tell me a story

‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ – Shakespeare


What kind of story are you telling?  What type of narrative streams through you?  We all have certain filters and lenses that we view the world through.  And we all accept or determine what happens in our world depending on what we see.  Maybe you’re 20/20…or maybe you need a new prescription.


The story that you are telling is directly related to the thoughts you are having…so it’s really the story that you’re telling yourself.  When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, what are your thoughts?  Are they positive and ‘bucket filling’ to coin a term used by my neighbor, or do you start the day off with negative ’emptying’ thoughts?  “If you win the morning, you win the day,’ according to Tim Ferriss, and understanding the start to your day may help in determining how you feel when you lay your head down at night.  In this sense though, the morning is a defining moment…you’re still hatching, and your mind is a blend of subconscious and conscious thought.  You are the true sense of yourself, and don’t yet wear the mask of the day.  If you’re not aware of your own thoughts, and you’re trying to build self-awareness, this is a good place to start… write down what you’re feeling, or at least notice…do I feel good, healthy, ready, depressed, lethargic?   

For the most part of my life, I told myself stories that weren’t helpful.  I viewed the world as a place where things happened to me…some good things yes…but mostly a bunch of small, negative things.  I often found a routine of complaining (to myself and out loud), being annoyed at the system and at other people (mostly people I envied), and wondering why me? and why don’t I get the breaks that others find so easily?  

My mornings were dreaded, and I wasn’t excited to start the day.  I didn’t enjoy being around other people too much…especially anyone who challenged me.  And even things that were achieved that I thought would get me beyond that story were short lived…and it started all over the next day.  Writing this sounds depressing.  But interestingly enough, I would say that I view my entire life as being ‘happy’.  I guess I just thought that’s how everyone lived and that it was out of my control.  I wasn’t sad about it, but I knew there was another way.   

I also noticed many others doing the same thing so I didn’t feel alone.  For the most part, the two negative emotions commonly threading through most people is anger and fear.  Tony Robbins talks a lot about these.  The place I noticed it most often, and a good test site for you…is driving in the car.  Driving is so unique in that we’re boxed in, somewhat secluded, a little bit hidden, but also interacting and dancing with other people…how crazy!  I can think of many instances while riding with others when the driver of the car I was in immediately created a negative story about what was going on around us.  Someone riding a bike on the road and the driver would say something like, ‘what does this ________  think he’s doing?’ Fill in the blank with your favorite vulgar term.  Or at a 4 way stop…one car chooses not to obey the unwritten rule of ‘if we arrive at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first’.  ‘What the _____ does that _______ think he’s doing?’  Car talk is a great way to check yourself and listen to the story that is being told.  Ultimately, the tale is up to you.  

I used to drive like an idiot.  It’s actually embarrassing to think about, especially with the loud and obnoxious vehicles I chose.  I would often try to ‘get people back’ on the road, teach them a lesson, and get places as fast as humanly possible.  It basically resulted in more stress, more speeding tickets, and a feeling of always running late.  These days I drive slow.  I try to avoid all stress and people that are clearly in a huge rush.  And I never get upset about what others are doing…well almost never.  It’s a work in progress ok? What I came to realize though, is that a lot of what makes up our day, our feelings, our happiness or lack thereof, our relationships…is simply based on our thoughts surrounding them.  A more important realization for me though, is that we get to decide on our thoughts.  And based on those thoughts, we get to create actions and reactions.  

Like most things, this isn’t a quick switch.  And it can take a lot of practice.  A lot of changing habits.  And a bunch of self-reflection.  You may not love what you see!  But that’s a good time to put some work into drafting a new story…one that doesn’t have to speak of the negativity and anger and fear, but one that will tell of all the joy and love you have in your world.      


There are many ways to start drafting that story.  One theme that has worked for me, and that I see threaded within other folks that I’ve been reading about, is gratitude and appreciation.  Finding ways to incorporate these ideas into your thoughts will radically change your perspective and give you a new lens prescription. Tony Robbins says Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change’. By appreciating the things you have, and the people you know, you continually tell yourself an enriching and fulfilling story. You frequently remind yourself of the good, and strip away a lot of the bad.  And you find that you can fill your own bucket so to speak.  

How to we start though, and how do we practice often?  Some ideas that come to mind…1. Write in your journal every night or every morning 3 things that you’re grateful for.  2. Sit and think of a person you appreciate.  Remember back to things that they’ve done or said that you loved, and just hold on to those thoughts for 10 minutes with your eyes closed.  3. Wish happiness on others.  Simply choose a person.  This can be someone you know, or even a stranger walking by.  Take a deep breath, and wish for that person to be happy today.  Do that for 3 people every day.  4. Write a handwritten thank you note to someone and snail mail it to them.  Everyone has someone right now that they can thank for something.  If you can’t think of a ‘thank you’, send a ‘You’re cool’ or ‘thinking of you’ card to someone…just letting them know that they’re in your thoughts and you love them!  These may seem daunting to you at first, but honestly, these are very simple to execute.  And the return on investment is outstanding…immeasurable.  



Movie:  Stranger than Fiction.  Click here for a great clip from the movie. This is Will Ferrell in a serious role.  He hears his life being narrated by an author, finds out about his ‘imminent death’, and must decide on what story to tell himself, and how to live…great connection to my post!  I have the movie if you want to borrow it.  And just like I said in my Reading List, I will barter for fine coffee and pastries!  Joking…unless you have some. 

