Go ahead — Astonish me

Astonish is not a word we hear much.  But what is it you do that is brilliant, amazing, excellent, remarkable, essential, extraordinary, outstanding, noteworthy, incredible or astonishing?

What is it that displays your personal best – your personal brilliance?

The story is told that one day the great artist, Picasso, was walking in the market.  A woman approached him, handed him a pencil and piece of paper, and asked, “Can you do a little drawing for me.”   Picasso replied, “Absolutely.”  He did a quick little drawing and handed it back to the lady.  She looked at it and said – “That’s amazing.” After thanking him she started to walk away.  Picasso stopped her and said “Excuse me, that’ll be $1 million.”  She said, “One million dollars – that took you 30 seconds.”  To which Picasso replied, “My dear lady, it took me 30 years to do that.”

A fellow comedian once asked Steve Martin, “How can I become as well known as you are?”  Steve told him, “Be so good at what you do that people cannot ignore you.”

There are only 3 legs to extraordinary success:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • How can you do that with excellence – perhaps better than anyone else?
  • What’s your economic model.  How are you generating income?

Integrating these 3 components will separate you from 97% of the people on the face of the earth.  How can you be the Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, Bono, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham in your area of passion?  Don’t let false humility keep you from sharing your best with the world.  Go ahead — Astonish me.

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55 Responses to “Go ahead — Astonish me”

  1. MARGERY Says:

    But what if life has taken your passion away and you are not able to get it back?

  2. Andy Traub Says:

    Margery, dreams may dim but they will not die unless we bury them ourselves.

    I’m praying you believe that and you find your passion again.

  3. Wendy Says:

    I am deeply passionate about helping people and traveling.

    My big dream is to own five bed and breakfast locations in five states (TX, TN, CO, ME and NM) to offer play/work/retreat spots for families, those in ministry, business owners and writers.

    My ability to work with people of all personality types and my desire to see others succeed while combining work with play make me an excellent person well-suited for service with a purpose. I have an inate respect for and love of history and people find it easy to call any area my home and adopt a variety of people as my people.

    I am at the beginning stages of this dream and dedicate my time to ensure that I have the knowledge and skills to push through when those inevitable service industry challenges hit and that I learn what works and doesn’t work in the B&B industry to reach my varied client base and respond to their needs.

    Because I believe in running any business debt free I will not purchase my first location until I have the cash to do that and have the reserve capital to sustain that property for an establishment time 2 years. My husband and I are working through Dave Ramsey’s plan and will reach the goal of being debt free in the next 2 years and then plan to purchase the first property 7-10 years after that. (Depends on how the market is doing and if we can buy or build what we want where we want it with the budget we have.)

    In the meantime, so that I’m not just doing “knowledge” activities, I travel with my husband and 3 kids ages 2 – 11. I write articles about the places we go and am compiling my information into a blogging-style website specifically to help other families who travel with kids plan and enjoy their time with their family. (This website is in the early stages but I plan to generate more money from this site with affiliate advertising, book sales and things such as e-books with step-by-step planning guides to make travel easier or more productive in meeting the family goals of relationship-building, memory-making, etc.) By creating that sphere of influence and sustainable generational audience I believe I will be able to hit the ground running with a distinct client base in place to maintain viability of our busines locations when we are able to buy properties debt-free.

  4. Mark Says:

    Dan, I loved your closing statement about not letting false humility keep us from sharing our best with the world! Remember this scene from “Chariots of Fire” ?– “I believe God made me for a purpose – for China. But He also made me fast! And when I run, I feel His pleasure. To give that up would be to hold Him in contempt.” – Eric Liddell, film dialogue, “Chariots of Fire”. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Leanne Terhaar Says:

    Right now it seems the only thing I’m expert at is being in pain and trusting God to get me through it. When my children were young, they were sexually abused by their father, then came the subsequent divorce. I remarried a wonderful Christian man and we had a daughter together. At that time, I felt prompted to write about my experience with God, the whole story being my testimony. I finally got the “time line” written, but that was it. In February, my second son was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. At the time I was working part time and we were fostering three beautiful little girls which we had to give up. My son died May 12 of septic shock. I need to get on with my life, but feel so stuck. My job is no longer available. Go back to the book? Start fostering again? Looking for other employment does not seem to be where God is leading me, some kind of ministry is; until I say it, then the doubts come flooding in. I am not qualified for ministry or counseling. In other words, I’ve never been to seminary or college in either field. I’ve had this frustration before, trying to figure out what I should be doing, and I’ve stepped out only to have dead end signs put up in front of me. I guess I don’t expect any real answers here, just understanding and perhaps prayers and advice for my leading.

