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Meet DeadJosey, the narrator of my “The Devil & The Doctor” audiobook!

7 June, 2018

DeadJosey cover photo and logo

ūüėÄ

Good morning fellow humans,

Yesterday, I introduced Kim Noyes, who is producing the Audible audiobook edition of my second horror anthology, Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson

Today, I want to you all to know about DeadJosey, aka Josselynn Monserrate, of YouTube fame! She’ll be producing the audio version of my first novel,¬†The Devil and The Doctor (Malcolm Leeds Chronicles) (Volume 1).¬†Ms. Josey has a beautiful voice, a¬†great sense of humor, and has good tastes in comics and video games, in my humble opinion. (Which is, of course, always correct.) She has a lot of Overwatch and Doki Doki Literature Club comic voice-overs on her YT channel. Plus, she’s got a Discord, a Twitter, a Facebook, and another YT for ASMR.

I asked her for a blurb for this blog post, and here it be:

I have been a horror fan for years watching “Tales From the Darkside” and “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and reading scary stories when I was a kid. I started doing horror narrations on youtube in 2013, here in 2018 I’ve expanded what I do from horror narrations to comics and ASMR videos.¬†I’m really excited to be doing one of G.R Wilsons pieces and taking my narrating to a professional level.

Thanks Josey! Don’t worry, you’re good at blurbs. Also, your avatar is adorable in chibi form.

 

a chibi-style picture of DeadJosey

See?

And here are a few neato VA (voice-acting) examples:

(The DDLC one reminds me I gotta do a proper post or three about that game!!)

Once again, check out Josey’s stuff, she’s great. We’re aiming for a late July, early August release of the audiobook, which will be announced in my newsletter.

dead josey picture / twitter link

Twitter Link

DeadJosey picture / YouTube link

YouTube link

DeadJosey picture / Facebook link

Facebook link

 

 

 

 

 

 

stay spoopy,

-Geoff

P.S. – I came out with my first audiobook a couple years ago, narrated by Mr.CreepyPasta:

 

 

 

Introducing “The (Mildly) Mad Scientists of Turingsburg County!” It’s the YA Comedy Sci-Fi series I’ve been contributing to!

7 June, 2018

concept art of various characters

Excellent art by Jonathan Herzog.

Good morning readers,

Do you like science fiction?

Do you like funny science fiction?

Do you like funny, cartoonish, edutainmental science fiction, starring two rival mad scientists duking out their inventive competitions in a small Midwestern town, with the help (and hindrance!) of a colorful cast of minions, villains, and bumbling detectives?!

Welcome to the world of Turingsbug County, USA, the setting for perhaps my most fun fictional co-project!

Concept Art - Farmer Green

Dr. Radcliff Green is a studious man. Art by Erin Williams.

This is “The Farmer Project,” which I’ve been working for the past year with several other contributors, under the leadership of J. Farmer. I was hired over UpWork to write and revise these short, humorous, older-children-to-young-adult science fiction stories.

This collection of stories runs under the series name The (Mildly) Mad Scientists of Turingsburg County, or, Mildly Mad, for short, and in fact are available in Kindle, paperback, and Audible form over on Amazon right now.

The series follows the adventures and misadventures of two rival mad scientists: Dr. Henry White, and Dr. Radcliff Green. (Both Ph.D.) They’re both supposedly¬†retired from the whole mad scientist career after some serious run-ins with the government back in the day, so they’re hiding in plain sight on their neighboring farms, in the tiny, out-of-the-way, Midwestern town of Turingsburg, located logically within Turingsburg County, USA.

Farmer White

White with one of his camera-equipped flybots. Art by Gabriellle Platt.

Both scientists/farmers take different approaches to their work. White, whose career was originally in mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering, prefers to create robotic minions and technological solutions that run like clockwork: predictable, programmable, and doing exactly what they are designed for and told to do.

Green, whose specialties are biology and chemistry, prefers a more organic, free-flowing approach: his genetically engineered animal hybrids and super-plants often react to challenges in unexpected ways, as they mutate and evolve with new forms and new ideas of their own.

Both approaches have their strengths and their drawbacks, of course, with White’s creations requiring crystal clear instructions, and Green’s inventions sometimes needing a strong hand on the reigns to stop them from blooming into a chaotic, unforeseen mess.

White and Green love to compete with each other in various challenges, such as creating the most helpful minions for the town, growing the best cabbages, or collecting the biggest pile of trash. Other times, they join forces to save the town from dangers such as an illegal street racing gang, cyborg rats, or a mysterious force which is causing every object in town to get increasingly stuck together at an exponentially accelerating rate. (The latter two problems, they, uh, may have sorta accidentally created themselves … >_>)

Assisting each scientist are their equally rivalrous “not-so-super” supercomputers: MIRA for White, and C64 for Green. Both scientists compete in continually upgrading and reaching new, impactful uses for their respective computers and their ultra-advanced artificial intelligences, including the design of entirely new security robots (like the infamous “Summer Snowmen”) and the hacking of shadowy mega-corporation servers.

green and bodo concept art

Concept art of Green and Bodo, by Reese Taylor

MIRA has an interesting backstory connected to one of White’s old computer engineering co-workers, Dr. Valerie Schnoover. Schnoover and her daughter Vivian do play a direct role in an upcoming story with an especially cyberpunk theme. MIRA often helps White with his experiments and inventions, and runs the security on his farm and secret underground lab, including, at times, the direct control of his various “robo-toy” minions. She’s a free-spirit at heart, and as much as she enjoys the acquisition of new knowledge and of helping “Henry” on his latest experiments, she also does get a kick out of pushing his buttons once in a while, or later, helping to protect and mentor Dr. Schnoover’s daughter, Vivian.

Dr. Green’s supercomputer, C64, is made of a hybrid of conventional silicon chips, plus carefully designed and grown bio-organic circuitry. He often helps Green with experiments the same way MIRA does for White, and he runs the various greenhouses where Green’s latest genetic creations are nurtured. C64, similar to MIRA, also enjoys occasionally teasing “Radcliff,” and like MIRA, has his own adventures ina virtual, cyber-punk world. Plus, he has a classy English accent, and Green often calls him “Commodore,” so that’s neat.

For other helpers, White has his aforementioned robo-toys, which range in size from several centimeters to about a meter tall, plus his bigger robots such as Tractor Bot. And, at least temporarily, he had control of the solar-powered, ice-cream slinging, highly aggressive Summer Snowmen…but he doesn’t like to talk about those.

concept art of a robo-toy

There are many designs of robo-toys: some are bipedal like this, others look like spiders or crabs, and others look like toy fire trucks or army tanks. They’re all designed with different tools for different jobs.

robo-toy collored

Robo-toy art, and Bodo art below by Aaron Ballish

Green has his right-hand rabbit, Bodo! Bodo is a highly intelligent and bipedal hybrid of a bunny and genetically-modified fungus, so he has these cool mushroom ears. He’s essentially Green’s apprentice and learns quickly from the scientist in the ways of biology and chemistry. Bodo is also a major fan of Japanese history and culture and enjoys practicing his ninja skills. Also with Green are his various animal and plant hybrids, especially the kung-fu fighting “rhino-chickens.”

baby bodo

Bodo as a lil baby. He grows to nearly the size of an adult human!

