Recap(ish): How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

This is more a reflection inspired by this post from Wait But Why that gave the name to this blog post you’re reading now. It’s really long, but I recommend you read it if you haven’t and do your own reflection.

I’ve wanted to write for at least five years now, maybe even closer to seven. The quality and quantity of my writing was drastically different (see Deleted Drafts: The Etaloniy Story for a prime example of this). But I knew I wanted to write. Initially it was a vague, general desire to write and publish books. I only kind of knew what that meant, and didn’t know what that looked like.

As I grew, physically, mentally, and in this desire to write, I developed strong convictions about making money by making art. In traditional publishing, the author makes royalties from sales, but the publishing house makes a lot of money too. The author probably makes a certain dollar amount from each book sale. It’s also crazy hard to get into traditional publishing. You have to find someone who connects with your story and can see it making them money.

That’s not what I wanted. I felt very strongly that if I were going to put in the hard work to write a book (or other sellable writing) that I wanted to make the money from my efforts if there were any money to be had from them. It would be my intellectual property being sold, it belongs to me, therefore I should benefit from sales. Also, creative control over my work is important to me. The cover image and all the contents. I don’t want to cut or add scenes I don’t want in order to get published.

This lead to the conclusion that I would self-publish. Even if I sell fewer books as a result, even if I don’t become as widely known, I care about my writing being mine more.

I have such a compulsion to write, even if it doesn’t become my career. I will keep doing it. I want to make it my career, at least partially, if I can. To do that, I joined a freelance site, opened commissions, and next month I’m publishing a poetry collection.

Productivity, Recap, and Accountability

This is partially part of the series Recap, but only loosely so. It will not have the structured Notes then Response sections. Instead, it will harken unto my previous post on productivity and what I learned and am implementing from two recorded Praxis Group Sessions with Amanda Grimmett.

[I do have one note. I avoid swearing, but in this case it was in the name of the workshop.]

Maximizing Your Output:

Have a plan for the day to have more focus and structure. At the end of the day write down what you did and what the next step is to decrease ramp-up time.

Have a list of priorities to return to when you get pulled in different directions so you know what to do when you get back.

Dedicate blocks of time to projects.

Ask bosses when they need a requested task done so you can prioritize it.

Getting Shit Done:

Dump, sort, work. List everything that needs done. Then sort tasks into categories and prioritize them. Then get to work.

Recommended online tools: Wunderlist, Trello, Asana, Monday, Swipe

Implementation:

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I have a large notebook I bought at Walmart for $4 or $5 bucks. I write the date and day of the week, today’s time-specific obligations, and tomorrow’s time-specific obligations. Then I draw a line and write my to-do list. Everything after the to-do list is notes on what I’ve done, notes on live calls for Praxis, or sometimes notes on recorded Group Sessions as well.

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Additionally, inspired by the GSD workshop, I reached out to my cohort, the participants who started Praxis at the same time as I did, to start an accountability group. We’ll push each other to meet our Praxis goals, both short term weekly goals and the long term whole bootcamp goals. We’ll also keep each other accountable to other goals we set for ourselves.

Recently I’ve had a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed at almost the same time every night and getting up at almost the same time.

I don’t always approach my work in an orderly fashion, doing a lot of task switching. Not in the middle of a task, unless I get stuck or otherwise need a break. Once I get into a groove, I can bust out most of my to-do list before I head to Walmart in the early afternoon. By switching tasks I can continue working without getting burnt out or bored by continuing to focus on one thing.

For example, I’ll work on blog posts for a while. Sometimes this is as simple as editing the notes and response I wrote for some content I consumed, as for Recap, or it’s more complicated, like My Birthday: A Reflection. Then I might switch to check in with the Over the Invisible Wall team to remind them of work that needs done so we stay on track and taking care of anything that they need me to do. Then I’ll switch to working on my Praxis deliverables or giving feedback on my cohorts’ deliverables.

Recap: The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

This is a response to The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems by Courtney Martin. While I do not agree with some of the more political examples in her post, she gives some great insight into the main trouble of attempts to solve foreign problems.

Notes

Other people’s problems seems easily solvable from an outside perspective. “It’s not malicious. In many ways, it’s psychologically defensible; we don’t know what we don’t know.” A lot of non-profit organizations are geared towards “saving the world,” and international aid.

It is problematic to try to solve problems without acknowledging the underlying complexity.

It’s dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. There’s domestic need, which we can better understand because it’s closer to home. It does require more research and as such seems more daunting.

Problems abroad can be tackled, but they take time and effort. You have to cultivate relationships with the people, listen to them, understand them, build trust so you can work with them to solve the problem.

Response

It only seems more because we recognize the complexity of the problem and the depth of understanding required to solve it. If we understood the same for foreign problems we could help the people create better solutions to those problems as well, but it would take time.

