Make Lists to Achieve Your Goals

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I’m a filmmaker that specializes in sound. With each passing day, I’m moving closer and closer to my goal of writing and directing documentary films. How does one become a documentary filmmaker? They take the Werner Herzog Masterclass and follow his advice. 

“Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read…if you don’t read, you will never be a filmmaker.”
― Werner Herzog

Daily I have a rigorous reading routine. Most of my books line the shelves of every vertical surface in my home. Begging to be opened and absorbed. To optimize my time, I listen to audiobooks. My local public library offers up to five free audiobooks per month and I take advantage of Audible’s five-dollar book deals and purchasing credits in bulk. 

I’ve slowly yet steadily increased the intensity of my audible reading goals by gradually increasing the playback speed. Currently I “read” or listen to books at double the speed. Occasionally I’ll miss a word or passage and I’ll rewind fifteen seconds and relisten. Point is I read a lot of books.

Reading is a neverending lifelong process. If you are a reader, you’ll never ever finish. 

For the most part, I only read non-fiction. Life is too short and interesting to waste time with fiction. Memoirs, self-development, philosophy, and nature are some of my favorite categories. 

So this is an article on lists. Why are you talking about books?

Possibly because I’m self-diagnosed with ADHD. Or possibly because my interests are vast. Or possibly because I suffer from CRS (Can’t Remember Shit), I make lists. Lists of every book I read. Lists of books I never finished. Amazon hosts lists of books I want. 

How does a self-diagnosed weirdo keep track of where he has been and where he is going? You guessed it. I make a damn list.

What are your goals? Do you know how to get there? If you are feeling stuck, lacking in ambition to reach your dreams and goals, make lists. The list can be incremental steps to the final goal.

Want to travel to Patagonia? Make a damn list. Make a huge list that feels overwhelming with detail. Let the anxiety build and then work to strike out just one item on the list. Found your passport? Check it off. Researched flights? Check that shit off. Ordered plane tickets, found someone to care for your orchids? Check. And on and on.

What does a pseudo-documentary filmmaker suffering from self-diagnosed ADHD, turned writer, turned self-help guide, turned philosopher know about the subject? I know how to make a list. And more importantly, I know how to take incremental steps to check items off and make progress. One step at a time.

Stop Sharpening Your Pencil

I once worked with an architect. We will call him The Ostrich. Why The Ostrich? Because he spends most of his day doing two things. Sharpening pencils and shoving his head in the sand. Stressed and anxious about his workload, he would wander around the office, sharpening pencils, grabbing clean writing pads, wiping down his desk, filling his water bottle. I’d say “dude, I wrote my task list, stared blankly at the page, found the easiest task, finished it, and crossed that shit off. And you, you are making sawdust.”

He couldn’t make a list. The idea of the list overwhelmed him. WTF? Isn’t the idea of life the journey and not the destination? Do I only want to read one more book? Write one more article? Make only one film. Hell no. Every day I’ll keep adding to my lists. I make lists of my tasks, and lists of my accomplishments. 

Far ahead in the distance is a sandy mountain. The sun is shining brightly. Will I ever get to the top? Possibly not. However, look at each footprint in the sand as a goal on your list. Take one step, now another. Give it a week, a month, a year. Now look back at that list like footprints in the sand. Do you see have far you’ve come? Now keep going.

My advice Make a damn list.

Stop Overthinking and Analysis Paralysis. It’s Time to Take Action.

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“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” Dale Carnegie

Our bodies have a natural biological clock called Circadian Rhythm. This clock is prewired to follow a 24-hour cycle based on light and darkness. As night begins to fall our clock will release the hormone melatonin helping us fall asleep. 

We normally sleep through the night until around sunrise. Our bodies begin to release cortisol the fight or flight hormone beginning around 3 am. Your cortisol peaks mid-morning at around 9 am. If you are waking up at the onset of the cortisol rush you may have increased stress levels or underlying health issues.

For me, it’s anxiety and stress. I’ll awaken and acknowledge the fact that it’s not time to be awake. My breathing will have increased with short staccato breathes. My heart will be pumping faster as I enter overthinking mode. 

As I lie there the pounding on my minds gates gets louder and with a bang, the gates open and the thoughts come rushing in. My mind will begin to remind me of every unfinished project. Every possible issue and potentially disastrous outcome. I’ll just lie there, paralyzed by my thoughts and inaction.

My mental self stands there, arms held out as problem after problem, task after tasks, worry after worry are handed to me. I can’t make a move. Paralyzed like a deer caught in the headlights.

As I struggle to regain control, it was during these panicked moments I’d wonder about my capabilities and contemplate running away from my thoughts and challenges. My body was in fight or flight and I was thinking I’d run.

The Human Brain

The human brain is the most developed of any known animal species. Our brains consist of three basic parts. The reptilian brain handles primitive processing such as breathing, heart rate, hunger, sexuality, and procedural memory.

The old mammal brain handles emotion, motivation, and memory.

Lastly, the new mammal brain handles languages, improved reasoning, planning, and complex decision-making.


I’ll silently yell at my thoughts. They won’t relent as they increase in intensity. Mental chaos ensues until I release my “shush” command silently. Focusing closely on my breathing, I’ll take in a purposefully slow intentional breath. My lungs begin to fill and my chest increases in volume. The oxygenated air reaching my extremities. Holding my breath for a moment until I’ll slowly release the air in a controlled exhale. 

