1.28.2013

10 Minutes - You People

Hi. It's Joe.

I just had a small but important epiphany. It's that I really like you people. By "you people," I am referring to the bulk of you that I know and appreciate. Let me explain by way of a story.

I used to have a Facebook page and I would add anyone and everyone as a "friend" because I thought that was the way you are supposed to market your creativity and art to a wider audience. The problem was, I didn't really know any of these "friends." They didn't care about me and vice versa. Needless to say, these complete strangers were totally uninterested in me or my art.

One day, I deleted the whole Facebook page, pictures and all. I gave my "friends" ample warning that I was doing this and as expected only a tiny few people cared or acknowledged my disappearance from social media.

I created a new FB page. This one I kept totally private from the outside world and only added as friends people I actually knew and considered friends or friends of friends or decently recognizable acquaintences. This page had far fewer connections with people than the old one, but everyone on there was someone I wanted to have a connection with, that I shared something meaningful in common with. Good people. Not haters. You people!

And I discovered something interesting. Even though I have far fewer FB connections now, because they (you) are all authentic and legitimate friends, the appreciation of my art and creativity is much higher than when I had thousands of not really friends on my old FB page. The reason is because most of you actually care and we share something in common, and I care too. I care about sharing things with you, gifts or art and creativity you may appreciate.

You may not notice them or like them, but at least you are connected. I would much rather have a small, caring circle of connections than a huge uncaring sea of nobodies. Thanks for being you!

Time.

10 Minutes - I Could Whip You Up a Blog Post

Hi. It's Joe.

Not really feeling the blog post this morning, but it is a daily exercise that has to be done. Like I always say, there is no excuse for not carving out 10 minutes in a day to hone one's craft. This is all the more true because I am on the bus and I really have no other options.

After this post, I am going to set about some book writing in my pen and paper book journal. So all the more reason to do a morning writing warmup.

The bus was a little bit late today, presumably due to the crappy weather over the weekend that brought some freezing drizzle, fog, and slush. People get paralyzed by weather conditions out of the ordinary, good or bad, but mostly bad.

I did some marathon jazz piano practicing this weekend, and I think I made some progress. I have gone to a fortnightly lesson schedule with my jazz piano teacher, which I like better. It gives me more time to work on things and I don't feel pressed for time. I have been transcribing to piano Miles Davis' trumpet solo on the Sonny Rollins song, "Doxy." It is a tasty solo and transcribing it to piano really illustrates the full grasp of improvisation that Miles had. It is difficult to transcribe but satisfying when I am able to interpret a particularly complex passage. He is all over the rhythm too, very in tune with the harmonic foundation the band is giving him.

Well, that's my 10 minutes. Time to go work on actual meaningful book writing.

Time.

1.27.2013

10 Minutes - Creativity Day

Hi. It's Joe.

Today is a creativity day. Due to the threat of ugly weather, GUPPY EFFECT v1.0 practice was postponed until next weekend. GEv1.0 isn't officially a band anymore, but unofficially we are joining forces to rock a youth hockey fundraiser at the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton, WI on Saturday February 9th ($10 admission and runs 8 to 11 PM, if you are interested). We did this last year and it was really fun, so they invited us back. HIATVS is going to split the bill with GEv1.0. But I digress.

As a result of no band practice, my day is wide open for creativity. I am going to practice a mess o' jazz piano here for a little while. Then I am going to work on book writing for a while. Then when I need a break from that, I will go back to piano or perhaps read or blog post again.

I have been sticking to the new year's resolution addendum of no fried foods really well. This morning I had oatmeal with unsweetened soy milk, sweetened with blueberry/pomegranate juice concentrate. Very healthy. Yesterday, I also had oats for breakfast, followed by steamed broccoli for lunch and homemade vegetarian chili for dinner. I do have to add a caveat to the no fried foods rule. There is a little bit of frying that goes on at the start of making chili, when you sautee down the onions, carrots, cabbage, and a random root vegetable (in the case of yesterday's chili) in olive oil. But once you add the crushed and diced tomatoes (in the case of my chili), it becomes then a simmer, not a fry. The peppers and beans get added last and don't touch any frying oil. The oil is still in there, but I have to think it is healthier, being olive oil. I also drizzled some olive oil on the steamed broccoli, but I did not fry with it, per se.

