The Actual Book List

180 (1)

A while back I gained some perspective when I read the blog post from Wait But Why about how much time we may have left at any given point in our lives. One of the things that rattled me (besides the fact that I may only have 20 more holidays left with certain people) is how many books I may read by the end of my life.

Life is busy and distracting, and although I like to read, I am not a fast reader and start a lot of book, yet never finish them. I typically would have 6 to 8 books on my nightstand. With a series of fits and starts I would go back and forth between all of these books, yet never finish them.

At my then pace of about 4 books per year (I am only counting actual books that I actually finished – you know all the way to the last page) at best I only had 180 books left to read.


With the millions of books in the world, and thousands being added everyday, 180 books became a scary proposition.

I used to brag about books I was reading, or books I intended to read. But those books remain unfinished.

For 2016, I decided to create a new pattern, a new approach.

I now have the actual book list.

These are books I have actually read in 2016. I write them down right after I finish and savor that last page. There is something important about that transaction. Instead of the pressure of seeing those stacks of unread books, I now have a list of what I actually did.

I am a big fan of lists. But lists, especially aspirations or dreams can feel so unattainable that those same lists that are designed to help us, can become an overwhelming burden of non-accomplishment.

The Actual Book ListInstead of a list of what I would like to accomplish, the actual book list records the progress that I actually made. There is something more satisfying about this list.

The good news: at this pace the 180 may just become 360, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

The real number is 4 for 2016 as of today. But even 4 in the midst of a crazy, busy, and distracted life feels like an achievement.


60 (1)

Ironically I got to speak to a group on emotional intelligence a week before the holidays. We joked about how the class was a perfect place to learn and practice before we interacted with our families and friends at various celebrations.

Stress can run high during this season, and sometimes we need Perspective.

I found that Perspective in a post called The Tail End on one of my new favorite sites that demonstrates visually a life time of events. Super Bowls left to watch, dumplings left to eat, visits to Fenway Park remaining…

What brought the most perspective was the remaining time the author projects he has remaining with his parents (5% remaining) and his siblings (15% remaining).

Perspective is when you suddenly realize that there may only be 15 or 20 more holidays together if you are lucky.

Perspective is when you remember that there are no more holidays with others.

Perspective is when you just want a little more time.

I did my own calculations with some people close to me and I realized that between holidays, and birthdays, and the 3 to 4 other times we hang out per year, I may only have 60 more times to connect with them.

That is it, 60 more days.

When someone is diagnosed with something critical, we tend to rally, connect, and spend more time in those remaining days. The small things fade away, as we try to savor those last moments that remain.

Ordinary time has a funny way of pretending to be in unlimited supply.

Perspective reminds us to not be fooled by time’s pretending.




Plan With, Not Around

Plan With, Not Around

During a conversation with some friends at a local juice shop, we were talking about making time for various things.

Time to get together.

Time to ourselves.

Time to work on that book, project, or idea.

Time to give to other organizations.

Since the calendar is such a great way to plan, I spoke up with some advice about making and scheduling that time.

“Just put in on your calendar so you can plan around it.”

Immediately, another spoke up and provided a better phrase. A better mindset. A shift in thinking. The words provided the kind of shift that wakes you up, resonates, and changes your world.

“Put it on your calendar so you can plan WITH IT.”

To plan with these events incorporates them into our lives.

To plan around these events almost makes them separate from us, and more of a burden.

This idea hit home recently when trying to get time on the calendar with a couple that is close to us. The past months have felt more like trying to plan around everything else. Last night I was reminded of the juice shop conversation. We are going to pick some days and place them in the calendar. Not to plan around these events, but to plan with our lives.



Yesterday was the first day wearing my watch in almost two years.  This watch had been sitting dormant because of its need for some major repairs.  For most people, a watch is just a way to keep track of time, but this watch is something different (or at least it was supposed to be different).  This watch and I have been together for 20 years.

A few short days after graduating from high school, I woke up each day in the Navy. Every day was planned, structured, and dictated by someone else.  Days were long, routine, and blended together and I never wore a watch.  There was never really a reason to wear a watch when each day was someone else’s and you were just along for the ride.

But as my four-year journey was coming to an end, I began to think.  Maybe spending all that time at sea gives you time with your thoughts that the average person doesn’t normally have in life…or maybe it was just breathing all that salt-filled air.  My thoughts were filled with plans, ideas, and goals for life.

One of the first things I did upon my return (besides rushing down to start dating the woman who would ultimately become my wife) was to buy myself this watch.  It took a while to find the right watch.  Something nice, but not too nice.  Something that would last, and stay in style.

Eventually, I found the watch I was looking for and in an overly ceremonious way, purchased the watch.  After unwrapping it, and placing it on my wrist, I told myself something as it rested there for the first time.

“Your time is now your own, and this should be a reminder to make the most of it.”

This reminder helped me through harder times ahead, through college exams, moving and changing jobs, and periodic failures in life.  The reminder was present at amazing times of our wedding, kids, first houses and jobs, and establishing a life together.

Yesterday as I drove to work, sat in meetings, went to a parent-teacher conference, shopped for school supplies, and came home, the watch was there.  Periodically while glancing down at the movement of the hands, I was reminded of my words to myself so long ago.  It was as if for a moment, I was receiving a reminder and a challenge from my 22-year-old self.

“Your time is still your own, are you making the most of it?”