Monday, August 1, 2016

Habit Forming

Forming a habit isn't easy. There are always people saying, 21 days to form a habit. I've even heard somebody say that after you do something 3 days in a row, you're pretty much hooked. But really how long does it take to form a habit?

Some Things Are Designed To Be Addicting

Well let's look at where the 21 days theory came from. Back in the 1950's there was a plastic surgeon by the name of  Maxwell Maltz. He observed that a patient would take 21 days to recognize their new face as them self. Or 21 days for phantom limb pain to go away. Granted, there were people that it took longer than 21 days for this pain to go away. But there was one thing that Maltz knew was for certain:

"These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” - Maltz

So how does this lead to people thinking that all habits will form in 21 days? Well in 1960 Maltz published a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. The above quote was in the book, and sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 million copies. Then a couple decades passed, and people start misquoting Maltz, and expanding his observation of patients recovery time to include all habits. Shockingly, they couldn't be more wrong by trying to connect these dots.

It wasn't until 2009 that Phillippa Lally actually looked into real habits, and not just recovery from surgery. What she found was that it took anywhere between 18 and 254 days. Just slightly more than what everybody was misquoting... You can read more about that study here if you're interested.

So what can we take from this? Well, for starters forming a habit can be really difficult. And if you have a habit of playing videos games, you were playing a lot more than you probably realized. But this also means that you're going to have to really work at making something positive a habit. You can't just hope you'll fall into wanting to go to the gym everyday. You actually have to go, for months, while it still sucks. Same with your career. You've got to trudge through the hard work for months until it becomes muscle memory. Once the hard stuff becomes muscle memory you're probably having fun, or at least not angry, doing the work most people hate because it's hard. And that separation can be the difference between $10's/hr and $100's/hr. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Automating More Than Just Work

watch gears

We all hear about automation in the workplace. It might be a macro for your spreadsheets, or a script to have your computer click buttons for you, or even something as simple as setting up rules for emails to be pre-checked before you even read them. But what about at home? Do you even know what you could automate at home?

Well let's cover some of the basics. Every month you pay bills. Are you logging into every site you owe money, and manually typing in credit card numbers? Almost every bill you have can be automated. Autopay for all your bills will probably take you about an hour or two, if you have a lot of bills, to set up the first time. Then after that, paying bills might take you about 10 minutes a month. And that's if you are going around to check that you're paid up. Trust me on this. Most companies have no problem waiting 90 to let you know that you've now missed three payments. So remember to check that your autopay has the right card, or account number tied to it still.

But that's just for bills. What else can we do? How about your retirement? Or saving money? Are you logging into your bank and moving money to each account? Why? Do you have direct deposit? If you don't, find out if your work offers it. Not having to drive to the bank to deposit a check saves so much time by itself. But why not have some of your money already being placed into a savings account before you even see it? This is simple with direct deposit. You just add another account, and say put money here with each paycheck. It's that easy. And now you've got a safety net building up. Same thing with retirement. If you have to move the money yourself, then you will forget, or won't do it.

If you need more help with this, check out Ramit over at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He'll change your life.

And to expand on saving money, will be your best friend. With Simple you can set goals. And they will "remove" the money from your account and put it in a temporary account. You say how much you need and when you need it. Simple will then pull money out of your account everyday and put it into that bucket. And as soon as you reach your goal, and spend that money, you just mark to pull from that bucket and Simple will do the rest. It makes saving money way too easy not too.

So get out there and automate all aspects of your life. And if you can do that, you'll find that automating things at work that much easier.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Just Pull The Trigger

I'm not going to take long here, because I want you to watch the video below. That alone is 5 minutes. If five minutes is too long, I'm sorry, you can go back to Candy Crush or whatever is the new time suck for people wanting to escape the "fun" of their 9-5 job. 

Everybody has ideas. Most suck. A few are good. Even less are great. None of that matters if you don't actually do anything. You could have the first Trillion dollar idea. But if you don't even try to act on it, well then that is a 0 dollar idea.  Good job. 

Just get to work on your idea, and stop saying you're gonna do something. Fuck Your Gonna.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's Never Easy

If there is one phrase I hate hearing, it is this:

"This doesn't come easy for me, like it does you."

I know that people are wanting to say that you're smart, and that you're a fast learner. But a lot of times it comes off as an excuse for why they are struggling through things. And over time, you start to believe this lie. You believe that you're just a natural at whatever you're doing in life. But you forget about the days of work put into learning a new thing. The months of constant failure to get one thing right. And the years of perfection to get to where you'd consider yourself an expert.

