The Master Note System (2016)

Learn a new approach to organizing your life and your notes, not explained in any other guide out there. Easy to implement and customize, The Master Note System will change how you think about storing and finding everything important in your life. It’s all just one or two clicks away. The free templates that come with the book will have you up and running instantly.

Interview with Vivi Stutz

Author, Fitness Professional, Marriage & Family Therapist


I am here with the multi-talented Vivi Stutz, whose new book, Body Sculpting for Bombshells: Fast and Easy Fitness for Loving Your Body and Feeling Desirable, is an inspiration to women of all ages.

I want to know how she keeps her various interests — writing fiction and nonfiction, working as a personal fitness trainer and a psychotherapist — moving forward and how she comes up with her creative ideas.

Q. Vivi, your own life story reads like a novel. What were the biggest influences in shaping you as a creative thinker and problem solver?

A. What has shaped me most is what you call “my life story reading like a novel.”

I am driven by insatiable curiosity which I learned from my father who is a scientist, and a ferocious appetite for real life experiences. There is so much to learn, explore and experience in this infinite universe we are living in. I regret knowing that I can never learn and experience everything, and that time is finite.

I am in a constant process of discovery, which leads me to learn new skills, earn degrees, take classes, engage in volunteer activities, travel or even move continents. I worked as an actress, musician, singer, dancer, personal trainer, psychotherapist and as a writer.

Different professional pursuits teach me new skills, which in return develop inner qualities through interaction with new people in different fields. I think that the more we experience in life, the more we have the potential to grow as human beings. Growth requires an inner dialogue of reflection, as every new pursuit or experience brings “problems” or “challenges” that require creativity and problem solving.

I view challenges as learning opportunities, and I embrace conflict as a natural part of life. The more experiences I have, the more conflict and challenge comes with it – but the process is enriching and very exciting.

For example, I moved from West Germany to East Germany after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and I moved from East Germany to the United States in 1996. I had no reason for moving other than being attracted to the possibility of adventure.

Moving from West to East Germany was like time travel. I lived in the center of Potsdam with no amenities such as running water. I had a wash bowl and a water container in my room, used a bathroom across the street, and paid a bath house to take showers. My boyfriend left me for the inconvenience I posed; I merely thought it was interesting to give up comforts we take for granted to see what defines other people’s lives.

There were several bombed out WW II ruins in my street in Potsdam, never rebuilt during communism. Since my parents grew up in the last years of WW II, I was humbled to see the rubble and ruins they lived among as children.

The adventure of moving to the United States was rather taxing but also full of exciting challenge; I was on a student visa, spoke little English and had no work permit, so I worked in Venice Beach Youth Hostels as a cleaning woman for room and board. At the same time, I attended an acting school in Hollywood, where privileged students from Bevery Hills had no appreciation for socializing with someone who didn’t even own a car! I was socially ostracized, but in my own mind, I was marveling at the richness of my experience.

The first few years were not easy; due to the language barrier I sometimes ended up in bad company. I was beat up by bikers, homeless and sleeping in someone’s car, worked under the table as a waitress, was cheated out of my pay and had a nervous breakdown from stress. Eventually I acculturated, got married, learned English and attended college and university.

Q. What are the connections between your various areas of endeavor, such as fitness training and psychotherapy, the books you write, and your interest in trans-generational World War II trauma?

A. I write about my experiences and discoveries, drawn from a process of intrapersonal reflection.

I earned several personal training certificates because I struggled with my weight as a dancer and was disqualified from the profession. Once I learned how to reduce my weight, keep it off and be in better shape in my forties than I was in my twenties, I was bursting with information and wrote about it. “Bodysculpting for Bombshells” is a summary of two decades in the fitness industry.

My desire to earn a Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology and a Master’s degree in Psychology and Marriage/Family therapy emerged from a similar personal interest. WW II left emotional scars in those who experienced it, and the scars are passed on across generations. I sought psychotherapy for myself as soon as I was situated in the United States to extricate myself from this emotional wreckage. I earned two degrees to be able to heal myself and others.

