People and accomplishments

One of the oddities of my world is having to deal with folk up at the local university. Some of them are good, hard working folk (even the newly minted PHDs…). Some of them are pretty egotistical (even the incoming freshmen who don’t have much to be egotistical about yet…).

The thing is, people are people, and how you treat them does matter (how you treat them has a direct impact on how some of them treat you…).

Picture it… You’re a newly minted adjunct faculty (a person who’s not a full professor or grad student, but teaches a class or two at the university) and an unrepentant preppy. You encounter someone who’s in scrubby jeans and a worn tee-shirt… Is that person an undergrad at the school? An unemployed person who just donated plasma at the place across the parking lot? What about a writer who’s got a story going out for publication, another one going up on line next week, and a book due out at the end of October (I really have to get that wrapped up)?

I can’t say I’m perfect, or perfectly fair. But I try to be good and keep my ego in check (the book might be a little late and come out in November!). It isn’t easy, but doing things the other way can easily result in taking a real hit to the ego…

The funny thing is that if you appreciate people’s achievements (no matter how small they might seem) you can have a real positive impact, and you become greater in the eyes of others. If you just focus on your own achievements you can easily diminish yourself.

This is a principle I’ve seen in action while working in mental health. When we gave the kids safe opportunities to achieve, and recognized their genuine achievements, the kids became more confident, in positive ways, and sought out more and better things that they could do (and I mean real achievements and not just messing around or getting in trouble stuff). When I was willing to celebrate their achievements with them they flourished. It was something they really needed.

Not all achievements are equal, but depending on where you’re at they can still be pretty big…

Now, not all of my kid’s achievements were big. Getting the weekly clean room award at your group home may not be a Nobel Prize level event. But, when it comes with the opportunity to get lunch from a restaurant instead of the facility cafeteria it can feel pretty huge (especially if you struggle with being organized).

Passing an Algebra one test might not be much to a guy who tutors doctoral level Statistics, but to a kid taking the class for the third time it’s kind of a big thing.

When you celebrate those achievements, when you stand with that person in that place and genuinely respect and congratulate the achievement, you are reinforcing the positive and making it easier for the person to do more in the future.

But don’t overdo it…

I believe in celebrating peoples achievements, but I’m not a big fan of trying to turn everything into an achievement. There are those who have earned their participation awards (those who’ve earned military campaign ribbons, people that were on a team that achieved something, etc.). If you contributed to an achievement you deserve the recognition. But then there are those cases where people seem to hand out participation awards before the individual has actually done anything (Sorry guys… I think it’s kind of demeaning to get a trophy just for having signed up for a team (it might be just a little more convincing if we at least got to the end of the first game  before you start handing out ‘awards’)).

I like recognizing achievement. I can respect recognizing participation.  I can do both, as long as the individual or individuals being recognized put in a worth effort. I’m not docking anyone’s points because they didn’t get the opportunity, but he/she needs to do something with the opportunities that happen. Preferably they need to do something that was challenging, and/or had some lasting value.

I talk about writing goals on both of my blogs, and I believe in them. For some folks I work with writing a thousand words in a day is a big thing and I applaud them for achieving it. If someone applauded me for writing 1000 words in a day… I’d have to think about how to respond.

If it was one of my mental health kids (who might write a thousand words in a week, maybe), I would take the accolade seriously.

If it were from one of my contacts at the university…? Seriously guys…? I wrote 80,000 words in a month last November. I hit 4400 words in a single day once last month… A thousand aint much of an achievement right now. It might feel a bit like the person was mocking me.

I encourage us all to acknowledge achievement. I encourage us to acknowledge effort. But, when you start acknowledging ‘achievements’ that are below what the person can really do (physically or mentally), or below what they consider themselves capable of doing, it is easy to leave people feeling mocked and diminished.

Summing up…

So, what to make from all this…?

