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Everyone who reads this blog (this means YOU) wants to help others or make a difference in some way – whether it’s before, during or after you make a pile of money.  There’s greatness & happiness in you.  So is your current work exposing that greatness and happiness, or discouraging it?  Does your work make you “more of who you really are” or “less of who you really are”?  Take five minutes for this handy-dandy sanity check.

FIRST: Your Positive (Light) Side. How Often Does Work Bring Out Your Best?

How do you see yourself?  What are your values?  How do you want to feel and move through life?

STEP ONE (1 Minute)

Write down five values or feelings or ways of being that you are, such as Creative, Appreciative, Happy, Growing, Healing, Supportive, Patient, Fun, Accepting, Gracious, Wealthy, Valuable, Trusting, Inspiring, Making A Difference, etc. The don’t need to be your perfect top five, just write down five that come to mind.  This should not take you more than 30 seconds.

Here are five that just came to my mind – though I have thought about this quite a bit over the past 1-2 years 🙂 :

  1. Playful
  2. Adventurous
  3. Loving
  4. Patient
  5. Trusting

STEP TWO (1 Minute)

Now stop and reflect – does your work help you be more of these values each day?  Does it make you, for example, more playful, more adventurous, more loving, more patient, more trusting?  (If you’re not sure, the answer is no.)

For me, the answer in general is yes-yes-yes-yes-yes…though it ebbs and flows day by day or week by week.  I am always working on being/feeling more of these values more of the time each day.  Although I have my ups and downs some hours/days/weeks/etc, overall I clearly live my life along those values much more now than I did a couple of years ago, B.P. (Before PebbleStorm).

SECOND: Your Negative (Dark) Side. How Often Does Work Bring Out Your Worst?

STEP ONE (1 Minute)

Write down five negative patterns / feelings / ways of being that you see in yourself that you don’t like. Being honest with yourself, what negative aspects of you come out in your work – can you be fearful? Stressed? Mean? Inconsiderate? Busy? Abrupt? Forgetful? Late? Dream killing? Discouraging? Selfish? Jealous? Unhealthy?

This should not take you more than 30 seconds.  You are allowed to ask coworkers and spouses for their suggestions…though you may not be able to stop them at five, heh!

Here are five that just came to my mind that I notice in myself (plus some extra notes about each for context):

  1. Impatience – While I am vastly more patient than I used to be, this pattern does come up. Impatience (as distinct from urgency) is a form of unhappiness. To me, impatience = arbitrary dissatisfaction with your present moment or situation when you can’t do anything about it except change your attitude…like a child in October who’s unhappy that Xmas is two months away.
  2. Workaholic-ism – I can easily slip back to the pattern of “more work creates more results”, which is only true in the short term (days, weeks, months).  Throwing more hours at something is a crutch for lacks of creativity, clarity or patience.
  3. Stress – Stress is the true enemy and a killer. The irony of my expanding self-awareness is that while I am less stressed than I used to be, I am more aware of when I have any stress at all.  The cleaner you make a room, the more any little dust ball stands out.
  4. Don’t listen – When I’m impatient, stressed, etc, I can stop listening to partners, clients, employees. Not good!
  5. Lack of clarity – Right now I am ‘focusing’ on just four active businesses/lines of thinking (PebbleStorm, CEOFlow, Build A Sales Machine, DataSalad), and it can be challenging creating and updating clear visions for each regular, both long-term visions and short-term plans.

In general I am not impatient, or stressed, or unfocused. But these are darkside patterns that I tend to slip back into if I get off track,  too busy or even when I travel (travel can throw my whole routine off) and I stop or slack on my 10-Step Morning Personal Success Routine.

Step TWO (1 Minute)

Take a minute to reflect: in your work now, today, this past week…how many and how much of these negative patterns came up?  Do you feel them every day, or infrequently?

Does your work bring up more of your positive attributes or more negative patterns?  What’s ‘winning’?

This exercise does not help if you lie to yourself about your work – and I’m not just talking here to the lawyers, investment bankers and bail bondsmen out there.  CEOs and executives can often more unhappy and stressed than say, a factory worker, because the responsibility and pressure gets to you over time without you realizing it. You don’t even notice it until you stop and look back in moments like now.

