Jay

@jaym

Always watching, always learning.

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April 1st, 2019

Soon, I'll be heading down the road a ways

Even though this is being written on August 6th, 2018, I’ve made April 1st, 2019, a significant date for me. That’s the target date I’ve set for myself to give my notice and quit my job to pursue self-employment. I spent this past weekend doing a lot of reflection, and I realized that every goal or dream I set for myself, I’ve achieved. So why would leaving my corporate job for a freelancing career be any different?

The only difference between those other times and now was that this time I wasn’t specific enough, and I didn’t lock it in as a natural next step.

When it comes to my previous achievements, I’d locked in what I wanted so deeply that my thoughts and actions all helped me to get to my goal, and mostly without conscious thought. When I lock in a goal, my mind and body naturally go to work to make it happen.

With my goal of leaving corporate America (again) for a freelancing career, I realized this weekend that I didn’t lock it in. I’ve been saying the words, and sharing it out loud, but my inner being hadn’t really embraced it as a “will happen” goal. It’s so far been a someday or even a that would be so great kind of thing, but it wasn’t my burning desire, at least not to my inner being.

After having some time alone this weekend, I found that this was missing, and that changes now. While I haven’t had to give myself dates or deadlines in the past, my discontent for corporate work dictates that I need to do things a little differently this time. I’m giving myself a date and regular reminders of that date so that I can retain focus on what it is I’m going to do.

I’d interviewed for a new position recently, and I wasn’t thrilled or even mildly excited about the job. It would have removed me from the immediate unhappiness I face in my current position, but it doesn’t solve for it. And, maybe it came through, because they declined to make me an offer and said they were going to pursue other candidates.

I thought I’d be disappointed in some way, but instead I was relieved. And because I can’t just take a feeling at face value, I had to dig just a little deeper why I wasn’t affected by being turned down for the new job. It was during that deeper dive that I realized a few things:

  1. That if I jump to another job, I won’t be incentivized to move to the career I really want (freelancing).
  2. As a result of item 1, I’ve determined the job I’m in now will be my last IT job in a storied 30 year technology career. It did span corporate and freelance work, but my new focus as a freelancer won’t be IT any longer.
  3. I’ve given myself a finite amount of time to get my finances in order, establish myself as a credible freelancer in the chosen services I wish to provide, and make an income that will allow us to sustain our lifestyle without impact (or my wife will never buy in to it).

Sometimes the big things require big steps, and maybe even new approaches to meet the need. In this case, it was a great mental exercise to see what’s been missing, so that I can take the big steps to correct what’s been missing and get back on track to breaking free.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Mo. He sent me some extremely encouraging words of wisdom right when I needed them, and even when I thought no one was really reading my posts. So, it’s a mixture of shock and gratitude, all of which is great stuff to help me keep moving forward. Thanks again, Mo.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes if you keep me posted on whether this helps you in any way as well. Cheers.

Image credit // Bruno Bergher on Unsplash

The Pain of Staying The Same

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One thing I didn’t touch on when I wrote last was that a large motivating factor for me getting organized and building a space that’s conducive to both creativity and business is that I’m now at the point where I’m just miserable at my job.

Whether or not I have reason to be miserable, given my achievements, and my standing with the organization will be a debate for another day. But at this moment, I’m screaming inside to get out. I’ve put out feelers, and my career history combined with my skills are opening doors. I’ve gotten interest literally the moment I say I’m looking for a change.

The funny thing is, I’m not real excited about changing to another IT-related job. I find myself not as eager or excited to pursue IT opportunities. Sure, I say the words that “I’m looking to make a job change”, but I’m not telling everyone I know, and not advertising within my professional circles.

When I think about changing jobs, I feel like I’m trading one misery for another. After all the years I’ve spent in this industry, I know for a fact that for me, the grass won’t be greener. I’m tired, and in the sleepy sense. I’m beat down. Simply exhausted in doing all the things I need to do on a daily basis as a member of this career field.

I’m bordering on being so burned out in my job that I’m bordering on apathetic. It’s like I’m getting to the point where I’m thinking to myself that I’m going to do what I want for me, and not be overly concerns about how that would reflect on my annual review. If I can stay this side of employed and not get fired, that’s starting to become very appealing to me.

Of course, that’s not who I am, but it’s who I’m afraid I’ll become if I keep doing this too much longer. I don’t want to be so beat down and burned out that I simply stop giving a shit about the quality of my work. Or caring about the ramifications of subpar work on my part would have on my team members.

And naturally, the easy answer is, “find something else to do”. Thing is, switching careers usually means a big drop in pay, which isn’t something that would be fair for my family to have to go through because I’ve decided I can’t stomach another week, let alone another day in this profession.

So, as I’d been processing my feelings about work, my chosen career that I’m no longer in love with after 30 years of doing it, I come back to one thing. Succeed as a copywriter.

It’s the only thing I’m really excited about. The fact that I hate my job, and the only salvation might be the fact that I can become a freelance copywriter, which if I’m good at it, would give me some kind of shot at replacing (or exceeding) my current income, was enough to have me redecorate my office, optimize my computer, and streamline my processes for getting any kind of copywriting work done.

And most of all, it feels right. It feels like what could be, and I find myself wishing it will be. I’m not trying to idealize this only to have it become the same daily slog I’m facing now in the IT industry, but it just feels so good.

Haven’t felt this strongly about a direction in life in a very long time. Is that alone enough for me to succeed? Or, it is just a different path to the same destination: Misery?

Stay tuned and we both shall see.

Image credit // Pablo Guerrero, Unsplash

Time and Energy Well Spent

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I’ve been absent from my writing, and I’ve missed it. However, I wanted to be sure of a few things before I hit the keyboard again, just so that I could have a sense of peace that comes from writing extend beyond just me and my input terminal of choice.

I wanted to create a set of surroundings and conditions that would be conducive to the things I’m trying to accomplish. One of those surroundings I wanted to optimize was my home office. I threw out a bunch of items and furniture I didn’t want or need, and refurnished the entire space to my liking. I also organized my things and put away clutter. The result is that I now have a space I actually look forward to spending time in.

Another thing I did was set up my desktop computer in just such a way that I can do whatever I need to do, but the computer itself just stays out of my way. From a physical footprint sense all the way to the operating system, configuration, and desktop customization.

I bought a really small form factor HP Elitedesk 800. It’s a few years old, and I got it at a great price on eBay. It looks brand new, was well taken care of, and it has 10 computing cores total, with 4 to the CPU and 6 to the GPU. It’s got 8GB of RAM and a 250GB SSD drive. It was optimized for Windows 7, but I put Manjaro Linux on it, and it’s really fast.

When it comes to Linux, I’m usually a Debian or Ubuntu guy, but don’t let me fool you. I’m still very much learning Linux having been a lifelong Windows person. I’ve dabbled in Linux off and on, but this is the first time I’ve truly committed to having Linux on my desktop machine as my daily driver.

