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Posts Tagged ‘hard work’

Winning

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Charlie Sheen made the word, “Winning” famous, but I’m not sure he actually won anything when he did so. Controversy and outrage, sure, but though his victory may have been a personal success I think it fell short of the financial and moral mark. Fortunately, I’m not here to write about Charlie Sheen! Instead let’s talk about success in general. Not necessarily in a self help kind of way, but littered with examples. I don’t think of it as success or winning, but rather hard work.

I’ve mentioned in recent articles how I was reading the book, Total Recall, by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s not the movie, it’s a book about his life and his successes (and opportunities for improvement). I finished it and was moved and amused by the ending, where he gives 10 tips for success in life. I found that I already use all of them and figured them out on my own, so yay me!

The moving part, to me, was a picture where he and his son, Patrick, visit Graz, Germany for the unveiling of a bronze statue of him in his glory days of bodybuilding. The look captured on his face as he reached out to touch it is what got me. Can you imagine having a statue built to commemorate you for the positive things you’ve done? You can see that he’s deeply affected by it in the picture and I can’t say I blame him. How awesome would that be?

His other secrets to success? Reaching for the stars, applying humor to everything possible, and understanding that nothing just happens for the sake of happening (or as he puts it, reps, reps, reps). Those of us in the weight lifting field understand reps to mean you have to do something over and over to improve. Want a heavier bench? Do lots of reps bench pressing. Want better shoulders? Lots of reps at shoulder pressing. Better legs or butt? Reps at squatting. By now you see the pattern. Each rep brings you closer to the goals you set for yourself, but reps applies in other ways as well.

In Arnold’s book he talks about acting and preparing for scenes, especially scenes with stunts. They practice the stunts over and over to make sure they get them right and nobody gets hurt. More reps. His speeches he gave during his term as Governor of California and for other press conferences he practices over and over. Reps. Learning to be a good skier (even though he once broke his leg while skiing) requires practice and reps. Everything you want to be good at, whether you enjoy it or not, requires reps.

I can appreciate that. Not just because I lift weights myself, but because that’s what I do. I’ve published 30+ books, that’s a lot of reps of writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, and so on and so forth. I’m getting pretty good at it, so good that my most recent finished rough draft of a full novel (Soulmates, book 3 in my Dark Earth series) took me 8 days to write, start to finish. It was a fun story but I don’t expect them all to be that quick. I also recently obtained my Security+ computer certification. In order to prepare for that test I did some studying and then lots of reps taking practice tests. My daughter has to read books every night for school and do other homework with math problems. Reps for her.

So clearly practice is what makes perfect, although perfection in anything is a goal we can never reach.

The other thing I took away from the book, aside from being educated, entertained, and impressed was that it’s only his side of the story. There are a lot of other stories that are untold. How did the Governator’s close friend, Franco Columbo, feel being in Arnold’s shadow his entire life (both because he almost always placed behind Arnold and because Arnold is so much taller than him)? What about the people he villainized in his pursuit of climbing to the top? The women he admits he treated unfairly in his earlier days of acting when he didn’t know any better? What about Maria Shriver, and the pain and humiliation she must live with every day for his admittedly foolish betrayal of her and their marriage vows? In his climb to the top he stepped on a lot of people.

Is winning worth the price? Can it be washed away by looking back and saying, “I’m sorry?” I certainly don’t want to cast a negative light on the guy. Heck, I’ve looked up to him since I was a little kid that stumbled across a TV version of Conan the Barbarian. I’d argue that his transgressions and offenses over the years aren’t that bad. He’s made mistakes, we all have. The only really big one, in my opinion, is the infidelity. Everything else comes with being human.

Or, as Nathan Fillion once said as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in an episode of Firefly (Jaynestown), “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.”

I’m happy to be a writer. People buy books based on what they like. If they like my books more than somebody else’s then they’ll buy mine first. If they don’t then they’ll buy the other book first, but when they finish it they’ll come back and look at mine. Either way it’s a winning situation and nobody gets hurt, stepped on, or screwed over. I love helping other writers with whatever suggestions or tips I can too. It’s my way of trying to give back or give forward, depending on the situation.

Writing reminds me of lifting weights in many ways. It’s not a competition against other people. It’s a competition against myself. I want to write better every time, just like I want each workout to be better than the last. The difference is that with writing I can keep improving year after year. With lifting there will come a time when the gains will become less about putting more weight on and more about taking less weight off. The goal is to be healthy and as strong as I can be though, and the competition is against myself not against anyone else.

I don’t care if I’m the best. My records aren’t about beating anyone other than myself. As long as I can hold my head high and support myself and my family I’m winning. That’s good enough for me.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

My Pants Are On Fire!

