Winter Is Finally Here

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Note: Mild spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.

Sunday, April 14th at 8 p.m. CST HBO finally started the final season of the TV epic, Game of Thrones. To say that this was anticipated is an understatement. We had to wait a WHOLE YEAR for this to take place.

However, this was rather a tease. Not much happened in it. I mean, no one significant even died (which is Game of Thrones hallmark). Now, while this may seem to be counter-productive to the series, I want to say that it is actually brilliant for a few reasons. Here’s why:

  1. It functions as an event and character recap. Like I mentioned before, it has been more than a year since the last season concluded. The Game of Thrones land of Westeros is already complex enough as it is (7 different kings???), so the producers did a good job of bringing people together and filling us in on who is who for those of us who haven’t rewatched the seasons to prepare. Slowly, we got to see how they are going to react to one another—for example, the dynamic between Sansa, Arya, and Daenerys. Those three will be women to keep your eye on throughout the rest of the season. It introduced us once again to plot points and other dynamics of interest like the fact that Samwell Tarly meets the woman (Daenerys) who killed her brother and father. At the very end it shows Jaime Lannister remembering who Bran is (the boy who caught him and his sister having sex). It reintroduces us to the threat of the Night King and the walking dead without going overly into detail. Cersei and her Golden Company has finally made an appearance. Euron Greyjoy is explained and finally is perceived to have sexual relations with Cersei as his prize for bringing her back an army. It will be exciting to see how all of these dynamics play out as the season continues. There are many plots and character dynamics that need to come to a conclusion (whether that be satisfying in a good way or not).
  2. It sets up the rest of the season to be crazy. This season consists of 6 episodes. In just one episode Game of Thrones has set up a very volatile cast and events that should produce quite the interesting final season. By having this crucial first episode with introductions and refamiliarizing us of the cast, dynamics, and plot, I suspect that the other episodes to follow are going to be absolutely crazy.
  3. It builds hype. When I was watching the episode at the bar, there were at least fifty other people watching it with me. This was also being played at two other locations. My roommate who has never watched Game of Thrones in her life decided to start watching the last season. This is rather interesting to me. But, really, it’s genius. Like I mentioned in an earlier blog post, people choose places because of the atmosphere. The environment. She doesn’t really care about the show, but she is still watching it because others are watching it. She may not understand why everyone watches it right now, or the significance of the characters, but because of its reputation already, she will continue to come back every week in order to be part of the “in” crowd. Game of Thrones has been one of the most talked about TV shows for the past decade, so now that “Winter is finally here” it’s time to see how things play out. Because not much happened in this episode, although we know there must be lots of things that have to happen before the series reaches a conclusion, it means the next episodes are going to be crazy (like I mentioned in point #2)

In fact, this episode kind of functioned like a trailer. As we know trailers are all designed to build our interest in seeing the movie that it is promoting, and this is just a longer version of that. Now that we know the characters, now that we are familiar with the plot again, now that we get a sense of the world dynamics, we are ready to see the film.

Needless to say, the next six weeks are going to be epic. I finally have something to look forward to every weekend (well, Monday in my case, as China is in a different time zone). Anyone who is a Game of Thrones fan and has been upset with George R.R. Martin not releasing another book can rest assured that the series will finish one way or another (although how similar that finale is compared to Martin’s vision is yet to be seen).

I’m not going to go into more details on Game of Thrones, there are plenty of other blogs doing it right now, but I knew I had to at least give an initial commentary on why having a “teaser” first episode is so important and what it does to the audience. Are there any other benefits that I may have missed? Have you seen the episode? Are you following along with the series? Let me know in the comments below.

What Matters Most?

I want to talk with you all about a revelation that I’ve made while in the midst of teaching and also in while doing some market research for a new business idea that I had planned to go with but am no longer pursuing.

One of the big reveals I was going to have for all of you that, on top of my teacher hat, my trainer hat, my author hat, I was also going to go into business here for a while as a bar owner. I have a great idea for a bar, although I won’t mention it here because I don’t want anyone stealing my ideas. After conducting market research on the bar idea, and asking the question you see below you in the survey, I have come across a revelation. Rather, a confirmation of something I already knew before.

Atmosphere (7), Price of Drinks (6.3), Location (5.8), Reputation (5.5), Staff Receptiveness (5), Smoking/non-smoking (4.8) Innovative drinks + drink menu (4.3)

What do you notice is the number one thing that people look for when deciding a bar? Atmosphere. Essentially, it is our environment. They care about the whole ambiance of the location, the people there, the vibe they get. How does this affect our life? Well, in many ways, I believe this is how we choose to do or not do many things in our life. Let me explain, as I have multiple examples of it in my life.

I’ve always believed that it truly is the environment that matters most for me when it comes to working. Some people it may be money, some people it could be job advancement, or what they do, but for me it’s always been environment. Actually, my first job ever was at Culvers (a fast food company that originated in Wisconsin). I worked there for 6 years! It was minimum wage so I can’t say that I worked there for the money, and it didn’t offer the best opportunities for job advancement that aligned with my career path, and I definitely didn’t feel a sense of fulfillment at my job, not like the sense of fulfillment I have now being an educator. But, what it did have, was atmosphere. I absolutely loved my bosses; I loved the employees that I worked with; I loved the camaraderie we had there. It is the reason why I could work there for such a long time and still happens to be the longest job I’ve ever held.

Environment is what brought me to China originally. Let me explain that as well. During my time in South America I had two possible life paths that I could go down, well, three actually.
(A) I could obtain a job at my hometown high school
(B) I had a job lined up in China
(C) I had a job lined up in Burma.
After doing some research and having an interview, I quickly decided Burma was not the place for me. So, it was between China and my hometown, Slinger. The benefits were completely similar:
(1) I would be earning relatively the same amount of money,
(2) I wouldn’t have living expenses (China pays for it here, and I would have lived with my parents back home),
(3) I would be teaching English to high school students in both cases.

It was nearly identical, but the biggest difference was environment. Did I want to teach in China or in my little small hometown of Slinger, Wisconsin? Obviously, you know the answer to that question already if you’ve been following me. But I decided to pursue China because the environment was new; it’s something I had never experienced before and anyone can do anything for a year. After living in South America, I thought it would be easy. And life is (for the most part). But China’s environment will never make me stay here permanently, I don’t love it that much, and I’ll get to that in a little bit.

Before that, though, I want to say that environment has affected me in China here, too. I work here in China for a company called Ambright and my first two years I worked in Yixing. That was not a healthy environment for me. The city was dead, and many of the foreigners there were older, so there wasn’t a young crowd to hang out with. For me, this is not good. Like I mentioned two blog posts before, I am a people person–I thrive off of the energy of others. So, when there is no people, there is no energy, and thus a rather boring existence. Not only the environment in the city was bad, but I also found the school environment to be rather toxic in many ways. There were cliquey groups, disobedient kids, and we functioned within a school that always wanted us, but competed with us all the same. They didn’t provide synergy; instead it was toxicity. I have since moved to Suzhou (still with the same company) and my life has been a complete 180. I can’t believe my life to be honest. The students at this school are so well-behaved compared to the other school, the Chinese staff is friendlier, and the main campus wants us on the campus and are supportive in things that we do.

