An Update on Me

Much has happened since my last post. Here’s an update on me:

  1. I’ve been seeing a counselor/psychologist since March. Finding and working with him, has helped me immensely. The work we’re doing together is producing clarity, crossroads and breakthrough. I will reveal more in the coming weeks
  2. I found out, personally, how dangerous stress can be. In my case, it was about carrying too much of it. Working with a counselor has helped. I also have had to be more “on-purpose” with self-care (exercise, time with God, mindfulness, etc.). One of the negative impacts coming out for me was my blood sugar levels (diabetes related). In my last check-up, my levels were the highest they’d been in 20 years. My doctor pointed to stress. She also expressed her confidence in my turn around as well. The idea that I would do something about my state. It was sobering to find out that many of her patients stay in the “tangles” and don’t come out.
  3. The new book is going through cover-design and formatting. It should be available for pre-order soon. This period of my life has made me more grateful for the gift of writing.
  4. I’ve learned, and learning, that not everyone can be allowed to continue on the journey. This includes those you love. For me, maybe it’s temporary, or it could be permanent. This is tough work. You want the person to stay, but they won’t let go of things that will only lead to heartbreak. My Rubicon.

I’m sure there is more to tell, but I’ll stop here. Stay well.

Excerpt From the New Book

As I get closer to finishing my second book, I wanted to share an excerpt. I’ll save the details around the concept/premise of the book. The working title is;; Stop for a Moment: 60 Seconds to Look Around and Find What Matters Most.

Look for a late summer, early fall release. Enjoy!


Eileen and I had been married for over 7 years before we had our first child. As is it is with life, some of that was planned, and some was not. We weren’t entirely sold on being parents in the beginning, so we decided to wait a few years. As the years passed, we began to feel the longing. We both figured it would be an immediate thing. It was not an immediate thing. We waited 3 ½ years before Lauren arrived. The process of waiting, medical testing and feelings of doubt was tough.

I stopped giving advice on parenting after our first. Especially, since I felt so ill-equipped to be a father. Later on you realize most parents feel this way. It was tough for me. My dad was the only model for human fatherhood and he never said much to me, so I felt alone to figure it out. Fortunately, my relationship with God helped immensely. One thing was clear then, and now, there is no such thing as a perfect parent.

After my son was born in late 2001, I started realizing the power of influence. I came to understand that often your kid’s behavior and view of the world is heavily based on what they see in you. That’s one of the biggest reasons I value forgiveness. You never know how important forgiveness is until you do something that you deeply regret. I’ve had many lessons in this area.

As my kids are now in their teens, I’ve discovered the need to let them know I’m listening. I make sure to verbalize my feelings for them, and to let them know that I pray for them everyday. I may miss the boat on college planning or a homework assignment, but they will know how important they are to me in the areas that matter most.

Questions to Think About:

  1. Do your children know they are loved? Does your home echo the sound of “I love you?”
  2. Do you spend too much time trying to teach, versus listen, to discover and encourage?
  3. Are you modeling behaviors that would produce light or darkness?


5 Questions with Jim Mitchem, Author of Minor King

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This is the first time I’ve interviewed a novelist. It’s a special treat for me because I’ve been influenced and encouraged by Jim Mitchem’s writing for some time. Minor King is his first novel and its a fine read. Enjoy!


Was there an “a-ha” moment when you decided you had to write Minor King?

Like the main character in the book, I’d been mulling a novel for a while. But over the last decade my life had become pretty busy, and I couldn’t focus long enough for clean, contiguous thought. Over the years I’d started a lot of long-form stories, and had files full of ideas, but nothing grabbed my interest enough to commit to the sacrifice necessary to finish a novel. That is, until the ending of Minor King occurred to me. When that happened, I knew that I had a special story. So essentially, I wrote Minor King in reverse.

The main character, Jim, experienced a lot of pain and tough roads. Why’d you shape him this way?

Minor King is written in the roman à clef style. Which means that it’s loosely based on my own life. Many of the struggles that the protagonist, Jim Christianson, faces are actually part of my own personal story. As a result, and because I’ve written about some of these personal trials on my blog, some of my friends have had a hard time separating reality from fiction.

