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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sacrifice and Urdu

A language is worth the work of a life time for some.

I recently watched a short documentary on the last handwritten newspaper in the world. The paper is the Musalman and is not just handwritten but written in Urdu calligraphy. The paper is staffed by four people who produce the four page paper every day. Their love and dedication is amazing.

“I have sacrificed my life for Urdu,” Syed Faizullah says in the documentary. The paper was founded by Faizullah's father over 80 years ago to help preserve the tradition of Urdu calligraphy. Syed continued on as editor of the paper when his father passed away and now his own son runs the show.

His idea of sacrifice, really this family’s sacrifice, has resonated with me. Sacrifice here is not the idea of giving up one’s life but dedicating it to service of something outside the self; of giving our time and energy to create, develop, preserve or protect something that is important to us.

All we really have in life is our time and whether we realize it or not we are sacrificing our lives to something every day. Faizullah recognizes this, and more so, he embraces it. However, most of us do not. Most of us go through our lives not thinking about what we serve, what we sacrifice and when we do we resent what we have lost.

Our sacrifices should not be things of resentment. They should be gifts freely given to those people, concepts and ideas that we feel make the world a better place.

When we willingly give ourselves to these tasks of sacrifice great things can be created. We inspire others to share our passion to preserve the things that we have struggled to preserve and to create the things we have tried to create.

In the documentary we see the current staff speak with pride of their paper. We see them offer their dedication equal to that of Faizullah, a willingness to give their lifetimes to the paper.

They know why they sacrifice. Do we?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some Notes on What is Coming

Yesterday I purchased a domain name for the new home of the blog, themighty.us. While there is nothing there yet, I am still working on setting up hosting and designing the site layout, it is a step. Up From the Ashes is growing up.

The reason for the name may require some explanation. First and foremost, I no longer feel like I am in the ashes. My attitude has changed. I am starting to work in the field I have chosen and I feel confident. That is not to say that everything is in place, but I do feel I have come up from the ashes. Second, I am the mighty Quinn. It is time to start acting like it. Third, we can all be mighty in our own way, me as the author and you as the reader are 'The Mighty Us.'

With that in mind I have a few questions and ideas to propose.

I am thinking of creating a wiki that can explore the concepts that get talked about here and in the future there. It would be a document that others could edit, add their insight and share their sorties. It would be sort of a netbook for the blog but made from more than just my own experience.

I would also like to open The Mighty Us to two or three other writers. We would each have our own blog hosted on the site and I would continue to write on a daily basis. The topics would be similar - personal growth, self understanding and living in the world to the best of our abilities. I have a few people in mind for this but if anyone out there is interested let me know. This would not be a paying position at this point but down the road? Who knows what could happen.

I am also open to other ideas and thoughts for how I can make the site something special. If you have ideas, please feel free to share.

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Example, a Commitment and a Plan

Cinder blocks dreaming of being apartment buildings.

I have talked time and time again about the importance of little blocks and working on one stage of a project at a time. Today I want to share an example of how it is working in my life.

Since I started “Up From The Ashes” I have been very concerned with producing a quantity of writing. Sticking to this posting schedule has been a little block. It is where my focus has been when writing. I create five posts a week and sometimes the quality has suffered.

Quality is the next little block I need to work on. This does not mean that I will be sacrificing quantity for quality but instead raise the bar of quality while maintaining the quantity I already have. This is how little blocks work, you keep the ones you have finished allowing them to be a foundation for the next row of little blocks.

This does raise the question “what does quality look like in a blog?”

Quality is different from one blog to the next based in part on what the author is trying to do. At Pen vs. Paper Jeffrey has gotten fed up with doing what he is told to do to be a good blogger and has really become almost a curator of interesting information and thought. Almost every time I check in there he has something to share that makes me stop and think, that inspires me or that makes me think, you know that is true but…. For him that is quality.

For “Up From The Ashes” that would not work since this is a discussion of my personal journey, my learning how to be successful and ultimately of my growing up. In my mind there are three things that make Up what it is: personal honesty, exploration of abstract concepts, and an understanding that we must grow in the world. The last one may not be as evident to my readers as it is to me, however, as I sit to write every day I do not want to find ways I can leave society behind but rather ways in which I can maintain my own identity while being successful in society.

To create quality here I need to cultivate these three things and make them the core of what I write about. To do that I need to change my approach to writing the blog; I should not think of this as fire and forget writing, throwing words into the data stream just to do it. Instead this must have the reason, the research and the work put into them that I do with my professional writing.

The pace will be hard to keep up but it can be done. To start I am going to shoot for longer, more well reasoned posts at least twice a week. As that gains traction I will push for three of these better crafted pieces. I will not say that on these days I will produce good writing and on the others slack off, but as topics that warrant more attention come up I will give it to them.

So there it is an example, a commitment and a plan. That is the way little blocks work: build one, finish it, set it in place and find the next one.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Basics

There are some basics I have found for creating change in my life. Here is the process refined.

