roman_arena

What To Do If You Hate Competition — Part Two

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Marketing // Writing Advice

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Last week I wrote a bit about how much I hate competition. Since then I’ve received a few responses and emails about this topic and I can tell it hit home with some people. The richness of responses prompted me to think about it a lot more deeply.

Looking back on my life, I have had a few successes that have won me some of the prizes we are all after, that is: love, money, good feelings and great relationships.

In every case where I had achieved success, I did so because during the process of achieving these things, I attracted people and things to my life because I was being me. Most of these incidents felt like accidents. One day, an opportunity dropped on my lap. Another time, I met a key person. But thinking of the circumstances behind such events, there is a clear correlation: I was in the act of being “the most of myself I could be” when they all happened.

Conversely, when I have pretended to be something other than my true self, it has ended only in disaster. The recipe goes like this: I want something, I exercise those mirror neurons and copy whatever I need to copy in order to attract it, then I get it, then I am in misery, or I disappoint, or I fail, or I ruin it. I fail because I simply can’t keep up with the charade any longer. It’s too painful, it’s too inauthentic. It isn’t ultimately what I want.

You can’t pretend to be something other than you are for very long.

This happens in the early stages of romantic relationships a lot. Ever noticed how many people put “I like hiking” on their dating profiles? These people don’t like hiking. They don’t go hiking. They simply hike once to get the date, to seem adventurous, then it’s Netflix on the couch with popcorn like everybody else.

It’s super scary to be ourselves. That’s because “ourselves” are pretty ordinary, kinda pathetic sometimes and a little weird. We definitely aren’t as interesting as the people on television, or as funny or as good. We are human.

We don’t want anyone to find out.

What does this really have to do with your distaste of competition?

Tim Ferris recently did a great post about some powerful questions he asks himself. One of them is: “What’s the least crowded channel?”

In any endeavor, there are tried and true channels. To get something published you need to get an agent. That’s a super crowded channel. One agent I talked to got 1,000+ queries per month. Another reported it was more like 2,500.

When you are in a crowded channel, you must compete. No question. You must write the best and brightest query, have a hot idea, get the right personalities to look it over, etc. etc. You are doing this and so is everyone else. You are in the arena, gutting your competition with a spear.

And you hate it, don’t you?

That’s because you secretly don’t feel like it’s right. You are a peaceful soul. You don’t feel like you should fight. You should be immediately recognized as a champion because you know you are. You put in the time, the money. You have your ten thousand hours. You’ve read the books. Now you have to fight too?

I can hear the chorus say, “Yes! You have to fight! There is no way around it!”

I’m the pipsqueaky mouse under the stands shouting “Ahem, not really.”

When I started a store in an uncrowded market, I got sales immediately. I grew fast. I had almost no trouble.

When I started a store in a crowded channel, I had to fight to get seen, to get sales. The fight was expensive in advertising dollars and personal time and sanity. I still didn’t get the spoils.

In the first store, I was being me. In the second store, I was being someone else.

You are the most uncrowded channel!

Joseph Campbell calls this “Following your bliss.” If you have something you love, even if it’s embarrassing, weird, mock-worthy or even stupid, you must consider running after it with more speed and vigor than before. This is your little crack, your way.

If what you love is traditionally a crowded channel (like writing, sports supplements, as seen on TV gadgetry) then you have to figure out what your weird little spin on it is then spin, spin away!

You have to create a territory. A comfy little nest for yourself.

If you find yourself persuing something that gives you almost no pleasure and mostly lots of pain, it might be because you are trying to compete in an overcrowded arena or trying to be one of your heroes.

Go make your own arena, go be your own hero.

 

 

December 15th, 2016

im-watching-you

Once You Realize No One Is Watching, You Can Do The Real Work

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

im-watching-you

Good news!

No one is watching.

Few people care.

You are invisible.

Does this not sound like good news? I hope to change your mind about that.

Part of the reason people fail in their early efforts, is that they believe everyone is watching.

Animals freeze when they spot something observing them in the trees. They will not react until they understand the threat, ascertain the situation and analyze the next move. Until that moment, they are stuck. I see this all the time with deer during my morning walks. It’s comical to see their indecision. What is that thing? Do I keep munching, or run? It is only when I either pounce like a cat or keep on walking that their minds are made up. Before that, they are in the ugly state known as analysis paralysis.

