For the longest time I had this picture of Marvin The Robot from the movie The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy. Though I have not had the pleasure of reading the book yet, I saw the movie on theaters and had a blast. I think the book eloquently taps into that primal insatiable need for humans to look answers for the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. It’s why us geek are constantly on Google, reading books, attending seminar and waiting for a Yoda to point us in the right direction. For this post I intend to post a mini-guide that can serve you in different stages of your life; may it be for the more mundane goal of having a geeky better life or for it can be used as a companion piece for the book The Zombie Survival Guide when the zombie apocalypse finally arrives. My guide consist of four pillars for achieving the geeky better life dream.
The Pillar of using Systems
Simply put; systems are what important to keeps us sane, healthy and moving forward. Systems are what enable us to modify our behaviors. The most influential thought leader on using systems is BJ Fogg who has done extensive research on Stanford University on this subject. He states that there are three factors that can modify a behavior which are motivation, ability and triggers. Suppose you want to learn Japanese for the purpose of watching anime. The motivation for learning would be to watch and understand anime movies such as Akira. Now the second component is ability. Maybe you either have time to study Japanese on your own or you may have money to get into a course. Let’s assume that you you do have the resources to learn Japanese. The final component would be a trigger, something that can make you take action. If you enroll and pay money for a course with a teacher than your trigger would be a set date and time that you would both meet and speak in Japansese. If you on the other hand would be learning on your own you would use google calender. You can use these three components to acquire a behavior of to get rid of one.
These systems go in hand with goal setting. We have discussed in the past that goal setting is a skill that must be practiced and learned. On top of that in other to have a healthy relations with personal goals we must embrace failure as part of or journey and enjoy the journey. Goals have to be realistic, otherwise you are signing off your mental health and giving it to Harley Quinn. There is a study on Harvard University called Goals Gone Wild (I’m not joking) which shows the damage that goal setting caan do when not approached rationally.
The combination of systems for behavior change and goal setting will most of the time lead to Automation of many aspects of your life. There are many areas that you have already have automatic systems. Your email, alarm, direct deposit, automatic bill payment, etc. Try to think of other ways you can automate areas of your life that can lead to geeky awesomeness. Also try to think of ways you can have quick wins that can motivate you further in completing task. A quick win would be something like aiming to exercise just for 5 minutes in a single day or receiving compliments from more than one person unexpectedly for my blog post… “coughs”.
The Pillar of Financial Stability
I am no financial guru. You can check out Rammit Sethi’s professional advice on what to do with money. I do have the common sense that in other to have a stress-less geeky life in which you can afford all those videogames and action figures you must some kind of financial comfort zone. As of 2014 a survey shows that almost half of Americans have more credit card debt than savings. Now how are we suppose to enjoy all those superhero movies in the summer in we are almost broke? I don’t believe in living frugally, that’s just not how I roll. What I believe is living debt free and making enough money to enjoy what I love most which is going to watch movies at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin and enjoy good food, excellent service with a nostalgic 80’s vibe.
My recommendation if you are in debt is to do what I did which is the snowball effect. Pay you smallest debt as quickly as possible and go on to pay the smallest after that. The next step would be to make more money at your job. Before asking for a raise have a discussion with your supervisor and tell him all the awesome stuff you will achieve in the next 3 months and that you would like to discuss a compensation adjustment after that or get another job that pays you more money.
It’s hard work and it does not sound sexy, but it’s doable. I worked in 3 more jobs within 6 months in 2011 jobs after I quit Wal-Mart before landing on an awesome job that I enjoy a lot and that allows me to be as geeky as I want. Plus I have the occasional wedding that with any luck and patience I can take it full time. I used systems and habits to achieve all this. I also learned to automate somewhat my finances. My direct deposit divides itself in three different accounts. One for saving, one for paying bills and one for groceries and having fun. Check this link here to learn more on how to automate your finances.
The Pillar of being social
I have discussed before the importance of being social and networking. There are numerous publications and studies that show a link between a successful career and networking. Research published in 2007 demonstrated and I quote that “Developing and maintaining relationships with others for the purpose of mutual benefit can help individuals search for and secure employment opportunities, gain access to needed information or resources— especially on short notice—and obtain guidance, sponsorship, and social support”.
What’s funny and kinda sad is that from time to time I would hear complaints from co-workers in companies that I have worked for complaining about how X person got a promotion because he/she was a major ass kisser and that they are the ones who should have the position because the studied X number of years and got a degree on Y college that they are the ones who should.
An education is important, but Trust always trumps a degree. That co-worker who got a promotion because he earned his supervisors trust in a very human and emotional level even though he/she may not be as knowledgeable technically. Not that they won’t learn the details while on the job. Every geek should concentrate from now on in meeting people and earning there trust instead of blast 1000 resumes on monster.com randomly.
If you are seriously one of those extreme introverted “I don’t know how to start a conversation” type of person than I can give you a useful templete that can get your feet wet in social activities. I used the following questions in many meet-up to get the ball rolling on conversations.
Socializing interview questions:
Hi my name is _______. What your name?
Where are you from?
What brought you to live here (to current state, location of event)
Do you enjoy living here? or Have you enjoyed your stay here?
How long have you been coming to these meet-up?
How is this particular meetup compare to previous ones?(does not apply if the person is a newbie)
What do you do?
What you do to relax when you are not working?
I memorized those questions and I guarantee you that they will lead you to interesting conversations because if you are genuine and truly listening you will be compelled to ask more questions based on the answers the person gives you. This last comment was brought you by D.U.H moments. To complement these question I’m including a fascinating ted talk about body language.
E-mail is also an important tool to get to know more people. Always be brief and get to the point quickly. Here is one example of a cold e-mail I sent.
Greetings from someone who occasionally shoots on old school Super 8.
I was doing some research on content strategy positions in linkedin and I noticed you’re a Client success manager at ________ and that you do photography on the side. That’s how I found your blog and contact because photographers and filmmakers are alike, I have my super 8 website as well.
I’m on a quest to move my career more in line with content strategy either as freelance or as a full time job and I would love to ask you just 3 to 5 questions about your experience in _________.
Would you be available to talk a few minutes by the phone or over coffee next week on Monday at 6:00pm?
If e-mail is easier, I’d be happy to send you my questions.
The following are general guidelines for when e-mailing someone you don’t know.
Always state how you find their e-mail,
establish how you two are similar now matter how vague.
State the purpose of the message
Suggest a date to meet or write in the future
The Pillar of Fun
My favorite part! Admittedly having fun took me a long time to learn and I can still do better. A work and life balance in crucial for a geeky better life. A common problem that I used to have was working after work. I clocked out at four went to my apartment and worked on my goals until 9:00 pm played 20 minutes on my PS3 and went to sleep and did it all over again. Obviously that was not sustainable and I got stressed out. Now I stop at 6:30 and spend the rest of my time playing more videogames and watching Netflix, Agents of Shield, The Colbert Report and just plain relaxing. I’m trying to plan my weekends ahead also.
It’s important to be grateful and enjoy what you already have. If you live only for the future than life will go by and soon The reaper will come to collect. I saw the following Tedtalk which made wonders for me. I started to write down in an excel spreadsheet 3 things daily that I was grateful for. Apparently this rewires the brain and gives you a more positive outlook in life. I just did it for the fun of it. I can say that if nothing else you will feel proud at the end of the 21 days because you will see everything that you have in your life.
Fun can happen in serendipity and you should be open to that, but make sure to plan it also. Most of my most awesome geeky moments have been set in my goggle calender ahead of time. Make sure to do the same.
More fun to come, make sure to share and comment below how can this guide be useful for you.