Radical Growth: 5 Steps to Un-five-stepping Your Life

Time and again I read this advice: If you want people to read your blogs, include a numbered list of steps to take.

If you want to sell a book, give your audience a step-by-step formula for how to win.

If you want to give an effective speech, tell people 10 things they need to do to improve in the subject matter.

This never ceases to surprise me. It may very well work for some professions that require precision and deliberateness, but what I, and most of the people I interact with know, is that great leadership and passionate living cannot and will not be achieved by following steps; that growth moves in a non-linear fashion, and that life has its own rhythms and order that, try as we might, we cannot wrangle or organize through steps.

Making order out of chaos is something we do. Routine is important. Guidelines are useful. Some things do occur in a step-by-step fashion:

1. Boil water
2. Add to container
3. Stir.

Viola! Instant soup.


While lists and steps provoke thought and provide wisdom and structure, they cannot fix your life, transform you into Churchill or heal your broken heart. They cannot undo your disappointments or bring you to the level of success you want / need / deserve. That takes a whole different way of being and level of commitment, of which steps are a small part.

So naturally, I feel compelled to create a list, albeit an untraditional one, about un-listing; unhooking yourself from the lure of A Life Lived Through Steps.

5 1/2 Steps to un-five stepping your life

3. Let’s Get Lost — Never have I been so challenged as when my boyfriend and I literally got lost in the woods. In between panicking and retracing our steps, we rationed out the remaining water and snacks, bickered, and planned to sleep entwined to brace against the cold. Luckily we found the trail before nightfall, but it was a tremendous lesson, one that got us in touch with survival skills and strengths we did not know we had, and naturally, brought us closer.

I’m not recommending you get physically lost. It’s just that I am continually reminded that life is a game of hide and seek: We lose ourselves and find ourselves and each other, again and again. Allow “getting lost” in this sense to be a part of your ever bourgeoning aliveness.

5. Two steps forward, one leap into the Non-Linear — While we are busy surviving, interacting, planning our futures and pretending that most things are “cut and dried,” we are living in a mutable, inscrutable world with a cyclical, non-rational undertow. A taxi may take us physically from point A to point B. But internally as we grow through our lives, we actually move more like this: From point A, to A.3, circling back to A.1, stretching out to A.5, revisiting A.2 and so on, until we arrive at B “ish.”

1/2. I interrupt this list to confirm that you do realize these aren’t really steps. They’re just tidbits of thought provoking material aimed to bounce you out of routine, to inspire you to invest in strengthening the deeper muscles that will give you the ability to fully embrace this life. Because that’s what I think we really need to develop, even though I can’t tell you how to do it step-by- step.

2. Control is a comforting notion — I turn on my computer. It works! I begin to type or avoid typing and peruse Facebook instead. Hurray, I’m making choices, doing my day. Until my computer doesn’t work. Then I am at the mercy of the technology gods at Apple. If I think positive thoughts, maybe I could make it work again? Nope, sorry, control is out of my control, simply a comforting notion, an illusion that we cannot help but invest in. Hence, lists.

4. Intentionally left blank — Enjoy the pause.

{{ Are we having fun? }}
Sometimes steps can suck all the fun out of figuring things out for yourself.

1. Move On Dot Org — Those in my close circle know that “Move On dot org!” is one of my favorite sayings, which I brazenly stole from a hilarious friend. If a list of steps isn’t working for you, or you have outgrown its wisdom, then MOVE ON and let it go.

It’s time to become list-less again.

And remember, steps or no steps, Love Yourself No Matter What.

29 responses to “Radical Growth: 5 Steps to Un-five-stepping Your Life”

  1. 1. Click Blair’s link
    2. Read Blair’s new post
    3. Realize (again!) none of my blog posts have had steps
    4. Realize I’m fine with it
    5. Appreciate Blair’s insight and sharing
    6. Prepare to repeat step 1 when a new link appears

    Thank you!

  2. Alli Polin says:

    I LOVE those posts and gurus that have the amazing advice in their 21 ways to be a leader that will conquer the planet. I curse myself that I can never read past step 7 and feel the pressure of knowing that I’m just too tired to bother with 21 of anything. If only there was a 5 1/2 step solution to living a rockin’ life. I’d buy that book… and watch it get dusty on my shelf.