  1. Appreciate people’s achievements.
  2. Base your evaluation of those achievements on where the individual is and what she/he can do.
  3. Be positive: if someone has done better than before give them props… Even if you can do better yourself (it’s their achievement not yours).
  4. Make your congratulations for actual achievements (even shared actual achievements); you don’t get an MVP trophy just for signing up, but if your team won you were a part of a winning team! (Of course if finally finding the guts to sign up is an achievement then reward it!)
  5. Don’t get wrapped up in your ego (I know that 4400 words in a day is more than Steven King’s daily average, but let’s face it he beat me to being published by a few decades…)

No matter how well you know the pond, there is always a bigger fish. And no matter how small you might think an accomplishment is, for somebody that humble little accomplishment is really really big.

No matter who you are you can enlarge yourself by genuinely recognizing the accomplishments of others.

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

Good luck with your accomplishments, and I’ll see you next post.

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Reality…

We all have them…

Those ideas and projects that seem really good and really simple, until we actually get started…

Three weeks ago we had an electrician replace an old and less than functional breaker box. The home warranty people would cover most of the cost and it improves the house. It was a great idea, except that it meant turning off my computer which refused to turn back on…

Eventually it did get turned back on, but experience convinced my wife that I need a new computer. That lead to a full on plan for running updates, upgrades and replacements for all of our computers…

It also lead to me getting a new laptop and deciding to reorganize how things are set up on my desk.

That lead to moving my desk; which led to…

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Ordinarily I stress thinking things through before you do them but, sometimes you honestly can’t see everything that’s going to happen. I certainly didn’t foresee my computer not turning on, or how replacing the electrical panel would lead to a plan where my wife and I both have desk tops and laptops, but here we are. When these situations happen you can still benefit from your ability to plan and make choices in advance.

How? By making sure almost everything is working in an organized and stable  manner. If it is you can have the latitude and clarity to deal with the things that you didn’t expect. By making a plan and knowing where your resources (time, money, tools, and so on) are, and what there going to be used for, you can make changes when you need to and keep moving forward even when life throws you a curve ball.

Making it up as you go can be fun. Surprises can make life interesting. Having a plan can help you survive those surprises and have that fun with your sanity intact. Never let your plan be so technical and inflexible you can’t deal with the surprises (you’ll crash). But, also know where your going  and what you have to help you get there. That way you can make it through those unexpected events we’re all going to have eventually.

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

Is that actually a .357 casing in the picture? Puppies round up my characters… I need to know who’s been having gunfights in the office!

 

 

All things change (and I’m ok with that)

A year ago I had been out of the hospital for two months; I was newly diagnosed as diabetic; and I had just made some decisions… I was dropping the pretense of looking for some other job and embracing the fact that I am by nature a writer. I decided I really needed to get going on publishing. I also decided to get serious about attempting a NANOWRIMO project; writing an entire 50,000+ word novel in one month. It was a turbulent, scary time and I didn’t know what was to come.

Today, this year, I stopped at my local mega-mart to pick up a prescription… I actually know the pharmacist personally at this point. I have finished that NANOWRIMO project. I have ‘beat’ diabetes in that I no longer need insulin. I am struggling to adjust to the fact that I’m 30lbs lighter than when I went to the doctor six months ago (a full 100lbs) below my high point. And, I have a book out.

It really is a different year from last year.

I took a look around the mega-mart because they’re doing one of those “open while we’re remodeling” numbers and I wanted to see what’s new. I realized things are actually kind of new for me too. People are starting to accept that I’m actually self-employed (having books on Amazon helps). My wife is proposing her doctoral dissertation this week (I once thought I would be the one to have a doctorate). This year my ‘big question’ for NANOWRIMO is: can I actually write a 50,000+ word sequel in one month?

Things have changed a lot. Not all of the changes have been what I wanted or planned, but things are actually coming out for the better. The secret is I have chosen, and do choose, to do what I believe is right; to the best of my ability. That includes accepting the fact that I don’t do everything right; learning to do better; and actually doing (even when it isn’t easy). The other secret is the desire to be more than you are; to learn what you are and what you have the potential to be; and then honestly, actively striving to become.

Nietzsche wrote that if God didn’t exist it would have been necessary to invent him. I believe that he does exist (we can save the God is a she debate for another day). I believe he does understand us and has a plan for us. I also believe that coming to know who and what we are, and what we can do (and need to do), is a personal journey. It is not something anyone can, or should, compel anyone else to do. It doesn’t work that way.

