Sunday, November 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

I just finished developing my 2014 goals and plans.  All I have to say is that it’s going to be a great year.
I’ve noticed in the past that I generally accomplish around 75% of the annual goals I set.  Even if I hit 50% of what I’m shooting for, 2014 will represent a breakthrough year for me.  I can’t wait.
As for 2013, it had its charms, but it wasn’t always terribly kind to me (nor was I to it).  Time to put 2013 in my rear-view mirror.  I know many of you are thinking the same thing.
Therefore I have decided to start 2014 now, rather than on the traditional January 1st.  I’ve given myself a fresh start right now, plus an almost two-month jump on what will certainly be a fun and exciting year of growth.

You can do this too.  Don’t wait for some arbitrary new beginning.  Set your goals, make those plans, hit the ground running and go get it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Starting Small

So in our last episode, I had a conversation with an old friend.  
I suggested to him that it almost doesn't matter where he begins his quest to get his life back on track.  Just start somewhere, anywhere, and GO.  Start building momentum before too much inertia sets in.  Believe me, I know… the longer you wait, the harder it gets to push forward.  I also pointed out that things will likely get worse for him if he doesn't step up and take some action now.
He didn't disagree, but still didn't where to begin.  I suggested he start small and build from there.  We worked out a plan and so far (weeks later) it seems to be going pretty well for him.
Here’s what I suggested:
  1. Get some kind of notebook.  I suggested a small memo pad so he could carry it around with him.
  2. Create a daily to do list.  Nothing big, just a few items you want to get done and don’t want to forget. Shoot for five to ten items a day.  Check them off when completed… doing so gives you that little feeling of accomplishment you need right now.
  3. After having worked with daily to dos for a week or so, create a list of weekly goals... just two or three, remember, we’re starting small here.  Goals are bigger than individual tasks.  Take your weekly goals, break them down into daily goals and create your to do list from there. Easy example: you have a weekly goal of thoroughly cleaning and organizing your kitchen. Day one, clean out that messy cabinet under the sink (you know the one I mean, I have one too).  Day two: tackle that junk drawer (again, me too).  I bet you don’t need half that stuff you've been hoarding.
Now you've gotten a few things done.  You might actually have a sense of pride and accomplishment.  What now?  
Easy.  Keep thinking bigger, which will lead to doing bigger.  
Tackle a bigger project, one that will require more resources, more planning and more time.  Got that kitchen organized?  Now tackle the whole house.  Use the same strategy of breaking that beast down into bite-sized chunks.  Plan it, gather what you need and go for it.

You needed a few wins and now you have them.  You have momentum. Keep it going.  Keep shooting for bigger wins and above all, keep moving forward.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Do Something

I got a call from an old friend a couple weeks ago.  While we probably don’t talk as often as we should, we always seem to be able to pick up right where we left off.  Something was different about this conversation, though. He seemed a little down, which was uncharacteristic of his usual upbeat demeanor.  Finally I called him on it.
“So what’s going on?” I said.
He paused for a moment, then, “Nothing, really.”
“Nothing, really?”  I paused. “Don’t bullshit me, man.  I've known you for twenty-five years.”
He let out a long sigh, then started telling me what was really going on.
He was considering leaving his job of fifteen years.  He said he could handle the unsatisfying drudgery (and had for years), but now he had a supervisor, who from the sound of it, was pretty much a textbook sociopath.  His relationship had degenerated into constant arguments and backbiting.
“I just go home and drink beer and watch TV,” he said.  Then after a pause: “I’m starting to hate my life.”
His words hung there for a moment.  I know there was a subtext of help me out here, buddy.

I’ve fallen into similar funks myself and the way out of it always comes down to this:
Take action.
Do something.
Do anything.  It almost doesn't matter what.
The point is to take action and show this gray mood who’s boss.  You take control of a little piece of your life.  You feel like you've accomplished something.  In the battle of your day, you've secured a beachhead from the enemy, even if it’s a little one.
The key is to keep going, gain momentum and take back more territory from your enemy.  Make sure you get a win (even a little) everyday.  Soon the wins will get bigger and start to build on one another.
That, my friends, is how you start to turn things around.

