Friday, April 29, 2011

Little Blocks Revisited

I have written in the past about little blocks and building big achievements out of small tasks. This technique breaks down tasks that are seemingly overwhelming and helps keep the momentum going. It also has another use and that is the reduction of fatigue.

Simply put, when we set out on the long road to change our situation, it is easy to get tired, it is easy to want to rest. When we walk this long road and there is no sign of an end it can seem impossible to go on. If we see that journey in sections, in little blocks, it becomes easier, progress can be measured and accomplishment can be felt.

It is the little blocks, the doing just this bit just right now that makes big things happen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Black and White and Grey

Most of the time, there is a hard line of what is right to do and was is wrong. Most of the time. However that line can blur. Sometimes it stops being a hard, solid black line and becomes a patch of gray shading. One such area can occur around the intersection of ethics and compassion.

I currently have a situation where a teacher on campus is upset about a review we published of a one woman show she put on. She is angry and wants us to remove the review. It would save her feelings to do that, however I do not feel it is the right thing to do. If we begin to bow to the wishes of performers who do not like what we say then we open ourselves to pulling any article that some one does not agree with.

When we walk into the areas where right and wrong turn gray, the only way to move forward is to know what we value and why and to stick to that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Of all the abilities we must cultivate during tough times one of the most important is hopefulness. The ability to foresee a time in the future that will be better is important to making that future happen. However, this hope must not be blind or paralyzed.

The hope we need to employ is an active hope, a hope of realism. Hoping to be rescued from bad times by gifts and circumstances outside our control is wishful thinking.

Constructive hope comes from understanding that our actions do change our world. The hope that we can change our situation is the spark that gives flame to determination.

Be hopeful, be happy and keep working,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eggs and Baskets

To succeed we must commit. We must invest ourselves in the course of action that we are following. This is not to say all our eggs should be in one basket but rather there should be at least some eggs in the basket and the leftover eggs should still be in the carton not some other basket. If we are trying to accomplish one thing in five ways at the same time we can do none of them well.

The skills used to do different projects will be similar, the energy needed to produce results will be similar but its a problem when your efforts are spread out across different areas. Better, faster, stronger results are to be had by putting all effort into one project.

This is not to say that we should only work one project at a time just one project per endeavor.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Irons and Fires

Maybe it is the fact that spring is in the air or perhaps a reduction of uncertainty in my life, but I feel motivated in a big way lately.

New and interesting ideas are coming quickly and often and that can be a problem. In order to complete any one of them I need some level of focus, some structure for keeping all the ideas viable while only developing a few at a time.

Without this focus a glittering city of possibilities can become a half built ghost town in no time. Like a city, company or college with an eye on growth I need a plan for expansion, a schedule of production for all the different ideas. In other words, I need to know what a finished project should look like and create a time line to produce it.

There are a lot of irons in the fire, but better to have them there then sitting on the workbench getting cold.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Simple Things

I feel it is time for another Friday challenge. Find the five simple things that you enjoy, that you do every day but that you tend not to notice and make yourself aware of them. Whether it is the pleasant sensation of a hot shower or that morning cup of tea, savor it this weekend.

Often as we go through the rituals of our day we are not focusing on the smell of the brewing coffee or the flavor of a dinner. We are thinking about what happens next, what happened yesterday. So find five things that you experience all the time that bring you happiness and savor them. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Opportunity Continuum

As we grow and change we must remember the commitments we have made. These commitments are a big part of how we represent ourselves in the world.

By showing our responsibility to our commitments we demonstrate our reliability. As we demonstrate reliability we encourage people to present us with opportunities.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Looking for Stable Ground

The hardest time to keep focused on your plans is when the unexpected hits you. It becomes too easy to just react rather than keep your head and move forward in response to your goals.

To keep your focus on where you are in relationship to where you want to go requires nothing more then taking a minute to breath. Rather then instantly responding, we need to assess the situation and not just look at what is coming at us but were we are headed.

As the ground crumbles from under our feet we do not want to jump of the cliff. We need to look for stable ground.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Knowing Our Skill Set

When we start any new project we must assess our tool set and decide which of our skills best suit the job.

