Setting a Deadline for your Dreams

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do is to set goals for ourselves. By setting goals, we give ourselves a purpose, have a clear desire and destination, and most importantly, an impetus to work on achieving it. As a gamer, I believe it’s worthwhile to gamify our goals, coming up with rewards for each achievement. Napoleon Hill once said, “a goal is a dream with a deadline”; what dreams could you fulfill if you set them as goals?

We know what we want in life, but most of us don’t come anywhere close to getting what we want. You get lost in the grind, let the monotony of everyday life take over and often feel as if you don’t have the means to achieve. See, the brain is the most powerful and complex computer in the world, and part of the problem is we seem to be hardwired to procrastinate; but it’s not the case. Procrastination is a symptom of bad programming, and can be patched out through a lengthy, but worthwhile process of retraining yourself. It’s said that 21 days makes a habit; continuing with our computer science analogy, that means the installation process for a patch to remove a bug is 21 days. That’s a long time for a people that has culturally become accustomed to instant gratification and immediate results; another bug in the system that is only becoming more and more common.

There are pitfalls to be wary of as well. We all carry a powerful computer with access to the sum of all human knowledge in our pockets; and most people use that power to browse social media and post cat pictures. Others spend their time glued to that same social media to spam political memes of varying veracity or reliability, more interested in verifying their own viewpoints. Worse yet are the deliberate trolls, taking part in the aptly named shitposting. The time we waste glued to these social media platforms, especially if they’re not part of our job, could be better used achieving our goals. It’s not hard to get glued to those platforms; they are specifically designed to capture attention and hold it. There’s a whole industry of social media marketing designed around maximizing the attention of someone that spends their life on Facebook or Twitter. I would not be surprised if the next edition of the DSM has pathological social media use as a codified psychological problem that requires treatment. They operate on the same wavelength as soap operas and reality television, catering to that part of our reward center that enjoys the small, snack-able bites of curated life. The result, of course, is that we as people procrastinate more, achieve less, and then blame the system for our own failings. Don’t get me wrong; I’m as guilty of it as anyone, and I try every day to reduce my consumption of such media. The irony is I rely on such media to raise awareness of my very existence as a content creator. I’d be curious as to what you, as my consumers, think of that.

Tangent aside, how do we develop a system to correct the bug, and patch in better behaviors? The first step is awareness, without letting that awareness frustrate you into inaction. Next, you set the goal. Write it down, on paper, and put it somewhere you are going to see it frequently. If it’s a big goal, such as losing a large amount of weight, getting a blackbelt from scratch, or starting a YouTube channel, break that goal down into smaller goals that are more “achievable”, meaning you can accomplish them in a short time, perhaps a few weeks. Perhaps the larger, longer-term goals should be reframed as achievements, whilst the shorter sub-goals are quests. Reward yourself everytime you accomplish a quest, and have a bigger reward planned for the achievement. Then go forth and do the quests!

If you are having trouble with setting goals, there are dozens of self-help and goal-setting books out there, but one of my favorites are 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson. Although it’s not explicitly a book on setting goals, after reading it, that was the first thing I did. Give it a try.

Becoming a Phoenix

Jacques Derrida, one of the key figures in Post-Modernism from France has many viewpoints that I’m critical of (post-modernist theory being one of them), but he had one phrase that, while I have no access to the context of, when taken on it’s own inspires some thought. While Derrida himself may be at least partially responsible for many of the problems we face in how people interact today, especially considering the rise of identity politics on both wings of the political spectrum and the chaos that we are experiencing because of it, the quote I found from him is something we can all learn from.

In his words, “whoever said that one is born just once?” Looking at what the question could mean from different perspectives, it’s important to unpack the phrase and really look at what it could mean for us in our ever-evolving lives. Throughout our lives, we encounter turning points, where we face a choice, and the choices we make can drastically change the circumstances of our lives. Maybe a tragedy happened and you were forced to relocate, or your company shuts down the plant you’re working in. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for real growth in another town, so you uproot yourself to take it. Maybe the very architecture you had built your life around turned out to be a lie, or wasn’t as stable as you thought it was, as is often the case when divorce or break up happens.

Often in these cases, you find that you’re having to start over, and rebuild a life, or a career you had once been very successful and comfortable in. The whole notion can be incredibly daunting, because you look back at what you had built, now rubble, wondering what it was all for. Why put so much effort into building something, if it can so easily and suddenly be demolished?

