Emily Brontë Died at Thirty

How Old Are You?

Charlotte Bronte coloured drawing
My wife and I recently watched the movie To Walk Invisible about the Brontë sisters. These amazing sisters created some of the most enduring works of English literature.

The eldest sister Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics). The youngest sister Anne wrote Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics). The middle sister Emily wrote Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics).

Their decision to write and publish under male pseudonyms is an amazing story of strategy and perseverance. Charlotte was “Currer Bell,” Anne was “Acton Bell,” and Emily was “Ellis Bell.”

As with all writers in their day, their work was conducted often by candlelight and always by hand with ink and quill on paper. I am writing this post in an online editor with cut and paste, auto-spell check, and the ability to publish to the world with one click of the “publish” button. It is hard to even envision the painstaking effort they expended to bring these works to readers.

There are many aspects to their story that I find amazing, but perhaps the thing that strikes me most is the fact that Emily Brontë lived only 30 years. In fact, her youngest sister Anne lived only 29 years. Charlotte lived only to the age of 38.

I do not measure myself against women who were among the most gifted writers in the English language, but I do draw two lessons from their lives:

  1. Youth should be no barrier. If anyone told them they were too young, the Brontës did not listen. Some of us seem to be waiting until some magic future date when we are of sufficient age to do something important. Go ahead and do it now. Will you get better at it as you get older? Probably. Maybe. Maybe not. In the case of the Brontës, there was no getting older. Life is uncertain and short. That leads to the second lesson…
  2. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and get started doing something you really want to do and need to do. Don’t wait for later and older. Do it now. Get it started. Do not let resistance paralyze you. If you plan to do creative work (writing, music, art, entrepreneurship), get a copy of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and let it motivate you. The main thing is to act. Now.

I have to confess that while we have had copies of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in our library for years, I have read neither. I am going to correct that soon. I think that as I read them knowing just how young these authors were when they wrote them, it will really reinforce the two lessons above.

Hopefully it will motivate me to act.

How old are you at present? If older than 30, take encouragement from what these young women did at a younger age than you. If you are younger than 30, follow the Bronte’s lead. Make it happen.

Too Many Irons in the Fire?

warmth-fireIdeas are portable and easily shared. In a recent conversation with my friend, Coach Deborah Newkirk, I repeated the familiar refrain: “I’ve got too many irons in the fire.” This idiomatic expression comes from the days when blacksmiths had literal iron bars in literal fires. We now use it to mean “I am really busy.” Deborah shared something that her friend Dr. Jerry George said to her (see how portable ideas are?). Since I did not hear it directly from him, I will offer this as a paraphrase. I am not even sure of the context in which he said it to her, but here it is:

When you have a lot of irons in the fire, don’t be afraid to add more irons. Accept the blessing. – Dr. Jerry George

That resonates with me. Even though I do have a lot on my plate, I need to adjust my attitude a bit and remain open to new opportunities and blessings that come my way. The “too many irons” mindset can become an excuse for not doing something that matters. It may also prevent me from accepting a tremendous new opportunity.

The new approach I plan to adopt is to not be afraid of all of the irons I have heating, but rather to attend well to them while being open to even more irons. Now, not every iron is as important as the others at any given point in time. I may need to focus on some more than others at this moment, but they are all a blessing.

Having a lot of irons in the fire is a very good thing.

If you don’t believe me, just ask someone with nothing to do.

Tweets of the Week: Food, Recipes, Health, Family, & Wisdom

Week ending July 18, 2015

twitter-bird-4Saturday is a good day to recap the activity from our Twitter feed from the past week. Not sure what Twitter is all about? That’s OK. Neither are we (or at least it remains somewhat mysterious to us). There is no denying, however, that there is some very valuable information shared on Twitter. That is what this weekly feature is all about. Click the links below to check out the good stuff. Here are my Top Tweets from this past week, great for retweeting (whatever that is). If you missed these, follow Forward Story on Twitter.

By the way, if you are wondering what the @ and # signs are all about, these are Twitter’s way to identify the Twitter handle (@) for the person who tweeted (for example, ours is @forward_story) and to allow for an indexing or categorization of the tweet by using one or more hashtags (#). Feel free to ignore these and just follow the link for the content we are sharing with you.

