Grow Idea Machine Project

Idea Machine, Day 40: 10 Regrets to Let Go Of

For Day 40 of Become an Idea Machine, Claudia Altucher prompts us to list 10 regrets to let go.

So far, I've been posting all of the Idea Machine content over at The Ben Franklin Follies. But a few of the prompts have been less helpful to others, so I've decided to publish the more personal oriented content here and the ideas that can be helpful to others at The Ben Franklin Follies.

In my own life, I've been pretty good about letting go and forgiving others if I feel I've been hurt or wronged in some way. I learned a LONG time ago that holding on to resentments does nothing except hurt me.

I can be tough on myself. Despite my efforts to let go of perfectionism, I still have to deal with the fact that I want to be perfect and I hold myself to a high standard of performance.

Here are 10 things I could let go of…..

1. Losing A Beehive

I'm still grappling with the fact that I allowed a strong beehive to starve in late January. How didn't I see it? Why didn't I open the hive, even despite the cold to make sure it was ok. Why did I rely on outside appearances, since I did know better. Anyway, I'll start with that regret. I have to let it go, learn from it and move on.

2. Losing A Domain & Website

I started my first “blog” in 1999 and over the next 2 years built up a huge following. By 2001 I had a lot of daily traffic, given the topic and the fact that I was doing nothing to promote it. I ended up losing the domain in late 2003 and, as a result, I let the website die. I've written about how this happened in other posts. The site was You can see a lot of the content on the wayback machine.

Although I've moved on, I still sometimes think “what if” and that's a sign that I've fully let go of my failure.

3. Not Monetizing the Website in 2001-2002

At the height of, I could have monetized it. I can't believe I didn't try. If I'd started making money from the site, I wouldn't have taken the job that led me to use that email address for the domain and then I would not have lost the domain.

A trail of what-ifs is a sign that I'm holding on to regrets…..

4. Leaving Oklahoma State

I had a great teaching job at Oklahoma State 2003-2007. I wasn't happy in Stillwater, so I started looking for another position. Since I didn't have a real mentor with experience in academia, I didn't realize that leaving a position before getting tenure is often dicey proposition.

In any event, I thought a return to the practice of law to build up a practice with clients in the tech industry and “new economy” would be a great idea. Turns out, the area I was in wasn't quite ready for that and then the bottom fell out of the economy anyway.

I wasn't happy doing the same type of legal work I had been doing in the 90s, so I started looking at a return to academia. Anyway, I've moved on from regretting this, but again I sometimes wonder “what if….”

In this case, though, I do think I've let go because if I hadn't left OSU, I would have missed out on a lot of great things that have happened in the 7-1/2 years since then. I also probably would have lost my dad, since it took returning to Alabama to discover I needed to help him.

5. Not Taking the Other Offer

In June 2009, my gut told me I'd made a terrible choice and suddenly, out of the blue, I had a new opportunity. Just the opportunity I'd been hoping and praying for.

And yet I didn't take it. Ultimately, I decided I'd given my word to Samford and that it would not be ethical to withdraw from that position at the last minute. I turned down the much better offer for what was, essentially, the academic job I'd been dreaming of.

I'll skip the details here, but it's clear that I made the wrong choice in 2009, although I have made the best of the choice I made. I've moved on.

6. Playing it Safe in 1991-92

When I practiced law on my own, I was very risk averse. I don't know that I “regret” that, but I've learned over the last couple of years that I've probably played it safe in many areas of my life, even though to most people I've been willing to take risks (like leave secure jobs when I felt stifled).

The thing is: I take one risk and then rarely go big after I take the risk. I pull back. That's something I've realized over the past two years.

7. Spending So Much Money on Music & Movies in the 1980s and 90s

I used to buy new videos and music CDs all the time. At one point, I had thousands of CDs. I sold off 2/3s but I still have at least a thousand music CDs. I also have way too many DVDs.