You are a sophisticated animal. You do the same thing. Unless, of course, you realize that no one is watching.

Once you figure out that your mom isn’t going to read your book, your neighbor doesn’t know where your business is, your sister could care less about your fitness routine, things begin to change.

No one is watching.

This is freedom.

For all the bids for fame we participate in during our lifetime, we can fail to realize the hidden beauty of being mostly, completely unknown.

This week, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Jennifer Lawrence ranted about her inability to function outside of four walls, due to the suffocation of her own fame.

Authors, after achieving fame, sometimes adopt a new name in order to reinvent themselves. They shed their old skin and don a new one, hoping to grab the goodies of being unknown.

What are these goodies?

1. Being unknown allows you to make as many artistic and business mistakes as it takes to get it right, without a high social consequence.

2. Being unknown frees you from the paralyzing fear that people will find out how mediocre you really are.

3. Being unknown gives you freedom to move, pivot, remake, redo and retry without backlash.

4. Being unknown gives you the courage to do something strange, different or controversial.

5. Being unknown gives you space to work at your own pace.

6. Being unknown allows you to tell the truth.

Let’s face it, we all dream of the money and fame that comes to well-established icons of greatness. However, when we start (and everyone has to start at the bottom) we sometimes think that all our friends and family and coworkers are thrumming their fingers together, judging us.

I used to think so too, until I wrote my first book.

A few years back, I had a lot to celebrate. I had completed an epic novel, a book that took me five years and thousands of hours to write (on average five hours of work per day, the equivalent of 380 straight days of work). I was immensely proud to have finished it. To make matters more exciting, when I began to submit the book I had three agents interested in representation. After chatting with all three agents, I chose the one that seemed the most enthusiastic and we began the submission process.

I received notes from wonderful editors. Some of these editors were huge names, people who I could only dream of hearing from.

Amidst all this excitement, I decided to send my book to my family, who had politely asked about it at dinner parties. I sent an email to 18 people. My parents, my grandparents, my siblings, all my close aunts and uncles and my husband, none of which had read any part of the book. In the email, I included the submission letter from my agent (who had very glowing things to say about the book and my writing) as well as promising feedback from several big editors, including a high ranker at Disney Studios. Attached to this email was my magnum opus along with a request to read it.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

I heard nothing back.

Nothing from anyone.

Not a single “Wow! This is exciting!” Not even a, “I will read this on my next trip!” Not a single phone call.

Zip. Zero. Zilch.

While my writer’s group did read it (thank you, guys!) not one person who shared my genetics (or my bed) degned to click a button and check it out.

At first, this really hurt. Then I began to think of it as a hidden opportunity. I began to write more honestly, and insert more vulnerability into my stories and articles. I penned darker fiction, stuff that would make my grandmother’s hair curl. My characters acted out the pieces of the human condition we are not supposed to talk about. I got things published.

It helped in business too. I was stifled by my family’s criticism and dislike of the used, vintage junk I was so fond of. For years I had endured comment after comment, or worse, stony silence regarding my adoration. When I took time off and worked corporate, my job was acceptable, but when I worked vintage, I was weird and possibly insane.

Once I realized that they weren’t actually paying attention, I reopened my vintage shop and in mere months it grew to become the number one shop in my niche, serving tens of thousands of customers locally and worldwide.

But what if people really are watching, you ask? What if you’ve published your book, launched your business and are in the thick of getting noticed?

If that’s the case, it’s important to realize that though your stats are soaring and your presence is building, people still aren’t watching.

The scarcity of attention is a well written-about topic. Everybody wants yours and you want everybody’s. At times, you will get a little of it. That sure feels great when it happens, but you must think of the “watching” in the abstract. You must think of the likes, the follows, the stats as good, but impersonal.

It isn’t about you at all. It’s about the fix you provide.

The human condition is pain. The essence of selling is the alleviation of pain (insert Princess Bride quote here). We are all rushed, harassed and in desperate need of a fix. If you provide a nice fix, you get that momentary upvote. But in no time, that person will go on to the next fix and the next and the next. They aren’t watching that closely because they are watching themselves excruciatingly closely, they can’t see you jumping for attention behind their own mirror image, behind the shiny new toy they just ordered from Amazon.

So go out, do the thing. Fail. Embarrass yourself. Be really bad at it. Be weird and ugly and strange.

