Tag: Purpose

Writing Goals 2018 – Write with Intention

just four men rolling a barrel in a park

In 2017 I finished two NaNoWriMo projects that I started (one in 2016) and now have two potential novels. What’s the next step?

Chuck Wendig gives a clue – write with intentionality.

But in writing this thing, I tried to take it slow, even as I wrote it fast. I tried to pause with scenes and chapters and ask myself along the way: why is this here? Not only that, but what do I want this scene, this chapter, to do? Specifically, what do I want it to do_to the reader_? I want them to feel a certain way, so how do I engineer that feeling with story and character?

Wendig talks abut being in touch with the purpose of your writing from the earliest moments. The writer’s intentions will dictate word choice, character development, scene and setting.

In a very tl;dr piece C. H. Knoblauch takes a deep dive into intentionality and writing, arguing that intentionality is the third leg of an Aristotlian stool, supported by subject and requirements of the situation. This suggests that you can start with great characters and a compelling setting but without intention you’ll be flat on your ass.

[Via terribleminds]

True Grit is What Leads to Success…and Happiness

grit leads to success and happiness

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit

If you need any more evidence about what it takes to find happiness, here it is – grit. Simply sticking to your master plan is a better indicator of success…and ultimately happiness…than brains or luck. This not-so-surprising news comes from a Time article about MacArthur genius Angela Duckworth and her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Grit, when coupled with passion, purpose and a heaping spoonful of hope can help us go the extra mile and come out on top – even if you’re not well on your way to a “job you can love.”

David Yeager recommends reflecting on how the work you’re already doing can make a positive contribution to society… reflecting on purpose led students to double the amount of time they spent studying for an upcoming exam, work harder on tedious math problems when given the option to watch entertaining videos instead, and, in math and science classes, bring home better report card grades. Amy Wrzesniewski recommends thinking about how, in small but meaningful ways, you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values.

But before you go all in with the stiff upper lip and all that, just be warned that even Duckworth questions the hype that her notion of grit is getting.

I think the misunderstanding — or, at least, one of them — is that it’s only the perseverance part that matters. But I think that the passion piece is at least as important. I mean, if you are really, really tenacious and dogged about a goal that’s not meaningful to you, and not interesting to you — then that’s just drudgery. It’s not just determination — it’s having a direction that you care about.
–Angela Duckworth to The Science of Us

Why You Should Never Set Priorities

Every time I open my “Big Box of Stuff” – my instant organiztion system that involves sweeping everything under the rug and declare all problems solved – my head starts spinning with the urgency and cataclysmic busy-ness of everything.

I’m fighting the urge to drag everything out and prioritize it.

But not so fast – the danger of setting priorities is that you set yourself up for endless twiddling.

Also, it turns out that juggling too many priorities takes a huge toll on overall success.

[Photo by Dakota Roos]

Did I Just Get a Message from God?

roadmap to my future?

I walked into my office this morning to find my Master Plan to Rule the World peeling off my thinkboard.

Oddly enough my “roadmap” for managing the family trust fund (which btw was taped on top of the Master Plan) was still on the thinkboard. Is this God’s way of telling me to stay focused on the roadmap?

Like Jesus on Toast

How much attention should we pay to random, yet seemingly meaningful happenings? Maybe such events are just Jesus on toast.

Or maybe something deeper is afoot. If a random pattern is indistinguishable from a picture of a face, then how are we to say that it is not, in fact, a picture of a face. Likewise if a fortune cookie or a supermarket horoscope is accidentally meaningful, then how can we say it has no meaning?

I guess the only way to know for sure is to butter the toast and bite.

Everything You Need to Know about Success Is in the Hunger Games

What does it take to become a huge success? Apparently it takes a whole lot of work – and not just any kind of work, but the tough work of self-examination. To put a finer point on it, it takes something called Double Loop Learning.

Most of us probably think of the path to success in the terms of “try, try again.” Think of an archer facing a target, shooting, falling short of the bulls-eye, making an adjustment and shooting again. This is what Chris Argyris identified “single loop learning,” a simple servomechanism approach to fixing what ain’t working.

The second loop adds a lot of complexity. Here you must explore your values, assumptions and your blind spots.

This is where The Hunger Games comes in. If heroine Katniss approached the gladiator-style teen-on-teen combat using single loop learning she would have used a pretty simple decision block:


Fortunately Katniss goes for the double loop. The assumption behind the Hunger Games is that only one combatant could emerge as the winner. But if you have to sacrifice your core values to survive, are you really a winner? Maybe there are no winners. Or maybe the State is the only winner. Read the book, it will all make more sense.

And if you want to get ahead, go back and question everything.

[Via Swiss Miss]

Reinventing Yourself for 2014 – Will It Be As Don Draper or a Terrorist?

