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Taking a Moment to Be Thankful (Selfies Oncoming)

I should be nearly done with my #30DayThanks challenge, and I’m not. 30 letters of thankfulness handwritten and delivered over the course of 30 days…I’ve sent 7. In fact, over the last week or so, I haven’t even touched the project. Now that I’ve moved from Madison to St. Louis, I feel like it’s time to restart.

I still rule my first attempt at #30DayThanks a success. Some of those seven letters really touched the people who got them, and it makes me so glad to know that. Also, the act of reflecting and writing these thoughts has changed my perspective, already made me more thankful on a regular basis. I’ve done so many amazing things over the past few months, these last 19 days in particular…I feel like I recognize the little moments more, appreciate time spent with family and friends like I didn’t before I spent this time focusing on thankfulness. 

The following is a chain of selfies. Sorry.

Since I left my job in March, I’ve done tons of things that I’m thankful for:

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I saw an old friend, met her daughter, and toured parts of Michigan I’d have never seen otherwise (including an excellent bakery).

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I road-tripped to a Milwaukee Brewers game with former co-workers (more than were in this picture, and I’m lucky to be able to call them my friends).

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I flew to Richmond, CA and spent time with my Grandmother on my Dad’s side, just hanging around enjoying each other’s company.

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I also visited my aunt and cousin, touring a bit of Santa Cruz along the way.

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I explored tons of San Francisco (one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve ever been to), and shared it with one of my closest long-distance friends.

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I watched my Kid Sister walk across the stage of her college graduation, one of the proudest moments I’ve had yet…

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…and I got the chance to be pretty damned proud of some graduating friends, too.

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We took photos with some extended family (as well a couple important members behind the lens)…

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…and we spent some time taking immediate family photos, too.

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I traveled to Providence, RI and watched one of my oldest friends get her Master’s from an Ivy League university (and we took one of our first good pictures together).

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My mother and I went out together for a special lunch to celebrate her birthday…

…and those are just the things I have selfies from.

I’m so privileged to have the friends and family that I do, to share the experiences that I have, and I don’t know that the me from even just a few weeks ago would appreciate them the way that I do now. So, instead of berating myself like I usually would at this point, I just want you to know that I’ll be starting the #30daythanks project all over again starting tomorrow.

Thanks for being there, everyone. Looking forward to a new, shiny 30 days of thankfulness.

-Josh

#30DayThanks, Day 5: Keystone Thankfulness

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I’m on Day 5 of my 30 Day Thankfulness project, and already I see changes in my life and perspective. This week I’m out in Providence, Rhode Island, to visit a friend for her graduation at Brown…and this has definitely got me thinking about thankfulness. I find myself thinking about gratitude more often now (especially if I still have to write/send my letter). I set my deadline for writing and mailing for 9 AM the following morning so it aligns with my Daily Success Checklist (I’ll talk about that another time).

I feel more prone to being considerate in general; maybe I’m thanking people too often now. Or it feels that way, because I feel like thanking ALL THE TIME NOW. I finished reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit a couple weeks ago, and as anyone can tell you (like I do with all books I read), I’ll frame the entire world’s actions based on lessons learned from that book for roughly the next three weeks. I’m thinking that writing this daily thanking letter creates what The Power of Habit calls a keystone habit: an initial habit that, when followed, creates a pathway to other habits. 

It’s what happens when you start running every other day and decide to diet or bicycle to work (or when you decide that you’re going to have a cigarette while out drinking with friends). Your brain receives a positive response from doing habitual actions, and linking new actions to those positive responses makes it easier to take on new habits. Starting a new routine with a simple keystone action instead of a complex routine allows the brain to cement the new habit and link new actions together, creating a powerful tool for change.

For me, writing a thank-you letter in the morning puts my brain in a positive state, one where I’m investigating the world around me to find things to appreciate. This means I naturally look around more often and find things to appreciate, and subsequently I thank people when they’re involved in making those moments. I guess this creates a sort of positive habit loop

Or I’m making this all up.

Either way, on Day 5, I’m still glad I’m taking the challenge on. 25 letters to go!

-Josh

#30daythanks is a simple challenge: send a hand-written letter of thankfulness to someone at least once a day for 30 days. If you want to do this and want to mail letters, but are short on resources, contact josh.k.boykin at gmail for assistance.

Post on Twitter/Facebook with #30daythanks to get in on the project and inform others. Also, feel free to email or comment any feedback or suggestions!

Be Thankful: The 30-Day Thankfulness Challenge

Fireworks from Fitchburg, WI. Photo from The Wisconsin TImes.

A friend of mine moved into his new condo today, and he wanted some help. I’m not working a 9-5 right now, so I had the time; I originally thought it an 11-2 task, but volunteered for an all-day affair. Allergies and asthma weren’t kind to me today; my friend asked if I wanted to leave multiple times, but I told him I planned on sticking around until the job was done. And I’m glad I did, because there were fireworks just outside of his condo for a local festival this evening.