No matter what, every time you build something, you learn from the experience; that experiential learning cannot be taken away from you. That means that the next time you build things, it’ll be faster, and stronger than the previous attempt. When that one fails, and it likely will because life by its nature is iterative, you have an even stronger foundation to build on, and you’ll find that each time the building comes down, more of it is left to build upon. Rarely do we lose everything unless it’s either deliberate, by ourselves or an outside force, or because what we were doing was outside the bounds of the law; if the latter is the case, you need to seriously reevaluate why you chose to build on that foundation.

You can always take the skills you learned from the last attempt you made, and apply them to the next opportunity. Sometimes the next opportunity doesn’t happen immediately; it can be months, or even years before the opportunity to try again comes up, but these waiting periods can be spent sharpening other skills that are needed to make your next attempt that much better.

Life itself is very mechanical in nature; it works on a single class of fuel and it spools up and down based on what octane you put into it. You can be reborn, dozens of times, because in the end life is nothing but a series of feedback loops. As good things start to happen, they will happen more often geometrically so long as you don’t do anything to stop the momentum and keep applying the fuel. Similarly, if bad things start to happen and you apply the fuel to it, things will get progressively worse.

So that raises the question, what is the fuel and why would anyone want to apply it to make things worse? Simply put, the fuel is the mental and physical effort we put into what is happening. Even if you don’t consciously realize it, as things begin to spiral up or down, your brain helps it along by changing your attitude, and your thought process toward what is occurring. This can dynamically change how you handle the situation you’re in. So if you find things spiraling out of control in a downward direction, take the time to ask yourself why it’s happening. What you could do to fix it, or what steps are necessary to fix it. Is it something that can be fixed, or is there an exit strategy to get off a sinking ship? Often it takes help, and this can be especially hard for those of us that hate asking for it.

No matter what happens, you have to remember that you can always recover from a setback. You can defeat addiction, you can rebuild a career, you can build a new relationship. Just never give up on it–you can be reborn.

The Way: Find It or Make It

Sir Philip Sidney, one time Member of Parliament during the reign of HM Elizabeth I, once said “either I will find a way, or I will make one.” Despite his lengthy career of political missteps (including his poorly received letter to the Queen about her marriage), he coined this phrase of determination to achieve what he set out to. Had he not died of injuries sustained during the Battle of Zutphen (or to be more accurate, the gangrene he contracted due to such injuries), he likely would have gone on to do great things.

We all have the capability to do more than we believe we can. It’s true, some of us face natural limitations; you are limited by your IQ, which is demonstrably indicative of your potential for success, and in some ways, you are limited by your geography and resources. That said, if you are willing to put in the time, effort, and work necessary, you can achieve almost anything.

Warning: some of what I’m about to say is going to sound political, and if you read closely, it’s largely politically neutral.

There seems to be a culture, especially in my generation (I’m a 1980’s Millennial) due to the situation we graduated into, to take a victim mentality. To be fair, it largely isn’t our fault as a generation: we either graduated high school or college into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, then were largely blamed for a number of social problems before we even got our feet underneath us. Participation trophies, a softer manner that was still being developed to handle children as not to traumatize them through childhood (Gen Z, you are reaping the benefits of us being lab rats), and being constantly condescended to all have coalesced into this situation.

It’s easy for us to accept the situation we’re in as being institutionally problematic, or something out of our control. Some things are; many are not. If you want to get a better job, there are ways to get one. It’s going to take risk, accepting challenge, and maybe you need to take a different job to get there. You might have to relocate several times. You’ll face setbacks, pain, injury, but you keep going. Get up again tomorrow and face the challenge.

Jeffrey Gitomer, possibly the best motivational salesman I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, once said “Success doesn’t come in a day; it comes day by day.” That means you set a goal for yourself, each day, make it achievable, but have it move you in the direction of your final goal; whether it’s getting a different job, or a better one, or making fine artwork, or starting a YouTube Channel.

Christopher Odd, the first YouTuber I subscribed to and one of the two biggest inspirations to me starting my own channel, started in 2012. In 2018, he quit his job and started creating content full time. He worked six years to accomplish his goal; developed his skills by making mistakes. Then he learned from them and adjusted what he was doing to make his next attempt better. Watch some of his older videos, then watch his newer ones. They’re all good (Odd has talent as well as skill), but you’ll notice a significant difference not only in style, but in confidence as well. In fact, you can find that first video here:

So no matter what, continue striving for whatever goal you set for yourself. You may fail. You may land on your face. What matters is you continue to blaze that trail because if you fail enough, and are willing to adjust your method and try new ways to get there, you will eventually succeed.

