Life prompts are kinda like writing prompts, except instead of inspiring free-flowing prose, they evoke free-wheeling action — luminous spirals of what-iffing and hot-damning. Followed by raw transformation. Inner > social > galactic evolution. Yep. No big deal.
Here are a few prompts I’ve been spooning with, of an evening…
…you invented your own job title — one that couldn’t include the words “writer,” “coach,” “strategist,” “consultant,” “trainer,” “teacher,” “photographer,” “designer,” “baker,” “candlestick-maker” — or anything starkly vocational?
…you took a total media fast — for an hour? A day? A week? A freakin’ YEAR?
…you made eye contact with everyone you met?
…you told your raunchiest secret, and made it the cornerstone of your brand?
…you removed all blinky electronics from your bedroom?
…you gave 5% of your income to a world-rocking organization?
…you under-promised, over-performed, and acted like it was normal?
…you got your best friend to write your bio? Your first crush? Your mortal enemy?
…you designated ONE day a month that was a 100% pro bono day? Digital (or literal) doors are flung open. Anyone & everyone can pick your brain. 24 hours only. Then ZERO unpaid brain-time till the next month rolls around.
…you felt genuinely ecstatic over a comrade’s success?
…you could transform jealousy into renewed motivation?
…you really weren’t secretly, somewhat, kinda-sorta seeking your parents’ approval?
…you used the “good china,” wore your “nice clothes” and bought the “fancy beverage”…every day?
…you let someone lavish you with care and attention, without protest?
Well, most of the time. I’m only 92% robot, after all (still waiting for that upgrade)…
I juggle buckets of clients, bake apple-bran muffins, meet friends for dirty chais, blog (when it’s relevant), mentor (when I’m summoned), tear up the Twitterz, jetset coast-to-coast, call my mother on Sundays, write thank you notes with reckless abandon, flap my trap at radical webinars, and find time to makeout with cute people. Living the dream, kids.
Am I always well-rested, sane and sturdy as a boulder? Hell no.
Do I adhere to a series of efficiency principles that shape my choices and actions? Hell yes.
Do I berate myself for falling off the productivity wagon? Puh-lease.
I’m working on a complete alphabet of efficiency & productivity techniques. Here’s A through F, as a teaser-trigger to the magnum opus. Go to town.
A :: Acquire serfs.
How much is your time worth? Are you investing it, or squandering it?
I’m not a mega-bucks tycoon, but once a month, I get my house professionally cleaned (by a team of eco-friendly cleaners from the local rock music school). When it’s snowy and dismal, I get my groceries delivered. When my eyeballs are burning, I hire my brilliant housemate to do a second ’round of proofreading. And I refuse to assemble IKEA furniture, re-paint scratched walls, or bash my head against broken appliances. That’s what (happy, well-paid) serfs are for!
B :: Be magically practical.
I’m gonna let you in on a mystical truth: your big break is probably not buried in the “short-term gigs” section on Craigslist. Sorry to crush your dreams. Now close that tab before you catch a disease.
Life-altering connections, meetings and events rarely surface when you spend 90% of your waking hours buckled over the keyboard, crunch-crunch-crunching away like an automaton. Lift up your pretty face. Close the laptop. Step outside. Get a glass a wine. Smile at a stranger. Be random, or be intentional. But “make space for magic,” as Danielle LaPorte would say.
C :: Cats will kill you.
Do you spend more time than you’d care to admit clicking through photos of LOLcats, adorable dogs in costumes, videos of skateboarders injuring themselves, or threaded discussion forums about macaroni and cheese? Are you retired? Or extremely high? If not, then just stop it.
The vast majority of the Internet is a vast waste of energy — a pure distraction.
And the definition of a distraction? “A drawing apart; separation; confusion of affairs.”
Don’t dilute your digital power. Find richer sources of amusement, or limit yourself to 5-minute info-tainment “smoking breaks” (as Jason Fried calls ‘em). Oh! And this goes double for social media, kids.
D :: Delineate intentions. Maybe three — tops.
Have you read Leo Babauta’s book, The Power of Less? The tagline is: “Do Less. Get More Done.” Simple. And searingly powerful.
At my last cubicle job, I was boggled by the sheer number of micro-tasks and mini-assignments hurled at employees on a daily basis. Sure, each assignment had value — but how many were mission-critical, and how many were just busy-fluff? When you’re caught up in the maelstrom — and booked solid from wall-to-wall — it can be difficult to tell the difference.
Whether you’re rocking a 9-to-5, or running your own game, set two or three must-do intentions for the day, and don’t do ANYTHING else till you’ve slaughtered those tasks. Once you have — as Mr. Babauta says — “the rest of the day is just gravy.”
E :: Empty your inbox. Every day.
