Wednesday, February 14, 2018

When the Muse Strikes...

It is wonderful. When characters that you didn't see coming arrive then it's a wonder all its own. Stephen King, in his book, On Writing, A memoir of the craft said that it would happen, and that characters would do things you don't expect. I thought that was hogwash until it happened in my work. Then it was freaking awesome!
This type of inspiration also happens in non-fiction work. I have had an idea to write about, but it ended up going somewhere I never expected. Tonight I was working on Honor Battle and I wrote a couple characters in, or should I say a couple characters showed up. I'm laughing and getting excited as I watched what was happening in front of me. If you don't write fiction you won't get it and it will sound like garbage.
The author writes what he sees. I was writing this laughing, and I clapped because I was so happy to see these guys. If you read the book you'll know.
You're writing a scene and you're not always sure what's going on because it's foggy. The picture isn't clear. You mess with the antenna (dated myself) trying to get the picture right. Slowly but surely it clears up and you see what's happening.
Then you write what you see. As the story unfolds you transcribe it as quickly as you can because things are happening so fast.
I love writing the most for these moments, and they can't be forced. When it happens don't try to change anything. Just go with it. When you rewrite and if you hate them take it out. When the muse is there you need to go. Don't turn the muse away. She can stay away awhile if you reject her enough. OK, I'm really not that Pollyanna about the muse. I do think she's real. The muse responds to work and curse words. Truly believe that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I'm Learning a New Skill...

Since I have a new friend who speaks mostly Spanish I started texting in her language. I thought it would be easier. She appreciates it very much. It was good in another way. This was a great opportunity for me to learn a new language. Learning a new language is something I've talked about for years. Jim Rohn talks extensively about learning new skills. A new language certainly is that.
The good thing about the Spanish language is that it's become more necessary (insert political opinion here). I really am enjoying it. One of my five strengths according to the strengths finder is that I am a learner. It's true, I love to learn new things, but I'm not looking to be an expert. Just be able to have a conversation and not sound like an idiot.
I still sound like an idiot with Spanish, but so far it's been fun.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Title Doesn't Matter...

Because once you establish who the leaders are their title becomes irrelevant. Recently at my store my title changed and I had to change my badge backer. The backer has my title on it. My title changed for some reason so I had to change that. I didn't care because it wouldn't change anything for me at the store.
One of my peers whose title changed too was upset about it. I told him it didn't matter what the backer said. They would get the same people to do the same jobs regardless of what their badge backer says.
I gave a speech to employees at a large insurance company about being a leader wherever you are. I explained to the team that regardless of what your position is your leadership can shine through. My mother never had a big grand title during her career, but you best believe everyone knew who ran the office.
Early in my career the title was so important. I wanted to be able to tell people what my title was. What I did for a living so they'd be impressed by how great I was. It needed to sound flashy and important. After a few terminations for poor performance I realized that my work would matter more than a title.
Keep your focus on producing high quality work, not on what your job title is.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Wonder of Adele...

When I first heard Adele sing she sounded different to me. I've never listed a female singer as an all time favorite of mine. Not because they were women just because it hadn't happened. Adele kicked the door down with her soulful sultry tone that goes right inside. She could sing me the phone book and I'd listen.
Now I'm a big fan of Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Nicks, and Fleetwood Mac. Anyway the point is that Adele is amazing. I'm posting this because I'm listening to her album 21 right now. Just switched to 19.
Enjoy your day with great music!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

How do You Chop down a Tree?

One chop at a time. Many times you feel as if you will never climb out of the pile. You will never get from under the work you have. Whatever it is? Keep chopping. Rarely does something change immediately. It takes time. The bigger the tree the longer it's going to take to chop it down.
Each day you move forward. Find small gains. When I lost weight I rated myself in five pound increments and sometimes less. If I was down two pounds I was happy. I knew I had to keep chopping.
When you are in a situation that seems insurmountable with you to start at the beginning. Almost every swing gets the same result, so the key is to chop as many times as you can. If that's in the small details of a project or working all the freight from the backroom. It could also be if you're seeking promotion and wonder if it will ever happen.
You just have to keep going. Many times you have to keep chopping even when others say they don't want you to.
 Find the small things you do that work and keep doing it. Sometimes we try to change it up when routine helps more than anything.
Once you find the groove the tree will begin to go down. As you get closer you'll find that second wind you didn't think you had and down goes the tree.
Project finished. Backroom clean. Promotion earned.

