Six Word Stories

AdobeStock_107749009.jpegIt’s Day 22 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is short and sweet. However, it will require reflection and a precise use of words. Today I’d like you to summarize your week in six words that tell a whole story.
Can you succinctly summarize your week?
By Friday nights, I’m usually fried. But I also like to look back on the week and ask myself what I’ve done, learned, regretted, or just didn’t see coming that catapulted me out of my comfort zone.
Just as learning to sketch things throughout the day invites me to look at the world differently, using six words to tell a story expresses the essence of an experience.
Last year for Community College Month we challenged our students to come up with six word stories. The results surprised and amazed us. So much said in so little.
You are up to the task. This will certainly spark your creativity. So let’s give it a try.
If you insist, I’ll go first. (Actually, I’ve been sprinkling six word sentences throughout this post already. Just check the last six sentences. Or anything in italics or bold.)

  • Puppy preparedness has preempted regular writing.

Or here’s a quick review of the restaurant we just came from.

  • Does scrumptious food trump questionable service?

Do you see how it works?  Now it’s your turn. You can definitely do this in 5-15 minutes.
Or if six words are entirely too few to express all that needs to be said, check out fellow blogger Edward Road’s eloquent posts at www.mytwosentences.com.
Share your stories in the comments below or email them to me at penny@wellpower.com.
 

Shift Happens

Old Typewriter Keys
It’s Day 20 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to notice where things have shifted for you in the past 3 weeks.
Sometimes it’s a subtle shift.  Other times it’s the kind of shift that jolts you out of bed at 4am with the horrifying thought, “What have I done?”
What woke me at 4am this morning was the realization that by agreeing to add 8 pounds of puppy to my home, I was about to alter the course of my foreseeable future.
It also occurred to me that every time I embark on one of these challenges – whether it be a 21-day cleanse, a 40-day prosperity program, or a Get Stuff Done 1x 31 Challenge  – things shift. Big and small.  Just when I think nothing is happening.

There is something so convincing about showing up day after day no matter what that sooner or later, people pay attention.  Once you have proven that you can deliver on your promises, the universe can’t help but meet you half-way.

You may have outrageous expectations and delusions of grandeur that if you put in a little  time, you’ll get a lucky break and win big. And maybe you will.
But if Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed, you’re going to need to put in about 10,000 hours of practice before you achieve mastery.
That’s a lot of time to get discouraged.
It’s also a lot of time to learn and fall in love with the nuances of your craft.
Some things provide instant gratification.  Making your bed. Checking an item off your to-do list. Doing 15 or 50 pushups, depending. Preparing a delicious meal. Resolving a conflict. Getting a haircut. Scheduling an appointment. Writing a thank you note. Giving your dog a bone.
But some things mean more because they take time. You can’t lose 20 pounds in a day, train for a marathon in a weekend, or write your thesis in an afternoon.
Fortunately, most days don’t require you go the extra mile- or 26, if you’re determined to qualify for Boston like my friend Ann, who has justifiably earned her nickname, Annspiration. But by going even the extra 1/4 mile, giving just a little bit more than you think you have in you, those miracles are more likely to manifest.
Take 5-15 minutes today to contemplate what actions you’ve taken as part of this challenge that you may not have taken if you hadn’t played along. When have you gone the extra 1/4 mile and how far has it gotten you?
I’d love to hear what you discover.
Share if you dare in the comments below or email at penny@wellpower.com.
 
 
 
 

Wag More, Bark Less

puppies 018
It’s Day 19 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to wag more,  bark less.  In other words, find more to appreciate than to complain about.
It’s easy to find things to complain about. Anytime anything doesn’t meet your expectations it can give rise to a rant, a slew of snarkiness, or a cadre of complaints. It can also deplete your energy, darken your mood, and convince you that the world is out to get you.
Wagging, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.  The reason making a list of  things you are grateful for each day is so powerful is because it shifts your focus from suffering to celebrating.  You can’t feel grateful and irritated at the same time.
Given the choice between communicating with a chronic complainer or a person who consistently gives compliments, wouldn’t you choose the latter?
Sure, some things beg to be corrected. Hairstyles of high profile politicians, for example. However, as I mentioned yesterday, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and personal style. You do you and all that jazz.
Instead of complaining about politics I’d rather applaud Stephen Colbert’s comical interpretation of the day’s events. Finding the funny in what feels futile is a fabulous way to let go of what’s beyond my control.
I used to be a self-help workshop junkie so I know every training trick in the book.  One exercise I really enjoyed was the time a presenter had us working in pairs and telling our partner what we feared and what we loved.
The first go round we could only speak of what stressed us out.  You can imagine what happened to the energy of the room. Get people voicing their greatest stressors, biggest fears, and devastating disappointments and the energy plummets.
The second go round we could only share what we loved. As you might expect, the energy skyrocketed.

