Can You Help?

Last month I received an email in my Waking contact gmail account.  The writer said something along the lines of- “Hi LA.  Love your blog.  It’s so good. You’re so successful. Can you give me tips on how to write?”

I stopped, I looked around my living room, and then back at my ipad screen.  This was immediately followed by my best DeNiro/Taxi Driver “You talking to me?” which was followed by “What? I don’t know how to write a blog.  I just throw my thoughts on a page.”

And when you think about it- how do you teach someone how to write a blog?  How do you write a blog? And that’s basically what I said to Midlife- I don’t know how- I just do.

But since that fateful day when I realized someone might actually want my opinion (as opposed to my daughter and husband), I have tried to think about my writing process.  So here goes- the waking formula for writing:

E=MC²

E= Essence.  Plain and simple, you must have a topic.   What do you want to write about?  What do you want to say? Without a topic you are trying to do the blog equivalent of “Seinfeld”.  How many successful shows are there about nothing?  How many successful blogs are there about nothing?  My  overall theme is how age has shaped my thinking process.  My topics are things I actually think about.  And think about.  And analyze.  So the first thing you must have before you open laptop, tablet or phone is a topic/idea. Seriously- do not open up your writing section unless you know what you want to write about.  Otherwise it’s just a really frustrating time staring at the blank screen and blinking cursor.

M=Mode.  How are you going to write about a particular topic.  Funny?  Intelligent? Poignant? In your face? Your style, or voice is extremely important- it’s what sets you apart from other writers.  As people tell students about writing their college essays: throw a pile of blogs on the floor- if people can tell which one is yours by style alone, then you’ve done your job. There are probably only four stories out there in the world: man/woman v nature, man/woman, self and machine. How you tell that story is the difference.

C²=Content- You can’t be style without substance: your words must back up your idea. What are the actual ideas that are going to back up what you are setting out to do.  They don’t have to be facts, but they must be supporting statements that make you seem like you know what you are talking about.  And, to be fair, it’s your topic that you chose to write about.  You should have an idea as to why you chose the topic and what you want to say about it. Try to stick to the topic.  I tend to meander- I have to reign myself in every day.  But seriously- keep the same thread running through your blog from start to finish. Stay on point.

There it is: Take a hypothesis, back it up, write about it in your own individual way.

Simple.

What’s that you say?  Not that simple?

Well- here’s the thing: Nothing is simple.  Nothing is easy.  If you want to write, you sit down and write.  Sometimes it’s good, often it’s bad.  But does it matter?  Isn’t just putting words on the page and hitting publish a success? That’s my theory every day.  Every time I come up with an idea, write 500 – 1000 words and hit the blue publish button I consider it a success.  So maybe my mindset is my greatest asset- maybe one person out there thinks I’m a good blogger because I have the guts to hit “Publish” every day, no matter what I’ve put on the page.

Which is what I’m about to do now…

 

 

 

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Straw into Gold

I always jot down blog ideas by putting them in my planner.  Most of the time I see my note and I know immediately the direction I want to take: I have a clear cut path.  Today is not one of those days.  Today I looked at my note and went “hmmm- what was I thinking when I jotted this idea down?” So, we’re going to see if I can turn straw into gold.  Or if not gold, at least something of worth.

My daughter just finished Junior year of high school.  She did well- this is not a complaint about her academic achievements.  She has an impressive three year GPA, she did well enough on her SAT that if it wasn’t that she needed to do the optional essay, she would not be taking it again. (In NYC, all students take the SAT courtesy of the city- the only catch is, it is given without the optional essay.  My daughter is applying to at least 5 schools that require the essay)

Here’s the thing when people see someone with high grades- they somehow assume that those that have high grades do not study.  They think these grades just happen.  And maybe, for some kids this is true.  But my kid is not always one of them.  My kid studies. And some classes are more of a struggle than others.

History is not one of those classes.  For some reason she has an almost eidetic memory for history- she has an uncanny grasp of dates and concepts.  When they played US History Jeopardy, her team won 7000-300 because if her teacher started a question “In 1887…” she would ring in and say “Dawes Act”- and then give the description.  She got a 99 on the Regents Exam (NY State test for high school) and thought about asking to see her answer sheet because she couldn’t figure out what she got wrong. But, to be clear, she still reads the books and does the homework.  It just settles in her brain the right way.

