Should You Buy Tim Ferriss’ Latest Book, “Tools of Titans?”

Tools of Titans

(The full title of the book is Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.)

I bought this big behemoth of a book on 12/11/16 and I’m about 475 pages into it.

I’d been reading about it and hearing about it on podcasts for a few weeks when I finally decided to fork over the $28 to make it mine. (You know how it is with book launches these days – they go on for what feels like weeks and months and years on end.)

By the time I walked in to Barnes & Noble in early-ish December 2016 and read through a few pages of Tools of Titans, I decided I had to buy it. (That’s what priming’ll do for ya. It works.)

But wait, let me back up a minute. That’s not exactly how it happened, come to think of it.

The first time I actually saw the book, I picked it up read through the table of contents and the bullet copy on the back cover, thought, “Hmm, never mind,” put it down, and walked away.

I wanted the book, no question, but I was resistant, and here’s why: if my math is correct, of the 112 people in the book Ferriss shares wisdom and insight from, just 14 are women. Of the bullets on the back cover of the book – you know, the copy that’s meant to really sell the thing (so it’s where the – ahem – uber “important” people are mentioned) – there are 14 bullets and only one features a woman.

So it is that most “successful” people come in the male variety in Tim Ferriss world.

I’ll admit, I was disappointed. It confirms what I’ve long felt about many of the male-lead businesses and people I follow online, great though they may be – you’re way more likely to be featured in/on someone’s podcast, website, blog, book, or even in their testimonials or case studies if you’re a man, unless the website, blog, or podcast is woman-owned. I’ve seen it over and over and over again.

If you came here from another planet and took notice of this, you’d think, “Hmm, what constitutes ‘success’ on this planet is for men, defined by men, and about men.”

[As an aside, if you want to read a fantastic piece on this dilemma, far more eloquently written than what I’ve scratched out here, check out Sarah Kathleen Peck’s article, Why We Can’t Keep Having “Best of Entrepreneur” Lists That are Overwhelmingly Male.]

Anywho, back to the book. I bought it despite my disappointment over the underrepresentation of women, so obviously I believe there’s value in it.

Now, if you’re still with me, here’s a brief overview of the book:

The book is laid out in three sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, which Ferriss describes as “a tripod upon which life is balanced. One needs all three to have any sustainable success or happiness.” (His definition of wealth is about more than money, it also includes an abundance of time, relationships and other life categories.)

He calls it “a compendium of recipes for high performance,” lessons he’s learned from the 200 world-class performers he’s interviewed on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Among these are writers, actors, comedians, and photographers, so it’s not all hedge fund managers and Silicon Valley people, not that those folks don’t have important lessons to share as well.

The book is made up of distilled wisdom, strategies, tips and tricks from these high-achievers that Ferriss put together for his own use, and only later decided to publish. It’s not just a book of interviews, it’s “a toolkit for changing your life,” according to Ferriss, and many of the lessons he’s learned and applied have indeed changed his life, he says.

And because it’s such a long book (well over 600 pages), Ferriss says to treat it sort of like a buffet, to skip what you don’t feel compelled to read, and read what grabs you. I skipped the entire first section, “Healthy,” and started right in with my reading at section 2, “Wealthy” (page 164). I’ve been reading in order straight through from there though.

(It’s my OCD. I feel like I can’t skip pages and sections now, and once I get to the end, I’ll go back and read the “Healthy” section.)

What I liked:

There’s something here for just about any kind of challenge you might face, as cliché as that sounds.

For example, if you tend to “compare and despair,” Sophia Amoruso (page 376), founder of global clothing brand Nasty Gal and #Girlboss Foundation, says not to be so impressed by the high achievers you admire, because you are entirely capable of doing what they do, and there’s no reason you can’t have the things they have. Despite her massive success, she shares that she still cries sometimes, and doesn’t ever feel like, “I’m done, I’ve arrived.”

Or maybe you have a medical condition, or something else in your life is causing you mental, emotional or physical pain that keeps you from doing all you’d like to do, and your tendency is to complain about it, as much as you’d like not to (been there/still sometimes there).

Tracy DiNunzio (page 313), founder and CEO of Tradesy, who has raised $75 million from investors including Richard Branson, talks about being born with spina bifida and having to undergo several surgeries. She says she tried “complaining and being bitter,” but it didn’t work. Because, she explains, sharing a Stephen Hawking quote (someone with a bigger reason to complain than most people), “when you complain nobody wants to help you.”

She talks about putting herself on a “complaining diet,” because she was thinking and talking about being in pain enough that it caused her life to go in a negative direction. She decides not to say, or even think, anything negative about the situation she’s in. She admits it took a long time and she wasn’t perfect at it, but that replacing the negative thoughts with more positive ones helped get her life moving in a better direction, one where she wasn’t obsessing about what was wrong, which served to lessen the physical pain.

Feeling stuck? Legendary music producer Rick Rubin (page 502) says to start with a very small, doable task. He recounts the story of an artist he was working with who hadn’t made an album in a long time and was struggling mightily with getting anything finished. So Rubin gives him the assignment to write one word in a song that needs 5 lines by the next day. Just one word. This advice resonated with me because I’ve found the “small, doable task” trick great for building momentum in my own work and life when I’m feeling stuck.

Searching for the courage to do something bold? Research professor Dr. Brené Brown (page 586), whose TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” has been viewed more than 31 million times, shares her experience teaching as a public figure despite hurtful online comments and attacks. She realized that if she wanted to live “a brave life,” a life “in the arena,” that yes, she would get her ass kicked, but she chooses to live by the question, “When I had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort?” As someone who regularly chooses comfort, this is a lesson I need to ponder. Actually not to ponder, that’s too “comfortable.” I need to implement this, fer cryin’ out loud!

