The $1000 Project is a new, exciting approach to earning and saving money. Canna Campbell decided to turn her finances around. Her story starts as a single mom who had experienced postpartum depression. Other people mentioned in the book have various challenges, making this strategy feel accessible.
The premise of the $1000 Project is to save money in small increments. This can help to make even huge goals seem more approachable. The wins are closer and more frequent.
This is an Australian book, so the dollar amounts are Australian dollars. I looked it up, and at time of writing, $1000 AU is about $700 US. On the one hand, that makes the $1000 Project simpler and more obtainable. On the other hand, I think it’s more exciting and motivating to keep that $1000 figure in mind!
There are also details about investing that are specific to Australia. As an American investor, I can say that the overall strategy still makes sense and that the terminology is not that different. Don’t let this single chapter hold you back from benefiting from the overall message. Looking back, I wish I had paid more attention to the investing chapters in all the personal finance books I read; if I’d started even a year sooner it would have paid off by at least $10,000 more than I have now.
The book offers dozens of ideas for earning extra money. Some are suitable for even the most entry-level young person, such as dog-walking. Others are somewhat surprising, like leading tours or teaching surfing to tourists. There are also plenty of ideas on how to save money, most of which people tend to know, though they aren’t willing to put them into practice. This is why it’s so helpful to have a goal like the $1000 Project, because mobilizing every possible strategy leads to much quicker results.
Campbell dedicates an entire chapter to reader stories. They are inspiring, motivating, and also detailed, including specific dollar amounts. Readers based their $1000 Projects around such goals as IVF, paying off credit card debt, paying for their wedding, or getting reconstructive surgery.
Campbell herself wanted to get out of debt, learn about investing, set a good example for her son, have a better career, and be able to give to charity in a significant way. The $1000 Project led her to reach all those goals, and more: It set her up as a realistic example for so many other people to reach their goals, too. You could be next!
...I learnt never to underestimate the power of consciously taking action in small ways to make a big difference.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
What do you love doing?
What do you dream about?
What would make you feel better?
Once you’ve managed to move off the debt repayment treadmill, you can turn your mind to creating more wealth and stability for yourself!
We can choose to be well prepared for obstacles, emergencies, and challenges.
I could put my hand on my heart at the end of the twelve-month period and say with authenticity and contentment that I’d given this project everything I had.
Married men are more attractive, let’s face it. The reason for that is that they’ve spent years in a relationship with someone, and it’s taught them a lot about communication, compromise, and contentment. Marriage is a specialized education. The marriage partner of someone else has been customized over time to fit with that specific person, like an old boot. Better to get your own! There are, though, candidates who will make better or worse marriage partners.
Take the advice of a happily married woman. Recognizing the undervalued man will give you a better shot at a better marriage.
(A heteronormative, monogamous marriage, anyway, for whatever that’s worth).
There are plenty of single and discouraged people in the world. Some of them are still processing whatever happened in their last relationship, and they’re not really emotionally available yet. Others are super busy, or they have a weird schedule, and they like it that way because it gives them a reason to not get back out there. Others are ready and can’t figure out why they aren’t meeting anyone. There are yet others who believe they aren’t desirable, and they’ve quit trying.
All of these are potentially going to make an excellent partner for someone, maybe even in a short period of time!
One of the best things you can offer to anyone - a friend, a colleague, your seat mate on a plane, a kid, a new date - one of the best things you can offer is validation of their good qualities. People often don’t recognize when they’re good at something. We’ve all been taught to beat up on ourselves. Some of us are, at least temporarily, cast down by life. It often takes the kind insights of another person to change our perspective. If you can do this for anyone, you can do it for a gentleman, and that’s part of your strategy for finding and claiming an undervalued man.
Encourage everything you’d like to see more of.
This is generally going to be the opposite of whatever their ex did.
Relationships are killed by neglect and coldness. They can also be killed by constant criticism, and that’s more common than it should be. This is part of what keeps people in dissatisfying relationships - they start believing their bad press and buying into their disappointed partner’s negative views. Ah, but the things that annoyed that person might not bother you at all. They might be perks!
Someone else might have undervalued your man due to his taste in music, how he cuts his hair, his clothes, his food preferences, his job, his friends, his height, his family, whether he likes the radio on/off at night, or the fact that he does/doesn’t want kids one day. I once broke up with a guy partly because he chewed gum in the shower. If that doesn’t bother you, well, he might be available today...
Spouses are like siblings, which is to say that anyone you live with is a roommate. If you meet someone inconsiderate, they’re not giving you much to work with. No matter how attractive they are or how much money they have, it’s hard to live with a slob. A clean freak might not be that much better of a choice, though; do you really want a man nagging after you about streaks on the mirror or asking you to iron your socks? Consideration is not the same thing as housework.
The quality you’re looking for is whether you can relax with this person.
Does he make you smile? Does he seek to please you? Does he remember your likes and dislikes, is he willing to let you choose the movie or the radio station or the restaurant at least sometimes?
If this man is fun and easygoing, he probably has a history with a couple of exes. How does he talk about them? Who is the villain in his stories? If it’s always HER, be suspicious.
Does he listen to you attentively when you tell a story? Not when you vent, when you tell a story. Does he remember the names of your friends, family, and coworkers? Does he remember details from one week to the next?
