Good morning from Brussels, Belgium!

I arrived here on Saturday from the Netherlands. This the second stop of my 3-week trip to Europe.

My first five days and nights in Amsterdam passed rather slowly–unfairly colored by the loud and seedy Red Light District, where I stayed. But what the concentration of weirdness of the Red Light District couldn’t color was my first of three workshops that I am hosting while here in Europe.

Eight of us gathered last Thursday to discuss the five most important ideas that I’ve learned about creativity, self-expression and writing–ideas that encapsulate five years of work and artistic exploration, plus the last two years of working with more than 80 writers from 7 countries

Today, I want to share with you three of the biggest and most important ideas that I would hope you would take home with you after attending one of my European workshops–no matter where in the world you may be.

Talking storytelling and values at last night's meetup with 25 great people last night in Brussels!

1. Change your story, change your path.

Stories surround us in advertisements, novels and television shows. Stories lead us through conversations with friends and family. We tell a story when we meet someone new.

But the stories that I’m talking about here are the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves, because those stories shape the directions of our lives.

These stories contain self-limiting thoughts and empowering beliefs, palpable dreams and our deepest fears. This grand story is one we live, so it’s hard to see it and hard to step back to understand what’s “just a story” and what’s reality.

That’s just it–your story is a choice.

Your story is many choices and decisions and beliefs, all of which, when given life aloud or in your head, affect your life presently–and influence your future.

I believe that the stories we tell ourselves literally shape our realities, presently–defining the very journey beneath our feet.

So don’t tell the story that you don’t want to be living anymore. Even if things are damn good, wonderful, perfect–try altering the details of the story that you’re telling to see if you too can shape the direction of where you wish to go.

Change your perspective on the story–reframe it, reinterpret it, sidestep that one viewpoint to discover another–and suddenly, the story of a past event or “old life” that you were once living becomes the fuel that moves you forward into the life you’ve long dreamed of.

Change your story. And you will change the very path beneath you.

In between a jazz festival, trying local flavors from Côte D'Ivoire, a hippie "DIY" art show and (of course) Belgian waffles, I've already fallen in love with Brussels.

2. You will find your “Voice” by breathing life into the core beliefs that guide your soul.

Writers and singers often discuss something called “voice,” a term we might use to describe a particular comfort level, confidence level or aura of authenticity that guides words or songs with ease, lightness and honesty.

Voice is truth, resonated.

Not just a matter of skill in action–writing well or singing well–voice is an intangible quality, a feel, that shapes our [perception of] truth as social creatures who wish to embody what they believe, beyond quietly believing it.

We wish to feel like swordsmen of the Truth that we believe in when we express ourselves. We call that “voice.”

In my experience working with writers and artists across the world, this otherwise intangible and unidentifiable quality called “Voice” finds its roots in how we express what we express–in other words, we find our “voice” when the manner in which we speak, express and create acts as a mirror to the values, core beliefs and guiding principles that we live by.

If I said that my deepest values in life are freedom, artistry and service, the feeling of “voice” for me as a writer would hinge upon whether or not my words embodied freedom, artistry and service:

  • If I made you feel like a prisoner to my words or work by telling you that I have all the answers, you would probably not feel “free,” and so my words would be contradicting my values.
  • If my website or books were designed cheaply because I wanted to save money, I would fail to honor my value of artistry, and I would be subtly telling you that the cheap-and-easy route is just as good as the slow, meaningful, artful one.
  • If my works and work never mentioned the effect that your life has on other people, I would fail to honor my value of service and perhaps your own, as well.

To find your voice, you need to breathe life into the guiding beliefs and principles that quietly define your entire life’s existence–what, to our soul, make life worth living and fighting for.

Breathe life into those values, and your voice will follow.

Bon nuit from Bruxelles

3. What separates the achievers from those who fall short is not freedom from obligations, but an undying dedication to the Path of Purpose.

The greats who achieve are obsessively dedicated–relentlessly, they find the willpower and simple discipline to continually dedicate and rededicate themselves to what they want, need and love, every day.

One of the most dangerous myths that most of us tend to believe is that what separates the successful from those who fall short is talent–God-given brilliance or ingenuity, or some unfair advantages like having no obligations or responsibilities to fulfill in their daily lives.

Practical action, repeated daily or almost-daily, produces real results.

You’ll never be guaranteed “success” or anything of that sort–what you need to focus on is how much effort, time and dedication you are investing into your path of purpose.

There is no road-map to success. Our successes hinge upon intangible qualities like discipline, self-awareness, willpower and commitment.

The fruits of your efforts may not come in the form of money, fame and glory–those things that we tend to call “successes” and lust for, because we think they’ll make us happier and make life easier.

But I would be so bold to guarantee that your journey, my friend, will be all the richer, more meaningful and more memorable for it.