Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Working as a solopreneur has its benefits, but there are times when you need to stretch. I've had a variety of gigs over the last year or so, but I felt a need for some inspiration. A background in the public service meant that some corporate or non-profit experience might do me some good. When the chance came along to do that, even for a while, I jumped at it.
Back in September, I took a 9-5 job with the local Board of Trade. I was at a business to business reception, when they approached me out of the blue. The question was "Do you do business writing as well as science writing." "Well, yes," I said, "as a matter of fact, I just finished a certificate in that." A couple of short conversations later, they offered me a job for a couple of months.
It's been good. There hasn't been all that much writing yet, but interacting with people during the day has been therapeutic. I found that I'd developed some seriously bad habits while working alone for over 2 years. The days all seemed to combine into one, and productivity was heading to the basement. I needed a change. Heh, I got that.
There are a variety of tasks that I'm involved in now, from writing to printing, to event preparation and photography. Variety is the spice of life, so to speak. I'm learning a lot and having fun.
I can still hear the echo. A year ago I swore I'd never take a full-time job again. Hmm...note to self: never say never. Life changes and you have to change along with it. Nothing is forever, and if you think it is you will miss out on so many things.
We'll see how long this gig lasts. I hope it lasts a while. If not, that's ok. I've made some new friends and acquaintances, learned lots of new things, and have a new appreciation for 9-5.
Onward and upward...
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I was out to do some shopping this afternoon, when CBC started interviewing someone about his writing (I think). Unfortunately, I wasn't in the car long enough to follow along too much.
They started talking about practice and how it relates to spirituality. Now I'm not a spiritual kind of guy, but it got me thinking about practice and what it leads to. I'll try and explain.
We generally practice something to get better at it. Over time, we hope to go from dufus to expert in whatever skill it is. If we keep it up, it seems to become a part of us, and we start to explore and experiment in all the nicks and crannies of our technique for doing whatever we're trying to learn to do.
If we're learning to golf, the first thing is just learning how to hit the ball without driving half the landscaping along with it. Once we can do that, we can start noticing little things about the swing that we can change to make it more directional or increase distance. By the time someone is a pro, their body just seems to know what it has to do. A pro player seems to focus on what he wants to accomplish, and his body follows through with practiced precision.
Same thing with writing, riding a bike, or doing mathematics. There are always mountains of nuance to conquer once you are accomplished with the basics. With practice you start to see the joy of doing, as well as some of the paths you might take to get even better.And more practice helps you do that.
I guess that's a kind of spirituality. Does that make any sense?
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Early last month, I was honoured with a Certificate in Business Writing, Public Relations, and Marketing Communications from SFU's Writing and Publishing Program. I guess I can add CBWPRMC after my name now :-) Ok, maybe not.
Seriously, I've been writing professional stuff for a long time, but most of my training has come through short courses, picky editors, and plenty of practice. That, and a short stint years ago as an English and History major at UBC, has served me well. But for some reason I thought I'd formalize things a bit. Ergo, the courses at SFU.
Continuing education is always good, and you just never know where it will lead you. Eons ago in another life, I quit a boring janitorial job and started working as a pest control technician for a small company. I found a related correspondence course at Purdue University and signed up. That got me started towards even more formal education, and ended up with me working as an extension biologist, managing a research and development group. Go figure.
So where is this new accolade going to take me? Who knows. Don't care. I enjoyed the courses, learned a lot, met some new people, made a few friends. Anything else is gravy.
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Saturday, April 15, 2006
"the folks you mean to be talking about are "early adopters." And the distinction is critical and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what's happening. An adapter is someone who is able to deal with changing conditions. This sort of person isn't ruffled by a new policy or an environmental change. Let's hope that penguins are good adapters.
Adopters, on the other hand, seek out change, want the new stuff. They like it. Big companies with power are used to a person adapting when they exercise their will. Small, nimble companies look for adopters."
I think I'm both at times. An early adopter, in that I really like searching out and trying new things; an early adapter, when I accept that those new things don't solve all my problems ;-)
There's lots of innovation out there. That's what make the world an interesting place. The trick is in finding out what innovations are useful for your situation.
An example: I can't count the number of innovative software programs that I've download and vowed to use religiously. And I do. At least until the next innovation comes along.
Still, sometimes a progam will catch on. EccoPro is an example of that. It's a PIM that came out during the time of Win 3.1. I used it religiously at work (WinNT) and at home (Win3.1, Win95, WinMe, Win98, WinXP) until just last year. It provides a calendar, todos, and notes, and syncs flawlessly between copies that are on different computers - both ways. It also synced with my palm PDA.
The only reason I'm not still using it regularly is that I'm more outlook centric now because of email. I do still use it for project planning and a personal diary though.