Now, don’t get this wrong. I like the school environment, but I still have quips with China and its environment. However, it’s cultural, and no one asked me to come here, so if I cannot accept China for China then I should leave, but it is a great opportunity to make money so that is why I am here. However, the environment is not good enough to make me want to stay permanently. I love China for the ability to make money as a teacher and have a low-stress job–I have both of those things. But, I also enjoyed Latin American culture so much more because it was friendlier and more open and welcoming to foreigners. People aren’t as rude. There weren’t as many annoying things about South America as there were China (although every country has its annoyances). That is one of the big factors in making my decision to pursue a master’s degree down in Colombia come January 2022. The environment, for me, is just much better than that of China. There aren’t any internet regulations, it is closer to family, slightly cheaper, and the language barrier isn’t as apparent (as I can understand and speak Spanish slightly better). That big life changing decision will be a whole different blog post as I focus on my outward goals and vision and explain to you just how using a weekly schedule (what I mentioned last week) can help me eventually achieve those goals.

Now, about making money. One of my ideas to make money was to open a bar here in China, but the process has been so incredibly frustrating and difficult that I am no longer opening a bar here in China and instead pursuing a different passion and life path that will most likely put me down in South America again in a few years. Until then I am working in China, saving money, using my unique and awesome situation to get writing done and hopefully continue moving to build my author hobby into more of a career.

I think environment is how many of us choose what we do as well. If we don’t like our current relationship, we should change it. Understanding what you will and won’t put up with is huge, so if it’s toxic, there has to be a compromise, change, or understanding that will result in hopefully a less-toxic environment and thus a healthier you and a healthier relationship.

When writers write, I usually see them on the beach or in a library or study area. Why is that? Because the environment shapes us in many ways.

When we take a test like the ACT, SAT, or any other state-regulated exam what do you notice about the testing environment? It’s silent. It’s a conducive environment meant to allow us to get the best score possible in line with our capacity as an individual. I believe this idea of environment actually plays quite the dominant facet in our daily lives.

Besides the bar epiphany, this idea actually came to a forefront when I was giving an English lesson the other day. I was going over a prompt with them in class and we decided to brainstorm. The prompt was: “If you could change one thing about your school, what would you change and why? Give reasons and details to support your response.” The first thing that was mentioned? Environment.

For me, it was absolutely crazy to hear it mentioned. I mean, I already knew that this is my biggest draw about any place that I go, but I never knew it was others as well, or it is as ubiquitous as I am making it seem. Perhaps it isn’t, though. Perhaps I have just managed to get a sample of people who want the same thing as me. But, I don’t think that’s the case. I want to know, what matters most in your life when making decisions? How large of a role does environment play on your life decisions? (i.e. going out to eat, where to work, what things could be better, etc.)

The Key to Organizing Our Time

My book is being turned into a movie!

It’s not some April Fool’s joke; this is real!

Trust me!

You remember the “big” changes I was talking about in my earlier blog posts? Well, this is one of them. As April begins, I will be going into what I believe will be the busiest month of my life. I have multiple projects that need attending to, this one being the most pressing concern as the video will be shown in the middle of May.

So, how did this happen? What is happening? Is this for real?

Yes, yes, yes, it’s for real. Well, sort of. Last year I had found out about a screenplay contest and so I adapted one of my polished short stories to make it a screenplay and entered it here in a local Suzhou competition. It was chosen as a finalist, so now I have to produce it for a showing that will happen in the middle of May. This means that I have to film and edit EVERYTHING before then. For someone who doesn’t have that much experience with video editing, this is quite the daunting task, but there is a reason why I am doing it. I should clarify, though, that it’s not a full-length feature film. It’s only a short-film (like 5-10 minutes). This is fine for me and still should keep me plenty busy.

That reason brings me to why this month will also be super busy. Recently, as I’ve mentioned in my other blog posts, I have read this book called “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and this book talks about making personal mission statements so that it helps define your life and what you live for. One of those personal mission statements of mine is for my role as an author and states: “I will contribute to the literary world somehow whether it be in novels, novellas, or short stories each year.” This year I’ve decided to publish a novella which takes place well before the series begins. It will be titled, The Founding of Gazo’s and Gracie’s Academy. Gazo’s Academy and Gracie’s Academy are brother-and-sister schools that are the prominent weapons academies in the universe that I’ve created within Guardian of the Core. The founding of these academies is briefly glanced at in the second novel, The Curse of Pirini Lilapa, but the actual founding of the academy is much much different and amazing then what the main character, Zain, lets on in the novel.

This will be a three-part novella. (For those of you who don’t know what a novella is, it is a smaller novel, typically 30,000 – 45,000 words). The movie, however, will only be an adaptation of the first part of that novella. Still, this was quite the blessing for me because it can provide me with a lot of promotional content and activity before the novella comes out and get people more hyped for the next new release. The whole idea of releasing a new published work is daunting and requires lots of pre-promotional activity, so that will take up more of my time as well as I get ready for publication.

Now, in my last blog post I talked about how I am combating my greatest asset / problem: my personality. And that is through organizing myself via a weekly schedule. During this blog post, I want to break things down for you a little bit more and show you (in detail) how, despite lives being busy, we do have enough time to get those things done in our lives that are important to us.

First things first, though, what are my mission statements? (A mission statement is how you operate; what values you hold dear to yourself. Every business has one. So, too, should you. For more information on drafting a personal mission statement read the book). Anyway, here is a list of mine:  

  1. Author: I will contribute to the literary world somehow—whether it be novels, novellas, or short stories—each year.
  2. Teacher: I will never stop learning and continue to gather knowledge through travel, literature, or education.
  3. Trainer: I want to maintain a healthy body and encourage others around me to do the same, for our health is one of our most important currencies.
  4. Friend: I want to continually improve the relationships in my life by advancing and encouraging open and honest communication, sustained communication, and empathetic communication.
  5. Businessman: I will start to obtain monetary independence by focusing on creating multiple streams of revenue while managing expenses by creating a budget.
  6. Self: I will practice honesty in all manners, and making sure I am always true to myself, my desires, and the people in my life.
  7. Church: I will seek out chances to grow spiritually and hold myself accountable for practicing what I preach, and having more open communication with God.
  8. Boyfriend / Husband / Partner: I will remain chivalrous, faithful, honest, proud, supportive, and loving of my significant other for she is the most important person in my life.
  9. Father: I will be an active, supportive, and encouraging father, giving my children the same opportunities as me and instilling in them a sense of self-worth, determination, and appreciation.

Now, I am not ALL of these roles (for example, boyfriend or father), but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals or can live my life a certain way that will allow me to be those things when the time comes, and I meet that special person.

The next thing we have to think about is this matrix that is better described in the book, but I’ll give a summary of it here. This is how we can classify ANY activity that we do. It’s the “Time Management Matrix” and it’s featured below.

Typically, many of us are focused on the first quadrant or the third quadrant. If we are irresponsible and don’t do much with our life, perhaps we are in the fourth quadrant, but many of us forget about the second quadrant because these are things that are important but not urgent. In our minds, urgency always comes first. It’s urgent after all, yeah? For example, how many of you reading right now don’t exercise? You don’t have “time” to exercise consistently or feel so tired after work that you don’t exercise? If you nodded your head that is because exercising is in quadrant two. It is important to maintain our health, but we can definitely push it aside for “another day.” Just like our diet, right? Another important activity that many businesses forget to do is marketing because they are too busy with other things and they believe they can do it themselves.

