The Man In The Arena

A few friends and I had a great adventure this weekend. We tried to climb a mountain.

We drove for too many hours, slept far too few, got lost and exhausted and more than a little beaten up for our efforts. We started before the sun came up, and finished long after it set.

Ultimately, none of us made it to the summit.

I was disappointed as the realization set in that we wouldn’t reach our goal. I don’t like failing, even though I know it’s a part of life and growth, and is a crucial step to learning anything.

I was bummed we didn’t make it to the top. But it helps to be in an incredibly beautiful place, because my disappointment turned to gratitude as I had some time to sit by this lake and reflect on my experience. Honestly, look at this place–it doesn’t even look real.

Split Mountain

[Read more…]

January 2016 Update

IMG_1975Wow, it’s been a while since I published anything here. (This is becoming my default opening line for blog posts.) 🙂

I should probably do a 2015 recap post at some point. It was a big year for me with a lot of ups and downs, and lots of lessons learned (hopefully). Honestly, I can’t believe how fast the year seemed to fly by. I accomplished a few of my goals for the year, but slipped up on more.

Anyway, now the calendar says 2016, and I’m sure a lot of you will be thinking about your goals for the new year.

If you’re into making New Years Resolutions, you might want to check out the post I wrote back on January 1st, 2013 about how to make resolutions that stick.

I’m making a few resolutions this year. One of which is to actually stick to a writing and publishing schedule on this blog. I used to have a pretty solid writing habit, but I’ve been really inconsistent lately. It’s kind of funny because I talk so much about writing and habits, you’d think I would have actually figured that one out. My first experiment of the year is going to be to write every day (again). This will be Round 3 of that experiment.

I’m hoping to follow in the footsteps of one of the Monthly Experiments community members, Bradley Charbonneau, who has written and published something for more than a thousand days in a row.

I’ve got a few other key habits I want to rebuild, but of course I’m going to be taking them one at a time. I’ll announce some more of my goals for the year soon, and also catch up a bit with writing about the experiments I did last year.

Monthly Experiments Podcast

In the meantime, if you want to hear the origin story of how and why I started doing Monthly Experiments, I was interviewed for a really cool podcast a few months back. It was a fun experience, and I shared some things that I haven’t talked much about here on the blog before.

If you want to give it a listen, check out my episode of Challenge Your Thinking with Dr. Linda Tucker.

Ok, I’m going to wrap up there for now.

A few questions…

Are you making any New Years Resolutions? Are you taking on a personal experiment for January?

Let me know in the comments, and/or hop over to the Monthly Experiments Facebook community and say hi there.

Happy New Year!


Well, That Escalated Quickly

A few days ago, I announced the August 2015 Personal Experiment Challenge.

My pitch was pretty simple:

If there’s something you want to change, something that hasn’t been working in your life, or something you’ve always wanted to try, now is the perfect time to try something new for a month. If you want to create a new habit that will help you reach your longterm goals, this is a great excuse to make it happen.

And, for this month, I’m going to be coaching and supporting anyone who decides to participate.

When I published that post and sent out an email announcing the challenge, I didn’t really know what kind of response to expect. In the past, I’ve announce an experiment that I was doing and invited you all to join me. That’s been a lot of fun, and you guys have done amazing things in past experiments.

I set up a private Facebook group for anyone who wanted to participate, and I figured maybe a dozen or so people would join me in there and we’d talk about our experiments and offer support throughout the month.

Well, then, things escalated quickly.  [Read more…]

August 2015: Personal Experiment Challenge

Who wants to take on a 1-month personal challenge?

Hopefully, you do. Because that’s what this month’s experiment is all about! 🙂

In case you’re new here, every month I take on a personal experiment and write about my results. I usually pick an experiment I want to do at the beginning of the month, and write a post about it, and invite you to join me.

But this month, instead of focusing on my own experiment, I’m going to be helping other people (like you!) with their own experiments.

So, basically, this month, I’m leaving the experiment idea up to you.

If there’s something you want to change, something that hasn’t been working in your life, or something you’ve always wanted to try, now is the perfect time to try something new for a month. If you want to create a new habit that will help you reach your longterm goals, this is a great excuse to make it happen.

And, for this month, I’m going to be coaching and supporting anyone who decides to participate.

How This Will Work

Right now, we’ve got a small private Facebook group of experimenters who are participating in this challenge, and you should definitely join us (more on how to do that in a minute).

There are people people doing experiments related to writing, fitness, business, waking up early, and even yoga. You can do any experiment you want. I want this to be as simple as possible.

