Category Archives: Work

Thursday’s 5 Minute Retreat (4 of 5)

Lay down your stones

Ed Cyzewski invited me to carrying on with his 5 minute Retreat series this week. Today is day 4 of 5. I hope you find this brief exercise a way to create a bit of time and space in your day to refocus and reenergize. May God bless you.

This retreat would be best to do if you have a stone or brick handy. If it’s not easy to search for one outside, find something else, that feels weighty in your hand, like a paper weight, book, full water bottle, etc. Yes, I realize that sounds weird. Indulge me for a few minutes, k?

Before we start, please take a few steps to
prepare yourself to take a short rejuvenating break to refreshen your day and your spirit. Together we will gain new perspective. So, please eliminate potential distractions nearby. (Silence your phone, computer, shut your door, etc.)

Ready?
Here we go!

Hold your stone or object in your hand.

Close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths. (Be aware of where you are. “Be where you are.” That is, push the chatter of your mind aside, purposefully, for this short and set amount of time.)

Now as you gain awareness of yourself in the spot where you are, be very aware of the weight of the object in your hand. Concentrate on that sensation for a bit. With your eyes closed, notice its bulk, size, “weightiness”, and stay with that for about 60 seconds. (That will feel like a LONG time. But, please do hang in there, friends!)

Now think of the things weighing you down in your day this week. Everybody has something. Do you have conflict in a relationship, too much to do, deadlines, struggles, car trouble, illness, loneliness, frustration? What is bothering you RIGHT NOW?

Think about how those things in your life really do feel like a weight resting on top of you. They are pushing you down. They feel heavy.

Now, feel the weight of the stone or object in your hand, and make the conscious association, of what weights you down with this weighted symbol of it that you are holding.

Feel their weight, and recognize that you want to be free of it. You want new strength and relief. You want to claim that release.

Talk to God briefly about your particular struggle/s, all while clutching your stone or object.

If you can say this next bit out loud, I recommend it. If that will be too awkward because of your surroundings, try to repeat this a few times in your mind:

God, I am laying my weight down. Take it from me. I willingly lay it down for you to pick up.

(Repeating this for your ownership of this act will help you a lot.)

Now set down your weight. Release it. Lay it down, with purpose. (If you are outside, you may want to throw it down, or put it in a trash can. Or, maybe that’s just me. OH! And watch out for glass. It can sneak up on you, just as you let your stone fly.)

NOW–Feel the weight lift. It’s GONE.

Breathe deeply.

Now walk away.

And thank God.

Thanks for coming along today, and daring to experience life a bit differently. I hope this is helpful to you in a special way. I’d love to hear about your experience, if you’d like to share it here.

10 Things Not to Say at an Interview

(photo: "Don't touch the hair of a prospective boss!")

A very long interview reminded me of how stressful they can seem.

With so many people looking for work and too few jobs, it’s no wonder people make mistakes during an interview.

QUICK TIPS:
•Don’t let panic strike you, especially if you have a weak bladder.
•Don’t say anything that pops into your head, even if it seems funny.
•A case of the nerves can make you think of super funny things to say that are actually inappropriate, and you might not really realize that until later.
•If you’re nervous, calm yourself with a mantrum (MAUN-trum), but don’t say it out loud, especially while rocking back and forth. Also, settle for decaf. I mean that.

Here are some great things to not say during your interview:

10. “You can’t call my references because they all have died…rather suddenly.”

9. “Why do your eyes tell me I have the job, but they also say, ‘stay away from dairy’?”

8. “You look almost exactly like the pedophile that lives down the street from me. You must be related. Do you know Chester the Child Moles…oh wait, that’s not his real name .”

7. “I’ve said it a thousand times, ‘Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Hate me because I’m much smarter than you’.”

6. “Oh, I’m sorry; that hair was impossibly long. I didn’t think is was connected.” (based on an actual conversation, but not one of mine)

5. “What is your policy about smoking pot in the office?”

4. “I have this crazy feeling we’ve met. Were you ever a little smellier and homeless?”

3. “Pull my finger. No seriously, this is hilarious.”

2. “Gosh, I haven’t been asked that since my last DUI.”

1. “Oh, yeah, I’m going to love your office, once your gone… and I know what you’re thinking! Of course I’ll repaint it.”

Now it’s your turn: What are some other things not to say?

Get creative!

Training for change: “The Show about Me” part III

conversation is not about you

I use the word “training” here, because if I used the word “discipline” it would be an immediate turn off. You may just click away in a huff or something. I’m tip toeing around for you this time.