And if you do, I promise not to look too closely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 24th, 2016

biff-tannen-billionaire-sports-betting-back-to-the-future-2

Your Success Depends on Your Ability To Predict The Future

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

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Time travel movies are some of my favorites. Who hasn’t had the daydream of plucking tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers out of thin air and scoring big? How many of us would make like Biff and take the almanac home?

Time travel stories are so powerful because causality is integral to outcome. In the universe we live in, the tree does not shrink into a seed, the seed grows into a tree. This is obvious stuff, right?

Except it isn’t.

It may seem overly simplistic, but if you can’t predict the consequences of your actions, you are in for big problems, constant failure, and lot of sorrow.

Everyone knows that eating one doughnut a day adds calories to your diet. But one doughnut simply doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things.

Consider, the typical doughnut is 195 calories. The typical amount of calories in a pound of fat is 3,500. Therefore, it’s only a matter of simple mathematics to realize that adding one doughnut to your diet for 18 days will cause you to gain (or fail to lose) an extra pound of fat. In a year, that’s 20 pounds!

We all know this stuff, right? It’s annoying to keep hearing it over and over again. But as I wrote about in a blog post a few weeks ago, we don’t really know anything until we use that knowledge, before that time, it’s knowledge in potential, or as I like to call it, ignorance. By its very definition ignorance is the things we are ignoring.

In my antique business, I have to predict the future. I have to hold an item in my hand and think: “I’ll pay $3 for this now, but I can get $30 in about a week” and I have to be correct. My entire business hangs on my choices!

Guess what, I am only right 50% of the time!

I used to only be right 10% of the time.

I want to be right 100% of the time!

Many factors exist in my decision making. I assess the rarity of the item, the desirability, the price, the amount of time it will sit in my inventory, the potential problems I will experience in selling it, the customers I have in my Rolodex. I have to be spot on correct on at least four of the six aspects. That’s really hard. I am getting better at it.

A new writer is going to be wrong when he predicts what will happen after he finishes his book. He’s going to think the book will turn out to his liking, that the world will lavish him with praise, that everyone will long to read it, that he will get money. He is likely to be wrong on a few of these things, if not all.

Megyn Kelly is coming out with a book soon, and it will sell a lot of copies. We know this because she is in the news right now, she moderated a presidential debate, her story is popular, she is a celebrity, people are interested in her. It really doesn’t matter if it’s poorly written (like Richard Branson’s new fluff book) or that it was rushed to the press, it will sell because it’s hot and wanted. In other words, it has some of the factors, but possibly not all, which makes it predictable.

Relationships hinge on your ability to predict whether an exchange will end up negatively or positively. If you come home grumpy and your spouse comes home grumpy, it’s easy to predict a fight on the horizon, but if only one of you acts on this prediction and stops the fight, the outcome will be better.

If you want to get good at predicting the future, here are a few tips:

1. Become Aware

Our brains are wired to filter out almost everything in our field of perception. This has helped us survive as a species. But this trait can lead us astray in our day to day life. Consider your car keys. Are you apt to toss them on the first available surface upon arriving home, or leave them in your jeans? Are they sometimes in your car and sometimes in your purse and sometimes on the bathroom counter? This is likely due to a lack of awareness. When you arrive home after a trying day at work and head straight for the kitchen to cook up a meal, your mind is putting a priority on the meal and not the location of the keys. The following morning, when you scramble to find said keys, your mind has switched its priorities and is now frustrated.

Why couldn’t you have predicted this frustration and saved yourself a bit of morning suffering?

You simply were not aware.

The act of tracking a certain category in your life can lead to awareness. If you carry around a notebook and begin jotting down how you feel twenty minutes after each meal as well as what and how much you ate, you may start to see why your headaches come about around two o’clock and ten o’clock every day. The following week, you can avoid those behaviors.

2. Be Open To The Truth

We have an unfortunate need to be right in all our assessments of the world, even those that are flat out false, without evidence or downright dangerous.

When you become aware, you will have to face some ugly truths. That neighbor of yours who is fit as a fiddle and has a multimillion dollar business, he is smarter than you! That product you launched that no one is buying is a terrible product! That relationship you have defended for so long is never going to change. You are not trying as hard as you thought, etc etc.

