THIS I BELIEVE (Not My Grandfather’s Christianity)

June 27, 2018

Guy Wilson, Gene Marshall, David Marshall

May 2018

My father is a recovering Methodist minister who railed against the traditional church.  My grandfather on my mother’s side was a proud traditional Methodist preacher in Texas.  I grew up proselytizing an ecumenical demythologized version of Christianity I learned from my father and his peers at the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago, then got into verbal battles in my twenties with those who believed in more traditional versions of Christianity. Weary of fighting, for the last forty years I’ve stayed mostly mum about my spiritual beliefs, except with family members.  When my two kids went off to college, I gave them each a little handwritten book with my take on Christianity. Here’s what I wrote:

Summer of 2004 and Summer of 2007:

I will describe my beliefs using the traditional trinity symbols of GOD, CHRIST and HOLY SPIRIT.  All of these are very loaded terms so let me set the record straight from the beginning by saying that I could easily choose other world religions and find similar symbols to explain what I mean.  In fact, several people at work call me the Zen executive and find it hard to believe that I am really a Christian.

GOD (secular code word: MYSTERY OF LIFE)

First I want to say what God is not.  It is not a supernatural being which controls all our lives like a master puppeteer.  Rather, it is simply the MYSTERY OF LIFE.  It is the unknowness that we become conscious of when we try hard to answer key life questions such as where was I before I was born, or where will I be after I die.  There are many speculations about this and different religions have theories of after life or reincarnation, but as far as I am concerned, all these are simply ideas, none are proven.  The only thing we are sure about is that we do not know the real answer to these kind of existential questions.  So what are some basic statements about the mystery of life?

  • Life is bigger than any one person.
  • Life hands us limits.
  • We cannot ultimately control life.  We can influence it but not control it.
  • Life has good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant.  We try to emphasize the good, but invariably things happened sometimes during life that are truly unpleasant to all of us, such as natural or untimely death of a loved one, disease, hatred to us by others, etc.


  1. If life is bigger than us and hands us many situations beyond our control, the question is how do we respond to it.  We can respond in a variety of ways:
  2. Cynical – the world is basically full of shit but and I express my dissatisfaction about this in verbal and non-verbal ways, many of which seem harsh to others. I not only drain away my own energy but drain energy from others as well.
  3. Stoical – life is full of disappointments and set backs but I will grin and bear it, but I am not a happy person. I don’t drain other people’s energy but I don’t have much left after pumping myself up to give extra to anybody else.
  4. Happy – life is full of ups and downs but I respect that and do not let the set backs of my past hamper my future
  5. Bliss – I am truly and ecstatic person who is grounded with the mystery of life, with a bright burning star that both fuels my life and provides great energy for others as well.

Almost everybody gets so separated from the mystery of life at certain points in their lives that they enter what theologians call THE DARK NIGHT, or a state of depression that makes it almost impossible to live life to the fullest.  This state of depression can descend upon people for many reasons: not getting the grades I want in school, not being popular enough, being scorned by a boyfriend or girlfriend, not getting into my college of choice, not getting the job I want, being fired from a job, a death of a someone close, not achieving something that gives me meaning, such as sports or art or political achievements, not as good looking as hoped, not as smart as others – the list goes on and on.  Another Christian word for the dark night is hell.  But this is hell on earth, not some notion of hell after someone dies.

When someone reaches this dark night, it feels like the life has been sucked right out.  I am separated from people, from myself and others, I get either extra quiet or extra loud, I feel like I have lost my core or my MoJo.  I have lost my Chakra.  I feel like I am in a hole and cannot climb out.  I feel like I have bars around me and am living in some kind of self-created prison.  I feel like I am asleep and cannot wake up.  I have a sense of hopelessness and even pangs of self-destruction.

If I am in the dark night, I am usually still in some kind of illusion about what life is all about.  I am thinking that life should have handed me a better set of playing cards, or that others have done me wrong and that is preventing me from living a full life.

What are typical responses of people trapped in the dark night?

Overeating, under eating, drugs (not recreational, but habitual with an intent to flee reality), excessive sleeping (cannot get up in the morning), abusing alcohol, rage, personality change, extreme nervousness, irritability, lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm, and lost sense of humor.  These are just some of the responses when people feel a dire sense of separation of what life has handed them.


CHRIST (secular code word: ONENESS with the mystery of life)

When I think of what the carpenter dude did which is described in the New Testament of the bible, he went around telling people to get our of their funk and rediscover they natural MoJo.  The people who wrote the bible used parables so they told wild stories about Jesus walking on water, or turning two fish in enough food to feed big crowds, touching sick people to magically heal them.  But when you strip away the mythology, what I see is a man who took it upon himself to help other people get out of the dark night if they could not do it for themselves.

What are the ways I know I have come out of the dark night?

I feel a oneness with what life has handed me, with all its warts and imperfections.  Example – I wish I was 6’ 2” with a full head of hair, but that is not me.  I can either wallow in my sorrow about this or move on, not in a cynical or stoical way, but a truly accepting way.

I accept the good and the bad of life as evidence that I am not in ultimate control over my present or future.

I accept the past even though I may not have liked everything that happened in my past.   As Nietzsche said, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger”.

My illusion about some other kind of fabled life shatters like a bursting balloon, and what is left is a great feeling of calm, not a feeling of regret or dread.

Is see my future as extremely open to a full range of possibilities.  I do not see a closed future for myself based on past limitations or disappointments.  Like some wise person once said, “today is the first day of the rest of your life”.

I have reclaimed my Center, my Chakra, and I am One with the Mystery of Life.  That is what I mean by believing in God.

This is what I was brought up to mean living in a state of GRACE.  I have picked up my diseased bed and can walk (as Jesus told the invalid by the stream) and I can help others pick up their bed if they are too weak to do it themselves (if they have lost their own MoJo and cannot stand up by themselves).

In this context, what is a Christ Event in someone’s life?

