Back in November I was working on a novel and the soundtrack that I listen to when writing and editing for that series. In the process I rediscovered some old friends the Pet Shop Boys. In particular I was struck … Continue reading
I’d like to start with a thought I had while doing some book research:
In geometry terms a line is a theoretical, it has no ends. A line segment is the thing with two end points. For our purposes we can have as many line segments as we need, in any direction we need, as long as the overall line from us to our goal is followed. When we stray from that (mental) line we are in trouble.
When we actually try something we want to do the result can be pretty ugly. We will make mistakes. We will have missteps…
But, if we learn from our mistakes and missteps we can progress toward the thing we really desire, even though the line segments in reality don’t line up as perfectly straight and true as the mental/theoretical line we wanted.
How this has applied in my life:
As of this Saturday (20 May 2017) the novel Johnson Farm is finally on sale. It’s been a long time in coming. It would have been quicker to arrive if I could have held closer to that mental/theoretical line between where I was and me being an author. It would have been a much longer process if I had continued to listen to those who told me I couldn’t do it, or pushed me in other directions.
I will admit that my first attempt at writing a novel wasn’t very good. It was a first attempt; I was going through a lot at the time; and I was about twelve… Just because I didn’t knock it out of the park on the first one doesn’t mean I should have given up!
That first attempt still exists as a file on my computer. Elements of that story also exist here and there in other stories I’ve written (and some I’m writing right now…). I keep that story around because it helps me see where I was when I started down the path to being an author and novelist. It helps me measure my progress.
What it actually means:
Sometimes the real life line isn’t as straight as the mental/theoretical one. But those shifts aren’t necessarily mistakes, unless you give up. That’s an important distinction. The time I said “that person is right, I can’t succeed as an author, I should be a computer programmer” was a mistake. It was me shifting from the true line. The times I set a story down to get a little distance and perspective before I picked it up again were not.
Ultimately it is that mental line from where you are to where you’re going that matters. If you have to side step to get around (or over, or under) an obstacle that’s OK. If you’re beating your head against a cement wall, you’re not getting anywhere. If you shift slightly to walk through a doorway you’re making progress.
The sidesteps and diversions that come from giving up on a goal are the ones that can kill you. The ones that you can explain in terms of how they get you closer to your goal (including making it possible to get to your goal…) are the ones that save you.
The biggest threat to your success is the same thing as your biggest asset in becoming successful. It’s you, dear reader, ultimately it all comes down to you, and your active choice to do the things that will get you where you want to go; even when it doesn’t look to others like that’s what’s happening.
That’s it for this one dear reader, see you next post.
Let’s face it, we’re busy…
All of us have things to do. And if we’re going to be successful we have a lot of things to do. So, how do you keep it all straight? How do you get it all done?
Between thinking of today’s topic and actually writing about it I spent some serious time trying to remember what the heck I was going to write about. The problem was that between getting the idea and actually writing I had to get to my office from dropping my wife off at work, I had to get through my morning office start up routine, I had a great idea for my blog over at Forever Mountain Publishing, and of course I hadn’t been in the right spot to make any notes in the first place…
Worse, I actually got the idea because I checked my progress on another project and found I hadn’t made any progress in the last two weeks, nothing. In fairness I am in the middle of a book launch; and figuring out my company’s social media plan; and researching for a non-fiction book; and writing for another fiction project; and helping my wife with her doctoral dissertation. But, the reality is I just plain forgot!
Having more than one goal and wearing more than one hat are facts of modern life. Conflicting priorities are a reality in today’s world (actually they’ve pretty much always been realities. The old timey ones are just easier to forget…). This means you have to make choices. You have to keep things organized. And, you have to keep the things you’re going to do in front of you.
Choosing and tracking
First on the list is choosing. This isn’t necessarily easy. Sometimes we have to choose between two things that we want, or want to happen. We’ve talked about this before and will probably do so again. The important part, for now, is that sometimes you have to make choices in what you do. That may mean saying no to an opportunity because you have one that you feel is better or more important. It can also mean asking if you can postpone an opportunity.
This isn’t always comfortable, but it’s a key to getting it all done; don’t overload yourself, or others, just because someone asks you to… That’s a sure road to failure.