  6. Alex N Says:

    Ijust wanted to respond to two other posters first. Lehanne, you need to cut yourself some slack — your son just died, and you need some time to grieve. Perhaps God is using this time of fallow (read loss, pain, etc.) to dig up the earth a little so that it is ready for planting soon.

    And Wendy, I’m so impressed with how organized you are, and PATIENT! I have a bad habit of getting an idea, and then wanting to try it out right away, with the result that little gets done. Fortunatley, I had to make a living, so have been doing not too badly with staying on track.

    HowI fine tuned my business was to look back at all the work I’d done that I loved, and what I discovered is that I love to learn (research), love to listen to people’s stories (interviews), and love to find ways for them to realize their true (God-given) vocation. In some ways, I do this with my service oriented writing, and through my informal coaching of friends.

  7. Wendy Says:

    My heart breaks reading your story and I can’t imagine any mom being able to think of anything other than loss nor could I picture any mom having the ability to move on so soon after the loss of her child.

    From one mom to another, grief is complex. One day you’ll smile and then cry because you smiled and then you’ll laugh and then cry because you laughed, but always remember the gift of your son and know that you living your life vigorously is the best tribute to him.

    Leanne, you already have a ministry available to you. At some point, if you haven’t already, you will notice opportunities to use snapshots of the story of your life to help others. About 1 in 3 of the moms I know has lost a child in some way – sometimes by death, sometimes by physical or emotional distance.

    I have seen moms, who have lost children, went through a divorce or have an abused child start foundations, create movements, change the laws or promote awareness and understanding. You can do that.

    How many people become experts in pain but have no clue how to trust God through the pain? You can minister to those people. Life has been your Higher education. Make a list of the truths you can share with others and then share them.

    I love how God doesn’t just call the overly educated to ministry. He actually calls all of us to ministry and invites us to use our lives to honor him. God equips each of us and does not ask for us to have the strength to sustain the journey but for us to allow him to give us the strength for the journey.

  8. Glenda Says:

    Don’t let false humility keep you from sharing your best with the world. I should put this on the wall for a reminder.

    I always knew that God could work through artists, but he is taking me on an amazing journey with regard to the concept that He can actually move in spirit through the artwork–not just inspire it.

    I “stumbled” onto this new style of photography when I was shooting Christmas tree lights…of course, I realize now it was a divine appointment not just a stumble.

    I loved the abstract nature of the modeled lights against the dark background in some of the pictures, and I started experimenting with the new style in my home trying to recreate it. God stepped into the middle and paired that up with my spiritual gifting as intecessory, arts, and healing and in more particular “to till the soil of the heart,” so that it can be ready for Him and the seed that He brings through later relationships.

    He is using the light, color and textures in this new style of photographic imagery to touch people’s hearts. I’ve been witnessing this in secular and Christian groups of people. After taking a chance and sharing the images to more people I began to realize that it wasn’t just me that feels the power of God in these images. Some times I literally cry when I see an image for the first time, because it reaches so far into my soul…and then I run off to share it.

    So, what is astonishing is that, where previously I acknowledged that God could inspire art–I now realize that He can actually LIVE in it. WOW!

  9. Kim Wiggins Says:

    I am currently working on following my passion which is begin a coaching practice. This has not been an easy decision as I currently work for a company that is owned by a friend of mine and I have allowed him to steal my passion. One of the other writers asked “what do you do when life has taken your passion away” well my response is to take it back.

    That is what I am in the process of doing. It took over three years for me to hand that over to them and it will not be easy getting it back but I am starting the small steps. I am so excited and motivated right now. My gift to them has been my valuable business expertise (I am VP of Technology and Finance) over the past three years but they are about to be paid in full. I am getting ready to live the life that I know was always meant for me by being able to do what it is I need to do to move me forward. When you have finally made a decison and realized that you are not made of mediocrity, then you get off your duff and stop being mediocre. Today I declare that I AM AMAZING, I AM ASTONISHING AND I AM MOVING FORWARD.

