How to

Information zombies and their overnight success virus: Are you one of them?

This is a more a personal story on my reflections on the effects of trying to do many things at once. When I moved to Texas from Puerto Rico on the summer of 2010; I was trying to change my life completely and start working on my film career. Back then I was a completely different person, I was a mess. I knew that if I did not changed my environment and my psychology that my life was going nowhere. Much has change since then. It was 5 years ago and it feels like a lifetime has passed.

I bring this up because the internet or more specifically how people perceive the internet, has made people think that they can change fast. That somehow you can magically in a short period of time become a better person or become a successful entrepreneur, A YouTube or social media celebrity. You know this as “the overnight success” phenomenon.

I follow a lot of smart people which I have mentioned in the past like Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuck, Seth Godin, Rammit Sethi and more recently Dorie Clark. Some of them as long as 5 years and all that time I have observed a common thread. That many of the fans devour desperatly their content; but they don’t necessary apply it, there just contented with knowing the theory of success, but not the practice. I have a name for this myself, the information zombie. I did this myself for a time and still have to remind myself of not to regress, by no means I say I’m perfect. Here’s how it works and how it can affect certain people.

Phase 1: Being exposed to the virus

You can become an information zombie by being exposed to the overnight success virus if you have extreme mental starvation and malnourishment; which can be caused by your past economical, psychological and social environment. You might have been raised in poverty, dysfunctional family, a lack of a positive role model. Alas, all the usual suspects that you have read in studies such as this one or this one. Making matters worst are the news you see on the media such as “First time screenwriter gets a million dollar offer.” It doesn’t matter that these are myths 98% of the time and the other 2% was luck or a certified genius. Still these kind of stories play tricks on your mind. You start thinking that you can be that overnight success, since your particular economical or mental situation may not have completely broken you. You still have a flicker of hope, a small fire, that you are desperately trying to cling on. This is called the hero’s journey, in this case your Luke Skywalker from Star Wars or Neo from the matrix, desperately trying to find out the truth.

Then comes the thought leader or the teacher; your Yoda. Here is where the real danger comes. You are so hungry to complete the journey that you fail on taking the precautions to protect yourself from the virus. This is Luke ignoring Yoda when he ignored the warning that he had to complete his training first and chooses to face Darth Vader instead. How that turn out for him? How many time successful people say over and over the same things before we catch on. It takes years to build a brand; which can be a business, your career, your network. However, we are so hungry that we try to do many things at the same time.

This is exactly what I did. At one point in my journey I wanted to be a traditional filmmaker, a freelancer, get out of debt, build my network, blogging, etc. All this despite that I heard time and time again from all my Yoda’s that I can only focus on one at the time.

Phase 2: Becoming a Zombie

Here where things can get real dark. If you are not careful you can lose yourself trying to change very quickly. You can become just like the undead going from eating brain to brain, reading and consuming finding only tactics. You try everything because you are multi-passionate and you want success and damn it…you want it NOW! Sadly all your efforts fail which is not so bad; if you are hyper aware, because you can move on. This is akin to getting shot in the head while you are human. The other alternative is that you don’t completely fail, your are just mediocre and you move at the slowest of paces. You start walking like the undead. Unfortunately many stay as a zombie all there lives. You get caught in this limbo of going through the motions, getting distracted with the flashy new thing just like the zombies watching the fireworks in a George Romero movie.

Phase 3: Finding a cure

The good news is that there is a cure, the bad news is that it’s a heavy treatment and it’s not easy. Just like the painful process of the chemotherapy, but a necessary one in other to survive. The first things to do when you are tackling to many things at once, is to stop what your doing and ask consult with mentors who have done what you are trying to do. If you don’t have mentors, find them. Do not try to figure things out on your own, because that’s how you got into this mess in the first place. Also don’t be tempted to substitute potential real life mentor’s that you can reach out to through networking with books. I’m speaking to all introverts who do this, because frankly books make it all sound easy. The authors of these books spent years with research and real life experiences and condense everything into a few pages of paper. Not to mention that the publishers edit most of these books to make it “marketable”. A real life mentor will give you all the nuances as well as the nuts and bolts of their experience. I wrote before on how to find a mentor and check the resources page for more in depth guidance of the process of connecting with other people.

