Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: opinions

Defining success YOUR way

I want to start by saying THANK YOU to everyone who commented on Monday’s post. Your support and encouragement and thoughts mean more to me than I can adequately express. While I’m sure I have my share of detractors, having a group of supporters makes it that much easier to deal with those who don’t like me. I’m not exactly the toughest chick around but I’m working on thickening my skin. Because if I’m going to write and publish a book, I’m going to need it. I mean, you’ve read some of those Amazon reviews, right? Holy hell, people are cruel. I need to be able to handle it. So maybe it truly was a blessing in disguise that she and I had that conversation.

It’s all about the silver linings, right?

I like to think so. 

One topic that I didn’t touch on in Monday’s post was the fact that, throughout our conversation, she kept talking about different measures of blogging success–page rank, page views per month, email subscribers, Twitter followers, stuff like that. Things that definitely matter, especially when you’re like me and will be shopping a book to agents, but in the grand scheme of blogging, they’re just measurements. They’re not indicators of quality or community or even being interesting. They’re indicators that you know how to get people to like and follow and you’re good at drawing traffic. 

But when you get those readers and followers, are they really, truly reading? Are they sticking around? Do they support you? Have you formed relationships? 

Or do you treat them like a statistic? If you do, that’s okay. I’m only judging you a little bit not judging you at all. 

As for me, I don’t treat anyone like a statistic. Because that matters to me is forming relationships and connecting with people. I want what I write to mean something. I want readers to come away with feelings, even if that feeling is hatred mixed with contempt. The rest doesn’t matter. It’s not important to me to use SEO tricks and clickbait headlines (clearly. I mean, you’ve seen my post titles) vanity metrics to quantify my “popularity”. When I finish my book do I want people to buy and read it? Yes. Of course I do. I need justification for my global book tour. But I want people to read and buy the book because they like me. Because they like my writing. Not because I’ve bribed or tricked them (for the record, I’m not necessarily above bribing. Just ask my child).  

And the reason I feel this way is because, after 3 years of blogging, I’ve finally defined and come to terms with what’s important to me. What matters to me. And I bring all of that to my personal definition of success. Which is not a word that has a universal definition (I mean, yes, it has a dictionary definition but the real life, practical definition is way more subjective than what Webster says. The dictionary. Not the guy from TV. Although that would be awesome, too). 

See? He thinks you're doing just fine.

See? He thinks you’re doing just fine.

There’s nothing wrong with the traditional definition of success. But when you look at it objectively, we all have different measures for success, with blogging and with everything else. Because what I think is successful for me might not spell success for you. 

For instance, you might think success is losing 100 pounds. I might think success is losing a pants size. Both are fine. Both are successes.

You might think success is having 50000 newsletter subscribers. I might think success is having 100 newsletter subscribers. Both are fine. Both are successes.

You might think success is having the biggest, faniciest house on the block. I might think success is simply having my own apartment. Both are fine. Both are successes.

You might think success is having a multi-book deal through a traditional publishing house. I might think success is self-publishing my first and only book. Both are fine. Both are successes.

You might think success is having a million dollars in your savings account. I might think success is saving $15 per month. Both are fine. Both are successes.

You might think success is having a booked social calendar. I might think success is having one close friend I can count on. Both are fine. Both are successes.

What it all boils down to is this–perspective. Your successes and failures are based on your perception and definition of those words, and the history and goals you bring to the table that contributes to your definition of those words. And since we’re all different, we’re all going to bring different experiences which in turn leads to–you guessed it–different definitions. And to put your subjective definition on someone else isn’t fair.  

So don’t do it. 

I’ve tried 100 different ways to end this post on an uplifting, empowering note. But none of them seemed quite right. Instead, I’m ending with this quote. It sums up everything I’m trying to say.

create success

 

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It’s Wednesday so I’m linking up with Liz. No confessions this week but you should go read all the awesome ones that link up with Kathy. 

The Hump Day Blog Hop
Vodka and Soda

 

5 lessons learned from being told “you suck”

Jon Acuff talks about something he calls “critics math”. What he means by that is you could have 100 reviews of something–a book, a picture, your blog, whatever–with 99 positive and 1 negative and you will only focus on the 1 negative. 

I definitely know that’s true for me. 

Which is why, lately, I’ve been obsessing over how much everything I do totally and completely sucks. 