At some point, and about everything, we form opinions that are chiseled into stone and never questioned again. If you want to predict outcomes, you have to be open to smashing that stone and starting afresh, sometimes many many times over to finally reach a predictable outcome.

3. Learn the Ropes

It is perfectly understandable to be bad at something when you first start, this is because your knowledge and ambition haven’t matched step yet. You simply don’t know the ropes, and that’s fine! Spend your time and learn them! Be patient with yourself.

The hopeful starter has pie in the sky ambitions and a heart full of vim and vigor. Trust me, I have been this person more often than I care to reckon. This charming state of affairs is wonderful, but hopelessly nieve. A person in the state cannot begin to understand the amount of work and sacrifice they will have to make to succeed. Often, once they find out, they quit. They just don’t want it badly enough.

Those who don’t quit, learn the ropes.

4. Consider the Variables

When I am really puzzling on whether to buy something to resell I have a maxim: if there are two things wrong with it, I won’t buy it. For example, if I find a neat old victrola that looks awesome BUT its too big to ship and it’s also broken, I won’t buy it. If I find one that is too big to ship and expensive, but it works, I won’t buy it. If it’s expensive, small and working, I will buy it because I will be able to unload it on someone who will pay top dollar for a working piece. If it’s too big to ship but cheap and working, I know a consignment store will take it and I will make a profit. If it’s cheap, working and small, then score! I’m gonna make some cash off it! Get it?

All disciplines have variables that are factors in the outcome. Some of these you can’t control, others you can. It isn’t math but with time you get a feel for what you will pay off based on these variables. I had to buy a lot of expensive, broken victrolas that wouldn’t sell before I figured out the “two things wrong” rule.

I am constantly amazed at how many of my fellow dealers simply don’t consider the variables. They love something so they buy it, even if it’s broken, missing pieces and doesn’t have a chance in hades of competing. They like it so they assume others will want it. This is false.

Make a list of variables, and there may be dozens and dozens of them. Get to work on understanding each variable.

5. Don’t Be A Variable

I should have put this first because it is a foundational habit that will set you up well for life.

Don’t allow yourself to be a variable! Cultivate discipline. If you set out to train for a marathon, don’t decide to chillax to Netflix on day three when you should have run your miles. If you decide to save money, don’t let a shiny new brass rhino statue at Z Gallerie tempt you. This may take years to do and a lot of work, but you must not be a variable! You must be the one thing you can predict and control. Do everything in your power to master this one habit, as it will make or break you.

 

 

 

 

November 4th, 2016

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Self-Sabotage – The Dark Side of the Ten Year Game

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

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On Wednesday, we discussed the Ten Year Game, a little exercise in perspective that helps us realize how unimportant our day to day problems really are, and how we can take greater risks through that realization.

But sometimes the Ten Year Game reveals something different . . . something deeply troubling.

A dear friend of mine played the Ten Year Game last year while we sat and ate sushi at our favorite dive. Since she is in her 40’s she was able to go back much further in time than I could. We went through each and every category of her life and tried to remember the problems of each era.

Smack dab in the middle of dinner, she looked up from her chopsticks and solemnly said, “I’ve had problems with money my whole life.”

Going all the way back to her childhood in the 70’s, she had trouble holding on to money. Her single mother, who had many kids and worked two jobs, couldn’t afford most luxuries her peers enjoyed. When my friend got married, money got steadily better, but through successive divorces and relationship upsets, not to mention job hiccups, she was never able to save money. Now, she was in excessive debt and her salary would not come close to digging her out of the mire.

This woman had worked her entire life. She was never out of a job. Sometimes she had several jobs at once! She is completely put together in every other way, having conquered health goals and creative goals alike. I aspire to be like her in many ways and draw a lot of wisdom through my association with her. But money problems . . . that is her dragon, her demon that has shadowed her endlessly.

When you play the Ten Year Game, and really think of all your problems in every category, if you have the SAME problem that you had ten years ago, then you are in a cycle of self-sabotage.

SELF-SABOTAGE, A GUIDE

In his excellent book, The Big Leap, author Gay Hendricks speaks of the “Upper Limit Problem” an invisible ceiling of happiness inherent in all of us. It can also be called our hedonic adaption.

The gist goes like this: we hit the ceiling when we accomplish something big, achieve some level of success, and so we unconsciously sabotage our growth by committing acts, small and large, of destruction. We are then brought back to our comfortable level of happiness and success, which is usually pretty low.