However, this is the MOST IMPORTANT quadrant because it focuses on being proactive versus being reactive. By focusing on our second quadrant needs we will find that our first category and third category needs die down quite a bit and you will have MORE time in your schedule. Of course, for a full in-depth reason why this happens please read the book, but let’s analyze my schedule and show you how this affects my life currently and how I am managing everything.

First, you’ll notice on the left that there is a section for our Roles along with the Goals we want to accomplish. The idea is that you decide what 2-3 goals (or more) you want to accomplish for each role that you have and then you plot them out during your week which you should notice is arranged by an hourly schedule. Now, what goals should you put down there? Again, these are things that relate to your personal mission statement and things that should be in area two of your matrix. Let’s break that down using some examples.

Let’s look at my self matrix. Here I have the goals, A) Gym 4-5 times, B) Salsa Class, C) Spanish TV show, D) Spanish APP, E) Friend time

Gym. In the midst of a busy week, perhaps we think that we don’t have time for the gym, but the idea is that we make time. For me, this is important for it fulfills my “trainer” role and also has acted as a vent for my stress in most cases. By putting in the time now, I will save myself from future health issues later.

Salsa Class. This is an interesting one. Definitely not urgent, that’s for sure, but is it important? This is again going back to my mission statement. I have in my educator role that I will continue learning something new. This is something new. Not only that, but I have a larger goal for that role where I will be going to Colombia in one to two years (earliest January 2021) in order to pursue my master’s degree in creative writing. Now, why Colombia? That is a whole new blog post that I will get to next 😉 but it relates to my mission statement here and my goals. But, because I want to eventually integrate into the Colombian culture, I have decided to start taking salsa classes as that is a part of their culture down in South America. Also, it’s fun, and more physical activity which again keeps me active and healthy (my trainer role).

Spanish TV Show. I have recently started watching a show called Money Heist (in English) and La Casa de Papel (in Spanish). This is on Netflix and I watch it in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. How can Netflix be in zone 2 and not zone 4? Well, again, it focuses on my goals of being an educator. If I want to do a master’s degree in creative writing in Colombia, I need to be very very good at Spanish in order to tackle it, something that I am currently not. I am conversational in Spanish, but I am not anywhere close to being ready to tackle a master’s program. So, I watch tv shows in Spanish one or two times per week in order to improve my listening, my reading, learn new vocabulary, and just relax. This is not an urgent matter at all as I have two years to improve my Spanish for Colombia, but by doing this now, I am taking steps forward to my eventual shift in life.

Spanish APP. Every morning I do one lesson in my Spanish APP called WLingua. If you want to learn Spanish, I highly recommend that app. It has everything: reading, writing, listening, and grammar all in Spanish. Again, this is helping me get myself ready for my shift to Colombia so it is important to start now so that I can solve future problems later.

Friend time. This may seem weird to people to schedule time in for friends, but I have many many friends overseas. I actually had someone ask me recently, “How do you keep in touch with all of your friends?” This is exactly how. I schedule maybe fifteen – thirty minutes to just reach out to a few friends each week and catch up with them. For me, this is important. I told you in my last post that I need people. I thrive on people and this is actually part of my mission statement for my friendship zone talking about “sustained communication.” Again, I am completing my mission statement and each goal that we have for the week should add to holistic value of your schedule.

Let’s also take a look at my Author goals: A) April Newsletter, B) Pt 2 of Novella revised, C) Kindlepreneur, D) Post 3 times on Instagram, F) Blog Post, G) Video Filming

You may have noticed in this part I put Instagram Posts scheduled (Goal D). How can social media be included in this? Doesn’t social media just suck time away from us? Normally, it does. Actually, social media is an absolute time sucker if we let it be, and I find myself wasting time on it no matter how hard I try not to; however, for me, it’s a necessary evil. I am an author and part of my success depends on social media to reach new people, brand myself, and promote my work. So, I have to make time for it. I make time for this, though, when I am in a car driving someplace (someone else is driving) or for when I just have a little gap of time between activities. In fact, I am doing this blog post right now while I am being driven to Shanghai in order to complete some filming for the short film (Goal F + G).

In essence, I am utilizing my time efficiently and effectively. I am multi-tasking and that is why it is SO SO SO important to plan your week, not just your day. You’ll notice at the top my “priorities” for today was the Blog Post and the filming, so I made sure (before anything else) to finish those two things. It’s very important you know which things on your goals are absolutely necessary and which ones you can schedule out for another day. By knowing where you want to go, what you want to accomplish, and being able to see the whole puzzle before you, you can effectively place those pieces (your goals) into the necessary places they need to go.

Finally, you’ll see “Sharpen the Saw” down in the bottom left hand corner. I have filled it in with the number of my goals and how it relates and helps me grow in each of our four areas as a human being. This also makes me realize that I am growing as an individual; I am being the best person I can possibly be, and someone who will eventually be successful.

Wooh, that was long. I hope you made it this far and see how this can directly affect you and help you throughout your life. I will be revisiting this topic sporadically throughout the next month and future blog posts because it’s something we cannot get away from. I’m not saying that I’m busier than other individuals, that’s not the case, I know many people who are very very busy and have other roles (like family or father / mother), but I think for any situation you can utilize something like this so that you can make more time for yourself, your loved ones, and start to live your life stress free.

If you have any questions on applying this to your life, or want help in drafting a mission statement or advice, let me know! I can try and answer / respond as best I can.

Combating Catch-22

Double-edged swords. Catch 22. Every rose has its thorn.

These are all expressions used to explain that good things also have their bad counterpart. This is not the case for everything, of course, but I have started to see my life in terms of this recently as I look upon my lack of effectiveness the past few weeks.

I don’t mean to boast or to “toot my own horn” but I know one thing that I am quite good at is meeting people. I am a people-person. Chances are if you are reading this right now, you have probably connected me some way in the past and have probably thought about me this same way. I’m just friendly, and I love love love meeting new people. That is why I’ve been traveling and teaching abroad now for three to four years. It’s also why I’m an author. People fascinate me. I, for better or worse, need them. I thrive off of their energy and I love to be surrounded by friends.

While this is a great trait, and I’m glad to know so many outstanding individuals and have made a positive impact on some of those individuals’ lives as well, it also comes with a trade-off: lack of productivity. Now reflecting on this thought, I look back at my time in Santiago, Chile. It was my first time living abroad and with the Latin American culture being so open and welcoming anyway, I found myself constantly interacting with more and more people. This was great. And I constantly refer to my year in Chile as the best year of my life, and a reason that I would love to return to South America, but it did mean one thing for me: Ineffectiveness.

That year I didn’t work as hard on my second novel as I could have. In fact, it took me another two years to publish The Curse of Pirini Lilapa. It didn’t have to be this long. But, it did take this long and that’s because I didn’t focus on publishing for the future or advancing really my career at all. I was focusing on my social charm, my social status, and that is fine in some cases, especially at the age I was. Now, I find myself in a similar situation here in China and I am not running away from it. I’m not being an introvert. On the contrary, I am learning to manage and organize my days better around my priorities. If you have never read the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” I recommend you read it right now. The author, Stephen Covey, details a way to organize your schedule so that you are more effective and I have been using this method now for the past few weeks and it seems to be working decently. He recommends organizing and prioritizing based upon a weekly schedule, not just a daily schedule. I find it being very helpful for me to plan out when and who I can make time for. It could be working better, but I am still getting used to it and still finding that balance that is all too necessary for an extravert like me who has a bunch of introvert time they need to dedicate (to writing).

