Mindset

I wanted to be an astronaut when I was growing up. Enough that I went to an engineering-focused college my freshman year, declared myself a physics and electrical engineering major, and signed up for a special tour of NASA in Houston. I even had a whole folder of articles on the space program that I’d cut out of the paper. My college essay was about going to space.

But I’m not an astronaut.

Because I didn’t have the mindset to get there. When I heard that you had to have perfect vision to be an astronaut, I gave up. And I soon switched to majoring in psychology.

Compare that to a man who actually became an astronaut, Chris Hadfield. I watched his masterclass last week and in the last video he was talking about how he became an astronaut.

He decided he wanted to be one when he lived in a country that didn’t even have a space program at the time. And then he spent over a decade-plus working towards that goal, becoming a test pilot, getting a masters, etc. all while that goal was not even something anyone else would have thought was possible. Because of that, when his country finally put an ad in the paper for astronauts he was there and ready to act.

He believed that impossible things happen. And because he did, he succeeded where I failed. He had the mindset to succeed.

I’ve always considered myself a fairly successful person, but I realize looking at what he did that I’ve often chosen the easier path instead of persevering when I faced a setback. (My moving to New Zealand is a perfect example. I do not live there today because I let their rejection of my residency application stop me when there were other options. Just not the convenient options I wanted, so I gave up.)

Fact is, most of us don’t have the vision and resilience to work towards a goal like becoming an astronaut in a country that doesn’t have a space program. Or becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Or a professional athlete. Or anything else that takes years of hard work, focus, and effort.

But I think a lot of us could at least reassess our mindset to achieve greater success.

(The rest of this is writer-specific, but if you’re not a writer think how this could apply to your circumstances instead.)

There’s a writers’ forum I frequent. (The new one, not the old one.) And I have to say…

I am horrified by what I see as the predominant attitude at that place.

There was an entire discussion there a while back about how it’s not possible to make a living at writing and how no one should bother trying because they’ll just be disappointed. And another one there last week by people boasting how they don’t track their sales because that’s a waste of time and effort. And now there’s one about how AMS ads don’t work or maybe only for those who spend five figures on ads because someone tried them and didn’t get them to work for themselves, so clearly they are a sham.

All of which is…bullshit.

And an example of how a poor mindset can sabotage you.

If you tell yourself that no one can do this, including yourself, do you think you’ll succeed? Do you honestly think you’ll push through when things get tough? No.

If you don’t even try to figure out what contributes to your success and what holds you back, do you think you’ll succeed? Maybe. By luck. But who wants to stake their dreams on luck?

If you try something and fail once and then decide that it must not work, do you think you’ll succeed? Not likely. Most people fail at least once on the way to success.

I mean, sure, some people will succeed while saying you can’t, paying no attention to what helps someone succeed, and giving up and changing direction every time they hit a wall. But most won’t.

So if you want to succeed? Aim high. Believe that even if no one else can do it, you can. When you run into a setback, reassess. Pay enough attention to what works and what doesn’t so you can learn and adjust and adapt.

Does that mean you will succeed? No, of course not. The harder the goal the less likely you’ll achieve it no matter what you do. But having the right mindset certainly makes it a helluva lot more likely.

 

A Moment to Be Grateful

An author whose blog I’ve followed for years lost his wife to cancer yesterday. She leaves behind him and their two children and what sounds like many, many others whose lives she touched.

I don’t know how old she was, but I suspect she wasn’t much older than I am. I’d been going to write a blog post today about how persistence and endurance and the ability to change course are I think some of the most important skills for being a successful writer, but instead I want to take a moment and just be grateful for what I have.

Life is never perfect. If it is perfect it’s only perfect for a moment. A snapshot in time. And then the dog barks, you step in gum, someone says something rude, something horrible happens somewhere in the world and it fills your TV or computer screen.

And it’s easy when life isn’t perfect to forget how good it really is. It’s that dissatisfaction that keeps us moving forward and accomplishing more and more, but every once in a while it’s good to stop and freeze the moment and say, “Life is pretty damned good right now.”