So, yeah, my wife is getting the PHD I thought I would be getting; the bakery is inexplicably where the meat counter used to be; and I’m about to start the sequel to a book that wasn’t supposed to have a sequel. I’m ok with that. I am more than I was. I am growing and becoming what I can be.

With all the noise and strife in our world dear reader, with all the change and ‘stuff’ thrown at us every day, don’t forget the real human rights and the real opportunities to make good choices and become more than what we are.

Until next time…

Um, where did they put the magazine rack? …and my notebook? …and…

Write That Story!

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.

Why?

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!

 

Citation.

Park, J., Ayduk, O., Kross, E. (2016). Stepping Back to Move Forward: Expressive Writing Promotes Self-Distancing. Emotion, 16, 3, 349-364.

Moments of Realization

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Before we begin today’s post… I would like to acknowledge the tragic events in Belgium this week. My heart goes out to the victims, but that’s about all I’m going to say about that. I see no value in giving those who caused the events any more attention on this blog. People whose idea of ‘bravery’ is bombing the elderly and unarmed women and children aren’t worthy of the space and time. So on to other things…

Yesterday morning I came to a realization. It’s one that I’ve talked about here.It’s something that I’ve wanted to believe, but part of me, somewhere, never quite believed…

A while back I made a change. I started acknowledging myself as a professional freelance writer. My job was now “Writer” (see some of my earlier thoughts on that here…). But was it a real job? Was I really doing this professional writing thing or was I just doing?

Earlier this week I ran into a blogger who boldly proclaimed that people who sit in a restaurant with their writing gear and peer off with a ‘pondering expression’ aren’t really writers, they are posers…

The thing is, I consider myself a real writer. Some times I write at a restaurant. Sometimes I sit and ponder while I’m working out what to say, what new words to put down, or how to modify the words I’ve written.

Then Thursday morning it hit me. No, this is a real job. I am a real writer. I do writer things like putting words on pages and editing and pitching and research and all those other ‘writer’ things. But I’m also doing the ‘real job’ things: I set (and keep) deadlines; I set and achieve goals;  I manage; I communicate with business contacts (not just Facebook friends…). I have an actual bank account set aside for business stuff and that’s what the writing stuff (in and out) is linked to.

This is a real job. The difference between being a writer and most ‘real’ jobs is that I don’t have a boss to report to. I also really don’t have employees (thankfully, I don’t have pay employment taxes for my fictional characters (yet) )

From all of this week’s experiences I find the following to be true…

  1. Writing can be (and for me is) a real job.
  2. Writing is as much a real job as you choose to make it.
  3. If you are going to make it a real job. You have to put the time in on all the parts, the ‘writing stuff’ and the ‘job stuff’.
  4. All of that can look different depending on who you are and what you write.

As long as you are treating it as a job, and actually doing the job stuff, writing can be a real job. There may not be a literal time clock to punch (unless you make one for yourself!) but as your own boss, when you’re honest with yourself, you know how much time you spend on writing and marketing and all those other things you need to do. (And don’t forget education, especially if you don’t know what you need to do!)

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

It’s your life, make it your best.

Have I become or am I becoming?

Have I become or am I becoming?

The answer is an emphatic yes!

I wanted to be a writer. I have become a writer. I do writer things. I put words on paper and on screen. I edit those words, those thoughts and ideas, to make them clearer, sharper, better. I worry about things like subtext, typography, cover design and distribution. I know what meta data is and I’m trying to use it better.

I am still becoming as a writer. I am learning new things: new software, new styles, how to keep and break the rules at the same time. I am learning about our world, the worlds I’m creating and the people and things in them. I am developing my voice and my talent. I am learning to say things that need saying. I am learning to think new things while keeping my feet firmly planted in truth.

As a young missionary, one of my companions said, “It’s good to be green, it mean’s you’re growing.” That was true. It still is true and not just as a missionary. You are either growing and living or decaying and dying. Nothing really stays the same.

