Monthly Archives: June 2012

So Here’s A Thing.

Today is my parent’s forty-third wedding anniversary. (Yes, if you look that up, my parents were married on Friday the 13th. And yes, this is five months before I was born.) And in considering this, I realised a number of things.

Mainly that I’m never going to have one of those.

There’s all kinds of stuff that, at this point in my life, is almost certainly never going to happen. I’m never going to get married again, because honestly there’s just no point to it – from my perspective, marriage is for family and children, but I’m rapidly approaching “too old for more kids” at which point marriage becomes completely irrelevant.

The “too old for more kids” isn’t because of capability. Hell, guys in their seventies are capable. But I do not want to be raising teenagers when I’m over 65, which means I have to have had all my children before I’m 46. Which, in turn, means they all need to be conceived by February of 2015.

This is where my personal morals and beliefs come into play. I don’t believe in having children out of wedlock, and I don’t believe in getting married without at least a year of engagement, and I don’t believe in getting engaged less than a year into the relationship. Which is a simple matter of mathematics: I would need to be married by the end of 2015, which in turn means being engaged by the end of 2013, which means I need to be in a serious relationship by the end of this year.

Which means I have six months to meet the mother of my last child.

And if she wants more than one, I have to have already met her. That’s basically Heather Bierlink – she’s the only woman on the planet with whom I could conceivably (no pun intended) have two children. If we get married within the next six months, which is simply not happening.

So I will have at most one more child. And I currently know a grand total of three women who might conceivably be in the running to have that child. No, I’m not saying who they are, except that one of them is Heather. And two of those three want more than one child, which leaves exactly one serious possibility… and anyone new I might happen to meet in the next six months.

But after that, I’m just plain done having kids. And if I’m done having kids, it’s pointless to get married.

It also means I’ll never have a daughter. Well, unless one of my existing kids goes M-F transgender, but that’s an extremely personal decision that should certainly never be made because your dad always wanted a daughter. It’s not the same thing, anyway; I don’t want to “have a daughter” so much as to “raise a little girl,” which leaves fostering and adoption and single mothers in the running, but only for a three-year window – following which that door closes forever and the ship has sailed.

In addition, this means it’s pointless to get civilly divorced, but at some point in my life I’ll probably meet someone who doesn’t want to be in a serious relationship with a married man for one reason or another. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it; for the moment, it’s convenient in a legal sense to remain married until Logan and Conor are in their teens… just in case, God forbid, something drastic should happen. Drastic things do happen, after all, and they’re difficult enough for all concerned without also involving a massive battle over custody and guardianship. So long as their mother and I remain married, there’s no battle to be had if a situation arises – the kids go to dad, end of story.

There’s also the very real perception in the tech industry that an engineer looking for a job in his forties is probably incompetent or obsolete, if not both. So my twenty-year career in software development is basically worth jack shit.

More or less the same way my fourteen years of building a family to the exclusion of everything else is worth fuck all at this point.

This isn’t some weepy whinging post about how awful things are. They are what they are. And if you’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, sitting there in your early twenties with the world at your feet… look, reality is what it is. You think you’ve got time. You think what you’re doing now will last forever. But at my age, when you’re rapidly coming up on the part where more of your life is behind you than there is ahead of you, that present-focus lifestyle where you think what you have is what you’ll always have… well, you start to realise just what a crock of shit that was.

Understand your past, present, and future. Everything I am and everything I do needs to change now, because my life is not what I imagined it was going to be. Understand your past, so you grasp what has changed and why. Understand your present, so you grasp what needs to be changed in response. And understand your future, so you grasp how it needs to change.

The first forty years of my life was primarily about fitting in. Fitting into an industry, a career path, a family, a lifestyle. And in the end, what I fit into did not serve me well or get me where I was headed. I compromised my plans and my desires for the good of others, and when it came time for those others to return the favour, they effectively told me to piss off because it was inconvenient to keep their promises and honour their commitments.

That was a bad investment. I won’t make one like it again.

Editing After Publication: Apologies

I queue up posts several days in advance to be published between nine and ten AM.

Initially, these posts are just “talk about X” and then I go in and actually talk about that subject.

This week, my children have been here unexpectedly. Nobody ever tells me when the kids are coming or how long they will be here, so I’ve had to play dad as much as possible – I don’t get much time for that, so I take all I can get – and I didn’t have an opportunity to plan ahead for it and make sure the posts were queued up.

