How One Random Act Expanded My Horizons

What I saw can change the way you see everything

Photo by Danny on Unsplash

Yesterday I decided to do something totally random after lunch.

I walked into a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I picked a number between one and one hundred.


I walked 87 steps across the store, letting the aisles guide my turns.

At step 87, I stood in front of a magazine rack. I reached out and picked up Art and Architecture.

I flipped through the pages until something grabbed my attention. I found it on a page that had a picture of an orange wall with what looked like a crane painted on it.

On that page was printed these words:

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” — John Maedas

I closed the magazine, put it back on the shelf, and walked out into the blazing summer sun.

The Spark

I gave myself 24 hours to think about what I saw.

Lots of things came to mind.

What is obvious? What do you have left when you throw the obvious away? How do you decide what meaning to add?

Since I’m doing this random act as an exercise for my exploration of The Artist’s Way, I decided to find the lessons I could apply to my writing.

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash

It doesn’t take a genius to see what everyone sees.

It’s tempting to jump on a popular bandwagon to get attention.

You write the same kind of motivational articles, give the same well-worn advice, and offer the same solutions to the same problems.

You may as well plagiarize your mentors.


Nobody wants a copy. If I want to read Jeff Goins or Michael Hyatt, I’ll go to their blogs to do it.

We want fresh stuff from you.

Give us something original.

Throw away all the advice you’ve heard so far. Use it. Test it. See what works.

After you do, then you can…

Add your own meaning to your words.

I’m not saying you have to throw out the dictionary and create your own language.

Have some experiences. Do something random. Step into your discomfort zone and stay there awhile.

When you read something meaningful, give it a whirl. Does it work for you? How well? Can you tweak it and make it better? Can you find situations when the conventional wisdom fails you?

That’s what we want to know about.

Your experience.

Your lessons.

Your sense of meaning about it all.

Do that and when we want you, we don’t get Stephen King instead. We get your gritty, gutsy, hard-won insights. We get the best of you, not some ordinary “me, too” writer.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Show us you care.

You’ve probably heard that nobody cares about what you think until they know you care about them.

Challenge your readers to stretch themselves. Give them something to do, and help them see how they can do it. Show them that even if they fail, they can learn something — then dust themselves off and try again.

Life doesn’t have to be dull. It can be an adventure.

You can be a kid again.

You can make exploration a part of your weekly routine. When you do, your life will be richer, your experiences will be fuller, and you’ll have lessons no one else can teach.

You show you care by taking the risk for us. When we see that you won’t ask us to do anything you haven’t, we’ll trust you and listen to you.

Trust your insights.

Here’s another quote that may scare you (or thrill you):

“What’s obvious to you is amazing to others.” — Derek Sivers

When you see something every day, it’s obvious.

In other words, it’s so boring you think no one would ever be amazed by it.

That’s only true if it’s obvious to them.

My son and I visited a magic store when we were on vacation. The store clerk did a trick for us and we were amazed.


Because we didn’t know how he did it.

You have a unique pair of eyes. What you see is shaped by your past, your biases, and your willingness to think differently.

Often the most amazing solutions are the ones others overlook.

That might be your golden opportunity.

Take action on it, and you might change your life — and your reader’s.

Don’t let your genius lay dormant. Use it. Encourage others to use theirs. That’s where real change happens.

What will you do differently this week?

Writer. Teacher. Bestselling Author. Shy Kid turned Fear Fighter. I write about communication, business, and personal growth.

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