Why I Love … Photography

“Hello, I am Karol, and I am a photography enthusiast…” says me.

“Hello, Karol!” says the rest of the PA (Photography-oholics Anonymous) support group.

Image is author's own

Oh yes, it is addictive. Trust me. However, I don’t think it’s an addiction you should by trying to get rid of. Because photography can be a great hobby for life.

Build a physical representation of your memories

You just can’t disagree with this. There’s no better way of documenting your memories than by having a massive directory of photos.

That’s why I started photography in the first place—I just wanted to continue the family tradition. My grandfather started it. He bought the first camera in the family. Then my father followed. Then it was my turn. What’s the result? I have a number of photo albums that have been put together during a 30+ year span.

Here’s an experiment. Try asking someone what they would have saved as the first thing from their house had it been on fire. Any idea what the answer will be?

Boost your creative mind

Shooting conscious photos puts your creative mind to work like nothing else. By “conscious photos” I mean the photos you shoot while thinking about the whole process: situations when you try to find the perfect frame, get the lightning and the angle right, set the best aperture, choose the right lens, and so on. By doing all of this, you’re exercising your brain and forcing it to come up with a result that is a “decent photo” by your personal standards.

Everyone needs to be a little creative every once in a while. It keeps your mind fresh and full of ideas. And if you’re in a business that’s more creative-thinking oriented (like web design, freelance writing, etc.) then doing something creative as a hobby is a must.

Have a great hobby

I’m not a professional photographer. I probably never will be. I don’t really care when someone says that my photos are no good. I’m not doing this for anyone other than myself. For me it’s a hobby, albeit a very important one.

How would you define a hobby? My definition is: something I consider relaxation when doing it. Shooting some photos is a great way to relax and detach yourself from everyday problems and challenges. There’s just you, the camera, and whatever you want to photograph. Nothing else matters.

Besides, photography as a hobby has many sub-hobbies in it. For example, take a look at some of the things I’ve been doing so far: creative self portraits, tilt-shift photography, nature, food, and HDR (not yet shared). If you want more ideas, I encourage you to search the groups on flickr—there’s a group for almost anything.

Easily gain knowledge

If you want to learn some new things and improve your skills, there’re countless places you can visit. For example, Digital Photography School is a good place to start. Those Flickr groups are great too. To be frank, the amount of free information online greatly exceeds what an ordinary human can digest.

And the best thing is you don’t really have to know much to be able to shoot a decent photo. (By decent I mean one that’s better than what 99% of people are uploading to Facebook.) Of course, if you want to go pro it’s going to require a lot of work and dedication, but that’s a whole different story and I’m sure you’re aware of that.

Enjoy countless online communities

Nowadays, if you’re a photography enthusiast you’re not alone. Try:

All of these places enable you to share your work with the world, get feedback, improve, and eventually take your skills to the next level.

One thing to remember is that photographers (even the amateur ones) are usually highly creative and interesting people. The kind of people you want to be friends with. Nowadays you can use your hobby as a way to meet like-minded people. Just join an existing community and see what’s going on (or start a new one and become a leader yourself).

Benefit from the low cost of entry

You really don’t need much stuff to be an amateur photographer. Not even a DSLR (to all pros out there: please don’t hate me for saying this). A simple point-and-shoot camera is fine for a complete beginner, which means you can start your adventure for less than $200. Compare it to, for example, kite surfing, which would cost you anything above $1500 just to get the basic equipment.

“OK, I’m hooked. Where do I start?”

  1. Choose an online community to join (my pick? Flickr).
  2. Get a camera.
  3. Check out Digital Photography Tips for Beginners (also remember to subscribe to their newsletter—it’s free).
  4. Learn theory and practice a lot. Submit your photos to Flickr and post it to Flickr groups.
  5. Improve.
  6. Repeat steps #3 to #5.

…and most importantly, enjoy it.

I love photography because it documents my memories, boosts my everyday creativity, provides a great and relaxing hobby, the knowledge is easily accessible, there are massive online communities for amateur (and professional) photographers, and it’s not expensive (at least at a hobby level).

What about you? What do you love about photography? And what’s your favorite sub-hobby in photography?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland who shares his thoughts at newInternetOrder.com. Tune in to get hisGetting Things Done (GTD) tips and other personal productivity advice. And don’t forget to connect with him on Flickr.

The Giving Game: Embracing Social Change by Giving

This post is by Jacqueline Way of 365give.

As an at home mom and entrepreneur, I fell into the predictable lifestyle of family, work, grocery shopping, and cleaning, 24/7, and on call like a doctor. My world was becoming routine, my focus was narrowing, and I started to forget that there was a whole wide world out there.

Having a dedicated focus is a good thing, and thank goodness mine was healthy, but I was starting to feel that it was time to spread my wings. I wanted to feel a part of the global community and nurture a part of my spirit that had gone dormant—a spirit that my son could learn and benefit from.

