There’s always a simpler way.

Have you ever tried to stuff twelve yoga mats into the backseat of a Volkswagen beetle? It is very difficult. A feat that requires a combination of brute strength and mathematical precision. One week, I did this…21 times. Why on earth would I do such a thing? Hahaha! Ha! Ha. Ho. Oh, pull up a chair, settle in, and allow me to tell you the tale…

Several years ago, I was leading a retreat in Portland, Oregon. I promised my guests a week of serenity and inspiration. Time to exhale, write, and work on interesting projects. No interruptions. No distractions. Space to get beautiful things done.

We’d have amazing food. Hiking in the forest. Trips to the beach. Big stretches of time to curl up with your laptop. Plus, yoga classes twice a day—every morning and evening. I wanted to create a five-star experience for my clients—handling every detail so they could completely relax.

Which brings me to…the twelve yoga mats.

My guests were staying at a hotel with a cheery, bright, wood-floored studio that we could use for our twice-daily yoga classes. There was just one small issue. We were not allowed to store the mats inside the studio during the middle of the day. We needed to clear them out. The hotel staff was very adamant about this point. Non-negotiable.

This left me with a logistical dilemma. Where would I store all those mats during the day? Anxiously, I scoured my brain for a solution. My heart thrummed as I tried to sort out a plan. Hastily, I decided I’d do…this.

* I would keep the twelve yoga mats at my apartment at night.

* In the morning, I would stuff the mats into my car and drive to the hotel.

* I would carry the mats into the hotel, down the long hallway, into the studio, and lay them out for our morning class.

* After class, I would roll them up, lug them back down the hall, and stuff them back into my car in the hotel parking lot, where they could remain for the day.

* In the evening, I’d take the mats out of my car, back into the studio, and lay them out for evening class.

* At the end of the night, I’d stuff them back into my car, drive home, and carry them up the flight of stairs and into my apartment.

* I would repeat this for seven days in a row.

* And of course, all this yoga-mat-lugging would occur secretly, stealthily, so that none of my guests would be aware it was happening. They could just breeze into the yoga studio without any stress whatsoever. Mats would be magically awaiting their arrival.

This definitely seemed like a very tiring plan. But, as far as I could tell, there was no other option. There was nowhere else to store the mats. This was what must be done.

And so, this is what I did…for a whole week. Every single day, I carried that massive pile of yoga mats from my apartment > car > studio > car > studio > car > apartment. Over and over and over.

It was tedious. It was physically exhausting. By day two of the retreat, I never wanted to look at a godforsaken yoga mat ever again. But I kept reminding myself, “This is what I have to do. I’m being a good host for my clients.”

On the final day of the retreat—after all the goodbyes and hugs and airport trips were complete—I walked back to my car. The retreat had definitely been a success. It had been a magical week. My clients were thrilled. My heart felt very full. The experience had flowed beautifully—with one big, clunking exception. Those &#%@ing yoga mats. 

I unlocked my car. I stared, one last time, at those twelve mats smushed into the back of my beetle.

And then, like a lightning bolt of clarity—clouds parting, angels singing, harps strumming, bluebirds soaring, God/Spirit/Oprah gently whispering honeyed words in my ears—I was struck with a realization.

Oh.

My.

God.

On the first day of the retreat, I COULD HAVE JUST GIVEN ONE YOGA MAT TO EACH GUEST AND THEY COULD HAVE KEPT THEIR MATS INSIDE THEIR HOTEL ROOMS DURING THE DAY!!! THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN 10,000 TIMES SIMPLER!!!

This idea literally had not occurred to me before. I could not believe what a thick-headed dumb-dumb I’d been. I had made things incredibly difficult for myself—and it had all been completely unnecessary.

I’m sure you have your own version of “the yoga mat situation.” Most people do.

Maybe you chain yourself to your computer—writing thirty Instagram captions and blog posts and newsletters every month—because you think you “must do it” to promote your business. But is that actually true? Do you really have to produce such a huge volume of content every month?

Maybe you clog your calendar with a myriad commitments that you’ve “got to do.” Is all of it crucial? Necessary? Really? Are you sure about that?

Maybe your daily commute to the office takes three hours, round-trip, and leaves you feeling drained every single day of your life, but unfortunately there’s no other option. It simply has to be done and that’s that. Or, is that true?

Could there be a simpler way? A better way? A kinder and gentler way? A more efficient way? There probably is. Maybe you’ve just been too hustle-bustle-crazy-busy-frenzied to see it clearly.

Stop rushing. Stop stuffing yoga mats into your car and just…stop everything. Pause. Breathe. Give yourself space to think.

When I stop forcing and cramming and sprinting from one task to the next, that’s when a life-changing epiphany tends to arrive. A new idea that changes my whole day.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

There’s always a simpler way.


This is it.

My mom knows how to live.

Maybe it’s because she lost her dad when she was only 15 years old. As shockwaves of grief rocked her body, she developed a new attitude — an attitude that she has carried throughout her whole life: “All of this is temporary, and nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, so we’re not going to waste a single moment today.”