Be aware, protect yourself from the virus!

How introverts can make their own justice league for inspiration.

I’m back after a week vacation in Florida where I got to visit Universal Studios theme park just to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I stayed with my best friends from College and had a blast. Still not everything was fooling around with spells and stuff. There were moments of serious conversations like my need to lose some weight. See in Puerto Rico things are not sugar coated, if friends find that you put in some pounds they will let know. My best friend went into a 3 hour rant about how I’m supposed to look after my health. I just smiled because I was grateful that after all these years my friend still looks after me. Will I lose weight? Well, I promised her I will and now I better deliver if I don’t want to hear her rant next time I visit her.

That’s the type of friends I want to be surrounded with. During my vacation I also separated time to read a good book. Think and grow rich. There is a chapter about surrounding yourself with a mastermind group of people who think just like you, inspire you and challenge you from time to time. My best friend has always challenged me and in no small part I own her my internal desire to adquire a better lifestyle. She is part of my own justice league. A select group of people who inspire me to push my limits.

It’s very important the you find friends and peers that push you to your limits. I’m not advocating for you to leave behind your old friends; unless they are negative people, if that’s the case then you should consider it. What I’m advocating is for you to develop your social skills and reach out to people who are constantly challenging themselves and finding success either in their career, businesses or overall personal goals. It is often quoted that “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” There is some truth to this notion. The laws of association which were formulated by Aristotle 2314 years ago. State that similar outcomes in learning would be determined by contiguity, repetition, attention, pleasure-pain and similarity. If you apply the law of association which your friends you would see the outcome in learning and learning so happens a geeks favorite hobby and sometimes leads to the discovery of great things.

Currently I’m watching the new Cosmos reboot with Neil Degrasse Tyson and with each new episode the features the history of a scientist I find myself fascinated by that fact the many times it took a friend or a mentor to help them leap to their discovery. Like how Isaac Newton’s genius was finally discovered with the help of Edmond Halley. Currently you can observer famous friendships everywhere and can see how they push there limits. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola are best buddies in the film industry. In the start up industry you will find Tim Ferris, Rammit Sethi, Chase Jarvis and Gary Vaynerchuck. “Great minds think alike” is another common quote which I absolutely stand by.

Now take a look around you and see who are within your 5 group of friends and ask yourself if you are being inspired and challenged to get a better lifestyle. I already went ahead and bought an excellent book about the psychology of eating so I can develop better eating habits.

How to stop worrying about your future.

By the amount of articles that I post about goal setting anyone would think that everything should always be about planning. While I do admit that I am a weekly planning freak I can assure that taking action has yielded way more benefits than planning. Even when said actions lead to screw-ups. When I published my first blog two years ago make a movie now I was excited, I wanted to talk on the blog the business side of filmmaking. I had very high hopes. I thought I was going to get a lot of traffic and sell an ebook for $50. I was going to live with passive income from now on and live the good life. Of course I was totally delusional.

It was a massive failure and got me in the brink of bankruptcy. If I had to do it all over again. I would, in a heartbeat. I could have wasted 1 year or more of careful planning and I’m positive it would have been a failure anyway, plus I would have lost one year of my life. Thankfully I took action did it and found out earlier. That’s just one of the many benefits of taking action always. You will see results and they will either please you or disappoint you. However the most important part is that you will move forward.

The book that I read that inspired me to always take action was the four hour workweek. A book that changed my life forever and that I have bought at least 5 times for myself and given away to my friends like it was the bible. It’s with that book that I learned that no matter what happens; action is always better that being paralyzed by analysis. As superman’s father Jor-El would say “You will fall, you will stumble, but in time you will join the sun”.