Afraid to be your “true self,” online or elsewhere? Glenn Beck (I know, I know, but bear with me. Page 553), shares some excellent advice, especially appropriate for those of us conducting business online who sometimes hide behind our “real” selves so as not to offend or scare away potential clients or customers.

Beck says, “What I realized . . . was that people are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are. Once you start lying to them, they’re not interested. We’re all alike. So the best advice I learned by mistake, and that is: Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don’t ever try to be anything else. What you are is good enough for whatever it is you’re doing.”

This is only the second time in the history of ever I’ve agreed with something Glenn Beck said (the other time was some comments he made about Trump), so I’m as shocked as anybody that I’m mentioning him in a blog post. But there it is.

My Favorite Bits

These are my favorite bits, meaning, I’ve actually added these practices to what I call my “Daily Practice,” and do them regularly now:

The Five-Minute Journal, page 146, which consists of a couple of brief morning prompts, and a couple of evening prompts. Each morning I write 3 things I’m grateful for, 3 things that would make today great, and 3 daily affirmations. In the evening, I write about “3 amazing things that happened today,” and “3 ways I could have made today better.” Though I was doing some form of this before, it wasn’t organized, and it wasn’t daily. Now it’s both, and I feel happier. At the end of each week on Sunday night, I spend 10-15 minutes reviewing that week’s journal entries.

Tim’s 8-step process for maximizing efficacy, page 200, which is a list of things he does to make sure he gets stuff done, despite “self-defeating habits and self-talk.” Oh, how I love this, because we all have bad habits, and so do the most successful people we admire. But they still manage to get big and amazing things done, and so we can too.

I won’t share the entire list here, but the crux is: Wake up at least one hour before you have to be at a computer screen; write down 3-5 things that are making you the most anxious or uncomfortable; for each item, ask yourself, “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”; look at only the items you’ve answered “yes” to for that question; then block out 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. [That’s a brief overview.]

I love that he says, “This is the only way I can create big outcomes despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, nap, and otherwise fritter away days with bullshit.” Sounds like someone I know very well. Ahem.

And lastly, one of my favorite new practices that came from the book, is wishing for random people to be happy, page 158. What you do is simply randomly identify two people who are standing, sitting, or walking nearby, and wish for them to be happy. Just say to yourself, “I wish for this person to be happy, I wish for that person to be happy.” It’s just thinking, mind you, it’s not saying it out loud.

I’ve done some form of this before as part of my daily practice, but not consistently, and not for a long time now, but after reading this passage in Tim’s book, I sat on my bed and randomly wished for all kinds of people to be happy, even people I don’t much care for, like Trump. AND BOY, WAS THAT EVER DIFFICULT TO DO.

This practice does tend to make me feel happier, and I think it’s because of what Ferriss identifies – it takes the focus off you and your “stuff,” at least briefly. Which is a welcome respite for those of us who tend to live so much in our heads and focus obsessively on all we have to do/be/accomplish/handle, etc.

At the end of the day . . .

Despite my quibbles about the book’s mostly male focus and version of “success,” I’m happy I bought the book, and would recommend it.  

That said, I have to say I agree with Emma Jacobs, who reviewed the book for the Financial Times:

“Halfway through this book, I started to feel battered, like I had been hit by a tsunami of testosterone. I flicked through the book tallying the number of men and women proffering the advice — just over 10 per cent of the interviewees were women. Granted, there are fewer female billionaires — to take his subtitle — but icons and world-class performers? Give me strength. The overall effect is a kind of quantified self, Silicon Valley machismo. And that will appeal to many.”

Though I don’t find “Silicon Valley machismo” compelling in any way, shape, or form, I still found many things to like about this book, and found it worth the $28. 

And there ya have it.

Thank you for being part of my community + updates

Can you believe it’s already the end of 2016?

If I’m being honest, a new year can’t come soon enough for me. 2016 has been tough, and I mean really tough, for me and a whole bunch of other people I know as well.

And I’m not just talking about the terrifying political situation we now find ourselves in, though that’s a big part of it.

While I firmly believe that every moment, even the “bad” ones, can have their own unique blessings, I am good and ready for a whole bunch of “good” moments strung all together in several looooong months/years at this point.

But hey, on to brighter things! 

The real reason I’m writing today is to thank you for being a part of my community this year.

Whether you stopped by to read a blog post, signed up for my weekly copywriting tips newsletter, left a comment, sent an email with a question, told me how much you enjoy receiving my weekly emails, inquired about working together, or simply reached out to say hello, thank you. It’s deeply appreciated.

It means so much to me that you get value out of the articles I write and the emails I send, and that you actually take time out of your busy day to tell me that. That’s a big deal, so again, thank you.

And if you became a client this year, I appreciate your trust in allowing me to write marketing copy for your business to help you generate more clients and sales.

I don’t take any of these things for granted.

I’m blessed to have worked with several amazing clients this year, and to have interacted with many of the amazing and wonderful readers of my blog and my weekly newsletter this year as well.

So know that you are loved and appreciated, and that I’m wishing you the very best, in your business and in your personal life, for the coming year.

UPDATES

Some of you may have gotten what you needed from my blog posts and weekly emails and be ready to move on. If that’s the case, no worries! There’s only so much time in the day, and you have to be careful where you spend your time and attention. So if our “relationship” has run its course, I’ll understand if you need to unsubscribe from the newsletter and/or stop reading the blog. 

