Saturday, July 31, 2010

Announcing "AuGuest"

After about five months of what I would call moderately successful blog posting here at Too XYZ, the time has come for me to allow some guest posts for the very first time. And to kick off that part of this blogs evolution if you will, I will be presenting several guest posts throughout the upcoming month of August. An event that I am calling AuGuest. (Enjoy the quasi-pun while you can; I almost never use them.)

As you can probably deduce, each post and guest poster will share one thing in common at least; that being that they are their writings have struck me as also being Too XYZ. That is to say, the ways they think, work, perceive the world, blog, date, whatever, are (for reasons that can't quite be quantified) a bit removed from the norm. Not congruent with convention. A bit of a square peg. You know, like most of what I post here myself.

Other than that, expect virtually anything from the guest posts. I am not editing them for length, or content. The whole point of Too XYZ and of allowing guest posts on same, is to embrace one's unique voice without conforming or shoehorning it into something else. I have given basically carte blanche to the people I have invited to guest post here in August. I would have it no other way.

Those of you on Brazen Careerist will recognize many of the faces I have invited to write for me this coming month. And while not every single entry this month will be a guest post, I do still have some room for a few more slots. So if you think you too may be Too XYZ about something, (read my previous posts to get an idea of just how that works) and think you might be interested in guest posting here, feel free to contact me at, and we'll talk about it.

This is exciting for me, and I hope for regular readers of Too XYZ as well. Let's see where AuGuest leads, shall we?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't Sell Your Friends Up the Network River (A Featured Post on Brazen Careerist)

By now regular readers will know I don't do things as most people do them. Much of the advice I get about what I "have to" do in order to be successful just doesn't apply to me.

One of them is networking in the traditional sense. I don't believe in it, as defined by most people today. I don't go to many events for same, and when I do go, I don't behave as most do.

This isn't to say I don't network. In my own slow, subtle, introverted way I meet people and make friends. Furthermore I do try to help people around me when I can. It just so happens that many of the people I encounter can't really be helped by those people in my network at this time.

Yet there are still occasions that would allow me to refer someone to either one of my contacts or even one of my friends. This has happened. But just as often, (if not more often) I have refused to acknowledge that I know people who could be of use to someone's efforts.

I realize this is networking heresy. Most would say that you should try to help anyone you encounter. If you think a referral could do so, you should make it, they say. Then both you and your friend now know more people. Basic Network Building 101.

Yet to me, we shouldn't try to help just any old person with whom we come into contact, even if they ask for it. The few network connections I have made are important commodities. Even more so when those connections are my friends. So I am not about to refer new people to someone I know in their field without a rather rigorous vetting process.

Whether it be a friend, or just a networking acquaintance, nobody wants to be saddled with dealing with a random goon that may or may not know what they want. Or somebody who ends up just trying to sell a used car, (literally and figuratively.) Nobody appreciates having their time wasted by someone who is neither an interesting person in private, or a particularly productive person in the professional realm.

When I make my infrequent personal references, I want to make sure that the person seeking help or advice meets several criteria. Even if they have not asked for particular help, if I happen to encounter someone in obvious need with a great idea, I might suggest they talk to some people I know, if I have determined that...

--They are trustworthy and discreet.

--The help they seek is genuine, and difficult to obtain without my connection.

--They are working hard to accomplish their goal.

--They are going to be grateful not just for my friend's help, but for the fact that I made the reference in the first place.

--Their idea or plan is realistic but worthy of a chance to succeed. 

When you think about it, doing this is just a matter of respect to your network connections. Sure it is easy to score superficial points in the "Network Game" by  running into someone with a need and instantly shoving them down the conveyor belt of your network, referral in hand. You give the illusion of being a mover and shaker for a while. You get to strut around and vomit forth the most overused and undereffective lines in all of networking history..."It's not what you know, it's who you know!"

But in the long run, if the people you keep pushing on your friends and colleagues end up being useless, or even counter-productive, what does that say about the amount of respect you have for said friends and colleagues? It says that you value them insofar as they are a cog in your half-assed network machine. Not as people whose time is valuable.

I have a perfect example to illustrate my point.

I count among my friends a college professor or two. Professors tend to know other professors, of course, as well as other influential types in various aspects of their field. The potential for networking is high. And one such friend of mine (Let's call him Dr. K.) has experienced first hand how certain people love to just feed on some of his connections.

There is a guy that Dr. K and I both know, who we thankfully have not seen in years. A fruitloop, and that is putting it politely. We'll call this guy Norman. Norman truly believes in his mind that he can cure cancer. (No medical background.) And that he is on the verge of coming up with the Unified Theory of Physics. (No background in physics.) By his own admission he almost never reads, except maybe comic books. (Which makes his aspirations to be a social relevant novelist even more baffling.) At best the man is comical. At worst he is certifiable, if you catch me.