Next is keeping track of it all. There is a variety of organization tools and plans out there (and by “a variety” I mean enough to spend a lifetime just trying to find the right system…). There are a lot of systems because different people work differently and have different needs. The system I use as a writer/artist/publisher is different from the one my father in law uses as a contractor because our projects have different demands. I use a different system from my friend down the block because I don’t have to cope with ten kids…
It’s probably a good idea to accept the fact that there is no “one system of organization” here in earthly life (if you’re going to drag God into this that’s not fair (I’m a believer, but God’s organization system is a few orders of magnitude different from ours…)). This means that you have to put some time, thought and research into what system works for you. That means you have to spend a little time figuring out who you are and what you do.
Once you have made your choices about what you’re going to do, or not do, and found an organization system you have to keep it in front of you.
I’ve known a lot of people that tell me organization systems don’t work for them. Sometimes that is because they just chose the wrong system for them. More often their problems result from setting up an organization system and not using it. Sorry guys an organization system isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of deal.
There is one constant that I see in organization; the things that you think about, the ones you actually have on your mind and take steps toward, are the ones you make progress on. The things you forget about are the ones that will probably never get done.
What you need to do to keep things in front of you depends on who you are and what you do (again there is no “one plan” in earthly life). If I tell you to put a note on the refrigerator that works great, if you go to the ‘fridge often. If you don’t, that won’t work. If I tell you to keep it in your phone, that might work for you. But what about people like me who don’t tend to use ‘smart’ phones…
What you need to do can depend on the project too. For me an art/sculpture/jewelry project needs to be out, and somewhat set up to work on, in a place that I will be. For writing (which I do pretty inherently) I just need to make sure I have a notebook somewhere around me (not necessarily in sight at all times but where I can find it when I want it). For other things a note on my Google calendar works just fine (if you look at the calendar!).
Again this is one of those where you have to learn about yourself and find what works for you. But, I can promise you dear reader, when you keep the important things in front of you the important things will be the ones that you think about and the ones that get done.
Until next time…
Keep those goals in sight!
Today we are talking about one of the great concepts of the universe! In finance and economics we would call it an ‘opportunity cost’. The world of engineering it is known as a ‘trade off’. In the world of anime our subject has been referred to as the ‘law of equivalent exchange’. Those of a more religious bend would know it as the law of sacrifice.
No matter who, or what, you are if you want something you have to give something up to get it. If you want to by lunch at a restaurant the restaurant’s owner and managers expect you to pay for it. If you want a new pair of shoes the shoe people probably want money too. Fortunately you have ways to obtain money (but, you pay a cost to get the money too…).
Not every cost is a monetary cost. If you want to sleep in an extra half hour tomorrow it’s unlikely anyone is going to charge you money to do that. However, you give up whatever else you could do with that half hour, including making money, reading a book, or something a bit more intimate.
If you want a good grade in a hard class you ‘pay’ for it by studying (or sometimes by cheating, which has its own costs…).
If you want to write a book? Well, that costs you time, effort, money and a variety of other costs…
The point is, no matter what you choose to obtain, when you choose to obtain something you’re also choosing to give something up.
The secret to the law of sacrifice is: if you choose to be aware, then you have influence over the universe. Whether you see the controlling influence in the universe as God, the laws of physics, or a giant plate of spaghetti, you have the ability to make choices. At least to an extent you can choose the results you want to strive for and what you are willing to sacrifice for them.
No, you don’t always get what you want. No, you can’t choose the consequences of your actions (after you’ve acted at least), but you can choose what you will give up and what you will put your effort into obtaining. You dear reader can influence the world around you. You dear reader can influence the universe itself.
Our power is not unlimited. There are principles and laws we must follow (and consequences for trying to break them). But we also have agency. We can choose what we will do and what we will give up. And that dear reader is part of what makes us free.
That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…
The choice is yours!
There is a lot of noise made today about ‘facts’ and fact checking. There are a lot of voices out there willing to give you ‘facts’ that directly contradict the ‘facts’ that other voices are screaming at you. You can quickly find yourself in a world of ‘facts’ that seemingly can’t coexist, and yet all sides claim to be telling the truth.
