Monday, October 3, 2011

Starting today Up From the Ashes moves to its new home at

Friday, September 30, 2011


Starting Monday the blog will finally make the move to

My attempts to start a web magazine about building community through personal development at that address has been waylaid by time and scheduling conflicts with the writers.

I will be looking for a few other bloggers to help share the space, so if you write on topics of personal growth, compassion, community or personal finance and would like to join up with drop me an email at

The content at the new site will not vary that greatly from The Ashes at first. The main reason for the change is the switch to WordPress and the need for a change.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Live That Way

The point of yesterday's post was to fight back against this idea I have seen a lot lately: the idea that we are not special, that we are just like everyone else, or as it is usually put, we are not unique snow flakes.

For me this attitude degrades the human condition. We are unique snowflakes, special, different and living lives with there own triumphs and challenges. And just because everyone is special does not in anyway reduce the importance of our own specialness.

However, with being special comes a burden. We have to live up to who we are. We have to be willing to question the rules of the world that seem to conflict with our values and the supposed values of the community we live in.

If we are special we must live that way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Drivers' Seat

When the world seems too big to challenge -
When we feel small and insignificant -
When we feel put down -
All those feelings make it easy to shake a fist at the world and say it should be different. When we feel small it is equally easy to turn away and say, 'who am I to question the way the world works?'

The real question is, who are you not to?

We bear a responsibility to question authority, both official and social, when it works to make the world a worse place for people to live.

We have the responsibility to hold the government and the media accountable for the lies they tell and the promises they break.

We also bear the burden of standing up for those who make wise choices.

And we have to look after each other.

We are our community, we are our government, we are our culture. With out us there is nothing.

Who are we to question the way the world works?

We are the only ones who can.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Balanced Quirky

Success does not come from trying to be something we are not. Success comes from becoming the person we want to be. This definition of self has to come from inside and not from outside. This means we have to know our self if we are going to know what we want.

This is just the beginning. Once we know what we want we have to be able to protect that identity. By this I mean we have to be able to stay true to who we are and what we believe and what we want in the face of the cultural norm.

At the same time we have to stay functional within our culture. In other words we have to be our self if we are going to be happy, but we have to agree to work within the social conventions of the society we inhabit.

This is the tight rope between quirky and ostracized, the balance between unique and unemployable. This is a balance we have to strive for.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Me Day

Today is my 'me day.'

What does this mean? Simply put, I plan on working on several personal projects I have not been able to give enough time to lately. I'll spend time with my cat and maybe do some gaming later.

It is time for a nice quite day, no busing across town, no long hikes, just some time to remember what it is that I work hard for everyday.

In other words today is all about having some personal time. When all we do is work to change ourselves, to make money or to get good grades, we don’t give ourselves time to enjoy what we have accomplished. Even if it is only for a few hours a day or one day a week we need the time to just be who we are.

Today is that day for me. When is yours?

Friday, September 23, 2011

G+? Facebook?

I would like to take a moment today to talk about G+ and Facebook. The two look similar on a first glance but are very different below the surface.

Facebook lets you connect with people you know, and until recently only let you friend people by mutual consent.

G+ on the other hand allows you to watch the public activity of any one you want.

This difference is subtle but it puts a value on being interesting. On G+ if you say interesting things or create good content you get a following.

This encourages people to be polite, engaging, and interesting, and if you are these things you will be rewarded with attention.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Balancing Comfort and Discomfort

Personal growth comes from a balance of comfort and discomfort.

Comfort is important because we are not striving to grow just to make ourselves miserable. But the process of growing can be painful because we have to look at the parts of our lives where we don't feel successful. It is important to make time to feel good, to focus on the things in life we enjoy.

However, when we retreat to that nest of comfort we are not growing. To grow we need to move beyond where we are comfortable and challenge ourselves.

This is the balance we need to seek, the balance between the moments of rest and the moments of work.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dispense With the Notion of Fair

If we expect that we will be treated fairly we will be disappointed. The notion of fair is a fallacy, or perhaps a better statement would be that fair is the social equivalent of the problems given to first year physics students.

In these problems students are told to set aside any factors that complicate the problems such as friction. This is done to allow the student to understand the concept. When we worry about things being fair, we disregard the differences in given situations.

When we see someone getting the things we want we often look at how we are qualified and they are not. Like the physics student disregarding friction, we disregard the other factors. We don't see their skills or connections.

When we worry about the things we are not getting, all we get is jealous.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Let's take a moment and look at accountability. When we hear that someone will be held accountable for their actions we tend to think in terms of punishment.

This us not what personal accountability is about. Personal accountability involves being responsible for our actions both good and bad. It means acknowledging that we are not perfect. It also can mean asking others to help us keep to the course we wish to follow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Middle Way

I have promised that I was going to be doing more opinion writing here. This is the first installment.

We have reached a point in society where we have institutions that are too big to fail. This is not to say that these institutions are incapable of failing. The last few years of economic turmoil have taught us this. However these institutions are so thoroughly integrated into our notion of normal everyday life that if they did collapse we would have to drastically change how we do everything else.

With the hardships and tribulations brought about by tough economic times it can often feel that individually we are too small to succeed. The rich have the money. We do not. The companies have the resources. We do not. The lobbyists have control of the government. We do not.

So here we stand in the fields just outside the township of the world as we know it looking at the slowly teetering giants held in place by rickety scaffolding. We are waiting for them to fall and crush our homes. We feel powerless to do anything to stop it.

However, there is a middle way, a path between the dangerously large and the ineffectually small. At the heart of this middle way is the community, both the communities created by common interests and those created by shared locality. Communities understand what it is they need, what problems they face and through discussion they can find solutions to deal with them.

There is a major road block along the middle way. It is not alack of resources. People who truly want to solve problems will find the tools necessary to solve them. It is not a lack of intelligence. The people on the street know where their suffering comes from. What it is, is fear. Fear keeps us from knowing our neighbor, from building a sense of community and from shouldering their burdens as our own. We have to be taught by shootings and kidnappings, by gang violence and by Kitty Genovese that our neighbors do not care about us. This is what needs to change.

The only place this can change is in our own hands and in our hearts. The way we treat our neighbors, the moments we take to stop and chat on a street corner, the sharing of joy and pain are the way we build community. It is not alright to wait for others to reach out to us. We bear the same responsibilities to act that they do.

When we have communities that are willing to work together to solve their shared problems, we have people who can change the world. Communities trusting their small local banks can reduce the impact of large corporate banking entities, the ones that are too big to fail. Communities who know their local elected representatives can have a voice equal to the lobbyists. Communities that look out for each other may not be rich but they will be able to meet there needs.

We can stand and watch the giants fall or we can turn to our neighbor and start building a new world.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekend Challenge: Find Time for Yourself

Life is hectic. We run in circles between commitments, job and school, friends and family.

We have to remember to make time for our selves. That is the challenge this weekend: find the time to do the things that let you clear your head.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Don't be a Victim

We have to be able to give up being victims.

When we get in a bad situation, we can quit and say, "Oh well, the university hates me. Poor me.

Or we can stop making excuses and do something to change our situation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shifting Gears

Some days get away from us. If we do not allow ourselves to have the flexibility to adapt to days like that we miss opportunities.

When we set our schedule in stone and refuse to deviate we cannot adapt. The ability to shift gears and the willingness to take on more are important skills to develop if we want to succeed.

Doing more then the minimum is important. However, we need to remember not to do more just to be doing. We need to make sure we take on projects that move us forward.

We cannot control when opportunities will present themselves, but we can be willing to accept them when they appear.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Makes a Good Opinion

Yesterday I mentioned I was going to focus more on writing opinions. But what is opinion writing? More importantly, what makes a good opinion?

When writing a good opinion you need to do more then rant. It is not enough to just say what you think.

A good opinion is backed by facts and supported by examples. A good opinion presents an argument.