I try not to translate how much I spent into today's dollars. I love the music, but surely there was a better way to listen to it. No, not in those days. Radio stations controlled airplay and there was no Pandora or Spotify.

The music I liked most was not available at yard sales, either. I wasn't looking for top 40, I wanted alternative, non-mainstream stuff.

8. Buying a New Car in 1985

My grandmother died in July 1982 and my mother bought her 1979 Chevy Malibu from her estate. That was my car for the next 3 years. I really liked it but it was totally a late 70s/early 80s car. One day, I had car trouble and I got risk averse. And I also felt slightly embarrassed by my big, old 70s car that was a fuel hog. I ended up a new car that I had to finance. Having that car payment was a huge financial setback at that time. It set up a series of bad financial choices during the mid-80s.

I've long since learned my lesson from that, but the repercussions left me financially strapped for a long time.

9. Ph.D. and Academia?

I sometimes ask myself whether I'm glad I pursued a Ph.D. and embarked on a career in academia. I had not intended to work in academia when I enrolled in the program. I was going for a Ph.D. just because it was a terminal degree, and I was advised that a Master's in PR would be a waste of time.

I am ambivalent about the Ph.D now. It's been good and not-so-good. I'm very happy with the knowledge I gained, especially in theories related to leadership, management, psychology and sociology of change. But I could have gained that knowledge at a much lower cost.

The reality is this: I made the choices I made, so I have to make the best of where I am, not look back with regret.

10. Not Launching my Online Businesses Faster

I've been working to get several online business venture off the ground for the past 18 months. It's taking me way too long–in part because I am a perfectionist and I don't want to make any mistakes like I made in 2002-2003.

On the other hand, in some ways it's been a good thing that I've let the Shinecast idea germinate because it's taken shape in ways I didn't envision. The biggest delay that I regret is not publishing The Happy Life book yet and not getting 7 Days of Real Food out last Fall. And Teach Social Business? I should have been promoting in 2 years ago, when I first published the content there. Instead, I keep playing it safe…..


Anyway, those are 10 regrets I need to let go of….Do you have any regrets that you need to let go of?

I'm sharing publicly here because I hope others will see that playing it safe and holding back due to perfectionist tendencies, fear and/or a desire to impress others is not the best way to achieve the life of your dreams.


Dynamo Genius?

As I've said repeatedly, I enjoy taking personality and strengths tests, even the ones that aren't quite as vetted or validated as something like the MBTI.

Last summer, one of the email  newsletters I receive included a link to Roger Hamilton's My Genius Test.

I don't know anything about Roger Hamilton, other than what's available on his website, but I took the free version, out of curiosity.

The Dynamo Genius

The overall results weren't surprising: Dynamo Genius, with references to Ideas, Einstein and entrepreneurship.

Sheree Martin Dynamo GeniusThe free version is, of course, designed to lure me in to purchase the entire system so that I can understand the sub-types and details.

According to the report that came with my free results, “each Genius has a different type of ‘vision.'” The vision type that corresponds to the Dynamo Genius is “Perspective.”

Perspective gives a deeper view of what is possible.

That reminds me of my Fascination Archetype, as well as results from StrengthsFinder 2.0, as well as the Perceiver aspect of my personality.

Anyway, it's interesting and I wouldn't mind exploring the subtypes, but that's something I'll consider another day. Just thought I'd throw these results into the mix, as I finish up this project in self-exploration.

Note to Dynamo Genius Self: I'm finishing the project, by considering all pieces of data, and not just leaving it hanging. I've actually been very good about finishing projects that I care about. Sometimes, it takes longer than I had planned, but I eventually finish.

In reality, I perceive one of my biggest challenges to be an UNwillingness to quit when I realize that I'm going down the wrong path rather. I tend to spend more time than I should pursuing an endeavor after I realize it's going to be a dead-end.