How do we know what’s ‘true’?
Well, this kind of demands a definition of truth doesn’t it…
Sometimes ‘truth’ is used to mean a fact that is correct. That is an ok and valid use of the word, but often those who wish to argue for a particular position will use that meaning of truth, i.e. that a ‘fact’ is correct, to imply another meaning of ‘truth’; truths that are world spanning principles.
A world spanning principle ‘truth’ is what all sides of a debate would like to claim they have. The problem is that real truths in this sense are a very small set of very large items. This sort of ‘truth’ runs into the realm of universal truths, things that are larger than any of us really. This sort of ‘truth’ drags us into discussions of religion, deity, universality, and other things that manage to be dead simple in a massively complex way.
And yet it would be wrong to just say that because it is a religion it is true (it is also just as bad to say “because it’s a religion it’s false”!).
The problem is that much of what we mistake for ‘truth’ is actually a construct. Constructs are quite simply ideas, things that the human mind fabricates out of ‘facts’ correct or not. We build constructs to try to explain our lives and our world. We build constructs to try to find eternal truths.
The problem becomes that our tool, constructs, is almost as good at hiding truth as it is in finding truths. So, how do you tell the difference?
Truth, both kinds we’ve talked about, are detectable. A correct ‘fact’ truth is a binary switch. An event, the fact, happened or it didn’t. As I wrote these words initially I was sitting in my chair in my living room. That is a correct fact truth. It happened and I can provide evidence of it (if I were to have had someone stand over my shoulder and take a picture while I was writing for instance).
‘Eternal truth’ truths can also be detected, but it is often more challenging. ‘Eternal truth’ truths exist in the information we take in. They are there in the same way a vein of ore (and sometimes pure metal) exists in a mountain, a mountain made of our constructs. So how do we tell the difference?
Eternal Truths are constants, though they may be hard to see (and even hard to test for). You can spot them for what they are by seeing what they do not do, change.
Constructs change and evolve. They change with thought, desire, need, and the ongoing shifts in what ‘facts’ are deemed correct and ‘true’. Trying to support an idea on constructs can be as maddening as trying to support yourself while walking through soft sand or mud.
The constructs shift, but the eternal truths stay the same. The truths are the things that always are, and are always true. When I say God loves you that is an eternal truth (which we can see if we are honest with ourselves and really try to look). How we describe God, whether God is a man, a woman, both, neither, or a committee is a construct that will change depending on our ‘facts’.
That is our big thought for today dear reader. Truth, real eternal truth, is out there and we can find it. We just have to sift through all the constructs we’ve built to try to understand ourselves and the world around us.
Until next time…
Good luck, good hunting, and God be with you.
I’m a writer with a graduate degree in Psychology. It’s pretty safe to say I spend a fair amount of time watching people. One of the things I’ve been watching lately is people freezing up and stopping. They stop because it doesn’t seem like they’re getting where they want to go. Sometimes they really aren’t. Sometimes they are getting where they want to go, but don’t realize it. Sometimes they didn’t really know where they wanted to go in the first place.
The thing is we humans are a bit like sharks. If we stop moving we die. In our case it’s not a literal physical ‘if you stop moving you die’; we humans need a purpose and if we lose our sense of purpose we wander. And that’s the part that gets us….
We need to know what we want. We need to know what our purpose is.
It’s a simple truth, if you don’t know where you’re trying to go you probably won’t get there.
If we’re going to keep moving and live, it would really be helpful to know where we’re going. It would also be helpful if we knew why we’re going there and doing what we’re doing.
If you’ve started your trip already, and you’re not sure about where you’re going (or why), it might be a good idea to stop and figure things out before you go on.
Remember if you don’t know where you’re going it’s really hard to get there. So, stopping to figure things out probably isn’t hurting much! The thing to remember is that you are stopping purposefully. You are actually still moving toward your goals because you’re figuring out what our goals are. We are not just wandering.
We need to move toward it.
Just having a purpose, just having a goal, won’t really get you anywhere. Once you know where you’re trying to go, the next step is to figure out how to get there.
When you start, you probably won’t entirely know the road. You may have to change things on the way. Even though you might not know all the challenges, you’ll be more prepared, more able to overcome the challenges, if you spend some time thinking and preparing before you get to them.