Music:  Gregory Alan Isakov. Soft acoustic. California. Song Writing. Emotions. Click here to listen…and love it. 

how to pan for gold…in books though

‘I’m wondering what to read next,’ Matilda said.  ‘I’ve finished all the children’s books.’ – Roald Dahl

Music:  I found this artist, Jose Gonzalez, while watching the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  This song fit into the film so nicely.  It would be so cool to choose songs for a movie.  Who gets to do that?  Anyway, I highly recommend the movie and Jose’s music!  Click here to listen while you read. 

As I mentioned on my Reading List, there are some books that I just know…I don’t need the whole thing.  I just want the small bits of gold that apply to me.  I only use this technique for non-fiction works.  Obviously, I want the entire story within a novel and don’t recommend ‘panning’ a piece of fiction.  

In much of what I’ve found within non-fiction, an author does some great, focused research related to what they want to write.  They then present it in a way that works for them.  They also have to tell somewhat of a story with it…present it in a way that flows nicely for the reader…and usually attach some case studies (anecdotes about people applying the book’s theories).  Sometimes, I can tell that I love everything about the idea and everything related.  In that case, I take it all in.  

What is she thinking?  Where is she traveling?

On the other hand…and actually most of the time…I don’t want all the extra fluff.  I take the author’s unspoken word that their idea works for the case studies presented.  Just be careful with this, because they’re obviously not going to tell you stories when their information is arbitrary or ineffective.  That would be counter-intuitive.  I rely on myself though, to find the valuable nuggets of information, the ones that apply to me, and discern as to whether or not I agree or disagree with them.  This usually takes me 10-15 minutes, which means I can ‘pan’ one book a day!  Here’s what I do:

1.  The first thing I do is read the title and author.  Duh!

2.  Then, I go in the back sleeve and find ‘about the author’.  I like knowing the background information of the architect here.  They might have been fed from a silver spoon…might have 5 kids…or none…might have run some marathons…might enjoy their gun collection…or live off the grid.  What I also find here are websites related to their cause, or that they recommend.  

3.  Find the Table of Contents, look over it quickly to see what stands out to you, then dog ear the page.  You might be returning to this page a bunch.  

4.  Get a blank piece of paper, or notebook, or journal…and a writing utensil.  #2 Ticonderoga pencil is my go-to.  That was a joke.

5.  Here is where you start panning for gold!  First, check the end of chapter 1 for a ‘review’ or ‘summary’ or ‘wrap up’.  Some authors use this for each chapter, and it’s so helpful for us as gold panners.  If so, simply jump to each one of these, and write anything down you feel you need.  Here’s an example of a quick review from How to Talk to Anyone, by Leil Lowndes:

Since all of the gold had a grey background in this book, it was easy to spot. All the other writing was a longer hand version of this…and stories of when her friends tried this. Unnecessary! 

You may find a piece of information that you want more of in that summary.  If you do, just go back through the chapter quickly, looking for the terms that apply, and just take what you need.

If the chapters don’t have the summaries, you’ll have to work a little harder.  But all you have to do is rotate your pan in the water, sifting and scanning for information relative to you.  Most of the time there are bold letters, or headings that will help in your search.  

Always use the dog-eared Table of Contents to keep you guided throughout, and as a reference for what to find… and where.  

You may write down a lot.  You may just write down 2 bullets of information…2 nuggets of gold.  You may have a photographic memory and not have to write anything down.  It’s up to you.  Since my own memory is more bronze than gold, I do have to write something down.  I also enjoy having a folder in my drawer where I keep my ‘sheets of gold’.  I know that I can quickly go back and find what I wrote down…access the inspiring notes to keep me practicing a new habit…or find that author I liked to help me find that other book he or she wrote.  Here is an example of one of my sheets of gold (from the book Raising a Self-Reliant Child by Alanna Levine):

I simply write the title and author on top, and then some notes below.  My handwriting should tell you that I’m doing this fast.  Hopefully, I can read it when I go back to it!

Here’s another one with less notes.  It’s from the book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, by Karl Pillemer:

That’s it!  Again, this takes 10-15 minutes, and you can pan a book a day! You’ll be rich before you know it.  Think of all of the great research you can access…the great authors and innovative thinkers…the people who have failed and then found the most effective ways to succeed…the parents who know what works.  You can use all of their blueprints.  It’s very handy.  By the way…I’ve spent a lot of money on education up to this point.  I’m very happy I did, and I’ll probably continue to do more.  However, all of this gold panning I’ve been doing…all of the ‘acquisition of knowledge’…has been totally free, from my public library!   A guy I play basketball with told me, ‘that works just as good…all the greatest minds in history are right there on the shelf.’  Nicely put right?  Thanks Matt!

This is your pass to free gold!

One last note…often I email the author, thanking them, and letting them know that their information was helpful.  Sometimes their email address is in the ‘About the Author’ section.  If not, some quick Googling can usually find it.  I think they deserve the gratitude.  I also see it as networking, and connecting with these folks I have a lot of respect for.  You can consider them mentors in absentia…and think of them as part of your own Circle of Elephants that I mentioned in another blog post.

I’ve been surprised at the emails I get in return.  Most of the time it’s a secretary or publicist that writes me back, telling me they’ll forward my message on.  Sometimes though, the author writes back, happy to hear from a reader.  And now you have a specialist in your contact list!  Last week, I was happily exchanging emails with Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric.  Someday, I might want to ask him a business question…and it’s fun to know that he might actually respond!  I’m still waiting to hear from Warren Buffett.

Good luck in your journey finding and becoming gold!

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All love!