Then there are the cyber-rats, who escaped from Green’s control sometime after he and White almost burned down Turingsburg, and appear to be evolving a society and upgrading themselves in the woods that neighbor the farms …

For other recurring characters, there is most importantly, Detective J.R. (James Roosevelt) Grey, Turingsburg PD’s best (only) investigator. He’s got a good heart and an iron determination to see justice served, but, he can be a bit of a bumbleking at times. He also, at first, thinks that ol’ farmers White and Green are up to no good out on those mysterious farms, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of their purportedly supervillainous activities.

Then we have various visitors to town, (such as bigfoot hunters,) recurring townsfolk, sidekicks, (like Grey’s trusty deputy, Polonski,) and villains such as the wealthy and alluring widow, Raven Black, and the uncatchable street racing gang known as the Speed Demons.

Each story includes a concise and educational “State of the Science” article, elaborating on the reality of the science and technology featured in that tale. Mr. J. Farmer, the creator and editor-in-chief of the¬†Mildly Mad series, is an engineer himself, and a descendant of Midwestern American farmers. He conceived of the stories as a way to entertain and inspire young readers, including his own kids, on the wonders of scientific and technological possibilities.

I tremendously dig the stories, and I’m happy to be contributing to them!

I hope you’ll check them out! Personally, I think a lot of adults with a sense of humor and an interest in this sort of whimsical science fiction will enjoy them just as much as kids do.

Here again is the link to the official website, and you can click the images below for links to Amazon for several of the individual stories:

Adios, amigos!

G.R. Wilson

Introducing Kim Noyes, the narrator of the upcoming audio-book edition of “Paranoia!”

6June, 2018

Good evening errybody,

I officially have an Audible version of my second anthology,¬†Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson in the works! Our lovely narrator is Ms. Kim Noyes, an experienced broadcaster and storyteller. As someone who loves radio, podcasts, and Audible audiobooks, and listens to them frequently in the car, at the gym, or on walks,¬† I’m excited to get more of my stories published in that format! You may recall that Mr.CreepyPasta of YouTube fame narrated the Audible version of my first anthology,¬†Right Behind You:¬† Tales of the Spooky and Strange, a couple years ago.

Picture of Kim Noyes

Click for the link to Kim’s Audible producer’s page!

Kim is also excited to work on this project, and I asked her to share some of her experience with and thoughts on the horror genre:

I have been a horror/suspense fan since, well, forever. When I was 5, I remember being greatly disappointed because my mother wouldn’t buy me the book of scary stories that I wanted. While in college, I worked in a video store & watched EVERY horror movie we had – including “Basket Case’ & “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”. I am a huge fan of, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Edgar Allen Poe, Dean Koontz…..In the movie “The Ring”, I laughed with glee when Aidan said “No Mom! You weren’t supposed to help her”. On Halloween, I have dressed up in Vampire attire without the teeth and had to keep explaining how I had only been bitten once, so, I had not ‘turned’ yet. Some people just don’t get it. I have been in Radio for most of my adult life & currently work at a classic rock station. I LOVE to tell stories….I am SO excited to start this new chapter of my existence….

And, her favorite Stephen King book is¬†The Shining,¬†Salem’s Lot, or¬†The Stand.

Thank you Kim!!

I will also have more news soon about the upcoming audio production of my novel The Devil & The Doctor!

As always, I appreciate those who purchase or otherwise read (Kindle Unlimited, Audible subscription,) my books through Amazon!

       

Happy Trails,

-Geoff

 

Movie Hype Alert: HEREDITARY!

4 June 2018,

Good evening friendos!

I began the day with a dental appointment, (green across the board on the check-up and x-ray!), and then I’ve been writing my next novel and some freelance work for clients. Hella productive, feels great!

In this post, I want to talk about Hereditary, the Sundance horror film directed and written by Ari Aster. I first saw the trailer for it when I saw Deadpool 2 a couple weeks ago, and it immediately got my attention.

First, in case you haven’t seen it, check out the trailer:

Woof. I felt my skin crawl just watching that peek! I was introduced to A24 by¬†The Witch, which shares a producer (Lars Knudsen)¬† with Hereditary¬†and is another great, artistic, low budget, original, horror film. A24 seems to be pumping out great films (horror and otherwise) left and right, and I’m always happy to see a new one get a nationwide release!

So what do we see in the trailer? I like the way it gives us a taste of the type of scares we’ll experience, and enough of a character and plot introduction to tempt us with investment, without giving away¬†too much¬†plot information. You know, like a good trailer should!

We have a mother and a daughter as the main character. According to the IMDB, this is Annie Grahm, played by Toni Collette. (The mom in Little Miss Sunshine, one of my favorite comedies!!) I’m already intrigued by her character. She’s just lost a mother, who was apparently quite…eccentric, and clearly creepy. The whole vibe suggests that she was a witch. Who…also apparently insisted on exclusively breastfeeding¬†Collete’s/Grahm’s own daughter. Oh, it also looks like Annie is a miniaturist (the little house and figures are hers) and I love the cinematography and horror possibilities that opens up! (She also looks cool wearing the magnifying glass headset thing!)

And then Annie’s daughter is Charlie. She’s played by Milly Shapiro, who according to Wikipedia, had great success, including a Tony Honor and a Grammy nomination, in the Matilda¬†Broadway musical in 2013/14. With earning that level of achievement so young, I’m excited to see how Shapiro does as the unfortunately off-putting Charlie! I don’t know if Charlie has autism or what, but that blank stare and¬†click tick, coupled with her apparent interest in making random trash and animal parts (poor bird!!) into art pieces are all delightfully creepy and interesting. She seems to take after her mother…and, if the heavy “witch” connotations are any indication, after her grandmother, in more ways than one …

We get tantalizing¬†glimpses of ghostly grandmas, spontaneously-combusting dudes, eerily levitating dudes, ominous strings, and lots of Charlie going¬†click. (And asking all-too-knowing questions about the aftermath of her mom’s apparently impending death.)

I love it. I’m going to see it this weekend and review it. I’m going to avoid reading more plot information, but the A24 webpage has some good, basic, non-spoiler info.

So, what are critics saying so far?

Rotten Tomatoes:

IMDB:

MetaCritic:

Adam Epstein has some good words about the topic of it being the “scariest movie in years:”

…Hereditary, though, feels different from the rest. The blurbs calling it ‚Äúthe scariest movie in years‚ÄĚ read less like a pre-packaged marketing gimmick and more like earnest assessments by those who have seen it …

Sooo my hype meter is rising through the roof!

Besides that, I’ve looked around for other non-spoilery information:

Milly Shapiro comes across as charming and genuine in this pre-screening interview:

Awesome for her! ūüôā

 

I enjoyed this interview with Toni Collete, too:

(Interview begins at :45. No spoilers, don’t worry.)

That’s encouraging to hear that the movie isn’t¬†just scary, but is also as she says, about grief and how family dynamics change in the face of tragedy. I think the best horror movies are those that speak to real, human themes like that. I always appreciate seeing evidence of horror movies, like¬†The Witch, or¬†IT, being not only terrifying but also legitimately GOOD movies. Anyway in the interview: I also didn’t realize Collette was Australian, very cool. (And how she says the name of the country “‘strarya!” ūüėČ ) That’s legit that she meditates, too. You go, Toni.