It’s easy to keep up with social media like Facebook over the course of the day. That’s scanning a feed, clicking some links, and rattling off a quick thought. But I put a bit more than that into my blog posts, which makes them more of a commitment. So a lot of the posts this week have been getting published as “discuss this thing” and then edited into final format hours later.

And right now, I need to go edit two posts into final format because one was supposed to be done yesterday and the other is being published within the hour. But I thought I’d dash off a quick note explaining, just in case anyone was going “WTF” about their RSS feed or something.

The Charge: Change

The Charge now goes on to the question of change.

This is probably the crux of the whole “comfortable” lifestyle; step one of moving from comfortable to charged (or from surviving to succeeding) is to change things. And there are some very good tools here. One of the most useful ones in this chapter is the notion of chaining habits – “when I do this, I will do that.” I use that technique frequently.

Basically, the way this works is to take an existing habit and hook the next habit onto the back of it. Like if you want to go to the gym, he suggests you set things up with “I will take the kids to school (an existing habit), and then I will go to the gym (the desired new habit).” This is a powerful technique, and can easily add new habits into your existing routine.

Another useful technique he covers is focus – instead of thinking about what might go wrong with your new habit (what if I don’t lose the weight?), he recommends focusing on the good things about the habit – envisioning yourself having success, instead of failure.

There is, of course, the question of reality. You can’t just pretend everything will be great; one of the biggest problems people hit in their efforts to change is risk management.

I think that’s something we haven’t covered very well in our change management instruction over the years – inevitably, no matter what you do, things will go wrong. In project management (and pretty much nowhere else), we actively study the question of risk mitigation, which is where you essentially make a list of “this is what could go wrong, and this is what I am going to do about it.”

If you do this properly, you don’t have “I am going to write a book.” You have “I am going to write a book. Because I may not find a publisher, I will self-publish it on Amazon. Because the book may not be very good, I will have people I trust review it before I publish. Because the book may not sell at all, I will conduct a marketing campaign to generate interest. Because the book may not sell well at this price point, I will make a contingency plan to release at a lower price on the Kindle. Because the book may not be of any interest to Amazon customers, I will make an additional contingency plan to release it in PDF format as a WSO on the Warrior Forum.”

Now, if the book doesn’t sell, you don’t have a crushing defeat that leaves you without options. You have a next step. What could go wrong, and what will you do? If you map that out far enough, and well enough, you never end up with crushing defeat.

In my recent product release debacle, I didn’t do proper risk assessment or mitigation, because I was assured the major risk was not a risk by people who had legitimate control over the risk. Specifically, when I said “affiliates may choose not to promote the product,” several high-profile and influential marketers said “I will absolutely promote your product.” I never did a risk mitigation strategy for “what if my friends are lying to me.”

The Charge: Forward Drives

Next in our continuing examination of The Charge, we come to the forward drives, or f-drives. The fundamental idea here is that you live a caged life when your baseline drives are not being met – control, competence, congruence, caring, and connection – and then you live a comfortable life until your forward drives are met.

This is a reasonably sensible thing to say. I like the division of the world into three camps; I tend to use five, myself, where the bottom of the scale is “poverty” and the top of the scale is “wealth.” But in between, I have three categories that map almost directly to Burchard’s:

Succeeding is when you have all the things you need, and many of the things you want.

Surviving is when you have enough  of the things you need, but everything you want requires a sacrifice.

Struggling is when you do not have enough of the things you need.

Wealth is basically having enough of the things you want, while poverty is when you don’t have any of one or more things you need.

Burchard’s drives map pretty well to need and want. The baseline drives, which we’ve already covered, are things you need – not from a material standpoint, but from a neurological and existential one. And there, I can get behind the notion of his baseline drive for “caring” – I don’t believe it’s a natural drive we all have to care for others, but I believe we need to care for others. I believe the failure to care for others leads to what I call a “poverty of the soul,” just as the failure to achieve control, competence, congruence, or connection will lead to other poverties which are detrimental to your health and well-being.

But where a lot of this falls over is in the delineation of what we need and what we want. Somewhere in between those is the notion of what we or others should have. I believe every human being on the planet should have access to cheap, reliable, high-speed internet without monitoring or censorship. I do not, however, confuse this with a basic human need.

Brendon’s five baseline drives are, in my opinion, basic human needs. And the five forward drives we’ll be covering over the rest of the week are similarly not basic human needs – they are things we want. To sit between them is to be surviving, but you need at least some of the forward drives to succeed. I’m tempted to say “three or more,” but that isn’t altogether accurate.