I felt that it was necessary to include a deep backstory to reinforce a few important ideas. First, America is the land of opportunity. Most of us believe that all you have to do is work hard, pay your dues, and keep your nose clean and you can go as far as you want here. Or so, that’s what they tell us. By establishing the rags-to-riches backstory, or rather in Christianson’s case, rags-to-middle-class, the reader is able to attach empathy to the plight of the protagonist because we’re all in the same boat. I also wanted to give the reader a deep reference point to how far the character came to get to where he is in life so that the ending comes as a surprise. Finally, I used his painful past as a way to reinforce the idea of Christianson’s faith. God pulls him from the clutches of suicide, after all.

The dynamic between Jim and his partner/boss is pretty intense. Was this type of relationship one you could relate to?

Absolutely. A few years ago I decided to throw myself into a startup with the same kinds of goals that Christianson had with his own endeavor. Every character in the book but one is based on real life relationships I’ve had. Including the relationship between Christianson and his boss, Matthew LeCure. Granted, this is where the fiction really takes hold. My business partner in real life was not nearly the selfish person that LeCure is. Creating a hatable antagonist was a fun exercise, and important to keeping the reader interested.

Were there any underlying influences in writing the novel? 

I was a Literature major in college. From Dickinson to Faulkner, and Chopin to Márquez, we spent a lot of time deconstructing the classics. Even the Bible. As a result, I learned how great writers spoke to the reader on different levels. First, there’s the obvious storyline. But just below the surface were clues to other concepts. Secrets, really, that affect your subconscious. In Minor King I employed this technique, albeit on a more rudimentary level, throughout the story. For example, all the times referenced in the book directly correlate to verses from a specific book in the bible. A book which one of the main characters is named.

I also felt like the overall feel of King was something like a tragic, modern American story. Having studied The Great Gatsby in school, because it’s the prototypical tragic American novel, I modeled one of the characters in Minor King after an icon from Gatsby. Think yellow-rimmed glasses. And for the record, I hated The Great Gatsby.

What’s one big take-away you’d like readers to get from reading Minor King?

It’s been really interesting to see how people have interpreted Minor King. Some people have gravitated to the idea of the oppressive machine that we all seem to be a part of in America. For others, the gross inequity of wealth distribution has resonated. Still others have latched onto the concept of our dreams passing us by. And while all of those themes are important, I wrote this story around the idea of faith. Faith to do that which doesn’t seem possible. Faith in a power greater than ourselves. Faith in our dreams. Though with how the story ends, it could be interpreted that faith is the final phase of madness.



Jim Mitchem is a copywriter who found his way into advertising via a dirt path on the outskirts of society. Born with no obvious talent, Jim began writing at a young age as a way to lasso the stories that ran circles in his mind. Dismissed as folly when he shared them, he gave up writing for drinking at the age of 17. After a stint in the USAF, and armed only with a pen and looseleaf paper bound by elastic, Jim meandered through the US until he awoke in a gutter in New York City in 1991. His life and his writing have improved significantly since giving up booze. And while he doesn’t think that’s a coincidence, he does consider it damn ironic.

Minor King is his debut novel.


Haunted by Hemingway


I found myself haunted by the following words of Ernest Hemingway:

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.”

The dynamics of Hemingway’s life are well documented. Nothing further to say there. My haunting is rooted in a creative soul and its desire for something more. Something more that pulls on me everyday. I know who he is.

The truth in Hemingway’s words, found in such an open and vulnerable way, lay out feelings of belonging. For me there is no other choice. I’m living too far into the story.

I lay this out before you because there is something more.

New Book Excerpt

I’ve been hard at work on the next book and waned to share an excerpt. Enjoy!

Day 2

 Began this day rushing out to make a 7:00 AM meeting. I made two major errors in that process. The first, was not checking my blood sugar before heading out. Damn! The second was playing a subtle game of chicken on the ride into downtown. The driver in the left lane was traveling at a mind numbingly slow pace. I entered the right lane to pass and the driver decided to accelerate, knowing I had a car in front of me. My speed did what was needed. Stupid on my part, for sure.