I am not avoiding healthy oils, I am just trying to not fry with them. Frying oxidizes the oil and makes it less healthy.

Well, I had better go hammer on the ivories. See ya!

Time.

1.26.2013

32 Minutes - Daily Creative Writing Exercises

Hi. It's Joe.

I am a writer by trade (technical writing for THE MAN), but I am also a creative writer by "craft" (underwritten by THE MAN). I say craft instead of art, because although writing can be art, most of what I do is improvement on the craft side of things. I craft words. Craft is a weird word.

This blog is craft, not art, because its only goal is to improve my mechanics of writing. It's a daily writing exercise. It would be like a painter doing random sketches in a sketch book that will never become works of art (until the artist is famous, and then everyone fawns over every scrap of media he or she ever left his/her mark on). It would be like an athlete going for a run every day. These things hone the mechanics. They are the craft. They are not the art.

The art is when the painter paints a masterpiece for public display or the athlete wins a marathon.

Improving craft makes the potential for artistic expression better and easier. But you can have craft without art (think mass produced tie dye shirts or any kind of commercial "pop art"). You can also have art without craft, or with a minimal level of craft (think Picasso's earliest kindergarten crayon drawings...yeah, you know there are people who would pay millions for these!).

I am writing a book this year. I hope it will be art. It will most definitely be craft, because I have been honing my creative writing craft for well over two years now, with a minimum of 10 minutes of daily writing. I have already been writing this post for 11 minutes, according to the clock on my computer. I have a lot more to say, so before I post this, I am going to have to update the title of this post to reflect how many minutes I actually wrote for. But 10 minutes is the bare minimum.

And that leads me to another brief point about the fleeting nature of art. Even though this post is not, per se, art, if it were, you would probably read it all in 2 or 3 minutes, even though it might have take me 15 to 20 minutes to write. A painter could spend weeks painting his/her masterpiece, only to have people look at it in a gallery for a few minutes and then move on. The marathon runner might train for months, only to completely dominate his/her opponents for about 3 hours and receive cheers fleetingly at the finish line, before collapsing in a gelatinous heap.

Sure, the art might remain in the heads of the spectators for a long time. That is what makes it art. If you see a painting that sticks in your head, the artist has done his/her job. If you remember the awesome asthetic of the marathon runner long after the race is run, he/she has produced art. I am not trying to define art here. Art is too hard to define. But this lasting impression idea is surely part of the definition. This brings to light the idea that art requires not only an artist but also a recipient of the gift of the art.

Anyway, I am honing the craft of writing with the goal to produce a decently artistic book by the end of this year. You probably won't even read the book, with the busy life you have. But you might. If you do, you will ingest it fairly expediently (I want it to be short and sweet, along the lines of "Rework" by Jason Fried and David Hansson, at least as far as the individual topics within the book are concerned). If it sticks with you, then it has some art in it. If you read it for entertainment and then forget about it entirely, that's OK too. Then it is just craft, and there is no shame in that. Indeed, it may be craft to some people and art to others (think PBS pop artist Bob Ross).

One of the blogs I like to read is Julien Smith's "In Over Your Head" blog. Today, he had a post about his daily routine, which includes free writing. Free writing is like sketching or running for the painter and marathon runner, respectively. It hones craft. The reason I do a free writing blog post every day is not because I want you to read it, although the narcissist in me hopes you do, but because I am training for the eventual masterpiece. I want the craft to be second nature, muscle memory, so that when it comes time to tell my tale in the book, the mechanics side of it will not be a hurdle. I need to be a "black belt" in creative writing, so that I can focus my energy and intellect on conveying ideas to my readers in the most "crafty" way possible.

Does that makes sense? Answer if you have read this far. Remember, the only goal of the good writer is to get people to keep reading. This post may not be art, but even craft is entertaining, so I hope you kept reading and have been entertained thus far.

Time.

1.25.2013

10 Minutes - A Friday Late Afternoon Post

Hi. It's Joe.

