Here, bite down on this. It’s time for your weekly jolt of motivation.
This week we’re talking about the single most important thing you can invest your time, money, and energy into: Yourself.
Forget fancy new gadgets designed to make you more productive. Forget get rich schemes promising you the secret formula to success. Forget everything, save this: you are your most valuable possession, and time your most valuable commodity.
Improvement is not something that just magically happens. You do not walk out to your car every morning expecting it to somehow be better than it was the night before. Your house does not reverse the flow of entropy to repair its chipped siding, or crumbling foundation. These things only change through intentionality, effort, and force of will.
You are no different.
You are not better today than you were yesterday. If anything, you’re worst. More settled, less adaptable. Your memory is fading, your body deteriorating. Your foundation is crumbling.
The good news? You can be fixed.
The bad news? It’s really hard work.
The best news? It’s worth it.
The worst news? You won’t do it.
Or will you? I hope you do. I hope you prove me wrong.
So tell me: How are you going to invest in yourself today? Get down to the comments and share.
Don’t forget to hit that share button on Facebook if you know someone who could use a little kick in the butt this Monday morning!
We all want to be more influential. Whether it’s in personal relationships, workplace meetings, or just in casual encounters we all want our ideas to be regarded and accepted (sometimes even implemented) by others.
The difficulty is that everybody else wants the same exact thing.
So what can we do to make our voices, our ideas heard over the din? How do we become more persuasive?
The first step is in understanding The Six Weapons of Influence as first outlined by Robert Cialdini in his landmark book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
To be more influential, you must first understand the basic psychological principles governing decision making in us all.
To be more influential, you must arm yourself with the Six Weapons of Influence.
The quest for improved productivity is sort of Sisyphean. Bit by bit we push the boulder up the mountain only to occasionally stumble, lose our grip on that chunk of granite, and then get summarily smooshed by the damned thing.
Yeah, that’s right, we’re coming straight out the gates, swinging towards the fences with our weird, strange analogies. Buckle up, billy.
Studies consistently show that if you want to maximize your productivity, you must harness the power of routine. Today we’re going to chat about how we can wield this power for good, so that we might become more productive, and not simply more busy.
Do not mistake busyness for productivity.
A lot of us fill our days with truly mundane shit. We bury our noses in our inboxes for hours at a time under the delusion that emails are, ya know, somehow making the world (and yourself by extension) a better place.
Spoiler alert: It’s not.
Email is one of the greatest smoke-screens to productivity I’ve ever seen. Sure, no doubt that emails are occasionally quite important, and I do not mean to suggest that you destroy your Yahoo account with a flippant click of the mouse.
But do recognize that there are two types of work to be done:
Shallow vs. Deep
Cal Newport wrote an entire book on Deep Work which I highly recommend you check out.
Shallow work is the sort of work you could train an intern to do. Those emails? Yeah, with very few exceptions, you could train somebody in a matter of weeks to handle those.
Deep work by contrast is cognitively demanding work that requires extreme focus for extended periods of time. It is value adding work that only you are capable of doing. That book you’re writing? Yeah. Can’t outsource that shit. Unless you’re James Patterson.
But if you’re James Patterson, what the fuck are you doing here? Seriously? Don’t you have like 52 books to publish this year? Go on, Jimmy. Git. You ain’t wanted round here no more.
Anyways. Take an objective measure of the work you’re doing on a daily basis. Ask yourself, is this shallow or deep work? If the answer is shallow, push it down the schedule until you’ve hit your deep work for the day.
Because cognitive load, yo.
Cognitive load is a psychological principle pertaining to the fact that we can only exert so much energy in our working memory. Specifically, you can only remember so many things at one time. But this principle can be expanded to touch on decision making and will-power as well, because these too are like our working memory in that they have finite reserves.
That’s right. Let me repeat that:
You have a finite amount of will-power to be used in a day.
It’s science. Don’t argue. And please God don’t ask me to cite my sources. It’s 5:32am on a Tuesday morning and that sounds like the absolute worst thing I can imagine doing at the moment.
