Getting Ready for Nostalgia

Good Afternoon Everyone! For the next couple of weeks, I will be getting ready for the August open submission period for Apparition Lit Magazine. This quarter’s submission is based on Nostalgia. I’ll be posting updates and excerpts from the story here until the submission period starts on August 15.

Nostalgia: A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Feeling Trapped by Promises? Cut Yourself Out of the Web!


We all know the problems that arise from a web of lies, a web of promises poses similar issues to those who are prone to make too many. Promises are necessary for daily life if you want to maintain your relationships and continue to be paid for the work you do. However, handing out promises without consideration can land you in a sticky situation. Keep reading for some ideas on how to cut through the web of promises and to live beyond the reach of promised social responsibility.

Let’s start with a common scenario. You want to please the people in your life, and to do so you make promises without considering the impact on your time, the people you are promising, or how they relate to the other promises you have made. You are now stuck in a web of promises and feel that you have only a few options in front of you. You want to please the people you have promised. You want to fulfill all of your promises. You may not know how to do it, especially if some of those promises are conflicting. How do you get out of this situation?

Let’s tackle the first and obvious step. Stop making promises. You can’t get out of the situation if you’re adding more promises and expectations on top of those you already have. If someone comes to you with a request you can let them know that you’re a little busy at the moment and will be happy to get back to them later.

Next, you’ll want to write down as many of the promises as you can remember. Go back in your memory as far as you can. Details are important. Who did you make the promise to? What is involved in the promise? Is this something you can bang out in a couple minutes? When did you promise to deliver? All of these points should be captured for each promise. This will help you in the next step.

Now is the time to prioritize. Look at your list and consider the following: When am I supposed to deliver on this promise? How long is this going to take? How important is it that I get this done immediately? Who is this promise for, and what is at stake if I don’t deliver? Arrange these promises in a logical order that makes them easy to accomplish. Perhaps two of your promises are location-bound and close together. You can knock out two promises at once with a quick trip.

Finally, act, and don’t stop acting until you’ve closed out the entire list of promises. Each promise completed carries with it a sense of pride and good feelings for having completed something special for another person. Use that good feeling as momentum to carry you through the next promise on your list.

What happens if you find a promise that you really don’t want to complete? There will be times when you make promises you don’t intend to deliver on, as bad as that sounds, we’re only human and the urge to please is strong. When you come across a promise like that it is best to mark it as dead and let the person know that you will not be able to complete what was promised. It may hurt the relationship a little, but not as much as waiting, not delivering, promising again, then completing the task with a small amount of resentment.

What do you do with competing promises? First, look at the people you promised and determine their relative importance. Perhaps you promised your boss that you’d stay after work to help with a project, forgetting that you promised your wife a night out. You would look at the importance of each relationship and the potential damage done by canceling. Maybe in this case your wife would be devastated at the cancelation while your boss would ask someone else to fill in for you.

Let’s say that both people are equally important to you and there are no clear favorites in choosing which promise to complete. In that case, look at the importance of the request itself. Promising to look after a family member’s dog or going out to the bar with some friends is a good example. Both people are important to you, so you can’t choose between the two of them. The promise itself is the key here. Your friends will miss you if you’re not at the bar. The dog can not walk or feed itself. In this case, you take care of the dog.

In both cases above it’s important to talk out your cancelation and apologize for any hurt feelings. This will let the other party know that you do care and will go a long way in mending any damage to the relationship that the cancelation may incur.

Stay Out of the Web

Now that you’ve cut away the webs of your current predicament, how do you make sure that it doesn’t happen again?

Value action over making promises. You don’t need to make promises when someone comes to you with a request. The habit of making promises amounts to a stall tactic while we’re doing something else. The key is to act as soon as possible or even immediately to get the request out of the way.

Know when to say “No”. All requests are not the same, and if you’ve gotten into the habit of people-pleasing and making promises then your ability to say “No” has been compromised. People know when you can’t say no and many will take advantage of this weakness to no end. Practice flexing your no muscle. Think about the request and how it impacts your time. Start saying no. Understand that saying no will likely result in a few hurt feelings, and you can’t let that stop you.

If you have to make a promise, keep track of it. Too many promises results when you can’t remember the other promises that you’ve made. If you have a good memory or you work fast on what you promise this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. The problem occurs when you have too many promises to keep track of. What then?

Write down your promises. If you write down your promises you have a greater chance of not forgetting what you promised, to whom, and when you’re supposed to deliver. This also gives you the benefit of review to make sure that your promises aren’t counterproductive.