We first have to know ourselves and know our situation. If we do not know ourselves, honestly know ourselves, we will not know what needs to be changed.

Accept: Accept our flaws. If we are willing to look away from the truths we know about ourselves then we keep making the same mistakes. Acceptance does not mean we are content to continue to live with our faults, just that we acknowledge their existence.

Plan: Next we have to figure out how to change the problems we have found, focus on one at a time and create a plan on how to change that behavior.

Act: A plan is worth nothing without action. If we do not act we are no better then if we never started.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Looking at Summer

Well school is just about wrapped up for the semester. The Oak Leaf has cranked out its last issue until the fall. It is time to think about what I am going to do for the summer.

The main plan is to work. More writing at Patch. More writing at Gay Sonoma. I also want to venture in to the world of magazine writing as well.

Also this summer will see the migration of the blog to my own host and the transition to WordPress. A bit exited and nervous about that, but hopefully it will go smoothly.

The other focus for the summer will be finding time to game and see my friends. The last two semesters at school have really eaten a hole in my social life.

And, last, I am considering putting together an Up From the Ashes ebook.

ANy way those are my plans for the summer what about you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Having to be Responsible

I am going to say something that is hard for me. I don't want to grow up. I am an adult but I don't want to grow up. I don't want to stop playing and I don't want to start being boring. Some of those associations may not be fair but it's the emotional response that I feel.

Why is it important for me to say these things? Because I think this is at the heart of my problems with money. Being good with money will mean I am grown up.

I need to change my vision of being grown up in order to change my relationship with money. I can be fun, I can play and I can be weird and wacky with money and as a grownup. I just need to make myself see that.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


One skill I need to develop if I am going to improve my relationship with money is budgeting. So as part of this I am working on developing a budget spread sheet to track income and expenditures.

Right now the budget is basically a two column ledger that lets me input expenses on one side and income on the other. I am also considering adding a want list to the budget a list of the top 5 items that I want to save for as well as a place to track my savings towards those items.

The other elements that still need to be built in are savings and emergency fund contributions.

Once I can see where the money is going I should be able to use it more effectively and make sure that the things that need to be paid get paid before the wants.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reminders of Significance

So every so often we run into things that remind us that what we do has significance for others, that our actions affect the lives of others. I want to share a few of those instances of significance that I have run into lately.

There are three pieces of writing I cannot get away from each issue at the Oak Leaf. There is my cartoon, "other curious things", a tech column on students and technology and the editorial which I write with the help of the editorial board.

My co-editor-in-chief and I were talking the other day and he mentioned talking to a professor who used our editorial as a talking point in an English class. It can be a bit intimidating (in a good way) to know that what you are putting out there is not just being read but it is being discussed.

The tech column has also generated responses, from being asked to sit on a committee that oversees the technology side of the online classes at SRJC to receiving a press release today from a company wanting me to write about their app. While this second item may happen to bloggers fairly often the idea that some company found my stories in the campus paper and tracked down my email is sort of impressive to me.

What we put out into the world will reach other people whether we are aware of them or not, whether we mean for it to reach them or not. What we do has impact far beyond what we realize.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thinking About a New Home for the Blog

So I wanted to float an idea past you folks who read what I put out here. The more I study journalism the more interested I become in how information is delivered on line. I have been considering moving the blog to a WordPress site under my own URL. This would give me a bit of a sand box to play with ideas as well as possibly share other projects with the world.

What do you folks think? Should I stick it out here where people know where to find me, or if I get a new address will you tag along?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two Tactics

There will never be one best way to deal with every problem. Each problem we face in our lives is different and requires its own solution. That said there are two broad tactical ways of dealing with problems: around and through.

The difference is simple yet important. An around strategy side steps the problem and so you don't have to deal with it. In other words, the problem is still there but it no longer impacts your goal. Through tactics on the other hand deal with eliminating the problem by moving through it. Think of it as the difference between taking a detour and drilling a tunnel.

Neither of these tactics is better then the other but each does work better for certain types of problems. An around solution is great for one time problems, those things that block us from getting a specific project accomplished and for large problems that we do not have the resources to tunnel through at the moment.

On the other hand the recurring problems in our lives should be dealt with head on using a through tactic. This can take more energy and even derail a project for a time while we build the tunnel. However, in the long run, if a problem is one that keeps reoccurring in our life, the time spent going through will save us time down the line when we do not have to deal with the problem any more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Some Ramblings From a Busy Day

So I went and did it again. I said 'yes' to way too may things and now I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off. OK, so that is not really a good image because I am a very focused chicken. So how about I am running like a lemming to a cliff. But this lemming is going to fly.

I think I like it here, the razor edge of chaos and getting things done. I have crossed two items off my list. I have the blog done and I have put together a multi media news story for Patch. Now just three more news stories to report, two to edit and a job interview to go.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dealing With Disappointment

Yesterday I was supposed to have a job interview but at the last minute, well OK the last hour, the person I was interviewing sent me an email saying we would need to reschedule. I was disappointed. I think this would be a good job for me and I feel confident about getting it. Being exited about the job I had yammered away to friends and family about the interview.