Whether we are good at persevering, at planning or follow-through, what we are good at will help decide how we approach a project.

For example, once I am invested in something I can become quite persistent. Because of this I tend to dive into projects and start figuring things out as I go along. It is a bit of a brute force method but it works for me.

Others have to know what each step will be and then they plan and prep to hit each step in order. Knowing the ways we are strongest can tell us how best to approach a new project.

Conversely we can also consciously approach a project from a weaker skill. Why would we want to do that? To train ourselves to a more rounded skill set.

Whether we want to approach a project by working the way we spontaneously work or as a way to train ourselves in new skills, it all starts with knowing what are strengths are.
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Starting a Learning Journal

A few weeks ago I competed in a multimedia production contest while at a journalism conference. I did it to try something new and to see what I could learn. As we finished our team's entry for the contest I realized that we could have done better if we had a stronger idea of the story we were going to tell before we started taking pictures and interviewing people. Yesterday I put together another multimedia news story for patch/com and at about the same point realized the same thing. After that I realized I needed to find a place to keep track of the lessons I learn while I work on projects. What I need to learn is to keep a learning journal. The basic idea is a place to record little insights into the process and projects that I work on. Of course keeping the learning journal will be a process I will have to streamline and perfect as well. My plan is to use a note taking phone app to give me easy access to the journal anywhere or when without having to carry something else with me. Then maybe once a week I will take the notes and organize them by topic to make the journal easier to reference when I start a new project. How do you keep life's lessons handy for those moments when you need to review them?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Certainty in Motion

If there is one thing I need less of in my life that thing is uncertainty. Though that is not quite right. I should say that I need to stop being OK with uncertainty. It is easy for me to think that things will work out and just take that on faith. However, this is not the way to stop drifting. The flip side is that being overly confident in how things will play out makes it harder to react to surprises. As with most things in life this comes down to finding a middle ground. We need to find that place at which we know what should happen but are not so set in what we expect that we are paralysed when something falls through. For me this means confirming what is happening with others and being a better communicator. What does it mean for you? How do you find the middle ground?
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Looking Back at 400

Yesterday's post was the 400th installment of Up From The Ashes. A lot has changed in my life since I started telling my story here and sharing my ideas. On the other hand a lot has stayed the same. The biggest changes in my life are increased confidence and a feeling of having direction in my life. I have a place I am going now rather then just drifting and that is a huge change for me. I know that I am in the right place working and studying journalism. It used to make me nervous hitting the publish button here. I used to wonder if people would care about what I had to say. I still get nervous hitting publish, but I know I am being read and now that can make me nervous. Knowing that what I have to say has a chance to change another life can be intimidating. There are those days when I feel I have just thrown a post up to say something, to keep the string alive, but I never feel that while I am writing. But there are posts where I can look back and see the desperate moments. Stress and worry come through in those half hearted posts. Do I regret them? No, not really. Up from the ashes was always meant to chronicle my journey to where I want to be. Those posts are as much a part of the journey I am on as the long winded inspired posts. And while I may not tell the story of my life by talking about events, the things and ideas that are on my mind while I travel are as much a snapshot as any play by play of events would be. And here we are at the end of post 401 the journey continues. I would love for folks to share there favorite posts from the last 400 in the comments.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

After Achieving

There comes a time when we achieve a goal we have set for ourselves. This is not the time to relax. Achievements are like cars. Getting one takes work and some major decisions. Also like a car an achievement requires maintenance.

To reach our goals we learn, we do our best and we focus. When we reach our goal it seems like we can rest. However, when we relax out attention we tend to fall away from what we have achieved.

Reaching the next plateau is not like reaching the top of a mountain where we can sit and enjoy the sunset. Instead it is nothing more then a shelf of rock on the mountain face where we can get our feet under us. With out maintaining our hold it is easy to fall back to where we were.

o do this we need to do the same thing we did to above the goal. When we learn something new we always check our answers, in other words we make sure we are getting it right. This attention to detail is the most important thing we can do to not slip from our ledge. The other key is focus, we need to remember to pay attention. We need to make sure we are not loosing our grip.