Norman constantly approaches Dr. K in hopes of getting introduced to some of my friend's professorial colleagues at the university. My friend is of course smart enough to know better. Yet imagine if through Dr. K's connections and access, Norman would up with an appointment with a biology or physics professor to discuss his wing-nut "theories".

In jest, I actually asked Dr. K once what the consequences would be if he opened those doors to Norman. His answer was that he would be probably be denied tenure forever. I don't think he was joking, either.

Granted, Norman is an extreme example. (Though he is very much real.) Yet the lesson of networking with someone like Norman applies to everyone; don't burden your friends and colleagues with fools, slackers, and hangers-on just for the sake of saying you "helped" someone. Don't open doors for people just to say you have opened doors. Get to know someone and their work. Asks questions. And certainly ask your friends if they think the new contact is worth meeting before you ever tell the new contact about your friend.

The unworthy are still going to get through once in a while. Nobody can help that and nobody will hold that against you should it happen sometimes. But if every other person sent to you by John Doe ends up being obnoxious, maybe it's time to cut Mr. Doe and the poor product he is peddling right out of your circle.

How do you determine if someone you meet is worthy of being referred to your network connections? Has someone like Norman ever approached you as a result of a colleagues reference?

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Brazen Careerist "Rock Your Career" Video

I wanted to let everyone know that I, and several other Brazen Careerist users have created 30 second videos for YouTube. Mine just went live today.

It is part of a series of videos called "Rock Your Career", and as you might imagine, the purpose of the videos is for Brazen Careerist users to offer advice as to how to improve one's career. My video pertains to accepting help, but there are many other videos in that playlist, so make sure that once you watch mine, you watch them all.

And if you yourself are not a member of Brazen Careerist, sign up for free today. (Everything about it is also free, in case you were wondering.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Obsession to the Point of Obsession

I want to talk about obsession. The actual thing, not hyperbole for being fond of something. In fact that is part of the point I hope to make; that you can be fond of something, even love it, and not be obsessed with it.

Yet I face some challenges when it comes to writing this post. I realized that there are way too many examples from which to choose in this society of things with which people are flat out obsessed. And I don't mean that everything is the object of someone's obsession. I mean that there are numerous examples of entire obsessed communities and sub-cultures devoted to one thing. One doesn't even have to research to find them. One can walk done the street and probably see some of them. (I bet you already have an idea in your head about what subjects could fall into this category.)

The fact that there are so many such communities proves my point to a degree. But for this post I had to pick one example, for illustrative purposes. So I did. But not just at random. One that I have determined to be by far the most egregious example of obsession I have ever encountered. One that can start a fight and end friendships quicker than any other. Believe it or not, I am not referring to religion. (Another big one.) I am referring to Star Wars.

I promise you that I know church goers who are less obsessed with God than some people are with this movie franchise. There are other things which illicit similar regrettable behaviors, yes. But this one seems to be at the top of the dubious list. So Star Wars is the focal point.

As a contrast, I offer up my passion for the works of Shakespeare. I intend to use that as an example of a passion as opposed to an obsession. Because you see, the first thing that people who are obsessed tend to do when you point out obsessive behavior is to mention that there are all kinds of things other people love. That Star Wars is just another thing for people to love, like Shakespeare. But in so doing they confuse the topic with the degree. The fault, dear reader, lies not in Star Wars, but in ourselves that we become obsessed. As I intend to show, passions are but one facet of our lives. Whereas in the case of obsession, areas of our lives end up being facets of the object.

I see four major indicators of obsession. The first is what I call excessive display.

In 4th grade there was a kid who wrote, "I love Stars Wars" on every line of every page of a notebook he owned. It wasn't for class. He just carried that with him to fill it in with "I love Star Wars" while we would hang out at lunch and recess. I was only 10 and I still knew that was a bit troubling. Not that the kid loved Star Wars, but that he had to fill up a whole notebook in public with him explaining same.

You see, a person obsessed with something has to make sure everyone knows that they are. And in case you are tempted to think it was merely the actions of a sheltered child, consider the pewter collector pieces of the Millennium Falcon worth about a grand that I have seen used as the centerpiece for a formal dining room.

I have Shakespeare books on my shelf. If there was a funny t-shirt with him on it, I'd wear it to the theatres I frequent. I still look for a suitable print of a scene from Shakespeare to hang in my hallway. When asked about my passions, I will say Shakespeare among others. But I will not write at a table full of fellow students, "I love the Bard" over and over in a book when I am supposed to be working. I won't get a bronze sculpture of Yorick's skull, or a bust of Shakespeare to place right in the middle of my table, and point it out to guests during the first (and last?) time they choose to visit me.

Furthermore, if I did these things, most people would find it odd to say the least. Even the people who have the Falcon on their table. (?)

Another concept of obsession is daily encroachment.