Discipline has a “dirty word” feel to it now, right? We seem to associate it with pain for the sake of gain, or something too hard, or bothersome. Really, a disciple is a person in a training mode, learning, and absorbing things meant to improve him and his life.

This post is the third installment to deconstruct and renovate our lives that have taken on the “personal reality show” traits. This default setting we have to center our lives around our desires, wants, needs, and shortcomings, keep us stuck. Gone is the life-giving existence that comes from understanding that Reality is the realm of God–It’s not about us. We are invited into a richer, deeper Story that isn’t gained or lost with our successes or failures. God is the Star of the show, and it’s his Story. This is a life lived in the realm of peace/shalom. Lay your burdens down, friend.

You may have some ideas in mind of what life looks like once this changeover has been made. I’m hoping you’ll share your ideas about it. I’ll 5 ways a person lives out a greater Story, and maybe we can all learn something.

When you live the bigger Story…

1. You regularly  make and keep unlikely friends.

You don’t see people as tools for your own purposes, or to satisfy your desires and needs. No one is beneath you in the social strata, because you can well see that it’s not your story, but God’s. God’s Story includes all people, so you do too.

2. You regularly give to those who cannot repay you.

(Volunteer) Your actions stop being about personal gratification and getting ahead in some way. Giving freely punctuates this idea. You realize that generosity is life-giving in its own right, and it’s a win-win situation.

3. You shut up more, ask questions, and wait for the full answer.

Talking with people isn’t about saying something, being heard, or pitching some kind of agenda. It’s about the other person. You ask questions to know better, to understand better, and you give up the selfishness inherent in small story communication.

4. You stop self-promoting.

Making sure others see you in a certain light doesn’t balloon anymore as a thrust of your interactions. Sharing has nothing to do with making yourself look good, or impressing people. The self-centeredness is gutted from your words and actions, making life about something far bigger and better than you.

5. You listen.

In small stories we listen to get an edge. Sometimes what we call “listening” is really just pausing briefly out of some rudimentary convention, so that when we speak, we can be better heard (but only because we aren’t literally talking over someone). It boils down to merely “listening” for a chance to speak; but this is not genuine listening. When we listen, we change. The interaction makes us somehow different than we were before.

If you train with these 5 ways of interacting and seeing Reality in mind, it will give you no choice but to improve your life as you yield to a bigger Story.

Share your thoughts…

Lifestyle Design-Hot Tip (Pimp your celly)

No one will ever confuse me with Lifestyle Design guru, and polymath Tim Ferriss, but I have a cool tip that could save you a bunch of time if you own a mobile phone.

Messages...messages...messages AHHHHhhhh

Have you ever tried to reach someone quickly, and had to call every phone they have? As you hear the ringing sound you basically shoot up little prayers, in hopes they will answer, “Oh, God, please God, let her pick up!” It’s got begging written all over it. Then you end up leaving one message per device, and wondering if or when they’ll get the message, and which one message will it be. Was the first one too frantic? Did you skip any info. on the third try? And when might they call you back? Yikes~”What if he left his phone in the car, and doesn’t get the message until he gets home? Ahhh.”

This JUST happened to me as I tried to contact my son’s autistic therapy program manager. I still haven’t heard from her. It’s a crap shoot…

Well, in typical fashion, Google as a free way to streamline and simplify this whole system and situation, seamlessly. The application will even turn phone messages into texts and send them to you. I like that one! I’m about to give it a try, if you do, let me know. If this seems like a helpful idea for your life, you might want to check out their short info video, and be dazzled by the wonders of technology, here –> Google/voice

Tim Ferriss, are you proud of me, or what?

A Pathway to Publishing, Interview with Ed Cyzewski

A Path to Publishing, by Ed Cyzewski, 2010

Interview with Ed Cyzewski

Author of  A Pathway to Publishing ©2010

1. At the end of each chapter you give Action steps to help a writer move toward concrete goals. Is this what you did when you wrote, or do you wish you had done it? How important is this element?

It’s some of both. Most of the action steps are based on what I have found most helpful, but a few of them come from what I have learned from other writers and publishing professionals. I’ve had some wonderful guides throughout my brief career and they helped me take the right action steps along way, though sometimes I stumbled onto what worked best for me.

Beginning writers need to take themselves and their work seriously, and the best way forward is to take action. Whether it’s something as simple as reading the latest edition of a writing magazine (such as Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, or The Writer) or jotting down ideas for books and magazine articles, we all need to start somewhere.

2.      Which part of the publishing process is a beginner most likely to overlook?

I think there are two things beginners can overlook. The obvious one is the degree to which writers must be able to market their work on their own, but the more subtle one is learning how to write a book that is both true to their vision for it and suited to a specific audience. I believe that getting into the heads of readers is one of the most challenging and important aspects of writing. There are a lot of writers who labor over manuscripts that will not connect with readers because they aren’t asking the questions that readers will be asking. I have made this mistake far too often myself.