It's late on a Friday afternoon and I am getting ready to leave work. However, I wanted to wait a few more minutes to avoid the crazies on the road. The Madison WI rush hour starts to die down around 6 PM. I will still have to deal with some morons, but far fewer. There was a little bit of snow today, and this turns many Wisconsin drivers into white-knuckled 'fraidy cats who won't go over 40 MPH on the highway. I don't understand them, but I do respect them. So I will give them a little more time to get where they are going and hopefully all will be well when I hit the road.

I was reading a friend's blog post about her excessive nutritional supplement consumption. She self describes her compulsion to take them as OCD, so I don't feel too bad saying I agree. They can't hurt and they might help, as my mom always says.

But I wanted to remind all my readers that I spent eight years working in R&D at a vitamin company. It wasn't a very good vitamin company, but that doesn't mean I wasn't very good at my job, researching and writing about nutritional supplements for the clinician customers who used the supplements on their patients. You see, I was kind of at odds with the R&D and marketing departments within the company. Their purpose in life was to sell as much product as possible, and God bless 'em. But I felt if these products were going to be taken by people to support health or fend off disease (the latter being health claims the company could not legally make, but did endorse off the record), they ought to know all the facts about the products, good and bad. Just because something is natural, does not mean it is safe. Hemlock is natural. Ask Socrates if that was safe. I think the clinicians wanted to know this information too. So I would do thorough and in depth research on the peer reviewed literature about supplements and then write up the information for use by the customers, no holds barred.

Of course, my excellent work was always vetted by the research director and the marketing department, who stripped it of any information that did not cast the supplements in a shiny, candy-like manner. So there wasn't a lot I could do under those circumstances.

However, I eventually "fired" the vitamin company for a lot of other reasons, and that freed me to create my own research based online vitamin store. I am not a clinician and so I do not make any health claims. In fact, I will go so far as to say most nutritional supplements are pretty bogus due to lax regulation and that you should mostly eat a healthy diet, don't smoke, exercise, and drink lots of water if you want to be healthy and reverse the aging process. But I created my online vitamin store because if you just absolutely positively have to have the most current fad in nutritional health products, get them from my site and feel free to ask questions. I will respond dutifully, and if I don't know the answer, I will default to: "It can't hurt and it might help," with the caveat that all you really need is a whole food paleolithic style diet.

The paleolithic diet is the one that humans evolved on for millions of years. It is the diet that optimizes human health because it has been customized by evolution via natural selection over a long period of time. If you are alive today, congratulations! You won the brutal 4.5 billion year evolutionary lottery. As a result, you are biologically optimized for the diet your hunter-gatherer ancestors evolved on, thanks to the slow process of genetic change. Remember, agriculture has only been around for a few thousand years and refined foods have only been around for hundreds of years. For millions of years, people consumed the lean meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and water available in nature. That's it. And your biology is customized to that. It's a simple concept and makes common sense, but only if you think about it and make wise dietary choices. 

No one is saying you should go dig up tubers and hunt squirrels for dinner. But the closer your food is to food found in nature (unprocessed fruit, vegetables, and nuts, as well as wild caught game meat, if you can find it), the healthier you will be.

The benefit of nutritional supplements, if any, is that they may restore some of the nutrients that over processing and refining of modern foods have taken away from us.

Time.

20 Minutes - Oats

Hi. It's Joe.

I am kicking off my new year's resolution addendum to minimize fried foods in my life with a nice big old bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. This was not purposeful, but it is symbolic that oats are one of the few foods that the FDA allows health claims on.

You probably didn't work in R&D at a vitamin company for 8+ years, like I did (and that is not a brag, but a confession...), so you are unlikely to know that nutritional supplements are very weakly regulated by the FDA.

The law basically says nutritional supplement manufacturers cannot make claims that a product treats or cures a disease or condition. But they are perfectly free to make health claims that a product supports health.

They cannot say a product lowers cholesterol or prevents heart disease. But they can say a product supports healthy cardiovascular function. Even when they say the latter, they have to put a disclaimer on the product that says something to the effect of "This claim has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration."