A good opinion story is a feature story about an idea.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Hi Folks:

Since the school year has started again that means it is production time at the Oak Leaf. This means my time here today is limited. That said I wanted to let you know I have become bored with Up From the Ashes. In my own journey I am at a point where there is work to be done, but it is the same work I have been doing that I need to accomplished over time. I could keep talking about the same things here but this gets old.

I want to start sharing my views, my opinions and my feelings about things that are going on the world. In journalism opinion writing is my favorite sort of work, and I want a place to showcase that. So look for changes coming in the days ahead.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekend Challenge: See the Light

It can be easy to get distracted by the things we do not have. This challenge for this weekend is to see/look for the things we do have.

Find the light no matter how dark things seem.

Find the things that are more than nothing, and look to see how those things can be built into something more. See how they can be the foundation for a plan to build the life you want.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No Stopping

Planing is good. Starting is necessary. Finishing is critical.

It is easy to sit and plan, to say what we need to do. We can dream our dreams and say how we will achieve them, but all this means nothing if we do not take action.

To take action we have to start doing what we say we will do. We can work, we can push and we can make things happen but if we hit a wall and stop it means nothing.

If we do not follow through, if we do not see our work through to the end, there is no point in planning, no point in starting. If you are going to start you need to be prepared to finish.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Almost Overload

So I think I may be making progress. In the past I have had a problem with taking on too much. I may have finally figured out how to say no or to save things for latter.

Right now I have a day job that is taking up 32 hours of my week. School takes another 30 (in theory). Then I still have to find time to work on paying writing assignments, get back to work on The Mighty Us, participate in an online writers group and work on a game I am developing.

All this has me balancing on the point of overload. The trick is not adding anything more to the pile.

All I have to do is remember to say no.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


On those days when we feel overwhelmed and sad, we have to find a way to break ourselves free. We have to push ourselves to action or the hole we dug for ourselves will only get deeper.

When we feel like this it can be hard to find the energy to do anything. All we can do is start small, go for a walk, create something, read. Find something to do, something to distract, something to change were our heads are at.

Once we do this we can't allow ourselves to fall back into stress and worry. We can't live where we wallow in despair.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Work/Profit Equation

I have said it before but it bears repeating, creating change in your life is hard work.

It being Labor Day it is a good time to talk about hard work. There is only one real motivator for work and that is profit. Whether that profit is monetary, social betterment or personal satisfaction, all the work we do is for profit.

When we decide it is time to change our lives we have to consider how much effort is worth how much profit. How much work is the change worth? These are questions we have to consider for each change we want to make.

The questions we must ask ourselves are what do I want? What is it worth to me?

When we are losing more then we gain, we need to know it and cut and run.

Friday, September 2, 2011


A few days ago Up From The Ashes published its 500th post. To think I have sat down and shared my thoughts, my hopes, my fears, my failures and successes 500 times amazes me.

Every day has been another step closer to becoming who I want to be, learning to be strong, confident and one who dares to dream. I hope these 500 hundred posts have helped you, have offered insight and given you courage.

Remember this is not a place to necessarily be inspired, but to know that you are not alone in looking for ways to change your life. We are doing this together.

What are your struggles? What are your fears? Where have you triumphed? I would love to hear about your journey.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Matter of Perception

I am a walker. I enjoy getting around by walking and this affects the way I see the world.

I have a job now that requires me to go to a different city. This means I take the bus.

The bus I catch is not the normal route. It makes fewer stops and swings into a neighborhood most times missed.

Every new driver is sure I am getting on the wrong bus.

But I am a walker and this affects my perception. The next city over is not big, no matter were I would be let off, it would close enough for me.

How does who you are affect how you see the world?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not Holding On

One of the dangers of resisting change is that we risk becoming sad caricatures of ourselves. When we do not allow ourselves to change while the world changes around us, we become antiques.

If we hang onto the looks and dreams of last decade we do not give ourselves the opportunity to grow, to live, to be who we can be today.

The past has shaped us but we can only be effective in the now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Loss and Gain

Giving up control can be hard. For the last year I have been in charge of my own schedule. Now I have a new job. I have had to give up control of my schedule.

This is hard.

There was a certain freedom in unemployment. I could set my own schedule and I could work on the projects I wanted to work on.

The money will be nice. It will help fund the dreams I have been dreaming for the last year. But I find myself mourning the loss of freedom.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's the Lesson of the Wishing Well?

I was sitting in a park with a fountain the other day and watched as a father gave his young sons coins to throw in the water. This started me thinking about what was being taught here.

The lesson might be that following a dream costs something. It might be that it's a lesson that teaches that doing what we want takes time and money and effort.

Does it teach that having dreams and goals is more valuable then money?
That money only works when it is used?

What do you think? What is the lesson of the wishing well?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ask the Right Questions

Problem solving does not begin with finding the answers. It begins with knowing the right questions to ask.

Asking the correct questions allows us to define not only the problem but the results we actually want. With this knowledge we can work toward solutions that are not just adequate but productive.

The right questions start out general and slowly become more specific.

The most important questions are: “What is the problem?” and “What is the outcome I am looking for?”

These questions help us to define where we are and where we want to be. As we answer them we can start to ask more specific questions about how to find a path between the two. The process of bridging this gap needs to be creative both in the sense of thinking creatively and also in the sense of not being destructive.

When it comes time to solve problems, tensions can be high and we can be stressed out. The problem solving process should not be about assigning blame, other than as needed to find solutions.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Let us take today to create hope. Hope is a powerful force we can harness to build confidence, to motivate ourselves and to guide us from the darkness.

Hope is more then just the wish that something will happen. It is the strength to push forward, it is the fuel that can make things change. Hope comes from believing that things will get better and knowing we can be part of the change.

Hope starts with a dream, an idea of what we want. At this point it is just a distant star. A far away thing. This sort of hope is just a distraction, a fleeting moment of maybe. To sustain hope and make it an effective force we need to plan and set goals to realize that dream.

A prisoner who sits by the window of his cell staring over the fence at freedom has longing, not hope. The prisoner who works with his lawyer each day and plans his defense has hope.

Create hope. Stop longing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oak Leaf Updates

So as school starts up again so does the Oak Leaf. This semester I do not have the weight of being the editor. It is time to give some one else a chance to learn.

This semester I have been tasked with helping guide our paper through the treacherous waters of multimedia and with having a web first focus.

While we have had a web presence in the past and dabbled in multimedia, these have been our second stringers. Now as times change, we are having to change as well. For me this is a good thing. I have the opportunity to try new things and play with how we deliver information.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Great Quote

I would like to share with you one of the most inspiring reasons for doing something I have ever heard. The quote comes from Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter in an interview with the New York Times. However, I just ran into it for the first time while reading through a story about founding the Daily Dot on Media Twits.

Carter was asked his reasons for editing Vanity Fair and he responded, "One is to create great journalism. Two is to have fun. And three is to make some money."

This is exactly what I am looking for in life, to do great things, make money and have fun doing it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We all Deserve to be Remembered

Several months ago a young skateboarder died at an intersection I pass by every day on my way to school. Since his death there has been a constant outpouring of remembrance on that corner. Chalk art, signs, letters from his aunt. This was this morning's offering.
While I did not know the young man, I have found I feel a certain connection to him through these gifts and tributes left to him. In addition, there is something here that makes me feel hopeful.

These mementos say clearly this person was loved. This is proof that people care for each other and that we are all special and worthy of celebration. We must remember this not just when people are gone, but while they are in our lives. We also must honor our own selves as worthy of celebration and love.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekend Challenge: Dream

This weekend my challenge to you is to take the fetters off and let your dreams run wild.

Let yourself go and see were it takes you. If money was not an issue, what would you be doing? If time was not a concern, what would you work on? When you were young and idealistic, what were you going to do?