 

The article has a lot of excellent real world examples which I did not include. This is far shorter than the original piece, but that is a synopsis. I recommend reading the full article, it’s really good.

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 29

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

I’ve also responded to Episodes 9 and 36.

In Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 29, Two Parts Substance, One Part Style, Isaac Morehouse discusses how to maintain success.

Notes

This is a recipe to turn success into sustained success. You need the right ratio between substance and style to build brand, reputation,  and credibility over the long term. Isaac’s not saying not to market, have style, and flash — he firmly believes you should shout from the rooftops your abilities and skills and products, a lot, and signal who you are. However, you should have twice as much substance to back up the style. Have something you’ve done that you didn’t talk about. Twice as much value.

If you want to engage in PDPs and work on something everyday to chip away at obstacles and you want to build a signal, a digital footprint, do it constantly. For every one thing you share on Facebook have one thing you’re working on that you don’t share. You want your product to be so good it sells itself.

Response

I’ve sort of been doing this, but not always well. Years ago I was active on DeviantART, sharing fanfiction and poems I’d written. I’d also talk about projects I was working on and say “I’m going to ___.” I didn’t always do whatever that thing was, I just talked about doing it. I’ve gotten better now at not telling the whole world I’m working on something unless I’m sure I’m going to do it. I’ll still discuss the maybes with people close to me, but if I don’t have something to show for a project except an idea, that’s not enough. A “want to” doesn’t necessarily equate to a “will” or “have.” I’ve been public with the main projects I’m working on, but don’t share a lot about when or what I’m doing on them. When I have some progress to share, it has taken time and work to get there, work I was doing in the background.

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 9

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Yesterday I shared my notes on Episode 36.

In Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 9, Your Personal Brand, Isaac Morehouse discusses what your personal brand is and why you should cultivate it.

Notes

You have a brand whether you want to or not. Your personal brand is the same as reputation. It’s what others believe and feel about you.

Building your personal brand is not about putting up some image or making yourself look cool. The first thing is to understand you have a brand, then to take control of it.

Be sure what others perceive about you is accurate. Lots of people are bad at this. In Praxis, they’ve done a personal brand workshop. Think about yourself, write few sentences about how you want to be perceived. What do you want people to think? Find someone else that doesn’t know you well or at all, have them Google you for 20 minutes and see what they can find. Write down what you associate with them and see what they associate with you. Compare how you want to be seen with what they perceived.

If your brand is too benign or blank there’s no information for people to know about you.

Be aware of how you’re being perceived if you don’t know. Own who you are and be consistent with it.

Your personal brand is not a liability to manage, its an asset to use. It gives you access to opportunities and helps you build your network.

Response

I’ve branded myself a writer. I write about writing and my writing projects on my blog (which a blog is just… more writing). My LinkedIn heading is “creative writer and thinker.” A lot of my goals pertain to writing, though I have some other creative interests as well. The main thing is that I write therefore I am a writer. I don’t just call myself a writer, I actually write. You can see that on this blog and on Over the Invisible Wall.

The funniest time I was misinterpreted happened while I was at work. I was trying to find different pens in the office supply aisle so I could put the returns in their proper place. A customer saw me with six or eight different items in my hands, handed me an empty box from the shelf and said, “Here, work smarter, not harder.” It took him a minute to realize I was working and putting things on the shelf, not taking them off. He thought I was a mom doing back to school shopping!

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 36

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Today I listened to Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 36, Finding Gold in the Grunt Work. In this episode, Isaac Morehouse discusses the value of being eager and willing to do grunt work.

Notes

Isaac tells the story of conversation with a CEO who has an employee who wanted a raise but hates grunt work. The CEO doesn’t ask that employee to do grunt work because it’s clear he really doesn’t want to. Another employee higher up will do it. The CEO even has to do it sometimes!

You should want your opportunity cost to get higher so you’re most valuable activity isn’t usually getting coffee. Someone has to do things like coffee runs, let that be you. You’re never too good for grunt work.

If all you’re doing is grunt work, take ownership and prove you can do otherwise. You shouldn’t have to ask to do less grunt work, if you prove you are valuable you will be given more important work to do. And if you’re always fine with doing grunt work, that’s an added bonus.

You could be valuable but not everyone knows or sees what you do. With grunt work, it impacts more people and is highly visible.

Create value in other ways if you’re only doing grunt work. Be eager, volunteer to get things, clean up, etc. “Sometimes the work isn’t glamorous.” If someone is afraid to ask you do to the crappy things you’ve made yourself dispensable.

Response

I work at Walmart in a retail position. My two primary responsibilities are customer service and improving the cleanliness and appearance of the aisles in my department. The second, referred to as “zoning,” is necessary to improve customers’ experience in the store. It’s easier to shop when the aisles are clean, organized, and you can see every item on the shelf. Zoning is tedious and can be categorized as grunt work.