Have you noticed the sheer number of things that the Star Wars franchise has wedged itself into over the years? And I don't just mean the usual. (Posters, t-shirts, action figures.) I mean stuff like this. Even if that is just for kids, (which I think is wishful thinking) do we need Star Wars in the kitchen? If I had children that loved the movie, I would want to make sure they could separate that love from the enjoyment of cooking and baking with me. There are areas in life that don't need to be touched by Star Wars. And yet just a brief scan of any online store will reveal that no area of life can't be connected to it. Toilet seats, linens, pencils, shoes, credit cards. On and on.

Even concerts. Star Wars in Concert  is basically spending inordinate amounts of money to do what? To go someplace and watch Star Wars. Again. Only this time there is a live orchestra to play the soundtrack as you watch. It's not a tribute to John Williams at the Boston Pops or something that may pass as a legitimate homage to a gifted composer. It's watching the movie again, with live music. (Or scenes from it, I don't know how it works exactly, and it wouldn't change my point if I did.) Did you see all of the people during the trailer on that website scream in near ecstasy as the music began? Is this love of the English horn at work, or a obsessive need to get even closer to Star Wars? It's like a Rocky Horror midnight showing flipped on its head. And four times as expensive.

Did the franchise really need yet another venue?

I can't promise that there are no Shakespeare cookbooks. But if they do exist, I imagine they are usually found in an obscure corner of the Folger Library, and are likely more scholarly than culinary. Certainly they are not on prominent display at Borders. Furthermore, I wouldn't buy one if it were, because I don't enjoy having Shakespeare in every facet of my daily life.

And while operas and symphonies exist with Shakespearean themes, they were designed that way. That is the media from which they come. A more apt comparison would be if Playstation 3 were to suddenly announce a video game version of each of Shakespeare's plays. 80 bucks a pop. I wouldn't pay money for them, because again I don't want my love of Shakespeare to be injected into anything and everything I could possibly do. Encroachment. Five yard penalty.

Lack of critical objectivity is another sign of obsession.

The first three films, (which people will always remind you are actually "Episodes 4-6") were modest entertainment, and were considered ground breaking by most movie historians. For the special effects and music, if nothing else. It brought the space genre out of the realm of the B-Movie. Sort of. Fine. So stipulated, your honor.

But by any objective metric, those three prequels were trash. Period. Acting, cinematography, screenplay, pacing. They were bad films. They made billions though. Of course they did. They had "Star Wars" stamped on them, and millions of people, fans and obsessed alike, had waited decades to see "how it all began." The films were guaranteed hits regardless of their low quality. Hence the problem. Borrowed gravitas.

I know people who are mere fans of the first Star Wars films who pretend like the prequels don't exist. Why? Because they know that the prequels are in fact garbage, and don't have a problem saying so. They not only are poor films in their own right, they tend to infringe on what the first three films accomplished, more than one grounded fan has told me.

If those same three movies had been their own trilogy, and called something like "Space Battles", most Star Wars people would rightfully rip them to shreds, and they know it. The movies certainly would not have made billions if they had been exactly the same, but with name changes.Yet the sheer amount of energy, time, and sometimes blood put into defending these terrible films because they are Star Wars is staggering.

As for me, I think the play, Love's Labor's Lost  is trash. And I was once in the damn thing. It's rambling, awkward, boring, flowery to the point of incoherence and possessed of a humor so topical to the 1600's that not even scholars know what the hell half of the jokes are supposed to mean. Few companies ever perform it, and I have no problem seeing why not.

They do however frequently put on As You Like It and that one sucks too. So does Titus Andronicus. I haven't bothered to ever read the epic poem "The Rape of Lucrece" because it just doesn't interest me in the slightest.

And yet all are the creations of William Shakespeare, a man whose other works have been a major influence in my life. But he wasn't perfect, and his name being attached to something doesn't make it brilliant. It just makes it by Shakespeare. If only more people would adopt that view for things made by George Lucas.

Finally, the trait I think is most indicative of obsession is taking it personally.

Back in May, a new "holiday" was initiated. It was "Star Wars Day" among fans and obsessed alike. To be exact, it was on the fourth. Why the fourth? Because, dear friends, people could then walk around saying, "May the fourth be with you."

This hearkens back a bit to "daily encroachment" in that these people are in so much need to attach a Star Wars celebration to yet another part of their daily lives that they declared the fourth of May their own day because when said in a certain order, it vaguely sounds like one of the catchphrases from Star Wars spoken by someone with a lisp.


If you are going to use a terrible, asinine almost-pun like that for something so silly, at least have the ability to laugh at yourself about it. 

Yet, I found out the hard way, people obsessed with Star Wars cannot.

On my Facebook that day, I mentioned something about thinking it was one of the most desperate, unfunny, half-assed excuses for a holiday that I had ever come across. And let's face it, it is. The vitriol and anger that came out of some people after I did that was sickening.