THIRD: Whatcha Gonna Do About It?

Whether your work sucks or you don’t love it – don’t quit your day job if you need income!  But at a minimum decide you deserve better, and that you will do something about it.  Create a plan for how and when you want to escape – even if it’s years away. Don’t let yourself look back five years from now and think, “how did five more years go by so fast?”

Here are three places to start to stir things up in your noggin (the “Make a list” step is the 5th minute of the “5 Minute Sanity Check”):

  1. Make a list (1 Minute): Quick! Brainstorm 10 things you can do tomorrow or next week to help work bring out more of the good stuff, and keep away more of the bad stuff?  Of the 10, pick out 2-3 are the best ideas you are going to try right away – and get a buddy to support each other in doing them!
  2. The Unique Genius Worksheet: To get some of your creative juices flowing, you can get (for the first time or re-download) our Unique Genius worksheet from: (On that same page, you can also download and listen to the “Invitation To Inspiration” call recording, to hear what being a part of an inspirational community feels like.)
  3. “14 Simple Ways To Inject Enjoyment Into Work”: No matter what your work is, you can ALWAYS find ways to make it more enjoyable right now:

FOUR: Leave A Comment Below And Share Some Wisdom

How did the sanity check work for you?  What are you going to do differently now?  Or what worked for you that you’d recommend to others? Please leave a comment!

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pebblestorm-unique-genius-sketch-smallOne of the keys to getting clear on your purpose and dream work is to be more selfish than you’ve ever been before – stop holding yourself back by playing small!  You can small in all kinds of ways, such as the amount of money you want to make, the freedom you can have, or in the impact you can make in the world.

I don’t mean be selfish in a negative or greedy way that harms from others.  I mean be selfish in a way that preserves and sustains you, so that you can live the way you want to…and thus have the energy and ideas to make a bigger difference to others.  Are you being unselfish, or are you actually self-sacrificing yourself and your dreams?

By living and working smaller than you deserve, you limit your ability to make a difference in the world and to others. It’s the same reason that airlines tell you to put the oxygen mask on first before you do it for a child.

The following coaching exercise is a favorite of mine, and only takes two or three minutes. Give it a shot, and please leave a comment below about what you think or learned!

The Unique Genius “Ego Indulgement Exercise

  • Get ready to be more selfish than you’ve ever been before…
  • If you had more money than you could ever spend…
  • And all the friends and love and houses and travel and stuff and family and ___ and ___ you ever wanted…
  • There is nothing you want or need that you don’t have…
  • Imagine spending a couple of years ‘on the beach’ just relaxing, until you then get bored and know it’s time to create something…
  • You don’t need to work but want to do something meaningful…
  • What do you do/create?

Ironically, it is the kind of work or business you create at that point in the end, when you don’t “need” anything or to work at all, that will create the possibility of you getting all the other goods (money, freedom, success, etc.) with ease.

Here’s why it works:

1) By first satisfying your ego‘s ‘needs and wants’, it lets your ego chill out while you get clear on what you authentically are meant to do.  When you feel needy and stressed (“I need more money, time…”), it blocks your creativity, intuition and self-awareness, and thus access to Unique Genius insights.

2) Being more selfish than you’ve ever been means taking care of yourself and inspiring yourself first, so that you can help even more people / make an even bigger difference. It means dream bigger.  How many non-profit workers do you know who are making a difference, but are totally drained in doing it?  Couldn’t they make a bigger difference if they found ways to truly take care of themselves at the same time?

Want More? Three More Unique Genius Questions…

  1. What are you already doing for free to help people? (Or what would you do for free?)
  2. If you could be successful at anything (beyond or in addition to your current career or being a parent), what would it be?
  3. What’d you want to be when you were 8, and why?

With question #3, the “why” is the interesting part…what is behind it?  My personal example: I wanted to be a pilot – not because I wanted to fly planes, but because of the freedom.  So it’s no coincidence that freedom is so important to me today and to PebbleStorm!  Another example: a common answer for people who wanted to be doctors is because they wanted to be able to help people.

You don’t have to be a pilot to have freedom within your work, or a doctor to help people in your work.

How can you bring in those childhood desires or passions into what you’re doing today?

P.S.: Coming Soon

A 21-Day Unique Genius Self-Study Program – keep an eye out!