Turns out talking about what you love is incredibly energizing.  And that energy is contagious. Giving voice to what you love sparks the recognition of more things you love.

Before you know it, out comes the sun, rainbows and unicorns appear, and evidence that life is basically good (Day 9) is everywhere.
For the next 5-15 minutes, please tell whoever is in earshot what you love. If no one is around, email me at penny@wellpower.com.  In case you can’t tell, I love dogs!! 
In great anticipation of the newest member of our family arriving on Saturday, Miss Ruby O’Riley the red lab and I encourage you to wag more, bark less.
*She’s also the reason this post is so late.  We had to go visit her and all her brothers and sisters tonight.  Her sister Frankie is in the photo above.  Ruby is in the photo below with Bob.
puppies 010
If you have something to wag about, please share it in the comments below or email me with it at penny@wellpower.com.
 
 

Take Stock of What You've Got

kids in autumn park counting and choosing leader
It’s Day 15 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to take stock of what you’ve got.
This morning as I was transferring my shirts from their bulky plastic hangers to their luxurious slim velvet ones, I realized I had an opportunity to take stock of what I’ve got. How many shirts do I really need?  How many of them spark joy?
A year ago I read Marie Kondo’s wildly popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and took her advice to heart. I ruthlessly cleaned my closet, kitchen, garage, basement, bathroom, and office using the “Does it spark joy?” question as my guide.
Although I felt quite successful then, it now appears as though I need to go through the whole process again.

Taking inventory is an essential task that dictates the action that is to follow.

Although I’d like to think I have a fairly accurate idea of the people, places, and things in my life, the reality is my perception is skewed. Especially when it comes to my favorite things.
I seemed to have lost sight of how many journals, pens, books, scarves, shoes, dog toys, exercise equipment, Buddhas, bracelets, containers, and now hangers I actually have. So, it’s time to give some of it the heave-ho.
The thrill of getting rid of my stuff now rivals the thrill once reserved for getting it in the first place.
The paring down, the letting go, and the shedding of my skin that seems so insistent during these 31 days of Getting Stuff Done prepare me to move more mindfully and purposefully in the months ahead.
As an educator, August and September feel more like the beginning of a new year to me than January.  All of this last minute sorting, stewing, inventorying, and doing in July helps me sort out what stays and what goes as I move forward in my life, get my groove back, and become the badass I keep telling myself I am.
Taking stock of what I’ve got helps me come clean as to who I am and what I need to succeed. Knowing this has huge impact on how I proceed. Because I am not the same person I was a year ago. What worked wonders for me then may not work for me now.
And that’s the amazing thing about being alive. You just never know.
In my latest attempt to understand and appreciate the male species I was listening to Sam Keen’s excellent audiobook, Fire in the Belly.  In it Sam talks about having a conversation with his friend Howard Thurman who said, “There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’  If you ever get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble.”   
As you take stock of what you’ve got, may your answer to these questions spark the kind of joy that helps you discard what you no longer need with the greatest of ease.
Share if you dare in the comments below.  Or email with your stories at penny@wellpower.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Everyday Alchemy

