Trick Yourself into Walking

Each day, I look back and figure out what life lesson I learned that day. Then I share it with the world to feel like I did something that day. Here is today’s lesson…

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Most days, I know the lesson I am going to share either as it happens or at least by the end of the day. Some days, however, I agonize over each moment of the previous few days to figure out what I learned. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know some days are a stretch but it is still a great exercise. Now, I see lessons everywhere, all the time, as if I have built up my “life lesson detection” muscles.

Except when I don’t. Sometimes I just sit at my laptop for a unnervingly long time, staring into space, not really seeing what is in front of me but rather looking at the day before. This means I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk, doing essentially nothing.

So, I came up with a plan to encourage my life-lesson-detection muscles when they are feeling reluctant, as well as encourage my actual physical muscles. If I do not know what the day’s lesson is, I go for a walk until I figure it out. Since I am lazy, I tend to find the lesson quickly but sometimes the walk can seem endless.

I like this plan because it is a win-win. If I figure out the lesson quickly, fine. That means I spent less time sitting in front of a screen, day-dreaming, which means more time for physical movement elsewhere. If it takes a while to figure out the day’s lesson, fine. That means I spent less time sitting in front of a screen, and I had more physical movement while being creative.

I like being productive, exploring, and thinking, but I hate exercise for the sake of exercise. Any way I can combine the two seems to work for me. For example, you will never see me at the gym mindlessly picking up heavy stuff and putting it back down so I can pick it up again. Hardly a weekend passes, though, when I am not on a paddle board, or bicycling, or walking, or exploring some new part of downtown or trekking some nature trail.

If you are like me, think about some ways you can trick yourself into exercise by combining ideas and setting up mini-games (like, you have to walk until you come up with a blog post idea).

Good luck. Have fun.

 

 

 

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Weekends Off

I learn a lesson in life every day, and I share it with you. Here is today’s lesson.

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You may have noticed something that has not happened on this blog for more than a year and a half. I took the weekend off. (I won’t kid myself. You probably didn’t notice but it was a big deal for me.)

When I started the “Lesson Every Day” idea, my commitment was just to try it for 3 months and see what happened but I had a secret goal of making it a year. I have blogged daily for more than a year, now, and have not missed a single day (one day I posted just past midnight and Nicole holds me on that technicality but I still say I did not miss a day).

Part of my inspiration for the daily blog came from some of my favorite bloggers, such as Seth Godin, who blog every day. Mostly, though, it was just to keep me practicing and never letting a day go by without learning.

The thing is, I find reading a blog every single day burdensome at times. I don’t want to miss anything but if I don’t have time to read Seth’s post today, for example, it becomes immediately backed up and I start playing a game of catch-up.

So I am taking weekends off. I will still write every day but by not posting on the weekends, it allows me a couple days of buffer so I can enjoy every minute of a future weekend with friends or family.

If you have a daily habit, such as exercising, writing, reading, or even social media… try taking a couple days off each week. See what you can fill that time with instead. It might be something just as valuable.

Plus, it is fun to change things up once in a while!

 

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This Title Makes Sense

Every day I learn a lesson in life–not a fact, not a quick quote, a real bona-fide life lesson. And then I share it with you. You can follow my lessons by watching my social media feeds (just search for “Michael Salamey” on your platform of choice) or subscribe to this blog for a daily email of each post, which you can keep for later, read right away, or share whenever you want! Here is today’s lesson…

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I have always loved titles–of songs, poems, stories, pretty much anything except blog posts or headlines. The reason I don’t like blog or news titles is they are almost always “click-bait”. That means the headline is designed to trick the audience into clicking on a story that probably could not have drawn the audience on its own merit. These are the vague, sensationalistic titles like, “5 Ways to Save Your Relationship!” or “Dog Finds Owner After 15 Years: You Won’t Believe What Happens Next…” (trust me. You will totally believe what happens next.).

A great title is creative, intriguing, playful, and a little mysterious. It stands on its own but also sets the context for the content. Take a look at song titles from your favorite artist, for example. I bet the titles are as creative as the songs (unless you are into classical music–those titles suck).

Unfortunately, really creative titles do not work well with blogging because of the way search engines rank and find blog content.

I am making a change to my titles. You probably won’t notice, but it is a big change for me. My titles will be straightforward, more obviously aligned with the content of the post.