We do this over and over and over again, over the course of our entire lives, preventing us from growing.

Growth implies not an absence of problems, but that the problems are different and escalate rather than contract or stay in stasis.

A young writer may have problems getting to the page every day. A seasoned writer will have problems with making deadlines. An expert writer will have problems coming up with game-changing material to transform their career.

It’s funny how you never see a seasoned writer having problems getting to the page (except for in B-movies about finding oneself). That’s because “getting to the page” was a lesser problem that they eventually overcame. Maybe it took them years, maybe it took them decades, but they got past it through concentrated, repeated, focused effort.

They did not assume the problem was insurmountable and then gave in to the struggle. They used everything they had to get past it. They rearranged their entire lives, read book shelves filled with advice, threatened and bribed themselves. But somehow, some way, they got past that problem.

Have you ever met somebody who is in their 50’s or 60’s and they are still having troubles with relationships? I once know a man who is close to 70 years old and has the exact same problems as my teenage daughter in on the relationship category, mainly that he wonders if a woman at his work has a crush on him, stalks her Facebook, getting Woody Allen jealous at each photo post of her with other men. It would be adorably amusing if he hadn’t been playing this game for fifty odd years with fifty other women. Just when this guy would find happiness, in a Seinfeld-like gesture, he would sabotage it. Decade after decade after decade the universe offered up nice women and he found reasons to drive them away.

He kept hitting his ceiling.

The first step is to recognize the daily forms of self-sabotage we engage in and slowly, carefully, refuse to play the game.

My friend who realized that her trouble with money was holding her back from achieving success finally decided to do something about it. Last spring she became a follower of David Ramsey, the financial guru that has helped millions of people get out of debt and take control of their financial future. She is getting her financial life back on track. She has a plan and is following it. As a consequence, she has made huge progress toward paying off her debt.

On Monday I will share a story of my personal form of self-sabotage and how I’ve learned to recognize the signs that it is creeping up on me. I will also share numerous other Self-Sabotage breeds and how we can spot them and stop them in their tracks before they stop us.

 

 

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October 21st, 2016

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Sorry, This Seat Is Taken – Dealing With the “It’s Too Late” Fallacy

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice


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Over and over again I keep hearing the following:

“Blogs are so 2005 If you didn’t start one ten years ago, no one’s going to read you.”

“Youtube is so 2010. If you didn’t start one six years ago, sorry someone else has taken your niche.”

“Podcasts are so 2008. If you didn’t start one eight years ago, sorry, all the listeners already have their favorites.”

“Kidlit fantasy reached its peak in 2007. No one is interested now.”

In other words:

“These seats are already taken!”

But let me ask you this:

How long has recorded music been popular?
How long have movies been popular?
Books?
Television?
Art?

“It’s too late” is merely a scary story. What it really means is, “You have competition.”

But competition doesn’t mean opportunity is lost. What might have happened if Ingrid Bergman had tapped Barbara Streisand on the shoulder in 1960 when the already accomplished singer aimed toward film and said, “There are simply too many leading ladies in Hollywood. If only you’d started in 1939, maybe you would have had a chance.”

We invent new mediums and the early adopters find early success. Mid to late adopters have to face a stronger competition. But does that mean we shouldn’t fight?

Banish the “It’s too late” lie from your psyche. It is merely Resistance offering you a cop out from doing your work.

There are always opportunities. There are always grassroots takeovers. There are a zillion cracks in the concrete to bloom in.

 

 

October 17th, 2016

If your dream was a puppy, would you be a good owner?

What If Dreams Were Like Puppies?

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

If your dream was a puppy, would you be a good owner?

Let’s imagine you adopt your dream, all floppy-eared and sweet-smelling from the dream farm.

You are excited to have a dream. You have wanted one all your life. As soon as you adopt it, you give it a name.

The first day of dream ownership is fun. You play around with your dream. You tell your family about your dream.

But on day two, you get sort of busy. Same for day three, and day four.

Then you promptly forget about it.

How long would it take for that little dream to die of starvation?

Or would you feed the dream just enough to keep it alive, but neglect it so profoundly that it starts doing mean things to your mind just to get attention, things like chewing your thoughts and peeing on the proverbial rug?

