Friday, July 30, 2010

Why we need to give up fear

We are not fragile beasts. The news would like us to think we are. Politically correct speech makes us feel we are wrong if we are not offended. Organizations with their own political agendas want us to believe that giving rights to one group of people will take rights away from the rest of us. This is all bull shit!

If we are going to grow as people we need to remove ourselves from the culture of fear. We are not week, we are not fragile, we are not diminished by the gains of others and most of all we are not predestined victims. These beliefs drive us away from creating community, from trusting our neighbor and from being truly safe. Safety does not come from building walls it comes from trusting those around you. Trust in turn comes from knowing the people around you, knowing their families and allowing them to know yours.

When we stop fearing and we trust our neighbors we create communities. When we create communities we have something bigger then ourselves to help support us in what we are trying to achieve. This membership helps to drive us to do great things. Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King Jr. and Alice Paul did not act for themselves but for their communities. While we may not aspire to causes with as much historical impact as theirs we can tap in to the same power. By reaching out to and getting to know our neighbors we make the world a better place and in so doing make it easier to be the person we want to be.

Editing project: future landscape of workplace

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Making goals more effective

Goals, I talk about them a lot here and we set a lot of them for ourselves but how can we really get the most out of goal setting?

Have a well defined outcome: Let's say we are playing basketball and we want to improve our free throws. One goal would be: get better at making free throws. A better goal is increase my free throw percentage from 60% to 70%. In the first example the goal was nebulous, there was no way to codify improvement and no level of improvement would be good enough to stratify the goal. In the second we know where we are starting from and we know where we want to end.

Give yourself a time frame: Giving yourself a deadline on a goal force us to pay attention to it. It can also give us the pressure we need to keep working at the goal.

Create a strategy: Without a plan of action a goal is not a goal. I have said this before. Your strategy is not the plan it is how the plan fits in to your life. For example I'm working on an editing project. The plan is to work on editing at night and writing new posts in the morning. So far it has not worked out that way and I need to adjust my strategy to make that happen. When I was first writing the blog my strategy was I had to be at the computer writing by 9am every day. This helped me create the habit of blogging I may need to set myself the same sort of rule for editing.

Be realistic: A goal that is not realistic can do more harm than good. If we set a goal for our self that is beyond our reach it damages our confidence and reaffirms or creates a negative impression of ourselves. However if we set goals that are difficult but doable they can be used to increase our self confidence improve self image and motivate us to work on the next goal. This need to be realistic does not apply only to the goal but also to the time frame, trying to do something in less time then you need is just as damaging as trying to do something to difficult.

Set goals you want to accomplish: We often set goals related to things we think we should be doing, or that we think we should be stopping. This is fine but if those goals do not coincide with what we want they can become a chore. If we are setting goals based on what others tell us we should be doing they become easier to push aside and ignore, rendering them ineffective. Let's look to the free throw example. Let's say you are working on your free throws because your coach told you to. You hate being out there every day just shooting free throws it is the most receptive and boring part of the game to you. What you want is to get the coaches approval not to get better at making the shot. So reword the goal: Impress the coach by improving my free throw percentage to 70% in the next two weeks.

Editing project: Failures

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Look for different eyes

Whenever we work on a project whether it is personal growth, cleaning our room or planning a party we can be blinded by our perceptions. These perceptions include the way we see things and the way we expect things to be. Our perceptions are different from others perceptions because they see the world differently, they expect different things and they hold different things as important. This is why when we work on anything important we need to bring a different set of eyes to the project.

Wanting someone else's impute on something does not make us weak, indecisive or stupid. Instead it is a way to illuminate our own blind spots. For me one problem I deal with is my own internal logic. This particularly comes in to play when I am writing a story, I know so much more then the reader I sometimes forget to share information with them because from where I stand it seems obvious to me. The solution to that is getting someone to take a look at the story to find the flaws and point them out to me.

The hard part is to do this we have to open ourselves to criticism. We have to distance our self emotionally form this; it is not an attack on our ego or our intelligence. Instead it is advice we can learn from. Allowing yourself to hear about the flaws in your work without taking them as personal attacks gives you a blue print for improvement. This may seem like common sence and most of us do this with things like school work or making plans with friends however we need to do the same thing with our own personal development.

