What are You Putting on Repeat?


I used to think that if I could just get it right this time, then I’d be set for life. An older, wiser person (or just myself a couple years later) would have told me that life doesn’t work like that.

Your life isn’t made up of the few big moments when you did well; it’s made up of your everyday: work, sleep, food, and everything in between.

The big events are like sprinkles on top of your ice cream – they make it look nicer and add a little flavor but no matter how much you add, it’s still called ice cream.

I’m beginning to realize how much of my life is made up habits – the things that I do over and over. Nicole Krauss describes habits in the book, Man Walks Into a Room:

“Without habits, we’d be unidentifiable.
We’d have to reinvent ourselves every minute.”

I was struck by the truth of that statement. My habits paint a picture of who I am and what I believe in; when I change my habits, I am reinventing myself.

Well, talk about pressure – and I thought my daily life was something I could just forget after a week or so passed. Seriously, can you even remember what you did two Wednesdays ago? My daily choices are in some ways even more important than the big ones. It’s the small things that are repeated.

I suddenly want to write up a list of daily habits for each area of my life:

  • Run six miles.
  • Drink a gallon of water.
  • Serve in a homeless shelter.
  • Write a book…

Okay, just kidding.

Reasonable Daily Habits

  1. exercise for 15 minutes
  2. drink a cup of hot tea
  3. read a chapter of a book I like
  4. eat dinner with my family
  5. start my morning with prayer

These things are small and may not mean much by themselves, but little things add up.

Being intentional about my habits also helps insure that I’m living the life I desire for myself. Even if I can’t remember what I did last week, I’ll know that it included my daily habits – actions that I can be proud of and stand behind.

What are you doing with your daily life?

Goal Setting Infograph

Check out this infograph about goal-setting and new year resolutions. It is possible to live insanely great this year, but you’ll need to make some real decisions. I’ll share with you in a follow up article how I’m implementing all of the tips below with my goals this year. So far, so good!


Set goals for you alone.
Don’t try to do too much too fast.
Write your goal down.

new years resolution

[Read more…]

Unravel Your 2013

goal-workbook-free-2013 Guest post by Imahni Dawson, artist, blogger, musician, daughter.

The beginning of a new year always excites me. It’s so full of potential; its like a blank page that I get to create art on. I could draw, paint, write or do anything I want on that page. Trying to determine what I actually want to create is where my excitement turns to frustration. With the best of intentions, I’ll create long lists of everything I want to do, complete with action steps and beautifully color-coded fonts. However, instead of being inspiring, these lists are just overwhelming. The possibility looked so inviting that I bit off more than I could chew.

This year I decided to take a different route. I started out with the free downloadable workbook entitled “Unraveling the Year Ahead: 2013”  created by Susanna Conway. This workbook is beautifully designed and the questions you fill out really get you thinking. Something I particularly loved about it is that it doesn’t immediately dive into 2013. Instead, it provides the opportunity to really ponder and learn from 2012 first. This is important because thinking about how my 2012 went made me approach my 2013 differently.

In years past, I’ve been a stickler for having fleshed out plans and some sort of measurable seven-step approach to achieving my goals. I was of the belief that if I couldn’t measure it, then little to nothing was actually getting done. However, life doesn’t unfold according to neatly categorized seven-step plans. I was setting myself up for disappointment. I hadn’t provided any room for myself to change my mind because obviously, I already knew exactly what I wanted for the next 365 days of my life. Um, no.

After thinking over what I wanted for my life overall, I wrote out a list of what I thought I could do this 2013 in order to get me closer to that grander vision. For example, I want to be healthy and fit all throughout my life, so I created a short list to describe what being “healthy and fit” means like to me. Then I thought of daily habits that I can work on will help me get there.

Still, it’s only one week into the New Year, and there have been days where I didn’t do my workout or take my vitamins. But that’s okay, because sometimes you just need to sleep. Circumstances change. I don’t want to beat myself up because I didn’t follow my goal plan to the letter. My goals are meant to guide me not rule over me. If I miss something one day, I know that I can pick up right where I left off.

