Reactions and personal responsibility…

Those who read my blogs regularly might have noticed that I’ve been a way for a couple of weeks. Well, there has been a lot going on: challenging client stuff, challenging family stuff, helping Dr. Kidder (as usual my wife not my dad…) in navigating her first outside editing gig for Forever Mountain, and a couple of medical issues (you know, just a few life or death items mixed in for fun!). Naturally I survived all that (you are reading this post after all!). And naturally I learned a few things on the way.

Usually I’m pretty good at ‘holding it all together’. So is my wife. We didn’t get through a doctorate, multiple career changes, and all the other fun things of the last decade or so without that ability. But even we do have times when things get hard to control…

Reactions: dealing with life and what others do…

Life is a thing. Life happens. Sometimes your spouse or significant other is depressed. Sometimes there is a scary medical problem that comes up through no fault of your own. Sometimes the car’s AC system stops working for no apparent reason. Occasionally clients are unreasonable (and occasionally so are bosses, contractors, vendors, etc.… This can happen with anyone). Occasionally the driver in front of you (or behind you, or beside you…) drops the vehicle to drive his or her ‘smart’ phone. All of this stuff happens.

All of those things can happen whether you did anything to provoke it or not. When they happen it is natural and even appropriate to react, but you have the opportunity and the responsibility to choose how you react!

If your spouse is getting depressed. You might want to spend a little time finding out what’s going on (even if you think you know…). You also have the choice to be mad at him or her (which doesn’t usually help) or to do something constructive that will help counter the depression.

If it’s the car… Well, you can take it in to the shop or try to diagnose the problem (getting mad at the car doesn’t help).

If it’s the client/boss/vender/contractor being unreasonable… You might once again want to find out what’s going on. But, this time you might want to consider whether continuing the relationship is worthwhile, whether the relationship can be improved in a reasonable way, or if it is time to walk away. But just like with your spouse/significant other/family member you might want to skip snap decisions.

If it’s a driver ‘dropping the vehicle’ or a medical issue you might have to make a snap decision. A truck pulling into your lane or a heart attack just isn’t going to wait for you to be in a ‘safe space’ or calm state of mind to make a decision!

In pretty much every situation when something happens in your world you have an opportunity to react and choices to make (this is all part of that free will thing). You do have a right to think and act for yourself (though your choices and your opportunity to make them may be limited by the situation). The thing that you don’t have is a free pass for bad behavior. Whatever choices you make are yours and you kind of have to own up to them. You have to own up to your responsibility in things.

Personal responsibility… The good and bad part of the whole thing…

Things happen.

Sometimes things happen that you don’t choose.

But, you get to choose how you respond to them.

And no matter what happens, in the greater scheme of things you are responsible for what you did.

In my case I kind of forgot to take my blood sugar monitor along on a trip, and then I decided to have that desert at the Thai restaurant (and then that cinnamon roll the next morning…). Yes, I was working on helping my wife get out of a funk, and dealing with a couple of other projects that were going on, but forgetting the monitor and loading in the carbs was sort of on me. When my own emotions started going off the rails because my blood sugar was high that was on me!

The same thing happens with other people. Some of the folks behind the current iteration of a certain movie franchise have been proclaiming that “having a white male lead is box office poison”. Maybe, but since historically, and in the current market, there are movies with white male leads that are doing well. There might be other explanations. Maybe you just made a crappy movie and it doesn’t matter who the lead was…

Then there’s the kid who is punching/kicking/tripping other children with the excuse that “so and so did it first”. Maybe “so and so” did do it, but that didn’t mean you had to!  You can choose how you react.

You may find a time where a little violence is actually warranted (trust me, somebody comes to my door and threatens my wife I will respond with whatever means necessary). But, you, I, all of us have to deal with the choices we make.

If you choose to be violent, or insulting, or let your blood ‘get up’, or any other such thing, you are responsible for what you do. It really doesn’t matter what the other person did. This is why you need to make sure your reactions are actually justified by the situation you are in, and are the best options available to you.

Summing up…

It may not be a physical threat. It may not be a verbal threat.

Actually it might be something pretty good!

But, one way or another things do happen in our lives. Things happen in our lives that we need to react to in one way or another. That is part of life and something we should be expecting (that we have to react to something that is; what it is may still surprise us!).

When we do find ourselves reacting to something, be it an actual threat, an unkind word, a rain shower or other completely non-made event, or even something good like winning that game or prize, we have the right and the responsibility to choose how we react.