My interest in war trauma stems from my own experiences in therapy. I discovered that traumatic family events haunted me in vivid imagery, even though I didn’t know of the events until a year ago.

My novels (soon to be published) are metaphorical stories of intrapersonal reflection. I reflected on marriage and relationship: the difference between love and need, why we shy away from what we want the most, how to honor ourselves and our inner knowing of direction.

Q. With so many interests, how do you decide where to put your time so that you feel most effective?

A. I do best when I meditate in the morning and engage in inner listening. Sometimes I use free-form writing, a process designed to give voice to unconscious material and bring it into awareness to sort it out.

When I follow my inner direction, or the direction of what I feel most strongly about, I am able to identify the most relevant task and complete it. However, I sometimes get overwhelmed and feel ineffective.

I don’t know if being multi-passionate is a strength or a weakness. I doubt it’s the most effective course of action but for the afflicted, there is no painless alternative.

Q. Do you have any special techniques to inspire creative thinking and imaginative ideas?

A. Meditation, inner listening, free-form writing and “giving voice” to various inner aspects.

I think that creativity is the desire to express our full potential. It’s as if there is something within ourselves that wants to be expressed. The creative process is an act of paying attention and receiving, then giving birth to the idea.

When I don’t feel creative or I have no driving ideas, I am out of touch with myself and my inner voice. I know I need to disconnect from all “doing,” shift from “doing” to “being,” and spend time cultivating the relationship with myself.

Q. What habits do you have and find most useful for keeping on track with your various projects?

A. Meditation and various psychotherapeutic techniques are most useful to me. Once I know what I want to do, I write down my goal and the action-steps to achieve it. If I don’t know how to achieve my goal, I engage in research until I decide on a course of action.

Following through on a goal and achieving it is mostly a matter of knowing which steps to take. Clarity and intention are necessary to obtain inner cooperation and commitment.

Then there is the attitude of life long learning. I expect to make mistakes and learn through the process. It enables to me learn from experience instead of beating myself up if I don’t get everything perfect the first time around.

I made a lot of mistakes publishing “Bodysculpting for Bombshells,” and I could do much better promoting the book. I see these mistakes as learning opportunities, not as failure.

What sabotages us most in any creative endeavor is fear of failure and perfectionism; the fear of getting it wrong. Well, we’ll get it wrong, most likely. We can’t achieve mastery if we can’t be students, because students make mistakes in the learning process.

Q. As a writer, how do you store all your research and ideas? Do you have any special technique or software?

A. You’ll hate this, but I prefer to keep a notebook and write by hand. I keep electronic files for research and sources, but for creative brainstorming, I prefer the organic process of handwriting. It’s a psychotherapist’s quirk. When giving voice to unconscious ideas, the handwriting process is thought to be more effective than typing.

However, once I get back to my research-based book project on war trauma, I would do well listening to you and using Evernote.

Q. If you were to give a workshop on how to generate creative thinking and fresh ideas, what would be the key points? And how would you get them across?

A. I would start the workshop with a day of therapeutic processing, either in group therapy format or partner work, giving voice to each participant’s intrapersonal parts that deny or invalidate creative ideas.

The goal would be to clear participants of limiting beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not creative enough,” “My ideas are not original enough,” “I will be laughed at.” I would track the limiting beliefs: where they came from, what their core belief is. I would then facilitate reframing the limiting beliefs into self-affirming statements.

The next day would consist of creative brainstorming. In a supportive and emotionally safe environment, participants would playfully try out ideas. This could be done by role play, creative writing or verbalizing.

The third day would consist of choosing a creative project, creating a time line and identifying precise action-steps.

You can learn more about Vivi Stutz and contact her through her websites: and

Reinventing yourself: the greatest American freedom?

What freedom do you hold most dear?