Does he basically seem to find you interesting? Does he like you?
(Look around and start noticing how many couples seem not to like each other. It’s a lot).
Something you can do with an undervalued man is to read The Five Love Languages with him. Men really like this book. It may be the first time in their lives that someone has recognized their attempts to show affection and caring toward someone. That book gives them permission to be doting and giving in the ways that work for them, and actually get a little credit. More of what works, less of what doesn’t work.
Personally, I am very touched by acts of service, and let me tell you, there is something great about a man who prefers to show affection that way. My husband is constantly making me smoothies, fixing my sunglasses, doing my bike maintenance, and remembering not to put my sweaters through the dryer. Did he do that kind of thing for his ex-wife? I have no idea, I sort of doubt it, but they were younger then and I don’t think she was an “acts of service” person. My hubby and I reciprocate for each other because we’re on the same wavelength. I’ve probably disappointed more than one “gifts” man over the years, neither giving nor appreciating that sort of thing in the way he would want.
After my divorce, I made a checklist of what I wanted in a man, the way we do. I put a lot of stuff on it that turned out to be irrelevant to what actually makes me happy. I thought I wanted a man who could beat me at Scrabble, when hey, I have my brother for that! I thought I wanted a poet/musician/artsy type when hey, I have myself for that! It never occurred to me to want an older engineer with a kid. What I got was a kind, generous, reliable man who was much smarter and funnier (and a better cook and dancer) than I thought possible.
What ought to be on our checklists are personal qualities and behaviors. We have a tendency to typecast a romantic male lead, when what we’re really searching for is someone who can create a certain type and color of romantic bubble with us. We’re looking for something that can really only be made with one other specific individual. We’re more likely to get that irreplaceable bit of magic with someone who may have been overlooked by others. That’s how we lay claim to someone who will be delighted to be our perfect fit.
Diogenes used to walk around Ancient Greece with a lit lantern in the daytime. People would ask him, “Hey, Diogenes, what’s up with the lantern?” He’d say, “I’m looking for an honest man!” I dig this right now, except instead of an honest man I’m in search of a decent night’s sleep. This is SleepQuest 2019, one woman’s journey to stop being tired all the time.
The week of the New Year, I realized that my (current) sleep issues might have something to do with my ten-year dependency on melatonin. I quit taking it. That was a very hard week, but I did start sleeping better soon after. Three months in, I’m still not taking melatonin or any other sleep aid, and I’m finding that I can usually drop off to sleep in under twenty minutes.
IS THAT GREAT, OR WHAT?
I started wearing an older-model Fitbit at night as a sleep tracker. According to my metrics, I often fall asleep in 5-7 minutes. That honestly surprises me. It could be that I just quit shifting around in bed and lie still at that point. Maybe one day there will be a brain scanner that will give better data. Who knows?
I had been waking up in the middle of the night a lot, sometimes 3-4 times per night. I usually sleep through the night now.
These are the things that are going well. Unfortunately, I think one of the reasons I’m falling asleep more quickly and staying down through the night is that I am just so tired lately.
We have upstairs neighbors.
They are loud.
They keep late hours.
They also get up early.
First it’s the man getting ready for work. He has a HEAVY TREAD which is very noticeable above your head at 5:00 AM. Then, just as he’s leaving, his wife comes down. She stays at home. That’s why it’s such a mystery why she feels that she needs to do all her housework before 9:00 AM. She probably thinks that mopping at 7:00 is a quiet and respectful thing to do, not realizing that it sounds like squirrels are digging their way through our ceiling. Then there are the middle school daughter and the family dog, everyone waking up and tromping down the stairs in their own sweet time.
Essentially 90% of the noise in our apartment complex happens between 5:00 AM and 9:00 AM.
Another 5% is the period between 11:30 PM and 12:30 AM. Someone walks around and does things in the kitchen. I think it might be the kid.
Anyway, enough about that. The point is that I am preoccupied with the doings of these people because THEY KEEP WAKING ME UP and I don’t have a lot of options. They just aren’t quiet for an 8-hour stretch.
Whenever I confront a persistent problem, I go at it in multiple ways. The first is to strategize and try to reframe the problem. Next step is to ask for advice. After that I try to solve the problem with money.
First wave: Do we have recourse about the noise? We went to the property manager back when these neighbors were doing their laundry at 6:00 AM, and that got dealt with. We had a couple of challenges when they kept trying to push back to more like 7:30. The real issue is that the simple act of walking to the bathroom and taking a shower is louder in our apartment than it is in theirs. It’s not unreasonable for them to get ready in the morning. We could probably talk to a lawyer and get out of our lease early, but then we’d have to move. (Another way to reframe the problem).
Second wave: What are other people doing? Talk to the landlord, fix your nutrition, etc. I have the most screwed-up sleep of anyone I know, so for this topic I am reading up on sleep research.
Third wave: Solve the problem with money. Eye masks, a white noise generator, fan, air filter, ear plugs, new sheets, a new pillow, etc. In the past I’ve tried essential oils, lotions, teas, herbal supplements, meditation, progressive relaxation, yoga, hot baths, and basically everything else on the market. I’ve even tried prescription pharmaceuticals, which is replacing one problem for another.
At this point on the SleepQuest journey, I am ready to say that my main sleep problem is external. It’s disruptive noise.
