Why I Love Mondays

Happy Monday!

“Now that it’s all over, what did you really do yesterday that’s worth mentioning?” Coleman Cox

345_Why I Love Mondays

The above quote popped up in one of my emails as I started to write this blog. How appropriate and timely for this post about a day that most of us dread. Do you love Mondays? I do. I’m betting that you’re looking at me funny and thinking, “Is she out of her mind?”

Trade in a Corporate Work Day

No, my grey matter is still intact where it belongs, but I did drop something…something out of my weekly routine, that is. More than a year ago, I traded in a corporate work day for a writing day. Best decision ever! Now I look forward to my Mondays when my only obligation is to myself. My calendar is cleared so that all I have to do is write and do all things related to advancing my writing career. When I wake up on Tuesday mornings to write in my gratitude journal, I gratefully state what I accomplished on my date with my creative side. It leaves me wishing for more…but all in good time.

A Fair Swap?

Do you get how liberating and wonderful it feels to shut out the corporate world for twenty-four blissful hours every week? To anticipate only four workdays instead of five? To be able to set my own agenda for what I want to achieve without having my time hijacked by another employee or another crisis? And to find a happy balance between my left brain and my right brain?

Monday Fantasies

On Mondays I create fantasy worlds where I play god, breathing life into my characters or killing them at will. I’ve almost completed my second novel now. No, it’s not a sequel to “Picture Bride” as many of my readers have asked for. Rather it’s a story (working title, “Wait for Me“) about a young woman’s journey to immigrate to Canada after her husband takes a “fake” wife to expedite the process.

Following the publication of “Picture Bride” in November 2014, I started writing its sequel. About a quarter of the way in, I just couldn’t connect with my characters the way I did when I wrote the first book. That’s when I decided to park it for a future date. Better to keep my readers waiting than to turn out work I have a hard time breathing life into at this time.

A Ship-Load of Editing Awaits

Now “Wait for Me” is going through the first round of editing…and it’s a ship-load of work, but I’m loving it. Although I knew that writing a novel wasn’t easy, I didn’t expect it to consume so much of my life. You really have to love this journey to be able to keep up the rigorous schedule you need to maintain to finish writing a book. Now at the editing stage, it’s a major re-write where I just about scrutinize every word and every event. If it weren’t for the novel-tracking workbook that I’ve developed, I don’t know how I’d be able to keep tabs on all my characters and events. If you’d like to try out my Excel workbook with automated time lapse calculations, I’ll be happy to share it with you for free, of course.

So is There a Happy Monday in Your Near Future?

Would you give up a part of your income in exchange for an extra day or two to write or do something you love?

 

Picture by Jeremy Hsiung

Why You Should Do Something That Makes You Uncomfortable

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Why You Should Do Something That Makes You Uncomfortable

Why should you make yourself uncomfortable? Isn’t that counter-intuitive?

My answer: If you never step out of your comfort zone, you become complacent. Complacency kills creativity and the desire to accomplish.

Learning to swim: an exercise in futility

A few years ago I decided to learn how to swim. So I bought a bathing suit (with a skirt for modesty), a swimming cap (did I mention that it was made of cloth?), and a pair of goggles (yes, it was mostly waterproof). For the next few months, I thrashed, heaved, panted, and gasped in the pool, never venturing beyond the red line marking the steep drop-off to the deep side.

A kindly gym member took pity on me and gave me some lessons. I remained stubbornly uncoordinated and dreaded my once-a-week foray into the pool. After a few months I gave up and went back to all the activities that I knew I could do. I even took up outdoor cycling and became quite good at it. It wasn’t a huge leap since I was already teaching cycle fit indoors.

Learning to swim: the gauntlet is thrown

Last year a seventy-three-year old gym buddy began boasting to me about how many laps he was able to swim after just a few months in the puddle. He kept taunting me to join him. If he could do it, then why couldn’t I? I’m younger than him and in pretty good shape.

So I bought a rubber cap, wore my old bathing suit and goggles, and then jumped into the water with dread. My previous mentor was nowhere to be found. I thrashed, heaved, panted, and gasped again.

Someone asked me at the pool, “How many times do you swim every week?”

