5 Things I Learned From An Unexpected Challenge

Ever have an unexpected change that caused you to dig deep and work hard at a moments notice? It happened to me this past week. 

This week I was out of the office for a business trip. When I prepared for it a few weeks ago, my coworker and I had a discussion about a presentation one of us had to do while we were there. We decided it would be best for him to do it.

Then, last week, on Friday morning, we discovered another topic would be much more relevant. However, I had more knowledge of the day to day. Thus, it was decided that I would do the presentation. I had two days to prepare.

My first reaction to this change was to ask him to do it because I like to be prepared and I was nervous. But I knew the best way to convey this information was to lean on my knowledge and experience.

Below, I list five things that I learned about this unexpected challenge.

Photo Credit: Nick / KC7CBF via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Nick / KC7CBF via Compfight cc

Low Level Stress Can Be Good.

We’ve all heard stress is terrible and to avoid it. But studies have shown that low level stress releases a chemical called neuotrophins that strengthens connections in our neurons which boosts concentration and productivity. Strange eh? Once I told myself I was going to do it, I was able to focus.

Before Saying No. Prepare As If You Said Yes Then Decide

My first reaction was to say no. But instead of doing so, I gave it some thought. What if I did do it? What information would I need? Once I did this I gained a little confidence and I thought it might not be that bad.

Do You Know It? You Can Do It.

The presentation basically surrounded what I’ve done for their customers and what I do day to day. I realized that no one knew more information about this topic than I did.

Think. What’s The Real Reason The Situation Scares Me?

My main concern revolved around the fact that I thought I’d ruin a highly valuable partnership if I messed up. The pressure mounted. Then a realization hit me, one that deflated my fear. I am being entrusted with this presentation because of my expertise. My company trust me enough to represent it.  

Grab The Stage. It’s Time To Grow.

Their are experiences in life that build upon one another. If I am going to speak, I need to practice. If I am going to write novels, I need to write short stories. This was not something to fear. This is what I felt before hockey games in college or grabbing my diploma and heading off into the workforce. This was an opportunity to seize. Not shy away from. And that I did.

What keeps you frozen to the spot?

Can you dissect and tackle it?

Do You Give One Bad Day Too Much Importance?

If you keep a blog in hopes to use it as a platform to grow your chances at publication, then you know the power of one day. In one day, you can be dancing about as the views and traffic explode. In another day, you can curl up in a ball on your bed as a handful of people stop in to see something that took hours to write.

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Photo Credit: cesarastudillo via Compfight cc

I work in sales and the power of one day can be a hard thing to shake. Too good and arrogance and his friend complacency start to creep in. Too bad? You know your family will live under a bridge some point soon.

These two scenarios could happen. But the likelihood is probably zero. Why? Because one day does not define a blog, a career, or a relationship. One day has no more power than any other day.

Here is when I thought about inserting some Gandalfain quote about what to do with time that is given to you, but since we aren’t storming Mount Doom, I thought I’d lend this thought.

We must stay focus on our yearly goals. That is what matters.

If you have one bad day in sales, there is a chance to make it up the next day. One bad blog can be easily forgotten if we hit our goal on the next post. The important moment here is what we do next, no mater the outcome of each day. Do we stop? Or do we keep going knowing we are in ____ for the long haul.

I don’t know about you but I have a lot of work to do, miles to traverse, and rejection letters to battle through before I reach my goals.

Have you ever given one day too much weight? What happened as a result?

What Do Your Kids See When You Write?

Last week I went down stairs to put a book on my writing desk, when I got there I found something unfortunate, marker dots and streaks on the desk I built not a few months before. It would not come off. Then, I turned to my old desk on the other side of the room and noticed similar marks.

At first I was upset. I’d have to paint my new desk again and figure out how to get the ink out of the wood of my old desk. But first I had to find the culprit.

Photo Credit: MargaretDonald via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MargaretDonald via Compfight cc

It didn’t take long for me to do so. My daughter June, who is five, had the same marker stains on her hands. I asked her about it and she admitted to it reluctantly. I told her she would have to help me paint my desk. Then I saw the papers she held. She asked me to help her staple her book together. The annoyance of having to paint my desk evaporated. Instead, I was thrilled.

