Posts Tagged 'writing'

Goals

There is a lot of talk these days (well, for a while now) about SMART goals. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or that is what people say. I get that it’s a good acronym (though I suspect it’s more of a backronym than an actual acronym). But I have issues with the whole thing.

First of all, the only consistent bits are the “specific” and “measurable” parts, but I feel like those are nearly redundant. Of course with an explanation you can see the difference, but how hard would it have been to combine those ideas into something that embodies both ideas? But then it wouldn’t fit into the neat little acronym, right?

And even if you don’t feel like those ideas can be joined together, do we really need to make sure every goal meets five criteria? And don’t forget that some authors add additional letters to the end (SMARTER, for example). I want to write goals, not go through checklists to make sure my goals meet five or seven or more criteria.

For various reasons I have been asked to write a lot of goals lately. And I’ve also been trying to help others come up with and meet goals that will help them improve. And that’s the thing: I feel like most goals should lead to some kind of improvement. Isn’t that the focus, anyway?

So I feel like the first criteria should be that goals focus on improvement and responsibility. Of course, we don’t need to include “improvement” in some kind of “how to write goals” piece, because that’s the purpose of a goal, not part of the design. But it is worth mentioning, in case someone is setting goals that might lead to some kind of degradation. Plus, when we take responsibility for our own shortcomings we set goals. We aren’t blaming circumstances, or our parents, or our spouse, or our coworkers, or our boss, we are saying, “I have something I need to improve because I am responsible for this.” And with that in mind, goals that you set for someone else will rarely be reached, unless they are heavily invested in all aspects of the goal. They must feel that the goal is necessary and be invested in generating the goal to the maximum allowable extent.

#1 Goals should be focused. You should be pretty specific about what category you want to set a goal in, how you plan to execute it, what you plan to do, and why you are doing it. Focus on something, find ways to remind yourself about the goal and the focus. This is something you’ll need to carry with you in the forefront of your mind through to reaching the goal. Focus is key.

#2 The next thing that I think a goal should be is reasonable. I don’t just mean this in the normal sense of the word (that the goal not be absurd or unreasonable). You should be able to reason about your goal, you should have reasons for your goal, and you should reason your way to the goal. Goals should be accompanied by reason from inception through to completion. Of course goals should also be reasonable in the sense of “not unreasonable or absurd.”

#3 The final thing I feel is an important part of goals is that they be restrictive. I know that one is a little odd (especially since it’s such a negative word most of the time), but hear me out. We grow though self-imposed restrictions and through work. We increase in self control by exercising restraint, which leads to work. We deny ourselves instant gratification in order to gain discipline. Nearly all good things in life come through some form of personal restriction and hard work. By restricting our options we gain freedom. There are a lot of potential actions I could take right now, but by removing most of them I am free to chose the best options. For example, I could commit any number of crimes right now, but by restricting myself to the list of possible actions in the “completely legal” list I am avoiding issues with the law (which could lead to even worse imposed restrictions) and I have a much shorter list of potential activities to choose from, which avoids overload. The brain is actually pretty good (most of the time) at removing options in order to more easily and quickly make decisions. And similarly, by occasionally imposing restrictions on ourselves with purpose we can grow more readily and easily. A favorite exercise among writers and one I enjoyed in college was to pick a common word and write a paper or story without using it. You might try writing a short story without including the word “the” or “and” or “then.” By doing so you grow, because you are forcing your brain to work harder than usual to complete a mundane task. Restrictions lead to growth, so long as they are reasonable (see #2). Reasonable here means your restrictions shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Seek moderation.

Again, like with the mention of “improvement” above, I don’t feel that my mnemonic device need include the final bit of advice. Moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance. These are fantastic criteria for anything, whether it be a goal or an interaction with your neighbor. I seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance in all things, and I encourage others to do the same.

So while FRR isn’t a great acronym (Focused, Reasonable, Restrictive), I do feel that it is a better set of criteria for goals. Before finalizing any goal, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the focus?
  2. What are the reasons for needing goals here? Why am I focusing on this? Why do I need the goal? What do I hope to accomplish? How can I reason my way to that accomplishment? (Don’t stop here, there should be lots of questions in the “reasonable” stage, all the way through to reaching the goal.)
  3. In what ways will I restrict myself in order to reach this goal?