I also have a Widows laptop and an iPad Pro, so I’ve got all the bases covered. I think using Manjaro was a good choice. It’s based on Arch Linux and runs pretty lean. Ubuntu is way too bloated for what I want, and while I really like Debian’s package management and stability, I liked the aspect of a rolling release. Windows 10 is pretty much a rolling release now, and so I like the idea of having an always-up-to-date operating system, which would eliminate the need for a full version upgrade.

A full version upgrade may or may not be a big deal, but a rolling upgrade is just like installing any other update, and therefore a fairly trivial thing (unless something breaks). However, in the time it saves, it’s just what I wanted.

Another thing I optimized was the lighting in my office. A simple little LED desk lamp has made a world of difference. Much nicer and subtle than the ugly yellow lights overhead, it adds to the ambience of the room, and I’m just in heaven when I work in my office now.

I’ve also organized my online life by creating flows and using certain tools again to help me be the most efficient I can be with the limited personal time I have.

And, best of all, I created an editorial calendar for myself. More like a mapping of which days I’ll write and contribute to different outlets. My blog here is one day of the week, my business blog is another, and I also write on Medium, and want to start writing on LinkedIn and Quora as well.

So, each day is a different post for a different audience on a different outlet. I just can’t think of a better way to sharpen my writing skills, while contributing content to the world that some may find to have value, while also putting myself out there for potential clients to find me through my work.

I’m very happy I invested time and money in making my workspace as comfortable and appealing as I could. Just having a space to call my own, organized and decorated to my tastes mean I can spend all the time I want creating and doing. It was completely worth the time and money, even if it meant I needed to pause my writing for a bit. I can’t help but think that will translate into a comfortable experience for my clients, because everything we do for others as well as ourselves will reflect on the quality of things we share with the world.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a great week!

Image credit // Danielle Macinnes, Unsplash

The Struggle Is Real(ity)

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It’s been a roller coaster of feelings and emotion this past week. As I wrote earlier about my manager leaving, last Friday was his last day. My sadness and melancholy hadn’t diminished, and as he messaged me early Friday to wish me well, I felt a sense of loss.

Much like I wrote before, I’m not sure why I feel this way. People have come and gone my entire life. Nothing new, and even when growing up, because my parents moved around a lot (not for work or military, mostly just because), I never went to the same school for more than two years.

So, while the only constant in the universe is change, it’s also very much a constant in my world as well. And this is why I struggle to pinpoint the source of my sadness at the moment. My manager and I weren’t pals outside of work. We lived and worked in two different states, and we always kept a professional and respectful relationship and distance. It just worked.

Now, all is not lost with my world, I got some very good news this weekend regarding my children. So, I’m very relieved and excited about that. However, I feel like coming to work is a struggle, and everything about it is something I wish I could put away for a bit.

There’s a holiday this month, and I’ll be taking an extra day off to make it an even longer weekend. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to last long enough to be able to enjoy it. Right now, it’s an internal fight with myself every day to get out of bed, and actually do my best.

Having been through some real challenging times in my life, I know I can do this. I’ve proven to myself that I can do this, as I’ve persevered through much worse, and so many other times. Thing is, I’m tired. I’m tired of being the strong one. The reliable one. The always gets it done no matter what one. I want to for once allow myself to be “good enough”, mediocre, perhaps even, just average.

This does’t mean I have a high view of myself, hardly. I’m just average and mediocre at many, many things. However, I work and I strive to be more than that. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t, but the work is always hard. And for always feeling like I at least have to keep trying to be the best at everything, I just want to collapse and let myself just stop trying for once.

Maybe the long holiday weekend will do more for my spirit and my soul than I realized.

Image credit // Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

Feeling Lost

Not too thrilled about what lies ahead

Going through some strange feelings today. For the first time in a while, I’m feeling lost.

I just got the news yesterday evening that my manager is leaving our company. He’s the person who I interviewed with and ended up hiring me.

Thing is, I’d botched my first interview, and somehow, in my attempt to recover from it, I impressed him just enough to give me a shot. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Since being hired on, I’ve made it my life’s mission to make sure he never regretted his decision to hire me. And, with my latest performance review, and the one before that, I’d like to think I succeeded in that mission.

So, why do I feel lost? Becuse he was a no-nonsense individual. I knew how he worked, and how to give him what he needed for him to succeed. Which, in turn, allowed me to guide my actions toward producing the results he’d want and need to look good to his managers.

In turn, he also knew me. He knew he didn’t need to micromanage me. He could just let me go and do my thing and I’d come back with the desired results and great feedback about my participation.

He trusted me to lead global initiatives within our company. He also gave me way more leeway than my peers because he knew and understood I was mature and experienced, and that I wouldn’t squander his trust.

As a result, I was able to pretty much manage my own schedule, take off early when I needed, and worked from home when I needed or even wanted.

I will say that I’m not thrilled at his named replacement. I have my concerns, but I’ll still do the job I’ve always done. Nothing changes in my approach, my work ethic, or my drive to deliver in excellence.

However, it feels like my biggest fan of my work is leaving, and I have someone new who knows absolutely nothing about me to have to impress all over again.

Until then, how much leeway can I still enjoy? And what about that awkward period where I get to know her management style, and what it takes to help her look good?

Will she even be halfway as impressed as her predecessor?

Either way, I’m so glad I figured out my “What’s Next”, as I continue to work toward that, so that if the outcome of this change at work is less than optimal for me, I’ll be even more motivated to make my copywriting business a success. Sooner rather than later perhaps.

I’ve lost mentors and co-workers, even friends before on the journey of life. Heck, in the military, people come and go all the time. So, not sure why this one is hitting me harder than most. I’ll get over it like I always do.

But for now, I feel lost, and feel like a big part of who I am here at work is leaving along with my manager.

Sigh.

My Breakthrough Weekend

Going for it, all the way!

This past weekend was incredible. I was able to get a glimpse of what life could be like as both a copywriter and life coach.

I have a friend who's a couple years shy of retirement age, and was recently laid off. His resume looked like it could use some polish, and he admitted as much. He hasn't had to actively look for a job for at least 40 years.

With this, I saw a few golden opportunities. First, I could help a friend in need with my skills. I like to help my friends when they want it or need as a way for me to show my gratitude for our friendship.

Sometimes, gratitude and our giving of time goes way further than monetary things. I enjoy giving my time to my friends because I know they appreciate it, and don't abuse it.

The other opportunity was that I could put both my copywriting and life coaching skills to the test.

I gave him a call and offered both my services. He accepted, and so I asked him to do a bit of homework before we got together over the weekend. To my delight, he did the homework in earnest! He also showed up to our work session on Saturday morning with plenty of pens and paper to take notes.

We spent no less than 4 hours honing in on what was important to him. We dug in, and I started asking questions about what types of jobs excite him.

While the questions and answers were part of the life coaching part, it was also helpful for the writing part. I wanted to know who my target audience would be for his resume and cover letter, and this helped out quite a bit.

It was a day of discovery and without trying to brag, he came to know a lot more about himself that even he realized. He was able to achieve a new level of awareness, and excitement, about what he'd like to do next.

The change in his demeanor was more than clear. He went from a ho-hum, let's do this, to the point where he was eager to start his job hunt right away - on a Saturday, no less!

He went from, "these are the jobs I could do" to "this is the type of work I'd LOVE to do".