When I look at my goals, I want to be inspired; I want to see it and think, “I can really do this.” And I can.

Happy 2013!

Do The Work AND Have Fun

Do the work.

It’s important. Critical. Monumental.

So much so that legendary author of The War of Art wrote an entire book by that name. (Do the Work by Steven Pressfield is currently a free ebook on Amazon… it was published in collaboration with Seth Godin and the Domino Project.)

I just finished my coaching class and our charge is now to DO THE WORK.

Act. Execute. Move.

But… there isn’t any reason why you can’t have fun along the way.

Make the process engaging. Make it a game.

Give yourself timelines and goals and tie incremental rewards to completion. If you don’t, you may give up entirely and not ever reach your final destination. There is no shame in needing tangible or intangible reminders of your success.

Constant driving toward accomplishing a goal without planned times to reflect and celebrate is not a good strategy for long-term success. It’s a strategy for burnout, frustration, and killing your passion.

Do you want that?

No? Good.

Here’s your homework for today.

Choose one of your current goals. Write down in the comments how you can reward yourself either daily or weekly for reaching that goal!

BONUS POINTS if you share how you’ll make the process more fun too!

Featured Photographer: “Get Up Every Morning and Do the Work”

A photographer gets real about growing up and doing the work, dealing with fear and living an awesome life. Daniel Dunn is our featured 365 challenge photographer this week. His story will challenge and inspire you. It’s never too late to join the challenge with over 500 photographers. It’ll change your life forever!

Daniel Dunn: A Photographer on a Mission

My name is Daniel Dunn, I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but have lived in beautiful Breckenridge, CO for the last 12 years. I moved to the mountains for the mountain lifestyle, and to pursue all the things that I like to do. I like to play outside as much as possible. I love to mountain bike, trail run, backcountry ski, nordic ski, go camping, hiking, walking dogs, rock climbing, surfing and listening to music at outdoor venues.

On Being a Diabetic and Living a Full Life

I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and I say that because it’s a big part of my life. I participate in the DOC, which stands for Diabetic Online Community. I do this because when I became diabetic, only 9 years ago, I was an adult and very alone, and really didn’t have anywhere to turn for information. Hell, I didn’t even have health insurance. And now I had a chronic disease. I was really pretty scared and it seriously rattled me. The doctors that I went to first started treating me as a Type 2, which the treatments are very different, or can be. I needed insulin. I didn’t even know what insulin was. The thing with diabetes is, it’s all about education.

You can live a perfectly normal life, if you just know what you’re up against. I didn’t, and I didn’t have any help, or even begin to know where to start looking for help. That’s where the DOC comes in. It has been a huge blessing, and I want to give back and help. So I try to spread the good word about diabetes, and let people know that not only can you live a happy and healthy life, but you can thrive.

I’m single, no kids, no dog, and not a whole lot of commitments. I love to travel. I love road trips, but love to go international. I’m a coffee addict and elitist. I like to read and listen to music. I love good food, beer and wine. I pay the bills by working as a server in a high end restaurant. And I’m generally a pretty happy guy.

On Making Photography a Habit and Starting a 365 Project

I wanted to make photography a habit. I wanted to practice it everyday. I want it to be something that I sort of don’t even think about when I wake up, it’s just there, and that’s what I do.

There are a few reasons behind this desire to have photography be a major part of my life. I don’t want to call it a mid-life crisis, but I turn 40 in a couple months, and when I look back at my life, I realize that I’ve had a lot of fun. And I’ve been a lot of places. And I have a wonderful network of friends and family who love and support me. I have a great life, but there was always this “something” missing. I’ve always said to myself how I wanted to do “something” with my life, and I think photography is it.