"Why are you so hostile to people who love something? Don't you love anything?"
"What's with all of the hate?"
"A theatre geek that has a problem with Star Wars? I call bullshit on your attitude."
"How long are we supposed to put up with your narcissism?"
"What sort of fear are you really hiding by lashing out at Star Wars fans?"

I'd like to point out that 90% of the time I could put, "I just broke my arm" on my Facebook status and not one person would respond with anything. But mess with Star Wars and suddenly it's on?

Or the time when I learned of one of my former friends, (note, "former") was going to the previously mentioned Star Wars in Concert. This girl always prided herself in "telling it like it is" and "not pulling any punches. What you see is what you get." You know the type. Pursuant to that she would have no trouble telling you if your shoes were ugly, or if your writing was boring and not worth her time. (Which she told me more than once.) Yet when I ribbed this frank, allegedly fun loving, down-to-earth and "I don't care what people have to say" Star Wars fan that her going to Star Wars in Concert was "pathetic", the literal end of our friendship began. The nastiness. The defensiveness. The sheer hypocrisy of being able to hold up Star Wars as a legitimate passion that I had no right to mock while going out of her way to tell me my writing was no good or letting people know she "hated" the bands that appeared on their t-shirts?   

I don't talk to a lot of those people anymore. And it's all because they feel as though they have a personal stake in a stupid movie series. A movie series. They didn't write it, direct it or appear in it. They have nothing at all to do with any of the people attached to it. Yet when they are silent and apathetic about everything else I say and do, they suddenly have all the energy and interest in the world to reply to my thoughts when I dismiss Star Wars kitsch. (Not dismissing them as people.)

And that's the problem. If you cannot hear criticism of a movie you like without feeling as though someone is attacking your whole way of life, you are obsessed. (Or you secretly know that your level of love for the movie is inappropriate but you don't want to admit it to the world when somebody calls you out for it.)

I am disappointed when people say they do not like (or even hate) Shakespeare. But if I took it personally every time somebody said it, I'd never leave the house. Because a lot of people hate his work, and for some reason have little problem in expressing it loudly and often. As though they are rebelling against their parents during the senior prom or something. Interestingly, many of the people who take pleasure in always telling me they hate Shakespeare are Star Wars fanatics. (Yes, the very people who do not like to be told that they perhaps may be just ever so childish for building their own light saber handle out of spare car parts.)

Shakespeare isn't for everybody, and I know that. Nor do I care. I think most people who hate his work do not understand him, but that is my view. I know that it doesn't take away from what the plays do for me. And I didn't know Shakespeare personally. So what's it to me if you don't like him?

If someone tells me, "I hate King Lear", what if I came back with, "Oh really? Why? Is it because you're a stupid illiterate backwoods gun toting inbreed that is afraid of, or unable to think for himself? I guess so."

Overkill, don't you think? Yet mention in passing to a Star Wars fanatic how goofy you find the movies to be and see if you get treated any better.

In conclusion, it doesn't bother me if you enjoy watching Star Wars anymore than it bothers me if you enjoy eating celery. But there is a line between enjoying and obsessing. I have tried to point out that line here in this post. Excessive displays, daily encroachment, lack of critical objectivity and taking it personally can be signs of being obsessed with anything, whether it be Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, football, political candidates, or anything else. I would advise anyone who may recognize this behavior in either themselves or in someone else to ask what it is about either the person, or their lives that makes such excessive fandom so necessary. Is it really only a love for something, or is it a misguided attempt to fill a void of some sort?

Be passionate and share those passions with others. Partake in things you love. But at the end of the day there is so much out there to learn from and observe, so many people that like and dislike so many other things. Make sure you leave room on your shelf, literally and figuratively, for new things. To put it simply, life is too short to be obsessed with anything.

Do you know anybody who is obsessed in this way with something? Are you? Does it bother you in anyway? What causes obsession? How do you distinguish between a passion and on obsession? (Or do you?)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Too XYZ Featured on

One of my previous posts, "College? Epic Fail" has been quoted by Sharalyn Hartwell in a piece she wrote for In it she comments on a recent survey, (conducted by COUNTRY Financial) about attitudes that the so called "millenials" are beginning to adopt in regards to higher education and it's expenses.

It's called "Millenials Question Value of College Education." It's a well written and concise piece. Please check it out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Diversify Your "Friendshipfolio"

I don't do the stock market. I don't get it, probably never will. But I have come to understand one or two concepts that seem to be important to people that are into it. And one of them is to keep one's portfolio diversified.

In order words, make different types of investments in different sorts of things, so that the ups and downs of just one stock, or one type of stock don't make or break you. To be more quaint and cliche' about it, have more than one basket for all of your eggs.