Main manifest

In April 1905 my father, then seven years old, stepped off the Main, a German freighter, onto American soil at Ellis Island. Like many other immigrants he got a new name and moved to a new life far different from his origins. By the time the Main was scrapped in 1925, my father was a successful medical doctor.

He claimed he was born in Philadelphia. Why didn’t he talk about the immigrant experience? Perhaps it was too complicated to explain. Lithuania, where he came from, kept changing from Poland to Russia. He was not Slavic but listed as “Hebrew” under “Race or People” on the Ellis Island documents. Like so many others before him, he reinvented himself in America. The ability to do this has been, perhaps, Americans’ greatest freedom.

It goes on every day. We can be new and different. We don’t need to change our identity. We can just change our appearance, or what we talk about, or the things we do.

But with this freedom comes the responsibility to cherish it. I grew up during the Cold War and read many books about life in the former Soviet Union, including The Gulag Archipelago and Darkness At Noon. I don’t take for granted this freedom we have here in America to be who we are and who we want to be, and to speak our minds.

As we celebrate the day we declared ourselves a separate and independent nation, I am thinking about freedom. I am thinking about the American way. We believe in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We declared this in the first American document on July 4, 1776.

As human beings we are born with three essential skills, imagination, cognition, and motivation. This gives us the ability to reinvent ourselves. In few places can we do this.

Having the ability to reinvent ourselves differs from having the opportunity. In the United States, we have the personal power to change our attitudes, to change our activities, to become who we decide we want to be. Through hard work and determination, we can reinvent our lives. That freedom and opportunity comes at a price. We have the obligation to value it and use it for the common good.

What would my father’s life have been like had he not gotten away from the religious persecution of his native land? What would my life have been like had the Nazis won World War II?  Or had the Communists buried us, as they threatened during the Cold War?

Viktor Frankl said, “Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.” We can choose our attitude even when imprisoned under dire conditions, as Frankl was. But we can’t reinvent ourselves unless we have the freedom to do that. To think is one thing, to do, another.

What freedom do you hold most dear?

For more on reinventing yourself, see my new book, The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals, available at a low introductory price both as ebook and print book

How do you figure out how to steer a clear course?

Planning can overlook the obvious, or can prevent you from doing anything

adrift or planningLI

That great American thinker, innovator and Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, made this brilliant observations: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”

So we plan. We know that planning gives us a better chance of success. But sometimes we miss the mark, inviting failure. Not the failure of failing to plan, but the failure of overlooking a key point or of falling into “analysis paralysis.” Other causes of failure, such as unanticipated changes beyond one’s control, are not included here because they are beyond our control other than to have a built-in “Plan B” or “bridge back,” or learning lessons and moving on to the next plan.

Overlooking a key point

Jerry left his job at one of the Big Four consulting firms and started his own business. While he had been making a lot of money, he never had time for anything but work. He had an MBA from a top Ivy League school and several years’ experience analyzing business problems, so he assumed the business end of things would be a cakewalk.

As a small business, he could offer the same consulting work he used to do but for affordable fees. Jerry assumed it would be easy to attract small businesses to his services.

Since Jerry knew all about business planning, and he had good habits that would allow him to carry out his plan, he imagined nothing but success.

Four months after opening his own consulting business, Jerry found that expenses far exceeded accounts receivable, and that the money he put into the business to cover expenses while he got up and running was running out. With no cash flow, he knew he had to come up with a plan or seek a salaried job.

Fighting off depression and a sense of failure he had never experienced in the past, Jerry swallowed his pride and called his mentor from his previous job.

“You only planned for success,” his mentor noted. “You need to plan for failure as well. Some people call that Plan B. I call it common sense.”

Jerry protested, “I should’ve planned to fail?”

“No, I mean you should have had backup planned into your plans. You could’ve traded services for some expenses you incurred. You had time to work in exchange for goods or services. Instead you spent money assuming you had enough in reserve to cover you until there was more business.

“You also have slow pays because you didn’t ask for retainers. So now you don’t have adequate cash flow.

