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i’ve had a bunch of friends reach out recently around doing more consulting, writing books to build a business, etc.  and i have a business that’s on the way to being 7 figures, while working 25 hours a week (usually but not always – since specially lately i’ve had to work harder to keep up & for client travel).

so i thought i’d jot down a few ideas i’ve been sharing…


* focus focus focus on a niche!  aka unique genius

why: people don’t buy general help.  they buy very specific help for specific problems.  that’s why though i write books and blog about many ways of growing sales fast, 90% of my consulting is around outbound prospecting.  it’s my unique genius (at work), my specialty, what i’m the best in the world at.  and what i can charge real money for.   consider radio stations – every station has a single specialty, because who’d listen to a station that played a jumble of “rock pop jazz classical blue grass country etc etc”?   that’s confusing, and confusion = “no”.

how: one step, ask friends and clients the question, “what’s the one thing you hired me for, or would hire me for?”

the idea of focusing this way tends to scare people…you come up with fears like “it’s too narrow”, “it’s not interesting”, “i don’t want to be limited”, etc – but you will shoot yourself in the foot by being too many things to too many people.

free training videos:


* do as many free talks as you can to get started (whether live or webinars)

why: it might help finding clients, but for me it mostly forced me to crystallize my ideas and messages into a few, compelling ones


* don’t expect to make money selling books

why:  the royalties are nice…but you need to sell a LOT of books to make much $ (in my mind, six figures a year+).  5% of the money i make is from royalties, 80% is from consulting, 15% from speaking.  or something like that.

how: i self-published my first three books, and it worked great – but now i’m partnering with a “hybrid publisher” called  i would recommend you avoid traditional publishers – who don’t do squat for you – and find a good hybrid partner.


* sell money to make money  

why: i know you want people to feel good, to have more time, less anxiety, better teamwork… but people don’t really buy those things.  the frank truth is everyone wants money.   (and in some other areas, they’ll pay money for health & relationships and a few other niches).  but my speciality is in business, so to business experts/coaches i say “sell money to make money” – that is, you have to show them how they will make money, save money or have less risk of losing money, to be able to charge much money.


* figure out how to charge more per hour, usually by doing projects that have concrete outcomes

why: you’ll be limited to lower per-hour amounts, and smaller projects, when doing per hour work.   FYI – my effective rates (for different situations) are $1k-$3k+ an hour.

how: check out for ideas


* comfort is the enemy of success

why: i know how easy it is to coast along, doing just enough.  but when you’re comfortable, you’re not getting outside your comfort zone to push yourself in new ways that help you break through into the next level.    you should be doing things that make you nervous.  constantly.   this isn’t just about hours worked, though that can be part of it.   it’s mostly doing things that scare you – like doubling prices, public speaking, writing a book, or even reducing/limiting your hours.


* what lit a fire under my ass

getting married and having kids…


so – what other questions do you have?




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maveric april 2013have you or if you’re married, your spouse, ever thought about or wanted to adopt?

but concerns or doubts stopped you / them…

i mean, life’s already busy and expensive enough – who’d want to add MORE on top of that by adopting?  it’d mean:

* more work (and you’re already overwhelmed)
* more unknowns / risks (so many things can go wrong)
* more expenses (it’s daunting paying for everything already)
* less free time and freedom

…and if you adopted a “special needs” (mental / physical challenges) child – you gotta be CERTIFIABLY INSANE!  who knows what you’ll have to do or give up to be able to care for them?  and will they ever be able to have a “normal” life?

i mean, if you’re going to adopt, you might as well get a perfectly healthy baby, to make it easier both on you and them – right?

well…they way our human minds work is funny.

humans fear losing something specific much more than being able to appreciate a vague gain in the future.

in other words, the “big loss” outweighs an uncertain gain, so we do nothing.  whatever we say…our lizard brain prefers the devil we know to the one we don’t.   this is why people do funny things like:

  • we don’t start that business we’ve talked about for years, or take a leap to the next level.
  • we don’t quit a job working for a toxic boss / team.
  • we don’t bail out of a toxic relationship.
  • and…while your heart or something calls you to do it, you don’t adopt, giving into you or your spouse’s perfectly logical and reasonable doubts why it may not ‘make sense’

unfortunately, you don’t create a life of love, wealth or fulfillment by being reasonable.

i love this famouse quote: “The reasonable person adapts themself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adopt the world to themself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable person.” —George Bernard Shaw

we need more insanity in the world

well, call me and my wife bonkers. nuts.  wackos.  fruitcakes.

(i’m sure our families and friends think we are.)

we’re crazy enough to adopt and learn to love a 4 year old boy from china who’s not “ours.”

to adopt and learn to love one who has special needs, something called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC).  basically his elbows and knees don’t move well, making it hard to do things like eat, go potty or change clothes.

so he has special needs, so what?  in reading about his personality and what kind of boy he is, he’s kind, loving, and caring of the other kids around him.  his personality just jumped out at us.

another picture of Maverick Henry Lilei Lu Ross…

maverick henry lilei lu ross adoption adopt international amc Arthrogryposis special needs

so we already have three kids, so what?

more kids to us = more fun and love.  we’re firmly in the “more is better” camp around kids.

call us insane

we’re insane enough to go for something that make not be reasonable, but has called to us.

we’re not doing it for him – this isn’t for noble reasons – we’re doing it for selfish reasons.  because we know that along with the extra work, tears and expenses, we’ll have more fun, love and fulfillment.

is having any children – biological or otherwise – all ponies and roses either?  nope, but it’s totally worth it.

is starting your own business a piece of cake?  hell no – but again, it’s totally worth it.

is adopting all rainbows and unicorns?

nope, but it’s totally worth it.

while i haven’t legally adopted any kids yet, i essentially did the same thing emotionally in getting married to my wife Jessica, who already had to children from a prior marriage.

i call them my son and daughter (not step-son or step-daughter); they call me dad, not step-dad.

being a “dad” to them in belief and actions (rather than a “stepdad”) has been a lot like adopting, and has been equally fulfilling.  it just takes the emotional leap to go in 100%, rather than 99%…not holding back at all in making them mine.

if you haven’t had kids yet, or adopted, the fear of the unknown can get in your way…but I tell you that what’s on the other side is TOTALLY WORTH IT if you go all-in.

fulfillment doesn’t come from having an “easy” life

i know it may be hard to appreciate, but easy = boring.

fulfillment comes from using your full self, which means challenging yourself to use everything you have to offer, through both the ups and downs.  (and it’s the ‘downs’ when you really get to stretch yourself fully.)

the world needs more insanity of this kind.

don’t be scared of it, embrace it!  and inspire your spouse to get over their fears and embrace it too!

…whether this is about having kids, starting a business, adopting, or some other “leap” that you’re holding back from…

so be insane (or at least a baby step or two more insane),





PS – update from China, 5/30/13: we have “little mav”, lilei, with us now, we picked up him just a few days ago, and we’re happy to be getting some smiles already from him (being adopted is hard on kids; they’re leaving everyone they know):

IMG_0427 all four kids small

IMG_0155 super cute maverick wide eyes

PPS: Update from the USA, 7/22/13: Maverick’s adapted really easily to being a part of our family, and to moving to a new house and country.  he is a character and laughs a lot!  he’s been very attached to his “ba-ba” (chinese for “dad”).  he’s learned two or three dozen english words so far, and we don’t have any problem communicating between those and body language.  he sleeps in bed with us right between Pari and myself every night (which has been great for bonding).


IMG_0613 cute dad mav pari in pool

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funny directions

February 15th, 2013

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does life also take you in funny directions, when you let it?

i’ve been spending all my time on two things the past year:

1) my family (I can’t believe Pari is about to turn 1!) which is growing again this summer to a total of 4 kids, when we pick up our adopted 4-year old son “Maverick” from China, and

2) growing my sales consulting business “Predictable Revenue“, which has a brand new website I’m excited about!

what’s funny to me is that even 3-4 years ago, i NEVER would have guessed that I’d have such a large and growing family, or that my ‘main’ business would be helping companies grow sales.  but, my sales consulting’s evolved into a really fulfilling business and i’m surrounded by great people who I enjoy working with.

i know it’s easy to get stuck in a job thinking “this is boring” or frustrating.  but 90+% of that frustration either comes from your attitude or the people around you.  (by the way, if they or your manager are toxic, Get Out).

the people I work with matters so much more (like 98% importance) than what the heck we’re actually doing (say 2% importance).  with my current team, we could be doing a gardening business, or coffee cups, and still be having a great time.

Unique Genius + Sales?

by the way, i’m putting together a ‘merger’ of Unique Genius and Predictable Revenue…

“selling” is a necessary life skill to accomplishing anything, whether you’re an adult or teen, getting a job, starting a non-profit or inspiring people to take action… and you can ‘sell’ in ways that bring in money and feel good.

take a look here for more: “Unique Genius Sales: Are You Scared Or Sick Of Selling? v1.0″ (warning to perfectionists – it’s just a first draft).

lastly, hope you and your family are well these days,

Aaron “Air” Ross


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[Update: we’re also now expecting a new baby girl in Feb 2012!]

Have you ever had a perfect day?

A recent one was my wedding on May 8th, when I married Jessica Henning Ross.  The day was incredible on its own…and even more so since it came together so quickly (in less than two weeks), naturally and was fun!