3.    From the start of your book, you tell readers to prepare for rejection. Aren’t you afraid you’ll scare them off?

I used to work at an art gallery, and I was in charge of the volunteers who returned work to artists after it was rejected by a jury. About a quarter of them acted surprised, outraged, and suspicious that their work was rejected. I’ve always thought they shouldn’t submit their work unless they are prepared to see it rejected, and that’s how I feel about writing. Publishing hopefuls should not try this unless they are prepared for editors to say “no,” reviewers to say “not quite,” and readers to say, “That book’s not worthy my $15.”

Handling rejection is a necessary and ordinary part of the business for every writer. Even Christian literary legend Fred Buechner shared at an event last year that his regular publisher rejected his latest book proposal. It never ends, but it does become easier to deal with. In addition, if you can keep the big picture of your writing career (and/or ministry) in view, then a few measly rejection letters aren’t too big of a setback. For a bit more about dealing with rejection, I have a series on it at www.edcyz.com.

4.      Do writers really need literary agents in order to succeed?

Agents aren’t exactly required for everyone. I have a friend with a really influential blog, and he was offered a book deal based on this amazing series he posted. No agent necessary. However, for the vast majority of us hoping to secure a book deal with a major publisher, an agent is necessary. Most editors will not even look at a manuscript unless an agent sends it to them.

If you want to try publishing without an agent, keep in mind that you’ll probably make tons of mistakes, some of which may affect your bottom line, control over your material, and future works. One friend I know narrowly avoided legal trouble because of some misunderstood contract terms. I view agents as an insurance policy and as a first line of defense to make sure your proposal/manuscript is as bullet proof as possible.

5.      You mention self-publishing as an option in this book, and the book itself is self-published. This has been thought to not be a legitimate form of publishing in the past. Is that still true, and what makes a self-published book succeed?

As far as legitimacy, let’s note the three major things publishers provide: editorial/design development, distribution/marketing, and authority. Today writers can hire their own editors, designers, and publicists, while selling through online sites instead of book stores. Most nonfiction writers won’t get in the door at a publisher without a marketing platform that will enable them to sell their books anyway.

If an author can make a legitimate case for writing a book and selling it to a specific niche, then I think it has a shot as a self-published work. Many authors are publishing commercially and self-publishing, but they are doing so with an established marketing platform and a degree of authority—Cory Doctorow and Seth Godin come to mind. I have spoken with one very well known editor at a major NYC publishing house who said, off the record, that self-publishing has lost its stigma for the most part. I don’t think self-publishing in and of itself is illegitimate. Authors who skimp on editorial development, design, and building their credibility are the ones who give self-publishing a bad name.

Let’s face it, book covers with clip art and tacky fonts are a tough sell. I hired my brother-in-law (www.joelinmotion.com) who is fresh out of Savannah College of Art and Design to put my cover together. He’s not a professional book designer, but he knows how to pick fonts and colors. The small investment I made in his help made a huge difference in the quality of the book in my opinion.

Having commercially published first, I can say that self-publishing involves a ton more work since you’re doing all of the little things yourself, such as book lay out, sending out press releases, and worrying about how your book appears at online sites. Since I can’t say this self-published book is a success yet, having just released it, I can’t quite answer this question definitively. However, I think the key to success, however you publish, is to market your work until you drop and to contribute to your community of readers.

6. First time writers don’t think too much about marketing their book. You seem to speak to that issue a lot. Was this a surprise to you, and what nuggets did you learn when you published?

I was blown away by how hard it is to sell books. The most effective way to sell books is in person. I’m a big fan of blogging and all that, but when you can hand someone your book and tell its story in 30 seconds, that person will most likely buy it. The personal connections you build online may be significant and may sell books, but selling it in person is quite effective. In addition, I’m a big believer in radio and podcast interviews, as well as online videos. Anything that helps readers make a personal connection with the author will be most effective because we’re all wondering, “Do I trust this person?” Think of the best ways you can answer that question, and that’s how you need to market. Having said all of that, writers need good web sites with stellar blogs in order to stay connected with their readers.

One other nugget is to begin thinking of every personal connection that can help you book speaking events. I find it really tough to find speaking engagements where I can talk about my books, and it can be hard to land events at book stores. Start thinking about this now. If you’re going the self-publishing route, keep in mind that many book stores will not want to host a self-published author, so think up some plan B options.

