I’m currently reading a book I first found in the Chicago Public Library about a year ago. It’s called Mastering Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. Thus far, it is an excellent book full of helpful, easy-to-understand information and tips on making my business the most successful it can be. Here’s a quote I’d like to share from the book:

Excellence isn’t as much a goal as a process.

This is wonderful stuff. The philosophy of constantly training throughout one’s career agrees with this credo. Success is not a destination. Reaching excellence, to me, feels more like the beginning of a downfall than it does the zenith of my career. The sky’s the limit.

“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”
–Lily Tomlin
Miz Tomlin’s right–we have to learn to be specific with our goals so that we know when we attain them. If we simply strive for “success” or “greatness” or a higher status, when will we know we’ve reached it? What quantifies success? If you don’t record somewhere that being successful in your ventures is quantified by “working for Disney” or “turning down jobs because you’re so busy” or “my advice being sought by people I’ve never met”, then you’ll forever be an ambler, wandering through life, searching for something that isn’t tangible.
Have you laid out a business plan? Do you have your ideas on paper? What’s your system?

On my move up to Chicago last week, we came across a gem (in the least beautiful and least glamorous meaning of the word “gem”) in the Midwest: Jassy’s Gas Station and Convenience Mart.

Outside the eclectic town of Columbus, Indiana, at the ripped-up exit from I-65, lies a gas station and convenience mart by the name of Jassy’s. Inside Jassy’s, you will first notice a woman smoking a cigarette, and you’ll subsequently wonder what decade this is. Two dinner plate-sized ashtrays atop fake wood folding tables suggest this is not uncommon. The women’s bathroom, which you’d like so badly to pee in, is in use, so you go into the men’s. As you sit down on the toilet, you notice the “intimate personals” coin-operated dispenser on the opposite wall has something a little unusual. Next to the flavored condoms and the ribbed rubbers is: Horny Goat Weed. Yes. Horny Goat Weed, that supplement sold in natural grocery stores for libido, has made it into the armpit of America’s gas station (to enhance your “drive!”). As you leave Jassy’s mart, you notice countless items on the shelves (chip dip, e.g.) that are about to go out of date (how long have those been there?), and a jerky buffet. Yes, in fact, a jerky buffet: complete with four varieties of dried meat, a “use the tongs” sign, and several silica “Stay Fresh” packets littered throughout. Back outside Jassy’s, you want to get gas, but decide on another pump because there’s puke at Number 3. Jassy’s: home of the jerky buffet and Walter’s live bait.

These days, “green” is seriously on trend. From house cleaners to toilet paper, you can gain street cred if you buy products that don’t deforest the Amazon or put pollutants into the world’s water supply. You’re eligible for more cool factor if you carpool or bring your own bags to the store. Energy efficiency is a big topic in the green world these days, from dishwashers to light bulbs, for our purchases and how we use them. But what about our own energy? What about the energy that we produce? I’m talking about the energy that powers our brains, our hearts, our legs and arms, the energy that gets us out of bed in the morning, the energy that we run, jump and play with, that we file papers and search for jobs with. Yes, in the national conversation, energy efficiency is a big topic. But have we taken it beyond its context?

This conversation first began in my head as a bike rider. I realized it wasn’t as efficient as a biker to ride as if I was driving a car. Drivers can start, stop, and accelerate as they please; the physical exertion for each is virtually indistinguishable. As a biker, however, I began noticing inclines and declines where, in a car, I had never noticed them before; and coming to a complete stop on my bike at a stop sign is much more physically demanding than you might think. The traffic laws are based on a car’s world, and the bikers are just living in it.

This conversation was continued when I worked at a busy French bakery. I was schooled on constantly keeping my “to do” list on-brain so that, for example, I wasn’t just going into the kitchen to drop off dishes, but also to grab more silverware, give the manager a message, get milk out of the cooler, and grab a new rag. In a two-story cafe where I had the run of the place, personal energy efficiency was precious (though the calf muscle I gained from all those stairs was enviable).

We discount our personal energy because we don’t have to pay for it directly like we do gas or electricity. But we do pay for it, every day. Most obviously, we pay for it in groceries, but we also add to and deduct from it through our activities and actions. Sleep is often undervalued. In an age where we as humans are working and competing with computers, who work around the clock, sleep doesn’t seem as important when our “peers” require none. Aside from our primary sources of energy (sleeping and eating), there are restorative practices (for example, meditation, yoga, reading, and puzzling (crosswords, etc.) that can do a lot to recharge our batteries. Even more discounted, though, than those activities that restore our energy are those that deplete it. Here, I mean stress, mostly. This is an era of unbelievable stress. Did you know that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had a 14-hour work week (figuratively speaking) and the rest was spent in leisure? Stress as a concept was practically nonexistent. Humans weren’t meant to function with so many deadlines and on such tight schedules. As before, we are competing with computers, which were made to multitask. It’s a lot we’re contending with.

