Charisma: It’s not just a dump stat

Social skills have always posed a puzzle for me. While I’m not exactly a shut-in, a lot of setbacks in my life, or so I’m told, can be traced back to my lack of social skills. Whether it’s a job interview that didn’t go well, or a sale that failed to happened, I’m often left asking why, and people tell me that I just need the gift of gab or the ability to sell ice to eskimos, or whatever that means. Even the smallest social situations I’ve always been envious of people who could hold a room with their stories or who never have to deal with those awkward moments of dead air. Thanks to what I’ve learned in Olivia Fox Cabane’s The Charisma Myth, I don’t have to.

We think Charisma is a natural gift because when someone does it well, we experience the results in our unconscious emotional mind. It turns out that charisma, the ability to read people and react appropriately, can be learned just like programming or playing the guitar.

Developing your charisma involves training your brain to control your body language. We have known for a long time that social skills depend on body language, but only recently have we found that all those ticks and micro-expressions on our outside depends a lot on how we treat our insides. There’s a lot of talk in the book about mindfulness and meditation. Naturally, these practices will increase your confidence, but this is different from a lot of confidence techniques that I’ve heard of in the past.

Instead of just focusing on your strengths and good qualities, the mindful approach to charisma requires that you take into account all aspects of your being, even ones that you don’t like. The way I have interpreted this is that while you may not be the best in the world at anything, maybe the best person in the room to do many other things. This especially works for me if I’m the only person in the room.

A technique I was able to use immediately was a habit of waiting two seconds before responding to anybody. If you are in a conversation and someone is talking to you, just say mississippi in your head twice before giving a response. Another technique I liked was diving into sensation. If you focus on the sensations in your extremities, you can take your focus away from your current anxieties and back to reading the current social situation.

Doing was like opening up a third eye for me. Through most of my life, I have been so focused on crafting the right response to whatever I was listening to that I was just not listening at all. For instance, if I was in one of my old tech support jobs, I might try and act contrite if the customer was mad at me. According to the charisma myth, this is not only detrimental to the control of your body language, but It can even escalate things by telegraphing to your conversation partner that they are hurting you and that they are wrong. If you have a negative expression crawl across your face at any point, people don’t think it’s you, they think it’s them.

Reading this book has made me much more comfortable in my own skin. I am much better at small talk. Even though I don’t have a script for most social situations, I at least have a stance I can take so I can observe the situation and not make a fool of myself. I still wouldn’t call myself an expert. I don’t have a daily meditation ritual, and my ability can be limited by my mood and how much sleep I’ve had. At least now I have a direction to go if I want to improve.

It sounds like magic, but it’s not. The Charisma Myth debunked a lot of ideas that I had about active listening and positive thinking. If you go the book’s website there are a few exercises you can try out. You can get better results from the actual book, but try it out and tell me know how things work out.

Hey, do you feel that?

That knot in your stomach, that pressing feeling in your chest, the lump in your throat. If you follow the news, you’ve probably felt like that a lot in the past few weeks. You might feel as though the world is coming apart at the seems, but it’s not. It is coming alive.

We are witnessing the latest stage of a process that has been happening ever since the first novels were printed. The trend continued with pamphlets, magazines, film, and colour television. Every time we get a new piece of media technology we see ourselves as who we really are, and often we don’t like what we see.

I’d like to tell you that it’s going to get better, but in some ways it’s not. Every death is going to get more painful as we have access to the backstories and grieving families of the victims. We can’t see them as statistics as well as we used to.

Yes, the Internet makes it so we can’t ignore these problems anymore. And that’s a good thing. No one really wants the status quo anymore. It is going to take a lot of work, but I am seeing hearts change out there.

If you care about a having a more equal society, and you are not in any hurry to prove people wrong, you can really do a lot of good out there. You may have to grit your teeth and listen to your friends repeat facts to you that you know are wrong, but the true inaccuracies fall apart against the most basic questions. If you find yourself worn out, by all means, take a rest and give yourself the strength to fight, but keep that pain close to you. It will come in handy when it’s time to act. I believe that we are on the right path. It’s a painful one, but it is one that leads to justice.

Are We Spamming You?

What is the etiquette on personal marketing? How many times to you have to post on Facebook or Twitter before people know you are doing a thing they might want to check out? At what point does it become annoying? These questions have been bothering me lately, not because I’ve got something to promote (yet), but it seems as though I’m the last to know when my friends are doing something creative, like a webcomic, a music album, or home business.

Of course, I could just ask people what they’re doing through private messaging, but that just sounds rude. You might catch them at the exact moment of their life when circumstance stands to rip away all of their artistic dreams and toss them into the ether. Or you might remind them that they haven’t worked on their thing in ages, and that their big chance might have slipped away.