Fireworks do something to me that I can’t quite understand. I’ve talked about this before, but my first memory involving fireworks is me, sitting on my dad’s shoulders as a young kid, screaming bloody murder because I was convinced I was going to be hit by the giant, cascading green bloom in the sky. Even after that near-traumatic experience, fireworks managed to work their way into my heart. Some of my favorite memories have been gathering with friends or family for fireworks, distracted from cell phones and life just for a few minutes to see pyrotechnics in the sky. So when I left my friend’s place today and saw the fireworks booming a short distance away, I sat on the trunk of my car alone and watched the show in the brisk night air.

(Yes, it’s brisk here in Madison at night in May. I have no idea what’s going on with weather.)

When I drove home, I realized I felt happy. Damn near sick…but good. I felt like I accomplished something, pushed through difficulty and sickness and followed-through to the end. And, to be honest, before I started writing this post (or the post that was supposed to be on my new site before I found out about the hackers), I felt incredibly sore and shaky, convinced I’d pushed the envelope just a bit too far and I’d be sick tomorrow. But I realized that I wasn’t just feeling happy; the feeling putting a smile on my face was thankfulness. And that feeling I had to act on.

I’m thankful that I live in a nice apartment where I feel comfortable and have my own space. I’m thankful that I have friends and family all over the country willing to let me visit and stay with them, and I’m thankful I have the resources to be able to do that recently. I’m thankful that I have successful friends, people who take pride in what they do and do it even when it’s hard or frustrating. I’m thankful that I have family that would do anything for me, even when I don’t deserve it.

Even after saying all these things, I have to admit I’m not great at expressing thankfulness to the people who deserve it. So I’m starting this tomorrow, and I hope you’ll join me:

The 30-Day Thankfulness Challenge

It’s simple: physically write one letter a day to someone you’re thankful to, then mail that letter. The goal is to both write and mail one letter each day; feel free to write/mail more than one in a day, but no counting multiple letters in one day for multiple days.

The goal is twofold: to make thankfulness a daily priority, and to make sure one person finds out they’re appreciated every day for thirty days. I think it’s important to physically write and mail the letters; physical letters are special. (I might have to type up the letters I write and mail them alongside the written ones like a secret decoder key) Yeah, you’ll probably have to ask people for some addresses. Don’t be afraid; they’ll appreciate it in the long-run.

Thirty days, thirty letters. Thirty expressions of thankfulness. And it’s not even November!

I’d love to hear if you’re going to join me on this challenge. Post on Facebook or Twitter with #30daythanks, and maybe we can get some other people in on it, too.

If you’re short on resources and funds, contact me at josh.k.boykin at gmail and I’ll help you out. Let nothing stand in the way of your gratitude.

Thanks for reading.

-Josh

Another Change of Approach

From marketingdeviant.com
From marketingdeviant.com

From marketingdeviant.com

I had a couple of birthdays a few weeks ago. I turned 26 at the end of September, and the next day was my 1-year anniversary with my company. Happy Birthdays to me.

I’ve been feeling this coming on for a few weeks, the nagging, the itch to come back to this blog, to start this again. I have a habit of trying to develop myself in cycles, of feeling motivation and going really hard at everything for a few weeks, but then the motivation drops and the difficulty increases and I get busy and I give up and about six months later I do it all over again. Or five months in this case.

I’d love to say that things will be different this time, that I really have my head in the game, that I’ll be consistent and rise to glory and all those things…but I don’t know that. 25 was a year that passed with few celebrations or personal developments. At 26 I’m now consistently stressed, haven’t put nearly as much effort into the things I care about as I claimed I would. I work a job that doesn’t make me happy very often, though admittedly I work with fantastic people. I’m fifteen pounds heavier. Some would say to get over it, that this is simply how becoming an adult works. Though I don’t believe it, I can’t doubt that it rings with a bit of truth.

If none of this sounds optimistic it’s because I’m not optimistic. I’ve been unhappy for a year (more than that, really), and it took me until recently to finally conceptualize that it’s not my job, not my relationships, not my writing I’ve been unhappy with. I’ve been unhappy with me. I’ve been disappointed in myself time and again, made mistake after mistake without feeling like I’m progressing towards being a successful writer or entrepreneur. Some of you might have known me in high school or college and thought me a bit…confident. I don’t have that confidence anymore.

In its place now is a bit of trepidation, a bit of fear, and a lot of humbleness. I’ve done everything someone is supposed to do at my age: moved out, got a quality, high-paying job, started paying off debts. And amidst that I feel like I’m backsliding. So, like the dramatic scene at the end of the action movie where the hero desperately claws for something to hang on to as he slides nearer and nearer to the cliff, I’m reformatting, changing my approach, grasping for a new mentality and dedication to power myself into a better self-image, a better position in life…to happiness, really.

