Define Payoff

So here we are more than halfway into the quest and I’ve finally caught the week’s theme before the week is over:  “Prioritize Your Value”. Starting with this prompt:


Visionary: John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

What can you stop doing in 2016 such that it would allow you to focus on higher payoff activities?

The stop part of this list is easy:

  • Stop wasting so much time on TV and Internet
  • Stop wasting money (even pennies), food, and other resources
  • Stop avoiding or procrastinating chores and healthy habits, like going to bed at a decent hour
  • Stop clinging to the past
  • Stop clinging to stuff
  • Stop overcommitting to things that don’t inspire or improve me/my life/the lives of others (actually, stop over committing, period)

Now, I’ve written probably a hundred or more versions of the stop list before, and the same things keep showing up. Probably because I haven’t given myself a compelling enough reason to actually stop.

That’s where things start getting a little harder–identifying what those higher payoff activities might be, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a high correlation between value and money in my life right now. If payoff is measured in dollars I should just pack up my toys and return to corporate tech work, but I think most of us know how well that particular career path worked out for me. And since this week is all about prioritizing our value (values?), I’m going to leave money out of it for the moment. Luckily, I think that last stop item gives a pretty clear picture of what I value–inspiring and/or improving myself, my life, and the lives of others:

  • Making ART
  • WRITING ( actual projects, not just in the journal)
  • CONNECTING with others
  • Finding/creating SANCTUARY (in my home, community, and body)

And here is where the money will hopefully start coming in:

  • Crafting my RIGHT LIVELIHOOD from the building blocks listed above

And that exploration is time much better spent than on any of the items in that first list.


Time is a River

#DareToExcel Challenge – 7:

Commit to viewing time differently from this day forward. Here are two invitations:

#1 – Draw a new relationship to time: The first one is an exercise that engages your faculties beyond the analytical-rational mind to help you rise above the “good enough” plateau and to dare to excel:

Draw a symbol or describe symbolically your existing relationship to time. What does Time look like? Move like? Feel like in terms of weight or texture? How do you two relate? Then do the same for your desired relationship to time that would let you excel? What does that Time look like? Move like? Feel like?

Share a pic of what you create with us and online.

#2 – Get outside of yourself: What one thing could you do to shift your relationship to time? How could you get outside of your office, outside of your habitual work flow, and do something so seemingly unproductive as to take a walk in the park, bicycle down the road, or watch the sunset for 10 minutes? Okay – don’t just write about it. Do it! Dare you!

  1. Time is a river, and I have never been much of a swimmer. Still, I always seem to draft into the fast, deep water where I flail and flounder and gasp for breath as I try, often unsuccessfully, to stay afloat as I swim against the current toward my desired destination. It moves too fast, runs too deep, pulls me under, weighted as I am with too many and too much… And yet, near the shore it is slower, shallower, shaded by broad-leafed trees. On the bank, near the gently swirling pool, there is a fallen log where I could rest, and a patch of dry sand where I could put down what I carry, sort through the unwieldy mass of projects, goals, desires I have collected and cull what I no longer need. And there, down the river a bit, is a collection of driftwood, and beyond, a few steps into the trees are vines I could use to lash them together, to create a raft, a rudder, two oars. Perhaps this bag I’ve been using to hold all the once-treasures, once-obsessions, once-necessary evils, can be used instead for shade now that the things I carry can fit easily in the two cargo pockets of my long, plaid shorts.
  2. The #365 photo project I started in January requires that every day I get up off my chair and walk out into the world. To notice the play of light and shadow on my casita’s clay walls. To let my eyes stray to the shapes of clouds, the drop of petals from a sun-baked flower. To search in ever-widening circles for beauty in all its forms. Some days I search for an hour or more. Some days I simply look out my door. But I do it. Every day. I pause for a moment and smell the flowers or petrichor.



After nearly four months of Questing with Jeffrey Davis and our amazing group, it’s hard to believe that it’s winding down. But it’s important to remember, that even if the weekly prompts end, our individual Quests continue. Which makes this week’s topic, retreat, particularly timely. Especially since it has been much on my mind as this phase of the Quest winds to a close.

We as a people are working ourselves to death, but where are we going? A real retreat is not a time to pamper yourself at a spa. That’s something else called self-care. A real retreat is an artful, intentional action of stepping out of your daily life’s river and into a space to contemplate, create, and envision.