The straight and narrow path may not look straight…
The path that leads where we want to go might not look like the right path. That’s because our perception isn’t perfect. Sometimes we encounter obstacles we hadn’t planned on. Sometimes we lose track of our actual desire/purpose. We need to be able to keep one eye on the immediate obstacle while we keep the other eye on the overall goal. That way, we can figure out not just how to overcome the problems of right now, but how to get to where we really want to be.
That’s the take home for today dear reader… Figure out where you’re trying to go, and then keep moving. Keep your eye on what you’re trying to do, and not just the immediate problem.
I know that there are more questions. How do we actually do these things? How do we keep an eye on the goal and one on the road? How do we get where we’re going?
I will help where I can dear reader, and other parts you will find on your own. I have confidence in you.
Until next time …
Figure out where you want to go then start moving.
There is an old saying about what assumptions make you and me, but what do assumptions really make?
Assumptions can be powerful. They can make thinking and planning easier. They can also help us get things wrong and make things worse than they already are.
Assumptions make things easier
Assumptions allow you to set bounds on things, on what is happening and what you should do about it. They make things easier because you can say “as long as this assumption (assumption) is true we can do this (technique or action)”.
Assumptions save you time in that you don’t have to filter through all the possibilities and all the situations that might be going on. That works great as long as the assumption is actually true…
Assumptions are based on a lot of things. Many assumptions are based on surface details. Many assumptions are made on what usually happens, and what things usually mean. They may be made on the basis of empirical tests and research, or anecdotal evidence and personal experience/opinion. Often they are rational. Sometimes they aren’t.
Assumptions make things worse
Maybe it would be more correct to say: not verifying your assumptions makes things worse.
Rational or not, an assumption allows you to say “this is what this means 99% of the time; therefore, 99 times out of a hundred this is how I should respond.” The problem is 99% isn’t 100% (and if you think your assumption is true 100% of the time you have either done something to cause it to be true 100% of the time, or your assumption is faulty). If your assumption isn’t true you can be headed for problems.
This happened to me last year when some hospital folk saw a fat guy walk in with what turned out to be a new diabetes diagnosis. Several people assumed it was an old diabetes diagnosis and I was just an idiot who wasn’t taking his meds or following his doctor’s instructions (wrong!). That led to several patient care and treatment issues… It happened to a cousin of mine when she and her family assumed they were talking about the same airport. She landed at LAX and they were waiting in San Diego. It happened to a whole boat load of people when the crew of the RMS Titanic assumed their ship was really unsinkable and plowed into an iceberg.
People sometimes cling to their assumptions even though there is evidence that warns them the situation is different, or that the assumption is wrong. I personally have watched people make major goofs because of an assumption, even though the person they were just talking to told them not to do it (I may have done this a time of two myself, but I try not to…).
So there is our answer. The old saying about what assumptions make you and me can be true. Our assumptions can make for big (and expensive) goofs. But, they can also make our lives easier and our decisions more efficient.
So, the next question is what do we do about it?
Our assumptions can be a useful tool. We just need to check that they reflect the reality we’re dealing with.
In the field of statistics we have a lot of tests that have basic assumptions. We also have tests to verify whether the assumptions are met or not, and research that demonstrates how far we can push the assumptions of our tests. We can and should check that our assumptions are accurate before we drag out the old ANOVA, MANOVA, EFA, CFA, SEM or whatever tool we’re going to use.
In life it gets a bit messier. The field of Statistics is meant to be rather objective and empirical. In life egos and other realities can get in the way, and there are a lot less well documented way to test our assumptions. The good news is there are a couple of things that we can do…
- Listen: Actually listening to what people have to say rather than trying to jump ahead in the conversation; figure out your response; or waiting till the noise goes away, can have a big effect on our ability to get things right. Even my neighbors three year old can come up with something I’ve missed once in a while.
- Look: Often we use assumptions to save time. That can be useful, but we shouldn’t try to save that time in the arena of actually looking at what’s in front of us (literally or metaphorically). Again this is a case of don’t be in such a hurry that you miss the information. Often warning signs will be there (like that iceberg or your check engine light…), but if we ignore them they can’t help us.
