Only If

Petty resentments.

It seems redundant. Are any resentments not petty? It’s like when someone says, “It’s 6am in the morning.” Of course 6am is in the morning.

Here’s another petty little piece of ire I needlessly harbor. Spice Six is the Chipotle of Indian food. You choose your dish, from bowl to wrap to pizza or kebab. Then you choose your protein and toppings. Unlike Chipotle, the Spice Six soda dispenser is behind the register. I love re-filling my soda. Like a good addict, I’ll have three refills with dinner and one refill to go. Only if Spice Six had free refills I’ve thought a dozen times.

This week, I decided to just ask them, “Could I have a refill?”

“No problem, sir. Ice?”

Now that’s what I’m talking about. I took my refill to go and strutted out of Spice Six like I discovered a new planet. Later it dawned on me that what was more significant than my asking for a refill was the years I spent believing that refills weren’t free because the dispenser was behind the counter. Why didn’t I just ask earlier?

A simple question can have a profound answer.


I spent years with my writing—random thoughts, poems, reflections—taking up space on my harddrive and collecting dust on the shelf.

I went to bookstores and wondered how these authors got from harddrive to hardcover. I was ready to resign the ambition to publish when my wife bought me a “how to publish” book last Christmas that taught me about blogging. My mom and stepdad that same Christmas reserved this domain, Mark Goodson dot com. Eleven months into the self-publishing journey and I’m asking the same question I asked with a cup full of Soda leaving Spice Six: why didn’t I do this before?

It seems the greatest obstacles in life are not obstacles at all. They are opportunities.

Ask and it is given. I know my mom, a raving Esther Hicks fan, will appreciate this post.

I don’t have a hardcover book to announce. One day, I hope I will. And what’s more, it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am walking the path. People are reading what I write. I am part of a broader writer’s community. I’m doing the things that I thought were reserved for those authors I admired on my bookshelf. I would stare at those books and think, only if.

Only if I had a website…

A few clicks and my reflections, poetry, stories are broadcast worldwide. It’s hard work, but it’s easier than not doing it and wondering only if.

Beth Jannery, a writer friend (her website here) who I met on this journey asked me to guest lecture her George Mason communications class. I put on my best, my only, professorial outfit and talked to a college class about blogging for two hours. All because I stopped wondering only if and started doing it.

Thomas Friedman’s new book Thank You for Being Late (available here) has a great introduction on the power of blogging. I used it to beef up my lecture. “Don’t take it from me, take it from Thomas Friedman,” I told the class. “If he says it, it must be true.” Friedman wrote this book because of an interaction he had with his parking attendant at The New York Times. The parking attendant was a refugee from Ethiopia, and a blogger. Friedman was shocked to learn that the man who parked his car each morning was a rival columnist. His relationship with the parking attendant changed the way he saw the world.

This blog has changed the way I see the world. I am now connected to friends in recovery and writers I admire. And I can credit it all to the willingness to ask for my refill—the willingness to stop worrying about my only if and start doing.

If you took your biggest only if and did something about it. What would you do? Comment, and let me know.

22 Responses to “Only If

  • Quit my teaching job and pursue Warriors On Purpose full time with all the vigor and grit I have.

    • Isn’t that the dream! I share it Kip. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll both be doing this thing full-time.

  • Colin Chatburn
    1 year ago

    you build the highest walls in your own mind.the refill.the book,your doing what you’ve wanted to do for a long timei am trying to keep it biggest problem,the walls i build in my own mind.write and the people will read.there i go again building a wall of broken bricks and barbed wire in my own head.why don’t i write a blog,because people will get proof im a illiterate halfwit.its all internal.great piece mark.hit many nails square on the head

    • Certainly not a half-wit. The grammar and spelling are a little rough around the edges, sure, but “building a wall of broken bricks and barbed wire in my own head” is sheer poetry my friend. I think other people would appreciate and read what you have to say. If I can help in any way, just let me know!

  • Love this!
    I’m a big proponent in A.B.R.– Ask, Believe, Receive. I started with a similar intention with seanologues. I wanted it to be where I developed a voice that I could use to talk about things that we’re interesting to me but it could also be used to sell me to other websites and publications. And 6 months later, that’s what’s happening. I’m about to move to Portland where I’ll just be working freelance the first few months and I’m really excited. Feels like it’s all happening the way it’s supposed to and all I had to do is show and do the work. Who knew?

    • Who knew? Portland?! I didn’t! I love Portland. Got sober there actually. And you’re joining Liv who’s in the process of moving and Claire who is already there! How exciting! That’s the real news, wow! In other news, I appreciate the read and the comment.

  • Good question Mark and congrats on everything you have accomplished! <3
    Diana xo

    • Vincent keller
      1 year ago

      I have been thinkin about this all morning, thing’s have been kinda tough lately. Mark… I take this approach with everything I do and every area of my life , I don’t know where the passion comes from (Art school, being a deadhead, my father, strict upbringing) I like to do a good job and do the best I can, a sence of accomplishment, to have thing’s matter in this life. My recovery process, keeping employed, managing money have been the issues that I’ve been struggling with but I keep trying, I get back up, I have awareness, determination and endurance but most of all I have people like you in my corner and know I’am loved!

