As I have previously announced, I’ll be ghostwriting a book for friends of mine who want to share their story with the world. This upcoming Saturday, the three of us will be sitting down for a lengthy interview. I’ll spend a few hours listening to the full, nitty-gritty details of their story and culling the meaty parts of a full, hopefully inspiring, hopefully entertaining book.
I’ve got my digital voice recorder ready. I have a nice, long list of interview questions. The time is blocked out.
While I am absolutely, 100% doing this to help out some friends and support their desire to share their experience with readers, I’m also reflecting on this as a pivotal point in my writing life. This isn’t just some book idea. This is a book. This is me writing a book with the intent of publishing it. So I do happen to feel a bit of gravity as I move forward here.
Here’s what’s going through my head:
- Will this book be good enough for readers? Easily the first thing, due to my continuously-stunning lack of self-confidence. I’ve been chastised in my writers group for being too hard on myself. I’m aware that I have writing talent. That’s fine. I’ll accept that. But committing to writing a full book is a major undertaking, and it is not to be taken lightly – as Stephen King once said…
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.“
- Will this book be good enough for my friends? This is, ultimately, their book. It’s their story. I may be writing the words, but the voice, the breath, the fire, the passion, the emotion is all coming from them. It needs to accurately represent them. That’s a big difference. As a copywriter, I do a lot of work in other people’s voices, and that’s fine. But the stakes are higher here. There may be more money on the line when I’m writing about some stock expert’s favorite tech picks, but I’m writing about people’s lives here: their joy, their heartbreak, and their deep emotions. It’s intimidating.
- Will this book be good enough for me? As you can tell, I’m my own worst critic. I also have taken on projects that have lost steam halfway through. I’ve brought passion into it, only to have it peter out at the end. This isn’t to say that I’m going to peter out on this, or that I’m going to phone in the last couple chapters, but will I be able to sustain the fire? Will I be able to approach the intimidation of a blank page with enthusiasm? Will the finished product be something that I will be proud of and excited to share with the world? Will this be a shining moment in my writing career, or just another disappointing failure, like so many others before?
- Other random questions in my head: How long is this going to take? Will I be able to get it published efficiently and affordably? How am I going to market this? Word of mouth? Who’s going to design the book cover? Can I do their story justice? Why am I so scared?
Yeah, I’m terrified. This is a new experience, though it is one that I have firmly on my bucket list. It’s the next step in growing as a writer for me. And while there is great trepidation in moving ahead in an unknown and unfamiliar process, I should also step back and take solace in the fact that, for me, I have a life and career where I can still have new, unknown experiences.
I know a lot of people that do not have any unpredictability in their careers or their lives. Every day is the same. Ultimately, I run my own business and I write because I don’t want that. So I look forward to this uncertainty. I embrace these questions. I stare at this doubt in the face and say, “All right. Let’s do this.”
Because excitement like this can cause plenty of down times. It can frustrate and destroy you, if you let it. But opening yourself up to those risks puts you in a position to have the most fulfilling, exciting, and satisfying accomplishments that you’ll ever experience.
For some reason, I think of this speech that Homer gave Marge on The Simpsons when he wanted to fly to another country on vacation:
I wanna shake off the dust of this one-horse town. I wanna explore the world. I wanna watch TV in a different time zone. I wanna visit strange, exotic malls. I’m sick of eating hoagies. I want a grinder, a sub, a foot-long hero. I want to live, Marge! WON’T YOU LET ME LIVE?!
Here goes nothing.
Yesterday, my new phone arrived. I think I heard the “Hallelujah Chorus” ringing out when the FedEx guy dropped it at our doorstep.
A brand-spanking-new Samsung Galaxy S4. Unlocked on a new mobile network (Ting Mobile – click here to get $25 off your plan or device!). And since we both got these phones, our old HTC Evo Shifts from Sprint are no longer going to be used. Fortunately, for $20 apiece, we entered the Device Buyback program at Best Buy.
For those unaware, the Buyback program basically says you can trade your old device in for a Best Buy gift card when your contract is up. Since we were done with our old phones, we decided to get the gift cards.
I was hoping for $50 each. My wife wanted at least $40 total. We got $110 each.
Talk about exciting! We never shop at Best Buy (and their stunning lack of customer service easily demonstrated why that is), and they are certainly overpriced compared to Amazon and other online options, but with over $200 to spend for free, we were pretty darned excited.