Finally, wealth is a matter of having all the drives satisfied, baseline and forward. And what I really like about The Charge is how Brendon recognises and accepts that people both want and need unique balances of these drives – that satisfaction is personal, and your balance may differ from his. Or mine.

(EDIT: forgot to hit “Update” when I was done. Sorry. Gah, three hours late)

The Charge: Connection

Rounding out Brendon Burchard’s five baseline drives in The Charge, we now come to connection.

This one’s been difficult for me to write about, which is why I sort of dropped the ball on getting it out by 10 AM like I try to do with all my blog posts.

If you’ll recall, yesterday I covered caring, and took a diametrically opposed position from Brendon’s – that we don’t have a drive to care for others.

But he’s spot-on with this one, because we most definitely have a drive to be cared for by others. This is one of the most difficult parts of my life, because I’m constantly surrounded by people who simply don’t give a shit.

This is primarily because I don’t normally have people in my life who do the things I do or enjoy the things I enjoy. Because, you know, those things are fucking weird. And people lie to you. They pretend they’re into the stuff you’re into, but when the relationship gets serious, you discover that they were kind of never into that and just wanted to hang out with you.

So when you wanted to sit around watching horror movies all day, they sat there with you even though they hate horror movies. And when you spent days playing Fallout 3, they simply didn’t say anything about all the blood and violence because they figured it was just a phase you’d get over.

But then you get serious, and suddenly it’s an issue. You watch too many horror movies and most of them suck and why don’t we watch more romantic comedies or children’s movies? And those violent video games have got to go because they simply do not belong in a house where children are going to be raised.

So Burchard’s right. We all want to feel connected to the people in our lives, and we always want those connections to be deeper and more meaningful. But this is a private, intimate kind of thing. Brendon recommends four to twelve “growth friends,” people that are really, truly important to you. He also recommends that you define your ideal relationships and deliberately pursue them.

But what I do have to take issue with is the notion of “positive projection,” which is a form of self-delusion. This is what bites me in the arse every time. The disintegration of my marriage came about explicitly because my wife was a lying, cheating, thieving bitch who simply played stupid every time I caught her fucking everything up. And “positive projection” says that you forgive people their faults and have patience.

When your wife spends all your money on bullshit so you’ve got no savings and the end of your contract leaves you dead broke and you have to scramble like hell to make the rent, and you say “what the FUCK happened?” only to be told that she “had no choice” because of collections agencies and bills and traffic tickets and whatever, you’re supposed to say “well, that was a mistake, and you should have done this, but it’s okay and we’ll be fine and PARDON ME WHILE I GO GIVE MYSELF A FUCKING ULCER RACING TO FIND A NEW CONTRACT.”

And then, in September of 2009, she finally admitted that she did this explicitly to prevent me from ever having the money or the time to start my own business again. If we had the ten thousand dollars in the bank I wanted to have by the end of my contract, I was just going to spend most of it trying to build something that nobody could ever build because it’s stupid. So instead, she spent all of it on nothing trying to force me into giving up those ambitions.

And “positive projection” is why this went on for over five years. I made excuses for her, and told her it was okay, and gave her all the time in the world to completely destroy everything. But it wasn’t until she went batshit insane in June of 2009 that I finally said “okay, we had the rent money when it was due, but three days later there’s an eviction notice on our window and the bank account is overdrawn and the bills still haven’t been paid and what the fuck.”

Because in May of 2009, I told her outright: I am not going back to work. I have put off building my business for five years, and I will not do it any more. I had my own business when we met, I have never been happier or more successful than when I was running my own business, and I absolutely detest not being able to watch my children grow up because I am out of the house 12 to 14 hours a day. If you absolutely cannot accept my own business being our primary source of income, then you can go get a job, because I will not do it.

So she got us evicted. At which point I said “this is unacceptable and you shall not control our finances anymore.” That’s when she delivered the ultimatum that if I would just give up this “run my own business” bullshit, she would stop deliberately spending all our money to stop me from doing it. At which point I said “that is even more unacceptable, and you shall not have any access to our finances whatsoever – give me the cheque book and all your bank cards, and when you need money you will ask me for it and I will get you cash.”

