Comfort: The Biggest Killer of Productivity

Rodin's Thinker

Being comfortable is the biggest killer of productivity.

When you have something to prove, or are hungry to better yourself, you work for it. You bust your ass. Once you attain a certain level of success, whether it’s in your job, your housing situation, your car, your weight, fitness level, whatever, it becomes a lot harder to keep your eye on the prize. Your goals change. It’s easier to coast a bit and just do enough to maintain your  comfort level. Maybe you slip (which I’ve done with my fitness and weight in particular), maybe you don’t. But it’s sure as hell a lot harder to remember to work for what you want once you sort of reach your goals.

This applies to my writing, fitness, weight, work, just about everything. I’ve recently had good reason to look at where I’m at and realize that I have been coasting for a long time. I haven’t been writing enough, for one thing. But I’m back in the swing of things now and am making progress on pretty much all fronts.

What about you? Do you need a wake-up call? Get out there and do something to better your life.

P.S. I got off my ass and did 1.5 miles on the treadmill this afternoon. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Instead of Fighting Against Gay Marriage, Go Do Something Useful.

Rodin's Thinker

Last night, I saw an argument against gay marriage that was predicated upon the idea that marriage is inherently a religious thing.

I despise the idea that just because the Founding Fathers, Jesus, Little Bo Peep, or Saint So-And-So used to do something a certain way or for a certain reason, then we should just keep doing it the same way now.

Times change, people. We learn as time goes on (I hope). Slavery went away. Black people became people. Gay marriage is inevitable.

The only argument against it in the United States in 2012 comes from right wing Christians. In saying that, I’m not being biased against them. I’m merely stating a fact. The movement to marginalize gays comes from them–they’re trying to defend the “sanctity” of marriage only because they’re afraid of gays. They have an agenda, and it doesn’t include letting gays get married.
Most reasonable people I know, including my extremist Christian friends, think it’s fair for gay people to get married. They don’t support gayness, they think it’s a sin, etc, but they agree that gay people should have rights. If they didn’t we probably wouldn’t be friends. Why? Because I’m biased against stupid assholes who think they should tell everyone else how to live.
Anyone who desperately wants to deny gay rights should do some serious self-examination and try to figure out what’s wrong with them. Instead of wasting time trying to deprive other people of stuff, they should go do something useful/create something new/brighten someone’s day.
That’s it for now.

Find Your Passion. Work Hard. Be Relentless.

Gianna in the Bowling Alley

Find something you’re passionate about, work hard, and pursue it relentlessly.

Today, my little sister graduates from nursing school. The wide world sits at her feet, ready to be worked on, fixed up, and helped.

It took her a few years to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, but once she did, she set her mind to it. She’s worked hard,

Me, Ashley and Gianna at the Polson Airport in 2011
Me, Ashley and Gianna at the Polson Airport in 2011

mastering everything necessary to not only learn the basics of nursing, but to excel. She got all As and 4 Bs, and her classmates voted her the “most likely to be a leader.” She’s persistent, fearless, smart, takes charge when necessary, etc. When something needs to get done, she does it. She is young enough that her memory is still excellent, and she seems to remember just about everything she has learned about how the human body works (she’s now my “go-to-guy” when it comes to health issues). She has attracted the attention of her professors and bosses, and has been commended for doing so well.

My hat is off to you, Ashley Barba.

Keep pursuing your passions and you will do well throughout the rest of your life.

And you, readers? The same thing goes for you.  Figure out what you’re passionate about and pursue it. Don’t just sort of half-assed think about it or talk about it. DO IT. Be relentless in pursuit of what you love.

If everyone found their passion and pursued it relentlessly, the world would be a hell of a better place.

So follow my sister’s lead, get out there, and do what you love. Work hard. Don’t take no for an answer.

Caine’s Arcade: A Lesson For Everyone

Caine's Arcade

Yesterday I ran across this touching video, Caine’s Arcade. It’s about a 9-year-old kid in East LA who creates his own game arcade out of cardboard and tries to attract customers.

I love seeing people take the initiative to create things, especially kids, and I’m the first to admit that I’m actually a big baby when it comes to things like this (if you watch the video, you’ll see what I mean).