The FDA can't evaluate those kinds of positive health claims. It would be like evaluating the statement, "Eating food supports staying alive."

However, if a food or supplement manufacturer wants to make a disease treatment or prevention claim, they can ask the FDA for permission to do so. This requires an evaluation of the peer-reviewed scientific evidence about the claim, and most of the time, such claims are rejected by the FDA because the evidence is too ambiguous or contradictory.

However, the scientific evidence that oatmeal reduces cholesterol and the risk of heart disease is one of the rare exceptions, and oatmeal manufacturers have received permission to make this claim on their product labeling. That is why you will see heart disease and cholesterol lowering claims on any container of oatmeal, even the packaged and processed stuff that is loaded with added sugar and saturated fat (the latter products probably don't lower risk of heart disease, and may increase it, but thanks to the lax regulatory environment, they can still make the claim because they contain oatmeal as a main ingredient).

Interesting, huh?

Anyway, I am sweetening my otherwise bland bowl of oatmeal with blueberry/pomegranate juice concentrate. This is like adding fruit and sugar (fructose) all at once, and I believe it is healthier because the antioxidants in blueberries and pomegranates "support health." That claim has not been evaluated by the FDA (although Ocean Spray, makers of cranberry juice, are lobbying hard to make specific disease prevention claims about their juice).

Time.

1.24.2013

10 Minutes - Resolutionary Addendum

Hi. It's Joe.

I wanted to update my new year's resolutions a little. I think the time window on that should be at least a month. What do you think?

This has nothing to do with my original new year's resolution to write and publish a book in 2013. That is still going strong. In fact, this morning on the bus I wrote like gangbusters for about an hour in my book writing journal. It was a scatterbrained outpouring of information, but I will sort it out later. The goal right now is to get as much raw material on paper as possible. Then when I transcribe it to my word processor, I will organize it into tasty bits.

This update to my new year's resolution is an addendum. I am going to try to reduce the amount of fried food I eat. I have pretty much cut out sweets and refined grains altogether, including milk (I use unsweetened soy milk for most things). Now it is time to cut out fried foods as much as possible. I do tend to fry a lot of my home cooked meals. I use olive oil exclusively, which is healthier I guess, and I fry a lot of healthy vegetables and tofu (but occasionally eggs and meat), but it is still frying and that can't be super healthy on the long term.

That last sentence was cumbersome.

So I am going to try to steam and boil more stuff, and fry less. There are two notable exceptions. I am still going to eat at HuHot Mongolian Grill once or twice a week. I love eating there. I always get exclusively lean protein (chicken or tofu) and a ton of vegetables (no noodles). The sauces are a bit heavy, but I go for the lower calorie ones and I never add oils. Secondly, I am also still going to use olive oil as a condiment, for example when I drizzle it on steamed vegetables. But I am going to cut way back on frying with it.

I am going to need to get an egg poacher, although my grandma used to do this trick where she would take an empty tuna can and cut off the bottom with a can opener. Then she would set this in a skillet with simmering water and add an egg to the inside of the open ended can. The can would retain the egg until it was cooked and then you could just remove the can and serve up the poached egg. I am going to go experiment with that right now, having just come into a couple of tuna cans.

Tonight I boiled some frozen broccoli and steamed a bunch of tofu, which I seasoned with olive oil, red wine vinegar, some soy sauce, and some herbs and spices. Quite satisfying and none of it fried.

Time.

10 Minutes - A Little Book Writing on the Bus

Hi. It's Joe.

Driving to the bus stop this morning, I passed what looked like a fairly brutal car accident. This was shortly after seeing the ambulance coming from said accident. There was an SUV on it's side several yards from the road, in a farm field. On the other side of the road, in the snow covered grass, was a white car, not on it's side and not apparently damaged. There were car bits in the road, so apparently there was a collision of some type, though it was not clear what had collided with what. Maybe the SUV swerved to miss a deer and while slamming on its brakes, the white car (behind it?) swerved to get out of the way and went into the ditch on the other side. I didn't see any deer bits in the road, nor a carcass anywhere, but I went by rather quickly. There is nothing more heinous and abhorred in America than rubberneckers, even though it seems like a majority of the populace does it.