One of the things that I have learned the hard way in my life is that the same applies to friends. Because blog posts are always more fun to read when they contain at least one made up word, let's call our portfolio of friends a "friendshipfolio".

Diversify this thing! In any way you can, as soon as you can. I don't mean to go out and be friends with everybody of every stripe. That to me is foolhardy, and leads to superficiality. By all means hold on to your friendship standards. But put in extra effort to make friends within entirely different social circles.

Have at least two, and possibly more circles of any size. They don't have to be huge, but make sure that they have little to zero contact with one another. Don't invite all of them to the same parties, and don't go out of your way to bring some overlap into the groups if it doesn't already exist. I want you to diversify, not emulsify two groups that might not otherwise have mixed.

I advise this because I have more than once fallen victim to the instability of a stagnant friendshipfolio. I did it in college to a degree, and I have over the last few years done it again.

As I have mentioned before, I don't go out just to "make friends". I'm Too XYZ  for all of that sort of thing. So I make my friends almost entirely during events or projects with which we are both involved. It is through doing, and watching other people do that I feel drawn to new friends. (And they to me.) Which is why the vast majority of my current friends as as well as the majority of my college friends are theatre people.

As a result, back then, as now, when the problems I face are with my friends, or some demographic therein, I have had no place to turn in order to vent, or to get another perspective on things. Or another perspective on people. Everyone in my group of friends has often been connected to almost every other one of them in some way. I do have more than one group, but only one, huge, lumbering one that contains local people to whom I have any regular access. So getting an in-person infusion of new blood and spirit it very difficult. So the only other choice is to stay alone when things start to sour with your group. (As they are with mine, on many different fronts.) I am no longer willing to do that all the time. (No matter how introverted I am.)

Throughout my life,  I could have probably gotten better advice, learned more about myself, made it through some very painful stretches of time, gotten to different places, and just all around had a deeper, more connected experience to life had I had been in more than just the one social circle. Circles that are equal in a way, but separate enough from one another so that if things are on the edge with one, I could have support from the other.

Not to say that all the individuals within a social circle need to be the same. They don't, and they are not within my theatre circle. But all being connected by such a common thread gives them a sort of nebulous group identity when it comes to the sort of obstacles I am facing lately. (My average "Friend in Common" number on Facebook is 25. And a few people I have close to 40 friends in common with! Those numbers are way too high for me. Too many eggs in one tiny basket.) So I long for another group sometimes, equally broad and diverse within itself, but not tied at all to the politics of the first.

Plus, sometimes I just act differently with certain groups than with others. I reveal different aspects of myself. All of them sincere. All of what I show is me, but I tend to be open with different aspects of myself with different people, and there are some aspects that just don't get equal time because most of my friends are in the same social group.

(And no, Gen-Y, I don't act 100% the same around everyone I come into contact with, even though you feel that you do, and that everybody should.)

This is one reason I dislike Facebook now. It takes friends that might otherwise have never connected or crossed paths, and puts them on the same platform. I sometimes find myself being bland to the point of stupid, because things I would say in front of the much larger group one would not be said in front of the smaller group 2, but all of them are present equally on my Facebook, unless I make sure to block an update from each individual person before posting it. Which takes the fun out of it for me.

In the end, I must find other activities and projects in which to partake in the near and intermediate future, so I can in fact begin to form a second but local social circle. (In person contact is becoming more significant to me these days.) Because in the last 2 years or so large portions of my current one have begun to sour. (Or I have soured on them) and if the fruit from that vine shrivels, I will need somewhere to go. As it stands now I spend 85% of my time alone. I've been trying like mad to remedy that before it is too late. Which is why I am advising all of you, whoever reads or tweets this, to do the same thing.

Diversify your friendshipfolio.

Do you do this? Have you friends that don't mix? Do you keep clear boundaries between the different social circles in which you travel, or do you prefer to have one big interconnected circle?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Leaving a Wallet, Finding Enlightenment.

I used to take my wallet with me everywhere I went. Obviously when I was driving, but also on walks of all lengths. The first thing I would do before leaving the house would be to check for my wallet. The few times I forgot to pocket it left me feeling incomplete, perhaps even a little naked, the moment during my walk when I would discover it's absence.

A few years ago though, I started leaving my wallet behind when I went on my longer walks. I wanted to be rid of the encumbrance. And I don't mean the physical weight of the thing.

We often get caught up in the idea that who we are is defined by a number on a computer, or what we own, hat we do, or in this cases, the papers and documents that bear our name and follow us throughout our lives. Now for legal reasons, some of those things are of course important for any number of reasons. Yet beyond that, these are not the things that show the world what type of person we are. Nothing in our wallet shows how we treat people. What we fear. To what we aspire. They don't show our scars nor our dreams. They do not extinguish our bad memories any more than they sweeten out joyful ones. They are merely ornament, but we treat them as extensions of our true selves. In many ways the wallet (or purse) is the headquarters of this view of ourselves.

