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Photo: Baby Snake

Photo: Baby Snake

A baby snake my father was trying to pick up with his glove. This is a new edit of a photo from 2005. I removed a lot of dirt on the glove and sidewalk using the spot healing brush. This snake is long dead, unless he managed to live over five years.

Fujifilm FinePix A360, 1/30, F2.8, 5.8mm, ISO100, 2005-10-03T20:25:08-04, 2005-10-03_20h25m08

Location: Thripp Residence, Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7227

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Photo: At the Beach

Photo: At the Beach

One of my early photos from Dec. 2004. In the beginning, I made the mistake of setting my 2MP Fujifilm FinePix 2650 to 1 megapixel resolution, which was 1280×960 instead of 1600×1200. At the time, I had a computer with a 4GB HDD and monitor with a resolution of 1024×768, so I saw no reason to take higher quality photos. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This is newly edited with Photoshop CS5. I added a lot of contrast and made the white balance warmer. Every version of Photoshop gets easier to use, at least in my opinion. The auto contrast and auto tone functions work better now, and I find myself using them rather than curves more often than ever. However, the auto color feature still sucks.

I will only be posting photos from 2005 for the rest of November 2010 and some of December. I will also get into the 2006 photos next month. For a preview of what’s coming, look at the photos I posted on deviantART in late 2005 and early 2006. I will be reposting them here, but with different descriptions, titles, and much better editing.

Fujifilm FinePix 2650, 1/1400, F8.7, 6mm, ISO100, 2004-12-12T10:51:01-05, 2004-12-12_10h51m01

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Review of “9 Steps to Work Less” by Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins' Book

9 Steps to Work Less and Do More serves up hundreds of practical suggestions. Robbins gives you advice on everything—from how to leave a voicemail to how many umbrellas you should own (pg. 150). After reading “always leave your phone number twice” and “speak slowly and clearly” (64-65), I knew Stever was being really thorough.

Why is it 9 steps? I really don’t know. 10 is a more popular number. 7 is a lucky number. Stever Get-It-Done Guy Robbins could even have called it “12 Steps for Workaholics,” but it’s been done before.

If you’ve read other books on time management or personal growth, there isn’t much new material here. This book may be a waste of time for anyone but the casually committed, because only they are likely to find new advice here. But, considering I was provided this review copy for free and never heard of Robbins before being contacted by his secretary, I should not be so harsh. “9 Steps” is a nice read with good tips. Stever also has a good sense of humor which you will find on every page of the book. I was more anxious to write this review than to actually read the book, but had I picked this up several years ago, before discovering personal development, I would have been engrossed.

“Stever Robbins” is a weird name. Everyone who reads it thinks “Steven” has been misprinted. “Robbins” as in Tony Robbins? I thought this was a pen name at first.

I started reading this book six weeks ago, and after 40 pages I quit and lost interest. I stopped reading on “daily action packs” in the procrastination chapter. However, I do need to write this review eventually, so I’m just going on what I read and skimming through the rest. This review is going to be short.

PAGE 69: Just ignore it: “Another way to deal with a full inbox? Ignore it.” — Stever has a lot of guts to say this, and he’s right. Most email should just be archived because it never needs a reply.

PAGE 77: Example of a bad email: “We need to gather all the articles by February 1st. Speaking of which, I was thinking… do you think we should fire Sandy?” — This is an awesome example of a bad email. I might have to use this myself.

PAGE 86: Learning how to say no: “Too many yeses overcommit us.” — This is also awesome. I can’t believe St. Martin’s Griffin let Stever use “yeses.”

PAGE 90: “Stop multitasking and start focusing.” I like this advice. More often than not, writers tell you to develop your multitasking skills, when in truth, you should develop your monotasking skills. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.

PAGE 101: “A Sample Stever week.” This is a wonderful chart, and very simple. I like “Tuesday: 2 PM – 6 PM: write.” Only Stever could write for four hours non-stop. I find myself taking breaks every fifteen minutes.

PAGE 110: “When in doubt, throw it away.” I’m starting to do this all the time. When I’m done reading a magazine or a letter, I burn it. No reason to let it laze around the house.

PAGE 120: “Someday when I can afford an entourage, I’ll have a perky assistant named Okra who will keep track of everything for me. Until then, I use crutches to manage the complexities of twentieth-century life.” Sure, assistants are sexy, but 20th century life? Don’t you mean 21st century life, Stever? Perhaps you count from zero, or maybe this book was written in 1999?