The dream can’t help its bad behavior, after all, it wants love and food just like the rest of us.

You brought the dream home, you named it, you called it your own. Now, it’s time to feed that dream.

Feed it with your energy.

Walk with it and take care of it and feed it. Every. Single. Day.

Do these things and It will be your companion for life.

October 5th, 2016

Just Waiting

I Give You Permission

Craft Of Writing // Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

Just Waiting

We are waiting.

Perhaps the waiting comes from our childhood days, our school days, the days of our first jobs, first bosses.

You remember? The clock gave us permission, the teacher gave us permission, the parent gave us permission.

After we got permission, we could play!

We are still waiting for permission. We are waiting for a parent figure, lover, a parent, a friend, or God herself to give us permission to go out and be that thing we want to be, to live our dream.

But we are never going to get that permission. Your parents aren’t paying attention. Your friends don’t care what you do. Your lover wants you to stay the way you are. God isn’t talking.

So, if you still need someone, anyone to give you permission to live your authentic, real life . . . let me step in.

I give you full permission.

If that didn’t work, simply give yourself permission.

October 3rd, 2016

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Your Competition Isn’t Doing This . . . So You Should!

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

competition

Last week I touched upon the fact that we need to get out more. Today I’d like to expand on this idea a bit.

When I first started writing, I was pretty shy. If you met me, I was eager to tell you a bit about myself, but I wasn’t going to sell it. I was too busy hanging out in my own mind and frankly, I didn’t feel like telling you about the places I was going. I preferred life in my quiet little fantasy land. Yet, I still wanted to be heard. My intention with writing was to make an impact without having to do the scary work of being around people. Writing seemed perfect. I wouldn’t have to go to casting calls, perform on a stage or go to a job interview. I could be all the introvert my heart desired.

Because the internet wasn’t a thing yet, I had no idea about what I was up against, or the amount of competition I would face. I thought my innate specialness would get me a deal. Like the kids who get participation trophies, I thought showing up was all I needed to do.

But I couldn’t even do that! I would show up to my computer daily, yes, but God forbid I would have to show up anywhere in person! Gah! Nightmare! Instead, I showed up by submitting hundreds of pieces to every publisher out there.

Of course, most pieces were rejected. Sometimes, a piece was accepted and I could dance a little but on the whole, I was hiding.

Then the internet happened and hiding was a thing of the past. Now everyone had a platform to do whatever they like . . . in public!

Crud! My dream of hiding all my life in monk-like seclusion was being challenged!

Some writers (myself included) recoiled for years at the idea that we would have to debase ourselves by (gasp!) selling our stuff via blogging. We all decided that we would not worry about that right now, we were going to focus on writing.

Then some people started to get contracts from their blogs. Grudgingly, I started five or six failed blogs. My friends did as well. We fudged along, trying and failing.

Enter social media and now every writer has a blog, a channel, a feed, an Amazon ranking. We are spewing out content like so many Pez pellets fr.om Donald Duck’s neck!

And it’s so easy. I mean, you can set up a Tumblr in less than five minutes. You can tweet in seconds. Now, we all have a voice! And it sure feels safe! We can hide and be seen at the same time!

But now that everyone can (and is!) doing it, there is just too much noise. Too many articles, too many feeds. With new apps and sites going live every day, we move like nomadic tribes toward bluer water. Facebook isn’t cool, let’s go to Twitter. Twitter is too noisy, let’s go to Snapchat.

We can do all this from our beds, in our pajamas. It may be time-consuming but it certainly isn’t hard. My ten-year-old acquired 500 Youtube followers in a matter of months on her My Little Pony channel. A high-schooler I know of got 100k followers on Instagram by being blonde.

If everyone can do it, everyone will do it.

This means you have to do something different. Drastically different.

You have to get out among people.

I’m not saying abandon your precious Twitter feed (I’m personally a Twitter n00b). I believe an internet presence is standard. I am just saying that being in the real world is much, much harder. There are logistics, travel, stock, presentation. You have to smile and nod at strangers, you have to be fearless and outgoing. It’s so much easier to Insta your morning happy cookie.

The very fact that it’s hard is why you should get out more.

Sit down today and make a list of places you could speak, visit, set up or invade. Go to schools, offices, parades.

