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Friday, April 27, 2012

Working for Yourself

The last few days, I've been thinking a lot about who I try to please. I find that, sadly, I tend to get so bent on impressing those who have put me down in one way or another that I don't always realize how many people support me. It's kind of sad.

But I'm done with that. It's so futile and pointless. For example, I wrote something a while back, got tons of positive feedback on it, but there was one person who thought it was terrible. That one person was the one opinion that rang loudest in my ears, even though I didn't have strong emotional ties to that person and they have minimal knowledge of the subject of the piece. So why did I put so much importance on one negative opinion instead of the dozens of positive opinions?

I think that most of us have this unattainable desire to please everyone. We all have a tendency to listen to the naysayers over the YAYsayers, even when the latter far outnumbers the former. I know I sometimes get distraught when I can't please everyone, but why?

Everyone is different, and there's no pleasing everyone. There is nothing that will universally please all people, period. The more people that see your work, the more fans you'll gain, but that also means you'll hear more negativity- it just comes with the territory. If you reach fifty people, you might get one that hates your work; if you reach five thousand people, you might get a hundred people who hate your work.

We shouldn't work to please the naysayers, we should do what we do to please ourselves and the yaysayers. Besides, if we try to please everyone, it'll eventually drive us crazy and burn us out.

Do what you love, and do it for yourself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

According to Plan

It's almost a scary thing, but I have a plan. I know what I want, how I want to get it, and have made a plan to get there. As strange as it is, it feels really great to have a path to follow instead of just walking blindly down a road and hoping it leads to somewhere I want to be. My plan even has details, and is very much within reach!

I've never had a plan before- most of the time, I just jump into things without giving it much thought. I'm kind of the "figure it out as you go" type, and it hasn't worked out all the time. Most of my previous endeavors were unsuccessful because I just dove in without preparation and with false hopes that it would work out practically overnight, which only led to disappointment.

But this time, it's different. My plan feels very grown-up, very doable, and has a realistic timeline. I even have a back-up plan in case this plan doesn't work out (though my back-up is not incredibly hashed-out; it's more of a just-in-case safety net, but I don't think I'm going to need it).

I know that plans don't always go... well, according to plan, but I'm keeping myself flexible enough to adjust to the kinks and bumps in the road. It won't turn out perfect, and that's fine- I think it's part of the adventure to not know what is going to happen all the time.

I feel like I'm on the right path, and it feels like it's taken me a while to figure out where I wanted to go and how best to get there. Let's hope my big dreams will soon become reality.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Giving Up

It's hard to think about things that we should give up in order to live the fullest, mostly because we become so attached to those things.

Yesterday, I spent two hours crying my eyes out- I watched the series finale of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."  In this episode, they built seven homes for seven families in seven days in Joplin, MO.  For those of you who don't remember, Joplin was devastated by a tornado last May.  In this episode, they featured seven families who had lost nearly all their possessions.

These families had next to nothing- they lost their houses, their furniture, their family pictures, and so many more items.  But what they had was love- a strong familial bond together, an appreciation for the time they share with their loved ones, and a gratitude for life.

When we give up our attachment to worldly possessions, we open up more space in our hearts and minds for the things that matter the most, the things that could never be bought or sold- love, bonds, hope, and happiness.  We gain a sense of freedom that we didn't have before, like removing an anchor that holds us down to any particular spot.

Giving up living in the past is another one of those things that can set us free.  What we go through in life and all of our experiences, both good and bad, contribute to who we are and how we view and understand the world.  We should never forget the past or the lessons we have learned as we go through life, but we should stop trying to live in the past.  For a while, I wanted to go back to high school and essentially do it over.  There is so much I would have wanted to do different, people I wish I hadn't lost connection with since graduation, and mistakes I wish I could have prevented.  It took me a while to get to where I stopped wishing to go back to the past.  I think one of the reasons we try to live in the past is because we believe it was the best part of our life, and the thought of nothing better ever coming again terrifies us.  But life is what you make it, and it can keep getting better and better.

The current present will someday be the past.  Time is constantly moving, and if we aren't living in the present moment, then when are we?  The past you might be holding on to was once the present, and if you ignore the present it will someday be the past you may long for in the future.  (Was that sentence confusing enough?)