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If you’d told me in 2007 that my art would both inspire people and be a big boost to  my business, I would have thought you were smoking crack!  “Art? Me? Puh-lese. I ain’t no artist, and who needs or has time for art when you’re on the corporate /  entrepreneur tracks?”

My art was a talent that came out of nowhere in 2008 as I began to nurture PebbleStorm  and my own Unique Genius.  No one’s as surprised as I am about this.  (You can see a decent collection here: “Art of PebbleStorm  CEOFlow / Fall 09“.)

It still doesn’t feel comfortable for me to say I’m an artist, even though I am…only  because I never – as long as I can remember – thought of myself as one. Engineer,  business  person, entrepreneur, athlete…sure.

But “artist”?  Yep, though I’m still getting used to the idea.

So now I wonder whenever I meet people…

What talents are in you waiting to come out that would inspire yourself and others?  What stories do you tell yourself about what you can or can’t do that aren’t true?

I also wonder what other talents will come out of me in the future that I don’t even know about yet.

I guarantee this – if you let yourself dream BIG – your ideal work, your dream business – it would involve you playing with and sharing a lot more of yourself and your talents that you do today (both known or yet-undiscovered superpowers).


Mash Your Passions

Bringing those talents into your work is essential to find the money, enjoyment and meaning you crave. You will love your work more and it will make you more unique and interesting to customers.

So what passions or talents or interests do you have that you think wouldn’t be relevant to business?

Here’s a simple example: my great friend Yanitz Rubin had forgotten about his passion for entertainment and comedy until PebbleStorm. Now he’s creating an event called “Improv for Entrepreneurs” to help people unlock their creativity and ideas. His goal isn’t to design a billion-dollar business from day 1 – his goals are to create a FUN way (for him and others) to attract the perfect audience for his coaching and other businesses.  Yanitz will ultimately make tons of money at this while having tons of fun!  I’d be jealous, but I will get to go to his events 🙂

Try playing with ideas on mashing them up with your work – either your current work or a new business idea that lets you play with and envision work however you want.  This is a first step towards the freedom you want.

Listen To Yourself

What activities does your subconscious keeps bugging you to pursue that you don’t have time for or that you think aren’t for you?

(Shhh – don’t tell anyone and I promise nothing, but I’ve taken a few singing lessons recently. It’s an idea that has bugged me for months, even though I’ve NEVER thought I could sing.  I still can’t, but I’m not afraid to try it.  I even have some ideas on how to bring this into PebbleStorm that don’t include Karaoke.)

You can have fun with work, and part of that includes mixing your passions into it in ways that make it more fun for you and more interesting and fun for customers!

I hope this note gave you some food for thought. Even if you shift just one degree in course, you’ll end up in a better place in the future.

Aaron Ross

Related blog posts:

The Sun Sketch and Unique Genius:
“What is your Unique Genius?”

The Treasure Map Sketch inspired its own event:
“Reinventing work with a PebbleStorm Treasure Map Hike”

Mashing your passions:
“Mash your passions!  How could you combine yoga and poetry and…?”

Are you subscribed yet?

Get the Unique Genius Worksheet (Playsheet!) for free by subscribing to PebbleStorm via email:

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img_3249-smallMy mind can’t process classic “business plans” (you know, the 20 page Word documents with marketing and sales plans, financing plans, planning the plan plans…)   About a year ago, I sketched out a Visual/Circular Business Plan.  Now, since I’m introducing the idea to my PebbleStorm “Come Play With Me” group, and now I’ve updated it…

One of the biggest differences in this plan, compared to a classic plan, is that there is no specific time line. You could add some rough time estimates in as rings (like tree rings). There is, more importantly, a logical progression of small projects and goals that lead to larger ones, like stepping stones.

Consider that you, today, are in the middle. The innermost ring is your first or next babystep.  The outermost rings are your vision.  It’s not meant to be perfect, accurate or a ‘project plan’ – it’s a simple way to have fun giving your vision a shape and substance that is easily explained both to yourself and others!

Oh – and if you do one, you have to share it with me 🙂   And most importantly: have fun with it!


And some video…

An Example By A Reader

From Todd Clark, of

I recently stumbled onto your site and loved the creative business plan you developed.