Nowhere is it easier to tell ourselves lies, have blind spots or hide from the truth then in our own growth. We need to find people we trust and know are not out to hurt us and tell them the things we are trying to work on and ask them if they have seen improvement. If this is something you don't do on a regular basis you may be surprised by some of the answers. Remember these people you are going to should be your friends, people who love and acsept you despite any problems they see you having. If they point to a flaw you never realized in yourself before then don't get mad think about it.

We all need to see ourselves with other eyes.

Today the Editing project continues: Life mapping

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Embracing uncertainty

So this is another one of those posts were I am going to talk about gaming and what it has taught me. As a game master you take time to create a story made up of a series of encounters that will be fun and challenging for your players to work their way trough. These encounters are connected by a plot, as well as a system of rules that govern how the players and the challenges interact with each other. As anyone who has run a RPG will tell you players are unpredictable creatures. You build a trap with one way out, maybe the party has to solve a puzzle to disarm it. Instead the players will find a way to blow a whole it the wall. Where is all this going you ask? Stick around and you will see.

Life is uncertain. We do not know what will happen from one hour to the next, what news we will get when the phone rings or if the lottery ticket we just bought is a winner. Uncertainty can be unsettling. It makes us feel uncomfortable and nervous so we need to find a way to deal with it. To minimize the fear that can come from uncertainty we need to learn to embrace it. When we accept uncertainty and plan for it, it allows us to react quickly to surprises. This gives us courage to deal with the changing situation and helps us control where we go next.

As I said before when I am game mastering I am trying to share a story with my players. They however have a huge influence on that story; they make the choice of where they will go, what they will do and how they will do it. This means that while I have a plan it is uncertain what will happen I have to plan for as many of their decisions as I can think of. Will they attack the wizard in his home, will they wait and try to break in when he is not there. Will they sit around and keep doing research. Once they make there decision I have maybe a minute to shift gears and react otherwise play slows down. So I have to embrace the uncertainty by planning for the outcome I can see. Let's take this in to the real world.

When we come upon any encounter in life we have two options we overcome it or it overcomes us. There may be grey areas in-between, partial successes, for example: maybe the lottery ticket is only a $10 winner. Before we enter the encounter we have to know how we will deal with each of these conditions. This does not mean sitting down and writing out a detailed plan on paper about what happens if we get the job, what happens if we do not but we do have to have a general idea of our next move.

By taking the uncertainty of each of life's encounters in to account we can reduce the paralyzing effects of fear and changing situations. We can react quickly and most importantly we can stay on track.

Today the Editing project continues: In the Beginning

Monday, July 26, 2010

Self interest, selfishness and being happy.

Part of what I have come to understand in my quest for personal growth is my relationship to myself. Before I started making changes in my life I would do whatever people asked of me or want I thought they wanted me to do. I had a deep subconscious fear that people would not like me if I did not do the things they wanted me to do. Years of having this unrealized voice in the back of my head has diminished my tendency to want. This is a problem.

Wanting is a key component of personal growth. Without the ability to want something in our lives to be different we have no drive to change. Personal development is a self interested process, the place where we start from is taking an interest I our self. We have to be interested in our own progress, we have to accept that we must do things for ourselves and that we are worthy of having the things we want.

The last one can be the hard part for me. The idea of my own intrinsic value is something I do not easily comprehend. However the value is there, we are all worthy of happiness. Now let me spell this our so there is no confutation: we are worthy of happiness that does not mean God, the universe or the people we interact with owe us happiness. We still have to work for it. We must take charge of making sure that we are surrounded by the things that make us happy.

If we have set ourselves on a path of personal growth we must also learn to find the things that make us happy in ways that do not lessen the happiness of those around us. Just because we do not owe others happiness this does not mean we should not work to give it to them, as long as we remember it is a gift not a debt. This is the line between self interest and selfishness.

It is ok to be happy, so go out there and be happy damn it!