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We enjoyed the planning of it, the wedding day itself, and afterwards.

A Few Reasons Why I Love Being With And Married To My Wife Jessica

  • We make each other laugh every day!
  • Jess is the most honest, authentic and inspiring person I know – I and anyone else around her grow and learn through osmosis 🙂
  • We have a lot of fun and fulfillment in parenting our two kids, Valentin (6) and Aurora (8)…even though parenting often feels challenging for both of us
  • We totally support each other in living our dreams -I help her, and she helps me (it’s not unbalanced)
  • We can be 100% ourselves and authentic and open with each other (no secrets)
  • Our relationship only gets better with time, as we get to know each other and share more and more of life’s downs and ups
  • We celebrate together all of life’s “little things” that makes us happy…our inside jokes, funny moments, stories and such
  • I know Jessica and I will grow as partners, not break, from the challenges that life will share with us in the coming decades
  • We get to shoot more guns, fly more helicopters and do other fun stuff together as she launches and grows her Unique Genius business Bond Girl Bootcamp, helping women have fun being badasses and growing their confidence!
  • Jessica doesn’t buy into the “happily ever after” BS fairytale myths about getting married and having kids…she knows what real life is like, and how to have fun TODAY and make a real-life relationship work.

Heh I could go on; now back to the wedding…

Planned In Two Weeks, On Budget and Lots of Fun!

In mid-April 2011, we decided to get married in early May 2011, yes just a couple of weeks away.  Why do that, instead of wait six more months?  the best way I can describe it was that we were called to do it…and it worked out perfectly.

Leap and the net will appear.

We ‘threw a rock’ and picked Sunday, May 8th for the wedding, giving us about two weeks to put it together.  Beyond that, we knew we wanted it to be small, fun for us, and not break our bank (less than $10,000).  Who wants to wake up after a wedding and start a new life with a mound of bills or debt that could take months or years to pay off?

Anyone who’s planned a wedding should think “Two weeks!  Are you kidding?”  Nope!  If you give yourself six months to plan a wedding, it will take six months.  If you give yourself two weeks to plan it, it takes too weeks.

Everything came together naturally, through a combination of ‘doing the legwork’ of putting the pieces together, plus trusting that no matter how it came together, it would be fun and perfect.

In fact, people who came were amazed, that it felt as if we’d planned it for months.  (Yes, I am patting my wife and myself on the back here, ha!)

Once we picked a date, other puzzle pieces could fall into place.  The “hardest” part at first was finding a venue, because so much of the planning depends on it.  We wanted to stick to a budget of $5,000-$8,000, and many places we looked at were $2,500 and up, and while nice, didn’t have that “we want to get married here” feeling for us both.

Luckily, or as fate would have it, a little more than one week before the wedding, Jessica ran into someone in an elevator who told her about the Santa Monica Annenberg Community Beach House…which ended up being PERFECT!  We rented the attached “Marion Davies” guest house there.  Not only could we get married on the beach, they had a venue right there for the reception, they had plenty of orange sun umbrellas (buddhist orange and white were our wedding colors), plenty of parking, and it was much less expensive than any place else.  It was a no-brainer.

Everything seemed to “choose us”: the dress, the makeup & hair, my ‘suit’, the people, the ceremony, the caterer and food, everything.  In each case, we would look at some options, be patient, and at some point one option would surface as the clear, best one.

We really didn’t struggle much at all.  There were some times where we had some anxiety about everything coming together – such as not having a venue and caterer until a week before the wedding!  However, we kept choosing to believe that it would all work out perfectly and that we couldn’t get it ‘wrong,’ no matter where it was, what her dress was, or what was served as the food.

One thing we didn’t do beforehand was register.  That wasn’t important to us at the time.  After the wedding, we started making some travel plans and registered with TravelJoy…a honeymoon travel fund.  We believe life experiences are more important than stuff, especially for the kids.

I feel like there are lots of business and life lessons here in putting energy into a project while letting it unfold naturally without forcing it 🙂

Fun With Guns

For my impromptu ‘bachelor party’ i went shooting with casey berman of LeaveLawBehind and eric galen of Music180:

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(By the way, I did both the above videos in about 20 minutes each, for free, in Apple’s iMovie 2011 on my MacBook Air…their movie templates are great!  Speaking of which, of course I had to get an “Air”, ha!)

The Ceremony – & A Big Surprise!

Jessica had asked if we could spend some money on a surprise at the wedding.  Little did I know she’d be escorted out to the ceremony area on the beach by a troupe of Chinese Lions and performers! Now THAT was an incredible wedding entrance!!

Some other highlights:

* I can’t explain how much love and excitement i felt seeing her walking down the beach pathway, in her perfect, simple white dress, with our two kids leading the way, escorted by the Chinese troupe.  It felt incredible.  This was also one of her favorite parts.

* Our friend Christie Cole led a 5-minute buddhist chanting session to start it off…I have to believe no one there’d ever done that at a wedding!  It set the whole tone for the day of doing it our way, fun, peace, surrender and meaning.  it was a perfect way to start the ceremony.  (If buddhist chanting intrigues you, check out the 10-million strong SGI organization, which my wife is a part of.)

* Another best friend, Rich Walker, agreed to be our minister.  Iit took him a whole 60 seconds to officially become a minister online through the Universal Life Church).  By the way, I recommend Rich’s new book.

* Our vows (download here to read) were originally written by my Unique Genius business partner/exec asst (and entrepreneur / life guide) Kristine Sloane for her wedding.  By the way, thank you Kristine for taking such great care of me!

* During the vows and ‘I do’s, I either cried or was about to, looking at my wife and best friend, someone who feels like a twin soul and that we’ve been together in other lifetimes.  I felt incredible and in so much love…

More Pictures: see the whole album of wedding pictures on Shutterfly.

Our photographers were the fun and talented couple of Danial and Kendra of Triple Scoop Photo – we highly recommend them!

Jessica’s Favorite Parts

I asked Jess to share some of what were her favorite parts of the day:

  • “Walking down that long walk and just looking straight at you, with everything happening around, I just kept focused on you.”
  • “The approaching with the music, seeing all of our friends everyone clapping.”
  • “When we said our vows and seeing you almost crying.”
  • “When you grabbed my hand at the top of the house when we walked out for the first time as husband and wife.”

Yes, yes and yes 🙂

The Future

I can already tell how much I’m learning from having fun and being a husband and father, and that what I learn from family life will be a big part of my writings and teachings.  For example, there are many parallels between my CEOFlow book and in guiding a family.

If you can inspire adults, you can inspire kids, and if you can inspire kids, you can inspire adults – people are people!  It’s funny seeing how much we have in common, and how much I and other adults can learn from kids and in being parents.

Want To Learn, Connect & Grow With Us?

In addition to my blog, I have started a subscription-based, intimate newsletter called “Fresh Air”  (‘air’ is my nickname).  It’s a place I can easily share more often and ‘in the moment’ the the little things during a day that lead to big business and love/family breakthroughs – and the parallels between the two.  I will also be sharing details in it on how to grow a business while traveling with family, as we plan on doing this year.

To sign up, go to:

If you want to find out more about Jessica and her business, check out

Thank you!


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If you missed the prior posts, they are:

Do you ever put people on a pedestal and think they’ve got it all figured out? Let me tell you, NO ONE has it all figured out.

It doesn’t matter how many millions they have, “successful” people have just as many issues to work on as you do.  I know I do.  Just ask my fiance, heh – she’ll tell you. (By the way, I got engaged on Xmas eve!  A video of the proposal)

So a “BS Meter” you can use with people is if they pretend to be perfect, they’re lying to you and to themselves.

For example, I procrastinated the hell outta finishing this post and health series.  I have been one lazy SOB the past two weeks, and have distracted myself with all the new shiny many iphone games I got for Xmas and my birthday. Whee 🙂

Plus, it didn’t help that I’ve been eating like crap since before Xmas.  But hey, I’m only human too.  I fall down. And I ALWAYS get back up and keep at it…

It’s probably better anyway that I waited to share this post until after the new year, so that your (and my) holiday gorging is done and you (and I) are ready to get back to the basics…

And now’s the “real” post – enjoy!



Food can be a big source of happiness in your life – or stress.  There are a lot of parallels with it and with work, how it as well can be a big source of happiness or stress.  I make a few specific parallels between the two below.

Authentically Enjoy Your Food & Drinkin’ (Whatever It Is)

<= The picture is of a meal from the super-yummy Leaf Organics restaurant in LA.  If you go there, get the mushroom-avocado burger with the onion bread (gluten-free), it is insanely good.  My fiance and I both LOVE it.  I also have a Unique Genius Superhero interview of the founder, Rod Rotondi. He has a fascinating life and business story.

Much of your health and happiness in life comes from your feelings around food and meals: your happiness goes up when you eat food that you appreciate, are grateful for and share with in good company.  So whatever the hell it is you eat – green or junky – do your best to really enjoy it and the whole experience.

(The same with work: As much of your happiness and wealth in life comes from your feelings around work – your happiness goes up when you have work that is fulfilling & satisfying, are grateful for it, and share with in good company.)

I would rather you had fun eating bread and cheese you love with good friends than having a “I don’t enjoy this but it’s good for me” raw salad miserably alone.