Testing Limits

Brainy Quote is like crack for people that like to think. As part of my 9-5, I have to spend several hours every week finding inspiring quotes from all manner of individuals, including Presidents, Royals, Business-people, Psychologists, and Philosophers. I’ve run across hundreds of quotes that I like and want to do more thinking on, but rarely have the chance to unpack those quotes and really explore them.

One of the ones I found was by M. Scott Peck, a Psychiatrist from New York, and it reads “one extends one’s limits only by exceeding them.”

When I first found this quote, I took pause, as I often do when I happen upon a profound statement on the interwebs. I find it profound, because it illustrates that the only boundaries we really have, are those we set for ourselves, or those set by society. Of course, many of these boundaries are extremely important; after all, the boundary we set against walking outside naked likely originated from ancient proto-civilizations not wanting to die of exposure. True, in some places like South America where uncontacted tribes live they are often found in minimal clothing, and it works there because the temperature range is never, or at the very most rarely, outside a livable range for human beings. On the other hand, the likelihood you would have found a member of the Inuit running around without serious protection from the elements is close to zero.

Others on the other hand, are less important and are either placed upon us by what our parents feel is morally correct, or what the general society around us feels is morally correct. It’s also not entirely probable that many of these boundaries are nothing more than arbitrary, set by some unspoken agreement because someone was made uncomfortable by it. For example, most salespeople will not call friends or family to make a sale, unless the friend or family member solicits the call. This is understandable to a degree; not wanting to mix business and pleasure, another “best practice” by most standards I’ve seen, prevents misunderstanding and helps you keep friends. No one likes being sold something every time they see their sibling or their best friend.

On the other hand, it also keeps the salesperson from practicing in a “safe” manner. True, the salesperson could ask to practice on their friend, but since most people aren’t willing to dish out tough love or tell a friend or family member that their script is garbage, it doesn’t amount to helping a whole lot. Instead, if a friend is in sales and asks to practice, especially if you yourself are in sales, you should offer the opportunity and provide constructive feedback, even if that feedback hurts a little. Some pain can be cathartic when combined with an honest and well-meaning critic.

It goes beyond generally accepted social limits as well; after all, we all have limits to what we like to do. Everyone has a comfort zone that they live in, and we are hard-wired to try and stay in that comfort zone even if that comfort zone is detrimental to our goals. I’m certainly not immune to this, and I’ll admit that I struggle every day to push myself out of that comfort zone. Dan Lok, Serial Entrepreneur and King of High Ticket Sales(TM) likes to say that “you have to get comfortable, being uncomfortable.” This means that to progress, to learn, to take that next step on our mission to succeed in whatever we decide we want to succeed in, we have to be willing to leave our comfort zone and take a measure of risk.

This past Saturday, I left my comfort zone and assisted at the Lodge to run the Square and Compass Club’s Bingo night. As Free and Accepted Masons, we use the profits from such operations to fund both the necessary expenses of the lodge, like keeping the lights on, and any excess from that program gets donated to various local charities at the end of the year. As an introvert, I often find such situations incredibly uncomfortable, just as I did when I put the blindfold on to become initiated (don’t worry, the blindfold isn’t a Masonic secret; you can find pictures of it on Wikipedia). Surrounded by people I don’t know, learning terminology I wasn’t familiar with, and a register that was set up in a unique manner, it was a struggle to focus from time to time. Focus can often become difficult, when you want to retreat into your shell.

So I steeled myself, aided by the cold and the fact that I was foolish enough not to bring a sweater (family was kind enough to delver those later in the evening), to learn what needed to be learned and accept any mistakes I made. Which were several. I accidentally tore Bingo Card books at the wrong place, sometimes ripping up pre-stacked “sets” of cards, punching the wrong number on their admission tickets, sometimes forgetting to charge for something. Thankfully, both the Worshipful Master and the patrons were very patient with me as I stumbled through this wholly unfamiliar territory. In most cases, when you do something for the first time, if you’re candid about the fact that you’ve never done it before, the people involved will have more patience.

Thus I successfully made it through the night, even though the entire time I felt as if I was out of my element. Although handling money and offering customer service is far from new to me, this particular type of customer service is by far much different than any I’d experienced giving in the past. Having never worked at a casino, and as there are members of my family that have gambling addictions, I don’t gamble save an occasional lottery ticket, it felt as though I was walking through a mine field. The important thing is that I succeeded in lasting the night without panicking, leaving early, or leaving work unfinished. In April when my turn to assist Square and Compass yet again comes up, I’ll be better prepared to help.