Here are the rules:

  1. Choose an experiment.
  2. Do it for a month.
  3. Let me know how it goes.

Pretty simple, right?

If you like the idea of doing a 1-month experiment, but you aren’t sure what to do, here’s a quick list of ideas based on my own favorite experiments.

You could:

Really, it doesn’t matter what you choose to do, as long as you stick with it for a month.

Taking on an experiment or personal challenge is a great way to push yourself, cultivate more discipline, and have some fun.

Of course, if you have a more serious motivation for taking on a personal experiment, that’s great. Experiments are a great way to change habits and grow into your better self.

How To Join Us

I mentioned that there’s a private Facebook group for this experiment. I created it because I wanted a place for this community to interact and get support and advice and accountability. It’s very small right now, but so far it’s going well. People are encouraging each other and sharing their progress. It’s really inspiring, and I’d like to figure out a way to grow that community aspect more in the future.

If you want to join the private Facebook group, let me know in the comments here and I’ll send you an invitation. Or you can add me on Facebook and I’ll add you to the group.

Of course, you don’t have to participate in the Facebook group. You can also just send me an email, or leave a comment below to make your commitment.

[Update: Now you can just click here to join the Facebook group!]

Or you can tell your friends by tweeting your commitment to this challenge. Click here to tweet. (Thanks for the support if you do decide to share this publicly!)

Sound good? Let’s do this!

1,000 Posts in 1,000 Days

I’ve been excited about sharing this post for a long time. I didn’t write it though, except for this little introduction. It’s a guest post from my friend Bradley Charbonneau, and it’s been a long time coming.

I woke up this morning and thought about how I could explain the way it feels to publish this… because, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s basically a superhero story. Basically.

I thought about just telling you the story, trying to sum up the way it started, with three guys talking in a cafe in downtown San Francisco back in November of 2012.

Bradley runs a web development company and is a sort of business partner to me, but I always knew he had a secret past life as a writer. Sometimes he would talk about his writing days, about magazine articles and publishing his first book a decade earlier, about that other book, the “real” one in the drawer that just needed to be dusted off. He always lit up when he talked about writing, about how he’d like to do it more, get back into it and be a writer again. Most people stop there. They reminisce, talk about what they’d “like” to do differently, but nothing really changes.

Sitting in that cafe, Bradley said something really important. “A writer is someone who writes.”

I was really excited about doing monthly experiments to create new habits, so, I challenged him to write every day for a month to see what happened. He said he’d do one better, he’d write AND publish something every day for a month. We left the cafe and he got to work.

“So here we go, it’s November 1, 2012. I’m hoping, I’m even smiling to myself (no, really) that I’ll look back on this day with pride and say that was the day that it all began. Whew, exhilarating.” – Bradley Charbonneau, the unstoppable writing machine.

I honestly don’t know how to describe what happened next because it’s hard for me to believe it, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. Bradley wrote and published something every day for a month. I saw him start to change right away. He was excited and energetic. He’d say things like, “I’m feeling like a writer again” and “writing is bringing me closer to my kids” and “I’m falling back in love with writing.” He didn’t stop when the month was over.

He kept going.

He wrote and published something every day for 100 days, then 200, then 300, then a year, then 500 days. He wrote and published a book with his kids on the 10-year anniversary of publishing his first book. Then he did it again a year later. He became unstoppable. Today is his 1,000th post in a row. I asked him to publish it here.

And so, here it is… [Read more…]

June 2015: Decluttering Experiment

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve actually posted here on the Monthly Experiments Project. I’ll write an update post (or ten) about the cool experiments I’ve been doing in that time (Neurofeedback, giving up alcohol, giving up sugar, starting a new business, and taking on a new fitness experiment) which I’m excited to tell you about a little later.

But today I want to introduce a brand new experiment that I’m starting this month, and you’re invited to join me.

I’m calling it the Decluttering Experiment. 


The inspiration for this experiment came to me when I was traveling, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years. [Read more…]

A Wet Man Does Not Fear The Rain

This post is part of the No Excuses Challenge.


There’s a track near my house where I like to run. Especially on rainy days. It might sound strange, but I’ve always loved running in the rain. Ever since I was 10 years old.

When I used to run track, practice would be “rained out” but I’d do it anyway, usually all by myself. Same for soccer, except my whole team would practice or play in the rain.

I never understood why other sports didn’t carry on in the rain, but soccer players seemed to have discovered that they were, in fact, waterproof, and nothing bad would happen to them if they got wet.