That’s actually amazing. As an optimist, I have to remind myself that this is a good thing. As soon as I can move somewhere with our own roof, and no longer have heavy booted footsteps walking six feet over my head early each morning, I’ll have a chance of sleeping like a normal person.
Taking 90 minutes to fall asleep? Gone. Waking up with stomach cramps? Gone. Waking up 3-4 times a night? Gone. Restless leg? Gone.
On the other hand, since I started SleepQuest 2019 I have had a couple instances of night terrors. I’ve also had a couple of migraines. I’ve been down with a cold three times. While my sleep quality is nowhere near as bad as it was back in November and December, it’s certainly not as good as it could be.
Overall strategy is to put a small amount of focus in several things, rather than concentrate on only one thing. What I’ve found with complicated problems (like migraine, weight loss, and parasomnia) is that fixing one input is never enough. One percent improvement in ten things is ten percent improvement, right? I already know a bunch of things that work, so for the rest of the year I will methodically make sure that I am putting as much effort into those proven areas as I can. I’ll also continue to do more research.
What have I done that works?
Wear the eye mask
Find the right distance and noise setting for air filter and fan
Quit taking melatonin and suffer through a week of very poor sleep
Adjust my hydration and make sure I’m drinking my full quota before 8:00 PM
DO NOT EAT or drink any non-water fluids close to bedtime, preserving a three-hour gap between last food and sleep initiation
Try to go to bed earlier and wish neighbors would, too.
It’s that time of year and spring is coming!
Spring announced itself in my neighborhood with a mass butterfly migration. I guess they all woke up and decided it was time to move, based on warmth, sunshine, and presence of flowers. There are few things more joyous than being surrounded by hundreds of butterflies everywhere you go for days on end, and noticing your neighbors notice.
Spring is here, summer is coming, and planning can help us make the most of it. How long has it been since you:
Had a picnic
Threw a Frisbee
Went to the beach
Played in a sprinkler
Napped in a hammock
Rode a bike
Laid down a blanket for stargazing
...and how much of your warm-weather-related outdoor equipment is buried in a garage, shed, storage unit, or other impossible mound of junk?
I like to do semi-major cleaning jobs on a quarterly basis. This is partly because there’s no way I would want to save it up and do it once a year. It’s also because it’s my way of declaring that I’m taking the next few months off.
Yes, I’ll do laundry and cook meals and wash dishes and clean the bathroom. No, I will not be doing any major clutter clearing, sorting of closets, or moving of furniture.
I AM TAKING TIME OFF!
I fully intend to spend the six warm months of our region out playing and having fun.
I’m going to go for walks and ride my bike with my husband.
I’m going to lounge around in my favorite chair on our tiny patio with the parrot and the dog.
I’m not going to wear socks. So ha.
In December, I deal with my severe cabin fever by sorting stuff and purging files. I love starting the New Year with a clean slate, and I really have this huge thing about getting our apartment ready. All surfaces should be dusted and polished. That’s how I celebrate, by making an area look pretty and ready for guests.
I like to go through every single cupboard and cabinet and drawer, getting rid of anything that has served its purpose. Things have a certain specific useful lifespan, whether they are lightbulbs or pasta noodles or socks or serving platters. Material objects are designed to be used in certain ways, and if they are truly useful then they eventually get worn out. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit.
Sometimes the useful lifespan of an object is just the time that it was useful to me and my household. I can pass it along, where it can become useful to someone else.
It’s not up to me to find out who that person might be. I send things back to the Stuff Place, where they rejoin the current of usefulness. In my home, they would get in my way and sit around, drained of meaning, while that other person would have to do without.
Almost everything, as far as I’m concerned, should remain in the Stuff Place. I don’t need things until I need them. I don’t like the feeling that I am surrounded by mysterious “supplies” that might or might not “come in handy” for some future disaster. I need my space for my personality and my thoughts. I need a little bit of blank wall and a little bit of room to expand, just in case I want to.
When I pass things on and send them back to the Stuff Place, it makes room. It creates breathing space in my home. I have space to live. Why should a bunch of random material objects have more of a claim on my home than I do? Than my husband and my pets and my friends do?
I can fill my space with friendship, music, conversation, laughter, thoughts and plans and dreams.
Or I can fill it with STUFF.
One of the things I do when I shake down my house, at the change of the seasons, is to look at how I’ve been spending my time. One of the areas that gets the most attention is the kitchen, because we cook differently in cold and warm weather. In the winter, I want the soup pot and the big baking pans. In summer, we do a lot more dinner salads.
Another area that gets extra focus is the bed, because we swap out our bedding too. That’s as good a time as any to think about what we want near us when we sleep. In the past, we both had cluttered nightstands, and that tends to generate dust. It’s nice not to have to worry about that.
Then there’s the area where we both get ready, which in our current studio apartment consists of the bathroom and walk-in closet. What’s going on in the shower rack? How many partial bottles of dog shampoo do we need, really? I clear out my one get-ready drawer next to the sink. I look at my sandals - wait, I don’t seem to have any sandals - and my warm-weather clothes.
My husband wears the same clothes all year, and therefore spends the time I am sorting through my closet... napping on the couch with the dog. Behold: minimalism.
