My Three Words for 2014 and Beyond

For a few years now, each year, I have been choosing three words to live by. My three words for 2014 (and beyond) are: Monchu, Build, Craft.

Daffy-down-Dilly
Has come to town
With a yellow petticoat
And a pretty green gown
Daffy-down-Dilly.

The Vernal Equinox is upon us, and I am definitely not going to town in my yellow and green finery, for I am stuck at home with a very displeased stomach. (I don’t know if I feel worse about not taking care of my responsibilities at the day job or about likely missing this evening’s appearance by actor, author, economist, and all-around-smart-guy Ben Stein at UTPB. Bueller? Bueller?) But the day is by no means a total loss: I have been watching my new DVD of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and some of its special features, and I can still rejoice in the start of a new year. Most of you, no doubt, celebrate the new year at the appointed time on your calendar, but I know many of us think of the Vernal Equinox / Passover season as the turning of the year.

For a few years now, each year, I have been choosing three words to live by. I learned this concept from blogger, author, entrepreneur, and all-around-smart-guy Chris Brogan. You can read more about it here, but the basic idea is to pick three words around which you can focus your goals, three words which remind you of what is essentially important in your life. My three words for 2014 (and beyond) are: Monchu, Build, Craft.

Monchu

I totally stole this one from Chris. Monchu is an Okinawan word which doesn’t translate into English but means something like ‘extended family’. It’s the people you care about as if they were family. It’s that special group of persons who live somewhere between ‘family’ and ‘friends’. Different individuals may express what monchu means in different ways, but this is how I understand it, and in light of that, my monchu is all of you wonderful guys and gals to whom I want to stay connected. It’s the people to whom I believe I can be of service. It’s all the folks who touch my life in some meaningful way. Some of you I know well; some of you, not as well. But I want to know all of you better.

Build

If I don’t build something, of what value am I really? I can provide for my family, do the day job well, be a nice, respectable kind of guy, and leave this world having built nothing of lasting value. The Apostle Paul expressed it this way in his letter to the Corinthians: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Charity is expressed through action. This why I will make time to build something of value, to create a family that blesses the world around them, to write material that encourages and uplifts readers, to create beautiful pictures, to live a life of service and love towards others – a life worth living.

Craft

Specifically the craft of writing. I’ve blogged, written reviews, freelanced, judged contests, and headed a non-profit dedicated to helping creative types achieve their goals, but there is so much more for me to do with my writing. (Among other things, I want to write fiction.) Therefore, I dedicate this year to learning more about the writing craft and to putting into practice the things I do know.  Turner said, “I know of no genius but the genius of hard work.”  To put it another way – as recently shared by Maria Reyes-McDavis over on the Google+ — 99% of the work is execution, 1% is only the idea. (This comes from an article on the Huff Post site.) Well, I’ve got lots of ideas running around in my head; now I just need to put them on paper.

So: Monchu, Build, Craft. That’s what I will be up to in the year ahead, but I’m curious about you. How do you feel about the beginning of Spring? What projects are you working on? What are your plans for the year ahead?

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How Sponsored Posts Killed My Blog

Sponsored posts killed my blog.

It’s been a very long time since last I posted. The Sky’s the Limit was doing great. I was enjoying blogging. A handful of posts turned out quite satisfactory, and a few posts were attracting lots of attention. Several months of effort had paid off with a steadily increasing readership and a decent page rank. That’s when I made a fatal mistake.

Sponsored posts are paid posts. A blogger is paid by an advertiser to talk about a certain product or products. When done well, the blogger discloses his motivations for writing the posts, the advertiser gets some traffic (and ideally some sales) and readers learn about products which may be of interest to them.

I wrote some posts for Outdora, a company specializing in high-end outdoor supplies — everything from greenhouses to camping gear to barbecue grills. They offer some really great looking stuff. But it’s stuff I don’t normally purchase, and even though I liked Outdora and found their marketing people to be highly professional, the association wasn’t a good fit for me or my blog.

I’m proud of the posts I wrote, and I hope they benefitted Outdora. I’m not opposed to the idea of sponsored posts. They have their place, and those of you who follow me on Twitter have seen a sponsored tweet from time to time. Where I made my mistake was in trying to write about a side interest on a blog dedicated to my passion for literary pursuits.

