Monthly Archives: April 2019

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.