While I was at work, she was also working. She was creating a story in the same space that I do. The marker stains were the signature of her effort.

When I realized this I could not have been more joyful to paint my desk again. My beloved daughter was doing her best to follow in the steps of her father. She wanted to write books where her daddy wrote books. She wanted to create too.

I am at awe when I see my kids emulate my wife and I. It simultaneously thrills and terrifies me.

What do your kids or family think of your writing dreams?

Do You Blog For Stats Or Do You Blog With A Message?

I love stats. At work we use SalesForce.com which has a billion stat tools. It’s a great measurement software, but it can also cause me to move to a place where my day to day does not matter, only getting to the top of the pile does and that’s not how I work best.

This can be true for our blogs too. We have a message, something we know people will benefit from hearing, and we instead get obsessed with the stats page and refresh button. Is this you too?

Photo Credit: GadgetEra.in via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: GadgetEra.in via Compfight cc

When I decided to relaunch my blog again, I had a lot of goals. Big out-there goals. But one drove them all. I wanted to grow my platform.

When I sit back and think about that I feel gross. Don’t you? My desire can shift away from an attempt to change lives, grow my writing career, or to be a part of something bigger than myself to a dirty place where I want a quick hit of traffic.

If you are a blogger my guess is that you’ve been side tracked by this too. You want your platform to grow because that is an important piece of the publication puzzle. No problem, I understand. But what about the content you provide? I wonder what the blogosphere would look like if writers put content out there that matter to them or served others rather than themselves?

I apologize if that’s been me. I don’t want to be the quick hit guy who lives on some strange dimly lit corner of the web looking for that bag of 100 followers. I want it to be more valuable to you. I came here to share the joy of words, the thrill of writing a new piece of fiction, and to encourage you to move forward in that direction.

From here on out you get this promise from me, in blood if I could do that on this post. Er, maybe too creepy? But here we go.

I pledge to provide helpful and encouraging content. Not be yet another inauthentic traffic grabbing blogger. I’ll do my best to share what I know for your benefit, not my own.

So here’s to great content that challenges ideas and changes small things, like the world.

Do you find yourself writing for traffic? Or do you provide content that helps?

Its Time To Tell Your Self Critique Voice To Shut It

I can be crazy. In fact, I’ll prove it.

On a trip to Florida a few years back, my wife and I stayed in a condo with my parents, grandmothers, and brother. We were surprising my other brother for his birthday and had flown down from Michigan.

When I sleep there cannot be any rhythmic noises or my mind will catch the beat and I’ll subsequently stay awake.

Thus when some crazy animal started mewing or barking (it sounded like both) at three in the morning it was annoying. By three fifteen I was growing angry and by three thirty I was marching across the parking lot, rock in hand to put an end to the creature. I tossed rocks into a forest until the bird/animal/little devil flew off to annoy someone else.

Yeah, that crazy. But I slept like a babe from four until seven.

As in the example above, we also carry these bird squawks or something similar in our minds. They are deadly to our creativity, living in the vary place our art comes from. And they offer a constant nagging of how unrealistic our dreams are.

Ever try to write or start to write a business plan and begin to get defeated right away? How many times even before we begin we start to think of why we shouldn’t attempt to try ___ in the first place – money, time, family obligations, work, and anything else march across our mind like a mariachi band.

There is something to learn from my manic story above. The next time your inner voice starts to sound the alarm, grab some rocks, snip the chord, pull out the batteries, and stuff proverbial cotton balls in your ears. Tell your inner critique to shut their mouth.

It might be impossible right now to be a New York Times Bestseller. But if we stop ourselves before we begin we may never know where the journey may take us.

My Writing Update

Its been a rewarding and exhausting week in writing, work, and my home life. But that does not mean it hasn’t been great, because it has. I hope you had a chance this week to get tired by going after what you love.

Below is a summary of my writing activities this past week and a glimpse of what’s coming up.

Photo Credit: Vanessa Lynn. via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Vanessa Lynn. via Compfight cc

Blog Recap

10 Ways To Get Your Blog Back On Track

We all have times when we struggle in the middle of our blog. I’ve posted 10 tips to help you dig in and get back in the groove. Click Here To Read It.

