Life Has No Schedule

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I went to World Con 76. Their convention is much like the San Diego Comic Con, except there aren't any big Hollywood celebrities, you're not forced to move with the crowd because there aren't 150,0000 people attending, costumed super heroes and villains don't roam the convention center, and the con centers around books. Specifically SFF, science fiction and fantasy. This is the group that gives out the Hugo Award for the genre, which is like getting an Oscar. So much of fiction is riddled with romance, because that's what sells, so it's heart warming to see an organization dedicated to SFF.

I was excited to go to the Hugo nominees' readings where the authors read a selection from their own books. There might have been sixty to eighty seats, but they were all taken, so I had to stand. I didn't care. I wanted to hear excerpts from great writers. Then we were told that the fire marshal wouldn't allow us to stand as it was a fire hazard. WhatchutalkinaboutWillis? I had a clear path to the door had there been a fire. Still, I and the other standers were asked to leave. I suggested to the room we bribe the fire marshall, but that wasn't well received. Especially from those seated. Bastards. Joking...things like bribing or paying off porn stars and Playboy models ain't my thing.

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I decided to go to a talk about how aliens might think. The panel was made of two university professors whose specialties lay in human consciousness, and a SFF author who studied AI at MIT. Her name is SL Huang, which I assumed was her pen name, since the panel kept calling her Lisa. She sort of had this Natalie Portman thing going on. Dating has been hard for me, so maybe my celebrity crush was manifesting itself in some way. But I checked out her website, and she's quite an accomplished author. She had to be in her thirties. She looked younger, but Asians don't raisin.

Then my insecurity reared its ugly head into my mind. Here, I'm writing an article that will likely never be read, had been going to a writing group work-shopping my second book when the first one isn't even published, and still trying to get representation from a literary agent. Loser!

Breath...om...Keyser Söze...

I reminded myself that life has no schedule. Except that things are born and then they die. I know, real insightful. It seems people need to plan everything that happens in between these two points. I have to graduate high school in order to go to college, then I can get a job and earn enough for a down payment for my first home by this age. I'll need to meet The One soon if I want to have kids because I don't want to have them too old, otherwise I'd be too old. Eventually I'll have to change jobs every now and then so I can get the requisite pay increases and save for my retirement. And I do want to leave something to the kids when I die because they're my children and that's what a parent does.

In the span of 105 words, I've scheduled my whole life. All of that, by the way, is crap. Life has no schedule. Some people die before they're born. Others die after more than a century has past. A lucky few make it big in their chosen industry. A majority do not. Some people earn their way in. Others do not...ahem...the Orange One.

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My writing group and I had been interviewed and on a podcast. One of our writers had an interesting story. He volunteered at the San Francisco Writers Conference where he set up and tore down rooms for presenters. He set a room once for an author who pulled out binders full of rejections letters from literary agents that had amounted to hundreds. He eventually made it, but it was through sheer effort and not giving up. In contrast, a dozen agents rejected JK RowlingKathryn Stocket, who wrote The Help, was rejected by 60 agents. The point is that different people make it at different times. And because we as humans are very bad at telling the future, we don't know what's coming around the bend. Had Stocket given up on the 59th rejection, she would have never found her current agent and her ensuing success.

Does that mean you should never give up? No. I think there are circumstances that may indicate ending something is good. I had given up on acting because I fell out of love with it. My best friend and I had decided not to open our own martial arts school after planning and working on it for a couple of years. So far a reason to give up my writing hasn't presented itself to me. Having a never quit attitude doesn't guarantee success, however you define success. But you'll never succeed if you don't start or give up too early. And be cautious about attaching your happiness to circumstance. Not making it in any industry doesn't affect your happiness.

Life has no schedule.

Prescription vs. Description

In my last post, I talked about a conversation I had with a friend about happiness. He was upset because he thought I had been mocking him.

I explained to him that I had used our conversation as a jumping off point into my perspective of what happiness is, that my account was really a fictionalized version of that event. And it was because we had been a group of six people exploring this idea and not just him and I.

Going back to that idea, I want to explore a little more about his questions, not specifically, but what a lot of people do when they ponder about passions, happiness, purpose, etc.

A lot of his questions seemed to circle the idea of how we get there. You can substitute there with happiness, success, or any goal. The problem with discussing specific questions like these is we're trying to find a specific path. One of my friends said, "Do what you love and that'll make you happy." Another suggested to try different things to find your happiness. These are good suggestions but all are prescriptions, and more importantly, prescriptions that are very individual.