I am on the bus to do some book writing. It is a Thursday. Thursday is generally a good day to take the bus, although it precludes doing the usual Thursday after work social with coworkers, unless one of said coworkers is willing to give me a lift back to my car on the far east side of Madison, which is a real long shot, although it has been known to happen.

I am glad to be freely and openly blogging again. I was getting a little bit stir crazy not being able to do it. Actually, I still did it, but since a lot of the content was directed at taking a new job in Iowa, which didn't end up happening due to a fiscally fortunate turn of events, I never made that handful of posts public.

The girl sitting in front of me on the bus reeks of heinous perfume. What is she hiding, and am I justified in cutting an equally heinous smelly fart in self defense. On second thought, I had better not fight fire with fire. Or in this case, fight Fire with fiber (my colonic bacteria are loving my dietary habits lately).

Foster is doing well, thanks for asking.

Time.

1.23.2013

25 Minutes - The 4 Agreements Work Best When Taken Together

Hi. It's Joe.

The 4 Agreements is the #1 bestselling book on Amazon in the category of spiritual self help. The introduction to the book is a little bit touchy feely, but what I like about the actual 4 agreements themselves is that they are pragmatic and sensible, not mystical or hocus pocus. No matter where a person is on the spiritual/rational spectrum, these ideas make logical sense.

The 4 agreements, in brief, are as follows:

1. Be impeccable with your speech.

2. Never assume (not sure if this is the source of the ASS, U, ME adage).

3. Never take anything personally.

4. Always do your best.

As I look at it, 1 and 2 kind of group together and 3 and 4 also group together.

Let's work backwards.

You should always try to do your best in all things in life. This in no way means you have to be perfect. You can totally suck at something, but as long as you do your very best, you are doing all that you can do. I totally suck at foosball, and my best is totally lame by comparison to most people. But I have come to terms with that. But I own a foosball table and I enjoy playing it, albeit badly. I give it my extremely subpar best, and that makes it super fun for me (although probably not for my opponents, who crush me).

That leads us to 3. If you take things personally and internalize criticism or insults, it is detrimental to your psyche. But if you are good at 4, and always do your very best, there is no basis to take things personally and internalize them. Instead, externalize them. If someone is like, "Joe, you sure do suck at foosball," I can respond with "I know, but it sure is fun!" I externalized the criticism. If I internalized it, I might have come to dislike foosball and avoid playing it. Instead, by externalizing it, it is still fun and I get gradually better over time. Maybe someday I will be decent at foosball.

Assumption is always a dangerous game, especially when you don't have all the facts. A lot of times, assumptions hurt you. They lead you down an irrational path. If you assume that a free market is the best and only workable economic system, in the absence of supporting facts, you are going to tend to ignore and avoid VALUE in favor of it's free market proxy, MONEY. Money and value are not the same. If you assume that global warming scientists are in a conspiracy to fool everyone and further President Obama's socialist agenda, well, I don't think I even need to say anything more about that assumption.

Not assuming means you will be more able to be impeccable with your speech. I interpret impeccable speech as clear, honest speech. To the extent that what you are saying is not based on assumptions (your speech will be more factually honest), that you are not taking things personally (and thus not speaking defensively), and that you are always doing your very best (in speech as in everything else), it will be more impeccable. If you can't find anything impeccable to say, say nothing. That is perfectly OK.

In conclusion, the 4 agreements taken as a whole seem to synergize in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The spiritual basis of the 4 agreements is that by doing your very best to adhere to them, you will "create a heaven on earth." Not following them leads to "hell on earth," in the sense that you will be misguided, you will take things too personally and give yourself grief, and you will fail to do your best.

I think most people default to doing the 4 agreements without even thinking about it. They are common sense. But I also think a lot of people who are suffering might benefit from the 4 agreements, if their suffering is due to bad speech (think insults), incorrect assumptions (think racism), taking things personally (think depression or self loathing), and failure to do your best (think fear).

There is no organized religious basis for the 4 agreements. They just are. You can take or leave them.

Time.