(The same with work: I would rather you had fun at a boring job with good friends than doing noble work in conditions – like doing it alone – that make you unhappy.  It can be lonely starting a company, rebuilding and recreating a work community around yourself…it’s not for everyone.)

Enjoyment from a “quick fix” of a candy bar or Frappacino doesn’t count – that’s a fix, not authentic gratitude or happiness that lasts.  (Unless you’re starving after doing a 28 day Utah survival course, and then get a peanut butter and chocolate milkshake – now THAT is gratitude!  Even though it didn’t stay down…)

A small digression…I did mention the hot chocolate exemption for all this, right?  Heh 🙂  While someday I might give up my hot chocolate habit, for now I truly do enjoy my Huckleberry hot chocolate, because 1) it’s “the real stuff” and feels like authentic goodness, and 2) it’s also an entire enjoyable experience beyond just the drink, because I ride my bike there, and/or share it with my fiance.  On the other hand, if I just walk into some cafe and get some crummy powdered hot chocolate, I do feel guilty.  By the way, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf hot chocolate is terrible – avoid it.

Find ways to ENJOY and be GRATEFUL for awesomely healthy food.  There is so much really tasty stuff out there.  And if you’re eating crap food, instead of feeling guilty, find ways to authentically enjoy it and be grateful for it too.

Guys – pounding on your chest about how much meat you can eat doesn’t count – that’s eating just to get attention. Unless you’re Epic Meal Time, the funniest cooking show on the internet, and the only guys I’ve ever seen who have turned fast food into sushi. Hilariously gross!

OK seriously, now on to the…

7 Ways Make It Easier On Yourself To Improve Your Nutrition (Or Find Your Unique Genius)

The easier you can make it on yourself to make progress, the more likely you’ll do it and stick to it, whether it’s around food or work.  In this case, I’m usin’ food examples:

  1. Spend time with people who inspire you / you want to be like / learn from: Studies have shown that your weight and health is affected by your friends.  Want to gain weight?  Spend time with heavy people!   So spend more time with your healthy friends and family, and less time around your unhealthy friends and family.
  2. Be adventurous: just frickin’ try something new, for God’s sake, it won’t kill you.  Many adults I know – are like little kids refusing to try a green food when they’re young, “it looks icky!”
  3. Go for progress, not perfection as you experiment and try new things to learn what works for you: I don’t believe 100% vegetarian/vegan is for everyone.  Some people should eat meat.  You won’t know where you fall until you experiment.  And after you have a holiday gorging feast (or several weeks of them)…forgive yourself, appreciate it and come on back to the good habits!
  4. Learn from people you trust, but don’t depend on one source (what works for them may not work for you).
  5. Everything in moderation.
  6. Buddy up: if your partner eats worse than you want, don’t criticize them and make them feel guilty – that’ll just make things worse.  Educate them, partner with them, find ways TOGETHER to enjoy being healthier – inspire them and you’ll get better results!
  7. Be persistently patient (with yourself and your partner).  Adopting new eating habits that stick change as fast as your mind does – that is, not very fast at all.  It takes 21 days to change a habit, and as long as 9 months to really lay down new neural pathways stick.

Notice that all of these principles apply to finding your optimally fulfilling work (Unique Genius) too!

Take A Next Step

  1. Read this book: In Defense Of Food, by Michael Pollen.  His sum philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much.  Mostly plants”.  Michael’s definition of food here is ‘real’ food not the imitation food we have now like energy bars and drinks; if your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, it’s not ‘food’.
  2. Write out an “Ideal Health” vision for yourself. If you had NO LIMITS, what would your body feel like?  How would your family and friends eat, move, practice health?  Your community, the world?  The more you can emotionally connect with an authentic vision, and believe in it, the more likely it will stick as a big enough “why” to inspire you for the next step…
  3. Commit to improving your health and taking baby steps!  Without commitment, it’s not going to happen.  Why is it important to you to do this?  First envision your life 10-20 years out following your current habits.  Then envision what life would be life if you keep improving your habits step by step over those 10-20 years.
  4. A simple first way to start your day off right and add a lot of nutrition: making your own smoothies (not that Jamba Juice crap), especially green smoothies.  I have one almost every day, made from greens (spinach or kale or chard or collard greens), parsley, fuji apples, ginger, mint, a whole lemon with rind, flax/chia seeds, hempseed, maca, goji berries, spirulina, water as the liquid.  I blend it all up in a Vitamix Turbo-blend 4500, which was about $350.   (Also: a blog about Green Smoothies)
  5. Have fun trying new things and exploring – isn’t that the whole point?
  6. Have a quick laugh (or get so grossed out you’ll never eat fast food again) at Epic Meal Time!


What’s Your Next Step?  Or Your 2 Cents?

I’d love to hear what you agree with, disagree with and what works for you – leave a comment below!

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I’m (Re)Learning How To Rest

November 10th, 2010

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Know those people who are busy all the time?  Well, your brain, like your body, needs time to recuperate, re-energize and get stronger.  If you don’t get enough rest, you won’t physically or mentally ‘heal’ as much as you could.

Here’s a quick (1 minute) video about it, just after I’d gotten out of bed, and I’m still feeling a little silly 🙂

Why Rest?

After putting a LOT of energy into my Unique Genius work the past six months (mostly on launching the Unique Genius Superhero Program and the “Your Call To Adventure 3-Day Retreat“), I’m dialing it down for three months (November, December, January).  I’m avoiding new projects to focus on my current programs and clients.

I don’t have a challenge in taking action – I have more of a challenge to rest enough (especially sleeping, napping, meditating, being positively lazy).  And yes, it is a challenge.  Without enough rest, I don’t feel as sharp, inspired, energized or creative as I know I can be.

I can get away with a few night or weeks of high-output work, but it always catches up to me.  And the longer I wait to recuperate and rest, the longer it takes… hence the “take it easier for three months” goal now.

I actually don’t think this will be easy for me…but I’ll give it my best shot!

It’ll help that I’m going to the awesome Optimum Health Institute next week for a week.

About The Fruit & Vegetable Cleanse I Mention


Have Advice For Me? What Are Your Favorite Ways To Rest?

I’d love some suggestions and ideas.

One that really works for me: Yoga Nidra guided meditations from Robin Carnes.  I can actually take naps with these…and I have a really tough time napping.

What’s yours?  Leave A Comment!

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Here’s a little video update on my skin cancer – it’s all gone, and now I’m going to have a cool scar.   And more importantly for you – think I’m always all perfectly calm and zen?  Nope!  I can get plenty frustrated, as this video shows 🙂  I was thinking about this this morning, and just had to get out of my car at the airport to shoot this…

This Is Your Call To Adventure…

Questions?  Since the event’s coming up fast, email me directly… aaron at pebblestorm dot com.

Need A Baby Step Suggestion?

Can’t come to retreat, but want to take a baby step?  Here are two other suggestions:

  1. Do the People Exercise: “Your Key To Success Or Struggle
  2. Listen to the Unique Genius Superhero Interview of Brian Johnson

Click here to leave a question or comment!

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(The picture is of a notebook that Honour Leigh, in the Superhero Program created.  Ain’t it cool?)

This past Wednesday morning I freaked out for a bit 🙂

Hey, it is relatively rare these days (especially since I began meditation regularly), but it happens once in awhile. I am human…

And when I say I freak-out moment, know what I mean?

It was one of the times where, for whatever reason, there’s an overwhelmed feeling and “holy s___” how will it all get done?

Some big things in the past week all coincided to hit me at once on Wednesday morning (this is pretty much the order they went through in my mind…): 

1) SUPERHEROES: Up, Up & Away! We completed the launch of the sold-out Unique Genius Superhero Program, and delivered the bulk of the first module of content, “Define Your Dream Business”.

  • Some stats: ~7700 video views, 75 Superheroes in the program, a ~$25k launch (not bad for my first official ‘launch’), and more than $2000 is being donated to Village Enterprise Fund.

2) SKIN CANCER: I found out last Monday, via doctor call, that I have some skin cancer on the side of my nose which must be removed. It’s not dangerous, but still requires a “MOHS”surgery . I’ll know this coming Friday (9/3), when they do it, how much tissue they need to remove.

3) NEXT SEMINAR “Unique Genius Your Call To Adventure”: I also realized on Wednesday that it is only six weeks until the Unique Genius “Your Call To Adventure” Live 3-Day Event. It’ll be awesome, but I do have a bunch of work to do to prepare the materials and get the word out so that you can decide & make travel plans…You have often been a hero to others…do you secretly wish for a hero to come to your rescue? Are you ready to be the hero of your own story?

  • SAVE THE DATE… October 15-17th, in the mountains outside of Los Angeles at…more details coming in about a week.
  • It is going to be fun, walking you through the (Super)Hero’s Journey and have you leave the event having created – while you’re there – something tangible around making money through your purpose and passions.
  • Details:

4) SALES BOOK: With the Unique Genius launch done, I turned my attention back to completing the draft of my sales book, “Predictable Revenue“. I’m behind on what I’d intended for a release date both because of the launch & need to replace my first editor.

5) SKIPPING TOWN: Of the coming six weeks, I’ll be offline for almost half the time. I wouldn’t want to make things easy on myself now, right?  I’m heading out today (Sunday) for “Enlightened Warrior Camp” – not exactly sure what we’re doing there, but several friends said it was one of the best adventures of their lives.