Today is the first day of the Editing project: Statement of Intent

Friday, July 23, 2010

A new project

I am starting a new project : I want to write better. In order do that I have to embrace my least favorite aspect of writing: Editing.

For me the exciting thing about writing is sharing the ideas I am having with others. Once those ideas are out of my head I become bored with them, and want to move on to the next thought. But if the goal is to communicate what I am thinking then the way I say it is as important as what I say. Unfortunately, like writing, there is only one way to learn to edit and that is to do it. Fortunately over the last hand full of moths I have built up a collection of work that is in desperate need of editing: This blog.

Here is the plan: every night I will edit one old blog post. The next morning I will link to the revised version, so that I am held accountable if it does not get done. I will keep at it until the editing process becomes second nature . The goal here is not the elimination of others from the editing process but to build a trust in my ability to self correct.

This is going to be a hard thing for me. First of all it means admitting my writing is not as good as I like to think it is. Second I have to dedicate myself to doing something I do not enjoy. To keep myself on track I need a set of rules and expectations that will help hold me to the task. Fortunately I have a plan and it goes something like this:

Commit to the goal of editing my old writing publicly. For me, one of the biggest fears I have is disappointing those I have made a commitment to. Knowing that others expect something from me is one of the best motivators I have found.

Adjust my attitude: There are two limiting beliefs that I have that need to be chucked out the window. The first is that learning the difference between homophones is something I can't do because I am dyslexic. This is bullshit, but it is bullshit that I have hidden behind for too long. This is something I can change. The other attitude is my general dread and hatred of editing. I do not like it because it exposes one of my weaknesses but I need to understand that it is a tool I can use to eliminate that weakness .

Schedule a recurring time to do it. Currently, I write in the morning. It has become a reflexive part of my day. I wake up turn on my computer, check email and Facebook , read a few blogs and then hammer out a few hundred words. It is part of my ritual. For me to be consistent with the editing of my old work, it has to become part of the ritual as well. I will find a time of day were I can work consistently on editing. Most likely this will be before I go to bed.

Look to my support network for help. The goal of this project is to get to a point where I can trust myself to edit my own work . However to get there I will need the help of the people around me who have a better eye for editing. It is with their encouragement and their eye for the details that I am missing that I will learn.

Be consistent in my work if not my progress. Growth takes time. I cannot expect to be a great editor at once; however with many nights of work it is a skill that I can learn. The key is consistency of practice. The key is to just do it no matter how much I don't want to, or how unpleasant it is at first. Being a better writer is something I want to be. My feet are on the path now all I need to do is to keep walking.

Wish me luck and have a great weekend. Come back Monday for the new content and the first edited post.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Killing Zombies

We all face a zombie apocalypse of personal growth every day when we wake up. Walking dead goals slam against the farmhouse of our copiousness, there cold rotting hands shoving their way through the windows of our mind. They try to thee teeth in to our brains consuming not our lives but our motivations. If we want to have any hope of surviving this onslaught we need to start killing zombies.

First of all what is a zombie? It is a goal, project or commitment that has become unrealistic or problematic. These could be goals that are larger than we are able to accomplish but also goals that no longer fit with the life we are working towards. They could be projects that no longer hold our interest or have no value any more. A commitment to someone who is no longer in our lives but that we still hold on to out of a misplaced sense of duty is another example. These are all zombies that need killing.

So how do you kill a zombie? The first step is admitting that the zombie is dead. You have to accept whatever it once meant to you is gone, the excitement that you got from the initial idea is no longer there, the reward of accomplishing the goal is meaningless or no longer moves you forward. Once you realize this all you have to do is put the plan out of your head. If that requires you picturing taking a chain saw to the undead ideas skull so be it. Lay it to rest and get back in touch with the dreams, goals commitments and plans that mater now, that move you forward and get you where you want to be.

Just remember that like any survivor of a zombie apocalypse we must be on the lookout for the next hoard to attack. Keep a close eye on the things you have going on and keep the dreams alive rather than letting them fall and rise again as the walking dead.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010


If there is one thing that works to keep me motivated it is deadlines. If I know I have a commitment to accomplish a task by this time I will keep working until it is done. While most of our experience with deadlines is external, school or work telling us when things are due, there is no reason we shouldn't, and may reasons we should set deadlines for ourselves.

