Career

How to pump it up

 muscles, weight lifting, venice beach

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Self, I wish I were better at (insert at will)?” I certainly do. The things I’d like to be better at are many and varied, but I think it’s fair to say that most of the time my little wish, usually said quietly in the back of my head, is as far as I go to actually do anything about it.  

I’m thinking I’m probably not alone in this.

My friend Tim, who might be steadily becoming absolutely wearyof being mentioned here, has talked with me about this a number of times; generally about this blog. But first, as a few people (to include my mother) have requested I do so, I present you with a Boot Camp story:

Before I joined the Corps I’d discharged a firearm only twice in my life. Once, and even now I shudder at the stupidity, I and a handful of other knuckleheads fired shotguns into the air on New Year’s Eve. The second time occurred when my father and I went on our (only) duck hunting trip. That time I fired another shotgun into the air (hitting nothing except perhaps one of the eight million mosquitoes in the area) and shortly after we called it quits. As I didn’t enjoy hunting, or (at that time) spending time with my father, I was more than ready to get back to the safety of my room and sink into the melodies of a Yaz or Depeche Mode album through my headphones. 

And yet it’s generally the guys exactly like me, those with little or no experience with firearms, who perform the best on the firing range once trained. Instructors say it’s because we don’t have a mass of bad habits that we need to break. There’s probably a post about that idea (Tim, Russ – the gauntlet is thrown) but that’s for another day.

And while I’m certain the lack of bad habits had something to do with it, I’m more than convinced “Snap-in” was actually the key to my success with an M-16.

You see, Boot Camp provided two weeks of rifle training – one week of position training (Snap-in), and another week of live-fire practice and testing. While going through it, Snap-in was horrible: five days, eight hours a day, of sitting or lying on the ground, holding a rifle and staring off into the distance, imagining your target floating between the sights.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was building muscle-memory in those five days. That because of standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or lying in a the prone position, over and over, I was teaching my body the correct way to get my trunk, arms, and legs out of the equation when it came to tracking, targeting, and eliminating a target.   

When week two finally began I was a “natural.”

Okay, so how does that apply here?

Tim told me a story a few months ago about a Comic Book artist who, when asked by an aspiring artist how to get into the business, suggested that the inquiring individual draw 10,000 sketches. Yup, not a typo – that’s four zeroes. 10,000 sketches and you’re going to know your way around a drawing, was the idea. “Chops,” you could say.

So I wonder – out of all those things, those wishes that we’d like to be better at, just how awesome would we be after a week of Snap-in or 10,000 practice swings? Want to get in shape? Start tracking the miles you walk or run. Or the number of push-ups you do. Seriously – imagine how your arms or chest would look after ten thousandpush-ups. What will this blog look like after 10,000 posts?

Of course, it’s far, far easier to look into the air and wish we knew how to do this or had more talent at that and chalk it up to genetics or talent. Which will you choose?

Image by RightIndex

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100 books

I had an idea I thought might be both fun and smart. And while that’s fairly uncharted territory for me, I think I’m going to run with it. You see, not long ago Seth Godin published a post where, among other things, he wrote about the number one habit successful people share. The secret? 

“They read books to learn. They do it often and with joy.” 

In the years since I graduated I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read to learn. I read a ton on the Web, I squeeze in a Steven Brust or Stephen R. Donaldson when I can, but finding the time to sink into a book that really concentrates on professional growth has proven to be a challenge.

I hope to change that.

You see, in that same post Seth also plugged a new book that just might help. It’s called The 100 Best Business Books of All Time and you can check it out here. My copy should be arriving any day now, and when it does, I’ll begin this new experiment of mine. It goes something like this:

In no particular order (as I can find them, more than likely) I’m going to read these 100 books. Then I’m going to tell you about them, so maybe you can learn a little bit as I’m doing the same. I’m hoping that by the time I get through the list I’ll have picked up at least a portion of wisdom that I can apply to my career. What do you think?