I have also added the little blurb at the top of each post explaining what the blog is about. This is for new readers–after speaking to one, I realized jumping in half-way, the blog seems like a random journal (which, in a way, I suppose it is). To keep it fresh, I do not just copy and paste the blurb. I rewrite it every time.

Finally, if you haven’t noticed yet (I have been doing this for a while), I highlight the core take-away of each lesson in bold and italics in each post. That line, at least to me, is the most important line of the post.

I do not go out of my way to publicize my blog–you do not see any banner ads, I pay for it myself. I do not try to talk about it with every person I meet. I do not try to link to other blogs or spend much time building awareness externally.

I rely solely on your word of mouth, and on you sharing your favorite content with your friends. If I am lucky, sometimes people trip across MichaelSalamey.com via Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Google+, etc. but I also do not go out of my way to learn and master SEO, key search words, or other strategies I could use to popularize the blog with social media and search (for example, I almost never blog about topical celebrity news or whatever is trending on social media).

The readership success I have is all thanks to you, and to a lesser degree the blog title, the tags, and of course, the content. So, thanks! Watch for (hopefully) better titles to match the content from here out and let me know if it’s cool.

(Incidentally, you would not believe how many times I re-titled this post. Making less obscure titles is a lot of work!)

 

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It’s Better Than You Think

You never know what will resonate with people.

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I am still surprised when I talk about a favorite album, that somebody will almost always think the best song is the song I thought was the worst song on the album.

The same is true of my work. Often, the thing I put the most work into–the thing I am really proud of–feels like it is completely overlooked by my audience (or bosses, or friends, or family, etc.). On the other hand, the thing that demanded comparatively little energy, time, or intellect to complete will be one of my best received efforts.

There are a lot of reasons why your best is sometimes overlooked. It could be that your timing was not good, or that people’s concentration is elsewhere at the moment, or it is more interesting to you than to others. Regardless of the reason, do not take it personally.

I used to feel frustrated when a blog post I worked on for weeks bombed, and I would feel confused when a post I blew off in 10 minutes generated the most views or shares that month.

Now, whether I feel the post (or work) is good or bad, or whether people seem to love it or dismiss it, I like to believe either way it is probably better than I think.

 

 

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It’s Not As Good As You Think

The funny thing about writing is… yours always sucks.

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Because I blog daily, it does not leave much time for editing. That is probably a good thing because before I started publishing content every day, I would publish once per month or less. My pieces were long and polished to a fault. I never built an audience because I barely created reading material for them.

Some days (well, if I am being honest–most days), I have to work my brain hard to create content, or I am not in the mood to write, or I am busy with other things and it is tough to publish that day, etc.

Every now and then, though, I furiously write a piece I think is going to generate a big reaction. I am always wrong, but in the midst of writing it, I think it is a tour de force of creation, wit, wisdom, and intellectual prowess. I don’t even read it over to check for typos. It is just that good. Then I go back and read it a week later and it is the worst thing I think I have ever written. There are typos, run-on sentences, meandering thoughts in the middle, muddy logic, and amateur errors.

This is probably one of the pieces. If I have time, I will edit it and republish, but the curse of daily content is I rarely get to go back and polish a mediocre post into a great post.

A great tip for aspiring writers is to always let your work “breathe” before you edit it. Write everything down. Wait a week (or ten), and then re-read it. You will not believe you wrote it. Only do this once or twice, though.

The only thing worse than sharing not-your-best work is sharing no work at all.

 

 

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Writing Versus Thinking

Today’s Lesson: Reading is fundamental, but re-reading is essential if you want to be understood.

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One of my favorite posts so far this year is this one, about embracing “weirdness” at organizations. It also happens to be one of my least read so far, and that was bugging me until I went back and read it.

When I re-read that post, I realized it was bloated and confusing. It was not written well. I cleaned it up a little but it is still not where I want it. This, I think, is definitely one of the trade-offs to having a daily blog. I write every day and I have a full-time job plus other hobbies and social commitments. There is not much time for refining or editing.

Typically, the process is I write it once and I read it once, editing as I go. What the wonderful spelling and grammar checker built into WordPress misses and what I miss… are missed. There is bound to be minor errors in some (probably most) of my posts but I have learned to be okay with them for the sake of moving on and continuing to put out new material.