The other ‘guy’ is responsible for what he/she/it does. And the other ‘guy’ has to take the consequences of his/her/it’s actions…

In the same way we are responsible for what we do, and we have to take the consequences of our actions. That’s why it’s important for us to think and choose wisely, so that our actions can be the best that they can be.

That’s if for this one dear reader. See you next post.

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Life and roses

At the time I write this several things have just happened or are in the midst of happening that got me thinking.

The church I belong to has just announced major changes to the church men’s organization and how we approach teaching and helping the members and others.

I am in the middle of editing a novel.

I spent the morning pruning my rosebushes and trying to mentally bring a couple of large projects into order.

And those are just on my side of the house my wife has her own list…

All of this has gotten me thinking about spring cleaning and pruning. The reality dear reader is that these terms and practices aren’t just for our homes and yards. Sometimes we need to clean up and prune our thoughts and behaviors as well…

Why…?

As the year goes on my roses will put out new leaves, flowers, and canes. It is natural. It is what the plants are supposed to do. It is also occasionally problematic.

First there are the bits that have died back during the winter. They really aren’t doing much for the plant other than being an avenue for possible infestation and a drain on the plant’s resources. Cutting away the dead and dying material unburdens the plant allowing and even encouraging new strength.

Next in pruning order comes the parts where the plant has grown in problematic ways. If a cane is crowding another plant I either have to try to train the cane to go elsewhere or cut it away.

Sometimes a plant actually gets in its own way. Quite literally its own canes are getting in the way of its growth. In this case the plant is ‘keeping to its self’, but it is hampering its own progress. Particularly problematic are the places where the canes are actually rubbing against eachother and causing wounds to the plant. Again it’s a retrain or cut situation. You don’t want to hurt your plant, but you don’t want it to hurt itself either.

The same things happen in our lives. Ever have a spouse, partner, or companion who snores? That can have a real impact on your sleeping patterns. And some behaviors are worse. Consider the problems caused by addiction (chose your favorite…), dishonest behavior, or just plain insensitivity to the needs of those around you.  They can all cause harm.

And just like my roses even when you’re ‘keeping it to yourself’ you can still be causing problems. Those hours spent watching porn (you know who you are…), playing video games (again you know who you are…(usually)), or just getting jammed up by illegal or unhealthy behaviors are all hours that you could be using much more beneficially.

No dear reader, I am not saying all entertainment is bad. Actually sometimes it is a good thing. But when you do anything to the point that you cause yourself harm it is a problem.

So what to do…?

Well, (you know I’m going to say it…) that sort of depends on the situation. Even with my roses there are good ways to go about things and bad ways to go about things. Some techniques will encourage new growth and more importantly the kind of growth I want in the place I want it. Other techniques will just cause new problems.

With my roses I need to honestly look at the plant and what is happening with it, and what may happen in the future. Once I’ve looked at all of that I make conscious decisions on what to cut and where to cut it.

The same thing applies in life. We have to: 1) be honest with ourselves and those around us; 2) make genuine evaluations about our behaviors, projects, etc; and then 3) make decisions and changes that will result in our lives heading toward the places we want them to go.

Sometimes this means cutting things off; even things we sort of want to keep, or are scared to quit. Sometimes it means changing the direction of a behavior (find a new job, find a better place to study, get married, …); and sometimes it actually means promoting a behavior you’re already doing (maybe if I spend a few more minutes cleaning the house now I don’t have to stress about it later when the in-laws are coming over…).

Summing up

Even though it isn’t easy there are times that we need to start, stop, or change our behaviors.

Just like my roses our habits and behaviors can have thorns, spiders and other problems that make change hard. But, if we really take the time to think and act in a positive way we can achieve our real goals.

That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next post.

Work, “work”, and “playing around”

On the one hand there are those times where we all (well most of us at least…) see someone “just sitting there” or “just playing around”. On the other hand there are those times where we all (well most of us at least…) come up with a winner of an idea while we’re in the shower, or cooking breakfast, or playing cards, or…

There are those who will insist that “work” is primarily moving matter at or near the earth’s surface. To them that’s all work is. But in reality there is another side to it, the psychological side of work.

Sometimes the psychological side of work really looks like work. For example there are those times where my favorite table at my favorite local fast food joint is full of books, note books, and so on and I’m busy reading, writing or whatever. But there are also the times where there’s just the one notebook out and I’m doing more staring into space than writing. That would be because I’m thinking about what I’m writing…

Sometimes mental or psychological work looks even less like work than that. For example the day before I wrote this I looked to most people like I wasn’t working at all, I was walking around a shopping mall in old jeans and a tee shirt. But, at the same time, I was still getting work done.