Because two weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone who told me that “your blog sucks, your Twitter following isn’t any good, and your mentoring program will never make any money”. Those where her exact words, and I’ve whittled down the negative feedback for the sake of brevity. 

I can’t even begin to tell you guys how much this hurt me. I work hard at having a nice looking blog that has consistently good content, I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve my mentoring program, and my social media followers, while important, are not something I use to measure my popularity or quality. So to be told everything I do sucks and all my effort is essentially for nothing has taken a huge toll on my self-confidence, my desire to even continue to try, and makes me rethink every decision I’ve made regarding writing and blogging thus far. This woman made me believe I’m wasting my time and I should pack it in. 

And I almost did.

But you know what? 

Fuck her.

Because I am a good writer. My blog doesn’t suck. And my mentoring program absolutely has potential. And there is absolutely no reason for me to quit, despite her horribly negative assessment of me, my abilities, my blog, and my short and long term plans.

stink

And while I’ve definitely been dwelling in a place of “I suck and will never be successful as a writer, business woman or anything else”, there are a few takeaways from my conversation with that woman: 

  1. Look for the immediately actionable. While they may be buried underneath harsh statements, there’s probably one or two doable tasks or ideas you can implement quickly. Those little tweaks can breathe new life into a project or blog, and it might not have been ideas you had thought of before.
  2. Look for the long term planning. Again, these may be buried underneath cruelly worded sentences, but those critiques will force you to take a hard look at what your long term plans are. You might find it necessary to go in a different direction than you had previously thought but it might be an even better direction.
  3. Reevaluate your elevator pitch. I’m a big believer in personal responsibility so maybe the reason the person is so negative and harsh has to do with the way you’re presenting what you do. Maybe you’re not positive or enthusiastic or descriptive enough about it. Maybe you don’t present your message clearly. Take your critic’s response as an opportunity to reevaluate how you talk about your project.
  4. Assess the true value of their opinion. Is this someone who has a vested interest in you? Or is it a casual acquaintance or someone you’ve just met at a party? While you can look for the value in those conversations (see 1 & 2), if it isn’t someone who knows you, isn’t familiar with anything you’ve done beyond a cursory glance, or doesn’t give a shit if you succeed or not, don’t internalize their words too much.
  5. Keep going, regardless. It’s important to accept the fact that not everyone will like you. I’m sure not even Beyonce has universal appeal. She doesn’t stop. She keeps doing what she needs to do, both for herself and for her fans (I’m assuming. Bey and I have never really sat down and talked about this). And so should you. 

 
It never feels good to hear you suck. Especially at something that’s been your lifelong dream. And it’s easy to let those voices sing a loud chorus, especially if you already have low self-esteem or are unnecessarily hard on yourself. Those critics validate all the things you already tell yourself, which only gives you more self-doubt. Trust when I say I understand. More than I can tell you. 

But the best thing you can do to silence them, and prove them wrong, is to not quit. There’s a reason there are so many choices and there is room for all different voices. Everyone likes something different and simply because one person isn’t a fan doesn’t mean 99 other people aren’t as well. Don’t let one detractor keep you from pursuing your dream.

 

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Don’t judge unless you know

 Alrighty. 

It’s rant time. 

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend and, through that conversation, I realized that it gets on my nerves, even more than I thought, when someone condemns a situation or circumstances without knowing all the facts.

Here’s an example. A woman finds out her friend’s husband has been cheating on her. Rather than get divorced, the friend decides to go to therapy and work through the issues so that she and her husband remain married. Divorce is not a word they believe in unless it’s absolutely necessary and maybe this one cheating incident isn’t worth a divorce. The woman gets all up on her high horse, proclaiming that she would never, EVER stay with a man who cheats on her. Once a cheater, always a cheater and he’s just not worth my time and I can do better and all that jazz. It causes fights between her and her friend, to the point that they can no longer continue their friendship.don't judge 2

Here’s a second example. A couple in their late 20s, dating for 9 months, decide to get engaged. A friend who’s been through a broken engagement decides that it’s too fast and starts pontificating that people shouldn’t rush into marriage and gives 4782 reasons why not. The friend makes valid points but the couple just isn’t listening. They don’t want negative opinions. They don’t care about negative opinions. They know what’s best for them, even if it might not look like it to outsiders (note: there are exceptions to this. We can talk about that another day if you’d like).