Next time, I’ll get into a more detail on what I suggested to my friend.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Have No Voice And I Must Write

I’m a writer.
My passion is to write top-notch fiction and nonfiction and inspire others through that.  I have no doubt that I’ll make my mark as a writer… yes, I’ve made some good progress in that regard, but I still have a long way to go.  I’ve worked out a very detailed five-year plan, with interim goals all along the way.  Many of those goals involve publication… given that I am self-published, it’s all up to me.  I’m not dependent on the vagaries and whims of Random House or Simon and Schuster.  Simply, I write the book, edit, format, create the cover and upload to Amazon.  Simple as that.  Yes, I do have plans to do both print and audio books in the not too distant future, but that is neither here or now.
I really dig the idea of controlling my own destiny, but there are pitfalls… one of them is the ongoing challenge of marketing.  Fortunately, my full-time job is in the wonderful world of digital marketing, so I have something of an advantage there.
The other hazard is that my future as a writer is, obviously, dependent on the quantity and quality of my output.  I have confidence in the quality of my work, but I struggle with quantity at times, especially recently.
Yes, it’s true.  I lost my voice.  I had the dreaded writer’s block, the enemy of authorial aspirations, the killer of literary dreams throughout history. Not being one to curl up into a ball and give up, I decided enough was enough.  Time to fight this thing.

One of my favorite writers is the acerbic genius Harlan Ellison.  He is probably best known as the writer of most people’s favorite classic Star Trek episode, “City On the Edge of Forever”.  You know, the one where McCoy goes back in time and… well, if you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to spoil it for you.  But it’s awesome (I also highly recommend his story “Jeffty is Five”)..
Anyway, Ellison is an incredibly prolific author.  His output over the years rivals that of many small publishing houses.  He published a story in 1967 entitled “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”.  The title resonated with me somewhat in my writer’s block addled state.  Somewhat.  I fiddled with the wording a bit and came up with the title of this little missive… “I Have No Voice and I Must Write”.  Perfect.  
I really felt as if I had lost my writing voice.  Where words once tumbled out of me faster than I could commit them to paper, I had gotten to the point where I could hardly scratch out a decent paragraph.
I suppose there were a variety of reasons this happened, all of them conspiring to bring my literary output to a crashing halt.  Ultimately, none of them mattered.  In the end, I chose to let them crush my momentum.  Now it was up to me to get back up to speed.
I’ll be honest, I spun my wheels for a little while.  There was a start and stop project or two (I promise to get back to you, love story with a twist ending), the odd blog post here and there, but still, I struggled.
So I had an epiphany one night.  Actually, a few epiphanies (if you’re guessing I didn’t sleep well that night, you would be correct).  I came up with a plan and did a little attitude adjustment for good measure.
PROJECT: Just Write Something, You Pansy!!
I vowed to not let a day pass that I didn’t write something.  Anything.  It’s actually pretty easy when you think about it.  Here’s how it goes:
You write (or in my case, type) just one word.  Like this:
See how easy that is?  Now go for two words:
quick brown
Got it?  Now for the main event… finish that sentence:
fox jumped over the lazy dog.
Look at you… you just wrote an entire sentence, you stud (or studette, as the case may be).  Nobody said it had to be original or even good.  It just had to be words.  More to the point, you just chose to write, rather than be in the thrall of the word-sucking demon known as writer’s block.  Go you!  Take a moment and pat yourself on the back.  You’ve earned it.
Keep doing that, every single day, and you’ll soon be well on your way to actually writing all the time.
Now that you’ve pretty much made writer’s block your bitch, it’s time for the good stuff.  Let’s alter your attitude a bit.
PROJECT: Dammit, Jim, I’m a Writer, Not  An Editor.
My problem was that I kept judging each and every sentence, word, punctuation mark and letter I wrote, as I wrote them.  Yes, one wants to put out quality work, but one has to actually have output to judge, right?  There is a time for that… it’s called the revision stage.  I put the editor part of my brain on hold and just spilled out as many words as I could.  Upon going back to edit later, I was met with a pleasant surprise: I did a pretty good job.  Granted, I had to do some tweaking here and there, but I was overall pretty pleased with myself.
So guess what?  Being human, I’m not perfect, nor is my writing.  And that’s okay.  Part of my full-time job is to be an editor, so I have that covered pretty well.
I write for a lot of reasons,  I won’t bore you people with the full list as it is lengthy, but I had to remind myself of my litany of whys.  I write to have a brighter future.  I write to inspire others.  I write for therapy (yes, writing can be most therapeutic).  Etc. Etc.
This past weekend, someone I’ve known all my life shared that he felt “worthless”.  That cut me right to the core.  Part of the reason I write is, as above, to inspire others.  If I can keep one person from feeling that way, I have succeeded.  

