Tag Archive | reading

Am I there yet?

Pilot gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wgMy husband is an aviation enthusiast and reminded me of this illustration. Before commercial or corporate pilots take off, they file a flight plan which includes, among other pertinent details, the destination and estimated time of arrival. Once they take off, however, wind, air currents, storms, turbulence, etc. work against the aircraft so that they must continually make corrections in order to remain on course and reach their appointed destination. Pilots understand the necessity of regulating the route, anticipating and performing the process to achieve their ultimate goal – a safe and punctual arrival.

This course correction is often needed throughout life, but too often I only recognize it after I’ve become discouraged that my project or goal is not working out right. For example, when I began my adventure into semi-retirement, I had so many ideas about what I would do when I grew up. I have many interests – Bible study, business, embroidery, friends, gardening, grandchildren and their parents, people, reading, sewing, teaching, writing and so much more – so I wanted to make my choice fit within the parameters of the things I enjoyed as well as discover a niche where I could concentrate my efforts so that I spent my time wisely.

I started out enthusiastically, doing a little bit in each genre, yet it didn’t take long to realize that I had too many things going on. I needed to prioritize my list. I thought that since I was good at multi-tasking in the workplace, I could come up with a workable solution if I concentrated on only three things. Not so. The three things were still too large, and I finally realized that I had to narrow my concentration further, yet with an interesting twist. One project remained my main focus while the other two became secondary. In other words, I did not give up on them, but I just take little chunks of time and do something that will advance their completion. It may only be reading an article, watching a video or jotting down ideas, but I am moving along in the right direction. Eventually I will get there – I will realize my goal. At that point it will look like an overnight success, but I’m not there yet, and it’s okay. This has helped my level of frustration.

Maybe when you’re asking yourself the am-I-there-yet question, knowing it’s acceptable to continue along your desired path, regardless of speed or apparent success, will help you as well. Just keep going.

Picture credit: gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wg

Why is it so hard to …

Why is it so hard to …, well you can fill in the blank. It could be dieting, exercising, working around the house or on a fun project. It doesn’t seem to matter that these are really good things especially when they are completed. After all, you do get a good feeling and a sense of accomplishment when they’re done, but for some reason there are times when you just can’t get started or if you’ve started, finished. What’s the deal with this?

A good quote may motivate you. The story about a successful athlete (like those in the Olympics) or a saga about someone who beat overwhelming odds can inspire, but the bottom line is we need to get up and do it. No one will come knocking on our door and offer to do it for us. We’ve got to move ourselves to action. Do we need to realize that our lack of action will bring consequences or do we just wait and hope we don’t reap negative rewards for our lack of effort?

I spoke with a frustrated teacher the other day and after listening, I’d feel that way, too. He was telling me about some students in his class who basically refuse to read – we’re talking English class where that’s the main focus! The problem is these students would prefer to play video games or hang out with their friends rather than read. They are  capable, but because they made other choices when it came to the use of their time, their skills in the area of reading were diminished. When the teacher apprised the parents about the problem (Guess what. The kids were not doing well in the class – surprise, surprise.), their comment reinstated the fact that the kids did not like to read. If the kids don’t care and the parent’s don’t care, it’s a whole lot harder for the teacher – not impossible, just more difficult.

The thing is, these kids illustrate some of my own struggles and maybe some of yours. I don’t like to diet and exercise and so I have to really push myself to do it if I want to lose weight. Sometimes I’m successful and other times, I’m not much different from those kids. At least I know that I have no one to blame but myself if my clothes don’t fit. Those kids and their parents probably won’t look into the mirror to find their culprit.

Become a leader for free

If leaders are readers, how can you afford to keep supplied in reading materials? Libraries offer one option or you could borrow from your friends, but it’s not the same as owning your own copy.

Guess what. There are resources available that will set both you and your wallet free! If you have a Kindle or Kindle app, you’ve got all you need to download a myriad of titles directly to your Kindle, PC or iPad. And, the cost to you? $0.00.

You’ll find both fiction and non-fiction. Sure, you’ll find genre that won’t appeal to you as well as some unfamiliar authors. But that’s the beauty of the freebies. You can afford to take a chance. Who knows? You may discover the next Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games.)

And it’s simple to do. Just click on the title – double check the price is $0.00 – and then click to have it downloaded to your eReader device. It’s that easy. Even I can do it without the help of the kids.

Still looking for an excuse why you can’t find something to read? You won’t find it here.

What’s the point?

Have you ever listened to a speaker, participated in a conversation or read a letter, email, article or book and come away with an overwhelming sense of wonder? Not because the message provided deeper insight or new perspectives, but because you had no idea what the person was talking about? It’s happened to me too. 

Excellent communication is critical because it can make or break relationships. Whether at personal, business or even national levels, communicating clearly (either verbally or in writing) requires a concentrated effort. If the speaker or writer fails to make a point, it becomes an exercise in futility.