Oh well. I loved it. And I still do. Even if it’s a hard rain or a cold rain, I’ll still go sometimes. The track is different in the rain.

When it’s sunny out, if there’s a puddle, I’ll probably run around it. Or jump over it. But when I’m already soaked, I splash right through it. 

[Read more…]

May 2014: Work on a Secret Project

Work On A Secret Project

Who wants to work on a secret project?

Hopefully, you do. Because that’s what this month’s experiment is all about!

I’m challenging myself (and you) to work on some kind of secret project this month.

The rules are pretty simple:

  1. Pick a secret project. (See some project ideas below.)
  2. Work on it throughout the month (I’m aiming for an hour a day.)
  3. At the end of the month, if you want to share your secret project with the world, I’ll host a big show-and-tell for anyone who participates in the experiment.

I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Why should you work on a secret project?

Apart from the fact that secret projects are fun, there are some really good reasons to work on something without telling anyone about it.

Derek Sivers gave a famous TED Talk about Why You Should Keep Your Goals To Yourself.

There is compelling research dating back to the 1920s that suggests you’re more likely to reach your goals if you don’t tell people about them first.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, now is the time to start. And “later” is the time to talk about it.

What should you do for your secret project?

It doesn’t really matter what you do for your secret project, but rule number one is that you don’t talk about fight club your secret project until the end of the month.

Here are some secret project ideas to get you started:

  • You could start a secret blog, or write a book, or build an online course and then launch it at the end of the month.
  • You could make a piece of art.
  • You could build a treehouse or a birdhouse or a bookshelf or something cool for your home. That’s right, I just told you to build a treehouse.
  • You could make a surprise present for someone you care about.
  • You could learn how to play a musical instrument, and then surprise your friends with a song.
  • You could teach yourself how to cook a really great recipe and then make a surprise dinner for your family (Boyfriends & husbands, take note). I suggest a recipe from Thug Kitchen.
  • You could start a new fitness program and not tell anyone about it (wait until your friends and family notice on their own).
  • You could use Duolingo or Fluent In Three Months to start learning a new language.
  • You could make a Shishi-odoshi fountain. (Bonus points for this one, because they’re super cool. – Tutorial here.)
  • You could even start a blog about Pictures of Hipsters Taking Pictures of Food.  (That’s a thing, apparently.)
  • You could think of something way better than these ideas. 🙂

You get the idea. This can be serious, or just for fun. There are no rules other than you have to spend time working on something, and you have to keep it a secret for now.

I’ve already decided what my secret project is going to be, and I’ll be revealing it at the end of the month.

I can tell you that I’m going to be making something, and also practicing a skill I want to get better at.

I’m also going to be spending at least an hour per day on my secret project. I have no idea what will happen, but I’m excited to find out.

I Hope You Will Join Me

If you want to participate, all you have to do is start planning and working on your secret project.

If you want to be eligible for the show-and-tell at the end of the month, leave a comment below and say that you’re in. You can join at any time during the month.

It’s ok to share this experiment with your friends and invite them to do their own secret project too.

You can also click here to tweet that you’re in. (I appreciate it!)

I can’t wait to show you what I’m working on…

Who’s with me?

The Ultimate Cure for Fear & Procrastination: Jump Without Looking

Cure Anxiety

Last month, I held a No Excuses Challenge here on the blog. It ended up being one of the toughest and most rewarding experiments I’ve ever done.

At the beginning of the year, I was floundering a bit. I wasn’t really making great progress toward my goals. I was making excuses instead. So, for two months, I gave up making excuses. I kept an Excuses Journal and every time I felt like making an excuse, I wrote it down. Then I ignored my excuse and took action instead.

A lot of my excuses fell into three main categories:

  1. I don’t feel like doing this now.
  2. I don’t know exactly how to do this.
  3. I’ll wait until later because ________ (insert lame excuse).

You know what those excuses have in common? They all contain a hidden lie.

Excuses are just little lies we tell ourselves. Here are the lies behind my excuses:

  1. You only have to do things you feel like doing in life. (False.)
  2. You have to figure out how to do something before you start. (False.)
  3. If you just put it off, you’ll feel like doing that thing you don’t really enjoy. (Ha! Nope.)
  4. Waiting is the answer. (Sometimes true, but usually false.)

Of course, it’s normal to have thoughts and feelings like that, even if they’re not true.

The truth is that we avoid what makes us uncomfortable. That’s how anxiety and procrastination work. We anticipate that something will be unpleasant, so we put it off and make excuses. Of course, waiting doesn’t make the fear go away. Over time, the fear grows, and your problems get bigger and harder to fix.