So, why have I been focusing so much time on socializing now? Well, a part of it is how I personally deal with pain and hurt. As a people-person I need others around me to talk to and just feel some sort of connection. I need this now, more than ever, after the breakup between me and a recent ex. But, this has left me in a rut of inactivity (in terms of my author career). Well, not inactivity, that isn’t necessarily correct, I am getting things done, but not AS much as I could get done. And, although I am self-cognizant about this fact, I have been reluctant to change, but I plan on making some pretty big decisions in my life by the end of the month (stay tuned in future blog posts for what those are). So, right now I am kind of in this limbo-state where I am trying to accomplish all of my goals in all areas at all times. Some of these goals do not add up. How can I be social and network and market, while at the same time be an author who wants to publish a novella later this year, while at the same time trying to inundate himself into the role of a student in another language?

To be honest, I can’t.

Unless, of course, you make some of those things become habits. For example, every Tuesday and Thursday I go to Salsa and Bachata class. Every morning I wake up and learn a little bit of Spanish. I am scheduling time for film rehearsal and production for a short movie I will be releasing later as well (more news on that to follow in a future blog post as well). I am continually taking care of my body by going to the gym 4-5 times per week. And now I have an idea of how to tackle balancing my social life with my author life, and it’s simple (in theory). I’ll have to schedule my days out on days that can allow me to do two things at once. For example, every Wednesday and Friday they have a Salsa night at various bars. I plan on going to the Wednesday event now (and occasionally Friday) because it not only gives me an opportunity to further practice my skills, while I continue integrating myself into Latin American culture, but it allows me to network and to potentially meet new people for possible ventures I’ll be undertaking in the near future (again a future blog post). Although it’s tempting to go out on Saturday nights, I am most likely going to decide to stay in from now on and write, only allowing myself to leave if I have hit my word count goal for the day/week. By not going out on Saturday night, I am more receptive to go to church on Sunday, to not waste my day with a needless hangover, and to get the fifth day of my workouts in while still leaving me time to write, to grade papers, and to plan for the next week.

By planning a weekly schedule now it has allowed me to change some of these things into habits, and it’s something that I will continue to do as I move writing into one of my weekly habits instead of socializing. This is called proactivity. Stephen Covey mentions this in his book. In future blog posts, I’ll continue to be referencing this book, but I just highly recommend you read it anyway. It has given me a tool. A very useful tool because in the months ahead my life will become very very hectic. Tune back in for more big news in the next few weeks as I discuss big projects that are ahead of me during the crazy months of April and May.

I included a sample of my own schedule here for reference. As you can see from the picture above, I am quite organized in my day-to-day activities. You’ll notice to the left that there are arrows with a word written into each one. For example “business” or “church” or “individual” or “teacher.” These are hats that I wear. These are the goals that I have for the week that I want to accomplish (or start). So, it’s all about writing them out, and then finding the time for them within your schedule. Goals that have a checkmark next to them are ones that I have accomplished. You’ll notice that not everything is checked off and that is because: (1) it is still early in the week. (2) sometimes you don’t get all of your agenda done and that is what you roll over into next week as an even higher priority item.

This. This whole idea of planning a weekly schedule and prioritizing my goals is something that is slowly becoming a habit for me as well. So, I am thankful for that. Again, this is still in the very early of development for me, but I feel as though I am getting more accomplished and not wasting time like I used to. And that, my readers, is one of the most important things. Not wasting time. Time is our most valuable currency so don’t squander it. Allow yourself to become a creature of habit as they say, by being organized and staying organized, and finally say goodbye to unproductivity. I know that’s what I’ll be doing. –

-Michael E. Thies
Author of Guardian of the Core series

P.S. If you want your own weekly planner like I have check out this website:  

MARCHing on to 2019

You know the songs that just seem to represent your life perfectly? Where you relate to 90+% of the lyrics and you think to yourself, did this artist write the song just for me? I have been thinking about that lately. One song that has come to mind is “Beautiful” by Eminem. In fact, many of Eminem’s songs really strike a chord with me, that is why he remains to be my favorite artist.

These past three months have been probably the craziest rollercoaster ride I have ever gone through. Not probably: it has been the craziest rollercoaster ride that I have ever gone through. Within the past three months I have loved a lot, have been heartbroken a few times, and have cried even more (much more than I’m comfortable in revealing actually). For those of you who do not know, I recently was in a relationship, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the most intense relationship that I’ve ever been in, but for reasons I’m not willing to discuss here, we have gone our separate ways.

Although I’m not going to discuss why our relationship ended, I do want to talk about the benefits of relationships in general, and how, perhaps, one can look at them in the future.

First and foremost, every relationship is an opportunity for growth. When you realize that, I think it makes the breakup a little bit easier to cope with. If you do not see relationships this way but as a “waste of time” then perhaps you were not in a good relationship to begin with and may need to go back and reevaluate yourself, your principals, and your criteria for what makes a relationship a relationship.

  • This relationship made me grow in unexpected ways. One of our biggest issues was communication; I think that was the reason we broke up to begin with. But, I couldn’t let it end like that. I was taught by my ex that people deserve the Nth chances, and I like that philosophy quite a bit. Not everyone deserves a second chance, but some people deserve three or four or even five chances depending on how they make you feel and the type of individual they are. I definitely didn’t want this relationship to end the way that it did, so I read a couple self-help books on the advice of others. If you haven’t read them I highly recommend, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and 3% Man by Corey Wayne. (The latter is more for guys).  While reading them, I realized how comments I made had affected our communication, how actions that I did took a toll on her, and, in general, I found I was more culpable than I first thought for why the relationship ended the first time around. So, I decided to change myself. Not for her, necessarily, but for us. I wanted to become better not only for her but for myself as well because you have to recognize your self-worth and take every opportunity you can to increase it. And, in February, we had gotten back together.
  • Of course, I’m not completely changed; I’ve only started this road of self-discovery and self-introspection, but I can say that I am more confident in myself now than ever. And that is good. For that, I am very thankful for this relationship as it helped me recognize my self-worth, potential, and the value that I can add to the world.

Secondly, with this growth, like I mentioned before, came cognizance of my self-worth. If you are in a good relationship, or even a toxic one, I think that knowing your self-worth is crucial. It’s vital to your emotional stability, your mental stability, and in some cases, your physical stability. How much can you put up with before saying “I’m worth more than this. I don’t need to be treated this way.”

  • Early in the relationship, I had found out about the caliber of my exes past relationships. That was a shock for me. I had moments of self-doubt, for they seemed to be way out of my league and my category. What could I bring to the table that these people hadn’t brought? Why did she like me? These questions placated my mind for a little while. She didn’t like that. And, why should she? No woman wants a man who is insecure of himself. They want someone assertive and determined and who is truly comfortable in his own masculine core. So, I decided to stop comparing myself to them, or I thought I did, although sporadically, I suppose, I dipped into this mood before we ended things the first time. Again, these books kind of helped me and in February, and even now, I feel like a new man, a revitalized, driven, and focused individual. I don’t care what others have or don’t have, I know what I have and what I can offer to the relationship and any future ones that I happen to find myself in.
  • It would be not fair of me to tell you that it were only these books that helped me. So, during this second time, while I had been bettering myself and just becoming more of the man that I knew I could become, tragedy happened in the form of dejavu and we were torn apart again (for some of the same reasons that had ended the first time we were together). It was unfair.
  • So, I took a look at myself and the relationship. I recognized who I was as a person, what I wanted and needed out of a relationship, and I decided that this individual could not meet some of my most needed pillars. There were disconnects on too many levels, and I knew continuing the relationship would be harmful for my psychological and emotional health, so I chose to walk away. Not only for myself, but I also felt that I couldn’t offer her the support and love that she needed (we had been a long-distance relationship). Sometimes, if you truly love somebody, you need to let them go, and you want them to be find someone else who can make them truly happy. That is what I wanted, and I still want that, but I cannot keep in contact with this individual anymore because I found some of her words and actions to be too hurtful.
  • Actually, this revelation occurred after I had a recent spiritual encounter with God and I heard his words through prophecy at this church in Shanghai. God had encouraged me to recognize my self-worth, and I did so, and now I am on a new path in my life. It’s exciting and fun and I’m instilled with this sense of drive and passion and determination that I have never experienced before. Her ability to not only open this idea of self-worth to me, but also to help me recognize it (in good ways and in bad) is something that I am grateful for, and I think any relationship should provide you with this sense of feeling, and I hope it does.