I know I don’t have all the answers when it comes to beating writer’s block.  This is just what has worked for me.  The point is that I proved I can beat it and I can beat it again if necessary.
And guess what?  So can you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Slumps, Ruts and Cycles

Sometimes the universe gives you a nudge.  Sometimes the universe grabs you by the shoulders, shakes you and says “Pay attention to me!!  I’m trying to make a point here!!”.
I recently was pulled into a conversation with someone about how a mutual friend has fallen into something of a slump.  This sort of thing has happened with before with this person and they seem to break out of it within a few weeks. I was relieved, because I have seen many times where what is originally more of a cyclical slump becomes longer term if not permanent.
I see cycles all around.  The economy is a good example, of course.  I personally tend to cycle up and down with regards to my creativity.  The effects of cycles, both up and down, are particularly apparent and pronounced when it comes to those in the sales profession.  A salesperson can be going great guns one month (the feast), and barely getting by the next (that would be the famine).
There’s always a danger of letting a cyclical slump gain a foothold and become long-term or even permanent.  I’ve seen it happen and I’m not afraid to say I’ve let it happen myself.  Something’s off... your sales are down, creative output is diminished, that job opportunity evaporates... and your attitude might suffer (even temporarily), thus affecting other spheres of life.  You then have an effect of one domino knocking over another, until a new set of problems arise.  While you might be able to rise out of that down cycle/ slump/ rut/ call it what you will there is often collateral damage along the way.  Many don’t understand that isn’t a permanent situation and will back away.  Sad but true.  That happened to me not so long ago, but I have bounced back in a spectacular fashion.   

Be consistent with the important things
When you fall into a slump it’s easy to let things slide.  You feel a little down and it’s harder than normal to give your best effort.  That’s exactly the worst thing to do.  You have to, at minimum, put forth at least your normal effort... otherwise things can really begin a rapid downhill slide.  Your best bet is to put forth even more than your normal effort.  That may be what’s required to break that slump and to keep that slump from turning into something longer-term (what is often referred to as a rut).

Change your routine with the little things
Sometimes what you need is a break or change in your routine.  Doing so can help get your head into a slightly different place and perhaps cause you to view yourself and your situation from a slightly different angle. I’m not talking about major changes here...
  • Take a different route to (or from) work.
  • Listen to a band you’ve never heard before.
  • Shop at a different grocery store.
  • Go somewhere different for lunch.
  • Check out a random book from the library and give it a read.
  • Etc.
You get the idea.  The point is to get you out of your stressed out/ bummed out headpsace and thinking differently.  Every little bit helps.

Watch out for the domino effect
So that great job prospect evaporated.  That sale your were counting on didn’t come to pass. Such is life.  It becomes very easy to let other things slide.  You quit that exercise program.  You start drinking again.  Others may want to spend less time with you, since you seem so down.  Etc. Etc.  
Draw a line in the sand.  Don’t let what’s happening seep into other spheres of your life.

Check your attitude and control your emotions
It’s easy to get sucked down into a whirlpool of negative emotions when a slump starts to take hold.  You may get angry at yourself or others.  You could get more and more depressed.  As above, draw a line and take control.  Be conscious of your emotions and how they are affecting you.

Get support
Just as there are people who will back away and even abandon you when you hit a down cycle, there are those who will stand by your side no matter what happens.  While you can’t expect someone else to solve your problems for you, there’s a lot to be said for just talking it out.  You might find that others have been there too and have come out of it.  You’ll soon realize that you will too... if one person can rise up, you can as well.

