Hey there! It’s your favorite delinquent blogger popping back in to say hello. Long time no see, right? I’m writing to you from approximately 26 minutes to the last day of 2018, my deadline for finishing my first book so it can be handed off for editing, layout and all the stuff that comes with publishing a book starting in January. If we’re connected on Instagram (which we should be, because I use Instagram Stories as my daily creative medium these days), you’ll know that I committed to share the draft introduction to the book in a blog post as an accountability tactic as well as a way to get input and feedback on the book’s title (a very important outstanding item that is giving me serious anxiety).
The content is deep and hilarious and emotional and intelligent all at the same time, and I want the title to be right. It’s not there yet. Many of you have been following and influencing my creative journey for years (!) and might have far better ideas on how to title this culmination of our life’s work. Others are somewhat new to this space and may have a fresh perspective on how to communicate the value of purchasing and reading this short synopsis of everything I’ve learned in life to date.
So if you take the time to read this introduction, I would love to hear your thoughts on the title options. I’ve included a 2-question survey at the end and also encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments if you want to share that way. You are the best, thank you, I love you. Without further ado….
The Official Draft Introduction of my Yet-To-Be-Titled Very First Book
"It's never too late to be who you might have been." - George Eliot
We are going to die. Hopefully not soon, but eventually and inevitably. Whatever it is inside of us that makes us who we are will cease to exist, our bodies will rot, and all that will remain of us will be the enduring elements of what we've focused on during our time on Earth, be it a building we've designed or a child we've raised or a book we've written or nothing or something else entirely.
Did you know that there is danger in mis-living your life? In waking up one day and realizing you’ve totally wasted your one shot, that your life didn't matter or leave a mark in the way that it was supposed to?
Most people mis-live their lives because they aren't clear on what they value or what really matters. They ask themselves the wrong questions (or no questions at all) about the most important areas of their lives, which leads to wrong answers, wrong outcomes and a lot of regret. They pursue goals that aren’t worth attaining. They value stuff that doesn’t matter, such as things or other people's opinions. They mold themselves to fit into the very narrow definition of success that our society touts. They spend their time with life-sucking people who kill their joy. They can’t figure out what will make them happy so they eat or drink or shop their way into poor health or addiction or not as much wealth as they'd like. They squish themselves into small, unnoticeable spaces carved out for them by their own fears and let life pass them by quickly in a slow burn of mediocrity.
And then there are the rare people who die young at a very old age, who have lived incredibly fulfilling lives and leave wakes behind them of dozens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who were better off because they walked on this Earth for a very brief stint. They leave a ripple of infectious light and goodness and inspiration wherever they go, warming the hearts of people everywhere and coaxing those sad, squished people out of their cramped little spaces so they can live the lives they're truly capable of living.
We know these people. Every once in a while, we stumble across one of them when we least expect to, someone courageous who chose to strive for what we at one time thought was not possible. Maybe we think that they're lucky, born with some advantage that the rest of us lack. But the reality is that they knew something we didn't, believed in possibilities for their life that long ago we shed as unrealistic for our own, imagined for themselves a vision or an uncharted course and summoned the courage to test the waters of their own capacities in a way that any prudent person would deem too risky, not fail-safe. And we look at them amazed, enchanted, offended, agape, representing what we could have done in those pivotal moments of our life when we teetered between prudent and uncertain paths.
Some of their names are emblazoned in books, on buildings, in our memory. Others have lived lives of quiet brilliance, laying foundations of goodness for generations of family to come. They light a fire in those whose paths they cross and unconsciously and seemingly without trying attract respect and wealth and every other resource the Universe has to offer in order to extend themselves in service to the world in their own way.
"If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life." - Abraham Maslow
So why is it that so many of us croak at 80, diseased and regretful of the lives we live? There have been a lot of studies on this and a lot of books written about the topic. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, observed her dying patients over many years and noticed some common themes that she published in her book "The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying". You know what their single biggest regret was? "I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
That is so effed up.
Let me say that a different way: there is nothing more tragic or depressing to me than knowing so many beautiful, wonderful, filled-with-potential human beings die this way. I don't want that for myself, or my family, or my friends, or my future children, or for you. So I wrote this book, after spending years obsessing over questions about how to realize my own life's potential.
They say that successful people ask better questions, and as a result, get better answers. My entire purpose of writing this book is because I fundamentally believe that to be true, regardless of how you define success. Whether it's a fruitful career or a happy marriage or a vibrant child or a healthy body or whatever your definition may be, the difference between you and someone who has what you imagine for yourself centers on the questions they've been willing to ask themselves, and the answers they've had the courage to believe just enough to change their thinking.
"Your goal should be to waste as little of your life as possible." - John C. Maxwell
This book is a summary of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to live our best lives. It's also a guide for how to answer those questions for yourself, drawing on input and wisdom from literally thousands of years of human thinking on those very questions, through the lenses of physicists and philosophers and religious leaders and scientists and a whole host of other frameworks our species has used to understand these important topics.
This is going to sound grandiose (because it is), but I believe this will be the most important book you ever read. I am 100% biased because I wrote it, but I will give you your money back in 90 years if you read the content in this very short book and end up finding yourself staring death in the face talking about your regrets to someone like Bronnie Ware. The reason that I am willing to give you your money back nine short decades from today is not because the passage of time will make it highly unlikely that you'll remember our little financial arrangement made here the first actual page of this book.