    See you in July Dan.

  10. John8com Says:

    This is a very clever little essay. Well done, Dan.


  11. Josh Bulloc Says:

    Dear Dan,

    I encounter so many people at work that are frustrated because they do not see it as fair that I have such an “easy” position. I try to tell them how I got there including all the years I took to educate myself and all of the nights I do not watch TV so I can read to learn something new. I tell them they can do it too but then they decide they are not willing to work for it.

    Josh Bulloc
    Kansas City, MO

  12. Annie Says:

    Let us bring our issues to Jesus…..”…behold, a woman…with an issue….” Matthew 9:20 KJV. We have struggled with issues so long that they have drained the life out of us. These issues, at times, whipped out their resumes and remind us that we have already tried every solution and nothing has worked. They even whisper….. “We are here to stay, so get used to it” How often have we told ourselves “I thought by this point in time my marriage would be healed, or my health restored, I’d be out of debt or the door would’ve opened,” but it hasn’t happened and we become discouraged. If so, let us, as God’s people do what this woman did: “Behold, a woman….with an issue….twelve years…said within herself…if I may but touch Him….I shall be whole (Matt 9: 20-21). This hurting woman had three (3) options. She could have said to herself:-
    1) Nothing is going to happen
    2) In a crowd this size Jesus will never notice me or
    3) If I may but touch Him…I shall be whole.
    She chose the third option, so should you! It is time my friends to tune out the nay-sayers, silence your doubts, start speaking words of faith and move in God’s direction.
    Matthew writes. “He relieved the inwardly tormented. He cured the bodily ill. He fulfilled Isaiah’s well-know sermon. He took our illnesses, He carried our diseases (Matthew 8:17 -The Message). Jesus loves us and wants to make us whole. Our past doesn’t matter, nor do our present circumstances. The only thing that matters is touching Him by faith. What Jesus said to this woman, He is saying to us today…”Your faith has made you well. ….Go in peace…. (Mark 5:34 NKJV) So as God’s people let us bring our issues to Jesus and let Him touch us.

  13. Tom Allen Says:

    Hi, Dan, just heard of you on Micah McNeil’s facebook page. I was fascinated by your “Astonish me” challenge. I write music, and the greatest thing I ever did was compose the TE DEUM for the centennial of the University of Wisconsin Catholic Center. It is a piece for trumpets and tympani, ensemble, choir, soloists, congregation responses, and bird songs on audio track. It was so powerful that it drove OUT the bad spirits that were haunting the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota campus, 250 mile from where it was performed. This piece is so off the charts that people don’t realize what it really is. And that’s the rub, what do you do when your work is off the charts, and people don’t get it? Of course I have my mundane days, but you asked, “What do you do that is great?” I’d love to write music all the time, but the only time I get commissions is when they come to me by surprise. HWw do I go after a career like that when it is elusive? Do you take questions like that? I’d love your feedback.

  14. Carl Beatty Says:

    Its funny, because Iam an artist, and people ask me all the time to draw, or design things for them, and about 9 times out of 10 they get it for free from me. So I do relate well to the Picasso Parable. Ive always been good at drawing and designing what people want, but not good at how to price the work Ive done. Sometimes I feel like Picasso, and say, hey thats worth way more than what your willing to give. So the question is, with freelance art projects, anything from designing Graduation Invitations to building skateboard ramps for kids, how do I price things. Materials always come into play, so alot of times I have the customer buy me the supplies I need, then the actual building,drawing,and designing, comes into the whole process after that. What is my work worth?

  15. Wendy Says:


    Folks like you and I who do creative work have many things to consider when pricing our work.

    Our work is almost always worth more to us than what someone is willing or able to pay us. After all we are selling our creative soul to do a project!

    To set fair rates I consider my expenses, my experience, my competition (my market), my product, my feelings about working for a certain rate or with a particular client and my time investment.

    From the work you describe that you do you could work by project fee or on an hourly rate.

    If you know it will take you 5 hours to work on a skateboard ramp from assessing your client’s needs to drawing plans to crafting the ramp to finishing the project you need to consider what is a fair hourly rate for that task based upon your expenses (travel costs, wear & tear on vehicles and equipment, utility costs, etc.), experience, competitor’s rates, your unique product, your feelings (don’t give away if you can’t do it cheerfully), your personal or professional history with a client and your time investment. You could then convert your expected hourly rate into a set project fee.