And don’t make the mistake of handing out business cards and hoping people will care. They won’t (see Wednesday’s post on this); you need to make an impression, a spectacle, something people would want to take photos of.

You need to be eye to eye with other humans, getting humiliated, failing and dusting yourself off and trying again.

It can feel very scary, but the good news is, just like posting a pic of your happy cookie on Tumblr, there is no risk. It is totally safe to get out there and do these things. No one is going to call the legitimacy police on you. No one is going to haul you off to fraud prison. Sure, you might get some weird looks but I wager you have dealt with that before.

Get out there, now!

Your competition won’t be there.

 

September 19th, 2016

get_what_you_want

Why You Aren’t Getting What You Want From People

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

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“Most of us only put in as much effort as a situation is required from us. If we can get away with being less considerate, or less reciprocal and various other forms of getting without giving, many of us will, not because we’re evil, but simply because we can. If people demanded, or expected more of us, we would do more. But, when they don’t, we don’t make the effort.” – Guy Winch Ph.D.

When a relationship with another human is first established, an unconscious set of ground rules are also established. This is true for acquaintances, co-workers, family members, romantic partners and lasting friendships.

If, at first, we are attentive to every word our friend speaks, encouraging of their efforts and act as a basic cheerleader, we are setting a ground rule that we will forever be this way. Our friend, delighted to find a witness and support for their ongoing life troubles, is happy to keep us as their friend because they are getting something very special out of the encounter.

Pay attention to the word “getting” as it is very important.

With all our attentions to our friends, we also may expect something out of them. We may expect to get the same support for our life troubles and trials. We may expect them to come to our parties and even help us move or watch our kids.

But some of us fail to communicate what we expect to “get” out of this encounter. This causes numerous problems that causes the relationship to weaken and even disappear over time.

But before we get into the death of our relationships, let’s first look at why we didn’t set proper expectations.

Some of us fear that if we talk about ourselves during a new encounter, we will appear as selfish, greedy or too talkative. Consequently, that person will wander away and not be our friend. Since we love making new friends, we want to prevent this.

Over time, we learn that people love to dominate the conversation with their life dramas, and as the quote above indicates, they love to “get” a lot out of an encounter without “giving back.” In nature, this is known as energy conservation. It is the preferred modus operandi of all living creatures.

We learn to never share, to only ask questions to the other party and keep the encounter going. We are delighted to do this because we love learning about new people and we truly want to make friendships that last.

But over time, we realize the friendship is entirely one-sided.

You are familiar with this situation. You book a lunch and shopping date with a friend and jolly along from one place to another with them for hours. But on the car ride back home you realize you feel exhausted and irritated. You think back on the entire activity and realize that your friend did not once ask a question about you. The closest they came was when they paused to ask your opinion on something they were about to buy.

This damages our self-esteem in many ways. We wonder why no one finds us interesting or worthy of a life witness. We may do an evaluation of all our friendships and find out they are generally this way. We are giving a whole hell of a lot but getting nothing back at all. We stop calling our friend and label them as “narcissistic” and “selfish.”

It’s important not to blame our friends. After all, if every time we passed a Starbucks they gave us free lattes, we would visit the Starbucks over and over again, without thinking about giving one cent back to the clown behind the register.

Similarly, our friends continue to surface and continue to take. Essentially, we are giving enormous amounts of our personal resources for free! What could be better for them?

The cure?

At the outset of every relationship, clearly communicate what you want out of the person by establishing a pattern. If you need help with your work, ask them! If you want to talk about your life dramas, talk about them! Be sure to allow them to do the same. Do this for the first several times you talk. The first encounter won’t be enough.

Promise to give to them (and actually do give to them) but also ask to take from them (and actually do take from them!)

The great news is that most people will accept the terms if they feel you are a quality person.

The greater news is that the people who don’t accept the terms and walk away didn’t have the resources anyway and would have been “narcissistic” and “selfish” throughout your entire relationship. Avoiding those people on the outset will save you from being their bridesmaid for their three subsequent marriages, will save you lots of time and money and it will help you keep your self-esteem intact.

Thinking back on all my best friendships, I have gotten just about as much as I have given. There were times where we each needed each other more than others, but by then, there was enough cash in our emotional bank accounts to cover the debt.

But many, many relationships of mine ended when I realized it was entirely one-sided, that I was giving and giving and never getting anything. This usually took me years to realize.