Get them done fast! The problem with promises is that they automatically relegate the action to the future. If the request is small and easily accomplished don’t wait. Small promises tend to slip from our minds faster than the big ones.

By following these steps you can get yourself out of almost any web of promises with little more than a couple hours of grit and possibly a few hurt feelings. Once free of the web of promises don’t go looking to get yourself stuck again by carelessly promising yourself into it again. Keep the steps above in mind any you’ll find yourself acting faster and worrying less about forgetting the promises you’ve made.

The Promise Trap

The dreaded opening to a casual conversation… “Do you remember when you promised…?” Welcome to the promise trap. We often find ourselves here when a promise has slipped through the cracks of our busy lives. For some of us, it happens more often than not, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. Think, however, for a moment about the other person. How must they feel at a promise that remains unfulfilled? You don’t have to think very hard since we’ve all experienced it, and it sucks for everyone involved. First is the disappointment and feelings of distrust experienced by the person who was promised. There are also feelings of worthlessness and shame in the person who has broken the promise.

For many people, promises are spoken contractual agreements that are often entered into lightly.

When you promise someone you are setting an expectation in their mind. Breaking that expectation results in hurt feelings and damaged reliability. If you’ve ever broken a promise, intentionally or otherwise, you know how bad it makes you feel. So, why do we make promises when not fulfilling them causes so much trouble? Here are a few common reasons that I believe are a bit closer to the truth than some psychology sites may lead you to believe.

It makes us feel important – This can be a real problem for the person who is on the receiving end of the promise. The person promising you the world, or perhaps to take out the garbage, is more interested in the feelings they get with your appreciation of the promise than they are in actually doing the deed.

Honest Intention – We honestly believe that we’re going to do the promised action. This is especially troubling for people who may not have a good idea of their own limitations and get in over their heads.

Coercion – A promise is made, begrudgingly, in the spirit of maintaining peace. These are often instigated with an either/or statement. “Either you make the bed in the morning or you’ll spend the next week on the couch.”

Quiet – There are some people who won’t go away until they get something out of you. In these cases, you’re forced to make a promise just to get some peace and quiet. “Fine, I promise to take you to the movies, just let me get back to work.”

Fear of Disappointment – This is especially prevalent in parents who don’t wish to let their children down. A promise is made to appease criticism or to shore up a relationship, though in reality, we’re making the promise because we don’t know how to say “No”. “Yes hon, I promise I will get you a new phone, I just need time to figure out how to pay for it.”

The passion of the Moment – There are times when we get caught up in the passions of the moment and we start making starry-eyed promises that feed into the passion and drive it further. I’m reminded of the lyrics of a fairly popular song.

 “I swore that I would love you to the end of time!
So now I’m praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive”

The Necessity of Promises

Let’s take a look into promises in general. What do they give us? Well, they play an important social role in securing contracts between people that help grow relationships. These relationships are especially important between parents (or other adults) and children who regard them as infallible. Of course, children lose this view of adults as they grow. Promises also offer a level of certainty and expectation in relationships that help hold them together through rough times. This is especially important in marriages and long-term unions where the fulfillment of a promise leads to feelings of love and commitment.

We can’t forget the bad aspects of promises though. A promise effectively relegates an action to the future as opposed to initiating action immediately. Whenever an action is relegated to the future there is the possibility that it will not happen or possibly be forgotten. You also can’t control how the promise is perceived by the person receiving the promise. Unrealistic expectations may arise from innocent promises and you may never know about it until it is too late. For example: “I promise I’ll take out the garbage.” is received as “For the remainder of my time on this Earth and in this relationship I shall be the only person to take out the garbage. Fret not my love, for you will never have to touch another bag of reeking filth again.”

That last bit is a fairly tongue-in-cheek look at it, but you’d be surprised at how the mind works when presented with a promise. In the end, however, the positives outweigh the negatives and we’re left with the certainty that promises play an integral role in daily life. So, with that conclusion, how do we go about it?

FreemanFrancis Promise Guidelines

  1. Minimize the promises you make.

The quickest way to resolve your problems with promises is to immediately stop making promises for everything that is presented to you. If an action is required and it won’t take much time (i.e. taking out the garbage), stop what you are doing and attend to the request. By following an action-first approach the number of promises will drop dramatically.