The final bit of advice I have for goals is to keep records. Record your progress. Record your thoughts. Record your failures. Reason your way through the records from time to time and take assessment. Do you need to adjust course? Is the goal wrong? Is your methodology flawed? Are there any potential improvements you’re missing?

So while the three steps (FRR) are the most important bit when forming goals, the entire process looks like this:

  • Take responsibility and use goals for improvement.
  • Create goals that are Focused, Reasonable, and Restrictive.
  • Seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance.
  • Keep records throughout the process.

If you do all of those things you will have success, which is the primary objective of any goal. If you do not taste the sweetness of success you will struggle with goals for the rest of your life. Start small (and simple), taste the success, and take small steps from there, setting goals along the way.

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My Future

My attempt at making an X-Wing was cut short...

I made this in High School.

NOTE: Unlike some of my other posts, I’m not linking to Wikipedia on all of these links. I highly encourage you to click on every link here – some of the pages will make you laugh, some of the videos will make you cry, and most of the photos are from my personal albums. Enjoy!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time, so here goes.

First though, I would just like to say that prior to commencing the crafting of this post I was listening to some really excellent music by a very talented friend of mine. If you enjoy music by such awesome composers as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Horner and more, you would do well to click here. In fact, the first track sounds like something Edward Shearmur and John Williams might have written together.

OK, so let’s get something straight here. Not to brag, but I am a smart guy. I don’t always do the smartest things, and I don’t have a whole lot of formal education, but I have an extremely capable mind and I excel at various tasks involving mental labor. I love problem solving, have always enjoyed technically creative hobbies, and have a deep obsession with aircraft and spacecraft that has followed me my entire life. Being good at practical mathematics, I decided at an early age that I would enjoy engineering.

Then I began researching what is required for an engineering degree. Nearly immediately the math scared me away.

I love practical math (geometry, trigonometry and some algebra). As I see things, practical math has some sort of immediately accessible application or I can draw a picture to further understand it. When I started learning some pre-calculus, things went south as I discovered that not all math is practical.

I clearly remember my first pre-calculus class – the teacher wrote a very large, complex equation on the board. Then she started hacking away at it, removing entire segments and portions saying they were “insignificant.” I was overwhelmed and appalled. I consider every part of an equation, formula, system or composition to be intricately and inseparably part of the whole. I quickly wrote off calculus as psychotic and moved on with my life, seeking for a future among careers with as little advanced math as possible.

Turns out that’s difficult for someone with my interests. I thought 3D animation might be good, but after attending a year at the Savannah College of Art and Design I decided that my creativity levels just aren’t on par with the animators and modelers that I admire. In fact, I am too technical to allow the imperfections of real life into my artistic endeavors.

Then I considered becoming an author, but again I feel that my writing style is better suited to technical documents than creative fiction. Sure, I can throw a little humanity in there every once in a while, but most of my writing could have been produced by software. The same went for music composition – I was too robotic about it, even when I put all of my feeling into it.

I considered jobs in robotics, software engineering, piloting, information technology, and many other fields, but alas – they all required too much math. And not just any math, scary math. Psychotic math. At one point I even considered working to pay off all of my debt before just going off the grid entirely, becoming completely self-sufficient with my family in the woods, living off the land. I don’t think my wife liked that idea very much.

Being a thinker, I briefly pondered becoming a philosopher, but that didn’t feel like a very good career for supporting a family.

Then, while reading a book on philosophy, I thought, “getting an education is going to be tough no matter what. I suppose I might just need to study some advanced math.”

For English Class

My Sophomore Year in High School

So, I pondered back along my life’s many interests and hobbies and took another look at engineering. Then my realist side kicked in. Engineering might not be all that I hope it is. It could be especially boring and overly technical (even for me).

However, from my earliest years my first love has been engineering. Whether it be designing new aircraft, making a better space-plane, creating a robot, or dreaming about what the future could be, I was always headed toward some sort of engineering.

