[How to Have a Day Job] Six Things!

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So in the midst of a lot of different things going on right now, I looked up and realized that a special day had passed. September 28. On this day six years ago, I entered the company I currently work for. It shall continue to remain nameless, but the lessons I have learned…those I will share.

Here we go: 6 things I would not have learned without my day job.

  1. Finances: money can’t buy me love, but it does pay the bills. And there’s a whole other world of insurance, retirement, stocks…all those words that get thrown around that would not have made sense to me if it weren’t drilled in year after benefit year. And I feel much more comfortable being able to budget and handle finances in my personal life now that I can put those things together.
  2. How to present information: I used to sing in front of my school and church growing up, but it’s different when you actually need to instruct human beings. I have become very eloquent and comfortable working in front of people, and there is no way I would even be able to make that happen if not for the trainings and presentations I’ve held.
  3. Dealing with mean people: despite what anyone tells you, there comes a time when you have to work alongside folks who are not your favorite crowd. Is it fun? No. Will it kill you? Also no. Do you learn how to deal with it and get things done? Unfortunately, yes.
  4. Why bad habits are bad: skipping breakfast, not washing your hands, drinking a lot of soda…it just builds up.
  5. The importance of working hard and playing hard: being present means knowing when to get deep into your job and when to really enjoy life. That means being able to go to bed each night knowing you did your best. That means taking risks, using your sick time, traveling, planning weekends, having parties. By living with joy and adventure, you stop counting down to Friday. And on that note…
  6. How to let go: my day job gets 40 hours of my week and not a minute more. It took a long time to get that skill honed, and now it’s more than my nine-to-five. It’s releasing regrets, anxiety and fear. It’s not always easy, but it’s way better than holding onto things that try to push me down.

What have you learned from your day job?

[How to Have a Day Job] On Kindness and Magic

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This week, I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. This was a Christmas morning surprise of a book – I was browsing Audible with my monthly credit in hand, and it popped up in the new releases. A book on creativity by the Ted-talking, globetrotting, smooth-talking (not in the sleazy sense, but in the read-me-my-library sense) authoress with the mostest? Yes, please!

In the midst of her discussions on being kind to your creative spirit, I hit a chapter called “Day Jobs.” My throat tightened just a bit. I was a little nervous, because I was afraid that this was going to completely take the wind out of my sails. Was the world’s foremost authority on eating, praying and loving going to take over what I had started?

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I was actually really excited about hearing what she had to say.

I did not expect that she would so perfectly summarize what I’ve been trying to convey with How to Have a Day Job from day 1.

To yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away. Because you’re making really loud noises, and your face looks weird when you do that.

She also talked about how she kept up her day jobs through three book publications before she quit to write full time. Three books. And admitted that if the third book hadn’t been such a success she would still be working day jobs so she didn’t have to put that pressure on herself, her craft and her finances.

So if you’re wondering why I keep talking about this, about all of this, about balancing your life and your paycheck, about managing your sanity while you clock in and out, this is it. It isn’t fair or nice to say to your vocation, “Hey, pick up the slack, buddy.” Who would stick around for that kind of abuse? Feed yourself, pay your bills, and give your muse the time it deserves to flourish comfortably.

[How to Have a Day Job] 5 Things I Never Would Have Learned Without One

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Some days, it’s hard to have perspective about your day job. Suddenly, something happens and you’re all 1) crying, 2) stressed out beyond all sanity, or 3) gassy. Hell, sometimes it’s all three. And you get those Lifetime movie moments where you think, “I could just get in my car and drive. Drive away from all this.”

That’s why it’s good, when there’s a pause between the bombshells going off, to think what experiences you would lose if not for your job. And as much as I’m sure you’re going, “I could live without those experiences, let me tell you,” I think that is wrong.

Here are five of mine.

