Jan 30, 2014

"You Worry about Youself"

Photo via Ryan Hunley from YouTube

As either a parent or a kid, at sometime in your life I'm betting you have either said or had said to you something comparable to one or more of the following:

  • If Jimmy jumped off a bridge would you follow him?
  • I'm not Sally's mom
  • You've got plenty of lumps in your own potatoes (one of my mom's favorites). Similar sentiments include things such as "since when is your garden free of weeds" and the biblical oldie but goody "Let he without sin cast the first stone".
Last night I caught myself leveling the "You worry about yourself and let your sister and me worry about her" variation of this. The momism fling occurred in reply to my four-year-old daughter's insistence that her sixteen-year-old sister should have to go to bed at the same time as her so that she's not cranky.

And that's when I had an aha moment and realized maybe I should be taking my own advice.

As my day had worn on, I had hit a place where I felt overwhelmed with the tasks in front of me. Not because I couldn't accomplish them, but more because I felt like even if I did them, it probably wouldn't matter. The conversation in my head went something along the lines of the following:
  • OMG. My twitter feed fills up with 1000+ tweets a second. I bet everyone else's does too. Nothing I say is going to get through that noise
  • Another link reminding me that even if I did finish or publish my book there are 300,000 novels published every year. How will anyone ever find mine?
  • Do you know how many established blogs there are out there? Why would anyone read mine!
  • Great, another update on google's algorithm. No recognition for guest posting now. No one is ever going to find me.
  • The majority of businesses still fail within in the first five years and there are more businesses being started now than at any time in history.
  • This one article alone list 35+ places I should be delivering content to. I will never keep up.
  • Sigh. "So and so Queen of my occupation" is so much better than I am. What am I doing?
I'm sure you have some variation of this self pity party that you play in your head sometimes too. As we look around at the vast activity that happening in the social media space, it's easy to get lost in the feeling that we will never break through all the noise and be heard. Whether we're starting a new business, launching a new book or other creative endeavor, the fight for discovery and recognition is the same.

Of course, the answer to all of these self doubts is "so what, what are you going to DO about it?" You've chosen to do whatever it is you're doing. Hopefully, you've put together a plan to support your ultimate goal. None of the above sentiments, even if they are all true, will get you any closer to reaching said goal.

That's not to say that you shouldn't review your plan or where you are in regards to your competition. Self awareness is important. Realistically, though, you don't have a lot of options. The only choices you have are to quit, change your strategy or work harder on the one you have. 

And, if you notice, all of those options are personal decisions as well. No one in the great "out there" is going to make that choice for you. So in the end, there's really only one thing we can do:

"You worry about you."

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe and your place in it, like no matter how much you try to push the rock up the hill you just don't seem to be moving it at the same pace as everyone else, STOP. 

Put on the blinders. Work your plan. You worry about you. And the rest will take care of itself.

Jan 27, 2014

Magic Monday - Ode To The Story

I'm one of those "count your blessings" people. I believe in silver linings, possibilities and being grateful for what I have while I reach for the next level. Magic Mondays celebrates that.

     One of my favorite Tedtalks is from Daniel Crosby entitled You Aren't That Great. If you haven't ever seen it, I urge you to spend the twenty minutes it takes to view. In it, he postulates that if you are one in a million, with six billion people on the planet, that means there are 6,000 people on the planet exactly like you.

     I spent last night watching the new PBS episode of Sherlock. It's one of the few TV indulgences I allow myself.

     This weekend my four year old and I discovered a previously hidden cache of books; a holdover from our move. They previously belonged to the older kids and were meant to be handed down at some point. When we opened the box, her face beamed and she was quite sure she'd hit the jackpot.

     My dad worked for the same place fore forty years. He was a metallurgist. In the arrogance of his youth, he was sure he could revolutionize the way steel was made. In his early career, he implemented a redesign of the standard blast furnace. Later in his career, he traveled to client sites helping to troubleshoot quality issues in the steel. That a coal miner's son had even made it to college and into management, is a story all on its own.
     When he passed away, a bunch of his work group showed up at the funeral. While they were there to pay their respects, many of them also came to see each other again, to swap stories of the old days.

     These stories bonded those men, as much as I'm bonded to other fans of Holmes and Watson through the hasthag #Sherlock. As much as handing down favorite stories bonded my girls this weekend.

     As an author, we're often enamored with words. The way they sound in our heads and rolling off our tongues. The way the perfect word choice can illicit one emotion over another or the way the a subtle change in emotion can be garnered through that choice. With authors, and many readers, words are big.