Once the dreaming is done sort out the dreams with a shred of feasibility and start looking at what separates you from turning the dream into a goal.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


When we feel the time to change is imminent but we cannot find the energy or motivation to initiate the change it can be helpful to have a booster. One powerful booster we can use is moments of transition.

Moments of transition can be things like birthdays, new jobs or moving to a new home. As I write this another powerful transitional moment is creeping up on me, the end of summer, and with it the return to school.

This semester I come back to the Oak Leaf as the accomplished veteran and have the task of mentoring the new folks and supporting the new editors in chief. I also have to be ready to apply myself to my studies and continue working towards transferring to a university.

So now it is a good time to take stock and think about what I should be changing next.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bravery in the Face of Opportunity

If we are going to get the most out of the opportunities that present themselves we have to be brave enough to claim them. This means we have to set aside unreasonable doubts, any feelings that we do not deserve what we are getting and be willing to take a chance.

When we are brave enough to take the opportunities that present to us, we then must be willing to work them to the best of our ability. We need to ask the questions we need to ask and put in the hours needed to get the job done.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teacher and Student

Yesterday I was involved in a discussion on Google+ discussing a rather shortsighted review published in Forbes. While the tone of the of the discussion was about how the author had gotten things wrong, some people's only contribution to the conversation was to call the man an idiot.

I found this to be counterproductive. The cure for a lack of knowledge is not to label it and walk away. Instead we should be prepared to teach and to educate. At the same time we cannot approach the interaction as from the unshakable assumption that we are right. For all we know, we may be the idiot.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ignorance is a Resource

When we need advice we tend to look for an expert in an area. We look for someone who has been there. The same is true when people come to us for advice. We tend to demure when we do not feel qualified to give an answer.

Experts are a good place to start, but it can also be productive to talk to those who are ignorant, especially when we have some level of skill in the area we are struggling with. The advantage of talking to the ignorant is they are not aware of the field's presumed limitations.

While a person ignorant in the area we are working may not be able to teach us a new skill, they may help us question the limits we assume are stopping us. They also bring fresh eyes and a new point of view.

Searching out the experts will help us learn how everyone else is doing something. Talking to the ignorant can help us find our own way.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekend Challenge

Here is a weekend challenge for everyone.

Yesterday I talked a bit about goals and how they should support each other. This weekend come up with three goals that produce different results but utilize the same skill set. Alternately you could come up with three goals that support different aspects of the same desire.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Goals and Roads

Active, rational changes in our lives cannot be accomplished without a clear idea of what we want our life to be.

While this understanding of what we want comes from soul searching, day dreaming and finding our passion, none of these activities creates a road map for us to actually make change happen. To create this road map we need to set goals.

Our goals should not be created in a vacuum. Looking at the road map analogy each road by itself is not that important. What makes a road useful is how it connects to other roads. Goals work the same way building, crisscrossing and strengthening each other.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quick Thoughts

There is a problem with choice. It can paralyze us and stop us from moving forward. When we are presented with a number of acceptable options, we have to stop and evaluate each one to find the one that is “best.” However, when we are faced with only one viable option the choice is simple, succeed or fail.

To react quickly to change we have to understand what it is we want, we have to know what the acceptable choices are and be willing to walk away quickly from the things we do not need or want.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Let Me Get Political for a Moment

Fred Hicks designs role playing games, some very good RPG's at that. Yesterday on Google+ he chose to post a magazine article he found interesting. Because this article was somewhat politically charged and he did not want to play host to the ensuing debate on his post, he disabled comments.

He then proceeded to a second post that explained how he could not handle the stress these debates cause him. I often talk here about compromises and the importance of it. It is important not just on a personal level but also on a national level. We have to learn to get along and stop treating politics as theater.

Below is a response I made to Fred’s post.

I have to start by saying this post by +Fred Hicks makes me sad. Not because he has a"liberal-ish, hippy-dippy side," but because it highlights our failure as a nation to be able to talk about the problems we face without it becoming a fight.

This is not a condemnation of your not wanting comments on your posting, but it is a condemnation of those who feel the only way to talk is to attack. Democracy works when we can share our ideas and work towards a generally agreeable solution to our shared problems.

Compromise and the real work of governance do not come from finding fault and placing blame for problems. We need to remember that our allegiance should be to our neighbors, our friends and our families and by extension to our nation and our planet. Instead we give our allegiance to politicians, ideologies and political parties.

The result is that by turning what should be a discussion into a fight we remove people who care and who think but who also feel too much from the conversation. In loosing the voice of the compassionate from the conversation we lose the voice that can bring both sides together, we lose the guide who can help us find the middle ground.

In short we just lose.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: lazy meter

Over the weekend I started using a new (read yet another) on line todo list tool. This one is much simpler then some of the other ones I have played with over the years. Lazy Meter simply shows you the things you want to get done today and lets you cross them off the list as you finish them or push them to another day.

The interface is clean and intuitive. The buttons are styled like a media player with the familiar play, pause and stop buttons as the major controls. Clicking the play button takes you to your to-do list for today. Pause is upcoming events and stop is for unscheduled items.

The real advantage of Lazy Meter is the play bar at the top of the screen. This tracks how many tasks you have completed so far, shown in green, and how many you have paused, turning part of the bar orange. After only a few days of using it I find the motivation to keep the bar a solid green is quite a good incentive for not procrastinating on a task I have assigned myself.

To-do lists should do more then organize our productivity they should motivate our work. This one does both.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekend Challenge

Time for another weekend challenge.

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine about the problems that money caused or could cure. I took the position that the problem is not money or the lack of money but rather the inability for people to be satisfied with what they have.

We are regularly programmed to want. Commercials do it all the time. Our bodies pitch in with signals to eat, sleep and all those other necessities. It is no wonder that we are predisposed to focus on what we want rather then what we have.

The challenge for this week end is be aware of how many things you have, what you want and what needs you have that are not being met.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Something I Have Noticed

I have found recently that one of the biggest impacts on my mood is whether or not I am working. Being self employed this means having an article to write that I know I will receive payment for. Even if the story is not going to run for a week or so, knowing it is there is a huge relief.

At the heart of this reaction is a sense of self worth that comes from having work, and knowing that other people value what I am producing. Being self employed the product I create is very closely tied with my sense of self.

This is both a good and a bad thing.

While not having work can have a detrimental effect on my mood, the connection between what I write and my identity drives me to be a better writer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Thought for the Day

Here is a simple thought for the day.

The process of personal change is inevitable. All we can control is whether we direct the change or are directed by it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Being Thorough

Follow through, it is almost as important as starting for getting a job done. Once we begin a project or take on a responsibility we have to make sure we do the work from beginning to end.

This also leaves out things like half assing a project and saying it is good enough. Anything we agree to do we need to understand we are not just responsible for getting it done, we have to get it done well and on time.

Having good follow through requires a few things. The first is not to overburden ourselves with too much to do. Knowing our limits is important. Second we have to be aware of the tasks associated with what we have agreed to do. We have to be aware of all the steps, make sure they are accomplished and done well. Lastly we have to put effort into the entirety of the project not just the beginning.

All this boils down to one idea, be thorough.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Performance Review

When you work for someone else you receive progress reports and evaluations to track your performance on the job. These tools help your boss analyze your performance, find the things you need to improve on and determine if you deserve a raise.

In the rest of our lives we are our own boss but we have no metrics to evaluate our growth and performance in the job of living the way we want to. This lack of data leaves us with only a subjective idea of what we are accomplishing.

To create an objective idea of what we are achieving and where our effort is paying off we need a way to track our performance. This becomes even more important when we start working for ourselves.

I will be developing an Excel weekly performance review work sheet for myself. I should have it ready to share by next Monday.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A New Way of Doing It

Starting Monday I am taking a new tactic to finding work as a freelancer. In the past my tactic has been to find people who want to hire me to write something for them. This would guarantee payment and mean I had a product that would sell, but it has not presented me with security.

