Podcast

Will You Allow Your Failures To Pole Vault You To Success?

Will You Allow Your Failures To Pole Vault You To Success?

During the MLB playoff telecast of the NLCS between Philadelphia and San Diego, game 2, Fox analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz made an observation about failures. He remarked how nobody wants to be that guy who has a mishap or failure during a game…but if you allow it to pole vault you to success it can be a positive thing in your career.

I’ve seen good athletic coaches approach players who just experienced a disaster and convey the same sermon. “You can let that failure define you as a failure, or you can step up, learn from it and let it define your comeback to success!”

So what’s it going to be?

Life is filled with examples where people failed under pressure. Many of them – like a major league baseball player – in a public way. I’m not much of a baseball fan, but you can go read a list of the top 10 major league baseball blunders of all time. These aren’t necessarily sustained failures, but moments of time where a player bungled a play. That’s important for our conversation today – these are moments in time. But that doesn’t mean they lack the ability to become something more. Sometimes a single blunder morphs into another and another…forming a string of failures that can define an entire career.

A moment in time vs. systemic behavior that defines our life — do you believe we can choose?

Conversations about fate abound. I’m fascinated by how many people embrace notions of fate where they ascribe meaning to everything that happens. They use phrases like “it wasn’t meant to be,” or “it was meant to be.” Whether it’s an encounter with a new person, snagging a great parking spot, landing a new job, or not even being interviewed for a new job – I encounter many people who believe these things happen for a reason.

Maybe the difference between us (me and these folks) isn’t that great, but it’s still interesting to me. They think these things happen for a reason and are largely outside their control. I think these things can be leveraged and used for our growth – which means I think we can choose to use these things ‘for a reason,’ but I don’t think they were necessarily destined to be.

One big thing bothers me about such a notion – fate means we’re victims of it. Or victors because of it. It’s completely random based on…nothing! The universe or some unknown power puts us in a bucket. Some of us are winners. Some are losers. And mostly, we’re stuck with whatever category fate puts us in.

I’ve not met many people who say it that way. Or who claim that’s what they think. It doesn’t sound very good when you state it so clearly. But listen to what people say – and how they say it.

A person hoping to make a business deal experiences failure. He tells me, “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

A person pursuing a personal dream that has yet to be realized due to a few unsuccessful attempts remarks, “If it’s not meant to be, then it just won’t happen, but I’m going to keep trying.”

These are almost daily comments I hear. It’s easy to let them impact my own mentality. I sometimes worry if my viewpoint is being clouded by such language. I choose to oppose it, so I work hard to resist the urge to see myself in those terms.

Are they right? Are there things meant to be versus things that aren’t meant to be? Does the universe care if my personal dreams are achieved? Or not?

Randy Cantrell

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Getting It Right In Realtime May Mean Changing Your Mind

Getting It Right In Realtime May Mean Changing Your Mind

“In a good bookroom, you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain

Twain was right. I know the feeling well, having surrounded myself with books for most of my adult life.

Only recently did I rid myself of the vast array of books that surrounded me. But it was time and I have no regrets. Hopefully, somebody else is benefiting from the thousands of books I donated not long ago to a local library.

Absorbing wisdom is an interesting phrase used by Twain in that quote. He didn’t say knowledge. There’s a difference.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
― Albert Einstein

Here at LTW I’ve long given my personal definition of wisdom as the model from which each podcast episode is cast – getting it right in realtime. I stand by that definition, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only kind of wisdom. Sometimes we learn wisdom because we got it wrong – the first time. Now the question is, “Will we get it right the next time?” Fools don’t. Wise people do. Simply put, wise people learn, and learn faster.

“Never laugh at live dragons.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

For our 45th wedding anniversary Rhonda bought me a toy dragon. For some unknown reason, I’ve dubbed him Carl.

Carl, the green dragon

Purple-DragonCarl is dragon number 3 inside The Yellow Studio. The first was found many years ago in Clearwater, Florida while on a business trip. I found him in a store one day and kept going back daily wrestling with whether or not to purchase him. He’s ceramic and heavy. I was flying home and traveling as light as possible. By end of my last day there, I intentionally waited until close to closing time, walked in, grabbed him and made the store owner an offer, which he accepted. I can’t remember how much he was priced originally or why I even decided he might not be worth that amount, but pleased with my discounted price I brought him home to the Yellow Studio where he’s been a fixture for many years (over 20). You can likely figure out why I liked him so much. 😉

 

The first actual toy dragon came from the same place as Carl, a toy merchant at a local flea market in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Jimmie. For over 35 years Jimmie has been collecting and peddling toys. Ebay and the Internet have made profit harder to come by for Jimmie, but daily he mans his booth in this flea market jam-packed with toys of all ilks, including an occasional dragon.