With that, I encouraged him to spend his time and energy pursuing the ones he'd love to do. Leaving the ones he found mediocre for someone else to try.

There's such a difference in our everyday lives when we do the things we truly love and appreciate, instead of the things we have to do because it simply pays the bills.

He's since texted and emailed me afterward to tell me how grateful and impressed he was about our session on Saturday.

This was the little piece of evidence I needed experience. Now I know I'm on the right path, and that this is the kind of work I'd LOVE to do myself.

I'm beyond grateful for my friend placing his faith in trust in me. And I'm grateful we got to work together for a tremendous outcome that I hope will benefit him soon. And, I'm especially thankful that I've seen what this kind of life could be like.

I'm so stoked! Thanks for reading.

The Value Of Not Doing It Yourself

I'm a modern day Tom Sawyer

My wife was looking at the HSN website and sent me a link to their special of the day. It was for a Roomba robotic vacuum. The vacuum itself wasn't very well priced, and had so-so ratings. But the real story here is the fact that my wife was actually open to getting one.

This is big for a couple of reasons. First, it normally takes me about a decade to get her to embrace anything "new". This time, it only took about 3 years for her to actually come around to the idea of a robotic vacuum. The second big stride here is that she and I usually stand on opposite sides of who should be doing our chores.

She's of the camp that we should be doing our own chores. Her reasoning is, "it's our stuff, we should be taking care of it". For her, doing her own chores is a sense of pride that comes with taking care of the things she owns. And, naturally, she thinks I should want to have the same sense of pride and diligence in the upkeep and maintenance of stuff that I own.

I think our desired end results are totally in line, but how we get there is where we diverge greatly.

For me, doing my own chores is a waste of time. She thinks it's because I'm lazy, and she'd be ~partly~ mostly right. But aside from that, I also don't believe in doing my own chores because I don't see the value in doing them. Allow me to explain.

I don't feel I bring myself much value in doing mundane things just to be doing them. I know how to mow a lawn. I know how to sweep a floor, and scrub a toilet bowl. What I don't know is what the last chapter of my book will say until I read it. Or, how to use a new technique in copywriting until I actually learn it and apply it.

Since doing chores doesn't make me money, or enrich my life, I don't care to spend time doing them. As time is my most precious commodity, I really don't like wasting it; as many of my previous posts can attest. I'd much rather pay someone to do my chores, who would do a way better job than I would, so that everybody wins.

The person doing my chores is making a living, and doing their best work (most times), and I get to show my pride of ownership by caring enough to hire an expert to care for my things. Whether it's mowing the lawn, or changing the oil in my car, I'd much prefer to have someone that specializes in doing those things handle it for me.

Do I feel any less proud to have nice neat things that I didn't necessarily clean or maintain myself? Not really. I feel proud that I care enough to take care of my things that they get taken care by someone who wants to, and I get to enjoy the finished result.

Now, if I do want to spend the time to do something myself, I can very much do that. It's not beneath me to do these things. I'm not like that, and I have been humbled many times in my life to where I never forget where I came from.

And there are times that I do my own chores. Perhaps I'd crave the escape, the feeling of putting in the effort to get a desired result. The work in doing chores is very much the same as putting in the effort to learning more about copywriting, or more about how to use Linux, or some other pursuit of knowledge that would require time.

It takes time and energy to get it right.

And let's not forget that the time that's freed up by not having to do chores also frees up time to do other things that can have a bigger impact on our lives. If a relative from out of state calls, I now have time to talk to them and catch up. If someone wants to invite my wife and I to lunch or dinner, guess what? Sure we can go, we've got time!

For me, my time is much better spent learning and doing things that bring joy and fulfillment. I'm sorry, but sweeping and mopping just doesn't do it for me. If my wife gets a kick out of it, more power to her! But, she shouldn't expect me to derive the same satisfaction from doing the chores as she does.

If I were to do that, I'd run the risk of having her think I actually enjoy doing chores, which would mean she could take it easy while I did all the cleaning. Wrong answer. And yet, every time I offer to bring someone in to do the chores so that neither of us has to do them, again starts the argument.

At least this time, I've got the green light to have a robot at least do some of our cleaning. And I'll eventually get all the way there, one win at a time. Patience, Grasshopper.


Image Credit: // Pixabay //

Forced Socialization and the Opposite of Productivity

So busy but not getting anything done

Today I seem to be feeling confined, restrained, held down. It’s very claustrophobic, and being made to sit in an office just doesn’t make sense to me. None.

I'll have to admit, I got it pretty good, as I get to work from home two days a week. That’s been pretty consistent. And, during the holidays, I’m able to work from home from Thanksgiving until New Year’s. All in all, not a bad gig. The only thing that would make it better would be working from home 100%.

The idea of working in an office, for any amount of days is so counter-productive to who I am, though. In my line of work, I don’t always need to be a butt in a seat, doing time in an office. And, if there’s an oft occasion I’d need to come in, then I’d just come in.

I’m nearing 50 years old, and have been in the IT sector since I was 18. In the late 90’s, telecommuting capabilities were being introduced, and I was able to work from home once in a while even back then, I’ve always loved it, and thrived in such arrangements. Maybe it’s my military background, or just how I was raised, but I’m self-directed and focused. And as such, I can work unsupervised, and have shown that trait since I was a kid.

Working from home. The peace, the solitude, the productivity. And mostly... the lack of CHAOS.

As I observe my office surroundings, I see people that just don’t seem to come to work to work. They come to socialize, waste time, play, pretty much do anything other than work. And I just don’t get that. Maybe I’m alone in this mindset, as I just don’t like to socialize at work. I much prefer to come to work, get my work done, then leave.

The reason I mostly feel this way is that some people in an office environment just can’t contain themselves. They have to be loud, they have to be chatty, and they can’t just do it alone. They must drag others down with them. If they’re not going to be productive, they’re going to make sure others aren’t going to be either.

One person even brought his drone into the office and flew it around. Really?

And it’s just not work ethic, either. In an office, I have to wait in line to get coffee, go to the bathroom, and order lunch. At home, I don’t have to worry about any of that. So not only do I not have to wait in lines at home, I also don’t have to be disrupted, disturbed, interrupted, annoyed, talked to at the worst time, or be taken out of my zone.

I’m not doing rocket science or neurosurgery, but what I do requires a good amount of thought, contemplation, problem solving, and focus. None of which comes easily when you’re in an office full of overgrown children acting like there’s no one else trying to get anything done.

The other good news is that I don’t punch a time clock, and haven’t done that for decades. I simply refuse to be an IT professional, or any kind of professional, and have to punch a clock and have my breaks timed. If someone can’t trust me to do the things I need to do and is worried down to the minute about what I’m doing, I don’t need to be working there.

So, without that constraint of a time card, I’m never really late to work. Therefore, to a large degree I’m being paid for my results, ad not so much the time I spend producing them. However, with all that, I still come to work to work, get it done, and leave the moment I’m able to. But, the time flexibility comes in handy when I have personal appointments and such, so I never abuse it.