Starting Monday I will be finding my own stories, writing them and marketing them. The plan is always to have ten irons in the fire. I'll spend 8 hours a day, five days a week reporting, researching, marketing or writing. A minimum of 2 hours of that will be dedicated to fiction.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Short Thought on a Deep Subject

Knowledge and practice are two very different things. Knowing ways to change, to grow or to make our lives what we want them to be is all well and good but without putting that knowlage into practice it will do us no good.

Of course there is the internal work that we need to keep doing. We need to know ourselves, and forgive others and ourselves, we need to learn to understand what triggers our behaviors and not forget to set goals for ourselves. At the same time as we are doing all of those things, we also have to put all those things into practice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Create a 'Positivist Card' to Remember Your Strengths

We are better than we think we are. We can do more then we think we can. We are less limited then we believe we are. Unfortunately, we forget that.

We are more willing to see our failings and faults then our abilities and achievements. We become hung up on the things that we can’t do or that we have not done well.

This is not just something that happens on a personal level but on a social one. It is harder to see what others have done for us then what they have done to us. Bosses keep files of our mistakes but not of our successes.

With all this in mind I encourage you to pick up a business card and write your top three skills on it. Add to it two things you are working to accomplish. Keep the card in your wallet. When you accomplish something you feel is important pull out the card and make a note of the event and the date.

When the card fills up file it away and start a new card. On those days when things are not going well it gives a point of touchstone on the things you feel positively about yourself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Knowing When to Change

I talked yesterday about changing the way we try to reach our goals without giving up on the goal itself. How do we know when it is time to stop what we are trying and do something else?

The important thing to be aware of here is what I will call the threshold of progress. This is the point where the work that you are doing starts to produce tangible results and the creation of the changes you desire in your life.

A process for change may have a long foundation period. That is the time it takes to build up enough work to reach the threshold of progress. This foundational period, however, should be marked with milestones, in other words, we should be able to notice our progression towards the threshold.

One sign that we may need to change our tactics during the foundation period is when the tasks of preparation become repetitive.

If it is like being stuck at the bottom of a pit of sand where every time you start to climb the sides the walls collapse and bring you back down to the bottom, or if no matter how much you climb the pit, it just becomes wider, then that is time to find a new strategy to get out.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Plan is Not the Goal

I talk a lot about not giving up and persevering. I want to make this clear that this applies to goals not to methods. While it is true we do not fail if we do not stop trying it is also true that if something is not working we need to make changes.

When we find ourselves not reaching our goals no matter how hard we try to get there we need to examine the process. Let’s take me and my attempts to get my finances under control. I have been doing the same thing for weeks. Trying to save the money I make via paypal but spending it on food because I can load a Starbucks card with it.

This has been a strategy for staying fed, but it does not meet my goal of managing my money. This week with my pay day from the deli I have made a new start. The new plan is to buy foods that do not require refrigeration, that are easy to prepare and cheap. This means fruits and vegetables for the most part. With this plan feeding myself via Starbucks is over and hopefully I can actually save money.

This change means working towards the goal but changing the path. This is what we all must do when we find that the way we are going is not getting us where we want to be. We cannot become so focused on how we get there that we waste our energy and collapse by the side of the road. The goal is what is important to not give up, the road can change.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking Into the Light

Frustration, aggravation, and resentment. These are some of the emotional blinders we face every day. They blind us to the goodness of others, the good things we have in our lives and the opportunities that present to us.

These dark patches can cloud our vision, and as that happens they begin to spread. They merge together and all we can see is the negative.

When our eyes and minds are drawn to the advantages that others have it is time to look away. We need to not stare into the darkness but instead put our sight on the points of light that are all around us.

The comfort of friends, the freedom to make our own decisions about our lives, the peace that comes from doing a job and doing it well, our own good health. All these things are luck, opportunity and good fortune. When we want what we cannot have we bring pain into our lives. When we look to the things that others have and we do not, we bring pain into our lives. When we accept what we have, when we understand that it is really enough to keep us going, we put pain aside.

When the darkness fills our vision we can only stop the pain by looking into the light.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What are You Looking At?

Progress towards reaching the world you want is never a smooth course. There are setbacks, hills and valleys, swamps and rivers to be crossed. Those who ill succeed are those who do not look at the obstacle but look at the way around it.

Some see a river and think, “how will I ever get across that?” Others see it and start trying to decide whether a ford is more likely to be found up stream or down.

We will almost always see what it is we are looking for. If we look for problems there are plenty to find. However, if we are looking for solutions they will present themselves as well.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When It All Goes Wrong

The impact of little disappointments can be much larger to those of us who experience them then to those who see what we are going through.

Monday I took the day off. Well for the most part. I answered a few work emails and made a work related phone call but for the most part I just took the time to relax. In the course of the day however I received some bad news, found out a debt I thought was sorted out still needed some sorting and had a few plans fall through.

Heading for home I decided to stop by Starbucks and get a bagel and maybe a cookie. It was late in the day and about the only thing in the pastry case that was not sweet where the croissants. Now croissants are great for a breakfast sandwich, but they are not the best delivery system for cream cheese, which was the real impetus behind the bagel.

Any way I bought the croissant and got the cream cheese. I was feeling let down, but what the heck, that is life. Then when I stopped to have a bite of my snack, I realized that they had forgotten to give me a knife.

A little thing. A very little thing. But it was enough to break down my optimism and courage, to rattle me enough to let the weight of the day's other disappointments come crashing in.

That is how it works. It is not the little thing itself but rather the feeling that if even the little things can’t go right, what hope is there for the big things?

But when this happens the best defense against despair is also the little things. Find the solutions that make them work. These small let downs once fixed are the building blocks for the bigger successes.

So as I walked home I used the nicely curved croissant to scoop the cream cheese out of the little tub.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Looking for Work

Being a freelancer is hard work. Not only do you have to do the jobs you get hired to do, you have to be willing to go out and find the jobs in the first place. I have been relying on one maybe two sources for work and that is just not cutting it.

My goal for today is to write five bids for new work via Elancer, a website that hooks up freelancers with employers. I also intend to find a few more publications to pitch myself too.

This is the hard part of the job for me because I hate rejection; it is probably my biggest fear. But as the saying goes you can’t win if you don’t play. While this is bad advice for the lottery it is great advice for the job market.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Quick Thought From My Day Off

The problem with running away from our problems is that we most often take them with us. When we set out to change our lives we cannot think of it as closing a door, turning our back or otherwise blocking off our past. We may choose to no longer acknowledge the past, but the rest of the world will remember.

Instead of thinking about running to something, we need to think about bringing the things we want to ourselves. This is not to say we should give in to the happy go lucky idea of the law of attraction, what we need to do is be willing to do the hauling.

If we want the world we want, we need to be willing to build it, ship and create it where we are.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekend Challenge: Inspiration Journal

It is weekend challenge time.

One way to become more creative and innovative is to increase our awareness of how creative we already are. In other words we find solutions, have brilliant ideas and artistic inspirations all the time.

We may feel stagnated and uncreative but that is not the case.

The challenge for this weekend is to prove that to ourselves. To do this keep a note book, smart phone or other note capturing device with you all weekend, and as you have inspirations, write them down.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stay in the Now and Do What You're Doing

It is easy when we find ourselves at work, in class, or otherwise occupied with activities that are not what we consider fun to think of what we would rather be doing. This is one of the worst things that we can do.

For starters it is demoralizing. Rather than comforting us with pleasant memories it actually provides a contrast to what we are doing at the moment. This serves to make the good times seem much better, but they also serve to make the current toil seem that much harder. It is like the starving man being tortured by being forced to watch others eat a banquet.

Also it is a distraction from the work we are doing. If our minds are not where our hands are we will make mistakes. Even when we feel that we can do the job well enough that we do not need to think about it we will still only deliver the lowest level of competence we are capable of. With our mind on the work we can learn and improve our performance.