Internal dialog as work…

In this case I had already gotten some writing done in the morning and even some research stuff done. But I wasn’t quite sure where to go from there.

I still hadn’t gotten this post written even though it was ‘due’ the day before. Heck I didn’t even know what this post was supposed to be about at that point…

So, I got up from my desk and headed to the mall.

I walked around watched people, looked at things, and let my mind clear out all the ‘stuff’ that builds up when I’m at my desk too long. I still carried my work with me (I’m a writer I can do that), but I set it aside and didn’t consciously think or worry about it. And then the magic happened…

I found myself thinking…

“Ok I really will be getting the editing pass done next week, and then I have to move on to other stuff. But, I’ve been trying for a month and I can’t wrap my mind around the time line for that next project…”

“Um didn’t that writing mag have an article about writing a book in 90 days?”

“Yes”

“And don’t you have like three of five chapters written already?”

“I suppose so but I need to edit the heck out of them”

“So do it… The book you’re finishing editing right now has way more chapters than that and you knocked this last editing pass out in three weeks.”

“But there’s still two chapters to write and both need research and other peoples buy in…”

“Yeah the one chapter needs research for history, but it’s the intro chapter. It’s giving background and summarizing stuff in the three chapters you’ve got already. So that one’s pretty easy.

“Um, last chapter… Other people buy in…?”

“It’s the last chapter, it’s other people talking about what they did with the some of the stuff you’re working on. You still have to get them going, but you don’t really need that chapter until the very end. You got the questionnaire and requirements already right?

“Yeah… But…”

“Put it out there and give ‘em a couple of months while you’re getting the rest done. You don’t need to worry about that part till like July or something!”

“Maybe… I’d better right this down…”

“Cool bro, and by the way why don’t you use this for that post?”

“Actually that’s not a bad idea!”

And then the visible work part cut right back in. Within minutes not only do I have a schedule to finish the book by the end of the year and a post idea, but I’ve got a few other post ideas and the process for the sequels in my novel series worked out. I actually knew what I wanted to do from now until December and December is clearly marked out as the time to figure out what to do for the next six months or so since I can’t actually know a couple of things I need to plan for until then…

The point of it all…

We sometimes forget (at least most of us do…) that there is mental work that needs to be done as well as physical work. And sometimes that mental work happens best away from our desks where we can get a different perspective and see around the problems to the solutions. Sometimes we will genuinely “run into” the answer while we’re doing something else (in my case change “sometimes” to “often”).

We need to give ourselves time to do the thinky part of work too.

There’s more to say dear reader, but it’s also something to think on and come back to. So, I’m going to set the subject down for now and come back later.

Give yourself time to think dear reader, and come back next week.

Be willing to be wrong

From the moment we are born (and some will argue even before that…) we are always learning, adjusting, and adapting….

Well, we are doing those things as long as we don’t mess it up for ourselves.

How do we do that? We’re human, we tend to invent new ways as we go. But, there are some pretty standard options. One of the most common is being afraid of being wrong.

Nobody likes to be wrong

It’s a general fact dear reader. We don’t usually like to be wrong.

Occasionally we are pleasantly surprised and something turns out better than we hoped, but for the most part being wrong isn’t fun.

It’s a matter of perception and perspective. We are generally invested in being right. We have put time and energy into learning, thinking, and believing a certain way. And being wrong means a loss.

We have put in the time and energy to learn, think and do and it turns out we didn’t get what we wanted. We were wrong.

And sometimes it’s more than just a little effort at stake. There can be cherished beliefs, love, money and possibly lifestyle at stake. And naturally we don’t want to lose any of it.

In fact, our opposition to the possibility of being wrong often increases with the perceived stakes. That’s why we’re darned tenacious when we think being wrong means loosing something important.

The more important things seem the more we will fight to be right. And that’s good… If we’re right.

Unfortunately we aren’t always right. Sometimes we’ve goofed and now we’re fighting to cling to an idea or belief that is wrong. We just can’t succeed that way.

But sometimes you have to be wrong to be right…

If we perceive being wrong as a loss we fight tooth and nail to avoid it, or at least to avoid accepting it.

But, sometimes we need to recognize that we were wrong so that we can change things and accept something better.

Sometimes dear reader, we are wrong and we are going to remain wrong until we do something to correct the situation.

Correcting the situation may mean a number of things: unlearning, relearning, accepting, adapting, or even (and people hate this one…) repenting.

No, I’m not going all religious on you here dear reader. The word repent has religious meaning, but it also has practical meaning. In a practical sense repentance means rethinking and behaving differently than you have in the past. In practice it means you stop being wrong and start being right.