It didn't strike me as interesting until recently that the contents of our wallets and purses are often referred to as our "identification." We are sort of brought up to believe this. Ergo when we lose such things, we suffer more than the obvious pain in the ass of cancelling credit cards and replacing driver's licenses. We actually feel the horrific pangs of personal loss.

"My whole life was in that thing," we lament.

And that says it all, doesn't it? Yes you'll have your work cut out for you for a few weeks, but are the contents of your wallet truly you "whole life"? As a soul are you less complete without them? I'd say not, of course. But if you earnestly feel you would be, perhaps a reexamination of priorities is in order.

A little effort every day towards knowing who we our at our core, ignoring what society says we must seek and possess in order to be whole brings us one step closer to getting to know our pure, unencumbered selves.
Leaving my wallet behind sometimes is just one small way of implementing this idea in my daily life.

Of course leaving my wallet on the table when I walk for a few hours is not in and of itself going to grant me all the wisdom of the ages here. But it is a convenient symbolism for me which serves to remind me that there is the "Ty on paper", and then there is the far more real, more deep, (and more accurate) "Ty the person." The twain rarely meet. Thank heaven.

Do you ever take the time to remind yourself that you are more than you career/stuff/money/position? How do you go about doing so? If you haven't yet, what sort of symbolic gestures might you take to engage in such a step? Let me know.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's All About Your OWN Blood, Sweat, and Tears...Not THEIRS

Recently, Brazen Careerist featured a blog post by one Jun Loayza. In brief, he talks about embracing one's DNA. In other words, not forcing yourself to be something you are not. To make the best uses of whatever your personal traits are in order to succeed in all aspects of life. Because this view is very much in line with the premise of Too XYZ, I suggest you give this post a read. Here it is.

On top of Mr. Loayza's point, I would add that we need to measure our level of "hard work", and that of others, according to similar metrics.

In other words nobody likes a lazy person. We all are rightly expected to in general put some effort into our lives. But sometimes in this society we tend to measure that effort in terms of direct productivity as defined by the ingrained, (and in my view, destructive) Protestant Work Ethic. Too often we ignore the intangible work, the unseen internal efforts that are a part of the daily lives of many people, as well as ourselves.

Explore an example with me.

Let's say someone has started a new blog. A working mother of 3 school aged kids. Obviously they take up a lot of her time in the evening, and work takes up all of her day. But she is committed to having a regularly updated blog, with a post every other day. So on those days she gets up two hours early, say around 4AM. The family is still asleep. She hates being awake too, but it's her only time to be alone with her thoughts.
So she struggles to be awake that early. She checks her notes. Thinks very hard about that morning's post, and with an obvious struggle to complete every single sentence of that post, and after meticulously proofreading it twice, she clicks "Submit" just as the call of her youngest asking for breakfast reaches her ears at 6AM.

Our mom figure is obviously a bit more tired at the end of that day than other days.

She's not on Twitter. She hasn't joined Brazen Careerist. Knows little about advertising or marketing or networking. Barely has enough energy to write the post. A post which in and of itself was what some may call of average quality, but with a certain witty, down to earth charm. Analytics, (if she ever used them or even knew what they were) would tell her that 2 people in the world read the post with which she struggled so much this morning, and one of them was probably her sister down town.

A check of her subscribers shows that same sister, one random guy without a photo, and her best friend, who never checks the blog anyway. This mother therefore has ZERO so called "social proof", and even if some professional guru by chance stumbled across her blog, they would say, "well if only three people subscribed she must be a lazy, thoughtless writer. Who cares about wasting my time on this trash?"

And they would click off, not even bothering to see if she had anything of interest to say. Certainly leaving no comments. As few people ever do on our mom's blog.

But because she either doesn't want to know all of this, or can't know all of this because social media is beyond her, our mom 2 days later is up once again at 4AM to do it all over again. And she does so because she is committed to becoming a blogger and improving her writing.

According to the majority of metrics out there to measure success, this woman is a total failure as a blogger. Where are the tie ins? What SEO person has she hired? Why are there not Twitter feeds mentioning her latest post? Who is she linking to? More importantly who ever linked to her? How many comments does she have? How many subscribers? She needs a serious graphic designer at 100 bucks an hour to clean up this mess of a website. She doesn't even own her own domain name. Lazy and uninspired woman.

Whereas I see someone who is pushing their personality, their very nature to the limits, in order to do something she believes in. She isn't trying to be something she is not. She is simply going the extra mile with what she has in order to improve something about herself. She has put forth a great deal of energy, her own personal type of energy, to do what she does. This is hard for her to do. But she does it anyway, and in this she is a hard working writer and blogger. A blogger as much as anybody else is. More so even then some more "successful" ones.

