Monday, February 28, 2011

Walking Away Without Leaving

There are times when we can feel overwhelmed, when everything seems hopeless. When this happens sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away.

Yep, that is right. I said to walk away. So, since we are walking away let me tell you a quick story.

A man was walking, much like we are at the moment, when he came to a patch of uneven ground. Little furrows disturbed the hard ground. He cursed every time he stumbled on the rough terrain. He was in a hurry. There were people he had to see and things he had to get done. Even worse, now he was lost.

To his left he saw a range of low mountains and thought maybe he could find the trail he had been following if he just got a little altitude.

Finally the ground began to smooth out and slope up as he neared a low mountain range. He smiled and picked up his pace. As he neared the top of a low hill he began to whistle. He turned then to look back at the rough valley he had spent the last few hours walking across. From where he stood he could see the furrows in the valley whirled and tumbled, cartwheeled and cascaded to form a picture of scowling bear.

So yes walk away but only far enough to get a new perspective on the situation. Who knows what you will find.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekend Project

It is production weekend on the paper again, time to lose sleep and work at a crazy pace once more. There will be panic that things will not be in or we will not have enough stories to fill the paper. I like the intensity of the work, and despite the panic, knowing that we will make a good paper and it will be out on time.

The problem with production weekends is that it takes most of my focus. So my challenge to you this morning is simple, go out and learn something new this weekend. Make novelty your weekend project.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pebbles of Frustration

Have you ever had a pebble stuck in your shoe? It is annoying isn't it? It can throw off your stride.

Some problems in life are like that. They may not seem big at the time but they get caught in our minds and we can't help but dwell on them.

The problem with this is it throws off our productivity and creates an internal distraction.

These uncomfortable little stones of discontent can wear away at us to the point we longer do the things we need to do to create the life we want.

Getting rib of the pebbles is not that hard but first we must recognize them for what they are - our own hang ups. Once we have done this we just have to let them go.

The easiest way to do this is to let the pebbles know that they are insignificant. Every time that one little worry crops up, just remind yourself that it does not matter.

Pebbles are just our minds uselessly rubbing on things we cannot change. They are not worth our time. Get them out of your shoe and move on.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Knowing the Waters

Let's talk about currents for a moment. When you step into a body of water you can feel them tugging at you, pushing and pulling, suggesting ways to go. If you are out on a boat or swimming, currents can be useful or they can be a hindrance. They can impart speed to your travel or offer resistance. The worst currents are the ones you do not feel. They push slowly and you any feel like you are moving in a straight line, but you wind up hundreds of feet from where you meant to be when you make it to the shore.

Just like rivers and oceans our lives have currents. They can be both helpful and frustrating. The real key to these currents in our lives is to know they are there, being aware of where the events surrounding you are pushing you to go. It is easy to get caught up in a career riptide and wind up managing restaurants for years without meaning to.

As we become aware of the currents in our lives it becomes possible to ride them, to navigate the depths of possibilities by fallowing currents leading where we want to go. This motion with the forces in our life can take us to the place we want to be, but it can also smash us against the rocks. While we have to be aware of currents and can learn to ride them, we can never trust them and we must always remain in control.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Before I get started today I want to let you know that this post is an exercise in novelty. I am posting this from my new cell phone.

Novelty is an important element in our lives. Whether we are always looking for what is new or if we like to stick to the known paths, novelty can help us discover aspects of ourselves we never knew before.

An example: I have had to start taking photos for the stories I write for Patch. Because of this I have become more aware of the way the world around me looks. Just the novelty of taking pictures changed my perspective.

Novelty is the process of exposing ourselves to things out of our normal experience but not necessarily out of our comfort zone. These new experiences can show us a lot about ourselves.

As for this novel experience of blogging from my phone, I think I like it for days like this where I am blogging from the bus.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Obstructions on the Path

Plans are good things to have but they can also be distractions when we over invest in them. This problem happens when we count on the plans successes before we finish it or when we do not allow ourselves to see another way of achieving our goal. When this happens, one small hiccup in the plan can throw us off altogether.

When this happens we have to be able to remove our focus from the plan and return it to the goal.