By all means if you have no goals yet then stop and think what would you like to do. Don’t rely on assumptions, find some information or someone who was done it before and then proceed to take action. There are smart people out there like professor Ann Langley from HEC Montreal who have done research on this phenomenon in large organizations. Her paper “Between Analysis by Paralysis and Extinction by Instinct goes deeper and gives suggestions on how not to fall on both extreme sides.

The planets will never align and life does not wait. To do A 5 year plan is laughable and it’s not my opinion only. The CEO of Expedia.com posted his advice on career management and it’s apply title “Why you should dump your 5 year career plan” which is a helpful advice for all of us, including me. Before the 4 hour workweek I used to plan for years ahead. That only lead to frustration and heartbreak. Then I moved to one year which was a huge leap; but still not quite perfect because I was not flexible enough. Now I’m moving to just plan for 6 to 3 months and I will gladly share the results of the later this year. I want to leave you guys with a geeky clip from War World Z that totally nails that concept of just keep moving. I hope you enjoy it and comment below what you want to do in the next 3 to six months.

The geek’s guide for a better life

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.

Hi ____,

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.

Sincerely,

Joel Valle

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.

How to do a weekly progress self assessment.

This weeks post is short and sweet and to the point since I am off to the Renaissance faire this weekend! Have you noticed how time has gone flying? Spring is now here and the Summer movies are upon us. Meaning lots of super heroes and things that go boom. Everyone should be in full swing with their goals.

When I read Dale Carnegie’s book how to make friends and influence people; I distinctively remember a story about how the best thing to do achieve success is to take every Sunday and meditate the comings and goings of the week as Bilbo Baggins would say. This stuck with me for some reason and in January 1 of 2011; I began to track what I considered were my achievements of the week. It was meant at first as a way to boost my confidence and later evolved as a critical tool to asses both my successes and my failures with objectivity. Below I show pictures of my excel spreadsheet of my success and failure tracking for 2014.

With this tools I can make decisions of what strategies are working and what aren’t. For example losing more weight has been a challenge among other things. This method of analyzing will show you exactly if you are making progress on the areas you wanted to see a change in your life. I encourage all geeks out there to make you’re own sheet. It does not have to be in excel. You can even write it in paper, but do move forward and try to make notes of you’re weekly activities so you can determine how successful or not you were able to carry them out.

sheet

How to find your own personal Yoda.

Last week I found myself pondering what next step should I do with a script for an experimental film that I wish to shoot. After many false starts and set-backs I really wanted to make sure that this particular short film got done. What film festival should I submit it too. If I should send it to a professional script consultant, how many people should be on my team. Suddenly it started to dawn on me that I was feeling overwhelmed and that’s were I became self conscious and realized that I was trying to figure things out on my own.

We all do that. Some people a lot more than others. We sometimes tend to think that if we just gave a problem more analysis and thought, that the solution would eventually appear. That’s what they taught us from to get go right? To think on our own. However, in today’s environment that solutions to problems are often gathered by more than just one person. Take for example the Oculus rift, a virtual reality gaming system. In order to finance the project, the creators turned to kickstarter for support from video game fans that were able to raise more than 2 million dollars in 30 days to further it’s development and initial reviews are stellar; it’s not like that wanna be Nintendo virtual boy in the 90’s. Does anyone remember that one?

There are many reasons why we don’t tend to reach out to people and most of them tend to be mental barriers that we impose on ourselves. We make many assumptions such as “I don’t think they would want to help me” or if I just keep reading blogs I know I will find the answer. We always forget that good teacher is way better than a book and even better. Reading takes a long time while a teacher can give you answers immediately. To put it in geeky terms, No matter how strong the force was with Luke Skywalker; it was when he finally met Yoda that he truly learned the ways of the force.

Some of you might think that you don’t have friends and mentors that you can count on, but in rare instances that is true. What is happening is that you’re letting fear of failure to take control of you and you guys just know that fear is part of the dark side. There is always somebody; it may be a fellow classmate from college or high school, a former teacher, a successful uncle or a neighbor, not to mention friends from social media like Facebook or Linkedin. Just call then and they them to coffee or at minimum call them.

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