To bad development stopped in the 90s. There has been talk of moving it to open source or another developer, but so far I haven't heard of any success. Sad.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
"The problem with success stories is that there are too many of them, and they almost always seem to hinge on happenstance. Not that there isn't a positive message to be gleaned from a right-place-at-the-right-time story... But there's a big difference between gleaning and being able to follow a concise set of instructions designed to help you achieve a desired outcome. I've been the recipient of many a success story, and each has been as varied as the individual behind it. Stories of failure, on the other hand, are universal. They can also be replicated. Considering we learn more from our failures than our successes, I offer the following as advice..."
Later on she says:
"The question you should ask yourself is: Do I want to make my own mistakes, or learn from somebody else's?"
I hope she's kidding with the first part above. It's bugged me for a couple of days now, and I wasn't sure just why. Then it hit me. The author really needs to read Discover your strengths by Markus Buckingham.
One of the reasons we learn from our failures is because we usually spend a lot more time wondering how we could have been so stupid. We go through all the potential reasons we might have failed and think about how we might have done better. Sometimes it affects our mood for days. Sometimes it makes us cautious about moving forward on something new. It usually results in some 'cause' that we can point to, either a something or a someone.
On the other hand, we usually just bask in our successes. Sure they affect our mood for days, but we seldom spend time looking back over the process we used. We're ready to move on to the next success, sometimes oblivious to just what it was we did right.
Buckingham suggests that we focus on our strengths and build on them. As time goes on, any weaknesses will become less important in the grand scheme of things.
Perhaps we need to treat success and failure in the same way. As we try to avoid the 'causes' of failure, perhaps we can adopt the 'causes' of success. Everything won't work for everyone, but we can use what works for us and grow.
I get so tired of today's focus on the negative. I'd much read stories about success and learn from them. Perhaps if success stories were more 'universal', the world would be a better place.
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Friday, March 31, 2006
'Ducks in a row' often means that things are planned and ready to go. Is that the best way to make things happen?
When I started out on the path to being a small business owner, it took a long time before I saw the light. I hummed and hawed for what seemed like forever about what wonderful, creative name it should have, and how it would fit with the domain. The business couldn't start until I'd made that decision.
Finally, I said to h*ll with it and registered a business with a variation of my own name. That was 2.5 years ago, and I haven't looked back. As a sole proprietor, people relate to me, rather than my company anyway.
But the web site was still waiting. When I get the time to design it; when I have a ton of content for it; when I ...er, just wasn't happening. There were too many excuses.
Anyway, last month I attended the TechVibes Massive technology conference in Vancouver, BC. I collected lots of information from service providers and took it all home to a file. A few days later, I thought...what am I doing. Let's get on with the domain and web site thing.
In the file at home, I came across a special related to Massive. Heck, it offered 3000 email addresses as part of the all inclusive price. How could a sole proprietor go wrong ;-)
So I bit the bullet, registered the domain and generated some content for a basic template home page.
There is still lots to do. It's not all that pretty, but at least I've made a start. That start will probably keep me motivated now, and the design and content will evolve with time.
So, the moral of this story is: if you wait for everything to be ready and perfect before you start, good luck. It will be a long time coming. Your ducks will never be in a perfect row. There will always be some excuse holding you back. What's the old maxim: ready, fire, aim. (Who said that anyway?)
Today, in an alumni session with a business group I belong to, three out of four of us made reference to the 'ready, fire, aim' concept in our reports to the group. We've all had the same discovery in the last month or so. One put it this way: like a bicycle, if you're not underway, it's hard to aim it toward the target. Makes sense to me.
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Monday, February 20, 2006
Earlier in the month, I went to Northern Voice in Vancouver, BC. A great conference and I learned a lot. One of the sessions was on how to get started blogging. The theme: just do it.
So here I am. I started this blog to record some thoughts on how I make the transition from full-time employment, to full-time solo business owner. The only way to do that is to write it down. Any specific themes will emerge, or not. I'll just have to try it and see.
I occasionally need some inspiration. It's easy to lose track of just where you're going, and it's sometimes useful to pause and give it some thought. I've mentioned in an earlier post that I refer to a number of authors periodically to jog my memory and spur me on. Well, I also attend various workshops.
One of those workshops is a series offered by Max Impact in Surrey, BC. So far they've offered a number of hour and half breakfast sessions dealing with goal setting, leadership and sales. I understand that there are more to come.
The workshops are based on the teaching of Brian Tracy and include a short DVD presentation from him, some group discussion, and a bit of time to give the subject some thought as relates to your own situation.
What I like about it is that I can just invest a short amount of time and money each month. There is no large up-front payment for several days of workshop. Yes, I have to remember to register and commit to an early morning, but if I can't afford it one month, I have the option of not going.
It also keeps me on track over a period of time. We all know the hazards of attending intensive workshops. You get all pumped for a few days and quickly forget about it afterwards in the day to day onslaught of things. This way, I get a monthly reminder to review what happened last month and learn something new in the current month.
Oh, and I get a breakfast too.
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