There’s a little bit of Jay Gatsby in each of us. To live in America is to be surrounded on all sides by a narrative that says you can be anything you want to be. You can reinvent yourself, leave your past behind, move out West, reach for the stars, follow your dreams.

But maybe this mythology of reinvention isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.org, a nonprofit that supports “second acts” in life, thinks that the whole idea of reinvention is dangerous. Aiming to build a “whole new you” might mean tossing out some valuable resources. Worse yet, by focusing on some kind of idealized self you could easily miss your true potential.

Freedman advocates “reintegration” over reinvention, drawing on a lifetime of knowledge and experience to accomplish new things.

Don Draper or Nicholas Brody?

Mad Men’s Don Draper is a case study in the kind of reinvention that Freedman is concerned about. Draper grew up motherless and in poverty during the depression. Along the way he has the chance to escape his past and he grabs it with both fists. He finds his “sweet spot” distilling desire and selling the American dream.

Draper’s problem is that he has to keep his multiple selves, like the women in his life, from meeting each other. If he ever stopped to explore the complexity of his life and discovered value in telling the truth he could well lose his Midas’ touch in the ad biz.

And this brings us to Sergeant Nicholas Brody, the highly complex central character from the TV series Homeland. In the course of Brody’s three year arc he swings wildly between hero and villain. Where he finally ends up is anybody’s guess.

Like Draper, Brody’s life has become a series of lies plastered on top of each other. A prisoner of war he was “turned” by the enemy and cultivated as a kind of Manchurian candidate. But then he gets “re-turned” by the CIA. Brody’s life eventually becomes a rapid spin-cycle around the Wall of Death.

Unlike Draper though, Brody desperately looks for some kind of thread in his life to pull things together. Is he a war hero? A victim? A family man? A killer? I’ll leave you to judge for yourself how successful Brody is at pulling of a “second act” and redeeming himself but it’s clear that when he does well it is because he finds strength and stability in his past. It’s impossible to imagine Brody pulling off his fait accompli without drawing on all of his previous experiences.

The contrast between these two figures is pretty stark. In their respective stories each has reached the end of the line. But only one will be remembered for who he truly was.

Why I Stopped Blogging

I started this year with a goal to better focus my writing and blog every day. I did a pretty good job of it until February 15…and then I stopped. Why?

My attention shifted. The things I’m interested in at the moment don’t necessarily fit the theme of this blog…which is loosely defined as “things for the suburban frontiersman.” I’m caught in a dilema. Do I post these things because they are close to my heart? Or do I reframe them to stay on-topic with this conversation? Or do I, like the Protestant Church when faced with a dilema, start another conversation elsewhere?

So I am doing what I typically do when faced with a confusing choice: nothing.

Some blogs manage to pull together very eclectic conversations by having a loose but persistent focus.

  • boingboing continues to amaze, delight and surprise me. (Happy Mutant Culture)
  • LifeHacker is regularly useful. (Simple tricks to boost productivity)
  • KK Lifestream produces “Oh, wow!” moments (“Out there” meets “in here”)

Other blogs make me wish they would get back on track. For instance I wish Geek Hiker would post more of his excellent trail reports (SoCal hiking scene from a guy who is hopelessly single).

I’m toying with the idea of adding a “BrainBucket” category as a place to talk about some of the ideas I’m having. Such as The Permeable Organization – Crowdsourcing Marketing Conversations from Within. Then again, that’s way far afield from “stuff to feed your suburban adventures.” I’d also like to talk about Hunter vs. Farmer – Tips for Hunter Personality Types, Viewing Church Splits as Conversations and Using Music to Reset Executive Function Meltdown, Out of My Head: Tips for Creative Types Who Are Poor at Making Social Connections.

In other words, an explosive hodge-podge of conversations that dont’ fit any particular theme. Do I put them here and blur the focus of “suburban frontiersmanship” that has had moderate success over the past month or two or do I need yet another platform?


2010: The Year of Weird Expeditions

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. That’s how Hunter Thompson put it. My plan for 2010 is to see how many destinations I can reach that are listed in Weird California: Your Travel Guide to California’s Local Legends and Best Kept SecretsThe Top Ten Hikes in the Nepalese Himalaya – are completely off the table. Smaller, lighter, weirder, stranger and closer to home is the order of the day.

My first expedition will be in search of the Lost Continent of Mu. (p. 31, Weird California). Details to unfold in the days and weeks to come.

I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions Are Good

I woke up this morning to a big steaming bowl of DO NOT WANT. But I can’t zip up my Adventure Pants, which means it’s time for decisive action. I must exercise this morning.

230 lbs. is kind of a metaphor for my life. It’s better than things were. Two years ago I tipped the scales at 249.6 lbs. 230 is not a horrible place for a 6 foot 4 inch fellow to be. But for me it’s a “stuck place,” and it’s weighing me down. At the climbing gym I’m about as agile as a sack of potatoes.