 

Plus, this Mr. H interview with writer/director Ari Aster:

Aaaand based on that excellent interview, now I’m seeing this Friday, no matter what:

  • “Old school suspense but without relying on cheap scares.” (paraphrase)
  • Rosemary’s Baby is an inspiration
  • Aster seems genuine and humble. (e.g. giving all credit to A24 for the well-edited trailer.)
  • Horror has become “comfort food” and often simply rewards audiences for already knowing the formulas and tropes.
  • This film honors, but at the same time upends genre traditions.
  • The movie is character-centric, it satisfies the “genre stuff” but all the compelling horror of the film grows from the themes and the characters, and the film is at once a scary movie and a meditation on family suffering and sorrow.

For those who have a greater tolerance for spoilers than I do, here is Mr. H’s review, which I did not watch:

 

In conclusion,¬†Hereditary looks incredible from the trailer, critics love it, and I’m excited to see it. I look forward to talking about it with you all this weekend.

I’m going to take care of some ROTC paperwork now, hit the gym, then sleep.

Goodnight, and sweet dreams.

-Geoff

 

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

NOTE: I MEANT TO PUBLISH THIS ON THE REAL 25 APRIL, WHEN I SAW THE MOVIE. OOPS. THE FINALS DID GO WELL, AND I GOT A 3.3 OVERALL FOR THE SEMESTER — NOT BAD! AND, THE NETWORKING EVENT LED TO A NEW PART-TIME MARKETING JOB FOR BEER.

25 April 2018

It’s almost finals week! So many projects. So many tests. It’s been a good semester, lots of learning, but damn has it been tough. I’ll keep pushing through strong to the end! I have a networking event tonight with Network After Work at the Dailly Refresher, one of my favorite bars, so that should be fun and productive.

Image result for a quiet place pictures

Anyway, even in these busy days, I’ve made time for movies. Most recently, on Saturday, I saw A Quiet Place, starring John Krasinsky and his wife, Emily Blunt.

Overall Impression:

I loved it. This movie exemplifies that Horror movies can be good movies, with skillful cinematography, deeply human characters and themes, and smart writing. The sound design, of course, is one of the stars of the show, and it warms my heart to see a nearly-silent film earn such box office results as well as critical praise. A Quiet Place put me on the edge of my seat and kept me there for a delightful, suspenseful, heartfelt, heartwrenching, and thoughtful, 1.5 hours,

Basic Spoiler Free Concept:

A Quiet Place is a science fiction thriller/drama/horror movie. It follows a young, rural, family struggling to stay safe and maintain some sort of normalcy in a post-apocalyptic America. This America has been almost entirely depopulated by a mysterious race of monsters which one glimpsed newspaper headline describes as “Death Angels.” These monsters, who serve as the film’s collective antagonist, are entirely blind, and navigate their world and hunt for prey entirely through a system of exceptionally strong hearing and echolocation. They’re strong, they’re incredibly fast, and they are essentially¬†impervious to seemingly any type of physical weapon.

In this world, making any sound rising above the low background decibels of wind, falling leaves, or babbling brooks summons the attention of the nearest Death Angels, who will arrive and destroy/possibly devour the source of the disturbance in an astonishingly short time.

Our intrepid survivors, who include father (Krasinsky,) mother (Blunt) and their three kids (Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward,) have stayed alive by adapting every facet of behavior to the alien threat: they eschew shoes entirely, walking everywhere with carefully placed bare feet; they manipulate objects (such as when cooking, cleaning, or fixing objects on their farmstead) with great precision and gentelness; they go so far as using paint to denote the non-creaky floorboards of their home; and most importantly, they communicate with each other 99% of the time through American Sign Language. (ASL.)

There are other people still alive out there, but communicating with them is tough, even using morse code on¬†Krasinsky’s character’s HAM radio. The family is essentially alone in what has become a wilderness, and despite their handy adaptations and ability in procuring food, they remain continuously vulnerable to a single shattering of a plate, cluttering of a cupboard, or instinctive exclamation.

And with the couple expecting a new family member on the way, their vulnerability gets that much more real …

Image result for a quiet place pictures

Characters and Acting:

Like most people, I know Krasinsky best for his comedic role as Jim on The Office. He showed his chops as a more mature dramatic role here, displaying great range as a likable, struggling, and loving father and husband. The fact that his acting, like everyone’s in this movie, is mostly non-verbal makes the performance even more impressive.

Emily Blunt and Jon Krasinsky together portray a deeply romantic couple, coming together for each other and their children in some of the most horrifying situationss imaginable. Blunt’s performance, on reflection, is my favorite in the film: her tender love for Krasinsky and their children adds such humanity to this apocalyptic world, as does her indomitable determination and resiliency, which is ever haunted by loss and the fear of further loss.

The kids are great too, especially eldest child Regan Abbots, played by Millicent Simmonds; one of the few deaf actors I’ve seen in a movie. Her performance feels refreshingly honest, real, in her conflict over her past actions, and her strained relationship with her father. It’s a joy, as someone who attends a college with a major deaf population, to see a deaf character, portrayed by a deaf actor, being so expressive through face, gesture, and natively-fluent ASL. I also loved seeing cochlear implants (functional, broken, or somewhere inbetween …) being a major artifact of her character, and of the film’s plot.

Sound Design:

The most memorable Horror and Thriller movies use their soundtracks to enhance the danger their characters face, build the viewer’s suspense, and act as an auditory embodiment of the visual terror on screen. Think of the ominously escalating Jaws theme, or the screeching, manic violins of Psycho, or the heart-pounding theme of serial killer Michael Myers.

In A Quiet Place, the soundtrack emphatically does more by doing, and¬†being less. Krasinsky uses silence the way Spielberg or Hitchcock use music. Knowing the “rules” of the movie’s monsters, we as the audience share the characters’ tip-toeing, anxiety-inducing exploration of abandoned drug stores and woodland paths. The movie quickly trains us to dread¬†any sudden sound rising above a soft rustle. There is background noise, of course: the wind blows through the leaves and the crops, woodland critters occasionally skitter here and there, rivers run somewhere in the distance.

But the Silence is the defining force of the film’s world, brutally enforced by the dreaad-creatures the characters scarcely understand the origin of, much less can identify an exploitable weakness in. Silence is the characters’ open air prison. Silence is the final fate of a world depopulated of human civilization in less than a single year.

Whenever the Silence stops, we as the audience freeze, perk up our ears, and grip our seats, wondering how, or if, our admirable survivors will get out of this one.

There is music, don’t worry. It’s simple, and it creeps in, here and there, complementing some of the genuinely pretty rural scenes, and pumping up the intensity of scenes when the Death Angels lurk. But music is always the junior partner to the silence in¬†A Quiet Place, and that junior role is where it plays best.

-G.R. Wilson

Quick Look at Wall Street Journal, 19 April 2018

NOTE: I took longer to finish writing this one than I intended, which is why it’s up today and not the 19th.

19 April 2018

My Wall Street Journal subscription is resumed! I’d let it expire for about 3 months for financial reasons, but with their excellent student deal, I have my treasured 6-day a week, hard copy newspaper again. <3 I just finished reading several of the most stand-out articles from today’s issue, which I’ll discuss below.

Before that: about half an hour ago I got back from RIT, where I enjoyed an optional question and answer session with some of our ROTC program’s MSIV’s (seniors) about their experiences at Advanced Camp last year. Among the protips:

  • Build your credibility by being a subject matter expert on the radio, combat life saving, setting up OE-245 radio antennas, etc.
  • Be sociable, learn names, learn colleges, learn majors: know your fellow Cadets. Don’t be fake about it, but building that rapport will pay off when it’s your turn to be Platoon Leader, everyone’s tired and cranky after rucking around the boonies in wet socks all day, and you need support.
  • Always be making decisions. Even if your decision turns out to have a bad outcome, the Cadre grading you want to see that you’re at least always assessing, thinking, and¬†acting, and have reasons for what you do. You should never be at a loss for what you’re currently doing, Be a leader. Lead. You’re not going to have perfect information or someone to confirm your decision in the real Army either.