When I was in grade school I came up with a design for an aircraft that blended the best of two wing configurations. The F-14 Tomcat already proved that swinging wings could be used to reconfigure an aircraft for multiple flight characteristics even while still in the air, but I wanted to incorporate the maneuvering benefits of forward swept wings (such as those of the X-29) and a swept back delta wing configuration for high speed. So at least a few years prior to this patent being filed, I designed a plane that looked almost exactly like the Northrop Switchblade.

Yes, I designed this one before 1999.

My Switchblade (predates 1999 patent)

Even back then I was reading Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. Boy was I surprised one day to see my plane design in their pages when one of them published an article about the new patent for a switchblade design. I guess that’s when I knew that I needed to get into Aerospace Engineering.

However, the psychotic math and possibility of engineering being boring still kept me hesitant until recently.

I have been aware for a couple of years that the space shuttle program is coming to an end this year. But when I recently learned that the second to last shuttle flight (and final flight for Endeavour) was taking place this month, I became inexplicably depressed. I began to obsessively research everything I could about the Space Shuttle. I fantasized about attending the final shuttle launch in July when Atlantis will become the last of the Space Shuttles to launch. I started watching inhumane amounts of NASA TV, even going as far as to adjust my schedule to ensure I got to see certain events. I daydreamed about building a 1:1 replica of the exterior and interior of a shuttle in lieu of a tree-house for my children later in life. I added a bunch of shuttle paraphernalia to my wishlists on Amazon. Some of the products are too expensive.

From Family 2011

If I tell you everything about my shuttle obsession, we’ll end up with a long, sad autobiography about a guy who stalks space planes.

What I recently realized was that I desperately want to be involved with the future of Aerospace technologies. I want to inspire, design, and launch systems for human transportation both inside and outside of Earth’s gravitational pull. I want the vehicles I design to inspire the world and make space exciting again. I want to inspire people the way many of my favorite planes have inspired me. Planes such as the X-29, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-14 Tomcat, the P-61 Black Widdow, the F-4 Phantom, or the OV-101 Enterprise.

For underwater exploration.

An underwater exploration vehicle.

When I was a kid I designed various types of craft. From watercraft to spacecraft I had ideas for anything that moves people fast. When I started experimenting with 3D design I tried recreating some of my designs, but ultimately failed. If I had put a little more effort in I may have succeeded, but all of my best 3D work has been the result of just messing around in the programs. Clearly there is a disconnect (have I ever told you how much I hate using that word as anything but a verb?).

This was my favorite sub design.

Submarines are similar to spacecraft, no?

I will close out this post with a few more of my designs. I had to dig them out of a box. I’m glad I kept them, as I find them inspiring at this time. I am about to begin the rest of my life. I am sitting on the edge of a past that offers little in the way of a future for my family. Before me are endless possibilities, and proceeding without direction is terrifying. These seeds from my childhood are offering and awesome insight into my inner dreams and desires.

Clearly there is still a lot of uncertainty. Even Aerospace Engineering isn’t quite specific enough. There are many fields of specialization within aerospace engineering. Of course, it is nice to know that I am still young and I still have time to deal with this uncertainty.

Wow... I drew this?

An underwater scene from WWIII.

For now I will continue with my current job and take advantage of any education benefits I can to work toward my degree.

Oh, and rather than babble on about nothing while sharing these images, I will tell you about a recent experience that helped me make the decision to get into engineering.

We know a family in the area in which the husband and wife are both engineers. When they saw our bumper sticker, and after getting to know me a little, they both decided that I needed to be an engineer. Or, at least that I would make a good engineer.

Based on something I read about.

I envisioned going to school on this.

So we finally got around to visiting them in their home recently and I grilled them for information about their education, their job, and other nerdy things.

I had a good time getting to know more about the work they do. The wife is currently a stay-at-home mother, but her husband is working as a materials engineer. I think he was surprised to learn that I am familiar with many of the concepts he researches at work. My desire to be on the forefront of technological advances and new ideas takes me all over the Internet in search of the new and magical things people are doing in labs.