There’s a disconnect between our lives and our bodies. There’s so much we’re trying to accomplish, and expectations we’re faced with, that we’re just trying to stay afloat. We get lost and can no longer feel how frazzled and depleted we are. If we bring the principles we assign to home appliances into our lives we will have much clearer brains and be able to function so much better in this world of competition. In the end, we are not computers or robots, but that is the reality of the situation, so the best we can do is optimize our “software” to best work alongside these machines of near-perfection.

What are your thoughts on personal energy efficiency? Are you efficient with your time? Do you stress out like I do about everything that needs to be done and end up not doing any of it because you’re so stressed out? What are the ways in which you cope or optimize yourself?

My website mysteriously began having problems a few weeks ago. First, I wasn’t able to access it from my computer. Then, pages began disappearing. I wasn’t able to access my host’s website, either. Now, the website is completely unavailable. That is why I have switched to a WordPress-hosted site, as least for now. I will be posting a review of my time with DreamHost. I’m just glad to be back on the ‘net!

Good morning (as it is indeed still morning at the time of writing this) and happy new year! I am sitting on the train, travelling from Midway Airport to my apartment via the Roosevelt stop in the Loop (that’s one transfer and 75 minutes of travel at least. When you consider how heavy my bag is, it’s bound to be more).

Welcome to 2010. The new year is bright and shiny, and, though the “new decade” is a misnomer, I like the fact that we’re out of the Aughties and into concisely-named years like “twenty-ten” (though “twenty-eleven” could use some work).

I’d like to thank 2009. It was a good year full of many ups and downs. I keep hearing how different people interpret the journey of  life–whether it’s God, karma, “things happen for a reason”, fate and destiny. I’ve thought about all those things a lot and applied them all to my life at some point or another like a printed overlay. The conclusion I’ve come to is that I don’t believe any of it. The thought that one great idea rules everything makes absolutely no sense to me. I can’t justify the occurrences of my life by attributing them to a higher being or by trusting the positive and negative energies of the universe. I don’t believe any of it, and I’ve realized I’m okay with that. I don’t know if I’m at a peak in my life or if I’m just starting the climb, but I don’t care. It doesn’t make me live my life any differently one way or the other. A life line isn’t composed of graceful curves, rises and descents; it’s more like what a three-year-old would scrawl on the wallpaper with a crayon.

As I flew into Chicago, I briefly thought something was wrong with my vision. Snow (nature’s “Wite Out”), combined with industrialization created a two-tone cityscape. A tiny percentage of snow on the ground is actually left over from the first snow in October. I’m trying to come at this season from an intelligent angle: I’ve been actively weather training, and I’ve been setting my expectations for the weather pretty low. I can’t say I’ve been disappointed yet, but the winter has only just begun. Today was the first time the cold hurt–not the wind, there was no wind–so I’m a little concerned. I’m determined to beat this.

Anyway, I’m back in Chicago and classes start the 4th. Welcome to 2010!

I thought this word was great. It means an ordinary person of no consequence.

Thanks to Frances, I am now addicted to the game, Word Bubbles. There are three rounds to each game. Each round, you are given three letters and then you must think of words that begin with those three letters. It’s a lot of fun! The whole website is pretty cool, actually.

I’ve really missed blogging. But I’m in hiding. That’s why I haven’t been around. I have been avoiding people of the ‘net because I want them to forget I exist. Unfortunately, that hasn’t succeeded because they keep asking me for more.

In order to get away from the ‘net people, I made a new blog as I am sure you’ve gathered. I spent a great part of my day collecting beautiful words trying to find a nice title for this blog. The word “gambol” is one that I really think describes me:

[courtesy of the dictionary on my Mac]

gambol \GAM-buhl\, intransitive verb:

1. To dance and skip about in play; to frolic.
2. A skipping or leaping about in frolic.

I came across some other wonders that I think I shall endeavor to share with you. Anyway, I started writing this two days ago and, though it is not the post I had hoped to write, I’m going to post it anyway so I can bloody get started!