You can never solve a problem by ignoring it!

How To Cure Anxiety & Procrastination

The two best cures for fear and anxiety are:

  1. Making decisions. 
  2. Taking action.

Make decisions. Even if they’re wrong decisions. You can usually make a new decision later.

Take some kind of action. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly at first. You can always course-correct once your in motion.

When you’re paralyzed by fear. The cure isn’t to tackle the fear. It’s to tackle the paralysis. (click to tweet that)

The cure for inaction, is action. Just start moving.

How to Make Fear Irrelevant

I used to have a lot of anxiety. 10 years ago, I was afraid of all kinds of things, and my fears were holding me back from doing what I wanted to do.

So, I started to study how fear worked. I started to intentionally put myself in situations I was afraid of. I eventually figured out something really important that changed my life, and maybe it will help you too:

Your fears exist in the future. You can’t be afraid of the past.

Therefore, the key to conquering your fears is to take them out of the future, and put them in the past as quickly as possible. That’s why I asked you to list your fears. I’ll give you an example to make my point.

Every single mountain I’ve ever climbed has scared me.

Before a climb, I look up at the route. I read about the accidents that have happened to other people. I study the objective dangers, the avalanche risk, the rockfall risk, the weather report, the ice conditions, the route itself. How hard is it? What’s the crux like? Can we protect against a fall? How loose is the rock? Are there snakes? And on and on.

All these things are scary if you think about them in advance. There’s a very real sense of fear at the bottom of a mountain.

But once you actually start climbing, the fear starts to change. It changes because those scary questions start to have answers. What is the avalanche risk? It’s low today. How solid is the rock? It’s, um, rock solid. And it’s too cold for snakes.

When you actually start climbing, you don’t have time to be afraid. You’re too busy climbing. The fear just fades away.

Getting closer to the things that scare you will make them a lot less scary. That’s why I say the definition of courage is the simple act of going toward your challenges.

It takes about two minutes of climbing to erase 90% of your fears. The other 10% is the healthy fear that stays with you to protect you from making stupid mistakes.

Then, when you finish your climb and you’re back down on level ground, there’s nothing left to fear.

The mountain isn’t scary anymore, because you’ve already climbed it.

Why Excuses Are So Dangerous

When you make excuses in your life, it’s usually a form of procrastination. You’ll “get to it later” or you “have to wait until blah blah blah.”

You already know excuses are bad because they keep you from getting things done, but that’s not the most dangerous thing about making excuses.

The most dangerous thing about excuses is that they prolong your fear.

The longer you stand at the bottom of the mountains of your life, looking up at them, the longer you’re going to live in fear.

The way to keep your fear under control is to stay in motion. Keep making decisions. Keep taking action.

And if you’ve been making excuses for too long and your fear feels too big to act upon… there’s an answer for that too.

Jump Without Looking

I remember the first time I jumped off the high dive as a little kid. I climbed up the ladder and walked slowly to the edge of the board and looked down. Big mistake! It looked so high. I froze up and felt like I couldn’t jump.

Eventually I walked back to the other end of the board and closed my eyes. I knew the fear was irrational. I knew if I jumped I would be fine.

So, before I could think any more about it, I turned and ran and jumped off the end of the board without looking.

I’ll never forget the feeling when I swam back up to the surface. I LOVED the high dive! Even though, just 20 seconds before, I was terrified of it. Now it was my favorite thing.

Sometimes it helps to jump without looking. It’s like a shortcut to taking action. You skip the anticipation and anxiety and get straight into whatever scares you. You don’t give yourself a chance to hesitate or make excuses or chicken out. Of course, taking action cures your fear.

It might sound silly, but I use this technique all the time.

When I write an email I’m a bit nervous about, I don’t edit it, even when I know it sounds silly or a little bit crazy, I just close my eyes and click SEND as fast as possible. My goal isn’t to avoid sounding silly, it’s to set something in motion instead of flinching and hesitating. No one cares if I sound silly anyway. Everyone I know is used to it by now. 🙂

I do this when I don’t really feel like doing my daily workout. I don’t wait to feel ready anymore. I just put on my workout clothes and start my timer, knowing that in 10 seconds, I’m going to be doing pushups no matter what.

When I don’t feel like going for a run because it’s cold and rainy, I don’t give myself a chance to think about it. I just put on my shoes and and step outside. My goal isn’t even to go for a run, it’s to put my shoes on and walk out into the rain. The run happens on its own.

I try to say the things I’m afraid to say before I have a chance to talk myself out of them. I put on the shoes and walk outside. I pick up the phone and dial it before I know what I want to say.