Physics.  Well physics was a bit of a challenge.  She spent more time studying physics this year than every other class combined. She was at every review session.  She signed up for a physics video website thing.  She bought about a thousand physics study guides.  She worked her tail off, and she was rewarded with a good grade.  But she worked hard.

Some people don’t seem to realize that success comes with hard work and sacrifice.  When my family was over on Father’s Day, my daughter excused herself to study physics, because she had the exam a few days after.  My FIL said “Why is she studying?  She’s smart. She doesn’t need to study.”

So here’s the thing: just because you are smart, or athletic or funny doesn’t mean that you are automatically get all A’s, or play in the major league or be a late night talk show host.  Just because you have raw talent doesn’t mean you don’t have to work at something.  To be good at anything you must consistently work towards that goal.  You must consistently put in time and effort.  Study, practice, whatever- you must work.  No one is entitled to grades or recording contracts or pro careers.  No one succeeds by putting in minimal effort.  No one is that lucky.

So here’s the thing: don’t spend your time buying lottery tickets in hopes of changing your life.  Figure out your passion and work towards a goal.  Take your straw and weave it into gold.

 

 

90%

One of my favorite Momism’s is “90% of success is showing up”.  I think Woody Allen said it originally, and even though I don’t really like him, I find this to be a pretty handy quote.  I often say this to my daughter, and she has taken it to heart.  She shows up.

From the time she was little I have also stressed the companion quotes, you may not win everything, but I can guarantee you will not win if you haven’t entered.  She competes in things.

Show up and join the game.

Seems so simple, right?

Yet, how often do we do it? How often do we talk ourselves out of competing, or entering or showing up?  How often do we let others talk us out of things?

My kid wants to intern in a law related field this summer.  This is a really hard proposition:  there are not many intern positions in law for high school students.  In fact, one of our friends said “Why is she bothering.  She’s not going to get anything.”

Why is she bothering?

Because if you don’t even try, you’ll never know what is out there.  So she’s applied for five internships.  She got four interviews with four different programs.  She didn’t get one of them.  She’s waiting to hear from two of them.  And she’s entered the training portion of one program (she doesn’t know if she actually had a placement, but is receiving invaluable mentoring advice in the meantime).  She’s in this position because she showed up.  She tried.  True- she may not actually get anything, but at least she was in the game- she put herself out there.

And right now, you’re thinking, what a good Mom.  Look how she motivates her kid.

Which I do.

But

My daughter likes to write, mostly poetry and essays, but writing is writing.  A few months ago she read about a 10 minute, 1 act play contest.  She loves the theater, has been a stage hand/tech person since sixth grade.  But writing a play?  She’s never even tried.

So she started writing a play.  And it was pretty lame.  The writing was OK, but the dialogue and story were awkward and clumsy.

So she started thinking about other ideas.

And she was coming up blank.

Then, she had an idea.

Problem?

It was three days till the contest deadline.  Easter.  Our trip to DC.  There was very little time to actually write a play, no matter how short.  I told her not to bother- how was she going to do it?

She didn’t listen.  She just began writing the play.  She figured out how to add the little things that make it a play.  And ten minutes before the 12am deadline, the play was emailed.  The confirm receipt came shortly after.  The play was entered.

Will she win?  Who knows. Does winning matter?  Well, it depends on your definition of winning. Winning a prize?  Well, this particular contest will have 3 “winners” and 2 Honorable Mentions.  They get to put it on the resume.  That’s one version of winning.  The other version of winning is having the tenacity to finish something- the ability to take an idea, flesh it out, and submit it.

So, I’m giving my daughter the win.  She did what she needed/wanted to do.  The prize at the end will be icing, but she’s already got the cake.  She had a goal, figured out the steps and did it.

So what’s the point?

Just show up.  Get in the game.

That’s  how things happen.

 

Just Show Up

I was talking to my friend SF the other day about things we say to our kids.  One of my favorites is “90% of success is showing up.”  I honestly don’t know who said this first, but it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is, it’s a pretty accurate statement.  But what does it mean?

