time spent. At the start of the year I set some new schedules for my time. For example, two nights a week I put on my calendar that I would spend from 7-7:30pm working on something I wanted to get done (these were very specific – I was typing notes from a course and working on planning a race). I didn’t usually sit at my computer for that exact time, but for many months I usually did spend 30 minutes doing the task on the day of the week I set. They were tasks I didn’t want to do, and the projects I had to do were not urgent. But I wasn’t going to get them done if I wasn’t intentional about it, and 30 minutes was a short enough time that it wasn’t too painful. If I just said I would sit down and do it, then it probably would have felt more cumbersome, but with a set time it was far more doable.

Similarly, I scheduled 30 minutes of morning reading time 2 or 3 days a week where I would sit for that amount of time and get into a non-fiction book. Something that wasn’t good for pre-bed reading. I got through a number of books I wouldn’t have otherwise read through this routine. Indeed, I’m sure I read more this past year than I ever have.

I didn’t stick with either schedule all year for different reasons; but they are tools that I discovered work, and I will use them again. I am already trying to bring back the reading, though I’m undecided on a schedule for it given other weekend obligations.

Overall, through this focus for my year, I have discovered that I have an overblown sense of what I can get done in a day. I was fortunate to spend many days working for myself, and I would finish the working day and feel that I had accomplished little. I worked all day and sometimes very effectively, but I think my idea of a productive day is usually impossible to actually accomplish. On the flip side, I also saw the power of getting through a task with just a little bit at a time with those 30 minute segments I set aside for something. It seemed so small, yet now I have projects completed and books read because of it!

A Happiness Project

Named for the book by the same name, Gretchen Rubin spent a year trying different things each month to improve a certain area of her life. I tried my own far simpler version this past year as I wrote about here (and each month – search ‘happiness project’ on my blog for more). I recommend the book and the experience. I am not going to carry it over for my coming year, but I am glad I did it and may pick it up again. It pushed me to do and try some things within a focused period of time to decide if I wanted to keep up the practice. As with the time set for projects and reading, these were personal experiments or behavior changes that I would not have otherwise done. Examples of items in this category include doing something out of my comfort zone or routine every day, keeping a gratitude journal, and doing something kind for someone else every day. I enjoyed all of these months and more. However, many months weren’t so positive. I pretty much universally failed each month where I had planned to learn something new. This included focusing on swimming, learning how to garden, and writing a book in 30 days. If I were to do this again, I would probably leave such things out and focus on the habits, practices, and routines that do not take much time but that I want to try out to see if it has an impact on my overall happiness. As for the bigger things like gardening and swimming, I think those are better as an overall year goal instead of just a month! They also clearly are not as big of a priority for me.

Reflecting on the year behind

I think this is one of the most important aspects of any transition planning for the new year. In fact, even if you don’t set goals for the coming year, I would still sit down and reflect on the year behind. To do this, first just write down a list of all that happened over the year to jog your memory. What did you do, what happened at work, what trips did you take, who did you have lunch with that you haven’t seen in awhile, what plays did you see, did you visit family, did friends visit you? Big and small, good and bad, just write what happened. Going back through your calendar will probably help with this.

Then write a list of all that you accomplished that you are proud of.

Then write a list of things that didn’t go so well. For each item, indicate what you learned from it.

This reflection is 2/3 of the questions that Marie Forleo says we should ask ourselves; and she also includes a list of what we are ready to let go of for the coming year. Tim Ferriss talks about a similar reflection, though he has used this to replace the forward-looking goal setting as well. He recommends taking your list of all that happened in the year and splitting it into things that are particularly noteworthily positive, and then another list of what was negative. And this isn’t just your accomplishments, but who did you enjoy meeting for lunch, etc. He calls these “peak positive or negative emotions.” Then, look at the activities that created the most peaks, and schedule them into your calendar immediately. And actively do not schedule/do not do what you have in the negative column in the coming year.

Planning for the year ahead

You could just choose a theme. You could do a happiness project. Another option, also from Gretchen Rubin on the Happier podcast, is 18 for 2018 or now 19 for 2019. That is just a list of 19 things you want to do in the coming year. They can be really small or bigger, but they have to be a thing that you will know when it is done. Lose weight or save money do not count here. They are not specific enough.

This year I did something even broader based on a review process written about by Chris Guillebeau. For this, you write out 3-5 goals you want to accomplish in each area you care about. His categories are: Writing, Business, Friends & Family, Service, Travel, Spiritual, Health, Learning, Financial (Earning), Financial (Giving), Financial (Saving). Then you can take it a step further and schedule how and when you will accomplish these goals through the year. For example, let’s say you want to write a book in 2019. What has to get done for that to happen? Do you need to find an agent? Write a book proposal? Write out each step, in order if there is an obvious order, and figure out estimated timelines for each, and write it all out.

I should say that I have started this, but am continuing to think of new things and I haven’t fully gone through each item to look at a schedule. I recommend giving yourself time to think through any project you try; not as an excuse not to finish, but set a schedule that allows you to work on it slowly over a weekend or a week.

Visualization 

For something totally different (but also similar because you will still make lists), try out this guided visualization from meditation teacher Emily Fletcher. You will walk through both the past year and the year ahead. It’s fun. Her voice is phenomenally relaxing.

Go big…why not reflect on your life thus far

I love this. My husband doesn’t like staring at his death. So apparently it isn’t for everyone…but Tim Urban provides us with a visual of our life in weeks, if we live the length of life of an average American. He also writes a great blog post about it. You can even buy a poster (yes, yes, I did! Actually it was on my Christmas list).

In the middle of our life, years can fly by without us realizing it. So why not look at a poster of our life in weeks and take an honest assessment as to whether we are happy at what we have accomplished? What do we want to make sure we do in the years ahead? As I learned this past year, I cannot do as much in a day or in a year as I think I can.

Conclusion 

I value that each of us is very different. Certainly don’t try all of these tools, but I hope something resonates with you. Living intentionally is powerful stuff, and so too is looking back at the past year to celebrate what you actually have accomplished! You may be surprised. (Even if it takes a few days to settle in. I initially wrote down what I had accomplished this year and was surprised at how little it was. As I have reflected further on this, I have to realize that it was an educational if not outwardly productive year. I started a business, started two blogs, changed careers, and tried out two different careers that I realized were not for me. That’s a lot emotionally to deal with even if it isn’t a lot on the day to day). Happy New Year!