I spent the next year or two experimenting and trying new things that would open up my world and enrich not only my life, but the life of my family, my clients, and others. My goal was to find one thing, something, that I could focus on which would re-ignite my flame—put that oomph in my step and add a little something to my routine. I defined the criteria that were important to me: effecting social change, participating in a larger community, exercising important personal values, and expanding my world without taking away from my family. A tall order, yes, but I have never been one to shy away from a challenge.

Experimenting with social change

I defined my personal areas of effectiveness, my challenges for reaching out to global communities (no time to travel and little computer skills), and where the need may be the greatest. I experimented with many different activities, thoughts, and ideas until my husband pointed out the obvious: I naturally was giving to my community, to my family, and global communities through my daily actions.

It was my “Ah ha!” moment. I am a giver, and I give every day, but I didn’t think that this natural reaction was that big idea, the social changer, the mountain mover.

Well, it is. All I had to do was formalize it and build intention.

Embracing giving

My journey made me realize that if my soulful needs were already being fulfilled and I was blind to it, then many others could be in the same position. My actions were important but the communication of the journey, discovery, and simplicity of this adventure seemed critical and the key to the success of giving. Embracing the concept of giving, consciously, gave me my mission: “To unleash the spirit of giving in others to change the world one day at a time.”

Taking a concept, and turning it into a social change mission has been a welcomed addition to who I am, what I do, and how I participate in my local and global community. My world opened up to me in a way that was positive, fulfilling and energizing. And it has grown into a ritual for my family, my clients and my friends. I KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) every day and see the wonderful effects of this movement more and more each day.

Each day we play the Giving Game (with a three-and-a-half-year-old, games work) and I find lots of places and people to give to on a daily basis. I write about the experiences daily on a new blog (big leap) and share my information through social media (even bigger leap). I have gone from being computer-timid to being a computer warrior. And now other people are learning how it feels to give each and every day in creative, fun and impacting ways.

How to play the Giving Game

Reach out to friends and family

Some of the greatest gifts can be to friends and family members who find it difficult to reach out. Make them a meal, take their kids for a play date, lend an ear, or do something to make their life a lot easier. Everyone has their struggles and giving does begin at home.

Look for a need in your neighborhood

Clean up your park, help out a single mom or dad, clean your clutter and donate it to those who could use it, or donate books to the local library.

Give to strangers

Pay for someone’s coffee, help someone who is lost with directions, smile at everyone you see, say good morning to people on the street, say thank you, and give compliments.

Donate to charity

Just $5 or $10 dollars can go a long way when you’re helping others. There are thousands of organizations that help others and rely on public donations to continue their work. Pick a charity a week, and send off your donation to effect change.


Volunteering is not a new concept and can be done on an ad hoc basis or with a longer intention. There are many online volunteer databases that highlight one-time or ongoing volunteer opportunities through out the world. Start Googling—you’ll be surprised by the possibilities.

Participate in social giving

More and more organizations are finding quick ways for people to build momentum in social effectiveness through the click of a mouse. It’s a great way to feel a part of the community without taking time or money out of your day.

Giving is easy, but a forgotten quality that’s now enjoying a rebirth through communities. Giving with intention can build relationships, deeply affect others and change the world. What would happen if everyone conducted one give each and everyday? I am hoping to find out.

How do you give to others? And how does it make you feel? Share your stories in the comments.

Jacqueline Way is a mom, entrepreneur and author of an online diary, 365give, her giving platform to change the world, one person at a time, one day at a time.  This vehicle for giving has enabled her to put a focus, intention and purpose to her giving while inspiring her family to do the same.  It maintains her belief that ‘giving is good’ and will positively affect people, places and things when you give every day in creative and positive ways.

The Simple Secret to Overcoming Life’s Pitfalls

My last article here turned out to be a great success, so I’m back again. For those of you who missed the post, I wrote about how I was able to completely turn my life around from being broke and miserable to working for myself and loving each day. Though my post may have made it sound like I live some amazing existence, life certainly isn’t all plain sailing for me.

In fact, just like anyone, I certainly go through low points now and then. As we were nearing the end of 2010, a few of mine all collided at once. The first thing that hit me was the inevitable breakup I knew I would have to go through with my long-term girlfriend. As much as I cared about her, I knew she wasn’t the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Though the person on the “receiving end” of a breakup will claim it’s definitely the worst side to be on, I think it’s just as difficult to be the person that ends it. My decision had came after thinking about the situation for a long time, and wasn’t just some overnight impulse.

On top of that, I was coming to the end of the lease on my apartment, with no replacement in sight. In the space of two weeks, I viewed over 20 places, and fell in love with many. Three days in a row (I didn’t even know this was possible) when I was supposed to move into consecutive properties, the process fell through on the actual moving day. To say the whole thing was frustrating and stressful is an understatement.