I do this, not because I’m fearless, but because I really don’t like feeling afraid. So, I try to be afraid for as short a time as possible by cutting down the anticipation time.

When you jump without looking, you don’t have time to be afraid.

What Are You Afraid Of?

I once asked you to list your fears. I told you it would change your life in two minutes; and that’s true.

Today, I invite you to look at your own life again. What are you hesitating on? What mountain are you afraid to climb? Where are you holding back?

What fear can you take out of the future and put in the past, where it belongs?

There’s something in everyone’s life. Some area where you’re making excuses and holding back. I’m not judging, because I’m the exact same way.

But we have to agree upon the truth, that most of our obstacles exist in our mind. And the only way past them, is through them.

So, pick one scary thing, and do it today. Before you have a chance to think.

No excuses!

Oh, and if you like this post, please share it.

April 2014: Write Every Day – Round 2

These experiments are like little sparks.

Sometimes they grow into a roaring fire.

Write Every Day

I’m writing this with a giant smile on my face, and it’s all because of a little book I’m reading.

One of my friends wrote it with his kids; and if that wasn’t adorable enough, it’s a really entertaining story full of fun twists and turns. It’s called “Li & Lu and the Secret of Kite Hill.”

But it isn’t just the story that put a smile on my face, it’s something bigger than that. You see, my friend Bradley was once a professional writer. Ten years ago, he was living his dream of being a writer and he published a book.

But then something happened. Bradley decided to do the “practical” thing and start a web design business instead. His business has been a success, and he’s built a great life for his family. But it was clear that his old dream of being a writer was still gnawing at him.

Back in November 2012, Bradley and I were talking at a cafe in San Francisco. We were talking about what it meant to be a writer, and he said something really fantastic.

He said, “a writer is someone who writes.”

So, I decided to host a monthly experiment of writing every day. A lot of you joined me and wrote every day that November. Bradley joined me too. I think we even shook on it, like we were making some kind of promise to follow through.

About a week into the experiment, I talked to Bradley and could immediately tell that something was different. He was almost giddy. He had so much energy. Ok, maybe he’s usually like that, but I could tell he was turning back into a writer. He said he felt like “a writing machine” … he was unstoppable. Literally.

My challenge to myself was to write for an hour a day for one month. It was fantastic. I felt like I became a better writer, more confident, and even a better thinker. But Bradley took it to another level. He published something every day for the whole month. Then he kept going, publishing something new for 100 days in a row. Then 200 and 300 and 400 and 500 days in a row. He’s got a list of all the things he’s published since he started his amazing streak, and it’s currently at 551 days in a row!

I think it’s fair to say that Bradley is a writer again. Even if it’s not his main business, he’s still living his dream. It’s a part of who he is.

Back in February, he decided to focus his writing habit toward writing a new book with his two sons acting as co-authors an illustrators…  

As of today, it’s only three chapters, but the boys are actually helping me write it and give me ideas for what might happen next. Two boys, their father, and their dog are just walking home from school when their ball rolls into a cave in a public park. We’ll see what happens.

But the absolute lightning bolt of joy came when my 7-year old, after I read chapter three aloud to them (as well as my visiting family) said, “Keep going. I want to know what happens next!”

And they did keep going. The book came out yesterday, 10 years to the day after his first book.

Sometimes people ask me why I do the Monthly Experiments Project. Stories like this are the answer!

Bradley went from wishing he was a writer to being one. He created an unstoppable habit and published a lot of great things and worked on a really fun creative project with his kids.

It all started with one month, and I’m doing it again this month, and you’re invited to join me.

Join The Challenge: Write Every Day

If you want to create a writing habit, you should join me in this challenge.

You can structure your own experiment however you want. 

You can write for a certain period of time per day, like an hour. Or aim for a certain number of words, or you can be like Bradley and actually publish something new every day. It doesn’t matter what goal you set for yourself. In fact, it’s better to start with an easy goal than a hard one.

You could write in a private journal if you want to, or work on a book, or a blog. It’s up to you.

My goal is to write for at least one hour per day. I don’t have to publish what I write. It doesn’t matter how many words it is, or what it’s about.

My goal is simply to strengthen my writing muscles and create a consistent habit.

This experiment is really about discipline, creativity, fear and courage, setting goals, and improving your habits. For me, this is about being a better version of myself. It might sound strange, but writing can do that if you let it.

This is about making sparks for 31 days, to see what catches fire.

I hope you decide to join me! Click here to tweet if you do.