Knowing that you have only a finite amount of will-power in a day, it’s important therefore to structure your time in such a way as to focus the full-force of your mental dexterity on the most important tasks.
You do this by creating routine. Well, actually no. You do this by creating a routine… and then sticking to it.
Creating a Daily Routine
The more routine you can make certain aspects of your life, the more energy, will-power, and decision making capability you’ll have at your disposal to deploy in the pursuit of high-level, cognitively taxing tasks.
Some of the most successful people the world has ever known have tapped into the power of daily routine.
Example: Steve Jobs wore virtually the same outfit every single day to save himself the mental tax of having to “decide” every morning.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about what you wear, what you eat, when you workout…creating routine around the small, seemingly insignificant tasks of your day will boost your overall productivity as you are now wasting less time and cognitive energy constantly having to decide.
I wrote a whole article for Medium called The Power of Decision which dives into three areas you can create a daily routine around. Namely: Eating, Sleeping, Exercising.
I am a fairly productive person despite having severe ADHD. This is only made possible through a strict adherence to a daily routine. Now, I won’t bore you with the ins-and-outs of my entire day which (yes, I do actually sit down every morning and plan out my day in 15 minute chunks ‘cause I’m super weird like that), but I will share a bit of my morning routine with the hopes you glean something worthwhile for your own life.
Mornings are for creating. At least they are for me. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but really it boils down to: Nobody else is awake to distract me. And, I’m as cognitively fresh as I’m ever going to be.
I set 5 separate alarms on my phone. This reduces the overall effectiveness of the snooze button, which is a small thing, but juuuust annoying enough to make my strategy work.
Alarm numero uno goes off at 4:45. I squelch that shit right quick.
Second alarm fires a salvo at my groggy cerebellum at 4:50. Shit, didn’t I just merc the last one?
Alarm tres explodes at 5:00. Now I’m more or less fully awake and cranky for having subjected myself to such torture. I still hit the snooze/cancel button even though I’m awake.
Alarm number 4 drops at 5:10 and now I’m like, whatever, I don’t even care anymore. I’m awake, but I’m still keeping my head on the pillow cause I know I still got 5 minutes of chillaxing left.
The final alarm sounds at 5:15 and at this point I’ve had nearly 15 minutes to prepare for this, the moment of truth.
This is the first battle I have to win for the day. It’s also the hardest.
I remind myself of this fact, and then we’re in motion.
Start your engines
Coffee time. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. This train leaves the bed-station at 5:15 and is parked outside the cofee-maker by 5:15.02. I used to have a coffee maker next to my bed that would start auto-brewing at 4:45, which was nice ‘cause it allowed me to wake up to that fresh java bean scent, but it’s sort of a cruel torture for whoever happens to be sharing my bed at that moment, so I moved the coffee-making-apparatus to the kitchen. I’m a kind soul.
Oh yeah, by the way, I sleep with my phone in airplane mode so that nobody in the world can bug me while I’m sleeping. I don’t need those Facebook alerts going off every five seconds.
I reconnect to the world while coffee is prepping, just to make sure our fearful commander-in-chief hasn’t launched us into World War 3. Ya know, ‘cause at that point, writing a blog post on morning routine takes a backseat to packing the car and moving to Canada.
Check Social Media and Finances
For whatever reason, I can’t fully engage my mental faculties in the morning until I’ve checked my piggy bank to make sure I haven’t been robbed in the night. It’s weird, but it puts my mind at ease, so don’t judge. At this point I am usually sipping on my coffee, waiting for the caffeine to kick in anyhow.
Start Writing at 5:45
That’s right, I’ve wasted nearly 30 minutes of my morning drinking coffee, playing on the internet, going to the bathroom. But my engine runs on diesel and takes a tick to rev up. After that coffee hits (which is conveniently marked by a trip to the bathroom at 5:40 sharp) I am ready to sit down, crack my knuckles in overly dramatic, training montage fashion, and get to work.
Write until 7:00
By 7 I’m pretty friggin’ hungry and it’s time for a break. I go and make a couple eggs while listening to a podcast, and then I’m back in the chair by 7:30 for another hour and a half of writing.