In a glimmer of hope, I ended up finding a place I liked. It was in the area I wanted to be in, came with two swimming pools and was close by to many of my friends. I wasn’t worried that the place was completely unfurnished, as I thought it would be fun to decorate it however I wanted. It seemed like things might be looking up for me.

Then, my bank account was frozen.

I couldn’t access a single penny of my own funds. Since I’m in South Africa, my UK bank closed access to my online banking as they were worried about potential online fraud. Despite the fact that they do this to me once per month, calling them didn’t actually resolve the issue for once. They wanted me to send them a hand written letter, back to the UK.

For two weeks straight, I slept on the floor in my new living room. I had no fridge, no TV, no sofa. Nothing.

Dealing with all of this after the end of my relationship and a frantic two weeks of apartment hunting left me feeling exhausted. Despite these struggles, I wasn’t miserable at all. In fact, those few weeks were some of the greatest I’ve had.

The “old Glen” definitely wouldn’t have felt like this. But the new Glen possessed a secret that helped me get through all of this with ease. The secret is this…

You must just keep pushing forward with something

The things that happened to me would probably get a lot of people down. I know they would have affected the person I was just a few months before the event. I believe the reason for this is that we’re constantly striving to go forward in areas of our lives, so when that forward momentum stops or slows down, it’s a blow to our emotions.

When you come out of a long-term relationship, you feel like you’re back at square one. Was the time you spent with another person completely wasted?

When the apartments I was supposed to move into were out of reach, I felt like I had wasted all of the time putting the deals into place.

And finally, when I was sleeping on my living room floor in pitch darkness, I definitely didn’t feel like I was taking my life in the right direction.

Yet, I was. Because the “secret” I possessed allowed me to keep focusing on going forward with something. As long as you’re taking one aspect of your life in the right direction, then in my experience, it can completely overshadow all of the negativity you’re feeling.

For me, it was focusing on my business and my health. These are two things that I can work on where the more I put into them, the more I’ll get out of them. For you, it may be learning a language, playing an instrument, or something else you’re working towards.

When a friend of mine came out of a nine-year relationship, she was devastated. Instead of dwelling on the hand she was left with, she hired a personal trainer, renovated her house, and took up weekly dance classes. After a few weeks, I had never seen her happier.

Just a few days ago I received an email from one of my students who is now making $3,000 per month online which enables them to pursue their dreams of being a professional drummer. Absolutely nothing can get me down on days when I receive messages like that. And they’re just a result of me moving forward with something (in this case, my business) in order to help others as much as possible.

So, whenever you feel like things aren’t going your way, just place your attention on something you can dictate. Something that will allow you to see forward progress. Can you start eating healthier? Can you research into ways to make more money? Can you become an early-riser?

It doesn’t matter what the thing is. It just matters that you enjoy doing it, and you see progress happening.

Why I Love … Magic

This post is by Mystical Matthew, one of the professional magicians at Shizzle Dizzle Magic.

Being a professional magician means being a little eccentric. Who else would walk around with a fake goose that can supposedly read minds?

Mystical Matthew, The Great Nancini, and Miss. Cleo the Mind Reading Goose

Why do I love magic? The answer seems obvious … or is it? Most people assume I love magic because I love tricking people. They think I get a thrill out of feeling superior to someone else. That somehow knowing a “secret” makes me smarter.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is a bit more complicated. Let’s start here:

“All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.”—T.E. Lawrence

As children, the world is a brand new place for each of us. Everything’s a mystery. We embrace the unknown simply because we have no other option. Children are dreamers by design. That’s why they’re so enthusiastic about magic.

Then something happens. We grow up.

Wonder is replaced by fear. We learn that the unknown is a dangerous thing. We discover the hard way that what you don’t know really can hurt you.

We respond by pushing our dreams into the void of darkness and sleep where they’re left to rot. We replace them with the illusion of security.

Somehow we figure that if we can push the unknown out of our consciousness it will stop existing. We go about our daily lives believing that every question can be answered with a Google search.

That’s a pathetic way to live. Dreams are the foundation of what makes us human. They’re powerful things. Look around you. Everything from your car to your cell phone started out as a dream in somebody’s head.

Just because you can’t hold it, see it, or touch it doesn’t mean it’s not real. Those dreams you have that could change the world? They’re real and they’re more powerful than you can imagine.

The only question is whether you’ll embrace them. Let them take over your waking existence. Do what it takes to pull them from your mind and push them into the physical realm.

The first step to doing that is accepting the unknown. Understand that the more we learn, the more questions we’ll have. Accept the danger of the unknown, but don’t let it replace wonder with fear.

I do magic to remind people of this fact. To “jolt them awake.” Ironically, I’m trying to shatter the illusion they’ve built for themselves that their lives are totally in control.