There were many smaller, but important tips, and funny anecdotes. I’ll talk more about my preparation for camp later.

Today, I’m focusing on what I read in the good ol’ Journal. Here, I’ll give brief summaries of what I saw as three of the most interesting or important stories, and my thoughts on them.

  1. Yet another Islamist group is rising in Syria. (Original article by Sune Engel Rasmussen.) They call themselves¬†Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, meaning “Organization for the Liberation of the Lavant.” They’re an offshoot of the al-Nusra Front, the former al-Qaeda franchise in Syria. Their main area of operations is the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, right on the Turkish border. They boast “thousands” of fighters, and are fortifying their position in the province, after overrunning (by their claims) 25 villages and capturing tanks and other armored vehicles. Like any other Islamist terror group, they’re enforcing stricter forms of Sharia than the locals want, including shutting down mixed-sex university classes, and prohibiting salons from using makeup. According to the article, there’s pushback from the locals on all that, who are understandably more concerned about having food, water, and electricity than on strict religious observance. Addressing those material concerns, al-Sham has a “civil affairs” type organization called the Salvation Government, that charges people to provide them electricity and water and win over hearts and minds.

My take:¬†I am not shocked by the appearance of yet another new Jihadist group in Syria. With the collapse of ISIS (which the group has also fought against,) it was inevitable that someone else would fill the void. The strength of Good Guys for the U.S. to support in Syria is smaller than ever. Syrian Democratic Forces are squeezed by both Islamists on the one side and “Animal Assad’s” (what a fun Trump-ism!) regime on the other. The further displacement of refugees from Damascan suburbs surely isn’t helping, as unemployed, hungry, pissed off young men tend to be more likely to join radical groups, especially if they have family dependent on them earning some sort of living.

And all this at the same time as the U.S. is winding down from Syria as quickly as possible, concerned chiefly with ISIS being gone, and Assad not using chemical weapons. At this point, and I’m no expert, but I think most likely that Assad, with Russian and Iranian help, is going to retake most of Syria, and we’ll see Jihadist groups, Kurds, and moderate rebels all pushed to the fringes and unable to openly control territory. In this scenario, there’s less risk to the U.S. and other targeted countries from ISIS-type groups, but, Iran’s and Russia’s influence grows, and a horrific tyrant stays on the throne. Basically, we’d get Lawful Evil instead of Chaotic Evil.

Otherwise, especially if we do intervene more to keep the rebels going, we’ll get more of what we’ve had in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, which is a power vacuum with endless bloodshed among dozens of sectarian groups all backed by different regional powers, with millions of hapless civilians caught in the crossfire. It’s hard to see the ideal U.S. outcome (Assad steps down and is replaced with a U.S.-friendly, fairly democratic, inclusive, and competent government) occurring without a¬†massive American invasion and occupation of the country, and between Russia, Iran, and our experience trying that in Iraq, it ain’t happening.

And so, the never-ending game of whack-a-mole continues.

2.¬†European trade debates.¬†(Original Germany/Russia article by Andrea Thomas and William Boston, Europe/U.S. article by Valentina Pop and Bojan Pancevski.)¬†Germany is trying to get the U.S. to exempt some major German corporations, including Siemens, Daimler, and Volkswagen, from America’s latest Russia sanctions. While the U.S. Congress implemented sanctions on Russian individuals as punishment for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, many German companies do a lot of business in Russia, and don’t want to be punished by American law for continuing existing relationships.

Meanwhile, the E.U., apparently spooked by Trump’s tough talk on trade and tariffs, is looking to quickly complete an agreement that would be a smaller and simpler version of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Obama negotiated that deal, but never concluded it or got it ratified. Issues on the table include tariffs on cars, agriculture, and industrial machinery. Essentially, Angela Merkel is trying to use the E.U. and U.S. shared concerns about Chinese trade practices as a common cause to get the Transatlantic deal through. France is more hesitant about any such deal, wanting to see Trump give more in exchange, such as the U.S. re-entering the Paris Climate Accord.

If Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs are allowed to take effect in two weeks, it appears that the E.U. has retaliation plans in the works.

My take:¬†The Germany/Russia thing is no surprise. I’d¬†like Germany to take a stronger stand on solidarity with the U.S. on the whole Russian meddling issue, but I completely understand that their largest corporations have big business in Russia, and can’t easily give that up. So, yup, there’s going to be a conflict there. I expect the U.S. will quietly grant exemptions, since so many Americans are invested in German companies and Germany is a good ally, but we’ll see. I don’t expect it to get much time on cable news or social media either way.

On the Transatlantic deal, I take this as further evidence in support of the theory that Trump’s hardball negotiation tactics are working in furtherance of his strategy of a trade balance that favors U.S. exports. We see President Xi in China similarly taking a more conciliatory tone towards foreign investment and trade after Trump raises the tariff threats. (More on that next.) While Trump’s borderline mercantilist policies on trade may hurt international relationships long term, for now, they appear to be gaining him leverage.

It’s early to give a conclusion, however. I’m going to reserve judgement until we see what trade policies are implemented, and how they’re affecting the American GDP and unemployment numbers, several months to a year from now.

3. Tesla successfully bucks Chinese rules for its new factory. (Original article by Tim Higgins)

The Chinese government announced that they’ll let Tesla Inc build electric cars in Shanghai without doing the usual 50-50 joint venture with a local company. This is part of China phasing out that requirement by 2022. By being able to build in China, Tesla will benefit by not having Chinese tariffs slapped on its cars as imports. The plan is to churn out 200,000 vehicles a year from the new Chinese factory.

My take:¬†Awesome. I hope that Trump’s tariff threats helped bring this about. I love Tesla, I admire Elon Musk, and I’m excited to see how this can help them grow and beat the naysayers.

Other interesting news: U.S. shale oil growth is slowing, the U.S. conducted evacuation drlls for American citizens living in South Korea, and American banks have excellent earnings reports and diversified portfolios lately.

Overall thoughts from today’s news:

Mostly good. The American economy is continuing to grow, and, as far as I can tell, it’s based on real sustained production and consumption, rather than price bubbles. Trump’s…unconventional tactics on trade may be helping American companies, but we’ll still need more times to see the long-term results.

 

What I’ll be studying this Fall semester

16 April, 2018

Good evening readers!

I hope you’re all having a stupendous Spring! Ideally it’s warmer and more “springy” wherever you are than it is here in Rochester. We had bucketloads of freezing rain Saturday night: I had to chip my way through this half-inch layer of ice on my car before I could drive to the gym. It was great. And, with the garbage weather, the bulk of RIT Tiger Battalion’s joint FTX (field training exercise) got canceled, and we came home early after some M-16 shooting, and then did a few platoon operations lanes (tactical practice exercises) on Saturday closer to RIT, instead. So I was still wading knee-deep through nearly freezing water, but at least it was closer to home!