Look at it this way: the plan is the path to the top of the mountain and the summit of the mountain is the goal. The mountain is covered with paths but once we choose one and commit our time to it we tend to lose sight of the other paths. So we climb and climb then come to a chasm or a fallen tree that blocks the path. We feel this is the end of the world; we will never reach the top of the mountain now. There are many other paths we can choose from. There are many other ways we can go. We just need to look to the mountain top to see our goal rather than at our feet to see the path we have chosen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekend Project

I have come up with a weekend project for my self: cleaning up my computer. Inspired by having a time tracker that watches what I am doing I have re-installed Belvedere on my computer to automatically move files where I want them. Basically all I have to do is save all my files to the desk top and Belvedere will put them where they should go, I wish I had something to do this in real life.

Other then that I am going to clean up my media, organize my filing and maybe customize my desktop with Rainmeter.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time Tracing with Chrometa

I have found yet another tool for helping me track how I spend my time. It is called Chrometa and it is annoying and pesky and it just might do the job for me.

Unlike other time tracking apps I have used Chrometa does not rely on me remembering to punch the clock on each activity I do, instead it runs silently, for the most part, in the background watching what windows I open and monitoring which browser tabs I flip between. Once an hour it uploads that information to the web client. Here I can see reports of how much time I have spent on different projects or set up rules to automatically organise my activities. For example I have a rule that puts all Facebook use in the face book category. I can now tell you I spent an hour and 18 minutes on face book yesterday. Not too bad really since I have three games of Scrabble I am playing with my friends over there.

So I have to do nothing to track the time I spend at my computer. That works for me.

If I am away from my computer for more then five minutes when I turn it back on or wake it up from sleep mode Chrometa asks me where I have been. This is the pesky part. I can easily log the time that I have spent doing other things without having to remember to go and put the information somewhere. It comes to me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

There are times it is nice to have a boss, the times when we do not know what to do or when we want someone else to take the blame. But in our personal lives we do not have that luxury. Any 10 year old will tell you the same, "You're not the boss of me." If you're not the boss of me, then who is? Me, that's who.

Bosses are leaders and leadership comes with a responsibility to those who are led and to those who benefit. This responsibility is to do as little harm as possible, to keep those you lead safe and secure while increasing the power, wealth or prominence of the organization. Leadership on the personal level should focus on the same things, our safety and security, doing as little harm to ourselves as possible and making ourselves better while living the life we want to live.

So what does a leader need to be able to do?

Make decisions. More than anything this is the most important function of leadership, being able to make choices and decisions when they need to be made. A leader may ask for reports and go looking for information, but once they have it they will make a choice on how to act.

Find a direction. A leader must also know what the goal is and how the team is getting there. In our one person team we have to play this role as well. We have to make choices based on where we are going, not what feels good at the moment.

Be accountable. We have to be willing to accept the consequencea of our actions and to keep them in mind when we are making choices. Bosses get paid to make the hard choices, but they also have to suffer the consequence of their errors whether that is a downturn in profit or the loss of their job. They are on the hook not just for what they do but for what those people under them do. We may have a staff of one but we still have to be accountable.

Maintain the working environment. A boss has to keep moral up and productivity up. In our one man operation that means knowing when to rest and knowing when to work, knowing when to splurge and knowing when to be frugal.

In business bad leaders get fired, but we do not have that luxury in our own lives. Instead we have to work with the boss we have and get him or her the training they need to be a better boss. Before that happens, however, we have to accept that we are the boss and at the end of the day there is no person we can run to who is more responsible for our situation then we are. It can be a hard realisation to bear but once we understand that we are the top of the decision making food chain in our own lives we can begin to accept the responsibility of leadership

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Build Willpower

I spend a lot of time talking about confidence and how it can motivate us and push us forward. Confidence has a partner to help us create the lives we want and that partner is willpower.

Willpower is the force that holds us on track and allows us to resist the things we want that are not good or helpful for us at the moment. It also helps us stay on the path we want when hazardous fake shortcuts try to seduce us.

Like confidence, willpower can be trained so if you feel you are someone without much, do not despair.

Like confidence we grow our willpower a little bit at a time. Setting small goals will strengthen our ability to resist temptation. Example: For me it is habit to go directly to Facebook and Kongregate when I turn on my computer. I waste a good half hour checking statuses and playing games when what I should be doing is writing or doing home work. An exercise in willpower for me would be to wait a half hour before I play games and connect with friends.

When training your willpower the idea is not completely to deny yourself what you want but to set rules for when you can have it. When you meet these rules or conditions you get the reward but you have also shown that you can resist temptation.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How Do You Define Love?

This is a question I have considered, contemplated and puzzled over for a long time. At one point I even had an answer for it, but time and living have proven that answer to be wrong.

My early definition of love came from the writings of Robert A. Heinlein. In Time Enough For Love he concludes that love is a state where the happiness of another person is integral to our own.