1.02.2013

10 Minutes - Costly Conversational Incidents

Hi. It's Joe.

Work stoppages due to "conversational incidents" at work are costing my company money in unproductive man hours. Conversational incidents occur whenever a coworker interrupts your actual work to talk about anything that is not actual work.

This would not include conversations directly related to your actual work. But it would include conversations about work that you are not currently working on or are not your responsibility. The latter cases are best served by e-mail, which you can address at a later and more appropriate time. There is a time for addressing e-mail that optimizes your efficiency and does not interrupt your actual productive work.

Conversations unrelated to work at all should be saved for the water cooler, coffee breaks, wandering the halls, etc. They should not invade your cube, office, or workspace. But at no time should any conversation of any kind be held in the men's room. That is a silent, conversation free zone. Conversations in the men's room are grounds for termination, in my opinion, especially when they involve sexual content.

Conversational lost time incidents cost the organization money. From the moment the incident starts, you immediately have a minimum of two people removed from productive work. Assuming the instigator of the incident wasn't currently working on anything anyway, most of the lost time is that of the unwilling participant.

There is the lost time due to having your work preempted for as long as the person is talking to you, but there is also additional lost time due to loss of focus. When the conversational incident is over, you have to first recover from the stress of it and then you have to spend some time refocusing on whatever it was you were working on before the conversational incident. Conversational lost time incidents at work are a mess. Avoid them at all costs.

Management should try really hard to reduce the number of conversational lost time incidents at work. It costs the company money.

Time.

10 Minutes- Indoctrination vs. Education

Hi. It's Joe.

Free thinkers are needed and I think 2013 should be the year to get them.

Did you know that 2013 is the first year since 1987 where all the digits in the year are different?

I am not just regurgitating something I heard on Facebook without any thought.

I actually verified this. It doesn't take long to test this claim. Every year in the 1990s had two 9s and every year in the 2000s had two zeros. So then you really only need to verify that the following years have two digits that are the same: 1988, 1989, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

As you can see, it is a valid claim.

This is an example of free thinking. It is actually an example of thinking. Far too many people accept claims they hear as authoritative, even though they are often false, especially when the information comes from social media.

Always be a skeptical free thinker. Morgan Freeman has never said any of the things that the meme-osphere says he said.

You can be a free thinker too. Just think. Freely. And skeptically. Don't mindlessly regurgitate a claim you hear as being true, just because you would like it to be true.

Lastly, and my time is short, this year is being called the Year of the Comet, for some reason. It is going to be a comet heavy year up in the sky, apparently.

I have not verified this claim yet, but I am about to. 2013 is being called the Year of the Comet and that is a fact. What is not a fact is that it is going to be a spectacularly cometous year.

Always question, especially authority. No one is better or smarter than you. So why would you accept claims from so-called authority figures?

Time.

1.01.2013

60 Minutes - The Rez Strategy and Habit Forming (Happy NY BTW)

Hi. It's Joe.

My new year's resolution is to write my book, as you know if you have been following this blog (and thanks!).

It's not a choice. I am compelled to write it. But the doing requires an efficient strategy, because sometimes life gets in the way.

I have several synergistic strategies I have come up with. But first a little background on discipline and habits.

Forming a habit requires repetition, whether the habit is good or bad. I am going to talk about good habits here (writing, piano, etc.), but a good example of habit forming comes from a bad habit - smoking.

It's been shown that smoking is habit forming, independent of nicotine addiction. The physical addiction to nicotine in cigarettes is over within 3 to 4 days of quitting. This is simple brain chemistry and science does not lie (though scientists sometimes do). The nicotine receptors in the brain that give cigarettes their effects are restored to pre-smoking levels usually within 72 hours and smokers are totally over their actual addiction in a matter of days, a week tops.

Yet many people relapse and begin smoking again even long after this time period is past. Why?

Habit is why.

Habit does not distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong.

When you do something every day, several times a day, associated with certain cues, like stress or eating or coffee or sex (in the case of cigs), it becomes a habit. Relapse has nothing to do with nicotine addiction and everything to do with a habit that has become second nature and comforting.