As I make my way down the road, I regret. Going over it in my mind again and again, I realize what I could have lost. As I get closer to the appointment, I reset with 3 deep breaths and move to what my client will need.

 We begin our session and the energy comes. I wonder if John knows what I take away from our sessions. As his coach, I give him what he needs. I’m struck by the learning and inspiration I gain.

Our conversation closes on the subject of mindfulness. This is an area we’ve placed a lot of focus on. I tell him about a friend of mind, who happens to be named John, who exclaimed that we have to turn the volume down in our heads, in order to hear God’s voice. He offers an analogy (one that helps him) around a group of divers in the Atlantic. These divers were on a mission to find a sunken German U-Boat. In the area they were in, visibility was lacking, and made worse if you stirred up something 200 feet below. If the latter happened, it was vital to be still. Did you get that, be still. Being still allowed the elements to settle and allow visibility to return. We both agreed that’s what mindfulness does for us, if we let it. As we walk back to our cars, I am energized.

Back at my home office, I begin the follow up communications relating to my dual entrepreneur life. This day, I’m not super happy about that. I pray for remembrance of the things I read in my bible earlier. Real life, real living, epic living, and above all thankfulness.

 Preparing for lunch, I’m pleased that I was able to find organic blueberries. Glad we’re heading into spring and summer. Availably goes with this reality. My yogurt, blueberry, raw nut lunch is complete.

 Later in the afternoon I get an email from a participant in a talk who wants to meet and learn more. She seems like an interesting person, so I’ll book something for next week. I also hear from someone that I don’t trust. This individual reminds me of how much harm can be done by those who wear the coat of goodness. I take the high road and don’t burn the bridge.

The mad rush to get my son fed before basketball practice begins. I’m not feeling good about the food choices. I remind myself not to get on a soapbox. The beauty of all of this is having a sit down dinner with Eileen. Unexpected and good for my soul. We spend 45 minutes together and it feels like hours. I am blessed.

The Balance Between Success and Failure

I strive every day to strike a good balance between success and failure.This TED Talk with Elizabeth Gilbert illustrates my striving beautifully.

The following quote from the speech is riveting:

“I had to find a way to make sure that my creativity survived its own success.”.

      – Elizabeth Gilbert

In an age that values creativity less and less, we do need to protect it fiercely.


A Fabulous Tool Named Grammarly

I use Grammarly for proofreading because my mind runs faster than my fingers.

Besides the above tongue and cheek, Grammarly is a fabulous tool I found by accident. The folks at Grammarly reached out to me for a test drive. At first, I thought they were sent by some old english teacher who had been following my every sentence.

I used the online tool in a couple of situations and it performed well. It’s fabulous for the daily writer or the professional who needs to make the best impression possible. My wife asked me whether I could try the free tool in WordPress or Word. That’s an option, I want something as robust as Grammarly. You can sign up for a free trial at their site to see if it’s a fit you.

By the way, it won’t cramp your ability to get your message out. We all know how important a message is.

Meeting Marion in Central Park West

Celebrating the best of the Epic Living Blog, 2012. Enjoy!

This is a photo taken of me and Marion Margolis. We met on my visit to NYC last weekend. Marion was very kind to my wife and I on our visit. A seemingly accidental meeting as we were taking in the beauty of Central Park. The photo above was shot in Central Park West.

Marion is an author (among many things). She is a writer of 3 children's books. The one that intrigued me most was titled New Digs for Beau, about her beloved Dalmatian. She spoke fondly, with emphasis, about the her relationship with this special dog named Beau. I don't know if she knew how I was reveling in our conversation. It was so strange and familiar all together. This was important as I am making my way through a new chapter in life, and as I craft a second book.

I asked her about her inspirations and what her process for writing was like. Marion likes silence, I like music when writing. Two authors connecting on the process of writing. It's always intriguing to learn what sparks creativity in artists. She truly inspired me. 

Ever been to a place out of a dream that lived out like that dream? That's what my meeting Marion was like. It was like I was invited to participate in something beyond what I could have imagined. All of this and more, in a place called Central Park West.