2. Plan, don’t promise.

There will be times when the request is too big to handle immediately. In such cases, you should avoid making promises and instead plan for the request. Work with the person who is making the request to plan out when and how the request will be fulfilled.

3. Consider reality.

We’ve all been asked to make a promise that we know will be difficult, if not impossible, to keep. In cases such as these, we should weigh the reality of the promise. Questions such as: “Do I have control over the outcome?”, and “Do I know enough to succeed?” need to be answered before a promise is made. Promising to take your girlfriend to the moon offers a serious issue with the reality of keeping the promise.

4. Be aware of conflicting promises.

If you’ve promised to take your wife to dinner on Thursday night while also promising to meet the guys at the bar at the same time it behooves you to ditch the guys. The last thing you should do is take your wife to the bar to hang out with your friends. Conflicting promises becomes a greater issue when the number of promises you make increases. Keep this in mind and carry a little notebook around with you to keep track of your promises.

5. Remember that a promise cannot repair deeper issues.

There are times when a relationship is severely damaged and making promises seems like the best way to repair the rift. Some problems, however, cannot be repaired through promises alone, even if you follow through meticulously with each one. In these cases, a promise acts more like a bandaid than a tourniquet.

6. When in doubt, “No” is a perfectly suitable answer.

Remember that one of the reasons we make promises is because we don’t know how to say “No” without feeling pangs of guilt. This is a feeling you need to get over if you’re going to save your time and sanity.

So, where do we end with the question trap? The first and most important thing to remember is that promises are important in our daily social interactions. As a result, we can’t just get rid of promises, but we can reduce them to essential promises only. You should know how to gauge a request and whether or not you need to make a promise to get it done. When a promise is made, however, do everything in your power to follow through and deliver quickly.

Reliability is in the Eye of the Beholder: Dealing with Negative Reliability

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Reliability is an interesting personal trait. You don’t really posses reliability, it’s more of a trait that others place upon you. If you think of an individual on a deserted island where there is no external point of reference for reliability, can that person truly be considered reliable?

While contemplating along this line it becomes apparent that different types of reliability exist. Mostly we think about positive reliability, like picking up the milk, washing the dishes after your spouse cooks, or delivering that report on time. What we generally fail to realize is that reliability works in the opposite way as well. For example, we all know those people who are always fashionably late. We come to rely on that bit of knowledge as a defining part of their character.

So we come to a question of positive and negative reliability. Positive reliability can be thought of as a favorable trait that others place upon you when they trust you to complete a task that takes your relationship in a positive direction. Negative reliability would be a trait that works in the opposite direction. If you consider it carefully, negative reliability can be either mild, or destructive.

Mild Negative Reliability

Mild negative reliability (MNR) is a trait that can be viewed as generally negative but can be overlooked and integrated into another’s perception of you. This trait can be seen by others as quirky or harmless and fits into their overall perception of you as a person. For example:

“Johnny will get us there on time, he doesn’t stop for traffic lights!”


“I scheduled dinner for 8 and told Mike to meet us there at 7. You know he likes to wait until the last minute to get ready.”

Both of these statements tell you something about the person they refer to. They’re not really positive traits, and overall are not that bad, just a quirk of personality that the observer can hook reliability onto.

Destructive Negative Reliability

Destructive Negative Reliability (DNR) is a trait that is harmful to your credibility. People who are viewed in this light are hard to trust and can be passed over for really important work. This trait is one that you want to avoid if at all possible, in both yourself and others. A person with DNR will drain you of energy and time while providing no benefit to your relationship. They are best cut from your life before they can do too much damage. A couple examples of this reliability type:

“Joe’s a real procrastinator, are you sure you want him to write this proposal? It’s too important to be left to chance.”


“I asked Jenny to pick up a couple things at the market for dinner, but she’s so lost in social media that she’ll probably forget again. I should just do it myself.”

Again, both of these statements tell you something about the person they refer to. The difference here is that you can feel a more damaging impact to the relationships. This type of trait cannot be overlooked and if left alone can eventually erode the relationship to the point of breaking.

Determining and Avoiding Negative Reliability in Yourself and Others

Listen/Observe: The first step in avoiding negative reliability is becoming aware of the tendency, both in yourself and others. Listen carefully to how others talk about you. This is an easy way to determine if you have mild negative reliability since others will usually have no trouble bringing it to your attention or making a joke about it at your expense. You can also learn more about your acquaintances by listening to how other people view them. Just remember that the trait of reliability that you place on another person should be based on your own views and values, and should be influenced by others as little as possible.