There's this thing called modeling: a general process in which persons serve as models for others, exhibiting the behavior to be imitated by the others.

So if I wanted to be rich, then I would research someone who is rich and mimic her behavior, a prescription. We see this with Steve Jobs. He was well known for berating his employees to motivate them to perform better. And given the success of his comeback at Apple, many managers have copied this behavior in pursuit of similar results.

Look at it this way: we all know that a dog is happy when he wags his tail. So if I ran into a pit bull who was growling and foaming at the mouth, then I would walk up behind him, grab his tail and wag it to try and calm him, make him happy. I don't have to tell you that I'd probably lose my hand, arm, and shit my pants.

When I started writing, I had read all of the interviews with J.K. Rowling. I would try and map how she came about her inspiration for her Harry Potter books to how I came to my own for my books as a way to say to myself, "Yup. I'm on the right path."

But lightning never strikes the same place twice. Meaning there can be many paths to success. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it's overnight. All we can do is do the work.

So instead of a prescription towards what we want in life, a better way to approach something is really a description. From the Tao Te Ching:

Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever. 

What the hell does this mean?

As best as I could put it with my limited mind, wisdom comes to us in the moment. There's nothing we need to do, there's no process we need to have. All we need to do is allow it to come. If you want to inspire your employees to do better, then approach it your way. Whatever that way is, it'll present itself when you need it.

Writing a book is similar. I usually go to a cafe, sit down with my cup of coffee, and dive in. Sometimes it takes a little warm up for the words to come. Sometimes no warm up is necessary. But words will always come.

And as I've said in my last post, happiness is innate within us. Once we let our thinking settle like the what ifs, the sediment of our minds, then we can sit in peace with a clear mind to listen to the wisdom within.

Stealing from Jobs

I’m an Apple fan. Call me a fanboy. Accuse me of drinking Kool-Aid, despite my vice for diet soda. What I love about Apple was Steve Jobs’ philosophy on life, summarized well in 2005 Stanford commencement address. Many Apple centric sites are writing articles about the man who died only a year ago, his legacy, how he changed the world. But I’d like to talk about his autobiography and what a sheep is. Many non-Apple fans call us sheep.

You callin' me sheep, sucka?

You callin' me sheep, sucka?

Sheep – a four-legged animal covered in wool.

I’ve never seen a sheep use an Apple product. Though, I have not seen every sheep in the world.

An article in Wired discussed whether the autobiography Walter Isaacson wrote on Steve Jobs could be used as a path to success and management.

This sticker adds 5 horse power

This sticker adds 5 horse power

I had bought the audio book, unabridged version, from audible.com. As I listened, my ego started to make links between the ways Jobs did things to how I did things. I think we all do this, try to make comparisons with great men and women to assure ourselves that we are somehow on the right path. I stopped myself and knew. I am no Steve Jobs. And no one else is either. I think of a boy in Uganda and know that no other boy in the world will be like that boy. As human beings, we are all different, individuals. That is our biggest strength as a species.

Shut the Fuck Up

Shut the Fuck Up

There’s an app called iTunes U. Basically, it has courses that you can take, a lot of it is free. There’s a section called Creative Writing: A Master Class. There are 10-15 minute snippets of audio/video from famous writers. I’d listened to Michael Crichton, John Irving, Khaled Hosseini. But the one that caught my ear was Sue Grafton, author of best selling mystery novels like “A” IS FOR ALIBI. She said about writing, “There is no path. There is no course you can take. It’s not gonna help if you go to an Ivy League school. It might not hurt you, but it’s not gonna do you any good.”

Now, I’m not playing down education. I certainly don’t want a dude off the street operating on me. But when it comes to paths to success, we rarely know how to get there. I think the important thing is to know where you are, the starting point, and where you want to end up. That way you’ll have a better idea of where you wanna go. Two points make a line, right? Math. It’s an Asian thang. But if you don’t know where you are, how can you know which direction to head? If you don’t know where you want to end up, then are you even asking the question? For most people, no.

After finishing Jobs’ autobiography, my take was success in any form has no prescription. There isn’t a right way nor a wrong way. Sometimes the wrong way will teach us lessons the right way can’t. But going the wrong way all the time won’t get us to where we want to be. If you want to follow Jobs’ path, then listen to your intuition. For that path is unique to you.

Small Adjustments Make a Huge Difference

A couple of years ago I injured my shoulder.  I don't know how but assumed it happened at the gym.  My rotator cuff hurt severely when I did any type of chest exercise. It sucked.