How To Eradicate The Fear Of Failure Once And For All

Fear can follow us around like a shadow. We want to make a career jump, write that book, or try our hand at painting but we don’t because secretly deep down we are afraid of what others might think or what’s on the other side of our currently comfortable lifestyle.  Here I talked about taking consistent steps toward what we want. Click Here To Read It.

If You Don’t Succeed Is The Journey Worth It? Lessons From A Failed Novel

For the past decade I wrote multiple drafts of one story. It was terrible but better in the end. I’ve put it on the shelf for now. As I reflect back I wonder if all of the struggle and thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of words were a waste. Click Here To Read It.

On Removing Impulse And Instilling Good Habits

Life can be easily lived like floating in a lazy river. But if want to be brave and grab the life we want it means swimming against the current. Here I talk about how I tipped the scales at 200lbs for the first time in my life and what I am going to about it. Click Here To Read It.

Don’t Be A Cover Band

Many artists want to repeat the same success as the greats. In this blog I discuss how we need to blaze our own trail if we want to find our unique voice. Click Here To Read It.

How To Always Have Something To Write About

As a blogger or writer or anyone trying to fit their dream into their day stuffed with obligation, you can feel a bit like Sisyphus rolling his bolder up a hill over and over again. It can seem pointless and dull or overwhelming, trying to come up with something write about every day. Click Here To Read It.

My Current Project

I’m working on a middle grade book (4-8th grade target audience) and am nearly a quarter of the way through. I said last week I hope to get 10,000 written. Looking back, that was such an unrealistic goal! I probably wrote 1,000. My hope this week is to at least triple that. This should be realistic as I look at my schedule this week.

Speaking

Next month I’ll be speaking at the Jot Conference on Blogging. I’m excited to be a part of this conference again.

Plan to live this week. Life won’t just happen to you. Go and get it.

10 Ways To Get Your Blog Back On Track

Blogging can be exciting in the beginning. Then, out of nowhere, we hit a plateau. It’s at this point we can make a decision to either give up or dig in.

Below I list ten ways to get your blog back on track. If you are struggling, try a few of these methods. They also work if you are just starting out.

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Photo Credit: Cappellmeister via Compfight cc

Know who you are. If you are a fantasy writer, don’t write about pollution. If you are not a professional don’t write posts about how to make it. You are constructing your own platform and if you are not true to who you are or what you write it’ll be hard to find someone that will listen.

Know your audience. Speak to your audience’s condition. If you are speaking to the sci-fi fantasy crowd or talking about the joys and perils of retirement, know what is relevant and helpful to that demographic.

Follow the leader. There’s bound to be a blogger who is further along than you. They may even have blazed the trail to exactly where you want to go. Watch them closely. Learn what they do best.

Be consistentpost time, topic, etc. If you are writing a literary blog, don’t talk about Fifty Shades of Grey. If you are writing about gardening, don’t weigh in on the latest about Kim Kardashian. Unless she is gardening and maybe not even then. Consistency is key. If you post consistently your audience will begin to anticipate when fresh content is available and they will be waiting.

Be mindful of details. Recently most fonts were opened on the theme I use. Don’t think that’s such a big deal? I recently read that some fonts are considered prudish and untrustworthy. Yes. Fonts. So, do your research and understand that even the mundane tweak can mean a lot.

Write ahead. If you have a busy life where time can be sucked into a black hole in a moment’s notice, this is key. Look for spots to fit writing in and if you are writing ahead you will be prepared for whatever life event may suddenly arise.

Commit to the relaunch mental battle. Commitment can require us to cast off what is natural. Sleep, time with friend, work, etc. If you are doing a re-launch be sure your mind is ready for the fight. Know that trials will happen and nothing worth doing is easy.

Set personal goals you can reach but are a bit of a stretch.  This will vary from person to person depending on the season of life. You may post once a week, every day, or twice a month.

Set launch a date. Set a hard deadline for the relaunch of your blog. Build it to look professional, write ahead, and then bam, go live. You can tweek the minor things later.

Connect social media widgets and let your friends know! This is key. Find people who can support you. No writer can keep going in a vacuum. We need people. Your friends and family are most likely going to champion your work.

Blogger, get a clear vision, look for ways to improve and then jump. Even if it feels uncomfortable.