Guy scribbling on paper
Hours of notes were taken
The human brain is a weird thing. You can forget things that are important without even realizing. While at the same time, remembering every word to the new single from your favorite band. That seems backwards sometimes. But why does this happen? Well to start, we have to realize the most complicated thing in the world is the human decided by the human brain(let that sink in).

But why is it that we forget the hard times, and only remember when we got things right? Well for starters, we should be thrilled that we only remembered the right way to do things. Could you imagine if your brain remembered all the different ways to not do something, but always forgot the right way? Chaos would ensue.

Hard times suck, and boring times are worse. Our brains are real good about throwing out junk information. Don't believe me? What happened about 10 minutes into your morning commute 2 weeks ago? Too hard, how about this morning? Still can't remember? That's because your brain perceived this repetitive action as useless information. Much like all the hours you were Googling for an answer. Struggling to figure out what magic order of words would lead to the promise land of a Stack Overflow question with a verified answer that worked just for you. Your brain saw all that work leading to an answer as repetitive junk.

So why is this a big deal? Well over time you start to get confident. Your brain only remembers the answers, and not the work it took to get there. And when you reach a difficult spot, you panic. Now, one of two things happens here.

1. You freeze, decide that this is too hard for you and find something else to do.


2. You do like you've done every time in the past. And push through the hard and learn something new.

Monday, September 8, 2014

We're All Faking It

Throughout my life I have been given a lot of advice. Some hasn't stuck with me, and some I knew was just wrong. But there are two things that I was told to me right before I entered the workforce that I have lived by since then. The first as that if you don't try at something, it is the same as failure. The second thing, nobody else knows what they are doing either.

That last piece of information seemed crazy to me. How is it that nobody knows what they are doing? Surely somebody has it all together and sees the forest among the trees. Right? Wrong. Sure everybody has an idea of what it takes to make it to the end of the day or quarter, but nobody really knows what they are doing. If you don't believe me, ask your mentor if they know what they are doing. I'll wait...what did they say? I bet it was something like, "not yet" or "I do now". Note that the latter is a half lie. Or better yet, ask a parent where they learned to be one? I bet you will get laughed at.

A lot of people are tossing are the term of Impostor syndrome. The idea that you can do something but fear keeps you from trying. Everybody at one point in their life goes through this feeling, and if they say they didn't, they're lying. This is the opposite of impostor syndrome. You don't know what you're doing and dive in anyway. This is what separates successful people from the rest of the world.

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Don't let the idea that you don't know what you're doing stop you from trying something. Remember, at one point you didn't know how to use the internet. It was this thing that you kind of understood. You could type in some words, and get to places. Now here you are, reading a blog post from some guy in Kansas City who should probably be working on something instead of sitting here rereading a blog post.

Don't let the fear of the unknown or fear of failure stop you. Failure is always an option, just make sure that you learn from it. Remember, if you don't try, it is just as good as failure anyway. So you might as well dive in and try. You just might surprise yourself at how well you can complete a task that you don't know anything about at first. Change can be scary, but without it nothing can grow.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's time to slay the Monster

So you've gotten to a point that your resume is in good shape, and you are wanting to find a job. What do you do? Well there are lots of job sites out there on the internet, and a lot of people use them. I mean a lot too, Monster boasts that there are over 150 million resumes on their site. You ever heard the term 1 in a million? Well if that its the case, there are 149 others just like you. So go ahead, add yours to the pile. What else are you doing? Also posting over at dice since it is just for tech jobs? Well go ahead and slide your resume in the middle of 1.5 million other people and hope for the best.

While at least having something on these sites might be a good start, you are going to need to find a way to stand out in the crowd. You are going to have to slay a monster. This is when you are going to need to start building your brand. The best place to start, LinkedIn. If you haven't created an account yet, why not? And if you have, are you finding that you are getting a lot of hits? If so, awesome you are doing something right. If not, how about we take some time and update your profile to maximize exposure.

So the first thing that you need to look at is the exact thing that everybody else will see first; Your profile picture. I am no saying you need a professional headshot, that doesn't hurt, but a picture from a college party with your shirt off won't send the right signal to those that will want to hire you. I would say post a picture that would be exactly how you look going into an interview.

The next thing that you need to put down is your title. Now if you're unemployed, put down that you are a consultant in your field of expertise. Consultant is a much more palatable than unemployed to somebody looking to hire. Secondly if you have a job research your job title. While "Code Warrior" is a fun title of mine, it is tough to search for if you are an HR employee looking for a specific title from a list handed to them. You will need to find a title that is more generic, while still getting the point across as to what you do. So do a little research and find out what are some industry. Start here and find a title that suits your needs. Also, don't forget your Jr, Sr, or level in your title, that will help people know how to question you in the time of an interview.