The third thing that I think relationships should do for you is to provide you with a sense of purpose. This relationship did that. I had dreams of spending forever with her, and she had told me the same thing. There were barriers in my way between this, however, so I tried to come up with plans on how to make a life with her work. A book that really helped me discover this idea of purpose actually is the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This was a book that my ex had given me and, again, another just outstanding thing she did for me in the relationship—helping me grow and recognize that true potential we are all meant for. I think this is part of “active support” and one of my six pillars (I’ll discuss the six pillars of a relationship in a totally different blog post to come), but in some ways she had “active support,” however, in most other ways I didn’t see this as much.

  • Anyway, I knew my goal, but I’m remiss to say that I could never achieve that goal. Suggestions that I offered hadn’t been good enough for her, or those closest to her who seemed to always be keen on giving relationship advice to us. But, when we broke up the second time, a light bulb turned on, and I knew that the trajectory that my current life was on would never be able to support her lifestyle, and perhaps a future with a different person as well. So, now I’ve rescripted my future and am pursuing a new path and I have never felt more energized and motivated before. I’m sad that this could not happen with the ex, but we were caught in the unfortunate predicament of timing (another of the six pillars). I wasn’t where she needed me to be yet, and she was (and still is as far as I know) pursuing her life goals and dreams. I, too, now have realized that I should focus on myself and pursue my goals and dreams. In fact, the 3% Man mentions this idea as well, and how women love a man with drive and determination. Of course. I’m not saying that I didn’t have that before, but in many ways, I felt like I was trying to force a life with her, rearranging things and schedules and priorities when the same wasn’t reciprocated.

So, now, I’m taking some time for myself and to truly put into practice all of the things that I have been taught in the relationship and this journey of self-introspection. Along that journey that I’m on now, a song has been put on repeat. “Beautiful” comes to mind because there are a few lyrics that really have spoken to me recently and I’ll list them here:

“I’m just so fucking depressed, I just can seem to get out this slump
If I could just get over this hump but I need something to pull me out this dump”

  • How I’ve been feeling recently (off and on) since the relationship ended, and sometimes even through the relationship, dealing with problems of emotional stability. This message from God and recognizing my self-worth, however, has pulled me out of this slump.

“I know some shit’s so hard to swallow
And I just can’t sit back and wallow
In my own sorrow but I know one fact, I’ll be one tough act to follow”

  • Of course, I’m remiss that the relationship didn’t work out. I truly loved this woman. Absolutely loved her, and I still do. I gave it my 100%, that I am sure of, and that is all I can do. I got to see a side of her that not many people see, and so I hope whoever is next can get to see that same side, when her walls are down, there is no façade, just the raw-naked truth that I got to experience.

I’ll be you, let’s trade shoes
Just to see what It’d be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine”

  • This is something that I learned to do during the relationship quite frequently and what I think I have gotten better at. I try and see things from other people’s point of view and not be so narrow-minded. This is crucial for any successful relationship to function, and I’ll admit that perhaps this is another of the reasons we failed. But, even more so, as the fallout happened (and continues to happen via social media) many people only see or perceive one side of the story and don’t understand everything. And, that’s okay. No one besides those involved should know the whole thing, but I think it’s an important life maxim to understand that: “For every heads, there is a tails.”

But don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked. Just stay true to you
Don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked. Just stay true to you

  • Probably the most telling words of the song, and that is why it is repeated twice throughout each chorus. This perfectly describes finding that intrinsic sense of self-worth. When you realize how valuable you are, you learn to realize what you will and will not accept in any of your relationships or situations in life. You, yourself, are unique and beautiful and shouldn’t have to change for anyone unless if you want to. Sometimes these changes are needed. Sometimes they are perceived as being needed. I don’t regret changing; I enjoy it. When change acts on you in a positive way, that is good (for example, prompting you to be more organized or tidier). But, you, who you are as a person, your values in life, those I don’t believe need to change for another for that person, whoever he or she is, should love you unconditionally. And if a value or an act that you did in your past is totally abhorrent then they need to learn to accept it (for it was a past version of you, and doesn’t reflect who you are now) or stand firm in their true morals and know that it is something not acceptable to them. Staying true to yourself is the biggest thing any relationship can teach you because if you try to not be yourself, you’ll eventually get called out.

We gotta take these cards ourselves
And flip them, don’t expect no help
Now I could have either just
Sat on my ass and pissed and moaned
But take this situation in which I’m placed in
And get up and get my own

  • Sometimes life throws you punches. Sometimes they are taps; sometimes they are gut-wrenching uppercuts, but life will definitely test you. But, when push comes to shove, will you roll with the punches, or stand there and continue being pummeled? After the relationship ended the first time, I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t let things end the way they did. So, I took the situation and I flipped it on its head (well, tried to salvage it as best I could). The situation pushed me to grow in different ways, to really learn more about myself, and I had a vision and sense of purpose (which was sadly never realized).

But I already told you my whole life story
Not just based on my description
Cause where you see it from where you’re sitting
Is probably 110% different

  • This, again, is the theme of the song, and many times, the theme of many stories. It’s an important lesson to keep in mind: There are always two sides. Sometimes what is portrayed online is simply a façade. If stories only told things from the hero’s perspective, we would never understand the villain. And that isn’t life. Life isn’t so black and white. Villains, too, can be good guys. The example that comes to my mind is Dexter (a serial killer who kills bad guys). Is the act of him killing others deplorable? Or is the fact that he kills only other deplorable human beings an act of virtue? People like Dexter are complex, and complex characters are fantastic to analyze. No matter who you are, you may always be an antagonist in someone’s story. The question is, do you have the ability to separate yourself enough from the situation to see things objectively and unbiased? That is definitely a hard thing to do; I know I definitely have my own biases. It’s a character flaw. I think everyone has bias, and sometimes it’s our pride that gets in the way of looking past our ego.