Carl and this unnamed orange dragon came from Jimmie. I rather love them all. And recently told Jimmie to be on the look out for whatever might turn into my 3rd purchase from Jimmie.

These are the dragons who now reside Inside The Yellow Studio. And I’m always reminded of that Tolkien quote, “Never laugh at live dragons.” I suspect one’s first encounter with a live dragon might prove so fearful that a wise person would learn to not laugh, but to take the dragon seriously. So it is with learning wisdom. We may not get it right the first time, but we’d best get it right the next time lest it prove fatal.

As much as we may want to get it right in realtime, that often doesn’t happen. And it’s mostly okay. Except when it’s not.

For years I’ve shared with you my parental advice, “Don’t make a mistake from which you can’t recover.” We never wanted our children to make a mistake so foolish that it caused permanent or long-lasting damage. We trained them and hoped they’d learn from their mistakes, but mostly…we wanted those mistake to be ones from which they could recover or find redemption from.

It wasn’t just parental advice, it was what we tried to accomplish in our own lives, as their parents. Yes, we sometimes got it wrong, but with the things that mattered the most – those things that are eternal – we got it completely right. We leaned hard into providing the spiritual food our children needed to grow up strong, resilient and stedfast in the Faith.

Daily conversations, lots of questions answered, lots of study and Bible reading, prayer, worship and all the things to provide growing kids with enough information to figure out whether or not they’d get it right and serve God, or if they’d rather get it wrong and serve themselves. They choose wisely and got it right in real-time.

But I’m sad to report that sometimes getting it wrong in real-time can happen due to a change of will – a change of mind. One child decided God, Faith and eternity weren’t worth the sacrifice. That a marriage. And children weren’t worth it either. That a valuable career were not longer worth it. But instead that sin, self and vice were more valuable.

It was a hard decision to watch, but none of us liveth to ourselves and no man dies to himself (Romans 14:7). What we do impacts others. But we all have choices to make. We’re unable to make decisions for others. Even if we could impose our will on adult children, should we? What good would result? Manipulation and coercion are not the path forward.

Minds can be changed for good…or bad.

Here at LTW we’re intensely focused on getting it RIGHT (good) in real-time. We’re all about self-discipline and self-sacrifice because these are the attributes of wisdom, and living our best lives.

In my own quest to be a better person – and live a better life – I’ve had to alter my course at times. Improvement and growth always demand change. But it’s good change and we all benefit from it. Those changes, unlike the physical growth we see in our kids as they get taller and more mature, first begin in our brain. We change our mind. We decide we want or need to stop doing certain things. We decide we want to start doing other things. Before any action is taken we make up our mind that we want to take action.

Yesterday I saw a musician who I follow post about being 20 years sober. No alcohol. No drugs. For 20 years. That was a choice this musician made and in his post he urged his fellow musicians by saying if you don’t think you can play rock and roll and maintain sobriety, he was proof that it could be done. Over 20 years ago he changed his mind about drugs and alcohol and here he is, twenty years later, a better man because of it.

That’s getting it right.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
― Rumi (13th century Turkish poet)

I’ve changed my mind many times. About many different things.

Just this morning my son and I were talking about such things. I reflected with him how I’ve sometimes encountered people who readily say, “I’m dug in. I’m not going to change my mind.” I’m sad for such people because they’re intentionally refusing to learn, develop, learn, understand or grow. It’s such a foolish way to go, but it’s our life – we can do as we please.

Some weeks ago I did an episode about an ideal outcome that Rhonda and I have been thinking about for some time – an outcome that involves us planning to have a couple of short-term rental spaces, independent bedroom suites. Well, since I recorded that episode some things have changed that have caused us to change our mind. It’s just one illustration of how a change of heart (mind) can result in a change in what we most want to pursue. And that’s how it ought to be if we’re open to figuring out a better way, or a path that might serve us better.

And you know what?