I was used to benching a certain amount of weight, but had to cut it by more than 50%.  I can tell you my ego didn't like it one bit.  I still wanted to workout and knew how to rehab my shoulder.  Within a couple of weeks, my ego agreed to the necessary decreased weight.  But with every gym session I added 2.5 pounds to my bench.  Eventually, I lost track of how much weight I benched and focused on keeping healthy, writing, working, etc.

Several months later, I noticed I was benching a lot more weight than I'd had in my life.  And I workout by myself.  I can't find a training partner that has a similar schedule to mine.  This taught me something.

Small adjustments can add up.

Writing theEpisodeshasn't yielded the audience I was expecting.  That was my first mistake, expecting.  But the audience has grown little by little, even though not all vote.  Despite my desire to bring fame and fortune to my book, I realized something.  My disappointment always vanished when I sat down to write.  My heartbreak wilted when I went to the gym.  My love for story, my love for writing, my love and gratitude for the imagination given to me is precious.

Every day I take steps toward my wants and desires.  Every day I do my best to release my expectations by doing the things I love, andexpressing myself honestly.Every day I go to my day job knowing that I'm providing for my ability to live my night job (job is totally the wrong word here).  Every day small adjustments will be made because small adjustments make a huge difference towardsuccess.

Throw Your Goals Out Again!

I got a lot of comments from different sources regarding my post Throw Out Your Goals.  There were a few misconceptions that I want to cover.  First let me list some of them:

  • Goals are important to accomplish what we want
  • Brad Pitt has good genes and is lucky
  • Success is defined differently for different people
  • Just because you love something doesn't mean you'll be good at it
  • Not every one can do what they love and get paid for it

 

There were plenty more.

Let's start with defining success.  My first post never defined success.  It defined certain people's level of success but never went as far as gave it a definition.  In this post, I will remain ambiguous on the definition of success.  Because who ever commented and said success is different for different people is correct.  I know a man who thinks he's successful because he's raised healthy, intelligent children.  I know fighters who've beaten great opponents who believe their own performances were below par.  Hell...Donald Trump hates being a multi-millionaire, and only considers himself a success when he has multi-billions.

Success is much like a goal.  Once you reach it, your work, the process to attain it, doesn't stop.  If a fighter won her first fight, she doesn't stop training.  She continues to train for the next fight.  If she's won the world belt in her weight class, then she still has to continue to sharpen her skills for her first title defense.  What happens when she defends it successfully?  Celebrates?  For sure!  Beware.  There are others who are hungry for her belt.  Back to the process.  What if she loses?  Back to the process.

I love this one.  Brad Pitt has good genes and is lucky.  I'm not denying his good genes and looks.  What I do deny is his luck.  To say he was lucky is to deny the hard work he'd committed, wearing a chicken suit, working odd jobs, before he got his first major role.  Look at Steve Carrell.  He was an unknown comic for twenty years until luck struck him.  Luck?  No.  Hard work and perseverance?  Most definitely.  

And good looks was never a prerequisite for success in Hollywood.  With over a million good looking people in Los Angeles, it doesn't explain Jack Black.  Now, some find him hot.  But he's doesn't fit the traditional leading man look.

This next one is good.  You can't make a living doing what you love is a lot of people's excuse to settle for mundane jobs.  I'm not saying quit your day job, lose your house, die of starvation.  Keep your day job, but work on what you love during your free time.  John Grisham is a great example.  He was a lawyer for ten years before he wrote his first novel.  He got to the office two hours before he started his real job, wrote, then started on his case list.  The awesome thing is he published his first book.

If you don't think you can make a living doing what you love, then you won't.  Simple as that.

Think you'd suck being a parent?   You will.

Believe you can run a marathon?  Follow up with action, and you will.

Whether you think you can or can't, you're right.  Henry Ford said that.  He wanted to create a V-8 engine.  He surrounded himself with brilliant engineers. You know what they said?  Can't be done.  Ford pushed them forward, told them it was possible.  Through several failures, it was done.  Look it up.  True story.

The last one I want to tackle is:  just because you love it doesn't mean you can be good at it.  Crap.  In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers:  The Story of Success, he talks about mastery of skill.  He'd found one commonality among all world class musicians, artists, athletes, etc.  What is it?  Ten thousand hours of practice.  You want to be a world class anything?  Here it is, ten thousand hours of work.  That's why you gotta love the process, not the goal.  Love the process, the goal will come many times over.