In truth, it wasn’t the sponsored posts that killed my blog. I did it. It would have been different if I was writing for a company which dealt in writing implements, or books or paper supplies. As it was, I felt like I was pushing products on my readers just to make some money. It didn’t feel right, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t want to blog for a long time after that, and each day I didn’t blog made the next day easier not to. And those days stretched into months and years as one distraction lead to another.

I’ve stayed away too long. It’s time for me to return to blogging with renewed focus and energy. Not only is it a great way to develop a habit of writing consistently, it’s an awesome tool for meeting people with similar interests and making beneficial connections for myself and others.

That’s why I’m launching For All the World’s a Story — a personal blog dedicated to the craft of storytelling. Not only will I be talking about literary matters in general, I will be discussing my pursuit of the writer’s craft. Hopefully it will be of interest, and even benefit, to you.

I have transferred several posts from The Sky’s the Limit. I’ve selected my favorites, those which drew the most interest from readers, and those I feel are important to the history behind this new blog. A lot of stuff fell away in the process, but I doubt any of it will be especially missed. There is still some work to be done on For All the World’s a Story, but I didn’t want to delay its launch any longer, and the first day of Spring seemed like an excellent date to begin.

The blog is dead. Long live the blog.

 

This post originally appeared in slightly different form in March of 2011.

Bookmaking 1947

Ever wonder how books used to be made? This 1947 educational video comes from Encyclopedia Britannica Films Inc.

How to Tell a Story

NPR’s Scott Simon on How to Tell a Story:

Bronte Sisters Power Dolls

I would so totally buy these:

Five Gifts I’d Like to Give

A Love for Books

There is no frigate like a book” — Emily Dickinson

I’m always puzzled when I meet someone who doesn’t like to read. Books have been such a huge part of my life that it seems foreign to me it could be otherwise for anyone else.

An Appreciation for Blessings

I hear an incredible amount of whining from people about what they don’t have. This is especially grievous here in the United States where the vast majority of us enjoy more prosperity than 90% of the rest of the world.

A Recognition of Responsiblity

I’m not one to worry about my rights so much as I’m concerned about my responsibilities. I have a responsibility to be a good citizen, a responsibility to speak out against government corruption, to provide for my family, to help my neighbour, a responsibility to worship God according to the dictates of my own conscious.

A Quality Education

Education is crucial to success in life, yet I see many children (and adults) not getting the education they deserve. We desperately need schools and teachers who equip kids to live life to its full potential.

A Group of Supportive Friends

It can be easy to surround ourselves with negative people who only speak bad things into our lives and drag us down. What a difference it makes to have friends who speak truth and light!

BTW – I totally stole this idea from Michy, but I lost the specific post.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I remember watching a television program (probably on PBS) in which a group of researchers attempted to measure intelligence in dogs. They chose test subjects from three different breeds. I’ve forgotten the first two, but the third was a Dachshund.

The researchers positioned a wooden platform — about 8″ x 12″ and supported by stubby legs — a few feet in front of the dogs. A small treat was place, in full view of the test subjects, beneath the platform.

The first dog immediately retrieved the treat. The second dog sniffed around the wooden platform for a few seconds before acquiring the treat. The third dog, the doxen, simply sat there until someone removed the treat and gave it to her.

Next the research team hid the treat under a coffee can on top of the platform, again in full view of the dogs. The first dog immediately knocked over the can to retrieve the treat. The second dog sniffed around the platform for several seconds before a member of the team tipped the can. The weenie dog just sat there. Again, someone removed the treat and gave it to her.

The researchers come to the interesting conclusion that the Dachshund was the least intelligent of the dogs tested. I submit that she was the most intelligent. She received the same reward as the other two dogs, but with the least amount of work.

More than likely you’ve heard the old saying: “Work smarter, not harder.” It may be cliché, but it’s still true. Our goal should not be effectiveness alone but also efficiency. If we can get the same reward for less work, then why not do it? What are you doing where you could work smarter?

Wavin’ Flag — Young Artists for Haiti, Featuring Lights

To help with earthquake relief in Haiti producer Bob Ezrin teamed with a group of young Canadian artists — including Avril Lavigne, K’naan and Lights — to create Wavin’ Flag. Lights appears at about the 1:20 mark.

Lights is currently on tour with Owl City (autoplaying link).

All Kinds of Awesome: Rube Goldberg, LEGO, an old Typewriter, the Mars Rover & Paintballs

Thanks to Chris Brogan and his post I Could Totally Do That.