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.


Will you mow a lawn for your dream?

So, there’s this kid named Jack.

He’s seventeen years old. He loves musical theater. He sings. He dances. He acts. He’s a triple threat. He dreams about being on Broadway when he’s older.

Jack discovered a company called the Broadway Collective. They run a summer program in NYC—five days of master classes led by Broadway legends, plus tickets to Tony Award-winning shows, dinner with cast members, and lots more. Basically, an absolute dream for any young performing artist.

Jack really wanted to attend this summer program.

His parents told him, “We love you, and we support you, but if you’re serious about this… then you need to earn money for the tuition, airfare, and hotel by yourself.”

Oh, Jack was serious.

He started mowing lawns, babysitting, doing all kinds of jobs after school. He saved up. One dollar at a time. Little by little, his dream-fund grew… and grew.

It took about a year, but he did it. He earned the cash. He enrolled. He got himself to NYC. When he arrived, he walked into the dance studio with fire in his eyes, looking like a tiger. He’d fought to be there. He made his dream happen.

Maybe you know someone just like Jack—someone who’s ferociously devoted to their goals. I think there’s a “Jack” inside every one of us. We all have that same power.

I once met a woman who sold all the furniture in her living room so that she could attend a business conference and meet her lifelong hero.

I know several people who wake up at 5am so they can crush a weightlifting session at the gym before the rest of the world even wakes up.

I know someone who spent a whole summer working on a fishery in Alaska, sloshing around in freezing water, knee deep in fish guts. Why? So she could save money—money that she re-invested into her art, producing a series of plays and one-woman shows.

This is how dreams are built. With deep love and passion. With tough choices and priorities and piggy banks that (usually) fill slowly over time. With persistence and determination and sometimes, an old lawn mower that you borrowed from a friend. Whatever it takes.

What about you?

Will you mow a lawn for your dream?

Will you sell a couch for your dream?

Will you wake up at dawn for your dream?

Will you sweat for your dream? Make an effort for your dream? Show up for your dream? Take a risk for your dream? Endure a tiny bit of temporary discomfort for your dream?

We can make excuses. Or we can make progress.

Just like Jack, we all have a “lawn” (literal or metaphorical) that we need to mow–some type of step that needs to completed in order to move closer, closer, closer to The Big Dream. Whatever your dream may be, and whatever your lawn may be…

Start mowing.