i think i can

The Best Advice So Far - i think i can

In July, I completed the recording, editing and mastering of the audiobook version of The Best Advice So Far, right on schedule.

By mid-August, the audiobook had been submitted to Audible, approved and officially released.

From the very start — before I’d ever even penned a word of it — I knew that I eventually wanted The Best Advice So Far released in digital, print and audiobook formats. At long last, that vision had become a reality.

Within days of that milestone, and while still on vacation in Florida, I’d begun outlining my next book. And by September 12, I had completed the preface.

It felt strange, after all that had gone into the first book, to be at the very beginning again with a completely new book. Yet I’m excited about it. I can envision, even from here, what it will become.

Thing is, it wasn’t “becoming” very quickly.

Here we are at the beginning of December, and I don’t have even a single completed chapter to show for it.

All the while, I’ve grown increasingly aware that lots of stuff I’d set out to do — some for more than a year now — also hadn’t gotten done. Instead, they continued to scritchscritchscritch like proliferating mice inside the walls of my brain.

Well, a week or so back, I declared that enough was enough. It was time to figure out why I was stalemated on so many personal goals.

I’m not lazy. In fact I stay quite busy. So that was definitely not the culprit. I’d even go so far as to say that most people who know me would describe me as downright tenacious.

In fairness to myself, I had attempted early on to get somewhere with several of the tech-related tasks (such as getting the “Like” button to function on my blog posts, a feature that has not worked since the site went live). But I’d been stonewalled or left hanging by every representative I’d contacted. Still, I thought during my recent ponderings, I’m smarter than the average bear. I designed my entire website myself, having learned everything I know about coding on my own over the years. So I knew that, ultimately, these problems were not beyond my ability to solve, whether anyone else helped me or not.

I’m creative, as well as clear on what I’d like to accomplish. For instance, where the new book is concerned, the outline is finished. I’ve got plenty of ideas, which often play themselves out in great detail inside my head throughout the day. And, as I say, I’m plenty interested in and motivated by the topic. Yet for all of that, I was still perpetually finding myself with nothing to show for it.

Furthermore, I’m not a procrastinator. As a matter of fact, I’ve said or typed the following statement about myself so often that it feels almost cliché: I’ve never missed a deadline to which I’ve agreed. And that is absolutely true. (Well, except for that one time I forgot to get on a plane for a major event I was supposed to be running — sorry, Steve — but that wasn’t so much missing a deadline as having sincerely mucked up the date somehow).

That’s when it hit me — the reason so many things in my life had remained undone for so long.

When I decided to write the first book, I gave myself a year to complete it. I typed the final period on the very last day of that year.

The same held true for designing the website. It was time intensive. Numerous obstacles arose throughout. But I’d drawn a line in the sand. I had decided that the site would be completed, come hell or high water, before an upcoming speaking engagement at Penn State. My cousin died tragically the day before the event. And even into the wee hours of the morning of my flight, I was on the phone with the hosting company trying to resolve issues on their end. Still, you’d best believe that site was up and running like gangbusters before I rolled my luggage out the door.

The audiobook recording was a 120-hour ordeal. Some perfectly good material had to be thrown out simply because my voice tone didn’t match the rest. At one point, due to a software glitch, I lost twelve fully recorded chapters. My heart sank. Honestly, I cried. Then came the painstaking editing phase. Headphones begin to feel like granite. Your eyes go buggy from watching endless neon-green sound waves scroll by, as you seek out every breath and spit crackle and poppy-P, and suppress it manually. And you think you hate the sound of your own voice now? Try listening to it at close range for days on end. Nonetheless, as with every other goal I’d set for myself along the way, I’d wrapped up that recording by the allotted target date.

What’s more, I’ve published a blog post each and every Sunday by midnight for 50 consecutive weeks now. How the heck could I be writing like clockwork in one area, all while watching the new book lie dormant for months? I’m sure you’re catching my drift here.

I’ve heard the mantra often: “If you believe it, you can achieve it.” Thing is, if you’d asked me prior to this revelation whether I believed I’d eventually accomplish the many waylaid goals in my abandoned Jenga pile, I’d have told you unequivocally, “Yes, without a doubt” — even as I expressed my frustration surrounding the mystery of why they hadn’t already been met.

The Little Engine That Could came to mind: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but to quote Shel Silverstein…

"Thinking you can just ain't enough." ~Shel Silverstein

The truth is … I knew I could.

I’d been telling friends as much for a while, and in specific terms. And yet still — nothing was getting done.

Here’s the secret. That Little Engine didn’t just think she could.

Looking up is a start. But alone, belief and a great attitude still leave you looking up … from the bottom of the mountain.

Everyone seems to remember “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Yet the magic lies in one, small seemingly insignificant tidbit that seems to get lost in the all the (lo?)commotion:

The Little Engine That Could: “But we must get over the mountain before the children awake,” said all the dolls and toys.

In other words, the Little Engine That Could didn’t reach her goal on “I think I can.”

She had a deadline.

I’m famous for telling people, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Wishing doesn’t get you anywhere. I know this all too well. All the same, it somehow came as a surprise once again — and only as the result of much consideration of late — that my sole barrier in many areas was the lack of a clear deadline.

So I set some deadlines.

I told friends, “I am going to do this specific thing by this precise date.”

And — wonder of wonders — stuff has started getting done again. It’s a real live Christmas miracle, I tell you.

(Speaking of which … did you notice the nifty new Subscribe options and “Like” button?)

The Best Advice So Far - The Little Engine That Could didn't reach her goal on "I *think* I can. She had a DEADLINE.

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