Get your motor runnin’: A 21-Day Saluteâ„¢


The blah-o-sphere is rife with earnest, can-do, decisive (if mildly hungover) good will and wishfulness today, and probably will be until at least tomorrow.

Here’s the thing: If you really want to change a habit, you know what’s involved. It’s no mystery, and you’re certainly not going to find the miracle solution in any book, blog post or bag the Wizard has handy.

To change a habit, you…

  • do it in tiny pieces
  • do it for the right (i.e. values-aligned) reasons
  • do it with the aid of external accountability of some kind

Like I said, you doubtless know this already. But if you don’t, if you’re 12 or have been living under a rock through the Age of Self-Help or are just plain obtuse, please, trust the lady with 747 blog posts, 28 acting columns and a 1500-word monthly newsletter she’s been publishing since May of 2007. It’s not magic; it’s one stupid goddamned motherfucking foot in front of the other. Period.

I have big, big plans for 2009. Crazy-big. I’m going to be a writing, speaking, teaching, consulting, marketing sumbitch over the next 12 months, and that’s on top of the design work I’ll probably be doing at least through the end of summer to keep the money flowing in sufficient amounts. (And yes, there will be more amusing songs. Yes, soon. No, you won’t be able to share this one with your children, either, although thankfully, there’s no butter involved like there was in the filthy, filthy previous one.)

Hence, the Salute. I’ve been doing these little (HA!) 21-Day Salutesâ„¢ since May of 2006, when The BF, generally the most patient and tolerant soul in my immediate sphere, told me I might want to consider cheering the hell up. I thought it over; I decided I did, in fact, want to Cheer the Hell Up, and that part of the reason I hadn’t been cheery recently was because I’d plain and simply gotten out of the habit.

There are various schools of thought on how long it takes to change a habit. Their estimates range from 21 to 30 to 90 days, depending on personality type and exactly how bad that heroin habit of yours is, missy. I’m an optimist, also, wildly impatient, so I went with the low number. You could do the same and renegotiate at 21, if you trust yourself to do that.

This particular exercise is to get me in the habit of writing daily. I only committed to 5x/week on the blog, but I know myself: if I don’t seed the habit with a kickstart, it’s going to be really rough come Monday.

Another little hack I’m using to get a jump on my year-long resolutions is joining Leo Babauta’s 10-minutes/30-days Power of Less project. You sign up, commit to whatever it is you’re going to do for 10 minutes each day for 30 days. There are some nifty freebie support documents, if you like that sort of thing, and a big, fat forum (probably literally, in parts, given it’s the start of a new year) to keep you honest, or at least to offer you the opportunity. I’m using it to stay on track with my 10 minutes per day of guitar playing. God help you all. And my neighbors.

So join me there! I’m “communicatrix”, like I am pretty much everywhere these days.

There are also some non-sucky posts I’ve found that cover looking backward and forward (the only way to goal-set, believe me):

  • Jared Goralnick, overachieving punk that he is, has an excellent one that points to some goodies, too
  • I loved my other new-in-’08 friend Chris Guillebeau’s post, too; it’s thorough, with a very good how-to plan
  • Not strictly a look back, but a great 2009 thoughtstarter for business blogger types is Mark Hayward’s inaugural post on his new blog
  • New-year-hater Seth Godin has a typically interesting take on things, too, of course
  • And just because he’s hilarious, a brilliant writer you should all be reading (check out his Amazon MP3 Advent Calendar series if you don’t believe me) and, well, also because I love technology doo-dads that actually live up to their promises of making the world a happier, better place, I’m throwing in Andy Ihnatko’s “Best of Tech” column from the Sun-Times

Now, SPILL IT, kids! What’s your 2009 plan? How are you sticking to it? If you’ve made it public, say so and put in a link. If you haven’t, consider it.

I’m not fool enough to expect everyone to play along with a Saluteâ„¢. But an effort…right?

Happy brand spankin’ new 2009, everyone!



  1. Hey! I am really excited about your writing, speaking, teaching, consulting, marketing sumbitch plans for 09. Awesome. Keep up the great work; I have learned a lot from you.

  2. Good luck with being a “writing, speaking, teaching, consulting, marketing sumbitch” — I’ll join you on that path :-).

    Thanks for linking over to me and I look forward to some collaboratin’ in ’09! Happy Year!