Until we started shopping.
See, my wife and I, like most married couples, operate on two different wavelengths when it comes to shopping. I see GADGETS-GADGETS-GADGETS! She doesn’t see anything, because she never shops at Best Buy.
Our original plan was to combine our two gift cards and get a video camera. Not a bad idea, but I looked up Amazon reviews of the cameras in our price range, and they weren’t that great. We didn’t want to just waste the money.
So we started walking around the store. She wanted to go to other stores, so she wasn’t interested in putzing around. I wanted to walk through every stinking aisle until I found something I liked. I found a couple things that really intrigued me – the Kindle Paperwhite and the line of Fitbits.
I’m jazzed up, ready to spend my money, while my wife lingers in the background, shooting down my ideas: “I don’t know what you would use that for… You already have a Kindle that works just fine…”, etc.
This isn’t to sit here and complain about my wife. Far from it. But if I didn’t have the time or ability to go through each aisle and overthink my purchase, I was going to just get a big-ticket item I’ve been interested in for a while.
But we both got crabby. She didn’t know what to get, and I was being rushed into a decision, only to have each decision shot down. We agreed that this wasn’t the right time to shop, I had to get home to finish making dinner, and we’d just hang onto the gift cards until further notice.
While eating dinner, we agreed to each take our gift card and go by ourselves, so as to not influence the other person’s buying decisions.
After cleaning up dinner, I grabbed my gift card, hopped into my car, and went back down there. I walked through every aisle they had, looking at various items. I almost settled on the new Kindle, when I stumbled onto the headphones aisle.
Now, I’m a runner, and I do have ear buds that were made for running and sports. Problem is, the cord is really long, I have to wrap it around my hand, and if I run shirtless, I have nothing to clip it to.
Lo and behold, Best Buy had a line of reasonable wireless Bluetooth headphones that wrap around your head. Bingo. This was a purchase I could get behind.
After poring through Amazon reviews, I picked up these bad boys. I even had some money left over, so I bought a much-needed toaster for our kitchen.
This morning’s run was awesome. I had my brand-new phone strapped to my arm in my brand-new armband while music pumped into my ears through my brand-new headphones. No wires, no cords, no irritation. Heck, no holding my phone!
Very happy with my purchase. And I gave my wife a hard time yesterday for giving me such crap over my buying decisions.
But isn’t that what we’re supposed to do whenever we’re making a decision? Look at it from all angles? Entertain both sides of the argument? Play devil’s advocate?
Absolutely. In our haste to make decisions in life, we make the wrong ones way too often. And 99% of the time, it’s because we feel rushed, pressured, and impatient.
When you have to make a decision next time, take a step back, breathe deeply, and look at all aspects of the decision.
This was free money. I wouldn’t have regretted buying a Fitbit, as I’m interested in the tracking technology. I certainly wouldn’t have regretted upgrading my Kindle.
But because I gave myself some time to breathe and look around, I wound up with a much more useful, and ultimately, much more needed purchase.
So, next time you have to make a decision, stop. Look around. Take a few minutes. The world won’t come crashing down if you just take your time. Fight your impulses, and you’ll ultimately be much happier with the decisions you make in life.
*This post contains some affiliate links.
If you are reading this, then you are the proud owner of a human body. Congratulations! A human body is truly a sight to behold. And yet, while it is certainly one of the most resilient vehicles you can ever own, it is also a very sophisticated piece of machinery, and requires a bit of maintenance and upkeep.
- Every day, you need to monitor and pay attention to what you put into your body at meal times. This means ensuring that your body is fed the nutrients it needs to operate successfully, and keeping out excessive amounts of substances that will cause your body to deteriorate and break down prematurely. Put bad fuel in a good vehicle and you will get nowhere fast.
- On a regular basis, your body needs to be used. This means forcing your body to lift large things, move long distances, and getting your heart to pump faster than normal for a sustained period of time. This is also called “staying in shape”, and it also ensure proper function of all the parts of your body.
- You cannot store your body anywhere. Your body requires a controlled temperature to maintain health. In this case, you need to watch the weather reports and plan accordingly. You need to choose items of clothing to cover your body properly while taking the weather reports into account.
- Your body comes with a unique, self-charging battery system. This is great, but it does come with one caveat: you need to lie in one place for at least several hours a night. This is non-negotiable. Should you keep pushing your body past the life of the battery, your body will dangerously malfunction.