      • What a wonderful and thoughtful reply Vince. You know, this post deals with a lot of fluffy shit to be honest. Like, I take away all the things that lead up to me being able to have the time and money and all to go buy a soda at Spice 6. I can’t take that stuff for granted. My ratio of doing things I want to do to doing the things I have to do is probably 1:10. But, I’m working on it.

        And you are too. And the most important thing is that last bit you wrote. I’m in your corner. You’re in my corner. We are loved! We are appreciated! That makes everything OK! It makes everything great!

  • Another thought-provoking and powerful post! A delight to read because I identify so readily with the sentiment: “Only if” I ask the “if only…” question, what’s the worst that can happen? I didn’t get sober to be too scared to ask the BIG questions.
    Now, like a typical alcoholic, I’m prevaricating over the best way to ask the BIG questions – like, “can I get a refill to go,” “any chance of a pay rise” or “would you like to go out for dinner tomorrow evening?”
    Yes, you’re quite correct: it is so much easier to pose the question than to wonder what night have been…
    Hmmmm!? Now this has certainly got me thinking!!….

  • This is a fantastic piece, Mark. You have me thinking big time on this.

    I was at a training session (where it was just me alone with the instructor for 16 hours over two days) and one thing she asked is what my passion was. I couldn’t answer her. I actually almost cried because I felt that I had nothing to offer. I *like* certain things, but am I passionate about them? I don’t know. I am not an excitable person, for the most part. I am not Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch. So your question touches upon that button of mine. So my answer is I don’t know. I am struggling with the Buzzkill thing as you know, so I can’t say like Kip and quit my job and work on that full time. Is it writing books? I don’t know. I like writing, but I don’t feel I am at a level like you or Dan or Claire or whomever, who talk so very passionately about writing.

    So the question.

    I will have to think about it. I feel odd not having an answer.

    Thanks for this – love the post.


    • Maybe your passion is asking questions? Seriously. Some of my favorite stuff I’ve read of yours (or listened) has started with a question. I’ll never forget your piece on “It is what it is” and that all started with you thinking about and questioning something everyone else is prone to take advantage of.

      I’m glad this post got you thinking though. It’s kept me thinking. There’s a lot more I want to write in response, but damn, let’s just have a chat?

  • Start doing is amazing advice. Great perspective!

  • See, this is why I got excited in 1995 when I first saw a crude web page with black Times New Roman text on a grey background in NCSA Mosaic while working at Johns Hopkins University. This is why I jumped feet first into the world of the Internet, taking a meager job answering the help desk calls for a dial-up ISP in 1996. This is what ignited a 20+ year passion for me in the technology world. The power of the written word and the ability for us to publish it on our own for anyone to read anywhere in the world. I knew that our world would change with globally accessible information sharing. And it has — it’s not perfect by any stretch, but it has changed and great things are happening because of it.

    Thank you for reminding me that there is still great potential in our technologies and for reminding me why I do what I do everyday.

    • Wow. How cool Damien that you can pinpoint the moment when the internet and its capacity first inspired you. I can’t say I have the same moment. My internet history had more to do with frustrations before starting this thing. But how amazing it is. Without it, we wouldn’t have met! And that fact alone makes everything worthwhile, and makes all of it a good thing.

  • Love this, Mark. And what a journey you’ve had over the past year. I’m so glad to know you. To your question: if I go back in time to August, the past year was a huge year for me. I entered recovery, and unlike the “first” time, didn’t try this alone. I shared about this in a meeting recently: when I quit drinking, my life was almost chaos. This was both related to, and simultaneously unrelated to the drinking. The drinking certainly did nothing to help the chaos, but stopping didn’t solve it alone. This began the separate journey which led me to the most courageous thing I’ve ever done: quit the very good job I’d had for 30 years. (Yes, I still have a miraculously mundane job) but I did something brave for the first time. It’s been scary, rewarding, awesome, and nerve racking. In other words, I’m ALIVE!! I *could* have quit my job while still drinking, but it wouldn’t have solved the underlying issues. Quitting drinking….and then getting out of the toxic work environment….has been an incredible experience. Thanks for the prompt.

    • HD- so good to hear from you. You’ve come across this question before and answered it bravely. The drinking is one thing and, not to take it for granted, but once you get it it becomes the clear thing. The harder thing is life decisions like work and family. I really want to speak with you on the phone (or meet up?) because there is a lot of similarity with where I’m at right now and where you were for different reasons.

      I love following the BIG journey you’re on. It keeps growing.

  • Thank you for sharing this story, and for showing us that there is so much potential behind our “only ifs.” This, along with your advice to our class, has a much needed reminder that the most important thing is to start writing.

  • I would “come out” as a spiritual empath. But since I have yet to come out as a person who drinks too much, that one will have to wait a while. Or will it?
    — A fellow Esther Hicks fan.

  • Intriguing and honest post. You are helping me to live this “only if” by sharing my story with a brave and honest voice one day at a time with your writing. Who knows what’s next, I think great things. Thank you Mark.

  • Thank you for coming to talk to our class! It was a really encouraging discussion.

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