Throw Out Your Goals

Brad Pitt. A friend on mine told me a story about him. We were talking about how we’re surrounded by people who’ve not only chased their dreams, but have achieved them. What most people don’t see is their perseverance. Pitt had dropped out of college, moved to the city of angels, did a lot of odd jobs like wearing a chicken suit to promote El Pollo Loco for years, before he landed his first major roll in Thelma & Louise. Now he’s one of the biggest movie stars in the world.

There was a study done on a high school class. The study followed late into their adult lives. It found those who stuck to one career path had earned and attained more than their combined classmates who didn’t. This story has floated around the self-help industry for many years, and is rumored to be just a folk tale. But its prevalence tells us a truth.

I was talking to a friend, and she’d reconnected with one of her long time classmates who works for Coke. This person is about ten years younger than I, but has climbed much higher on the corporate ladder. I’d always moved from job to job. She’s worked for Coke since high school, about eight years now, and illustrates an important point about consistency.

A few years ago, I went to a Renaissance Faire. I love them. My girlfriend at the time and I were watching a turtle race. Each person would place bets on a turtle of their choice. The race started. Contestants yelled and screamed, urging their turtle to crawl faster. One turtle, slow and steady, made great headway and was literally one step away from crossing the finish line. Then it stopped with one foot stuck in the air. All it had to do was place the foot down, and, bam, it won. It just froze. Another turtle from behind took the win.

So what’s the point? Once you find your passion in life, follow through with it. Whether success is truly overnight—it does happen—or takes time, love the process. If you love to act, go into every audition and act! If you love to work on projects for your company, or love reaching sales goals, go in every day and love working.

For the process is really what we love. The goals matter little. Why? Well what happens once an actor becomes a huge movie star like Pitt? What happens to the sales executive who reaches their ultimate sales goal? They continue to act, continue to sell, continue their work. All of them display a high level of dedication (knowing what they want), focus (loving what they do), and take each step toward their dreams (doing what they love).

Love your work. The goal will come.

Celebrate Letting Go

Let go.  This is a concept I'm working on in my life.  Letting go. I wanted to win, badly.  I was bowling with a bunch of coworkers, and we were on the second game.  I stepped left of the middle arrow, aimed my ball just right of the middle pin.  My breath was filled with anxiety.  I wanted to win.  Steps were taken and I swung.  Seven pins went down.

Fine.

I can take down three.  On my second bowl, I forced the ball down the lane and missed the pin by an inch.  Three pins remained standing, mocking me.  Crap!  I sat down as my coworkers took their turns.  Suddenly, I said fuck it, and decided to just have fun.  Turn after turn, I got spares, strikes, and celebrated each small victory.  I wasn't even paying attention to my score.  As a result of letting go, I'd bowled my best game.  Keep in mind that my average score is 100.  That day I bowled 186.

One day, as  a team building activity, my coworkers came up with a scavenger hunt that took us through an open mall.  There were about a dozen things we had to collect, and I wasn't really looking forward to it.  However, I took the time to appreciate what I had--health, job, awareness, food, bank account, etc.

Once we started, I wanted to win.  So did everyone else.  My team of three left in a hurry and started to read the clues to scavenge the items needed.  We seemed to find things pretty quickly, as I'm the worst navigator.  My other team member, never having been at that mall, seemed know the mall like the back of her hand.  She stated she loved malls.  Good enough.  I hoped we were ahead, hoped the other teams were falling behind.

Then we crossed several teams, indicating they were all ahead of us.  I was bummed.  In that moment, I let go without knowing I let go.  I decided to just have fun.  To appreciate the day that my company was paying for us to run around like kids.

As we scavenged and collected, we neared the end of the list.  The very last clue urged us to go to the restaurant we were to eat lunch.  Our gait turned to a speed walk, turned to skipping, turned to a jog, then we stopped.  The restaurant came into view, and our managers were standing there waiting for us.  They were not allowed to participate, but to verify what we collected were correct.  And we were first.  How could this be when we were behind?  Several minutes passed, and the other teams dragged themselves to the final station.

I'd let go without knowing.

Throughout my life, I've noticed that when I tried to control the other team by hoping they'd do badly, I would do badly.  Only when I focused on what I was doing, caring about what I did, and, most importantly, had fun, I did well.  Not only that, but when I celebrated my minor successes, not showboating, my successes increased.

How do you let go?

Focus on what you're doing, have fun, celebrate each success, learn from the failures that are disguised as lessons.