It is a Wake Up call.  It usually happens when someone is in the depth of depression or in an absurd illusion about the way life really is and then gets a whack upside the head that brings them back to reality.  Sometimes this is something a friend of relative says or sometimes it is an event.  The breakthrough realization comes that external events will not necessarily get better, but that my attitude or relationship to those events can change dramatically.  Once this happens the self-imposed chains come off and I can begin to live freely.


HOLY SPIRIT (secular code word: FREEDOM)

Living my life with Holy Spirit in it simply means living with abundant freedom.  In Christian terminology, it is the state of being in Heaven on earth, right inside one’s own life, rather than some fanciful notion of heaven that happens after someone dies after having been an upstanding good boy or girl.

How do you know if you are truly living a free life?

You are bursting with happiness for the gift to be alive and to live out your life on this small planet in the universe.

You are in a state of joy and tranquility (not unlike Buddhist tradition).

You feel at one with the world, even though you feel many injustices in the world and want to do something proactive to ease the suffering of others.

You feel no shackles from the past.  Hurts from the past fall away.

Others can still be mean, hurtful, tiresome, and unconscious, but they now longer bring me down to their level.  Indeed, I feel a sense of care for others who seems to still be in a state of separation from themselves and the mystery of life.

I feel enlightened.

I am in the light; the darkness has been lifted from my shoulders.

Others notice this as well, that I have a strong burning core at my center that provides not only enough energy for me but provides abundant energy to give to others as well.


CHURCH (secular code word: GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO CARE)

Once I am living a truly free life, I gravitate towards others that are full of joy as well.  I also feel a need help others in whatever small way I can.

The idea of “church” for me is any group of free people who get together and do selfless work which helps improve the world.  Secular examples of the church are:

  • Environmental groups – wanting human being to be more at one with mother earth instead of raping and pillaging it.
  • YMCA and YWCA groups that encourage political activism and teach social responsibility.
  • Peace Corp
  • Volunteer organizations of many kinds.

Everybody who had become enlightened has their own way of being the church.  Sometimes just affecting one person at a time in one’s daily life brings fulfillment.  For me, one of the most fulfilling secular acts of being the church for me (in my expanded definition) is the work your mother and I have done with our family journals (The Book of Myself, The Book of Us, What I Love About You…).  These books have helped thousands of people communicate more intimately with their loved ones, even on difficult and touch topics.



Moraga, California

August 25, 2004


February 24, 2017

Five Simple Steps to Reading and Absorbing Nonfiction Books in a Half Hour


Does your nightstand or coffee table look like this? If so, I’ve got a professionally-tested way to clear this book pile up for you.  I’m a book editor and must read 40-50 books per year for work, each of which averages 250 pages.  In addition, I try to read at least one non-fiction book per month that is not related to work. What’s my secret?

It’s easy.  Here are my five simple steps for reading and retaining any book in 30 minutes or less.

Pre-Read – Write the title on a 3 1/2″ square Post-it Note, and stick it on the inside front cover (1 minute).

Step 1  – Read the inside and back jacket copy if it’s a hardcover, or the backcover if it’s a paperback, but skip the endorsements (2 minutes).

Step 2 – Read the Table of Contents, and notice the chapter that stands the most interesting (2 minutes).

Step 3 – Read the first and last paragraphs of each chapter, including the preface, foreword, and introduction if applicable. Notice which chapter sounded the most interesting (15 minutes).

Step 4 – Choose the chapter that interested you the most and read it from start to finish, or at least read the first and last paragraphs of each major chapter section (7 minutes).

Step 5 – Write down the Big Idea on the Post-It note in seven words or less.  Write down the Learnings you will take from this book in ten words or less (3 minutes).

Digital Option – If you read ebooks, or don’t want to fuss with paper Post-It Notes, create a “Books Reads” document on the Notes app on your phone and update it with the Big Idea and Learnings.

Now move that book from your nightstand or coffee table to your bookshelf, or donate it to your local library.

Ahhh, doesn’t that feels good?!


David Marshall is the Vice President of Editorial and Digital for Berrett-Koehler Publishers by day and coauthor with his wife Kate by night and weekends of family journals to foster family communication.


The Book of My Father

June 9, 2016
David & Gene Marshall, November 2014

I love and deeply appreciate my 84-year-old dad, but it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had a strained relationship with my father for most of my life.

As a kid, he felt very distant, leaving it to Mom to care for me, my brother, and my two sisters.  His head buried in a book, he seemed to view it as a chore if I asked him to help me with homework, or play with me.  If I was hurting, he didn’t have much use for my tears, so I stopped crying in front of him at an early age.

As I grew older, he loved to debate with me about religion, politics, and how to make the world a better place, but at the end of each marathon session, my brain lay panting as he was just warming up.  I respected the hell out of my dad’s intellect, powers of persuasion, and commitment to make a difference, but I didn’t feel a lot of warmth coming from him.  He didn’t touch me much or seem to want to be touched by me.  We were about ideas, not feelings.

Dad was a Methodist minister who wanted to “renew the decaying Christian church from within.”  He worried that young people were leaving the church in droves because it was no longer relevant to their lives.  He translated the stories in the bible into language that everybody could understand.  He hoped I would follow in his footsteps, not necessarily as a minister but as a change maker. When I entered the banking world, got admitted to a prestigious business school, and later worked in the software industry, he worried that I was wasting my talents by serving myself instead of others.

I’ve been working as an editor for Berrett-Koehler Publisher (BK) for almost nine years now.  Our mission is to “connect people and ideas to create a world that works for all.” As a writer of many change books himself, my dad understands and respects this job more than my previous choices.  He reads many of our books and spreads the word about them in his newsletter.  Dad brags about my work at BK in ways I never heard during my previous work lives.  My wife Kate and I also write self-prompted family journals to help loved ones communicate.  Ironically, the first one I co-wrote with Dad’s father, Carl Marshall (The Book of Myself: A Do-It-Yourself Autobiography).  They say authors write the books they need the most; maybe that’s why I got into the family communication business myself.  Perhaps I have my dad to partially thank for this.

