#1 Find the Shortest Path

Dad installed odometers on our bikes when my sisters and I were kids.

He was into being healthy and wanted us to ride at least three miles a day

My first life hack was born from Dad’s focus on health and my need to play:

Odometer Fixing

I discovered that 1) the clear plastic top popped off the odometer and 2) the tip of a pine needle—that dark sappy part that holds a few needles together—was just strong enough to push the numbers forward. After that, it was a short ride to Jackie’s house, where I’d ditch my bike in her back yard, and play with her for a while.

In a rare moment of pity for my older sister, who was 12 miles behind one week, I shared my hack.

Rather than thanking me for being amazing, she turned tattletail and ratted me out. In a prodigal son turn of events, Dad didn’t reprimand me. Instead, he laughed, my sister stomped off, and I dodged a bullet. I was eight years old.

In Tim Grahl’s new book Running Down A Dream (to be released July 11th), he has “tools” noted throughout the book, and then an appendix at the end, with all of the tools listed.

Tool #1 is “Find the Shortest Path.”

I’m betting odometer fixing wasn’t what he had in mind when he identified Tool #1.

To play, the deal was that I had to do my chores and ride my bike. I found the shortest path to get what I wanted, but my role on that path was more grasshopper than ant. This continued into my twenties.

I would do work, but not THE work.

Throughout college I held two jobs at a time and internships, with a side gig of upselling products bought with employee discounts to my younger sister and roommates. Working at a clothing store and a music store made this possible, since CDs and trendy threads were in high demand by high school and college students. During a semester in London, I sold most of my clothes to a consignment shop wanting U.S. brands, and then bought up UK brands to bring back and sell to the consignment shop in Fayetteville, N.C., where my parents lived. In both Boston and London I sorted out how ride the T and Tube for free, so transportation was taken care of, and then a receptionist job at a Newbury St. salon took care of haircuts and highlights, and at least looking like I had my shit together.

I had figured out the shortest path to get what I wanted (and to look like I had what I wanted).

But want doesn’t equal need.

In The Artist’s Journey (also being released July 11), Steve has a section titled “The Epiphanal Moment.”

In Hollywood parlance, the All Is Lost moment is succeeded, often immediately, by the Epiphanal Moment.

In this moment, the hero experiences a breakthrough.

This breakthrough is almost always internal. The hero changes her attitude. She regroups. She sees her dilemma from a new perspective—one that she had never considered before (or, if she had considered it, had rejected)—a point of view that offers either hope or desperation amounting to hope.

My epiphanal moment came when I realized that if I spent the same amount of time doing what I enjoyed, as I did on sorting out side gigs and busy work to avoid doing the hard work, I could likely achieve my dreams and have time to spare.

What does that look like now?

It looks like a puppy on a short leash.

I have a tight schedule. I do certain things at certain times every day. Staying on that schedule keeps me on the shortest path and wards off drama.

Example: I was up late earlier this week and slept in the next morning. In the period of an hour, I needed to get the dog fed and walked, my daughter up, showered, fed, and to camp, and needed to fit a shower in for myself. On the way out the door with the dog, I put on the “stay” alarm since the kids were home alone, and in my rush forgot to close the garage door. The alarm went off, but my daughter was in the shower and my son, who could outsleep Rip Van Winkle, slept through it. By the time I got home, the police were at my home, their cars blocking the driveway, and policemen themselves peering into windows. I got a warning. My daughter was late for camp. I never got around to showering. The day fell apart.

With work, it is about going directly to the person I need to speak with—or going to the direct source. With Black Irish Books, that’s always been about the direct connection with customers instead of mucking around with press and book stores and other middle men. It’s been about cutting through the center instead of circling the perimeter wasting time.

When you read The Artist’s Journey and Running Down A Dream (special bundle of both), you’ll notice that both Steve and Tim traveled long and winding roads. Once they cut the clutter and got on the straight and narrow things started happening.

There’s a reason the shortest path (sans the odometer fixing) is #1 on Tim’s list.

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Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Mary Doyle on July 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

    Want might not equal need, but you were an enterprising kid and college student – thanks for sharing these anecdotes to start Friday with a laugh! I’ll be picking up both books too – thanks Callie!

  2. Gwen Abitz on July 6, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Callie, so funny. LOVE IT!! Gee Whiz we all do the same thing. What is so GREAT about what the SP Team does is share “this truth” and that we are not alone. I’ll be ordering both both books when available at Black Irish.

  3. John Arends on July 6, 2018 at 6:16 am

    I’m loving these transparently hilarious looks deep into the moral clockwork of conundrums that make Callie Callie. Thank you for sharing your considerable and hard-earned life wisdom with such wit and delight!

    • Anonymous on July 16, 2018 at 5:21 am

      Heartily agree.

  4. BarbaraNH on July 6, 2018 at 7:15 am

    It’s wonderful getting to hear your stories too, Callie. Yikes, you were one enterprising college student! And, I am so excited to see the links – already ordered. Thanks!!

  5. Brian S Nelson on July 6, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Great stuff! Agree with all the comments about enterprising. For me, I have this lie that has run in my head forever, “Once this is done (whatever: from midterms to fasting periods to deployments), then life will be easy.”

    I am unsure of its origin, but I have had (and it still resurfaces at times) this belief that life should be easy. Hard is, well, hard. I don’t want to do hard if it can be avoided.

    I don’t know how many times I have to experience the lesson that the only things worth pursuing are hard. That is where the treasure lies, where the momentary abatement of self-centered thought lies, where to true joy exists.

    Just bought the combo. I have a Black Irish Books habit. Not a bad habit…but a habit nonetheless.

  6. Tom Bentley on July 6, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Callie, I used to steal my brother’s motorcycle when I was in high school, and turn the odometer BACK instead of forward, so he couldn’t register that it had been driven. But I did it too late in the day once, the engine was suspiciously warm, and I had to confess. But it helps to be a little brother: he gave me a motorcycle years later.

    Thanks for the good stuff and clarity around puppies on short leashes gaining the most from their walks.

  7. Joe Jansen on July 6, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    This is creative nonfiction at its best. You tell good stories.

    • Sue on July 10, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      Agreed. I grinned when I read about your dad smiling instead of reprimanding you; I loved that the lesson was aimed at your sister. Thank you for sharing your stories (and for the link to the grasshopper and ant fable–what a terrific site).

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  10. Lilly on May 13, 2023 at 9:18 am

    As a child, I also really liked riding a bicycle, and even when I grew up, the desire to ride did not disappear. Only the bicycle changed to a car and now I drive hundreds of kilometers by car when I go on business or travel. If I have to go very far, I rent a car in the Rental24.co.uk service. By the way, you can book online.

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