Back around 2004 I held the match used to light a fire under my own ass a little to close. I haven’t been able to put the flames out since. No, there’s no burning sensation when I go to the bathroom, it’s all about motivation and self-discipline.

I received a Christmas present from my wife and kids that seems a little funny. It was a book. A giant hardcover book. I write books, what do I need to read one for? Not only that, but I’m a huge proponent of ebooks, what’s this boat anchor doing on my desk? First and foremost, a writer that does not read is a writer doomed to obscurity. Secondly, it’s no simple task to get somebody else an ebook for a gift. Oh sure, it can be done, but I think that Amazon needs to come up with a way to make it a simpler process.

So what book was it and how does this have anything to do with my pants being on fire? The book is Total Recall. It has nothing to do with freeing Mars from an oppressive regime (nor does it involve Colin Farrell). Total Recall is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography. So far I’m only about a third of a way into it, but that’s due to lack of opportunity, not lack of interest.

I grew up in rural Michigan. No, not on a farm. Yes, I grew up learning to shoot guns and we ate the larger furry critters for dinner when we could. We had electricity and modern conveniences, though I was eternally upset that we couldn’t get cable TV and in those days a satellite dish was outrageous. So I read and watched movies and found ways to go outside and entertain myself (see the aforementioned “shooting things”). About the age of 8 I stumbled across a movie on network television called Conan the Barbarian that my dad was watching. I was instantly mesmerized. As soon as I could I had him rent the unedited version on VHS tape (it may have been a few years until VHS was available, come to think of it). Then sometime later I bought the tape and watched it again and again, as well as the sequel, Conan the Destroyer.

I loved fantasy, so that wasn’t surprising that I’d take to those movies. It was more than that though for me. I felt the story and I connected with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had it good compared to him, but I didn’t know that. I was a stupid kid who thought he lived a miserable life. Nevertheless, I was sucked in and eventually ended up owning all of his movies on VHS that were available. These days I still have several of them, but they’re on DVD. And yes, there are couple of real stinkers in the group, but you take the good with the bad.

I read up on the guy over the years and followed him as best I could. What a story he had, it was something the best of fiction writers couldn’t make up. Or, if they did, nobody would dare to believe it. A poor Austrian kid that managed to rise to the highest level of athletics, international stardom, and even land the position as the governor of California? Who does that? Whether you agree with his beliefs or like him or not, I think everybody alive has to respect his accomplishments.

And now, reading his autobiography, I feel a lot of things clicking for me. Of course the book is a matter of hindsight and I’m sure he’s remembering and portraying only the more positive things in his life. He mentions a few mistakes here and there, but this guy is a salesman – he knows how to put a spin on things. Even so, the drive and the way in which he set goals and worked towards them leaves me with warm fuzzy feelings. If he accomplished all that he did using his methods, it makes me excited about my own future. I woke up in 2004, so to speak, and stopped being lazy. I went back to school not because I wanted to, but because I needed to in order to accomplish the goals I set for myself. I got back into working out and not only improved my health, but I won some powerlifting contests and set a few state records (that have since been beaten). I took my writing seriously and was picked up by a small publisher, then I launched out on my own and started my own publishing company with the help of a friend. My books are doing better than ever these days and I hope one day down the road they’ll hit the point that I can make writing my one and only profession.

I have no interest in politics or acting, but I have a lot of things left I want to accomplish. Reading Total Recall is reaffirming my drive and letting me know that somehow I may have stumbled across the path to success. I compare it to working out – no matter what the routine is or who the trainer is, each weightlifter is different. Each body is different, and only by discovering for yourself what works and what doesn’t can the optimal growth be achieved. I still lift some pretty damn heavy weights even though I don’t compete anymore because I know that’s what my body needs. I know it’s the same level of hard work and dedication that’s necessary some times to write through a tough part in a book or to get through learning the next technology I need to master in order to finish my next project at my day job. It’s about setting goals, working hard, and not making or accepting excuses.

And maybe, one day, I’ll be able to write a book like Total Recall that people will be interested in. I doubt it – I have no interest in celebritizing myself, but I learned long ago to never turn away from an opportunity!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Measuring Spacetime Displacement

April 16, 2012 1 comment

You’re probably thinking one of two things: ‘What the heck is he talking about?’ or ‘Wow, this sci-fi thing is turning into more than just a hobby.’ In either case you may be tempted to call the guys with the white jackets and needles full of chemicals designed to make me drool on myself. There are, of course, better ways to make me drool. Fortunately on my wife has figured those out and isn’t sharing. :)

Before I get completely derailed from the purpose of this post, I’m writing this to answer a question I’m asked all the time. Where do I find the time to do all of this stuff?! I hate to give away my secret, but not for the reason you think. It’s not a machine that allows for time compression / distortion giving me an extra couple of hours each day. It’s not a support staff of people doing work behind the scenes. It’s so simple you may not believe me: It’s just me being dedicated, motivated, and organized.

