What I learned about writing from sharing my work with a writer

In 2009 I co-wrote a 60-page ethics paper on the topic of internet privacy and Facebook (and other social media platforms).

While a student I underestimated writing skill’s value. UCLA engineering students dread the required ethics class because of its multiple writing assignments. In retrospect, the forced writing practice taught an extremely valuable skill.

The engineering ethics final project was a thick group paper, 60+ pages double spaced. When dividing the work over several weeks, it wasn’t bad at all. My student group undoubtably improved writing skills by the end of the quarter, because we all put in the hard work. Our 60 page data privacy paper is probably decaying in a catacomb under UCLA’s Boelter Hall along with dozens of others.

In the beginning it feels like every writing project improves in quality. But, there are diminishing returns. Quick inititial growth quickly becomes slow, invisible growth. At that point you need peer feedback to advance.

I’m proud of myself for taking a leap of faith. I emailed a blogger I followed daily. I asked if I could write a guest post. He said “NO, but I have this group you can join, It’s just starting up”.

I learned in the moment the stupid secret of life: if you want something, just ask.

John, at the time, had a Medium publication with 15,000 followers. The new idea was a group of content producers writing content. The group would vote weekly to select the best submissions.

This was my chance! Hoping to inspire the group, I shared a submission. It was never published, but, in return I got something incredibly valuable: honest feedback from someone a few steps ahead of me.

John told me there was nothing unique about my work, nothing stand-out. He was right, it could’ve been written by anyone. There was no personal touch. I didn’t bake enough of my story into it.

Here is the entire submission:

This year, choose to be proactive

When my wife is pissed off it almost always comes down to one root cause: I’m not being proactive. Ive re-learned this proactivity lesson many times the hard way. Stephen Covey’s first highly effective habit is ‘be proactive’. It’s the foundation of the next 6 habits. Proactivity affects every important aspect of life: health, wealth, love, and happiness.

The opposite of proactive is reactive. Being reactive is lazy and unfulfilling. Most people live their life reactively, going with the flow, not living intentionally. According to Adams and Anderson, in Mastering Leadership, about 70% of adults never reach creative levels of consciousness, they get stuck in reactive mental models. Reactives go around reacting to stimuli constantly, obsessively checking social media and email, never making progress towards their most important goals. The reactive person is one who waits; waiting for a signal for what to do next, never owning their own agenda.

How proactivity impacts health

As the adage says: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. How many people wait to go the dentist until it’s too late, they already need a root canal? That’s reactive. Flossing your teeth is proactive. The proactive patient goes to the doctor annually, excercise regularly, and flosses daily. As a result, they love a longer, healthier life.

How proactivity impacts wealth

The proactive business person under promises and over delivers. He provides the product or service before the client has to ask. He does not run his business by primarily reacting to competitors. He operates by the old adage: ‘under promise, over deliver.’

Leaders must be proactive for the organization to survive. Having vision is proactive. Leaders without vision soon find they have no one to lead. Vision is crucial to prevent the business’s disruption and obsoletion.

The proactive employee takes action before the boss has to ask. This employee could even be called an entre-employee, they are so creative. They seize oppprtunities and ask for forgiveness, not permission.

How proactivity impacts love

A reactive husband only brings home flowers when his wife is upset. A proactive husband brings them on a random day just to make his wife feel good. The proactive person is considered thoughtful.

The proactive friend is the one that picks up the phone and calls that long lost friend. They don’t wait for someone to call them.

How proactivity impacts happiness

The top of Maslow’s higherarchy of human needs is “self-actualization: achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities”. I don’t think one can ever be fulfilled without embracing proactivity. Without being proactive you will be stuck in a job you hate, and a number of other incongruent circumstances that detract from you being the best that you can be. You need proactivity to turn what the universe gave you into maximum positive impact.

Personally, I constantly have to remind myself to be proactive. If my wife is pissed off, it’s because I failed to be proactive, even though she points it out as a hundred other screw ups. If I haven’t spoken to my family in weeks, I’m not being proactive to call them. Car ran out of gas? Not proactive. Forgot to pay the cable bill? Not proactive.