I have a bag to donate and another bag to take to the clothing recycling bin. (If you’re crafty and you have tons of “cabbage” in the form of fabric scraps, you can recycle that too).
You know what I ought to do? I ought to take a few more books off the shelf and plan to read them out in the sun, in the park or next to our apartment pool. I just realized that one of my unread books has passed its ten-year anniversary, because I bought it on a trip with my brother and that was before I got married.
Isn’t it crazy, when we realize that some of our stuff has been with us longer than our relationships with mates or pets or even siblings?
I love summer. I associate it with a lot of summery activities that, often, I haven’t actually done in years. Maybe decades. I haven’t made the time to do them. Summer comes every year, and then it goes. It goes whether I’ve gone on a picnic, or held a sparkler, or eaten a root beer popsicle, or rollerbladed along the beach... or not.
No matter what time it is, now is the time. At this moment, it’s time to plan for fun, and make sure it happens!
I’ve been tracking and sharing my annual goals and resolutions for a few years. Quarterly check-ins are a huge part of how I stay on track, not so much for the accountability but because I tend to get distracted and want to do a million other things. What might seem like a lot of goals to most people is something that sometimes feels limiting to me!
What’s going well?
Butterfly migration! Springtime after a wet winter, flowers everywhere, and a reminder that the natural world is always worthy of our attention and full of delights. I found a sundress WITH POCKETS that are big enough to hold my phone. Our dog is doing reasonably well, considering that the vet gave him “two months to live” back in October.
What’s not going well: I’m sick again. This quarter I’ve had night terrors twice and I’m also struggling with migraines. No matter what else I do, our upstairs neighbor persists in getting ready for work at 5:00 in the morning directly above our bed. Our lease isn’t up until October. I either need to magically come up with the $8,000 it will cost to break our lease, or patiently wait out the next six months until we can move to a place with our own roof.
Overall, I’m making solid progress toward most of my goals, but I feel sad and my energy is down.
Personal: My personal project is to submit a book proposal. This is on hold until July, after I finish out the Toastmasters program year. All I’ve been doing toward my personal goal, other than reading through my draft manuscript, is reading a stack of writing manuals.
Career: My career goal for the year was to complete the work for my Distinguished Toastmaster. I just earned another Triple Crown for finishing three educational levels in one program year. I was nominated unanimously for Division Director for next year, and I’ll find out how that goes in mid-May.
Physical: My fitness resolution is to work on hip openers. I have done very little toward this goal, other than to figure out that my hip problem is exacerbated by riding my bike. I am not doing much toward any physical goal, since I’ve been struggling with my health; in fact I put my gym membership on pause.
Home: My home project was to set up an outdoor writing area. This has been a great success! It’s warm enough to sit outside again, my parrot absolutely loves it, and no passersby or neighbors have bothered me since I set it up. My hubby even figured out how to get an extension cord under the screen door so I can have MORE POWER.
Couples: Our couples resolution is to do bulk meal prep. This has been great! We’re saving money, eating better, and we’ve also both lost a few pounds. The only negative is that we are now much more focused on how badly we want to get back into a place with a bigger kitchen.
Stop goal: My stop goal is to stop being sick and tired. This seemed to be working for a while. Then something seems to have happened with our neighbor’s production schedule at work. They’re up there scuttling around until midnight or later, and then up at 5:00 AM EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK. I don’t know how we can complain about someone walking around and using the shower, as opposed to blasting music and throwing loud parties. Still, it’s kinda ruining my life right now. I am failing at this goal and it is making me feel hopeless and helpless.
Lifestyle upgrades: My lifestyle upgrade resolution was to buy a new desktop computer. I finally did it.
Do the Obvious: My “Do the Obvious” this year is to schedule everything in time blocks. It seems to be working as far as measurable productivity. Where it isn’t working as well is in rest and relaxation.
Metrics: Tracking my sleep metrics has been interesting. The body fat monitor has been motivating and encouraging for my husband, while not showing much change for me. I quit tracking how many news articles I read, partly because it turned out to be too time-consuming, and partly because I revolutionized my reading habits. After years of trying, I finally figured out a way to speed-read entire books! This crowded out my news habit, so that now I’m only really reading the news while I’m on the elliptical or waiting for a bus. Huge improvement.
Quest: This year it’s SleepQuest 2019. I am sleeping through the night most of the time, probably because I keep being woken up 2-3 hours before I need to be up. My night terrors have crept back onto the radar. I would be focusing on sleep this year, even if I hadn’t chosen it as a quest. Maybe it will be inspirational for those need more sleep but who 1. Don’t have night terrors and 2. Don’t have an early-rising upstairs neighbor.
Wish: My wish is to be signed by a literary agent. Did I just say that out loud?
Personal: Book proposal
Career: Distinguished Toastmaster
Physical: Hip openers
Home: Outdoor writing area - SUCCESS
Couples: Meal prep - SUCCESS
Stop goal: Stop being sick and tired
Lifestyle upgrades: New desktop computer - SUCCESS
Do the Obvious: Schedule time blocks
Metrics: Sleep, fitness, reading, writing, speaking
Quest: Sleep Project: SleepQuest 2019
Wish: To be signed by a literary agent.
Cal Newport is back to help us think clearly. It’s no surprise that the author of the incredible and essential Deep Work would bring us a thoughtful, well-researched book like Digital Minimalism. Let’s pause a moment and consider whether our use of electronic devices and social media is intentional.