5 Questions with John Baldoni, Author of The Leader’s Pocket Guide

                The Leader's Pocket Guide

I had the pleasure of doing this interview with leadership expert, John Baldoni, who is the author of the new book The Leader's Pocket Guide a few weeks ago. I've always admired his wisdom and energy. Enjoy!

your book you note the importance of what people think, but in a way that
builds a solid reputation. What’s at stake in doing this?

is good because it points us in the right direction. But when it comes to
leadership, action counts. Leaders put their thinking into gear when they lead
by example.

important is critical thinking to the growth of a leader?

must often choose between two good alternatives. Critical thinking teaches
leaders how to balance alternatives as well as to put things into context.

role does hubris or arrogance play in hindering a leader from impacting their
organization in a positive way?

a Greek word, is the condition by which a leader is blind to his or her faults
and often leads to living in a bubble, surrounded by yes people. This is never
a good thing.

of the last tips in the book mentions the importance of finding interests
outside of work. What keeps leaders from doing this?

time. time… Anyone in a leadership position needs to recharge themselves. A
hobby, a trip or close associations with family and friends can do this.

In your mind, what
organizations are doing the best job of developing and growing leaders?

than focus on names of companies I focus on the many capable leaders in
organizations large and small who are making a positive difference in the lives
of their customers, employees and customers. They are legion.


JOHN BALDONI, president of Baldoni Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, and author. In 2011, Leadership Gurus International ranked John No. 11 on its list of the world’s top 30 leadership experts. He is a regular online contributor to CBS MoneyWatch, Inc, and Harvard Business Review.



Five Questions with Amy Shea, Author of Defending Happiness

Defending happiness
Had the pleasure of conducting this interview with Amy Shea, author of Defending Happiness. Love her insights and the experiences that forged them.

Why do we need to defend happiness?

We need to defend our happiness from the idea that it's dispensable. We not only put it last, but we eliminate it from our daily life. We save it up for vacation. And we blame and complain that we have all these responsibilities, these things that have to be done first. Yet, if we examine those things we are putting in its place, so often they are tied to an ideal of what life is supposed to look like, what we are supposed to be doing. Remember in Star Trek, when an episode would open up with the team in the transporter room, ready to beam down to the supposedly-docile planet? Whenever you saw a new guy you didn't recognize on the team you knew two things: a) there was going to be trouble, and b) he was going to be the first to go. That new guy is happiness. It's the first to go when there's trouble. Yet when we have trouble, that's when we need it most.

Is happiness a choice?

Yes. And it's sometimes a hard choice. No one is happy when hard and difficult things happen. And the last thing I am suggesting is positive thinking–I don't believe in that. It's denial of what is.  I believe in seeing what is, and seeing the value in what is. When I got breast cancer, my world, as I knew it, stopped. And that experience was not one sided. Was it a gun to my chest? You bet. But it also stamped an expiration date on my consciousness, and I was more present, laughed harder, and stopped making unimportant things so important. And THAT'S the choice: not what happens, but how to show up in what happens, how to live with a full consciousness instead of one that is but a limited perception of what happiness is supposed to look like. Breast cancer taught me that, though as a strategy I would not recommend it. 

You’re very transparent in your book, Defending Happiness. Was it difficult to be so open?

Not at all. I'm not ashamed of being human, and I think being human is hilarious. And I love to laugh, especially with others. I think pretending we are perfect is toxic–to us, our relationships, and our world. It is the most isolating thing we do as humans.  

What advice would you give to the person waiting for happiness to pay them a visit?

Hit the road. Go find it. Happiness is not a furry puppy that's going to climb up into your lap. Going after what makes you happy is going to mean disturbance. At the very least, it's going to disturb the habitual life. It may disturb those who are accustomed to you doing what they want, what makes them happy. It may mean you make less money, have fewer things. But whatever disturbance you encounter, you will be here, you will have shown up in your own life.  

Do you think there is a connection between contentment and happiness? 

Yes, if you can find contentment in being yourself and contributing from that place. To me, happiness is the peace found in being completely present in one's life, even as one faces all that life is–that amazing feeling of being awake. It is to have lived. I wouldn't trade it for anything of this world.