Reflections On 2013: Zoom, Vivace & Jazz

This past year has been an amazing time of growth and yet I’m not where I thought I’d be one year ago today. I’m farther along in some respects, way behind where I wanted to be in other respects. This post is an excerpt from a private reflection I wrote for my personal journal.

It was around this time last year when I started to consider the three words I would use to inspire me during 2013. Out of the blue, I settled on Zoom Vivace and Jazz.

Zoom Vivace Jazz

Zoom because of my intentions to make my childhood dream of a multimedia empire a reality. Not just something I played around with, but a real platform to tell stories and instigate change. And as a reminder to focus (zoom in) while keeping my eye on the big picture (zoom out).

Vivace because it’s about life, enthusiasm, energy.

Jazz to remind me to improvise, to interact with others and grow with them while pursuing my own creative vision.

These three words, with their multi-faced meanings, came to me so quickly and intuitively that I immediately knew they were the right words to inspire me and direct my actions in 2013.

January Through May 2013

In January and February I was on fire, thanks to the support from my Brave community.

January was especially productive because we have a Jan term that gave me greater flexibility in my schedule. Once classes resumed, I was extraordinarily busy with work, while simultaneously working on a book manuscript, participating in 20+ hours of webinar sessions for the Content Success Summit and other programs. I was learning how to develop webinars for my own business and working with a graphic designer on site upgrades for The Ben Franklin Follies.

In March I was focused on creating and giving conference presentations, for my own consulting business as well as academic research and poster presentations, doing several interviews for the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast.  I also had my classroom and administrative responsibilities.

Thanks to burning the candle at both ends, I got really sick for the first time in 12 years. Fortunately, the illness hit just as Spring Break got underway so I didn't have to miss any classes. Finally on Day 5 I had to succumb to antibiotics to beat it because I got worse each day, rather than better.

When I got back from giving my academic conference presentations in Denver in early April, my attention shifted fully to the classroom and finishing out the semester on a positive note.

Summer 2013

From late May through August I was immersed in my beekeeping and small organic farming enterprise. As much as I wanted to work on my writing and consulting business I had very little time to do so. Except for some work in late July, I spent the summer working on my farm venture.

Fall 2013

Fall 2013 was the second most difficult semester I've experienced as a college professor. Despite my best efforts and full attention to teaching and mentoring, I couldn't click with the students. I worked nonstop every day in my campus office, eating lunch at my desk every day, trying to find ways to inspire and motivate them but nothing seems to have worked. I don't know what happened. Well, I think I know but I won't go into it here.

Those misfires really left me deflated by November. I tried to inspire and motivate myself by returning to writing. Each  night when I got home, I'd have dinner and then sit down to write for an hour or three. Some nights were easier than others. But the process of writing helped me to remember and refocus on Zoom, Vivace and Jazz.

As Thanksgiving approached, I realized that I'd turned a corner from the despondence I felt over the lack of connection in the classroom. My vision was returning and my spirit was feeling restored. Writing can do that.

I also gave this faculty shoptalk the week before Thanksgiving. Although the class wasn't going as well as it had in the past, giving the talk about my vision for the course really helped to re-inspire me for the last few weeks of the semester.

I started writing this reflection on Zoom Vivace Jazz on Thanksgiving eve, which was also the night before my birthday. Although I continued to write regularly after that, I didn't publish any new blog posts for a while because I needed to finish out the semester, get the student work graded and guide them into the final exam period.

I feel very good about my efforts as a teacher in Fall 2013 and I am confident that, one day, the students will look back and realize what they gained from the experience. I wasn't perfect—I expected too much, I fear, probably gave too much work in one class and didn't provide the type of well-defined boundaries this particular group of students needed. As the teacher, I should have discovered that more quickly. Anyway, I learned a lot from the experience and I have already grown as a result.

A Revived Vivace Spirit

As the semester came to a close—and I was able to shift my attention back to my vision that I'd set out to achieve through the compass of Zoom Vivace and Jazz—I began to feel a sense of renewal, a new Vivace attitude.