 
Union du Soleil et de la Lune sur champ d'toilesIt’s Day 14 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
While you may not be spinning straw into gold or base metals into unlimited riches, you do have the ability to turn an ordinary experience into an exquisite event.
“Surely this will take more than 15 minutes,” you protest.
Let me just remind you how quickly you have transformed a child’s playroom into a castle, a jungle, a campground, or a pirate ship with just a few props and an ample imagination.
If you’ve ever planned a party, a product launch, a promotional event, or an evening with the in-laws, you know that it all starts with the intent to create something spectacular.
While you may not be able to pull all the pieces together in 5-15 minutes, you can start making a list or sketching out a mind-map or making some calls to reinforcements in order to start the transformation.
Amazon’s 24 hour Prime Day sale is an example of how you can transform an ordinary day into something extraordinary.  What started last year as a way to celebrate their 20th anniversary and promote their prime membership turned into a global event this year that transformed an ordinary Tuesday in July into the biggest sales day on record, outselling Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Of course there were thousands of details that went into the planning, promoting, and executing of this event, but it started with the idea to make something out of nothing, which is what I’m suggesting you do.
Normally I would not encourage much ado about nothing, but sometimes you’ve got to make your own kind of magic just because you can.
Maybe you want to start celebrating Financial Freedom Fridays to see if you can go without purchasing anything for one Friday a quarter.  Or maybe you want to practice Meatless Mondays where you venture into vegetarianism for a month of Mondays. Or try Tell-a-New-Tale-Tuesday where you rewrite your story with the happy ending you know you deserve. It’s all up to you to decide what you want to do.
Get Stuff Done 1×31 was just a challenge I posed to a few friends last year. This year we’re all in this together and I’m amazed at what people are doing.
How can you turn an evening at home into a something special? How can you make a meal into a memory?  How can you transform a birthday celebration into a brand new beginning, regardless of how old you are? What do you need to alter in order to experience the extraordinary that awaits?
We’re all everyday alchemists. Share  your secrets in the comments below.
 

Small change

US Coins
It’s Day 13 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today we’re going to keep it short, sweet, and relatively simple. Today’s challenge is all about small change.
With a name like Penny, you might think I’m an expert on small change. Regardless of how hard times get, I’ll always have a “penny” to my name. As I assured my fireman, as long as you keep me around, you’ll never be penny-less. Lucky me. 🙂
But as you might suspect, I’m not talking about literal small change. I’m talking about the kind of small change you can make in 5-15 minutes that can make the most difference in the next hour, the next day, the next week, or the next year.
In our quest to accomplish the big stuff, we often overlook the small stuff that makes the big stuff possible.  I love this image and question by Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com.

 “Where can the smallest change make the biggest difference?”

I subscribe to his free daily downloads of comically wise drawings. (You can, too, by clicking here.) I often print them out and put them in a place where I will see them throughout the day.
When I asked myself the small change question at the start of this challenge, the reply was surprisingly simple. “Change your screensaver.”  I kid you not.
I like to think of myself as open to change, but I can count the number of times I’ve changed my screensaver on one hand. Since I spend a considerable amount of time at or near my computer, this would make a noticeable difference.
Now every time I see a picture of the winding paths and roads I chose as my new screensaver, I am delighted because it reminds me of the journey I am on. These images spark my imagination and take me to places the familiar photos did not.
In anticipation of donating clothes along with several plastic hangers to Dress for Success, I bought some slim velvet hangers as replacements. Had I known these hangers would  free up valuable real estate in my closet, I would have purchased them years ago.
I have a history with finding the right hanger for the job that dates back to my days of managing a Pro Shop in Texas. So I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover these luxurious slim velvet ones. There is nothing inherently risky or even costly about switching hangers. Yet it’s totally transformed how I feel about organizing my clothes.
These are the kinds of small changes I’m talking about.  I’m all for discipline and delayed gratification. But sometimes instant gratification works wonders.
So, what will it be for you today? Discovering a new app to organize your lists? Getting shoe strings that don’t come untied when you’re walking the dog? Filling up a thermos with filtered water from home so you don’t need to buy bottled water?
Think about your most insistent issue.  What small change can you make to alter your interaction with it for the better? If you are stumped, ask a child. They often see the obvious and will give you an honest appraisal of the situation.
I’d love to hear what you come up with and decide to do today.  Share your solutions in the comments below.
 
 
 