Overall, when it comes to my schedule, how I manage my time during my day, and when or if I take breaks being my choice, I guess I’m not as completely shackled down as I think I am. But, I still feel it, having to be here in an office, subject to other people’s interruptions.

Let’s be real for a second. I don’t put my head down and work through all my breaks and desire to talk to no one because I absolutely love what I do. It’s actually the opposite. I can’t wait to be done with my day so I can rush home and spend time doing the things I do love, with the people I enjoy spending my limited and precious free time with.

I do like my job, but I want to like other things more.

So, unfortunately, I find office conversation and socialization to be a speed bump in my getting things done quickly so I can leave on time and go live the part of my day that really matters to me.

The sad thing about all that is that most days I tend to be done with my work by around 3pm. And, if I’m working from home, that’s fine, there’s plenty to do while still being available should I be needed for something from my employer. At the office, however, I feel like a prisoner, stuck until some alarm rings and they open the cell doors to allow me my evening release.

So, as I look on this, an office is really the absolute worst place to get work done. Between the earnest effort I have to make to avoid time-wasting interaction (without appearing anti-social), getting my things done with the thought and energy required, and getting it done well before the day is through so I can be assured to leave on time, I’m exhausted.

The good news is, that anyone who talks with me, or interacts with me would never know that I’d rather be doing anything than talking and chatting at that moment. I can fake interest with the best of them, and I am sociable, and approachable. Both of which work against me in my quest for solitude in an office setting, but do help when it comes time for annual reviews and pay raises.

But overall, if I were to work from home full time, I wouldn’t miss an office, or people for that matter. That doesn't mean I'm not pleasant to be around, or that I hate people altogether. I just dislike being around loud, inconsiderate people when I'm trying to work.

Instead, I just bide my time, and wonder how I can remove these obstacles that my employer places in front of me and continue to impress them with my high quality results. It’s almost like gambling... the house always wins. And at work, if you’re gonna do a great job, you have to duck and dodge all these distractions and time sucks, while still producing your best work, to get to the highest rating.

And IF you can do all that, you win. But, sometimes, with all that’s going on around me to try to keep me from getting my work done, it seems like a suckers’ bet most days. This just makes me more determined to create the opportunities that will allow me that full time work from home paradise I know can exist.

Ok, end of rant.


Image credit: // Mike Chai - Pexels //

Some Things That I Miss

Is life nothing but a dream?

  • My kids - who are now grown and gone.
  • My mom - who left us way too soon.
  • My stepdad - who also left us way too soon.
  • My stepmom - who yet again, left us way too soon.
  • My best friend from junior high.
  • My childhood home.
  • My friends from days and times past.
  • My time in the Army.
  • My time before the Army.
  • The way things used to be (in some cases).
  • Some (but maybe not all) family members that I don't see or talk to anymore but had a great childhood with.

Sometimes I do feel nostalgic, and I do miss these things. But instead of feeling bad, missing these people and things brings back great memories.

If I were to list the things I don't miss, that would drum up very negative feelings, and that would be depressing.

So, hopefully the next time you find yourself alone in your thoughts and memories, instead of being sad that those memories are in the past and not in your present, you have two choices:

a. You can go and make new memories by creating the moments you want in life.

and/or

b. You can relive those memories in your mind, which is your safe place to live and love, and be thankful that you have those memories that you can go back and visit at any time.

If you think about it, we actually do have the ability to time-travel. It's called our memories. And, we can go back to the good times, or the bad times any time we want.

And yes, sometimes I do think about the things I don't miss... not so I can get depressed, although sometimes I do, but so I can be grateful that those things aren't in my life anymore, and I'll never have to endure those specific things again.

We're all extremely powerful beings. More powerful that we give ourselves credit for most times. Use that power to do good things... for yourself and for others.

That's something I try to do every day. Sometimes I actually succeed.


Image credit // SplitShire - Pexels //

The First Steps of My Copywriting Journey

The growth is in the journey

About a month ago, I declared that my next step in my personal and professional journey would be to take up copywriting.

And after just shy of a month in, I'd like to share some of what's been happening on this journey. I may continue to post updates like this to chronicle this journey from aspiring writer to actual professional writer. This could serve as a good lessons learned manual, or perhaps a cautionary tale, but the goal here is to document the journey for myself and for others.

For myself, this is a good place to review how far I've come, or haven't come, and for others as a means to maybe learn and gain something from this, who may going through something similar themselves.

Ok, so now let's dive into my first steps of my copywriting journey. It's been just shy of a month, and here's where I'm at so far.

I Read a Fantastic Book

I started with reading The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert. It's a book of letters written from father to son from prison. Yeah, I know, prison. Gary Halbert is considered by many to be the absolute best direct marketing genius that ever lived. Well, he's got at least legendary status to be sure.

And so Gary and his marketing savvy landed him in prison because his marketing campaigns, based on direct sales letters, outsold his ability to delver his products. Meaning, he ran out of inventory, and couldn't fulfill orders. And while I'm sure there's more to the story, the bottom line is it landed him in prison for about a year.

For me, that means his copy actually worked. No, not worked to land him in prison, but worked in the sense that he outsold his inventory and couldn't keep up.

Would I want to repeat the same mistake? Um, NO. But even he advises his son in his letters to do things smarter than he did and live up to his promises. Do things better than he did, but use copywriting as a means to make a very comfortable living.

Powerful stuff, and this book was a great foundation for me to begin to understand what copywriting can actually do, it's potential, and really, how to get into the minds of the customer and solve their actual problem with your product.

Not push your product on the customer, but to truly match the customer's problem to your solution, which is your product.

In order to do that successfully, you need to match your product with the right audience who's feeling the pain or has the problem you can solve with your product.

I'll write more on my thoughts on this book in more detail in a future post, so please sign up to receive my blog updates at the top of this blog's main page, or the bottom of this specific article.

Suffice it to say, I devoured the book in two days, reading it during my breaks and lunch time, and any time I had a free moment. It was a great introduction to copywriting as a practice and a means to learn a skill that can truly product great results for my clients and myself, if done right.

I Then Applied What I Learned

After reading The Boron Letters, my next step was to take what I learned from the book and write up an eBay listing for some computers I have for sale.

I decided to add some better description, and write less formally for the ads so that I could attract people who are specifically looking for the type of computer I'm selling. Once they find my listing, I want to be sure I share with them all the reasons my computer is what they're looking for and how it will address their specific needs.

That's still a work in progress, though, as I'm polishing it up and getting it ready.

Then I Read Another Incredible Book

The next thing I did was buy another book, called The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months Or Less by Peter Bowerman.

And, as I'd hoped it would be, this book is nothing short of mind-blowing. For anyone that's wanted to become a freelance copywriter, this is the owner's manual to starting your business TODAY.

It doesn't cover as much about copywriting technique, but it covers everything you'd need to know about starting your own freelance copywriting business, how to manage it, market it, charge for it, and grow it to a healthy six figure (and beyond) income.

And while individual mileage may vary, reading this book was like having the heavens open up and hearing the angels sing. It showed me a couple of very important things...

First, it showed me that just starting out, and having a lack of clients isn't the barrier to launching a copywriting business that I thought it was. There's ways to get past that, and the book shares some really solid ways in which to do just that.