So, although the outcomes for 2013 haven't fully-transpired as I'd intended back in January I've had many successes:

  • Established my apiary and became a beekeeper (even caught a swarm)
  • Gave two very well-received speaking engagements on social media marketing
  • Gave two very well-received academic conference presentations
  • Designed a comprehensive and re-usable poster on teaching social business
  • Well-received faculty shoptalk on teaching social business
  • Successful freelance writing work
  • Small but promising start in content marketing and social media consulting
  • Sold a decent volume of vegetables and produce from my organic farming venture
  • Maintained my health and fitness (even though I haven't been running)
  • Continued to focus on real food, prepared at home as the centerpiece of my diet
  • Continued my practice of ongoing professional development and learning
  • Taught 7 different courses and fulfilled my responsibilities to the best of my ability, including being on-campus, in my office at least 35 hours each week, as required.
  • Wrote thousands of words for my various websites
  • Published numerous episodes of my podcast, even though it's been on hiatus since June
  • Took time, from time to time, to revel in the wonders of nature, even when I wasn't at the farm
  • Practiced gratitude and offered blessings on others, especially when I felt annoyed or irritated
  • Spent more time interacting with others, especially my neighbors and strangers

So I could go on with the little things or go into more detail. But the main thing is to recognize the ways in which I've succeeded and grown.

Life is a journey, not a destination and Operation Forward Progress is going well and will continue into 2014.

Do you celebrate your successes? Do you track your personal growth? Do you use three words to guide your efforts?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you reflect on your own life. Please leave me a comment below. Let's talk!


Discover Inspire

Are You A Cat In Gloves?


It all started with earthworms. ‘Erms, I called them.

Or maybe it was a bunny rabbit.

My mother insists that I cannot remember the rabbit. She says I was much too young, not even a year old. I can see the rabbit, in my mind’s eye. Who knows if this a real memory or just my imagination?

It  might've been olives.

My mother says I loved them, even as a toddler. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t love olives.

Earthworms, olives and a rabbit. Seemingly disparate, yet revealing a common thread.

I distinctly remember sitting on the edge of a pier grabbing a handful of night crawlers—fishing worms—from a bucket. My great aunt and uncle, Maedru and Tab, were fishing and watching me while my young parents waterskied on Wilson Lake on the Tennessee River. I was curious.


It’s the core of who I am, my defining character trait.

Curiosity is why I can’t stop learning, why I’m never bored.

In a world where the powers-that-be insist that we play by institutionalized rules and conform to a pre-defined, “normalized” structure, curiosity can be a detriment.

A tiny bit of curiosity is tolerated—they say it shows interest and commitment. But stray across a narrow boundary into a paradigm where silos are ignored and chasms traversed and the curious label will brand you with a mark akin to Hester Pryne’s scarlet letter A.

That’s because curiosity leads to exploration and discovery and makes it possible to connect dots that the less curious are unable or unwilling to see.

Curiosity feeds creativity.

Creative solutions disrupt the status quo.

Those in power like the status quo because in the status quo they wield the power.

Disruption of the status quo means uncertainty and change. And, at least potentially, a change in the power structure. Power brokers allow the reshuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic because it “looks like” creative problem-solving but they always try to squelch real creative solutions. We see this scenario play out repeatedly through faux corporate reengineering, government finance negotiations and academic curriculum revision initiatives.

The demand to normalize and conform to the status quo makes those who are inherently curious and creative problem solvers feel somewhat like Harry Potter confronting the death-eaters.

Curiosity killed the cat.

That’s because the cat was disturbing the status quo.

Think about the context in which that phrase is most often used. It’s when kids are asking too many questions. It has nothing to do with actual cats. It’s a metaphorical statement.

[Tweet “Curiosity killed the cat because the cat was disturbing the status quo.”]

When I was working on my first Ignite Birmingham talk a few years ago I ran across what has become my favorite Ben Franklin aphorism:

A cat in gloves catches no mice.