The most important thing to remember while doing anything is outright success is unimportant. You aren’t required to succeed the first time you try something you aren’t comfortable with. You are required to give it your best attempt, and if you fail, and you likely are because you’re not skilled in it yet, you try again. You continue to make yourself uncomfortable until you can successfully do the thing you set out to do. Then you continue to practice until you are comfortable doing it. That is when you’ve truly succeeded.

Now this doesn’t mean you ignore important warning signs and fears, considering fear is what keeps us from doing something that is phenomenally stupid; but not all fear is created equal. You can’t learn to skydive without jumping out of a plane. You can’t learn to rappel without hooking onto the rope and jumping off that cliff. You won’t sell without making a call. You won’t become known to a person unless you introduce yourself. These are all pushing boundaries of comfort, exceeding your limits to push them back. It is the foundation of courage, and without courage to push limits, you will do nothing but stagnate. Stagnation, is just another word for death.

The next time you’re faced with the choice of staying in your comfort zone, or doing something that will expand your abilities, help others (or an organization you’re with), or teach you something, consider taking the step and seeing where it leads you. Sometimes you’ll land on your face, and that’s okay. Sometimes, however, you’ll expand your horizons.

Entertainment Choices

Something occurred to me today: I have found that when parents do not enjoy the same entertainment choices as their children or grandchildren, the default is, when claiming hold of the television, to insult the child’s choice of entertainment. What I can’t figure out is why. Is there a reason that we need to insult our children, just because we don’t appreciate something that they do? If we aren’t even the target audience, then there’s a high likelihood we wouldn’t appreciate what they’re watching.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad shows, or bad games, or bad entertainment choices; like it or hate it, when a study showed that Spongebob Squarepants shortened children’s attention spans, it warrants concern. While Spongebob may (or may not be) targeted at children, even as someone that doesn’t enjoy the show, it has a certain ability to grab attention and retain it, even against our will. Either way, it doesn’t mean that the show itself doesn’t have entertainment value; it means that some comedic devices used in it may be low-brow or its storytelling method is formatted for short intervals. Soap Operas are actually formatted in a similar manner, often having three to five minute scenes.

I think the point I’m trying to get at is that we don’t need to break our children down just because we don’t appreciate what they enjoy. I don’t particularly enjoy many of the games my son asks to play; I play them because he enjoys them and they give us time together. Even the games he tries to create on the fly and aren’t well thought out (he’s 11); I reward his attempt at creativity and at times try to help channel it by helping him establish rules. I can also tell him that I’m not interested in playing a particular game, or watching a particular show. As a parent and an adult, I have prerogative over what is on the television.

So if you find yourself insulting your child’s entertainment choices, ask yourself: why is it necessary? Is the choice bad for their health and welfare (an age inappropriate show), or is it just something you don’t appreciate?

When Life Overwhelms You

So this past weekend I was contemplating, amongst the immense amount of company we had at the house, how to best organize the site and what I was planning to do with it. Between the channel, and the site, I have given myself quite the additional load to keep up with. Not a complaint mind you; I have enjoyed this adventure so far, and believe that I will continue to in the future. There is the issue of trying to keep everything organized, however, and that is something I still could use some work on.

So a few things to expect in the coming months on the site, as I increase my digital footprint and expand my “fief” in an effort to provide you, my readers and viewers, the best content I can:

First, I plan to organize pages in the site so that you can find my short stories, books, and other literary contributions easily; I will evolve the various menus as I go so that it works efficiently for the site and for both you and I. I plan to move my Entropia short stories out of the blog and into their own part of the website, so that they don’t mix in and you can easily find them if you decide to read them again. I’m hoping to have that done this week.

Second, I intend to start embedding my various YouTube series into pages here on the site as well; to start, I’ll be embedding each new Entropia Universe video as I post them, and adding an older EU video to the archive as I go. It may not seem like I’ve done a lot so far, and to be fair I haven’t when compared to more prolific YouTubers and Twitch Streamers, but everyone starts somewhere, and it still 74 videos as of today, just for Entropia Universe. That counts a few I have published to YouTube but still waiting for release.

Third, I have begun work on what I’m going to view as a production draft of my second book, Hunting the Jackal, which I also co-wrote with Rachel Morningvale. It was the only other completed manuscripts we wrote together, and it needs to be polished and finished. After that, if I decide to continue writing in the Dead World universe, they will strictly be my works.