Second, the book taught me that I've done copywriting in the past, even the present, and didn't realize it. This was the big breakthrough for me.

Having been in the IT field for a couple of decades, I've done a ton of business writing. As a consultant and employee, I've written reports, technology infrastructure assessments, proposals, project charters, and even more.

Therefore, when it comes to my copywriting BUSINESS, yes, I'm new, but I'm not completely inexperienced in the copywriting part.

My business copy has served to land project and product acquisition budgets from anywhere to a few thousand dollars to over a million. I've landed IT consulting clients with my writing, and even landed my first (now ex-) wife with the power of writing, which is definitely another story for another day.

So, all in all, it's not a matter of not knowing how to write, it's a matter of leveraging my previous experience in a new context. That of a professional copywriter, and not just someone who had to write because part of his job required it.

And the third thing I learned was that you totally deserve to charge what you're worth. Writers don't have to starve, and if they do, it's by choice, whether they realize it or not.

Sure, as a professional writer, you may try to be low-balled or commoditized, because other writers allow the value of their work to be diminished. However, if you have a firm belief in your ability to deliver strong copy for your clients, based on their needs, and desired outcomes for that copy, you have every right to be paid well for that.

Even if you don't land EVERY client because your rates are perceived as too high, there's someone out there that will see the value of the work (and you'll help them see that value in your marketing, your approach, and your delivered product), that they'll pay you well for your work.

And when you deliver killer results for them, you improve your chances of getting a solid referral, and you'll gain confidence in your work and your business.

Safe to say, I got way more than my money's worth out of this book, and will be re-reading this one over and over. Not only to get tips I may have overlooked the first time, but to also help keep me motivated that I can do this even part time for now, and still do well at it.

Then I Started To Make It Real

And finally, my latest and most recent step was to be brave, and share my vision out loud that I want to be a freelance copywriter.

Every couple of weeks I have morning coffee before work with a good friend of mine, who also happens to be my neighbor.

During our latest talk, he had shared some pain around his business needing some good quality copywriting. It was their weak link in his mind, and he wasn't sure how to address it.

Later on in our conversation, I shared my desire to be a professional freelance copywriter, and all the things I was doing to get there.

I saw a light bulb go off in his head, and he essentially offered me an opportunity to write for his clients. As he co-owns a digital marketing and web agency, I've been asked to provide samples of my previous work for possible freelancing opportunities with his firm.

BOOM!

Within just a month, all this has happened. I can't wait to see what happens in another month!

I'm psyched to see how this all turns out, and I also hope this helps you in some way, too!


**Full Disclosure: There are affiliate links on this page, and if you click them, I may earn a small commission on any resulting purchases. I hope you don't mind as it doesn't affect the price you pay, and I get a little something for sharing, too.

Image credit // Humberto Shaw - Pexels //

Nail on the Head: One of the Most Accurate Observations Ever

Looking at you, Medium!

A fellow blogger here at Listed has hit the nail right on the head with their latest post regarding Medium.

I'm a fan of Medium, and I find myself reading tons of articles from there. Heck, I've even posted a few myself. But over at Catch and Release, the poster really nails it.

The name of the post is My Favorite Medium Articles, and it's just fantastic. It's a humorous posting (I think), but as with all comedy, the laughs are usually wrapped in a fair amount of truth.

And, hey Medium... if you can't laugh at it, too, then...

SGT Hulka says...

Why I Love Standard Notes and Listed

Simple is Good!

If you're somehow finding this post as a result of a search engine query (which I doubt, because I totally suck at SEO), you might not know what Standard Notes or Listed actually is.

For those of you that do know, you can skip ahead to why I love Listed. For those that don't, you're welcome to keep reading...

Standard Notes is in my opinion, the best note taking app I've ever come across. It's basic, yet can be as complex as you want it to be.

The free version is pretty no-frills. The paid version allows you to customize your note taking workspace to your liking. You can change the color of your writing screen, use markdown if you like, have split pane writing to see what your copy looks like as a real time preview, and tons of other goodies.

And really, what I like most is that because I can set up my SN workspace to my liking, I can write and annotate in a way that's very natural to me.

I use it now for my writing, as well as capturing thoughts and website URLs I want to remember for later. And, for me, the best part is that the Standard Notes team is focused on privacy.

They encrypt your notes right out of the gates, and you can set up multiple layers of security to get to your Notes. And, they have mobile apps, too, which is great for writing on my iPad.

The web version is the most functional at this point, as that's where you can use all the customizations you've set for yourself, but using the mobile app is great for outlining, writing a first draft, and just capturing what you don't want to forget.

The paid version doesn’t cost all that much, and not only do you get some great customization features, you'd also be supporting a great app with a cause. Privacy.

Apps like Evernote and OneNote are great, and really super functional, but they're just not private. Not only that, for me, as someone who likes to write, I found that both Evernote and OneNote are pretty clunky for writers.

Sure, they capture everything else, but for distraction-free writing, they're not the best tools for that. For me, Standard Notes hits a bullseye.

I've been looking forever for the perfect writing tool for me. A place that is natural to go to and use everyday, and easy for me to put thoughts into words without fussing about formatting or code.

And because it's so easy, and now so natural, I find myself blogging more than I ever have, and really enjoying it. Mostly because I don't feel like I'm actually "blogging", because in a way I'm not.

I'm getting my thoughts down on Standard Notes, in the method I like to do so. Then, when I'm done, I can publish my post with one click to Listed, which is the blog companion to Standard Notes.

If you skipped ahead, you can land here:

All my published posts show up in Listed, under my handle /@JayM.

And, because I'm so smitten with writing with Markdown, my posts are easy to format, because I can format as I write. That's what makes it no-fuss.

So, blogging is for me, what it was probably meant to be from the beginning when blogs were first created. A quick and easy way to get your thoughts out to the world.

But, with commercialization and monetization came complication. And yet, with Listed as my blogging platform, I can potentially monetize my posts or accept tips for my work... and without complicating the crap out of doing so.

Perhaps as I get older, I've really come to appreciate simple, easy, and uncomplicated. Maybe that's why I now use an iPhone and iPad after being an Android guy for many years. It checks all those boxes, too.

I still use a Windows laptop, but I've got my reasons for that. However, I've even gone to work on making that as simple and uncomplicated so that Windows feels comfortable, at least for me.

And, when I do want complicated, I have my Linux machines that I can tinker with and learn new stuff. And, when I'm done with complicated, I go back to Standard Notes, Listed, my iPhone, iPad, and optimized Windows laptop.

They all sync together, they all work together, and in the end, it enables me to enjoy the ritual of writing once again.

Thank you Standard Notes team!

We Really Are Our Own Worst Enemies

Don't You See It?

When I look around, I see an unending amount of examples of people just simply getting in their own way. I’m sure I do this as well, but it’s easier to look outward rather than inward sometimes.

Mainly because I strive to be efficient and save time, without sacrificing quality, every chance I get.

For me, time is more valuable than money. For as long as I can remember, I’ve looked at time in this way. I value it, I hate to waste it, and I resent others who just piss it away freely and without a second thought.