- Interaction is another key to the lifespan of your body. Your body and brain both need to interact with other bodies and brains, especially face-to-face. Keeping your body quarantined from other bodies is also dangerous for the longevity of your body.
- Not only will your body take in fuel, but it will produce waste. This, also, is non-negotiable. As a result, you need access to a place where you can dispose of this waste in a sanitary fashion. Over time, this waste can become toxic if not removed from the body, so you want to do this several times a day, minimum.
- Because your body is so sophisticated, it has limits to its resilience. Your body either needs to be protected from sudden blows and shocks, or they need to be avoided altogether.
- Even if you follow all of these rules, your body will, from time to time, contract viruses that will hamper its functionality for a period of time. At times, you will need to call an expert repairman to look at your body, diagnose the problem, and provide effective treatment. This, too, is non-negotiable and will happen to everybody.
That’s a lot to remember, isn’t it?
Until you sit and write it all out, you don’t quite “get” how much upkeep and maintenance is required of your body. And this is all just to stay alive!
So, even if you have millions of dollars, or you never work a day in your life, or you live with your parents who take care of everything for you, or you live a completely safe and sheltered life – you still have to remember all of that information I just listed.
See, life at its very basic level, is work. Hard work.
We’ve reached a point in our society where we glamorize the rich to the point of complete unreality. We view being rich as the ultimate goal: making enough money that you don’t have to worry about anything.
I saw a quote the other day, and I feel bad for not being able to attribute it to anybody, but it goes something like this: “The only problems that money can solve are money problems.”
You can make $1 a year or $1 million a year – you still have to pay attention to all that upkeep and maintenance your body requires of you.
And more often than not, making that money requires a sacrifice of some kind: of time with your family, of time playing video games, or your privacy.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as a life free from work or sacrifice.
Why am I telling you this?
Because the level of happiness in your life is directly related to your attitude towards work and effort.
I don’t necessarily mean your attitude towards your job, although that is important, too.
I mean the recognition and understanding that, if you want nice things in this world, you have to work for them. And that concept, in and of itself, is okay.
We don’t live in a perfect world. There is no realistic goal of not having a care or worry in the world. Because even if you have all the money in the world, and even if you never get married or raise a family, you will still have to be concerned about your health.
This isn’t me trying to bring you down. This is me giving you a slap upside the head.
It’s okay that life is work. Every time you work for something, there’s a reward, even if you don’t see it yet:
- You deal with some discomfort while you take care of your body = you have a long and healthy life, feeling and looking better than you ever have before.
- You sacrifice some “good” and fun things = you ensure financial security for you and your family.
- You spend time getting to know someone and put their needs ahead of your own = you have a healthy, long-lasting and fulfilling relationship that lasts a lifetime.
- You give up your partying ways for your kids = you get a wonderful home life filled with loving, well-adjusted children.
- You sacrifice a few hours of your free time a week = you build a sustainable, successful business that gets you out of your dead-end job.
And so on.
If you want any of the sweet benefits of life, you’ll have to give something up. If you want to be happy, you have to let go of some things.
And if you want to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise”, you’re going to have to work for it.
Make peace with that. Tell yourself that it’s okay – because it is. And once you recognize it as being okay, and welcome that work as something you are doing to ensure happiness down the road, the happier you’ll be right now in the moment.
The key to happiness, for me, is peace with the hard work of life. As you’ve seen, hard work is non-negotiable. If all you want to do is exist, you still have to work for it.
Life is work. Deal with and move on.
Affecting change in your life is difficult. Anybody who thinks it’s easy is fooling themselves. But that doesn’t mean that you should just shrug your shoulders and say, “Eh… it’s too hard.” Because nothing is too hard, really.
The key to creating change and improving any part of your life is to break it down into parts. And the best way to get started is to make that Step One as easy as physically possible. See, when you knock down those barriers between you and getting started, you make it harder for yourself to come up with excuses. Then – and here’s the best part - you might actually get going for a change.
Here are just a few ideas, some of which I’m using in my own life:
- Want to go running in the morning? Put your alarm clock (or your phone) across the room, and put your workout clothes next to it. Make the only goal in your mind be just getting out the door. That’s it. You can dress yourself with your eyes closed (well, I can anyway), make your way down the stairs, and by the time you get out the door and a little fresh air in your lungs, you’re awake enough to get started.