And to the rest of the world, god gave you the shoes
That fit you, so put em on and wear em
And be yourself man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny,
Don’t ever let no one tell you, you ain’t beautiful

  • Finally, Eminem ends on a positive note by telling us to stay beautiful and to not let anyone tell you differently. He resays his theme one more time. This is very much a lesson I’ve always held highly for myself. I don’t care much for the opinion of others; I try and stay true to myself as much as I can. In fact, many times in the relationship the “trolls” of the internet definitely tried to sabotage me (and they still do, to be honest), but I don’t pay them much attention. This is having that strong sense of self-worth that relationships should help you build. This is actually the very first of the seven habits discussed in the book by Stephen Covey. The idea of “Response-ability” the ability to choose our response. What matters is our Circle of Influence, things that we can control. And we can certainly control how we feel and react and respond towards others. We can let it affect us, or not. So, choose not to let it affect you and move on, for they want a reaction. But, in fact, silence, in itself, is a reaction and a strong one at that. This line also mentions about having shoes that fit us; I think that also is symbolic of having a sense of self, a sense of value, and a sense of purpose and mission. I am honest enough to say that although I thought I had this, I have only really recognized many of these things during the intensity of this relationship and the aftermath that followed. I am thankful for that most of all.

Do you have any theme songs that could describe your life or a journey that you went through? Are there any more qualities that a relationship can add or build? Surely there are, these are just the first three that came to mind. I’d love to hear your comments below. Remember, no matter what, MARCH on ahead, don’t look at cracks in the ground, keep your head up, your chest out, and stiffen up that upper lip, you’re beautiful.

Thank you for reading.

Michael E. Thies
Author of the Guardian of the Core Series

The Growing Author

I think it’s pertinent to share my thoughts with everyone on what I learned through the release of my second novel, The Curse of Pirini Lilapa. It was officially published on June 21, but I didn’t have its release party until June 22.

The undertaking in releasing this book was something like I have never experienced before and has made me but luckily I had some experience already in this sort of thing. The hardest part, of course, was the language barrier and communicating my ideas and design to someone whose native language is not English. Luckily, I had met a few contacts who could speak a decent amount of English and worked in the positions I needed them to work in. I knew someone in an advertising agency who could design the inside of the book with her staff. I also knew another person who knew a book printer who could help me with printing books. This, my readers, is known as 關係(Guānxì). It means relationship in Chinese and it is part of the cultural identity that thrives here in China. So many times I have seen this play out, sometimes in bad ways (like when students enter our program because they simply know someone), sometimes in good ways (like my case) but it’s a fundamental idea that one has to be cognizant about while in China. If you’ve ever heard of the phrase “Don’t burn your bridges,” and thought it was just an idiom, it is actually life over here.

In fact, this idea permeates through more than just simple relationships, but it also affects how we are perceived as foreigners. For example, I recently went to a family lunch for the parents of a recent graduate to our program. I had never heard about this lunch until the day before, but no one actually invited me. At 7 p.m. at night I finally get an invitation from a colleague who must have “forgotten” about me (all too common in China), but I refuse the invitation as I already had other plans. Then the father personally adds me and invites me to the lunch. Now, I actually do enjoy these lunches and dinners quite a bit, and I did eventually end up going, but only because the father actually took the effort to invite me. So, there I was, the only foreigner in a room of 200 or so Chinese, and I needed to be there in order for them to have the ability to say that they know a foreigner, in order to give them 關係. Now, how does this relate to the novel? I only mentioned that story to show you how essential it is for Chinese people to have us at events, no matter the event, even if it’s simply taking a picture with you so they can claim to have a “foreign friend.” So, getting back to the book release, I held this event at a coffee shop and when asked how much money it would be to reserve the second floor they said there was no money needed, just that everyone should buy at least one drink and that they would have the ability to take photos of us for use as promotional material. Compared to other places and prices that I looked at in Yixing, this was a great deal and I ended up having my event there. You can see some of the pictures below, but again, it reverts back to this idea of relationships and not only that but “the face” here in China.



















































































China is, lack for a better word, shallow. They DO care about how you look. They DO care about your skin color. They DO care about your sex. Although they may not say it explicitly, it goes back to their cultural identity and never losing “face” to someone. Face is like reputation, and because people take photos of me, or have lunches with me, or have their coffee shop filled with a bunch of foreigners, they automatically gain a lot of “guanxi” and they gain a lot of face.


Another thing that was extremely surprising to me doing the second release of the book is that, since traveling and teaching abroad, I have actually gained more fans than in the States. You think that this would be the opposite, right? Back home people know me, I grew up with them, I have established long-term friendships with them. While that is true, some of my best friends are actually the ones I have made abroad and I think it’s because we have gone through the same thing. We are both living and adapting to our environment and the struggle we share is similar. That is why support is so high here. Even from the Chinese actually. Although they most likely cannot read the book, they still buy it and support me and that matters a lot to me. I also think it’s because when people find out that I’m an author and a traveling teacher it kind of makes me an outlier. I mean, it’s like randomly seeing a celebrity on the street. Now, I’m not trying to equate myself with a celebrity, I am far from rich and famous yet, but it’s not that many times that you run into someone (especially someone so young) who has published a novel—that, too, I believe helps me gain fans and supporters.

The last thing I learned doing this book release was that timing is EVERYTHING. Now, this should be obvious, but it’s even more so when you are living abroad (especially in China). As I have an American fan base and a Chinese fan base, I need to post things on social media at the specific times where it can gain the most traction. Typically for me, this is in the morning (or the night before for America) or late at night in China around 9 PM which will then hit America at 9 AM. This, for the most part, I did successfully; however, I did fail in getting pre-publicity reviews before its release, and I hope that doesn’t really hurt me and my sales for the book. This time doing it I am much more cognizant about the money that I spend in promotion and marketing because the last book cost me waaayyy too much money and I doubt I’ll ever make a profit on it (to be honest, most authors don’t make a profit on their first book anyway as it’s just a way to gain your fan base and establish your credibility). Also, I’ve learned that I waited much too long to release this second book as it has been 5 years or so. I really should keep sequels to no more than 3 years, so I will be much more diligent on this third novel and hope to release it maybe in my early 30s, maybe before 30, who knows, it all depends on where the story goes. I do know, however, that China has given me the time and the economic freedom to publish my books as an author which is fantastic.

Overall, as I turn my nascent author career into one that is hopefully full-time professional career I will need to keep up with the times and learn new things on the way. That is the most exciting part about being an author and a traveling teacher, never growing stagnant. I always have to adapt to situations and it has made me a more confident and competent person than I was before.

Do you have any experiences that have shaped you as an individual? I think we all do. I would like to hear them in the comments if you would like to share!

  • Michael E. Thies

P.S. Also, it’s my birthday June 29th. As a birthday gift to all of my fans I have discounted my books on Amazon from 2.99 to .99 cents. So, download them while you can by clicking on the links here. The Trials of the Core and The Curse of Pirini Lilapa. Also, you can win autographed copies of both books by going to The Guardian of the Core Facebook page, liking the page, and sharing the most recent post with your friends!

It’s Finally Time

Well, it’s the time again.

Normally this is the time where I start to count down the days until the school year ends. How many more weeks do I have to teach? How many more class periods do I have? When are the finals going to be? This year, I am doing that, but I am also counting down to something else—the release of my second book.

I am happy to say that on June 21st of this year, when the sun is at its brightest and fullest, the second book in the Guardian of the Core series will come out. Why this day? Well, in the book the event, Pirini Lilapa, is when the two suns converge, creating a purple aurora in the sky and bringing with it heat, chaos, and beauty. What better day to release it than when our own sun is at its brightest and hottest! Below is a small video trailer I put together to create hype for the book’s release. Watch!