Now, if you’ve already made a thing, how do you get the kind of feedback you need to get better? Your only option there is to solicit comments and criticism privately, but then, there is always that shadow of a doubt that you might be terrible and everyone is just too polite to say anything.

As someone with delusions of creativity, I want to see my internet feeds full of people trying new things. I want to see that first painting as much as I want to see that advanced cosplay prop photographed with a new lighting rig. Art is such a personal kind of communication. It increases our collective self-knowledge in a way that’s different from the kind of social media overshare that we’re all afraid of. There are some squicky aspects to it, but I’m just be generous with my likes and comments until we figure them out.

Contributing to Open source in 8 easy steps

 

If you want to find a job as a programmer, a four year degree may not be enough.Formal education can only tell employers so much about what you know and how you work. Fortunately, most of the internet is now run by open source software, which anybody, and I do mean anybody, can contribute to. In 2015, over 98% of servers are run using some form of Linux, an operating system that was written by community of thousands over the past 23 years. http://www.w3cook.com/os/summary/ Almost every kind of software out there has an open source counterpart that you can download, compile, or make changes to yourself. It’s a great way to teach yourself programming and get the attention of prospective employers. You may think, well that’s fine and good for a genius like you, James, but how do *I* get into open source software? Easy, just follow these 8 steps.

1. Get a Github account
Github.com is kind of like Facebook for programmers. It allows you to post your code and track all of your changes using a handy version control program called git. Just head to github.com and pick a username and password!
2. Find a project
This step is going to be different for each person, but you generally want to pick something that people are using and are contributing to. That way you can get more feedback from people in charge of the project or from the users. You can find new projects by browsing github, sourceforge, or by looking up any old open source product you like to use, like firefox or WordPress. When it comes to web software, my favourite place to find new projects is Refactorcop. It was a winner at the 2014 rails rumble, and it analyzes github projects on Ruby on Rails, and makes sure they comply with the code standards in the Ruby style guide. You can use Refactorcop’s search engine to find projects that need code cleanup, a process that doesn’t change the program’s functionality, but ensures that the code is easier to read and contribute to.

3. Check the issues page
Once you choose an open source project, you should check the issues page on the repository to find out where you can contribute. These may be features, bug fixes, or general annoyances that users have noticed. These issue pages are also a good way to tell if your project is active. Active projects mean that you will be able to get quick feedback on any code you contribute.

4. Fork the project
“Forking” refers to a process where you create your own “branch” of a software project within its version control system, which is kind of like a family tree for computer programs. If you are still confused, I think Github’s help page can do a better job of explaining it then I can.

5. Download and Test the project
This may be the most important step of the whole process. It proves that this program you want to work on isn’t broken. It can also give you some inspiration for changes you want to add yourself. Use the git clone command to download the code.

6. Program
This is where that four year degree (and a lot of google) comes in. Add your code, make sure it’s readable, test it out, and commit it to your branch!

7. Submit a pull request
Once you are confident that your code has made the software better, send a pull request to the original project. Here is Github’s tutorial on pull requests.

All that’s left is to wait for the project manager to approve your changes, and voila! You are now contributing to the open source community! Sit back, crack a beer, and know that you have made the future just a little bit better! Thanks goes out to Dan Kubb and everyone else in the Fraser valley Ruby Brigade who introduced me to this whole process.

Introducing the Writing Machine

Well, it looks like I’ve been called out. I had been thinking of starting a writers group. You know, an online place where people could come together in the spirit of mutual creative motivation. It’s always easier to keep your word count up if you have 2 or more people expecting your word count every day. But I had a question, what happens when you finish your first draft and you are not creating new material? How do you track your editing if you are not using a word count to track your progress?

So I decided to talk to my favourite self-publishing experts at the Smarter Artist Podcast, and asked them how they would track their editing.

Believe it or not, they answered! We had nice little back-and-forth about how one would do this and they said they would put my question on a future episode. And they did! You an listen to their answer here, but basically, you can use the number of words in the chapter or short story you are editing as your word count. Of course, you can track other factors like time spent, the place you are working in, even the time of day.

When I found this podcast episode, I realized that I had not started the writing group I  mentioned in my email. They did not use my last name, and I could simply disavow the proclamation forever, but I decided if I needed to kick in the ass to do this, this podcast episode would do the job.

So, after messaging all of my writer friends, I started a new group on slack.com. I called it the writing machine because I want to focus on the day-to-day habit of writing. Before all that discussion about prose, structure and character development can happen, I believe that you need to focus on production. You can’t improve a product that’s not there. If you develop the habit of writing every day, it becomes automatic, and so it’s a writing machine.

I always get a little nervous setting up groups like this, but I promised myself that I would learn more about creating communities this year. What better way to learn than by creating one myself? There’s still plenty of room here at the writing machine. If you want to join, send me your email address, and I’ll send you an invite.