Time is the probably the ONE thing you can’t get back, make more of, stop, or even slow down. And, so, for me, time is a precious unit that I can’t bear to waste.

But, aside from a few exceptions, most people just don’t care how much time they waste. It gets rather frustrating.

Sometimes I feel like I’m alone in a sea of people who all do things in the worst way possible, wasting so much time without giving it a thought, and I’m the one guy who really tries to get it done faster, easier, and with much less stress.

Today is a great example. A week ago, I sent an email to someone detailing exactly what I was needing from them and why. My thought was that if I explain this ONCE, I won’t have to answer questions piece-meal, one email question followed by one email answer at a time.

The alternative would be to drag out a simple 5 minute request to instead be spread across several days, with multiple emails for the one simple request (borrow 2 company laptops for testing software).

In other words, I was trying to be efficient by getting it all done in one shot. I know, silly me, what was I thinking?

My email goes a week unanswered. Sigh. So now, I have to send another email to follow up to the one I already sent, basically re-requesting what I already spent time requesting the first time.

The good news is, the second email worked. The question for me is: Why did it take TWO emails to get ONE response?

Ok, so, in this person’s reply, he adds another person to the CC, and says that he’s directing my request to her and that I can work with her to get what I’m requesting.

Great... another person to have to work through to possibly NOT get what could be given in 5 minutes.

And, so I send the obligatory reply, thanking Mr. One Week for his reply, and then have to acknowledge the new person on the email, offering to work with her and help her in any way necessary to complete my request. (It’s TWO laptops to test some software on, that’s it!)

Which in turn begins another loud-sigh moment. She replied, and adds YET ANOTHER person onto the email, saying that I’ll need to set up some time to discuss my “needs” with her and this new person.

All when the original request is typed out TWICE in the email thread below her message.

So, now I have to set up a meeting to request two laptops that were already requested twice before, so they can understand what I’m asking with at best a 50% chance that they can actually fulfill my request, or instead, and more likely, send me over to someone else.

And I know what you’re thinking, because it’s exactly what I’m thinking. Just write back and reference the other emails below and save the time in the meeting.

And you’re thinking that, and I’m thinking that, because it would be efficient, and the fastest, even easiest way to get things done.

HOWEVER, we’re dealing with people who just couldn’t care about doing anything the easy way. And so, my daily uphill battle in Corporate America continues, just as it always has, and always will... with no improvement in sight.

HOPELESS SIGH...

Always Thinking About What's Next

It's Not Always Crystal Clear

Today turned out to be a great day. The week? Not so much. But today turned out great.

At work, the project team I'm on was able to submit our deliverables. There wasn't instant agreement on the content of those deliverables, but we eventually did reach common ground, and submitted in time for our deadline.

That felt really good, as I will say that I had a big hand in finding that common ground with all team members.

And while I don't necessarily enjoy making decisions by committee (I prefer a hierarchical structure, but that's just me), it's how things work here, and so I can adapt.

I've been doing really well here. Better than well, excellent, actually. My performance reviews and rewards have been top notch. Tangible indicators that my contributions here are both respected and appreciated.

All in all, that feels great. Now combine that with the fact that we were able to come together as a team and pull out our most recent win has me simply stoked.

And, as I touted the team's latest victory to my manager, his question to me was, "What do you have planned for next week's [win]?"

While I said, "Sitting around the pool sipping pina coladas" in a joking manner, I really wasn't. But, alas, it was only a joke because it wouldn't be true.

I did forecast the team's next set of tasks and future wins, and that I do know to be truth. And he did, too, so he was good with my answers.

But there's something else that gave me a little extra pep in my step today.

I gained a bit of clarity... about what's next.

Not what's next week, but what's next for me as a person. Now, to be fair, I've had a lot of ideas about what I'd like to be next, or what I think I would like to be next, but turns out a lot of them were pretty fleeting.

Fun? Sure! But doable as my next thing? Not really.

So, you might ask: If you're doing so great at work, why are you thinking about what's next?

The answer is: Because, it's what I do.

Maybe it was the military, or maybe lessons learned while growing up, or earlier on in my IT career, but I always need a fallback plan.

It's not an option for me. In my time, I've found myself suddenly laid off more than once. Somehow, I've always managed to stay employed, and land on my feet.

I could say I've been really lucky, but I'm not sure it's all luck. Some of it has to be either preparation, or the ability to seize opportunities that arise from a sudden change of circumstance.

Those opportunities may not be immediately beneficial, but the smaller ones certainly do lead to larger ones.

So, in the back of my mind, I always ask myself the question: What if you lost your job tomorrow?

When I don't have a good answer, I feel vulnerable. I feel like I need to have an answer to that so that a sudden change in circumstances doesn't mean a sudden change in lifestyle.

And, for the past couple of years, I thought I had my what's next solved. Turns out, the ideas I came up could be an eventual thing, but not my absolute next thing.

Well, an epiphany has been brewing. It started as a small seed, but it's blossomed. And has now turned into an undeniable need to take action to make it real.

And, as it turns out, my next can serve as the basis of everything else I've wanted to do, even the eventual stuff.

This time, though, my what's next isn't just one thing, it's two things, with the option to turn into three.

But, in order to quench this thirst, I have to start with one. The one that is the heart of all else. The one that will help facilitate all my other wants and desires for what I'd want to do next if I found myself without a job.

What's more, my absolute next will also help me be better at my current job, perhaps even prolonging my usefulness here. And, it will also help me to possibly make extra money on the side, which would fund my other ventures and passions.

Ok, so what is this next thing I want to do that's got me so excited?

I want to become a copywriter. And right after that, a career and relationship coach for men.

So why a copywriter? When I set out to really think this through, I realized a few things about myself.

First is, I love to write. I find it to be relaxing and therapeutic. And no, just because I can write lengthy posts doesn't mean I'm actually any good at it.

So, becoming a copywriter will challenge me to improve my skills. Maybe say more with less words, make a larger impact with fewer lines on a page. I'll bolster my love for writing with the knowledge of knowing how to write better.

Second is, I want to make extra money. Can never have enough saved for a rainy day, or eventual retirement. Copywriting will give me several avenues in which to do this:

  1. I can write professionally as a freelance writer.
  2. I can write personally to promote products I believe in, and earn affiliate commissions based on my words and feelings about those products.
  3. I can use these skills to write copy for my life coaching website with actual skill and knowledge on how to make the most impact and land clients that would be excited to work with me.

For me, these are very practical reasons for wanting to learn how to be a copywriter. It's applicable here and now, and in the future.

If I found myself suddenly unemployed, my copywriting skills, and all that I intend to do with them could (potentially) enable me to launch an entire business based around this set of skills alone, offering me flexibility of time, hours, and even work location.

Is it any wonder, I'm walking around with my head help up high, smiling, and not feeling as vulnerable as before?

I've finally figured out "What's Next", and it feels fantastic!

The Concept of What's Fair

Hey! Not Fair!