Typically I work on my fiction in the first session and non-fiction/blog post related stuff in the second. I find chunking tasks like this makes it easier to maintain focus and motivation.
As eluded to earlier, I have fairly severe ADHD and if given half a chance, my gerbil for a brain will scamper willy-nilly in whatever direction the breeze blows. To minimize the opportunity for distraction, I invariably work with headphones in.
Unfortunately I’m not one of those people who can listen to music while writing. I tend to fixate on the voices or instruments too much. Instead, I listen to straight up white-noise. My favorite track is a 10-hour loop available on YouTube and I’ve been relying on it for the past 5 years. Seriously. I love it. Check it out HERE!
Alright, you beautiful people, it’s your turn. I want to hear about your daily routines. Get down to the comments and tell me about your morning. Do you have a daily routine, or do you just wing it every morning? What are some of the activities you must-do in order for your day to be kicked off right?
K.C. Alexander is the author of Necrotech—a transhumanist sci-fi called “a speed freak rush” by NYT bestseller Richard Kadrey and “a violent thrillride” by award-nominated Stephen Blackmoore. She co-wrote Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising with NYT bestseller Jason M. Hough. Other credits consist of short stories to Fireside magazine and a contribution to Geeky Giving, as well as personal essays regarding life between gender and neuronormative lines. Specialties include voice-driven prose, imperfect characters, and reckless profanity. Also, creative ways to murder the deserving—in fiction. Probably.
She writes sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and anything she wants. Prefers animals to people, and enjoys binge watching anime and science shows; basically, activities that allow her to be a hermit. She champions mental health and combats gendered expectations(*). Often, Alexander is accused of being too aggressive—see: (*) for her views on this.
She writes a lot. Check it out
Anthony Vicino: I interviewed Jason Hough a couple days ago and we chatted about the Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising collaboration you two did back in March. How did you find yourself wrangled into such a situation?
K.C. Alexander: Honestly? Soon as Jason Hough said, “Do you know much about Mass Effect?” I started laughing. All he had to say was, “I’ve been approached with the project, want to collaborate?” I was full in. A simple story, right?
AV: Hearing that you were writing for Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising was a bit surprising at first because you have a hard-hitting, bared knuckles, here’s-a-shovel-for-your-face style of writing which isn’t necessarily the first thing that jumps to mind when one thinks of stories set inside a well-establish IP like Mass Effect. What was this process like for you? Both in terms of collaborating with Jason, but also in working with Titan Books?
K.C. Alexander: The funny thing about the first part of your question is that I get it a lot. Listen, there’s this thing that happens when a book or series becomes popular (or even known): readers assume this is your thing. That you write like this all the time. For some, this is true. People find a cozy place and stay there. But for me? I have many, many styles of writing, even if most only know me by way of Riko.
Writing Mass Effect was a great experience, both with Jason and with Titan (though to be honest, our main points of contact came from Bioware). With direct access to the game writers, we had a lot of fun bouncing ideas and questions back and forth, and getting their feedback was invaluable. Jason and I figured out this hybrid blend of both our styles of plotting that worked amazingly well, so it ended up a lot easier than one might think. We work well together!
AV: Did you ever feel as though you were having to compromise a bit of your artistic vision?
K.C. Alexander: Not really. I know that’s weird to say, but I went in to this project knowing full well that it was somebody else’s intellectual property (and one I love!). There were a few details I wish they’d’ve let us explore, but ultimately that’s just nitpicks. I’m pretty mercenary about my career choices, too, and when given this project, I knew what to expect.
Basically, artistic vision can be a compromise when it comes to somebody else’s world. I get free reign in my own work, so why push it on somebody else’s?
AV: I first came across you last year when you wrote an article on transhumanism for SF Signal. In there, you said:
“When we as a species have no more limitations, what are we most likely to do? To ourselves? To each other? To anyone not “one of us”? Adapt or die.”
This seems especially prescient in light of all the shit that’s happened in recent weeks. I can’t help but feel like you jinxed us.
No, I’m just kidding, we’ve been on this path for awhile, it seems. As somebody who’s very vocal in the community about writing to represent those “between the lines”, what’re your thoughts on recent events?