And yep I did this all to myself, this ‘traffic jam’.

But the freak-out didn’t last too long…

What I Did About It (In Order)

1) Meditation: I have access now to “peaceful mind on demand” through meditation.  Actually, since the Brian Johnson/PhilosophersNotes interview, I’ve meditated every single day – even if it was at 3am after working on the Unique Genius launch videos.

2) Made lists: Wrote down everything I felt I needed to do, mostly to get it out of my brain so it stopped bouncing around in there.  Sometimes just writing stuff out snuffs the brain spazm.

3) I reminded myself that everything always works out. I never learned this lesson in the corporate world, but for some reason, I really ‘got it’ after starting PebbleStorm…because I began consciously creating my happiness. I can beat myself up and be hard on myself – know what I mean?  It’s easy to worry about how much money a project will make, or “will people show up” or value it.  But now, whenever I have an event, launch or create something, I’ve seen how it all comes together no matter what.  I KNOW that it will work out one way or the other.

  • Everything is a learning opportunity, and there’s no way to ‘fail’ except by a) Not trying, b) Not learning from something, or c) Giving up.
  • When I found out I had skin cancer (again, not serious as far as we know) this attitude also helped. I haven’t been worried about it, since I know it’ll work out fine…whatever happens.

4) Asked for help: Sometimes I forget how much support I have around me.  My inspiring girlfriend Jessica Henning (who is starting a company called Bond Girl Bootcamp in LA…more to come in Sept!),  my rockstar web woman Lisa Tarrant, and writer/crazy creative Sandie Samuells are three that came to my rescue.  Thank you all!  

  • You have more support around you then you realize…but you have to ask for it.
  • PS – anyone looking to intern on some awesome Unique Genius / business projects?  Email me!


The Unique Genius “Your Call To Adventure” Live 3-Day Event

It’s October 15-17th in the mountains outside Los Angeles ( When I went to check out the site I had fun doing some impromptu video…

When was the last time you did archery? This is going to be a blast:

See all the details on the Page

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The cancer was worse than I expected (instead of a ‘nip’, I walked out of the center on September 3 with 30 stitches in my face), but they got it all and I’ll heal up all nice and pretty again 🙂  Just with a cool pirate-y scar, heh.

My girlfriend has been incredibly supportive in helping me recover and in dealing with the shock of such a fast switch from ‘small not threatening’ to ‘worse than we thought now we need to do some plastic surgery’…it took a day for “my soul to catch up with my body”, for the impact to actually register.

What Do Ya Want?

I haven’t done a longer “Aaron Update” post for awhile, but I always love sharing. If you want them more often, or about specific topics, let me know in the comments below.

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I’ve been doing a whole series of Unique Genius Superhero Interviews (including some new ones coming in the next several weeks of people like Yanik Silver, George Kao, Clay Collins & Amy Applebaum), but now it was my turn to be interviewed, this time by Ali Berlin.

Ali Berlin (a life coach in San Francisco with a Saturday morning radio show) interviewed me recently about topics like:

  • Why I started PebbleStorm
  • Where the inspiration came from
  • How and why I broke away from the corporate world
  • the inspiration for Unique Genius,
  • tips and advice on finding your own Unique Genius (even if you have a full-time job and family and have little free time and energy)

The interview is a great first introduction to my own story and what PebbleStorm and Unique Genius is all about…including some practical tips 🙂

Listen To Or Download The Audio Interview

Or Download The Interview

Ali Berlin’s Original Post

On “Make Money Through Enjoyment with Aaron Ross”

Have More Questions For Me?

Leave a comment and I’ll answer them!


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Do you hold other people up on pedestals?  Do you think you should always be clear and happy, and feel guilty when you aren’t?  Everyone is human, and perfect in their imperfections.

I can feel confused. I can be overwhelmed.  I get anxious.  I feel all the same stuff you do. The fear comes up…but I don’t let it stop me from moving forward, even if ‘forward’ is a babystep.

Babysteps, no matter how small, are one of my main “get unstuck” practices. I LOVE babysteps!

Here’s a two minute video of me sharing about what I did when I was feeling totally overwhelmed last week:

What I Created

In the video I share the next step that gave me a real sense of relief.  Below is the landing page I drafted in Powerpoint.

If you haven’t done one before, or anything like it, it might look like a lot of work.  It wasn’t – I’d already written much of this content up in different places, or in my Unique Genius webinars and invitations.  For me, the challenge was removing content to leave behind the least, best stuff (click on it to enlarge it):

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Do you worry about being transparent with clients and friends? It’s much easier to be this way and BE YOURSELF…rather than putting on a mask of perfection.

What Do You Do When You Feel Like This?

Please leave a comment, I and others would love to hear from you and get your advice!

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One my essential entrepreneurial practices is a morning Personal Success Routine (“PSR”), that is my foundation for the day.  If you don’t have one or you never consciously designed it – you need one.  If you have one, I’d love to hear about yours in the comments.  I’ve found that when I don’t follow some kind of morning Personal Success Routine that includes some or all of various meditation, writing, exercise or happiness activities, I feel less healthy, less happy and less productive – both in the ways I have fun and in work.

Why I had to figure this out

When I left in late 2006, “my plan was to have no plan” –  I was “committed to being uncommitted”!  I wanted to have a bunch of different work and life adventures, for at least six months, before settling into a long-term direction. In work terms, that meant doing consulting projects for awhile rather than trying to start my own company right away.  I’ve seen that when I or others jump from one job/career to another, it’s impossible to get the mental space and clarity that helps you actually consciously know “is this really the right path/step for me, or am I doing it just because it’s the next rung on the ladder or it’s convenient?”   (Not unlike relationships.)

Whenever I was in a 9-to-5 job, it automatically forced me to create a morning routine – wakeup at 7a, eat oatmeal, shower, get dressed in a collared shirt, get coffee, read the paper, take the bus to work…etc.  (As I’m writing this, I’m noticing how much my morning consumptions changed – no coffee, oatmeal or newspapers.  I’m a little allergic/sensitive to coffee and oats, and I don’t read news anymore – online or offline.)

No daily structure can be as bad as too much structure

After I left the 9-to-5 world, I had to figure out a whole new morning routine for myself. I mean sure, it’s fun waking up to nothing for awhile…but it gets old.  When you have no morning or daily structure, it can be as irritating as having too much structure.  And even though I’d been an entrepreneur before, it was different because I was the CEO of a company…and thus had another 9-to-5 job.

  • Side note for everyone who thinks being a CEO is automatically fun, enlivening and easy – it’s not. It can be the loneliest, most stressed role in a company, if you aren’t conscious in your design of your company or role.  It’s why I’m also doing CEOFlow: “Turn Your Employees Into Mini-CEOs”.

So now in my PebbleStormy (yes, that’s a word) world of “work on what I want, when I want, with whom I want, from where I want…” I’ve been experimenting for a long time on how to start my days off on the right foot.  Trust me, either lying in bed or doing nothing in the morning gets old fast – well, if I do it more than 1-2 days per week…

My routine that helps me feel healthier, happier and more focused and productive each day

  1. Get enough sleep.  I’m actually working on getting more sleep. I’m only getting about 6 hours per night (last night I got 5).  I want 7 – 7.5 hours per night, which is perfect for me.  The whole “sleep when I’m dead” mentality is bullshizz.  What good is not sleeping if you don’t enjoy your days as much?  I feel like crap when I don’t get enough sleep after a few days, and am much less clear and productive.   Right now I set my alarm for 7am.
  2. Drink water. 1-2 cups. I get dehydrated at night. It’s the best thing to have before anything else in the morning.
  3. Get moving, I do either some jumping jacks, push ups and/or sit ups. This is both for the exercise and to wake up and get my blood moving.
  4. Meditation. I do 10-30 minutes almost every morning.  It would be nice if I was more regular about meditating for 5 minutes before bed, too.  I did a blog post about my practice: A lifetime happiness and focus enhancer: Vipassana meditation. If you’ve never meditated before, you can start with 1-2 minutes: Meditation 101: How To Start.
  5. The Artist Way “Morning Pages”. The essence of this: just write three pages of anything, even gibberish, every morning, and it will help you unlock your creativity.  I really like these as a way to do a brain chatter dump, and get some advice from myself. Sometimes I just do half a page, sometimes the full three pages.
  6. 1-2 happiness/centering exercises. These days I’ll do some exercises from either the Hoffman Institute retreat I did or from the Abraham-Hicks book “Ask And It Is Given” (I love their Focus Wheel Process).  I HIGHLY recommend that book for both the content and all the great tools in the back!
  7. A “3 goals” process. I ask myself the question, “if I can only get 3-5 things done today, what should they be?”  What are my top priorities?
  8. Exercise: 4-5 days a week I do either running (20-45 min down to the Santa Monica beach) or yoga in the morning (I love Rudy at 9am at Power Yoga in Santa Monica).  If I run, I do it early – after I drink water, but before all the other stuff (before meditation, etc).  When I do yoga, it comes after my writing/meditation.
  9. Skin brushing: I had a couple of trusted experts tell me about this, and now I do it most days before showering.  There are plenty of articles about skin brushing and why it’s good for you, but I’ll tell you the main reason I like it – it stimulates my skin and nerves and body like I’m getting a caffeine charge.  Very cool.
  10. Good food: Almost every morning, I have a green smoothie (picture on Facebook).  I have a Vita-Mix blender, and dump in spinach (a lot!), an apple, berries, and all kinds of superfoods and goodies like ginger, lemon, mesquite, rice protein, flaxseed, hempseed, maca, goji berries and spirulina.  You can google “green smoothie” online for all kinds of suggestions.  I became religious about this after taking an amazing ‘uncooking’ class from June Louks in Malibu, who wrote a great book called  “Rawumptious Recipes: A Family’s Adventure to Healthy, Happy, Harmonious Living”.  I’m not a raw foodie, but can appreciate all the information and recipes.