The responses I get are all over the map. Some people respond enthusiastically. They embrace my art because they love the possibilities of their own imagination.

Other people respond negatively. I’ve just shattered their feelings of safety. They don’t like that. They want nothing more than to push my art (and me) out of their minds.

Then there’s a third group in the middle. They start out not really knowing what to expect, but slowly it dawns on them. The feeling of wonder seeps back into their consciousness and they walk away transformed.

These people are dangerous. These people are why I do magic.

I’m not here to “trick” you. I’m here to remind you of the power of your own imagination. I’m here to help you change the world. To make this place better. To leave something worthwhile behind for the next generation.

That’s why I love magic.

Mystical Matthew is one of the professional magicians at Shizzle Dizzle Magic. They specialize in corporate event entertainment. Be sure to check out their blog for that latest about what they’re up to!

Harness Transformational Courage to Change Your Life

This post is by Marly McMillen of NamelyMarly.

We are, all of us, descendants of immigrants. In fact, American scientist Carl Sagan once said, “For 99.9 percent of the time since our species came to be, we were hunters and foragers, wanderers on the savannahs and the steppes.” As humans, we have a voyager spirit. It drives us to journey to new lands.

But many of us today find ourselves stationed in our plot of terra firma. Maybe we make a move or two, but very few of us have made the life-or-death sort of transformational journeys of our ancestors. These were people who journeyed far, fleeing harsh conditions to endure a grueling passage that many did not survive to an unknown and possibly unforgiving new land.

Laurie Fabiano, the O Magazine-recommended novelist, wrote a fictional story based on people from her family who emigrated from Italy to the United States. In her novel, Elizabeth Street, Fabiano described the horrors from which people were fleeing. In my interview with Laurie, she told me, “It’s not like the people in my family were looking for adventure. They didn’t want to leave Italy, but they were starving to death. The poverty there was horrific in those days. It wasn’t like they said, ‘Wow! Let’s have an adventure and journey to America!’ And the journey itself was also horrific.”

If today we find ourselves too rooted in either land or life, how can we channel the spirits of our immigrant ancestors to journey to the life of our dreams?

It’s worth noting that we don’t have to physically uproot our families to revive transformation courage in our lives.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the book, Eat, Pray, Love as a sort of memoir of her multi-month journey to Europe as she was recovering from a divorce and rediscovering her own identity. During times of self-reflection and renewal, people choose to reinvent themselves in different ways. Some, like Elizabeth Gilbert, go on journeys. But that’s not always a practical option for everyone. Elizabeth says herself that it’s possible to transform yourself right at home. The trick is committing the time and energy toward that endeavor.

You may be considering a major life change like a new career or you may be looking for space and permission to finally write that novel. Or maybe you’d like to stretch yourself by running for the school board. Living a successful life is all about that: stretching yourself, learning, growing, and then learning some more.

How can you use transformational courage to help you along the way? Here are some tips for creating your own transformational journey.

Acquire satellites

After you punch an address into your GPS, “Acquiring satellites” is usually the first message you’ll see. That’s because the only way to get to where you’re going is to understand where you are.

Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Create for yourself a Transformational Journal (any spiral notebook will do) and begin the first page with an assessment of where you are in your life. Write down areas where you’re happy, where you’re ambivalent, and other areas where you’d like to see some changes.

Become a wonderer

Have you ever pondered a “what if” question? What if you would have taken that advanced track in college? What if you would have jumped at that impromptu trip to Europe? Now it’s time to take that wondering spirit and apply it to your future.

Get our your Transformational Journal and on the next page, write this down:

“I wonder what would happen if I ___________.”

Then begin filling in the blanks. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way at Work, suggests creating this Wonderer as an inner voice in your life. She says that you can “get to know and trust your Wonderer as an important guide to creative breakthrough.”

Set some coordinates

In the show, A Very Brady Sequel, Mike Brady says to his family, “Remember kids, a very wise man once said, ‘Wherever you go, there you are.’” Yes, it’s true, this is a quote from the Brady Bunch, but the point is still valid. Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be in your life?

Maybe you’ve thought about starting your own business. Or taking an art class. Now is the time to get some of these goals on a page. On page two of your Transformational Journal, write down some dreams you have for yourself, whether it’s improving an existing skill or learning something entirely new.

Define the standards

Are you looking for the freeway route or do you want to take the scenic side roads? There are certainly pros and cons to both; you just have to know what the priority is for your life. And remember, there are no right or wrong answers here: you can combine both speedy and sedate segments of your journey.

Maybe you want to sign up for a brief, two-day photography workshop, but take your time developing a blog to showcase your work. This is an entry for page three of your Transformational Journal. Write down the “how” of making your life course happen. Brainstorm ideas such as networking with people in the industry of your choice, to taking courses, to exploring websites that can help you learn more.