When I look back on the last year I realize that, though I’m not in the place I wanted to be, I’ve learned a hell of a lot. I’ve learned how to put in crazy hours and how to stop putting in crazy hours when they become too much. I’ve learned how to be frugal and I’ve learned how to stop caring about the cash and have a good time. I’ve learned how to set concrete goals and measure progress and I’ve learned how to shut down and just let life happen around me. I’ve learned how to micro-manage and I’ve learned how to deal with letting a project grow its own wings and fly. I’ve learned how to give myself a break, and I’ve learned how to expect more of myself. Much of my growth came directly from the very job I felt was holding me back, and it’s been hard to admit that what has caused me so much grief has also given me so much. But now that I’ve done some growing in general (and hopefully some maturing), it’s time to realize that simply growing isn’t enough. I have to decide how to grow, where to grow, and when to make the decisions that will make me the man I’ll be for the rest of my life.

DRAMATIC, HUH?

A couple nights ago I came up with a system to make myself accountable for the way I spend time, to allow myself some flexibility in the way I strengthen myself, but also to make sure I focus on the skillset that I want to grow, the strengths that I am proud of. I’ll be setting concrete goals, rewarding my successes and penalizing my failures. I’m going to push myself consistently, set realistic goals, and understand that with struggle comes success. I’m keeping the details under wraps right now, but I’m hoping to shape myself into someone I know again.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t know who I’m looking at. I feel like I don’t know I am anymore, I don’t know how I got here. But if I tripped and stumbled into this life, then I’m damned lucky. I have an amazing family, spectacular friends, a stable, challenging job, and, if I take advantage of the opportunities in front of me, the whole damned world at my fingertips. Because even though I might not be optimistic, even though I might not feel a ton of confidence in myself, I still see potential. I still feel hope. But I need a change of approach. I need a focus.

This blog will undergo a change of format at the next post. This won’t just be me venting about my life (though I can’t guarantee that won’t seep in occasionally). HTML will go back to its original purpose: taking back life. Whether it’s taking life back from indecision, mediocrity, stagnation, depression, addiction, whatever the matter is….it’s YOUR LIFE. It’s MY LIFE. Either we can do or be done, change or be changed. Sit back and let someone take charge of your life, or stand up and say, “Hey, that’s my life.”

I’ll be taking it back now.

-Josh

Ten Thousand Hours.

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Malcolm Gladwell says that if you want to become a master of something that it’ll take 10,000 hours of dedication.

But this isn’t a Gladwell post. It’s a Macklemore post.

When I first heard Thrift Shop on the radio I knew it was going to be a hit. It’s pretty easy to tell what’s going to resonate with the populous, what songs are going to get played over and over again. I found the intro pretty annoying. But I started listening to the lyrics behind the catchy beat and became really impressed. He took the mechanics of popular hip-hop and subverted the traditional message. Why pay ridiculous amounts of money to buy clothes? I mean, they’re just clothes, right? I enjoyed it; it was fun.

And then I heard Can’t Hold Us and I started to get it. I remember talking to some friends, saying, “Man, how ridiculous must it feel to put out tracks like he does, to have been rapping for years and the one that makes him blow up is almost ridiculous?” They said that he probably didn’t care, that the cash that’s rolling in probably makes up for it all, and that at least it’s getting him exposure.

I think it was a tactic, dropping Thrift Shop before Can’t Hold Us. Pull the audience in with the stuff that makes it comfortable and happy, then gradually start to show them the real stuff. Though I’d love to say otherwise, I think that if Can’t Hold Us dropped before Thrift Shop, even though there’s more vocal styling and skill in that track, he wouldn’t have as large a following today. But that’s part of mastering your craft and your audience.

His most recent album with he album has recurring themes: blood, sweat, and tears. Dreams. Work. Fighting for success. The flaws of consumerism. And appreciating the success once it comes.

Ten Thousand Hours is the name of the first track on The Heist. In in he says, “Ten thousand hours/I’m so damn close I can taste it.” He says he’s not a master yet, but I say he is. He’s doing things with hip-hop that are simply fantastic, and it’s damned inspirational. He talks about drug abuse, alcoholism, even writing about telling his family about his relapse.

Same shit, different day, same struggle
Slow motion as time slips through my knuckles
Nothing beautiful about it
No light at the tunnel
For the people that put the passion before them being comfortable

Kinda funny that his passion, the passion of my friends following their dreams, is the light at the end of my tunnel. That 10,000 hours isn’t going to get any shorter for any of us. So if you’ve got a passion, if you’ve got a craving, then you’d better get started. Do your craft for the sake of the craft, and you’ll inspire people you never even dreamed you would.