PAGE 131: “The best ideas happen in the shower, because your brain is built to think when you’re doing something else.” This is why going for walks, playing music, and washing the dishes are such great hobbies. Whenever I’m stuck writing or programming, I find inspiration by setting the project aside for a while.

PAGE 143: “Movies the group absolutely does not want to see: Starring anyone whose last name is the name of a hotel chain.” But Paris Hilton is such a fine actor! I laughed at this joke.

PAGE 153: “Settle for ‘good enough” rather than wasting time on unnecessary perfection.” This is so true. Nobody cares how perfect your work is anyway. Most people don’t even examine it closely. Cutting corners is the best policy.

PAGE 166: “TIP: Hold an anteater by the hindquarters when combing its snout. KEYWORDS: anteater, comb, grooming, snout, thumb-reattachment incident.” Anteaters are so vicious…

PAGE 179: “Cut out the small talk. Let’s face it: we don’t have time for superficial relationships.” I disagree, small talk is the foundation of human relationships. As Data on Star Trek TNG noted, it fills awkward conversational gaps and aids in human bonding.

PAGE 195: “Get on someone’s radar screen by having frequent, though not necessarily lengthy or deep, contact.” Do you mean small talk, Stever? I thought you hate small talk? Perhaps you are confused.

PAGE 206: “Access to people is valuable…” This is so true. You can’t make babies alone.

PAGE 216: “Come visit me on the Web at www.SteverRobbins.com…” — He wanted to say “it’s ten times better than www.StevePavlina.com!”

PAGE 218: “ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Case Princes provided his apartment and his computer with amazing 2560×1600 monitor.” I love big monitors too. I have a Samsung 24″ widescreen LCD with 1920×1200 pixels. But 2560×1600 doesn’t actually tell us anything. The monitor could be a 19″ CRT with the resolution set extremely high. Please consider these technicalities in your next book!

If you wanted a proper review, I don’t have one. I’m just passing off a bunch of scribbled notes as a review. Now go buy this 5-star book. I know it’s only been two months, but we are expecting many more books from you, Stever!

Creation vs. Promotion

Do you spend more time creating things or promoting things you’ve already created? Musicians who spend two years touring with the same album are clearly focused on promotion, whereas musicians who release four albums a year to little fanfare are focused on creation. Some authors have written thirty books but can’t get even one published, while others have one best-seller they spend all their time promoting.

Promotion gets your art out to more people―creation allows you to have art in the first place. You can spend all your time and money promoting other peoples creations―i.e. Google, Facebook, The Beatles, or Sony―or you can spend your resources promoting your own creations while enjoying the creations of others only as a customer. You can live life as a starving artist who toils into the night but never achieves recognition, or you can be a salesman who sells his paintings on everything from welcome mats to toilet seat covers. You can advertise yourself aggressively while creating very little, or you can create a lot but not advertise your creations. At one extreme, you can create works that are completely original―at the other, you can produce works that are completely derived from the creations of others. You can even choose to create and promote nothing at all, instead working at a menial job for most of your life. You may be contributing more value to the world as a worker than as an artist, because the world has too many wannabee artists already.

I am a photographer and writer, but I spend most of my time creating. Sure, I send out emails, tweets, and status updates about my new creations, but I don’t spend much time or money promoting myself. I don’t take clients or work for hire. I don’t even have a tangible product, besides a few framed photos and a whole lot of 4×6 snapshots. My main source of revenue is Google AdSense, and that only generates about $60 per month on this website. In light of this, I definitely need to spend more time on promotion and less time on creation. Though I have hundreds of pages, 21% of my visitors leave my website immediately after viewing one page. I rarely get more than 10 comments per week, and emails come once in a blue moon. However, I am confident I am a good photographer and could be famous if I worked tirelessly for many years at promoting myself.

If you focus on promotion, you appeal to casual fans while boring your loyal fans. If you advertise your ebook or products in every email or blog post, you attract people who don’t read most of your material, but you annoy people who read and re-read everything you write. Conversely, if you focus on creation, your loyal fans are happy but your casual fans feel overwhelmed. Often, they don’t even know where to start when picking up one of your creations, be it a book, magazine, newsletter, or website.

The key to unlocking your life’s dreams is in balancing not only creation and promotion, but your image as an advertiser and your image as a creative artist. If you do consulting to help people increase sales and web traffic, you should promote yourself as an advertiser to that demographic. If you sell original works to art enthusiasts, you should promote yourself as a counter-culture creative genius to that demographic. If you have to target two contrary demographics at once, you should balance your persona.