Being disappointed the last thing I wanted to have to do was answer questions about how the interview went only to have to tell them it did not happen. I posted on face book about the rescheduling so I could avoid those talks.

Then I did what I always do when things don't work out the way I want them to. I joked. OK to be honest, I joke when things go the way I want them to as well. I pretty much save strings of cursing for fixing things and problem solving.

The reason I joke to deal with disappointment is not to hide how I feel but to change how I feel. I could sit there and dwell on how screwed up things are or I could vent. No one likes to hear people complain, but they do like to laugh. So if I am going to vent, might as well crack wise about the situation.

When we are disappointed in how things turn out we can do one of two things, let it bog us down or we can pick ourselves up and try again. Me, I will choose to laugh and try again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thoughts About Money Part I

I used to hate money. I saw it as a system of control and complication and, to some extent, I still feel that way. I am not quite comfortable with money. I worry about not having enough of it to pay my bills, but if I have it then I have to be responsible for it.

I think this is the big hurdle I have to overcome to help myself become financially secure: being willing to accept the responsibility of dealing with money. I am not sure why I do not want this responsibility, but I don't. My financial day dreams are not so much about having a lot of money as they are about not having to worry about having enough money to do the things I want to do.

Part of this comes back to commitments, I guess. Having money and knowing it has to be spent on the responsible things instead of the new toys, games and gadgets is hard for me. To change my relationship with money I have to not be afraid of being responsible with it.

Part of this fear comes from my failure to be responsible with it in the past. This is another battlefield that I have to reclaim.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Doing it Different

So we have ruts, we all get in them. We order the same thing at Starbucks every day, we go through our morning ritual the same way, brush teeth, then shower then primp. This weekend change it up. Do things out of order, get something new at the coffee shop.

At first changing a routine will throw you off a bit. It feels weird, it feels wrong, but it also draws our attention to doing the things we do all the time. Why is this important? because it helps put us in the moment. It makes us think about what is happening now rather then letting our mind wander while we do things by force of habit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I Need To Do

I have hit a point where I feel I am saying a lot of the same things over and over again. Sometimes that is because it is important and sometimes because it is easy to walk the same ground. Part of it also comes from my own journey, I think. There are a number of things that I am still working on that have not changed that much this year.

My relationship to money is improving but not great, my living situation is interesting, but not really home, and job wise I am still on the search for something solid.

This is not to say that I am facing stagnation but rather that I am working through the areas that are hard for me. Progress is slow but progress is happening and will continue to happen as long as I work for what I want.

I know what I need to do here. I need to brave new ground. I need to talk honestly about how I feel about money and come to terms with my lack of it and devise a plan to start getting the money I need to live the life I want. So be ready. Next week is probably going to be verry introspective and searching.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May the 4th Be With You

So it is Star Wars Day today and I thought I would share some insights from the films with you. Everyone who cares knows the heroes' journey and power of myth analysis of the films, so let's skip that. And, yes, Yoda is wise and has some pithy sayings, but, again, it is ground well covered.

Instead lets look at Han Solo.

At Up From the Ashes I talk a lot about going after what we want in our lives and occasionally about balancing that against the commitments we make. Han struggles with this throughout the first two films.

He has a debt he owes a former employer, Jabba the Hut, for not performing the job he was hired to do. However once he has the money to pay this debt off he keeps finding reasons to stay with the rebellion, to be where he wants to be rather then to honor his commitments.

He does what he wants while ignoring the consequences of not doing what he should. As in life the consequences catch up with him in the form of a carbonite freezer.

We need to be aware of the commitments we are creating for ourselves and honor them otherwise they can come back to haunt us.

On a side note: Han shot first!

May the 4th be with you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Always Beauty

Ugly. All the time we face choices that we really do not know the ramifications of. We can't know the ramifications.

Recently I moved to a neighborhood that may not be one of the best in town. I am starting to find s sort of hard working beauty in it.

Walking home the other night there was a man playing sax on the corner. There are murals on the walls. People nod and smile as you walk by.

Life can be rough and ugly but under it there is always beauty.
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Don't Turn Your Back

"Listen to your heart with both your feet" ~ Lyle Lovett, The Road to Ensenanda

Knowing your heart can be harder then knowing your mind but your heart will lead you where you want to be. To succeed both heart and and head have to work together. We can not forsake the practical for the unlikely, but we can use the practical to make our dreams come true.

The heart and head should not be in opposition. Instead the heart should set the destination and the head should plan the course. Our lives need to move in a direction that makes us feel happy, accomplished and safe. We do this when we listen to our own wants not the wants of others, not what the media tells us we should want or what advertisers tell us happiness feels like.

We define want in our heart. The head on the other hand has the hard job of making it happen in a way that does not destroy the other successes we have.

Don't be afraid to chase your dreams but at the same time don't turn your back on what you have.