First off deadlines keep us focused. The knowledge that task X must be done by time Y is a great way to keep it at the front of my mind.

Second they can help fight procrastination. Just because a project comes with a built in deadline does not mean we cannot move that up. What to make sure you get your homework done and can still have fun over the weakened? Set the deadline for the paper due Monday to Friday and get it done early.

Third setting a time frame for the completion of a task can create the pressure some of us need to work. Without a deadline a goal is more of a dream, something that will happen someday. With a deadline it becomes more tangible.

For those of us who hate deadlines it is more the fear of missing them then the actual deadline that causes us stress. If we move the focus off failure, in other words stop worrying about making the deadline we can instead use it to set a timeline for completion. For example if I know I have to have a essay done in the next five days and I have to watch two movies to compare and contrast in the essay then I know I need to watch at least one today and one tomorrow so I have time to digest them before writing.

Deadlines are tools we can use to keep ourselves on track. If we do not fear them, do not cause ourselves undo stress over them they can help us get done everything we want.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A short reminder

Time for a quick reminder: We work hard to make ourselves better so that life may be more enjoyable. If we find ourselves contently making the same mistake day after day, facing the same problems week after week, and dealing with the same crises year after year life gets boring. We need to grow, change and master our self so we can do the things that bring us Joy, happiness and inspiration.

No matter how hard we work, no matter how much effort it takes for us to grow there must always be a place for fun and happiness in our lives. If we do not allow ourselves of the things we enjoy then what is the point of getting "better"?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cleaning up your own messes

I will be honest with you the last thing I want to do this morning is put words together in to sentences. Saturday I realized that I had gotten myself in a hole with school work. I had procrastinated and put things off tell the last minute as I tend to do. There were two things I could do: I could stair at the large pile of work I had before me and turn away or I could roll up my metaphorical sleeves and start making the pile smaller.

Part of the road to personal growth is realizing what are failings are and confronting them. To that end I spent the weekend in battle with my urge to procrastinate and be lazy. Three essays, four online assignments, two message bored activities were done. Add two documentaries watched and two loads of laundry done. The weekend was fully given over to homework and my commitments were realized.

Should I be proud that I got myself out of the whole I was in? Yes. Should I be proud that I was there in the first place? No. The real challenge is staying out of the whole. Truly being aware of our weaknesses is part of growing. In being aware of them we should take masseurs to limit their impact on our lives. I failed at that the last few weeks knowing I had plenty of time to do the work I did not. On the other hand I stood firm in the face of self created adversity and did the work. This is a reaffirmation of my will to succeed in school.

You see with the weight of all the work I was putting off on my shoulders I felt like a bad student. I felt that my attempts to conquer school once and for all where all for nothing and would be just another failure. Last night I just felt tired of looking at school work. Today I feel like I can do this I can achieve and I can and will continue my march to graduation. The lesson here is one that I right about all the time: We have not failed until we give up.

We all have challenges we create for ourselves by giving in to our weaknesses. We can turn away or confront the change it is our choice but I will tell you this: It may just be a symptom of the problem but fixing the mess gives you a small brick with which to build a wall to contain the weakness that caused it in the first place. You will also have a victory, a place for your confidence to grow and a sense of accomplishment. That is not say we should create challenges for our self but instead focus on the challenges that are already present. The better challenge to overcome for me would have been the procrastination rather than the mountain of homework due all at once. But it is better not to walk away when things get hard it is better to stay in the trenches and not give up the fight.

I hope your week is good and you can meet your challenges.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why do you want?

The first thing we need to do in order to become the person we want to be is to know our selves. An important part of this is knowing what we want and why we want it. In order to understand this we need to look at which desires come from inside and which come from outside. In other words do we want something because we want it or because society tells us we want it? And we also have to see which need is being met by the want, if any.

