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    The way we see our pasts effects how we see opportunities around us

    July 22nd, 2010

    The way we see our pasts effects how we see opportunities around us.

    I went to college when I was 18, 19 years old because my dad paid for it, and I didn’t have to work. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I just floated along. The only consistency in my life back then was my ability to show up at the right bar on cheap drink night.

    Anyway, I passed many of my classes just by showing up infrequently and doing a minimum of homework. The math classes were beyond me because I didn’t show up often enough or do the homework. I ended up thinking I was bad at math.

    I also thought I was bad at writing. I took English 102 – the term paper class 4 or 5 times and failed it every time. The last time I took the same instructor again and redid the same paper using his red marks as a guide for improvement. The fucker failed me again and said I hadn’t done as much work as the other students. I told him I’d done 5 times as much work as the other students with a look of impending rage on my face and he changed my grade to a C.

    Years later I decided I didn’t want to be a roofer for the rest of my life. I’d looked around me and saw there weren’t any old roofers. This motivated me to go back to school.

    I took placement tests and started taking classes at night. I thought I knew somethings, but ended up in an algebra class that was about the same as the one I’d taken in the 7th grade.

    At first I was surprised because I seemed to be good at math. Later I realized I was good at math, but the key was doing the homework. I did the homework for every lesson, and if I had problems with it, I did extra work until I mastered the concepts.

    When I transferred to ASU, I had to take 2 semesters of accounting that wasn’t offered at the community colleges, so I took other classes I thought would help me. One of them was a class called “Writing For Professions.”

    I took the writing class because I was sure I didn’t know how to write. Over the years since I’d fooled around going to college I’d avoided writing anything because I was a poor writer.

    The class was 5 term papers over a semester with classroom instruction on style and grammar. I felt it would help me as I got into more advanced classes.

    I remember the first draft of the first paper well. I had a virus on my computer that made the printer do weird things. It played songs with the impact head, and I couldn’t figure out how to set the pages. Luckily it used tractor-fed paper so I could cut the pages up with scissors.

    When I turned the paper in, the teacher said it was a rough draft and the formatting wasn’t important! When I did the final draft, I took a disk to a copy center and had them print the paper with the correct margins and such.

    I did all the papers that way. I surprised myself by getting the highest grade in the class. I mentioned to the teacher I had always thought I was a poor writer, and told her the story of taking English 102 five times.

    The teacher said English 102 wasn’t about teaching writing, it was about teaching people to follow directions.

    Thinking back, I remembered a teacher marking off points because I’d used unlined note cards. I had another teacher drop my grade because I’d used a company’s annual reports, and he felt I should have treated the different reports as one report so I didn’t have enough footnoted sources.

    She was right, and my attitude toward my writing ability changed. I had assumed I was a poor writer because authority figures had mislead me. Those teacher when I was a young student told me I was a poor writer when I really was bad at following meaningless directions.

    Oddly, after taking the Writing for Professions class, I never wrote another term paper. The upper level economics classes didn’t require them.

    Even odder still, I never worked as an economist. I worked for 18 months as an analyst for a marketing company, then became a writer.


    Life is 10 percent what happens to you

    July 8th, 2010

    “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it.”

    At one time in my life, I focused on the things that happened to me. Worse than that, I exaggerated minor things in my mind and then complained endlessly about them.

    I’d learned as a child not to brag about my accomplishments, while being exposed to near constant complaining about minor things.

    My response to any situation was to looking for the part I could complain about.

    Today I don’t do this. Today in most situations I realize it’s just life and not worth spending additional time on.