Ask: Determining if you have destructive negative reliability is a little more difficult if you’re using an indirect approach like listening. If someone views you as unreliable they may not want to talk to you about this trait or mention it around other people if you are near. If you think you are viewed in this light and you want to get to the truth you will need to push them on the subject. Tell the person you are talking to that you want to improve and can only do so if you know where you need the attention.

Evaluate: Once you are aware of a negative trait you will need to evaluate it. No one wants to think that they have negative traits, but it’s a fact of life that there will be something about you that others view in a less than positive light. You will need to determine if the trait is impactful enough to warrant attention or whether it can be written off as a personality quirk.

Act: If you determine that a negative trait is serious enough to alter then it is time to plan and act. Research ways to improve the behavior or habit in the most efficient way possible. Keep track of your progress and ask others for input along the way.

Using Negative Reliability to Your Benefit

I wouldn’t be covering all of the bases if I didn’t include this rather dubious though powerful technique. This plays off of Robert Greene’s 26th Law of Power, Keeping your Hands Clean. If you find yourself in a position where you need to get out of a project or relationship you can utilize the negative reliability in another person to accomplish the task.

For example, as a leader you know that a certain feature in your project will add nothing to the bottom line and is likely to only drain resources away from other vital areas. The catch however, is that a member of the board has their heart set on including it. Directly cutting the feature and backing up the decision with reason and facts may work, but it could impact your career and make it harder for you to get ahead. Instead, give the feature to a person you know has negative reliability and is likely to drop the ball.

Utilizing this tactic allows you multiple advantages. You keep the board member happy by showing that the feature is being worked on while the core of your resources concentrate on more important features and tasks. In the end you win whether the NR person completes the task or if they drop the ball. You may catch some blowback if the feature fails to be created, but not as much as the person who was responsible for the failure.

Reliability is a trait that others place upon you. Good, bad, positive, negative, you have some control over it, though ultimately your reliability is governed by the other person’s view of you. Negative reliability doesn’t have to be a bad thing and it would benefit you to become aware of your own tendencies and quirks. Use the steps above to determine if you have negative reliability and whether or not it is damaging enough to remedy.

Your Polymath Journey: Building your Mind Palace

As we work towards polymathy we come against the daunting challenge of data acquisition. Functionally different from skill acquisition this process requires the absorption and utilization of information that cannot be directly translated into skill. This information can be foundational to support the acquisition and understanding of needed to utilize a skill adequately. The challenge here is in rapid learning and subsequent recall that exceeds your past experiences of cramming with an all-nighter. For the polymath this information needs to be retained and used in order to build something truly remarkable.

For a quick reminder on what a mind palace is and where it came from you can check out my previous article here.

For this article we will focus on tips and tricks for building your mind palace. Filling the palace with data will be handled in a future post.

Lets start with a walk through your house, apartment, or dorm room. We’re going to physically walk through and look at everything. I will illustrate this with my current house. I am on the front porch looking at the red door, there is a fan shaped window at the top. The front door is protected by a metal, glass, and screen storm door attached to the house with a broken door closer that allows it to slam as opposed to close softly. To the right of the door is the small black mailbox, beaten and weathered with the number 71 in small fading stickers. Above the mailbox is the more visible number 71 made of dark tin and attached to the white plastic siding. To light the porch there is a lonely metal and glass lantern with a yellow bulb fixated above the mailbox. To the left and right of the porch are wooden railings and two pillars supporting the pitched roof. On the front of the porch roof is a faded plastic star approximately 12 inches in diameter. There are two broad steps painted the same gray-blue as the rest of the floor leading up to the landing.

You get the idea, right? From this description I have a bunch of loci, points to attach data, in a tight place. Here is the quick list. Steps up to the landing and landing(3); Railings (2); Pillars (2); Mailbox (1); Porch light (1); Roof/Ceiling (1); Star (1); Numbers (2); Screen door and broken door closer (2); Red door and fan window (2). From this description I have 17 loci points in which to place information. Continue this process for each room of your house.