So while that wasn’t the deciding factor, it was nice to have a talk with an engineer and learn more about real engineering. Plus he was completely dorky and proud of it. I like that quality.

Alright. Time to stop the blabber. Enjoy the last few photos here. Thank you for reading. This is a big deal for me because I have wondered what I would do with my life for the last twenty years or more. To finally have a solid plan in place (again) feels good.

The End.

Author Page at Amazon

It’s official! I have an author page at Amazon.com. When people search for me or any of my books, a link to my page shows up. Anything I’ve written is listed, I’ve got a cute little biography there, and you can even see posts to this blog from there!

For now there’s not a whole lot else there. In the future I can list events like book signings or readings there, and if I ever do a video showing off my book, I’ll post it there. Discussion forums can be set up where I can respond to reader questions too. I hope some of you who are reading my book right now (or in the near future) will start discussions there on what you’re reading.

If this is your first time seeing my blog, I just wanted to provide you with a few links to some past articles you might enjoy.

Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway contest, and I look forward to interacting with readers through Amazon.com!

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Official Book Giveaway 2

crap_contest_banner_01

This contest has ended. Thank you to all who entered. See the post-contest analysis post.

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Book Giveaway Sweepstakes (round 2)

Official Rules

1. Eligibility

This drawing is open to anyone in the U.S. with a brain except:

  • Anyone who is Brian Haddad (the author of the book to be given away), his wife, children or pets.
  • The winners of the previous sweepstakes of the same title (you already have one of my books, I’m not giving you another one).
  • People who have mailing addresses outside of the United States of America.
  • Non U.S. citizens. This is mostly just to cover myself. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, I’m sorry. Maybe next time?

If you don’t meet any of those criteria, you are eligible to enter and win this drawing. Just to be clear: zombies do not have brains, so if you are a zombie please do not enter the contest.

2. Prizes

There are a total of ten (10) copies of Facebook Drives Me Nuts that will be signed by the author, defaced inside with a page full of doodles and mailed to five lucky winners. The prize is valued at over one million dollars ($1,000,000), but the actual monetary value of the prize is none of your business. The book retails for $12.99 in case you are interested.

The losers will be notified that they lost by way of a personal email or message from Brian Haddad, along with a consolation prize consisting of a group of seemingly random characters that serve as a discount code that can be used at https://www.createspace.com/3422240 when checking out to receive almost a full $3.50 off the price of the book.

3. How to Enter

Go to the official entry form and fill it out after the contest begins on Wednesday, January 27th.

Because Brian Haddad is a generous administrator of awesome contests, here are the elements of the form and how they affect your chances of winning:

Name, Email and Mailing Address

Seriously, do you need me to explain why these are necessary to win? Your information will only be used for this contest. I promise not to sell, disclose or lose your information to any person, business or other entity. If you have any questions, please post a comment on this page and I will address them.

Reading Habits (1 & 2), and Reviewing Habits (1 & 2)

People who lie to me here will not win. It’s plain and simple. I want people who are honest about how much they read and how they review what they read.

Write a Review

A link to three of my short stories is provided in the application form, and you are expected to review one of them. If you won’t even read a single short story that I wrote, I’m not sending you a whole book. Plus, I want people who can review what they read, even if they hate it. Loving or hating the short story you read will not alter your odds of winning, so don’t suck up thinking you’ll get a free book out of it. Just write a good review, clearly stating your opinion. A good sense of humor will be rewarded.

Dedication and Essay

These are your last chances, so make a good effort here. Convince me to send you a free copy of my book. Make me smile, chuckle, laugh or wet my pants, and I’ll throw some super-fun doodles in your prize in unexpected places. Please remember to keep it clean and mostly appropriate though. My wife will be helping me judge these, and if my six-year-old sees any dirty responses, I’ll take video of him crying himself to sleep and send it to you.

Beyond the official entry form, no other purchase, comment, communication or bribe will increase your odds of winning. Love letters in the comments on this page, on Facebook or by email couldn’t hurt though.