My new year's resolution in 2012 was to learn jazz piano. When I first started, it was not a habit to sit down and practice the piano. I had to will myself to do it. Once I sat down at the piano, it was a fairly easy matter to practice what I needed to work on, but far from second nature. It was uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating. Jazz piano is hard for me. Because regular practice was not yet a habit, the frustration could have been a deterrent, were I not totally devoted and dedicated to learning it.
But I made myself regularly sit down and do it, and after a while, it became a habit. I would block out 30 minutes or an hour a few times per week and practice something on the piano. It would have been nice to do it every day, and if I had, the habit might have formed even sooner. But now, a year into it, I would call practicing jazz piano a habit. I need to do it.

I will get stressed out, in fact, if I am deterred or prohibited from practicing for a few days. I "jones" for it. Then when I am able to get back to it, it is actually a relief and comforting. I suppose this is something like the habit of smoking. Even though a smoker is no longer addicted to the cigs, they have a habit that they are now blocked from doing. When they relapse, it is not the nicotine that reduces their anxiety. It is being able to return to the comfort of a habit that has developed over a long period of time.
I am now a habitual jazz pianist, even if I am not a very good one.

This is where you want to be if you have new years resolutions you want to fulfill. The sooner you can make them a habit, the better. And the best way to do that is to do it as much as you can on a regular basis. You control your own destiny. No one is going to do it for you.

Most of you will fail to follow through on your resolutions though, and that is OK.

With smoking, you have the added chore of trying to undo a habit you have already established and which is second nature. That's the worst. You are trying to NOT do a habit and that is virtually impossible. But one strategy that is often mentioned is to find a substitute habit. Some people will eat food instead of smoking (which is why quitting is associated with weight gain). Some people might go for a walk, taking themselves away from the cues associated with the smoking habit (and getting some much needed exercise and stress relief at the same time). Find a way though, smoker, because smoking sucks and it is deadly. You smell bad when you smoke too and everyone hates you.

But whatever your resolution, if you fail, all it means is you weren't able to make it a habit. Maybe the initial pain and frustration deterred you (working out is painful at first, if you are a couch potato). That suggests maybe your resolution was not truly a passion you wanted to do. Or maybe you just have other distracting habits.

One habit I need to break is my social media habit. It's a waste of time, but it is a comforting habit that gives me instant gratification when I see what my friends are up to. When I am writing my book, I need to turn that shit off during the periods of time I have blocked out for writing.

Writing my book will require the establishment of a habit of daily work on it, and blocking out specific time periods that I stick to. But there I have an advantage working in my favor. A couple of years ago, I started writing daily 10 minute blog posts on this blog. I did it almost every day, diligently, and it quickly became a habit. I am totally addicted to it, as you know if you are my Facebook friend or you are subscribed to this blog (why?). I get uptight when I can't do it, a true sign of a real authentic habit. And that bodes well for my book writing.

I started doing it because I read that to become a better writer, one should free write for 10 minutes every day, kind of like stretching and workouts for an athlete, flexing the muscle of my intellect. I can tell that I am a much better writer than I was when I started.

Becoming a better writer was my goal, not habit forming. But it became a habit, and now it is a synergy, because my habit to write compels me to sit down and do it while becoming a better writer at the same time. It's to the point now where it is hard for me to even limit myself to 10 minutes of free writing. I am approaching about 30 minutes right now, and I still have more to say, plus I am going to spend a little time formatting this post and adding affiliate links to monetize it.

10 minutes is the perfect amount of time for developing good writing habits. It's a short enough period of time that you can almost always carve it out at some point in a day, even during a break at work.

There is really no excuse to not carve out the 10 minutes, if you can carve out 30 minutes to surf the web or play video games or watch Netflix (the latter is one of my vices).

Every day of my habit produces a blog post, which is satisfying, even if the post isn't very good. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also don't have to do too much editing and re-reading of these posts, because they are meant to be free written, with minimal editing and error correction (I do try to fix blatant typos...that is just good form).