I tried to live by this in relationships and found that it is not a description of love but of codependency. I used to defend this by saying to myself that love needs one to depend on the other to make things work. While this is true, depending on the other half of your relationship is different then codependence where you are unable to function without the support and approval of someone else.

So what is love?

These days I am not sure, which does not mean I do not feel love. It means I do not have a definition I can put into words.

However there are some things I know that love is not.

Love is not jealous. People are not possessions and when we love them they are not ours, they are their own person still. If we love them we must let them pursue what makes them happy and be happy for them if they achieve it as long as it is good and healthy for them.

Love is not alone. Love exists in the connection between two people not in either one of them. There is something that can feel like love but is not returned. This is not love. It is the reassurance of the care and concern, the hopes and fears, the passion and the presence between two people that make love real.

So those are my thoughts on love this Valentine's day. What are yours?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Striving to Fail

So I touched on this concept briefly yesterday but we need to strive to fail.


First I want to set out two different types of failure. The first one we will call avoidable failure, this is failure that happens when we do not try hard enough, or do not decide to pursue our goals through to successes.

This is the failure that lives on the near side of successes. This is the failure we work to avoid.

The second type of failure is overreaching failure. This is failure that happens when we try to do too much, have a plan that is just too big. We want avoid that as well.

Then there is educational failure. This is failure that happens just past successes; it does not bring an entire project down with it but instead causes some parts of the project to turn out differently then what we expected or to not be completed. This is the failure we want to strive for.

The next word to look at here is striving. We do not want to attain this failure but we want to be pushing ourselves as close to it as we can without achieving it. It is there in that place where you can see the collapse of your project and the greatness of its completion at the same time that you will find yourself working to the best of your ability.

Putting yourself in this position makes you work harder to avoid failing, it pushes you to do more then you thought you could, and it forces you to grow.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Another Note From the Rollercoaster

So here after the first production week at the Oak Leaf I have a minute to catch my breath. It was a long, labor intensive weekend but also a good one. We put the paper together and a majority of my staff showed up to help. Still it was two 36 hour days on my part to get the job done. My co-editor-in-chief put in similar hours and we managed to make a content heavy newspaper. I will post a link tomorrow when we finish loading it to the web.

The verdict after hitting the first set of loops is that I can do this. I can write ten news stories in a week and still have energy for other things, heck I even managed to take Wednesday off last week.

So the question arises, if we can handle that, what do we add? By we in this case I mean my team at the Oak Leaf. We as a team did not drop the ball so we are not pushing the limit of our ability. The next push is for more multi media. I am hoping to find someone on the team to promote to multimedia editor. If that doesn't work out, I will take on the title myself. My goal for the next issue is to put three multimedia pieces on the website.

Personally the push will be to get ahead on my writing duties at Patch. I have a series on community gardens I have been working on and I want to get two stories ahead on that as well as get a few restaurant reviews ready to go so I do not have to write them at the last minute.

The roller coaster goes on and it is not quite as scary as I thought it would be.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Planing for a Dream

Yesterday I talked about the importance of having a dream. Today we will look at how to make that dream come true.

The best trick I have ever found for making dreams come true is to work backwards. In other words, start at the dream and figure out what steps take you backwards from the dream to where you are now. Example: if you want to be a doctor the step before that is residency, before that med school before that premed.

That is a very broad example but you get the idea. Building backward to where you are takes some research and that should be your first step in realizing any dream. Get to know the industry, the impacts and hidden costs of the job or activity that interests you. In the doctor example, know that it means a lot of long hours and time on call, high stress at times and having to deliver bad news. Your research should also allow you to start getting an idea of the path from the dream to where you are.

As you start to travel this path forward you will doubtlessly see opportunities and ways to refine the plan. Go with them. Your plan should not be set in stone but rather be something a bit more viscous. I say viscous rather than fluid because you do not want to change your plan on a whim, while at the same time it still needs some elasticity.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dream On

It is easy to dream but it is also easy to let theses dreams stay just that, dreams. Before we can discuss the transition of dreams to reality we have to make a distinction between dreams and fantasies.

Dreams, for our purposes have a grounding in reality. A dream is something we want to have happen in our life that may seem far away or unlikely but which could happen. A dream may be starting your own business or maybe visiting a distant nation.

Fantasies on the other hand are unrealistic. They are beyond the plausible and usually require a component of chance or whimsy that we cannot control. Day dreaming about what we would do if some one gave us a billion dollars would be an example of this.