- Push yourself to work out, even when you don’t feel like it. Another great trick is to make a tiny commitment to your workout. We all have days where we don’t want to do it. So, on those days, just tell yourself you’ll do 10 minutes of a workout – any workout. One of two things will happen: 1) You’ll get some motivation going as you work out, and you’ll push yourself to do the full workout instead, or 2) you’ll stop after 10 minutes, but at least you’ll have done 10 minutes of exercise, which is better than nothing. Make those first milestones nice and small and build from there.
- Writing is really difficult for me on some days. So I need to make it easy – instead of committing to a certain type of writing, some days I’ll just commit to 1000 words of anything, even if it’s pure nonsense freewriting. It’s all about keeping the juices flowing and moving forward, even when I don’t feel like it.
- Eating healthier is a difficult task, especially since so many bad things are so flipping delicious. Make it easy on yourself by not stocking junk foods in the house. Get them out as fast as possible and replace them with healthier alternatives. Also, take it a meal at a time. Try and eat a healthier breakfast – frying an egg and some bacon really doesn’t take that long. Add some fruit juice and you’ve got a breakfast that might actually last you until lunchtime, and it’ll be way healthier for you than a sugary bowl of cereal.
- Being an early riser is great, but it’s a huge adjustment. Take baby steps – get up 5 minutes earlier. Work out in the morning so that you are doing something that wakes your body up. Again, move that alarm clock across the room so you have no choice but to get your butt out of bed. Splash some cold water on your face if you have to.
- Wasting time? Block those time wasters. Get rid of cable TV. Block certain websites on your computer. Do whatever it takes. Go nuclear on this stuff.
- Can’t be productive? Commit yourself to only 3 things a day. That way, you’re making goals achievable for yourself. Little victories = momentum.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite trick to keep yourself going? How do you get out of a rut?
Today is my 28th birthday. And tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of when I graduated high school.
So, even though I know I’m young, vital, with plenty to offer the world, I’m still feeling a little reminiscent. Ten stinking years. It’s been quite a ride through my 20s so far.
But one thing I think of all the time, as many do, is: “If I had ONLY KNOWN back then what I know now…” So, 18-year-old Tom, here are 28 things you should know before you head out into the “real world”:
- If you are the only one contributing to a relationship, then it’s not a relationship. Cut ties with the girl and move on. She’s not interested anymore, and nothing you can do will change that. Instead, spend time with people who enjoy your company. You’ll be better off for it.
- There is no such thing as a “focused”, “quality” English degree. Transferring schools is just going to put things off farther. Stay at your first college and keep all those friends you will make.
- Savor the dorm life. It will be the most fun period of your life.
- You’re a good, likable guy. Be yourself. Let the nerd in you come out of its shell.
- You’re going to be a freelance writer. You can start at any time, regardless of age or experience. Make a living working out of your dorm and you won’t have to get up at 6am to go to work in an office (you’re going to be terrible at getting out of bed anyway).
- Back up important data on your computer with at least 2 copies, if not three. I can’t stress this enough.
- In business, never hitch your wagon to one horse. Keep your options open. All opportunities dry up after a while.
- Getting evicted is the most humbling and embarrassing experience you’ll deal with. Fight as hard as you can to pay those bills. While we’re on the financial topic…
- Don’t… don’t… DON’T willingly go into debt. The second you get a credit card, you are going to ruin your financial life for many years.
- Don’t get too stressed out about keeping your high school friends. The important ones are going to stick around, and you’ll be closer than ever once you become a “real” adult.
- If the big clients aren’t paying, there’s no shame in taking low-hanging fruit. In fact, it would be the wisest thing you can do in that situation. Always keep money flowing in.
- Ignore politics as soon as you can. All it does is make you angry, irritated, and combative. Most of the political world is full of garbage, so there’s no sense in wasting too much brainpower on it.
- Don’t let your best friend drive your Neon. He’s going to run it into a curb. You need that baby to last as long as possible.
- Stop getting too swept up with brand names. Make stuff yourself. It’s cheaper and better for you.
- Learn to cook right away. Convenience foods are horrible for you.
- Keep running. You’ll run a half marathon before you’re 27, and you could do it years ahead of time if you stick with it.
- Get rid of your running shoes. Running is more fun, and better for your knees, when you run barefoot.
- Whatever you do, do not ever take a shot of 151 rum.
- I know he’ll be in Indiana, but try to stay in touch with Chris J. as much as possible over the next year. Trust me on this.