With growth comes pain but, decay comes with pain too; you may just be too gone to feel it. Use your pain for good. It will be in your world at some time and in some way. Use it for good. Use it for growth. Use it to lead you to new heights and new things.

I have become and yet I am still becoming. And so, dear reader, can you.

Till next time all my best.

Back to My Roots and On to the Future

One of the most interesting things I learned in high school is the difference between Asian and Aristotelian logic. As my teacher put it Aristotelian logic is a circle, you come back to where you started. In Asian logic it’s more of a corkscrew effect; you can go full circle, but you’re never really where you started.

I really felt the ‘Asian Logic’ effect on my recent trip to California. We had dinner at Red Robin, and I’ll admit I got bitter at one point. I remembered going to this same  Red Robin before, eight years ago. I realized that the conversation that I had had with my wife the last time I was there was about a story I wanted to write. Well… that story is one that I’m turning into a nanorimo project in a few months. Gee, big progress in eight years…

I had really wanted to be farther along writing that this when I came back here. I growled and stewed, and then I realized I am farther along! That project hasn’t moved yet; however, I have at least one (if not two) non fiction books that will be out by the end of the year. I have a novella in edits. I’m in the middle of a short story collection, writing two blogs and I have several other projects on my list that didn’t exist eight years ago. I am making progress. I am doing better. I just had to take a step back and see it.

Sometimes we seem like we’ve ended up back where we started. But, in reality we’ve learned, grown, and changed. We’re here, but we are different from the last time we were here.

Sometimes we stall. When we do we need to find a way to move forward. I hope to have more on that thought and some exciting news next week…

That’s if for this post dear reader. Till next time…

You can do it!

Assumptions and other bad ideas…

Interesting thing happened to me shortly before I wrote this…

The hospital I ended up in a few months back (when I was diagnosed with diabetes) just tried to send me an inappropriate and uncalled for demand letter…

Problem 1: Someone over there made a decision without bothering to check their own records…

Problem 2: Someone over there made the assumption that a letter would scare me…

Problem 3: Someone over there made the assumption that I was less than intelligent and didn’t keep and check records…

Problem 4: Someone over there failed to realize this wasn’t their first mistake…

Now, I am not an overly vengeful person (some of my friends will say that I’m deliberately cranky… but they admit that that is just to amuse myself…). I do take offense when someone tries to breach a contract and punish me for their mistakes. This was all sorted out (for the moment at least) with a couple of phone calls; however, the whole thing could have been avoided if people bothered to get good information and think in the first place.

This was something that could not have been positively corrected, once it happened, if I hadn’t held up my end; kept good records; and knew what was going on. Believe me… after they learned that I had full documentation from both my side and theirs about what was going on, and that I was aware my state is a triple damages state, they straightened themselves out very quickly.

The moral(s) of this story… Educate yourself. Keep good records. Know what is going on around you. Be patient and polite where appropriate, but stand up for yourself too.

As Sun Tsu said…

If you know your enemy and yourself you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles.

If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

If you know neither your enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.

In my own words…

And succumbing in battle can cost you.

That’s it for today dear reader.

Hope you’ve been having a better one than I have…

Two diagnoses + Two Careers = One Good Life

Ok, this may sound nuts, but today I’m actually glad I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. It’s actually made me think about my diet and exercise. And, it’s resulting in my being healthier.

It also gives me a ‘trump card’ to play when random people try to play with my schedule.That Schedule thing is actually kind of important for me. First off I’m a child of German ancestry and a military family (you figure it out). Second… I deal with attention deficits (which is sometimes different from what people think it is).

The second diagnosis

Last I checked the formal diagnosis is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but the American Psychological Association is driven by economic, political and ego factors (in addition to science) so they may have changed it (while I wasn’t paying attention…). ADHD is a fairly common diagnosis and one that can be difficult to pin down a cause for. I’ve heard metabolic explanations (which make sense); neurological explanations (which make sense); behavioral explanations (which make sense); and “I don’t want to parent my child” explanations (which make me mad, but… make sense!).