Guess how many emails are sitting in my inbox right now? None. As in, zero.
But hoooooow? Three tactics:
1 :: Earlier this year, I vigilantly unsubscribed from virtually every single e-newsletter in existence. (Except for Steve Madden shoe sale updates. Those are IMPORTANT).
2 :: As soon as an email floats in, I label it (usually by project / client) and archive it. Immediately. When I’m working on that specific project, I’ll fish it out.
3 :: I delete stuff — ruthlessly. Updates from my cousin’s trip to Tanzania. Photos of my penpal’s new puppy. Far-off event invitations. Non-urgent inquiries. It’s OK to smile and absorb, but not actively respond. I trust myself to remember the messages that are truly important.
F :: Find your fortress of solitude.
When Superman needs to decompress and figure out how to save the world (again), he flies to his Fortress of Solitude. Only Lois Lane and Batman know where to find him — and they know better than to contact him, unless it’s an earth-ending emergency.
I have a couple fortresses of solitude, which I inhabit interchangeably. Sometimes it’s my home office. Sometimes it’s my bed. Lately it’s been a particular coffee shop with bad-ass red velvet cupcakes, high-speed Wifi, and a penchant for ’90s grunge. When you find that sweet spot, where work flows effortlessly and external distractions are minimal, LOCK IT DOWN. Don’t leave. Sequester yourself like a plague victim. And for God’s sake — don’t tell anyone where you are.
The electric interplay between the human brain & body is infinitely fascinating. Understatement of the eon, right?
As grown-ups, we often get stuck in comfy pathways — some productive, some less so. We butter our toast. We shake hands. We say “sorry.” We part our hair. We straighten our pillows. We tuck in our sheets.
Nothing wrong with healthy habits — especially when they spiral us closer to our goals — but sometimes a radical thought experiment can trigger creative lava flows, bust ruts, crush stagnation, and elevate the experience of moving through life to something approaching…art.
I’ve completed all 5 of these brain-body experiments — without scorching off my eyebrows, or alienating my friends. No goggles, beakers or lab coats required.
1. Tell A Story — Without Using A Single Adjective.
I’m notorious for peppering stories with florid, overblown descriptors. Once, my brother challenged me to tell a story — without using a single adjective. What emerged from my lips was a cross between cave man dialect and agonized sputtering. It was physically painful. And hilarious. I could practically feel fresh folds & grooves forming in my gray matter, like when you study a foreign language.
2. 24 Hours of Total Truth
At my last cubicle job, I found myself sinking into the habit of using softcore, passive-aggressive, creepy-corporate, overly-sensitive language in my daily interactions — and it was harshing my mellow, man. To break the cycle, I committed to 24 Hours of Total Truth. If someone asked me how a project was going (and it was going badly) I would say, “badly.” If someone asked me how I was feeling (and I was exhausted) I would say, “exhausted.” If someone asked me how the training session went (and it was mediocre) I would say, “mediocre.” It was pretty liberating. And guess what? Nobody’s feelings got hurt. Most people laughed, and thanked me for my honesty.
3. Double-Up On Physical Contact
The Internet once told me that human beings need a minimum of 7 hugs per day, for maximum radiance, happiness and immune system vitality. I believe the Internet. And I’ve gone through hug-less periods of life — and felt the grotesque effects.
So slather on your Old Spice, ask permission (it’s easy: “may I hug you?”) and crank the hug-o-meter up to 11 — for a day, a week, or a lifetime.
Bonus round: cuddling. With your partner, with your (willing) BFF, with total strangers at a structured cuddling event (they exist). It’s like hugging, but horizontally!
4. Eradicate Small Talk
“How ’bout this weather?” “How ’bout those Vikings?” Unless flaming balls of tar are raining from the sky — and unless Norwegian warriors are ransacking your village — eradicate these phrases from your lexicon. They’re mindless filler. Waste of breath. Waste of earspace.
Instead, sit in silence. Revel in the awkwardness. After a few heartbeats, the awkwardness will vaporize, and it’ll just feel…serene.
Or, if you simply must flap your trap, ask a dynamic question. Try, “tell me about your first kiss.” Or, “what’s your earliest childhood memory?” Or, “do you have a totem animal?” Or, “do you have any recurring dreams?” See what unfurls when the convo gets kooky.
5. Say “I’m Back!”
One last nugget of highly-applicable wisdom from Marie Forleo’sRich, Happy & Hot conference — if you feel yourself drifting away from the present moment (thinking about your grocery list, your bunion appointment, the lint stuck in your pocket) aggressively pull yourself into the present by declaring (out loud) “I’M BACK!”
You might frighten a few folks — but godammit, it works!
All right, mad scientists. Play safe…and feel free to share your laboratory findings!