Here are a few recipes from people we trust:

Maria Emmerich ‏@MariaEmmerich Jul 13
Peanut Flour Cake http://buff.ly/1K01ctz #LCHF #keto #lowcarb

Danielle Walker ‏@againstallgrain Jul 12
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter “Granola” Bars #paleo #againstallgrain #glutenfree http://grainfree.ly/1flgUFD

Russ Crandall ‏@thedomesticman Jul 16
Seared Scallops with Sautéed Kale http://thedomesticman.com/2012/12/18/seared-scallops-with-sauteed-kale

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Cooking & Kitchen

 Colin Champ, M.D. ‏@CavemanDoctor Jul 13
Home Cooked Meals Make You Smarter, Healthier and Thinner http://www.myhealthwire.com/news/diet-nutrition/1080 … via @myhealthwire

Experience Life ‏@ExperienceLife Jul 14
Want to get healthy? Start in your kitchen! says @markhymanmd @mindbodygreen http://j.mp/1GjFbRu #learntocook #MyRevAct #healthyliving

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Health & Fitness:

William Davis, MD ‏@WilliamDavisMD
Novak Djokovic is “gluten-free” but also limits his carbs–I know because I wrote the foreword for his book…. http://fb.me/6EhfpO9pD

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Money & Finances

Rachel Cruze ‏@RachelCruze Jul 14
The Financial Mistake One-Third of Parents Make https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/the-financial-mistake-one-third-of-parents-make-123996068377.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

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Parents and Grandparents

Susan Adcox ‏@grandparent Jul 11
Grandparents, don’t be unwitting drug suppliers: http://ow.ly/PuseU @aboutdotcom

Susan Adcox ‏@grandparent Jul 12
1 in 28 American children has an incarcerated parent. Often grandparents pick up the slack: http://ow.ly/PuR57

Susan Adcox ‏@grandparent Jul 14
Taking the grandchildren on an outing? 3 easy steps for managing their behavior: http://ow.ly/Pzrqh @aboutdotcom

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Wisdom from Seth

Seth Godin ‏@ThisIsSethsBlog Jul 13
Bounce forward http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/07/bounce-forward.html

Seth Godin ‏@ThisIsSethsBlog Jul 16
Seth’s Blog: In search of metaphor http://bit.ly/1HQhFg2

Seth Godin ‏@ThisIsSethsBlog Jul 18
Seth’s Blog: “Because it has always been this way” http://bit.ly/1LtdBIh

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For Entrepreneurs

Abel James ‏@fatburnman Jul 16
14 Entrepreneurs Share Best Advice From Their Fathers http://cr8.lv/1I6mNB6 via @creativelive

Tweets of the Week: Recipes, Health, & Wisdom

Week of May 24, 2015

twitter-bird-2Saturday is a good day to recap the activity from our Twitter feed from the past week. Not sure what Twitter is all about? That’s OK. Neither are we (or at least it remains somewhat mysterious to us). There is no denying, however, that there is some very valuable information shared on Twitter. That is what this weekly feature is all about. Click the links below to check out the good stuff. Here are my Top Tweets from this past week, great for retweeting (whatever that is). If you missed these, follow Forward Story on Twitter.

Here are a couple of recipes from Maria Emmerich, a master of gluten-free and low carb cooking:

Low Carb Pancake http://buff.ly/1Aq7DWf

Fudgsicles http://buff.ly/1IVmf0L

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 Some great information related to health:

A Hedge against Drought: Why Healthy Soil is ‘Water in the Bank’ https://shar.es/1rFlGK 

I know it’s counter-intuitive: Why People Who Sleep Longer Achieve More http://mhyatt.us/1wSPmLK 

When Daily Life Is Exercise, Everywhere Is the Gym http://www.cavemandoctor.com/2015/05/19/when-daily-life-is-exercise-everywhere-is-the-gym/

“Food should not contain ingredients, it should be an ingredient.” http://bit.ly/1Ap712w 

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A little wisdom from two great sources:

New Podcast Episode: The Secret Power of Smiling http://mhyatt.us/1HL5lQY 

How to Run a Debt-Free Business Without Running Out of Cash [VIDEO] http://bit.ly/1AhZZgg 

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Great flood safety tips:

5 ways you can be ready when a flood hits: http://abt.cm/1PNgR5m 

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Seth Godin is always thought-provoking:

Seth’s Blog: The do over – http://bit.ly/1IXiOrS

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Here is a wonderful article from Susan Adcox that speaks to grandparents helping their grandchildren cope with cancer:

When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, grandparents can help grandchildren cope: http://ow.ly/NwFc2

Update: Planting Seeds for the Future

About ten months ago I wrote a post about my first effort at growing a plant. I had never even tried it before, so there was a lot to learn — still is. The main point was that in order to reap anything in the future, you first need to plant seeds and tend them over time.

I have been watering, feeding, and tending those jalapeno plants over the winter months. The first day that my wife saw our first pepper was surprisingly exciting. The cycle from seed to first fruit is one of the most common processes in nature, but I hope I never lose the wonder of it all.

I have given away one of the jalapeno plants to a neighbor and still have five. Now that spring has arrived, I am almost to the reaping stage. Those five plants currently have 24 peppers growing and are nearing harvest time. Here is a photo I snapped this morning of two of the peppers on one of the plants:

Early Jalapneos

This experience has energized me to plant more. I now also have growing two varieties of tomatoes and the herbs cilantro, parsley, basil, mint, oregano, and thyme.