I’m always experimenting with these steps, adding, subtracting, playing.  The order of steps often changes depending on the day and whether I’m running, doing yoga, am time-limited, etc.  I’m not too anal about it.

This might seem like a lot – and it is.  I set aside a couple of hours for all of this, not including the exercise.  That’s how important it is to me. I didn’t start here, I evolved this over the past three years, building on it step-by-step, then starting from scratch and trying other things. My travel still plays havoc with my PSR!

Take babysteps rather than jumping in too fast

You don’t need a lot of steps in the morning, or some complex routine.  Start with something simple, such as a green smoothie.  Or 1-2 minutes of meditation.  Create a plan to have a more exensive PSR over time, including good food, exercise, meditation, happiness awareness/practice and goal-setting.  If you try to do too much too quickly, you’ll be more likely to fall off track at some point and get discouraged.  Start with one thing at a time – take babysteps, and keep at them.   Keep it simple and add one new practice per month.  If you fall off track, just get back on when you can.

[Updated] Being kind to myself

I woke up Monday morning feeling run-down (it started Sunday night), and I needed a rest day. So my PSR for Monday was staying in bed sleeping and/or reading a fiction book until 11am 🙂   Being successful includes being kind/easy to myself in addition to pushing myself.  Too much of one or the other unbalances me.

How I Design My Week For Success

A follow up post about designing my week:

“Productive Flourishing” Charley Gilkey’s PSR

If you really want to take this thinking to the next level, check out Charlie Gilkey:
How Heatmapping Your Productivity Can Make You More Productive

What’s your PSR?   Please share in the comments!

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aaron-1-croppedIf you could go back and give “yourself-of-six-months-ago” advice around working, and specifically around how to find your purpose while having more success and fun with work, what would you tell yourself?  What three pieces of advice would you share?

Yes, this is me around 4 years old. If I could only go back in time and give myself some advice that I’d actually listen to and obey… 🙂

I think you’ll know what I mean when I say I used to rush around in work so much that I never had a chance to pause, breathe and reflect on what was working and not working in, um, work.

How often do we stop and reflect?  (Or even just stop?)  Not enough!  Yet it was taking a pause (in the form of a trip to Asia waaaaaay back in mid-2007), that helped create the mental space for the vision of PebbleStorm.

The phrase that comes to mind is “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”  Anything with the word “doom”, I want to avoid!

On October 28, we had a PebbleStorm webinar on “Lessons Learned” since PebbleStorm’s launch back in March.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about “what advice would I give myself back then?”, what 3-5 pieces of advice would I share to help me be more successful with greater ease, clarity and fun?  I’ve been asking what advice the other PebbleStormers would give their prior selves too… so that we can all benefit from it.

What We Shared:

  • I’ll share my own Top 5 Lessons Learned from doing this program over the past six months. What advice would I give my past self?
  • Some other PebbleStormers will be sharing as well – what would advice would they give their past selves?
  • The two most popular pieces of advice that people shared will surprise you!
  • What works?  What have people accomplished?
  • Funny enough, all these lessons learned are ones YOU can still learn from, that yourself of six months in the future would tell you now!

To Watch The Recording Or View The Slides, Register Here:

Once you register, you will receive an email with the links.  If you don’t get an email in your inbox right away, try it again – you might have misspelled your email.

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If you haven’t seen the updated PebbleStorm homepage links at the top of the blog – take a look.  It’s been really interesting leaving myself open to letting things evolve on their own, and then watching ideas and programs snap into place on their own!

The Programs & Roadmap


A) Feed Your Freedom “FYF”
I’ve found it’s almost impossible for people to access their Unique Genius if they are stressed because of either a lack of time/mental space or money.  This program is designeded for professionals who want a mix of regular income ($5k-$10k/mo) and freedom (work just 1-3 days/week):

B) Unique Genius
For anyone wondering what they want to do next, or what their life purpose is:

C) CEOFlow Freedom: “Turn your employees into mini-CEOs”
This is for business owners/CEOs with employees, who are feeling overwhelmed and that her business has trapped you…more details on CEOFlow Freedom.

CEOFlow Sales: “Create predictable revenue (CPR)”
“CPR” here underlies all the other programs, because it’s hard to enjoy making money if 1) you aren’t making it, or 2) it isn’t predictable.  This program for now is focused on sales coaching/consulting for companies who want to ramp up sales or make sales more predictable.  The concepts will be a part of Feed Your Freedom as well, but in that case it’s about creating predictable income 🙂

CEOFlow Adventure
(Coming)…once you have money and freedom, why not some adventure and more fun?  This gets your juices flowing and will stimulate ideas and your culture to keep your sales and inspiration going!

Unique Genius – Helping Yourself Through Others

Not coincidentally, all of this is the same path I’ve personally been on and will be on (did you know your Unique Genius is about solving your own problems, past/present/future, for others?). Yes, that’s my own roadmap above – I’m right at the beginning of the green area!


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    img_3768(By the way, the picture is from a PebbleStorm Treasure Map Hike on Sunday in LA…hence the eyepatch!).

    Below is an excerpt from an email I sent to the PebbleStorm group going through the “Come Play With Us” program.  I’m posting it for two reasons: to practice non-perfectionism (is that a word?), and to declare that I’m on a kick to let go of perfectionism, which is an  Enjoyment Enemy. Besides creating unneeded pressure, it just gets in the way of progress.  Ever heard the term “perfection is procrastination”?

    “Perfectionism spells paralysis.”
    — Winston Churchill

    I, we, can’t be enjoying ourselves fully if we’re worrying about things being ‘perfect’.  How often does being perfect get in your way, either in life or work?

    I’ve let go of a lot of perfectionism over the past couple of years (my father might say I never had it, after so many years of seeing messy rooms 🙂 ).  I didn’t even see it until recently, when I started helping people overcome their own perfectionism, both the progress that I’d made and how much farther I have to go.

    When you’re in your own room for a long time, you get used to the dirt. Also, when your room is really dirty, a little more dirt doesn’t show up.  You see things in a new light when you visit a neighbor’s room. And when you leave your neighbor’s room, you carry a new perspective with you back to your room.  Seeing others’ perfectionism has made me more aware of my own, and how it gets in the way of enjoyment. It’s a new smudge to be aware of and let go of.  My room’s getting cleaner, so smaller smudges become much more obvious.  Of course, the room never(?) gets perfectly clean… there’s always another smudge to clean…

    Hey, there’s a perfectionism lesson even here, in that we, to be happy, have to be accepting of having smudges, even as we work to clean them up!  ‘Cuz they’ll never completely go away.

    Before I move on, here are a couple of ways I manage my perfectionism…throwing rocks, as I described in “Using rocks & babysteps to dodge the fear“, and “bursting” as I wrote about in the “Big Aaron Update…Bursting…

    [UPDATED] When perfectionism can be useful

    Like anything in life, perfectionism can be helpful or hurtful, depending on your relationship with it.  When it prevents you from getting started or from finishing things, it’s an enemy!  When it can help you complete a project in a way that delivers an amazing experience, it can actually be a friend.  The key is noticing how it affects you, so that you can avoid getting trapped by it and instead can use it to help you with your goals.


    Hi everyone!

    1) Teams Update
    [yadda yadda yadda…]

    2) Some great enhancement ideas from my 8p call tonight  (Thank you Jim Belden, Onna and Erin Halling!!):
    i. A 1 day game” babystep.
    Erin Halling had a great idea to make it simpler to practice the “Play” concepts!  The example she used was to create a game out of moving, in which she’d win by finishing moving by a certain time, and an example rule would be having to stop to jump around and be silly every 2 hours 🙂  More to come…
    Reminder  – have fun with thinking of games, there is no reason to be ‘perfect’ here. Perfect is NOT fun – messy is fun!

    ii. A Serendipity Board that lists the games and players, as they’re created. Thank you Onna!!!  Here’s an example from a local open house event we held last year:

    iii. A “Design Your Game” template,
    that will be created as I work with the first few people in creating some games.  Thank you Onna!!!

    iv. A “Meet Your PebbleStormers” call on the Wednesday between webinars, to give a chance for people who want to meet and connect with more people to do so (anyone have suggestions for icebreakers?).  Thank you Erin!!

    3) Lastly  – I’m asking for help (and will continue to)
    Whew!  By the way – I can see that there’s no way I’ll be able to create all this, and the other ideas that will come up, by myself (I can’t do it all myself – mental note).  Anyone interested in helping me with any particular pebble(s), in addition to Erin and Onna?   Or ones you might think of but I don’t have here?  You know it’d be fun to do together!!