“And what have you done to promote word-of-mouth referrals and a flow of new business? While you have great credentials and an impressive resume, many people care more about whether they like you as a person and what you’ve done for them.

“And one last thing,” his mentor said as he finished his drink. “When you left our firm you didn’t ask about referrals of small jobs that might help you get established. Or doing contract work. You built no bridge back in case things didn’t work out with your new business.”

Jerry looked downcast. “Is there any chance I could get my old job back?”

“No, and I don’t want you to give up this quickly on your new business. I think you have what it takes, and I think you now realize how important it is to plan for all contingencies. I also have a small piece of business we can’t afford to take which you would be good at. I’ll talk to this company tomorrow and refer them to you.”

Jerry went back to his office with his mentor’s words ringing in his ears. He had said to himself so often in recent months, “Failure is not an option!” It kept him going, it staved off fear. Now he realized it had kept him from being objective, it had kept him from planning for contingencies, that he had not done what all his training said was so important to do.

He drafted a plan. It wasn’t too late to offload some of his expenses. He would volunteer work and mingle with people more, getting to know them so he could explain the work he did. He would look for contract work. He wouldn’t spend more than he was earning. He spent an hour reviewing posts online and gleaned some practical suggestions.

He wrote a personal note to his mentor, thanking him for his advice and encouragement, before he headed home.

Overplanning and not doing

“Analysis paralysis” occurs when we overthink something and do nothing through indecision. By looking for the “perfect solution” we prevent any action that might lead to a good or better solution.

Shakespeare immortalized this in Hamlet, whose failure to act had a tragic outcome. More often our failure to act costs us opportunities. I had a friend who could not decide on what house to buy. She had the down payment money and a loan guarantee, but no house she saw seemed right. I’m just the opposite. If a house satisfies my short list of “non-negotiables,” I figure I can fix the rest and I sign immediately.

If we look for potential opportunities, then our plans must put us in the place to encounter them, rather than wait until everything is lined up exactly. Returning to Jerry’s story, he did volunteer work and encountered potential business connections with other volunteers. He also networked with fellow professionals. He had believed he was too busy to go out to what he considered social occasions. Now he saw them as opportunities to work the room and set up business contacts. The shift in thinking his mentor inspired allowed him to move forward with his original plans, with increased potential outcomes.

Some useful tools when we need to plan are questions that reveal our real reasons and obstacles that may cause “analysis paralysis” or set us back in some other way. In my new book, The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals, I discuss the eight “START NOW” questions that lead to successful outcomes. You can bake in success before you spend a lot of time on an important problem/decision/project/goal. To get a free copy of the questions in a 2-page PDF, click here.

 The Personal Power Roadmap makes planning any project effective and practical. Get it now at a low introductory price as an ebook and print book.

Interview with Derek Doepker

Best-selling Author, Fitness Expert, Motivational Speaker, Coach, Musician & Entrepreneur

DDheadshotI am here with best-selling author, fitness expert, motivational speaker, coach, musician and all around talented guy, entrepreneur Derek Doepker, to find out how he creates his books and courses, keeps up his writing, fitness regime, music, and coaching. From personal experience I know Derek has the ability to simplify things and help a client get focused and stay motivated. I want to know how he keeps all his pie plates spinning and keeps coming up with new ideas.

Q. Derek, we met through your book, Kindle Bestseller Secrets: 10 Tricks Bestselling Non-Fiction Authors Use To Dominate KindleYou have published 10 books, are involved in fitness training and coaching, are a professional musician, a writing and publishing coach and probably other things. How do you manage all this?

A. Most of my attention is focused on one major project at a time.  For instance, when writing a book, that becomes the biggest project for me for a few months on end where I’ll invest a few hours, typically early in the morning, on my writing.  Then other projects are managed later in the day.

The biggest key for me is developing habits.  Maintaining my fitness doesn’t take much thought because I’ve been doing it for over ten years.  It’s just a part of my daily routine.

Once you create a habit and systems that take the conscious thought out of something, it frees up your mental energy to expand and grow into new areas.