[vimeo clip_id=”40000072″]

I love how much effort Caine puts into something meaningful. Most people don’t do that. He demonstrates a lot of ingenuity and passion in building and maintaining his cardboard arcade. It’s interesting to think about his goals–he just wants customers to play his games and have fun. Of course, like any other creative person, he obviously loves making and maintaining the games, and sitting in his chair waiting for people to show up. He seems to be empowered to just do it whether people come by or not.

I love that!

Writing a book takes the same sort of effort. So does organizing a convention. You put a lot of hard work into any big creation like that in the hopes that other people will enjoy it too. There might be a payoff, but then again, there might not. Maybe nobody will show up or nobody will read it, whatever. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to see the magic in what you do.

Visit Caine’s Arcade on Facebook. He’s inspiring other kids to make things, and people are donating money to him for college.

Be like Caine. Take the initiative to do something creative, don’t be lazy, and follow your passion.

Now I’m off to write.

((Picture and video courtesy of Caine’s Arcade))

Prioritize!

In lieu of telling you all the funny yet disgusting true story I had intended to share, I realized that this morning I need to channel my creative energies into my fiction instead of the blog. Also instead of MisCon stuff. I ‘ve been spending a serious amount of time on MisCon lately, and not enough writing.

Also, screw you, Facebook! Like so many of you out there, I spend too damn much time on Facebook, keeping up with everyone and everything.

Prioritize.

It’s okay to love a lot of things. Sometimes, though, you just need to set aside the fun stuff and get down to business (which in this case is writing fiction).

So goodbye everyone, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow (after having put some new words down on screen).

Follow Your Passion

Spanish Door Knocker

Today on “CBS This Morning,” they did a segment on a veterinarian in Texas who makes world class goat cheese.

They showed how she spends all day working with her goats, tending them from dawn till dusk, whispering sweet nothings into their ears–you get it. She LOVES these goats and loves making cheese from them.

It’s her life.

After the segment, Charlie Rose made the comment that the lady was lucky to have found the secret of life–she’s pursuing something she’s passionate about. She’s made it part of her daily life, and while she works hard, she loves every minute of it.

I’d say that’s probably the secret to happiness.

Follow your passion. Pursue it. Make it part of your life.

 

Creative Person of the Day? Josh Kyle of Engeln Photography!

That’s right–today, I have an official Creative Person of the Day for you.

It’s my friend Josh Kyle.

I chose a campfire for the thumbnail picture of this post because Josh reminds me of elemental fire–he’s passionate, can easily change from one moment to the next, and burns brightly in everything he does (which is a lot). Actually, he’s kind of like a classic dwarf (in the Dungeons and Dragons/Snow White sense of the word) in that he can have a gruff exterior and can be intimidating to people who don’t know him, but he has a heart of gold. He’s a generous, dedicated, hard worker, who’s always pursuing something interesting, whether it’s photography, cooking, costuming, the spiritual, Victorian architecture, you name it.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m all about being creative and making a positive impact on the world. Josh is a great example of someone who lives this kind of life, as you can see by checking out his pictures at Engelnphoto.com, and by looking at his photo “The Clock” which he recently sent me:

[singlepic id=210 w=500 h=390 float=center]

Josh is a great example of what we should aspire to–in addition to being a photographer, he’s a hell of a cook, and is always whipping up some new (often weird) creation in the kitchen. The first time he offered me a lavender cookie I have to admit that I was skeptical. But the damn thing was very good. Not to mention his baked apples . . .

He puts a lot of care and passion into what he creates. The following photo is called “Reaching For the Sky.”

[singlepic id=209 w=500 h=390 float=center]

Last but not least, Josh always ends up volunteering his time at MisCon, whether he plans to or not. Last year, before the convention, he declared that this year he was going to just attend the convention and have fun–he wasn’t going to volunteer at all. At first I tried to persuade him to do a bit here or there anyway, since he is a great volunteer and I know he loves the convention, but he was adamant, so I gave up. I suspected that once he was at the convention, he’d have a hard time not just jumping in.

Which he did.

A lot.

Creative people tend to congregate–MisCon is a great place to see a bunch of artists and writers and costumers gathered together, Josh among them.

So check out Josh’s pictures at Engelnphoto.com, then go do something creative yourself!

 

The End of an Era: Reflecting on Life, Death, and Creating Things

Gianna in her Pants Hat

The only real benefit of losing someone you love (our Minitaure Pinscher Sally just died) is that it forces you to reflect on your own life.