This is more then being aware that we are maintaining the quality of our new skull but also that we are maintaining a humble attitude. When we become proud that is when we loose our grip. Pride makes us blind to our faults and to the risks we take. Achieving our goals is only the first step. Once we have what we worked for we have to make sure we hold on to it.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Perception and Procrastination

Procrastination can be a Problem for anyone. Often the things we procrastinate about are not as bad as the idea of them is. These assumptions we create are what we really hide from. It is not the doing we worry about but our perception of the doing. We need to be able to set aside our assumptions and our fears, the illusions we create. In acting we can discover the truth and often it is less arduous then we imagined.
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Knowing Your Options

There are always options. Sometimes it may seem like there are no options but as we look deeper we will find them. This does not mean that all the options we find will be good ones. Some times we have to make hard choices, we have to chose between things that we don't want. Even in these situations it is better to make a choice then not. Knowing that we have choices and knowing that we are the ones making them puts us in control. When we are in control we are less likely to feel resentful. We are less likely to feel forced into doing something. When we make decisions that are not entirely to our liking it is important to understand why the other options were discarded.
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Friday, April 8, 2011

The Last Bit of Motivation

Motivation can be like a jar of peanut butter. There is always enough left along the sides to make one more sandwich or start one more project. We just have to be willing to scrape.

Unlike the jar of peanut butter we can sometimes manage to scrape through the bottom of the jar and find a whole new supply of motivation. Very simply put, motivation breeds motivation. As we find the resolve to start, keep or redo a project, we may find that the motivation fills our life.

As motivation fills our life more projects become doable, things don't seem so hard. Sometime all we have to do is scrape the sides of the jar enough to get moving and we will find the jar full again.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


There are times in our life where we need to be able to shine; times when we know we need to do our best and be seen doing it. There are steps you can take to make sure that when these times come you are up to the challenge.

  1. Practice perfect: The work we do when we are not "on stage" is practice for the times when we are being watched. When we practice we have to make sure we correct our mistakes, that we make an effort to train ourselves to do things right. If we get sloppy when we practice we will be sloppy when we perform.

  2. Be nervous: In the days and hours leading up to the time we will be "on stage" we should be nervous. When we allow ourselves to get too sure of ourselves, to be too cocky we become sloppy in the work that we do. Being nervous helps reduce that cockiness, and helps to keep us sharp.

  3. Trust ourselves: While nervous is good while we prepare we must trust ourselves when we are "on stage." We have to know that we will do good, we have to believe in what we are doing and we have to believe that we can do it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bathing the Cat

My house is in the country and my landlord's dog goes in and out so there are flees in the house. This means that my cat has to take a bath. He would not do it of his own free will, but it is necessary for him to be comfortable.

We each face situations like this where there is what we need to do and what we want to do. To achieve what we want we need to do what we need whether it is palatable for us or not.

Just like Sunny the cat we need to take our bath whether we like it or not. We have to ask for help or we have to put the time and effort into getting better at the things we do.

Whether we like it or not we have to bath the cat

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Superman and Green Lanteren

One of the most important keys to pesonel growth is being able to see past our limitations and to find ways around them.

To overcome the things which hold us back we need to be able to see them not as the ultimate obstacle, but instead to see them as things that can be overcome. Seeing limitations not as Superman's kryptonite but as Green Lantern's inability to affect yellow is important.

When Superman is exposed to kryptonite then the only thing that he can do is run. If he stays in a place where he is being exposed to it he will die.

On the other hand, Green Lantern's ring for a long time did not affect yellow. If something was yellow his power just dissolved. He was forced time and time again to find ways to work around this limitation. But he did not run from yellow, he sought solutions.

That is what we must do when we come up against our limitations - find another way to work around the problem.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Little Things

The small things are important. This is not just because the small things combine to make big things, but because by paying attention to the small things and getting them right we transform a mundane task into an exercise in awareness

Focusing on the little details forces us to be more aware and to see how little changes can affect the whole

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

April Fools is here. This is a time to remember not to take ourselves too seriously, to remember we can all be foolish, we can all be silly and we can have a good laugh.

When we take ourselves too seriously each setback, each mistake is cause for stress. On the other hand when we remember to laugh at ourselves we can joke and move on from the incident.