How to Eradicate the Fear of Failure Once and For All

Have you ever planned a wedding or party or event and had something go array? It was a huge deal at the time. You still think about it and shudder.

But you know who noticed it?

Probably no one.

Even if you mentioned it to an individual that attended the debacle do you know what they’d most likely say? Nothing. They would just give you a confused look like they have no idea what you are talking about.

But fear is a pervasive jerk that is bound to show up again and again. It can ruin a future opportunity and also your dreams.

Often, because we don’t succeed or get hurt, we refuse to put ourselves out there again. You wrote a story and no one liked it. What if that happened again? True you might be devastated, but do you know who’s keeping score of every time you fail?

You are.

Ever heard of Thomas Edison? He failed hundreds of times trying to make a light bulb.

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Photo Credit: SkydiveAndes via Compfight cc

The difference with Edison is that he viewed the task he wanted to complete as a puzzle. He tried to solve it and if it didn’t work he’d try another piece, another method, another direction.

Life is not easy or perfect, so why would we ever believe a novel or starting a business would be a breeze? You’ll launch a business that will have bad days. You’ll start a blog that will not get any traffic. You’ll start a book that will be terrible in the end.

This can lead to a sad place. Where we draw a line in the sand between us and our dreams.

We give our dreams an ultimatum.

I’ll keep blogging if I get one new follower today.

I’ll keep practicing if I get a call this week for another audition.

I’ll try the guitar one more time, but then that’s it.

The key to eradicate the fear of failure is persistence and perspective.

What happens if persevere? If we throw away our fears of failing and go and see what’s on the other side of the hill?

J.K. Rowling kept at it.

Thomas Edison did too.

How about you?

If You Don’t Succeed Is The Journey Worth It? Lessons From A Failed Novel

Over ten years ago I had a grand vision for a book series. I still do. I wrote the first book over and over again until I had about seven drafts. After much toil I decided to lay the book to rest. It was hard but it was time to move on.

Have you ever experienced this? Great expectations followed by severe disappointment?

I ask this not just to writers or artists but to anyone in any walk of life.

Often we have a grand vision for how something should go, but all we end up with is a horrible mess.

This prompts a question that can only come from retrospect.

Was the journey worth it?

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Photo Credit: jimcrotty.com via Compfight cc

Leaving with high hopes and coming up with nothing may seem like failure. Perhaps it is the Top Five Strength of Positivity shining through right now, but I firmly believe it doesn’t have to be this way. We can have fresh restarts and life giving lessons from these experiences.

Take my novel for instance. I worked for over a decade on it and poured hundreds of thousands of words and thousands of hours all for a novel that ends terribly.

But I learned that finishing well is important. That a book cannot end openly, even for a series. I had outstanding critiques and input from friends that shaped it in a beautiful way and learned about the joy of community that every writer needs.

Most of all, failure made me a better writer.

Now, I have a new project. One that has a solid ending, good characters, and a focused POV from the start.

And I wouldn’t have any of this if I didn’t go on the previous novel writing journey.

So I’ll let you decide. Was it worth it?

On Removing Impulse and Instilling Good Habits

My family traveled to upstate New York to visit my in-laws a few weeks ago. On vacations everything can be a little relaxed. The usage of time, personal goals, and of course being conscious about what I eat.

When I returned from the trip, I weighed myself. I am six feet two inches and for the last ten years I have hovered between 189 and 195 pounds. This time? It read a hefty 201. This may not seem like a big deal to you but we all have that weight we’ll never get to in a million years. Mine was 200. It came as a shock.

Photo Credit: avlxyz via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: avlxyz via Compfight cc

While writing down some new goals on fitness that I plan to begin next week, I pondered how I got to this place.

The reason? I was living on impulse.

When we traveled I gave little heed to what I was eating or drinking. I don’t usually have soda but I know I had plenty. Desserts? Of course. I’m spending time with family gathered around a table, so of course I’m going to have a few dozen cookies.

Also, I drove for over eight hours twice in a four day time period.

This was an extreme lack of discipline, one that came on with the suddenness of a summer storm.

Now, it’s back to good habits. Saying no to some things, like sleep. I need to finish this blog.

Where do you need to work on suppressing impulse and instilling good habits?