  1. Resumes: yeah, I know, I got the stickiest one out of the way first. But this has actually come up surprisingly often. Because of my business writing experience, I have a resume for my writing career. It helps me to focus and see where I want to flesh out my abilities.
  2. Appreciation for customer service: I’ve heard it said that everyone should have to work retail or food service at least once. I’d like to add to that that everyone should have to take inbound calls in a call center for a day, minimum. You have no idea what the other end of that feels like until you’ve been in that seat, sweating and being screamed at and then having to come right back with a big smile and a “Thank you for calling Such and Such, how can I help you?”
  3. Being an adult: I was grappling with how to word this one, and I’m not trying to sound condescending. If you can make it through life without ever having to deal with the crowded fish tank that is the corporate life, you are fortunate. But when you are exposed to drama, cliques, gossip and catty crap for 40 hours a week, you really do walk away with a lesson or two about how to fight clean, be the bigger person, and deal with having no control over the people around you.
  4. Balance: Life. Work. Commute. Car problems. Illness. Finances. There’s no HOLD button for any of those things. By having this constant movement of live, work, eat, sleep, rest, rise, I’ve learned where, when and how to insert the things that are really important to me.
  5. Microsoft Excel: Man, spreadsheets are so useful for real life stuff. I wish I was being sarcastic. Being organized makes things so much easier.

What have you learned from your day job? Any hard lessons? Convenient truths? Helpful computer programs?

How to Have a Day Job: Monday, Monday

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Every week, that iconic song by the Mamas and the Papas plays in my head. Which, while it’s a softer tone, isn’t too much better than the saccharine Office Space voice saying, “Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!” And then there’s the manic Monday, the rainy day Monday, the I-don’t-like Monday (tell me more!). Think Monday and you get doom, gloom, short tempers and wailing grievers, bemoaning the loss of those sacred seconds in Saturday and Sunday.

When was it that the world decided to hate Monday? How did Monday get the short end of the stick? What high school told Monday that it was the Least Likely to Succeed? What bus drove through a puddle and soaked Monday in front of all his coworkers? Well, I’m sick of seeing Monday eating lunch alone every day. It’s time to flip the script with this. Life is way too short to begin each week with resentment, immediately counting down to the end of it. I say no more to that!

Here are 5 ways you can make Monday more awesome:

  1. Start something new: have you been meaning to start a new book but just haven’t made the time? Maybe you want to go for a walk every afternoon, or cook more, or create a better cleaning schedule. Mondays have historically been seen as an auspicious day for good habits. It’s a clean start. Give it a try!
  2. Eat that frog: if you’re dreading a certain item on your To Do list, Monday is a great time to knock it out. You’ll get a kick of encouragement and motivation that will set you on a success streak for the rest of the week.
  3. Meditate: I love alliteration, and the gentle m’s of Monday put me in the mood for some mellowing out. Take 15 minutes out of your day, find a quiet space, and take long, deep breaths. Focus on the feeling of each inhalation (7 seconds) and exhalation (11 seconds). Clear your mind and refresh your core.
  4. Begin with the best: Monday is also a great day for assessing your morning ritual. Get a good breakfast, do a few stretches, fill up a water bottle. Leave your house a little early so you don’t have to worry about running to your desk. Load up your phone or iPod with some good music, books, or podcasts. Sit in your car and drink in the morning.
  5. Recognize Momentum or Management: There’s that glorious ‘m’ again! You don’t know how your Monday is going to go until it’s over. If it’s good, you can ride the momentum and let it supercharge the rest of your week. If it’s not, take a step back and try to figure out what you can manage. Did something happen that was outside of your control? Let it go. Did something occur that you can learn from? Make a note for the future. Stay in the moment rather than dwelling on what’s in the past. Tuesday is right around the corner! Just make sure Monday doesn’t feel ignored…

What do you do to work through the beginning of your week?