I’m not sure when, but sometime in the last year I had some major, very important realizations. One was this. That I actually had an awesome life, and people were envious of my life. I don’t have a bunch of material items like cars, boats, nice clothing, or a beautiful TV that people would want. But I do stuff. I travel. I play outside a LOT!

And people who are very important to me, would tell me how much they want MY life. And it kind of surprised me a bit. That was something.

A second thing was this. I was able to purchase my own home in the last year, living this alternative, not by the book lifestyle. I didn’t get a job right out of college, and settle into it for the next twenty years. I’ve had more jobs, in more industries, and lived in more places, and owned more cars, and had more than my fair share of heartache, than most people I know. But it seemed OK to me. I set this goal about two years ago, to purchase my house. Something deep inside told me that it was time. I haven’t settled down or anything like that, I just wanted a very little place to call my own. And that’s awesome. I have it. Something said it was OK to want that be a part of my life.

On Growing Up and Doing the Work

So these things, and a few more, go together in a way that says to me that maybe I’m growing up a bit, or maybe just growing in a different way. Maybe it was time to plan a little more long term, instead of just for the upcoming weekend. And so through all of this planning, and thinking, and reflecting, I had some revelations. I had always, through all the years, been telling myself that I was going to do something big with my life. For whatever reason, I believe in Fate, and that I was given a kindly hand in life, and fate would look upon me with grace, and I just knew that cool things were going to happen. What I didn’t know, was that I would have to work my ass off to make those wonderful things happen. Yes, good things, and big things were due to me. But they weren’t going to drop out of the sky and literally fall in my lap one day. I was going to have to work for them.

I read this quote one day on Rob Haggart’s website, A Photo Editor, and since I can’t remember it exactly, I’ll paraphrase in my own words. Go to work. Get up every morning, and do the work. Practice, think, work hard. Get the camera in your hand and go and take pictures. Then come home and process those pictures, and critique those pictures. Do it every day. And when you’re tired, do it some more. You have to do it each and every day, and just make it a habit, so you don’t even think about it anymore.

That info just collided with a lot of what was rolling around in my head at the time, and that was when I decided to go for the 365 project. It was time. I needed that extra little kick to help me to go to work everyday. And the 365 was it. It’s going great, and I’m seeing the huge benefit of surrounding myself with photography all the time, in just the first two weeks. I feel like I’m doing it with a lot of intention, and I’m proud of myself for that. I’m making conscious decisions, as to how to improve my photography. It’s going really well so far.

On Dealing with Fear and Living an Awesome Life

Do I have fears? Sure I do, but honestly, they don’t relate to photography in an outright sort of way. I know my photography is well received in the community, and I’m psyched about that. My fears relate more to bigger picture type stuff, being true to myself, paying my mortgage, that sort of thing. Well, in a way, I guess photography directly results to paying my mortgage. I want to be able to support myself fully, through my photography. I want to travel. I’d like to have a family. Right now I’m not fully supporting even myself with photography, so I laugh at myself when I think about paying the mortgage and putting food on the table for two kids and a wife. So I guess that’s fear.

I want to be remembered for something. For living an awesome life. For taking incredible photos. For traveling to exotic places. For making a difference. So I feel like I have to do all that stuff in the first place, before I can be remembered for it. And I know, those are some pretty big expectations, so sometimes I get a little nervous about that way of thinking. I guess those are fears.

On Setting Goals that Scare You

Boy, this is probably a good time to come up with some sort of concrete type of goals. It’s easy to say, “I want to be better.” It’s a lot harder to say, “I want to sell 10 prints, at X amount of dollars, in 2012” But that’s exactly what you need to do to push yourself. I set an awesome goal a few years ago of buying this house, and it worked out, and it felt awesome. So yes, there is this wonderful feeling of achieving goals. I should get on it. Well, there, I just said it, that’s one goal for me. 1. I want to sell 10 of my landscape prints, at $200 (or more) in 2012

That might not seem like a lot for people, in terms of revenue, and it’s hardly sustainable in the long run, as far as supporting myself. But I need to start somewhere, and that’s a comfortable goal for me. It will have me reaching and pushing, but it’s not unachievable with the right thought and planning.