One of the best things you can do for yourself when you hit a slump is to workout.  This is true for a couple reasons.  For one thing, working out (especially when you don’t feel like it) shows mastery of yourself and this sends a definitive signal to the rest of your psyche that you are in charge.  You are in control.  You are empowered.  That is exactly what you need.
Exercise also releases endorphins, often referred to as “nature’s happy drug”.  The onset of a slump often results in at least a low-level depression and a dose of endorphins will help stave that off.  I’ve come to realize that there is a strong mind-body connection, one that goes both ways.  A few good workouts can help break a negative emotional cycle (best of all, you might find that you actually like it).  
Understand that I’m not necessarily suggesting you take up CrossFit or tackle P90X (though if you’re so inclined, more power to you).  A walk around the block can work wonders.  Perhaps some yoga as well.  You might even want to try this...

Momentum: hold on to it for dear life
You made that sale. You got the job.  You finally finished a short story you’ve been working on.  Whatever the case, you know have a strong foothold in getting out of that hole.  Take full advantage of that momentum and energy.  Vault right out of that hole you’ve created for yourself and back where you know you should be.

When an airplane takes off the pilot has to go full throttle.  Once the plane is at a cruising altitude, the pilot can ease back on the throttle and cruise.  Conquering that slump is a lot like that.  It will take a lot of energy, effort and courage at first, but you will reach your own cruising altitude soon enough.
I’ve done it and I’ve seen others do it too.  Now it’s your turn.

Here’s some links with more helpful ideas...

Monday, May 27, 2013


Best effort.
Give it all you've got.
Leave it all on the field.

All the above is the stuff of movie training montages, motivational books and inspiring songs.  I would submit that it’s important to give 100% when you're striving for that big goal... few would argue with that.  I would also say that it’s easier said than done.
Many times we hold back as an excuse in case we fail.  “Well gosh, I know I would have made it had I given it my all.  It’s not because I'm not good enough/ smart enough/ strong enough.  I just wasn’t ready to give it my all.  Maybe next time, though...”.  It’s takes no small amount of courage to put your ego on the line, but in the end, you’ll have to do so if want to get where you want to go.  This is something that I struggle with, but in the end I would rather have given it my best shot than to have to live out my days wallowing in regret.
The other piece of the puzzle is that sometimes it’s hard to identify what 100% actually means.  I do know that, with regards to my writing career, it’s a matter of writing as much as possible along with becoming as marketing savvy as I can be.  That’s pretty clear cut... it boils down to time, effort and willpower.  Getting fit is similar in most respects... one must workout consistently, regularly and eat well in order to succeed.
Not every situation lends itself to that kind of full-bore, valiant effort, though.  Take romance for example.  Love will not bend to your will, in fact, pushing too hard will likely result in ending up in an unsatisfying relationship or, just as likely, scaring off your intended.  Imagine, for example, being interested in someone who isn’t quite ready to “move forward”.  Do you push forward relentlessly?  Do you give everything you’ve got to the goal of getting together with this person?  No... probably not your best move, unless you want to be marked as a pest or worse (and yes, I have been on the receiving end of this).  Patience is actually the order of the day.  Patience and time.
These two situations may on the surface seem to be on the opposite ends of the effort spectrum, but not really.  Both require faith and discipline.  I have to have faith that I will reach my writing goals, along with the discipline to keep up my efforts and forge ahead each day.  As for that not-quite-there romance, one must have faith that the other person will eventually come around, along with the self-control to hang back a little and be patient (to say nothing of the intestinal fortitude to walk away if need be).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

I have a journalism degree.
That alone is not a particularly fascinating piece of information, but I would submit that much of what I learned has borne fruit in surprising ways.  For example, there’s this... the most fundamental News Writing 101 lesson that exists. Quite simple, to the point and the bedrock of modern journalism and every story you read in your daily newspaper.
Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
I think the Five Ws (and an H) are quite useful in another context... planning your life and setting some goals. Here’s what I mean...

WHO- Yes, I suppose you fundamentally know who you are.  You’re Joe Smith, thirty-two years old, five-feet ten inches tall, etc. etc.  Fine.  But who are you really?  What do you stand for?  What are your priorities and values? Your identity, your priorities and values will inform your goals and by extension, your life.  The question of WHO deserves some serious thought.

WHAT- Now we get into the good stuff.  What, exactly, is your goal?  Yeah, you want more money, but how much?  You want to be more fit?  Great... but how much weight do you want to lose?  It’s important to be as specific as you can.  Take weight loss for example... once you define how much weight you want to cut, you can then set a specific and detailed plan.  Before you do that, though, it’s helpful to know...