Pick a milestone

Setting some achievable landmarks along the journey can help you feel a sense of accomplishment along the way. Milestones can occur at any point in a journey, but their purpose is the same: to inspire the weary wanderer to stay the course. Think about the immigrants who braved brutal conditions crossing the Atlantic to come to the United States. The Statue of Liberty was a significant milestone for many of them.

Take another look at your Transformational Journal and on the next page write down some milestones that can help you know you’re on the right path. If you’re aiming to become healthier, then list ways that you’ll know you’re getting there, such as getting back into those jeans from last year.

Get on the road!

The longest journey begins with just one step. You’ve heard this many times before, but it remains true today. Don’t judge yourself in a negative light for taking even the tiniest of steps. It’s those tiny steps combined together that will get you to your destination.

We are all immigrants on the journey of life. Carl Sagan was right. We have been wanderers from the beginning. It’s in our DNA. The trick is cultivating those immigrant skills to lead us to the life of our dreams. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.”

Marly McMillen has a passion for life, family, vegan food, and names. She writes about all of these and more on her site at NamelyMarly. Marly’s podcast, NamelyMarly, can be found on iTunes, where she interviews people about their names. The people she interviews include famous authors, models, and even the people she meets at the park. Marly is also passionate about healthy food and shares vegan recipes as well.

How a Simple Hello Can Change the World

This post is by Bamboo Forest.

Have you ever been walking somewhere, when suddenly someone greeted you with a hello—and it made you feel really good?

I think we all have. That experience really underscores how powerful a simple hello can be in raising our spirits. When you say hello to others you’re acknowledging them, and people love being acknowledged.

With every person you pass and don’t say hello to, you’re potentially missing out on a great opportunity to make a difference in the world.

I make a point to say hello to people often—and not just to people I cross paths with in the street. For example, if I’m entering the subway and I see a maintenance worker cleaning, I’ll often stop and say, “Hi.” They probably don’t get said hello to that often by commuters, so I’m sure it brightens their day.

Looking for opportunities to say hello to people who probably don’t receive a greeting often is a great way to help them feel acknowledged and brighten their spirits.

The benefits are far reaching

All of us have challenging days where nothing seems to go right. These days can really put a damper on our spirit.

When you say hello to a stranger, there’s always a chance they’re having one of those days. A simple hello will not solve their problems, but it can certainly brighten their spirits which will be a positive for them in an otherwise challenging day.

And then, when those you’ve greeted continue with their day, they’re more likely to take with them a happier disposition. Your hello hasn’t only helped the one you’ve said hello to, but all people they’ll continue to interact with throughout their day.

You don’t have to say hello to everyone

Even though I make a point of saying “Hi” to strangers often, I don’t do it every time—and you shouldn’t expect yourself to! Sometimes you’re in a hurry, or sometimes someone else is in a hurry, or you simply intuit that they’d rather not be greeted. Other times it’s wiser for safety reasons not to draw attention to yourself.

But many times it’s a great thing to do for your fellow human being. Even if you just said hello 15% of the time you pass someone on the street, that would be a great benefit to many people. Through this simple action, you’d be improving the world.

Don’t underestimate the power a hello can have on your fellow human being. It costs you nothing, yet it brightens the spirits of others—and yourself. That’s quite the deal.

Bamboo Forest created an online timer that helps you get more work done with greater focus, commitment and ease. He’s also an email life coach, helping people work on something in their lives over the course of a month.

Volunteering: Why Helping Others Helps You Too

This post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Does it ever seem like you’re lacking something in your life? Maybe you feel that everyone takes you for granted at work, or that you never have a chance to try anything new. Perhaps you’re in a bit of a rut and want to shake things up a bit. Or maybe you need to develop certain skills in order to go after a particular dream.

You don’t need to do anything as drastic as quitting your day job, going back to college or buying a round-the-world plane ticket. You can change your own life for the better—by helping other people.

The feel-good factor

Doing something nice for other people tends to make you feel good.

That’s not something to be a bit uncomfortable about—it’s just human nature. We’re hard-wired for altruism.

People become much happier after providing for others rather than themselves. The smallest gifts can quickly result in surprisingly large and long-lasting changes in happiness. A few pounds spent on other people may be one of the best investments you ever make.

—Professor Richard Wiseman, 59 Seconds: Think a little, Change a Lot

Next time you’re feeling a bit down or fed up, look for some way to do something in a voluntary capacity. That might be anything from helping a charity to get their website and Twitter feed set up, to helping out with a local children’s group.

Learning new skills

If you’re looking to change careers—or just learn something new for the fun of it—then volunteering could be a great way forwards. You won’t need to pay for classes: you can get practical, hands-on experience from day one.

This is particularly valuable if you’re trying to plug a gap in your resume. For instance, many jobs want you to have previous “office experience”—and there are plenty of charities and non-profits which would be more than happy to have you helping out in their office once or twice a week.