    My own perfectionism & ego
    I have a hard time asking for help, which is related to both own perfectionism and ego (I don’t like looking bad as much as the next person).  I’m going to keep letting this go, and will appreciate your support in doing it!   Perfectionism is one of the worst enemies of PebbleStorm and enjoyment, and one I’m going to be paying attention to in myself, so that I can help others avoid it too.



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    pebblestorm-heart-sketch-whole-smallWhat a fun week and launch on Tuesday!  It was just plain fun, both to create and share it, and because it resonated with people.

    Here are some stats about the launch webinar (thank you again Yanik Silver!)…

    …..Registrants for the March 17 PebbleStorm webinar: 1300
    …..Number of people who joined live on it: 350
    …..Players in the PebbleStorm “Come Play With Me” game: 15 (sold out)
    …..Amount of money spent on marketing: $0
    …..Receiving messages like these: “Thanks for making the world more of the place I want to live”,  “Discovering you and your work through Yanik has been a real turning point for me and I will forever be grateful to both of you“, and “It was fabulous and I’m buzzing with all the possibilities“: PRICELESS

    So why should you care?  Because my mission is to help you do exactly this! I’m practicing my own principles, then distilling them for you so that you can join me.

    Priceless Gratification

    What does ‘make money through enjoyment’ mean?  It means you can create a business that makes you money, and has a big, positive impact on people’s lives and the world (in fact, the better/bigger the impact, the better the buiness will do).

    Personally, here’s an example of priceless gratification from Sarah Levinson, who wrote “You know what happened after listening to this webinar?

    1. I was able to sleep better
    2. I began to feel much happier about my life in general, and about my original goals for work and my purpose in life.
    3. The next day at work I applied the principle of enjoyment. IT WORKED!” [Aaron: I’ll post her example in a separate post on applying enjoyment]

    And I make money from this, too?  Yay!! 

    Slides (you can click through them, no audio):

    Webinar replay with audio

    (Sound quality improves at minute 20)

    For a long time, when people asked “how do I get started with you and PebbleStorm?”, I didn’t have an answer!  As part of the launch, I created a page that summarizes how people can do something with PebbleStorm:

    [UPDATE 6/28/09 By the way, the best link to find out how to get started with PebbleStorm is now]

    Interested in online self-study courses? I had requests from people who can’t join now, but would at least like to sign up for the game but as a self-study version, in which you can go through the game and courses on your own.  I’m not sure when I’ll create it, but it will be in months, not weeks or years.  If you’d like to be a beta player to help me test it before public release, write me at aaron at pebblestorm dot com.


    No one can do it alone, and I have my own support groups of people who are enormous, no, GINORMOUS helps in shaping PebbleStorm. First, thank you Yanik Silver, who catalyzed this launch, shared his wisdom in shaping it, and invited his own audience (the bulk of the 1300 registrants came from Yanik).

    A bunch of my friends sat on the phone or in my house for hours (which, by the way, was really fun, like a “work party”!) so we could create this together: Onna Young ( and Leaps And Bounds), Kim Santy (Soul Shui), Hong-Anh Ha, and Scott Krajca (Wide Awake Media Group).

    Several others shared extremely thoughtful feedback on the slides & program, like George Kao, Tiffany Hamilton and Erin-Marie Driscoll, or other kinds of last-minute support or practicing opportunities: Marni Battista, Danielle Townshend, Neil Patel and family o’ course!

    I’m equally as grateful to everyone else who shared thoughts, attended the webinar, asked questions on it, and sent emails and Facebook comments afterwards.

    Thank you for all the support, which will help all of us bring fun and play into work!

    Aaron Ross

    P.S. -You can easily find me/my info on Facebook, or connect through…

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    3. Follow me on Twitter

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    overloaded-africaOverdoing enjoyment

    You know when you’re so busy that you lose track of time and days?  And not in a good way, but in a mentally overloaded way?  Because that’s how my head’s been the past several days/week, because my main businesses and projects (PebbleStorm, CEOFlow, DataSalad, and are all gelling right now, in great ways, and need real attention. Which, because there’s a traffic jam of goodness, is becoming a pain in my azz.

    For example, Yanik Silver’s hosting my first PebbleStorm webinar (“Here’s an Uncommon Way to Discover Your ‘Unique Genius’ – Combining What You Love with Real Satisfaction and Financial Independence”) in two weeks, on March 17 (register here).  I’m also holding CEOFlow events in both Southern and Northern California, organizing a event, and will also be updating the content on, among other things…

    March is going to be a month of overload, a big ol’ bite of the apple.

    Extremes of any kind aren’t sustainable

    The thing is, I love all these businesses and the people I’m doing them with!  Yet things go wrong when we go to extremes, even with enjoyment, and get outside of our sustainable pace.  I feel like a glutton at the dessert bar, stuffed from eating too much, but unable to stop…

    So of course rather than meditate, play Wii, go for a walk or a motorcycle ride, I decide to do a blog post about all this and add some gas to the fire!  Yep I’m laughing at myself.  Ah, what I won’t do for my readers 🙂

    Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it

    The first inspirations for PebbleStorm came to me back in July/August 2007, when I was at the VC firm Alloy Ventures in Palo Alto, CA (I will do a dedicated blog post on the ‘origins of PebbleStorm’ sometime).   After doing about three months of research into the b2b lead generation space, I had 10-12 ideas for projects or businesses that I wanted to do.  They all seemed so interesting to me that I didn’t want to have to pick just one.  I mean, if you had 10 children, could you choose just one you wanted to keep, and then leave the rest behind?

    I got my bunch of businesses

    Trust me, I am not complaining.  This is a great problem to have, and I love all this stuff – again, so much so that sometimes I can’t stop, even when I should.  One of my habits, which I’ve gotten MUCH better at since starting PebbleStorm, is overdoing things and going to extremes.  Sort of like when I ran myself into a hyponatremia coma in a triathlon in 2001.

    Of course, that pattern is also what led to me creating PebbleStorm (“I want to work on what I want, when I want, with whom I want, from where I want”), which is a seriously extreme way of thinking about work, in its own way!

    80% patience, 20% bursts

    As much as I counsel patience, babysteps, taking things slowly and more patience, it does make sense to regularly turn on the juice and burst for a few hours (fun!), days (ok) or weeks (yuck).  Patience gives you the clarity of exactly what you need or want to get done; bursting gets it done very quickly.  You gotta know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em, and how to balance the two modes.  I burst for 1-4 hours at a time, and preferably with one of my business partners.  I’ll break longer bursts into 1-hour chunks with their own goals.

    sprinters-relayWhat I mean by “burst”

    When I use the term burst, I don’t mean just working on random stuff for a few hours. I mean sitting down with a very specific goal (launch a website, draft a webinar, publish a blog post, draft and send an event invitation…), for a defined time period (1 hour, 2 hours…), shutting out distractions, and getting it DONE. For example, I might budget an hour to publish a blog post, or two to revise a Sales Success Kit document – and the time limit keeps me focused on getting it done.  

    This is really the first time since starting PebbleStorm that I have a good reason to burst for a few weeks/a month.  I’m not sure if this will lead to changes in my ongoing routines or not, but I’ll pay attention to it.

    The burst that created a profitable business in four hours:

    Here’s an example of how I burst: a couple of weeks ago, Onna Young (CEO of and I created a profitable product and business/website in about four hours, after doing some basic preparation and goal-setting.  We had fun with it, and made it into a game: “How can we create a site and sellable product in just four hours?”  In that time, we created the ebook, Success Kit and website

    (Well, technically we lost, since it took us 4 hours and 15 minutes.  But don’t tell anyone.)

    It wasn’t magic, just the application of PebbleStorm’s principles and PebbleStorm’s 5 Stages.  I’ll discuss it some more in the March 17 PebbleStorm webinar.

    On the personal front…meditation, exercise, a home in Santa Monica

    Meditation: It’s been about three months since I attended a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat (“A lifetime happiness and focus enhancer: Vipassana meditation”).  I’ve been meditating about every 2 out of 3 days – sometimes for 5 minutes, sometimes for 30 minutes.  It’s a bit of mental calm.  I’m still playing with my practice, but I’m feeling like 30 minutes most mornings, and 10-15 at night, is where I’m heading to over the coming months.

    Exercise: I’ve noticed how exercise affects my mood positively that day, even many hours after the workout.  If I don’t exercise, I’m not as centered (not that anyone else would notice). Normally even I wouldn’t notice, because I’m good-natured in general, but I’ve been paying attention to this. I’m really enjoying both Yoga and mat pilates.

    I just moved to Santa Monica: I finally found a great place to rent in Santa Monica (video) as a home, after 2.5 years of bouncing around Northern and Southern California communities!  (I was doing the taster’s menu approach in order to figure out exactly where I wanted to land long-term.)

    It’ll be fun organizing some PebbleStorm groups here in the coming months.  A core part of PebbleStorm includes connecting fellow PebbleStormers, and creating a network of trusted people that can work together very easily.  Santa Monica’s ground zero for the core group now.

    I’ll continue to visit the SF Bay area about once a month, to see family, friends, clients and to host the CEOFlow sessions.

    How much do I want to proof this before publishing?

    Not much.  Time to hit “publish”, eat something and rest my brain…I have more bursting to do tomorrow!  Although I joked in the beginning about making the overload worse by blogging, sharing is fun, and one of my core enjoyments (as it is with many people).