Next make a map. You will need to know a pathway through your house/apartment/dorm that you will walk to retrieve the data you need. The map will direct you to each room in order. Following the pathway in a sequential order helps with recall in the early stages of data acquisition. For me the sequential order of Loci on the front porch are as follows. I start with the pitched roof, move on to the star, continue down the the first step, the second, the landing, the left pillar, left railing, screen door, broken door closer, red door, fan window, mailbox, numbers, lantern, right railing, right pillar. ( My preference is to move clockwise around a room, though this is not mandatory). From here I will move into the foyer and review the loci therein. I will then continue through the living room, kitchen/dining room, my office, my fiancée’s office, the bathroom, hallway, washroom/pantry. Since each room can have on average 20 loci, this gives me approximately 180 loci in the first level of the house. If I continue through the basement and second floor I can expect a total of about 400 loci. That is a lot of information.

Alright, so you have your first mind palace, now what? Now you find a nice cozy cushion and settle in for some self-guided meditation. I want you to sit quietly, perhaps put in some earbuds without music or sounds, and mentally walk through your palace. Recall each room in detail and cycle through the loci points you identified in your physical walk through. Do this a couple times a day until you are comfortable with the process and can quickly cycle through the loci.

Now that you know how to set up a mind palace you can continue to build upon it. Having roughly 400 loci is a good start, but if you’re serious about absorbing as much information in as short a time as possible then you will likely need more. For example, some of the projects I have worked on in the past have required multiple buildings all laid out around a courtyard. Depending on the type of information I was learning at the time I would use different buildings from my past that I could still mentally fly through. You can do the same thing.

Now lets go through some advanced mind palace building techniques.

Advanced 1: Get creative! If you’re young, or if you’ve only lived in your parent’s house and a dorm room, then you may find yourself a bit lacking in the past building experience. To shore up this lack of personal experience you can create a fantasy building to fill with loci and data. My favorite tool for this trick is Minecraft. Yes, you read that right. I have experimented with building my fantasy buildings full of fun nooks and loci, in Minecraft. There is no limit to the size and complexity of your build in this world, which makes it the perfect tool for such a task.

Advanced 2: Write out a description of your mind palace. If you’re a little unsure of the process at first, or if you’re more drawn to the written word (guilty here!), then you can write out a description of your mental palace as well as each of the loci. Like a treasure map you can refer back to this document to prompt your memory.

Advanced 3: Change the contents of your mind palace. If you’re familiar with the works of Miyazaki then you’ve probably watched Howl’s Moving Castle. In the castle was a door with a color wheel that, depending on the color, opened to a different part of the world. I have successfully used this technique with the same building to change the contents of the loci. I simply change the color of the front door to indicate the type of data that I want to recover. The color acts as an anchor for the data you wish to remember.

Building your mind palace is a good first step in memory improvement for the sake of working towards polymathy. The amount of information needed to master any subject is great enough to be daunting to most people. The aim of the mind palace is to take the edge off that daunting task by giving you an easy method of remembering a lot of information in a short period of time. In the next article we will review how to utilize your new mind palace by adding data in the form of mnemonic devices.

Is it Better to Forgive Yourself Before Seeking Forgiveness From Others?

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In a recent post on reliability I made the point that you should seek forgiveness from those you have hurt through your lack of action. Following this, you should seek forgiveness within yourself so that you may move on to work on your reliability. After some thought I realize that I may have this backwards. Should you seek forgiveness from yourself before approaching others?

Intentional self-reflection shows a high level of maturity and awareness of your actions and their repercussions. By seeking self forgiveness first you prove to yourself that you are willing to take the steps necessary to reform before another person can weigh in on your choice. This is not an easy thing to do as the scenes play out in your head. Forgiving yourself first puts you on another level that others can sense. You have taken the time to resolve your issues and you are ready to approach others. You shine with genuine concern over the impact your past actions have had while maintaining a calmness and control of one who has been forgiven.

Another important benefit of forgiving yourself first is that it prepares you for the task ahead. Use visualization, acting, and meditation to prepare for each encounter. By going over the broken promises, missed deadlines, and discarded projects you start to gain an understanding of how other people view you. Ask yourself: “How would I feel if this was done to me? Would I be disappointed? Would I trust the person who let me down?” With that knowledge, you can tailor each request as needed. Visualize each person you have let down and ask them for forgiveness. Play through the encounter and visualize every possible way they could respond, even the possibility of their refusal.

You should remember, when asking for anything there is the possibility of not getting it. Asking someone to forgive you is no different. Self reflection and resolution prepares you with the fortitude you’ll need should forgiveness be withheld by others. There can be many reasons for this reaction: Anger at your past deeds; Pain from the memory; Pride that does not allow one to forget; or perhaps the person views it as unnecessary. In situations such as this you should drop your need for their forgiveness, assess the state of the relationship, and be prepared to terminate it if necessary.