Newport makes a compelling case that our digital lives have become pervasive without our really realizing it. We never planned to be checking our phones so often; it just happened. Further, this unintentional creeping was deliberately designed by tech companies. They manipulate our attention, using intermittent rewards to keep us hooked and using their products as many minutes a day as possible.
What should we do? We should protect how we spend our time. We should make those decisions based on our deepest personal values and the activities we enjoy the most. Digital minimalism is making sure that our social media use, streaming content, gaming, and other uses of our time provide massive value. It’s also making sure that our digital lives aren’t completely crowding out delights like playing music or visiting friends face-to-face.
There’s a “new economics” that shifts the unit of measure of value from money to time. Many of us feel that we don’t have enough time, no matter how much money we have. Minimalism is a way of reclaiming our time from cultural default activities and rededicating it to people and activities that are truly important to us. Newport cites the financial independence community and Mr. Money Mustache as examples.
Intention over convenience is the goal. Are we actually choosing how we spend our time, and are we respecting our own priorities? Hacks are insufficient for reining in digital consumption, though people have tried. Newport advises a detox, a thirty-day digital declutter, during which we can rediscover all the things we love to do but forgot about, because we always have our phones in our hands. We can then gradually reintroduce digital content, remembering that permanent transformation is what we need to get our lives back.
Other people have done it and we can use their example. Digital Minimalism has many examples of digital minimalists who started painting and reading again, among other things. We can use the internet in service of a “leisure renaissance,” learning to do new things, connect with people who share our interests, and find out about events and activities.
Digital Minimalism offers a Seasonal Leisure Plan, which can be built either around the academic calendar, quarterly business cycles, or anything else that the individual prefers. Newport also has a plan for Slow Media, a good idea for news junkies like me. We can continue to engage in social media, though most people can get their needs met in 20-40 minutes of use per week!
This is a provocative and interesting book. I read it after realizing that I had been filling far too much time reading news articles, and making the resolution to be more aware of my news consumption. I decided that the easiest way to deal with this was to focus on reading full-length books instead, like I’ve done most of my life, and using my devices to support that. It has been wonderful! Why read a bunch of clickbait instead of novels and fascinating books like Digital Minimalism? Now that warm weather is coming, I’m going to sit myself down and think about all the fun things there are to do outdoors, with my phone zipped into my pocket.
For many people, their compulsive phone use papers over a void created by a lack of a well-developed leisure life.
Solitude Deprivation: A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.
As I’ve learned by interacting with my readers, many have come to accept a background hum of low-grade anxiety that permeates their daily lives.
After crunching the numbers, the researchers found that the more someone used social media, the more likely they were to be lonely.
Here’s my suggestion: schedule in advance the time you spend on low-quality leisure.
Lemme tell ya a few things about research. First, you shouldn’t listen to anything I have to say, because I’m a blogger and you have no means of verifying any of my stated credentials. The only thing I can guarantee to you is that “my opinion” may or may not accurately state my actual opinion on any topic.
I may or may not be who I claim to be. I may in fact be an AI, a person who looks just like me and has my same name, or an unusually bright magpie that likes keyboards.
Now that we have that cleared away:
I have a bachelor’s degree in history. I “research” things all the time, because it’s how I like to spend my time. I’m motivated by curiosity. What I’m doing falls under different categories. They have official terminology.
“Gathering string”: Reading and skimming a bunch of stuff at random, not knowing where it might lead, and possibly finding an interesting pattern. This is a lot like looking through your fridge and cobbling together a dinner out of leftovers, or shopping at a thrift store. What am I going to find? Dunno, but let’s keep looking! Gathering string doesn’t work as well if you have a specific outcome in mind.
“Looking something up”: Checking information, like whether there is a location of a particular business nearby, or what restaurant options there are in a city we’re planning to visit. I might also look up the date that something happened, which historical figure invented something, or other verifiable data.
“Reading”: Reading things that other people wrote.
“Studying”: Trying to learn about something. For instance, recently I did a speech on Ignatz Semmelweis for my public speaking club. I wouldn’t claim to have done “research” because I don’t speak German and I lack expertise in medicine or public health. What I did do was to read half a dozen articles about Semmelweis and look for images from his time period. Most people would probably consider the work I did on this report to be “research,” but I would refer to it as “reading up on” something or “putting it together.”
“Reporting”: Investigative journalism, such as finding out that someone lied about their credentials or accepted funding unethically. Reporting is based on verifiable information that is not readily available, possibly because someone is motivated to hide that information.
“Original research”: Most of what I do as an historian is NOT original research. I know what it is, I know how to do it, and yet I generally have not done, nor claimed to do, original research.
What would be an example of original research?
Let’s say that I am extremely interested in the history of conspiracy theories. I am putting together a biography of Sir Edmund J. Whackaloon, noted conspiracy theorist. His chief claim to fame is the factual statement that “the Moon is made of green cheese.” (A factual statement says that something is a fact, even if that statement is demonstrably false. It has to be something that can be proved or disproved).