My focus is purely on my breath as I’ll attempt to silence my mammalian brain functions. With each passing breathing cycle, the thoughts coming in feel diluted and powerless. With each controlled exhale the negative thoughts are released from my thought path.

Lying there, with focused meditative breath, I’d regain control of my thoughts. I used to just continue to lie there, hoping I’d fall back asleep. Wishing the circumstances of my thoughts and inability to make a move would miraculously fade away.

Get up and Take Action

For the past few months, I no longer just lie there and take the artillery fire of my thoughts. Jumping up out of bed, I’ll take action as I begin my daily routine. It may be journaling or writing an article. Followed by exercise, meditation, and breakfast while listening to an audiobook. 

I’ve retrained myself to take action during this natural period of cortisol rush. My creativity has increased as I complete tasks and get stuff done. I’m hardly anxious and my thought process is more defined and focused. 

Nothing Prepares You for Leadership in a Disaster

 How You Do One Thing Is How You Do Everything

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When Mother Nature strikes her blows can be catastrophic. What was once a sleepy arts community becomes a disaster zone. Floodwaters rising to historic proportions as five-foot raging water ripped through homes and businesses. Objects becoming buoyant as mud waters rushed into structures destroying everything with its wake.

As you arrive at the scene best described as your worst nightmare, something internally clicks. Your responsiveness and assertive direction kicking in. The body and mind operating on autopilot. Emotional shock and awe are suppressed as you rise to the occasion and lead.

A meditative calming overrides your consternation. Your thoughts and actions become focused. Stepping into the driver’s seat you embrace the challenge and become a leader.

Leaders lead, followers follow and some people are over-wrought with anxiety and fear. Frozen within this moment. Helpless and panicked. 

Observance of the wreckage it appears overwhelmingly impossible the normalcy of life can continue. Worldly possessions and property waterlogged and filthy. 

Victims of the disaster look tattered, beaten, and defeated. Looking to you, to anyone to assist. To guide. To help. Often the victims are leaders that at this moment can’t lead.

Leaders assembly a calvary of compassionate followers. Willing to help in any way humanly possible. Grabbing shovels and brooms, distributing water and food. Providing shoulders for the misfortunate victims to cry. 

Selfless able bodies arrive, called to action by sympathy and desire to help. Ready, willing, and able to help restore civility. Awaiting orders so that they assist.

A police chief arrives calming the situation and directing people to safety. Trucks full of supplies arrive, dispatched by leaders that determined they were needed. Chaos becomes order as natural-born leaders quickly make decisions. 

Leaders aren’t born, they are created. Leaders will lead when nobody else can. Leaders lead and leaders concede when another leader assigns direction.

Scanning the situation I counted not one leader, but hundreds. A football coach marching his team of strong able body players into the toughest game. The game of life. These boys are being crafted to become future leaders, carrying heavy saturated furniture from people’s homes into the streets. Shoveling mud and sludge.

 Picking up the phone I called every leader I could think of. People I knew that naturally can assemble a team of followers that would assist in reversing the disaster. Those leaders would yield to my direction, hang up the phone and proceed to lead. Assembling and directing. 

Leaders are not born, they are created. Leaders lead and leaders concede. Leaders provide comfort and compassion. Leaders make tough decisions and selflessly right the wrongs. It’s how you live your life and what you do every day that will make you a great disaster leader.

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, We did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu

I’m Naked and Unafraid

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We have heard it all before. What defines you is what’s on the inside. Strip back the layers. Remove the barriers that we hide behind. The clothing labels we feel determines our identity.

Visualize yourself in a large room. Begin to remove an article of clothing. As you remove each layer of clothing, take a step forward. Once completely naked turn sideways and visualize yourself in front of a large mirror. What do you see?

What you should be seeing is the real you. How do you look? You see a naked self. Now look deeper. If what you see feels ugly, visualize an oyster shell, crusty and imperfect. Open the shell and push the fleshy meat aside and observe a shiny pearl. A treasure buried deep inside, protected by the hardened shell. 

Keep looking, what do you see? This is the real you. Nothing to hide behind, our naked body only the vessel that carries the treasure of our mind and soul.

What is your posture as you stand naked in front of the mirror? Are you hunched over? Hands covering areas of your body you don’t like exposing? Are you afraid of what you see? Look beyond those things. It’s what is on the inside that defines you? 

Visualize the room again, only this time the room is full of people. Lined up row after row, naked and exposed. Who do you feel? The rank and file are now stripped of their superficial hierarchy. Are you afraid? 

My original immediate honest answer would have been yes. I would have looked around the room to access everyone else. I’d make determinations based upon everyone’s nakedness and provide a comparison. I would have been naked and afraid.

But that was the old me. The new me works on what is inside. I read and write daily. My diet has improved and I exercise religiously. Not only my body but my mind. 

I’m keeping a journal of each day’s incremental improvements. Each day I strive for a one percent improvement. One percent stronger, one percent more confident, one percent happier. It’s these daily micro improvements that cumulatively improved my inner self.

And it’s these internal improvements that transfer outward. Not only to my physical outer self but to those around me. I radiate outward positivity, empathy, and compassion. I’ve nothing to fear.

With each passing day, I improve. My thoughts remain positive. I’m focused and confident. As I stand nakedly before you, I’m unafraid