Even with all these ups and downs, as I sit here today, looking back on my last sixty years, and contemplating my next forty, I’m happy to still have my dad in my life.  He’s shared his wisdom with me, and has shown openness in learning from me.  We’ve come a long way from our cold and overly heady past.  We’re both trying to judge less and listen more.  Dad ends all his emails now with “Love, Dad” and hugs me tight when I visit him.

Dad had a health scare last year that made me realize that he won’t always be in my life. The time we have left together is precious to both of us.  In my last visit, I soaked up his wisdom about religion and spirituality for three days straight, and didn’t tire from it one bit.  He’s thinking about his legacy now and talks about hopes and dreams for the world after he’s gone, and the roles his children and grandchildren might play in realizing those dreams.  And I’m thinking about how to make the most of my second half of life, and see him as an inspiration for keeping mentally and emotionally fit—and staying fully engaged in life.


Dad, I love you to pieces!




David@60 – My Mini Life Map

February 15, 2016

I just turned sixty.  After reflecting on my last six decades and envisioning what my seventh decade might look like, I decided to create a mini life map* to tell the story with a few short words and pictures. I titled each decade just like a book chapter with the one or two words that defined the period for me. I then added highlight bullets, emotion words, thinking words, and a summary statement for each decade. Finally, I picked out two or three photos that represented the decade for me. This was a fun and meaningful exercise.  I’m looking forward to what the next ten-year chapter in my life will bring.


Decade 1 – 1956-1965    FIFTH CITY

  • Germany #1 as preschooler
  • The Order – started in Evanston and then moved to West Side of Chicago
  • Fifth City” Urban Development Project – 16-square-block area near Homan Avenue “L” station
  • The Ecumenical Institute
  • Iron Boy (becoming an Iron Man)
  • Leif Ericson Elementary School
  • Two Fires (Evanston, my parents’ bedroom)
  • The Brotherhood (John, Mark, Wayne, David)

Feeling: Anger, Fear, Crying, Excited, Crazy, Nightmares

Thinking: Hot and cold – I love laying down my life for the mission, I hate it, no, I love it. No, wait….

Statement: The Order and the West Side ghetto of Chicago took me to the edge, but the Brotherhood helped me survive.

IronBoy_ChicagoWestSide  IronManStatueFifthCity  David-Mark_Lief-Ericson_6thgrade_Dec1967


Decade 2 – 1966-1975    FREEDOM

  • Third Fire (Chicago riots after MLK killing)
  • Leaving Home at Twelve
  • Iowa in Seventh Grade
  • Malaysia in Ninth Grade
  • Denver in Tenth Grade
  • San Jose, CA in Eleventh and Twelfth Grade
  • The Other World
  • The Institute of Cultural Affairs
  • “Christ Event” in San Jose, CA
  • Left Order
  • San Francisco State University (majored in International Relations & German Literature)
  • Fourth Fire (Wayne’s apartment house arson)
  • Germany #2 – Heidelberg University (junior year abroad)

Feeling: Homesick, Anger, Apathy, Remorse, Lonely, Awe, Exhilaration, Relief, Burning

Thinking: I grew up fast, maybe too fast. I’m lucid but I don’t fit in with non-Order youth.

Statement: In RS-1 language, I had my own Tillich Christ Event at seventeen and awakened to my own profound Bonhoeffer freedom, but it took a near-violent episode to shake me to the core.

David-Malaysia_1971  SFSU-ID


Decade 3 – 1976-1985    KATE

  • SFSU Graduation
  • Selling Apple II computers San Francisco financial district with Mark
  • Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City
  • Kindred Spirit Kate on Wall Street
  • Mexico City – Kate & David in penthouse
  • Atlanta – Starting software career at Peachtree Software, Mark & Julian
  • Our wedding in western Massachusetts
  • Boston – Harvard Business School, David L.

Feeling: Loving Soul Mate, Confident, Adventuresome, Taking (more than giving)

Thinking: I’ll make a difference by becoming a minister like my dad and granddad; no, I’ll work for non-profits and the World Bank to change the world; no, I’ll help the world by redistributing the wealth via commercial banking; no, I’ll bring voice to the masses through the microcomputer software revolution. Profoundly appreciative of my short Chase bank tenure since it brought Kate into my life-and changed everything.

Statement: My life changed for the better when I met Kate. I’m the luckiest guy I know.

Kate-David-Wedding-Day-web  Kate-David_Deerfield_10-14-86


Decade 4 – 1986-1995    EMILY & BEN

  • Emily born in Boston, Massachusetts
  • HBS graduation, Class of 1987
  • Germany #3 – Munich with Softlab, Klaus
  • Thinking, feeling, dreaming in two languages: German & English
  • Ben born in Munich, Germany
  • Moved to San Francisco with Softlab GmbH/BMW AG
  • JourneyWare Media, Mark & David L.
  • Joined Men’s Group
  • Kate and David’s 10th Anniversary
  • I Want You to Know, Before I Go” (precursor to The Book of Myself)

Feeling: Loving children; not worthy of HBS, but wait, maybe I am; ready to take risks; stressed at running own company with constant fund raising and cash constraint; safe with my men’s group

Thinking: Meeting the Mystery of Life in infant faces of Emily and Ben; entrepreneurial spirit

Statement: Co-creating, helping birth, and raising two children is the most awe-filled experience of my life.

Bo April 1998  Ben-1993  Emily_1993


Decade 5 – 1996-2005    MARSHALL BOOKS

  • Settling in Northern California
  • The Book of Myself published (becomes bestseller)
  • The Book of Us published (becomes bestseller)
  • Oracle Corporation, Preet and Mark
  • Homestore, weekly commute to Los Angeles, Preet
  • The Book of My Pet published (first dud)
  • Kabira Software in San Rafael, CA, Mark and Preet
  • Go-go high tech investing and crashing back to earth
  • Emily leaving the nest
  • Kate and David’s 20th anniversary
  • Men’s Group 10th anniversary
  • Leaving software business at 50

Feeling: After many travels, California feels like home; thrilled to be an “author;” relief with Oracle paycheck; exciting Homestore IPO; exhausting battles at Homestore and Kabira; burned out.