Last of all it is insulting to the moment. Every instant of our lives is unique; the toil and the play are equally valuable experiences. When we live in the future or the past we are throwing away our lives.

This is not to say the momentary wandering of our thoughts to what we are doing tonight or having for dinner is bad. What is bad is when we actively choose to put our mind somewhere else while we work. When we choose to be other then here in the moment it only serves to increase our dissatisfaction.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Real Life Gets in the Way

Some days real life gets in the way of good planning.

Yesterday I was going to make my KickStarter video. I was planning on using one of the video cameras from the Oak Leaf, my school's newspaper, to film it. However when I stopped by to pick it up someone else already had it.

I resigned myself to shooting the video with the camera built into my lap top. The video quality came out quite good but the audio was horrible.

So began the quest for someone with a video camera who could help me shoot the video. Alas, all the people I know who could help were busy.

In the long run this has been a good thing. Something I was nervous about doing has become a problem to solve. I like solving problems, and this brings me to my point.

When we feel stuck on a task or project it can be helpful to reclassify how we look at it. By turning the video into a problem instead of a project I have inadvertently found new drive to work on it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Open Pep Talk to Myself

One technique that always seems to work for me when I am struggling with getting started on something is to make it public. If I tell the world (or at least the part of the world that will listen to me) that I am doing this thing, then I do not want to let it down.

With that in mind I will be shooting my video today for my KickStart project.

I am feeling a bit nervous about getting in front of the camera. The usual thoughts go through my head “What if it is not good enough?” “What if I do not get the money because I screw this up?” “What if, what if, what if?”

However the bottom line is that if I do not make the video, if I do not launch the project I will not get the money and The Mighty Us will die on the vine. That would not be a very mighty outcome. So time to do the work and make the video.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rovers and Rededication

There is a reoccurring cycle in life, a cycle that becomes clearer when we start working on improving our lives. This is the cycle of rededication to the goals we want.

Trying to accomplish anything in the long term is like being a Martian rover. You work on your goal, you do what you need to do and then next thing you know your solar panels are covered with dust and you just can’t keep going, at least until a breeze comes along and blows the dust away.

Rededication is the art of finding that breeze. It rekindles our motivation and it allows us to refocus on what we need to get done.

The first step in rededicating ourselves is to realize we have lost focus, to know that we are not performing as well as we should or working on the things we need to. Once we realize this the next thing to do is not let this lack of focus distract us from our rededication.

It is so easy to get distracted by the dust that is covering our solar panels and clogging our wheels instead of focusing on that we have to do.

The process of clearing the dust is just a matter of reidentifying the things we really want and the things we are doing. Comparing these two lists and asking the question, “does this thing I am doing contribute to what I want?” will show what is helpful and what is dust.

Once we know what is dust we just have to let it go in the breeze and what is left will be the purpose we are looking for.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Talking to Strangers

So I have been talking to strangers on Google+ this last week since the people I have invited are not jumping on the bandwagon with me.

This has been a plus for me. I have had the opportunity to meet people, expand my way of thinking and share my thoughts with them. If you are able to approach a situation like this with an open mind and willingness to think about the things you will hear it is a great opportunity for growth.

The sharing of ideas is always an opportunity to learn and grown. It does not mean that we need to accept everything that we are told. What it does mean is that we need to consider and discuss what is different in our way of thinking. It is about coming to consensus.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Spectrum of Criticism

The other day I mentioned that criticism is one of the best gifts we can be given, however there are some times we should keep the receipt. There are many flavors of criticism out there and only some of them are good for us.

Constructive Criticism: This is the best type of criticism we can hope to receive. Here the person looking at our work actively wants to make it better; they want to help us to do the best we can. We need to recognize that is not an attack on us, but the work of a coach, mentor or peer who sees what we can be and wants to help us get there.

Stylistic Friction: This type of criticism happens when the style of our work rather than the content does not sit well with someone. While this critique may be intended to be constructive it is not quite as valuable. We have to create works that represent who we are, that speak with our voice. However, if our voice becomes a stumbling block for more than a few readers we do need to pay attention and make changes. In short, we need to be ourselves, but also we need to be accessible.

Requisite Criticism: Here we have a situation where someone feels that they are required to find a flaw with what we are doing. Again this is not criticism that should be discounted out of hand, but it should also be taken with a grain of salt. The critique is done to exercise a duty rather than to create a better product. Valuable nuggets may be delivered in this way, but there is often a lot of dross to sort through.

Destructive Negativity: This is criticism is not about building something better, but instead about tearing down what someone else has made. This should be discarded and forgotten.

Personal Attacks: This is similar to destructive negativity except that it looks at the creator of the work rather than the work. Again, this is the sort of critique that should be disregarded. More than that, the people who do this are the people we should distance our selves from.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Ice Cream Principle

When trying to battle procrastination it can be helpful to remember the ice cream principle.

If we are at home making ourselves a sundae or a nice piece of pie a la mode, when we are done we always put the ice cream away before enjoying our treat. Without fail we take the time to do this one chore because if we don’t things get worse. The ice cream melts and makes a bigger mess to clean up. We lose what ice cream we have left to a puddle on the flour.

We have to realize that everything is ice cream. It all must be dealt with in a timely fashion before it becomes a bigger mess. We cannot leave the things we don’t want to do just sitting on the counter and go eat our desert.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Using the Criticism Tool

Being good enough and knowing we are good enough are two very different things. Without the ability to accept that we are capable of doing work that is worthy of the title of professional quality we may do great work that no one will ever see.

The unfortunate truth is that we will never know if we are good enough if we do put ourselves out there to be judged. Also it is true that we cannot please every viewer, every critic or every person who looks at what we do. These two facts mean that no matter how good our work we will receive some negative feedback.

This is one of the best things that can ever happen to us.

Negative feedback is like a light shining on the things we need to improve. We only see the work we do from the inside. Praise and criticism are both views from the outside looking in. These views can help us to grow and fine tune our work.

While praise may feel better it can be more dangerous to our creativity and our ability to do our best work. Praise can catch us in the trap of trying to create the same great thing over and over again.

On the other hand criticism can point out the place where we need to grow and encourage us to try something new.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks and Light Bulbs

Here in USA it is once again Independence Day. The sky will fill with bright colors and loud noises as the fireworks paint the night and the crowds ooh and ah. Then as the festivities end families will come home, they will retreat from the night behind the walls of their home and banish the darkness with the steady reliable glow of electric light.

The fireworks from earlier in the evening got the glory and the adulation but the light bulb gets the trust. For all their flash and glory the fireworks are only there for a moment. They chase the darkness away but then are gone and the darkness rushes back in. They are precious for their ephemeral nature, but they are not reliable.

The light bulb on the other hand is there day in and day out. It works in the background, only becoming evident when it burns out, when the switch is flipped and there is no warm comforting glow. But even then, even in the moments when they fail it is but a moments work to replace them.

In personal growth we need to be light bulbs. We need to work every day and when we burn out and falter we need to be able to marshal ourselves and in just a few moments get back to work. We cannot afford to be fireworks making sudden, aggressive attempts to change and then giving up as soon as we fail.

Also like the light bulb our work on growing and changing should not be a show for the crowd. Instead our growth should be quiet. The purpose of our work is for us to be better, not to be praised for trying.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Confidence and Egotism

There is a difference between being egotistical and being confident. Confidence gives us the strength and conviction to do things. Egotism gives us the belief that we have a right to do what we want and everyone else be dammed.

Unfortunately egotism can creep into confidence. The fact that we start getting what we want due to confidence can make us believe that we are entitled to get what we want. This is not true. Everything we want and need in this world should be the product of work.

There will be times when things are handed to us, birthday presents, lucky breaks, but these are the exception. They are the sparkling prize and they should never be expected. We should never resent not getting something for free.