- If you still find yourself in financial ruin for one reason or another, and you’re not dorming anymore, move back in with Mom and Dad as soon as possible to stop the bleeding. It won’t be as bad as you think, and you’ll save a ton of money that you’ll need later.
- Stop eating so many damn pizza rolls and Skittles.
- You don’t need cable TV. Stop buying it.
- Don’t move in with your best friend. You’ll be at each other’s throats for a very long year.
- Write every day. Don’t stop. Make it a habit. A necessity.
- Start reading books more often. Turn off the TV. There’s a lot to read and learn out there.
- Before you run out and buy a computer, try using Linux. It’ll save you a bundle.
- Finally, enjoy the present. You spend too much time looking at the past. There are so many good things in your life – don’t spoil them by facing backward. Smile, laugh, and live in the moment. And take more pictures of it.
Anything you want to add? What would you tell yourself 10 years ago?
You may not realize it, but you’re talking to yourself. A lot. Like, right now.
Every time you make a decision, you have a brief, silent conversation with yourself – reviewing the decision and measuring it up against your past experiences, the information you know, and the assumptions you have.
Unfortunately, a lot of the assumptions we make consciously or subconsciously, are completely wrong, such as…
- “I can’t do this.” Most of the time, you really probably could. It’s just going to take effort, sacrifice, discipline, maybe being a little miserable, and making peace with the idea that you could fail. Most of those things, especially failure, are not nearly as bad as you think they are, so calm down. Take a chance, because you’ll be happier on the other end of it.
- “I can do anything.” No, you can’t. You need a real, honest concept of time. Limit yourself, and you’ll get more done, and do better work on top of it. Take things one at a time.
- “I’m in a unique situation.” Nope, wrong again. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of people dealing with the exact same situation you are, or something insanely close, and they’re doing just fine. Suck it up and keep going.
- “I’ll do it later.” No you won’t. Do it now.
- “Privacy is really important to me.” If that were the case, you wouldn’t be on Facebook. Seriously. This is the absolute truth.
- “I can’t afford to do this.” Maybe not RIGHT AT THIS SECOND. But you could. Again, we’re back to discipline and sacrifice. You can save up for anything. My wife and I went to Europe for two and a half weeks last year – but we planned it and saved up for 3 years.
- “But, I NEED [insert thing here]!” Probably not. You need food, water, and shelter. You need to take care of your family. After that, you can probably do without most things.
- “It’s too late to do this.” Unless your goal is to be the lead in your high school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie (example chosen only because I WAS the lead in my high school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie, thankyouverymuch), it’s not too late. You can still find love. You can still repair your marriage. You can still have that dream career. You can still build a healthier life. You can still make major life changes whether you’re 25 or 65.
- “I don’t have enough time.” You have as much time as anyone else in the world. Theodore Roosevelt was a politician, a cowboy, a hunter, a student of nature, an author of over 30 books, a reader of thousands of books, a Vice President, a President, a father, and a husband… among other things. He didn’t have the internet. He didn’t have audiobooks. He didn’t have a microwave. He had 24 hours in a day. So do you. Get going.
What do you think? What messages do you catch yourself saying that are holding you back?
No outlining. No pre-writing. No brainstorming. Here’s just a dump of stuff that’s kicking around in my brain at the moment…
- I’ve got one episode left in the new season of Arrested Development and you know what? It’s not bad. I’m actually enjoying it, despite the bar being set unreachably high from the get-go. Some episodes – the Tobias ones in particular – are striking me as very similar to the Friends spinoff, Joey. On Joey, we learned that the hilarious potential of the character of Joey Tribbiani doesn’t hold up on its own. Joey needed the other friends to play off of. It wasn’t just what Joey was doing, but how it affected the group. It seems to be the same with Tobias: he can still be funny, but a lot of the fun is watching Tobias say things that made the rest of the Bluths uncomfortable or irritated. Those reactions were missing here. Due to scheduling conflicts, there really isn’t any great Bluth family moment where the whole gang is playing off of each other for an extended period of time. Does that make it bad? No, not at all. It’s still funny. It’s still the Bluths – just separately, for the most part. And at the end of the day, it’s more Arrested Development that nobody really needed to make. It’s a gift that is appreciated, and I look forward to going back through the episodes and catch all the jokes I missed the first time. I hope they make more someday.