K.C. Alexander: Fuck fuck fucking fuck fuckity fuck fuck shit fuck fucking hell on a fucking fuck fuck.
K.C. and Frankenstein
AV: There’s certainly been an uptick in the last few years, but do you think we’ll see a surge of fiction in response to the themes so prevalent in recent news: social equality, race relations, LGBTQ rights, etc…?
K.C. Alexander: Oh, yes. I firmly believe we will. Though some may see the publishing industry as a small portion of the greater, the greatest change comes about from the street-level education and the arts. What I love most about writing is that it can be subversive in ways few actually think about. Whether subtly or otherwise, it shapes how we view so many things.
Have a book about alien contact? What are aliens? We used to call immigrants aliens. Interesting fact, right? Is the book about the fear and hatred that aliens have for us, and thus we must destroy to save our planet? That says a lot. But what if it’s about the nuances of aliens, of alliances and friendship? The metaphor of aliens to “other” kinda sucks, and it’d be nice to find less comparisons there in stories.
So, let’s look at more:
What about SF/F books that don’t mince around the fact that we treat those different from us like shit? What about the ones where we treat them well? People of color exploring space and being the amazing heroes they are? Neurodivergent protagonists settling colonies and protecting the human race? Genderqueer badasses, trans genius scientists… it goes on.
What about fantasy? Right now, there is a prevalence for white fantasy wherein rape is the primary threat to its powerful women. What does that say? Even if the women overcome this, what does that mean for every woman who comes into contact with a reader taught to believe that only a Very Strong(tm) woman can be expected to escape—escape, mind—the threat of violence.
The more we write about acceptance and equality, and the more we make it no big deal that somebody is gay or Hispanic or disabled or trans, the more this subconsciously sinks into the readership. Our generations have been shaped by decades of old books written by old white men whose view of the world no longer applies. I think that we have the opportunity to change that, and as long as we all keep fighting for marginalized voices and characters, the more and the greater the change.
There are authors and readers pushing equality, both in current events and in writing. The harder we push, the greater the uptick.
AV: As a genre, do you think we’re moving in the right direction? If so, how do we get there faster? If not, how do we reset the ship’s course?
K.C. Alexander: There is no reset button in life. None. We can’t change course at the drop of a hat, and no one person can grab the wheel to do it. It will take more of us, as many of us as can shout, and all we can do is make better choices for the future. How do we get there faster? I don’t know. I can’t control anyone else in this world, only my choices and how I react to things. I’d like to see more white, straight folk lend their ears and their actions. I’d like to see publishers lift up and support marginalized writers, and I’d like to see established authors wholeheartedly raise up these folks, too.
But I can’t force anybody. So I do my best, and I get it wrong sometimes, but I try to learn. I hope to lead by example. And the fact that I see more books fighting back against the status quo, and more authors being recognized for it, gives me hope.
We’re moving in the right direction. But we have a lot of work to do, and the bulk of that falls on those of us who have the voice and platform to make sure those who deserve it are heard. Normalizing those voices is the first priority, because I’ll be damned if it always comes to the privileged having to pave the way for the rest. That’s bullshit. I want to help change it.
AV: Alright, let’s talk Necrotech. One of the things I love about Riko is the fluidity of her sexuality. Many times when authors try handling this topic, they do it with a big flashing neon sign over the character’s head that says, “Look, my character is *insert whatever label the author wants*!” It feels as though they are trying to tick a box on the holy altar of diversity, without actually understanding the thing they’re writing about. Riko, however, feels very authentic. Do you have any advice for authors out there who want to tackle these issues in a non-cliché way?
K.C. Alexander: Don’t fucking make it a big deal. I mean, don’t. So what if your character is gay, trans, disabled? Yes, it’s a part of the character. So you write that character, not the label. Riko is a bisexual badass who doesn’t give a fuck about what’s expected of her. She’ll jump whoever she wants to, and she’ll make her own choices. Sure, that pretty much screams “not straight”, but who cares? Nobody raises an eyebrow at that.
Here’s my flashing neon sign: I’m a pansexual genderqueer human being. I am Type II Bipolar, and I have non-combat PTSD.