Repentance is sometimes an unpleasant process. Being wrong is sometimes an unpleasant condition, but if we are willing to accept that we were wrong in the past and that we can choose to act and correct the situation; then we can take the necessary steps to be right in the present and in the future.

If we are not afraid to be wrong we can actually take the steps necessary to move from being wrong to being right.

It’s not easy, but it’s important

As I’ve said, a lot of the problem is actually perception. If we are afraid of being wrong we will fight against it.

If we see ourselves as striving to become better, and learning to be right, then the moment of wrongness and our  correction to overcome being wrong are just another step in achieving and becoming greater than we have been.

In practice any time we actually want to do something or be something greater than we are we have to accept the possibility of having been wrong. Then, if we focus less on having been wrong and more on becoming right, we can move forward and achieve.

If we recognize that we were wrong we can ultimately become right.

It is a question of perception and understanding dear reader. And for any of us out here in life there are many ways and times that we might be wrong. But for all of us it is necessary that we be willing to recognize when we are wrong and overcome our wrongness. It is then that we can succeed in our desires.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Be willing to learn and become right, even if it means being wrong for a little while…

Tower of Babel to techno babble

Information, clarity, and understanding; these are valuable things if you want to make your way in our world. If you want to make good decisions and actually achieve something they are absolutely vital.

Unfortunately the things we need to know and understand can be lost or confounded by the manipulation and changing of language. If you want to disrupt or even cripple someone, one of the best ways to do so is to cut off their supply of information. One of the best ways to do that is to attack the meaning of words and language.

And yes dear reader there are those trying to do it to you!

It’s an old problem

One of the oldest stories/examples I know of is the story of the tower of Babel in the bible.

Basically the people got prideful and started doing things they shouldn’t have and as a result their language was corrupted. While the story of the tower of Babel is considered a story at this point (we don’t have sufficient facts to discuss any real details of what happened or even if the event actually happened) the story does serve as an example of how far back such concerns go.

If you want more ‘real world’ examples get a group of “English” speakers together for a conversation. For completeness sake please include speakers of ‘The queen’s English’, American English, Canadian English and Australian English. To really see the extent of the problem try including a back woods Florida alligator hunter, a Silicon Valley software engineer, a lawyer, a psychologist, and a politician (lawyer or no lawyer subtype it really doesn’t matter…).

What you will find is that there is a certain level of Jargon in specialties and areas of interest. There is also a level of ‘drift’ in meaning as groups grow farther apart. And yes dear reader these factors do work in concert, creating situations where you might need a translator even though everyone involved is speaking ‘English’.

The same issue happens with other languages. French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian all have Latin roots. And yet translating between them can be tricky. Further north in Europe you have German, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian to cope with.

And if you manage to parse all of that out we still have a couple of other continents to deal with. Care to examine the origins Afrikaans? If you get that one worked out why not try finding the origins of modern ‘Chinese’ (as much respect as I have for my Chinese friends I am not trying to explain the challenges of that particular language without a large bottle of Ibuprophen…).

And it still goes on…

Language drifts and changes naturally. That’s why languages like English, Spanish, German, Japanese and Arabic are classified as living languages. The language shifts and changes as time goes on. It becomes difficult to understand the words of former days. It is somewhat natural to find that things like the U.S. Constitution are a bit harder to interpret than they were two hundred years ago.

But that sort of lingual drift isn’t the hardest part. That kind of lingual drift can be countered by study and education. There is a greater danger to our knowledge and understanding in the form of those who actively seek to change the meaning of language to fit their particular ends.

(Note that as we continue I am not taking sides on any of the particular terms mentioned in this post… Today we are talking about language and people changing language. If we want to talk about particular issues where this is occurring… That is a topic for another day.)

Have you heard the contention and disagreement around terms such as “assault rifle”, “gender”, “marriage”, “climate change”, or “the American dream”? There is a whole lot of venom and conflict there, and we haven’t even gotten to the deep philosophical ones like “truth” or “morality” yet. We also haven’t even scratched the surface of recently invented terms like “fake news”, or the never ending alphabet soup of acronyms (I personally know three meanings for PSI and that’s to say nothing of TLA, ETLA, EETLA, LGBT, LGBTQ, RSVP, LOL, ROTFLOL, BYB, BYOB, or BYOBS).

There are those out there who actively try to redefine words to suit their own ends. There are even more people out there willing to adopt a meaning of a word that they like or come from sources that sound credible. Often this is what leads to the sort of linguistic drift that makes talking to my wife’s teacher friends and my family’s military friends at the same time such a challenge.