Other people helped us figure that out. Funny how that works. Leaning on people we trust – people we know want our very best – can serve us unlike anything else. If only we’d open ourselves to forge relationships with people who are that safe for us.

I was reading one of the many research tomes about happiness. To be clear, I think happiness and the pursuit of it are highly overrated. Not because I want to be unhappy, but because happiness is so fleeting. I think a better outcome (goal) is peace and joy. But my view is likely biased because of my faith and belief in the Bible. The Bible speaks quite a lot about love, joy and peace – not happiness.

At any rate, this research was interesting to me – about happiness. One key barometer, per this study, of happiness was having at least one great friend. How do you the greatness of the friend? Somebody you could call at 3am. Whether it’s because you need help or you simply feel alone, a great friend is somebody you can call at 3am and they’ll answer.

Shockingly, some married folks answered that they had nobody – not a single person – they could call at 3am. And I’m thinking, “Not your husband or wife?” How sad is that?

I know such friends can be hard to find. And keep. But anybody who hasn’t got a friend like that should not sit idly by and accept that as “just how it’s got to be.” No, change your mind, then get busy changing that circumstance of your life. Firstly, be the 3am friend somebody else needs. Do that with enough folks and I guarantee you’ll cultivate somebody in your life who will be that person for you.

Change. Growth. Improvement.

It starts in our head (or heart). It progresses in how we behave. And how we behave determines who we truly are.

I’m disinterested in being somebody else, but I’m very interested in being a better version of myself. Always improving is my quest. Much of the time I fail. It’s my own fault. I’ve got nobody else to blame. This is my life and if I’m going to become a better person then it’s up to me to first decide, then – like my sober rockstar – to take action so it can become my reality.

Rinse and repeat. Because like his sobriety, our improvement is a daily discipline. Wisdom demands constant attention. Climbing the hill over and over and over again. Wisdom is never a once and done affair. Foolishness, like entropy, creeps into our life. It’s easy because neglect is easy. It’s easy to not make your bed. It’s easy to not vacuum or mop the floors. It’s easy to avoid mowing the grass, or shoveling the snow. It’s easy to neglect our health with our diet habits. The path of easy is the most destructive path we can choose, but resisting it is, well…hard. Self-deprivation is tough. We could ask the sober rockstar how tough it’s been and I’ll bet he’d tell us every day is a struggle. He’s also tell us it’s worth it.

Randy Cantrell

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Age, Broken Hearts & The Getting of Wisdom

Age, Broken Hearts & The Getting of Wisdom

Some time ago I ran across this verse and in short order I wrote the title of today’s show: age, broken hearts and the getting of wisdom. I don’t agree with every sentiment expressed, but I found it interesting. What do you think about it?
What does it feel like to be old?
The other day, a young person asked me: – What did it feel like to be old?
I was very surprised by the question, since she did not consider me old.
When he saw my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question.
And after reflection, I concluded that getting old is a gift.
Sometimes I am surprised at the person who lives in my mirror. But I don’t worry about those things for long.
I wouldn’t trade everything I have for a few less gray hairs and a flat stomach.
I don’t scold myself for not making the bed, or for eating a few extra “little things.”
I am within my rights to be a little messy, to be extravagant, and to spend hours staring at my flowers.
I have seen some dear friends leave this world, before they had enjoyed the freedom that comes with growing old.
-Who cares if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4am and then sleep until who knows what time?
I will dance with me to the rhythm of the 50’s and 60’s.
And if later I want to cry for some lost love… I will.
I’ll walk down the beach in a swimsuit that stretches over my plump body and dive into the waves letting myself go, despite the pitying looks of the bikini wearers.
They’ll get old too, if they’re lucky…
It is true that through the years my heart has ached for the loss of a loved one, for the pain of a child, or for seeing a pet die.
But it is suffering that gives us strength and makes us grow.
An unbroken heart is sterile and will never know the happiness of being imperfect.
I am proud to have lived long enough for my hair to turn gray and to retain the smile of my youth, before the deep furrows appeared on my face.
Now, to answer the question honestly, I can say: – I like being old, because old age makes me wiser, freer!
I know I’m not going to live forever, but while I’m here, I’m going to live by my own laws, those of my heart.
I’m not going to regret what wasn’t, nor worry about what will be.
The time that remains, I will simply love life as I did until today, the rest I leave to God.