Finally, by playing through the scenarios with each person you get a feeling for what you are willing to do to mend the relationship. Use your knowledge of each person to gauge how they will need you to prove yourself. Perhaps it will be a simple shrug of the shoulders and a quick resolution. Maybe you will be placed on probation at work and be required to deliver daily updates. You could be asked to give up something you love, or agree to decreased freedom. In each scenario ask yourself if you are willing to pay the price. Keep going through different scenarios until you find a price you are unwilling to pay. That will be your que that the relationship may be over if that price is requested. Keep in mind though, a level you are unwilling to pay for one person may be acceptable for another. For example, your boss wants you to relinquish your work from home Friday so that he can keep an eye on you. You see this as a price that is too high to pay. However, your wife asks you to give up your Friday night out with the boys so that you can spend more time with her. In each case you are asked to give up an important level of freedom, and you will only pay that price for your wife.

In the previous post on reliability I make the point that seeking forgiveness is an important part of resolving past issues in order to regain the trust of others and, while well intentioned, I had the order backwards. After the thought exercise above it is clear to me that self forgiveness as a starting point has many benefits missing from the previous process of going to others first. It is my hope that this clarification helps you through your own process of restoring your reliability and other’s trust in you.

Your Future Self is a Lie, and Your Reliability Depends on that Understanding!

I used to joke privately whenever I made a big purchase or went out to dinner for the fifth time in a week. I would say: “I am leaving this to the least reliable person I know to pay the bill, my future self”. Then I would force down the rising tide of panic at the thought of my credit card balance as I handed it over for yet another meal or toy I didn’t really need. This tendency to relegate important tasks to the future extended to other parts of my life. This caused many people to eventually question my reliability, and that is a place you never want to find yourself.

I couldn’t really grasp the nature of this problem at the time. Only in recent years have I become aware that my future self was an entirely fictional personification of my worst traits. I projected my laziness, ennui, and avoidance into this entity that I was casually joking about. The result? I would take no action at worst, or limited action at best. The problem wasn’t my future self, it was my attitude in the current moment. This attitude, projected into my future state caused feelings of helplessness.

In this post, I will make two points out of this brief glimpse into a personal challenge. First, how to avoid relegating important decisions and actions to the future, and second, how to rebuild when you feel that your reliability is in a fragile state. Why is this important? Because reliability lays the foundation for trust and without it, your relationships, personal, social, and business, will falter and ultimately fail.

Let’s start with clearing up a misconception about the future self. If you follow the reasoning of many philosophers and let’s face it, many entrepreneurs, the idea of the future self is discarded in favor of the ever-present moment. Therefore, it is impossible to relegate anything to the future self since it doesn’t actually exist. Any action you take can only ever be taken in the present moment, no matter when that present moment happens. So the quick and dirty answer is that reliability happens in the moment, not in the future.

Now we can tackle the question of your reliability in the present moment. Answer the following questions as honestly as you can and pay attention to how the answers make you feel. There is no grading or reliability scale for this.

  • In the last six months have you been able to accomplish more than half of the personal goals you set out for yourself?
  • In the last six months have you delivered your work projects promptly and kept management updated on delays?
  • Think of the last promise you made to a family member, your spouse, girlfriend, or your children. Or maybe your promise was to a friend or one of your social groups. Did you fulfill the promise quickly without any unnecessary delay?

The point of these questions is to look at each facet of your life: personal, professional, and social. When you make a promise, whether to yourself or another, you are making a contract that is paid through your reliability. The caveat, these questions only make sense if the promises you’re making are ones you have full intention of completing. The promises you make to shut someone up, or to make yourself feel better only serve to undermine and destroy your reliability.

Now let’s get the obvious point out of the way. If you’ve been able to accomplish at least half of your personal goals, maintained your productivity and regular delivery of work projects, and keep up your promises to friends and family, then you’re all set. You are highly reliable and you have my well-deserved envy. CONGRATULATIONS!

So what happens if, like me, you find yourself feeling like you could do better? Well, the first step is to stop feeling sorry for yourself and acknowledge the fault. Next, you start working on your reliability.

  • Recall a promise made in each of the areas listed above, write them down if you have to.
  • Ask for clarification if you are unsure.
  • See the promise through to completion.