Just because society tells us to want something does not invalidate the want. There is a need to be part of social groups to have connections to other people. One way we show this is in the things we want, these things be the emotional or physical strengthen these bonds and we will search out the people who want similar things. What we have to be wary of is when we are told what to want rather than shown something we might want

So this weekend take a look at the things, both physical and otherwise, that you find yourself wanting and ask "where is this coming from?" Get in touch with the source of your desiers to understand what makes you happy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Where is this going?

Sometimes we have to just let things go where they want to. Let me explain. Often we set out on the road to accomplishing something, going to school, writing a blog post, whatever it may be but as we progress towards that goal things change. When this happens we have two choices we can fight with our selves and the situation to force things in to a now outdated mold or we can go in a new direction.

Here is an example: I set out earlier this week to write a post about the power of


and how to use it. As I started to write I found the post needed context and as I progressed further it turned in to the post linked above Fueling you engine which was a general discussion of keeping momentum going and tools we could use to do that. If I had kept mashing the delete key every time I felt the need to talk about something other the
competition the post would have been much weaker.

Another example: this post today started with the idea of talking about my writing process. Incidentally the process really is staring at a blank page until some core idea hits me then run with it. That led me to the thought that posts of late have taken over themselves. This has led to this one taking over and becoming a discussion of allowing the plan to die.

Sometimes we have to just let things go where they want to go. The key word is sometime. We need to understand the forces that are pushing the execution of the plan out of line with the original plan. The understanding of these forces is our guide to knowing when to fight to keep the plan intact and when to give in to change. Here are the questions to ask: Is the plan still possible? Is the plan still practical? Is the plan still what I want? A no response to any of these questions should push us to change the plan. But first there is one more question we need to answer

Does a new direction look good just because it is easy? If we are changing what we want just so we can stop working at it then we are giving up. If what we want changes and we find that the new dream is easier to achieve, then that is good fortune. We should not sacrifice our dreams when they are reachable out of fear of a little hard work.

Sometime we have to just let things go where they want to go. Other times we have to rededicate ourselves to what we want. We are the only ones who can know what we want and we are the only ones who can make sure we get what we want.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Getting out of the cave

There are those times we get down on ourselves for not being good enough, not changing quick enough and not being as successful as we want to be. I know it happens to me. These can be dark days hours weeks depending on how we handle it. The longer it goes on the worse it becomes; think of it like going in to a cave. We begin we can see some light but are surrounded by dark shadows and the farther we go the darker it gets. Soon we can't even see our way out. So what do we do, how do we stop exploring these dark places?

For me what works is looking to what I have and have achieved. The good things in my life are there they are real and they only exist because of the actions I have taken. So often it becomes easy to let the shadows blind us to the light of all we have done. By turning our face to the sun of our accomplishments we can find the path out of the cave.

Sometimes it takes someone outside ourselves to remind us of this. When you are down don't hide it from friends or family, we have people in our lives to support each other emotionally. Sometimes we need their voice to guide us out of the cave and back to the path. So use your senses listen for the voice calling you back to the path and the look for the light of your accomplishments.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fueling your engine

In order for us to succeed at our goals we must have three things: the goal its self, a willingness to start and the persistence to keep going when the going gets tough. The goal gives us an idea of where we are headed, in our journey it is the map (at least in this analogy). We can think of the willingness to start as the key to the car. Persistence is the engine; it is the thing that keeps us moving towards the goal.

So what fuels your engine? Here are a few to choose from, some are good everyday fuels and others are great additives to help clean the engine or give you an added burst of power.


Willpower is the main fuel of the engine of persistence. It comes from within us and when drawn upon in a moment of weakness it helps us keep going.

Not every goal we have is motivated by our desire for the outcome, take for example finishing a project at work. We may not want to do it still needs to get done. Here we fuel our persistence engine with expectations others. While this fuel can produce results it should not be used exclusively because when we start doing things only based on the expectations of others we lose sight of what we want.

Survival can also be a fuel, we keep going to that job we hate to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. This is a fuel of last resort; it will run the engine but can damage it. Doing things just to survive can leave us feeling hallow and remove the joy from the rest of our lives. The more we run on survival the harder it becomes to switch back to willpower.


I have talked about the power of Inspiration before in regards to helping us build momentum and stimulate persistence. When we see a new way to deal with a problem it reenergize us. This can be the boost we need to get to the end of our journey or the shove needed if we have become mired along the side of the road.

