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What's on the iPod: Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
It's, well, interesting to have a few days in which nothing pressing is going on. My first reaction is to catch up on personal projects, but somehow that usually turns into my stepping away from the computer altogether and rejoining society. Since much of my personal writing right now is poetry, I don't need the electronic connection, nor do I want it.
I did catch up on my online courses. Let me just say that for some of these courses, the instructors are not understanding their audience. A free course shouldn't require you to purchase $80 books. A free course should not have so much homework that it feels like finals week every week. At the moment, I'm taking two courses. One is overburdened with video lectures (I counted 17 for last week's session) and required readings that include entire manuals (hundreds of pages). Plus an assignment (thankfully optional) that had students writing a strategic plan start to finish with no direction beyond one of those video lectures.
The other course, however, is one that makes me hurry to free up time for it. There are videos -- perhaps 8 to 10 per week -- but they never feel burdensome, nor do you feel you're being talked at. The professor has set it up as a group discussion and I don't know how he does it, but he makes me feel like part of that group. The quizzes are just to test your understanding, and they're usually just one question. The assignments are sensibly aligned with what we're studying, and they're not burdensome at all. Could be the subject matter -- modern poetry -- or it could be that this man knows how to teach. I'm betting on the latter. Plus he has videos that walk you around the writers center, introduce you to the students on the discussion panel, and live sessions that show his enthusiasm for the subject. When he thanked one student for giving him a new perspective on a poem -- in a taped video session -- my admiration for him spiked instantly.
What's the difference between the professor who uses her lectures at trade shows as lessons and the professor who involves everyone in fresh, lively discussions? Positivity.
I was thinking about how positivity affects our jobs, and maybe the way these two courses contradict each other is a great example of the power of positive thinking. I've witnessed countless examples of how a negative perspective can infect and control lives. I have friends and relatives who can't seem to escape drama, emergencies, or negative experiences. Why? Because they're waiting for it to happen. When it does, it's "I knew it!" instead of "How do I change this?"
You've seen it, too. "I can't do better at freelancing because the economy sucks!" or "All I can find are crazy clients!" or "I just know something is going to go wrong with this project." And sure enough, they live their own perceived realities.
It's a tough habit to break. So how do you start?
Stop complaining. Seriously, the more you bitch and moan, the more that energy is going into your work, and the more it's going to show. Ever hear people say never cook when you're upset because you can taste it in the food? The same goes for your writing. If you're angry, channel that into your fiction, not your client work.
Find a different perspective. Yes, that client screwed you or that project just morphed, but what's the best, most positive way to tackle that without carrying it with you like a crutch? Suppose your client said, "I think I now need you to turn this 500-word article into 2,000 words with charts and sidebars." Your first reaction should be "Great! Here's my price for that project, and my invoice for this one." It's a money-making opportunity, not a slight by a crazy guy. He may well not know what he wants, but as long as he's willing to continue paying for his indecision, it's no skin off your back, right?
Start each day with a mantra. What phrase can you inject into your morning (or daily) routine that will keep you focused on positive outcomes? "Today I'm going to rock each project" or "Professionals don't whine" or "I rock!" -- use whatever works for you.
Smile when you type. You can't assert your boundaries or professional requirements into that email if you're thinking "You rotten jerk!" Instead, think "Here's what I require to make this work" and do it with thoughts of getting to Yes.
Lose fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing clients, fear of missing deadlines or not understanding project goals or whatever.... none of that belongs in your head at all, let alone when you're negotiating or communicating. If you don't understand, drop fear of feeling foolish (which in itself is pretty foolish) and ask more questions until you know you and your client are seeing the same thing.
How do you keep your work on a positive path?