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!

Still working on it…

Yes, I’m trying to be good and post twice a week, but life happens….

Today my wife, who is doing her doctoral dissertation defense soon, is having a bit of a “what do I want to do when I grow up” crisis…

See you Friday dear reader.

St Patrick’s Day

Well, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day and I’m in a college town…

I’m not overly worried this year, but there was that one time…

Earlier this week I overheard someone asking what Saint Patrick’s Day really is. For a lot of folks it’s a day to eat corned beef and cabbage and spend money on green stuff. For others it’s a day to drink green beer and get rowdy…

If you happen to be Catholic it’s one of the many saints days declared by the church centuries ago…

Now let me tell you what Saint Patrick’s Day is to me…

St Patrick, before he was a saint, was a man. He was a man who learned something very important to him. He learned about God the Father and Jesus Christ.  And, after he learned about them traveled his homeland sharing what he learned with his people.

So, St Patrick is really that person, that one person, who learned something important to him and shared it with the people he cared about. Whether you’re Catholic or not (I’m not…); whether you’re Christian or not (I am); being that person, the one who has the strength and bravery to learn something important and then to stand up for it is something worthy of respect.

It doesn’t really matter who you are, or what you are, if you are willing to stand up for what you believe that is honorable and worthwhile. If you are humble enough and willing enough to learn truth, and then brave enough to share that truth. You are one of the great ones, whether those around you can see it or not. To me that is why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

And that is my message for today dear reader. Be humble, teachable, and willing to learn. But, when you find truth, stand for that truth, and the universe itself stands with you!

 

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!

The secret art of stepping away

Earlier this week I found myself talking to a friend who is getting ready to go back to college. I gave her the usual advice that my wife and I give to all our college bound friends, make sure you take a fun class every semester.

Contrary to what some might think, we don’t give this advice just to make sure the person has fun. The reality is it helps with their other classes.

Why stepping away helps

Taking a fun class, or taking a day off from your big project to do something else, helps you because it changes your focus and lets your conscious mind rest from working on the class/project. We see the same effect with studying. You see better outcomes if you shift subjects every so often and come back later. (How long is a ‘so often’? That depends on the individual and your mileage may vary. For me it’s about an hour to two hours (for studying))

The key is to get enough in, and enough time in, to make a worthwhile step forward without spending so much time that you become counterproductive. In fact we can see the same principle in play in physics and chemistry when painting or putting a patina on metal. It is often a good idea to put on multiple thin layers rather than trying one thick layer that goes on all at once.

The multiple layers allow for better drying and damage resistance while the thick layer gets gloppy, takes longer to dry, and is more prone to chipping. Biologically multiple contacts and repetitions help build neural pathways and muscle fiber in ways that are very different from the patterns developed by the one shot approach.

Growth applications

We see the same principle in a lot of self-help and personal growth applications. This is why goals and affirmations are to be put up in visible places, so you can see them frequently and they get ingrained. It is much more effective to do it this way than the “think really hard about it once then go out for pizza” technique.

I know that this isn’t easy dear reader, but I also know it works. That’s why even though I’m up to my eyeballs in book stuff it’s a good idea to get away once in a while and do something different (even… Gasp… something that has nothing to do with writing a book!).

That’s it for today dear reader. Keep working on those projects, but remember to take some breaks along the way.

See you next week.

“Common Sense”

This week I’m in the process of researching a nonfiction book; one that has some big ideas I it that I’m currently working on how to relate. It’s funny how when I do things like this I find seemingly unrelated stuff that is really significant…

We talk about the ‘five senses’ (though there are actually more) and we talk about ‘common sense’. Would you believe these ideas actually come from the same source?

And, common sense was the actual original sixth sense.

The ‘five senses’ come from the writings of Aristotle who discussed the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste as how we explore the world around us. He also talked about the common sense.

Aristotle’s common sense was an internal thing, a thing of the mind. Instead of the nebulous ‘don’t be stupid’ sense that is thought of today Aristotle’s common sense was (and is) a coordinating and interpreting function. The ‘common’ sense was that internal system that coordinated the data we got from our five external senses into something useful and meaningful. In Aristotle’s thinking (and mine) a lack of common sense meant not using the data you have in front of you.

If anything, the ‘common’ sense is more important now than it ever has been. Modern folk are bombarded with more information than at any time in history. We need to learn to evaluate, coordinate, and utilize that information correctly.

‘Common sense’ is truly the vital sense of the twenty first century.

Of course you and I both know that it is not that simple dear reader. ‘Common sense’ is a learned skill. Actually it is a learned skill set. What that means is that we are not automatically experts at using common sense. We are born with legs but have to learn to walk. The same logic applies.

The good news is that we can learn and improve in our skills. It is not always easy, but when we put forth the effort we will improve over time. If we consciously work on our skills for evaluating and using information we will actually get better at it faster.

I’m not trying to tell you everything about common sense today dear reader (this is a blog post not a book). For now know that we all have the capacity for common sense. We all have the need for common sense. And, we all have to accept that common sense comes to us “some assembly required”.

See you next week…

“Facts”, “Truth”, and Constructs

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.

Why are we doing this? (Part 1)

If you ever hope to understand yourself you need to have a “what the heck am I doing?” experience. You need to genuinely take a look at what you’re doing and question yourself on it. This is the start of knowing…

“What am I doing?” is a good start, but you need to follow it up with other questions. Specifically it’s good to spend some time on ‘how’ and ‘why’. You actually need to ask both.

‘How’ questions are management questions. What techniques are you using? How effective are they? How could you improve? These are mid-stream progress questions. They help you evaluate what you’re doing. They are very valuable, but they still need something to complete the whole picture.

The big one, the real can of worms, is ‘why’.

‘Why’ can be a management question, if you focus really tight and stay close to the ground. Those whys aren’t too scary…

The scary part comes when we ask ‘why’ as a leadership question.

‘Why’ as a leadership question gets to our motives and purposes. An honest answer to why we are doing this might lead to how do we improve questions, but it could also lead to having to say “We need to scrap this and try something else.”

‘Why’ as a leadership question forces us to face our mistakes. ‘Why’ as a leadership question forces us to turn and take a look at ourselves, and what is going on in our minds and souls. If you are asking ‘why’ it becomes very hard to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep doing those “supposed to do’s” that seem to cost us more than they’re worth.

But, a funny thing happens when we ask ‘why’. The onerous “supposed to do’s” can now be transformed into want to do’s, or they could be replaced with more effective things. Understanding can lead to power and responsibility.

Since we are intelligent beings endowed by our creator with the ability to act for ourselves, ‘why’ is perhaps the most important question. It is the question that leads to greater understanding.

‘Why’ leads to understanding of purposes and causation. ‘How’ leads to solutions.  They are powerful questions dear reader. They are powerful tools. Don’t be afraid to use them!

For why I personally am doing this check out this post at Forever Mountain Publishing.