Randy Cantrell

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Ambition Has No Expiration Date

Ambition Has No Expiration Date

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” – Mark Twain

People under 40 tend to think that as you get older your ambitions wane. I was once 40 and I thought the same thing. Until I grew older and hit 50. Then I hit 60. And my ambitions changed, but if anything, they intensified. Then I hit 65 and the intensity had grown even more intense. Compared to my younger ambitions, while very different, my current ambitions are much more focused. My resolve is far deeper than it was when I was younger.

There are many reasons for that, I suppose. Not the least of which is the realization that time is moving quickly through the hourglass of life. “If not now, when?” is a question rolling around in many older, gray (or bald) heads.

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ambition is hard, but lack of ambition is harder.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Pain. Struggle. Sorrow. Adversity.

Everybody experiences these things. Daily. If you don’t think so, it’s only because you don’t know. And I don’t either. Mostly, we’re quite consumed with our problems. We notice others when their problems seem heavier than ours.

The lessons of life (and wisdom) are taught to us through all these difficulties. For some, it crushed dreams and ambitions. For others, it fuels them, causing them to grow even larger. I wish I fully understand why some of us choose to surrender and others of us choose to fight even harder. I could likely help many more people if only I could solve that riddle, but I’m not smart enough to figure it out. I only know that each of us has a choice to make when trouble comes. We can hide (like cattle) or we can run directly into the battle and fight (like buffalo).

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.” – Oscar Wilde

It’s a tall, tall order to keep ourselves on a short, short leash. Self-control. Restraint. Temperance. Self-discipline. These are hard, but possible things. You’ve got the power over yourself just like I’ve got the power over myself. “I can’t help myself,” is what fools say because it’s completely inaccurate. It’s an excuse. It’s a statement of surrender where people basically declare, “I’ve decided to be a victim.”

I don’t know how old you are, or all the stuff you may be battling. And I don’t know all the opportunities you can see – much less the ones you can’t. We’ve all got unseen opportunities.

I once considered 40 old. Funny how it morphs over time. As we grow older, our definition of old keeps moving. 😉

With decades of experience in fighting dragons, I’ve got different ambitions than I once had. Things that seemed important then – and honestly, they were important – are no longer as important, if at all. Part of that is growth and increased wisdom. Part of it is circumstance. When you’ve got small children you’re pursuing some things. When the kids are in high school, approaching college…you’re chasing something very different. When the kids leave home, get married and start having kids of their own, it changes even more. And with those changes in situations and circumstances come drastic changes in ambition. For me, they haven’t lessened, but they’ve changed.

Here are my financial ambition-fueled terms: sustainable, predictable, reliable, modest, practical, and probable. 

Turns out almost all my ambitions could be described using those same terms.

It wasn’t always that way. Not in my 20s, 30s or even 40s. And largely, not even in my 50s.

But let’s address something you may have experienced similar to me – times when ambition was simply to survive. To just get through the present storm. It’s less about chasing sunshine, but more about getting out from under the hail storm.

Here in north central Texas we get thunderstorms. In fact, we’re having one as I prepare for this episode. Thunder. Wind. Rain.

I’m not thinking about sunshine at this moment. I’m thinking “here’s another thunderstorm” and wondering how long it might last. I’m inside and safe, but I’m selling one of our cars. I just listed it last night and now I’ve got to figure out when to book appointments for people to come see it. I don’t want to do that until this storm passes. My ambition isn’t centered around sunshine, but around letting this storm (and rain) pass first. If I weren’t selling a car, I’d likely embrace this storm though ’cause I rather like a good storm every now and again. 😉

Just today I saw this headline – When older couples break up, it’s not always about conflict. There’s something else going on.

I only paid attention to it because I’m older…and we’re an older couple. No risk of us breaking up, but I was curious. And it speaks to the ambitions we may or may lack in our most sacred relationships – our marriages.

The article says…

“Oftentimes, what we see among retirees is ​that ​it’s typically not about conflict,” said Galena Rhoades, Ph.D., a research professor in the University of Denver’s psychology department. “The reason for divorce is lack of positives.”

Older couples, by contrast, ​tend to ​confront different challenges. With their kids grown up, they may struggle to reestablish their identities as independent from their role as parents. Shifting into retirement mode can also throw a wrench into the relationship.

“There’s a link between transition and distress,” Rhoades said. “Going through any stressful event or change, like retirement, means changes in how couples interact with each other.”