Q. Do you have any special technique to get your creative thinking in gear and come up with imaginative ideas?

A. Abe Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

The “axe sharpening” process for unleashing creativity for me takes the form of getting myself into a great emotional state.  I’ll spend a few minutes listening to uplifting music, dancing, and possibly pacing around my apartment.  I’ve heard of studies that show walking enhances creativity.  Some people find being out in nature helps as well.  By managing my physical state and environment, this helps me enter into a more creative state.

Q. How do you deal with writer’s block, or doesn’t that happen to you?

A. As most creatives would say, the creative process requires separating editing from creating.  If I start deciding which ideas are good or bad right off the bat, this shuts down creativity.

My brainstorming process allows for any and all ideas to flow freely, and if anything my “problem” is having too many ideas from which I have to distill down the best ideas.

Q. Do you have any techniques for getting ideas flowing again on those days when the well seems to have run dry?

A. When I do run out of things to talk about, the simplest fix is to look for inspiration.  Reading something will almost always inspire something I can write about.  Listening to music will almost always inspire some type of music I can create.

Q. What did you learn from your first career choice, when you wanted to become a rock star, that helped you with creating a path to success?

A. A big lesson I learned with music is that learning is practicing.  It’s not a matter of reading books or taking courses alone, but rather studying just enough to sit down and start implementing what I’ve learned into my practice routine.

I’ve seen many people try to create a career in writing for instance, and they start studying all these writing and marketing techniques, but they don’t do anything with it because they don’t have it “all figured out.”

More information actually leads to overwhelm and stops them from taking action.  This is especially true with fitness as well when people are searching for the perfect diet or workout routine instead of applying what they already know.

Q. What did you learn about problem solving and creative thinking when you were growing up?

A. I don’t believe most people need to be taught creative thinking as we’re hard-wired to be creative as kids.  What happens is we get taught to stay within a box and shut down our creativity.  My learning came from unlearning the things taught in school, such as there’s always a “right” and “wrong” and rediscover more of the childlike creativity that exists in almost all of us.

It was through music that I had to overcome the fear that what I created wasn’t going to be good.  I resisted songwriting for a long time because I was a great guitar player, and I feared my songwriting wouldn’t match my performance abilities.

Once I lowered my standards and allowed myself to create without an attachment to the outcome, that’s when my ideas started getting better and better.  I had to be willing to write a lot of crappy music and improve it before I started creating great music.

I learned anything one creates can be improved upon.  I don’t have to wait for the perfect inspiration to get started.  Some of my worst initial ideas can evolve into or inspire something amazing.

Q. If you were giving a workshop on thinking creatively, where would you begin?

A. I would take participants through a dance exercise.  I would have them follow the leader, and then gradually branch out to do their own thing.

While there are several deep lessons that would be self-discovered through this (I’m not going to give away all of what this exercise entails), a big piece is that creativity is actually enhanced when you have limitations.

If I say, “Go do whatever you want” the endless options can be paralyzing.  But if I say, “Do whatever you want within these clearly defined boundaries” it can actually enhance your creativity.  Both too much freedom and too much restriction can stifle creativity.

Q. How do you store all the ideas you come up with?

A. I have many notepads on my computer and papers.  However I’m not the most organized with my ideas.  Despite that fact, what I find is that the ideas worth saving and acting upon often stick with me and come up again and again.  I’ve learned to trust that I don’t have to even refer back to all my notes.  However, the act of writing things down will typically help me remember my ideas even if I don’t refer back to them.

Q. What advice do you have for other young people who are considering the creative life instead of the usual 40-hour a week job?

As a young kid about to go into high school, there was some type of career day where we could talk to different people about what we wanted to do when we grow up.  I was told by someone, I believe a retired principal, not to be an artist because of the old “starving artist” idea.  He had a point, but his perspective was only a partial truth.

While there are many starving artists and my music didn’t make me a lot of money, my creative work and abilities are great assets as an entrepreneur.  Creativity is required for success in all areas of life.