- Operating systems were frustrating me quite a bit over the past few days. Ubuntu was causing some problems lately: still fast, but was getting buggy. Had a hard time connecting to the home server (a necessity in this house), internet dropping on occasion, and so on. I wanted to upgrade, and potentially invest in a “closed” operating system, but Windows 8 is just atrocious-looking, and OS X is so locked down that I would be even more frustrated than I am now. I installed Elementary OS, which is a very beautiful Linux-based OS. As much as I loved it, there were some departures that I didn’t care for, and being a beta OS, there were too many bugs to make it worth my time in the long term. Finally, I’ve settled on Linux Mint, which is what I’m using at the moment. It’s a clean, slick interface that looks nice and modern. It’s Ubuntu-based, so I’m still in a comfortable environment on the backend. And the bugginess is gone – internet works, accessing my home server is a breeze, and so on. Plus, it’s still free, and it’s still Linux – which makes me a happy man.
- Another slick office development is upgrading a few pieces around my computer. Just got rid of my wired speakers and subwoofer for a bluetooth-connected single speaker bar. Sound is pretty good, and it’s wirelessly connected to my computer. Bonus? With a push of a button, I can switch the speaker connection to my phone and stream podcasts wirelessly. Love it. Along with that, got me a really nice webcam so I can switch my phone needs to my desktop (at least my business phone needs). Additional benefit is voice search in Chrome. I feel like I’m living in the future!
- I’ve been slipping on my book reading in the past 2 months. I have a goal of reading 25 books this year, and I’ve stalled. I pushed myself to read The Grapes of Wrath, and it became such a chore that I subconsciously found ways to avoid reading. So I ditched it for something I’m enjoying. Now, suddenly, I have several books I’m reading, all for free. The beauty is I’m not breaking any laws, either. I’ve borrowed one book from Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library, one book from my local library’s digital library, and one as a review copy in exchange for an Amazon review in the next couple weeks. Hopefully I’ll make up some ground so that I can go after another good literary piece.
- Today, I get to bottle some home-brewed beer. I’m putting them in repurposed glass bottles and capping them. Man, I’m excited about this. Previously, I had to carry around giant plastic bottles of home-brewed beer. Now it’s going to actually feel like a good beer!
- For a birthday present, my wife bought me a heavy punching bag and boxing gloves. I’ll be hanging it from a beam in my basement. I can’t wait to take out a little aggression on that bad boy and start training like a fighter! I’ve wanted a heavy bag for a number of years now. Very exciting birthday present!
I think that’s about enough for now. What’s on your mind?
If you were to take a brief glance at my current projects, off the top of my head, you’d see any of the following:
- Ongoing copy project for client (on retainer)
- Copy project for new client
- Marketing my copywriting to get new clients
- Bookkeeping for my business
- Write on a regular basis, mainly for this site
- Consider other writing avenues and options
- Ghostwriting a book
- Writing and staying involved with my writing group
- Contributing to writing group’s first book
- Studying copywriting to improve my skills
- Taking online courses in writing and business
- Lately, taking care of my sick cat
- Addressing a fraud claim on a purchase that a customer of mine made
That’s all I can think of at the moment – and these are things that I deal with at least weekly, if not daily. For those who think working from home means sitting on your duff in your pajamas and doing what you want, I refer you to the above list.
All of these commitments are also in addition to my responsibilities around the house, and to my wife, and trying to find some free time to work on my hobbies, like playing guitar and reading books, for my own sanity.
In recent weeks, I’ve really struggled with these commitments. I have my work days booked through Google Calendar, blocked out by the hour, to keep me on task.
But falling behind happens to all of us (especially when we have sick cats in the house that do unspeakable things in my office that need my urgent attention). And I’ve found that, when I fall behind, the rest of my day goes to crap.
I’ve tried different things to keep me on task, with little success. So finally, I am making some tough choices:
That big announcement? I’m not doing it anymore…
…at least not right now.
I was planning on spending this summer raising money for charity:water, a cause I really believe in and was moved by at the World Domination Summit last year. I spoke with some friends of mine who had raised money successfully in the past year, and was really trying to find the best way to go about it.
But one thing leads to another, and I wasn’t giving this project the priority it needed and deserved in my time. So, after much prayerful consideration, I am putting it on the back burner for now.
I do passionately want to take on this challenge, but I don’t think this is the right time for me. And if my heart isn’t in it, it does nobody any good. I will be considering it later this year or next year, depending on how things go. But I want to find the right time to do it.