The next big chunk on your profile is your summary. This is where you are going to put your elevator speech about your life. Remember, this isn't just an electronic version of your resume, this is the electronic version of you. If I wanted to just read your resume, I would go to Monster. This is your chance to show your experience as well as your personality. Tell the story of you, where did you first find your passion for the field you are in or want to be in? What have you done to strengthen those skills? Where do you want to be in the next year? Next five?

Next up, job history. This one is pretty self explanatory, you are going to put down what you have done at all your jobs up until now. Apply the same rules as you would with the summary, only explain about some of the projects you have worked on. BE WARNED this can be a double edged sword, as the summary and experience sections are used in the search engine. So if in a past life you worked with VB.NET and you put it down. You better believe that people are going to hit you up with VB.NET jobs.

Let's get back into that search functionality. How do people find you when they search? Well a lot of things are taken into consideration, but the biggest impact will be from your job title. LinkedIn will match you up to a search based on what you have titled yourself. This goes back to finding something that is an industry standard. The next thing you can do is sprinkle your title or variations into your summary and experience. So for me, my title is developer 1; In my summary and experience I have developer, dev, develop, developed, etc. over a dozen times. This moves me up in the search rankings because I look to have more experience than the next guy.

Well there you have it. Go ahead and update that LinkedIn and take on the world. Or you know, you can sit around and roll the Dice while hoping that the Monster under your bed doesn't attack.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Do you even network?

I can already hear it now. Before I even make it to the third sentence. "Curtis, I don't have time to go network. I have a family, and responsibilities". I know this may seem like a difficult task to start if you have never done it before, but you better believe that other people are out there talking with future employers, and you are sitting at home watching Elementary on CBS. Which if you are doing, shame on you. Sherlock on the BBC runs laps around that sad excuse for a TV show on CBS.

Networking events are happening all around you. No matter how small the city, or how small the subject. There is a group meeting and discussing something. Most groups meet at least once a month, maybe more, but almost always never less. And this is just for a couple hours, you can take a couple hours a month to meet up with a group and start networking. There are a lot of places to start looking to have a meetup. Let's discuss a few.

First off, there is the easy place to start looking of This website will allow to search by city all the things going on in your city. Meetup is easy to use. Just create an account, or link to Facebook and go. You can add you interests and how far you are willing to travel and go from there. You will find lots of stuff there that might interest you. And let's say your interest isn't there? Well then, maybe you should start the meetup in your area. You will be small at first, but it will grow. If you are looking for a group to meet, you better believe that you are not the only one. Just not anybody will start a group, you should be that somebody.

OK what if you don't want to meet up for a particular interest, just want to meet new people. Well there are other options there as well. If you city or county has a chamber of commerce, check there. Here I just did a quick search at the Johnson County, where I live, chamber of Commerce and find this link. Right there are networking events listed for you to travel to.

Now the most important part of this, why? Why Curits, should I go and network? Do you have a job? Do you love it? Are you making enough money to be happy? Do you not want to physically hurt anybody you work with? If you answered no to any of these you should consider networking. If you answered no to all of those, why are you still at that place? It sounds awful. You can look online for jobs, and you can post your resume on Dice or Monster(please don't). But so are about 100 other people, and they are just sitting back and waiting for opportunity to fall into their laps. That isn't they way it works in real life. You have to go out and make your own luck.

Sales and looking for a job have a lot in common. If you are working in sales, you have a product that you have to be knowledgeable about. You must be passionate about it, and you certainly need prove to a person who is unsure about the product that it is everything they could want and more. Looking for a job is no different. You are just selling yourself, you are the product. So just as before you must show people why you are a good buy. Looking at your resume is just as good as a product description online. You are still going to want to talk to an expert before you make a purchase that is going to cost you 10's of thousands of dollars a year. You are that expert. So if you have been networking, you have a leg up on those who don't. Employers can now put a face to a name, and now your personality. They will know if you are good fit with their culture over another applicant.

When a job posting is listed, 100's of resumes are set to HR. They have a list of keywords to look for, and if they aren't there they will move on. Unless somebody has told them to just call you. Make sure you network, so that your name will get brought up. Just by showing up to an event, you put yourself ahead of at least 50% of the people applying for the job. Depending on where you live, getting a job is a competitive sport right now. You want every advantage that you can get on this playing field. As this game, can mean life or death.