I try to measure my own work ethic by these standards. I go and do things that are just barely part of my make up. Things that are a struggle for me, even if they are easy for others. I don't do all of what many contemporaries say I should do as a writer, a blogger, an actor, because that would be trying to become something I am not. But some of the things I can do, I often sweat over. Become drained by. Sometimes I am even afraid of them. But I do them. And while that results based Protestant Work Ethic would look at the overall tangible results of my last year and say, "lazy failure", I know that I am actually putting forth a great deal of effort that is unique to me in order to go where I want to go. It's not easy to ignore the societal definition of hard work, but I must try to do so. We all must try to do so. Do you?

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Piece on

I was recently approached to write an article for It got posted last night. You can find it here.'s slogan is "Your future...Our Focus." As it's title suggests it offer blogs, articles, (like mine) links and other such resources for the college student and recent graduate, but is valuable to anyone hoping to sharpen their professional image and knowledge.

My piece is about how living on a college campus is just one of the many ways that college actually postpones adulthood, as opposed to the commonly held belief that it is a stepping stone to same.

Check out the piece and the website. Let me know what you think of it, either here or over at Igrad. And while you are add it, go ahead and sign up as a member. It's free.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kids Are Heroes

I recently wrote another piece for FiNDiTFREDERiCK Magazine about the Kids Are Heroes organization. I hope that you will follow the links and read it, not only because I want to share my work as a writer, but because I'd like to help spread the word about this fine organization.

You can follow the link to their own website to learn more, but here are the basics.

Gabe O'Neill's Daughter, MaryMargaret (age 8 at the time) wanted to raise money to help some local children in need. She wanted to organize a fund raising campaign to do this, and with a small amount of help from her father, was able to spread the word and exceed her fund raising goal for her project. Fast forward a few years, and MaryMargaret and her father are now at the head of Kids Are Heroes, an organization dedicated to helping children from around the country, and even the world, develop and realize their own ideas for how to make the world a better place.

By becoming a "hero" within the organization, a child has access to all kinds of advice, networks, and resources which can help them achieve their particular charitable goals.

I did not meet MaryMargaret when I wrote the piece, but I spoke to Mr. O'Neill, and I can assure you his enthusiasm alone was enough to understand the mission of Kids Are Heroes.

Perhaps you know a child who has a vision to help his or her community? Perhaps they should know about Kids Are Heroes? Just read my article to learn more, and follow the link to their own homepage to get even more details.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Don't Use the "Force".

I don't like to be forced to do anything. Even by myself. So I don't force myself into anything for which I am not yet ready.

There have been, and continue to be things that I find difficult or impossible that many people are able to do with ease. Things that many insist must be done, even if by force, in order to succeed. (Elevator pitches, cold calling, going to networking events in other cities, going to nightclubs, "getting out there", making sexuality a top priority, establishing social proof, never requesting a separate check, to name more than a few things people have tried to force me to do, usually with unpleasant results.)

I firmly believe there is more than one way to do just about anything. The alternative may be the long way around via a far lonelier road, but we can all basically get there eventually. But we can't ever realize that if we are too busy beating ourselves into submission. (Or allowing ourselves to be beaten thus by someone else.) So instead of forcing myself into some things, I take some time to evaluate why I need to be forced into it in the first place.

When I had a toy with movable parts as a kid, and one of the parts would get stuck somehow, one of the first things an adult would tell me is, "don't force it, you'll break it! Let me take a look." That's because there is a reason for any dysfunction, and discovering that reason will present either present the solution to the problem, or reveal that the cause is hopeless, and that it is time to get a new toy. The same can be said about our own resistences.

"You've got to force yourself to change," you'll here many gurus say. "You need so and so in order to get rich, or popular, or successful, or loved." But the fact is you are Too XYZ to be forced into anything, and when you are, like those toys, things tend to break.

Take a step back. Why don't you want to take this action? What happens when you have been forced to do so in the past? How do you feel when you try to do certain things? Have you always felt this way about an action, or was there a time when you wouldn't have to be "forced" into it? Is there another way to achieve the same goal? If so, should you, or should you try to methodically end your resistance to something? Think long and hard about it. The time an energy spent on such introspection will be worth infinitely more to you than will be the energy spent on trying to force something that just isn't ready to give.

When you look closer at what you have to be forced to do, one of two things happens. You come to understand the components of your resistance and thus can begin to address the smaller issues pertaining to it. When those are addressed, the resistance can sometimes be removed entirely. No force needed. Or, the other result is that you find that an aspect of yourself cannot be changed, and you simply cannot take the action in question. But you can resign to that fact in  deliberate, calm manner, as opposed to being shattered by the defensive fear that springs up when you try to force yourself to do things you do not want to do.