I’m cutting back my responsibilities to 3 things per day
This means, at most, I will work on 15 things a week. That sounds doable to me.
The fear in doing this is that I won’t be able to touch base with all the things I want to do. But the reality is, I only have so much time in the day. I have a home life that comes with responsibilities, and I have a wife that I want/need to spend time with.
By stretching myself too thin, nothing was getting done, and it has been a very big problem of mine. If I want to take my business and my work to the next level, I need to pop in some real, honest, dedicated time to it. Otherwise, my time will be useless.
“Never half-ass anything. Whole-ass one thing.”
Wise words from my main man, Ron Swanson.
Because I’d taken on so much stuff, I grew increasingly hard on myself. I was mad. I was frustrated. I never ended the day with any sort of feeling of accomplishment. It was always failure or coming up short.
Plus, my efforts were often rushed, which left little to be desired in a lot of areas. I still have work to do on developing my discipline, but for now, limiting my responsibilities will, hopefully, keep me on task, keep me focused, and ultimately, make me work better.
What do you think? Do you ever struggle with this? Have you tried cutting back, or do you think it’s not a possibility in your life?
I was floored by a recent work development.
One of my clients keeps me on retainer, and I work directly with their head copy guy – a very smart, hard-working copywriter who I’ll call “Pete”.
Pete has built his career over the past few years doing what I do: he’s a freelance copywriter. He writes marketing copy for finance companies while working out of his home office. He travels to Austin, Texas to work with our shared client on-site on a regular basis.
In February, I flew down to Austin as he drove 10 hours to meet up at the client’s offices for the week. There, he told me that he was accepting a full-time position at the company, and he would be selling his home in Kentucky to move there.
After several years of freelancing and working from home, I could tell in conversation that there were some things he was going to miss about working from home. Adjusting to a 40-minute commute from no commute at all, clearly would be a challenge to him. But it didn’t strike me that it bothered him all that much.
Weeks went by. We were all working towards the idea that Pete and his family were moving to Austin.
But then, a couple weeks ago, Pete gave me a call – he wasn’t going. After all the planning, and even selling his house, and about a week or two before the trigger needed to be pulled. When asked why, he said: “There were some things that just kept nagging at me. My heart wasn’t in it.”
Is Pete in the wrong here? Maybe his timing wasn’t great. But would you rather have a guy break it to you a week or two before the switch, or be in town for a month and then decide it’s not for him?
The boss was mad, but there was a lesson here: don’t ignore your heart.
How can you apply this?
Put together your definition of “happiness”
Hey, happiness is different for everybody. Some of you are happy with the structure of an office job. I’m not. Some would prefer to be single for the rest of their lives. I wouldn’t.
Everybody wants to be happy. You hear it all the time – but what does that mean? That’s the first step.
You gotta figure out what happiness means. If you’re just blindly running around trying to be happy, but you don’t know what that end goal is, you’re screwed. You’re destined to be miserable for the rest of your life.
And here’s a quick summation of how to determine what happiness is to you: Figure out where you want to be, not where you don’t want to be.
Does that make sense? Find the finish line and run toward it, don’t run away from the starting line.
You need to know what you’re trying to do. If you are just trying to figure out what you want to avoid, again, you’re screwed.
Let me give you an example: you hate your job. Quitting your job won’t make you happy. You’ll just wind up in another crappy job that you hate. Instead, bide your time there while you collect a paycheck and work on figuring out what it is you really want to do. Take the steps to get to that job, and then quit your lousy job.
Find a goal. Find a target. Run towards, not away.
Ask yourself, “Will this make me happy?”
Now that you’ve defined happiness, you have a benchmark to measure your decisions against. This section is short, and I don’t care. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
When faced with a decision, just say, “Hey, will this help move me toward that definition of happiness that I figured out?”
No? Don’t do it.
Yes? Give it a shot.
Give the decision time
The worst thing you can do when faced with a big decision…
- …buying a new appliance…
- …buying a car…
- …spending more than $50…
- …proposing to someone…
- …getting a new job…
- …moving to a new city…
…is rush the decision.
Let your brain process the decision. As humans, we are driven by emotion way too often.
Our brains are great at fooling ourselves. We can talk our way into anything, especially when we want to like a decision. We like the car. We like the girl. We like the idea of a new city.
But is it the right decision? You don’t know that yet. That’s why car salesmen try to get you to buy as quickly as possible. The more you think, the more you entertain other options. And you need to do that.