Just Keep Swimming

 
Corals, fishes and diver
It’s Day 12 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. In honor of the first fabulous fish to join the newly established aquarium at my home away from home, Clinton Community College Maquoketa Center, today’s challenge is to just keep swimming.
Admittedly, not every day is going to be the best day of your life. But every day can be another day in paradise, if you choose to see it that way. It certainly is for our new fish.
Yesterday these fish were just a few in a sea of plenty in a pet store. Today they swim freely  in a 50 gallon tank with gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, and whozits and whatzits galore. Thingamabobs? They’ve got thingamabobs. And everything else under the sea. Okay, my tribute to The Little Mermaid ends here.
But my challenge to you is just beginning. Today I’d like you to think about where and how you are swimming along. What gadgets and gizmos do you need to get where you’re going? Who and what can help you find your voice, make your mark, meet your match, and own your throne?
We used to have a pool at my parent’s farm and I would spend every summer alternately cleaning the pool and swimming in it. I truly did have gadgets and gizmos galore to help me channel my inner Dana Torres  or  Diana Nyad and swim more laps each day in less time.
Sadly, the family pool is no longer around. Fortunately, the Internet is and these are the waters I swim in now. Surfing the web and casting my words out into the world to see what comes back is exhilarating.
Because what comes back is you! You, from around the globe with your glorious goals and good wishes, have joined forces with my Get Your Groove Back group and given me one walloping good reason to continue to dive into these uncharted waters.
Figuring this out together is much easier than figuring it out alone, isn’t it?
And just so you know it’s not always smooth sailing, let me share what’s kicking my butt about this challenge.
These days I spend every waking moment writing or thinking about writing, wondering how to post a video or where the photo I just downloaded is now located on my computer, mortified that I may have posted something with a glaring typo or two, unclear how to share the songs playing in my head, the books vying for my attention, or the latest blog post that rocked my world, or why I can’t seem to post anything before the day is almost over.  Yada, yada, yada.
All these concerns crowd around my regular job,  getting groceries, making meals, running errands, walking the dog, doing laundry, getting stuff done, and spending time with the guy who puts out fires. Even though the challenge increases the intensity of my life, it also infuses it with unprecedented urgency, meaning, and connection.
This is why it’s called a challenge. This is why it’s for a limited time. This is how we learn what we’re made of. And this is why we just keep swimming.
Here’s what Jen Sincero, author of You Are A Badass, has to say.

“So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.”

Somewhere around now, you might be tempted to think this was fun while it lasted but you’ve got other fish to fry (just please don’t mention this in front of the fish).
Stay the course. Just keep swimming.  How you do anything is how you do everything. You quit now, you quit every time you get bored, overwhelmed, or irritated.
This is where it gets interesting. This is where the daily dares start to become healthy habits. I’m asking for 1 x 31, not 31 x 1. This is where the magic happens.
Share your fears, frustrations, breakthroughs, or epiphanies in the comments below.  Or email them to me at penny@wellpower.com.
Say hello to my little friends….
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What's New?

Concept of training. Wooden bookshelf full of books in form of m
It’s Day 11 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to learn something new.
No matter how old or young you may be, how much you think you know or don’t know, or whether you think there are any original ideas left to explore, as an educator I’m here to tell you there is always something to learn.
I know learning can be intimidating. Often the hardest thing for a student to do is to walk through through the doors of whatever learning institution he or she chooses. But doing so can change a life.
That’s why in order for me to teach, I must continue to learn. As a writer, it helps for me to be a voracious reader. To be an effective coach, I need to be willing to be coached.
TED talks are one of my favorite free sources of learning. I am a huge fan of these 18 minute entrées into the world of experts in every imaginable field. This is a luxury I would have never thought possible in my workshop junkie days when going where the gurus were was the only way to get the goods.
This month you can not only do the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge, but you can also take the TED ED Challenge.  These lessons can also be completed in 5-15 minutes, depending on how engrossed you get in the topic.  A new topic is presented each day in an animated short that brings the information to life in a very entertaining and educational way. (It has also prompted me to add “find funding for an animator, director, sound editor, script director, and producer” to my Get Stuff Done 1×31 list.)
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people complain they are bored. There is so much to learn, discover, and do. Why would you not use the day’s downtime to take advantage of the ample learning opportunities to plant seeds in your imagination?

Our biggest threat is not weapons of mass destruction but weapons of mass distraction.

Today I encourage you to cultivate the kind of creativity that comes with having a quiet moment, a curious mind, and the patience to contemplate the questions that have confounded great minds for centuries.
Work a cross-word puzzle. Solve a Sudoku puzzle. Doodle or sketch a logo for your 1×31 Challenge list. Animate one of these lessons. Write a reply to a perplexing question with your non-dominant hand.
Use that Wiggle Room from Day 6 to explore the unfamiliar and make unlikely connections between things that appear to have nothing to do with each other. Maybe you will stumble upon a solution to a problem that just needed to be approached from a different perspective?
Share what you learn in the comments below.
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Here are a few classics for your playlist:
What’s New, Pussycat? – Tom Jones
What a Wonderful World – James Taylor, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
Inside Out – Trisha Yearwood, Don Henley
And here are just a few of my favorite TED presenters:

 