WHEN- By when do you want to lose those twenty pounds?  Mid next week might be pushing it, but let’s shoot for three months down the road.  Given the generally accepted standard of safe weight loss (1 ½ pounds a week) that is eminently doable.  Now you can keep track of your progress and see where you are relative to where you should be.  Should you fall behind at some point, you’ll have plenty of time to step it up or rethink your strategy.

WHERE- So you have this goal... now it’s time to examine where you are now.  I don’t just mean “I weigh 200 pounds now and want to weigh 180”.  Just as important as the start and end points is knowing if you can truly launch towards this goal and ultimately get there.  Are you willing to do the work?  Do you believe you can get this done?

WHY- My personal favorite W.  Just as your goals are the vehicle to get you where you want to go, your whys are the fuel.  Why do you want to lose this weight?  Do you want to look better for your mate (or just as good, make an ex-mate seethe with regret)?  Is your goal to be healthier so you can be around to dance at your granddaughter’s wedding?  Perhaps you want to test yourself just to see what you're made of?  Whatever the case, a good strong why will help you to keep moving forward when others might fold.

HOW- How are you going to get there?  Sure, you intend to eat better, but it’s important to know what you're doing... read a good nutrition book, try some new recipes, get rid of all that junk food in the pantry.  Then there’s exercise... will you go for a three-mile run every morning?  Are you going to go to the gym or pop in a Jillian Michaels DVD after work.  Set a road map, one that is as specific as possible; or you’ll likely flounder.

So there you have it... The Five Ws (and an H) of achieving goals.  Now go forth and write your own story (preferably one that has a happy ending).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Story Behind the Story: Advent

Last winter was a very mild one, as I recall.  It had hardly snowed until one evening in early February.  Snow had been predicted all day and finally arrived in earnest not long after dusk.  I stepped outside in the still evening air and watched the flakes as they fell slowly to the ground... so slowly, in fact, I could imagine the snow suspended in front of me like a field of stars.  I thought that might make a cool visual I could incorporate into a story at some point.  I even wrote a couple paragraphs about it once I got back inside.  That moment didn’t fit into my current project though, so I filed those paragraphs on my hard drive for the time being.
A few months later I was fleshing out the germ of a new story, the tale of a man who is the victim of corporate cutbacks and subsequently tries to forge a new life path (something many of us can identify with, yes?).  I had the characters alive and vivid in mind. I knew the general the arc of the story and had, in fact, started writing it.  I also knew that it was lacking a compelling pivotal moment, something that would transition the main character from one phase of his life to another.  I started going through some of my notes, the random bits of dialog, character and incident that would often pop up on their own accord.  These notes would generally wind up being stored on my hard drive until such time something could be incorporated into a larger work.  I happened upon the vignette I wrote about the snowfall and knew that was just what I needed.  
Now that the final piece was in place, I finished the story the very next day.  The snowfall bit actually provided an effective transition from the reality of the story as a whole to... well, let’s just say a somewhat more fantastic realm, a place that would enable the main character to explore his life and move forward to the next phase.  I was very happy with the completed story, so much so that I made Advent the title of my short story collection.

“Advent” is just one of the fourteen stories that I’ve included in my new book, “Advent: A Short Story Collection”, now available on

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Story Behind the Story: Norm