But if you decide to stick around these here parts in 2017, here’s what you can expect:

:: More blog posts, tips, ideas, and how-tos for writing compelling copy that helps you attract your ideal clients, customers and collectors, geared especially for creative business builders, solopreneurs and other non-marketing types.

:: A new [free!] short e-course on how to write a magnetic, client-attractive website. This will be something like 7 or 8 lessons delivered over a week – 10 days or so, so you can go through it quickly, get what you need, and get it implemented on your website, pronto, to start attracting more of the kind of clients & customers you really want.

:: My first ever product – I’m not sure exactly what this will look like yet, but it will be created based on the most frequent questions I get from email subscribers and clients, + the issues and challenges you all share with me in my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session private workshop calls. It will be affordable, uber-useful for getting your website copy and marketing in tip-top shape, and FUN to read and implement!

:: And more . . . stay tuned for details! 🙂

In the meantime, if you’d like some customized-especially-for-you help with your web copy or marketing now, or in early January to start the new year off just right, check out my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session: You + Me + a One Hour Private Workshop to Address Your Most Pressing Web Copy Challenges Right Now.  It’s customized-for-you answers to your top copywriting challenges, and clear ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients.

That’s it for now.

Hope your holidays are magical and miraculous!

See you in the New Year!

Warmly,

Kimberly

What questions do you have about hiring a copywriter?

If you’ve been thinking about hiring a copywriter, but:

:: You aren’t sure if it’s a wise investment based on where you are in your business right now

:: You don’t know how the process works, or what to expect

:: You don’t know what results you can expect from getting your web copy professionally written

:: You have some money to invest in your business, but you’re weighing a few options – web design, Facebook ads, copywriting – and don’t know where to put your limited dollars to get the most bang for your buck

:: You don’t understand why copywriters charge as much as they do

Or any other questions or concerns about if/when to hire a copywriter, or the process of working with one, leave them in the comments, and I’ll include the answers in my upcoming blog post! 🙂

Some Notes on What I Read This Week: Sunday 09.18.16

On Saturday I spent nearly the entire day reading essays and articles online. In fact, at 3:00 pm, I was still sitting on my sofa drinking coffee and reading, where I’d been since 8:00 am that morning.  It was only when a friend texted me to ask how my weekend was going that I realized what time it was.

What?!?! But what better way to while away the day, I say.

I’m astounded by how much great writing is available online, for free, that you can easily access with a computer and an Internet connection.  I still much prefer to read actual books and actual newspapers, because I’m old school like that, but much of the best writing around these days doesn’t exist in those forms.

I subscribe to many, many newsletters, most of which are related to my work as a copywriter/marketer/freelance writer for hire, but my favorite newsletters are those more literary/writing/books/publishing-minded.

For example, The Lenny Letter, the weekly Longreads article round-up, and LitHub, to name three of my favorites.

It’s an embarrassment of riches, I tell you, one that I fell down the rabbit hole of for 7 hours yesterday.

Here are some of the best things I read during that reading binge:

This beautiful essay by author and co-owner of Emily Books, Emily Gould, on the financial costs of writing her first book:

How Much My Novel Cost Me 

This essay in which writer Leslie Jamison talks about her work as a “medical actor.” The word fascinating was made to describe work like this. Mesmerizing and gorgeously written.

The Empathy Exams 

From the afore-mentioned Longreads, this essay by Susannah Felts on her hometown of Nashville, and her impressions of the city’s changes during the many years she was away.

Girlhood Gone: Notes from the New Nashville 

Pretty much everything on writer Mishka Shubaly’s blog, but especially this post on his anniversary of being five years sober, where he shares honestly what it’s like to be sober after a long drinking career, saying, “Yeah, I’m sober and I have a pretty decent handle on the whole ‘not drinking’ thing, but I’m still angry and depressed and resentful and irritable and insecure and self-loathing and anti-social and neurotic and detail-obsessed and high-strung.”

Five Years Sober 

And finally, this wonderful piece I came across on Medium, by comedian and author Sara Benincasa. Very relevant for us creative types who sometimes wish we could practice our art of choice as our full-time job.

Real Artists Have Day Jobs: Your job is just your side gig. 

Happy reading!

 

 

 

On “Rejection” and Staying Loyal to Your True Goals

{FYI, the posts in this category, “A Possible Theory of Happiness,” started in August 2016, will have nothing to do with copywriting or web marketing advice. There’s lots of that kind of content in my archives and through my email list, which you can sign up for on the Free Resources page. I still offer copywriting and marketing services to creatives, which you can find out about on my Work with Me page.}

Recently as I’ve been making plans to move back to my hometown of Greensboro, NC, I’ve been thinking long and hard about getting a j-o-b once I get there.

Now that might seem a little crazy, since I’ve been happily self-employed for 5+ years now, frequently talk here on the blog about the benefits of self-employment and calling your own shots in your work life, and generally extol the virtues of not working for “the man.” And then there’s that whole pesky issue of feeling trapped like a rat in a cage when I participate in the good old-fashioned 9-5 life.

But when I think about doubling down on my writing goals, I sometimes think having a solid, reliable job, with a solid, reliable bi-weekly income, would better serve my writing goals & dreams than the self-employed lifestyle does. Something with more “regular” hours, so that I’m not working a 9-5 schedule, PLUS nights, weekends, and holidays on top of it, as I currently do.

And I think back to when I had jobs I actually loved (yes, there were a few), and how doing the 9-5 didn’t make me feel trapped or unhappy under those circumstances. How I loved having a “work family.” How I loved working together with colleagues on shared goals. And so on.