- Be willing to be wrong: None of us like to be wrong (well most of us don’t). Unfortunately you sometimes have to be wrong before you can be right. There is a natural tendency called confirmation bias that can lead to cherry picking the information that supports what you’ve already assumed or decided, and leaving any other information out. We need to learn how to get past this problem. If you are willing to be wrong, and recognize when you’re wrong, you have the ability to fix mistakes and eventually be right (as opposed to the guy who swears he knows where he’s going right up to (and after) he drives off the cliff).
When we listen, look, and are willing to be wrong (and make changes) our assumptions really can help us be more efficient, and right more often. But, we have to learn to verify them and not just depend on them.
That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…
(This is a little out of my usual lingo but I like it…) “Check yourself, don’t wreck yourself!”
As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a good deal of the last month dealing with a family reunion and some other business. That experience has helped heighten my understanding of parts of human behavior…
The trip, among other things, has really highlighted the fact that different people pick up on, and form their opinions based on, different features of an event. This leads to interesting confrontations and issues; like the family member who will argue that a person’s faith in god can be determined by whether or not he/she will willingly walk into a casino…
This also factors into certain media behavior. There are psychological principles about how and when to present data that effect which features of a story will be picked up on. Persons in the media may choose to report on the race or profession of a crime victim while downplaying other details. This happens in both fiction media, and the ‘non-fiction’ media that we call news media (Note I’m not taking sides on which news media…).
Certain aspects of things will be picked up and noted. This depends on both what the people creating a program or story choose to emphasize and the interests and biases of the people watching/listening
The Star Wars…
A great example of all this happened on the trip when my stepfather, my wife, and I watched Star Wars Episode VII.
My step father, who is a movie buff, described the movie as “OK”.
My wife, who’s been talking to me about writing way too much, immediately locked onto the character development. Maybe I should say she locked onto the lack of character development…
Myself, I never really got as far as character development. I was stuck on the level of counting references and beats borrowed from other movies.
Three reasonably intelligent people with experience in the genre came up with three different opinions based on three different sets of ‘facts’ from one data pool (the movie).
The situation deepened after we got home… For those who haven’t seen the movie yet there is a new ‘big bad’ in the film known as Snoke. There is also a whole legion of internet theories about who ‘Snoke’ actually is. Candidates include Darth Plagueis, Darth Sidious, Darth Vader, one of the younglings from the Jedi Academy, Luke Skywalker. Leia, Bobafett, and Jar Jar Binks (both as himself and as a reincarnation of one of the ‘Darths’).
All of the conclusions are drown from information in the movie (pictures and bits of sound) to which are added bits of background knowledge and the personal opinons of the individual.
My theory of ‘Snoke’…
Now… lets make this clear at the start; I am doing this as an example of behavior. This is not a genuine theory of who ‘Snoke’ is!
There is really one obvious ‘true’ answer to who Snoke is…
Snoke is Abraham Lincoln.
It’s all pretty obvious.
Snoke is tall (at least the projected image of him is). Lincoln was also tall.
Snoke is some kind of of dark side master (Sith or otherwise). Any time we talk about masters of The Force sooner or later somebody brings up temples. the Lincoln Memorial is somewhere people go when they have a crisis of faith. That is also a definition of a temple.
Snoke is shown sitting in a big, throne like, chair. The statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial shows him sitting in a similar chair.
There it is: Tall, Temple, Chair… The answer is obvious: Snoke is Lincoln!
In reality I have no idea who ‘Snoke’ is (that’s another writers problem!). My point is that it is pretty easy to jump to conclusions based on a few details without really thinking and learning. We need to do better than that.
We need to avoid building an opinion based on a few details and then rejecting any contrary information. That’s called confirmation bias and it manages to get people into a lot of trouble.
It gets us in trouble when we have the actual experience and facts to go on. It really gets us into trouble if we rely on other people to ‘pre filter’ the facts for us.
Getting the wrong conclusion on who ‘Snoke’ is probably won’t cause any major harm. But doing the same thing with real people and real life can (especially in an election year).