    Appreciate you, Blair!

    • Blair Glaser says:

      So glad I could just pop out a blog post so there’s no more dust to remove! Thanks so much as always for your comments and contributions, Alli.

  3. Hi Blair

    What I love about you is you are so uncannily prescient! You knew exactly what I have been ranting privately about these past few days with a few specially chosen, non-listing types … and you articulated a glorious perspective in a funny way. Fun and learning is an awesome combination!

    I love that … and randomness! I have often never felt happier than when doing random acts of kindness! People’s lives, love, relationships and work are generally non-linear! Fact … so come on you listing people, get with the programme!

    Follow Blair’s lead! I want to be entertained, I want insight, I want engagement and, most of all, I want to see the real you in your story! Sorry … did I go off on one there!

    Fabulous post Blair … you lit up my Friday! Have a brilliant weekend! John 🙂

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Mission accomplished! I was hoping the post would bring some relief and humor and a touch of insight. Love the randomness and the joy it brings you . . . count your comment today as one of those random acts that made me light up, too.

  4. When life is messy, when we feel we don’t know what to do, when we want answers that will save us from ourselves, we fall in love with lists. Ah! There it is! A 5-step recipe for our salvation.

    But you’re so right! It never, ever works that way. Even if you follow someone’s 5-step plan for anything, (except, maybe, making instant soup) it won’t unfold in 5 immaculate steps. It will, as you said, circle back, or get stalled, or maybe completely lost on a trail you abandoned while walking the unpredictable path of your life.

    Still, having a list of 5-steps feels good, doesn’t it. I’m in the process of writing a report called 12 Quick Tweaks to Take Your Marketing Copy from Dull to Dazzling. And the fact there are 12, and they are only “tweaks,” not even steps, makes it so appealing, don’t you think? Comforting, really. Even though you may make Tweak #1 and decide to change everything, which will involve 127 steps, circles, revisits, detours and… you get the idea.

    Thank you for this post. I’ll have to put it in my list of Top 10 Blog Posts… oh, wait.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Nancy, thanks for reading. So nice to see you here! I can’t wait to read your 12 Quick Tweaks for copy — especially because I know how inspiring your ideas are. But when you write a list called 12 Quick Ways to Get from a dull to dazzling leader I’ll put it in the Top 10 blogs to say I’ll read later and then not . . . thanks again for your thoughts and reflections!

  5. LaRae Quy says:

    Hi Blair

    I have a pet peeve about lists, too. Especially lists about how to become a better leader . . . some things just need to be learned on one’s own. Guidelines, sure + ideas and knowledge . . . but to become any sort of expect by following the steps on a list? Please…that should be left behind in school.

    Loved your thoughts 🙂


    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks so much for reading, LaRae. Some things do need to be learned on one’s own, through experience.

  6. Lalita Raman says:

    Change comes from within. In every aspect of life yes we need a support framework but the need to do something or be a particular way or reinvent oneself comes from within.

    I have always thought of list of things to do or be as more a so cakked SEO headline hacks and funny enough despite quality (read as lack of) of some of these posts, have a lot of shares and it has always made me wonder Why?

    Finally what inspires us to move to where we want to go
    I think comes from within and all the rest are just part of a framework.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks for your wise comments and thoughts, Lalita! I agree that real change comes from within. I am also one for switching our allegiance from sharing posts that boost our SEO to sharing posts that boost our humanity!

  7. Blair,
    As a definite list-maker, I clicked on your post knowing that it would challenge my approach – and it definitely did! As much as I love lists and how they keep me somewhat in order, I do need this occasional reminder to “un-list” myself and go with the flow. I think it makes us more resilient and probably more fun to be around, too 🙂
    Thank you for the reminder!

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks so much for sharing here.
      I, too, know the allure of lists.
      I am so glad the post was a good reminder and challenge.
      Thanks again.

  8. Lise says:

    Love love love this, Blair!