And, and this is no small thing, how comforting it can be to know how much income you’re going to earn each month, and exactly when it’s going to be coming in.  This relieves all kinds of stress that can then be spent worrying about why the writing you submit for publication continues to get rejected. (Actually? I’ve only submitted my work for publication once in my whole adult life; one of my biggest writing goals, and one of the reasons for this transition, is to get into the habit of submitting my work consistently.)

So recently I decided that I would, in fact, look for jobs in Greensboro, but that I would only consider jobs in fields I actually want to work in – things related to books, reading, publishing, magazines, newspapers, or possibly education – all things that light me up.

There would be no twisting myself into knots to create a resume or prep for an interview for a job that sounded great on paper, but that wasn’t in my wheelhouse of past experience and skills and/or in line with my passions.

So what did I do?

I created a resume and prepped for an interview – hours and hours over the course of one weekend it took me to do these things – for a job I probably had no business going out for, one that wasn’t in any way, shape or form in any of the preferred fields mentioned above.

This was a job at a recruiting company. One that got glowing reviews from a friend of a friend who works there, and L-O-V-E-S her job and her colleagues.  They are taking on new staff as they get ready to grow the company; a hometown friend had sent me the job posting. I sent a resume. I had a preliminary phone interview, then was asked to do a one-way video interview.

A few days after that, I got the obligatory euphemistic email saying that while my experience was “notable,” they’ve “elected to pursue other candidates,” AKA, “you’re not at all the kind of candidate we’re looking for, and by the way, your fears about looking terrible on video are actually true – you do look terrible on video. In fact, your very large forehead terrifies us.”

I was disappointed. I felt deflated. Sad, even. If offered the job, I would have taken it, and gone out of my way to bring 110% to the table and do a kick-butt job. Because I don’t half-ass things.

The disappointment lasted for about 10 minutes. Then I reminded myself that in my heart of hearts, I knew that job wasn’t really for me. Not really and truly. I wanted it yes. If not, I wouldn’t have sent the resume, or been so excited at the prospect of the initial interview, or prepped so much for the video interview.

Still. I fully believe the saying, “Rejection is God’s protection.”

That job wasn’t for me. And in the long run, I know it’s best I didn’t get it.

So I need to ask myself, why I would put myself up for a job that’s not in line with my true goals? Why would I go back on my promise to myself – if I’m going to seek full-time work at all – to only apply for things that I’m really right for, things that will bring me joy and make use of my skills, gifts and abilities, that will also bring value to the company I’m working for and the job I’m doing for them?

Why would I choose to be disloyal to my goals that way, and not honor what I say I want?

I don’t have the answer, really, except to say that that job, if it had worked out, would have offered the stability I’m seeking right now, and that stability would have allowed me to double down on some of my other goals in a way I don’t feel fully able to do right now.

And if that’s the only reason I wanted that job (it’s not, but let’s just say it was), then that’s the wrong reason to have pursued it.

[Important Note: Whether I end up getting a job when I get back to Greensboro or not, I’m still going to be taking on copywriting and marketing clients as I always have, I’ll just have a smaller bandwidth of availability to do so. I don’t plan to give up my copywriting business, because I love it; it may just have to be a part-time thing for the foreseeable future. So if you need copywriting or web marketing help for your creative business, don’t hesitate to reach out.]

Some Things I Will Do Today to Feel Happy/Productive/Successful/Joyful/Fulfilled

{FYI, the posts in this category, “A Possible Theory of Happiness,” started in August 2016, will have nothing to do with copywriting or web marketing advice. There’s lots of that kind of content in my archives and through my email list, which you can sign up for on the Free Resources page. I still offer copywriting and marketing services to creatives, which you can find out about on my Work with Me page.}

One morning a few weeks ago, I sat down and made a list in my journal of things I was going to do that day to lift my spirits.

I’d had a few challenging weeks, and this Death by a Thousand Cuts period was well and truly stealing my joy.

But I knew if I really thought about it, there were things I could do, however small, that would help me feel more joyful and positive. Naturally, my OCD brain told me to make a list.

On this list were things like:

:: Exercise

:: Meditate

:: Call a friend

:: Get some work done

:: Watch or read something funny

As I remember, I put about 8 things on my list that day.

At the end of the day, I went back to my journal entry and checked off all the things I had done, which turned out to be 6 of the 8.

And did I feel better? Did I feel more joyful, more positive, happier?

Why yes, yes, indeed I did.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

This morning it occurred to me I wanted to do the same thing.

I’ve had the blues for a minute (and by minute, I mean a few week/months), but yesterday I felt positively giddy. I didn’t feel that way when I woke up, but by 6:00 pm, it was like I was “old Kimberly” again – feeling happy, acting goofy and silly, and looking forward to client work, my personal writing projects, and my upcoming move back to Greensboro, NC, among other things.

What caused this elation, I wondered?

I went back over my day to suss out what it could be that made me feel so joyful, and as expected, it was a combination of the “little things.”

I had taken a 20-minute walk, made progress on several client writing projects, emailed with a friend, sent a resume for a possible job in Greensboro, prayed and meditated, read for pleasure, worked on a personal writing project, and read The Onion for a few gut laughs.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Here’s my list for today (I’ll come back at the end of the day today, or sometime tomorrow, and check off what I did.):

:: Work for 6-7 hours

:: Get outside for a minimum of 20 minutes

:: Work on a personal writing project

:: Pay a bill or two

:: Meditation & Prayer

:: Begin a research doc for other Greensboro businesses/companies I want to send a resume to

:: Do something nice for someone else:  pay a compliment, send a text, make a call or send an email offering support and/or encouragement

:: Watch or read something funny

:: Clean/organize/toss stuff to get ready for move to Greensboro

:: Read for pleasure

:: Look at Greensboro apartments on craigslist

And now I’m off to knock out the things on the list!