Thinking: Book of Myself proves I can work for myself; I’m an investment genius, oh wait, maybe I’m not. It’s time to move on, start over, and reinvent myself.

Statement: As software storms raged, I found my calling and ability to make a difference in Marshall Books.

Carl and David Marshall  BOM 2007 3-D  Book-of-Us_Cover_21.5kb


Decade 6 – 2006-2015    WORK REIMAGINED

  • Writing Iron Boy memoir
  • Berrett-Koehler Publishers – second (or third) career, finding true community
  • Ben leaving the nest
  • What I Love About You (becomes bestseller)
  • Emily’s Wesleyan graduation
  • Ben’s UCLA graduation
  • Emily’s University of Minnesota Law School graduation
  • The Book of Myself – second edition published
  • Picture of Me published
  • My Life Map published
  • What I Love About You, Mom published
  • Kate and David’s 30th anniversary
  • Men’s Group 20th anniversary

Feeling: happy, content, invigorated, creative, innovative, compassionate, learning to breathe

Thinking: I’m wearing two hats, one as an author, the other as a publisher, both with a mission to make the world a better place; giving back.

Statement: I’m extending my vocational calling, started with Marshall Books, by working for Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Macintosh-Development-Team-David-Marshall-2011   BK-staff-photo-for-website_Jan2016


Decade 7 – 2016-2025    SPIRITUAL SYNTHESIS

  • Studying Buddhism
  • Studying Christianity
  • I Loved You First – published in 2017
  • Complete and publish Iron Boy
  • Rediscovering music and singing
  • Yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi
  • Aging well
  • “Refire Don’t Retire”
  • Kate and David’s 40th anniversary
  • Men’s Group 30th anniversary
  • Discovering the world; embracing global cultures
  • Planting my activist stake: protecting Mother Earth (or something else)
  •  Passing of parents – helping them exit with grace and dignity
  • Making a difference in grandchildrens’ lives

Feeling: peaceful, serene, contemplative, yearning, concerned, giving, body creaking

Thinking: What a gift to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit as I start my seventh decade; it gives me an opportunity to integrate the lessons of my first six decades and to help others with what I’ve gathered.

Statement: Synthesizing my spirit life toward enlightenment; discovering and nurturing my higher self in service of others.

Kate-David-GreatWall   David Avila Beach   Mens-Group2_October-2015

*If you want to do something simple like this for a meaningful milestone in your life, just follow this same formula I used. If you want a more comprehensive version with warm up activities to lead you through the life mapping process for your past, present and future, I recommend My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future, which I co-wrote with my wife Kate.

David Marshall, February 2016




My Close Encounter with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – Thirty Years Ago This Month

July 21, 2014

Everybody remembers that Steve Jobs unveiled the Macintosh in January 1984 and the infamous Superbowl commercial that featured the young woman running down the aisle of a dark theater and throwing her sledgehammer into the screen of Big Brother IBM clones, with the message that the world will never be the same–but few people remember that five months later in July, Steve took his Macintosh, in the form of a two-story Macintosh replica on the exhibit floor, to the National Computer Conference in Las Vegas, and showed off a host of business applications from independent software companies, to prove that his new Mac was no toy.

At the time, I worked for Peachtree Software in Atlanta as the brand manager in the marketing department for our flagship microcomputer accounting software. We had just published “Back to Basics,” the first accounting software for the Mac, and “Back to Basics” was my baby.  Apple invited us to debut it at the NCC show.  They made us feel like part of the Apple family.  They took us out to dinner before the show and gave us all “Macintosh Development Team” shirts with the Apple logo. 


Proudly wearing my Apple shirt, I manned my Mac station on the upper floor of the giant two-story Macintosh replica in the exhibit hall.  All the demo pods surrounded a small glass conference room in the middle.  My accounting software demo was interrupted by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates spit shouting at each from purple faces just inches apart just ten feet from me.  This was a big deal for me because I was 28 years old and this was my first big rodeo, and I was a few feet away from two other 28-year olds who were already demi-gods in the microcomputer revolution.  I stopped what I was doing and tried to figure out what they were saying, but couldn’t hear.  I read later that Steve was livid that Bill Gates had stolen his graphic interface for Microsoft’s upcoming first generation of Windows, but that Bill retorted that if anybody had done any stealing, that Steve had stolen it from Xerox PARC, and that Microsoft was just re-purposing it. That was one of the most memorable moments of my high-tech career. It also impressed upon me how much of an evangelist Steve Jobs was for his product and company, and influenced me to only work for companies where I truly believed in the products and services.  I got off course a couple times, but mostly kept on the right path.


The postscript to this July 1984 close encounter was that when Steve Jobs announced the iPad in January 2010, I called up Apple and told them we wanted to sell our books on the iBookstore.  Berrett-Koehler was one of only seven book publishers that debuted their products on the iPad when it was releases in April of that year.  A year and a half later, when Steve Jobs died, I asked if I could do a tribute to Steve at our monthly staff meeting. The morning of the late October staff meeting, I dug out my Macintosh Development Team shirt and put it on.  After I did my tribute in front of about twenty staff members, Steve Piersanti, our president and founder said, “David, that was a impressive tribute, but the most impressive part is that you still fit into that shirt!

July 1984 to July 2014 – It’s been a wild ride these last 30 years.  Thanks for steering me to my passion, Steve.