A couple years ago I found myself between writing projects.  I had started a novel (one that will yet be written, by the way!) but it fizzled and I didn’t have the wherewithal at the time to fix what needed to be fixed.  I knew I had more to say, but my writing mojo was nowhere to be found.  I was frustrated, to say the least.
I had gotten home from work one evening and took a call from a friend.  Given that it was an especially pleasant late summer/ early fall day, I opted to walk around outside as we talked.  I saw my neighbor Norm (not his real name, just the one I assigned him for the story), an elderly man who lived a few doors down from me.  I nodded to him, he nodded to me and he walked away.  I ended the conversation with my friend and thought about the last time I had talked to Norm.  It was the previous Christmas and he given me some McDonald’s gift certificates in hopes that my boys would enjoy going there.  I thanked him and promised we’d use them soon.  I later tried to thank him again and tell him that we enjoyed our meal, but as Norm was very much a reclusive sort I never had that opportunity.
So I thought about Norm and his hermit ways and his long beard and baseball cap and windbreaker.  I wondered what drove him.  I wondered if he had a family or close friends and what he did on the holidays.  It was unlikely I’d ever know, as Norm certainly wasn’t one for conversation.  
I suddenly felt a little spark of inspiration and grabbed onto it for all it was worth.  I started writing about Norm almost immediately.  It became the story of a young single mother and her interactions with an elderly man in her neighborhood.  It was an interesting exercise in that it was written first-person from the young woman’s point-of-view.  I hadn’t yet written from the female perspective at that point in my writing career.  I finished the story just a couple days later.  I sent it to a couple friends, who told me they really enjoyed it (kudos are very nice to get).
A couple days after that I was flipping through the local paper when I saw something that made my jaw drop.  The real-life Norm had passed away, in fact on the day after I finished my story.  Sadly, it was only through his obituary that I learned about his life.  He worked until retirement as a computer operator and left behind one brother.  The obituary also said that he loved children (that much I knew).
The clean up began weeks later.  When someone passes away, they generally leave a lot of possessions behind, and it’s up to the family to sort through everything.  I've been there (as most of us have) and know that it can be a laborious, emotional process.  The clean up was on a much larger scale in Norm’s case.  He left behind the duplex he lived in, another house on the corner and a two-car garage. It was even bigger job than I had imagined, as Norm was apparently something of a hoarder.  The garage alone was packed quite literally floor-to-ceiling.
Several months passed and while out on a walk I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman.  He was standing outside one of Norm’s houses and had just gotten done conferring with some laborers.  The man was, of course, Norm’s younger brother.  We talked for a good long time about Norm, his life and his passing.  He sorely missed his older brother and loved spending what little time he could with him.  He acknowledged that Norm was very much a hermit and suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but that didn’t diminish their brotherly love.  We ended our conversation and bid each other well.

I was glad to have finally gotten to know the real Norm somewhat, even though it was after his passing.  I hope my story stands as a proper tribute to his spirit.

“Norm” is one of the fourteen stories that I’ve included in my new book, “Advent: A Short Story Collection”, now available on

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick peek “behind the scenes”.  You’ll see more “Story Behind the Story” blog posts soon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

You and I Need To Have a Little Talk

You and I... well, I think we need to have a little talk.
First of all, I think you’re pretty awesome.  Smart.  Caring.  Funny.  You have a lot of great qualities and I have a ton of respect for you.  I really do.
But here’s the problem... I really think you’re selling yourself short in so many ways.  I’m not sure why.  I can’t be certain where things went off-track.
One thing goes wrong, then another, then maybe another; and you suddenly find yourself not living the life you used to, certainly not the life you imagined.  Hey, it happens to the best of us, right?
Perhaps there were some people in your life that weren't nearly as supportive and loyal as you would have hoped (in fact, maybe quite the opposite).  Maybe a person or two judged you based on your current circumstances, rather than who you were on the inside.  I know, that can hurt.
So you took some time to lick your wounds, change a few things and plot your comeback.  That’s to be expected (and actually not a bad idea).  I’m still wondering when you’re going to make that comeback, though.  I’m still waiting for you to come charging forward, away from the ropes, back to fighting in the center of the ring.
So you lowered your standards in a lot of areas and kept letting them slide.  You started expecting less of yourself and life than you used to expect.  You’re getting less and less disciplined as time goes on... and less hopeful... and less positive.  That makes me sad.  I really miss how you used to be.
So when does it stop?  When do you turn the tide?  Think about it... are you going to stick with this current trajectory of yours (more of a downward spiral, to be perfectly honest)?  Are you going to continue to let your standards slip?  Where are you going to draw the line?

I know, I’m not exactly telling you what you want to hear.  You know it’s the truth, though, like it or not.  Are you getting mad?  Good.  Use that.  This guy did...