To me, we’re all living “the creative life” without exception, even within a 40-hour a week job.  So my first piece of advice is ask how you can be more creative wherever you’re at.  When I worked as a valet parker, I still exercised creativity by working on my people skills, rapport techniques, and trying to come up with more efficient ways of doing things.

With regards to quitting a job and pursuing a career as a creative artist, first understand it’s not an escape from work.  It’s possible you’ll be doing just as much if not more work, at least initially, to make it happen.  The difference of course being it’s typically more enjoyable work.

The big fear I had to overcome when moving to LA to pursue music was that it might not work out, but then I thought I’d be a lot more disappointed if I looked back at my life in 10-20 years and realized I didn’t even try.

If you’re called to do creative work, first consider the cost of not doing the work.  This will inspire you to take action.  Then find mentors and coaches who have succeeded in your area.  Even if you can’t find someone who’s done exactly what you want to do, there are still plenty of mentors who understand principles of success that you can apply to be successful in any field.

You can reach Derek Doepker at Learn more about his work:  and

Download a free copy of Derek’s book Why Authors Fail at

Are you wrestling with negative thoughts and judging yourself harshly?

Kangaroos boxing-harsh on self

I had a friend in high school who exclaimed after every test, “I’m sure I failed it!” She would agonize over some perceived mistake – maybe an item she left out, or a misspelling – and mope for days until the results came out. She always got an A+, an A or at worst, an A-.

We can beat ourselves up and judge ourselves harshly when we do not measure up to our expectations. Perfectionists do this regularly. Negative thinking may be implanted early in life and not even be evident to our conscious mind. In cognitive behavioral therapy, “Negative Automatic Thoughts” (NATs) cause emotional problems. By identifying our negative thoughts and arguing with them, we can change our moods and our behavior.

Cognitive therapy was the brain child of a psychoanalyst, Aaron T. Beck. It’s an ancient idea. The Greek philosopher Epictetus was quoted: “Nothing else is the cause of anxiety or loss of tranquility except our own opinion.” We can change that opinion. Here’s an easy way to do it:

Note your negative thoughts. If you get stuck trying to identify them, read Burns’s book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.

  1. Examine the evidence. Pretend you are in court, presenting your case. What evidence supports the NAT? What is against it? Now be the judge and make a ruling. If you come up with “yes, but” thoughts, repeat the process.
  2. Write the thoughts and your arguments in a journal or on the Four Thinking Hats to Explore and Remove Cognitive Distortions mind map you can download from:

It takes conscious effort and persistence to overcome our negative self-judgments. But the results make it worth the effort. Imagine being free from the distress these thoughts cause. Imagine reclaiming the hours or days lost to depression or anxiety over your perceived imperfection.

If you want to know more about this, read my new book, The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals, available at a low introductory price both as ebook and print book.

How I failed the NOW test (but won with a “B”)

I had looked forward to flipping as fun and fulfilling, and instead it seemed like Rosemary’s baby, a scary disappointment.

Photo Credit: ©Ema Drouillard; Digital illustration by

rosemary NOW baby

In 2004, when the housing market was red hot and everyone and his brother were buying houses with ARMs and no down payment, I flipped houses as a sideline business. A friend convinced me it was an easy way to make money. It wasn’t long before I discovered it was time-consuming and stressful.

I was spending every weekend visiting open houses. At night I was reading books on how to make money rehabbing houses. I was spending time with contractors when I could even get hold of them, trying to figure out why everything was taking so long. Our contractor failed every inspection. I found out later he had paid someone to take the licensing exam for him.

Our realtor, like me, was practicing law full-time and working on real estate on the side. The first house sat on the market. One day I went through it and thought, this is such a beautiful house. Why doesn’t anyone want this? The staging was lovely, I had planted the back garden and the side strip, there were flowers in bloom, but the house did not sell. It was a jewel box, but small, before tiny houses got trendy.