In either case, you have learned more about yourself. And whether that means a block has been removed, or you are able to find an alternate route, you will have benefited from the simple act of introspection. For more than had you been forced.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fall In Love With Goals, Not With Systems

This morning around a quarter to one, I was struck with a sudden urge to rearrange my bookshelf. I had been meaning to do it for days, so I did it. And while doing it, the momentum carried me over into rearranging and cleaning my desk and notebooks as well.

Weeks ago I had bought several notebooks and laid out a new system for my freelance writing. So this was not a dramatic overhaul of what I am doing. Think of it more as my weeding the garden, as it were.

But what interesting weeds I found during the process:

--A USB drive that had been set aside for photos at one point, which had never even been taken out of the box.

--A sheet of paper designated to hold the screen names and passwords for "useful" websites that I don't think I have visited in at least a year. (including an ill fated free website for my writing business in it's failed 2008 incarnation.)

--The directions to a long over seminar I had never attended, complete with companion literature in a nice little folder.

--A notebook which had records of every job to which I applied about 18 months ago, complete with the dates of application, contact information, and a section for recording the correspondence I received from same. (None of those sections were filled out, as none of them ever contacted me back. There were 60 jobs recorded in that book for March of 2009 alone.)

--A preserved outline that detailed the (at the time) next phase of my job hunting plan. I have to admit it wasn't a bad plan at all.Outlined and clearly defined. Laid out in an easy to follow structure and ready to be added to as needed.

And also completely abandoned a while ago. As were the charts, outlines, contacts, folders, labels and lessons found in various nooks and crannies of the desk as my bookshelf momentum carried me on to other things. The detritus of previous plans and well thought out systems.

It got me to wondering about what had happened? Why had these formerly best laid plans of mine eventually gone awry? So much so in some cases that I didn't even remember I had conceived them until last night's chance encounter with their remains?

Well, I didn't wake up one day and say, "To hell with this system." Otherwise I would have thrown all the stuff away long ago. Instead, it all sat in the same ergonomically determined place on my desk where I had placed them in some cases over a year ago, after their most recent use. It can better be described as slowly withdrawing from said plans. Making an exception here and an exception there to the system. Pursuing a singular goal which would require more flexibility. And just plain system fatigue. Like the Roman Empire, my systems of the past were not wiped out in a single stroke, but simply allowed to slowly, quietly dissolve into oblivion.

But why?

I have been thinking about it, and while I can't ever be sure, the reason that keeps coming to mind is this:

I wasn't ready for a system.

Oh, I had them, as I have shared with you. I'd have things categorized, schedules, charted and graphed. And it would give the illusion of progress for a time. And I'd stick to them with a near religious discipline for a time. But after a while, as I mentioned, they would just fade away, and become nothing more than a dusty notebook shoved away on my desk. And I would muddle through and still make progress in career and my goals without a system in place. And I'd be fine like that for a while, until I would feel obligated again to sit down, devise another system, and the process would repeat itself. On some level this has happened for much of my life. A recurring pattern of systems born, and systems abandoned.

It's because for years I assumed that any system is better than no system. But the truth is, sometimes we just are not ready for a system. No matter how many people say we need one, and no matter how many ideas, plans, thoughts, and motivations crowd our head at any given moment, we need to stop and ask ourselves not which system we need, but if we are ready for one at all. Sometimes no system is better than any system.

Now it would be great if I could provide a bullet list here for you to check off to see if you really do or do not need a system. I'd love to be able to do that for you, but I can't of course. Each person must determine if they need a system for any given endeavor or not. I can't make that decision for you. But I can offer one piece of advise as you determine which of your systems are useful to you and which are not. Ask yourself this single question;

When I think about a certain area of my life. (A goal, dream, research, whatever), what comes to mind first; the mission I want to accomplish, or the system by which I am trying to accomplish it?

If the first thing that comes to mind is the system you have/are/should develop to organize that facet of your life, instead of what the goal itself will accomplish for your life, you probably are not ready for a system. But if you have a clear idea of what you goal is, and can clearly devise a system which makes the hard parts easier, and the easier parts routine as you pursue what you want, while leaving room for change, you are ready for a system.

The system for my writing that I now have in effect sprang from specific goals. I want something in my life, I do not have it, but I can take the steps to get it. I just need to write down the steps and follow them in an order that is most useful to me, (as determined by a lot of introspection.) The result? A system. A system that this time just feels write. It feels like a tool now. It all has fallen into place because it's not subservient to my goals. It isn't determining them.

It's not the end of the world if you aren't ready for a system Don't be afraid of this. It just means you can take time to brainstorm. Explore your mind. Take stock. Look inside and determine what you want, and be honest about it to yourself and everyone else. And only then, devise a (flexible!) system which can organize your plan of action.

Are you beholden to your established systems, or those or others? Do you give yourself space and time to explore something without a system in place? If you have systems in place, how are they working for you?