The bottom line is that we need to be confident but we don’t need to be egotistical. When we work for someone, they are not lucky to have us we are lucky to have them. We need to do our best and not let ourselves believe we can do no wrong

Thursday, June 30, 2011

You Never Know

You never know. As we go through our day we never really know what other people are going through. The driver who cuts us off may be on the way to the hospital. The person who glares at us when we talk loud may have just fought with someone they love. Then again, they may just be jerks.

It does not matter, jerks or a bad day; it costs us nothing to give them the benefit of the doubt. They are part of our story for only a moment, but a smile or at the least the lack of our own glare may help make things better for them.

If we can’t let the small slights, the inconvenience of strangers go, all it does is serve to darken our day. We can work to make others' day better or we can reflect there sorrow to the world.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time to Launch

Whenever we are working on a project that we do not have complete control over there comes the moment of launch. This is the moment when we have done our part and we have to fire it out into the world for others to see, to use or to react to.

The build up to the launch can be busy, hectic and seem stressful, but the stress of having to wait is even worse.

This can be one of the causes of procrastination. We will keep working, keep fine toning, keep trying to make sure each part is as good as we can make it just to avoid the stress of having to wait for a reaction.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moving Clouds

As I sit in a coffee shop pounding out these words this morning I am watching a cold June rain splash down on a Northern California shopping center. The cars still roll through the parking lot but the people do not gather at the tables, they duck under awnings and they jog across the parking lot.

Yesterday was a warm if cloudy day, the day before that was bordering on hot. People moved slowly, they stopped they chatted, they lingered at the tables.

Like Northern California weather the weather of our personal landscapes can change quickly, summer to winter in the space of one night, one conversation, even seeing the wrong person can shift our mood. We may not be able to be meteorologists for ourselves but unlike weather we can do something about our moods.

We need to be able to recognize when these mood shifts occur and make sure that we are able to redirect our focus. In other words the incident that changes our mood is like a gust of wind blowing cold rain in from the north. The wind comes and goes but the cloud lingers.

We can take hold of the cloud and move it on. If a sudden bad mood is the rain cloud the things that are right in our life is the clear sunny sky. Moving the clouds, refocusing on the things that make us happy can bring them back.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Look At All Your Tools

Have you ever seen those big, red, rolling tool boxes? The ones with all the drawers? Those are exactly the wrong way to think about how we store all the mental tools we use throughout our day. Our mental toolbox should be more of a workshop with all the tools hanging on the walls where they are easy to get to and, more importantly, easy to see.

With the big, rolling tool box everything gets separated into its own drawer based on the purpose it is used for. We may think of one idea as a writing tool, a second as a productivity tool and another as an educational tool. Really they are just all tools, they are good for different jobs, but they can be used outside of their usual context.

Take a screwdriver for example. The intended use of the tool is to tighten and loosen screws. However, a screwdriver is also invaluable for prying open stuck paint cans, scraping dirt out of a tight space or as a wedge to hold something open.

Another example: As has been mentioned in the past, I play roll playing games. One of them uses a system of aspects to define characters. Earlier today I was wondering why it was so easy for me to develop plots for this game, but so hard to do the same thing for writing fiction. The aspects where the key. This tool could be used to create the characters and places for a novel as easily for the game, and like in the game could then be used to show points of conflict that can lead to interesting stories.

The tool was not made for writing, it was made for playing a game, but it was in my tool box. When I stopped thinking about it as a gaming tool and just thought about it as a tool, I saw another way to use it. Sometimes we have the tools we need to solve the problems we have, we just need to take off the labels and leave them where we can see them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unfounded Ambition

Ambition should not be a product of hope but a product of well informed confidence. In other words if we chase down something based on what we hope will happen we are setting ourselves up to falter and fail.

This is not to say that ambition should not take chances, but the chance it does take should be one where we can control the outcome with our own skill and determination.

Ambition that rides on the back of luck and chance is like a child running with scissors, barefoot, in a room full of mousetraps. Sure they might make it safely across, but most likely there will be pain involved. When we are working to change our lives we cannot trust luck to carry the day.

A Moment of Fear Externalized

So the problem with making a plan and taking action on it is that it works. That can be intimidating.

I just got the notice that I have been approved for my Kick Start project. What that means is this, if I can raise the money the Mighty Us happens. If I get the money I can pay my writers, I can build a business and make something happen. It also means I have to be good with money; it’s not mine, it is the company's. I have to get the rewards to my backers. I have to come through.

I think that is what scares me the most. I now have responsibilities to make this happen.

I can do it. I can make this dream real.

Here we go, it is game time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Basic Optimism

I have talked in the past about not getting caught up in blinding optimism. We have to look at the negative, the down side, the possibility of failure in order to see how to avoid it. We cannot walk through the woods at night without going slow and watching for low hanging branches. A low hanging branch is a good way to knock ourselves out.

However there is a basic optimism we must all have. Without it there is no hope and no reason to try. This optimism can be boiled down to one sentence. If we are alive and willing to work things can and will get better.

We cannot blindly hope that our lives will change if we keep doing the same thing over and over again. We have to work, we have to strive and we have to put out effort to change our lives. If we are willing to do that we can make things better, we can make a difference, we can change the world.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Know Your Tells

We all have our tells, those things we do that signal our state of mind, the nervous twitches we don’t realize we have or the smile we can’t keep off our face. But we also have other kinds of tells and learning to recognize them can help to keep us on track.

For example the more frustrated I become the worse I do at keeping my workspace clean. This is an externalization of my inner mental state. The clutter of problems and worries that fill my mind cause me to fill my space with clutter.

This is one of my tells. When I start to see the room sliding into messiness I know I need to look for what it is that has gotten under my skin. When I can’t figure that out, I clean the room. Usually somewhere in the act of tidying up the physical space I find the answer I have been avoiding.

This is the power of knowing our tells. Sometimes if we change the behavior we can change the problem that causes it. The two are connected, the tell and the problem.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Ingredients for Success

The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is a matter of two things - how realistic we set our goals and how hard we are willing to work for them.

A goal that cannot be achieved is not a goal. It is a dream. When we hang on to goals that we know are not achievable all we do is dishearten ourselves. We create a reinforcing pattern of defeat that will do nothing but serve to keep us down.

Worse than not letting us accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves, this sort of downward spiral of failure can taint our other endeavours. This makes it harder to accomplish the things that were formerly easy.

To break this cycle we need to learn to set reasonable goals, and we need to revisit the goals we have to make sure they are realistic.

The other thing we need is the willingness to do the work that those goals require. There is no substitute for effort.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Worry About Your Part

An important part of meeting our commitments is to take them seriously. This is true whether the people we have committed to seem to take them seriously or not.

The attitudes that other people put into the projects they ask for help with should not influence how we treat the choice we have made. It can be frustrating when we have committed to help with something and the person we are helping does not seem to be putting effort into it. But we do not know what is going inside their heads. They may feel like they are working hard. There may be aspects of the project that we do not see or understand.

We have to take ownership of the part of the project that we have agreed to do, and if we are unable to do what we have agreed to accomplish, we have to be honest about that as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Project Update

The going can be hard but that does not mean the road is not worth traveling. The road to getting The Mighty Us launched is having hardships, mostly because of my desire to have all the stories in and ready to go for Monday.

It looks like we will be pushing back one more week so all the stories for the first issue will be ready to go. But, like any project, the things that slow us down only beat us if we stop working.

So, for the first issue of The Mighty Us, it looks like we will have four columns, a profile an editorial and at least one organization profile.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Burdens and Backpacks

It is important in life to be able to separate our burdens from our backpacks. As we move through life we gather things we hold onto. Some of those things weigh us down, others give us the boost to keep going.

The things that give us the boost, that's our backpack. It helps us keep going and allows us to carry the weight of our responsibilities while still leaving our hands free to get work done.

An example: A part of my back pack is my cat, Sunny. He is there to greet me, to cheer me up and to demand attention. He is one of things that brightens my day every day and gives me enough motivation to keep moving.