For me it’s the little things. I have my dog. I have my family. I have peace and quiet. I have my health as much as you can have your health when you spend too much time in front of a computer and your drink of choice is Coke. I’m doing something I truly enjoy, both the writing and the Strengths coaching. I have a nice home. I live in a nice place. Those closest to me are doing well.

Are there things I would change? Absolutely. If I could double my book sales that would make me very happy. (For ten minutes and then I’d set some new goal that was hard to reach.) If I could find that perfect person who just fell into my life without the effort of trying to find them, I’d like that, too.

But, really, truly, I am so so grateful for the life I have right now and I wanted to take a moment to say so. And to remind everyone else to take that moment, too. You never know how many more you’ll have…

Data Principles for Beginners

I forgot to announce that I released a new title a few days ago called Data Principles for Beginners. If you’ve read the Excel titles you’ll note that I make mention throughout those books about issues I’ve run into on data projects I worked on with respect to structuring data or analyzing it.

Well, this book takes all of those little mentions and puts them in one place as well as exploring a few other key principles that will make life a lot easier for anyone trying to work with their data.

Data Principles for Beginners

 

Possibilities vs. Probabilities

As you might have noticed, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about writing success and what counts and what doesn’t and what’s realistic and what isn’t. That’s what happens when I reach a big milestone. I’m kind of go, go, go and then I hit it and I stop and assess.

So Thursday I went to the monthly writers’ group dinner that I attend and I shared my little happy milestone about grossing six figures and one of the guys said that’s a really rare level to reach, like that was sort of an anomaly and be all, end all. Nowhere to go from there.

My response was that, sure it was hard to hit, but I compare myself to the people netting six figures a year and so all I think of is how far I still have to go.

That’s guy’s response was that it basically wasn’t possible to net six figures a year at this because only about 1 in 10,000 people manage to do it.

My response to that was, well, why can’t I be that one in 10,000?

(I’m pretty sure everyone at the table was like, who would think that highly of themselves that they’d even image they could be that person?)

But, see, that’s the thing.

Just because something isn’t probable doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

Yeah, so most people fail at this. Seen and understood. Witnessed. How many people have I known over the years who wanted to write a novel and never wrote the first draft? How many wrote the first draft and never wanted to edit it? How many tried to get a trade publisher, didn’t manage it, and then quit? How many self-published and then quit when they didn’t have instant success? How many are still publishing and not seeing success?

It is unlikely to see a lot of money from publishing books. I will agree with that 100%. It is not probable that any given author who sets out to make a lot of money writing will ever reach that goal.

But it is absolutely, 100% possible to do so.

Can anyone do it? No. I don’t think so. I think some people are just not in a position mentally or life-wise to make that happen. I think some people are just never going to click with enough of an audience to make it happen.

But it’s possible.

I realized then that that guy reminded me of my grandma. In the sense that my grandma, every single time I talk to her and every single time she sends me a card (and she sends lots of cards, bless her), tells me to “be safe”.

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been getting that message from her for over forty years now. Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.

Why not say, “Get out there and take some risks.” “Be adventurous.” “See if you can fail today.” “Do something you’ve never done before.”

But no, it’s always “be safe”.

Because she, like the guy who said these things to me, lives in the world of probability.

It’s a comforting world. If you don’t exceed what’s likely to happen then it’s easy to say, “well, this is how it is for everyone, right? I didn’t make it because most people don’t make it.”

But the possibility mindset is very different. It says, “If one person could do it, why can’t I? What makes them so special that they can succeed where I can’t?”

The possibility mindset pushes through. It keeps driving for the goal when the probability mindset is ready to sit back and admit defeat.

Which one is smarter? Probably the probability one. It’s why I hope my friends with good jobs who’ve worked steadily at them for 20+ years have a guest room with a nice couch when I finally crash and burn. But it’s the possibility mindset that has the potential to achieve what no one thought was possible.

Two interesting ways to frame a problem if nothing else.

Fantasy StoryBundle

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This blog is mostly about non-fiction, either the Excel guides I publish or writing in general, but I do in fact write fiction and the next few weeks one of my books will be part of a fantasy bundle so I wanted to mention it for any fantasy authors or readers out there who might want to check it out.

