Archives For Personal Growth

Edge Conference by Jeffrey Zeldman at flickr

You ever spend time on an event for a specific reason, and then get something completely different out of it?

I came to the ReWrite conference last week expecting to get a lot of tips on how to improve on marketing, and perhaps figure out when a traditional publishing deal would be worth my while.

What happened instead is that I ran into my people.

You know, your people? A group you can be yourself around?

If I’m lucky I develop friendships with 1-2 of those kinds of people per year.

Imagine running into 100 of them in 2 days.

Esther Fedorkevich of the Fedd Agency set a strong, indie-friendly tone in spite of her traditional publishing background. The feud between indies and traditional publishers is fading fast, and she is definitely part of the solution in that area. Rest assured, I still hammered her employees with ‘Audit the Fed’ jokes.

Personally, as long as I live in a relatively free part of the world, I’ll use whichever route achieves the goals that matter to me, as long as those decisions are legal, moral, and ethical.

Traditional? Sure, why not?

Indie? Sure, why not?

Keynote speaker was Ted Dekker, who wrote the Circle series, Thr3e (also a movie), and many other bestselling novels.

People who stood on stage and said things

Like the subtitle? The tone of the festival was that all authors are equally important, because even the top selling folks were at one point learning the basics. And people learning the basics are just like the top sellers, traveling on the journey from where they are to where they want to be. It was a judgment-free zone, and even the major players were in the audience taking notes, just like everyone else. That is some real ‘walking the talk’.

At the risk of leaving out any names, or name-dropping, here were some other panelists and attendees:

Takeaways

Here are some lessons that anyone can take with them, writer or not:

“When you love your neighbor as yourself, you love yourself, because we are one.” – Ted Dekker

“Everything you do in life will flow out of who you are…rewrite what you believe about yourself.”

“Do not despise obscurity” – Mary DeMuth

On gurus and how following their checklists often fails to bring you the success you seek. “What if the ‘Guru’s’ advice works?! You might risk pointing to them or yourself rather than to God.” – Mary DeMuth

Just because God is in something, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will prosper the way we want it to.

“It’s difficult to read the label (your qualities) when you’re standing inside the bottle.” – James Rubart

“Culture is a gathering of people around a common idea, item, or belief.” [that is the goal of social media] – Sandi Krakowski

“Nobody [successful authors interviewed] could identify a single moment of breakthrough… they only noticed breakthrough after the fact.” – Esther Fedorkevich

All the moments pushing the flywheel led to the breakthrough.

“Think less like an author [on PR] and more like a journalist for a news outlet.” In the end, that’s what social media is, and our job as creatives or businesspeople or writers is to report on what’s making the most impact in our respective subject matters. – Randy Shelton

Don’t put your identity in your work. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword (paraphrase of Ted Dekker). On a personal note, I noticed you can replace ‘Sword’ with…well…anything. Also notice if you live by God, you die by God, but since He’s the source of salvation it is the only way that death turns into an illusion.

Chad Allen showed me something called the living systems theory, which in my opinion is one of the reasons that change can be so hard sometimes. Living Systems Theory = when you change 1 or 2 parts of a system, the whole system changes.

“If you spend your whole life teaching a fish how to climb a tree, the fish will spend away its whole life thinking it’s stupid” – Kevin Kaiser

 So, should you go, if you’re a writer?

I’d say yes, if only to get your head in the right place. In the future, I’d like to see more case studies and tactical stuff, but it is what it is. If the above quotes helped your mind in any concrete way, look into it the next time the event comes around.

By K.reitmeier (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWhat if your soul was separate from your body?

This is going to fly in the face of the denomination I grew up in at church. That’s okay.

I’m not talking about the immortal soul, or anything like that.

What if your body was a vessel that simply housed your soul, and you could see your soul as equally valuable to everybody else’s? The richest man on earth is worth just as much as you, the only difference is that his vessel – and your ‘vessel’ – are in different places.

If somebody says ‘You’re a great writer.’ Cool, but my vessel is the one that takes pride in being a writer. It’s really my soul trying to speak messages, and it’s guiding my body to write.

Need to run more but don’t feel like it? What if your soul had no emotions about it at all, and simply told your body to go? It’s just guiding your vessel to get the physical form it needs to be healthy.

The more I think about this, the easier it is to switch between the Horse (Vessel) and Rider (Soul) in my mind.