Fantasies are nice but they are not rational. They are fun but there is not much chance of making them reality. Dreams on the other hand often times can be made real with hard work, solid planning and perseverance.

Without dreams we do not have a true source of goals. Without dreams we spend our energy moving away from things not toward things. Without dreams we will never get where we want to go because we will not know where it is we want to be.

TOMORROW we will look at the how to work backwards from the dream to where we are now to create a plan for making it a reality

Monday, February 7, 2011

Knowing When to Rest

Dedication and unrelenting commitment are the ultimate source of any successful change we make in our life, but we need to recover from these endeavors.

Know what your limits are and do not push too far past them and when good moments to rest present themselves, take them. You do not know when the opportunity will come again.

I could go on, get into detail, but after a long week of producing a newspaper the best example I can give you is to take my own advice.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Filling the Gaps

Since a theme of creating your own luck and opportunities has developed this week let's keep on rolling with one more way to luck out and find a great opportunity.

There is a place where opportunity lives and that is in the gap between idea and execution. By looking for these gaps we can find them. When we see others working on something and struggling, we may have the answer to the problem. It may be nothing more than a shortage of man power or the lack of a needed skill, but if we can provide that help and assistance then we can save the day.

Whether or not the opportunity has immediate rewards in job opportunities, résumé building, making new contacts or friendships, there is still something of value to be taken away: a sense of accomplishment. Finding these small opportunities and playing the hero is a great way to build self confidence which, as I have said many times, is the foundation of personal growth.

Even more importantly, as you get in the habit of finding the small opportunities, you will also begin to find the bigger ones. These opportunities are stepping stones to successes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Look for the challenge

Networking is one way to find opportunities. Another is to create them for yourself. One way of doing this is not to settle for the easy way of doing something, but find the more challenging way to do it that better showcases your abilities.

Here is an example.

In my Journalism 2 class we have an assignment; we have to localize a national issue. There are easy stories to do. I could even turn in ones I have already written like the SmartMeter debate or the impact of the governor's budget on schools.

Instead I have decided to track down local people with family in Egypt and share their thoughts on the political unrest that has unfolded over the last weeks.

In doing so I have learned things not printed in the papers, and the turmoil in Egypt has opened up to me on a much more personal level. In addition I will have the opportunity to write a great story.

I have this opportunity because I looked for the challenge; I looked for the something big but doable. When we give ourselves the opportunity to excel, to show off and run to the edge of our limits we will shine and we will grow.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Creating Opportunities

Having the chance to do something, being invited to go somewhere, finding out about a job, all of these opportunities give us the chance to get ahead and to have experience others will not. Like luck, opportunities don't just happen they can be cultivated.

The key to cultivating opportunities is to network. To talk to people, find out what is going on and what they may need help with.

Wait. We find opportunities by finding people who need help?

Yep, that's right. Networking works best when we are looking for those we can help rather than those who can help us. Offer to help someone today, and when something good comes along that they need help with or have extra of, they will remember you.

Once you start to network you will begin to see opportunities everywhere, not just for yourself but for your friends, coworkers and acquaintances. Do not be stingy with these opportunities. Connecting the people who can help each other will cement your network.

Once we agree to do something for someone it does become a commitment. We are obligated to do it to the best of our ability without complaining.

Having an opportunity is no good unless we actually take it: being the first to hear about a job means nothing if we don't apply.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Get Luky

Some people are lucky and some people unlucky, and there is nothing that can be done about that. If we are lucky, well good for us, if not, we have to do the best we can with what we have. If we are unlucky we will just keep suffering and suffering and have to deal with it.

Do you believe that first paragraph? You shouldn't. It is full of lies.

It may seem that other people get all the opportunities and that nothing works the way we want it to, but we can change that. We can create our own opportunities and make our own luck. Often what looks like luck from the outside is hard work and preparation. There is also one other ingredient: good choices.

Bad luck follows reckless decisions; when we do something just to be doing something without thinking of the long game. A good decision is made by looking at the facts, the chance of success, the amount of control we have over the outcome and the amount of risk we have if the outcome does not happen.

It is not just a matter of choosing our battles, we must also be realistic about picking the fights we can win. Wanting to win is not enough. Hoping to win is not enough. We have to pick fights that are reasonable for us. We must have the skills, the resources and the drive to overcome the challenges that wait for us.

If we do all this we will be lucky. Opportunities may begin to come our way as our 'luck' grows but sometimes we will have to make our own opportunities.

More on that tomorrow.