Apr 042013

This one should be right up my alley. I’m real good at self-sabotage. I’ll get on a hot streak and proceed to tank the whole business. I could write a book on it, and maybe I will sometime.

Exploding flaming truck

Maybe there’s really something to this blowing-stuff-up thing.

I could be onto something here, although my reasons may be the wrong ones. Here’s the deal: Sometimes it’s good to blow everything up, reshuffle the deck, hit the restart button. But it better be for the right reasons.

Shaking things up does prevent me from getting complacent. It’s so easy to get comfortable doing something just to coast. When I’m working a fulltime job it’s tempting to put all my eggs in that basket and not pursue the things that are important to me (which is part of why I didn’t write for a long time). Blowing the whole thing up is good if it forces me to take those giant steps and really progress in my work. But to do it for any other reason is just self-sabotage, plain and simple.

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Apr 032013

I get such a kick out of my dad. He’s a quiet type who’s not given to tooting his own horn. It wasn’t until fairly recently when I realized his accomplishments and the importance of his job.

cartoon rooster

Maybe I ought to strut my stuff more. Can I do it without getting obnoxious?

I’m kind of that way, and maybe some of that is to my detriment. I’m not a promoter type. I’d rather let my work do the talking. I do love to flash my chops in all the things I do well (writing, music, tweaking computers), but when complimented I’m likely to blow it off. Pshaw, it’s nothing. Yeah, right. Nothing, my butt.

But this dislike of self-promotion gets in the way sometimes. I’m learning the necessity of marketing my work, using social media to show off, putting the word out there. Letting people know what I’m doing. While I don’t want to sound like a car salesman on late-night TV, I don’t feel like doing my work in a corner either.

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Apr 022013

Backgrounder: I knew I was listening to the wrong people. Or, by following my own instincts and not listening too the wrong people, maybe I’m on to something. We’re taught to go easy on ourselves and avoid showing off, along with a bunch of other nuggets. But many of these old pieces of wisdom don’t seem to matter much to highly successful people — or highly creative ones, for that matter. Sometimes it’s good to blow up the conventional wisdom. Let’s explore this idea further this week.

We’re taught that isolation is a bad thing, and living inside one’s own head is even worse. And for someone like myself, too much private time is leads to a lot of weird stuff that I won’t bother to discuss here.

However, the creative process calls for public and private time. Stephen King calls it the “door open/door closed” practice in writing. After so much public face time I need to retreat back to my home office, kick the door shut and tell the whole world where to get off. That’s when I write or just ruminate on an idea and develop it. Many successful people require significant alone time.

The trick for me is to find some balance. I’m training my friends to not bug me in the early morning or late evening. My daily to-do list has things I can do in public and those where I need solitude, and I build my schedule around that. A real challenge for me is in knowing my rhythms and using those as my foundation.

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Mar 142013

It’s so easy to get sidetracked these days, what with all this cool stuff online. Facebook. Twitter. Google Plus. Building a platform. WordPress. RSS news feeds (my favorite online time-waster). Email. The list goes on and on.

I’ve taken steps to limit my dependence on these online trinkets. I shut off all push notifications and email alerts on my phone, forcing me to check maybe twice a day. I don’t mess with Facebook much, though I’m hot and heavy with Twitter. About the only thing I waste a lot of time with is that infernal news feed. Hate it. Hate it. Love it.

I don’t want to miss anything. But in doing so, I miss a lot of opportunities to actually get to work and get stuff done.

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Mar 132013

I’ve been called a computer geek, and maybe I am. Always looking for the perfect word processor, the perfect text editor, the right mindmapping tool. Plus several Web browsers. Productivity tools up the wazoo. All of this software is the latest version, and most of it is still in beta.

My love for tools isn’t restricted to the computer, either. On my desk I have several fountain pens (my favorite; you can’t beat them for smooth writing), plenty of ink cartridges, pencils, a stock of legal pads in two sizes, and enough blank index cards to last me through the decade.

I laugh when people tell me they can’t write until they have the proper tools, but it turns out I’m guilty of the same thing. Shoot, Ernest Hemingway got by with his old typewriter and seven pencils, which he methodically sharpened every day. But being a tool geek becomes a handy substitute for doing something important and letting my voice be heard.

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Mar 122013

I’m a planner. I love all the tricks to come up with a better plan. I love David Allen’s Getting Things Done (check the sidebar of this blog if you want to get your very own copy.) My life is condensed to regular to-do lists, @next-actions and long-term plans.

Here’s the thing, though. Looking at my to-do lists makes my head hurt. It’s just plain overwhelming. Even if I choose three priorities for the day, this list of to-dos always hang in the background begging for my attention. My @next-actions list has 31 items on it, and another 23 @active projects. Don’t even ask about my @someday list. 

Planning is good, and I’ve made it a point to live intentionally instead of using my old M.O. of impulsive actions and wild hairs. But again, all that great planning is no substitute for actually getting something significant done and shipping it.

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Mar 112013

[Backgrounder: I never seem to have enough time, which is stupid when I think about it. Everyone gets the same 168 hours per week to get stuff done. Or look at it this way, that’s 336 Gilligan’s Islands. But how I use that time is critical. Although I don’t watch TV — probably the biggest time-suck of them all — there are plenty of ways I fritter away that valuable time. Might as well use it for something, like creating something significant, right? This week, let’s explore my favorite ways of squandering time. If this cuts a little too close to the bone, welcome to the club.]

When working my main job of content creation, I’m expected to do some research. That’s fine. I kinda need to know a little something about a subject before I can write about it.

But I have this bad habit. I tend to do a lot more research than I need. Like, a lot! To give you an idea, for my next ebook I have a list of 38 references to check. That’s insane! At which point does all this research become too much? Probably at the point where I’m so busy researching I don’t get around to doing the job, yes?

For me, research becomes a dodge. It’s much easier than actually doing something amazing, of creating something awesome. It’s a form of procrastination, of being an incurable perfectionist. Busy work without getting down to business. To get anywhere, I have to ship my work sometime.

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Mar 072013

After writing my first ebook, I spent a lot of time monitoring the sales figures and reviews. Crickets. Wha’ happened?

Of course, I started feeling badly. Maybe I didn’t do this right. Maybe the whole thing sucked. Maybe I’m in the wrong business. Maybe I need a real job at a cubicle farm.

It’s so easy for me to look at something after the fact and give myself a few swift kicks. I tend to do that anyway. Better to learn from any mistakes, apply them to my next project, and go at it again. I’ll eventually see growth, which is what I’m after anyway.

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Mar 062013

Once I’ve got my support team in place and the risks figured out, I can move forward. But whoa, big fella. I’m forgetting something.

If I start full bore at a large project, I’m setting myself up to fail, and I’ll get to see first-hand which doomsday scenario is the right one. I need to build up to the project, nibbling first. Rather than quitting everything else to jump into a project, I’m better at doing a little to see if I can hack it. Then I start putting more into it after I’m somewhat conditioned.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

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Mar 052013

I have lots of imagination. I have no problem dreaming up scenarios should I fail at something.

The problem is, many of my scenarios are pure fantasy, and don’t stand the teat of realism. I find I need to put on my realism filter (you won’t find this on eBay; go build your own) and look at them again. Only then, as my one-time shrink advised, ask myself what’s the worst thing that could happen.

Anyway, that’s the upshot. Assess the risks, again with an eye toward the realistic. It helps to know where the land mines are before I traverse the field.

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