-Josh

C2E2 Blog: The Sun Brothers and Crowdfunding with Professionalism

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Brad and Wesley Sun (L to R), founders of Sun Brothers Studios. Picture taken from sunbrosstudios.com.

A quick definition of professionalism, placed in the words of the Brad and Wesley Sun of Sun Brothers Studios: “Even if it’s not what you do to put food on the table, treat it like it is.”

I tweeted this morning saying:

So writing this blog tonight instead of tomorrow is my attempt at professionalism.

The “great panel” WAS, in fact, a great panel; two men, after kicking the idea around of starting their own company (like many), actually got off their asses and started their own comic company (UNlike many). Before they even considered Kickstarter as an option they saved a ton of their own money, invested their own time, and basically finished their product. By the time they ended up on Kickstarter basically all they had to do was send their first graphic novel, Chinatown, to the printers.

Their fund goal: $11K. They raised over $25,000. Pretty amazing.

At the panel they gave some pretty savvy Kickstarter-specific tips, things like making sure to set up your Amazon Payments account early, and have family and friends back you on Day 1 right when the campaign begins so that other people who see your project get excited about the investment.

Those are good tips. But none of those are how I think they raised over twice their Kickstarter goal.

Here’s what they did:

  • Set a timetable. Sure, you have an idea, but what’s it matter if you don’t get it done? If you’re going to Kickstart your project then you’ll have backers who expect rewards for their contributions and you’ll want to provide those promptly. On the subject of backers…
  • Think of Kickstarter as an investment opportunity, not a charity. Wesley Sun drove this point home over and over again throughout the panel. Treat the people who pump money into your project as investors who want to see your project succeed, not random people who just want to give you money because you’re a cool person (even if that’s why your Mom and friend Lenny from down the street backed you).
  • Research your market. One of your biggest recruiting tools on Kickstarter is the video at the top of the page: watch tons of other videos to find out what works and what doesn’t. Then do what you do best, but, again, remember you’re reaching out to investors. You can be funny, but take your project seriously or else nobody else will.
  • Know your scope. Wesley and Brad knew they weren’t just interested in making one comic, so they marketed to backers like they were helping to build a company instead of publish a comic. It worked.
  • PLAY SMART, PLAY HARD, PLAY TO WIN. There are tons of variables in play when you do a Kickstarter: leave none of them to chance. Actually calculate how much money you’ll need for the project, and don’t forget that you’ll lose 10% between Amazon Payments and Kickstarter fees. Invoke every hook you can to bring in backers; the Sun Brothers launched their Kickstarter in October since Chinatown is a haunted house story and people would be thinking about Halloween. And don’t forget the power of face-to-face marketing: hit up local shops, send letters to your friends and family, do it all.
  • Don’t stop after the campaign’s over. Tons of the work only shows up after the campaign’s over. When backers wrote to complain about damaged copies of the book they ordered, even when they were damaged by the US Postal Service the Sun Brothers still sent out replacement copies to those donors.

Technology now makes it easier than ever to turn ideas into real products, to take our dreams and turn them into reality. But Wesley and Brad’s success shows it takes more than a good idea and a Kickstarter account: it takes professionalism. Hard work, determination, careful planning, and taking both yourself and your project seriously…like they said, it’s amazing what a bit of professionalism can do to help you become successful.

-Josh

10 Signs You’re Doing it Wrong

10. You spend time thinking about what you’d rather be doing more often than enjoying the moment you’re in.

9. You don’t sleep well, and you know it’s not for medical reasons.

8. You read blogs, books, articles about seizing life and feel like they’re talking to you directly.

7. You find yourself sacrificing happiness for other things on a regular basis.

6. People who really care about you ask how you’re doing and you either lie or talk around the question.

5. You think about how today would be better if you did something different, and then you do the same thing you did yesterday.

4. You don’t feel like you’re working any goals of your own.

3. You spend more time in a day feeling unhappy than anything else (if you’re not sure, make a log for a couple days and see what happens).

2. Your free time doesn’t feel free.

1. You know you’re unhappy.

TL;DR version: Ask yourself this question directly: “Am I doing what’s right for me and my life right now?” If the answer is no, then you’re doing it wrong. 

I’ll tell you something you’ve probably heard at least 80,000 times already: life is way too damned short to spend unhappy. Debt will always be over your head, fear will always be the monster just around the corner, habit will always try to lock you in place. But for all the problems there are in this world, every day is a new opportunity to make something happen, to turn it around, to start making your life into what it should be instead of what it is.

At the end of the day, the only person who has to sleep with you is you, and the only one out there you should be worried about accounting to is you. Because if your boss, significant other, parents, God, higher power, or whoever else has higher expectations for you than you have for yourself, then guess what: you’re doing that wrong, too.

-Josh

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