It is rare that I go back and re-read a post once it is published, but the “Office Spaced” post, I thought, was a gem and I was wondering why it ranked so low. Was it the time of day I posted? The day of the week? The title? Keywords? Was Google not finding it?

I by no means consider myself an expert or authoritative blogger and I have never gone out of my way to build a platform and audience but I like to know what hits and what misses and have at least a general idea why.

What I have mostly found is if it is written well, people usually find it (and share it). The funny thing is, I am certain I fall into the same trap as many would-be writers. When I go back and read my writing, I fill in the blanks with my mind. In other words, I know what I meant and that is what I hear in my head.

Going back and reading your work again a few days or weeks later, and then editing, is a common trick to prevent filling in the blanks. The idea is no longer fresh at that point so you don’t remember what you meant and read it more like a new reader.

The point, as you have by now guessed, is this: it always sounds better in your head.

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Damn You (and Bless You) Auto Correct!

Auto correct, as we all know, is a harsh mistress. More often than not, though, it is a good friend.

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Let’s be honest. Most of us struggle with spelling common words and using proper grammar. Auto correct exists and is ubiquitous for a reason (by the way, I am proud to say I did not need auto correct to help with “ubiquitous”).

Because I legitimately write these posts on the fly, every single day, I do not grant myself time to edit them or re-read what I have typed. I have to post and then move on to other projects, tasks, chores, or social obligations. One nice feature of WordPress is it quickly scans my post before I actually publish it to check for any errors in spelling or grammar. Often it is calling out something I intended as a potential mistake (for example it might think I meant “week” instead of “weak” based on the surrounding context or it is calling attention to a word I knowingly made up, like “meat-centric”).

Every now and then, though, it saves me. It sees that, in my haste, I repeated a word (“sometimes we we have to do that”) or it saves me from using too many words because when I am improvising, I write like I speak so I will type a phrase like “right now” instead of just the proper and simpler, “now”. (Fun fact: actually, I often mouth or whisper the words as I type them so I really am writing like I speak! Fun fact number two: all of the mistakes I used as examples… it totally tried to correct before I posted this!)

Auto correct, with its good intentions, makes a lot of funny errors, but sometimes it just corrects stuff automatically, and I appreciate that.

Bless you, damn auto-correct.

 

Today’s Lesson: Ringo said it best. Sometimes “I get by with a little help from my friends” (even when they are fickle software programs).

 

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Somebody’s Watching Me

Sometimes I forget this is a public blog…

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Yesterday’s post, I think, will turn out to be one of the least clicked on, but most remarked upon, this month.  Even after writing hundreds (if not more than a thousand) blog posts since I started blogging, I still have no idea what might resonate.

Sometimes I write a post and I think it is one of the best things I have written or I think I have stumbled across a profound insight and yet the post is met with crickets chirping. Other times I have been so tired or in such a rush that I wrote whatever lazy drivel I could force from my brain and had it turn out to be among my most popular posts.

I usually know I have a great post when I find myself hesitating to publish it. Still, when I hit the “publish” button, aside from a few traceable statistics from Google and WordPress, I have no idea what happens afterward. I don’t know who reads it, who shares it, if their friends share it, if it changes someone’s life or makes someone angry, sad, or just goes into limbo, to never again be seen. I just know somehow, sometimes people from countries I have never visited click on some stuff, and some posts enjoy more clicks than others.

I have made my blog more anonymous and even harder to track by turning comments off and choosing vague headlines. When people want to praise or criticize me, they generally have to care enough to send me an email, comment on FaceBook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Google+, etc., or instant message or video-chat with me, all of which has happened at one point or another. One person even tracked down my phone number and called me. I was a little creeped out at first, but we ended up having a great, four-hour conversation!

When I posted yesterday about why people might accept a job offer, at least four people commented via text or instant message between yesterday and today. That was pretty cool. It’s rare that 4 completely different people randomly send me a message regarding the same post. I always love the gratitude, feedback, or insight, though. I could practically turn each comment into a lesson of its own.

Here is what is really interesting, though. Looking at the website dashboard, I can see only 16 visitors read yesterday’s post. Compared to my post about Rice Krispies treats, which had over 100 visitors but virtually no comments, it is hard to decide which was the “better” post. Clearly, my tweaked recipe was the more popular article but my insight on leadership was the more remarkable one (in that people remarked on it).