The Curse of Pirini Lilapa takes place immediately after the conclusion of the Trials. Coronation has elected a new apprentice to Guardian of the Core. Since, Zain Berrese, Prince Hydro Paen, and Eirek Mourse have gone their separate paths, thinking each other a distant memory. But, it seems that fate has other plans. As the three travel their paths, they find that their lives are not so separate after all. The persons who they thought they were at the end of the Trials are now tested even more as the suns draw closer to their convergence. To an event known to bring only bad luck, sorrow, and pain. To an event that occurs every 150 years. To an event known as Pirini Lilapa.

Some look to the sky in superstition, others look to the sky in fear, and yet, some look to the sky in contemplation. For in the weeks and days before the suns converge, plots perspire, deities die, and families are fractured as no one is safe from their harsh and heinous gaze. . .

For me, this is a dream come true to see it finally being printed and produced. I feel like a proud father now with this new baby of mine about to enter the world as for many years I kept pushing back the delivery. Now, I feel confident and stable enough to put it out there and as you will notice while you read, the world has expanded and to help you, maps have been included at the beginning of the book and character trees in the back so that you may keep track of all the people.

If you haven’t read book one yet, you can start now and finish it before the sequel comes out in June. Here is the link on Amazon. Also, you may preorder your book now for the Kindle version for only 2.99. After its official release, the price will jump to 3.99. You can do that by clicking here.

Looking to the future, the next thing for me to do is to finish writing the series. I have an idea about how it’s going to end, but that always changes, and is already starting to change in my mind (for I have two possible endings). It has been exhilarating, albeit frustrating at times, publishing the book in China. I have even gotten many people to ask for a Chinese version of the book, which I am contemplating actually about the first book. This could be another way to expand my marketability as an author, so we will see. At the end of the day, I need readership and followers and perhaps that initial investment in having it translated will pay off. What are your thoughts on that? I’d like to know. Also, what did you think of the trailer? Are you excited for the release of book 2!?

Let me know in the comments!

Happenstance: Freedom vs. Fate

You know the saying, “It’s such a small world” when you meet someone you didn’t expect to meet again? Or, perhaps “What are the odds?” when something crazy happens? Well, I believe that our life may be composed of serendipitous, rather chance, opportunities falling in place. It makes me believe in this idea of fate and everything always happening for a reason.

Let me give you a few recent examples:

When I wrote my first novel, The Trials of the Core, the characters were individuals, yes, but, in the grand scheme of things, I did not see them as more. As I have finished writing the first draft of book three, and have plotted out how I will end the series in book four, I am starting to see unintentional symbolism arise in my writing.

The idea had first been planted by a fan of mine who, after reading my first book, had asked me if a certain main character was supposed to represent something. I told him he was no allegory. But, as I have revisited book two in preparing for its release later this year in June, and as I have a clear idea of how my series will now end, I can definitely say that this individual was correct. A few of my characters will be symbols to a very important event that happens in the book. Their actions will have coincided with the figures they are meant to represent. Now, of course, this is extremely vague to you as readers, but I don’t want to spoil anything so it is my intention to keep it vague.

The second surreal instance happening occurred on the 31st of January 2018. On this date,  there was an event known as a “Super Blue Blood Moon.” You can read more about it here. Now, why is this interesting?  Well, for one, this event hadn’t happened for 150 years. What’s more, it was a special sort of eclipse. As you will soon read in the second novel, The Curse of Pirini Lilapa, the event as described in the title, is a special event. Pirini Lilapa is also an eclipse and also occurs every 150 years in the universe that I have created. What are the odds of this occurring the year that I plan on releasing book two and on the year that I plan to go to Thailand to experience a Full-Moon Party? Well, to make a pun, the odds are astronomical. In Thailand, I wasn’t able to witness as good of a view as others were (especially those in Alaska or Canada), but I found some images of the moons online that show just how surreal the event was.

Super Blue Blood Moon 1

Super Blue Blood Moon 2

Just as it creates disorder and chaos in the book, I am sure this party will be no exception (as I have heard a great deal about this party). Of course, I’ll be safe. No worries there. But, I still cannot fathom how perfectly this has worked out for me.

And, to top all of this off, I have made a large life-changing decision for me and that is to move from my rather isolated and boring city of Yixing to Suzhou, a much more renowned and foreigner-friendly city here in China. Normally, this would not have been an option as Suzhou was on the brink of closing the doors to its Ambright Program, however, the specific location is reopening because of the new leadership of the Suzhou School which now wants to experience a better relationship with their international program. This propels me forward not only socially, as there will be more foreigners there, but also because there are more foreigners there is more of an opportunity to see my book (or books at this point). Two, because of my move I will be receiving a higher salary than I would have received back in my old city and will have more time on my hands as the duties weighing me down in Yixing will be non-existent in Suzhou. I will continue teaching English, just under less stress and a better environment. Hopefully, this means more consistency in my writing, but regardless, I am on pace for planning my releases when I want them to be released.

These three instances really bring to question in my mind freedom or fate. Although I think we make our own decisions, I do believe that every decision we make is some sort of greater purpose in our life and so we really can’t ever escape our destiny (to be poetic).

To say my stars are aligning is cliché, so I’ll use a phrase from book two that I crafted: “Some names are sung for sorrow, others are fit for fate, and yet some are given for greatness.” It seems that I truly am fit for fate.

The 20/20 Vision

Last week I talked about making New Year’s Resolutions, and I offered four resolutions that I will try to complete in the year 2017. In case you forgot, those resolutions are:

Resolution 1: I will successfully pay off all of my credit card debt by putting at least half of my paycheck aside each month.

Resolution 2: I will finish writing the first draft of my third novel (title still undecided) by the end of the academic school year (July 2017).

Resolution 3: Assuming I complete the first two resolutions, my third resolution will be to publish my second novel, The Curse of Pirini Lilapa, by the end of 2017 in both e-book and paperback forms.

Resolution 4: I will begin work on my 3-year Professional Development Plan (PDP), in order to move from a probationary to a professional teaching license by the year 2020.

I would categorize all of these things as short-term goals. Hopefully, everyone reading knows that there are two types of goals, though, short-term and long-term (short-term again being the ones listed above).

This week I want to expand on that and help you to create resolutions that are long-term resolutions or goals. Sometimes it’s necessary to think about the bigger picture, too. For example, if you’ve ever been asked this question in an interview “Where do you see yourself in five years?” They want to know your long-term goals, and it’s a point of seeing how well you can organize your life because, essentially, completing long-term goals comes down to organization and persistence if I had to choose only two qualities (although I’m sure there are more).

So, this all came about when my friend and I decided to make our goals for 2020. We vacationed together while in South America and have been in contact lots since we have both gone our separate paths but we always talk about our return to South America in 2020, we call it, our 20/20 Vision. Catchy, right?

This return to South America (specifically Chile, Columbia, and perhaps Brazil) would be seen as the incentive, right? Because you have to earn it. So, what are the long term goals I plan on accomplishing before this time? Well, let’s take a look.

20/20 Goal #1: I will have written the first draft of all four books in my series, Guardian of the Core, by the summer of 2020.

20/20 Goal #2: I will have completed my PDP and successfully achieved professional licensure in Secondary English Education.

20/20 Goal #3: I will have set aside a sufficient amount of money in order to take the vacation in question by putting money into a separate account every month.

Okay, so I want you, the readers, to look at these goals carefully. What do you notice? What isn’t on my goal list? Things such as “I will have settled down and have a family by 2020,” “I will have settled down at a permanent job,” “I will have published all of my books,” or even, “I will have published three of my books by 2020.” All of these things do not belong on long-term lists.