“Once a week.”

He laughed. “That’s like me going to the golf course once a year and hoping I can improve my swing.”

Okay, I’ll try for twice a week. Alas, this was still not the turning point.

One day I bumped into my friend, a more-than-competent swimmer whose schedule never coincided with mine in the pool until that day. She took one look at me and said, “Lose that bathing suit. It’s like the lady who wore flip flops to your spinning class.”

So I skulked into a shop she recommended and picked up two new “swimming-appropriate” bathing suits. When the sales lady asked which league I belonged to, I gave her a vague response, but I proudly wore one of my new outfits when I knew my friend would be in the pool.

Success

Without going into the details of my near-drowning and panic attacks, I can report that in less than a year after my second start, I can now swim at least twenty laps (that’s a kilometer) in about thirty minutes. Maybe that’s not much for some of you. For me, this caps a year of taking on uncomfortable projects.

You see, last year I also got a publisher to publish my debut novel—a feat that I didn’t believe I could accomplish until I challenged myself to take that leap.

You just never know what you can accomplish or create when you step out of your comfort zone:

Seth Godin said in one of his blogs that you should make it a habit to get out of your comfort zone. I learned to swim when I dreaded going into the pool. Today I feel exhilarated every time I jump in. I banged on my computer coaxing out one word after another. Now I have a published novel, Picture Bride, to show for it.

Do you have a story about how stepping out of your comfort zone made you feel good in the end? Please share it in the comments.

Lessons I Learned from Jeff Walker’s Book, Launch

Launch: An Internet Millionaire's Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your DreamsLaunch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your Dreams by Jeff Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hype or Real?

If you’re hoping to become an instant millionaire, you’re in for a rude awakening. You’re not going to become rich just by reading this book.

Why I Read Launch

As an accountant and a business process management professional in the corporate world, I’ve never had the urge to dabble in marketing. There are others whose job it is to sell the company’s products and services. And I’ve never felt like I needed to market myself; people associate with me or become my friends for who I am.

Then I became a writer. My novel, Picture Bride is scheduled to be released by TSAR Publications on October 15, 2014. Suddenly, I find myself in the position of a marketer. True, I have the option to let the publisher deal with the book promotion and only do what they ask me to do. But I’ve never been a good backseat driver. I realized that if I want my years of hard work to be recognized, I have to promote my book. So I started to read books on marketing.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Okay, the book title tantalized and teased…so I bought Launch a few days before its release. Jeff Walker had already turned on his Internet marketing machinery long before the book was on the shelf. It started to drive sales using the methods he teaches. The fact that it climbed to the #1 spot in The NY Times Bestselling List within the first couple of weeks did not surprise me.

What did I learn?

For starters, there’s no shortcut to success. You have to work smart and work hard to succeed. Jeff Walker shows you how to promote your product, but you still have to get down in the trenches. And speaking of product, you need one to sell one—he’ll even give you ideas for that. I have to admit that I found it incredible what some people sell…and the same goes for what some people buy.

The book entertains while you learn—success stories that keep you turning the pages. Jeff Walker’s methods are credible and doable if you are serious about starting an Internet business. After reading the book and watching him speak a few times on video, I believe him. He’s not the sleazy salesman or marketer who turns you off with his pitch.

Conclusion

Does the book give you the license to print money? NO. Go do the work and learn some marketing tricks along the way to promote your product or service. There’s no reason why you can’t have fun doing it. Read Launch, and get some actionable ideas.

30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: What an Experience

A Free Course, Reblog-hop-150x150ally

Is anything really free these days? The only thing I can think of is the air that we breathe. But wait, let me tell you about D’vorah Lansky’s 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge. Not only was it free, it DELIVERED…day after day during the thirty days. And the best part of it all…you don’t need to spend a cent if you don’t want to and still get the full benefit of the course. Did I get your attention yet?

Converting a Skeptic

I started out as a skeptic. How much can I really learn from a free course? You heard the saying before: “You get what you pay for.” Well, not this time. D’vorah packed so much content into the 30-Day Challenge that I could barely keep up. I stayed up late at night listening to the webinars and constantly reading the great variety of materials provided. The posts teased and pushed my brain to its limit. How do I get the best out of all these marketing tips? So many to choose from, and I still have a day job to do.