Another great additive is Competition. This may very well be the nitrous oxide top fuel funny car additive of the bunch. It burns hot, fast and powerful but if we don't know how to control it can slam us in to a brick wall at 100 mph. Competition must be handled in a friendly manner. If we place our ego in the competition our confidence and self-esteem can be damaged by loosing. The thought here should be "I'm going to try to beat his score" not "I am worthless if I do not do better than that jerk". When it is used correctly however competition can drive us to heights we never thought we would reach on our own.

Faith can also be a powerful additive. Where competition gives the power boost and inspiration cleans the engine faith raises the performance level of the fuel your using. Faith lets us function with the knowledge that what is happening, both setbacks and windfalls are there for a reason. By seeing the trials of reach our goal as hardships and tests rather than obstacles faith allows us to approach the problem from an understanding that it can be overcome. And when the going is easy faith lets us know that what we are doing is right, that the road we are on is the proper one.

Not all problems require the same combination of fuels and additives, sometimes willpower alone is enough, but it is good to know what is driving your engine. Maybe you have become to reliant on one fuel or overuse an additive. When we get stuck in the journey to reach our goals sometimes it is helpful to know which fuel we are using and which additive might get us moving again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Don’t dwell on the negative

For years I worked in restaurants doing everything from managing to dishwashing and I saw a lot of people who were miserable in their job. They would complain about having to be there on a Friday night, about having to stay late and about the people they worked with. Then there were the other people, they did not necessarily love their job but they did not complain every moment they were there. For them the shifts passed quickly and things got done. I know this since at various times I have fallen in to both groups.

When we are constantly complaining about how bad we have it we are drawing our attention to the negative, usually negatives we can not change reasonably. For example we may hate to work on Friday night and we could change it, we could quit or job but this is not a reasonable response. The constant griping just reminds us that we are unhappy and thereby makes the unhappiness deeper, the frustration grater and the resent of our situation grows.

By turning our eyes to the positives of the situation, for example I'm making money; we can reduce the irritation we feel while in the situation. By not looking at the clock, not wallowing in your own misery we can allow the negative aspects of the situation to fade. This is not to say we should not try to change a bad situation but we should relies that maybe our own attitude is part of the reason it is bad.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Awareness exercise

I'm fortunate to live in a part of the world people come to for vacation. The California wine country is world-famous for the wines we produce and the grapes we go. People travel here every year to taste wines and tour wineries. They come for the redwoods and for the cost. As someone who lives here it is easy to forget what we have just outside our door, we see the same old streets the place we work the place we have to go. And it is not just places like wine country or New York city or Hawaii that have things the locals don't even look twice at. Every place in the world has something to offer that is overlooked by the residence. As an exercise in awareness take the time to see your home town with the eyes of a tourist this weekend. Visit a tourist trap, take a factory tour or go to a local museum.

Why? Just as the place we live in grow stale and our vision of them becomes calcified and stagnant the same happens with our self-image. We need to learn to look at our self with the eyes of a stranger. We need to see the good qualities that we normally right off and the bad habits we do not even notice. There is value and resources in each one of us that we do not see for ourselves. Realizing that we have these qualities is not only a boost to our own self-worth but also to our confidences. So get out there this weekend and be a tourist in your own home, learn something about what where you live has to offer. Then do the same for yourself learn what you have to offer and what you do offer everyday without realizing it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

focused effort/ broad awareness

There are times when we get one part of our life going well and another starts to go south. The key to keeping this from happening is being able to focus our efforts while having a broad awareness. In other words progress and growth come best from taking specific actions to resolve specific issues: focused effort. At the same time we must be vigilante in every area of our lives: broad awareness.

Unfortunately we tend to look at what we are working on and tune out the rest of the world. This goes for writing a blog, hammering a nail or trying to grow. One way around this is to get in the habit each day of taking stock; this could be part of your quiet time or your morning ritual. But it does not have to be anything more than a daily practice of asking am I happy in my professional, personal, social, family life and go from there. A no answer causes us to dig deeper why aren't we happy? If we have big issues in these areas that we are not working on yet we set those aside for now; this process is not about expanding our list of things to do but looking for the maintenance of day-to-day life.