4. Deadline

Brian Haddad will stop taking entries after Saturday, March 20th, at which point the official application form will be taken down. If it is not taken down, and you submit an application, you still can’t win after the deadline.

5. Winning

The winner will be chosen from among qualifying applications that meet the criteria above. If more than ten (10) applicants meet the criteria, the author’s daughter will be handed a dowsing rod which she will use to select the winners. Winners will be selected and notified no later than one week after the close of the contest, or by Saturday, March 27th, 2010.

6. Other Details

Brian Haddad and his spouse are not eligible to enter the drawing. Neither are their past, present or future children or pets.

To ensure fair consideration, those entries that do not adhere to the rules and submission standards will be disqualified.

Brian reserves the right to use a winner’s partial name, quote, likeness or descriptive essence for publicity and promotional purposes. In fact, after you’ve read his book, he would appreciate if you wrote some kind of review or testimonial that he can use to promote the book. Rating and reviewing the book on Amazon.com would be rewarded with one thousand (1,000) rainbow unicorn kisses.

This contest and drawing is void where prohibited. There is no purchase necessary to enter or win. Not only that, but there is nothing that you could possibly buy that would help you win. Money does not buy happiness. Late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. Brian Haddad is not responsible for lost, stolen, late or misdirected entries. In the event that a user submits more than one entry, the author will chose which ever entry he sees fit. It is in your best interest to submit only one (1) entry.

Any Last Words?

Once you have read and understood these instructions and rules, please proceed to the entry form and fill it out completely. Good luck!

Official Book Giveaway 1

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

This contest has ended. Thank you to all who participated. The Official Book Giveaway 2 is now live.

For those who are interested (namely, the people in the list below), here were the rules for round one. I tried to make them as entertaining to read as possible, so I recommend reading them through to the end.

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Book Giveaway Sweepstakes

Official Rules

1. Eligibility

This drawing is open to a specific list of individuals. To see if you are eligible, please look for your Facebook name on this list:

  • Amber Napoleon
  • Annie H
  • Autumn Flynn
  • Basia Opalska
  • Becky Fletcher
  • Chalyn Elking
  • Christopher Johnson
  • Jacob Haddad
  • Jennifer Bernarducci
  • Jessica Johnson
  • Jocelyn Udall
  • Jon N Hannah Moses
  • Katie Hill Anderson
  • Kelsey Hunter
  • Keturah Wojtanowski
  • Luke Haddad
  • Melodie Brooke Hammett
  • Pascale Koys
  • Rachel Jones
  • Rob Shively
  • Rudolph Oosthuizen
  • Russell Roberts
  • Spencer Bawden
  • Tony Leonhardt
  • Victoria Scott

If you did not find your name, never fear. A future drawing is being planned that will be open to anyone who sees the contest rules. Be patient and watch my Facebook notes and https://mereman.wordpress.com for future contest announcements.

2. Prizes

There are a total of three (3) copies of Facebook Drives Me Nuts that will be signed by the author, defaced inside with a page full of doodles and mailed to three lucky winners. If more than ten enthusiastic entries are received, the number of winners may increase, at the discretion of Brian Haddad, to a maximum of five (5). The prize is valued at over one million dollars ($1,000,000), but the actual monetary value of the prize is none of your business. The book retails for $12.99 in case you are interested.

The losers will be notified that they lost by way of a personal email or message from Brian Haddad, along with a consolation prize consisting of a group of seemingly random characters that serve as a discount code that can be used at https://www.createspace.com/3422240 when checking out to receive almost a full $3.50 off the price of the book.

3. How to Enter

For this contest, send Brian Haddad a Facebook message with your mailing address somewhere in the body. People posting their mailing addresses on Brian’s wall or as comments on this note or Brian’s status will not be entered into the contest. They will, in stead, be ridiculed, laughed at, and possibly sent junk mail after making their addresses publicly viewable.

While this is a random drawing, there is also an element of competition. Those who apply first and those who express the greatest interest in winning will be preferred. After entering, writing love notes to Brian, posting enthusiastic comments about how great the book must be and how excited you are to read it, and generally sucking up to Brian Haddad will increase your odds of winning.