Here’s another one. I want to do 10 paid portrait sessions in 2012. I love working with people, and I really want to work on that end of my biz. Kids, senior (high school), families, I even like working with dogs, doing pet portraits. OK, another goal.

Another big goal is to get really comfortable with, and produce some photos, with artificial lighting. I actually love using strobes. I want to just be dialed with my equipment, so I don’t really have to worry about the buttons to push, and the where to put that reflector, I want to be really on it. I did get a new strobe just last week, and I’m loving using it. I’m getting ready to purchase a reflector, and I want to work with those things to produce some killer results. I want to keep it simple at first, and I know you can create awesome work with one strobe, a reflector, a model, and some creativity. I know you can, I see it all the time. So that’s a goal. Become proficient with my added light.

Stop Feeding the Fear That Binds You

Our first challenge was naming the reasons we resist pursuing what we love, then articulating why we are capable of living our dreams. If you took the challenge, then you shared those two statements with someone other than your favorite pet.

Now, we’re going to get down to brass tacks. Facing the fear that keeps you from moving forward. I know there are legitimate, tangible, external obstacles that stand in your way, but I’m not talking about those. Those are actually easier to overcome than the intangible prison of fear.

2011 is our year to FEAR. LESS.

I’m not asking you to become fearless, that’s another thing entirely and one I don’t believe I’ll ever attain. However, I am convinced we can teach ourselves to FEAR. LESS. Fear less than we did yesterday by pinpointing and articulating our fears. Fear less by bringing the unspoken into the light so we can see them for what they are, intangibles that must be conquered and silenced.

Grab a notepad and answer the following:

  1. What is your passion/dream/goal?
  2. What is your largest external/tangible obstacle?
  3. What is your largest intangible fear?

Need some ideas for big, fat, ugly fears that keep us bound up?

  • failure
  • success
  • conflict
  • ridicule
  • rejection
  • loneliness
  • bankruptcy
  • abandonment
  • incompetence
  • embarrassment
  • disappointment

Go through the list and choose the one that you think weighs you down the most. A good way to tell is to pay attention to how your mind and body respond to each word as you read it. Some may give you a visceral reaction that wells up so strong you want to quit right now. Fight against that feeling. Face the fear and follow it through.


One thing I learned through anxiety training is that the best way to dismantle a fear is to bring it into the light and take it to its worst possible outcome. If you fear bankruptcy and losing everything, think about what that would look like. By not thinking about it, your brain gives you this dark, scary fear that overwhelms you and leaves you with images of you on the streets. In truth, you would handle things before it got to that point. You may have no home, but you probably have a car you can sleep in. You might have to put your possessions in a storage facility or in a friend’s garage. You might have to impose on others, but if you lost it all following your passion, I wouldn’t be surprised if you made some friends along the way who would help you out.


Do this same procedure for your fears. Play it out to the worst case scenario, then backtrack to how you could and would handle it. Write it all down and begin to experience the fear dissipate. Fear can’t hold up in the light of truth.

Fear kills passion. Acknowledge it, then disarm it.

That’s your challenge this week. I’d love for you to share your results in the comments. Let’s connect and support one another as we take this journey together!

Harnessing the Power of “Small” Changes Everything

Why is it that no one wants to focus on losing 1 pound or finishing 1 task?

Why don’t we celebrate when we finish cooking one family dinner or successfully putting our children safely into bed one more night?

Worse yet, is that not only do we not focus on or celebrate the small accomplishments, we often discount and negate them. AM I WRONG? How did you respond the last time you crossed something off your to-do list? Were you elated and giving yourself a silent pat on the back or was the excitement short-lived as you looked at the 37 other tasks staring back at you?

If we want to Fear. Less. we must give ourselves credit for the small things.