Just walk around your house right now, you will find a number of chores that will need to be done later. Do it now if it takes less than 5 minutes. You will thank yourself later.

What I learned from this whole experience

  • The value of writing well is underestimated. As is the value of speaking well.
  • If you want something just ask. The worst that can happen is nothing.
  • Raising your hand is a great way to make new friends. People admire courage, and taking a social risk is courageous. Publishing something online is like raising your hand. You put yourself out there, you make an emotional connection. Weigh the risks, what’s the worst that can happen? You have to take down your post/video/picture.
  • Second guessing yourself is a great way to put on the brakes. It will take much longer to reach your goals. Publishing online is one way to expand your comfort zone. Pushing through your fears allows you to reach closer to your potential. You can spend less time and energy on second guessing yourself and more on creating new work.

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Your operating system is what holds you back

Elon Musk. Barack Obama. Lance Armstrong. I need to be these men to achieve my wildest dreams. I can’t be anyone but myself. All I can do is upgrade my operating system.

To have something you’ve never had you have to do something you’ve never done. To do something you’ve never done you have to be someone you’ve never been.

Imagine if you had Elon’s entrepreneurial might and his ability to marshal capital and put it to use. If you had Barack’s remarkable public speaking talent and ability to organize massive groups of people behind a common cause. Lance Armstrong’s athletic excellence and champion’s mindset. What would you accomplish if you were them? If your mind ran the same operating system as theirs?

Everyone has a different operating system. It’s always running just below the surface, dictating how we act and react to situations. Each operating system is shaped by past traumas and victories. Transformation involves upgrading the operating system in order to act/react differently, producing different outcomes.

Practical strategies for upgrading your operating system involve digging up the past and acknowledging it. You can also force yourself into transformational circumstances. Like Jia Jiang, in Rejection Proof, face rejection again and again until the fear is gone. Afraid of public speaking? Talk to strangers at every opportunity. The idea is you have to do something uncomfortable to upgrade your operating system. Otherwise your outcomes won’t change, even if you win a lottery.

As TD Jakes beautifully said, You can change your hair, your clothing, your house, your spouse, your church, your residence, but if you don’t change your mind, the same experience will perpetuate itself over and over again, because everything outwardly changed but nothing inwardly changed. There is nothing as powerful as a changed mind.

Upgrade your operating system.

99 Fears: Fear of Rejection

What drives us to not ask for help

My stupid self dropped my smartphone in the parking garage. In milliseconds, the glass was shattered. The model is 3 years old, and the device takes 5–10 minutes of struggle every day to get the phone to connect and charge. Yet, it took 24 hours to work up the courage to ask for an upgrade. If it takes me 24 hours to ask, others certainly never ask at all.

When I wake up with a head cold in the morning, my first reaction is: “I cannot stay home from work.” Then begins several minutes of internal struggle where I attempt to convince myself to get some rest and recovery. Eventually I convince myself and I send the obligatory email to my team and boss: ‘I’m taking a sick day.’ No turning back now, brace yourself for retaliation.

These stories are examples where I experience the fear of rejection. It seems silly, right? Why would you expect someone to say no and prolong your suffering? Somehow this irrational fear comes back every time. I’ve told similar stories in the past, and I keep relearning this lesson.

What I’ve (Re)learned

* Do not tolerate misery/discomfort/suffering. If it’s in your power to do something about it, *do it*.
* Don’t even waste brain cycles debating
* Do not hesitate to ask for help.
* Be concise in your request, explain the context, what you need, and what you’ve already tried.
* Remember that most people want to help you, even your enemies.
* The secret to success is: ASK!
* Articulate what you want to the people who can give you what you want.
* If you are authentic and diligent, rejection is unlikely
* The person you ask may not be able to help, but may help you connect with someone who can.

This is the coolest talk on the topic of rejection I have found:
[Jia Jiang: What I learned from 100 days of rejection | TED Talk | TED.com](https://www.ted.com/talks/jia_jiang_what_i_learned_from_100_days_of_rejection)

Really watch this TED talk!!


Together we build a world free of fear
What would you do if you were not afraid?