Years ago my wife knew I liked to write. She considered it harmless enough, as long as it didn’t interfere with anything else. After a while I got more and more into it and still she supported me. It was the kind of support that meant she was humoring me, again because it was important to me. Maybe that’s not the best kind of support but it was the right kind, and it’s the sort of relationship that I’ll go to my grave insisting is the best to have. As time passed and the writing thing started to take off her support went from humoring me to being excited. I was more than a little excited myself, but I keep mine tempered with the knowledge that it can disappear in a heartbeat if I take my eyes off the task.

So how have I managed it all and continue to do so? I work a full time job that often runs 50 – 60 hours a week, including time working from home. I have two young kids and a great wife that I enjoy spending time with. I’m mildly obsessed with power lifting and staying in shape by picking up the kind of heavy weights that makes Planet Fitness employees run screaming in terror. And up until late last year I was completing my MBA in Strategic Management. As of this writing I have 18 books published and I expect to hit 20 on or about June 1st. Most of them published between late 2011 and now.

The secret is doing the work. Just like anything in life, a job doesn’t get done if you don’t do the work. Procrastinating doesn’t help, nor does convincing myself that I just can’t write for whatever reason I’ve got. Success comes from overcoming the obstacles and doing the work anyhow. Sure, there are plenty of nights after the kids go to bed where I’ll think that loading up Black Ops and trying to improve my kill : death ratio to something above 1:5 would be fun. Most of the time I file that wistful thought away and load up the latest writing project, then start typing. On the rare occasions I do talk myself into playing a game I remember inside of a few games that no amount of practice is going to make me good enough to be a threat, so I bow out gracefully and get back to writing. Damn kids might beat me on a virtual battlefield but I’ve got the old adage to fall back on that the pen is mightier than the sword!

I set a minimum of 500 words a day. Some days circumstances prevent me from writing at all. Other days I’m limited to a couple dozen or hundred words. Those are rare days, because it’s my mission to write. My future and my family’s future depends on it. That’s why my average daily word count is closer to the 2000 – 4000 word range. Right now that means two to three hours of writing. That cuts into family time a little bit, but remember the support I spoke of earlier.

My goal is to make writing the day job. That’s a ways away still, but when that happens it’ll allow those two to three hours to turn into four to eight hours and I can do them out of a home office, then have my evenings left for dedicating to my family. That’s the goal, and that’s what’s most important. Setting goals and working towards them is the only way the vast majority of us will ever achieve success. Sure, one out of a million people may win the lottery or achieve some other windfall of cash, but that’s not me or anyone I know. If it’s you and you’re feeling generous, let me know! Until that happens I’m a proponent of putting my nose to the grindstone.

As a shining example of that I’m roughly three chapters away from completing my next Vitalis book (Evolution). The last one, Squatter’s Rights, took me five or six days to write. This one will be a little more than a week, but I haven’t been able to dedicate quite as much time as I’d like to. I’m expecting it to come in at 20k words or perhaps a little more. Novella length, and a great bit of horror / thriller / adventure for my unruly group of survivors stuck on the undiscovered world of Vitalis.

Up next is the 5th novel in my Voidhawk series. Tons of great plans for that one as well. I’ll be exploring Dexter, Jenna, and the remainder of the Voidhawk’s crew in greater detail.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Those Tire Tracks on my Back…

November 18, 2011 4 comments

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. Some pretty major upgrades to the production line at my day job required working through the weekend and some off shifts, then dealing with the ongoing problems the rest of the week. It looks like we’ve finally got it smoothed out, but I’m reluctant to say that too loudly!

My job entails being in charge of all IT related systems in the plant. That means computers, databases, production scheduling, communications, data retention, production execution (we call it MES – Manufacturing Execution System), and a few other related topics. So when we do an upgrade, it’s me walking a tight rope over a steaming vat of boiling water. You’d think it would be properly planned out and an easy thing to do – and on paper it is. In reality there’s some jerk named Murphy running around screwing everything up that he can get his hands on.

The tire tracks I mentioned come from being thrown under the bus. I’d identified the ongoing problems as being related to the heart of the changes that were made – a piece of production equipment programmed and controlled by the engineers. They, in turn, talked louder and insisted it had to do with my scheduling system and lousy network. This in front of a room full of people. It’s the closest I’ve come to laying somebody out in a great many years. But I took it (fists and jaw clenched) because I didn’t have the answer, just a hunch.