    I would encourage you if you do flat rate fees to add an additional 5-10% of the anticipated fee to the rate until you better know what your average “real” project costs are. As a free spirit type, in the beginning I tended to be more optimistic and more idealistic about time and cost. By plugging in the additional amount I avoided any negative feelings or “devaluing” that comes when the project runs longer or costs more in time/effort than anticipated.

    In order to successfully run a business you have to have profits. To be a success in your business you need to value yourself enough to get paid a fair market rate for your work and value your client enough to only expect them to pay you a fair market rate.

    The best things in business aren’t always free but fair.

  16. Glenda Says:

    I’ve noticed recently that there are a number of “How to Price Your Work” workshops in the local community college adult education courses that are flat rate one-day seminars. You might check your local college course papers.

  17. Glenda Says:

    What does it mean to leave a trackback from your website. I’m guessing it is for if I have my own blog where I reference the 48-day blog and insert a link that tracks back…but I’m not sure if I’m understanding it properly and I don’t understand how to do that.

    Please advise.

  18. Wendy Says:


    Even though I live with full-fledged geeks, I don’t speak “geeklish” fluently but I think of trackbacks as an updated version of link exchange that requires little work to utilize. Trackbacks are a modern day marketing wonder as they allow two blogs to cross-reference each other without either blog owner really doing anything.

    Using a trackback on your blog page to comment / reference a blog page on another person’s blog site allows for the original blog you are referencing to offer a trackback to your site (and vice versa).

    To utilize a trackback, right click on the hyperlink “trackback” above (where under Dan’s post it says “You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.”) and select the list options that says “Copy Shortcut”, “Copy Link Location”, or something along those lines. Different web browsers offer list options. For example, the list option for saving the trackback link on Firefox 3.6.4 is “Copy Link Location”. Internet Explorer 8 says “Copy Shortcut”. Safari 5.0 is simply “Copy Link.”

    Once the trackback link is copied, go to your blog and say what you want to say and then post the trackback (the link you right-clicked and saved that leads back to Dan’s site).

    Unfortunately not all blogging platforms support trackbacks. Blogger doesn’t. =( WordPress does. =) SquareSpace does. I am not sure about other blogging sites. I doubt with a standard website that does not have some sort of secondary blogging platform plug-in installed that one could utilize a trackback url instead of just a standard url.

    Trackbacks are good for cross-marketing as long as the content is related. Most of the site guests who would trackback to Dan’s pages are applicable and are people working on the work they love or trying to get to that place. Many blog owner disable this feature because of spam. Since the trackback feature is available on Dan’s website I assume Dan’s blog is configured to accept and post trackbacks. In WordPress, I think one has to configure their blog to accept trackbacks / pings in the settings.

    I don’t recall seeing anyone use a trackback to Dan’s pages since I have been reading the blog. There should be a list of sites trackbacking or pinging the referenced blog that folks visiting Dan’s page could access.

  19. WendyHamilton's Blog Says:

    Dusting off my WordPress and testing trackbacks…

    Testing trackbacks through Dan Miller’s 48 Days blog @ 48daysblog.worddpress.com…….

  20. wendyhamilton Says:

    I learned something yesterday that I did not realize about trackbacks that might help others wanting to promote their businesses, products or services. You can configure your notes in Facebook to automatically import posts from your blogs.

    When logged onto your FaceBook page go to Notes, Notes Settings and Import Blog and follow the directions to import the URL to your blog.

    This could be a great timesaving tool if you want to streamline the new content notification processes to various contact bases.

  21. Glenda Says:

    Thanks for the information on trackbacks. I opened a blog a few months back, but didn’t make it public and haven’t done much with it. I’m toying with the idea of doing that official and I’ll need to know these things.

  22. Glenda Powers Says:

    Hi Again,
    This subject proved to be just enough to motivate me. I’ve started my blog in earnest. Like I mentioned in my other comment, I had started one a year ago, but had not made it public.

    Hopefully, this is another aspect of moving beyond fear obstacles and into achieving excellence! I would like to invite you all to take a look!


    The second post is one that I wrote just yesterday, and I believe inspired by Margery’s comment above.

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