[singlepic id=190 w=500 h=390 float=center]

Sally was the last of our first generation of pets: Dulce the Chihuahua, Sally the Miniature Pinscher, Ivan the super Doberman, King the Akita/German Shepherd, PJ the Poodle, and Monster, Chewie, and Jihad the cats are all dead now. It seems like it’s the end of an era in our lives, I guess, now that they’re all dead and gone.

[singlepic id=191 w=500 h=390 float=center]

I was devastated when Ivan died 4 years ago (read what I had to say back then in my post, My Ivan is Dead and Gone if you really want to see me feeling terrible. I still can’t read it without crying). But after he died, we still had Dulce and Sally and life carried on. Later that year, we picked up that biggest of doofuses, Clyde. Then Dulce and Jihad died and we found Gretel of the Crazy Hair.

[singlepic id=187 w=500 h=390 float=center]

Even though Clyde is already 3 and a half, he’s still an idiot freshman in my mind, and Gretel is like a 6th grader. There isn’t any Sally left to stumble up and snarl them into submission. They’re the old guard now. They’re moving on. They’re not dwelling on the past or old friends. They just are.

Now that Sally, bravest of my beasts, that tiny courageous hero, gobbler of all food, lover of the good life, is dead, I’m moving on too. I have to.

Death is like a slap in the face that reminds you nothing stays the same forever. We’re all getting older all the time, obviously, but it’s easy to lose sight of that on a daily basis and just run on cruise control.

We’re all born, live our lives, then we die. It’s going to end some day, so you damn well better get out there and do meaningful things. Make the world a better place. Create something. Improve other people’s lives.

[singlepic id=202 w=500 h=390 float=center]

I need to get back into the swing of writing my own stuff. I have been spending a huge amount of time on MisCon lately, especially the last few weeks. I’m trying to get George R. R. Martin’s airline tickets lined up, which is proving to be troublesome, and I’m trying to get the schedule out of the way. It’s all a pretty big undertaking, and it takes time.

One of the reasons I spend so damn much time working on MisCon is that it’s a way for me to do something nice for other people. I like helping make the convention as good as it can be, and I enjoy making people happy. It’s also a creative outlet (not that I need any more of those, but still).

All the work I put into MisCon is worth it to me, but I wish I could get down how to have it affect my fiction writing less than it does. I need to get better with my time these days, I guess. Part of my deal is that I’ve been staying home with Gianna this winter, and I’ve been trying to maximize my time with her. It’s sort of tough to figure out how to manage time with a little kid running around.

[singlepic id=192 w=500 h=390 float=center]

Today, in the spirit of this post, Gianna and I played outside for a few minutes in the wintry sunshine. She was very excited to get outside on her own 2 feet, and it worked well until she insisted on  heading into the snow everywhere she could. She can’t make it over much snow, so she kept falling down and getting cold hands.

[singlepic id=199 w=500 h=390 float=center]

[singlepic id=197 w=500 h=390 float=center]

[singlepic id=196 w=500 h=390 float=center]

So try to remind yourself that life isn’t forever. To make a difference in the world, you need to work at it. So get out there and do something creative, positive, generous, whatever. Make somebody happy.

And give your pets, parents, kids, grandparents a special love for me. We won’t be around forever and you’ll sure as hell wish you had more time. I know I do.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Rodin's Thinker

What are you afraid of?

Are you scared to speak up? Are you afraid of failure? Afraid of attention? Are you scared of dogs? Of hurting other people?

Examine yourself. Think about your fears. How does fear specifically affect your life?

Fear holds us all back, but we are given the opportunity to face our fears pretty much every day. It’s so much easier to do the safe thing (and live in fear, let your fear beat you, keep you from being happy, from building confidence), but you know what? Every time I face my fears, I feel better about myself. It builds my confidence and make me more likely to do scary stuff.

So what am I afraid of? I guess I’m afraid of looking stupid. I don’t like silence very much (that’s one reason I talk so much)–I’m not sure whether or not I’m afraid of silence, but I definitely feel compelled to fill it. I’m afraid of not being successful–ah fear of failure. That’s it, for sure. It’s probably a big one for me, although I never really consciously think about it. I just do things and keep going. But I’d guess that a good part of my motivation comes from the desire to be successful.

