Robert Pagliarini

Mark and Sarah were on a cruise ship touring the South Pacific when a violent tropical storm damaged the ship's hull. Several passengers were knocked overboard and into the dark churning waters nearly 50 feet below. Mark and Sarah were two of the passengers who plunged into the cold waters that night. They frantically grabbed pieces of debris and hung on tight, doing whatever they could to keep their heads above water.

The next morning, Mark washed up on a small and uninhabited island. Sarah washed up on a neighboring island, also uninhabited, about two miles away from Mark.

After the initial shock of the situation wore off, fear and anxiety overcame both of them. They knew survival would not be easy. They knew that they'd have to work hard to build shelter, locate fresh water, pick fruit and fish for food. The first few days were scary and difficult, but they both managed to build makeshift shelters to protect them from the rain and sun. They found freshwater streams deeper inland as well as plenty of fruits and nuts. As the days turned into weeks, they even got good at trapping crabs and spearing fish.

Sarah struggled to survive each day, but she wanted to do more than just survive. Each afternoon, Sarah spent a couple of additional hours gathering and storing wood. She tested nearly every type of vegetation on the island to see which produced the darkest and thickest smoke. She collected rocks of all sizes and used them to spell "HELP" in gigantic letters on the beach in four areas around the island. She also started building a raft out of bamboo and vines, completing a little bit every day.

After several non-eventful weeks, help arrived. Sarah was picking fruit near the beach, and Mark was trapping crab, when they each -- almost at the same time -- saw a small seaplane in the distance.

Sarah jumped into action. She ran to her small fire and used it to light a large pile of wood. She dumped the vegetation on and used her torch to light the other stacks of wood. She then ran back to add more wood and vegetation to the fire. Huge plumes of smoke rose into the air and filled the sky above her island.

Meanwhile, Mark was frantic. He ran around trying to figure out what to do. He sprinted into the jungle and grabbed any kind of vegetation he could find to throw on his fire. Unfortunately, all the vegetation he found just suffocated the fire time and time again.

The plane turned and started heading toward the islands. As it got closer, Mark realized it wasn't flying toward him but was headed several miles "off course." The seaplane circled Sarah's island and touched down a hundred yards offshore. Minutes later, Sarah was airborne, leaving Mark running up and down the beach waving his arms in desperation.

They both did what was necessary to make it each day, but Sarah had a bigger plan -- she wanted a better life.

How many of us are desperate to be rescued but do nothing to make it happen? If you feel like you are stranded on an island of monotony, unpaid bills and forgotten dreams, or if you find yourself daydreaming of a richer life but have no idea how to achieve it, there is only one solution. Stop daydreaming, hoping, wishing, and wanting, and start doing. Carve out as much free time as you can throughout the week -- whether it's 20 minutes or two hours -- and start designing and achieving a better future, one day at a time.


Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six-Day Financial Makeove"


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When Surviving is Not Enough