Okay, now you know. Awesome! But I don’t run around and introduce myself to everybody that way. Why? Because my actions are what they are, and anybody with any sense at all would recognize it when I say something like, “Goddamn, I’d jump them in a heartbeat.”
Your characters should be the same way. It’s not an “issue”. You don’t have to pop up that neon sign in in the pages of the book, or on the book cover, or anything. You can, and for marketing you should if it’s a specific genre such as gay romance, but when it comes to embracing diversity, you really don’t have to slap labels on these people. I mean, they’re people, for chrissake.
Because as I said above, the more we make it no big deal in the pages of the book, the more we make it no big deal to a reader. I mean, unless that reader is an asshole, and then honestly, they can gtfo. The only asshole you need to worry about is yours.
AV: Your website says:
“I’m asked what writing between the lines means. I explain that I tell stories about the people erased in the middle; the ones that don’t fit the labels. I tell them I write about me, too.”
I’m curious, how do you see yourself in Necrotech?
K.C. Alexander: Ha! I’m a pansexual bitch often called too aggressive by people who don’t like aggressive femmes. I don’t give a shit about saving face, especially other peoples’ faces, and if I could, I’d set fire to so many things. I’m a bridge burner, though unlike Riko I do it on purpose, and I just cannot be assed to play to gendered stereotypes. Like Riko, I suffer from PTSD. And yeah, I suffer from it. (Though unlike Riko, I don’t ignore it.)
Honestly? Riko is me, cranked to 13 and a half.
In a future book, I will be writing about gender identity and exploration. About gender stereotypes. About the family you make. These are things I am intimately familiar with. And so, I tell that story wrapped in layers of theme and setting and character. That’s my contribution to the Own Voices movement.
AV: Were you able to thread any of your themes of invisible disabilities into Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising?
K. C. Alexander: Not very openly, and that only because I didn’t give it a lot of thought at the time. That is my regret about Mass Effect (I did say I get it wrong sometimes). I ended up writing about a same-sex couple, and we added different cultural names and appearances, but the invisible disability aspect was not included. At least, not that I remember.
When I reflect on it, I was in a very bad mental place at the time. Nexus Uprising was the first book I’d managed to write in something like two years, thanks to so many things. In many ways, I credit that book—and Jason’s collaboration—for setting me on the path to something resembling stability.
I guess I was too busy struggling through my own mental illness to think about adding it to the page.
AV: You’re amazingly open about a lot of the struggles you’ve faced in your life, both in terms of gender identity and mental health. Your article “We are not your backstories,” is incredibly powerful. At the end you talk about what we as individuals can do to help support and push towards this world where people who’ve been marginalized for so long can finally have their voices heard. Can you refer us to some authors, stories, and publishers you feel are really killing it in this area?
K.C. Alexander: Oh, honestly. There are so many. I mean, all you have to do is a little research. Here’s a few, but goddammit, readers, open your eyes. They are far more front and center than you’re letting yourself see!
K.C. ALexander speaks truth. Pick up anything by N.K. Jemisin. You won’t be disappointed.
Daniel José Older
Angry Robot Books
Every “Destroy” anthology ever
…and so many, many more. Go look!
AV: Thanks so much for your time, KC. Where can readers find you lurking out there on the interwebz?
K.C. Alexander: Hey, always happy to get a chance to talk loudly at people! Thanks for having me, too. Y’all can find me at my three favorite places to pontificate:
Since it first hit the shelves in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, has been the definitive text in the world of influence and interpersonal dynamics. The only other book even remotely in the same league as How to Win Friends is perhaps Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Power of Persuasion.
Now, maybe you don’t give a hoot about making friends. That’s fine.
You should still read these books.
Because regardless of what you do for work, or where you’re at in life, if you’re reading these words, then you have to deal with people every. single. friggin. Day.
Though you might do your best to avoid those awkward social interactions around the water cooler, you will, eventually, have to communicate with another human being to achieve some goal or fulfill some unspoken desire.