For older couples facing a malaise, there are ever-evolving alternatives to divorce. Opportunities to redefine the relationship abound.

My ambition in my marriage has no expiration date. If anything, I’m way more ambitious today than ever. For some simple, but profound reasons.

  1. I cherish my wife more than ever. That’s not new, but it has certainly deepened over time.
  2. Faith and love have grown…as we’ve both grown older, together. We made vows to each other before God, and we have a clear understanding of God’s demands for marriage. After all, He instituted it. One man, one woman, together for life. That’s our conviction and our commitment.
  3. I said it in the episode about strong men, but it bears repeating because of social media. I put my wife on a pedestal – sometimes not as well as I should, or as well as she deserves – but I have never put her on display.
  4. We are the most important people in the world to each other. We love our family, but our number 1 priority is each other. It’s necessarily so and we want it to be that way for our tribe. We don’t want to be our son’s most important people. That should be (and is), his wife. Love isn’t a competition. There’s enough to go around. It’s a matter of priority though and devotion, based on that priority.
  5. If it is to be, it’s up to US. Rhonda and I are the architects of our marriage and our life together. Incorporated into that is our individual life. I don’t decide for her. She doesn’t decide for me. However, each of us owes the other due consideration for how our choices impact both of us. Life isn’t a self-centered ordeal. We’re in this together. All the time!

Time can dampen or fuel an ambition, but the best ambitions don’t expire. Ambitions like having a great marriage! Or helping the people you love. Or leaning toward wisdom!

Randy Cantrell

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Two Women, One Dream & Plan M

Two Women, One Dream & Plan M

Happy New Years!

This is a bonus episode. I wasn’t sure if I’d release it or not, but why not? I hope it serves to inspire you to dream your own dreams. And better yet, to pursue them so you can make them your reality. Thank you for listening.  -Randy

I’ve already introduced you to one woman, Re, my maternal grandmother. The second woman I’ve not yet talked about, is Nelda, my mother-in-law. Nelda passed away from breast cancer when she was only 42. Rhonda and I were in our first year of marriage so my exposure to Nelda was limited to the few years I dated Rhonda and that single year of our married life. Rhonda was Nelda’s firstborn. Five more would follow. At the time of her death, there were still children at home.

My perspective of Nelda, while limited, now consists of being the husband to her daughter. I suspect Rhonda has qualities like her mom. For starters, her mother always seemed strong and resilient. Her daughter, my wife, is. Nelda’s spiritual fortitude heavily influenced the family. When Rhonda was a little girl Nelda went looking for a spiritual environment in which to raise her children. She found the truth found only in scripture. Had she not done that, I would have never met Rhonda – because we met at church.

When I began dreaming about Re’s Retreat – I told you about that idea back in this episode. I told Rhonda about it, but I also told her I had her mother in mind and that my ideal outcome would be to also create another space named after her mother, Nelda’s Nest.

We’d daydream about it. We’d make notes. We’d share ideas – house ideas, decorating ideas.

The idea for some short-term rental spaces didn’t start with the 2 women who were important in our lives, but they quickly entered the picture for me. And I held to the notion that I only wanted to create awesome, comfortable spaces for couples because that’s what I knew. Rhonda and I had experienced a variety of spaces so we had firsthand knowledge of what we liked, what we disliked, what we wish we could find, and more. While we’re not qualified to speak for everybody – and certainly our preferences may not be everybody’s preferences – we felt like we knew what would work. Namely, what would likely work better!

The memories and influences of two important women put pressure on us to get it right.

I define wisdom very simply as getting it right in real-time. That’s our daily prayer…that we’ll make wise decisions.

We’ve always felt the appropriate pressure to get decisions right, but it’s more intense now that we’re older. I’ve likened it to landing a plane, the metaphor for achieving our next goals. At our age, the runway is shorter so we have to really hit our mark. There’s little room for error. That advice we always gave the kids, “Don’t make a mistake from which you can’t recover,” reverberates. We may not have time to recover so it’s urgent and important that we get it right in real-time!

The dream began a few years ago as we contemplated turning 65. Not because of retirement, but because that’s when you must register for Medicare health insurance coverage (without any penalty – apply for it outside your initial enrollment period and you’ll pay more). It’s an important mile marker that was fast approaching, but it was just one of many mile markers.