So she left me and took the children, then went and lied to the government about what happened so they’d take all my money and give it to her for child support. She literally gave them a figure for my monthly income which resulted in a child support payment that exceeded my unemployment cheques, so they’d take all my money. Except they can’t take more than half of it. Meanwhile, in the “did not think that one through” department, she claimed that she wasn’t getting any of the money and didn’t understand why they were taking it… because, you know, it’s not like the government keeps records or anything. Or like there would eventually be a hearing with full accounting for who got paid what when and by whom.

Or like this was, you know, evil.

All of that happened because I was with someone I loved – and still love, no matter how evil she may have become; the woman I fell in love with is still in there, and still my best friend, and sometimes I can spend entire hours not seeing the evil bitch that has grown around her – and I practiced “positive projection.” Whenever she was less than perfect, I insistently maintained that she was a wonderful person who had simply made a little mistake.

For three years after that, I practiced the same “positive projection” on my girlfriend and my parents and my colleagues and my friends. But you know what? They’re all arseholes. Not one of them gives a leaping shit in a glass Buick about me. All they care about is the mental image in their heads of who I am supposed to be, and when I pursue a different path, they quite deliberately fuck it up to try and make me follow the path they want me to follow.

Oh, but they mean well, because… wait, no they fucking don’t. They are trying to control other people’s lives through violence. Seriously, lying and cheating and stealing are forms of violence. When your friend lies to you, or cheats you, or steals from you, how many times have you said “it was like being punched in the gut” or something similar? That’s because it is. Deep down, you know that these things are violence. And the people who use them to try and control you are just bullies and terrorists.

So “positive projection” is the shittiest fucking advice on the planet. It’s pie in the sky bullshit that only works if you set the line properly and don’t let people fuck you over. But Burchard’s only failure in this is that he’s too fucking young to know how bad it can get, and that’s a good problem to have.

The Charge: Caring

Next in The Charge from Brendon Burchard, he mentions caring.

It’s here that I feel like Brendon has this strange idea about basic human drives. It seems that Brendon expects people to naturally and normally want not to be SLIM. This isn’t really my experience at all.

I actually had a conversation just a couple minutes ago with someone on Facebook who told me that it’s basically my fault that nobody promoted my last product, because when I asked them to promote it and they said “yes” they were actually lying.

Wait, how the fuck is that my fault?

This is the kind of garbage that I see all day long. People saying crap like “if someone lies to you and you believe them, then you are the one with the problem because people are liars and that is just fine because fuck you.”

But Brendon says that we all have this drive to care about other people. That our brains are designed in a way that makes it easy for us to care about others and to understand how they’re feeling. And I believe this is absolute bullshit.

Our brains are designed like every other animal’s – in a way that makes it easy for us to hunt our prey. You can tell humans are predators, because our eyes are on the front of our heads. That’s something only predators have. Prey have eyes on the sides of their head. Wolves and lions are predators, with eyes on the front of their head so they can identify and focus on their prey. Horses and cattle are prey, with eyes on the sides of their head so they can see predators coming from more directions.

It just so happens that our natural prey is, well, each other.

We’re not designed to understand other human beings because we’re supposed to comfort and support one another, but because we’re supposed to outwit and outsmart one another. We are all just natural fuckwads who only care about ourselves.

And what Brendon is doing here is confusing the idea that humans can be more than this… with the idea that we are naturally more than this. He takes this weird, counterintuitive position that makes no fucking sense: left to their own devices, people will act like dicks because nobody is there to show them their natural and normal capacity to not be dicks.

If someone has to show you, then it’s not natural.

Natural just happens. That’s the thing about nature; it just happens, whether you show anybody anything or not. And all the evidence is that people are naturally dicks. We don’t care about one another. It is, in fact, natural for us to regard the rest of humanity as defective versions of ourselves. We judge the value of others based on how alike we are. This is how we’ve behaved for centuries, and the self-help movement hasn’t changed doodly squat about it.

Yeah, we’re designed to understand how others are feeling. But it’s not so we can commiserate with them. It’s so we know when to fuck them, when to kill them, and when they’re not looking so we can take their shit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that’s right. I’m saying that’s natural. We’re animals, basically, and we have animal drives for animal things. What makes us different than the animals is that we’re aware of these drives and can defy them.

Some would say this makes us better than the animals, but it’s just another case of “everyone else is a defective version of me” if you regard animals as defective humans – or, biblically, as defective women. There’s no objective good or bad and right or wrong, any more than there’s objective virtue or sin. Even the seven deadlies – greed, wrath, sloth, gluttony, vanity, pride, and lust… are only sins once you cross a certain line.