While at a Super Bowl party a couple Sundays ago, I overheard two guys talking while I was grabbing my Buffalo wings. These guys, who were each wearing their favorite football team's jerseys, with neither of their teams actually in the game, were sharing why they "hate" Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

"It's like, this guy [Tom Brady] is in the Super Bowl every single year", one of them said. And then the other one continued, "Yeah, and the Patriots? Really? Couldn't some other team get a chance to play for once?"

What I Was Thinking

Thankfully my back was turned to them, because it took all I had to keep from laughing. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots team and staff are definitely the stuff of legends. Love them or hate them, they've built a dynasty that belongs in any conversation that includes Dallas, San Francisco, Green Bay, even Pittsburgh.

Did any team that has won a Super Bowl, whether it's once, or multiple times in their franchise's history, ever just show up off the street for the Super Bowl and was instantly awesome?

The answer is NO. The Super Bowl is the pinnacle game that determines the one true champion of the sport for that year. To get there, you have to endure a regular season of at least ten bone-crushing games. Then, if you've got enough wins, you get to go to the playoffs. That's several more bone-crushing weeks.

Then, only after you've eliminated all comers in your conference, you get to face off with another team that defeated all who dared in their conference.

Then, and only then, do the two best teams, one from each conference, get to duke it out for the right to claim "World Champion" until the next year.

When the new season starts, it's a clean slate for all teams, and every team has the same chance to progress through the gauntlet that eventually sees the two best teams face off for the title for another year.

So, the teams that get there fought hard, each and every game. The teams that didn't win, didn't necessarily fight any less hard, although some actually didn't fight as hard. And some teams couldn't last as long on the field. And other teams made bad decisions, or made enough mistakes to cost them the game.

In a nutshell, it's a COMPETITION.

So what these two guys were bellyaching about, wishing another team had "a chance" to play in the Super Bowl other than the perennial Patriots, is to me all about the concept of what's fair.

These guys didn't think it was fair, that the same team would keep going back to the Super Bowl. Nor did they think that it was fair that one quarterback should have so many appearances in this one championship game, seemingly year after year.

But yet, at least one other team has more Super Bowl wins than New England, and that's the Pittsburgh Steelers. Has anyone griped about wishing another team had a chance to play in the Super Bowl during any of their multiple appearances and subsequent wins?

Doubt it.

Fair’s Fair, or All’s Fair?

I see this a lot in children's competitions now. Everyone gets a trophy for participation for just about any sport now. Even some 5K runs in town now offer ribbons to all who run the race.

One NFL player landed in hot water a few years back for giving his kid's Participation trophy back to the sport's organizers, saying that the only trophy his kid will receive will be the one for actually winning.

So, with all that... is working your ass off, preparing day and night, never stopping or quitting until you reach your goal, only to finally reach it, "fair"?

Or, is "fair" allowing other teams and players that didn't spend as much time on the things needed to make the best of the best to play in the biggest football game of the year, so that the joy and reward is spread around evenly?

So, what is the concept of "fair"?

In my mind, there is no such thing as "fair". Period.

There's being the best, and then there's everyone else. In sports, in career, in life.

The best prepare. The best take the challenge and make the sacrifices needed to be the best. The best make opportunities to succeed even when there don't appear to be any. The best will find a way to win, to achieve, to overcome, to finish what seems impossible to sometimes even start.

Not just in a game, but in every situation in life.

And when you give it your all, your heart and soul, in the preparation, the sacrifice, and physical and emotional pain it takes to elevate yourself to the next level, and still lose, it hurts!

It sucks. It feels futile. It makes you question everything. It can even make you give up.

But, those that don't give up only get stronger. They only get better. They figure out what went right and what didn't, and improve what went right, and fix what went wrong.

In other words, figure out a way to win. It may not be that game, or that job you wanted, or the promotion you thought for sure was yours. But, if you keep going, keep working, keep improving, it could be the next one. Or, it may be the one after that.

And the one you finally win could be even better, even sweeter, even more amazing than the ones you lost.

My First Experience With Competition

My first taste of winning came when I was 9 years old. I was in a kid's bowling league, and my mom would take my brother and I to the bowling alley every Friday night to practice, then every Saturday morning to bowl in our children's league. I'd even beg my mom to take us several nights during the week so I could practice even more.

I took to bowling pretty well. I seemed to have the hand-eye coordination needed, and I was able to take coaching from older mentors really well.

That season, I won a record 8 trophies, and, was the only minor that was invited to bowl in an adult tournament, and actually kept up!

Up to that point, I'd never won anything that I could remember. And so, I can imagine what it would feel like if that despite my hard work and preparation for each game, combined with the focus and concentration and the will to win each game, despite setbacks, those trophies were given to other kids that didn't win.

It would suck more than losing! Not because I was stingy and didn't want to share with others. It was because I was able to put the right things into place at exactly the right time to win those games. Maybe another bowler even spent more time than me preparing. But, in the end, I did what was needed to win.

If that would have been negated because someone else felt bad, and needed some kind of validation that even though they lost, they still won something... what motivation would that kid have to ever push themselves for anything?

In my years, I've played sports, went for jobs, was put in for promotions, even tried to get the girl that was out of my league.

Sometimes I won, other times I lost (many times, actually), but in the end, I have a job I love, in a career that I've been doing forever, still working to be the best every day, and yes, I even got the girl of my dreams.

So, no, I don't believe in fair where everyone gets a trophy for playing. I believe in the reward going to the person that put in the most work, to get the result needed to win the game (or job, or promotion, etc.).

That's what I call "fair".

Achieving A New Years' Resolution I Never Made

Here's to ME!

Last week, while at work, I started something that I never intended to start. Turns out, I needed to do this mini-project way more than I realized. Both in result, and in actual benefit.

What I started last week was to chip away at organizing my work emails, and took on the challenge of figuring out the best way to leverage Microsoft's OneNote alongside Outlook. The MS Office suite is standard issue at work, and while I've been using these and many other Microsoft products for multiple decades now, I never really took the time to learn OneNote, let alone learn how to use it with Outlook to create a killer productivity combo.

But, starting last week, that's exactly what I did.

First Step: Email

I started with trying to figure out a way to reduce the size of my inbox, without losing any emails. I keep all my emails for work, for various reasons, most of which benefit me at some time or another. I learned a very long time ago not to rely on subjective and inaccurate human memories, it's all in black and white. This helps on many levels and for many reasons.

At my work, we're not allowed to use the standard archiving feature of Outlook. It's automated, it's reliable, and... it's disabled.

And with me having less than 1GB free on a 5GB mailbox, I had to do something. Having just started the new year, there's no way I could cram an upcoming year's worth of email into less than 1GB of space.

So, I first went through and deleted all the crap. All the meeting responses (Accepted, Declined, Tentative). The meetings already happened, and I just don't care who accepted, declined, and "tried their best" to make it any longer.

Then I cleaned out all the corporate announcements. I'm sure it was important to know about our upcoming open enrollment, but it already happened, and I signed up. As well, can I no longer keep the announcement of a company vice president that I never met is stepping down several months after the announcement went out in the first place. Again, by now, it's already happened, and we all know who replaced him or her.

So, after that, I went from .98GB of free space to... 1GB of free space. Yay, progress, but I need to do more. Way more.