I think it is fun to look at those numbers but I try not to look at them too often. Sometimes it feels safer to assume when I post something, it is just published into the ether, likely to only be seen again someday on a milk carton.

 

Today’s Lesson: This is a long way to say what you probably saw coming. Today’s lesson is, “You never know who is watching.”

 

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Simple Ideas Are The Best Ideas

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be true.” –Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes)

I switched from a laptop to a Chromebook (a Chromebook is basically Google’s version of a laptop–cheap devices that run incredibly smoothly, start-up fast, and keep things simple, automatically updating and running basically as glorified gateways to the internet). My Chromebook is an amazingly versatile tool and I can not imagine why any casual computer user would waste their money on a laptop anymore. However, one thing that has frustrated me about using my Chromebook is that Google and Microsoft are kind of snotty toward each other and neither one wants you to use the other’s products.

For better or worse, the one product Microsoft has consistently out-performed all competitors with is their Office suite (Word, Excel, and One Note, especially). There are alternatives such as Google Docs and Open Office but for sheer ease-of-use and richness of features, Office has not been beat. Sadly, there is no full integration of Office on a Chromebook. I can still do all my basic tasks with Office’s online applications but the one thing I am missing is a full-featured One Note, which has been my favorite tool for managing my blog. One Note allows me to create blog posts outside of WordPress (my website’s platform) and easily upload them while keeping a copy for myself in case anything goes wrong.

I can use Google Keep or ScribeFire to do the same thing but they are just not as useful or efficient as One Note. Anyway, I was complaining about this to Nicole and explaining I was worried about not having a back-up when I blog and she said something head-rocking simple. “Why don’t you just subscribe to your blog? You’ll have a back-up of every post in your email.”

 

Today’s lesson: when faced with a daunting problem… don’t over-think it.

 

 

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Today’s Lesson: Let’s Talk About It

How much time are you wasting trying to be perfect instead of trying to produce results?

 

This post is geared more toward fellow blogger (or blogger-curious) friends. If writing on-line is not your thing, you might want to skip this one (but there is a great lesson at the end!). We will get back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow…

I am dropping the comments section from my blog and (this part is more for other bloggers) no longer using meta keywords to draw traffic.

There are a few things I have done, or stopped doing, to make my blog more efficient and less burdensome on me. Since I have taken on posting a daily life lesson, I have begun to start thinking about blogging differently. I stopped adding dates to the blog title to keep it more “timeless” and less “timely“.

Now I am turning off comments. Have I lost my mind? Debatable, but not relevant to the blog. I am dropping comments for a few reasons. The main reason is simple… most of my readers do not comment on the posts. They comment or reply to my social media updates linking to the blog. Some people email me directly and my contact information will remain available in the “More/ About Me” section. One reader even called me at three in the morning one night and we chatted about a post until I had to get ready for work.

The other reason is I have found that most comments are made by people who, honestly, either did not read the actual article or did not understand the main content of it. Better to have those people talking to me on Facebook instead of cluttering the blog itself with comments. Finally, my blog is almost entirely editorial. I am not providing, in most cases, fact-checked peer-reviewed articles to debate. It is just me sharing lessons I learn each day or ranting about an injustice I perceive in the world. I love having open communication and hearing from readers but it does not have to be on the post page itself. That is what Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are for.

For those of you that do not blog, after you type each post, you can enter in certain words to help readers find that particular post if they search on Google or other sites. So, for today’s post I might add meta keywords like, “comments, social media, blog, michael salamey” to help raise my ranking in search engines for this post.

However, it turns out that meta key words have almost zero impact on search rankings now and can sometimes put you in Google’s potential “spam” category if you flood your keywords to try to appeal to their rankings regardless of your actual content.

I sometimes spend five minutes trying to tie the right keywords for each post. I would rather spend the five minutes creating better content. If I have compelling content that people share often, I will not need the help of keyword shortcuts. Google and Facebook are far more interested in a blog that gets distribution than one that has a lot of hidden words behind each post!

All of that brings us to today’s lesson: don’t carry unnecessary burdens. Remove the obstacles that make your passion a chore. Remember, it does not have to be perfect anyway. I blog for fun and to help others, but even if I was doing it to drive income, the time spent on the parts with the least amount of value will provide greater return if I let them go than if I keep carrying their weight.

…And, besides blogging, how many other areas of our lives can we look into for the same lesson?

 

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