In both of these scenarios, there are dozens of detractors saying what they’re doing is wrong. They cite their own personal “experience” as the guiding force in their opinions. They don’t have all the facts. And not only that, your situation might not match the one you’re criticizing. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, you don’t know the conversations that have been had, and you don’t have all the information. You have speculation along with snippets. 

It’s difficult to make a fully formed opinion with minimal detail. 

And even if you have personal experience with a situation, you cannot, with any certainty, say what you will or won’t do when faced with it again. Because things change and you can’t possibly predict what other mitigating factors might impact your decision. Married to a cheater? Maybe you have kids now and it’s not so easy to kick their dad out of their lives. Moving in with someone you’ve been dating for 5 months? Maybe there are financial reasons behind it. Have your kids at a grocery store in their pajamas at 9:00 at night? Maybe the babysitter bailed or the milk ran out unexpectedly or a kid is sick and you can’t leave them at home while you get medication.

While it’s easy to say, with certainty, what you’d do in those hypothetical situations, especially if it’s contrary to what you’re witnessing, what you’d actually do is probably very different. Nothing is ever as clear cut as we think it is. You’re not psychic, and you certainly cannot predict your emotions. And, whether you like it or not, emotions, even more than money, guide most of our decisions. Trying to decide if you’re going to stay in a marriage (or even get married) is nothing like buying a couch. Sure, you can vet the prospects, list pros and cons, and you know what’s rational and what’s not, but when it comes down to it, you’re most likely going to let your emotions make the decision. Not a list on a piece of paper or statistics or research or an ill-conceived blog post.

If you can be stoic and rational about every emotionally charged decision, then good for you. I have mad respect for that because, honestly, I can’t. My heart is sometimes more powerful than my head. don't judge

So, unless you know all the factors behind why something looks the way it does, keep your mouth shut. I can’t keep you from thinking and judging (not going to lie, I do it, too, and it’s completely wrong most of the time), but if you have the balls to comment, you best be prepared for pushback and disagreement. Your opinion doesn’t always matter, it isn’t always necessary, and sometimes, even if you disagree, the best thing to do is just support your friend’s decisions.

(Note: this in no way applies to any sort of domestic violence/bullying/serious mental health situation. It is that severe, you best step in and do whatever you can to protect your friend)

 

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P.S. One more thing. We’re so quick to praise those who do what we think they should do; think about how we praise women who walk away from cheaters without a second look. But it is harder, WAY harder, to stay and work through an issue than it is to leave. We should be giving those women their due praise instead of criticizing them so openly.

Book review: Building Blocks of a Better Attitude

You know how there’s that one person in your life, an older sibling or cousin, who always just seemed so cool and you kind of wanted to do what they did but you didn’t think it’d be as cool if you did it? For me, that person is my cousin Dave. He’s 5 years older than me and he probably didn’t know that I looked up to him when we were kids (he knows now because, well, he’s reading this). And now that we’re adults, Dave still does things that are different and cool and I’m pretty sure I’d be ridiculous if I tried them (seriously, picture me trying to give away free hugs at a concert. It doesn’t work, does it?).

I can’t remember exactly how it came about, but earlier this year, Dave emailed me asking if I wanted to listen to some of his hypnosis recordings (oh, have I mentioned he’s a certified hypnotherapist and life coach and NLP provider? Cool, right?). I’ve always been skeptical about hypnosis, mostly as a result of the image it gets in pop culture but my grandmother used hypnosis to quit smoking roughly 30 years ago and besides, what did I have to lose? Nothing but time and I have plenty of that to spare. So I said sure and I listened to the recordings, and you know what? They’re quite good.

I felt a little silly at first but the more I listened, the more I could feel what he said setting in. And it made sense! And I totally do not do weird things when people snap their fingers or say certain words. Dave’s recordings focus more on changing your thoughts and your words and he does that by putting you in a situation where you can be receptive rather than resistant to those ideas. And you can do it at home, too.

I liked what I gleaned from his recordings so when he approached me about reading his book, of course I said yes. Because I am a skeptic by nature and honestly, sometimes this stuff gets a little too new age/hippy for me, I didn’t know what to expect when I read it. But I have noticed a huge difference in Dave over the last few years and if he was saying this is the method he used to change, I was willing to put my skepticism aside, much like I did with the hypnosis.