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

P.M. Update:

It’s now 8:15 p.m., so how’d I do today?

Of the 11 things on the list, I completed the following 8. Not too shabby.

:: Work for 6-7 hours — Worked for 7.5 hours

:: Get outside for a minimum of 20 minutes — Took a 40 minute walk

:: Work on a personal writing project — Wrote this blog post, and worked on a short story in progress (any writing outside of client writing projects “counts”)

:: Pay a bill or two — Made a credit card payment

:: Meditation & Prayer — Both done

:: Watch or read something funny — Actually haven’t done this yet, but it’s only 8:15 pm, so I know I will before the night is over

:: Read for pleasure — Done. Read a short story in The New Yorker by Curtis Sittenfeld; plus a few articles on The Millions, Publisher’s Weekly and Lit Hub.

:: Look at Greensboro apartments on craigslist — Done!

Feelin’ good. Now it’s Miller time. Or in my case, Newcastle Brown Ale time.

Happy Trails, fellow happiness seekers! 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

If you want to keep up with this series of blog posts, A Possible Theory of Happiness, feel free to sign up for “The Note,” an occasional newsletter on topics not related to copywriting and marketing. I’ll send updates related to this series there.

 

 

“Damned is the Man Who Abandons Himself”

{FYI, the posts in this category, “A Possible Theory of Happiness,” started in August 2016, will have nothing to do with copywriting or web marketing advice. There’s lots of that kind of content in my archives and through my email list, which you can sign up for on the Free Resources page. I still offer copywriting and marketing services to creatives, which you can find out about on my Work with Me page.}

I first saw this SuperSoul Short, called “The Conditioned,” on Sunday 08.14.16, and watched it again half a dozen times over the next few days. I can’t get it out of my mind or my heart.

It’s the story of a poet, Raimundo, who lived on the streets of Brazil for over 30 years, and still managed to write every day.

Can you imagine? Being homeless, and still writing every day.

Most of us don’t have anything near that kind of obstacle to creating our art or doing our beloved work. And yet many of us make a mountain of excuses for why we can’t create, or improve our craft, or do the thing that brings us the most alive. I have made these same excuses myself, many, many times, I’m ashamed to say.

This is one of Raimundo’s poems:

“Damned is the man who abandons himself.” Those six words show that the worse the situation is, never, ever should a man consider it lost.

I hope you’ll watch this video. Raimundo’s story is a beautiful testament the power of art and its ability to nourish the human spirit, even in the most despairing of circumstances.

And there’s a very happy ending to Raimundo’s story. Check out the video to find out what it is.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

If you want to keep up with this series of blog posts, A Possible Theory of Happiness, feel free to sign up for “The Note,” an occasional newsletter on topics not related to copywriting and marketing. I’ll send updates related to this series there.

 

 

5 Reasons I’m Looking Forward to Moving Back to Greensboro, NC

Moving to Greensboro, NC

{FYI, the posts in this category, “A Possible Theory of Happiness,” started in August 2016, will have nothing to do with copywriting or web marketing advice. There’s lots of that kind of content in my archives and through my email list, which you can sign up for on the Free Resources page. Yes, I still offer copywriting and marketing services to creatives, which you can find out about on my Work with Me page.}

At the end of October, I’ll be moving back to what I consider my “hometown,” Greensboro, NC. Greensboro is where I lived and worked for a number of years before moving down to the coast, where I am now.

This decision comes after much thinking, ruminating, list-making, pros & cons weighing, daily journaling, and many, many weepy hours trying to figure out what it’s going to take to make me feel happy again.

Although this is the right decision for a few reasons, I still feel torn, because I adore Wilmington. If it’s possible to be in love with a town the way you can be in love with a person, then I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Wilmington, North Carolina.  And I am positively crazy about living on the coast, and being able to go to the beach whenever I please.

But.

I miss my family and friends in and around Greensboro, I feel disconnected and alone here much of the time, and my life in Wilmington has fallen into a pitiful routine of work and . . .  well, not much else, to tell you the truth. It’s mostly work. Sad!!, as Donald Trump might say.

I desperately need a change, the kind that will yank me out of this fog I’ve been wandering around in for months.

Journaling Saves the Day

I’ve always kept a journal, but when this blueness descended a while back, I started journaling like a madwoman. Every day, first thing in the morning, I write 5, 10, sometimes 15 pages in my journal.

It’s through that process that I came to the decision that moving back to Greensboro is exactly the right thing to do, right now.

Now, I realize I could make changes to the way I’m operating my life in Wilmington and remain here. But I don’t think that’s going to get the job done on the alleviating-the-fog-&-sadness front.

I want a fresh start. I want to live where I have a more robust support network.  I want to live in a place with more freelance work and employment opportunities. I want to live in a city with great bookstores, an alt-weekly I can’t wait to read each week, and an active writer’s community.

That last one is uber-important — I want to live in a place that offers more support for writers and opportunities to work on the craft of writing.

Greensboro is that place.

As I wrote here, I want to rearrange my life to prioritize the writing that is closest to my heart. Meaning, the writing I do outside of the client work I do as a freelance marketing copywriter during the hours of 9:00 — 6:00, Monday – Friday.

My promise to myself is that once I’m in Greensboro and settled in, I’m going to double down on that “other” writing, and become involved in the writer’s community in my newly adopted city.