#LiveTheQuest question 11:
How will you retreat regularly this year to advance your project? #retreat
Consider your commitment to retreat and to put the “artistry” in your business artistry this year. How regularly will you retreat? For how long each time? Can you commit to a monthly rhythm and a quarterly rhythm? What kinds of simple arrangements can you prepare to assure it happens? What’s your secret fear of actually doing this, and how can you shift that fear into more curiosity?

I’ve done this sort of retreat before so am well aware of the great value to be found in focused, uninterrupted time. And as I alluded to above, I’ve already been working on a retreat plan for this year, partly to keep my Quest on track after this phase ends, and partly in response to an upcoming change in my work schedule which promises to improve my financial freedom, but unfortunately limit my freedom with regards to time. I know that to make sure my personal projects don’t slip by the wayside, I will need to schedule and protect that time fiercely. To that end, this is what I’ve come up with.

  • Weekly: One two-hour micro-retreat
  • Monthly: One half-day mini-retreat
  • Quarterly: One full-day retreat
  • Annually: One two-day retreat

For now I’m planning to keep the actual content of each retreat fluid, but the weekly retreats are likely to focus on reviewing project status and scheduling for the following week, the monthly on bigger-picture brainstorming and prioritization, the quarterly on experimental play and road-mapping for the next quarter, and the annual to really take a step back, review the year, and dream the year to come.

Currently the only threats I have to my retreat schedule are internal, but for me, there is something sacred about retreat time that makes it easier to protect than, say, the daily hour I always hope to spend writing or sewing. That single daily hour is too amorphous–in focus, schedule, and goal. Then again, with the addition of the weekly retreat, even that may change for the better. That’s the thing about having limited free time, if you don’t make intentional plans to use that time wisely and stick to them, you are likely to fritter it away–and your dreams with it.

For more thoughts about the benefits of an in-house retreat, check out Jeffrey’s article in Psycology Today.

Facing Challenges

It’s taken me longer than usual to respond to Monday’s Quest-ion. That’s because my work hours have been longer hours than usual, and it’s taking longer than usual to recover from last week’s inspiring but physically demanding stint working the Artistic booth at AQS QuiltWeek in Albuquerque, during which I worked six days straight, the last four of them between 11.5 and 13 hours each.

But finally, today, I have a clear schedule, so here it is:

How will you respond to challenges differently this year?  #facechallenge

No risk, no challenge, no quest. It’s that simple. What one to three challenges and messiness could you inevitably face this quarter while executing your one project? Define those challenges. Write about them. Then ask yourself, How can you respond to them differently than you did last year? Write, draw, doodle, paint, flow chart, or compose your way into imagining how you can respond to challenges differently in order to execute your one project.

The challenges part of this question is easy. They are the same challenges I have struggled with for years:

  • Energy: Having the physical, mental, emotional, and psychic stamina to do the work–from finding focus and crafting plans, to the actual making and sharing my creations
  • Time: Carving out minutes, hours, days, for the things that matter most instead of squandering them on time sucks, distractions, or other people’s priorities
  • Space: Clearing the physical, mental. and temporal clutter from my living area, mind, and calendar to make room to bring my dreams to life

And though I spent the bulk of last year dedicated to creating a Year of Clear to address just these issues, by the time October rolled around and I found myself once again overwhelmed with pre-holiday and holiday preparations, I found myself right back where I started: exhausted, strapped for time, and overwhelmed by clutter and commitments.

The lists of what needs to change that I created back then still apply:


  • Get more sleep (computers off by 10pm)
  • Eat better and more regularly (create and use meal plans)
  • Exercise more
  • Create a daily mindfulness practice
  • Cull projects and people that suck my energy


  • Create routines and build habits to streamline chores/errands/activities
  • Prioritize projects and activities (review regularly)
  • Schedule and protect time for these priorities
  • Say no to anything that doesn’t support or feed my quest (or me)
  • Minimize screen time


  • Use up materials that have been gathering dust
  • Purge what I no longer need, want, or love
  • Organize what’s left
  • Keep my space clear and clean
  • Move to a larger place

So. what makes me think that this year will be different? What will be my catalyst/s for change?

For starters, this Quest. The work I have already done and the work I will continue to do thanks to Jeffrey Davis and Tracking Wonder, and the work before that with Maia Duerr and her Liberated Life Project.

But also, these tools:

As well as revisiting these very helpful books:

Preparations to thwart these challenges start today with clearing some space, so that tomorrow I can get to work on prioritization and plans.

What are your challenges and how do you plan to overcome them this year?

Here’s what some of my fellow Quester have to say:

(Funny how so many of us share the same challenges.)