How I Became an Author…

September 8, 2013

My first flirtation with books as a vocation came in 1992 when I founded JourneyWare Media.  I was five years out of Harvard Business School in the pre-Internet era and the children’s educational software market was in full bloom on CD-ROMs, the precursors to DVDs.  I figured that adults would want to learn with visual and audio stimulation as well, so started acquiring the electronic rights to best-selling personal development books.  My childhood buddy Mark joined me with a couple other business school and software friends and we created a Virtual Seminar product line with videos and interactive simulations so people could experience a workshop with an influential author in the comfort of their homes.  In retrospect, this business model was ahead of its time by almost twenty years; it wasn’t until Apple released the iPad in 2010 that the interactive, media-rich, e-book market started to take off.  Nevertheless, one trip to New York City in 1994 to acquire the rights for a best-selling book led me to become an author myself; JourneyWare Media provided an important stepping stone to my life work.

During this same time, my Grandpa Carl (my dad’s dad) started writing his memoirs.  He spoke into a tape recorder and my aunt transcribed them.  He told me that it was an exhilarating experience to tell the stories of his childhood, young adulthood, and later years in a way that could be passed on to future generations of Marshalls.  All the eight grandchildren all loved it.  Grandpa’s 80-something friends were envious, but many of them said that they wouldn’t know where to start in writing their own autobiographies.  Since I was learning the ropes of the book business, I suggested that he and I create a simple fill-in-the blank book that would help people begin telling their stories.  It would ask questions in a logical way that would be easy to answer, provide a skeleton, with users taking an active role in putting the meat on the bones.  If Grandpa’s friends were any indication, lots of people had stories to tell about family, friends, education, work, and the world during the different phases of life.  My brother Wayne, a graphic artist, helped me create a mock-up of the book.

Carl and David Marshall

While I was in New York City in 1994 visiting book publishers trying to get the electronic rights to bestselling personal development books, I also showed around the mock-up of the do-it-yourself memoir book.  Back then, it was called “I Want You to Know… (Before I Go).  Hyperion Book, the adult trade publisher owned by Disney, published the book in 1997 as The Book of Myself: A Do-It-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions by Grandpa Carl and me.  Unfortunately, Grandpa Carl died before the book came out, but we are all so happy that he shared his life wisdom in writing before he passed on.  The Book of Myself  has sold almost 400,000 copies so far in two editions.

BOM 2007 3-D

My wife Kate and I then co-authored a second book called The Book of Us: Your Love Story in 150 Questions, which tells the other great story of life, that of the couple.  It was followed by What I Love About You, which is a book of appreciation for partners.  We have written eight books so far (almost 800,000 copies sold), all focused on fostering family communication and self-discovery.  Writing these growth journals gives me purpose and is as a big part of my life work now.

David Marshall

Moraga, California

August 7, 2013

Mom, We Love You!

April 13, 2013

I am the second of four children, first two boys and then two girls.  I have always liked this combination, because then each of us gets at least one brother and one sister.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Speaking of appreciation, not too long ago, my brother, sisters, and I were thinking about what to give our mother for her 75th birthday.   She has everything she needs for a comfortable life, so buying her a toaster oven didn’t fit the bill, at least not for this special birthday.   We asked ourselves what she would like from us more than anything in the world, and came up with this simple answer: for us too tell her how much we have loved and appreciated her over the years, from childhood to today.


(Teresa, Wayne, Mama Ruth, Kathy, and David)

My wife Kate and I, who have experience creating guided journals, bought a blank journal and created prompts for each of the Marshall four kids to fill out.  It covered our childhood, adolescent, and adult years with mom.  In round robin fashion, Kate sent the book around to each of us four kids, and we then took turns expressing our appreciation based on the prompts that spoke to us most deeply.  Kate made sure the book kept moving between sons and daughters so it would return to Mom in time for the big event.

When Mom first unwrapped the book on her special birthday, she didn’t know what it was.  But as she began to read the passages, her eyes started to well up.  This was not just another birthday card or Mother’s Day card with a page or two of appreciation.  It was a bound book filled with appreciation.  What mother wouldn’t like that?   Mom now says that this is the best present she has every received from her kids.  She proudly displays it on her coffee table at her home for all her guests to see.

Our own family experience with this book of maternal appreciation motivated Kate and me to write What I Love About You, Mom, to help other children express their feelings to their mothers (and even grandmothers) as well.


Mom and I spoke recently about what the book means to her.

David – Mom, do you still remember your response when you first figured out what we had given you?

Mom – Yes, I remember it well.  I was amazed and deeply touched by the outpouring of love for events that I had either forgotten or never realized how much they meant to my children.

David –  Why did this gift affect you more than others we have given you in the past?

Mom – Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?  This little book of appreciation showed your hearts, in your own handwritings, in ways that a blender or spa treatment never could.  It also outlasts any other gift. It’s a family keepsake for me to read again and again.

David – Which passages did you especially appreciate?

Mom – Well, I’ll mention one from each of you.  Your older brother Wayne said I helped him develop his love for music:

“You bought me my first drum, a bongo and enduring my bad playing, and encouraged my piano playing, too. I am still drumming and playing piano all these years later.”

David – What answers from your daughters moved you?

Mom – Kathy knew she was different from the start. She thanked me for letting her be her true self:

“When I was a child, you just let me be, let me be a tomboy, let me get dirty. You didn’t try to force things on me like clothes and toys, and I think that has been the case all along.  You let me be and trusted that things would be alright.”

David – And what about your youngest, Teresa?

Mom – Sometimes it was the little things that you kids remembered that really choked me up.  She wrote:

“I remember the pot roast you used to make in the electric skillet. It felt like home. And I remember singing to all the relatives whenever we went to Texas and Oklahoma to visit.”

David – And what about from me?

Mom: You wrote how glad you are to still have me in your life, and to have been born into my family:

“I still love and cherish having a healthy (mind, body, and spirit) mother at my age as I approach 50. Many people I know have already lost both parents.  I am very lucky. And I never would have met and fallen in love with your parents, Mama Lou and Papa Daddy, the best grandparents a kid could ask for. They passed on so much of the goodness of their souls to you and your dear sisters.

David – Anything else you’d like to add?