If you’re the person with the message, it’s important for you to know your target audience – not just by name, title or demographic. Whether we realize it or not, we sometimes categorize people using statistics or broad-based generalities, yet each person is an individual with needs and wants the same as we have. As much as possible, we must understand who they are and how they think. What’s important to them, why do they need to know what we’re telling them, and how will all of this benefit them? If we have an idea of who they are, then we can speak their language to get our point across. 

Communication is a multi-party process. If you’re in the listening/receiving chair, (and I’m speaking to myself here), have the courage to ask for clarification if you don’t understand. If we don’t, we’ve wasted our time and may miss out on something really important.

Keep plowing or bury the book?

From a writer’s perspective, how do you decide if you should continue reading a book? 

If you’re like me, you’ve started books that no matter how hard you tried, the story or information couldn’t hold your attention. You’ve likely picked up some where you had to read the first 100 pages before reaching the point of no return, while others hook you in the first few sentences and compel you to keep on reading.    

As an aspiring writer, you may hope for the latter scenario, yet the truth of the matter is the first two situations will more likely become reality at least once before we succeed. (After all, John Grisham received 25 rejections before he was successful in finding someone to publish his first novel.) The point here is not to discuss rejection, but to discover what makes a book worthy of reading it to the end in order to reduce time spent in the learning curve and number of returned manuscripts. 

The criteria for continuing to read will be different for each person, but an analysis may prove to be an enlightening assignment. Good writers can learn from their own reactions to another author’s work. Unless it is self-published, you recognize at least one editor liked it. The publisher hopes others will also. What makes it read-worthy then becomes critical to prospective writers.

It might be helpful to keep a log of the books you’ve read and list what you liked or disliked about them. This way you can determine what worked well – genre, pace, characters, authenticity, clarity … – as well as what to avoid when you work on your next piece. Writing is like any other skill. You need to use the right tool for the job, and learning from other craftsmen can speed up the process. So before you bury the next volume, keep plowing long enough to see what insight you can gain.

Writers are readers

You’ve heard the old adage, “Leaders are readers,” well, so are writers. In fact, I would venture to say writers who are avid readers, are also likely to be leaders. 

One of the best ways to hone your writing skills is to read what other people write. Your goal is not to plagiarize their work or mimic their style. You want to be authentic and legal. You can learn a lot from applying journalism’s 5 W’s and an H – who, what, where, when, why and how – to whatever you read, both fiction and non-fiction. This sounds easy enough, and it is, unless you are engaged and forget your mission. Try using these questions for starters. 

Who wrote it?

  • Is this person renowned or unknown?
  • Is s/he credible, i.e., a subject matter expert in the field?
  • What biographical information do you know about the author that might help you to identify with their circumstances, situation or style? 

What type of piece is it?

  • Is it fiction or non-fiction?
  • Would you classify it as romance, science fiction, trade article, etc.?
  • Who is the target audience and is it being hit? 

Where does the author publish?

  • Does s/he use print or electric (e-book, online, etc.)
  • Does s/he self publish?
  • Does s/he publish through an agent and publishing house? 

When …?

  • What period (fiction) does the author write about? Is the work true to the era?
  • Is it current (non-fiction)? 

Why does the author write?

  • Does s/he tell a story, have a point to make or an agenda?
  • Is s/he trying to provide instructions?
  • How well does s/he accomplish the mission? 

How does the author achieve results?

  • How engaging is the work?
  • What techniques does s/he employ? Are they successful? 

Want to curl up with a good book? You can. It will make you a better writer.

Savings on email

Do you get overwhelmed over the volume of email you get each day? 

If you work in a business office, you’re bombarded throughout the day with electronic messages. Did you know that it takes an average of 2 minutes to open read and close an email? This means if you send and receive 50 emails per day – I realize this is likely a low estimate, you spend 100 minutes per day just on email. Let’s see, based on 260 days per year that works out to about 18 days you’re dedicating to email alone. All of this does not include any action or follow up the email may generate nor does it count texting or IM. You do your own math based on your volume. 

Several years ago, I read the Hamster Revolution by Mike Song, Vicki Halsey and Tim Burress, which offered several strategies to reduce the time spent on dealing with email. They claim to save you 20% on your time. Their methods do work, though I never actually measured my results. 

One of the ways they suggest to lessen the load is to use the ABC approach for messages you write:

Action Summary – one sentence specifying action, purpose or your key point

Background – body of message using bullet points and white space whenever you can

Close – niceties, next steps, and auto signature (this really saves you time). 

You might identify with their hamster analogy if you expend a lot of energy handling messages while your real work piles up on the desk. Throw in frequent meetings, and you’re loading your brief case to take the work home. Not good. To establish more work/life balance, try different strategies to lighten the load.