Right now, my soul knows that this idea is worth spreading. It can help you become consciously aware of your life situation, so you can separate your emotions from who you really are.

Every bad (or good) thing anybody has ever said? Doesn’t touch your soul. Your soul is greater and more amazing than any compliment could ever describe.

Rejection in dating, business, or the job market? Doesn’t touch your soul. Your soul knows you need success in many different ways, and it’s job is to consciously guide you in the direction you need to go.

Yesterday a tire blew out on my car. At three in the morning. On a dark country road. Despite the rough situation, and the fact that I didn’t have all the necessary tools, my soul was calm. It reminded my body that this situation will soon end, and it will guide me to make sure I change the situation step-by-step. In the end, things worked out very well, and I MacGuyvered the crank I needed to operate the car jack even though the part was missing.

The issue I’ve been having? When you have your soul guide your body to what it wants, you slip out of your soul-mode, and into your body. This subjects you to frustration, disappointment, and the usual manic-depressive roller coaster associated with impatience.

The big solution I’ve been finding is to ask God where He wants my body to go. This allows my soul to enter my body with the right programming.

This is very high-level consciousness. It may even be crap for people who can get by just fine without all the mental jiu-jitsu. However, for neurotic crazy folks like me, it may be helpful.

I’m noticing a lot of parallels in different philosophies that have elements of this higher consciousness. The teachings of Christ and his thoughts on being born again.

The stoic teachings of Seneca, where he says to explore what you fear in order to realize it’s not really all that scary.

The practices of meditation in Buddhism.

Even folks with Multiple Personality Disorder employ a twisted version of this thought process.

It’s all about being aware that we can act outside of the urgent emotions that try to hold us down and make us into slaves.

Liberating Graduation From University - photo by mattosaur4 on sxc.hu

Graduation – if nothing else – closes one chapter and opens another.

It took about five months to finish three semesters’ worth of college.

This is why I haven’t done a lot of blog posts.

As someone who went to State, Private, and Online Accredited Universities, the online option was just as challenging as regular university. The difference? No wasted time whatsoever. And trust me, a lot of time is wasted in a classroom environment.

How can you do 47 credit hours in just five months? It’s easily possible in several steps:

1. 80/20. Most of your results will come from 20% of your activities. If you know how your mind works, you can utilize the tools that work best for you to apply the information.

NOTE: another bonus of the 80/20 principle:  It only takes a bit of time to learn 80% of the material. Then, an equal amount of time to get the next 16% or so. Same again for the last 4%. This is true for any job, learning any language, and knowing how to play the guitar. Knowing when you’ve got most of it allows you to test out of classes. It takes a lot of work, but things get done so much faster.

2. Model effective people.

I found the system that worked best for my unique situation (Online). Then I modeled someone who had a career, AND a family, and managed to get 128 credits done in 6 months!

(NOTE: Much of this comes from the fact that she’s already accomplished in her field, so she may not have to study like the rest of us. Still, the point applies.)

3. Once you know how long it takes to do each type of course, plot out deadlines for each course that are do-able, but still challenge you.

4. Lastly, dedicate an uninterrupted block of time to complete each deliverable that contributes the most to your ability to understand the material that matters. Do this every day.

But what about the Stories?

Yeah, this is a non-writerly post. But I’m putting it up anyway because many people find it intimidating to finish their degree. By any other system that would not let me apply what I already know, it would have taken a year and a half. Now it took 5 months.

Now back to the writing. My second screenplay will be finished by Friday, then it’s back to the Novel. I plan on producing a lot of great stuff in the coming year. Stay tuned.

campus life by bcnunnery on sxc.hu

University of Texas at Austin

Hundred of people apply to the Radio-Film-TV program at University of Texas every year.

Many of them do this because they want to learn to direct.

Hopefully, whether they get in or not, they will learn the real truth about valuable skills: It doesn’t work that way.

Directing is not a skill. It is a combination of skills.

A novice can look at Face/Off and think, ‘Man, I could never direct like John Woo. He is SO much better than I’ll ever be.’

Directing is not just directing. It is audio recording, cinematography, writing, storytelling, location scouting, organizational leadership, scheduling, human resources, set design, shot choices, editing, special effects, lighting. I could go on.

If you were asked to direct, it could put you in panic mode.