My Ah-ha Moment

On Day 18 of the Challenge, I listened to Kristen Eckstein speak about serializing books on Kindle. I knew right there and then that I’d found a strategy that would suit me perfectly. My fiction, Picture Bride, will be published by a traditional publisher during fall 2014. I don’t have a book out yet, but I have many short stories that I’m still editing. Why not release some of these stories as a series on Kindle? And for my free giveaway for anyone signing up on my website, I started to write an ebook called How to Stir the Writing Fire in Your Belly.

I was on fire. I signed up for Kristen’s Kindle in 30 Challenge for the discounted rate of $97. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you don’t have to pay for anything if you don’t want to. I’ve just started this course and hoping to self-publish my first ebook soon.

About My Novel

Picture Bride is about a young Hakka Chinese girl from India who marries a cold and aloof stranger in Canada. Bound by tradition and culture, she stays in the marriage despite his uncaring ways and even after she discovers his secret. Then when she is forced to flee, she is spurned by her father who cares only about his honor and reputation.

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Make Minor Adjustments in Your Life to Create a Major Impact

Waterfall

 

Start with a Vacation

Every time I return home from a vacation, I have an urge to make some adjustments—something small to change things up in my life. The down-time away from home allows me to think about what’s happening to me and around me.

A Change in My Routine

In 2010, my mother checked into the hospital for a surgery. What was supposed to be a one-week stay turned into a five-month nightmare. While I had been driving to work for many years, commuting 35 kilometres each way every day, I found myself driving even more. I detoured to the hospital almost daily and also drove there on the weekends. Then when I took my first trip to China around the time my mother finally went home, I spent two weeks almost worry-free. After lots of naval-gazing, I decided that when I returned home, I would stop driving to work. I began to ride the train instead, and I used the commute time to read, write or chat. I’ll bet these rides now provide more therapeutic relief than any psycho-analytic couch.

A Significant Step

During the past few years, I had been toying with the idea of winding down from the corporate world to spend more time doing what I love. After much soul searching and number crunching, and after another vacation late last year, I decided to drop one day from my full-time job in March. I’m now writing another book…make that two. I started writing the sequel to Picture Bride a few months ago, and I’m one quarter of the way into an e-book that I will give away on my website. I might even write a series of Kindle books…maybe I need another vacation to give me the impetus to take that on.

A Word of Advice if I May

Use your vacation time to relax and let your mind take you in any and every direction. When you let yourself go, you just never know where you’ll end up. I highly recommend bringing home one little tweak to your routine to spice things up a bit. You don’t need to shift gears as much as I did in my examples above. I’ve tried to adopt a minor change each time I came home from a holiday. Some lasted and some got lost in the sea of tasks that greeted me as soon as I stepped inside the office. Just add or subtract something that makes you feel good.

And Finally…

The key is to aim for those little adjustments; they might accumulate into a big and rewarding lifestyle shift.

Just Call Me John

Lennon

Chris sprinted up the stairs and exited the subway station. He paused, turned his head one way and then another with a frown on his handsome young face. His ears strained to hear the usual melodious guitar rhythm. But nothing interrupted the hum of the rush hour traffic.

Chris rounded the corner. There he was, John, his homeless friend and his border collie, Buddy. He exhaled a white misty breath. Since he began working at Wishing Star, he’d seen John and Buddy at this same spot every morning.

“Hey there, where’s your guitar?” Chris handed John a muffin in a brown paper bag and a cup of coffee—their Tuesday morning routine. Then he rubbed Buddy’s furry neck. The dog nuzzled its snout against his legs as it swished its tail.

“My guitar was stolen last night.”

“Shucks…that’s too bad. How did it happen?”

“It was my own fault. I left it outside the men’s washrooms at Union Station for a few minutes.”

“That sucks. Is there anything I can do to help you?”

John’s face clouded. “Nah, it’s not the worst thing that’s happened to me.”

“This place doesn’t feel or sound the same without your music. Why don’t you borrow my guitar while we figure out how to replace yours?”