On the platoon lanes, I also got my first crack at being Platoon Leader! I really felt the pressure of the command responsibility, but, I had a great support team of my PSG (platoon sergeant,) RTO (radio telephone operator,) and squad leaders, and overall I conducted a pretty good OPORD (operation order) briefing, and ambush. I have room for improvement in handling myself and my unit better under pressure when the pretend bullets start flying, but, that will come with experience and more mental rehearsal. My grasp on the level of small unit infantry tactics required of me is generally good. So bottom line, I’m feeling a lot more confident for ROTC Advanced Camp this Summer!

Now, the main thing I wanted to write about today is what I’ll be studying at RIT in the Fall. For those who are new to my blog or don’t recall me saying this before, I’m an MBA student at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be done with my second of four semesters of my two-year degree program!

This Spring 2018 semester, i’ve¬†been studying Finance, Operations & Supply Chain Management, Strategic Marketing Management, and Organizational Behavior and Leadership, in addition to my ROTC Military Science studies. Overall, I’m enjoying the studies, even if the Finance and Supply Chain can require a large time commitment to master their more technical and math-heavy aspects. But my command of the three major business functions (Operations, Finance, and Marketing) is steadily growing with all the studying and projects I’m doing, and my confidence in my ability to be an effective marketing manager has grown tremendously.

Here are the classes I’ll be taking this coming Fall:

  1. Introduction to Data Analytics and Business Intelligence:¬†Stats heavy class, learning how to analyze “the numbers” of a business and its environment to facilitate good decisions.
  2. Internet Marketing: Strategy & Tactics:¬†Fairly self-explanatory name. This will build¬†on my current marketing course experience, by zooming in the application of marketing concepts to Internet marketing and learning the specific tools of the trade in promoting products, services, and brands online. I’m definitely looking forward to this one!
  3. Design and Information Systems:¬†Basically, this class is about understanding a company’s I.T. situation, and how to design an efficient and effective I.T. system for the company’s needs.
  4. Lean Six Sigma Fundamentals:¬†Six Sigma¬†is a methodology for improving the efficiency of business operations by reducing the number of product or service defects throughout the company’s processes. Lean Six Sigma combines that focus on defect-fixing, with the “lean operations” concept of eliminating the waste from a process. I’d heard the term “Six Sigma” for years in a kinda buzzwordy sense, but from reading more about it, it actually sounds pretty cool and useful for an aspiring manager like myself. This is also an online class, which I dig for my own efficient time management.
  5. Military Science:¬†For Army ROTC, I take various levels of Military Science each semester. As an MSIV (Military Science IV) Cadet, (normally a college senior, but, I’m doing a 2-year grad degree,) I’ll be in the final year of this classroom military education. Also, this year my class will be taught by Lieutenant Colonel Otero, the boss of our glorious Tiger Batallion. In my experience so far, these classes aren’t too tough, but they are greatly informative of military methodology and terminology, relating to the Army’s organization, tactics, and models of good leadership.
  6. Beers of the World:¬†Aw yeah! This and Wines of the World are greatly coveted classes, usually taken as electives, for RIT students. They fill up wicked fast, so you essentially can’t get in unless you’re a senior. I oddly never took a beer or wine class in my undergrad years, but, here I am! I get to drink beer and learn about it every Wednesday afternoon. Plus, three fellow Cadets are in there with me. (We’ll set up a little snobish Cadet corner for ourselves. Aw yeah. Elitism.)

It’s a heavy course load, and I expect to be challenged. But, on the bright side for my studies, I’ll be done with the infamously hard MSIII year and the rigors of Advanced Camp by this Fall, which will leave me more time and mental energy to focus on my studies. I could still have a lot of ROTC work to do depending what leadership position I get assigned, but I’ll find that out this Friday and cross the bridge when I come to it.

Ever upward!

Learning and Teaching the 7 Habits: Paradigms of Interdepdndence, and Habit 4 – Think Win/Win

Remember this chart of the 7 Habits? The first 3 Habits we’ve covered form that lower pyramid and bring us from Dependence to Independence. That means that we habitually recognize ourselves as the decider in our lives, we keep the big picture and our deepest values in mind, and we organize to execute every day on those values. We build our confidence in ourselves: in our own ability to be disciplined, to be honest with ourselves, and to deliver to ourselves the results we desire most deeply, and not merely moment to moment, or in accordance with the wishes of someone other than ourselves.

Today, we’ll begin the move from Independence, to Interdependence. This means taking the concept of Stewardship Delegation that Covey discussed in Habit 3 “Put First Things First,” implementing it more strongly, and adding overall effective cooperation with others for mutual benefit. We can personally feel great and produce good results at Independence, but, there’s magnificently greater potential in working well with other effective people!

Paradigms of Interdependence

Before getting to the 4th Habit itself, Covey includes an essay that circles back to his earlier discussions of Private vs Public Victory and Personality vs Character Ethic. As you may recall, deep success in life can only come from a deeply effective character: we must¬†be a disciplined, trustworthy, active, kind, person. We cannot merely give the surface impressions of those things because the success that kind of manipulation builds is fragile, and doesn’t give us nearly the satisfaction of victory built on a great character. Further, the¬†techniques of social skills recommended in the personality ethic are far more effective when backed up by a strong character. Build the rock-solid foundation first,¬†then build the pretty house on top.

The mastery of your character in a clear mission, in discipline, in self-reflection: these all add up to a Private Victory. People only get glimpses of it, unless they interact with you deeply and often. The Public Victory comes¬†after, built on the Private, when you’re building those amazing relationships, developing those amazing skills, and producing those amazing, tangible results: in athletic performance, in artistic creations, in the generation of properly-earned profits, in the foundation of socially useful charities that heal the sick and lend comfort to the suffering.

Likewise, you need Independence before you can have Interdependence!

If you try to skip that step, your relationships will be shallow and fleeting, and you’ll often be a drag rather than a boon to others, or their pawn. When two or more Independent people meet and collaborate, that’s a wonderful thing: they can trust each other, they don’t worry about offending each other yet can graciously apologize if needed, they can produce great things and joyfully share the fruits of their labor. When Dependent people attempt to collaborate, they get in each other’s way, they needlessly complain about uncontrollables, they walk on eggshells around each in a reflection of their own fragile egos, and they jealously guard their knowledge and talents, never fully opening up their potential to another person, or even to themselves.

Covey emphasizes that there are no quick-fixes when it comes to relationships with others: you reap what you sow, later words cannot simply erase past behaviors, and personality can at best give a flimsy plaster over character.

The Emotional Bank Account

Covey gets into his metaphor of the emotional bank account to describe effective relationships of all sorts. As someone can deposit money in a bank, watch it grow with interest, and draw from it later, so one can emotionally invest in another person by listening to them, being kind, having fun with them, and building trust. Asking tough favors, picking fights, and violating trust all make major withdrawals. They impoverish rather than enrich the relationship.

Specifically, Covey identifies six ways to make deposits into the emotional bank account:

  1. Understand the individual
  2. Attending to the little things
  3. Keeping commitments
  4. Clarifying expectations
  5. Showing personal integrity
  6. Apologizing sincerely when you make a withdrawal

It should be clear why someone stuck in Dependence and with weak character is going to suck at maintaining a good emotional bank account. These sorts of people project their own insecurities and flaws onto others, they jump to conclusions, they can’t even be honest with themselves or keep commitments to themselves, and they lack the personal confidence and self-image to weather making a sincere apology.

