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Martha's big adventure -- Life's terms

One of my favorite sayings is, "Live life on life's terms," which means, deal with things the way they are, step by step, in pursuit of the big dream.

If you can't pay your bills, get a job, and become a star after hours. If you want to run a marathon, start by walking a mile on a consistent basis. If you want to own a home, start saving and make sure you can reasonably afford whatever you're buying for the length of the loan.

Everything gets built from the ground up where there's a foundation to support whatever challenges arise -- and there will be challenges.

We've seen the results of what happens when we try to take shortcuts. Record numbers of foreclosures, massive layoffs and lost retirement accounts.

Maybe, it's just that you're living in your parents' basement again and wondering how that happened. Heed this rule forever and there are good odds this will be your last time.

I know this adage well, because I have spent most of my career actively ignoring the advice. I'm a more recent convert. There have been a few wise people along the way, who have pointed out to me that, in order to be financially successful as a writer, it's necessary to focus, focus, focus. In other words, pick a genre and stick with it.

I ignored them and have three published books in three different genres: thriller, Southern fiction and memoir. I then went out to greet the world who would see my enormous talent and want to buy anything that I have penned.

Now, it's not like I haven't gotten rave reviews in all three categories or even built loyal fan bases, again in all three categories. It's that I've never tried to build one base and then build some more on top of what I had already started.

If you need a visual, picture three empty houses that everyone admires and wonders what they'll look like once there's more added to them. They make a mental note to come back when that happens, but aren't necessarily going to wait around till it does. As it turns out, people have their own lives and needed to get back to them.

It was like I could see success right there at my doorstep and wondered how it never really got over the threshold and moved in with me. I was trying to live life on my terms and adjust the rules to suit my desires. I would then seek out advice as to why it wasn't getting me the financial rewards I longed for, and would ignore whatever didn't fit into what I had already decided I had to have.

I wasn't very teachable as long as I had to be right.

There's a catch, though, to being able to hear that our pride is getting in the way. If we're not ready, we'll dismiss it out of hand. So, here's a rule of thumb you can use if you're not getting the results you want and are flabbergasted over what might be the cause.

If you've been trying to climb that hill for years and are frustrated over not getting anywhere -- it's you. That may feel a little abrupt, but ask yourself whether you want to live with your excuses, or move ahead.

If you want things to change, let go of the idea that you already know the destination, and open up to the idea of taking the small steps right in front of you.

Try a lot more gratitude for what you already have, and then a deeper understanding that whatever dream you're chasing is not proof of your worth.

That one has been yours all along. Make it all about the day-to-day journey, and realize that if things are better, you must already be on the path. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.