However, if I asked you to read a book about writing, and you learned that most plots have a three-act structure, you’d be better at writing stories.

If you spent a day on an independent film set listening to a sound engineer, hearing her explain that you have to record a few takes of background noise on each shooting location, to mix into the movie later when all you have are the recorded voices and a soundtrack, you’d know more than before.

You’d be that much better at sound recording.

So, since you just got better at writing and sound recording, and those two skills make up the multi-disciplined craft of directing, you became a better director. It’s still scary, but you closed the gap – just a little bit.

Advertising and marketing is no different. There are multiple skills involved.

  • Being a team player
  • Coming up with ideas
  • Determining which ideas have enough merit to pursue
  • Developing those ideas
  • Working with the client (especially if you own your own agency or are an account exec)

You may even need to know CRM, Graphic Design, Market Research, A/B testing… AAAH!!

If you get anything out of this post, it should be this: If you find yourself paralyzed with how much farther you have to go in order to achieve your true calling, break that calling down into chunks small enough to handle.

I am no expert blogger, but if you combine this blog with an earlier blog, and some freelance posts I’ve done helping other businesses, I’ve written over 100 posts! A few years ago, I didn’t think I’d get that far. And I know I’ve got a long way to go!

So you do. So break it down, and do what you can in a few days, or a week.

See you later.

ferocious little cat by boogy_man at sxc.hu

Requisite cat image. Bring it on, web traffic!

Do you want to change yourself? If so, you look to examples of other people who have. Some of these people don’t exist, but they are real to you anyway.

That’s right, I’m talking about books, movies, videogames, and stories of all kinds.

Most big stories involve character change. We recognize that change is a part of life – a part of life that should be handled as intentionally as possible.

There are 3 layers to characters. They mirror reality in how well we know the men and women who pass by and interact with us each day. I’ll give examples for each to show how simple, yet deep, this is.

1. One Dimensional – Just the facts.

Do I really need to describe it when I can just show you instead?

I am a writer and I write. The butcher chops meat. The student studies. The jock wrestles varsity in the heavyweight class.

2. Two Dimensional – There is a reason behind the action.

Everybody does what they do for a reason.

I am a cop because my father was a cop. I start businesses to make a profit because I grew up in a poor household, and don’t want my family to suffer like I did. I volunteer at a homeless shelter because I want to help those who have nothing.

3. Three-Dimensional – There is a purpose that justifies my reasoning.

Now you’re getting somewhere. Now we not only see the reason behind the action, but the reason for the reason. At this level, you start to really know/love/hate a person.

I bribe people to pass laws that favor me because I don’t want any competition – I am afraid that if other people could compete on the same level as me, the world would find out that I’m not really that smart/wise/creative/competent/superior-by-birth.

I start businesses to make a profit because I don’t want my family to grow up poor like I did – because being trapped and powerless is scarier than death, and I would not wish it on anyone.

I read the Bible every day, even though it sometimes confuses me, because I realize the Being who cares more for me than anyone else is God; pursuing the only relationship that really matters will bring the most fulfillment.

It’s the key to great heroes and villains.

We don’t have time to give every person on the street three dimensions. Way too much to keep track of. Somewhere in an underground base, a government computer is short-circuiting.

Nor can stories have all three dimensional characters, at least not without it being a very small world (Tom Hanks in Castaway is a good example). We need first, second, and third dimension characters.

In the end, the story is about the third-dimensional character. That’s the guy with the sword who we identify with. That’s the lady with the bow and arrow.

The problem is that we often don’t allocate the time to see our own selves as three dimensional characters. Yet we absolutely must if we want to experience the same level of change that we see as necessary – and crave in our favorite stories.

Change is Good

For a long time, psychology treated these underlying our motivations as tracks that have already been laid by past experiences. They couldn’t be changed. While it’s true that we can’t undo the past, it is a lie to believe that what happened to you in the past will shape and determine the rest of your life.

Many of the great stories either involve a hero accomplishing his goal despite everything set against them, or a character who goes through a change.

The deeper the change, the more powerful your story.

So What About You?

Think back to the last time you made a mistake with your job. If you’re anything like me, you don’t have to think back too far. :)

First dimension: What did you do?

Second dimension: Why did you do it?

Third dimension: Why was your answer in the second dimension so important that you acted out?

Example:

I took 20 minutes with my break instead of 15.

Why? Because the boss makes me work later.