So when are you going to step up?
How about now... I mean right now.  Today.  This second.  Set some new, higher standards.  Do something, anything to move forward and get out of that rut you’ve created by spinning your wheels.  We both know you’re capable.  Choose to rise above all that negativity, put the past behind you and GO.
Instructions: Look in the mirror and read this.  Repeat as often as necessary.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Self-Esteem and Then Some

First off, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a licensed therapist or any sort of counselor (despite what some people seem to think).  I’m a regular guy.  A writer. A dad. A friend, a son and a cat owner.
In short, I am many things.  I am better at some things than others and that’s fine.  I am also a guy that struggles with his self-confidence from time-to-time.  To some of you, that may come as a surprise.  Others may not exactly consider that an earth-shattering revelation.
In any case, I have more than a few thoughts on this subject.  A recent conversation has caused me to do a great deal of reflection/ soul-searching/ etc. I’ve come to some interesting conclusions that I suspect will be of interest to many of you.  So come at me with your questions, people...

So what is this “self-esteem” thing anyway?
Self-esteem has three parts, at least as I see it.
Self-worth-  That’s your core.  That’s how you see yourself as a person in general.  Good?  Bad? Indifferent?  We’ll get back to self-worth in a minute.
Self-efficacy- This is where things get interesting.  Self-efficacy is more or less about how good you think you are at getting things done.  It’s generally not an across the board judgement.  You may think you’re good at some things and bad at others.  My personal example... I think I’m pretty good at this writing stuff, but not so much when it comes to home improvements.  So I have no problem popping out a blog post like this one, yet I struggle and get frustrated when it comes to changing the faucet on my kitchen sink.  Yeah, go ahead and laugh.  Then come over and change out my faucet when you’re done with chortling at my expense.
Anyway, when your self-efficacy is lacking in a given area, you will be far more likely to get frustrated and probably give up entirely.  This, by the way, is not great for your self-efficacy in that area.  
Strong self-efficacy usually results in more persistent effort.  Simply, when you’re confident your efforts will bear fruit, you’ll try harder and not give up.
Self-confidence- This is what you project out to the rest of the world.  I don’t mean walking around with some arrogant swagger, making sure everyone knows that you are the shiznit.  Actually, that sort of behavior is more often than not a smokescreen for someone with low self-esteem.  What I’m talking about is a quiet, effective confidence.  The kind of belief in oneself that doesn’t require public attention (unlike the aforementioned)... it just is and it just gets it done.  Period.  It’s intrinsic.

Intrinsic?  What’s that mean?
From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary...  belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing <the intrinsic worth of a gem> <the intrinsic brightness of a star>

Basically, built-in.  Permanent (in tech terms, firmware).  And certainly not contingent upon one’s income, job title or relationship status.  A person who has good, strong intrinsic self-worth isn’t buffeted around by life’s occasional smackdowns.  They can handle the disappointment, the job loss, the breakup.  They can take it when someone cuts them down.  Sure, they’ll  feel sad or hurt but they’ll recover and move on. That loss or disappointment won’t affect their self-perception.
The person with intrinsic self-worth will be better able to deal with a little fear, since the downside doesn't define who they are.  They’ll give their goals 100%.  They’ll close that sale.  They’ll tell someone they love them when they probably should, even if it’s a little scary to do so.

That’s all well and good for those people.  What about poor, neurotic me?
There is hope for you yet, my self-pitying friend.  Might I suggest making a couple lists?
First, a an honest accounting of your positive qualities (yes, you do have them).  Hard-worker?  Check.  Honest?  Oh yes.  Master of football trivia?  Not my thing, but whatever floats your boat.

Really think hard and make a good, long list.
Got it?  Good.
Now, read through your list and think that those are all yours.  For keeps.  No one can ever take those things away from you.
Feeling better?  Good.
We’re not done yet, though.  Now I want you to make another list.  Inventory all your accomplishments throughout your life, everything you can think of... just dump it all onto a sheet of paper.  And yes, I mean everything.  You learned to ride bike?  Put it on the list.  You survived Algebra I?  Write it down.
So again, read through your list.  You already did those things.  Nothing or no one (save for someone inventing time travel) will change that.  Ever.  So be proud of yourself... you earned it.  Bask in your newfound glory. Because you’re awesome.

Now I don’t presume that you’re suddenly going to be able to charge headlong into life and conquer all of your obstacles just because you’ve read this blog post.  That wasn’t my goal.  I merely wanted you to think about who you really are.  I wanted you to lift the hood, tinker around some, and see where the problem might be.
Now get to work on yourself.  You’re worth the effort.