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Dare to Live the Dream

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“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson


Walking along an abandoned part of the Great Wall surrounded by a sea of yellow, wild flowers. Drinking tequila with a Mexican ambassador. Strolling along the Charles Bridge at dusk. Chatting up a Prince in an elevator. Eating scorpions and cobras. What’s all that have to do with a poor, li’l island boy? By most accounts, it would be nothing. Yet, this poor, li’l island boy has been blessed to meet exceptional people, travel to amazing places, and have transformative experiences.

How did all this happen? Sure, luck had a little bit to do with it. But to simply leave it at that would be dismissive and reductive. What am I, chopped liver? It happened because I live mindfully and with intention. Because I say “yes” more than I say “no.” But mostly because I make plans and execute.

Elite athletes, grandmaster chess players, musical prodigies, and successful CEOs tap into the power of visualization for exceptional results. Mindful meditation, daily affirmations, and vision boards put this concept into physical practice. I manifest my aspirations as a “dream book.” It’s probably one of the most valuable and rewarding tools you can have in your journey of an exceptional life. I’m going to show you how I made mine.

THE PLANNING

I’ve already written quite a bit about examining your purpose, what fulfills you, and living your life with intention. I’ll summarize it here by saying that it’s time to pull out your bucket list and start putting down some plans. I know, I know, shit just got real. The first step is the hardest but once you get going you’ll be glad you did. You’ll find it’s a lot easier than you think. Think back to those old school projects of cutting up magazines and making collages. Pinterest done made it crazy easy for you. Just start pinning away. Here’s mine.

THE CANVAS

You could keep your dream book digital on something like Pinterest, Facebook, or in a special folder of photos on your computer, but I find that having something physical that I can touch and feel and have as a constant visual reminder has been vastly more gratifying. Plus, it’s been great as a coffee table book that has inspired guests in my home and started many an interesting conversation.

Any scrapbook, photo album, notebook, or journal will do but since this is going to be a special place for your dreams and aspirations you might want to put a little effort into making it something you’ll look forward to flipping through again and again.

I went a little highfalutin and invested in a stunning, screwpost portfolio from Klo Portfolio. You can customize yours in aluminum, wood, and acrylic. You’ve also got the option for engraving, decal, or cut-out. Having the screwposts gives you the option to insert, remove, and move pages easily. Screwpost extenders can expand your dream book as needed. I got mine customized in black, matte, acrylic, engraved with my name and lion:

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Come on now, tell me you wouldn’t want to check that out. I own it and I look for excuses to look through it every day.

THE VISUALS

You can make a collage of photos, articles, or anything else that help conjure up a vision board. Whatever inspires you and holds meaning for you will work. There’s no wrong way to go about it.

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In my case, I choose a single image and print it as a high quality photo to serve as my visual. I mount it on Mohawk VIA Felt black 80 lb card stock to really set off the photo.

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THE SECTIONS

I started off sectioning my dream book into three categories: to meet (people), to see (places), and to have (things). The lines started to blur for things like, “Have a personal cartoon drawn by Hugh MacLeod.” Is that to meet or to have? Plus, keeping the different sections balanced without forcing me to flip through a bunch of empty sections for things not yet complete started to be challenging. Pretty soon, things began to conflate so I simply combined them all into items to do (experiences).

First, I started my dream book with a short intro:

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I followed it with a statement of intentions for my ideal self:

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THE ENTRIES

Upon completing one of the items from my dream book, I do a brief write-up and post it to my blog. I’m a little behind; too busy doing to follow up with the writing. I’ll catch up eventually.

I tend to be a bit verbose so I know it would never fit in my dream book. Instead, I write a small haiku to place in my dream book with a link to the longer post. Printed on Crane & Co half sheets in ecruwhite. The extra effort and expense is worth it, trust:

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Okay, so I’m far from being a haiku master and I’m sure I’m committing serious haiku faux pas (surippu?). But I gotta’ say, I am not entirely embarrassed by some of my attempts. I even go multi-lingual on you in a couple:

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FINAL THOUGHTS

You know that imaginary, ephemeral bucket list that exists only in your head? Or maybe you’ve got it scribbled on several scraps of paper tucked somewhere in a forgotten drawer? You might be surprised how the simple act of putting it to paper steels your conviction to make it happen. After all, you just went through all that effort of putting together a dream book. You wouldn’t want that to have been for nothing, would you? Plus, having it staring back at you mockingly from your coffee table can be a powerful motivator. Friends and family can keep you accountable by pointing to it and pestering you incessantly. We don’t have to be all negative though. It really is a joyful experience leafing through and seeing the amazing things you’ve experienced in life. And if your dream book is still mostly empty? That’s okay. Mine was too, once upon a time.

