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