Volunteering can give you “hard” skills (specific expertise, such as knowing how to network computers) but also “soft” skills which employers particularly value (transferable skills like leadership and managing a team).

Finding meaning

Do you ever feel as though there’s not much point to what you’re doing? Perhaps you have a job that doesn’t really engage you, and the rest of your life seems to be taken up with chores and watching television.

Volunteering will give you a very obvious purpose. You’ll be able to see how just a couple of hours of your time can make a huge difference to other people. And, usually, you’ll find yourself in contact with lots of like-minded volunteers all working to make a difference in the world. It’s a great way to feel more optimistic about life!

Over the past few months, I’ve been giving my time and skills to various groups close to my heart. I’ve done things as varied as these:

  • I created a PowerPoint presentation for our church, telling them about the work done by a small charity we support. (I learnt how to do all sorts of useful things in PowerPoint that I’d not known about before.)
  • I wrote a booklet about the charity. (This was a bit outside my comfort zone as a writer, and definitely got me thinking hard about how to convey quite complex information in a succinct and engaging way.)
  • I helped with our church’s annual Holiday Club for five–twelve-year-olds. (I do this every year, and absolutely love it—a great week’s break from the usual blogging routine!)
  • I run a small stall to sell charity goods. (This has pushed me out of my introvert comfort-zone, and helped me see exactly how people make buying decisions—very useful for my own sales of ebooks and digital products.)

Of course, your particular skills and interests will be different from mine. But I know that you’ve got a lot which you could give, and that there are dozens of organizations which would love to have your help.

A couple of places to get started are:

If you’re already doing volunteer work, tell us in the comments what you love most about it.

Ali Luke blogs about writing and life over at Aliventures and has a free ebook called More For Your Money, about getting your best value from your hard-earned cash.

Happiness is a Lit Candle

This post is by Alisa Bowman of ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.

About a year ago, I was in a dark and dreary place. I was feeling bruised by the various publishers who’d rejected my book proposal, envious of authors who’d landed bigger deals than I had, angry at various people who didn’t seem to be supporting me in the way I would have liked, and fearful that readers would call my book worthless, boring or something much worse.

I was bathing myself in nearly every negative emotion a person could feel.

Then one night, while at my Buddhist meditation class, I began thinking about the concept of Karma and whether I really believed in it. As I mulled it all over in my mind, I had a very selfish thought. It was this: If I perform as many acts of good karma as I can during the next year, will it get my book on the bestseller list? I will admit that a creepy smile came across my face as I set out to create a Karma Bestseller.

I stopped killing bugs. I stopped gossiping—as backbiting goes against Buddhist beliefs. And every morning, I declared the following intention for my day: I will spread happiness.

I spread happiness by being kinder to my husband. I spread happiness by telling people how awesome they are. I spread happiness by mentoring any writer who asked for my advice, help or expertise.

I did it by giving money to people who seemed to need it. I did it by sending people sappy cards in the mail. I did it by listening to anyone’s problems. And I did it by comforting anyone who needed comfort.

One time, for instance, I listened as a young writer told me that she could not get over her fear of rejection. “I know I need to query magazine editors, but I don’t think I’m good enough of a writer yet,” she said. I told her that I would give her a $100 gift card if she were able to amass 100 story rejections within a month. “You can’t lose,” I told her. “Either you’ll get $100 or you’ll end up with more assignments than you can handle.”

By month’s end she had 30 rejections and five assignments. I gave her the gift card anyway.

Recently, several people questioned my sanity. They couldn’t understand, for instance, how I could devote an hour out of my day to mentoring a writer without charging that writer a fee. Some asked, “What’s in it for you?”

“There’s nothing in it for me,” I responded. “That’s the whole point. It wouldn’t be an act of good Karma if I expected something in return.”

And that’s when I realized that I no longer cared about my original goal. I was no longer trying to game the Karma system and use it to get my book on the bestseller list.

Let me be clear. I would not be disappointed if my book became a bestseller. I would not shed a tear if it sold a million copies. And I would not have a molecule of sadness anywhere inside of me if I were able to prove wrong all of the people who did not initially believe in me.

Still, this Karma Project of mine is no longer about the bestseller list or about my book at all. Now, the Karma Project is about one thing and one thing only: lighting candles.

Somewhere along the way I realized that joy does not come from money. It does not come from fame. It does not come from recognition. It does not come from awards. It does not come from seeing one’s name on a bestseller list. It doesn’t come from having an editor love one’s voice. It doesn’t come from getting oneself on prime time TV. It doesn’t come from 5 star Amazon reviews.

No, joy comes from doing good. It comes from knowing that you’ve touched so many people that, were you ever on your deathbed, those very people would hold lit candles and they would wish you health and happiness.