While researching Sir Whackaloon, I note that a collection of his personal letters and diaries was donated to the Noted Archive as part of the Eminent Library. It’s been catalogued, but as far as I can document, nobody has actually read anything in this collection. *OOOOOOOOH*
I ask for permission and go in to look over the special collection. While reading through it, I discover that Sir Whackaloon has kept a secret diary discussing his theories on performance art and mass hysteria. Over a period of eleven years, he had been pulling an elaborate prank, pretending to believe that the Moon is made of green cheese, just to see whether he could get anyone to believe him. Astounding!
What I’ve done is to consult primary source documents, discover new information, formulate my own version of events based on this evidence, and make it public. Once my paper is edited, published, and peer-reviewed, it’s up for debate. Naturally, other Whackaloon scholars are going to dispute my formulation and try to refute it, and that’s all part of the game.
Sir Whackaloon’s letters and journals are the primary source.
My academic paper referring to this collection of letters and journals, that’s a secondary source. Someone might rely on my research because the materials I referenced have not been published and are not publicly available.
A magazine article discussing the controversy over my research and that of other Whackaloon scholars, that’s, well, maybe you could call that a tertiary source.
If someone then blogs about that article, and then several people comment about it, whatever the name is for that, it’s a separate category. One could do original scholarly research on blog comments and trolling, if one wore a respirator, gloves, and protective clothing.
Primary sources generally are not available to the public. The vast majority of people do not conduct original research, unless we count whatever they’re growing on the leftovers they deposit in the office fridge. This is part of where the confusion about “research” comes in. Reading stuff off the internet is probably only going to count as research if you are *researching* the internet. Sociology, right?
I have a few topics that I follow, such as robotics, medical innovations, and autonomous vehicles. I don’t research those things. I read articles about them. I have my own opinions and my own guesses about trends in those areas, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert and I know that my reading isn’t the same thing as research.
I also have an investigation underway, a hypothesis about my personal health. I have some sleep issues, and I’m playing around with my behavior and my home environment to see if I can get some improvement. Even if I succeed, I can’t really call that “research” because it only applies to me. Whatever I come up with, it might be a starting point for someone else’s research, and that would have to involve at least a few hundred people to really count. It just isn’t a good idea for anyone to extrapolate and base their decisions on the personal opinion and anecdotal evidence of one single person.
Especially without really knowing anything about who - or what - that person is. Researcher, crook, fabulist, actor, novelist, artificial intelligence, alien invader, bright magpie, or even a web-savvy Sasquatch.
A friend of mine happened to mention that she was just diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This came as a huge surprise to me, because we talk for hours every week and she had never mentioned that she had been seeing all sorts of doctors. She always looks fresh and lovely. I had no idea.
I told her, “I was diagnosed when I was 23. We should talk.”
“Okay!” She seemed excited.
Then I gave it some thought. What would I tell her? She wasn’t doing any of the things that I was doing when I got sick.
I shared a bed with my first husband, a man who snored heinously all night long. (My symptoms dramatically decreased after our divorce). My friend is single.
I was obese. My friend is fit and works with a trainer.
I drank soda every day. My friend never does.
My diet was generally poor; I ate a lot of sugar and vending machine snacks, and I rarely ate vegetables. My friend eats clean.
My symptoms started after I took a bad fall. My friend’s symptoms seem to have popped up on their own.
I thought back to how cruddy I felt as a 23-year-old, and how much better I feel now. Twenty years have gone by and I feel like I’ve aged in reverse. I would be in so much pain sometimes that I’d need help sitting up in bed.
Now I train in martial arts, and we routinely do “sprawls” and “breakfalls” where we throw ourselves to the ground and pop back up over and over.
I remember the morning after I did a half-day counter-abduction workshop. I had been elbowed in the face a few times, among various other indignities. I was bashed and bruised on every limb. I used to feel that way all the time, for no reason, with no bruises to show for it.
That’s how I knew I would know what to say to help my friend. I understood how she felt. I could listen empathetically. I could give her advice on how to talk to her doctors without them treating her like a malingering mental case.
I’ve talked to other friends and acquaintances who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It usually doesn’t go well. They will still say “You don’t know what it’s like” even though I demonstrably do! Like I would lie about having experienced chronic pain. Why? What would possibly be the motive of pretending you were ill and in pain?
[Getting away with things? Social loafing? Thinking that other people find it more interesting than any other topic of conversation? *shrug*]
The sad truth is that saying, “I used to feel the same way you do, and you don’t have to be in pain like that forever,” can come across as cruel. Why, I’m not sure. I only know it does.
My friend and I sat down to dinner. We talked about a bunch of other things. Then I brought the topic back to her. As a modest person, she found this uncomfortable. I told her I was worried for her and I wanted to help if I could.
I shared my experience from the mid-nineties, when a doctor told me that fibromyalgia was considered a “wastebasket diagnosis” and a psychosomatic illness. They only started to take it seriously when a medication was developed that could treat it, because hey, Big Pharma.
I shared all the factors I thought contributed to my illness, that did not affect my friend. That seemed to help her feel a bit better about her situation, that at least she didn’t have a thyroid nodule, that she didn’t have thirty-five pounds to lose. That she had health insurance!
I explained that having one frustrating diagnosis did not preclude having one or more other things going on as well. For instance, it was entirely possible to have fibromyalgia AND a food sensitivity AND a thyroid issue. It might be worth getting checked out for those. I have a friend who is allergic to onions and garlic, and another who is allergic to yeast and corn. Both of those conditions led to years of confusion, testing, and misdiagnosis, because there are a lot of symptoms that can indicate literally dozens of possible problems.