I used to be afraid of speaking in front of people, or of giving my opinions on some things (being as I’m one of the most outspoken, opinionated people around, well, I guess things change, don’t they?). I never wanted to speak up in class. I didn’t want to get shot down, was afraid of having everyone’s attention on me. I had an 8th grade teacher who forced me to talk louder in class (he did so by calling me out in front of everyone, making fun of me for speaking so softly, and pushed me to speak up). I think that was when I realized that I was afraid to speak up, so I started doing it more, just to challenge myself.

In writing this post, I realized that I need to examine my fear in more detail and really think about how it affects my life.

What about you? Do you need to build up your confidence? Are you afraid of what other people will think of you? Assert yourself.

Do something that scares you today.

I’m On the Sauce: (Asian Kiwi Mango Sauce!)

Kiwis and a Lime on the Cutting Board

This winter, I’ve been cooking like crazy.

I have been stir frying a lot, making tacos, crepes, you name it. I’m also on a big pork kick–I bet I’ve eaten more pork in the last 3Pork Taco with Sweet Kiwi Mango Sauce

months than I have in the last 3 years. And ever since we visited my sister in Chicago a few years ago, my brother and I have been

making interesting tacos (it took going to Chicago for us to encounter real Mexicans making real Mexican food, which spurred us to start experimenting).

I’ll go into better detail about our zany tacos in another post, but here is a not-very-good picture of one I made a few days ago. It’s a soft corn tortilla, pork (which I ground from a pork loin roast and spiced up), Napa cabbage, a cucumber and cilantro salsa, sweet kiwi mango sauce, and sour cream.

For years now I’ve been making salsas of all kinds, but rarely have I tried my hand at more exotic sauces. I’ve always watched Bobby Flay make these great sauces that everybody raves about on his shows, and lately I’ve been watching a lot of Chopped–those chefs whip up amazing sauces with weird ingredients all the time. I saw a guy recently make a cranberry sauce everyone

Asian Kiwi Mango Sauce and Cilantro Sauce
Asian Kiwi Mango Sauce and Cilantro Sauce

loved, and I finally decided to turn my attention to creating something new of my own.

So I have been. I can’t say that every one has turned out, but I’ve only had one absolute failure so far (which was an Asian cranberry-cilantro creation that tasted strange).

I’ve made a couple different cilantro sauces–they both turned out, although I think they need a bit more work before I start handing out recipes.

By far the best sauce I’ve made so far is my Asian Kiwi Mango. It’s tangy, sweet, savory, and tart. And it’s so damn easy that I’m not going to give you an exact recipe. Just use a bit of each of the following ingredients, and blend them up until you have a sauce:

Asian Kiwi Mango Sauce:

Kiwis and a Lime on the Cutting Board
Kiwis and a Lime on the Cutting Board

2 Kiwis

1 Mango

1/2 cup raw Onion

1 tsp Fish Sauce

1 tbsp Soy Sauce

couple pinches of Salt (maybe more to taste)

1 tbsp Brown Sugar

1 tbsp minced Garlic (from a jar)

splash Rice Vinegar

Asian Kiwi Mango Sauce
Asian Kiwi Mango Sauce

juice from half a Lime

1 tbsp Olive Oil

I don’t keep track of ingredient amounts when I make up stuff–I just go to it and work until I’ve either made something tasty or

not. With this sauce, I recorded all the ingredients, but not the exact amount I used. I probably used more salt than that, but I think you should just add things to taste and see where you get. If your kiwis or mango are getting overripe, you might get a slimy sauce, and it’ll probably be sweeter. I also used garlic from a jar because it’s mild but still adds flavor.

After making this sauce, I also made a Sweet Kiwi Mango Sauce that tastes great on tacos (it’s basically just the same sauce as above without the savory

Sweet Kiwi Mango Sauce
Sweet Kiwi Mango Sauce

ingredients). When I made this batch, the kiwis were a bit more ripe than I liked, so they made it a tad bit slippery. If you eat it alone, it’s a little slick, but when put in a taco, it adds a lot of interesting flavor, especially if you’re not used to sweetness in your tacos.

 

I’ll share some more sauce recipes with you soon. What about you guys? Do you have some great ones in your arsenal? And if you make this recipe and modify it, please post your changes/improvements here. Please share them!