Your goal here is to stop the tendency to relegate promises and activities to your future self. If it can be done now, then do it. If you need to wait, then take an action against it now, even if you’re just setting a reminder on your phone. Both follow-through and delivery are paramount in taking your reliability up a notch. When you deliver on your promise, be sure to include the phrase: “Thank you for your patience”. This shows that you are still in control.

So what happens if you find yourself in a position where you are no longer trusted or seen as reliable? Well, from there you need to climb your way out of the hole your actions have created. This is a lot more difficult since you are starting from a position of negative trust. You had a trusting relationship, or perhaps one of neutral trust, and let it fall to pieces through neglect and broken promises.

Your first step is to seek forgiveness. This is the most critical step as it shows others that you’re aware of your shortcomings and willing to work on them. This is also the most painful of the steps. You will stand before those whose trust you betrayed and ask them for another chance, and there’s the possibility that you won’t get it.

Your next step is to forgive yourself. Yes, it may seem strange and a bit new age to state this, but the fact is you can’t move ahead if you’re thinking about the mistakes you’ve made in the past. It is also highly likely that the previous step has brought to your attention a number of betrayals you never knew about or had forgotten. You need to accept these as past faults and forgive yourself before you can move on. This must be done even if the betrayed has not forgiven you.

Next is action. It’s not enough to seek forgiveness, you must act on that forgiveness or you may forever destroy the relationship you’re seeking to save. Look for those opportunities to improve on your reliability and exploit them to the fullest. Make promises then act on them immediately.

Finally, track your progress. You can use a journal to jot down the promises you’ve made and how you intend to honor them. I also suggest that at least once a month you follow up with those to whom you’ve made promises to see how you are doing and how you can make further improvements.

Now, normally writers, bloggers, or other authors won’t go into this next part since it’s quite a bit more negative and destructive. Perhaps your reliability is so shot to hell that it’s no longer worth trying to revive it. Perhaps the forgiveness you were seeking was withheld or the cost in action is too high to pay. In extreme cases it may be more beneficial for all involved, including you, to leave it all behind. Break your connections, burn what’s left of the bridge, and move on to the next chapter of your life. This path may find you in another job, another town or state, or possibly in another country altogether. From there you can start from scratch and build the reliability and trust that you know you’re capable of.

So where’s our bottom line? Your future self is lie and your reliability depends on your understanding. Since we don’t exist in any moment other than the present then relegating action to a future version of ourselves is pointless and ultimately destructive to our relationships. To this point, if you want to improve your reliability and the trust others place in you it is important to act on promises quickly and frequently. If, however, you find yourself bereft of trust from others, then it’s time to either put significant effort into repair, or turn and walk away. There only wrong action is inaction.

The Boy in the Wood

There once was a little boy who was quite enamored with his life and all he had. He wore the finest clothes, had the newest toys, and could get whatever he wanted just by screaming loud enough. The little boy was quite happy with his life.

It just so happened that one day, while playing with his newest phone, that he wandered, quite mistakenly, into a dark and foreboding forest. So intent was he on the new toy that he wandered very far and was soon lost to the eyes of the outside world. Deeper and deeper he went, not paying attention to the growing darkness or his dwindling cell signal. It wasn’t until the signal faded and the battery was depleted that he threw down the phone in disgust and looked at the world around him. Gone were the streets and houses he was familiar with. Gone were the toys, the sweet treats, and the doting parent that would give him everything he wanted. Now, the world was dark and there was nothing but the trees and the sound of the wind cutting through the leaves.

The little boy called out a frantic and well-rehearsed plea for help which was swallowed by the trees. He waited for someone to come running with his favorite mug of hot cocoa and a soothing word. No one came. He shouted louder and pretended to cry. No one came. He started to scream wildly, he threw himself against the nearest tree, he picked up his phone and threw it as hard as he could into the darkness. No one came. With the growing realization that there was no one to give him what he wanted he sank to his knees between the roots of the nearest tree, real tears finally filling his eyes. He wanted to be away from all the trees and their dark branches. He wanted his toys and his treats. But most of all, he wanted to be heard.

A fire welled up inside the little boy, a fire born of anger at what he had lost, a fire born of resentment at the people who had put him there, a fire that soon filled his head. Against the trunk of the tree, amidst the tangled roots, he screamed his fury into the darkness. The darkness responded only by closing tighter around the boy. With his anger spent, and his voice raw, he felt empty and alone, and somewhere in his mind, he knew no one was coming to help him. Feeling the emptiness grow the lonely boy could only wrap his arms around his knees and bury his head. Fresh tears began to fall into his lap. Tears of sorrow and loss unlike he had ever shed before. “Please.” He whispered.