I must confess, I have a bit of an additional, hidden agenda for putting together my dream book. Whenever I know I’m going to be completing something from my list, I bring my dream book along and deliberately flip through it. Imagine getting a chance to have soul food with Miss Patti LaBelle, flipping through the dream book in front of her and she sees that Miss Chaka Khan is on my list too. “Child, I’ve got Chaka on speed dial. Let’s give her a ring and check that one off too!” Yeah, right. Only in my dreams, right? Well, isn’t that the whole point of the dream book in the first place? Stranger things have happened.

Miss Patti and Miss Chaka, ready whenever you are. Any time. Any place.

Got a cool dream book? Snap a pic and share the link in the comments below.

MORE RESOURCES

For more inspiration, visit my good friend Corey Wadden’s take on the dream book. He adds in an extra bit of help organizing your thoughts into categories.

The Classic Crimson Cocktail

The Classic Crimson

Rye and tobacco
With gentlemanly pursuits
Perfectly blended.

Learn how to make an old-fashioned that any gentleman would respect

Whenever I visit a new bar the first drink I order is an Old Fashioned. Executing a proper Old Fashioned takes experience and care to blend the ingredients in just the right proportions. If the bar delivers a proper Old Fashioned then it bodes well that the rest of their drinks will be given similar consideration.

I figured it was probably time for me to learn how to make a proper Old Fashioned myself. I invited my closest partners-in-crime to be my judging panel and had a lineup that included: Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Knob Creek, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, and Jim Beam Signature. All single barrel reserve, of course. Alas, I could not get my hands on the much sought-after Pappy’s Van Winkle. One day, you shall be mine. Oh, yes, you will.

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Not Jack, I know, but I think Frank would’ve approved. So who else to have on the playlist but Ol’ Blue Eyes himself? Add in some Thelonious Monk, Miles, and Coltrane and you’ve got the soundtrack set for a laidback evening with the fellas.

What to serve with the cocktails? Something substantial and spicy to stand up to the sweetness of the cocktails. Cajun should do nicely. It is close to Mardi Gras, after all, and the Old Fashioned’s cousin is the NOLA sazerac. Now usually I’d do the cooking myself but in this case I left it to the experts. Poor House Bistro makes a mean po’boy and kept the fellas happily sated. Why no photos? You know how it is. Guests start arriving, drinks are poured, and food is devoured.

Of course, a proper Old Fashioned should be accompanied by a proper cigar. For the evening we indulged in Aging Room’s Quattro F55 Concerto cigars. Their well-balanced cedar, cocoa, and espresso flavors offset the cocktails perfectly.

Aging Room Quattro F55 Concerto

The verdict? I think I can properly check, “Learn how to make an old-fashioned that any gentleman would respect,” off my 360 List. The winning recipe is one I’ve dubbed, The Classic Crimson. Classic, because despite its name an Old Fashioned is timeless, and Crimson because it’s really the blood orange bitters that sets this drink apart. Did a quick search of the online drink recipe sites and I think we have a winner. No other matches found. First, bitches.

The Classic Crimson cocktail
2 oz Blanton’s Original Single Barrel bourbon
dash blood orange bitters
splash simple syrup
orange peel

Some whiskey stones or carved block ice gently chills without stealing character from the drink. Add a splash of simple syrup made from raw sugar. A dash of blood orange bitters. Two ounces of Blanton’s. Stir, then twist an orange peel over the drink and serve. I’m all for exploring new recipes, but for me, an Old Fashioned shall never be proper with a cherry in it. Cherry infused bitters? Sure. Fruit that’s better left on a sundae? Never. Remember when I said an Old Fashioned was my litmus test for a new bar? Add a cherry and you’ve got not one, but two strikes with me. That’s how strongly I feel about it.

Now that I’ve got the foundation set, I’ll be experimenting a bit with the recipe. Perhaps infusing the simple syrup with Arancia Rossa di Sicilia. Give a go with Blanton’s Gold Edition to have a bit of fudge and white pepper. Try barrel aging the cocktail.

This, of course, was merely stage dressing for an evening of jokes, stories, and conversation with gentlemen of distinction. Thanks to the fellas for sharing this experience and helping me check something off my 360 List. Special thanks to the lovely Kitten for being my assistant for the evening (and helping me finally polish off my bottle of Deleón) ;-)