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2012: The Year the World Began on the Keithen Calendar

Some people still think the world will end this year. December 21st to be precise. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But let's assume that it will. Let's assume that this year is our last year on Earth and we have 348 days to make the most of it.

With that in mind, I'm going to try and make the most of this year and start doing all the things I've been putting off. This isn't really a Bucket List. It's closer to that scene in Fight Club when they're in the car and Tyler's asking the monkeys in the backseat what they wish they had done if they died right then. That's why I'm talking about, The "What If I Die in 342 Days, What Will I Wish I Had Done" List.

I'll finish this albatrose book and publish it, just like I did with Not My Problem. I'll write another book. I'll write a couple books maybe. I'll start a podcast, maybe a couple. I'll setup my website. I'll do all the stuff that I've been putting off because of a deep-seeded fear of failure.

What's worse than failure though, is never trying. I've told that too people before, but I should really start practicing what I preach. What's the worst thing that happens? Nothing I do works out, I go into debt and then the world ends. The penultimate worst thing is that nothing works out, I go into debt, I move in with my parents again, and start 2013 working at KMart. Neither seems that far from where I'm at right now.

Anything that puts me further ahead than where I am now, or brings more joy into my life, is a step in the right direction. In 2012, everyone should try and do that. There might not be a next year to put it off til.

Don't think of it as a New Year Resolution, most people don't follow those.


Motivation, Inspiration and… that third thing…

Last week, someone got me started thinking about motivation. I’ve never been easy to motivate. I’ll motivate myself, but even then it’s tricky. What motivates me? I’m still not sure. Grades never motivated me growing up. I got mostly good grades because I’m smart and I found a lot of things easy to get good grades in. That’s not to say that I found the actual subject matter easy. Too often the subject is complex, while the test is easy.

When I was in high school, I didn’t find the need for a good school to be motivating. I really didn’t think I wanted to go to Harvard or Yale. I met the kids that wanted to go there and they didn’t seem like my kind of people. After seeing The Social Network, I still think I’m right. I didn’t do a lot of extra-curricular activities in high school to get into a good school, I didn’t do much of anything after school, because nothing the schools had really interested me.

Interest is a big motivator for me. That’s probably higher on the list than money. If something doesn’t interest me, then what’s the point of dealing with it? Why would I work so hard on something that doesn’t stimulate me? That seems like a waste of my time and anyone else’s that’s involved. But there’s more to it than that. Most of what surrounds us in this world is the act of creation. Whether it’s actually creating something like this sentence, or creating a PowerPoint presentation, or creating the need for someone to buy a product, most of what we do in this world is create. And what do we need for creation besides motivation to get us started?

Inspiration. It’s what drives our creativity after we get involved in a project. It keeps the thing from dying on the table and for me it’s probably the biggest motivator there is. Interest will help me start a lot of things, but inspiration is the only thing that will get me to finish any of it. If it feels like work, I don’t want to do it, but if I’m inspired to keep going, then I’ll finish it. If I know where the story is going or that I’m on the right path approaching the end when everything will fit together in a perfectly formed puzzle, then I’ll just keep plowing on to finish the thing.

Especially if it’s writing. I fucking love writing. I’m constantly scribbling notes, or coming up with ideas and phrases that never make it to the page. (I shudder to think about all the things my mind has lost to distractions.) It’s because I’m passionate about writing, about creating stories and tales, about creating a history of things in one world, so that it makes sense in ours. For years, I tried to figure out where this passion came from. Sure my parents tried to get me interested in books. My mom tried the hardest. My dad was never a big book reader, but he’s a fantastic storyteller. He has a story for almost every occasion and he can tell you just the right about of detail. He does it in such a way that you can’t help but lean a little bit closer to him as he talks. I don’t think he consciously thinks about his delivery, but it’s his natural talent. His storytelling merging with my mom’s love of the written word, can’t help but create an child who has a passion for storytelling through the written word.

Well, maybe it can. I suppose I could have been a more rebellious child and hated both stories and books. But then where would any of us be?

My point is this: Passion is something you’re born with. It’s hardwired in your brain. You may not know right away what your passions are, but they’re in there. The second you stumble upon them in life, the fire will be sparked and everything else will fall into place.

I had someone ask me how they could light the fire in a group of people and make them passionate about their work. I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t. I’m beginning to think there isn’t one because no one else in the group had a real answer. If I had to answer, I’d say that you can’t. Passion is something you’re born with, not something you can teach. I’m not even sure you can’t inspire people. You can try, but it might not work. The most you can do is motivate people and hope that a small piece of it will inspire them. You can hope they will have the passion for a project, but they probably won’t. The most you can do is motivate them. Unless it’s me. In that case, good luck with that.

I Work Hard, But Not How They Want

Whatever happened to the idea of a meritocracy? We are raised to think that our hardwork will get us somewhere. In high school, they want us to get the best grades so we can get into a good school. If we do extra acitivities, that helps even more. In college, if we work hard and get good grades, that'll help us get to a good internship and a good job. But once we get that job, what happens then? Do the promotions go to the people with the best performance? No. Do the promotions go to the hardest workers, the people that put the greater good in front of themselves? No, it doesn't go to them either.