Because they’re not just natural. They’re actually unavoidable. We’re hard-wired for those behaviours.

The Charge: Congruence

Continuing through Brendon Burchard’s latest book, The Charge, he moves on to cover the notion of congruence in a pretty odd fashion.

He never really talks about what it is, which I think is kind of important.

Congruence is a notion most of us encounter in geometry, where two shapes are said to be congruent if all the angles and proportions match.

This is actually a rather convenient shorthand for practicing what you preach, if we take “angle” as its slang meaning for an intention or goal. If you claim to be doing something for a particular reason, and that is in fact the reason you’re doing it, then that “angle” matches – so if all your reasons are accurately disclosed, that’s congruent.

There is, of course, the “proportions” thing. In geometry, it means the lengths of the sides have the same relation. With triangles, for example, you’ve got three angles and three sides. You can’t alter any side’s length without altering something else. So if all three angles match, then all the sides have the same proportions – the Pythagorean theorem covers this for right triangles, identifying the ratio of the hypotenuse to the other two sides.

In a personality context, what we’re really discussing is focus. To use a marketing example, every product vendor on the planet tells you to join a mailing list for product news and updates, which they never send. However, if they told you to join a mailing list for an interminable stream of shitty affiliate links for more crap you can buy, you wouldn’t join it.

Sometimes all the angles match. They’ll admit that their mailing list will receive frequent mailings, and that those mailing will include other offers along with useful information, but that it is also the sole channel for updates to the product. Except the product is never updated, so it doesn’t matter what channel the updates are in because there’s nothing on that channel but static anyway.

What’s lacking in that case is the proportions. They act as though the primary purpose of the list is to send updates to the product – and that those updates will (a) happen, and (b) have some useful function. In truth, the primary purpose of their list is delivering affiliate links to as many people as possible, and the ability to send updates is just a nebulous idea that may never see actual use.

Even the “useful” information sent out to these lists is generally just positioning you to receive an affiliate link later; remember yesterday, when I pointed out how Brendon’s “competence” chapter makes sure to include getting a coach? No marketer worth his salt would suggest that the job could be done just as well without him. There has to be self-interest in the process.

Indeed, the SLIM tetrad – Selfish, Lazy, Ignorant, and Mean – is a good way to check congruence. When people offer you something, there’s usually a SLIM motivation or two in there. Look for it. If you can’t find one, chances are pretty good that someone’s blowing smoke up your arse.


The Charge: Competence

Next in Brendon Burchard’s list of “10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive” in The Charge is the idea of competence – how good you are at what you do.

It’s surprising how much detail he goes into with this; the psychological drives, the economic foundations, it’s quite refreshing to see someone dive straight into something that advanced without embarrassment or apology.

It’s also good to see someone address competence as precisely what it is: education. This goes back to the question of control somewhat; it’s not necessary to control the outcome, so long as you have a mental awareness of what the outcome is likely to be.

That’s what competence is really all about. Anticipation. It’s the ability to go do something with a pretty good idea how it’s going to unfold, which in turn means that when things unfold in an undesirable fashion, you have a pretty good idea what you’re going to do about it.

This is really where control meets random chance. When you go out driving to the supermarket, it’s tremendously unlikely that an eighteen-wheeler will roll over on its way around a corner and put you in imminent danger. But what makes a driver competent is that if this happens, he knows what he should do, how to do it, and what the likely outcome is going to be.

The clearest sign of incompetence is panic – something has happened that you did not anticipate, you don’t know what to do or how to do it, and you’ve no clue how it’s all going to turn out.

Burchard does, of course, have the usual “get a coach” pitch. And it’s true, having someone to help you out is great, but you sort of have to take it with a hefty dose of salt when the professional coach says you should totally get yourself a professional coach.

There’s an exercise he has people do toward the end where you list all the little wins you’ve ever had, the ones you never really stopped to appreciate. Every new skill you learned, all the books you read, the courses you took, the (ahem) coaches you hired, and so on and so forth. It’s similar to the exercise I did a few weeks back about identifying major wins from various areas of your life, except Brendon’s suggestion is  writing at least a page for each year starting with last year and moving back one year at a time.

There’s a common thread in most of the things people like this do: they like to have you write things down. And they’re all the same general kinds of things, too. Even when it’s patently ridiculous like doing “affirmations,” just writing down what you want and then merrily going on about your business, writing things down matters. That’s worth considering, when you look at how to remodel your life into something that doesn’t suck quite as much shit.