Why do you think he’s making you work later? Because I’m too afraid to say no to her. What if I get fired?!

So, in this example, taking a longer break would allow you to express just enough discontent to not get fired, but enough to vent your frustrations and feel like you’re getting SOME of your time back. Right?

If you had a character in a book that did this, and the author articulated exactly why they did it, you would totally understand and relate. You’d read on to know more about this character even if nothing has happened yet.

By understanding the deeper motivations, and then choosing to script your own deeper motivation, you’ll become more effective.

Eventually, you’ll come to the conclusion that you need to establish some boundaries, but in a helpful and tactful way. And if getting fired is still a concern, then you’ll ask why and learn that IF you get fired – yes – it will suck. But you know what? If you’re tough enough to have a difficult conversation with your boss, you’re also tough enough to find a better job. Chances are, it won’t even get that far anyway.

The Third Dimension is Tough!

You’ll look in the wrong places. You’ll probably have to think. You may even need to talk it over with trusted advisers or friends. In my opinion, that’s what trusted advisers are for.

When you find a better third dimension, you’ll have a better second dimension, and therefore, you’ll take more effective actions.

In the end, your own life will be a story worth telling.

Have you ever seen yourself as a third dimensional character? How do you think it will change the way you interact with the world around you? Let me know in the comments!

2-bed, 1.5 bath, lovely view if you can do a handstand.

Fear can come from out of nowhere.

Last month I got a letter from my landlord – one of these big impersonal companies that has many apartment complexes. For all I know, the person who owns it all might not even be from Texas, or the U.S.

In the letter, it said that I can choose my rent price.

The problem? All their options were at least $50 per month more than what I was currently paying.

Fear struck.

Fear? Why now? I’ve moved eight times since 2008. Multiple states, and at least 3 countries. Why would I be scared of a simple move now?

In the middle of my freaking out, I took this opportunity to apply what was written in this previous post.

Get more information to understand the problem –

– and get moving.

Austin is a bubble of craziness in America. It’s one of the few real estate markets in the U.S. that continues to ignore the Wall Street Journal and MSNBC – the housing market keeps going up, up, up. Even after the recession, Austin’s population grows faster than contractors can build. How was I going to keep prices low, and have a story completely different than the one being told for me?

With my delivery job, I had visited nearly every apartment complex in a 5 mile radius – many times. Combine that with my past experience being a Realtor, and my business education, and I was someone who could actually do something. Maybe it wouldn’t be much, but it might be enough.

I visited several apartment complexes and got quotes. Most of them were higher than what I was paying. Then I found two – both were closer to town.

One was over 100 sq feet less than what I currently had.

The other?  superior in every way. I got on the waiting list for this one and then attempted to renegotiate with my landlord.

The landlord had an assistant who had zero business experience. You could see it in the way he carried himself. He was four to five rungs down in this big, plastic ladder.

I remembered the whole time to keep my cool, be polite, avoid ultimatums. I even offered to pay multiple months of rent in advance as leverage.

He pulled market pricing excuses (which were hard to cross reference, where did he get this info?) then looked at this big 3-ring binder filled with Excel spreadsheets. Then he countered to raise my rent a hundred dollars higher than the increased price their letter started with.

Bad negotiating.

You could say I ‘lost’. Sometimes a system is structured so you end up ‘negotiating’ with someone who doesn’t have the ‘authority’ to do anything. So many people are ‘just doing their job’ in a compartmentalized existence for faceless brand symbols pursuing false idols, leaving real human beings exposed to the damage left behind…but I digress.

By getting on a waiting list earlier, and not waiting until the last minute – I had options baby!

I signed a lease yesterday with one that will actually cost around 40 dollars LESS per month than what I’m already paying. It’s closer to town, is in a gated community, and has larger square footage. Combine that with the 50$ price increase I would have paid, I saved around 800$, including moving expenses.

Lucky? Maybe. But if I hadn’t reached out for more information, and if I hadn’t continued to take small steps forward, no amount of luck in the world would have made a difference.

So I lost the negotiation, but beat the victim mentality and got what I wanted. A way to keep costs down and continue to build momentum in a place I enjoy living.

Have you had any victories against the victim mentality? I’d love to know. I’d even feature you in a blog post if your story is (A: true) and (B: awesome). Until then, leave a synopsis of what happened in the comments…

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