So, why don’t I include goals like those? All of them are great goals, and I wouldn’t be opposed by having any of them happen, but why shouldn’t goals like that be included? Perhaps you can already think of the reason. It’s because of this word: indeterminable. All of those goals that I mentioned in quotations depend on outside factors that are beyond my control and that I shouldn’t worry about. Would I like to have a family? Absolutely. But, will I meet the right person by 2020? Who knows. . . By having that as a goal, I am putting myself in a position to search for anyone instead of searching for the right one. Would I like to have a permanent job by 2020? Yes, of course! But, this requires that I like the school district that I end up at in that time, and that the environment is good, the pay is good, and the opportunity for advancement is there. All of those things I cannot control.

Okay, so how about the last couple, the ones about my book. You can control those, why aren’t they up there, you say. Well, you’re right, I can definitely control how fast I work and could potentially get them all published or even three of them published by 2020, but even they have indeterminable factors. For example, any good book needs multiple edits, and it needs people to read it, and these proofreaders have lives as well, I cannot demand that they read something in a month and then send it back to me so that I can stay on schedule. The market has a volatility that I have to be cognizant of and perhaps one year may be better for releasing than another year.

But, what else do you notice? Anything? If you noticed that all of my goals for 2020 are related to my resolutions for 2017, then congratulations, you’re correct. I firmly believe that in order to have good long-term goals, you need to make them relevant to what you are doing now. This has two factors: (1) when you complete your short-term goal, you are completing part of your long-term goal (2) and because of this, you become excited and motivated to continue your resolution instead of fizzling out. This is huge because as I mentioned before two qualities of successfully completing your long-term goals is organization and persistence. If you are currently dating someone you really like and you want to get engaged to them, and you know you want to get engaged to them, well, you don’t wake up with 1000+ dollars one day, you have to set money aside and start planning for the investment of that ring. I’m not going to wake up and have money for this trip to South America unless if I first clear my debt and then continue to put aside money for the trip. This is where organization and persistence comes into play.

So, I ask you this question, what is your 20/20 vision? How would you define your perfect life by the year 2020? I highly recommend you create some sort of long-term goal for your plan because just as completing short-term goals helps with long-term goals, the same goes for short-term goals. By having long-term goals, and having them be relevant to your short-term resolutions, it will hold you more accountable to achieving those resolutions.

Happy goal-setting and as it’s officially 2017 now, I welcome the new you, and the new visions you plan on accomplishing this year and the years to come.


Michael E. Thies

Goal-Setting for 2017

New Years. It is a time to spend with family and friends. It is a time for partying and staying up late (at least until midnight.) And, finally, it is a time for New Year’s Resolutions. It is a time for change, to break the monotony of your current life. But, many people make the resolutions and then they fall flat and fail within months of trying to do them. The best example of this is the ever popular “I’m going to get in shape this year” resolution. If you are a gym-goer you know how crowded your local gym gets in January and even February but by March it has returned to the same status quo. So, what then makes a good goal? What are good goals?

Let’s examine that first. Here are a few things that I recommend that have worked well for me in the past. If you have ever heard of “S.M.A.R.T Goals” you will find similarities here, as that is how I have always achieved my goals.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goal setting concept presented on blackboard with colorful crumpled sticky notes and white chalk handwriting

Tip #1: Only create one or two goals, definitely no more than three.

Reason: When you clearly have only one or two things to achieve, you can focus on them that much more. It is the same as multi-tasking essentially. You can get one thing done faster and more completely if you only focus on that one thing versus trying to handle multiple things at once. So, with only one or two or three goals, you shouldn’t be so overwhelmed that you quit.

Tip #2: It is not enough to have a goal, but a plan of action.

Reason: Many people can create a goal like, “This year I will get in shape.” You may ask, what is the problem with this? Well, it’s vague. There is no plan of action. Create one. Let’s use the above example. “This year I will get in shape by eating more fruit and exercising more at my gym.”

Tip #3: Be as specific as possible.

Reason: It is one thing to say that you will get into shape this year, but what does that actually mean? Does that mean you will get the six-pack you’ve always dreamed of having? Does that mean dropping two pants’ sizes? Or does that simply mean losing one pound or one kilogram per month? What is it? Define it. And then, come up with a plan of attack for doing it. So, taking the example above, we could say something like: “This year I will lose two pounds per month by exercising more at my gym and eating healthier foods like fruit in order to get into shape.” We have a goal, a plan of attack, and we are specific. This is how you should make your resolutions, and write them down. I always feel as though writing down your resolutions commits you to it more than just saying it to yourself.

– While all of this may be good now and you feel as though you are ready to go, you aren’t. –

Tip #4: Have an incentive.

Some may ask, “Isn’t the incentive the feeling you get by losing two pounds per month? Isn’t the incentive getting into shape or looking better?” My response is, NO. Those are results, not incentives.

To have a good example, let’s put it into the context of bodybuilders. A bodybuilder may say that they want to gain 5 lbs of muscle this year, albeit it will actually probably be a lot more. So, they will eat more meat, increase their protein intake, and get jacked for lack of a better phrase. But, there has to be some sort of incentive pulling them along. That incentive is a cheat day. Every bodybuilder or athlete I know has one. Maybe it’s one day per week, one day per month, but it’s a day where they abandon their rules in order to give into their carnal desires of maybe that bag of potato chips, or a scoop of that ice cream they have been salivating about. By creating some sort of incentive throughout your resolution, or at the end of your resolution, that you ONLY do if you complete it will make you work that much harder for it. The key here is that you have to be true to yourself and ONLY give it to yourself if you earn it. That will make it be that much better.

In the example above of getting into shape. Maybe one plan of attack is eating healthier so you cut out your love of buffets. Well, perhaps an incentive then is you treat yourself to a buffet at the end of each month or every two months.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at some of my resolutions for 2017.

Resolution 1: I will successfully pay off all of my credit card debt by putting at least half of my paycheck aside each month.

Resolution 2: I will finish writing the first draft of my third novel (title still undecided) by the end of the academic school year (July 2017).

Resolution 3: Assuming I complete the first two resolutions, my third resolution will be to publish my second novel, The Curse of Pirini Lilapa, by the end of 2017 in both e-book and paperback forms.

Resolution 4: I will begin work on my 3-year Professional Development Plan (PDP), in order to move from a probationary to a professional teaching license by the year 2020.


Okay, many of you are probably wondering, what gives, I have already disavowed my rules of no more than three resolutions. To that point I say, I haven’t. Although there are four, resolution three can truly only happen if the first two are complete and then resolution four is an ongoing one, to be started this year but not completed. Also, I know that my first resolution will be complete as of February or March this year, so my only huge resolution that I’m focused on is number two.

To an extent, I know that all of these are within my grasp if I choose to really go after them. I am confident I can get these done. Also, I have an incentive. Something I want to do if I accomplish all of them (especially number 2) is to take a grand vacation in the summer of 2017. I will want to take a break from writing for a little while, hence the reason I want to finish it before I go. And then if I do manage to publish my second book by the end of 2017, then I can take a nice winter vacation in 2018.

And while all of these are great, this is only just the beginning. In my next post, next week, I will tell you how to plan for your long-term goals as well. But, first, focus on what you are going to do this upcoming year, then come back and see how you can build upon it for later in your life.

Have a happy New Year’s everyone. Stay safe and have fun.


  • Michael E. Thies