What I’m Doing Monday: 01/26/2015

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Watching: Steven Universe – This is one of the best shows on television right now. General plot: Steven is a part of the Crystal Gems, a magical (otherwise) female fighting team who defends Earth against nasty creatures. As he tries to figure out his own super powers, they learn about being a family, dealing with the otherwise normal people of their city, and have adventures. It’s a lot of fun, and it is surprisingly mature for how it may look coming in.

Loving: Buddhify – Buddhify is a meditation app for the iPhone and Android. You have the option of selecting a given scenario and then picking one of several audio options based on the amount of time you have. So, for example, the other day when I was feeling extremely anxious at work, I listened to a 10 minute guided meditation from the Feeling Stressed section. It helped immediately.

Reading: Burnt Tongues edited by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas and Dennis Widmyer – This is a collection of strange and bizarre short stories by a variety of authors. They can be pretty disturbing, but they are very well-written. Reminds me a lot of Haunted.

Hearing: Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman – I’m sorry, dear subscribers. I’ve cheated, and there’s no turning back now. Recently, I have been listening to more audiobooks than music, and as a result, my go-to ear snacking has been this fun, manly book by “the NBC guy with the mustache.” Pair it with his Netflix special “American Ham” and you’re in for a treat.

Doing: Slam poetry – (Author’s note here. I originally was going to look for an image that would encapsulate “Overtime” because that is actually what I’ve had to spend a lot of time doing as of late but then decided that that was really, really fucking depression. Pardon my language.) The last two Tuesdays have been spent being part of Pittsburgh’s slam poetry scene. I have now performed four pieces, and they have been pretty well-received. For those of you who have not attended a slam, it’s a competition in which poets perform a piece of writing no longer than 3 minutes and are then scored by a panel of judges. There can several rounds until a winner is found. I made it to the second round both times I attended, which I think is pretty solid for a beginner.

The Name of the Game is…Just That!

I am very proud of my most recent newsletter about how to gamify your day job. And I decided, because I love you all so much, I’m going to share it here.

Want more? If you’re not on the How to Have a Day Job list and you’d like to be, click here and fix that!

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On how to make the daily grind more fun, or taking a lesson from a killer puppet doll

One of my favorite Vines of all time is one that was aired on an episode of the raunchy Internet video television show, “Tosh.O.” It featured a man being menaced by a version of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, who asked in a gravelly voice, “Would you like to play a game?”

“What game?”

“Raise this baby.”

As Jigsaw handed over the infant, the man looked properly aghast and screamed in horror. “That ain’t no game, that’s life!”

And it was really funny, but then it got me thinking: who made the decision that life couldn’t be a game? That our serious roles couldn’t just be a little more fun?

Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels that way. Gamification is on the rise. The basic definition of this is when one uses the idea or design of play in applications outside of games. So whether it’s with Fitbit, task-oriented apps like HabitRPG or making your own personal character sheet with game stats on it with Chris Hardwick, people are looking for ways to ease up on taking everything seriously.

Day jobs should be no different!

So here we go. 5 ways to make your day job more like a game and less like…well, work.

1. Bond, James Bond — How about a day as someone else? I like to pretend now and then that I am a completely different person when I go to work. Although there are certain limitations to this — you can’t really afford to take on the persona of, say, Batman, but how about Bruce Wayne? Make believe that you just have to get through the day and afterward, you’ll be off to fight crime. Or perhaps you would be Sandra Bullock from The Net, and your gateway into cyberspace has to be unlocked through a series of spreadsheets. Have fun with it!

2. Set the record straight — Of course, getting a lot done during the day is going to make people you work for happy, but what about you? Why should you care? Challenge yourself to raise your productivity by even a little bit by keeping a scorecard and giving yourself different levels of rewards. You might even keep a jar on your desk and every time you fall short, you have to put some change in. When you finally succeed at whatever task you’ve given yourself, you can use the money for a treat. Everyone loves treats.