At first it felt like leaving Wilmington was admitting to some kind of defeat, but now I’m excited. Eager. Ready. Feeling impatient to start my life over in Greensboro.

Here are a few of the reasons I can’t wait to get back to my hometown.

5 Reasons I’m Looking Forward to Moving Back to Greensboro, NC

#1: A more robust support network of family and friends. My brother and his wife, and my sister live about 30 minutes outside of Greensboro, and I can’t wait to be able to visit with them on the regular. My dearest friend of over 30 years lives in Winston-Salem, which is a little over 30 minutes from Greensboro. Several other long-time friends I adore live in Greensboro.

#2: More opportunities. Wilmington’s population is 113,657, while Greensboro’s is 279, 639. And there’s the added benefit of Greensboro’s proximity to two other cities, High Point and Winston-Salem. So there are more opportunities of all kinds in GSO — for work, for play, for cultural activities, for getting involved in the community, and so on.

Speaking of work, as a freelance marketing copywriter and web marketing strategist, I have the freedom to make my own schedule and take on only the kind of clients & projects I’m most interested in. In fact, my project schedule is full at the moment, and I’m booked out for the next couple of months.

That said, once I get back to Greensboro, I want to explore other opportunities, maybe even full-time work. Or I may continue to do the freelance work I’m doing now, and take a part-time job doing something I love. Working in a bookstore strikes me as the perfect plan if I end up going that route, or maybe helping a beloved bookstore with their web and/or email marketing.

#3: Scuppernong Books. There’s nothing I love more than a good independent bookstore. I noticed many of my Greensboro friends “liked” Scuppernong Books, located in downtown Greensboro, on Facebook, and when I checked out their website and their Facebook page, I can see why. After watching the NC Weekend segment about the store, I’m officially in love. I have now been stalking Scuppernong Books on Facebook for two months.

It’s going to be one of my first stops and regular hang-out spots when I get back to town.  Their events calendar is a book lover’s dream — readings and other literary-oriented happenings take place most days of the month (and it looks like lots of community-oriented happenings as well). And there’s a café, with wine and beer! Just try to keep me away. 🙂

#4: Writer’s Group of the Triad. I’ve been searching high and low in Wilmington for over two years for a local writer’s group that meets in person, with no luck. Though I’m involved in two online writer’s groups, I want to meet with other writers face to face, to be part of an active and supportive writer’s community that meets regularly. Writer’s Group of the Triad in Greensboro is this group — exactly what I’ve been looking for, and sorely lacking, in my writing life. Not only does WGOT meet regularly, they offer 10 different critique groups, based on genre. My writer’s heart swoons. There’s a critique group for memoir writers, mystery writers, novelists, short story writers, children’s lit writers and more. So.very.excited. about this resource!

#5: Triad City Beat. I’ve also been stalking Triad City Beat on Facebook for the last couple of months. Triad City Beat is an alt-weekly covering food, music and the arts in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point. They “unapologetically focus on the cities, and won’t shrink from defending LGBT rights, racial justice and an urban sensibility. We carry the flag for no party or faction, and fiercely defend our editorial independence.”

Now that is my kind of publication. I’m thrilled I’ll be able to pick it up each week and read it cover to cover. For now I’m reading it online.

Some of my favorite recent pieces:

Barstool: A three-hour tour (of booze) 

Vacant: Behind the empty storefronts on South Elm’s 300 block 

Look, mom: I’m finally learning how to cook 

That’s the short list. There are obviously other compelling reasons I’m looking forward to moving back to GSO, but these are a few of the strongest. It’s the little things that aren’t really so little — a great independent bookstore, a respected alt-weekly, resources for writers — that make Greensboro so attractive to me.

*Special Note: I’ll be back in GSO by the end of October and will be looking for part-time employment opportunities for sure (and maybe full-time employment opportunities). If your business/weekly publication/bookstore/restaurant group/magazine/publishing house could use a skilled marketing person/copywriter/web marketing strategist, let’s talk! My email address is: kimberly.houston@gmail.com.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

If you want to keep up with this series of blog posts, A Possible Theory of Happiness, feel free to sign up for “The Note,” an occasional newsletter on topics not related to copywriting and marketing. I’ll send updates related to this series there.

 

 

On Reading Memoirs to Save My Sanity {+ some notes on Resistance}

Reading Memoirs to Save My Sanity

 

{FYI, the posts in this category, “A Possible Theory of Happiness,” started in August 2016, will have nothing to do with copywriting or web marketing advice. There’s lots of that kind of content in my archives and through my email list, which you can sign up for on the Free Resources page. Yes, I still offer copywriting and marketing services to creatives, which you can find out about on my Work with Me page.}

Lately I’ve been reading books at a fast and furious pace. Eleven in the last 6 weeks to be exact. It’s as if any day now, I expect the book police to come kick down the door and take my literary drug away, so I must read as much as I possibly can, while I can, feverishly, without stopping.

I’m not reading any of these books for the first time, though. Each of the eleven I’ve recently devoured are favorites I’ve read before, some of them multiple times.

These books are memoirs. Or mostly, anyway. I can’t get enough of them. My bookshelves are absolutely lousy with memoirs.

I love them. And for that I am not ashamed. Though some may dismiss memoir as a lesser literary form, or perhaps not literary at at all, I think they make for the best way to spend a few quality reading hours.

