As it turned out, the benefits of setting my sights lower (not to be confused with selling myself short, which is counterproductive and rooted in fear) carried over into other areas of my life. I found my way to the bead store, and I also began to see other goals—everything from writing a movie script to designing a more effective cat scratcher—as attainable, as close as an Internet search or a walk to the corner. One day I put on some running shoes and ran as far as I could (not far), but I went a little bit farther every day, and now I run 10Ks.

In time the world slowly began to get its sense of humor back, and so did I. I began to make cold calls and ask strangers to let me act, write, help out at their animal shelter—and they did. Instead of being paralyzed by fear of the unknown, I could see everything in terms of simple beginnings whose sprouts could twist and flourish endlessly. And no imposing to-do list was needed; the next necessary steps came so naturally that I hardly realized what was happening. Come to think of it, isn't everything basically an accumulation of little things that someone or something did? Is it crazy to imagine that Henry Ford had to ask a friend for spare parts for his combustion engine? Well, maybe, but it won't hurt anyone to think so.

I'd love to be able to tell you that I'm now the CEO of a multimillion-dollar jewelry company, but that's not how this story ends. In fact, this story doesn't end; it keeps expanding. My definition of possible has broadened remarkably, as has my ability to pursue those possibilities with calm assurance. In the past I thought I could only bring one thing to the world, but now the world is welcoming me in other ways, thereby revitalizing everything else. My career is fulfilling, but so is finding a stray cat a loving home.

Although someone accidentally threw it away once, that beige napkin remains (guacamole stains painstakingly removed) encased in plastic in my desk drawer, right next to the long string of tiny pink crystal beads that I pull out whenever I get overwhelmed. I'm not an international star, Pulitzer Prize winner, or noted humanitarian, and may never be—but I sure am having fun trying.

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