Friday, February 9, 2018

What Would You say?

If you could tell your 19 year old self one thing what would it be? If you were able to go back in time and tell yourself, in your final teenage year, one thing, what would it be? At my store they asked veterans to provide pictures from their service years. My picture is when I was 19 years old.
So it made me think. I looked at the picture and said, "Boy what I would say to you."
What would I say to 19 year old Brian?
The obvious is to tell me to save money. That's easy. I would also want to tell him to never trust someone who says they won't cheat on you again. That however needs to come from life experience as does saving money. I was told both of those things when I was 19.
Both of those are mistakes I've made. 
Most things in life you figure out or you don't. Remember I have one thing I can say. Since almost everything is life experience I think the best advice is,
"do your best not to make the same mistake twice because you will get many chances to do it."
I know that sounds cliche. Here's why it isn't. I could tell myself Jim Rohn quote, or tell me all the mistakes I made. That was strange to write. Anyway I don't believe anyone's hand should be held, so I would let myself make the mistakes. Just don't make a habit of making the same mistake twice. The less you do that the better your life will be. That means you're learning, and growing.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

What is the Leadership Balance?

It's when you are approachable, friendly, and take care of your associates, but always put the business first.

Always think of what's best for the business when ever you make your leadership decisions.

Here's what I mean. My manager is very friendly. We've bought coffees, lunches, and he will choose me whenever a big project needs to be done. In my time in the store he is by far the best leader I've had. I can joke with him, and he never loses his cool under pressure. As well as we get along and as much as he trusts me if my performance dipped he wouldn't hesitate to let me know. I'm just as apt for an ass chewing as anyone else who reports to him. In some ways more so because the expectation is higher.
You want that in a leader. My team knows that about me too. I will joke with them, but if we don't produce at the level I expect they will know. I won't hesitate to change my narrative.
Every decision you make should always come back to what's best for the business. If you lead a department then it's what's best for the department. Sounds overly simplistic, but you would be shocked how many leaders put everything else first. They worry about feelings, help, gossip, breaks, and anything accept the business. Some of those things matter, but they shouldn't impact your decision.
Recently I had to tell my team their hours were getting cut. Some of them were glad, but most weren't. So I did consider their feelings before I told them, but it didn't change that I was going to. Our company recently restructured the senior managers at the store level affecting thousands of jobs. It was the right decision for the business. We had way too many chiefs and bureaucracy infested everything. Decisions never got made. If they worried about feelings it never would've happened. I've been on both sides and neither are fun, but it's the way business operates sometime.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

One of My Favorite Quotes of Jim Rohn's is....

"Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better,
Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills,
Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom."

On the ESPN Bad Boys documentary about the Detroit Pistons from the eighties they were interviewing Michael Jordan about those teams. The Pistons brutalized Jordan. They were able to get away with much more physical play than they are now. Detroit routinely knocked Jordan to the ground every chance they got making his life miserable.
After another playoff loss to the Pistons what did Michael do? Did he say the officiating needed to get better? Did he want rules changed? Were his teammates to blame?
Jordan said, and I paraphrase, "I needed to get as strong as I could so I could absorb as much punishment as possible and continue to play at a high level." How cool is that? He said that he needed to get better. He didn't ask for it to be easier. Jordan didn't tell the media how unfair everything was. No, Jordan said that HE needed to get better.

What do you do when it gets difficult? Do you ask for easier, or less work? Are you complaining about the lack of help you get everyday?

That's what 97% of people say. Instead of making a way they stand around bitching about what's not happening. What they forgot is the other thing that's not happening is them working. All the time spent trying to find someone to bail you out is time not working.
Look at the situation and find out why things aren't going right. Every solution to a problem begins by looking in the mirror. Once you know what you need to improve then attack the problem. Asking for it to be easier won't help you handle these situations in the future. Attack the impossible with vigor and enthusiasm. The problem isn't as bad as it usually seems.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Washington Capitals Hockey - It's Pure Hell...