My recent reading list:

The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr

Lit, Mary Karr

Dry, Augusten Burroughs

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, Sarah Hepola

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, Kim Severson

Growing Into Grace, Mastin Kipp

Paris Letters: One woman’s journey from the fast lane to a slow stroll in Paris, Janice MacLeod

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, Gretchen Rubin

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro

As I’ve been dealing with this sadness, anxiety and depression-lite, or whatever-the-heck-this-is that’s overtaken me in the last few weeks (months?), I find that reading about other people’s struggles makes me feel better, less alone, like I might actually be fairly “normal,” in the scheme of things.

Reading memoirs is the way I self-medicate.

And when I read about challenges so very much worse than my own, I think, “Well now, I don’t have it so bad.”

But therein lies the problem, see. Because sometimes when I read memoirs that describe circumstances that are objectively worse than mine, I actually think, “I’d trade my problems for yours.”

Though would I, really?

Envy

Interestingly, seven of the authors mentioned above were in the throes of alcohol and/or drug addiction at some point in their journey, which they write about eloquently in their books.

Would I rather have that to deal with?

No.

But I do envy many of these authors their close family and friend connections, their community of readers, their careers, their successes.

This envy is benign. It is not jealousy. I’m thrilled my favorite writers have been rewarded, that their contributions have been recognized, and that they have enjoyed financial and career success.

I think this envy is instructive. Envy can point you where you want to go, it can be a light on the path telling you what it is you most want, galvanizing you to pursue that thing.

I believe, as author Danielle LaPorte says, that “By observing our envy, we shine a light on our true desires,” and “Envy is often a call to action.”

Self-Medication, the Harmless Way

The other way I self-medicate is by binge-watching and/or listening to and/or reading interviews with my favorite authors.

This past Saturday, for example, I read at least a dozen interviews online with Elizabeth Gilbert, then watched 3 lengthy video interviews with her. Same with Ann Patchett. Ditto Cheryl Strayed. And David Sedaris.

I guess that explains how an entire Saturday can pass into the ether with nary a “productive” thing scratched off my to-do list for the day.

It occurs to me that thing I say I want to do, write and submit,  write and submit, write and submit, could easily be accomplished in the time I spend consuming other people’s work, and interviews in which other people talk about their work.

But it’s a balance, right? Because as a writer you must read, read, read, and read some more. And that is an assignment I eagerly embrace.

And reading about creatives in your field doing work you admire can help fuel your own dreams, and motivate and inspire you to take action.

That said, there’s a time to do your own work.

TO DO YOUR OWN WORK.

Resistance

The truth is, when it comes to doing my own work, I’ve been slogging through a terrible, almost debilitating, bout of resistance the last few . . . hmm, I want to say weeks, but honestly, it’s actually been months, maybe even longer.

Though Steven Pressfield’s work on resistance has saved me from labeling myself a complete loser due to this crappy state of affairs, some self-loathing remains.

Just yesterday I dipped back into his book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, to remind myself that fear and resistance can be viewed positively.

From page 40, Resistance and Fear:

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance. ~Steven Pressfield

Here, in a piece called “Resistance and Self-Loathing” from Pressfield’s blog, he makes the case that self-loathing is a good thing.

He says the mistake we make when we listen to the voice of self-loathing is that, “We misperceive a force that is universal and impersonal and instead see it as individual and personal. That voice in our heads is not us. It is Resistance.”

Then he shares the good news:

Now to the good news about self-loathing.

Self-loathing, we have said, is a form of Resistance. The apparition of Resistance is by definition a good sign, because Resistance never appears except when preceded by a Dream. By “dream” I mean a creative vision of something original and worthy that you or I might do or produce—a movie, a painting, a new business, a charitable venture, an act of personal or political integrity and generosity.

The dream arises in our psyche (even if we deny it, even if we fail to or refuse to recognize it) like a tree ascending into the sunshine. Simultaneously the dream’s shadow appears—i.e., Resistance—just as a physical tree casts a physical shadow.

That’s a law of nature.

Where there is a Dream, there is Resistance.

Thus: where we encounter Resistance, somewhere nearby is a Dream.

I take comfort in that: Where there is a Dream, there is Resistance.

And the way forward is to simply do the work. To behave like a professional rather than an amateur.

Because, as Pressfield says, “Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro.”

And all those memoirs I so dearly love? They didn’t write themselves. They were the work of professionals, not amateurs.

Someone pulled up to the desk everyday and did the work. They wrote. Even when the work was difficult, the going tough, the enterprise challenging.

Even on days when the last thing the writer felt like doing was excavate part of their painful past to get it down on the page.

This morning when I woke at 6:30 a.m., I re-read almost the entirety of The War of Art before starting my work day. It’s what got me fired up to work on this blog post today — to actually finish it and publish it to the blog.

God willing, the same thing will happen tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next, until the writing habit replaces the resistance habit.

If you’re a creative of any kind, whether a writer, a painter, a designer, a business-builder, or anyone with any kind of project you’re struggling to work on or to complete, I cannot recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art highly enough.

Speed-read it some morning soon while you’re enjoying your morning beverage, and see if it doesn’t kick your buns to do the work you know you were meant to do.

If you want to keep up with this series of blog posts, A Possible Theory of Happiness, feel free to sign up forThe Note,” an occasional newsletter on topics not related to copywriting and marketing. I’ll send updates related to this series there.

 

A Possible Theory of Happiness

{FYI, the posts in this category, “A Possible Theory of Happiness,” started in August 2016, will have nothing to do with copywriting or web marketing advice. There’s lots of that kind of content in my archives and through my email list, which you can sign up for on the Free Resources page. Yes, I still offer copywriting and marketing services to creatives, which you can find out about on my Work with Me page.}

It’s midnight on a night in early July. I’m sitting on my sofa, crying. All day I’ve been anxious and weepy. Trying desperately to “buck up” and feel better.  Despite trying to talk myself into even the tiniest sliver of light & joy, no damn respite comes.

