No Goals For 2014

Ah, the end of the year. Let’s look back and see if I’ve accomplished my goals.

Goals? What goals?

As I wrote last year at this time, I declared I had no goals for 2013; no goals “other than enjoying life, including the uncertainty of it.”

So how did that work for me? Let’s see:
-First novel published – The Y in Life (Grey Wolfe Publishing)
-First book signing as an author at Purple Tree Books in Cheboygan, MI.
-Short story finalist in 2013 Michigan Bar Journal Short Story Contest
-Two short stories and one essay published in Written in the Mitten 2013 (Heron Bay Books)
-Two short stories published in Legends: Summer 2013 (Grey Wolfe Publishing Anthology)
-Two short stories and one essay published in Legends: Autumn 2013 (Grey Wolfe Publishing Anthology)
-Became a member of Detroit Working Writers
– Won first trial.
– Had numerous cases dismissed, maintaining the innocence of several clients
– Finished the 2012-13 bowling league with my highest average to date.
-Attended every Detroit City FC home match, caught an away match, and attended two Columbus Crew games.

Not a bad year, considering I set forth no goals.

Goals are more of a hindrance to living a happy life than not. In a survey commissioned by Steve Shapiro, 41% of adults agreed that achieving their goals had failed to make them happy, or had left them disillusioned, while 18% said their goals had destroyed a friendship, a marriage, or other significant relationship.  Steve Shaprio, Goal-free Living (Hoboken, New Hersey: Wiley, 2006) cited in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman (Faber and Faber, Inc. 2012).

Seriously. It can’t be said any clearer than this:

The optimism-focused, goal-fixated, positive-thinking approach to happiness is exactly the kind of thing the ego loves. Positive thinking is all about identifying with your thoughts, rather than disidentifying from them. And the ‘cult of optimism’ is all about looking forward to a happy or successful future, thereby reinforcing the message that happiness belongs to some other time than now. Schemes and plans for making things better fuel our dissatisfaction with the only place where happiness can ever be found – the present. ‘The important thing,’ (Eckhart) Tolle told me, ‘is not to be continuously lost in this mental projection away from now. Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.’ Another staccato chuckle. ‘And that’s a revelation for some people. To realize that your whole life is only ever now. Many people suddenly realize that they have lived most of their life as if this were not true – as if the opposite were true.’ Without noticing we’re doing it, we treat the future as intrinsically more valuable than the present. And yet the future never seems to arrive. Oliver Burkemann, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (Faber and Faber, Inc. 2012) p.116.

I know the goal-setting crowd likes acronyms, and mine for GOALS is Ghosts of Attaining Life Satisfaction. Yeah, it’s a stretch. But to chase these ethereal creatures and to attempt grasping them in order to experience a satisfied life seems to be a waste of energy and focus, and a distraction from the happiness of now.

I will look back on 2013 for the year that it was, reflect on it, savoring its joys and reflecting on its missteps and challenges. But for the future? All I have is now. This time next year I can review what another collection of 365 days of now-moments create.

2014 is uncertain, and I’m satisfied with that uncertainty. It is foolish of me to set a goal, for example, of writing and publishing another novel in 2014.  If something happens to alter that goal I’ll have excuses or disappointments to chastise myself with. With no goals I have no quota to meet. I’ll just look back and see what good was created, and be all the happier for it.

And I just might be surprised at how awesome a year it can turn out to be – like 2013 was!

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Visiting the Indies Chapter Three: Used on New Books & More, Mount Clemens, MI

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Sherman Alexie, National Book Award winner and author of over twenty books, issued a letter on September 1, 2013 to authors to become “a superhero for independent bookstores” by spending Small Business Saturday (November 30, 2013) hand-selling books at their local independent bookstore.  When I first saw the letter, I was intrigued, but The Y in Life was not out yet and I wasn’t sure where I could do this, or if even a local bookstore would be interested in doing this.  After all, I’m no Sherman Alexie.

In early November, I saw Used on New Books & More’s owner, Lisa Taylor post on Facebook a link to Alexie’s letter, praising it and commenting that they weren’t going to have a famous author visiting, but that she had recently been published in the local newspaper twice.  That got me thinking.

Used on New Books & More and its companion store Weirdsville Records is on New Street in downtown Mount Clemens.  It is just a block away from my office and from the 16th Circuit Court.  Lisa Taylor and her husband Davey have owned the stores for just over two years.  The first time I entered the store shortly after it opened, I recognized Lisa right away as a former Borders manager from the Utica, Michigan store.  In fact, the shelving in Used on New were former Borders book shelves.  After she posted the link to Alexie’s letter, I stopped in and asked if she was interested in having a not-so-famous author be a bookseller for the day on Small Business Saturday.

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Lisa Taylor, owner of Used on New Books with me.

So on Saturday, November 30, 2013, I got to spend four hours as a volunteer book seller at Used on New Books & More.  Along with a wide selection of used books, Used on New carries a few new books by local authors (including The Y in Life).  Weirdsville Records carries vinyl records (and turntables upon which you can play them) and other cool stuff, owned and managed by Lisa’s husband, Davey, who is also known as Sir Graveson of The Sir Graveson Show.

Used book stores are as important as new book stores, and are independently owned.  At new book stores, you can buy the latest titles.  Libraries are a great place to borrow books.  But many books have been read and kept in the libraries of individuals.  And sometimes these readers need to part with them, leaving the loved books homeless.  Used book stores offer a shelter for these books until a new reader finds and purchases them, giving them a new home.  No one likes to see books in recycle bins or worse, the trash.

Needless to say, I had a blast.  Spending four hours in a book store is easy for me.  Doing so while engaging with customers and selling and signing The Y in Life was even more fun.  Surrounded by Borders’ bookshelves and the company of Lisa and Dave Taylor, Used on New Books & More and Weirdsville is a funky place for the reader and music aficionado to enjoy.

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Signing a copy of “The Y in Life” for an adoring fan (and family member – Jill Robertson)