4. Deadline

Brian Haddad will stop taking entries after Saturday, February 6th, but those wishing to improve their odds may continue sucking up to him until the shipment of books arrives (expected to be sometime around the middle of February, but could be much sooner).

In the event that the shipment of books arrives early, if Brian Haddad has already decided who he will pick as the winners, he will stop taking entries, even if February 6th has not arrived.

5. Winning

The winner will be chosen at random from among the entries. OK, that’s a lie. The winner will be chosen from among the entries, but Brian Haddad will essentially decide who to send the prizes to based on the sincerity of their interest in the book, the enthusiasm with which they have engaged in showing him that they want to read his book, and how well he thinks they will be able to entice others to read the book. More than three individual entries may meet this criteria, in which case Brian will select the winners randomly.

6. Other Details

Brian Haddad and his spouse are not eligible to enter the drawing. Neither are their children or pets.

To ensure fair consideration, those entries that do not adhere to the rules and submission standards will be disqualified.

Brian reserves the right to use a winner’s partial name, quote, likeness or descriptive essence for publicity and promotional purposes. In fact, after you’ve read his book, he would appreciate if you wrote some kind of review or testimonial that he can use to promote the book. Rating and reviewing the book on Amazon.com would be rewarded with one thousand (1,000) rainbow unicorn kisses.

The drawing is void where prohibited. Late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. Brian Haddad is not responsible for lost, stolen, late or misdirected entries.

Winning or losing does not in any way imply that you are a good or bad friend. Losing does not imply that you are loved less than the winners. Anyone suggesting or attempting to imply that their status as a winner or loser in this contest is indicative of the strength of their relationship to Brian Haddad will be banned from future contests and may lose their Facebook Friend status with Brian Haddad.

I Won (again)!

**Edit**
I’ve got a new page where you can view everything I’ve written that has been published. Please visit the My Published Books/Works page and check them out!

My NaNoWriMo story is done this year (as of yesterday). I broke the 50,000 words mark by just over 200 additional words, uploaded my document for an official word count, and I’ve won. Sometime next week they’ll post the code for the free proof copy from Amazon’s CreateSpace. My book from last year has been published (though in its unedited, raw form) mostly just for fun. This year I’m going to heavily edit and revise my book before submitting it for publishing because I actually like this one better. Here’s a preview of the rough cover I made for it:

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

You can view my author bio and novel info at the NaNoWriMo site here.

NaNoWriMo 2009

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

So, I’m doing it again. I guess I’m going nuts. I’m going to try to write 50,000 words in under 30 days (last time it took me less than 25, this time I’m shooting for even better). You can see my NaNoWriMo profile page and read the synopsis of what I’ll be writing here.

Plus, I’ve given myself a new goal – I’m hoping to talk my wife into doing it. I know she wants to, I just have to figure out what’s holding her back. If she knows anything about me, it’s that once I’ve got an idea in my head, it’s nearly impossible to get me to let it go unless you can prove my logic to be fatally flawed (almost never happens).

Anyhow, I’m posting this as an official excuse for not posting anything else for at least the month of November (except a victory post when I finish!).

If you’ve ever enjoyed writing anything, you should head over to http://www.nanowrimo.org and enter yourself in this year’s competition. Don’t worry, you’re only competing against yourself, nobody else has to read what you write (in fact, you don’t even have to read what you write), and you don’t have to feel bad about not finishing.

Plus, if you do finish, Amazon is sponsoring the same prize they did last year through their site, CreateSpace. You get to see your finished novel in print form with a free proof copy! It’s really pretty neat, and if you approve the print version, you can put it up for sale for free also. So far, since January, I’ve sold exactly zero copies of my dumb story, but that’s no reason to stop writing. I’m going to keep on plugging away at the keyboard and see what I come up with this year.

Thanks for your support and you’ll hear from me again in roughly a month.

P.S. I would appreciate it if you’d keep in tight contact with me over Facebook in November if you can because I will be relying heavily on your crazy status posts and activities to fuel my inspiration for this year’s story!


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