I’m glad I did. His eBook, Building Blocks of a Better Attitude, is a short, jam packed with information book that will make you truly think about your words, your reactions, your thoughts, and how they are all interconnected. I honestly never gave any thought to the choice of words I use and how they impact my attitude and approach towards….well, pretty much everything. He gives you easy to use techniques for reshaping and reframing ideas, feeling, thoughts, and words. And reading this in conjunction with the recordings puts it on a completely different level. Because when you read, you can hear his voice in the words on the page, and it makes it that much more impactful.

Also included in the book are simple exercises to do to put what he’s teaching into practice (I think a workbook would go perfectly with this book, to reinforce the exercises even more) as well as a host of resources for further self-improvement. I’ve read part of one (the library wanted it back before I had a chance to finish), The Four Agreements, and it is a good, albeit dense, read, so I’m sure the others are just as plentiful. And that’s something to consider; these books are short but chock full of information. You need to read them more than once to let the lessons sink in. Fortunately, just like the title advertises, they are blocks and each one builds on the previous ones so taking them one at a time is possible and doesn’t devalue the lessons.

A final note: I think what, more than anything, resonates with me about Dave’s approach to shaping a better attitude is the focus on personal responsibility. He emphasizes that changing your thoughts and feelings comes from you. No one else. You can change your response to every situation, regardless of what it is, and that will in turn affect you. It is not about the external factors, it is about the internal ones (Note: if you have a mental illness, seek professional help. These resources can help, and maybe they are all you need, but maybe not. There is no shame in traditional therapy or meds and if that is what you need, then obtain that help).

Now that I have been exposed to this method of hypnosis and the systems outlined in Dave’s book, I will definitely continue to explore them. Traditional therapy did not work for me and I still have some major self-esteem issues to improve on. And thankfully there are tons of resources, including those in Dave’s store (if you’re so inclined, check it out and if you want to purchase anything use code jana15 for a 15% discount on anything in the store. This is not an affiliate link and I would not be sharing it if I didn’t think it had value), that can help me.

I’m interested in self improvement and this is a great place to start. Even if it seems a little weird.

How about you guys? Have you ever tried hypnosis or anything like my cousin suggests? Did it work?

 

A few words on depression, suicide, celebrities, and everyone else

I hadn’t planned on writing a post today but I have a few things I need to say.

In case you haven’t seen or heard the news, actor Robin Williams died yesterday, and the cause of death was suicide. It’s a tragic, horrible situation and so many are mourning the loss of an incredible and talented performer on social media, in the news, or in private. And that’s fine. You do what you need to do to make sense of it.

For me, though, it’s a bit different. It is frustrating to me, someone who battles depression every day, to see this hyper focus on mental illness and suicide simply because a celebrity dies as a result. Depression is an every day battle for millions of people, and every day, many of them take their lives. Yet no one floods their Twitter or Facebook feeds with pictures, memes or quotes from those every day, yet equally special, people. I get that perhaps people are taken aback with this because there is a cultural perception that celebrities are invincible. They have money, fame, and everything we place value on. They bring joy and happiness to others. So how can they be depressed?

That, to me, highlights just how misinterpreted depression is. Depression is a mental illness, caused by internal factors, not external ones. No matter how incredible your life may seem on the outside, depression wreaks havoc on your insides. Mentally, emotionally, physically. Depression skews your perception of everything and it feels impossible to make anyone understand what’s going on (for a great depiction, check out Allie Brosch’s comics on depression. She says is better than I ever could). Depression makes you feel alone and isolated. Depression takes away all the things normal people take for granted.

Depression is more than just sadness.

Robin Williams’s influence on pop culture is undeniable. Some of his movies are among the best ever, and are some of my personal favorites, and it is no doubt because of the talent he leant to those movies. His talent was unique. His mental illness was not.

And for me, that’s the tragic part.

We, as a society, need to take the stigma out of mental illness and start making it okay for people to be open about their struggles. And those of us who have it need to break the barriers and make sure we talk about it (besides Allie Brosch, two others who are fantastically open about their depression are Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and Joe Pantoliano’s book. There’s also some wonderful TED talks on depression, including this one from a comic). We need to let others know they’re not alone. We need to encourage those contemplating suicide to seek professional help rather than inundate them with glib sayings about how happiness is a choice and it will all be better. We need to generate a better understanding of the disease.

We must support, and remember, everyone who is fighting against depression and other mental illnesses.

Not just the celebrities.