Obviously, the literal meaning is true.  If you want to do/win something, you must be physically present where the event is taking place.  You can’t win a tennis match if you’re home watching TV- you need to be on the court. (yes- I realize that thanks to the internet you can be at home and win/participate in things, but you’re still “virtually present.”  The internet does allow a little leeway on what constitutes as physical. You still need to “show up” to whatever internet portal is necessary)

So, however you look at it, you must be somewhere to even have the chance at success.

The most important part of showing up though, is the mentally showing up.  What does that mean?  It means giving your attention and focus to whatever you’re trying to do.  If you are in class, you need to pay attention to what the teacher is saying.  You need to do the homework.  You need to study the material.  Sure, you can show up every day, be physically present, but if you just lean back in your chair and draw doodles on the side on your notebook (like we did in the seventies) or play on your phone, you’re probably not going to do well.

Engagement.  If you want to do well at something, if you want to succeed, you must be engaged in the activity at hand.

Now, apply this to your resolutions/goals if you made any.  I’m assuming if you made one or more of these, your goal is to succeed.

Are you present?

Are you engaged?

Let’s use weight loss as an example.  If your goal is to lose weight:

  1. Have you done a food diary to see what you are actually eating every day?
  2. Have you figured out what your biggest eating mistake is? (potions too large, too many carbs vs veggies, too many processed foods, etc.)
  3. Have you figured out a way to correct eating mistake?
  4. Have you rid your home of foods that aren’t as healthy?
  5. Have you consulted a physician or weight loss specialist to make sure you are on the right path?

All of the above, as well as a host of others, are ways of engaging yourself in your weight loss journey.  You are becoming an active participant in weight loss, you are showing up mentally to succeed at your goal of losing weight.  If you focus your energy and attention, you will lose weight.

How do you show up?

  1. Visualize your goal
  2. Figure out what is needed to achieve it (this might require research)
  3. Write a success plan of the steps necessary
  4. Realistically incorporate these steps into your life
  5. Do what is necessary (if this requires formal education, just do it.  There is no work around for needed/required degrees or certificates)
  6. Work on your goal every day, even if some days it’s just a little
  7. Focus on your goal

Success isn’t easy. That’s sort of why we applaud people who succeed at something, because we know it takes hard work and determination. But it all starts with showing up. You won’t succeed if you don’t show up.

S-U-C-C-E-S-S That is How You Spell Success

Ok- now we know how to spell it- but how do we define it?  Success, like love, is a concept that has more than one meaning, it   and can be interpreted in myriad ways.  For today, because you know this will morph into a multi part series when people raise questions and points, and add to the growing list of interpretations, and I will be “forced” to write a follow-up.

So, if you want to play- think about what your definition of success is.  You don’t need to write it down, but keep it in your thoughts.

Now, I’m going to start off with some quotes I found about success.  I am going to say that the authors of these quotes could be considered successful people.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” Winston Churchill

“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure. loyalty, and persistence” Colin Powell

“Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Bobby Unser

“Success is a journey, not a destination.  The doing is often more important than the outcome.”  Arthur Ashe

“Success is a science: if you have the conditions, you get the results.” Oscar Wilde

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” George Bernard Shaw

“Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank.  Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.” Mike Ditka

“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” George S. Patton

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” John Wooden

Think about your definition.  Is it similar to what’s above?  Or did you mention money or winning somewhere in your definition?  I asked a bunch of people what success is, and most of them mentioned money, fame or winning (FYI- this poll was completely unscientific- there was no control group, it was not really a random sampling)

But what I learned in my 15 minutes of research on this topic is: success is perseverance.  Success is setting a goal and working towards it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be the best, or win, or be famous or make money.  It means you gave it all you had, you didn’t let mistakes deter you and you were resilient.

And in a backhanded way, success means you have failed at some point.

I think people have trouble grasping failure (and yes- I wrote about failure being an option- still one of my favorite posts).  Yet, without failure, can there really be success?  Does anyone ever just go out and do something perfectly the first time?  Doesn’t everything require practice to a certain extent?

Ok- so here’s the homework:  Come up with your own definition of success, and recognize all the times you have been successful. (just remember- every time you post a blog you have succeeded- you put thoughts on a page and exposed them to the world- think about how many people do not hit publish)  I think we all tend to focus on the failures, without comprehending the lessons that we learned from those failures.  Let’s put some spin on our internal thinking.

Attitude is the key to success.

What do you all think?