With jazz piano, 30 minutes is about the minimum time to start feeling a sense of accomplishment, and it is not too hard to carve that out at the end of the day before I go to bed. If I focus on one thing at piano for 30 minutes, I can usually make some satisfying progress. When I have an hour, I can accomplish even more. At about 90 minutes, with jazz piano, I start to experience the Law of Diminishing Returns and I try not to go beyond that, or I undo my habit forming. At that point, it is best to take a break and let what I have learned sink in.


Writing the book habit is not without challenges. With the blog posts, I write them and then I publish them. There is instant gratification and there's not a lot of hard editing work involved.

However, writing the book will be different. I will be writing and editing for a long time before the public ever gets to see the book, which I am going to self publish on Kindle. There will be no instant gratification to compel and motivate me. It will be its own reward.
That means I will have a lot of text files on my computer and I will need to write them and re-write them and edit them and make sure they are good and book worthy, with not a lot of positive reinforcement. It won't be as hard as doing it cold, since I have been doing the blog writing diligently, and I don't really care if people read my blog posts. But a small part of me is narcissistic and does hope that some people read my blog posts, as weak as they are.

I am actually going to spend some time revising and editing this post. Although most of that will be adding affiliate linked thumbnails, the effort will be beneficial toward developing the habit of revision and editing and nuts and bolts kind of things. Dig?

When I am writing the book chapters, I will naturally post excerpts that I think are good on my blog (this one or JUICE YOUR LIFE), hoping for some critical feedback from my friends and fans. I hope you will give me your constructive feedback, positive or negative, because that will be the kind of reward that will help compel me along. I really value your input. Don't hold back.


The book writing will also require developing a research habit, reading books that are similar to mine and learning the art and craft of writing to my audience, which for this particular book will be white collar cube drones in corporate America. Not that it won't be an entertaining read for a lot of people (a la the movie OFFICE SPACE...also essential research material, I will probably have to view several times), but I need to target the audience who will most appreciate it, and hopefully buy it.

The final critical element of the book writing resolution will be comfort. There is nothing like discomfort to deter someone from doing something. It will be hard enough to develop good writing work habits.

I have a very comfortable workstation at home. My laptop is set up on a small table my dad made. I have two monitor screens which is nice for having multiple documents open at the same time. I have a nice set of powered near field studio monitor speakers so I can play (and record) music when I need to or the muse strikes (that might be one distraction that interrupts my writing).


But most of all, I have comfortable slippers. I started wearing slippers (albeit very shoe-like ones) to my day job and I really can't go back to the constraint of real shoes ever again, I don't think. I want to say a lot of my orthopedic problems when I worked at the vitamin company were from wearing shoes, when I should have been wearing slippers. Comfortable feet are key to any effort, but comfort in general eases any process, especially one you need to do regularly to develop it into a habit.

Other comforts include coffee, especially when I am working in the morning, and warmth. The slippers and coffee both contribute to warmth. I also warm my water in the microwave before I drink it. Cold water makes me cold. I don't understand why people get ice in their water, except on hot summer days. In winter it makes no sense at all, but it makes little sense most of the time, especially if you drink water at public places.

My buddy Stefan is a health inspector and he says one of the grossest places in a lot of public establishments is the ice maker. Bacteria get all up in there and fester. He never gets ice in his water at restaurants and I totally trust his judgment on that. But making and refrigerating ice also requires energy and that creates fossil fuel waste that is bad for the environment, enlarging your ecological footprint. To me, those are plusses of not drinking ice water. But the main advantage for me is that I don't like to be cold, and ice water lowers my core temperature too much, so I warm my water in the microwave for a couple of minutes to bring it closer to my core body temperature. People give me such weird looks when I do this, but I think I am the only sane one.

If my home workstation is not comfortable enough, I can always cruise out to a coffee shop with wi-fi and work on stuff. There are actually less distractions that way. I own two dogs now, and even though they are both totally chill and mellow and obedient, I do like to play with them and stuff. I need to be disciplined about work focus though. Right now, I am actually throwing the tennis ball for Foster, in between bouts of typing. It's time for me to put this post to sleep, and by that I mean go revise it, add thumbnails, and publish it for you lot.

Happy New Year and good luck with habit forming.

Time.