My title, Rider’s Revenge by Alessandra Clarke, is about a fierce young woman whose lack of understanding of the world gets her into big, big trouble she barely manages to survive. There’s magic and Gods who meddle in people’s lives and a few surprises I can’t tell you about.

Here’s a review from the SPFBO: ““Rider’s Revenge is a fast-moving epic, featuring a heroine that’s bravely thrown herself into unimaginable peril…for fans of Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy, Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series, Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina.” – Pornokitsch.com

But that’s just one of the fifteen books in this bundle. Look at the list of participating authors and you’ll see quite a few familiar names there, including Kristine Kathryn Rusch, James A. Owen, and Alan Dean Foster, just to name a few. You can get all fifteen books for just $15 and give money to charity, too.

Or you can get Rider’s Revenge and four other books in the bundle for just $5. (But, really, when the selection is that good, why stop with just five books…)

It’s available now through April 11th, so be sure to check it out before it’s gone: https://storybundle.com/fantasy

Also, if you’re willing, I’d really appreciate any signal boost you can give to get word out about the bundle. They’re good books, I promise.

Life Changes on a Dime

I’m sitting here watching the “blizzard” outside my window. Welcome to March in Colorado. I suspect I’ll lose at least one tree limb before this all out but I’m not willing to venture out into that mess to knock the snow off the trees just now.

Five days ago I was in New Zealand. It was seventy degrees (Fahrenheit), I was sitting next to a lake eating yummy fish and chips, and recharging after far too long of going going going non-stop.

Quite the contrast.

That difference–and the fact that I was in NZ to visit a very close friend who is two years into dealing with a cancer diagnosis–has me all philosophical today.

In my friend’s case they were dragging for a while before the diagnosis, but there was one day when it all flipped for them. When that “gosh I’m tired” feeling turned into “there is something really serious wrong with me and I need to stop right now and find out exactly what it is.” (Brain tumors will do that to you, you know?)

Just like that they found themselves living an entirely new life.

Of course, illness is a weird thing. Two years ago my friend didn’t think they’d make it six months. And I went to visit now because my friend is probably about to start round three of treatments. I could no longer be sure they’d be here next year when I was planning to go to NZ for Worldcon. So I went now.

And I went expecting, I don’t know, someone who was struggling? Someone who was scared? Someone who was demonstrably ill? (I know this person better than that, but it’s easy to project your own feelings onto someone else’s experience.)

I found someone who was definitely changed from who they’d been seven years ago when I saw them last–they can’t take part of your cerebellum and not have some impact–but I didn’t find someone who you’d think was dying.

I was only there 29 hours (crazy, I know), but I’m glad I went. It was perfect timing in so many ways.

My friend has a new scan on Monday. It may mean new drugs and new treatments. A month from now they may be that struggling and scared person I thought I’d find.

Or not. Life’s funny that way. Maybe I’ll get to visit again next July.

That’s the thing about life. You really, truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You can guess, and you’ll probably be right a lot of the time, but one moment can change it all.

One flip of that coin and tomorrow can be better (or worse) (or both at the same time) by magnitudes. That’s what keeps it interesting, right? Always something new around the bend.

How Do I Keep This?

That was the question I asked myself the other day when I was lounging on my couch outside under the little pavilion I put up, on a perfect summer’s day, with a good book to read, and my dog sleeping at my feet.

It was one of those moments when you know you’re content with life and you think, “Ah, if every day could be like this, I’d be happy.”

But the answer to “How do I keep this?” is “You don’t.”

The weather changes, the next book isn’t as good, time passes and we lose those we love.

I had six weeks in 2010 that were almost perfect. I was living in New Zealand, learning how to skydive, in love, making incredibly good money on a challenging project that let me take the reins and run with it. But that passed. The man I was in love with didn’t feel the same, I hurt my knee and quit jumping, the work slowed down, the next project was a miserable slog, and eventually New Zealand said they didn’t want me there anymore.

Life happens.

All you can do is try to be in the moment enough to enjoy the good ones while they last and be prepared enough to adjust as needed when they pass.

(And remember when the dark times come that they too will pass.)