  3. I don’t know about you but this ‘Sumbitch’s goal for 2009 is simple…make more money than I did in 2008 which if you gave me a dollar would be 100% more than I made in 2008.
    Good luck with that “sumbitch writing, speaking, teaching(?), consulting, marketing” gig. (What is up with all of the “”‘s). I’ll be keeping an eye on ya in 2009.

  4. Thanks for the rousing post! My word for 2009 is Mastery. I’ve been such a good beginner my whole life – new projects, businesses, moving hither and yon, by myself, with no safety net – but I’ve not been as good at digging into one or two things and learning to do them supremely well. So that’s what I’m doing this year – focusing, slowing down, and digging in. Cheers!

  5. The biggest, hairiest and scariest of my goals of the year is the De-Clutter. I bet if I used the 10-minutes for 21-days method I could get a long way. So, I’m in!

    All the rest of my Plan for Achieving World Domination, or at least a Semblance of Control of My Own Life is at


  6. Hey Colleen – Whew! That is one kickass schedule. Did you clone yourself, or will you be deploying Communicatrix holograms…? :-)

    Regarding change, your little gem above, “It’s not magic; it’s one stupid goddamned motherfucking foot in front of the other. Period.” Would look fabulous on a T-shirt.

  7. Joyce – Right on! (I think.)

    Chris – YOU’VE learned from me? But that’s impossible: *I* have been learning from YOU.

    Jared – No doubt you will. You’ve got that whole youth-‘n’-vigor thing going for you, on top of everything else. Here’s hoping our paths cross a few times in ’09. First stop: SXSW!

    Deonne – Ooo. “Mastery” is a good one. I don’t do a one-word thing; I’m more of an old-skool, list person. But #1 on my three guidelines for the year is “Focus! Focus! Focus!” Because, you know, I tend to wander…

    NFH – As one who’s been there, again and again, I can only say “yes!” Do five minutes a day. Read FlyLady, if you don’t already. She’s got lots of great helpful stuff. And keep an eye peeled for the postman ;-)

    Mark – Great. Not only do I have a nigh on impossible schedule, I’ve got to add “make t-shirt” to the list. Oh, well–I did say 4-6 new projects.

  8. You inspire me, Colleen, although in a sort of standing-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff-and-I-don’t-want-to-jump-but-I-know-it-will-be-exhilarating sort of way. I like your idea of a 21-day salute as a way to kick-start the blog-writing, since I’ve been seriously lagging in that department. Finding my focus seems to be the biggest challenge.

    Really, though, when I think about it, that’s not exactly true. What holds me back is choosing “the right focus” that I think others will like. Since I have no clue who most of my readers are (a year into this), I suppose it’s kind of pointless to write from a place of aiming to please them, no?

    Okay, I’ll bite. I hereby commit to writing a post a day for 21 days. I will begin today. The focus will be … I don’t know yet, but it will come from the heart, and pleasing be damned.


  9. (Mark – that would have to be an XXL T-shirt)

    As I may have said somewhere else, I feel about New Year’s resolutions the way Scrooge felt about Christmas. BUT, a week ago (so they wouldn’t qualify as resolutions) I started a modified fast designed to a) kick start losing a disgusting belly bulge, and b) lead to a much-less-meat regimen to help some serious arthritis in the back. AND today I rejoined our local Wellness Center, aka gym cum therapy pool. Work-related goals will follow getting the body in happier shape. One foot in front of the other.

  10. Jean – I hear you on resolutions; they don’t work for everyone and they don’t work for anyone unless you’ve got a solid reason for implementing them. One foot in front of the other, however, is always good.

    Song to follow. Soon.

    Alexis – Yay, you! Also, that link outside the box is a trackback. I get pinged automatically when someone links back to a post. Yay, WordPress!

  11. Me too, me too! My 21-day Salute will be my dissertation – working on it at least 10 minutes a day for 21 days, starting today.

    Thanks for the kick in the ass, and the reminder that it is indeed just “one stupid goddamned motherfucking foot in front of the other.”

  12. I don’t do resolutions, but I started picking a theme for the year back in 2007. It’s a guiding principle or philosophy for the year to help keep me on track and moving forward.

    I just posted 2009’s: Begin anyway. Stop by if you’d like to read more about it.

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