If I’m honest, some form of this sadness and anxiety has been hanging around for weeks, if not months.

What’s going through my mind this night are all the ways my life seems to be breaking down lately: computer breakdowns, car breakdowns, health issues, financial concerns, work concerns, a big, black brick of loneliness that weighs on me night and day, the sense of being disconnected from a supportive community, and fiercely missing my family and friends who live 4 hours away, among other things.

Now late on this Friday night, in my desperation, I google, “Bible verses related to ‘Love heals all wounds’” on my iPhone. I’m not sure why that search term.  I only know I need to read something to make me feel better, and that’s what came to mind.

I read many verses, copying the ones that feel the most meaningful and helpful into my journal:

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal.”

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.”

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Then I stop short and breathe deep when I come across this verse:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Writing, but not writing

In all the challenges I’m facing at the moment, that beautiful line sums up one that feels like it could be the most significant: I’m not writing what I want to be writing.

I am writing, lots: client website copy, client blog posts, client press releases, client brochures, client articles, client social media content, and so on.

I enjoy this work, this work is how I make my living, and I feel happy and blessed to get to do it. I adore my clients, and the writing projects they entrust to me. In no way, shape, or form do I want to give up this work.

However.

I’m not working on my own writing. The essays and articles I want to write, but start and don’t finish; the book I want to write, the one I’ve started and abandoned, many, many times. The pages and pages of notes in my little blue writer’s notebook with ideas for still more essays and books. As yet unwritten.

It’s all a big, inert mass of words scratched down, ideas unexplored. Nothing is actually happening with any of it.

I feel unable to move forward with these personal writing projects. I know about the resistance monster Stephen Pressfield speaks of and it is real. But what is stopping me?

Really, what is stopping me?

I could work on my personal writing — as a self-employed freelance writer, I could easily carve out space in my schedule to do so. I have very few of the distractions some of my other writer friends have. I don’t have loads of obligations outside the home that keep me from writing. I’m blessed in that way.

I think of the people I know in an online writer’s group I belong to, and the published authors I’ve read about over the years, these folks who have demanding full-time jobs, kids to look after, elderly parents to care for, and many, many competing obligations on their time, and I yet see that they carve out time to write. Even if it means getting up at 4:00 or 5:00 am, or working late into the night after the rest of the household is asleep.

I don’t know why I can’t do this.

But as nutty as this will sound to some people, I believe that the death by a thousand cuts that my life has become over the last few months, including the some of the health stuff, is directly related to this inability to pursue the writing I want to pursue, to truly commit to the writer’s path I’ve been dreaming of for years.

That dream consists of writing what I want to write, and submitting that work. Which I’m sorry to say I’ve never done. Oh wait, there was that one time, a couple of years ago. (Rejection ensued.) But other than writing guest articles for other websites to promote my copywriting business, that’s it.

In January 2016 when I was planning out my work and personal projects for the year, I said to myself, beginning in 3rd quarter, I will write & submit, write & submit, write & submit. That will be my big creative project beginning in the fall and through the end of the year.

I promised myself that by the end of this year, I would submit an article or essay to 5-7 publications. Not that I would actually get published, because I can’t control that, but that I would submit.

I still have time to make to this happen.

“Your body cannot be bulshitted”

I recently listened to the latest episode of Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons, in which she helps a writer who is doing important work that matters in the world, work useful, and good, and necessary (Holocaust research and writing a dissertation on the topic), but is not the work she really wants to be doing. What this writer really wants to be doing is writing comedy.

She tells Gilbert that in the midst of working on her dissertation, her hair started falling out, she she got very ill, and even ended up in the hospital.

Gilbert tells her something along the lines of, “Your body cannot be bulshitted. It’s spitting up toxins and saying, ‘I’m not having it.’ If your mind and body are breaking down, you’re not where you’re supposed to be. Do the work that brings you light and illuminates you, and that’s how you’ll serve the world.”

Hmm.

I’m also reminded of what Lissa Rankin says in her book, Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself: that in order to live a vital life and be optimally healthy, and even prevent disease, among the factors that need to be in place are “a healthy, fully expressed creative life that allows your soul to sing its song.”

In which I hatch a plan

I’ve asked myself this question dozens of times over the last few weeks: can rearranging my life to prioritize my personal writing heal the sadness, anxiety, and malaise I feel, while also resolving the physical health issues?

And what would “rearranging my life to prioritize my personal writing” even look like?

I know that whatever’s involved, I need a change. A big change.

I need a new environment where I can start over and focus on my priorities, instead of paying attention to the current devil chatter that never stops whispering some iteration of,  “I’m trying to run my copywriting business, I don’t have time for the personal writing right now. Once my business becomes more solid, then I can focus on the other writing.”

And so I’ve decided to move from my beloved Wilmington, NC, back to Greensboro, NC, where my family is, and where I have a deeper bench of long-time friends, when my lease is up here in October 2016.

And when I get there, I will double down on my writing goals and dreams.  I’ll be sharing what that looks like here in the “Possible Theory of Happiness” category on the blog, so feel free to check back here if that interests you.

There are also many other changes I intend to make when I get to Greensboro and get settled; I’ve got a long list going. And of course I’ll be sharing those things here too, as I make progress.

If you want to keep up with this series, feel free to sign up for “The Note,” an occasional newsletter on topics not related to copywriting and marketing. I’ll send updates about this journey/process there.