Mom – I wish I had thought to make a book like this for my own mother before she died.  Mama Lou, as we called her, was a powerful influence in my life.  As we say in Texas—I loved her to pieces.  I think this is a great way for mothers and children to communicate in ways they may not have beforehand.  I told Mama Lou that I loved her often, but never expressed the various ways she helped nurture me into the strong woman I am today.  I know she would have really cherished a book of appreciation from me like the one you kids gave me.

David – Just one more thing I want to say, Mom.  I love YOU to pieces.

Mom – Come give me some sugar!


David and Kate Marshall live in Moraga and write guided journals to foster family communication and self-discovery. What I Love About You, Mom, was published by Plume/Penguin in March, 2013, to show appreciation to moms everywhere in easy, fun, and heartfelt ways. They have written seven other guided journals, including What I Love About You for couples, which has sold 200,000 copies.

Tiger and the Buddha

February 16, 2013

“Tiger will do more that any other man in history to change the course of humanity… He is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations.” –Earl Wood, Tiger’s father

This quote led an article by Robert Wright in Slate back in 2000.  Earl Wood believed that Tiger could have a greater impact than Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, or even Buddha because Tiger was reaching so many people around the world through his sport. Wright speculated that perhaps Tiger “warrants consideration as someone of potentially political, even spiritual, significance.”

A lot has changed since then. Tiger ascended to unbelievable heights until 2007, then experienced equally unimaginable lows with the public affairs that led to his divorce, yanked advertising endorsements, and arguably, losing his mojo on the golf course.  After five long years, Tiger has now clawed his way back to the Top-5 in the international ranking.  He’s not back to his pre-2007 invincible form, but he’s in the hunt again.

How did Tiger come back from the dead?  In 2010, Tiger said he had strayed from his Buddhist beliefs, which he learned from his mother.

What if Tiger made a life map in 2010, taking stock of his past, present, and future?  Perhaps this is his full life story, as we imagine Tiger might tell it, at his darkest hour at the age of 36.


Life Title: My True Course

First Twenty Years – Ages 1-20 (1975-1994) – Golf Protégé

I grew up in Southern California.  My dad, an accomplished amateur golfer, taught me to swing a golf club at the age of three.  By the time I reached middle school, I had already won the Junior World Golf Championships in my age group. By the time I finished high school, I had won the U.S. Amateur Championship.  I attended StanfordUniversity for two years, winning the NCAA Individual Golf Championship, and the U.S. Amateur Championship two more times.

Next 15 Years – Ages 21-35 (1995-2009) – On Top of the World

After two years at Stanford, I left college in 1996 to turn professional.  I set my sights on winning the Masters and the PGA.  A year later, I won the Masters and became the #1 ranked golfer in the world.  After six major events and the PGA championship in 1999, I set a new goal for myself: breaking Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins.  By the fall of 2009, I had won 71 times on the PGA Tour including 14 majors; I was track to becoming the most accomplished golfer in history.  Then it all came undone.

Next 10 Years – Ages 36-45 (2010-2019) – The Turning Point

I’m not going in details about what went wrong.  Suffice it say, I lost my way.  I strayed from my beliefs.  I decide to take time off from golf for reflection and healing.  (Now the new imagined life map begins…)  I return to my roots and study Buddhist principles.  I meet with the Dalai Lama.  He helps me enormously in finding my way back home.  I begin to extend my TigerWoodsLearningCenter for underserved youth to Africa, Asia, and South America.  In 2011, I return to the golf circuit. After a rebuilding year, I find my groove again. In 2012, I win three more PGA Tour events.  From 2013 to 2019, I win 24 more PGA Tour events and 6 more championships.  With 98 PGA Tour wins and 20 championships, I am #1 in the record books.  During this time, I am preparing for the next stage in my life.

The Next 50 Years – Ages 46-95 (2020-2069) – My Calling

At the age of 46, I retire from golf and join the Buddhist priesthood.  My golf friends and sponsors tell me that I’m crazy, but I know it’s the right thing to do.  I’ve done everything there is to do in the material world.  It calls to me no more.  Now I seek enlightenment in the spiritual world.  It takes me two years to get through the program.

I still have quite a lot of money from my golf winnings. This year (2010), I’ve reached $1 billion in endorsements and tour winnings, and when I retire ten years later, it’s three times as much. This gives me a big voice, and I use it for good.  With these funds, I establish and grow a training institute to foster inter-faith dialogue and world peace.  I support books, movies, sports events, and games that encourage compassion and collaboration.

In 2033, at the age of 59, I win the Nobel Peace Prize for my work around the world.

In my nineties, I still have a smooth golf swing off the tee, but my speed has slowed down a lot.  My puts and chips are still sharp.  At age 95, I die in peace from this lifetime.  I expect to return to the earth next time in a much more humble form.  Thanks to golf, I made a real difference in the world.

Every future has seeds sown from the past.  Perhaps Tiger’s Buddhist past will become a focal point for his future as well.  Perhaps his unbelievable golf run was just the stage in between.  Tiger has the international recognition to influence whole generations, perhaps whole nations, in ways few people can.  The Buddha was once a young lord living the life of luxury, caring only for himself—and then he gave it all up to seek a higher calling.  Maybe Earl Woods was right about Tiger all along.

David Marshall

Coauthor of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future, Gotham Books, November 2012

Kap Attack – The Amazing Adventures of Colin Kaepernick: 1987-2097

January 30, 2013

Who’s that galloping thoroughbred who raced by Green Bay’s elite defensive players for a 56-yard touchdown?  Colin Kaepernick came out of nowhere to capture the attention of America this season.  At 25, he’s just in his second year in the NFL, has only started in ten games. He took his team to the Super Bowl in New Orleans on 2-3-13 and almost engineering the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. But even with the temporary setback, the York and DeBartolo families are already dreaming of their second 49ers dynasty.

But we shouldn’t be so surprised.  As a nine-year-old fourth grader in Turlock, California, Colin wrote a letter to himself foretelling his future with the 49ers.