    This weekend I was reminded of the power of the stories delivered by those words to connect us. Stories do more than entertain us or move us. They represent who we are. They tie us together.

    I think Daniel Crosby is right that it's true that I'm not great. We're not that great. We even may not be that unique.
    But we all have a great, unique story, a story that can inspire, entertain, move, inform or, most importantly, bind us to others. On this Magic Monday, I'm grateful for stories.

What are some of your favorite stories and how have they touched your life?

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Jan 24, 2014

5 Tips for Getting Back on the Wagon After You've Stopped Writing

I'm in a long distant friendship. Luckily we're the types of friends that don't need constant communication to maintain our bond. Every time we get back together after some lapse, we usually fall right back into lockstep. That's both a gift and a curse.

There are times when other things have taken my attention and before I know it, a couple of weeks have passed since I communicated with my friend. At that point something strange can happen - I start to feel guilty for not communicating.

You would think that would be a push for me to pick up the phone or drop an email. Human nature being what it is, I'm now aware that that feeling can cause me to do the exact opposite.

I put it off longer. Sometimes that's because I'm still in the throws of things. I know I don't have time to write the lengthy communication that's in my head and writing something short seems "less than". Sometimes I just feel bad about not having done it and rather than dealing with that feeling I avoid it.

When this occurs, the more time passes, the more intense the feeling becomes and the more I avoid it.

Of course, this experience can apply to lots of things in life. Like working on a novel. Or, in my case, keeping up with social media.

You would think that the answer is simple  - duh, get going!

But I've found that to be easier said than done. Starting again is hard. I'm sure a psych major in the group could lend something scientific to the conversation to corroborate the feeling I have that keeps me avoiding my task. I so wish I could just get going.

But here I am. So If you are like me, and find that you have fallen off the wagon of doing something you very much would like to do, but are struggling to get past your feelings for neglecting your task to get started again, I offer the following tips.

  1. Recognize out loud that this is where you are -
    You have to get honest with yourself that you are in avoidance mode. You have to admit that you are in this place because you feel ashamed that you let your goal go or that you feel like a failure or that your mad at yourself for your poor time management skills or whatever personal demon is tied up in this for you. For many people, it's not as simple as "I got busy and then it got hard". From my experience, if your procrastinating restarting, there is usually something bigger tied to it.
  2. Review how you got there and look for ways to keep it from happening again -
    In September I had a death in my family. This was my derailing event. I spent October in mourning. By November I was off to the Nano races. Then came the holidays and the need to edit my nano book while my day job was light during said holidays.

    But looking at closer, those things just exasperated the fact that I didn't have a good social media plan in place to start with. I stopped writing my blog because every post required a lot of thought as to what it was going to be. I didn't have any articles in reserve and I wasn't all too sure what I wanted my blog to be when it grew up. So when derailers happened, I was eager to use them to avoid dealing with bigger underlying issues.

    I was going to recommend this as a last step. But as I was working my way back on my own wagon, this step was important in helping me to get through the next steps. I now have a plan to deal with the above. And having that plan makes starting again easier because I know I'm more likely to be successful this time. Sometimes the answer is just "stuff happens" but often times there are bigger lessons to learn if you go looking.
  3. Work up to it -
    Of course the obvious solution to fixing this dilemma is to just dive back in. But I've found for me I can't do that. My internal systems recoil at the thought of it. Whether it's getting back on to the diet train or the writing wagon, if you've been struggling to make the leap, I highly recommend that you set a date in the future. Everyday think about it happening. Roll over in your head what you need to do to prepare. It will still feel awkward on the day you are supposed to start. But it won't feel as awkward as it would have. You'll have regained some of the momentum you lost from stopping even though you haven't done the deed.
  4. Ask for help -
    Find a friend or loved one who you can share your shame with and your plan for overcoming it. You need to let yourself off the hook and it's easier to do when someone else tells you it's not the end of the world. The understanding you get will also help you want to stick to your plan for relaunch.
  5. Dive in -
    In the end, you still just have to man up. It will feel awkward (this does for sure). But you will stumble your way through. I promise. It will not end in disaster. And in fact, you will feel a sense of accomplishment once you are a few days, posts, chapters, friend communication exchanges (or whatever fits for progress in the wagon you are trying to climb back on) into it.
For me, I'm hoping this marks a more thoughtful return to my social media adventure. I'm coming back armed with a better plan for success.

How about you? Have you ever quit something you didn't want to and then had a hard time starting again? If so, what tricks worked for you to get going?

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