I am no longer in a dark and dreary place. These days—most of the time—I am happy, peaceful, and content. And whenever I do experience a moment of negativity, I think about those candles.

And then I set out to light more of them.

Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, which tells the story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love. Find out how to enter the Fabulous PHEA Giveaway to win a Kindle, a stay at a B&B, marriage counseling, a vibrator and more with proof of purchase of Project: Happily Ever After. You can learn more about Project: Happily Ever After at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com. Watch the trailer and get a sneak preview into the book.

The Panorama of a Polymath’s Experience

This post is by Ben Harack, the polymath who founded Vision of Earth.

I feel like I am interested in more things than everyone else. Each passion I pursue leads me to more things that enjoy. Every thought seems to spawn two more, and every new experience deepens my wish to try new things.

You may share these experiences, or find them totally alien. In this piece I will talk about some of my history in the area of avidly pursuing my passions as a polymath. Not everything is rosy, but I would not choose to live any other way.

Between focus and frenzy

Too much focus on one issue, and you can become a myopic personality. Too much topic-switching can lead to scattered, fragmented knowledge or a life of chasing every shiny thing that moves.

Instead of letting every little interest run rampant, learn to focus on them one at a time. Multi-tasking is great, but if taken too far it fragments our consciousness to the extent that accomplishing anything becomes very difficult.

In order to be really useful, knowledge has to have some depth. We can imagine a specialist as a well full of water, and a polymath as a pond. If you spread yourself too thin, you become nothing more than a collection of puddles. I don’t think anyone wants to be accused of being as deep as a puddle.

A polymath has to have areas of some degree of specialization. They might have ten of them, but they are interested in each of these areas, and have gained significant knowledge in them. No one is a jack of all trades, but some of us choose to be a jack of many.

There is no sharp distinction between specialists and renaissance (wo)men. During my education for instance I heard the following question posed: Was Isaac Newton a physicist or a mathematician? Those familiar with his life and work will realize that this is a not an either-or. He excelled at both, and each facet supported his accomplishments in the other.

The quote that we all know (and which has been in use for hundreds of years) has an optional second half that few people know about: “Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one.”


My experience is that as I learn more varied fields of knowledge, new knowledge is easier to access. I find that new areas of knowledge begin to integrate more easily into knowledge that I already know. Each new field of specialty tends to fit itself neatly into the structure of everything I know about the world.

Natural memory is best achieved through integration of new knowledge with things that you already know and attachment to things that you care about. As your experience broadens, you will find it easier to grasp new concepts and remember them.

Context is everything. Most scientific studies include investigations of how the new knowledge that they uncover will fit into what insights science has already gained. A key facet of contributing scientific knowledge is the effort to describe its broader implications. People of all backgrounds and perspectives are capable of doing this, and doing it well. I claim that the difference is that rather than merely researching the broad context of their work, polymaths live their context every day. Instead of turning our attention to the big picture every once in a while, we experience it constantly as our default way of viewing the world.


Pursue a variety of physical activities. A complete list of my favored physical activities would be laboriously long, thanks in part to my father being a physical education teacher. Some of my current favorites are jogging, yoga, tai chi and frisbee. Having a variety of physical activities that you are comfortable with can be very useful when you move to a new home, or transfer to  a new workplace where your options for activities may be limited.

I also encourage people to embrace physical activities of different sorts. Cardiovascular health is incredibly important for longevity and quality of life, but so is mental health. Choosing activities that train the mind and teach emotional control can be as important as being able to run for an hour.

For instance, I have competed in the sport of badminton since I was quite young. I loved to play so much that eventually I finished seventh at the Canada Games in 2007. On the other end of the spectrum, I love golf. I claim that badminton is one of the most dynamic and physically demanding sports in the world, while golf can be a mental and emotional roller coaster. Each activity has distinct characteristics that make it challenging and healthy.


A broad base of experience and knowledge means that you can identify with more people on a personal level. You will be able to see the world through more perspectives and carry on conversations on more topics that people care about. People identify strongly with their jobs so if you have similar experience it can provide a great basis for a growing relationship.

People are my true passion, and my interest in the universe is for connecting with other consciousnesses. If my pursuit of deep knowledge was pulling me away from people, I would abandon it. My experience is that as I have learned more, I care more for people. As I learn and care more, I am able to help more. My own well-being is fundamentally connected to others, leading to my efforts to connect with and help as much of humanity as I can.

Work and finance

Finding a job that will allow you to use all of your abilities may be impossible unless you create it yourself. Especially in the internet age, people have had great success using their different skills and interests to create multiple streams of income for themselves. ProBlogger, one of Darren’s other blogs, is the go-to resource for people looking to make a living online.

On the other end of things, it is possible to combine interests that are generally very disparate into a single effort. For instance, one of my most definite long-term goals is to combine my educational backgrounds in physics and psychology to pursue knowledge about consciousness and the universe. Perhaps in a decade or two you will be able to read a book of mine on the subject!