It's because I am confident that the knowledge in these pages will help you to become an ancient, crispy, vivacious old human laughing at your own jokes and relishing in the joy of the past century or so that you've lived. And you'll be doing this while biking through Tuscan vineyards double-fisting glasses of the most expensive red wine ever made, surrounded by people you love. If you're thinking, "Colleen, what if I don't want to be a drunk 105-year-old on a unicycle?" I hear you. Just insert whatever image of living your most joyful life up to the last drop means to you, and know that this book intends to help you create that vision for real.
Because you have a limited attention span and probably believe me and may now have a burning desire to figure out whether or not you’ve been asking yourself the right questions, I’ll just go ahead and cut to the chase.
Why I’m qualified to write this book
After spending far too much time in my teens and early 20s caring about things that didn’t matter, I had a full-fledged quarter-life crisis. I was paralyzed with indecision, signing apartment leases then canceling the check, interviewing and accepting jobs then reneging, waffling on what city to live in, plagued with FOMO and insecure from comparing myself to other people. In fact, I *almost* broke up with my now-husband because I thought he liked me too much and how could that be possible if I was such a hot mess? In a nutshell, I was not chill about anything and overanalyzed everything and generally sucked at life.
The reality was, I’d never asked myself a critical question, period. I knew I wanted a fulfilling career and a happy life and a wonderful relationship and a healthy body, but I’d never really considered how to define those things according to my own standards and cut through the noise of our world to figure out how to bring those goals to life for myself.
This l’il meltdown phase led me down a self-development wormhole that lasted for more than 7 years, facilitated by a career in management consulting where I've spent an average of 80% of my time traveling to locations that require a minimum of 4-6 hours of flight time each week. According to my calculations, I’ve spent 3,640 hours reading 1,537,384 self-help books, covering philosophy, theology, psychology and other related genres, spanning roughly 2,500 years of human thinking on the subject from ancient Greek philosophers to modern-day Tony Robbins.
Call me obsessed, a self-help savant, or avoiding my underdeveloped identity with books, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone with more ideas under her belt on the topic. (Ok, maybe Oprah.) And I’ve had results, solely attributed to what I’ve learned and applied in these books: I started listening to the inner voice in my head and stopped listening to almost everything else, married the love of my life, created the career of my dreams working alongside Harvard MBAs with a measly print-editorial journalism degree from a Midwest state school, quadrupled my income in a few short years, overcame my self-doubt and anxiety, and got into the best physical shape of my life while sitting at a desk for 14 hours a day. It's all the books, I tell you! Powerful sh*t in there!
I wrote this book not as an expert on anything, but as a normal person with real problems who learned and tested life-changing ideas and solutions from many amazing thinkers who were nice enough to document their brilliance for the rest of us. This book is a simple attempt to pay it forward to those who can benefit from what I've learned, but don't have a spare 3,640 hours or interest of reading 1,537,384 self-help books. Consider it your self-development starter set and reading list on steroids, organized around the foundational questions we should be asking ourselves about the most important areas of our lives with highly personal narratives about my own struggles with those questions along with recommendations for further reading based on the best books I’ve discovered along the way.
I sincerely hope you find it valuable. If you don't I look forward to chatting in 2109.
This book is intended to be a living document that you can revisit again and again, a tool that you can use to structure your thinking and help you identify the right questions to ask yourself in order to gain clarity and confidence in the most important aspects of your life. In the following pages, we’ll explore 7 major questions and work though exercises to help you answer them for yourself.
Please feel free to skip around based on the questions you find most pressing in your life at the moment. By the power vested in me as author of this little guide, I can 100% guarantee you that there is no story line weaving all of these chapters together. These questions, in my experience, are sequential, building a stronger and stronger foundation after you've considered and answered them for yourself. So if you've already got a few of them covered, feel free to skip ahead. Or read them for pure entertainment value because I spent an inordinate amount of time on the jokes.
Chapter 1: Who the eff am I? An introduction to self and identity
Chapter 2: Why am I running around in this meat suit? An overview of purpose and vocation
Chapter 3: Speaking of my meat suit, how do I take care of it? A foundation for keeping your body healthy as long as you care to live
Chapter 4: What about that big blob of cholesterol that tells me what to do? An orientation to mind control
Chapter 5: Who should I spend my life with? A fundamental truth about the power of the company you keep
Chapter 6: What do I do about money? An attitude on acquiring wealth
Chapter 7: Where am I meant to end up? A beginner's perspective on how to let go of your white-knuckle grip on life
There is also a conclusion which, at this point, is basically a deranged monologue about my vision for my own death made possible by the ideas I learned, applied and shared in the book. The editor I hired will probably kill it, but I'll give you the synopsis here anyway because it might help with crafting the perfect title.
In the conclusion, I share that I plan to be at least 105 years old when I die, draped across a green velvet chaise lounge in fabulous silk pajamas, laughing at my own jokes, surrounded by all my friends and family, perfectly ready for my heart to suddenly stop beating at any time. And I'm ready for it because I know deep in my little brittle bones that I've used up every last ounce of the vitality I've been given, that my life truly mattered, that I used everything I'd been given to make things better, easier or happier for the people whose paths I crossed.
On the off chance that I get hit by a bus next week instead of on a green velvet chaise lounge 73 years from now, I'd like whoever it is that gives my eulogy to confidently state that I died happy at 32, clear on what I valued and focused on what really mattered, with my only regret being that I didn't get to continue to self-actualize and publish all of my crazy thoughts on the Internet for seven more decades but am probably excited for the afterlife and most likely monitoring the funeral to make sure my very last party is fun and uplifting instead of drab and depressing.
OK, this is the end. If you made it all the way here, I literally love you and don’t ever forget that. Here's the 2-question survey, and please feel free to leave any thoughts or feedback in the comments.