You don’t have to throw a party, but you can if you want. I won’t stop you. Every day you take another picture for your 365 project, or choose a healthy meal instead of fast food, or sit down for five minutes to read your child a story, it matters.

When I issued this week’s challenge to complete, write down and share 2 statements, it may have seemed like something small. What difference does it make, you may have thought. You might have completed the statements in your head, but didn’t want to write it down or share it. I’m telling you it makes all the difference in the world.

It’s the small things that make or break us,
that bring us to completion or leave us always waiting,
hoping and wishing the stars would align so we could get started.

I’m just saying, if you want to see your life change and your dreams come true, harness the power of small.

Start today. Start now.

D97: Are You on the Right Track?

That’s what I thought about seeing my son play with the train set at Barnes and Noble tonight. Am I on the right track?

I think the answer is yes, maybe and no.

With my photography, yes. With my business, maybe. With my sleep patterns, no. I could go through nearly every area of my life and give it a subjective answer. But the answer might be different if you asked different people since we all have varying standards. What I think of success could be completely opposite how you define it.

Bottom line, based on your subjective view, are you on the right track? As we come to a close on 2009 and head into a new year, are you heading in the direction you want to go? Are you assessing where you are and where you want to be and adjusting your daily actions to help you get there? If not, perhaps (like me) now would be an ideal time to make that happen. Just a thought.

Manual: Page 25—Advanced Shooting Options

Images: Looked at the work of rock star photog Gabrielle Geiselman. Interesting style and history.

D71: How to Hit Your Target

Want to know how to hit your target, whatever that target may be? I’ve got the answer.

It’s really more simple than we want to admit.

Here’s the secret… tasra365-target

NOTE: Some may view this post as “harsh,” so in order to soften the blow, I’m giving away a gorgeous coffee table book. So…read the message, then find out below how to enter to win.

And the secret is…

Step 1: Get ready.
Step 2: Take aim.
Step 3: Fire.

Ha! You knew that already didn’t you? Then why don’t you do it? (talking to myself here) If we know what to do, why do we refuse? Want some examples?

  • Target = Improve photography. Yet, how many of us refuse to do the daily work of just reading one page in our camera manual a day. One page!
  • Target = Lose weight. Yet, the diet industry continues to boom because we refuse to eat healthy, deny ourselves what we want, and get off the couch and walk 30 min. a day (again talking to me). You too?
  • Target = Build business. Yet, we don’t want to knock on 30 doors to sell one bottle of soap. We don’t want to make the hard calls or turn off Facebook and email to get some real work done.

Bottom line = We want it all. We want our cake and to eat it too. We want the reward without the risk. To paraphrase a line from He’s Just Not That Into You, “You’re the rule, not the exception.”

Got that? I’m the rule. You’re the rule. We aren’t the exception. We’re not going to win the lottery. Most of us don’t have a great uncle leaving us millions in his will. In the real world everyone doesn’t get a trophy just for showing up. I know that’s where society is going, what they’re telling us. I know that’s the message today’s kids are getting, but it’s just not true.

If you want to be the exception, be exceptional. Not just exceptional with your natural raw talent and ability, but exceptional in your discipline, your standards, your work ethic, your customer service, your knowledge, your learning, your commitment… you get the idea. Do that and you will transform yourself into the exception.

It’s really up to you. The way to hit your target is to prepare yourself in every way you possibly can with daily practice and discipline. To take that preparation and aim clear toward the target you’d like to hit. And to ensure that when your time comes, you can fire directly to that target you’ve been preparing for. That’s what I think…and just so you know, I’m preaching to myself here wondering all the while if I’m getting through that thick skull of mine.

What say you? Are you ready to hit the target?

Today’s image is of a laser target from a toy gun. I held and pointed the gun at the wall while pulling the trigger to get the target to show up. With my camera in my right hand, I framed and took the shot. ISO 400, 1/60 at f/1.8 with 50 mm lens. Enhanced clarity and saturation of red circle in Adobe Lightroom.