And so, my mom is a vivacious firecracker who loves to swim in the ocean and play the ukulele and laugh until she cries. When she eats barbecued ribs, she sucks every rib clean until it’s a white, gleaming bone. And when she gets a wild idea — like buying a super last minute ticket for a cruise ship in French Polynesia — she doesn’t think about it. She actually does it.

She invited me to go on the cruise, too. My first reaction was, “That sounds so fun, but…” {insert various excuses about why it’s too expensive and why I’m too busy and also I’ve got lots of clients and projects right now, and…} and then she cut me off and told me, “Stop it. I am your mother. I will be dead one day. Come on this cruise with me.”

You can’t really argue with that. And so, I packed my suitcase.

We had the most incredible week of our lives.

We screamed when we checked into our bedroom because we were so excited. We drank tea and talked about marriage, divorce, God, and whether vitamins actually work or not. We swam with fish that looked like pastel rainbows and drank fresh coconut water right out of the shell. Mom took secret photos of my butt while I was wearing a bikini (“You’ll want these photos later, one day, trust me,” she insisted). I wrote down a list of every hilarious thing that mom said during that trip. I will treasure this list of mom-isms forever.

A million memories, so precious, worth more than gold.

And I almost didn’t go on this trip.

I am writing down this story for two reasons:

One, to say happy birthday to Dale Franzen, the world’s greatest mom. Thank you for constantly teaching me to fret less and live more. I love you.

And two, to gently remind you (whoever is reading this) that… this is it. This is your life. Probably the only life you get.

If somebody invites you to take a walk… meet for brunch… see a movie… play hooky from work… head to the beach… get a last minute ticket for a cruise ship… or just sit and talk… don’t pull away from the invitation. Don’t build a wall of excuses around yourself. Close your laptop. For the love of God, put away your phone. The emails can wait. Say yes to your life.

Because… this is it.


Make it right.

Andy has a sister named Grace. She is Deaf. Growing up, Andy never bothered to learn sign language. Grace was really good at reading lips—so they communicated like that. Not a perfect system but mostly, it worked pretty well.

Andy grew up and created a successful career as a rapper, singer, and producer—making music, living his dream, touring to fifty cities a year. He created several huge hits—including one song that got 11 million views on YouTube and 56 million listens on Spotify.

The media praised Andy for being a “different” kind of rapper. Instead of putting fast cars, Rolex watches, and liquor into his song lyrics, Andy raps about God’s unconditional love, having faith, overcoming challenges, and doing the right thing.

And yet, despite all of his success, something gnawed at Andy’s heart…

As the years passed, he felt increasingly guilty that he didn’t know how to speak American Sign Language (ASL). At family events—birthdays, graduations—he’d watch his sister Grace signing with her friends and loved ones and Andy had no idea what anybody was saying. He couldn’t participate in the conversation, at least, not fully. Through his own choices, he had cut himself out. He felt ashamed, like there was a rift between him and his sister, a disconnection caused by his own laziness.

Andy wondered, “What kind of brother am I?” He felt awful, realizing, “If I were in Grace’s position, I would feel hurt.”

He became determined to fix this. It was time to make things right.

Andy spent a whole year studying ASL in secret. Then—during International Week of the Deaf—he released a new music video called “Hear My Heart” as a tribute to his sister. In the video, he sings while signing the lyrics at the same time. Grace had no idea he’d been working on this project. It was a total surprise—and it was Andy’s way of saying “I love you, I’m sorry, and I pledge to be a better man and brother from now on.”

Nowadays, at concerts, Andy performs this song in total silence, signing the words with no sound. It’s another tribute to his sister—and to everyone in the audience who has ever felt isolated or forgotten.

Just like Andy, we all have the ability to make new choices, make amends, and make an effort to be a little better than we were yesterday. Just like Andy, in our own individual ways, we can turn guilt into art.

It’s never too late to close the rift… to apologize… to forgive everyone and yourself… to write that long overdue letter… to pay back that friend who loaned you two hundred dollars (even though it was ten years ago)… to pay it forward… to keep the promise you’ve made… or the promise you should have made years ago.

It’s never too late to make it right.


#MyFinal24 Contest. Post your list… and you might win a trip to Hawaii.

To celebrate the release of my new book—So This Is the End: A Love StoryI have a very cool assignment for you.

This assignment is a quick one. Just a couple minutes. You don’t need any special skills to do it. And if you complete this assignment within the next week (by October 22, 2018) you’ll be eligible to win some pretty wonderful prizes—including a trip to Hawaii. For real.

Around 13,000 people receive my email newsletter and about 12,000 people visit my website each week. About 7,000 of those people will probably read this assignment and consider doing it. About 50 to 100 people will actually do it, most likely, based on what I’ve seen in the past. So, your odds of winning a prize are pretty darn good. Why not go for it?