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    I’ve almost always been frustrated with our traditional expectations of how work and corporate jobs should function (even when I was the CEO of my own company). Back in the summer of 2006 I wrote down some different thoughts around my frustrations. These trains of thought helped crystallize PebbleStorm (“make money through enjoyment”) and PebbleStorm: CEOFlow (“grow revenue through enjoyment”). These thoughts started me down the path of wondering “how could I create environments without these frustrations?”

    By the way, about PebbleStorm: CEOFlow… imagine you’ve already created your dream business and are making money through enjoyment. You’re about to be an accidental CEO with a whole new set of issues, employees and partners to deal with…fun fun fun ☺.  CEOs have special needs. The intention behind CEOFlow is to help you continue to evolve and grow your business, but without losing your enjoyment of it.

    Here are the original (almost unchanged) notes from 2006 that I wrote to myself…


    Why can’t we take the work out of work?
    A few people live their dream – why can’t more?  I don’t buy it when people assume intelligence or drive is what’s needed for success.  Why are so many people, including lots of very innovative, smart and ambitious people, trapped in the rat race?  Example: the NYT article on “In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich

    Why can work be so unpleasant?  When it’s bad…

    Yes, a great manager can be an amazing mentor and coach….but all too often manager-employee relationships often feel more like parent-child relationships, and put too much artificial power into people’s hands.  Why do so many workplaces not only tolerate, but promote controlling managers?

    Working all the time in a corporate environment just feels so unproductive (not to confuse activity with productivity).  There’s so much work for so few results, in the scheme of someone’s life.  You’re trapped there in “face-time” (as opposed to space-time ☺)…waiting for other people to get back to you…producing lots of ‘stuff’ to look good just because your manager’s manager’s manager asked for it…”Um, about that TPS report…”  Back to the trusty 80/20 rule: 20% of the time people can be productive, 80% of the time they’re doing things that don’t really affect the company’s bottom line or their own happiness.

    As a rule of thumb, the nature of a corporate hierarchy structurally creates conditions for fear, wasted time and politics.  With a limited number of slots available to people, everyone competes for them.  This is often made worse by CEOs who want to see competition between their people, thinking it will bring out their best, when really it just helps create an environment of fear and control.

    The past strategy of economies of scale might have been beneficial, but what about the benefits of leverage and nimbleness? Can’t a company increase its profitability and impact, without losing its soul or flexibility?

    Innovation requires speed, thought, freedom and a lack of constraints – not resources, size or economies of scale.

    More Frustrations

    I never felt like I could be completely productive whenever I wanted to be.  In a single job, you always end up waiting around for things to happen or people to get back to you, which is non-value-added time.  So people fill that time with busy work.

    The classic hierarchy, while useful in organizing large groups of people, ends up creating unnatural “parent-child” relationships between managers and reports.  Just like Zimbardo’s “prison guard-and-prisoner” experiment at Stanford, in which the students playing as guards starting abusing prisoners, managers frequently abuse employees without even realizing it.  They’ve lost their context.  CEOs can be the worst offenders, being the most out of touch.

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  So how can you organize groups of people, without dangerously concentrating power?  In the short-term, power gets things done.  But over the long-term, it eats away at a culture.

    In one job, you can only make incremental increases in productivity per year – it’s very rare that you can multiply your productivity or make big leaps.

    Corporate structures inherently treat people as cogs in a machine, and this worsens as the organization gets bigger.  Especially once the org is past 150 people, and people can’t know everyone well, employees tend to become names on spreadsheets.

    People attached too much of their own self-worth to their titles. While titles can be helpful in the short-term in identifying someone’s function in a company and place in the pecking order…over the long-term titles end up putting people in boxes. People get defined by their title, and every person is much more than their title!  It also creates a reward system in which people end up politicking just to get titles, when titles are used as part of the rewards system.

    Most people are put into functional roles/groups that focus on a particular area: sales, marketing, development, etc.  Sometimes people are happy with this (for awhile).  Oftentimes, people end up being frustrated because they get blocked when they’re ready to make a move to another role or try something new to expand their experiences. Companies don’t like it when people move from one function to another – it’s ‘too risky’.  “You’ve been doing sales here for 5 years, what makes you think you can do product management or marketing?”

    Biggest bottlenecks in business?  Why is work so unproductive?

    Lack of trust creates long sales cycles, complicated contracts, dysfunctional corporate cultures, politics, hoops to jump through both inside a company and between companies.

    Carrying costs: you rent space, hire a bunch of people and invest in all kinds of fixed costs…creating beast you have to feed.  Work and growth become and obligation, not a choice.  Now you gotta feed the beast!

    “Selling” is incredibly inefficient compared to “attracting” through word-of-mouth. Also, selling is just a pain in the ass.  Most business owners don’t like to sell, and most salespeople aren’t very good at it (and don’t like it either).  It’s just a paycheck to them.

    Contracts: most contracts, and the bulk of what’s in contracts, are crap.   Yes, you have to have them in this legally paranoid world, but is there a way to recreate a system in which you don’t need 80% of this stuff?

    Lack of trust & integrity is what causes the bottlenecks, waste and frustration in business.   It’s why we need selling, HR, contracts…

    Is there a way to bring trust and integrity back to business?


    Yep.  That’s my intention here, even if we might have to start from scratch in a bunch of areas. Shortly after I wrote these notes down (and processed a few other things), I came up with PebbleStorm and its mission.

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    It’s good to be back ‘online’ here!  I just returned from an amazing 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in North Fork, CA (near Yosemite).


    There were 120+ other people there, evenly split between men and women and ages from 20s-60s., describes Vipassana as: “This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is its purpose.”

    And a booklet from the retreat continues:

    What Vipassana is not:

    • It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
    • It is neither intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
    • It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
    • It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

    What Vipassana is:

    • It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
    • It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
    • It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.

    How I benefit from regular meditation

    Even before this retreat, I’d been meditating for about a year (simple observation of my breathing, not Vipassana) because:

    1. Meditation enhances my ability to focus. It creates mental ‘space’, helping me distinguish “activity” versus “productivity”. Ever feel like you’re so busy doing ‘stuff’, but when you look back, none of it felt like it mattered?   It doesn’t matter how hard you’re working to climb that mountain…if you’re climbing the wrong mountain.
    2. It opens up my creativity – I’ve had some great ideas come through!
    3. It enhances my happiness and contentment
    4. It’s enjoyable – calming and relaxing, like a mental massage 🙂  

    How I got started with meditation – slowly; babysteps!

    I started about a year ago, after beginning to work with an Ayurvedic nutritionist (which is also when I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol). I started with just a few minutes at a time in the morning, and slowly built from there.  Even now I don’t meditate every day.  For the past six months, it’s been about 3-5x per week, for 10-30min, and slowly getting more consistent over time.  I am increasing that now after the retreat.

    Attitude makes all the difference

    I’ve found my attitude makes a huge difference.  When I started a year ago, meditation felt like more of a chore, as if my conscious was a mom saying “eat your peas, dear”.  OK ok…grumble, grumble.  However, once I got the hang of it and stopped resisting, I began to look forward to it as an enjoyable, relaxing mental space, like a mental spa break ☺ Do you look at going to the spa as a chore?  The kid grew up and realizes they not only like peas, but even looks forward to meals full of them!  (Please ignore this analogy if you don’t like peas as an adult.)

    I heard about Vipassana from a friend about three years ago, and even though I wasn’t meditating at the time and had no idea what Vipassana was, I immediately had a feeling of “I want to do that!” (someday).

    The retreat: 10 days of silence to calm the mind and enable the study

    It’s called “Noble Silence” – no communication during retreat with other students or the outside world, either by voice, glance or gesture.  The purpose is to calm the mind, to enable one to really learn and apply the technique. You can see ask the teachers questions, and their is instruction, so it’s not totally silent.  I found the silence actually very easy, and it did make the practice easier to learn.

    Walking into the retreat, and leaving behind iPhone, camera, etc., and knowing I wouldn’t have access to email or my phone for 10 days, my mind immediately calmed down…


    How it went & what I got (including an unintended addiction)

    We had a suprisingly busy schedule, beginning at 4am, of meditation, breakfast, meditation, lunch, meditation, evening tea break, meditation, and then evening discourses. I was asleep by 9:30p each night. During the long meal breaks, I’d nap or take walks on the walking paths.  The food was amazing!  I became addicted to Celestial Seasoning’s “Bengal Spice tea“, a form of chai without black tea or caffeine. Yum!!  Don’t worry, caffeine addicts – they had instant coffee there too.

    Although some people had a really tough time in the first couple of days with the silence and hours of meditation, I found it was surprisingly easy; a piece of cake.  I had some tough days (Day 8 was a low one for me), but it was all worth it.  I was surprised that it was harder physically than mentally for me, because I wasn’t used to sitting like that for so long.  Many other experienced meditators brought their own cushions and backrests. For novices like me, the Center had a ton of cushions and benches there for people to try out and use. It took 3-4 days to figure out my ‘seating system’.