Personally, I think the emotional bank account metaphor is useful to describing all but one time of relationship: the sexual. While the methods of deposit that Covey lists can be compatible with sexual relationships, and certainly a person of stronger character has greater potential for more and deeper sexual and romantic relations, these deposits do not necessarily generate¬†attraction¬†in others. In fact, they often do¬†not generate attraction, and attraction is the key to any sexual or romantic relationship. It is the prerequisite to any lasting success in that regard. It is not¬†everything, but its the foundation, the core, and can make up for deficits elsewhere in the relationship. I argue that it’s the key to any successful marriage, as far as marriage can be successful. Attraction is not negotiable. It’s about what’s sexy, not what we’d like to be sexy.

That arena aside, I like the emotional bank account for friend/friend, sibling/sibling, parent/child, professional/client relationships.

Now onto the 4th Habit itself!

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

This is the first habit of interdependence. It allows an Independent individual to effectively work with others in mutually beneficial relationships.

Covey identifies six paradigms of human interaction. These are:

  1. Win/Win: Seeking mutual benefit in human interaction.
  2. Win/Lose: Seeking to defeat the other party. Zero sum.
  3. Lose/Win: Being a people-pleaser, or a doormat. Zero sum.
  4. Lose/Lose: Mutually self-destructive behavior, often seen in disputed divorce settlements.
  5. Win: Seeking to maximize benefit for oneself, without concern for the benefit of the other party- you don’t necessarily want them to lose: you simply don’t care.
  6. Win/Win or No Deal: Seeking to achieve mutual benefit, and will walk away if such a deal cannot be achieved.

Out of these six paradigms, Covey recommends that we focus on “Win/Win or No Deal” as often as it makes sense, because doing so produces the most benefit in the long-run, with a balance of P and PC. (Production and Production Capacity.) In some situations, Win/Lose makes sense: if you’re playing football, for example, one team must win and one must lose. Sometimes Lose/Win is acceptable in the short term, to build an emotional relationship in the long-term.

Overall though, thinking Win/Win, and accepting nothing¬†less than a Win/Win deal, maximizes utility for yourself and the other party in the long-run, because it generates the maximum trust and good will. Suppose that you could take advantage of someone’s temporary circumstances to pressure them into a Win/Lose deal: this would generate outsized returns for you in the short run, but, when that other party is back on their feet, they’re going to have ill feelings towards you and be reluctant to deal with you again. Versus, if you¬†only deal Win/Win with them, they’ll be there to cooperate with you in the future.

While competition is an unavoidable fact of nature and of human society, cooperation often produces the greater results for everyone. Much of capitalism is expressed in competition, such as the competition for rival firms to sell to a limited pool of customers. But, capitalism is also based on mutually beneficial deals, in a system of voluntary exchange. When people with different ideas and talents collaborate in a way that benefits everyone involved, they can produce much more wealth than if they distrusted and fought against each other.

How to Develop Win/Win as a Habit

Covey sees Win/Win or No Deal as a deep habit of character, not merely a technique. It’s important for people to analyze their decisions and relationships, to make sure that they are actually¬†doing Win/Win, and not merely¬†talking about it, as could happen in many organizational environments. For instance, Covey describes a business he observed, in which the various sales office branch managers were combative and uncooperative towards each other- the company’s president was puzzled by this, as he always verbally emphasized the importance of “Win/Win.” As Covey discovered, however, the company’s incentives ran completely counter to the Win/Win mentality: each branch manager was in competition with each other for a Bahamas vacation, with only one possible winner. Where was the incentive for any of them to share ideas with each other?! The president had created a Win/Lose scenario, and merely paid lip service to Win/Win.

According to Covey, there are five dimensions of Win/Win which must be present in order to build the habit within an organization.

The first of these is¬†Character:¬†the individuals involved must have integrity with themselves and others, they must be emotionally mature enough to balance between speaking up and considering the feelings of others, and they must hold an abundance mentality, meaning that they think there’s “plenty out there for everybody,” and we can all win together.

The second dimension is Relationship. Individuals must grow their emotional bank account balance with other individuals, and the organization must build its emotional bank account balance with its members. The members must have the history of positive interactions needed to trust each other. They need to know that everyone else in the organization is thinking Win/Win with them.

From relationships flow the next dimension,¬†Agreements. These give the definition and direction to Win/Win, and make partnerships between groups and individuals. The Win/Win agreement must include the desired results for the partnership, the guidelines of how to get those desired results, the resources available, the measures of accountability, and the consequences of success or failure. With all this, the agreements between a boss and an employee, between two businesses, or between a senior and junior manager can be¬†clear, so both sides know what they’re working towards, broadly how to do it, and why. Of course, these agreements can only work when the Character and Relationships are there first!

Moving from the level of flesh-and-blood individuals and into organizational-level concepts and rules, Win/Win depends on good¬†Systems. The incentives in a company must support Win/Win, or else Win/Win isn’t likely to happen. Employees and managers who should be working together should be incentivized in their pay structure to work together. The company’s training, budgeting, H.R., and information systems must all support this.

Finally, Win/Win needs effective¬†Processes. Covey cites the work of two Harvard law professors, Roger Fisher and William Ury, in arguing that effective Win/Win negotiation must be principled rather than positional. That is to say, we must separate the person from the problem, focus on interests and not positions, and to invent options for mutual gain while insisting on objective criteria. You must see the situation from the other party’s point of view, and understand what they want, what they fear. Identify, mutually with them, the key issues and concerns involved, regardless of what any party may want to hold as a position. Then talk about what would be the results both parties want to move to. Finally, together create options to reach those results. This is in contrast to an emotionally immature, dependent, fixation on one’s own positions, without ever finding common ground or opportunities for give-and-take, or entirely new options with the other party.

Application Examples

Covey suggests making a list of obstacles that keep me from applying the Win/Win paradigm more frequently, and then to think about what I can do within my Circle of Influence to eliminate some of those obstacles. Here’s my go at that:

  1. My own anger at people who act rudely. -SOLUTION: Meditate longer and more frequently. I already do 5-10 minutes first thing most mornings, but I should practice more to increase my emotional stability in the face of stress and the irrational actions of others.
  2. My sensitivity and frustration at my own lackluster career and financial success. -SOLUTION: Meditation will help too here, in decreasing stress over this topic. I should also track my finances more, with an eye towards increasing savings and being sure to do all I can to learn about career options and building the skills necessary for success in a lucrative career.
  3. My own need to be liked and thought of as cool, which comes from my own history. -SOLUTION: Meditation yet again. Also, spending more time building an awesome independent life so I can be happier when alone, which, I have gotten better at over time. Also, re-read books and resources on increasing charisma and building connections with others.
  4. My ego-centric thoughts of my ideas being great for the other person. -SOLUTION: Meditation, again. Also, going into meetings with a very open mind, and asking open-ended questions as objectively as possible, to learn about where the other person is coming from and what their concerns and wants are.

 

Learning and Teaching the 7 Habits: Habit 3 – Put First Things First (Part 2/2)

Happy New Year!

It was poor proactivity and putting first things first to not get this published for you all earlier. But here it is!

To review from the last post, Habit 3 “Put First Things First” is the practical fruit of the first two habits of Proactivity and Beginning With the End in Mind. The first habit has us focus on our ability to make decisions. The second habit has us envisioning the future we desire, and figuring out what is important to us deep down. The third habit is the daily execution, the work, to live the ideals that we set for ourselves. This means discipline. But, discipline is much easier to cultivate if you have an exciting personal mission. A good mission makes it a joy to put in work, rather than slack off, because you know what you’re putting in the time, effort, and sacrifice for. Without a strong mission, it’s almost impossible to summon the willpower needed to exercise consistently, build skills, study, network, and eat right.