On the other hand we have burdens we carry, emotional hurts, frustrations and hardships we have difficulty letting go of.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Surfing the Washing Machine

There are no little problems. There are no big problems. There are just the problems we are currently facing that are keeping us from achieving the things we would like to achieve. Some problems might seem more complex or require more effort to overcome, but any problem that slows or stops our progress is as detrimental as any other.

The hardest problem we will ever face is the one we are not prepared for, the one that catches us off guard from out of left field. These problems will happen no matter how much we plan for them or how much we try to avoid them. They will come from elements outside our control and from the problems of dealing with limited resources.

The only way to deal with these problems is to roll with the punches. When sudden unforeseen problems hit there is often a moment of shock and inaction. We can take that moment of shock, but that is all. We need to learn how to recover, regain our balance and react. The longer we let a problem stop us from moving forward the less likely we are to get started again.

In surfing when you fail to catch a wave or misjudge the way a wave is behaving you may wipe out. This usually consists of being violently flung from your board and tossed into the ocean at the exact point where the crest of a breaking wave is slamming with all the raw force it can muster back into the surface of the ocean. You are tossed spun and pounded in what is sometimes known, at least in my day, as the washing machine.

In the washing machine you do not have a choice about rolling with the punches. You have to find which way is up locating any obstacle, namely your board, between you and the surface and start moving. You only have so much air and only a little time before the next wave comes rolling in. If you do not get moving quickly you do not get moving at all.

The best survival tool a surfer has when he or she is in the washing machine is staying calm. A surfer who is not confident in his ability in the water can panic, loose his or her sense of direction or rush up too quickly and be hit by his own board.

Maintaining our calm lets us react quickly, and the way to maintain our calm is, like the surfer, to be confident in our ability to survive.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Hand or the Boot

There is a trap as we begin to achieve the things we are working for, especially when those things are the breaking of a bad habit. The trap is this - we have seen the change that breaking that bad habit has made in our lives and we can become condemning of others when they indulge the habit we have broken.

While having a certain amount of pride in our own accomplishments is good, everyone is on their own journey. They have their own struggles and their own goals. Because something is a problem for us and we have beaten it, that does not mean that it is a problem for someone else, and even if it is, it does not mean it is the problem they are working on at the moment.

Condemnation does not truly encourage people to change; it just makes them feel bad. It makes them feel they have to hide what they do around others. In other words it can make them feel bad about themselves for something that is not a problem. At worst it makes them resentful of what you have accomplished.

This is not to say we should not encourage people to make good choices, but we should do it through recognizing the positive rather than condemning the negative.

Think of it this way: when we stumble do we need someone to put their boot on our chest and hold us down or do we want a hand held out to help us up?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Go Get 'Em

The more I try to do the “luckier” I become. Every extra task or ambition I actively put energy into the more opportunities present themselves.

There is nothing we can do that beats taking action to change our situation. Planning is good but without action those plans are nothing more then waste paper. All the efforts all the energy to create the perfect plan will get us no where if we do not put it into action.

To actually start doing, we have to set aside many things, our fear, a desire for perfection, and the belief that we will fail. When we start, things will go wrong, our plans will have flaws and we will only do as well as we are able to. However, if we let any of that stop us the opportunities that will arise will never even be known.

Take last night as an example. I was tired, I had been working on a video slide show story all day and had been plagued with technical difficulties. I had agreed to attend an awards presentation and reception for the local bicycle coalition but I was not even sure there was a story I could sell there.

The bottom line was I did not want to go, I wanted to go home and just relax. Instead I went, I put out the effort and discovered something amazing. The reception was hosted at the share exchange, a nonprofit group looking to build community green businesses. One of the features they offer is a membership based shared workspace.

Talking to to Kelly, the person in charge, I found a lot of their values are in line with what I want to do at The Mighty Us. So a bit of effort has led me not only to multiple story ideas but also to a cheap affordable office space for my latest venture.

In the end when we begin a journey we do not know where the roads will take us, where the detours will be or even where we will arrive at the end. But without starting and taking all those side paths we will never even get out the front door.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Failures are a Tool

A good friend of mine told me once “I don’t read your blog because it’s depressing.” While I could see where he was coming from I would still have to disagree.

The things I talk about doing - being honest with ourselves, holding ourselves accountable for our problems and admitting we are not perfect are not always easy. What I do find depressing is watching people make the same mistakes again and again. When we are unwilling to change the way we think or act but are not happy with the life we are living, that is depressing.

Hard work is not fun, if it was it would be hard play, but it is worth the rewards. We have to be willing to work to grow, to recognize where there is a need for growth, and to be honest about that with ourselves. We also have to be willing to admit when we are not doing as well as we would like. These admissions should not be seen as pot holes but instead as guard rails. As we come close to hitting them we can correct our course and find our way to where we want to be.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Reason for Habits

I have over the course of this blog routinely encouraged the creation of good habits as a way to change our behaviors. There is a simple reason this works. It moves the process of making good decisions from a taxing effort that we must continuously make to a reaction that we can perform without thinking.

The process of creating a habit is really about training the subconscious to do what we want it to do. At first we understand the habit or the behavior we are trying to change. We then develop an alternate way of reacting and force ourselves to repeat it.

This creates a precedent that our subconscious mind can use to help direct actions. Each voluntary repetition brings us closer to the point where we can behave the way we want without expending willpower to do it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Updates From the New Site

So this week brings a big push to getting the new site up and running. Playing with themes and getting Wordpress set up has been more of a learning curve than I expected but I think I am getting the hang of it.

As I have been building the site the focus has shifted. Unlike Up From The Ashes which has been about my personnel growth and the insights and thoughts it has spurred in me The Mighty Us will focus more on building community and how strong communities come from strong people.

Personal growth will still be an aspect of the publication but not its sole focus. I say publication because I am not sure how to define the site I am envisioning. The Mighty Us will have multiple writers all with backgrounds in journalism. It will have some level of editorial overview. In these ways it is more than a blog. However I do not really like the term magazine for a solely digital product. And digital magazine feels like a cop out.

I also I have come to the conclusion that I should be striving to pay my writers. While they are mostly young, they are solid writers and they know their craft. They are more then capable of providing content that is worth paying for.

To do this I will be turning to KickStart to raise capital. KickStart is a crowd sourced funding solution for creative endeavors, including publishing. Any help people could give will be greatly appreciated. I hope to have the KickStart page up and ready to go by Monday. I am hoping to generate $10,000 which would cover my operating budget for the first six months giving me time to secure advertisers and still be able to pay my writers, web host and myself.

I am also looking for input on the mission statement for The Mighty Us:

The mission of The Mighty Us is to help provide tools, inspiration and information to help build communities through personal growth and understanding.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Simple Hard Things

~ photo courtesy of q5

We can make the simple easy by toiling up the learning curve.

Simple and easy, two words that are close together in meaning and the ideas they convey, but that should not be confused with each other. It is a difference that becomes all the more important when we give or receive advice.

Things that are simple are not complex; it does not take much effort to teach the process necessary to complete a simple action. This does not make doing the action easy. Simple tasks or actions can become easy with practice and when we have had that practice it is easy to forget how hard they were when we were learning them.

Think about throwing a Frisbee, something that is simple enough to do but hard to be good at when we are out of practice. As we release we have too much angle and the disc goes flying into the ground or way up in the air before reversing course to smack us in the head. But as we learn to keep the disk level and get the hang of launching it with a snap of the wrist it will fly true.

Growing and changing our lives is like that. When we are in the thick of making a change the path may be simple, but that does not mean that it is easy. We should not allow ourselves to feel discouraged when the problems we are wrestling with fly at an odd angle and come back to smack us upside the head. Instead we need to understand that every wrestling match is just one more training bout before the title fight and the title fight is the match we need to win.