Manual: Page 49—White Balance.

Images: The images of original art in The Art of Meaningful Living are powerful. What I love about this coffee-table book is that it pairs psychology and art as a guide for choosing your passions over your fears. It’s about accepting what you can’t control and focusing on what is in your power to change. It’s broken down into three main sections: Wisdom, Action, Resilience.

The writing is done by Christopher F. Brown and the art is by John Palmer. Both turned to creative pursuits to deal with death and loss. Creativity has such a powerful way of transforming our perspective and our life. Their book is not unlike tasra365 in it’s pairing of the creative along with the practical message. That’s why I’m giving away a FREE copy thanks to the publisher.

First, go to Twitter and if you don’t already have an account there, set one up. It’s free. Then follow me @tasradawson by clicking on the Follow button under my profile. Then, copy and paste the following tweet…

Need inspiration? Win The Art of Meaningful Living from @tasradawson on #tasra365. Pls RT. Details here: http://bit.ly/t365D71

That’s it. Just follow me on Twitter, send out that Tweet, and you’re done! (If you prefer not to Tweet, you can leave a comment here for entry as well! A winner will be chosen randomly on 11/17/09.)

How To Break Down Limits and Move Forward

Nolimits“On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit and you touch this limit, and you think, ‘Okay, this is the limit’. And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high.” –Ayrton Senna, Brazilian driver

Too often, our lives become more about living within our limits, rather than pushing forward. We set limits early in life that direct our steps, our goals and our future. The outcome of our life is dictated by standards we put on ourselves, rather than intentional choices and decisions.

Think back to when you were younger, making friends in junior high and deciding whether or not you were worthy of the popular kids the jocks, or the brainiacs. Like most of us, you probably found yourself pegged into a group and stuck there because that was what was expected. Later in life, when you got a job, you probably put limits on what you thought you could or should earn. Now that you’ve been on the path for so long, it isn’t even something you question or fight. It’s simply the way  it is.

I disagree. Just because we set a limit at one point doesn’t mean it can’t be changed or extended. If that was your philosophy in a sport or competition, you would never improve. So why do we accept it in other areas? We don’t give ourselves enough credit or opportunity to exceed our own expectations and hopes…

In reading an article by Melanie McQuaid about triathlons, I realized how much of what she referred to in training related to life in general. She said, “Even with additional responsibilities you can achieve your potential. This is why I think most people should goal set and then discuss them. It’s preferable to talk to someone who will help ensure your goals are high enough and to help you be accountable to yourself. I believe it is always better to dream big and then commit to the best of your ability.”

We all need to think more like that. Who cares if we aren’t number 1? Who cares if we don’t reach the pie in the sky dream? What matters is learning, growing, and moving forward. Isn’t it better to have tried, than to live in a cage of your own limitations?

If you agree, even just a little bit, think about applying some of these strategies for pushing past limits:

  1. PLAN: what do you want to accomplish and achieve? Make a plan for how you can invite it into your life. I’ve always wanted to learn to tap dance, so I decided to take a class and planned it by registering and putting it in my calendar.
  2. TRAIN: show up. It’s really not that complicated. Show up day after day, week after week for yourself. I’m training for a triathlon and really don’t see myself as a triathlete yet. That doesn’t matter because what’s important is that I show up at 7 am for my bike ride or my swim in the lake. Showing up for the training counts!
  3. EQUIP: give yourself the tools you need to succeed. It’s pretty hard to learn how to tap dance without proper shoes. The ones I have hurt my feet so I don’t like dancing in them. That makes me avoid practicing. Not a good way to learn something new. It’s time to invest in the planning and training by making sure that I’m equipped with the tools to achieve.
  4. BELIEVE: have the courage to believe in yourself. It’s not fashionable to be inspired and content. Everyone likes to complain: about their weight, their debt, their spouse. Be different. Believe in the possibility. Let go of the limitations and stand out from the crowd. You can be a rule-breaker.
    Are you ready?