I just sat down tonight to do the same because tomorrow, at my group mastermind session, we are to present our business plans for 2012. I’m gonna hav a good time with this one!   I am sharing it with you ’cause you said to do so on your planning page.

It’s not a great photo of it…butt (not a typo), you get the gist.
T H A N K   Y O U.
What a great approach!
Here’s Todd’s art… (click to enlarge).  By the way he’s clearly great at art (much better than I in his way)…you do not need to be ‘good’ at art to do a fun version for yourself!

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A “5th Work Option”

July 13th, 2008

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In 2007, while thinking quite a bit about what I wanted to do next in work and life, I realized along the way that what I wanted wasn’t among the most common work options you can jump into:

  • A corporate job (working for someone else? Nah.)
    – I’m including “start a company that takes outside financing” in this category as well…because you’re still working for your investors.
  • Consulting (you’re always “on the clock”)
  • Non-profit (work on changing the world, but the stable income ain’t much!)
  • Artist (work through authentic passion, but good luck supporting yourself)

My goal changed from uncovering the next opportunity to creating my own perfect working world, combining the best parts of all.

Why can’t I have:

  • The stability of the corporate world
  • The independence of a consultant
  • The financial upside of a starting your own company
  • The passion of an artist / purpose of a non-profit

The goal: create an environment that enables a workstyle of “more fun, more freedom AND more money” – without compromising anything. I’m not willing to sacrifice my health, personal life or purpose for work.

What does the ‘5th Work Option’ actually look like?

A business based around your passions or life purpose (or as I’d say, your “Unique Genius”), that generates a steadily growing flow of passive income. It often begins either as consulting or time-based services or a side project/hobby…and then over time develops into a business that sells products, programs, information or anything else that requires only a little bit of your time. Also, through the process of building the business, you develop enough of an ‘audience’ and base of True Fans (who actively spread word-of-mouth for you) to generate a plenty of income.

Easier said than done, right?


The thinking of “how I can I make this a reality?” led to the development of PebbleStorm, and my life purpose of “to help people make money through enjoyment.” PebbleStorm is a roadmap to this 5th Work Option, to make it easier, less lonely and less risky to get there.

Why is my purpose about helping others make money through enjoyment? Because the more like-minded people there are who think this way and help each other stay focused on making money through enjoyment rather than just making money…the easier achieving the 5th Work Option becomes – for us all! This is why one of the most important parts of PebbleStorm is community – connecting people at similar stages of development to share information and to support each other.

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How did you make your last career move decision, whether between companies or within a company? Are you considering a career move soon? Will you take the next step up (a promotion/upgrade in your current function) because it’s easy and will be more immediate money, or will you decide to look for a right, non-obvious move that fits your inherent interests and unique genius, making you a future independent superstar (but taking longer)?

As you consider your options, here’s something to keep in mind – 50% of the reason a hamster gets on the wheel is because it’s in front of them.

Rather than doing more of what you’ve been doing, what do you really want to do?

And one sure way to avoid finding your unique genius (which is already within in you, waiting to be found) is to ignore it.

Just for good measure

Steve Pavlina’s 10 Reasons why you should never get a job

An excerpt from reason #3 Lifelong Domestication: “Getting a job is like enrolling in a human domestication program. You learn how to be a good pet.”

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In 2006 I gave this presentation to my old sales team when they asked me to come speak. Although it could use refreshing to make it more self-explanatory, its intention is still exactly on point for what I’m talking about today through PebbleStorm.

It was one of those epiphany decks…it came to me in a morning and I slapped it together in a couple of hours. I realized that morning that I didn’t want to talk about sales stuff – I wanted to change the way they were thinking about work. How could I get them to appreciate the value of working primarily for enjoyment and other intrinsic motivations, rather than addictive, ultimately empty, extrinsic motivations like titles?

(Now – the culture there of emphasizing extrinsic rewards like titles wasn’t a dynamic created by that team, it was a dynamic at the whole company…which rewarded people with titles so frequently that it was impossible to keep track of all the levels. Now I know how dogs feel in training school 🙂  Having said that, I appreciate and am grateful for everything I learned at the company and for the amazing people there.)