So what’s in store for the rest of his life?  We know he likes to envision his future.  Here’s how this writer imagines Colin’s life—past, present, and future—as Colin might see it playing out:



First 18 Years – Ages 1-18 (1987-2005) – Loving All Sports

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and am proud of my ethnic diversity.  Mom and Dad, Teresa and Rick Kaepernick adopted me when I was young.   I only lived in Wisconsin until I was four years old before my family moved to the Sacramento area in California.  Growing up, I played as many sports as I could, but especially liked baseball and football.  At nine, I became the quarterback of my team. My first throw was a long bomb for a touchdown. I was hooked.  In high school, I maintained a 4.0 GPA even though I played on most of the varsity teams.  At 6 foot, 4 inches tall and 170 pounds, I was a string bean.  I became a pretty good pitcher, and could throw a 92 mph fastball.  Although I wanted to play college football, I mostly attracted baseball scholarships.  The Chicago Cubs even wanted to hire me straight out of high school.  The football scouts thought I was too lanky and wouldn’t survive all the hits.  The University of Nevada was the only school to offer me a football scholarship, so I jumped at the chance.  Some people thought I was crazy to give up a sure thing in baseball for a dream in football, but I knew in my heart that this was my future.  Mom and Dad supported my decision.

Next 6 Years – Ages 19-24 (2006-2011) – College and Drafted into the NFL

At the University of Nevada Reno, I majored in business management.  I liked my business classes, but my passion was football.  I became the starting quarterback for the Wolf Packs midway through my freshman year and held the position until I graduated.  I helped the Wolf Packs get to four bowl games during my collegiate years.  My biggest achievement was in reaching 10,000 passing yard and 4,000 rushing yards during my college career, which was a quarterback record for Division 1 colleges.

In the 2011 NFL draft, I was the sixth quarterback chosen; I’m glad that Coach Harbaugh saw something in me that others didn’t.  He had seen me scramble and knew I had a rocket arm.  I had always dreamed of playing for the 49ers. I ran the 40 yard dash in 4.53 seconds during the NFL tryouts, so he knew I could run faster than most other quarterbacks. Coach Harbaugh was a former NFL quarterback himself and had just come to the 49ers from Stanford, where he had coached Andrew Luck to winnings seasons. I was in heaven, but I still had a lot to learn.  During the players strike in 2011, the 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith organized his own training camp to get us ready, and he helped me learn the ropes. During the 2011 season and the beginning of the 2012 season, I came in now and again to use my scrambling ability to keep the defense of our competitors on their toes.  But I didn’t think that my time would come so soon.

Next 12 Years – Ages 25-37 (2012-2024) – The 49ers Rise Again

After winning six of nine games in the fall of 2012, Alex suffered a concussion and had to leave the game. We tied that game and then won five of the next seven games to reach the playoffs.  Even though Alex got better within a couple games of his concussion, Coach Harbaugh made me the starter.  He probably figured my scrambling and strong arm would increase our chances of going all the way. We then beat the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta in route to the Super Bowl in New Orleans. My big breakout game came against the Green Bay Packers, when I ran for 181 yards, more than any other quarterback in history in a single game.  Once I started getting popular, some people criticized me for my tattoos, but they just didn’t understand. That’s my Christian faith written in my tattoos, and they keep me strong.  In the Super Bowl, we faced the Baltimore Ravens, coached by Coach Harbaugh’s older brother John Harbaugh.  It was a close game that we almost won, but the 34-31 loss made us stronger for the Super Bowl games ahead of us.

(…and now the future part of his life map, as this writer imagines Colin creating it.)  My first Super Bowl win in 2014 marks the beginning of phase 2 of the 49ers dynasty.  Under Joe Montana and Steve Young, the 49ers had won five Super Bowls during the 1980s and 1990s, but it had been a long dry spell since 1994.  After our big win in February 2014, we win six more Super Bowl championships over the next twelve years.  My combination of fast running and baseball-pitcher arm helps reshape the NFL quarterback position over the next decade.  I stay with the 49ers during my entire professional career and retire when I am 37 years old.

Next 50 Years – Ages 37-60 (2025-2048) – Robotic Football League, RFL

After my professional football career ends, I have many offers to coach NFL or college teams to become a sportscaster, but I intend to use the business skills I learned in college instead.  The 49ers move from Candlestick in San Francisco to Santa Clara during my fourth year with the team, so I become pretty familiar with Silicon Valley high-tech companies during the next decade. I become obsessed with the huge strides being made with robotics companies, and invest in a few of them during my NFL days. At 37, I decide to found my own company, Kap Robotics, with a focus on building life-size robots that play a spectator form of football on a full-sized field controlled by 22 offensive and defensive players with advanced joysticks and their coaches on dashboards along the sidelines.  The players in our games are nerdier than the guys I played with the NFL, but no less committed.  Kap Robotics wins multiple patents in using our robots in key football positions. At first, the NFL is threatened by my company, but I win over a newer breed of owners in 30 major cities around the United States and we created our Robotic Football League (RFL).  In the end, both the NFL and RLF flourish.

In the early years, our robots are a bit clunky, but over time, they became very sophisticated.  Our robot quarterback can throw 80-yard long bombs with pinpoint accuracy, and our wide receiver robots catch them with ease, but the defender robots are equally good.  The sport is pretty violent, but unlike the professional league I had played in, only the machines got hurt, not the people. No more concussions and crippling career-ending injuries.  By 2035, after ten years of perfecting our robots and building up the league, the American public started to really warm up to the sport. We even put some inspirational tattoos on some of the robots.  Over the next thirteen years, we produced most of the robots for the RFL and developed similar athlete robots for budding automated leagues in other sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball, and hockey.  I was lucky enough to attract some of the brightest engineers in the world to RFL.  I learned leadership skills from my parents, and high school and college coaches, but Coach Harbaugh took takes to a new level.  He practices servant leadership and unbelievable passion, where everything he does serves and inspires his team.  I try to practice that same kind of humble and passionate leadership at RFL, and the engineers love it.