The Four Quadrants

Covey talks about how all activities we perform any day can be put into one of four categories, as illustrated on this grid:

http://archives.prudentmoney.com/wp-content/uploads/Quadrants.jpg

A task or activity can be Important or Not Important, and, it can be Urgent or Not Urgent. It’s possible for something to be Urgent but Not Important, or Important, but not Urgent.

Quadrant 1 is the things that are Urgent¬†and Important. These are crises and pressing deadlines. If you’re house is burning down, that’s an urgent and important thing to deal with. If you have a final paper due tomorrow for a college course which will impact your career, that’s important and urgent. You have to deal with these things immediately or suffer bad consequences, but, there are ways to limit their occurrence or reoccurrence, which I’ll explain in a moment.

Quadrant 3 (I’ll get to 2) activities are Urgent, but Not Important. That means many emails, many phone calls, and peer-pressured “hey let’s go party!’ type invitations. Some phone calls and emails are important of course, but we’re talking about the unimportant ones here. You want to avoid these sorts of interruptions, mainly by controlling the flow of information to yourself: when you’re focused on important tasks, silence the phone, turn off computer notifications, slap the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and put your headphones in – don’t mistake perceived urgency on someone else’s part for importance on your part.

Quadrant 4 is all the fun, frivolous stuff – video games, overly long social phone calls, busy work, personal social media, mindless T.V./YouTube watching. These things can be fun and are fine in moderation, but it’s critical to strictly limit the amount of time you spend on them. Spending too much of the day in Quadrant 4 leads to dulled skills, low ambition, and little results.

Quadrant 2, is where it’s at- Important, but Not Urgent. These are the helpful, meaningful, healthy tasks that improve your personal and professional life: exercise, relationship-building, planning, study, deep work spent on programming or writing or building. It can also be important but easy to procrastinate tasks like writing your will, setting up a retirement contribution plan, or cleaning your room. The more time you spend in Quadrant 2, the more in control of your life you’ll feel, the better results you’ll get in terms of output and money, the stronger your Production Capacity (remember “PC,” with the golden goose fable/) will be, and the fewer Quadrant 1 crises you’ll have. Prevention beats a cure when it comes to staying in shape, saving money, and keeping up with an ever-changing economy!

How to Plan

Covey talks about four generations of time management tools, and explains how they have improved with each generation.

  1. Generation 1 is just a sticky note/to do list form of management. It doesn’t prioritize tasks by importance, and doesn’t relate tasks to our values and purposes in life- it lacks leadership. It tends to over-prioritize urgent, but not important (Quadrant 3) tasks by default, as they slip into our awareness the most as we’re making these lists. Gen 1 management is better than no time management at all, but there are better methods!
  2. Generation 2 moves from simple lists and upgrades to calendars and appointment books. This means that its practitioners look ahead, more precisely arrange activities in advance, and spend a¬†bit more time in Quadrant 2. Still, there’s little prioritization here, and little account for the big picture.
  3. Generation 3 is¬†close¬†to what Covey advocates. Generation 3 time management means using calendars, plus taking the time to plan in accordance with values, and prioritizing tasks in accordance with those values. Gen 3 planners set short, long, and intermediate-term goals for themselves. This is all efficient, and more effective than Gen 1 and 2. But, it suffers from the problems of clashing with human interaction for richer relationships, and spontaneous moments. People who are initially enthusiastic about Gen 3 time planning can grow sick of the regimentation, and end up “throwing the baby out with the bath water” and go back to Gen 2 or 1.
  4. Generation 4, which Covey advocates, is about personal rather than time management. It seeks to focus on relationships and results, rather than on things and time Рthat is to say, managing the P/PC Balance. (Production/Production Capacity.) That is to say, Generation 4 means using all the values and goals based planning of Generation 3, and combining it with a focus on Quadrant 2 activities in particular, on deepening relationships with the important people in our lives, and on getting to effective results rather than only focusing on the time spent on tasks. (If you finish something early, move on quickly to the next thing instead of doing busy work in that extra half hour on your schedule, for instance.)

Principles of Quadrant 2/Generation 4 Planning

The objective of Covey’s ideal way of planning is to manage our lives effectively, with a mission, based on principles, and addressing the urgent while being sure to spend time on the important. This will balance P/PC, and let us build valuable relationships with friends, family, lovers, and business associates. Covey says that a planning tool (that is to say, a physical or digital calendar/notebook) needs to meet six criteria:

  1. Coherence: Includes space for mission, values, and goals.
  2. Balance: Identifies all the current roles in your life, not just one or two.
  3. Quadrant 2 Focus: Encourages you to think weekly, rather than just daily, and include time for valuable but not urgent activities.
  4. A People Dimension: This connects to flexibility, in letting you schedule a life that allows for spontaneity and naturalness in dealing with people, without sacrificing focus on important tasks.
  5. Flexibility: Make the tool your own. Change what doesn’t work in it.
  6. Portability: You should be able to carry it anywhere.

I got a nifty officially licenses Franklin-Covey faux-leather bound plannner in December of 2016, and have sworn by it ever since. They sell those at Staples and the Franklin-Covey website. they’re a bit pricey, (mine was like $45 I think for a 5.5″ x 8.5″ weekly planner notebook in the faux-leather, magnetic-latching case with a business card holder,) but worth it, I think. The weekly planning pages are well-organized for planning in accordance with your own application of Covey’s ideas.

Organizing a Week

Plan a year once a year. Plan a month once a month. Plan a week once a week. Plan a day once a day. Out of those, the week is the most important place to focus, as its a unit of time in which you can accomplish a lot, and build habits, yet isn’t so long that it becomes unrealistic to plan completely in detail. It’s just a reasonable chunk of time, and for many people, it gets bookended by some sort of weekend.

To organize a week, first, Covey recommends identifying the key roles in your life. For me, that means Cadet, Business Student, Writer, Brother, Son, Friend, and Man. Depending on your profession, it might be logical to divide that profession into multiple roles, each focusing on a different facet of the work.

Then, for each role, identify one to three important results you’d like to accomplish in that goal during the next week. (Covey recommends doing this planning every Sunday.) Next, consult with the appointments you already have scheduled that week from earlier in the month/year. Many of those things, like an important client meeting or a time-sensitive doctor’s appointment, will be inflexible. Others may be necessary, or fun, but lower priority than the goals you identified, and conflict with them in timing: in that case, you can reschedule with a clean conscience, to focus on what’s most important.

Find time on the week’s schedule for the tasks necessary to accomplish each of your goals. You’ll often have to estimate exactly how long each task will take, and that’s OK – learn from the experience for similar tasks in the future.

Remember in your Mission Statement how you found the long-term roles and goals for yourself? Have those in front of you as you do all this, to be sure that every week, you’re acting in accordance with those roles and goals.

Each evening, revise the next day’s plan as necessary to address any emergencies or new opportunities. And, day to day, because you have an identified set of principles, personal values, and a mission, you can take longer on a task, or respond to events, in a way consistent with those non-negotiables- and not feel bad about it. For instance, if a friend calls you crying about how they lost their job, are deeply depressed, and in an emotional crisis, you can consult principles to find that it’s worth skipping the gym that evening to go have a beer and talk with him. Bam. Taking care of people.

Stewardship Delegation

Finally, Covey hints at the advances of the next three habits by talking about the value of delegating.