What to work at? Follow your passions while creating value for people. Even if a job only reflects part of who you are, it can still be very valuable for you, your employer, and your customers.

Your work should not be your life, unless you want it to be. My work with Vision of Earth grows directly out of who I am and what I want to do with my life. My work is not an intrusion into my life, it is part of the expression of my life.

Solving social problems

Social issues tend to be complicated and controversial. Deep knowledge of a variety of fields is extremely valuable when trying to address any of the big problems that our society is facing today.

Some problems are best approached with a new over-arching mindset or a re-invention of the fundamentals. These are things that can only be achieved by polymaths or specialists working very closely together in teams. I believe that omnology may be one of the waves of the future. I certainly intend to see how far I can take it!

Several of my professors in university, in varying fields, told me that they expect scientific leaps of the near future to be based heavily on interdisciplinary study. I feel that they are right. We have compartmentalized our knowledge to such an extent that its growth is often hidden from us. I think it is time to set knowledge and passions free.

If your life and knowledge is a building that’s always under construction, it makes sense that a broad and solid foundation will give you a great platform for reaching for the stars.

This post is by Ben Harack, the polymath who founded Vision of Earth. He has four degrees, is working on a fifth, and has lived his life passionately pursuing the knowledge and activities that he loves. He hopes to better his society by making deep knowledge understandable and accessible by the general public.

Welcome to FeelGooder

Welcome to FeelGooder—a blog that has lived in my mind for years now, but which today becomes a reality.

I’ve been blogging for a number of years, and have always had as my number one goal to build sites that empower and equip people to improve in some area of their life. To this point, these blogs have had fairly narrow focuses—they’ve been about Photography, Twitter, and Blogging.

I’ve enjoyed these sites immensely but have always wanted to build a site with a broader focus that touched on other important “life topics”:

  • As a Dad with a young family,  I’d love to talk about and learn from others on topics like raising kids and being a good husband.
  • As a person with a growing home business, I’d love to connect with others who are on a similar path.
  • As a guy with a tummy a little too big for the rest of my body, I’d like to create a space where we can talk about issues of living more healthily.
  • As someone with a passion for making the world a better place, I’d love to be involved in a community that wasn’t just interested in self improvement, but in world improvement.

You get the picture. I want to be involved in a site that’s all about helping those who read (and write) it to lead lives that are everything that they can be.

This is not a site for me to tell you how to live—you wouldn’t want that! Rather, I hope it can be a place where we inform and inspire one another to not only Feel Good(er) but to Be Good(er).

In doing so I’m envisaging we’ll be touching on a lot of topics. Over the months and years ahead I suspect we’ll talk about everything from fitness and healthy living, to relationships, to emotional well being, to finance, to living generously, to parenting, to food, to productivity tips, and much, much more. But to start with we’ll focus upon five main categories:

  1. Health: fitness, diet, and emotional well being and more
  2. Relationships: family, friendship, romance, etc.
  3. Work: careers, entrepreneurship and developing skills for the workplace
  4. Finance: tips and stories to help look after the hip pocket
  5. Social Good: sustainable living, generosity, and making the world in a better place

To start with the site will run simply as a blog (with a mix of the above topics) but as we see what people write about and what ideas are resonating with those who read it, we hope to evolve the site and develop some regular columns and features.

Consider what we’re doing today a ‘soft launch’—something of a test to see what does and doesn’t work. I’m aiming for a fuller launch in January 2011.

Join the journey

If you’d like to journey with FeelGooder, there are a couple of ways you can do it.

1. Subscribe, follow, connect

For starters I’d love you to connect with FeelGooder by subscribing or following us in a way that suits your natural online rhythms. We have an email newsletter, an RSS feed, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page so far. Connect with the ones that fit with the way that you use the web.

2. Contribute

If you’d like to do more than follow what FeelGooder does—if you’d like to be a part of creating it—I’d love to hear from you. I’ve already lined up numerous contributors but I’m open to developing a team of people who are committed to the same sort of vision, and are interested in seeing where it might lead us.

Initially contributions will be accepted through voluntary guest posts, but as the site grows I’ll be looking to see how we can benefit those who contribute more than simply linking to their blogs and sites. If you’d like to contribute around some of the topics mentioned above, please make contact with any ideas you have for articles via our contact form.

Lastly – a big thanks to a few people including Lachlan Donald (server guru), Brian Gardner (who designed our theme based upon his Genesis framework) and Georgina Laidlaw (who will be editing FeelGooder) – as well as all the contributors who have already submitted posts and who are working on them.

I’m excited by the birth of FeelGooder today and hope that you’ll journey with us as we explore the possibilities of the site together. Stay tuned for our first post in the next hour or so!