  9. Wonderful, Blair. I ranted back in 2009 about this same topic. Per my style, it’s a LONNNNGGG rant (http://www.unfoldingleadership.com/blog/?p=1495). I called it “The Nine Secrets of Effective Leadership,” leaking my distaste for the term “secrets,” as well as the problem with lists.

    I like your version better. It’s hilarious.


    • Blair Glaser says:

      Hi Dan,
      Loved your rant, and your 9 secrets which turned out to be more than 9 paragraphs with no secrets whatsoever. Left a comment there. Especially loved the quote about the VALUE of BEING RAW. That is something that so few people talk about, trust, and honor.
      So glad this post had you laughing.
      Thanks so much for your comments.

  10. Terri Klass says:

    Although I am a lover of routine, Blair, your post truly made me think and laugh at the same time! I just returned from an amazing adventure in France where my husband and I spent many days getting lost and ending up in places that were never on our original “must-see” itinerary.But you know what? It was fabulous and we discovered that the journey is so much more important than arriving at the perfect planned spot. So here’s to no lists and to just enjoying what comes our way. Great post!

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Sounds like a great trip, Terri! There is so much aliveness in the process of “getting lost” and seeing what finds you. Thanks for sharing your journey with your husband. And thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

  11. Kimunya Mugo says:

    Life is not a list! That’s my credo… My take is that using lists to “fix or transform” a human being is next to impossible. If you are dealing with furniture-making or baking a cake, then maybe that makes sense. Like “3 steps to make your cake spongier”…

    Lists are just a way to appear to be an “expert” or a “specialist”. I don’t particularly like them as I can’t remember anything past #3. They are too prescriptive and to some extent assume the recipient is a blank canvas.

    Thank you for reminding us that we are dealing with uniquely created human beings, not logical machines.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment, Kimunya! I like what you say about “assuming the recipient is a blank canvas.” Lists that make authors look like experts do often make me feel “dumbed down”!

  12. Blair, You simply crack me up.
    I’m right there with Alli, My eyes cross around step #5. But you should SEE my library! LOL, but, umm, my books are NOT dusty! LOL.

    First, I have to remember to MAKE the list.
    Then, I have to PUT the list somewhere I cannot loose it.
    (No, silly, not my desk..it eats stuff. Really. Maybe it’s my cats, but I think it is the desk.)
    NEXT, I have to REMEMBER to USE the list!

    Snort. Ok. Let’s just live, ok?

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Amber-Lee, So glad that amidst all the choas over there in Alaska you were able to have a good laugh!!! Thanks for your comments.

  13. Lists, plans, calendars, sometimes you just need to go with the flow. Energy flows naturally. I often tell my clients, “as long as you’re aligned with the universal flow of energy, use the 5-step plan as a guide instead of it being law.”

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Exactly, Bruno! Your step by step guides (and videos, for those who haven’t seen them) are very useful to people trying to master themselves. And then you do need to step back into your own space. I had a client who recently said she OD’d on parenting books. Eventually she had to go back to her own flow and intuition about what to do and how to be with her kids!

  14. Barry says:

    What a refreshing post Blair. I have often wondered if I should post more “lists.” You have provided the answer … clearly. I think you’re right – we get hung up on the a then b then c and forget about the experience and journey along the way. That’s where all the good stuff is! Thanks

  15. John says:

    Hi Blair,

    really appreciate this post. I like how you not only subvert the 5 or 10 step process of making-everything-in-life-perfect, but you bring us back to the moment, to the reality of our lives with the blank space.

    Im wondering how far you take the idea that we are not in control? Is giving up control a big part of your practice?


    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks for your comment and rich question. I don’t really know how much we are or are not in control. I do know that “giving up control” is only a part of my practice when a client or team experiences control as limiting. I recently spoke with a business owner who stalled for over a year on launching their new website because it wasn’t perfect. In this instance, perfectionism was a form of control that was limiting the business’ visibility, as well as the ability to share information and attract more customers. With couples, rather than instructing the more “in-charge person” to “give up control” I coach the partner who feels less in control to advocate and negotiate for roles that will allow him or her to be more active in areas they desire. Does this make sense? Thanks again for reading.

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