While a single producer can be independent and highly effective in what he personally does, he can also increase his effectiveness by ten, one hundred, or one thousand times by connecting with others. A skillful manager knows how to use the talents of his subordinates most effectively, versus, trying to do everything himself, or wasting time and stifling creative problem solving through micromanagement.

The key of good management, for leveraging your own effectiveness to the max when connecting with others, is Stewardship Delegation. This reminds me of the concept of Mission Leadership in the modern military, in which officers are given a situation and mission, a list of parameters, and given generally wide latitude on¬†how to accomplish the assigned mission. Stewardship Delegation similarly focuses on the results instead of the methods. To do it, you tell your subordinate the desired results, the guidelines, the resources available, the methods of measuring success, and the consequences for success or failure. Then let them go do it. This saves you time on walking the subordinate¬†through every single step, it helps them develop their own abilities and confidence, and it opens the possibility for them, in the thick of things, to find novel solutions that you wouldn’t think of yourself.

“First things first” applies to your entire team, not only your personal actions.

Application

  1. I need a new planner, as I filled out all the pages in my 2017 one. I’m going to get to Staples tomorrow and buy a new one, and begin using it. Seriously, the Franklin-Covey planners are great: classy, clean, and in accordance with the 7 Habits.
  2. Covey suggests thinking of a Quadrant 2 activity that you’ve neglected, but that could have a huge impact in your personal or professional life. For me, this is networking and public speaking, which are closely related. I’m committing now to attending my college’s Toastmasters meetings from 7:00-8:15 on Thursday evenings: I have no class at that time, and it’s going to help me develop the essential skill of public speaking! I’ve put that off for way too long. It will boost my abilities for marketing, and as a future Officer, including during the semester, and at Advanced Camp this summer.
  3. For the past three days, I wrote down in roughly 15 minute chunks how I spent my time: the results were bad. Lots of procrastination, lots of Quadrant 4 times on video games and YouTube. I’m going to keep tracking that, and spend as much time in Quadrant 2 as possible: and be proud of that time and the results it produces.
  4. Covey recommends making a list of responsibilities I can delegate. I can’t do that right now. But, during my Cadet leadership positions, I can delegate attendance-checking and some planning activities to subordinates.
  5. I already have the rest of this week planned. On Sunday, after my Army Reserve drill, I’m going to do a proper planning session with my new planner and post pictures here.
  6. I’ll keep planning every Sunday like that!

 

Learning and Teaching the 7 Habits: Habit 3 – Put First Things First (Part 1/2)

I’m back! Got sidetracked on projects, important family time, and too much unproductive fun. I just finished a great chest, biceps, abs, and running workout, and I feel great. I spent most of yesterday at my grandparents’ house, but had time to re-read Chapter 3 on the way there and back in the car. Let’s get into it!

Habit 3, “Put First Things First,” builds on the foundation of “Be Proactive” and “Begin With the End in Mind” to bring us from Dependence to Independence. Remember: this independence is broad, covering emotional reactions, choices, goals, and overall our ability to be who we want, do what we want, and earn what we want without¬†needing someone else to¬†give us good feelings, money, motivation, etc. Here’s Covey’s chart of the 7 Habits as a reminder:

¬†Living the first 3 Habits is a “Private Victory,” meaning that many of its fruits aren’t visible directly to other people. You’ll feel more positive, hopeful, confident of your path, and proud of your actions: all of that is wonderful to feel, and is critical to consistently producing externally tangible results, such as business profits, books, inventions, or successful charity projects. But it will take productive, mutually-beneficial relationships with other people to move up to that Public Victory. We’ll get there later.

Today, the focus is on implementing the daily planning and discipline to carry out the correct actions in alignment with our Principle-Centered Mission Statement.

I’ll paraphrase¬†Covey’s language to elaborate on the relationship between the first 3 Habits:

Habit 3 is the practical fulfillment of Habits 1 and 2. While Habit 1 says “You are the creator,” and Habit 2¬†is the first/mental creation of the successful lifestyle you envision, Habit 3 is the¬†physical creation of that lifestyle. To master Habit 3 is to master our¬†independent will¬†day to day, moment to moment, in execution of our vision.

Whereas Habit 2 is about leadership, Habit 3 is about management.

Above, I used the term independent will. You may recall that this is one of the four human endowments that Covey cites as critical to our difference from other animals, in allowing us to do amazing acts of creation. The four endowments are:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Imagination
  3. Conscience
  4. Independent Will

Independent Will lets us manage ourselves, by allowing us to set goals, and take action in accordance with them, even when impulse and short-term desires may press against us. We are not dogs or cats who get distracted by every toy, treat, or sexy other animal we see. Okay, we do get distracted, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging at the right time and place, but exercising an independent will means that you choose what you want¬†most over what you want¬†now.

How to Develop Independent Will

This human ability is a muscle like any other. It must be exercised, pushed to its limit, but not broken, and given time to rest and recover before the next challenge. Covey says we must use personal integrity in this exercise: that is, making and keeping promises to myself.

“I will work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week.”

“Tomorrow, I will apply to five jobs.”

“I will track my calories every day for the next month, and weigh myself at the end of the month to see the results.”

To the extent that you make and¬†keep¬†these sorts of promises, you are growing your circle of influence (remember proactivity,) acting in accordance with the human principle of integrity, and giving yourself a growing sense of confidence that you can complete your mental creations in the physical world. The way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with starting small, (“I will meditate for 5 minutes first thing tomorrow,”) and gradually making bigger and bigger commitments as your independent will “muscle” strengthens.

Discipline + An Exciting Mission = Being Awesome

Covey quotes the author E.M. Gray, from Gray’s essay “The Common Denominator of Success:”

The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do…They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strenth of their purpose.

Covey goes on to elaborate on this idea. In order to be successful, you must consistently put in the effort of doing those things that are easy to put off and skip. For example, getting up early to hit the gym, or spending an extra hour studying calculus. Now, we all this know isn’t easy. Many of us may get¬†motivated by a cool YouTube video, the advice of a friend, or the turn from December 31st to January 1st. But, that motivation is fleeting: you need discipline. And that sucks at first, until you build habits. Even then, without a strong foundation, without a strong center, without strong reasons important to¬†you, it is virtually impossible to succeed on our own self-directed will. That will must be strengthened by the Personal Mission Statement that Covey talked about before. And you must review that mission, and all its related big picture goals, regularly in order to keep your motivation fire burning, and combined with your iron discipline to forge the steel of your own personal effectiveness.

Saying “Yes” to something important means saying “No” to some other use of your time and money. It’s a heck of a lot easier to keep saying “Yes” consistently when you have an¬†exciting reason, a mission! Then you can say “Yes” to the gym, to the money-saving, to the job hunt, to the studying, to the music practice, with JOY rather than with moans and groans!

In summary of these ideas:

  1. Putting first things first is the practical fruit of realizing your own abilities of proactivity and big-picture planning.
  2. Without good personal leadership, personal management is meaningless and ineffective, even when it’s efficient.
  3. Success requires exercise of independent will, which means discipline and keeping the promises you make to yourself.
  4. It is virutally impossible to make the tough choices required for success unless you are motivated by a strong, well-developed, and inspiring personal mission statement: remember, doing the important tasks required of your goals always means giving up, at least for the moment, quick pleasures and fun distractions.

I’m going to finish my write-up on the second half of this chapter tomorrow. That will cover how to effectively manage your time week-to-week, day-to-day, effectively¬†and efficiently.