By constantly attending to the little details we can keep them from becoming large issues, this gives us fewer crises to deal with and more time to work on what we want to fix.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The state of Me

So if you have read Up From The Ashes for any length of time you know I am a big fan of introspection. I thought I would take this morning to share a little of mine with all of you.

I am heading back to school after an extended 4th of July break today. For the most part school feels like it is going good, I do feel a lack of structure from the online classes and it takes a constant effort of will to do well in them. On one hand this is a good thing on the other it is not. Sometimes it feels like I have only a limited supply of will power and focusing it on school means taking it off something else. Hopefully however willpower will be like a muscle and the more I use it the stronger it will get.

I was talking to an interesting guy the other evening and we made plans to talk again but despite my efforts to contact him it never happened. Such is life, and I go on. While this makes me feel a bit unwanted and rejected I do have a good group of friends that want me around and I will get by. If I am going to find what I want in life I have to face that it may not be handed to me the first, second or fiftieth time.

I have this weird feeling lately. You know that drawer or closet in your house that you just shove things in to and you mean to open it and clean it out one day. I feel like I am on the verge of doing that in my life right now. The things I have worked on and the confidence I have built is giving me a foundation to dig deeper and take a look at some larger problems I have been avoiding. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Assumptions of a student

On Friday I mentioned that we should be students but what does that mean?

Being a student is about attitudes and assumptions that we make. The Attitudes of a student are attentiveness, curiosity and openness. The Assumptions of a student are we do not know everything, we are capable of learning, and we learn we are not taught. Yesterday we looked at the Attitudes of a Student so today we will turn our attention to the Assumptions of a Student.

The first assumption we make of students is that we do not know everything. This is first and foremost an act of humility and an acknowledgment of our limitations. Let us look at an example: I will freely admit that I used to not be an instruction reader, especially when it came to building furniture. It used to be well it looks like this piece goes here and that there. There was one particular outdoor table I had to assemble one day, it had a slide out leaf that would self insert when you opened the table up. I fought with that thing for about an hour and a half. I would get it put together and have peace left over, the slide would not move that sort of thing then I would take it apart and try again. Finally I admitted my limitations (i.e. not knowing how this table went together) and turned to the instruction. Fifteen minutes later the table was up and functional.

The second assumption we make as students is we are capable of learning. This may sound simple but how many of life's challenges do we here about and tell ourselves I can't do that? True some things are harder to learn for some people than others but when we approach any situation with the idea that we can't do it we won't do it. We can change; we can learn we just have to admit to ourselves that we can.

I must admit I have sort of cheated with this list, the last item is not really an assumption but an understanding of the process of learning: we learn we are not taught. Learning happens inside us, it is a combination of our receptiveness to information as well as how we process and store that information. The teacher, be it person, book, or video is just a delivery system. In order to be a student we need to understand how we learn, create our own tricks for retaining information and know how to keep our selves receptive. When we understand that the teacher is a source of information and learning it is our responsibility we can come to accept that we have to do the work of learning.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Attitudes of a Student

On Friday I mentioned that we should be students but what does that mean?

Being a student is about attitudes and assumptions that we make. The Attitudes of a student are attentiveness, curiosity and openness. The Assumptions of a student are we do not know everything, we are capable of learning, and we learn we are not thought. Today we will spend some time with the Attitudes of a Student and tomorrow we will look at the Assumptions of a Student.

Attentiveness: It is important to be aware of the lessons being taught and not allow ourselves to be distracted. We must invest ourselves in the process of learning otherwise going to school, doing new things and exposing ourselves to new ideas has no lasting impact. The currency we invest in our lessons is our attention to the details being presented. This is as true outside the classroom as in, as we become aware of the teaching moments in life we must pay attention to them otherwise we will find those moments repeated in different forms through our lives.