Cognitive decline is a fact of life. I read an article published online on the National Library of Medicine website entitled, “When does age-related cognitive decline begin?”

I’m not a physician so I wasn’t able to understand all of it, but it confirmed some things I already knew to be true from my observations. While I’m 15 years past 50 I still feel like I’m mostly in good shape cognitively. Of course, I could be nuts. How would I know? 😀

I’ve seen older men in my life display cognitive decline that was most noticeable to me as they reached 80. To be fair, I’ve not lived with them so my judgment isn’t based on being around them 24/7. Stats don’t address how individual such things occur. We’re all different.

I could be completely out of my mind before the end of the year. I hope not. But there are no guarantees. 😉

I’m playing the odds. I’m praying and dreaming. Dreaming preceded planning. It always does.

People grow old. Circumstances change because of age. Health. Finances. Relationships. It can all change and not all that change is bad. Some years ago I felt compelled to prepare, knowing that my preparation wouldn’t be able to consider every outcome. Still, preparing beats avoiding it. That whole be a buffalo thing – avoid hiding. I didn’t want to hide from this.

Okay, what do the memories of two women have to do with the dream?

Everything. They represent our dream which is driving our preparation.

The genesis of the dream was our short-term rental experiences. Some of the places we stayed, including some of our favorite places, had names given to them by the owners. Mostly, they were names meant to foster serenity or some other pleasant feeling. As a business guy that made sense. Good marketing and all that.

Four or five years ago I hadn’t yet thought of one day operating a short-term rental of my own. But as soon as we began to book places I started studying the space. Curiosity drove me to question our hosts about their entry into it and ask about their experiences. People were forthcoming and open to share. My interest was rising.

My business curiosity kicked up a notch. I dove into reading more, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and getting acquainted with people I trusted – folks who owned and operated their own short-term rental properties. As always, I was making notes and figuring things out.

True to my customer service fanatism, I took mental (and physical) notes of all our experiences noting details that I thought could be improved. The places we stayed were not built from the ground up. Mostly, they were adapted from existing spaces. And we never had a bad experience. Some were just better than others. A few details we dictated by the space and the location. For example, some more remote places lacked good Internet. Others did the best they could with the limited space available to them – but they were a bit cramped.

From the start, we knew we wanted to create a great experience for married couples…couples like us. But there’s a star of the show that plays a prominent role in all this, a place. A specific place! A place dominated by older, more mature people. A serene place attractive to those of us yearning for peace, tranquility, and slower-paced. Since we were the demographic of folks we dreamed of serving it became easier to dream with specificity. Details filled our dreams.

We created the bedroom suite and the rest of the space in our heads. Then we began to sketch it out on paper, listing the things we loved where stayed and the things we wished had been better. Quickly we realized that some of our gripes really didn’t cost much. They just required a more thoughtful approach. It was apparent to us that many of our hosts had never spent a night in their suite. And if they did, they weren’t noticing things that stood out quite clearly for us.

Then we began to assess whether any of these things were detrimental. For example, as inexpensive as large TVs are, why have a 32″ TV when you could have opted for a 55″ or larger? Any downside to providing guests with a larger set? None we could think of. The worst-case scenario is they never turn it on. Okay, so what?

Rather than the smallest microwave possible – one where you could barely squeeze a full-sized plate inside…why not opt for a bigger, nicer unit? Again, not that much money is involved in these choices.

Seating is important. One of our favorite places has a nice small den-type area (which has a big TV), but some of the seating they have in place will give you a backache within a few minutes because the back of the sofa forces your shoulders forward putting pressure on your lower back. During our first stay, I moved it out of the way and in its place, I slide over a nearby recliner that was much more comfortable. After that, every time we entered the place in future stays, I’d rearrange the furniture so I could avoid backaches. Yes, before leaving I always moved things back.

Noise is important. Well, actually, quiet is important. During the night you can hear things you may not pay attention to during waking hours. No TV sound. No conversation. Silence. Except for that refrigerator that hums like a drone flying overhead. Or a wall clock with mechanical ticking. Again, it seemed obvious the hosts had never spent a night here…and if they did, they must have worn earplugs. Me? I use a white noise app on my phone going through a Bluetooth speaker. I’ll use that no matter what, but it’s mandatory when the room is filled with racket.