I talked her through how I tracked various metrics. This is because it can help to reveal patterns, and also because showing a doctor your metrics will grab their attention in a way that nothing else will. It says, “I believe in the scientific method” and it says “I want to get better” and it says “I will work hard to do anything that you prescribe.”
It also tends to solve problems when doctors won’t or can’t.
The last time I talked to a doctor about fibromyalgia, she said, “Well, you must have been misdiagnosed, because people with fibromyalgia don’t get better.” She tried to prescribe me anti-anxiety medicine. I suppose that’s because feelings of strength and fortitude from overcoming adversity somehow qualify as anxiety?
Whatever doctors are telling you, they aren’t talking to people/patients like me. If they’re talking to us, then they aren’t listening. I would think the obvious response to meeting a former fibromyalgia patient who does adventure races and martial arts, who has run a marathon, who goes on backpacking expeditions, I would think the response would be, “Hmm. Interesting.” Study me, I’m game!
There’s money in prescribing drugs to people. There isn’t really any money in “patients” who don’t take prescription medication and basically never need to visit a doctor. Just saying.
I told my friend that what she was experiencing is as bad as it gets, at least with this illness. She describes a feeling of broken glass under her skin. Nod, nod. It’s bad, but you’ve already lived through the worst. It’s not a wasting illness. It’s not like tuberculosis or MS or cerebral palsy. It sucks, sure! But it won’t put you on an oxygen tank and you won’t wind up in a coma.
Most importantly, I talked to her about the importance of high-quality sleep in becoming pain-free and eventually recovering. I shared all the things I do to set up my bedroom and sent her links to my preferred eye mask and white noise generator. At this point, I probably know more about sleep than her doctors do, since doctors aren’t really allowed to sleep. Whatever else happens, at least there’s one cost-free thing she can try to do that has zero side effects.
(Never mind that it’s the hardest one!)
What I gave my friend was information that has worked for me over the last twenty years. More than that, though, I gave her caring, understanding, and the knowledge that she can always come and complain to me. I share her sense of unfairness at the way illness can strike for no reason. I share her frustration with busy, condescending doctors who have no real answers. I share her desire to live a full life without the distraction of chronic pain. I can give her compassion. More than that, I hope I can give her a sense that it gets better.
The best way I could describe how I was feeling, six months ago, was that a steamroller was coming downhill and I was trying to outrun it.
I had taken on a year-long commitment without realizing exactly how complicated it was. It was taking about quadruple the amount of time and concentration that I thought it would. I had information coming at me any time between 5:30 AM and 12:30 AM. Email, text messages, phone calls, more email in another account, binders and calendar updates and meeting requests and attached files and polls and votes and RSVPs and paper notes. Seven days a week!
As soon as I pictured a steamroller coming at me, downhill, fast, I understood.
Somebody had better be driving that thing!
Someone who knows how to drive a steamroller!
The good thing about earth-moving equipment is that it doesn’t need a key. If you know what to do, you can basically climb up in there and get it going. My background is such that I know I should be wearing a hard hat and steel-toed boots. I’m ready to get muddy.
How ready to get muddy am I?
I’m a backpacker, adventure racer, and marathon runner. I’ve trained in hail, snow, ice, rain, and mud. I’ve waded chest-deep through brown water. I’ve hurdled over open flames. I can carry over 50 pounds up a hill for eight hours and pitch my own tent afterward. (Consider that I’m 5’4” and I weigh a buck thirty. I’m basically an ant). I also hold belts in two martial arts. I’ve been elbowed in the face, been stepped on and smacked in the mouth and punched in the nose and hit in the eye and tagged in the throat. I routinely fight five people in the shark tank.
So, what? I’m feeling a little dread and anxiety over... some texts and emails?
Is a deadline going to kick me in the stomach? No.
Is a deadline going to come up and shove me in the back while I’m blocking a strike to the face?
Is a deadline going to give me a black eye or a fat lip? No.
This is what stress inoculation can do for you. It reminds you that you’ve survived worse. If the scariest thing you can imagine is a physical attack or survival in natural disasters, then there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the business world that should feel all that intimidating.
As soon as I realized that I felt like I was about to be crushed by a steamroller, I determined to get in and drive.
I needed to get out of reactive mode and start taking the initiative. I needed to be the one making the plans. I needed to be the one looking a few weeks or months down the timeline and anticipating questions that would come up. If there was a steamroller to be driven, and anyone was going to drive it, then I wanted it to be me.
It turns out that nobody cares who is driving the steamroller, as long as the right stuff gets flattened.
What a steamroller does is to smooth the path for heavy traffic. It eliminates bumps and fills in potholes.
That’s management. Find the road that handles the most traffic, the one that’s in the worst condition, and pave it. Roadwork is stressful but it needs to get done. The longer it’s delayed, the worse the conditions, until traffic eventually grinds to a halt.
People don’t like uncertainty. They don’t like feeling uninformed. They especially don’t like the feeling that nobody is in charge and that nobody is addressing their complaints or suggestions. Whenever someone steps up and says, “Let me find out and I’ll get back to you,” or “Let’s fix this,” there’s an audible sigh of relief. Finally!