A few quick takeaways:

  • If you want something good to happen in the future, you must take the steps today to get it started.
  • You have to stick with it through periods of time when it appears little to nothing is happening.
  • Waiting can be boring.
  • You must continue tending, watering, feeding, and weeding your dream.
  • If you consistently do these things, you will likely have the good thing you desire.

Any experiences you want to share about dreams you have worked to achieve or your experiences along the way? Was your vision and hard work rewarded?

 

What I Learned from Margot’s Frozen Yogurt

When I was in my late 20s, I acted upon a desire to start my own business. The allure of being one’s own boss is very strong, and creating a business is one of the most exciting things a person can do. It was certainly exciting for my wife and me to start a frozen yogurt shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Author in Santa Fe – circa 1989

Rather than relate every detail of the start-up and operation, let me tell you about the challenges we faced and what I learned from them.

Under-Capitalized

We began Margot’s with virtually no capital of our own.  This meant that we had to borrow money to get started. At the time my desire to start the business was so strong that I was willing to borrow money to buy equipment and lease space. The idea was to invest a lot of our own sweat equity into the place and to buy the bare minimum of equipment required to get up and running. Then, we would upgrade from the profits of the business as time unfolded.

This was a problem on two fronts.

1. The strategy of buying just enough equipment to get started soon became a problem. The two soft-serve yogurt machines we could afford with our borrowed money were new machines, but they were air-cooled machines. We had selected a great location for the shop, so getting traffic into the place was no problem. In fact, the first day we were opened a line formed and stayed all day. This meant that the front door stayed open most of the day allowing the warm summer air to come into the shop.

As the ambient air warmed up, the air-cooled machines had to run more to keep the yogurt frozen. The more the machines ran, the more heat they threw off. We created a heat spiral. At one point it got so hot behind the counter that all of our chocolate toppings melted together in their respective containers. The machines could not keep up with the rising heat, and the product started coming out too soft. This heat problem remained until the day we sold the business.

What was the cause of the problem? We didn’t have enough money to buy the more expensive closed-loop (glycol) cooled machines or even water-cooled machines. If we had been able to afford those machines, we would have avoided this serious heat problem.

2. Given that we could not afford the proper machines, you might think that the solution to the problem would have been to have borrowed more money at the outset to buy the better machines.  That, however, would have just exacerbated problem number two. When you borrow money from a bank or any other creditor, that creditor has to be repaid with interest. This means that every month without fail, we had to write a  check to the bank for $800 to repay our business loan. That business loan, by the way, was personally guaranteed by my wife and me. Our home and vehicles were collateral for the loan. If we did not repay the loan as per its terms, really bad things would have happened to us.

So if we had borrowed more money up front, the monthly payment would have just been larger. When your new business is struggling to get off the ground, paying $800 per month to service debt doesn’t help matters.

What Would Have Worked?

My older wiser self would tell the young 20-something to save money toward the opening of the business. That requires patience. Patience is a four-letter word to people like my younger self. I had the idea, I had the location, and my mind was made up. I did not care that I had no money and no experience in the industry at all.  It was time to shoot now and ask questions later.

If I would have piled up cash first before starting my business, I would have begun Margot’s Frozen Yogurt without debt, with the proper equipment, and with much better prospects for long-term survival and expansion. Eventually we sold to a couple that was properly capitalized. The first thing they did was to replace the air-cooled machines with glycol-cooled machines. Because they had no debt, the operation of the business was a lot less stressful.

Conclusion

I realize that entrepreneurs as a class are risk-takers. I am one. However, I strongly recommend that anyone planning to start a business begin with their own personal finances first so that they can start setting aside capital to begin the new venture on solid footing. If you can live below your current means, you can stack up cash so that you can use your own money and avoid the business debt trap.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, don’t let this article discourage you. I believe in entrepreneurism. In fact, I love business. I just want you to be aware of some of the pitfalls of starting your own business so you don’t have to repeat my mistakes. Despite our challenges, Margot’s Frozen Yogurt was a tremendous blessing to us. It taught me many lessons that I took with me into the classroom as I finished my BBA. It continues to help me in all of my current business ventures. The people I met and worked with at Margot’s were tremendous. We got to employ a lot of excellent people in the Santa Fe community, including a lot of wonderful young people at Santa Fe Preparatory School. These were impressive people that blessed us. We got to know our customers well, and we loved serving locals as well as tourists and celebrities (like Brian Dennehy and Karen Grassle). All in all, we would not trade the experience.

If your Forward Story includes starting a business, I strongly recommend that you educate yourself as much as possible about not only your desired industry, but also about the wisest ways to finance, launch, and run your business. It is a lot easier to learn from those who have made mistakes than it is to repeat those mistakes on your own.