At night, when you turn off the lights, the lights around the room matter. Especially LED lights. I’m the guy who carries a roll of black electrical tape. In some places, I’m guilty of taping over dozens of little lights that stay illuminated. Those power strips that have an ON light. The AC unit that has multiple lights and displays. The USB ports with lights. The router or connectivity hubs. The microwave oven clock. The air filter. The wall switch that operates the ceiling fan. The TV that has a red LED that turns on when the TV is off (that was a brilliant design). 😉

Turn out all the lights. Get the room dark. Now look around at all the little lights in the room. When you’re a super light sleeper who battles insomnia, it’s not a recipe for a restful night. Night lights in the bathroom are helpful because you’re in a place you’re not used to. So when you get up in the middle of the night, muscle memory kicks in. Without that bathroom night light you might find yourself nose first into a wall because you forgot you weren’t home.

None of these things takes a bunch of money. A bigger TV might involve a couple of hundred bucks. A bigger microwave may involve an extra $50. The rest of it is just thoughtfulness and figuring out how to better manage the space.

We’ve now got a few years’ worth of these kinds of notes. And we’re still in the dreaming phase.

The overall dream is fueled because of that age thing – our growing older. That whole cognitive decline possibility and whatever else may befall us. Daily I pray and concern myself (to some degree) with self-sufficiency and not being burdensome to anybody. Firstly, to not be burdensome to Rhonda. Secondly, to the rest of the family. Thirdly, to anybody else! A big part of this dream is to generate income via short-term rental so we can cash flow our next chapter and memorialize these two women we loved, and provide a memorable experience for people – just like the best experiences we’ve been afforded by many of our hosts! Additionally (this is important) so we can have some spaces we can provide to friends and family when the spaces aren’t generating some income. Sharing matters.

For about four years we’ve lived with the dream while studying, researching, and learning. Doing our best to figure it out so we can minimize learning on the job, which we know we’ll have to do. We just don’t want to learn everything on the job.

About a year ago we migrated to the planning phase, which still incorporates the dreaming phase, but now we were thinking of how not just what. How can we accomplish these dreams? What will it take to do this?

Along the way, there was plenty of, “Do we want to do this?” It wasn’t always so cut and dried. So we gave ourselves time to wrestle with it a bit and see if we could pin it down. We’re still working on it taking it one step at a time.

Right now – as I hit record – we’re working to assemble the resources for the next chapter of our lives. I’m not sure which iteration we’re on, but it ain’t plan A.

John Mullins and Randy Komisar wrote a book back in 2009 entitled Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model. While the context is business, it has a broader application. We have all kinds of plans in our life. Some argue that we ought to burn the boats, a metaphor for going forward with your plan and destroying any opportunity to go back. That’s ridiculously stupid advice because as the authors of that book point out, traction and momentum often don’t happen until you get much further down the line of altering the plan.

Think about it. Here you are with your plan A. Now you take a step, your first. Do you know more now than you did one step ago? Probably. Are you going to learn or ignore what you learn? I think of those freestyle rock climbers. You know, those crazy folks who climb with nothing more than their hands and a bag of chalk. No ropes. No safety harnesses. They make one move on the face of a mountain. Their very next move is going to be based on what they know now. Sure they’ve mapped out a course. They have a plan. But plans change based on new information. If not, we’re idiots!

We’ve taken steps toward our dream, but all those steps are focused on just one thing – readying ourselves for the actual execution of our plans to build two short-term rental suites on the same property where we live. That’s the dream. The plan. The ideal outcome. We’ve mapped out very specific ideas and committed them to paper. Are they realistic? We think so, but we’re not 100% sure. What we are 100% sure about is that our current plans will likely change. And more than once. But that’s part of the fun. I call it plan M because there are 26 letters in the alphabet and M is smack dab in the middle. We might hit it on plan D. Or it might be plan Y. Lord willing, we’ll execute some plan. Perhaps it’ll be vastly different than what we have in mind. We’ll just have to keep moving forward to find out.

Right now, the plan is going according to plan. We’re architecting the next stage of the process. It began with ridding ourselves of unnecessary things. Then it moved to assemble resources so we could fund the goal. That’s the step we’re currently in. Counting the cost, marshaling resources – that’s where we are right now. From there we’ll have a more clear idea of what to do next.

Hopefully, sharing our journey is helpful as you create your own journey.

Randy Cantrell

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