Yes Cubs fans I get it. Trust me we heard about it. Forever. A hundred some odd years since you won a pennant, or a world series, whatever it was. Who cares. Thank goodness it's over so we don't have to listen to them complain. One of my best friend's Joe is a White Sox fan and I think his hatred of the Cubs rubbed off on me. When they won in 2016 I thought, good now they'll shut up.
After losing for the second straight year to the Penguins, and since we still haven't reached the Eastern Conference finals in the Great Eight era it's hard to get excited anymore. The regular season means nothing to me. I don't worry about it at all anymore because winning the Cup is all that matters. In fact I don't want a high seed. The Capitals won the dreaded President's trophy for the second year in a row. The Presidents Trophy is accursed to the NHL team with the most points at the end of the regular season. This team is the top seed in the playoffs. It's an albatross. The Capitals have won it three times in the Great Eight era.

 3 trophies, 0 Cups.

When a hockey fan says, "hey congrats on winning the presidents trophy," they're saying, "hey your team isn't winning the cup. Haha asshole!". Maybe that's just me. I'm sick of complaining about this team. I have loved this hockey club since I was a kid. When Dale Hunter scored the overtime and series winner against Flyers goalie Ron Hextall I was hooked. Thanks Dale. Thanks for making me think so many times that this year is different.
I said that a couple years ago to a Caps fan they day we started a second round series with the Lightning. I said to a Caps fan buddy, "I don't want to say it, but this team just feels different."
 We got swept 4-0. I was wrong.
Here's a real slap in the face courtesy of the Hockey News magazine. They offered a free team pin if you bought a subscription. They were real nice. I was ready to buy it and I looked for the Capitals and we weren't on the list to choose from. Then I saw the fine print. Stanley Cup winning teams only. Ouch. I leaned back from the computer and said, "that's bullshit!"
I was pissed off. Really, Hockey News? A free gift only if your team has won a Cup. Sonofabitch.  I'm truly wondering if I'll ever see us win the Stanley Cup. It's the only pro team championship I really care about. These next couple months I'll be writing about dealing with this team. The Washington Capitals are a great source of anguish. I'm waiting for another Dale Hunter moment. If the Vegas Golden Knights win it before us....

Monday, February 5, 2018

Britannia on Amazon Prime...

I watched the beginning of this show last night. I've talked about Man in the High Castle before and this is the second Prime original I've watched. I only saw the first ten minutes and it was a great study in story set up. Spoiler: It begins with four men bound by the hands above their heads to a rope.
The general of the roman army (I think) refers to the men as traitors. Then three of the men start talking about how terrible Britannia is because of the druids and all this wacky, spooky stuff that happens (Hmmm really?). One of the men doesn't speak and the general notices. The general said that instead of killing all four of them he will let one of them slit the other three's throats. Three of the men beg for the knife. He unties the man who doesn't speak, and he kills the other three and is allowed to come back to the army. Then it's "on to Britannia", when the killer (is that what I call him? I don't know.) walks out covered in blood.
The opening scene itself is great because the traitors tell us about Britannia. Then we see the quiet guy. Then he murders (Is it murder or self defense) the other three. Now I want to know who this guy is who killed the other three. DO I like him or hate him? I don't know yet. That's how you grab a reader or viewer in the beginning. Right now, Britannia and, the killer murderer guy are really interesting. We'll see. My attention span for any scripted shows is slim.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My Super Bowl Boycott...

At least that's what I planned on discussing. This is the first time I have intentionally missed the Super Bowl. When the league decided not to take any type of stand about the players disrespecting the country they play in then I won't watch. It's my protest. You may not agree and that's fine.