It sounds lame to say “Make a pro’s and cons list!” That’s what a sitcom has a nerd say when making decisions. But it works. A lot.
Figure out your options and consider which one will drive you closer to that definition of happiness. Take the route that leads to it.
What’s left? What does your gut really say? Define happiness, weigh your options, and take your time.
Pete’s decision had bad timing, and that happens. But at the end of the day, he made the right decision.
What do you think?
…and I’m Going to Love It.
To the educated television/comedy fan, those two words ignite a flurry of mental images, laughter, and fond memories.
NeverNudes. “No touching!”. Mr. Manager. “I’ve made a huge mistake.” And so on.
To the uninitiated, Arrested Development was a television show that ran from 2003-2006. It won awards for being the best comedy on television in its first season. And yet, viewers never came. The FOX Network had little understanding of how to market such a show, and being the time before DVRs and streaming video became mainstream, a show that rewarded repeat viewings with inside jokes and recurring gags simply wasn’t going to last.
For seven years, those of us who have loved Arrested Development and hold it up on a pedestal, rightfully so, as one of (if not THE) greatest television shows in history sat back, saddened. We rewatched the 53 episodes that we were blessed with, and we grew sadder as we watched Jason Bateman act in mediocre movies. We watched Will Arnett go through failed comedy after failed comedy. We chuckled and shouted “BUSTER!” whenever Tony Hale popped up in some show. We watched Michael Cera essentially play lesser versions of George Michael Bluth in everything he did.
And mostly, we grieved. Because we felt that there was no hope for more, and we thirsted for more of the Bluth family.
Rumors came and went. A movie is coming! They’re working on a script! And yet… nothing happened.
Then, all of a sudden, at a cast reunion, show creator Mitch Hurwitz announced he was developing not just a movie… but a full fourth season. Except that he didn’t have anybody to air it yet.
So we tweeted. We hopped on Facebook. We shared the announcements. “ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT IS COMING BACK”, we said. And we got giddy. And we went back and watched those 53 episodes again, for the 15th time.
But still… we doubted. We didn’t believe it in our hearts.
Then, Netflix made the announcement: a fourth season. Ten episodes. The entire cast, plus almost all of the guest stars. Back. Again. It’s happening. 2013 will be the year the Bluths return to television.
We celebrated. We danced (mainly bad chicken dances, however). And we rejoiced. Our loyalty and praise of this show has resulted in a new season.
Since that announcement, little bits and pieces popped up. Photos on Twitter of the set being rebuilt. Leaked pictures of the family back in-character here and there. News bits about what guest stars were returning.
And then, on Monday, a trailer. A glorious, glorious trailer. The first real, tangible, video proof for legions of fans that Arrested Development is coming back.
These weren’t photos of a couple members of the family. These weren’t actors reuniting on the red carpet. This was, for the first time in 7 years, the Bluth Family. Together again. In full-bore insanity.
We shared this trailer everywhere. We celebrated more. Our stomach leaped with excitement. It’s actually coming. It’s actually coming. It’s actually coming…
…except now, there’s something called “internet fans”. And they are cynical, my friend.
99% of the press and reaction to the trailer has been undeniably positive. But once you glance at the comments, you see it: the cynics.
“It looks like they’re just rehashing the same jokes.” “Buster has gone into full-on mental disability.” “I didn’t laugh once.” “It didn’t tell me anything.”
And that’s where the fun of being on the internet is going to be, at least for me. You see, we’ll beg for something. Plead for it. Pay for it, if we have to.
But when we get it, we will tear it down. Complain about it. Tell everyone how we would have “done it better”.
Scores of reviews from cynical fans will come in, complaining about repeated jokes and plotholes. And I will sit back, and laugh.
They did it with The Dark Knight Rises. You can bet your bottom (“*giggle* My BOTTOM!”) that they’re going to do it with Arrested Development.
All I can say is that you’ve been warned. I don’t know that I have an end to this post, other than to say, “Don’t do that.”
But I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again. Just chill out. Watch it. Enjoy it. Savor it. We’re getting a gift that devoted fans don’t normally get. We’re better off for it.
And most of all, heading into this: trust the cast. Trust the writers. Trust Mitch Hurwitz. The show they put together was darn near perfect. Even if this new season doesn’t reach the greatness of the previous three, it’ll be pretty doggone close.