What's On The Cover Of Your Life?

By Mike Johnson

If you had to define your life with just five photographs, which would you choose?

When we remodeled our basement, we purposely designed a large wall space to hold five poster-sized photographs that would represent key points in our life. We didn’t know what the five photos would be, just that we wanted to create space to hold them.

Just after the remodel was completed, we viewed the inspirational movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

In this romantic/comedy/mystery, “Walter” (Ben Stiller) works for Life Magazine, loses the important cover photo for the final issue, and with some help from his romantic interest Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), spends the rest of the movie trying to locate it.

During one of the best scenes, Walter rushes past a 100-foot-long wall filled with iconic, poster-sized Life Magazine covers.


THAT’S the image we’ll mimic with our “life” posters in our basement!

We’ll select five photos from our life, have them designed as if they were covers of Life Magazine and create our own “Life Wall.”

Although the idea arrived in an instant, it took 30 months to manifest.

My wife has always been a photographer, both personally and professionally. So we have thousands of photographs. How does one select just five photos to represent our combined 100+ years of life?

Very methodically.

Over the next 30 months we discussed the project dozens of times. Should we feature our family? Pets? Jobs? Houses? Businesses? Travels? Skills? Hobbies? Service Activities? After many hours of deliberation, we settled upon the following five photos:

Owner/Dog Lookalike Contest

This shows our kids and our first family dog. This represents several huge “leaps of faith” in our lives. Getting married. Having children. Rescuing the dog from the pound. Moving 20 miles from town onto an island in the Gulf of Mexico. It also represents one of our first baby steps in creativity, entering and winning this contest.

Willard Scott/Treetop Gazette

This shows a fun celebrity “endorsing” the community newspaper we started out of thin air. In the post “How We Turned a Broken Coffee Machine Into Millions” I explain how those newspaper years almost killed us, yet gave us the skills to achieve all our dreams. Willard Scott was also the first Ronald McDonald which is special because Margie & I met at McDonald’s. This represents our love, our courage, our creativity and our ability to learn during failure and come out the other side stronger.

Cody Trolley Tours

This was the business that launched us to financial and time freedom. Also created out of thin air, it was a spectacularly successful and creative endeavor that helped and enchanted everyone it touched. Sold after nine years, it still operates impressively today. Margie's face is still in its advertising and they still use our tour script. This represents the full realization of our writing, research, entrepreneurial, marketing, advertising, publishing and performance skills. "How Deep is Your Mine?" explains how looking a little deeper, revealed this opportunity.

The Farm

We bought, rehabbed and sold this Minnesota hobby farm over two summers. This allowed me to return to the state where I grew up and experience the farm life Margie & I never had. We turned an abandoned 90-year-old homestead into a showplace, learning a ton about rehabbing property. We used the profits from the sale to rehab our Wyoming basement that holds our “Life Wall.” Laddie is one of three Border Collie Frisbee dogs we’ve loved and trained over the years. This represents our knack for making everything we touch better.

Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp

I planned on becoming a big league ballplayer until I was 14. Mom died that year and I lost focus. In 2014, I joined 130 other fantasy campers for 8 days in Florida to play with our childhood heroes from the Minnesota Twins. Amazingly, the camp photographer captured my favorite instant on film. Batting against Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven, I crushed his first pitch 350 feet, just foul of the 330 foot home run fence. This represents courageously going to a strange place alone, that everyone is approachable and that you’re never too old to experience a dream. "What I Learned Batting Against a Hall-of-Famer" reveals additional lessons learned from this experience.

So …

After reviewing the five photos we selected, what was the common denominator and the point of this column?

All of the photos we selected symbolized huge, courageous, leaps of faith into the unknown.

These leaps turned us into the people we dreamed of becoming. No one can take that inner abundance away and we can apply that abundance to every new adventure in the future. It turns out that our scariest and most offbeat adventures are the milestones we selected to punctuate and define our lives.

Going through this selection process taught us what we valued most from our decades on earth. It wasn’t things. It wasn’t careers. It wasn’t even people. Yes, all of these were important but they did not make the top-five cut.

What mattered most were the experiences that caused our own personal growth.

Paradoxically, those leaps of faith also helped tens of thousands of other people who brushed against our journey.

We learned that Life isn’t about acquiring, it’s about becoming. Strapping something onto yourself externally is always hollow because it is external to you and can be lost. But change the who you are inside -- your essential self -- and that is richly fulfilling and permanent.

When Walter Mitty completed his adventures at the conclusion of the movie, his secret dream life had become his inner essential self, making it visible for all to see. Walter Mitty learned what Margie & I learned.

To live the life you imagine and to become the person you dream of becoming, you must take leaps of faith to get there. The size of your leaps determines the size of your growth and the size of your Life.

Why not make TODAY a cover-worthy moment in your Life?


Mike Johnson made the journey from jobs to freelance writer to entrepreneur to passive income and early retirement. Today he teaches people how to skip right to passive income and early retirement at WorldsBestWriter.com .

Once I learned how to BUY passive income, I stopped chasing the bucks and the bucks started chasing me!


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