Sadly, it seems in the business world, that the promotions and the benefits go to those who are the biggest ass-kissers. The promotions go to the biggest liars, the biggest sneaks, the people that spend their time searching for gold in the dark crevices of the higher-ups. They laugh at the terrible jokes of the managers and they spend time relating to them and developing these wonderful inside jokes. They never actually do any real work and the work that they do is handpicked by them to involve the least effort with the best rewards. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to get by with honest hardwork because that's what we were raised to think will get us head in this world.

Maybe one day this hardwork will actually pay off. And maybe I'm not realizing how hard it is to suck up to people that you think are beneath you. The fact is though, that the Real World is only a meritocracy if you change the meaning of merit to mean: a deed of brown-nosing.

What've I Been Up To...

I find I'm awful at blogging and Twitter when there's a lot going on outside of the computer. I suppose that's a good thing -- I'm not totally reliant on my computer. I did have the opportunity to test that out and was without my computer for about a week in there. A few Sundays ago, I was using my laptop (MacBook Pro) and after looking up whatever I was checking, I closed it and set it on the coffee table. An hour later, my girlfriend went to use it and it wouldn't boot up. Turns out the logic board (still not entirely sure what that is) went on it and I had to take it to an Apple Store in Pittsburgh to get it repaired. Cost me a few hundred bucks and it took about a week for me to get it back.

I've also been working on editing my first novel, Work in Progress. I've gone through several edits already, but still manage to find a lot more to things to tweek. I'm hoping it'll be released on the Kindle Market soon for anyone reading this or my Twitter feed. I've also been trying to put together more short stories and start work on my second novel.

None of that being easy when I've been working overtime at my job. I won't say what it is, but it's in Sales in retail, so the hours are long and I need to make sure I hit my numbers.

And then there's the fact that it's fall and there's great new television starting. Not to mention, that I've recently discovered I've been getting HBO and Starz for free, so TiVo is not only full of shows, but movies I want to have the time to finish at some point. And then there's the old television I want to catch up on, like my continuing commentary track of Battlestar Galactica, or my hope that one day I'll actually be able to find out why so many love Doctor Who.

But all that will come in time. I find that I have too many interests and too many things I want to experience. I'm torn between going outside and exploring the world, staying in with a good book, staying in work, or spending the evening with my girlfriend catching up on our TV.

There'll be more blogs to come, hopefully soon. There will be updates on my novel in the next month. There will be commentary on movies and TV soon too. Maybe I'll even keep up with Twitter again. Maybe.

Where Shit Gets Real...

I know 26 isn't old. I know this fact. Five hundred or a thousand years ago, sure it was a lifetime. But today, I'm planning to be around for another sixty years. But I can't help, having just celebrated my birthday, that I'm old. I feel slightly past my prime and feel like my best days are behind me.

I realized the other day that I graduated high school 8 years ago. I graduated college 4 years ago. Still, not that long of a time, but when I was younger I was idealistic. I expected great things to be happening in my life by this point. I expected that by this point I would have things figured out. That life's great mysteries would have unraveled like the yellow brick road in front of me and all I would have to do is stroll through life enjoying the people around me and admiring the scenery. But I suppose I should have paid more attention to the movie and the parts with flying monkeys.

It doesn't help that my boss is the same age as me. Or that my friends are settling down and getting married. It doesn't help that people younger than me seem to have already figured out what they want to do and where they want to be. Nor does it help that the big bang of graduation has scattered my friends across the country. Or that people younger (even by just a couple years) find it easier to go out and party and drink the way I used to. I'm more inclined to feel like crap the next day if I try to do that, or would much prefer drinking at home with my girlfriend and watching a movie or catching up on TiVo.

These things just make me feel old. I always thought that this is what old people would do. They stop going out. They stop having fun. They don't drink as much. They start to feel pain in their back and their knees. (This is becoming an increasingly bigger problem for me.)

Although, I suppose one could look at it as not growing old but becoming more mature. Noticing the benefits of staying in with a loved one. Or thinking of the narrowing field of possibilities as a blessing - heading towards the ideal job, the silvery goal that blinds you in the sunlight.

I've been making a lot of progress these days. I've published my first collection of short stories, "Not My Problem" on Amazon Kindle. (Available here: I've finished my first real novel and am editing it now. It'll be published by the end of the month. I've moved into a house with my amazing girlfriend. A woman whose patience with me is as infinite as the support she gives me. I've settled in nicely and I've found a path of things that interests me. My parents seem to respect me and finally see me as an adult.

I'm getting older. That's an indisputable fact. Things are changing for me and the things that I did and could do in my youth are gone. My world is very different and it seems like it happened all of a sudden, like waking up in a Talking Heads song. But maybe I'm looking at it all wrong. Maybe I'm not growing old, but finally growing up.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'll let you know.