John’s eyes shone bright. “You would do that for me?” His voice quivered.

Red faced, Chris said, “Aw, it’s nothing. You’re special and you need the instrument more than I do.”

Yes, John was no ordinary panhandler. Passersby stopped to watch his fingers dance and pick the strings, coaxing out heart-warming melodies. When they dropped a coin or a note for him, it was paltry exchange for the glow in their hearts.

“Thanks, kiddo. Let me know what I can do to repay you for all you’ve done.”

Chris shrugged and waved. “Don’t mention it. I’ll see you tomorrow.” His footsteps crunched leaving a trail of imprints on the fresh, white snow.

These meetings began a year ago on a morning like this one when Chris felt a tug at his jeans. He looked down and gazed into Buddy’s limpid eyes. The canine nuzzled its snout into his leg with dogged insistence until he realized that he was meant to follow. He discovered John, half prone on the pavement, and propped against a wall, coughing and wheezing. Quickly Chris hailed a cab and accompanied them to the nearest hospital where he checked John in. A few days later, John and Buddy were back on the pavement, the gentle hobo strumming the most melancholic tune that twisted and stirred Chris’ heart like no words could. Since then Chris always stopped to chat, and a friendship blossomed.

***

The next day Chris rounded the same corner. John and Buddy were nowhere in sight. He tightened the grip on his guitar. A chill snaked down his back…it had nothing to do with the January air nipping at his face. A bone-chilling gust whipped up a stray paper food-wrap, tossing it around before depositing it at the spot where John and Buddy should have been. He breathed in deeply. John was probably heeding the cold weather warnings. Where would that be for a homeless man? John never spoke about himself. He once mentioned his family in the past tense during a momentary lapse.

Another morning passed and still no John or Buddy. Late that afternoon Chris’ cell phone vibrated in his trouser pocket. He watched the unknown number glowing in his palm before answering.

“Is this Christopher Hughson?” a deep voice asked.

“Yes, this is Chris.”

“My name is Aaron Silverberg. I’m calling about John Evan?”

“Who’s he? I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Perhaps he went by another name. John preferred to be anonymous most of the time. He has a border collie, Buddy. They’re inseparable.”

“Oh, that John. Is everything alright?”

Silence. “John died two days ago.”

Chris closed his eyes. When he opened them, he stared at a cartoon on his desk with unseeing eyes. “How did this happen?”

“John was walking Buddy when a driver mounted the curb plowing into both of them. Miraculously, Buddy escaped, but John died on the scene.”

“Can you tell me again who you are and how you are related to John?”

“Aaron Silverberg of Silverberg and Partners. I’m John’s lawyer.”

“John has a lawyer?”

“John probably didn’t tell you much about himself. Can we meet sometime tomorrow in my office?”

“I don’t understand. I knew John as a homeless man, at least that’s what I thought. Why would a lawyer want to meet with me and tell me things about John?”

“You are named on his will.”

Chris’ jaws dropped. Not only did John have a lawyer, but he also had a will. “Hey, Mister, I don’t know what game you’re playing, but I’m not falling for it.”

“I can assure you that this is not a joke. I’m not in the habit of calling up people to pull such a distasteful prank.” Chris heard the stiffness in Aaron’s tone.

“Uh, sorry.”

“So can you meet me tomorrow?”

“Okay,” Chris muttered. He grabbed a pen and scribbled as Aaron called out the address. When the call ended, he clasped his fingers behind his head and rocked his chair back and forth.

“Slacking off, Chris?”

Chris turned towards the intruder. “Bob, you know the homeless man I’ve been talking to for the last year or so? I just found out that he was killed in an accident.”

“Oh, bummer. Weren’t you trying to raise money to replace his guitar?”

“Yes, that’s not all. I just finished talking to his lawyer.”

Bob lifted an eyebrow. “A homeless man with a lawyer? I’ve heard stories about panhandlers who make a lot of money pretending to be poor. Then they go home to their big screen TV at the end of the day.”

“John’s not like that. He never asked for money. People just assumed that he needed it and dropped spare change on the floor in front of him.”

“Lawyers don’t come cheap. He must have made quite a lot of money.” Bob snickered.