That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…
Learn for yourself…
Yes, I mean that story! You know, the one in the back of your mind that you keep telling yourself. The one about the traumatic incident (if you’ve been born you have one…).
Write that story it can be really good for you.
Back in the old days, before we carried internet connections in our pockets, some of my early research in psychology was about writing and the emotional effects of writing. I sort of got away from it but like writing itself I keep coming back to this research.
This week I ran into an article titled Stepping Back to Move Forward: Expressive Writing Promotes Self-Distancing by Park, Ayduk and Cross. The article supports a thought that I’ve had for a while, and even takes it further!
As a writer I’ve always felt that writing about things could help me get perspective on things and had a definite emotional effect. Back in the nineties I demonstrated that writing on some topics made people more nervous than others. I was pretty sure writing was helpful for long term thinking about things and for helping you put things behind you. Well, Park et al demonstrate that.
What they found…
Writing is something I do. The written word is something that people find compelling. If you do it right it lets you safely look at things that can feel pretty unsafe in other parts of life. What Park et al found was that expressive writing, writing about emotional things and putting your emotion on paper, helped participants in their study gain emotional distance from the event. It helped the writer to look at things as an observer and not as someone stuck in the moment of the event.
Why is this important? Well, first off looking at things from a larger perspective (which you can do if you can back up and look at things from the perspective of an observer) gives you a broader view of things and makes things more understandable.
Incidentally (from some of my own research) just being a literate person does some of that too…
When you understand things better. You can deal with things better and find solutions.
Park et al also found that the emotional distancing was associated with a decrease in emotional reactivity. Remembering events can put you through an emotional wringer. Decreasing emotional reactivity means you can remember events and figure out how to deal with them without having to deal with as much of the emotional spikes that came with the original event. You gain protection from being retraumatized by the event.
There’s still more to study on this part, but Park et al also found a link to actual physical wellbeing and emotional distancing. It’s not a direct line, but it seems to be there. The trick is that it’s seems to be a bit of a relational chain… you write the story; you gain distance; your emotional reactivity goes down; and then your physical wellbeing improves. It’s not a direct, A causes B effect, but it’s something that can help.
What it all means…
Well it kind of means what I said at the start!
Write that story. Use your words. Use your writing to help yourself understand yourself. Use your words to help you gain a little distance from that event, thought, or situation that keeps nagging at you; and help yourself find a solution.
That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time I’d like to thank Park, Ayduk and Cross for their good research and…
Like I said write that story!
Park, J., Ayduk, O., Kross, E. (2016). Stepping Back to Move Forward: Expressive Writing Promotes Self-Distancing. Emotion, 16, 3, 349-364.
The other day I was pondering what to do with this blog. I felt like I was going to loose one of the things that I like to talk about here. One of the ones I’ve gotten a lot of reactions to.
For a moment I thought I was going to give up on writing about diabetes stuff here. I felt like I was a victim of my own success. I’m not really having a lot of side effects or trials, so what’s to write about?
I realized having things to talk about diabetes wasn’t the problem. I needed to reorganize the way I think about, and write on, the blog! There are really four main themes/subjects that I want to be the focus of this blog: Writing, Creativity/creating, Independence/ability, and choice.
My fight about whether I had anything to say about diabetes was flawed. If I wanted to sit around groaning about symptoms, then I don’t have a lot to say here. But, if I look at it in terms of my four subjects/themes there is a lot to say. I can talk about the choices one makes in living with diabetes. I can talk about being independent while dealing with diabetes. I can talk about creative solutions when dealing with diabetes. I can write about what I’m writing about diabetes. That’s a lot of good options.
Using this system I can (and will) talk about a lot of things I’m interested in. They’re all fair game as long as I can fit them into one or more of the themes. I will probably keep writing about diabetes fairly often (I hope to have at least one if not two books on it out in the next year or so). I will also be talking about psychology, history/mythology, family experiences and other things I run into. I’m just going to make sure that they are talked about in the context of the four themes.
This way I get to talk about the things I want to. And you, the reader, have a more solid base to know what to expect on the blog. The blog will be both free to vary, and consistent in content. This change is really going to help me, and hopefully the better focused content helps you too.
That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…
remember focusing and limiting aren’t the same thing!