Anyway that was my intent. I would rather use this as a lesson about being organized when it come's to personal things. I've never kept files or records, anything. My ex-wife did all of it, but let's just say I haven't learned anything.
For the last several days I have tried to file my tax return. Unfortunately I don't remember the password for my sign in so I couldn't sign in. Today I used another email and everything was fine until I had to provide the AGI from last year. It's the adjusted gross income from your previous tax return.
Of course I didn't have that either. Now I took a guess at the five digit pin. We'll see if it's right. If not I'm going to have to find another way. It goes to show you that no matter what progress you've made in other areas you can always improve in others. Even one's you don't think about much.

The lesson here is to keep files either in a cabinet or on your computer. If you don't something this simple can become a giant headache.Trust me I've learned my lesson, and I'm still not watching the game.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Dreaded PANIC BUTTON.....

I have worked for many managers who love to hit the panic button. Our life in retail is like that. Things are going normally, and then the market manager (boooo) comes into the store to tour (retail lingo for walk around and find all the problems). They get upset and then our manager runs right over to the panic button and gives it a push. Then hell breaks loose. It was bad enough, but pushing the panic button doesn't fix anything. It makes it worse.
Now the associates are freaking out and worried. The stress level is high. People are snapping at one another, so now the problem is magnified.

You must always be the picture of control. That doesn't mean you have to be calm. Hey, if you just got your ass chewed who wants to be calm? It is entirely possible to be angry and in control. I've done it many times. Your team is waiting to see how you react and they will react accordingly. That is when your leadership will stand out.

No matter what happened you have to take a step back and analyze the situation. Of course there are times when you need to make a quick decision, but usually things went off the rails way before that. Don't waste time trying to figure out who did it. Fix it first then worry about why it's wrong.

I remember we had a real bad inventory and the store managers kept the exhausted management team there for hours after it was over so they could figure out what happened, and how to fix it. It was pointless because they weren't going to come up with the solution right then. They were beaten and tired, so it made no sense trying to figure it out. He panicked.

Before you may any decisions get a handle on what's going on then map out the plan to fix it. There is no need to hit that dreaded panic button.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Your Appearance Sets the Standard...

I was speaking to a friend today and I was telling her one of the major reasons I wear a necktie to work. It's not a job requirement, but I told her that if I walk out the door in a tie then I've started by setting my standard high. I go to work casual and my work suffers.
When you dress nice you feel good. You're ready to take on the day. It affects your mood, and your actions. Anytime I meet an associate who's appearance is poor can be a direct reflection of their work. There are special situations, but my experience has shown it is.

Don't start your day lowering your standard. When I walk out the door in the power tie feeling and looking like a champ it puts me in the right frame of mind. You don't have to wear a tie or business suit, but if your clothes are wrinkled, don't match, or you hair is messy it says a lot about where your head is at. Make sure your day starts right. Set the standard for your day in the morning so you spend the day trying to meet that standard instead of giving up before coffee.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thoughts on Thursday....

  • I really hope WWE isn't splitting up Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens already. I hope it's a smoke screen.
  • I'm enjoying WWE without Enzo. I think the cruiserweight division needs to go byebye with him. The division and 205live isn't working.
  • CNBC I love you so much, but I am so tired of hearing about Bitcoin.
  • Real glad I boycotted the NFL. I was a Redskins fan and I think Alex Smith is terrible. It still made me mad when I heard about it.
  • This YouTube music is so great.
  • If you haven't listened to Janis Joplin then you're missing out. The more I listen to her the better I think she is.
  • I feel the same way about my favorite band of all time Tool. Listening to them right now.
  • When the the muse hits your writing and everything begins to unfold it is truly magical. I used to laugh or cringe when writers said that, but now I agree. I believe in the muse. I've seen stories unfold when there seemed to be no way. The muse is real. She is real.
  • My friend Jerry and I sat for a couple of hours the other night and we discussed the books he had purchased. It was so exciting to see his enthusiasm for the written word. I met him five years ago and he didn't read at all. Now he's a sponge. He told me he feels so much more prepared for life when he's actively reading. Couldn't agree more buddy.
  • My uncle and writing mentor Keith likes where my book is at right now story wise. I was so pleased because his opinion matters most to me when it comes to writing.