“I’m really bummed out by his death.”

***

Early next morning, Chris entered Silverberg and Partner’s office. His sneakers sank noiselessly into the carpet as he approached the receptionist who peered at him behind black-rimmed glasses.

“Christopher Hughson to see Aaron Silverberg.”

“Take a seat right there while I call Marsha.”

Chris chose a black leather couch facing the double glass-paneled doorway. A few minutes later, a silver-haired woman in a black skirt-suit emerged. “Christopher Hughson? Follow me, please.”

Marsha led Chris to an office a few doors down the hallway. A black-suited man behind the dark mahogany desk raised his head as Marsha knocked. He gazed at them behind two neat piles—tan file folders stacked about a foot high beside two large bound books. He closed a binder, rose to his feet and came around the desk with an extended hand.

“So glad you could make it here. I’ve heard a great deal about you from John.” Aaron’s mouth lifted at the corners.

“Pleased to meet you too, Sir,” Chris said as they shook hands.

Aaron gestured toward one of the two visitor’s chairs. “You’re probably wondering why I’ve asked to see you.”

Chris shrugged self-consciously.

“John changed his will a few months before he died. He used to own a thriving business. Our firm has handled John’s legal matters for a long time. When his wife and only son died in an airplane that his son was piloting a couple of years ago, he was devastated. After selling his business he took to the streets, often sleeping there because he couldn’t bear to go home and be alone.”

“No wonder he didn’t seem like an ordinary panhandler. And yet, he didn’t turn down the money people gave him.” Chris said.

“Ah, the money he earned performing on the streets. John gave all that to charity. He never kept any of it. He loved that you brought him breakfast,” Aaron said.

“I thought he was homeless.”

“It was just like John to keep up the charade. He appreciated your friendship especially because you didn’t judge him. He has willed you something.”

Chris’ eyes widened. “Why? He doesn’t owe me anything.”

“No, he doesn’t, but he thought highly of you. He wants you to look after Buddy.”

“I’m flattered that he would trust me with Buddy.” Chris had considered adopting a dog. He had mentioned it to John once.

“There’s more.” Aaron cleared his throat. “John has left you a million dollars for the studio you’ve been dreaming of starting. His only condition is that you treat Buddy well.”

Chris expelled a deep breath. He gulped hard and opened his mouth. But only a strangled sound escaped.

Aaron’s eyes twinkled as he said, “Sometimes I understand silence better than words.”

The End

Do You Question Your Mortality?

Do you question your mortality when someone close to you or known to you dies prematurely or falls seriously ill? At such times, the fragile nature of the balance between life and death stares you in the face, and I think it’s natural to feel vulnerable.

Three years ago, a childhood pal and school buddy lost her battle with cancer. My heart went out to the family for their premature loss of a mother, sister and aunt. The dialogues swirling in my head tested me. “How can this happen to someone who was full of life?” Then some introspection, “If this could happen to her, it could happen to me and to my loved ones too.” See how easily someone might spiral down into depression when they dwell on such dark thoughts?

How does one escape from these realities? Another jolt hit close to home almost two years ago. A good friend’s husband suffered his second stroke and is still completely paralyzed today. The ache in my heart cannot compare to the pain she endures daily nor the utter helplessness that her husband must feel every second of every hour in every day during these last two years.

My own mother was snatched back from the Grim Reaper in 2010 when she was in her early seventies. By any doctor’s yardstick, she should have died, but she survived multiple surgeries, infections, and debilitating blood clots that shriveled her toes. All happened within a few months. I draw my inspiration for hope from my mother.

But yet another blow struck. Recently a close friend’s husband suffered a major heart attack. He survived—that is the good news. Now I try to make some sense of this event—a freakish one that hit a perfectly healthy person in his prime—a one-percent chance, according to his cardiologist. Even as I tried to reach out to lend my support to my friend, I grasped at straw to bring some sanity to my own world.

A sense of urgency grips me. I want to live life to its fullest. I want my first novel, now in the publication process, to see the light of day. I want to write more books. I want…I want…I want to cram as much as I can into this bucket filled with my yearnings.

Write…live…love.