If we blindly follow what others are saying and if we foolishly allow ourselves to assume everyone is using the same word for the same thing we can end up in real trouble. It is our own responsibility to navigate this mess of meanings and understand what’s going on around us. This is a responsibility we cannot hand off to anyone.

So how do we do that?

That’s a big topic, bigger than we can entirely cover in one blog post, but here are a couple of points. We will probably revisit this subject with more information as time goes on.

The biggest key is learning. Don’t just take someone’s word for it on what words mean. Do some study and find out for yourself.

The second key is awareness. Be aware that others might be using a different definition and how that may affect meaning (it might also be a good idea to figure out why the person is using the meaning he or she is…)

One of the best things you can do is strive to use a shared meaning. This means communicating about communicating and both parties need to have a genuine desire to communicate instead of just yelling at someone while trying to advocate for a position.

Language is a vital tool for thought and understanding. We as individuals need to learn and make sure we understand the language being used. It is a challenge, but it is one of the most important things to do if you want to succeed in communication and in life.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time: Say what you mean, mean what you say, and I’ll see you next week.

Adversity to opportunity

About a month before I wrote this post I decided to take a break from doing the blogs. It was actually kind of a hard decision. I like doing my blogs, but other parts of the whole writing thing, and the rest of my life in general needed to be brought back under control. So, I did the hard thing and set down the blogs and got everything relatively back in order. And now I’m back…

Some of what went on in that time is documented here in my Forever Mountain Publishing blog. Other things might end up there eventually, but there are definitely changes that will be reflected here… I have decided after serious consideration that I owe it to myself, my faith, and you, my dear reader, to be braver in what I say; to really stand up for truth and not be lukewarm in what I say and do.

This blog is named Words Mean Stuff. I named it that because I believe words and thoughts have meaning and I always need to be making mine better.

So what are you going to do?

Well, as I said, I’m going to be braver in standing up for truth. I am also going to endeavor to be more focused on meaning, understanding and the choices we make. I need to do this dear reader; because, the knowledge and understanding we acquire, and the choices we make, are the only things we really own. We have our understanding of things, our ability to learn, our divinely given right and ability to make choices; and we have the consequences of our choices. That is really about it for the things that really belong to us in this life. And these are the things I need to talk about.

And you know what…?

Sometimes the things that seem bad can really be good, if you use your intellect and choose to respond to them in the right way.

An example…

One of the areas I’ve been working on is videos for my YouTube channel. Several of those videos require the use of my good old hard working rock tumbler…

DSCN2233

Unfortunately I kind of put a hole in this cheap little nothing part that the machine just won’t work without….

At that moment the thought process went something like this:

Now I have to buy a new one, but the shipping is going to cost more than the part.

Can I find one on Amazon? If I can then maybe I can get free shipping… Yes, but there is still a time factor and I kind of want my machine back in action now…

Um, hey…! This thing is rubber kind of like the inner tubes on my bike. What if I used a patch kit to fix it?

I need to replace the patch kit for my bike too, so it’s still costing money.

Yes, but less than the new part and shipping. And it will probably get me running again until I can actually get the right part.

Hmm… The kit is available pretty close to me… I think I can do this!

And so… I chose to take the action that would get my shop running again and keep me moving. No, it isn’t a perfect solution, but it is definitely better than sitting around wailing and gnashing my teeth, or playing around with my tablet until a new part gets here (which probably wouldn’t happen at all if I was too busy messing around on the internet to order one…).

And then it hit me… I do shop experiments on the YouTube channel, it’s a lot of what I’m working on right now. What if I treat the patch plan as a shop experiment and make a video?

And there it was, the ‘show stopper’ problem with a ‘nothing’ part that was going to be more expensive to ship than to buy was actually a chance to learn and try something new, and an opportunity to add another video to my list (which was what the machine was helping me do in the first place!). Because I thought and sought to make the best decision I could I bought myself time to include the part in a larger order (which brings the individual shipping cost down); I got my shop running again faster (which means I get more done); and I found a new video to go up on the channel!

And… In the process of figuring out how to shoot that video I found a new setup that will help me do other videos better in the future!

So there you have it

Life happens dear reader. Good and bad things happen in our lives, but it is often the choices that we make and the knowledge we apply that determine whether an event is a show stopping problem or an exciting opportunity.

How we choose to interpret and react to the things in our lives; how we choose to use the things we know and learn in solving the problems we face; that is what this blog is about.

That’s it for this one dear reader. For now… Go, learn and do; and I’ll see you next week.

Geometry and Reality

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.

Keep it in front of you…

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.

Actually doing!

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!

The law of sacrifice

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!