Later that day, after our vendor made it back in to support us on it and I worked with him for several hours figuring it out I was vindicated. The equipment was programmed improperly and a necessary piece of communication equipment was never provided to us. With those in place things are rolling nice and smooth. That made the tire tracks on my back feel a lot better. It was like coming back from behind to win a sporting event.

And the engineers? They’ve been staying awfully quiet ever since. Go figure.

For everyone who’s ever been tossed under a bus, stay the course and fight back! Not necessarily with a shot to the jaw, but by digging in and working hard to prove you can do what you say you can. Find that inner resolve to show you can do it, whatever ‘it’ is. Sometimes it’s hard work and sometimes it takes a while to get there – I have a friend who has spent years working hard and just last weekend established herself as the world record holder in powerlifting for her weight class (132lbs, I think). I’m happy to say I’ve influenced her over the years, giving her advice and answering questions.

She’s one example of what successful people already know – dedication and discipline is the only thing that works in life. Sure, luck helps, but that will only carry you so far. Hesitation and excuses are the step that immediately precedes failure. Ironically, failure is okay as long as it isn’t followed by more excuses. Learn from it and try again. Being successful, ultimately, is how you view yourself. It’s not what other people think. In fact, once you’ve been through that process and achieved what you worked hard to do nobody can take that away from you.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

I’d advise you not to read this

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

But clearly, I suck at giving advice (otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far). For this brave enough to continue, here’s the reason for this unusual blog post: a Twitter friend who shall remain nameless, opined that they have been growing restless with their life. Oh, they’re not thinking of trying a different life or anything crazy, just tired of the daily grind and wanting to reach out for their dreams.

For the record, I don’t consider myself qualified in this area to offer up much of an opinion. When it comes to many things computer or IT related then yes, I’m one of many experts in the field capable of offering up reliable opinions. The same applies with weightlifting, personal training, and nutrition. The problem is that there are many experts in such fields, and even among those of us who have proven results to back their claims up our opinions vary. So advice is just that, somebody else’s opinion. In some things it can be more useful than others (e.g. which TV is better vs. which sofa is more comfortable).

Now back to the Twitter dilemma. I was accused of being one of those people who is following my dreams. That made me smile and filled me with a touch of warm fuzziness (not the moldy kind either). Then I thought more about the things I do and I had to chuckle. Who dreams of working the equivalent of four jobs, going to grad school, maintaining a happy family, and training for an obsessive and demanding hobby that can easily lead to personal injury? Not me! I dream of being successful and able to relax a bit, so I work my ass off in the process of getting there. What is the definition of successful to me? Being relatively bill free with a stable and comfortable income, along with a similarly stable and comfortable home / family life. And doing all of that with a day job that does not intrude unnecessarily on the fragile tranquility of the rest of it. And to have laser vision.

Laser vision

Superman for a day

Okay, I made the last part up.

Seriously though, my books are slowly inching up every month in sales. Although at their present climb it may be a decade or more before I’m able to consider it a retirement income, let alone FU money. I’m constantly trying new things though, from launching other backlisted stories under a pen name (part of that experiment is not letting anyone know the identity of said pen name, so you won’t hear it from me) to trying to game the rankings system at Amazon a bit. As a matter of fact, for anybody still reading this if you want to help a brother out and use the social networking tool of your choice to post about Voidhawk, Wanted, and New Beginnings / Vitalis being a series written by yours truly, I’d be terribly grateful. Of course if it’s easier to just go and buy the books that’s a great substitute as well. Did I mention how useful reader reviews are on the Amazon page?

Okay, enough pandering from me, back to my troubled friend. They want a change, and seeing punks like me pushing for my dreams even with the heavy load I’ve got going on they think it might be possible, they just aren’t sure what it is to do or what they want. Changing careers or going after a new degree is no decision to take lightly. I’d considered continuing school myself after my MBA – and get this, for either something in the medical or pharmacology field. Yeah, crazy. I’m pretty sure I’m over that now.

My advice is to figure out what’s missing or wrong. I’ve gone through some overwhelming personal changes in my life and I’ve seen a few others do that as well (including my amazing wife). It’s definitely not an easy road, but with perseverance it can be very rewarding. The only thing that is certain is that 100% of ventures not attempted will fail. The tricky part, as I’ve discovered, is making sure that any new project is not undertaken at the expense of existing facets of life. Easier said than done, eh? That’s where communication comes in, as well as having a decent support network.

Lacking that, it’s time for more drastic changes. After all, who wants to be surrounded by people that don’t understand you or aren’t supporting of you?

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