We should also give up our sense of entitlement.  Believing that the world "owes us" is a heavy burden to carry.  The truth is that none of us are owed anything; the days we breathe are themselves a gift, and it's never promised that we will live to see tomorrow.  I once lived in an apartment building with a couple who believed the world owed them for the pain they had lived through.  They had suffered accidents that left them unable to work, and they would rarely leave their home.  Often, they would have music or the television on through the night (they would sleep during the day) with the volume up so loud that they couldn't even hear their doorbell.  Most of the time I tried to just ignore it, but once or twice a week I'd go and knock on their door to ask them to turn it down because it was 3am or so and I needed to get up for work at 6am.  I'd wait for them to answer the door, but they usually couldn't hear the bell over the television.  I called the manager, he tried calling them, but said he couldn't get through.  I wrote them a note once, asking them to please keep the volume down during the night because others in the building were trying to sleep.  They wrote me back, saying that I should "just get over it" and then listed all the ailments they felt.  The manager said he wanted to evict them because they generated a lot of complaints from other tenants and were often late on the rent, but every time he tried they threatened to sue for discrimination and he felt he had no choice but to back off. 

The point of the whole story is that the couple was absolutely miserable.  When I'd pass them in the hall, I'd smile and say hello, often ignored or met with a snarky chuckle.  If someone got on the elevator before them or didn't automatically hold the door (even if that person didn't know these people had an accident- which, other than the fact that they walked a little slower, you couldn't tell by looking at them) these two would get mad and make a comment about how rude that person was.

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.  This couple had come to believe that the world owed them since they had suffered through pain, but even though their situation is saddening, the world doesn't really owe them (or anyone else) anything.  When we give up the sense of entitlement that many of us feel from time to time, we release an invisible burden we have placed on ourselves.  Holding on to that sense of entitlement will usually lead to disappointment, because nothing is going to just be handed to us on a silver platter- we need to work for it, and appreciate what we do have.  Think about people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or other highly influential and successful people- nearly all of them started out with very little and built up their empire.  Even Walt Disney came from a poor farm family and moved to Los Angeles with nothing but a suitcase, $20, and determination to work his ass of until he achieved his goals.  Nothing is impossible unless we decide it is.

I hope this post hasn't come off sounding heartless- I always tried to help the couple when I could; opening the doors, holding the elevator, and offering to carry in their groceries for them.

 If you would like to help Joplin rebuild, check out their website:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

After being gone for almost two weeks, I'm back home now.  It was wonderful getting to spend so much time with my grandma. :)

I've been thinking about risks lately.  The phrase "The greater the risk, the greater the reward" has been bouncing around my brain.

There's a subtle safety in not taking risks- playing it safe and taking the easy route offer security and less stress, but it's not nearly as rewarding.  Taking the road less traveled means harder work, more stress, and uncertainty, but it also has the greatest treasures waiting at the end of it.

When it comes to writing, I'm risking a lot by going for my dreams.  More than I care to admit to, if I'm being honest with myself.  I feel that this is my last chance to prove that I'm going to make something great of myself, that I can do what I set out to do.  If it doesn't pay off this year, I think I might just have to give up putting my efforts into it and find something a little "safer" to do.

I feel in the deepest depths of my soul and with the entirety of my heart that I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  I feel strongly that doing otherwise would be a mistake right now.  I believe that, though the risk is quite grand, the rewards will be ten times better than I'm imagining they will be.  I believe, with everything I am, that I'm not really risking anything because I feel this will pay off better than I believe it will.

But still, it's scary.  It's an intense feeling to know there is a potential of actually failing and losing, then being forced to do something I don't want to in order to live life.  I'm terrified of the idea that I might fail at writing and then have to settle into a 9-5 job where I'm just another replaceable cog in the wheel, doing something that does not satisfy me in the least, becoming another "working class hero" who lives for the hastily-fleeting weekend.  But that's just me.

My zombie novel and my memoir are going to be my big sellers, I believe.  I think that they will be the ones to put me on the map, especially my memoir.  I can't wait to release them (zombie novel at the end of the month, memoir after that sometime) and see what people think.

I hope that this will work out.  It would suck if it doesn't.  Maybe I'm just getting worried.