On some occasions, a relationship ended because I simply was not willing to give all my friend was asking. The price was simply too high and I did not see the payoff as worth it. I did not see how they would give back. Typically, my refusal to give what they were asking caused the person to feel wounded and rejected and our friendship limped along toward oblivion or immediately ended.

Other friendships died when I hogged their resources at the outset and, unwilling to continue, they bolted.

It can be helpful for writers and entrepreneurs to interpret rejection using this model. When money is involved, the other guy has to see your writing or business as an enormous fountain of resources in order for them to enter into contract negotiations with you. Rest assured, the moment your resources fail to deliver, they will drop you like yesterday’s laundry. People are often confounded when this happens.

Conversely, using this model can help you align your givable resources to what a partner or publisher needs in order to make the deal happen in the first place.

TAKE AWAY

1. Raise your standards. How much are you worth? If you don’t think your friendship is worth much, you will attract those who won’t pay as much.

2. Don’t fear rejection. Those who reject you aren’t willing to give all you are asking and simply are looking for the “easy get.”

3. Have the courage to demand as much out of the relationship as you are willing to give.

4. Let go of relationships that are one-sided or attempt to slowly re-establish a new norm.

5. Realize that if your friend has wandered away, it’s because they stopped “getting” what they want from you. Either give it again or celebrate that you removed a lead weight off your back.

6. In circumstances where you need a deal to happen, a contract to be signed, align your offering to meet their needs.

 

 

 

 

August 30th, 2016

1969-mustang-pro-touring

The Real Origins of Your Jealousy

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Writing Advice

1969-mustang-pro-touring

Look hard enough at anyone and you will find something to envy. Their swaggering confidence, their house in New Hampshire, their stacks of degrees, their 1969 Ford Mustang. All our friends  have something we would gladly snatch up if it were offered, but aren’t necessarily willing to pursue ourselves.

We feel okay with this type of envy. It’s the jovial kind of envy that we toss around at barbeques and birthday parties. “Man, James, you’ve really worked hard on those calves. I’d do that too but I like hammock too much.”

Queue the chuckle chuckle.

But there is another kind of envy. A dangerous kind.

It really gets rough when someone has a score of things that you are really, really working hard to get yourself, but can’t seem to achieve. It gets doubly rough when that person hasn’t appeared to work as hard as you, or is younger than you or is dimmer than you. You wonder how this oaf has achieved the dream job or the dream girl when, clearly, you are smarter, better looking and more deserving.

This kind of envy worms it’s way into our soul. We try to laugh it off. We try to get our friends to talk bad about them. We try to make excuses for ourselves. “Well, I would have gotten my doctorate too if I didn’t have three kids to take care of!”

Meanwhile, the envy continues its destructive pong-like bounce around our sense of self. Our family and friends tire of hearing about it so we have to keep it inside, where it grows  to monstrous proportions.

Ann Lamot writes about this feeling in her book Bird By Bird. Feel free to replace the word “write”  and “writing” with any other endeavor in which you have invested your soul.

“Jealousy is such a direct attack on whatever measure of confidence you’ve been able to muster. But if you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with it, because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know—people who are, in other words, not you.” (page 122)

When you find the green-eyed monster has visited your life, understand that the jealousy has not stemmed from your desire to obtain the thing.

Repeat, we are never, ever jealous of the thing they have.

Because secretly, we know we could get the thing. It’s totally possible to own that 1969 Mustang or get that dream job. We could get our doctorate, or get married. If we wanted to, we could!

But there is one thing our friends have that we don’t feel we can obtain.

Courage.

We are jealous that our friend had the courage to submit to agents and risk rejection.

We are jealous that our friend had the courage to live in poverty for eight years in order to complete that doctorate.

We are jealous that our friend had the courage to agree to forever devote their resources to their future spouse with no guarantee of reciprocation or happiness.

In any endeavor, you risk missing out on something else. A doctorate degree may mean you hardly see your kids or have to delay the house on the hill. A publishing contract may mean you have to dumb down your beautiful ideas, ruin your masterpiece and die on the midlist. Getting married means that you may have to think of someone else above yourself, you may get bored or restless or feel trapped.

Because we are smart and we know things could go so very wrong so very quickly, we don’t dare.

But our friend did dare.

And they won.

 

 

 

 

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August 26th, 2016

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