During my shift, I am assigned a department, either Crafts/Stationery or Toys. I’m almost always the only person in my department, excluding short periods of overlapping shifts. That leaves me solely responsible for the zone. Customer service trumps zoning, but the zone still has to get done. Additionally, we’re almost constantly short staffed in some area and I will get asked to help out either with the zone or customer service.

For example, yesterday no one responded to calls to the paint counter or sporting goods counter, so I did. I asked the customers at the sporting goods counter what they needed. I was unsure of what to do, so I had it announced again that customers were still waiting. At the paint counter, I mixed paint for two customers who’d been waiting.

When I’m in Crafts, it’s common for a manager to walk by and ask me to zone two aisles in Housewares, the rugs and curtains. I always say yes, pause what I’m doing, and fix those aisles before returning to my department.

Lately we’ve been short staffed in Crafts, which I consider “my department” because it’s where I hired in. There are four Crafts associates: one lady who is on leave, one lady who’s been calling off, the department manager, and me. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to pick up the slack so we don’t fall further behind and so we can catch up to where we should be as soon as possible. The lady on leave was the only one who knew how to make fabric remnants, pieces less than a yard long, so she taught me before she left. I’ve taken most of the pieces under the fabric table and made remnants so customers can buy them. We have to pull top stock, the boxes that are on the very top shelf, down and put it out on the shelf for customers to buy. The top stock shelf is where we first put overstock, when possible, but it needs to go out once it’s no longer overstock. When I have time, I make it a point to work the top stock to make it easier for the department manager.

Recap: Girl Defined Fixed My Anxiety

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Additionally this was written September 8th despite the url.

I recently watched Rachel Oates‘ video Girl Defined Fixed My Anxiety. I wrote about my struggle with mental heath on Over the Invisible Wall and I mentioned it in Why I’m Not a Christian. In my response to the video I share more about that.

Notes

Rachel Oates has dealt with anxiety and it’s been a big part of her life.

Girl Defined equates worry and anxiety in their video, but it’s not the same thing. Worry is something everyone faces frequently. Worry usually has an external cause. Anxiety on the other hand is more intense; worry on a way bigger scale. There’s more internal or physiological causes, and anxiety is longer term. It can have external triggers but is more internal.

First of Girl Defined’s points, you should pass your worries onto God. Rachel disagrees: what helped her with anxiety was feeling more in control; it was worst when she felt out of control.

Girl Defined’s 2nd point: don’t worry so much about the future that you forget to live now. Rachel shared how focusing on the present moment helped her at times when she was feeling overwhelmed because of anxiety. She said, “Things can change and things do change and you have the power to change them.”

Third point: worry isn’t helpful. Obviously. But you can’t just tell yourself to stop worrying or stop having a panic attack.

Fourth point: God promises to help those who trust him. Rachel wants proof that God exists, can help her, and has her best interests in mind before she’ll just trust him and throw out her medication.

Point five was to remember that God has a plan for you. Rachel disagrees, thinks better advice would be that while life is crappy sometimes it’s possible to recognize those things that make it so and make a plan to change them.

Girl Defined then tells people that following God more and praying is the best way to deal with and stop worrying or having anxiety. This is a dangerous mindset because it could stop people from getting the help they need and seeking treatment.

Rachel recommends Sane New World by Ruby Wax and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

Response

I grew up in a Christian home and I dealt with depression. Which, yes, is very different, and not related to this specific topic directly, but it is a mental health issue. And I’ve seen Christians suggest partial “cures” for it in the same way Girl Defined suggested things for anxiety-conflated-with-worry. I was told at least once that my depression was probably due at least in part to my poor relationship with God. If only I would fix things with God and grow closer to him, I wouldn’t be so depressed. But I’ve had the opposite problem.

Rather than making me less depressed, it aggravated other problems. I feared I was not truly following Christ, that I hadn’t been forgiven, that my sins hadn’t been washed away, that I was one of the goats who thought they were Christians but were not and would burn in hell. This led me to hopelessness. I had some security in my faith to a degree, but it wasn’t enough. It didn’t convince me. It couldn’t convince me. The what ifs swirled on and on, building up. It took me to a point where there was no hope, no certainty, no reason to believe my life mattered.

I was taught that everyone’s true purpose was to glorify God. But I couldn’t discern whether I was truly glorifying him or if I was trying to glorify myself. There was no way to be sure. I kept reaching a point where my relationship with God, if you can call it that, felt ingenuine, more obviously fake than I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter™. And that drove me further into hopelessness and a fear of hell. It also drove me toward atheism.

If this God existed, he clearly did not intend for me to follow him. I can’t. I’ve tried everything and I can’t do it. It always flakes. I always feel like I’m faking it, going through the motions, holding a veil over everyone’s eyes, especially my own. So it seems that he is either not real or he is not good, because he is surely sending me to hell. I wanted to follow him. I wanted to believe. So badly. So badly. But I couldn’t. It always fell apart. Every time.