3. Mortal combat! — Making your job more fun doesn’t mean just playing with yourself. Challenge a coworker, if you have a good rapport with one, and see who can reach a certain goal sooner. Or, if that’s not really the type of place you work, pick someone who has a particular trait that you want to take on. Maybe there’s a team lead that’s always quick to make a joke in a bad situation, and you suck at being funny. Observe them carefully and start practicing the skill. Imagine yourself becoming better, excelling beyond that person’s status (even if it’s just in your head).

4. Make my day — Choose random people to do good deeds for. Watch them scramble around trying to figure out who did this nice thing for them. I love sneaking around and doing stuff for people. I sometimes combine this with #1, and pretend that I’m the most charitable ninja ever.

5. Take it outside — Play doesn’t just have to happen at your desk. Give yourself a challenge on your commute or during your breaks and lunches. Go outside and try to find types of wildlife around your building. Take a different route home and stop somewhere you’ve never been before. Take a drive during lunch and people-watch at a local neighborhood.

Being an adult means getting to decide how to take control of your life and make it more awesome! Get out there and play!

30 by 30: Part 2

30 Things I’m Glad I Know Before I Turn 30: Part 2

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6. My body.

I know what I like. I know what I hate. I know what will happen if I put certain things in it. I know my chemical imbalances. I know when I feel good. I’m very aware of my physicality. I am a meat bag.

7. How to tell people how I feel.

Confrontation. Telling it like it is. Being blunt. Padding where appropriate and showing emotion as necessary.

8. How to forgive – both myself and others.

Letting go of grudges doesn’t just go outward. It also means saying to myself, “Yeah, you fucked up. Don’t do it next time, yeah? Yeah. Off you go.”

9. My hobbies.

I used to be absolutely paralyzed when people asked me about my hobbies. Especially after I stopped LARPing. I used to deal with a terrible anxiety about doing stuff other than what I thought I “should” be doing at a given point. By letting go of that, I now have a laundry list of interests: taxidermy, painting, felting, sculpting, traveling, photography, on and on and on.

10. How to have a day job.

If I had a dollar for every day during my twenties that I was angry about the office jobs I’ve had as a post-graduate, I could probably take a Caribbean cruise. Over the years, though, I’ve learned a lot of great lessons about how to handle not doing what you think you should be doing 24-7. I’m sharing some of these secrets in my newsletter, by the way.

Writing Tips: 5 Ways to Fit 30 Minutes of Writing into a Day

One of the best ways to get into the habit of writing is to commit to a little bit every day. Ask yourself: what is 30 minutes? On its own, sure, you wouldn’t want to be tortured for 30 minutes, or sit alone at a date for 30 minutes, or even be in subway for 30 minutes. However, in the grand scheme of things? A half hour is doable.

Here are 5 ways to find it:

1. Get up a little earlier in the morning — even if you aren’t writing, 15-20 minutes out of the sack can mean freeing up 30 minutes somewhere else. You can get other pieces of your to-do list out of the way and, once you’re used to it, you’ll feel like writing.

2. Breaks/lunches at work — what are you doing right now during those, huh? Standing at the vending machine? Smoking? Pull out your phone or a pen/paper and write down some ideas. Write a poem. Make a list of topics to query about. You can get a lot done during those little periods of time.

3. Your morning and evening commute — obviously I’m not saying you should juggle a laptop on your steering wheel, but we live in a world of amazing technology. Apps like Evernote allow you to make audio memos to yourself when you’re on the go. Switch off driving with a friend or partner and get in some time freewriting.

4. Commercial breaks — they aren’t just for jumping jacks anymore. Keep your work in front of the television and when you get to a commercial break, hit mute and go to town until your show comes back on.

5. Baking breaks — I am a big believer in mis-en-place, which is the fancy way of saying, get everything together and prepared before you start cooking so you are literally just following the directions when you get to making the dish. Once you have that casserole in the oven or noodles boiling, jot down some plot points for your book.

Sure, none of this is perfect, but you would be amazed how inspired you’ll feel when you start even doing a couple more minutes a day. You’ll practically be stealing the moments you can spare!

What do you do to find time for your passions?