The first time you claim that you’re handling something, and then you handle it, you find yourself behind the controls of that big old steamroller. At least for that day. The second time you do it, you find that others expect you to operate it. The third time, well, guess what. Your name is painted on the side.
You’d better like driving steamrollers!
As a more, ahem, “concrete” example, I was having an issue with evening meetings. Stuff kept being scheduled that conflicted with EVERY SINGLE THING IN MY LIFE. I started missing classes at my gym and feeling like I never got to see my husband or eat dinner at a normal time.
Then it occurred to me that if I went first and suggested the meeting time, maybe it would work for everyone else. Sure enough, I was the one with the most complicated schedule. I didn’t have to say why. All I had to do was say, “How about 6:30?” Not only did I get what I wanted (having it all, my way), but I took a task upon myself that other people no longer had to do.
Once I started visualizing myself driving the steamroller, everything got easier. I created enough cushion in my schedule that I could do more strategic planning. That helped me on my quest to always be ahead and on top of everything. I finally started to feel like I knew what was going on.
The most important thing about driving a steamroller is to make sure that nobody is standing in front of it. The point of the steamroller is to pave nice, flat roads. The steamroller is there to make it clear which direction to go, and to make it easier to go that way. If I found myself running from the steamroller, it was only because I found myself on the correct roadway, a little farther along where it still waited to be paved.
My first gray hair showed up at age seventeen. That’s typical in my family, and I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised when my younger brother would come up behind me and pluck gray hairs from the back of my head, but not when I saw them in the mirror. I associated the salt-and-pepper look with maturity and gravitas.
People assumed I was much younger than I was through at least my mid-thirties. In my early twenties, I feel like it was a huge hindrance in my career. At forty-two, I was suggested as a mentor for another woman who protested that she was hoping for someone older. “How old do you think I am?” I asked her. “Thirty?” she guessed. “I’ll be forty-three next month,” I confided, at which point she accepted the match.
I’d been hanging onto my gray because I felt like it was my best hope for being heard and taken seriously. Apparently it wasn’t working.
I have a small frame and a high voice.
Inside me is a sword-swinging hairy beast of a warrior poet, unfortunately trapped in the body of a girl with doll hands.
First impressions are stupid. They’re usually wrong. I have had to correct my erroneous first impressions of other people many times, which is great, because they usually turn out to be much more competent, bright, and easy to work with than I had guessed. Do other people put in the thought and focus to revise their first impressions favorably? Hard to say.
I had a funny moment at a panel interview recently. They told me I could make an opening statement. “In that case,” I said, “let’s get started.” I stood up and took off my cardigan, revealing my arms, and - I am not joking - everyone sat back and a few people said WHOA. I’m not jacked like Madonna or anything, but I do have some muscle definition from boxing.
I guess nobody expects that small girl with doll hands and the high voice to have these triceps or these trapezius muscles.
There are other ways of carrying gravitas, it turns out, than just gray hair.
Three years ago I set out to master my stage fright and become a confident public speaker. Somewhere along the way, it started to work. Then it seems that it started to work everywhere in my life. When I walk into a room, I know why I’m there and I know what I want to accomplish. I’m not looking for permission.
Permission? Permission to go into a shop or a cafe or a restaurant, where they are seeking my custom? Permission to go into a conference room where I am an invited guest? Permission to run a meeting that I scheduled?
I can’t quite figure out why I used to be so shy and nervous. I remember that I was, but I don’t remember why.
People are grateful to have someone in charge who has a plan. Most people hate making decisions. They want nothing to do with being in the spotlight, speaking in front of groups, or being held accountable for budgets and deadlines. They actively run screaming from evaluations. They’ll tolerate taskmasters and harsh disciplinarians, so long as it’s clear what they need to do. If someone who is actually a nice person steps up and shoulders those burdens, they’ll cheerfully cooperate.
When I was younger, I never felt that anyone would listen to me. It drove me crazy. I would have a good idea and I would share it and everyone would ignore it. On rare occasions, I would say something and the person next to me would repeat it, word for word, only louder. That person would get the credit. My ex-husband used to repeat my jokes that way, but it happened at work, too. I couldn’t figure out what to do to get people to listen to me.
I set out to earn credentials. Dean’s List in college. Race medals. Best Speaker ribbons. I put on my profile that I’m a marathon runner, a Mensan, and I study two martial arts. What does it take to intimidate people, anyway?? It’s not so much that I need to be the best; I don’t. I’m not all that competitive. It’s a matter of people not assuming that I’m the receptionist or customer service everywhere I go.
What I was looking for was something called ‘executive presence.’
Some of this gravitas known as executive presence comes from formal authority. If you’re the boss, you get introduced as the boss. Some of it comes from earned authority, as you gradually earn the respect of the people who know you. That comes from how you behave and how you communicate. What I’ve started to realize is that a major component of executive presence comes from external appearance.
I might have been able to get my ideas across as a younger person if I had realized how much I was communicating (or miscommunicating) through my wardrobe and general grooming.
I thought it was my age, my voice, my small stature. Maybe that played a part, but most of those factors are still the same. I thought aging and graying would help, and maybe they did, but also maybe not as much as I used to wish.
I hung onto my gray hair until I felt like I didn’t need it anymore. I’m finally the age that I always wanted to be.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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