Finally the house sold, and I got a new agent and contractor to work on the next house. There were similar problems and that house sat on the market a long time. I had come to hate the flipping business. I had looked forward to it as fun and fulfilling, and instead it seemed like Rosemary’s baby, a scary disappointment. I got my money out. The only houses I have remodeled since were my own.

We made some money, so I can’t say the business failed. What failed was the “NOW” test. No, this has nothing to do with right now, more it is whether you should start something now. The way you phrase the problem, decision, goal or project creates the solution or invites failure. Besides creating a sense of urgency, the “START NOW” acronym reminds you to ask and answer the questions of “what,” “when,” “why,” “how.” You need a doable objective, with specific actions and dates. If you invest some time into phrasing it well, you are well on your way to achieving success.

When I decided to go into real estate, if I had answered the eight “START NOW”questions I discuss in my new book, The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals, I would still have gone into that business. It was only later that I realized that just because I like houses, didn’t mean I liked flipping them. I learned in the School of Hard Knocks that it’s not a business to go into part time. Only later did I realize that to make money in the business, one had to do a lot of the work oneself and had to do it nearly round-the-clock.

The “START NOW” questions must be reexamined as you go along. The answers can change based on experience and shifts in the marketplace. At some point, I realized that I no longer could answer the last three questions — the NOW test — with any enthusiasm. I no longer wanted to put the time and effort into the project that success requires. Besides from the money, which wasn’t much more than passive investments were making, I wasn’t getting the satisfaction one gets from achieving success. The stress outweighed the benefits.

That day I wandered through the house and thought, why doesn’t anyone want this lovely place, I was seeing a successful outcome to the renovations, but without a successful outcome from a quick sale. Without the money from this house, we couldn’t invest in another one unless we took a loan. The loan would have wiped out or overly narrowed the profit margin. So we were stuck with a lovely place and nothing to do while it sat on the market.

I now regularly revisit the START NOW questions to see if my reasons for doing something are still sound. Am I still willing to make the effort required for the project to succeed?  If not, I should work on the exit strategy built into the process when I began. If I fail the NOW test, I need to revisit my Plan B or “bridge back.”

If you want to know more about this process and how to apply START NOW, The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals, is available at a low introductory price both as ebook and print book.

To get a free copy of the eight START NOW questions in a 2-page PDF, with examples of how to apply them to your problem\decision\goal\project, click here.

How can you get out of the perfectionism trap?

A technique to combat paralyzing perfectionism: Replace "it just isn't done yet" with "broad brush strokes."


Do you put off or avoid doing something because you believe you cannot do it well? Do you fail to finish projects because you think what you’ve done is not good enough? Do you go over your work repetitively seeking minute improvements?

Perfectionism can paralyze us. It can keep us from enjoying activities and finishing projects. And it annoys other people.

Life is not an endless report card, and striving to get an A+ for everything we do sucks all the joy from life.

There is a way out! my new book, The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals, available at a low introductory price both as ebook and print book, I describe a technique I have found effective. 

Use Broad Brush Strokes

There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence. Perfectionism is the pathological side of the endeavor coin. A way to train yourself out of this is to create a mental image of broad brush strokes. This reminds you that you don’t have to do something perfectly, just get the bulk of it done well. As a reforming perfectionist, I trained myself to say those three words. “Broad brush strokes!” now pops into my mind without effort. I might do more than just broad brush strokes, but I am not doing it with that sense of the need to do it perfectly. So there is less stress and I can accomplish things well but with less effort.

Ask yourself, is the extra effort to make it perfect worth the delay? The strain? The annoyance it causes others? Unless you are a scientist or medical doctor and lives hang in the balance, will it matter to anyone that your project was only 98% excellent?

Make your goal excellence, not perfection, if it is an important project. If it is cleaning the kitchen or dusting or mowing the lawn, go for 85%. Get comfortable with lesser degrees for the smaller projects and save your energy for the bigger ones.

Do you have a technique for getting out of the perfectionism trap? I welcome your ideas.


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