If you work mostly to earn money or prestige (rather than for the enjoyment of the job itself), you end up in a vicious cycle because those external motivators will never truly satisfy you. Soon after you make more money or acquire more prestige, you get used to it (habituated), as an addict gets used to higher doses of drugs. Then you need a new fix (even more money, a bigger title) to get that high back…leading to a cycle of dysfunction.

A brief intro to the deck: I believe that capitalism/westernism taken too far is destructive (Enron, pollution…), and I believe that buddhism/easternism taken too far is stagnating (no development, no progress).

However, combine the best of the west (progress, advancement, development) and the best of the east (self-awareness, equanimity, centeredness)…you can have the best of both worlds: success without drama. In fact – the lack of drama, and its associated waste of energy, is one key part of helping you achieve more success than in an extreme capitalism/”show me the money and nothing else matters” model.

The intention behind the deck was to get the sales team a-thinkin’ about more than their next career step – I wanted them to begin paying attention to themselves and their purpose, and to increase their awareness of how different kinds of motivators (extrinsic v intrinsic) can lead to very different outcomes (unhappiness vs happiness). I wanted to nudge them to a more constructive path.

Hmm – I’ll have to put out the word to see if anyone back then remembers the presentation, and if it changed their thinking…

In the coming months, as I work with a handful of CEOs interested in trying out new ideas in their organizations in order to unlock their total potential, I’ll publish examples of how to put these ideas into practice.

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Introduction: I wrote this to myself in August 2007, as I began defining what my ideal, perfect working world would be. This was the origin of PebbleStorm.

What’s the equivalent “perfect work” description that you could write, or begin to write, to yourself?


How can I make the biggest impact with the least effort? (And with the most happiness?)

“Small pebble = least effort, big wave = biggest impact”

I want to work on what I want, when I want, with whom I want, and make plenty of money at it.


I want to…

  1. Be in control of the work/business, not have it be in control of me. I don’t want to be a slave to a company, even one that I start.
  2. Work on what I want, when I want, with whom I want.
  3. Make the biggest impact with the least effort. Eliminate or outsource low-value activities.
  4. Enjoy work, by working from a place of desire, not obligation or ego
  5. Contribute from areas of strength. Find the shortest distance between the strengths of collaborators.
  6. Prioritize opportunities that come to you, that pursue you, over ones that you have to pursue.
  7. Reframe the way I (we) think about time and progress. Sometimes we can make real progress with a project/new company, and sometimes we can’t. When we make a cake, there are points when we’re working actively to buy stuff, mix the ingredients or serve it, but there are also periods in between activity where it just has to sit (driving back from the market, baking time, waiting for dinner to finish before serving). Don’t waste energy pushing the cake when it needs to sit. Or in other words – we can’t make a baby in one month with nine women!


  1. Focus on level of productivity rather than time or speed. For most things, trying to make them happen faster is only detrimental to the results/productivity.
  2. Each new project should add value or build on the others, not detract from them. By working from my strengths, adding multiple projects can make me more productive, not less productive.
  3. Keep it simple, keep it easy, KEEP IT FUN. Done right, this should feel like a natural flow without unnecessary or low-value effort. Even when the effort is extreme, it shouldn’t be unnecessarily stressful.
  4. Work with whom I want. Find a great collaborator(s) for each project, someone that has talent and I’d like to work with. Then find an idea.
  5. Build as little from scratch as possible.
  6. Don’t say no. Stay open to all possibilities. Take things as they come.
  7. Don’t set ‘artificial’ or unnatural goals, let things take a natural course. But every time I touch a project, make definite progress; move the ball.
  8. Practice acceptance. Things will change, things will and won’t work, collaborators will come and go. Use judgment to determine when something is worth effort to change & fight for, and when it’s best to accept and let it go.
  9. Manifest / visualize what you want


  1. Integrity in purpose, approach, values, relationships is the most important thing
  2. Succeed by helping the ones around you succeed
  3. Help people follow their interests in ways that align to the group goal
  4. Companies/managers/execs should work for the employee, not the other way around
  5. Diversity is beneficial (avoids groupthink)
  6. Work should ALWAYS be interesting (eliminate, outsource, reframe what isn’t)
  7. Create a company that doesn’t depend on “selling”…sales pressure creates incentives to compromise the integrity of the client relationship