Second Step: OneNote

Knowing the Internet has an answer for everything, I did a search on how to master OneNote. It's a tool I've used for a while, but never really used it. In other words, I used the basic features and functions, but never went beyond that. So, I found some articles on Lifehacker and Make Use Of and found my answers.

So, I set up a way to tie in my Outlook tasks to OneNote, which are tied to this year's project notebook. I then figured a way to export my emails to a separate notebook called oddly enough, "Archives". Then, I ported all my emails over to the archive notebook, and deleted the originals from my mailbox.

I rinsed and repeated with my sent folder, and any other sub-folder I had in my mailbox that has lived past it's usefulness.

After several alternating crashes between Outlook and OneNote, my export/import process was complete.

  1. Because Microsoft
  2. I had a LOT of emails to push across

So, after archiving all emails prior to this year, I had like 3GB of space left. Now THAT'S progress! But still not good enough.

With OneNote, I organized my notebooks for my projects, and my general notes, and now they're easy to find and use. Organization is starting to be fun again! I'm on a roll, so I'm gonna do more.

Third Step: Outlook again

Now that my entirely useless emails from past to present are gone, and all my known project emails that lived in their own folders are moved out, where else could I free up space?

Well, of course, my INBOX (cue scary music)!

In the previous years, I'd tried, and failed, at keeping my emails in their neat little folders, according to their topic or project. And, by failed, I mean some made it into their folders (already archived now), but most simply got left in the inbox.

So, I start combing through my inbox to find the emails that belong to specific folders, and I move them there. Then, I repeat the Export/AppCrash/Import routine between Outlook and OneNote.

This took a while. As I had tons of emails in their respective folders, I had even more email that was unorganized in my inbox. But, in this case, patience won the day, or the week, in this case. After chipping away at it, little by little, my inbox had only the emails from January 1st and newer in there.

My inbox now had 4.1GB of free space. Pretty good, eh? NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

And, being a glutton for punishment, I decided I could do even more.

Fourth Step: Reinventing my Outlook Experience

I decided that if things were going to change, they really needed to change, from top to bottom. So, I completely revamped the layout of my Outlook. I stripped away persistent menus, added useful side widgets, and basically brought my Outlook to a very minimal yet functional appearance.

For my inbox, my calendar, even my tasks - every single section, now has a fresh new and uncluttered look. In this case, uncluttered doesn't mean unusable, it means easier to see and do what I need when I need to. Then, when I don't need Outlook, it stays out of my way.

Next, I set up some custom inbox processing rules. There are several emails that come in with alerts and notifications that just don't impact me. They're automated blast emails from various systems and products that I don't personally use or maintain, so I set up a rule that intercepts those before they hit my inbox and take them directly to my Trash.

That alone saves me close to 50 emails a day, and up to several hundred over a weekend.

Then, I created new subfolders that actually make sense for what I'm doing this year for work. Easy to read, easy to access, and it has to make sense to use or it's gone.

Once that was done, I created a couple of "Quick Steps" with Outlook. These are handy little buttons you can click that will do one or more thing with or to your email when you click them. So, I created quicksteps that would take any email I select, then it would give it a Category with a color coding for easy reading, and then would automatically move it out of my inbox and into the folder designated for that Quick Step.

So, I have multiple Quick Steps created, and they're all visible at the top of my Outlook workspace, when I have my menus pulled down.

Now, I do have to manually select the email, and select the Quick Step that is best for that message, but that's not a bad thing. It's not bad because I now am present with each email, and have to decide what to do with every email that comes into my inbox.

I either, Quick Step it based on which category and folder it needs to go in, I can delete it, or I can reply to it, then Quick Step both the email and the reply, or when the time is right, archive it to my OneNote.

Whichever I choose, I have to read my email in order to decide what to do with it.

And, the beautiful, glorious result is: I've reached INBOX ZERO! Plus, 4.8GB out of 5GB free!

I have no emails in my inbox at the moment. When emails come in, I read them when I'm able, I process what to do with them, and get them out of my inbox.

If I'm worried that an email that gets Quick Stepped into oblivion by being out of sight from my inbox and hiding in a folder (which could also happen if it's buried within hundreds of other emails in the inbox), I Quick Step it, then go to it's new location and right-click the message and place a follow up flag on it for a time that's appropriate, and set a reminder from the same flagging feature.

By adding the flag, it places that email in my "To Do" list, that I can now see all the time as part of my new minimal heads up layout for Outlook, and the reminder will pop up in my face when I set it to, so that I can really take action on it if I somehow ignore it glaring at me from Outlook as a side widget.

And there you have it! Inbox Zero, a way to sustain and maintain it, and a stress-free way to handle emails without running out of space.

All the things I never declared as a New Year's Resolution, but did it anyway, and am so stoked about my new organization system!

Have you done anything unintentionally (at first) this year that you can claim as an unexpected New Year's Resolution win?

The Highly Paid Virtual Assistant

Have you noticed lately that good service is just so hard to find? Whether you're dealing with customer service for one of your accounts or trying to get someone to help you at the mall, it's impossible to receive even decent service these days!

How about your phone or cable service? How much do you pay each and every month, only to have your calls keep dropping and your favorite TV show freezing up? Feels like a waste of money doesn't it? It does to me.

That's exactly how I feel when it comes to virtual assistants. I just don't think there are that many that are decent out there, and I'm sick of throwing my money away on assistants that don't even provide the absolute minimum quality of service for the pay they receive!

The frustrating part is, they're in such HIGH DEMAND.

BUT, my frustration can be your gain. How? Because I'm going to build the perfect virtual assistant by writing a book teaching others how to become not just a virtual assistant, but an excellent one. An outstanding one. A virtual assistant that is SO good, he or she will ALWAYS be in demand and have clients banging down their doors to use them as their virtual assisting services.

In the end, I want to help create the ultimate Highly Paid Virtual Assistant, one that is too good to ignore, and who can command the highest rates for their assisting services because they're simply THAT GOOD.

My name is Jay, and I'm so tired of hiring and firing more virtual assistants than I can count. I've decided to write a book on how to become a Highly Paid Virtual Assistant because there just so few of them out there.

Out of sheer frustration I'm writing a guide book on how to become the kind of virtual assistant that will not only make lots of money, but will always be in high demand, and you'll end up having to turn away potential clients. Well, not completely turn them away, I'll show you what to do when that kind of excellent problem to have actually does happen... and it WILL, if you follow my steps and principles.

And HOW I'm writing this book is where you can benefit. See, the book isn't written YET, but I'm writing it.

And, as I'm writing it, I'd like to share it with you so that you can receive the eventual book this will become, one email at a time, free of charge.

When it becomes the final published book, it won't be for free and it'll cost whatever my publisher says it will. But, before they do, I want to share this with anyone who's ever thought of becoming a virtual assistant, or existing virtual assistants that are tired of being underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated.

So, in a way, this is an email course that you can take for free, while you receive each section of my book as an email, as I'm writing it, for you to use to become a Highly Paid Virtual Assistant.

You can take the teachings of this series of emails and apply it for yourself so that you can become what's lacking so much in this world: A highly competent, well organized, incredibly respected, and handsomely paid professional virtual assistant.