I follow a diet of sorts. And for a while it worked very well. The first 20 lbs. just “melted away,” as they like to say. But then I hit this stuck place. In so many ways I’m just spinning in circles, like a Roomba with a dirty cliff sensor.

So it’s time to pull on my Vibram Five Fingers and hit the ol’ dusty. My intention is to do short interval workouts three times a week (one minute intense run, three minutes walk, eight reps, two miles – it works for rodents, why shouldn’t it work for me?) followed by a longer easy run on the weekend and two or three trips to the rock gym.

This morning’s struggle? (See the new section header: “Capt Strugglebug”) It was too dark this morning to read my watch. I had to guestimate how long a minute was or stand under a streetlight and squint to see the second hand. I kept this up through four reps until it dawned on me that the GPS receiver I was holding (to measure the distance of the trail) had an elapsed time counter…and a backlight. D’oh!

Following Your Happy Trail

Something happened earlier this month and I lost my will to live. Just reached a point where everything seems pointless.

A lot of this is because of my job. Much of my effort is going into stuff that I am very qualified to handle, I’m arguably the most qualified and knowledgeable person in the organization regarding this stuff. But the work that I’m doing right now is really low in my skill set. And it’s killing me.

I hit the my emotional floor on Wednesday night. I started contemplating a career change that involved buying a gallon of Frontier Whiskey and becoming a professional alcoholic. Worked for Bukowski, why wouldn’t it work for me?

That night I had a cascade of dreams in which I was personally invited (in one case with a wax-paper replica of the Declaration of Independence arranged in the style of Mad-Libs) to participate in challenging projects that involved creativity and problem-solving. I woke up to the damn itching dog, took her downstairs to bathe her (and myself) in flea poison and had the epiphany that I should Google a systems approach to happiness. After all, when you feel like you’ve been spinning in an eddy for some time it’s a pretty good indication that there’s feedback process going on, perhaps a balancing loop.

This is all just a long way to say that I stumbled across something new to try – Finding Your Signature Strength. Actually this is something that I already know, and have worked on for some time. But I haven’t followed an organized approach. One idea, a miracle cure for depression apparently, is to take your top signature strength and use it in a new way.

This seems a bit vague – use your signature strength in a new way…when? How often? For how long? Well, seeing that my signature strength turns out to be “Creativity, Ingenuity, Originality” (you can take your own test here) I suppose I can make my own answers.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Reset Button

My astute reader will note that I haven’t posted for a while.

Fact is, I’m burnt out. An emotional cinder. Extra crispy.

Too many irons in the fire. Too many candles burning at both ends. Too much heat, not enough light.

So today I decided to hit the reset button. I purged all the items off my to-do list and am starting fresh.

Right now the number one thing on my radar is dealing with the poor little dog’s horrible flea problem. All this scratchy-scratchy-scratch and thumpy-thumpy-thump is keeping me up at night.

On the Road Again


Muddy slough in Apache Canyon

Muddy slough in Apache Canyon

I had good intentions. As I wrote earlier, my plan was to follow Mr. Walsh as if I was following a seasoned trail guide and get my life in order. Purging my life of detritus and crap-ola would reveal my life’s true purpose.

Two weeks later I still believe that. But it’s harder than it sounds. Following Walsh’s advice I did a quick de-kruft and now I’m at the “ten minutes a day, two trash bags” stage. Unfortunately I started Twittering. (You can follow me on Twitter here.

Of course, if I’m going to use Twitter to post updates to my blog then I had better spruce it up a bit. I decided to bite the bullet and install the Woo Themes Papercut  premium theme because I wanted “works out of the box” goodness. It seemed to be worth real money to save some time and have something that just works, wham bam thank’y ma’am.

It turns out that “works out of the box” doesn’t mean that it works the way I want it to. For instance, the Woo Themes four button-ad widget doesn’t accomodate AdSense ads. Bummer.  You can insert the AdSense script into the sidebar php but you must disable the Papercut widgets…meaning that you have to code in your blogroll tags and other sidebar goodies and by that time you’re just pissing upside down. Feh.

I figured out that you can put your Adsense scripts in a Text widget and it kinda works. At least you have your widgets back. But there are other pitfalls. If you want a “leave a comment” link on your front page article you have to hunt down the Word Press tag for a comment link and then you have to crawl through more php code, and if you’re not a programmer (I’m certainly not) it means taking a shot in the dark and stabbing the code between to endif statements and seeing if the whole thing works. Double feh.

None of this is getting me any closer to “Ten minutes, two trash bags” and my ultimate purpose in life. Maybe this is my true purpose, to wander aimlessly past the gates of the great inferno. 

Do you love my new theme by the way? Leave a comment if you do.

By the way—if you used to follow me through an RSS feed you’ll probably have to update your subscription. I’m using Feedburner now because….well, Google made me do it.