Your dream life: instructions are included

Updated to Business on January 22, 2023.

It’s a funny thing getting IKEA furniture – the simplest furniture in the world always makes me feel simple. Somewhere around “Part A-16 fits into Part M-32” I leave to make some tea.

The reality is, everything I need to complete the job and have happy results is included. Despite my self-doubt, and occasional ineptitude, it was always there. 

Just like life.

I remember, as a kid, thinking adults really had it all figured out. They never seemed stressed, in debt, or out of work. Little did I know.

I’ve been an adult for a while now and it looks pretty different from this side of the rabbit hole.


All platitudes aside, it really is true that life is what you make of it.

When I get up at 5AM and charge through my morning club routine my day is awesome. 

When I speak the truth I am free of guilt, blame, and resentment. I can move on.

And when I do the work and plan, I can create my dream life.

That’s where Tom Cruise comes into this.


Hollywood has messed with our mind. We’ve been strung a line about being muscular, slim, marrying Cameron Diazknightday_01, and undoing our wrongs all in the final act. It’s Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey on steroids. 

Real life’s more complicated.

So, we tell ourself our dream life isn’t an option. It’s too hard, I’m too poor, lazy, inexperienced, lacking in credentials, or just-plain lacking. If that’s not enough, just read the morning news to take the wind out of your dream sails.

It’s called “Learned Helplessness” and it’s hard to shake. Until you realize one thing.


Just like that new Arkelstorp desk lying half-assembled on your living room floor, full instructions were included. They always were. Here are three pretty inspiring examples of people who took the time to pull our their life instructions.

At the age of 25, Adam Braun left his career as a hedge-fund manager to build schools for the needy. With no experience and very little funding he asked his friends for $25 instead of giving him birthday gifts. Today, Pencils of Promise has built 242 schools in four countries.

Culver CityAs a young designer, Christina Culver (Yup! My niece) was tired of fighting the fashion industry. So, she turned to her second love – food. Today, Culver City Salads is a fixture in downtown Vancouver and sought out for company lunches by company’s like Lululemon.

Author John Green was preparing to become an Episcopal priest when work in a hospital with children suffering with life-threatening illnesses inspired him to become an author. His fifth novel, Fault in our stars is a New York Times best-seller and was made into a major motion picture.


Hopefully, you’re with me on this ramble and you agree your dream life instructions are (still) waiting for you. Now the trick is to receive your instructions.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think BIG when I’m surrounded by To-Do’s. I need to get away in my kayak, on a mountain, in a cabin, or even my car. Then the trick is to think constructively – what am I trying to discover?

I think of it this way: your instructions are buried in your subconscious, and when they pop up for air, they need to be grabbed and strung up for inspection. And often you need to act on them.

Just like a crazy dream, you might have, that reveals a person you haven’t thought of in years. The next day, you call them and discover they are coming to your town and you can get reunited, or their Mother just passed away, or… When we allow our instructions to surface we have to be ready to receive them.

Last October, I was driving to Vancouver to present to a room of professional speakers. The topic was marketing and I was pretty comfortable with my message. After all, marketing is what I’ve been studying and teaching for decades and, even more recently, studying for my own business.

Since, leaving “that downtown office with parking stalls”, four years ago, I have immersed myself in the new world of on-line marketing. I have used on-line promotions to fill my events, sell courses, move my book to best-seller status, and build a decent list of followers. My investment into learning the new world of marketing was paying off. I had be able to rebuild my traditional speaking business into multiple streams of income that also meant I earn more and travel a lot less. 

As I drove to the event I kept asking “What am I’m doing in my business that these people need to learn?” That’s when a million dollar idea came to me.

They need to know how I solved my problem with social media. 


About a year ago I realized I needed to be on Twitter, Facebook, and the like. But, I had little interest in posting pictures of sunsets, or plates of Pad Thai just before I eat it. Trust me, I tried and bored of it quickly (blame my age).

So I created a system where the content from my blog, combined with high-traffic sites would be the source of 90% of my posts. I would still post when I had time and for special moments, but not daily, and definitely not about everything going on in my life. 

As I drove to Vancouver, I realized there are millions of professionals, just like me, with the same problem. They need to be using social media to grow their business, but they don’t want to learn how or dedicate the hours every week to do it.

Enter Social Outlook Solutions (SOS).

When I arrived in Vancouver, I knew I was onto a million dollar idea. Plus, I knew this could be a wonderful solution for my colleagues in the speaking business and for coaches, consultants, authors, even bricks and mortal businesses.

At the end of the workshop, I explained my half-baked plans to the class. And waited. Without much hesitation, a third of the room handed me their credit cards!

Get_more_traffic_to_your_blogActually rolling out SOS has taken another six months of research and experimentation. Today we are closing in on 30 members (everyone pays $197/month) and project 100 members by year-end. By next year we should hit $1Million in sales, just from SOS

You see, the instructions were always included. I had been laying the groundwork, I just  needed to create the space for the instructions to surface. 

Asking the right question is where to start.


Ask yourself a bad question, like “Why am I so broke?” and you’ll get a bad answer.

If you want to discover your instructions, you have to ask better questions. (Read also my post on “Straight Talk“)

When you ask a negative question, like “Why doesn’t my wife share my vision?” you’ll get a negative answer, like “She is so different! If only she would change!”

Or how about this one: “Why am I so broke?”. Answer: “I’ve never been good at saving, or controlling my spending.”

Great, now you’ve taken a problem and driven a stake into it. Yup, forget about saving money. Your problem has become personal (my fault), permanent (won’t go away), and pervasive (everyone has this problem). Welcome to Learned Helplessness.


Better questions don’t confirm what you already think – they make you think. Let’s try this again:

“Why doesn’t my wife see my vision?” becomes “I wonder what fear my wife might have?”

“Why am I so broke?” becomes “What is a new habit that will reduce my spending?”

“Why can’t I lose weight?” becomes “What time of day could I take a fast 20-minute walk?”

When you ask open-ended, positive questions, your prefrontal cortex engages new gears and drives you to new solutions. You can’t help but get a better result. It’s called Learned Optimism

It’s also called your instructions. And they were always inside.

Now, where’s that bloody allen key wrench?