    Here are some of the specific things I got from the retreat:

    • A practice that will increase my happiness, calmness and awareness in all situations in my life
    • Clarity/confirmation that what I’m doing with PebbleStorm is exactly what I should be doing with my life
    • A GREAT image for PebbleStorm, using a tree to illustrate four levels of happiness, and how PebbleStorm helps people tap into the most enduring, meaningful forms of happiness.  It’s only sketched in pen now, I’ll have to play with it before I’m ready to post it here.  First a Sun, now a tree…I sense a trend here in using natural images in addition to my circles…
    • A shift in my thinking of the balance of buddhism/happiness thinking and capitalism in PebbleStorm (a topic for another day).  I used to think it was 50/50, but really the mix is more like 80% buddhism/happiness and 20% capitalism. By the way – if you’re unfamiliar with buddhism, its core isn’t religious at all, though sects have added rites and rituals. It is simply a system to help people achieve lasting happiness (“enlightenment”).

    Did I mention the 10-day retreat was free?  It’s 100% donation-supported.

    And by the way, the course is free.  Yes, lodging and TASTY meals for 10 days.  They do ask for a donation at the end, “to pay for others”, but it’s by no means required and there is really no pressure at all.  The entire worldwide organization, in 120 countries, runs on a donation and volunteer basis.  This is how strongly people feel about how Vipassana has impacted their lives!

    A worldwide non-profit driven by genuine, passionate commitment

    Both the practice itself and the non-profit organization teaching it at more than 120 centers around the world are fascinating.  Run by volunteers (even teachers aren’t paid), it’s a worldwide, well-oiled machine. The retreat ran like The reason the organization works so well is because of people’s passion for the benefits they receive from Vipassana…and they want to help others receive the same benefits.

    Now: integrating it to my (daily) life

    They recommend, as a minimum, an hour of meditation in the morning, and an hour in the evening.  Rather than start out strongly and probably have some discouraging breakdowns in the practice, personally I know I’ll be more successful with a gradually building practice (this is me – what you need to be successful might be very different). It’ll take me some time to figure out my routine and to really make it a part of my daily life. For the next three months, I’m going to do it as much as possible, at least once a day, but realize that I have some experimentation to do.  Especially since I’ll be traveling and moving quite a bit between San Francisco, Los Angeles and Buenos Aires…and any kind of travel plays hell with my routine.

    “I could never meditate, my mind is too busy/I have ADD…”

    I’ve heard this from so many people.  If your mind is so agitated, isn’t that exactly why you should work to tame it, to put it to work for you rather than being at its mercy?  Jumping into a 10 day silent retreat might be too much at first, but there are plenty of ways to try it out in smaller steps.

    A 3-minute practice and simple steps you can try

    Please Leave A Comment!

    Do you practice?  What works for you?  Leave any suggestions in the comments!  And I’ll share updates on my practice monthly as it builds.

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    For about the past two weeks I’ve been feeling funky.  You know that feeling of unspecific, background anxiety that you can have, but that doesn’t have a clear source or cause? That’s what I mean by funky. Sort of an ongoing buzz of low-level anxiety and reduced motivation.

    I don’t have anything particularly evident to point to as a cause.  Even the economic junk hasn’t directly personally affected me as much as many other people; it affects me more through family and friends.  Perhaps I’m absorbing it from the environment?

    Actually, writing this post helped me clarify where I feel it comes from, a light form of burnout…keep readin’…

    The irritation of trying to fix it & traditional self-help wisdom

    As a good ol’ American problem solver, I’ve been trying to fix this “problem” (in parentheses, because it might not be a problem). I’ve been doing yoga, running, prioritizing, meditating, sharing with people, blah blah blah blah…and I’m still feeling funky.  In fact, it I just get more irritated because although those activities do help for a few minutes, or an hour…nothing’s really changed!

    Also, traditional wisdom in the self-help/empowerment world is that you need to “get into action!  Live life every day! If you’re not living powerfully today then you suck!”  (Gah, sounds exhausting.)  Anyway, that traditional thinking just adds to my irritation. Also, I do now have a theory about my funkiness, including why, ironically, the harder I try to “do stuff to fix it” the more it persists (heard the phrase “what you resist, persists”?)

    Overdoing it as a well-trained capitalist; a natural action-recovery cycle

    I also went through a similar funky anxious/demotivated period early in the summer, and now realize it’s happened regularly in the past, although I wasn’t paying as much attention at the time to myself and my moods, so I wasn’t as aware of it.

    Now, I feel that it’s part of a regular action-recovery cycle.  I, as a good as-yet-unreformed American capitalist, overdo my ‘action’ for long periods of time without enough mental or physical rest, and I always pay for it at some point with periods of that background anxiety and lower motivation.  Like now. Theoretically, if I could perfectly tune my daily action and rest, I’d never have the funky downtime, but perfection’s a journey, not a destination.

    The low energy, funkiness, was a way for my body and unconscious mind to try to slow myself down and force myself to rest, recover and re-energize.

    Weekly/monthly cycles

    My natural inclination, i.e. cultural training, is to be ‘in action’ for months or years without enough daily or weekly rest.  I remember days that I’d work 8-12 hours straight through (by choice, including when working for myself), forgetting even to take a lunch break, leaving me “brain-fried” at the end of the day.  Nights or weekends often became more about dead-rest (uncreative, just plain tired) than active-rest (being creative, ‘nice tired’ or going out & having fun).

    At some point the intense exertion at work over several months catches up with me, and I’d get tired or funky for a couple of weeks as a recovery period (if I let myself recover).  I didn’t notice it at the time, but now it’s clearer, looking back.

    A clue from Ironman training

    Another clue that led me to my current thinking comes from my time training for an Ironman triathlon in 2002, during which we’d sometimes swim/bike/run for 15-20 hours per week.  About every six weeks, I’d wake up to some day totally physically exhausted.  I’d stay in bed for a day, and then would feel ok again – so I thought – and would keep going. Until six weeks later.  And after the Ironman race, I was wiped out for a month+, as the year of training and the race all caught up with me.

    Yearly cycles

    At an even higher level, I used to work intensely for 2-3 years and then would need to take a year off before I was ready and excited to commit to a full-time, long-term career move again. I think there’s something to that ratio. Maybe I need to spend about as much time recovering as I do working (including during each day, week, month, year, decade…)  That’d imply several hours of space-creating time per day, meditating, drawing, napping, seeing friends and the like, which is a routine I’m working on now.

    It’s like fractals. I’d bet people with enough decades could see a decade-ish cycle too.

    “Healthy Hyperproductivity

    I have been paying attention to this in more carefully in a rough way for more than a year, and keep sporadic notes on my pebblestorm wiki at “Healthy Hyperproductivity“. It’s a search for a sustainable (as in decades, not years) productivity-health-energy pace and routine.  I’m not anal enough to measure my daily or weekly activity levels, energy and moods, to see if there’s some sort of regularity or seasonality to my periodic funk cycle, but it’d be an interesting experiment I’d volunteer for if someone else ran it!

    Meditation Retreat

    I’m testing out a rest routine to see if it fits within a yearly cycle. On November 12 I head out for a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in North Fork, CA, which will be an interesting adventure! No talking for 10 days“Noble Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with fellow students, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited.” Now that they have cel and internet even in the small towns of Africa, It’ll be the first time in years that I’ll be totally without phone/email, since I did a 28 day survival trip in the Utah desert with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School.  Cool.

    Just be with it – sometimes there’s nothing to fix

    So, sometimes when you’re feeling down or low energy, it’s actually a sign to pay attention to that you should slow down and rest.  Do less. And it’s not just resting for an hour, it might be for two weeks.  Or a year 🙂  Everyone’s different, but fundamentally, the more intense and longer your work, the longer the recovery you’ll need.

    There’s a judgment call here as to whether you need to be active or rest during these periods. I do agree that smiling, getting into action, taking charge, etc. can be very valuable when you’re in a rut.  But getting into action all the time can distract you from being aware of what you really need – such as rest!

    How do you know what to do?  There’s no ‘answer’ – start with awareness

    Practice awareness.  Pay attention to yourself, listen.  First let go of what you “should” be doing, so that you can get a better sense of what you need to be doing – or not.  What’s your intuition say?  Also, activities like meditation, writing, play or sketching could help your discernment.

    Three lessons in avoiding burnout

    1. SLOW DOWN: it’s impossible to be self-aware if you’re rushing around all the time.

    2. CREATE SPACE: Before immediately reacting to a feeling or state of energy such as tiredness, sit with it first.  Do you feel like it’s something to move through, or something to be with?  Create some room for this in time and space, either through meditation, play, creative activities, travel…

    3. FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY: Pay attention to the longer cycles of your energy and productivity / lack thereof.  What is a sustainable pace or routine you can establish keep up your energy and creativity?  Which will be different for your than for others.

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    Do it now

    September 19th, 2008

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    “I’ll do that…someday”

    Sound familiar?

    When I’m busy, it’s easy to put things off. I admit to regularly doing that with blogging. I’ll get to that tomorrow / next week / someday…

    Yesterday I wrote an email to a friend that included the phrase “I intend to add more about my personal journey to my pebblestorm blog” (the ‘someday’ was implied).  I’ve thought that and even noted it to myself, but writing it to someone made it that much more real.  And within an hour I drafted and posted Using rocks and babysteps to dodge the fear.

    Speaking of babysteps, a well-designed one is something small enough to accomplish in 1-4 hours.

    Sometimes I put a task/project off, and it works out well because later I realize the task/project would have been a waste of energy to do anyway 🙂

    Sometimes I just have to do it now.

    Look, I’ve done it again!

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