THE ASSIGNMENT

Spend a few minutes thinking about this question…

“If you had just 24 hours to live, what would you do with your time?”

And then…

1. Make a list. Write down some things you’d want to do. It can be a simple bullet-point list with three items, or an elaborate list with a hundred things and detailed explanations and illustrations, or anything you want. Just make a list of what you’d want to do if it was your final day on earth.

2. Post your list somewhere in the world—online, offline, or both. For instance, post a photo of your handwritten list on Instagram. Post a screenshot on Facebook. Post your list on your blog. Put your list into an email newsletter. Pin your list to a bulletin board inside your local coffee shop. Paint your list as a mural on the side of your house. Just post your list somewhere in the world where other people can see it. Anywhere you want.

3. Wherever you decide to post your list, please include this hashtag: #MyFinal24

4. Wherever you post your list, please mention my new book, which is called So This Is the End: A Love Story.

5. Wherever you post your list, please include a link so that people can order the book if they want. Here’s a short-link you can use: http://bit.ly/so-this-is-the-end

6. Optional. If you want a photo of my book that you can post—to accompany your list—here are several options: onetwothreefourfive.

7. Last but not least, please send your list to me, too. Take a photo, a screenshot, or send a link to: hello@alexandrafranzen.com


EXAMPLE

For instance, you could go online and post something like this:

I recently learned about a new book called So This Is the End: A Love Story by Alexandra Franzen. The central question of the book is: “If you had just 24 hours to live, what would you do with your time?” I love this question! I made a list of some of the things I would definitely do with #MyFinal24 hours.

Here’s my list:

[Photo of your list goes here]

PS. What would be on your list?

PPS. If you’re looking for a new book to read, you can order So This Is the End here: http://bit.ly/so-this-is-the-end 


PRIZES
If you complete this assignment in the next seven days—by October 22, 2018—you’ll be eligible to win some cool prizes, including chocolate, coffee beans, candles, crystals, books, and more.

If at least 100 people complete this assignment, then the prizes get even bigger and better!

If 100 people complete this assignment, then 1 lucky person will win a free ticket to one of my 2019 retreats in Hawaii (attending normally costs $4,800) plus $500 to help cover the cost of your flight. Depending on where you’re flying from, that might be enough to cover your entire round-trip ticket.

Winners will be announced in November.


TO SUM IT UP

To sum this up…

* Think about what you’d want to do if it was your last day on earth.

* Make a list of what you’d do.

* Post your list somewhere. Online, offline, or both.

* Include some links and stuff to help support my new book. (Thank you!)

* Enjoy the experience.

* Spark conversation amongst your family and friends.

* This will be fascinating, emotional, and inspiring.

* And… on top of all that, you might win a prize, too.


GO!

Have fun with this assignment.

I can’t wait to see your beautiful list…

-Alex

PPS. You’re awesome. Thanks for doing weird challenges and completing tiny projects and making art with me. The end.


Shoot your shot.

In an interview on The Late Show, Constance Wu tells the story of how she got the leading role in a groundbreaking, smash-hit rom-com movie. The biggest role of her life.

The director loved Constance and they had a meeting to discuss her being in the movie. But unfortunately, there was a scheduling conflict. The movie was going to start filming in the fall. But Constance was already committed to doing a TV show—which was filming at the exact same time. There was absolutely no way she could do both.

So, that was that. No movie role for Constance. The director would simply have to find somebody else.

Constance was devastated. She wanted to be in this particular movie so badly. The opportunity of a lifetime was slipping through her fingers and there was nothing she could do about it. It was a hopeless situation.

Or was it?

One night, very impulsively, she wrote an email to the director. It was—in her words—a very “dramatic email.” She poured her emotions onto the screen. She explained why she was the right actor for the job. She told the director about all the heart and passion that she would give to this role… if they would just… delay… the entire filming process… so that it didn’t conflict with her schedule.

It was a slightly crazy request.

“I didn’t think it would work,” Constance confessed.

Except it did.

The director was impressed by her chutzpah. They delayed the project… just for her. She got to do the part.

Moral of the story:

If there’s something you really want and believe in… even if it’s a total long-shot… even if you’re convinced that your attempt probably won’t work… just go for it anyway.

Send the email. Send the text. Send the application. Send the second application after your first one gets rejected. Show up with your résumé, with a dozen roses, with a list of reasons why you’re The One. Crack open your heart and lay everything on the line. Say what you really feel. Don’t dilute it. Don’t hold back. “I’m completely in love with you.” “I want this job.” “I want another chance.” “I know this might be crazy, but…” Aim for the bullseye and just go for it. As the kids say, “Shoot your shot.”

You might not get what you want.

But there’s maybe a one-half percent chance that… you will.

You never know. One email could change everything. Ten seconds of courage could determine who you marry, who hires you, who invests in your idea, who endorses your book, who says “yes” to your dream.

Set aside your pride. Take down the shield. Let yourself be open, vulnerable, and raw.

Deep breath. Say the words.

Shoot your shot.