7.   You offer lots of extra free goodies and resources for new writers, tell us about some.

I think most writers will benefit from the online marketing chapter that I listed online. It covers everything from setting up a web site and writing a blog to using social media. This is a good place to begin building a platform, even if your long-term goal is to integrate speaking engagements and radio/podcast spots. I also have a sample of the book available for those who aren’t convinced by my “brilliant” answers here.

There is a growing list of links at the Resource page, but a glitch in my blogging program erased about 90% of them. I’m adding them again, so keep dropping by there for suggested articles and books on publishing.

Lastly, my writing blog www.edcyz.com has a bunch of series that writers will find helpful. My latest series covers what I learned from the self-publishing process.

Thanks for hosting me on your site Lisa! Happy writing.

Ed

Featured Guest Blogger: CHAD ESTES!

I’ve been enjoying Chad’s blog, and social media shout outs for a while now; so I was quite excited, when this busy guy agreed to guest post here. It’s a joy for me to share things with readers here, including people. 

Chad Estes

 

Chad is a legend. Even “Biblical Learning Blog” (at http://www.biblecollege.org)  included his blog, Captain’s Blog, in their list of Top 50 Ecumenical Blogs. So, it’s really an honor to have him here.

When I asked if he would be a guest blogger, Chad mentioned that wanted to share his heart, and I hope you soak in his contribution.

Leave your comments, afterwards, and show him what a polite readership I am fortunate enough to have by visiting his site, and to say “thank you.” 

Chad, Thank you!

I Want You to Want Me

-Chad Estes

        What we learned on the schoolyard playground seems to hold true in life. Those with the mad skills are the ones in demand. Those who can’t keep their eye on the ball, or catch an easy pop fly are picked to play right field and bat at the end of the order. This peer rejection is like the sting of a wasp, and unless you get off the field, you will probably get hurt by the same stinger, over and over again. 

    Adults play this same game. We want to team up with those people who benefit us, and help us win. We do this in business and in social circles. We even do this in church. Those on the outside of our margins–because of divorce, financial status, education levels, or addictive behavior issues, maynot be the first ones invited to our home fellowships. It isn’t their children that we invite to spend the night with our children. 

   But actually my thoughts about rejection aren’t about being picked last; it is the rejection that comes from being picked first. 

What? 

Yes, there is also a rejection issue with being picked first on a team because, more often than not, you are being picked for what you can do instead of who you are.  

     This is acceptable as long as you can keep up with the performance levels, but if your stats ever start to stumble, so will your value to the team. 

     It would be nice if this didn’t happen in Christian circles but unfortunately, it does.

Many churches and ministries recruit to a position based on a person’s perceived contribution value (Do they have good speaking skills? Can they lead a team? Do they agree with my direction? Will they serve this vision?) like it was written on stone tablets. But, when recruiting is all based on performance there will be a day when those skills will slip, or someone, even more qualified will come along. And when our positions are challenged, we may resort to some sort of spiritual steroids to help keep us on the field of play. The bad thing is these unnatural growth hormones actually stunt spiritual development It’s a cheap trick. 

       Today, I had a meeting where I was being recruited because of my ministry skills. But, as I drove home, I realized I was actually feeling the sting of rejection even though I’d been offered a position. The recruiter wasn’t really interested in me as much as she was interested in what I could do for her. She doesn’t really know me, nor does she know my heart. And unfortunately with her priorities all about her vision, she never will take the time to know what my heart is about. And so though it is a heady offer, it is a path that leads to performing, pretending, and pain. 

       My real value is my heart, not my skills. The skills are deteriorating with age. My heart is in the process of being renewed.

                  What I really want out of this life is to be picked by someone to be on their team, or be their friend not, because I’m a good player, or that I fit a niche, but simply because they want to be with me.

How about you?

  • Which rejection hurts you more—the kind from not being included, or the kind from being selected for performance-based reasons?
     
  • What do you suggest are ways to build relationships outside of these judgments and expectations? 

Welcome New Readers!

Hello Schuylkill News readers. Thank you for coming!

Now we can continue a conversation I broached at the beginning of January. (see more below)

 

If you haven’t read the latest (free) issue of Schuylkill-News, click here to find distribution locations, or do a search for “Schuylkill-News,” on this facebook link, to see the full layout.
 

On this “January Epiphanies” theme, let’s first reflect for a moment on the quote seen in the article:

 

 

“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: Who can take away suffering without entering it?”-Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

I encourage you to leave comments, thoughts, questions, or answer in reply to this question I now pose:

*When has someone entered your life or struggles, to help you. Or, when have you done this for someone else? (Anonymous comments are welcome, too.)

*In your opinion, what are some things we learn from these times of surprising grace?