Next 40 Years – Ages 61-110 (2049-2097) – Exoskeleton Robots Serve the World

I become a billionaire many times over as the biggest shareholder of Kap Robotics, but when I turn 60, I decide to devote the rest of my life to using robots to help people recover from injuries or diseases.  In 2049, I found CK Robotics to focus on exoskeletons, robotic extensions of arms and legs that can help quadriplegics walk again and war veterans replace loss limbs. We establish both for-profit and non-profit organizations to serve as many people around the world as possible. This becomes my life work up until the end of my life.  Over the next fifty years, our firm helps millions of people walk again and regain mobility from lost or non-functioning limbs.  Embedded chips in the brain allow our clients to control our robots with their thoughts.  Many of my colleagues from my previous company join me at CK Robotics.  My proudest achievement is putting the traditional wheelchair out of business. Now even quadriplegics stand six feet tall and see eye to eye with the rest of us.  Based on knee and hip injuries I received during my NFL playing days, I wear my own lightweight exoskeleton these days.  I just celebrated my 105th birthday on November 3, 2092, and still feel great!

We’ve just seen a glimpse of Kap’s amazing life adventure.  He has proven that it’s never too early to start mapping your future.  Colin envisioned it at 9 years old, and as opportunities arose, made the choices that fulfilled his dream.  He is at the 20 yard line now, and still has 80 yards to go in his own life journey.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, he’ll be galloping through holes and throwing pin-point bullets all the way.

David Marshall

Co-author of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future, Gotham Books/Penguin, November 2012

Taylor Swift – Her Story Has Just Begun

December 23, 2012

At 22, she’s already America’s sweetheart.  Her records have sold over twenty million copies.  So far, she has won four Grammy awards.  Billboard and American Music Awards named her Artist of the Year.  She writes most of her own melodies and lyrics.  She sings about love and heartbreak.  Former boyfriends, some of America’s most eligible bachelors, including Jake Gyllenhaal and John Mayer, find their way into her songs.  Unlike most young stars, she manages her own business affairs.  She’s on top of the world, so where does she go from here?

Taylor was born in 1989.  Assuming she lives to 100, what will happen between 2013 and 2089?  How will she spend her time, energy, and passion among the big buckets of work, family, friends, education, and service?

Hot on the heels of Reds, her newest album sensation this fall, perhaps Taylor will pause in 2013 to create a life map of her past, present, and future.  If so, here’s what this writer imagines the work part of her map might look like:

Taylor Swift Timeline


First 14 Years – Ages 1-14 (1989-2003) – Writing the Early Stanzas

I grew up in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Mom named me after James Taylor, hoping a gender-neutral name would help me become a successful businesswoman.  Thanks, Mom, it worked!  Bucking three generations of bankers, I tried my hand at music and theater instead. Then I became interested in country music.  I won a talent contest at eleven singing LeAnn Rimes’s Big Deal.  My love of country music alienated me from the other kids in my middle school.  I convinced my parents to move to Nashville when I was fourteen to pursue my music career.

Next 16 Years – Ages 15-30 (2004-2020) – Re-Imagining Country Music

After winning a national poetry contest, I wrote my first song at twelve.  As an eighth grader, I received an artist development deal with RCA Records based on performances of my own songs. RCA wanted me to wait until I was eighteen to release my first album, but my songs were about my younger life, so I went my own way.  My first big single was Our Song in 2006; it made me the youngest writer and singer of a country song hit.  It was part of my first album, Taylor Swift.  My second album, Fearless, crossed over to pop audiences and became the bestselling album of 2009. My third album, Speak Now, launched me on a thirteen-month tour performing to almost two million fans.

My fourth album, Reds debuted in late 2012 and I’m touring non-stop again. (now for the future I envision)  I live a wholesome life and try to be a role model for my fans.  Until now, I’ve sung about relationships, and how I’ve recovered from ones that didn’t work.  As my fans grow into their twenties like me, I expand my songwriting to include love found, marriage, and raising amazing kids.  My fifth album, Shining Knight, is released in 2015 with songs about falling in love, getting engaged, and becoming newlyweds. Two other albums follow on starting a family.

Next 20 Years – Ages 31-50 (2021-2040) – America’s Singing Life Coach

Since my fans follow my relationship advice, I start writing songs and books about all aspects of life: how to move on from bad bosses, how to make a difference with volunteer work and education, and how to let politicians know when you won’t take it anymore.  My eighth album, Work Day, is released in 2021, my ninth album, We Teach, comes out in 2023, and my tenth album Stand Up, debuts in 2026.  I create a Literacy for All program with local libraries across the country.  Journalists start calling me “America’s Singing Life Coach” and it sticks.  My personal and career advice is based on my Christian upbringing that the highest form of humanity comes through serving others.  I begin investing my winnings in Nashville real estate and media companies. My 2031 personal development book, Greater Than Yourself, becomes a New York Times bestseller.

Next 50 Years – Ages 51-100 (2041-2089) – Business with a Heart

Nashville becomes the epicenter for pop music based on simple melodies and audible lyrics, and I have a little something to do with that.  My entertainment company, Taylored Fit, signs artists who sing pop ballads about all aspects of life.  These bestselling singing life coaches help people across the world create their own best futures. My television network produces family shows that teach people perseverance, resilience, and encourage viewers to reach for the stars.  I model my business after Oprah, but with a focus on helping people through music.

With so much accomplished in her first twenty-two years, it’s almost frightening to think what Taylor Swift might achieve in the next four fifths of her life.  But it helps to have a plan.  From everything we’ve read about Taylor’s life so far, she has been working her master plan with remarkable results. Whether she’s dreaming up what we imagined for her, or something else, you can bet that she’s dreaming big.

David Marshall

Coauthor of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future, Gotham Books, November 2012