A sudden breeze swept through the trees and the darkness retreated slightly. On the breeze, the boy thought he could hear a voice. “Toys and treats only bring momentary joy, leave them behind.”

“What?” Startled, the boy looked around, tears still filling his eyes. He could see another tree shrouded in shadows a short distance away.

“Leave behind the toys and treats of childhood, you do not need them.” The voice whispered. The boy watched as the tree became more clear.

“Why?” The boy choked back his tears. Inside he could feel the fire start again. Why should he give up all the toys and treats that he so loved? His fire began to grow, and as he watched, the tree was swallowed again by the darkness.

“Leave behind the toys and treats…” The wind whispered.

The boy reached down, looking for something in the midst of the roots to throw at the fading tree. His hand closed around a smooth, flat object. He brought it close to his face to examine it. It was his phone, which he remembered throwing into the darkness. As he watched, the phone blinked to life, full battery, though no signal. On the screen were all the familiar icons and games, all his favorite pastimes. They were all there, tempting him with the promise of escape.

“Toys and treats and all you want.” There was no wind this time, and the hissing voice seemed to be coming from everywhere.

The boy looked up from the phone and noticed that it was the only light and the rest of the world had faded away. He looked back at the phone with all his games, apps, and myriad choices of entertainment. He felt the pull and wanted to sit back and play, to take his mind off of the darkness. The wind rustled through the leaves, a reminder of the voice coming into his mind. He dropped the phone into the leaves and stood, scanning the darkness around him. Far in the distance, he could see a flickering light dancing between the shadows. Picking his way, carefully, he started to walk towards the light. Behind him, the darkness swallowed his trail and he was soon lost and stumbling on unseen stones and roots. The branches of unseen trees swatted at his face and clawed at his clothing. In the distance, the flickering light beckoned him on.

End of Part 1

Why I Write

It may be a little late to do an introduction, but hey, why not now? Let’s tackle the question of why I write.

From a young age I always loved writing little books and stories for my classes. It was entertainment for myself and for those who I wanted to read those books. As I got older I found deeper topics to write about and the process became a bit more cathartic for the feelings I had as a teenager. After high school I continued to follow the writing process for personal benefit as I experimented with different styles, stories, and characters. There are more than a few notebooks laying in a landfill somewhere with these old works still in them.

As I worked my way through college I attempted the creative writing path, only to become disillusioned with the process. I continued my writing practice in a new curriculum and shifted gears away from fiction and fantasy as my schooling became more scientific. This practice continued for another 20 years as I worked in various fields from chemistry to live streaming. Now for the past fifteen years I have been focusing on self-help blogging with some of the ideas that come to mind every now and then. Perhaps you can see from my archives that I’m not exactly prolific in this area, and for good reason.

Despite my best intentions to help people with the various topics that cross my mind, the truth is that I’m not 100% vested in the field. If I was then I could make a viable business out of it. The truth is that I am more drawn to my roots as a fiction and fantasy writer. Yet, at the same time, I cannot ignore everything I’ve learned since getting out of college. I have done a lot with my life and I want to share my experiences.

To that end I have been working on a number of short stories with imbedded lessons on how to improve various aspects of your life. These stories may come as one off scenes, or even as whole series of related stories. The point is to entertain as well as teach at a level higher than the stories you would read as a child.

You can find the first of these stories under the category entitled: “The Boy in the Wood”.

A Couple Morning Thoughts

Good Morning World, here I am, up at 5am getting some of my work out of the way. It’s a strange thing, really. Going back through my posts over the years I found my comments on waking up early. At the time I was interested in sleeping in and letting myself wake up naturally around 7 or 8 in the morning. The idea was to redefine the meaning of early for yourself and let your body get the rest it needed. I guess an important point I neglected at the time was to note that these times could change depending on your current circumstances. Hence why I am awake at 5am getting some work done.

For a number of years now I have found myself drawn to the self-help style of writing and many of the books I pick up are of the same topic. Does that make me a self-help expert? Perhaps. Do I want to be one? No, not really. I like helping people and I have a lot of information and my own ideas about how to get around mental blocks and increase productivity, but it’s not where my heart is. Perhaps it is time I shift the attention of the blog towards my real writing passion, fiction and fantasy.

Well, that’s it for a couple of morning thoughts. I think it’s time to get back to work and finish up my latest post. You can find it here later this morning or possibly this afternoon.