A cat in gloves is not curious.

A cat in gloves is not brave.

In January of this year, as I continued to reflect on my first 50 years and where I wanted to go in second half of my life, I spent time digging into finding my why. See Simon Sinek if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Everything kept coming back to a sense of wonder, exploration, discovery, driven by my intense curiosity.

I became a lawyer because the Enlightenment and Renaissance-era thinkers that I admired had usually studied law and it seemed to offer a financially-comfortable pathway where I could explore ideas while helping others.

I studied journalism and became a writer because it was a practical opportunity to learn something new through every interview and story.

I became a college professor because I needed to explore, discover and feed my curiosity. I wanted to inspire students and others to become curious and seize the opportunities available to us today.

I became a beekeeper because nature amazes me, inspires me, teaches me.

I teach because I want to inspire others to ask the questions that require answers beyond the superficial explanations and justifications given to keep them/us trapped on a hamster wheel in a false reality feasting on fistfuls of blue pills.

At this point, I find that most people still prefer the blue pill because they believe the status quo offers security and comfort. But I’m optimistic enough to believe that I can lead at least a few others out of the matrix, onto a path to a happy life where we get to discover a new world and a new way, [be]inspired, grow and shine. No pills required.

Are You Curious?

Have you started to wonder if perhaps you are in a matrix designed to numb you into acceptance of your “lot” in life?

Have you let structures, routines, and chores overpower the curiosity you had as a child?

Have you realized something is awry and are looking for change?

Will you join me on the path?



The Patience Discipline

Patience has never been my strong suit.

About 8 or 9 years ago, I reached a point where I began to realize that my lack of patience was not a virtue. Furthermore, I'd begun to realize that I was approaching every situation based on my needs, my wants.

In other words, I had been making most everything all about me.

Around that time I was reading The Rule of St. Benedict and similar books, so maybe my realization was triggered by St. Benedict's philosophy and teachings.

Or it may have been due to a certain dog and cat that had recently come into my life. They had already changed my outlook in ways I'd never anticipated.

In any event, I distinctly remember standing in one of those endless lines at Walmart—not a store that I enjoy shopping but the town I lived in at the time had limited shopping choice and so a weekly trip to Walmart was a necessity.

It was taking forever. One of those times when you're in line with a check-writer and someone else who needs a sale override because some item didn't ring up at the anticipated price and then another someone else who held up the line because we had to wait on a friend to come back with one last item. Stuff like that. Those situations happened so often at this particular store that once I'd put my items up and left without my purchase, just on principle.

But this time, I suddenly realized that my impatience was saying a whole lot more about me than about the shortcomings of these others who were not performing according my wishes.

Something prompted me to ask a silent blessing on the person in front of me who was “inconveniencing” me.

And so I did.

And in that act of asking that this stranger receive a blessing, the whole situation changed. I changed.

Love is patient.

And so began my discipline of seeking a blessing for each person or situation that triggered impatience or annoyed me in some way.

This discipline brought me into the moment and forced an awareness and acceptance that my response was the issue, not the other person's “perceived” shortcoming.

Turns out it WAS all about me, but not in a good way.

At first, I was asking for a lot of blessings on other people. But my ability and willingness to extend patience increased rapidly. I found that I no longer felt annoyed at others when the situation wasn't working out according to my expectations.

I'm still not perfectly patient, and I abhor wasting valuable time. But now, even when I'm in a time-sink meeting I'll often stop and force myself to ask a blessing on the meeting perpetrator. And that's usually enough to allow me to turn my mental energy toward something useful or meditative, even as I sit in the meeting.

I've made immense progress and right effort is what it's all about. What's cool is that I've found that I'm rarely losing my patience with others. So now I try to remember to silently ask a blessing on some other person I encounter, at least once day.

We're all in this together.

And it starts with love.

[Tweet “We are all in this together. And we must start with love.”]