This is particularly important when someone tells us something is easy or to just do this or that and everything will be fine. We have to know that from where they are standing, from their years of practice, what we are doing looks simple and easy, however we still have the learning curve ahead of us. We must not give up when the simple things prove not to be the easy things.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Getting Better

It is time to address the weak points in my professional life, at least as I see them. I want to become a better interviewer and better profile writer. There is only one way I know to get better at anything and that is a simple mix of study and practice.

To become good at anything you have to be able to know what good looks like. For me this means reading more good profile pieces. As I look at them it needs to be more than just reading them, I have to dig in and see what the author did and think about the questions he or she has asked to get the story

The other side of the equation is practice, and this means doing interviews even if there is no story involved, and writing profiles when no one else will see them. If I can sell them all the better but what is important right now is the doing.

To move forward we must always be sharpening our skills. With that in mind what are you going to study and practice this weekend?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Doers Do

Just a quick thought for today as it is a busy morning for me.

When I was a kid I would like to sit around the house reading or watching TV rather than going out and playing. My mother would, as others do, try to get me to go out and play or to at least get some exercise. When I would complain that I was tired, at least I think that was my excuse, she would tell me, “Energy creates energy.”

As true as it was then, it is true today. There is nothing like doing to make more doing possible. Call it momentum, call it being focused, call it what you like. If we start working it becomes easier to do more work. As we create the habit of being active we make it easy to be active.

Another thing I have been told is, “A writer writes.” A lot of people will talk about being writers or wanting to be writers, but without the words on the page, all it is, is talk. The only way to do anything is to start, and it gets easier from there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Compromise

Yesterday I pointed out the need for compromise in a world of limited resources. But what exactly is compromise and when should we be willing to do it?

Before we go further, there is a negative attitude towards compromise. When our politicians do it they are called weak or are said to flip flop. When we do it we worry that we too will appear weak. So let’s start by looking at what compromise is not. It is not giving in; it is not surrendering what you want in favor of what someone else wants, and it is not giving up. Compromise is not weakness. It is instead the very stone used to build the foundation of society.

Compromise is a method of finding an agreeable solution between two groups with different ideas about how things can be. At the heart of compromise is finding out what is really important to each participant and how those things can be preserved for both sides in the final outcome.

To do this we need to understand what we are trying to achieve in a situation and be willing to listen to what others are trying to achieve. We must also accept that we may not get our ideal solution, but instead find a solution that gives everyone something of what they want.

Start by identifying the things that would be nice but are not necessary, the frills that could be sacrificed to save the dress so to speak. Once you know what those are, look at what you really want again and see what could be modified, what could be changed to deliver the same result in a different way. This gives you areas to compromise on without giving up everything.

We also have to know what we are unwilling to give up, the core of what is important to us in the compromise. What are the things that are so important that we cannot back down without losing a part of who we are?

With that in mind compromise should always be the first attempt we make to resolve conflict. As long as we can reach an agreement that protects those core outcomes we can find resolution.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

6 C's

Everything has its limits.

If you can be confident, consistent and creative you can build successes in a vacuum.

These three characteristics when brought together allow us to redefine our world. Confidence gives us the belief to change the world. Consistency keeps us working to make that change a reality. Creativity allows us to create the opportunities to enact the change we seek. When we realize the changes in our lives that make our world the place we want to live, then we have found success.

The problem is, these three C’s will not guarantee you successes in the world. In the world we have another C which gets in the way, competition. It is a simple fact that there is only so much to go around. Money, time, and resources, they are all limited and in trying to create the world we want we have to use these things.

This can bring another C into the picture, conflict. When we compete with others for resources we generate the possibility of conflict. We want and they want and that means there is only enough for one to have. For the most part conflict is a waste of time and energy that could be spent on growth and change. That is not to say all conflict should be avoided, there are times when we must stand up for ideas, beliefs or our own needs. However, most of the time conflict is not the answer.

The answer is the sixth C: Compromise. It may not mean that we always get what we want but it does mean we get most of what we want without impacting the lives of others more than is necessary.

Compromise does not mean defeat; rather it is the redefinition of success. Compromise is accepting the limitations that the world around you places on a situation or an outcome and recognizing that we are and always will be to some extent limited.

This is not to say we should allow compromise to be a cop out. We should never be reaching compromise with ourselves; we should not make our goals easier just to say we have reached them. A compromise is not about making our lives easier it is about avoiding conflict with the world.

If you can be confident, consistent, and creative while being willing to comprise you can build successes in the world.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remember the moment

While I may not be the most patriotic monkey in the barrel, there is something to be said for Memorial Day. Without the sacrifice of those who have come before we would not be where we are or have what we have. Whether we are taking time today to remember those who fought in wars or those who sacrificed their lives for us in some other way it is good to remember them and to honor them.

The giving of a life does not even have to mean the death of one who gives it. Parents give their lives for their children every day. They make sacrifices in what they want because they want their children to have more than they did.

Speaking of children there is another element to Memorial Day. It’s the traditional start of summer vacation. With this comes the looking forward to things to come, to warm summer nights and being out late; a relaxation of rules and living a bit freer.

Between these two aspects of Memorial Day, remembrance and expectation, is the starting point for personal growth. When I first set out to change my life I started with these two questions: where have I been? Where do I want to go?

To achieve what we want we must not ignore the past for that is where the lessons lie. On the other hand we cannot ignore the future as that is where our destination is. But in looking back and forth we must also realize that we can only make changes now. The present is a time for action based on the lessons of yesterday and the dreams of tomorrow.

As a nation remembers, it is important for us to remember that memory is happening now, that we are in the moment of remembering and that we can honor that memory by being a person that those we remember would be proud of.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Statue Trilogy Ends

There is a certain piece of art in Santa Rosa that I have talked about before, about how I don’t quite understand what it is trying to say to me, and how I do not not find it esthetically pleasing. The other day I was walking past it again and I suddenly had a revelation. The piece has been trying to talk to me about how we see the world.

A major element of the sculpture is a shiny ring with a bar of metal sticking up across it. As I walked past I was at first caught by the vibrant green tree seen through the sculpture. As I moved past it the tree moved slowly crossing the line of the bar.

As we look at the world we tend to divide the things we see into this or that, this box or that, good or bad, right or wrong, now or later. While these divisions are not necessarily bad we should be aware of how we categorize things, of why we categorize things and why we put them where we put them.

What the sculpture showed me was this: the difference between one box and another is fluid. It is a matter of point of view, of situation and of where you are standing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Controlling the Ride

~photo curtsy of LilGoldWmn
This is the moment when I realize I took on to much
once again.

I have been playing a lot of GemCraft : Labyrinth lately. It started with just trying to get a badge on kongregate, and then I decide to use it for my video game review for the paper. Finally I could not stop playing until I had beaten it. Now I have beaten it and still want to play more.

This is not only because I still find the game challenging and fun. I do, but also because the game illustrates a tendency in myself that I am trying to beat. The game rewards patient, consistent play while giving you the opportunity to take on more then you are ready for.

I have a tendency to do the latter, to say, “I can handle more,” and mash down on the button that will make things go faster. I have this tendency not just in video games but in life as well. It is not so much a lack of patience as a tendency to overestimate my capabilities.

This leads to a roller coaster of high energy manic work trying to keep up with what I have said I would do, and then the car comes off the rails a bit, a few people, I mean projects are thrown out and I find myself burnt out and having to slog up the next hill.

For me the feeling of accomplishment when I beat a level on GemCraft is quite a good reward but the hard part will be transferring the lesson over into real life. I do enjoy being super busy, in bouncing from one project to the next. There is a rush that comes with this sort of manic creativity, however at the same time it does no one any good when we take on more than we can handle.

Part of knowing ourselves is knowing what we can handle and the warning signs when our roller coaster car is about jump the tracks. Keeping inside the edge of our limit is productive, going past them is being unreliable.