In my case the best explanation is one that I ran into in grad school. My ADD (ADHD but people hesitate to call a fat guy hyper active…) is kind of like being at the opposite end of the bell curve from the autistic folks. They are over stimulated and I crave stimulation… this has potential for good and the potential to get me in trouble (note for others diagnosed with ADHD and those who love them: it’s a personal experience thing. Your experience (and mileage) may vary).

Over the years I have developed skills to modulate my environment and situation to help control for my stimulation needs. Believe it or not diabetes has helped with this. Not only does it give me a reason to stick to my schedule, but treating diabetes gives me tools to control my ADD behavior internally. Now that I’ve gotten my blood sugar under control I can really tell how fluctuations in my blood sugar affect my ability to focus, attend, and get stuff done. I like to go  get stuff done.

Career the first.

It’s no secret that I’m a writer. I write fiction, non fiction, blog posts, and poetry (as much as I hate to admit that!). Writing is how I express myself best (unlike many prophets of scripture I am more mighty in writing that speaking). Writing is a way to support myself (financially and as therapy). Writing is just what I do. I tell stories. I figure things out and tell people about them.

Writing is therapeutic for me. I’ve been monitoring my blood sugar levels when I’m stressed and unstressed; writing and not writing (for you research people that makes four categories in the complete model). The reality is that when I am under stress writing helps me keep my blood sugar low. And, keeping my blood sugar under control helps me write.

Some days cyclical is good, but one can not live by text (or bread) alone.

Career the second.

I also make shiny things with metal, stone, glass and other materials. I am a sculpturist/smith/jewelry artist. It’s a different kind of thinking, very concrete and 3D (as well as symbolic). It is also a lot of fun (and a pain in the $#@#$@%#!@$@!!! some days). There is a lot of tactile sensation involved (which can be good for the whole ADD thing). There is also some good cardio (which can be good for the diabetes thing).

Like the writing, bending metal and grinding stone can be very therapeutic, and it’s another way to express myself.

Putting it all together.

So I have two diagnoses which force me to monitor myself, take care of myself and stick to my schedule (which I wanted to be on in the first place). They also encourage me to dig for answers (research) and try new and different things (experience).

These two diagnoses actually support my twin careers making things in word and deed. All though I am very aware of the stance and rulings put in place by the Americans With Disabilities Act, I don’t really consider myself disabled… on a good day my ‘disabilities’ help me do what I do better. On not so good days my experience with these ‘disabilities’ gives me a range of options and controls that I know work and I know will help me to move toward a better day and a happier life. I can always turn on the radio; turn off the radio; use a snack or other shift in my diet to change my blood sugar level; get some exercise to get my blood (and glucose) flowing, and a range of things that make me a better and happier me.

It feels like not having (or knowing…) my ‘disabilities’ would make me less able.

That’s it for this post dear reader.

Till next time: what ever happens in your life, turn it to good.

The Walkaway Point

Into every life some rain must fall, and every project must have a certain level of irritation. Sorry not my rule, the universe it’s self seems to have come up with that one…

There comes a time where you have to ask yourself “Is it really worth working on this?” Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is “not right now!” It can be difficult to tell which is which some times. It can also be rather important. Making the right choice can mean doing something really good and/or worthwhile. Making the wrong choice can mean a waste of time and materials, or just end in a plain old disaster.

Sometimes the project is worth doing, but you are at a mental or physical place where you end up doing more harm than good. And, sometimes the project is worth doing, but something else is more important, or more worth doing. This is what I call the ‘walkaway point’; that point where, yes the project is good, but you need to walk a way from it for a while.

Walking away can be good. You can come back with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. You can gain some distance and perspective. You can get rid of other things that might overshadow and/or bias the work. However, walking away can also mean more time getting started again, and it means you have to make sure to come back and start again; the world is littered with incomplete projects.

Ultimately you have to know yourself and your project and make the best choice. I can assure you even projects that are really worth it can torque you off occasionally, and when they do you have to decide whether taking a break or ‘playing through the pain’ is the best option. The point is to know your options and choose the best one, even if it’s walking away for a while.

That’s it for today dear reader…

Till next time, make your own choices.

P.S. I probably will not be posting next week as I have several publishing deadlines, a parent in the hospital,  and some in-laws that really want to see us… Hmm… Choices…