Finally, a pledge: to always do my very best to provide the best content possible.

A New Colonist’s First Hunt

An Entropia Universe Story

Errol checked his Sollomate Rubio one more time as he walked away from Camp Icarus.  He was a new colonist, having just arrived from Earth, and nervous about what his new life was going to look like on Calypso.  After all, the ads spoke of the wonders, the possibilities and the opportunities; the recruiters spoke of possible fame and fortune, but the training at Camp Amundson made it plain that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The flora was beautiful, but all of the planet’s fauna was hostile.

He walked through the Nawa Field that prevented vehicles from getting too close to the Camp and into the area known as the “parking lot”.  Couldn’t imagine why, as there were roughly six Sleipnir jumpships all clustered in the area, along with several SUVs and cars. Although the CDF issued you a Valkyrie dune buggy when you landed, part of the incentive package, Errol hadn’t invested in the Premium package Omegaton offered at a discount when you move out this far from home.  As he walked out, clad in the yellow jumpsuit that marked him as a new colonist, Errol wished he had reconsidered. Still, 700 PED is a lot of money when you’re trying to start a new life.

As he cleared the congested “parking lot”, he gasped at the view.  The Icarus Plains stretched before him, the greens and reds of the grasses and trees vibrant in a Calypsian Summer.  Actually, Errol wasn’t entirely sure what season it was; from the information packet, the temperature difference between summer and winter on Calypso was only ten degrees on average.  Still, the colours were vibrant and the wind warm; and stretched out before him was a massive herd. He hit a few buttons on his Omegaton Digital Inventory System, which had been issued at Camp Amudson, and the Rubio digitized to be replaced with the Investafoe he had purchased at the camp.  He scanned the first creature one he came to, being careful not to get too close. He had no idea if the creature was aggressive or not, and the large, bony head, framed like a leptoceratops with six eyes; violet skin that was scaley from what he could tell. It calmly munched on some grass.

“Caudatergus Puny,” he read aloud off the scanner.  “Danger level is minimal. Good, don’t want to die on my first day here.”  With a few button pushes, the Investafoe digitized and was replaced with his Rubio once again.  The guide at Camp Icarus had stated that keeping the herd pruned was essential to keeping the Icarus Plain from being overpopulated; and the nature of Calypso meant that they were filtering in all the time.  It was also apparently the primary food source for colonists. “I’ll have to ask the local biologists what the breeding cycle on these things are,” he commented as he hit the charging button on his rifle.

Taking careful aim, he squeezed the trigger and a lance of energy hit the Caudatergus in the side.  The creature screamed in pain and charged at him! Backpedaling, Errol wondered if it was a mistake shooting such a large creature with a rifle that couldn’t put it down in one shot.  He continued firing at the Caud until its charge connected with Errol, the pain hitting him hard as he made an effort to keep firing. A second attack from the Caud hit him as well, and he thought he felt a rib crack under the pressure.  This isn’t going well, he thought.  The third time, he was ready, and deftly dodged an attempted bite.  As he circled and dodged, he started to pant; he wasn’t used to having to handle things like this.  When you hunted on Earth, it was either a kill, a miss, or you had to chase. This was like hunting an angry bull!

Finally, the Caud slowed down, sank to its knees, and closed its six eyes.  In a way, Errol felt guilty for killing the creature, who to its credit was a simple grazer; but the colonists had to eat, and only a fraction of the population hunted food creatures.  Most hunted the more dangerous predators that would hurt Colonists, or the local tribes of Feffoids, humanoid creatures that were roughly on par with Chimpanzees as far as anyone could tell, and were not shy about attacking human settlements.  There was a more intelligent brand of Feffoid called a Maffoid, he had read, that had a village somewhere to the North, but they were dangerous only if you invaded their territory.

Using an extractor, he pulled the shrapnel from his charge shots, and a bottle of muscle oil.  He deposited both in his ODIS. Then he hit a button on the extractor, and the carcass was digitized and teleported back to the food storage vault at Camp Icarus.  From there, at least according to the guide, it would be processed and transported to any number of locations or cities across Calypso, to feed the Colonists in their various roles on the planet.  Pulling out the Fast Aid Pack he had been issued, he quickly healed himself, feeling the rib mend and the bruises fade, the muscle aches dulling and then disappearing as the Chikara nanotech did its work.

Stretching the still-stiff muscles, he pulled his rifle back out and got back to work.