How to Win Friends and Influence People will illuminate a lot of basic ideas that seem super obvious in hindsight, but if you were to analyze your past week of interpersonal interactions, you’d find you implemented very few, if any, of the principles laid out between these hallowed pages.
The basic premise of How to Win Friends and Influence People is that every person on this planet thinks, without equivocation, that they are the most important person on this planet. If you are able to fully grasp and utilize this concept, you will be well on your way towards building more mutually beneficial relationships.
If there is one single idea I would encourage you to take away from How to Win Friends, it’s this:
You can’t make anybody do anything.
You can only make them want to do something.
How you make somebody want to do a thing is of the utmost importance. Sure, we can coerce through force or threats, but that’s a shallow form of cooperation that, in the world we live in, will not carry you particularly far.
By contrast, if you’re able to elicit cooperation by intrinsically motivating the person across from you because it is something they care about doing well, then you, my friend, are on your way to success.
I studied Behavioral Psychology quite a lot in school (enough that they finally bribed me with a degree if I’d just go away), and as an author it is possibly the single field of study I leverage the most in my work.
Great stories are stories about people. Whether that’s a singular person versus nature, versus herself, or versus the world, you’ll find it difficult to achieve great commercial success without at least one person in your story. So books like How to Win Friends and Influence People are an amazing resource because they shed a light onto basic human behaviors we can leverage in our own writing.
Compelling stories unearth deeply rooted truths about the human condition. And much of the human condition is predicated on our daily interactions with other humans. You are doing yourself a disservice as a writer if you are not investing heavily in educating yourself in this field.
There are a lot of practical tips in How to Win Friends and Influence People, but be forwarned, the writing itself very much feels as though it is a product of the 1930’s. It’ll feel quaint and even a little naive at times, but stick with it and dig deep because there are quite a lot of hidden gems buried deep beneath the surface.
Because you were kind enough to make it this far into my blatherings, I shall now share with you 3 tips for how to handle people:
1) Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
I suck at this one. Truly. I am hyper-critical of myself and the world around me. Far too often I find myself criticizing others for doing something in a way I wouldn’t have done it.
If you’re looking for a singular piece of advice that will instantly improve your relationships, it is this. Don’t criticize. Stop being judgmental.
We all have have that person in our life who always has something to bitch about. Whether it’s the weather, the mailman, or the migrating moose population, they will always have something, or somebody, to criticize. These people are toxic. Their complaining is infectious. It drags everybody down into a pessimistic pit ill-will.
Compare that those rare unicorns of people who are always positive and upbeat. They never have a bad-word to say about those around them. We enjoy their company because they make us feel better about ourselves and the world at large.
The first step towards becoming one of those people is simple, but far from easy: Stop complaining.
2) Give honest and sincere appreciation
Oh, hey, look…another thing I really suck at. This particular weakness is born from pride and ego. I’m bad at sharing honest appreciation with those around me because for so long I had it framed in my mind as a zero-sum game. To tell somebody how awesome they are at whatever task they are being praised for, is to imply that I am not as good at said task.
I’m obscenely competitive and can admit that my own vanity has stopped me from encouraging/appreciating those around me in the past.
3) Arouse in the other person an eager want
This ties into comment made earlier about the fact we can not make anybody do anything. We can only make them want to do a thing.
This all starts with inspiring an eager want in that other person.
How do you do this?
Well, I’m not going to spill the beans. Pick up Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to find out. You won’t be disappointed.
A’right, I’m passing the mic to you rascals now. Mosey on down to the comments section and tell me the one facet of your interpersonal relationships you could stand to improve! Or, just tell us about the lats time somebody made you feel really good about yourself.
Know somebody who could stand to make some more friends? Share this article with them! Your support means the world to me. Thanks!
Today’s video to get you psyched to tackle your week comes straight out of the ’90’s! So buckle up, baby, we’re dusting off the Delorean.
Now scamper down to the comments and tell me your favorite chunk of popcorn advice. Maybe it’s from the video, maybe it’s from the homeless guy outside that 7-11, maybe it spawned half-baked from your own brain-pan. Doesn’t matter where it came from, just get down to comments and share.
My favorite advice? “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blind-side you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.”