Stop, Drop, and Roll

AdobeStock_rollerblade.jpeg
It’s Day 10 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is a variation on stop, drop, and roll.
I learned this fire safety drill early on in my relationship with Fireman Bob. I believe it was the first time I offered to cook him a meal.
“Should your clothes catch on fire,” he warned as soon as he witnessed my wizardry with the gas stove,“your response is to stop, drop, and roll.”
Of course this is no longer a threat now that I’m banned from the kitchen. But, the lesson stuck with me and today I’d like to adapt the stop, drop, and roll theory to our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.
I’d love for you stop for 5-15 minutes today and review your progress so far. We’re about 1/3 of the way through our challenge. Nothing builds on the excitement of a movement like momentum.
So grab your lists and let’s review your to do’s-to be’s- to have’s , listen to a couple of your playlists, take a peek at those pics you took to post your progress, and gather your evidence that the world is basically good.

What are the biggest and smallest items you’ve been able to accomplish in 10 days? Would you have done these things had you not been doing the 1×31 challenge?

You are inching forward, are you not? You’ve earned bragging rights so go ahead a tell someone or share with the rest of us in the comments below.
Yesterday I took some work clothes to Dress for Success, which was a big item on my list. On Day 5, with the help of Fireman Bob, I got the pantry organized. (The pantry is not off limits. No fire hazards there.)
Okay, this is where I’m taking creative license with the Stop, Drop, and Roll drill and changing Drop and Roll to Rock and Roll. I think you know where this is heading. That’s right. Dance party.
Remember on Day 7 when I asked you to do something for the health of it?  Just in case you didn’t get around to that, here is your chance. As they say, dance like no one’s watching. Play air guitar. Break out the roller skates/blades. Or do the hokey -pokey and turn yourself around.
Just do some small physical thing (like throw your arms up in a victory pose as I did  when my feet touched this exquisite red sand near Zion National Park) to celebrate your success so far. If that happens to be drop and roll, so be it.  Otherwise, rock on!
Penny's iphone 2016 843
Okay, here’s your playlist to accompany today’s post:
Celebrate Good Times – Kool and the Gang
Rock On – David Essex – or if you prefer the Midnight Special edition, click here.
Stop, Drop, and Roll – Safety Safety Song for Kids- This is fabulous… a stop, drop, and roll song! These kids are amazing and their dance moves are awesome.
It’s Still Rock N Roll to Me – Billy Joel
Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim – One of my all time favorite songs:)
Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker
Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
Roll With It – Steve Winwood
Only Rock and Roll – The Rolling Stones

  • The fascinating thing with compiling these playlists is I’ve never watched any of the videos until now.  I usually just searched for the music on iTunes. It’s been quite entertaining to actually watch the videos. Hope you enjoy them as well. 🙂

 
Your suggestions are welcome in the comments below.
 
 
 
 

Gather Evidence of Good

Summer 2016 017
It’s Day 9 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s task is to gather evidence that the world is basically good.
You know how when you purchase a copper colored car and suddenly you notice copper colored cars everywhere? Well, it could be that there is a sudden influx of copper colored cars on the road, but it’s more likely that your reticular activating system has now put copper colored cars on its radar of important items.
Your reticular activating system is a small part of the brain with a big responsibility. Its job is to filter through the infinite amounts of incoming information and determine what is most important for you to know to stay alive and reach your goals.
The reason you need to know about this is so you can harness its power to help you gather evidence that the world is basically good, life supports you, and you have ample resources  ready to help you achieve whatever it is you are willing to commit to.
You already know there is more than enough evidence to convince you the opposite is true.  All you need to do is turn on the television, read a newspaper, look on the Internet, or relive a few of your favorite failures to “prove” it.
But today I challenge you to do the opposite. Counter every negative with a positive. For every insult you hear, offer a compliment. Should someone slam a door in your face, open one for someone else.
I guarantee you this will be challenging. 
But it will also be uplifting. And if you write it down in your optimist’s journal or take pictures of your findings as I suggested earlier this week, you will be blown away by all the goodness gathering around you.
Don’t believe me?  Just try it.  Make it a game. Give it a go. Actively seek out the silver linings.
It’s all in the way you choose to see, hear, or experience something.

As they say in metaphysics, “What you focus on expands.”

So let’s focus on the fabulous, shall we?
Leave your evidence that the world is good in the comments below and/or send me your suggestions for today’s playlist.
 
Here’s one that’s on mine.
Tell Me Something Good – Rufus and Chaka Khan – Gotta love the groovy outfits!