Curiosity: It is important to go looking for your education. It is true that we can learn anywhere but if we are always in the same place, the same situations then we are being presented the same lessons over and over again. We may get something out of them every time, more detail, more precise understanding but we become masters of the point of a pencil with no understanding of why the wood is important. By engaging our curiosity our willingness to wonder how does this work we will lead ourselves to new experience and new lessons. Old lessons may raise a question, ask them find the answers go looking for what things mean. In finding new experiences we find a new understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Openness: It is important to be willing to learn. A student cannot have the opinion that he knows it all already or think that he or she does not need the knowledge being provided. All knowledge has value, being willing to take lessons when they are offered is a key to the continuance of our education.

Let's take a look at this in life. A while back one of my housemates was getting up every morning to work in the yard. Every morning I was trying to find something to keep me busy so I did not get asked to help. I became curious as to why I was worried about him asking me to help, since that sort of action would be out of character for him. This curiosity made me start wondering what I should learn from this situation. By being open to learning, understanding that there was something being taught in my own reaction to his action, I realized I felt I should be helping him and I was feeling guilty because I was not out there in the yard working beside him. Then because I was attentive to the lesson I stopped doing my busy work, put on some gloves and dove in to the yard work.

So by having the attitudes of a student we make ourselves willing to learn and respite to the lessons that are presented to us at any given moment.

Friday, July 2, 2010

On being the kitten

So after kitten bashing earlier in the week I thought I would end the week on a pro kitten note here is a list of admirable kittenish traits and why we should be emulate them:

Curiosity: Sure it gets the cat killed but that is just the ones that don't practice a bit of caution when asking what does this do. Curiosity is a key to how we learn; discover our passion and a gateway to new experiences. When we stop asking why and how we stop growing. So question you environment and indulge your curiosity.

Forgiving: When someone scolds a kitten it runs away and hides. Five minutes l it is done being mad at you and crawls back in your lap. We need to do the same, spending all our time being hurt or angry over the things said to us just waists everyone's time. If necessary ask for an apology and then once you have it let it go.

Make mistakes: not all mistakes kittens make should be emulated but a willingness to try things to see if they work is a fine quality. The key is learning what went wrong, why what you did doesn't work and then doing it differently next time. When things go wrong we should not beat ourselves up. Instead we should try things a different way next time and forgive ourselves.

Studiousness: Watch a kitten with an older cat. The kitten copies the behaviors of the cat: jumping up to the same places, sitting the same way and learning all sorts of mannerisms. They are students of the older cat just as we need to be students of life. We need to approach each day with a willingness to learn.

So there you go some of the ways we should be like a kitten.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quiet time

It has been one of those weeks, always something to d and always place to be. Why is it so hard to find a few moments of quiet each day?

Actually it's not. The problem is opportunity costs. For those of you not familiar with the term it comes from economics and means: You only have a limited number of resources and if you spend them to do X then you may not have enough to do Y. Because of this the cost of doing X is really the resources spent doing it plus the missed opportunity of Y. how does this apply to finding time for quite?

Well finding time to sit quietly and just relax, for the most part, does not sound important enough, sexy enough or entreating enough. A friend needs our help doing something that seems more important than quiet. Sitting peacefully at home is not as sexy as going to the beach with a loved one. And for most of us an evening of quite contemplation just sounds boring compared to going out with friends.

However what are we missing out on by not giving our selves time to recharge to introspect and in general just be quiet?

Quiet time helps us reduce stress: by creating a place and time to relax and not worry we give ourselves a chance to calm down from the day. This quiet should not just be in your surroundings but in your head as well. Silence your nagging thoughts and let them go. Let your mind fall upon things you find calming and enjoyable. One end result of this is better sleep. As we train ourselves to let go of stress sleep comes easier.

Our quiet time can also be used for introspection. Assessing our progress in personal growth and devising new strategies to improve. We need these personal strategy sections to make sure we stay on track.

The power of general quite is underrated, the phone calls emails and other demands for our attention bombarded us every day. We need to find silence from all of this, not for the sake of productivity but for the chance to remember who we are. We are not our job, we are not our friends, we are not even our community we are just our selves. We have a commitment to being the best us we can be and that start with knowing who we are and not letting who we are get lost in the background radiation from the world.