While it may sound like you have to promote your creations and create things for your promotion, in fact you can choose one and out-source the other. Basically, this is called “getting an agent” or “becoming an agent.” Singers, actors, writers, and even successful artists have agents to promote their work, negotiate contracts, and protect their interests. If you’re more interested in being the rock that supports someone else, you can become an agent. Then, you focus on promotion and let someone else do the creating. There is often more money in being an agent than in being an artist.

Google and Facebook are companies that focus heavily on promotion. While they create original algorithms and maintain vast networks to serve up content, the content is almost always created by others. Google spends most of its resources indexing and retrieving foreign web pages and emails. Google Adwords is all about advertising the creations of others and collecting a commission, be it 100% on search results or 32% on AdSense publishers. Facebook mines your personal information, habits, and secrets to sell them to advertisers. Both companies are agents focusing on promotion. An advertising agency is also a good example, but many agencies do original design for hire, which is more creative.

Companies that focus heavily on creation are largely partnerships or sole proprietorship. Any company larger than that invariably has secretaries, accountants, lawyers, and other officers who only perform “meta” tasks―tasks that are essential to keeping the company running, but are not its core mission. For example, shooting and editing photos, burning CDs, and printing are primary tasks in a photography studio―distributing the photos, scheduling appointments, finding new clients, and filing tax returns are secondary, “meta” tasks. Most companies have more employees working on secondary tasks than primary tasks, but they are paid less.

Whenever you have writer’s block, composer’s block, or whatever-block, you are in a great position to focus on promoting your old work. Conversely, you do not want to be interrupted by secondary tasks when creative inspiration strikes. For this reason, it is important to maintain flexibility in your schedule, rather than trying to divide creative tasks and promotional tasks into hourly blocks.

Creative artists are afraid of being judged as losers who never succeed in life. Promotional artists are afraid of being judged as “sell-outs” who value dollars over art. Many people want to be pursuing something creative such as photography, writing, drawing, music, psychology, or dancing, but instead choose to major in something “practical” like nursing or business administration. Other people enjoy accounting or secretaryship but worry about being forgotten in death. If you are in either group, you will not find happiness outside of a radical life change or black-swan event.

Non-Actionable Feedback

Actionable feedback prompts the recipient to take an action outside the framework of the conversation, but most feedback appearing to be actionable is in fact non-actionable. Let’s look at some examples and analyze why they do not warrant any action by the recipient.

1. “This is a really great article, but I think it could use some more examples!”

The problem with this one is “I think.” Everyone has an opinion. Replace “I think” with “I know” and you have something actionable. The action is to add more examples to the article, but the writer is unlikely to do this unless the feedback is more forceful.

2. “I really enjoy your photography.”

Completely worthless. I am getting to the point where I just press the delete button on comments like this. Obviously, any praise besides “keep it up” is basically non-actionable, but at least give me specific feedback rather than wasting my time. “I enjoy your photographs of (flowers | sunsets | raindrops | people) because of their (color | perspective | uniqueness | emotions)” is better.

3. “Tweet This is a good plugin, but I’d like to see integration with Tumblr.”

Again, this one applies to the commenter only so it is basically worthless. Replace “I’d like to see” with “it should have” or “I will not use it until it has” and you will have something actionable.

4. “I hope you get well soon!”

This also does nothing because hoping is ineffective and does not provoke action. “You should take a zinc supplement” would be better.

5. “Have you considered changing your religion?”

While the may look majorly actionable, in fact it only prompts a yes or no response with no action. Feedback like “Your religion sucks because *some reason*” would be more likely to provoke an action.

6. “Could you take less for this item?”

This could also be answered with a no or simply ignored. It would be better to offer a specific amount, because then you are showing initiative.

7. “You are a moron!”

This kind of feedback is useless. If it’s true, it’s a statement of fact, which is never actionable. If it’s false, it’s a lie, which is also non-actionable.

8. “There is no point in arguing with someone like you.”

People who write this type of comment have superiority complexes and are trying to prove their time is more valuable than yours. But their very response proves that they are not above you. Completely non-actionable.

9. “What’s your phone number and a good time to call you?”

This is an edge case, but it’s actually non-actionable because the recipient stays in the frame of the conversation without taking action (i.e. calling you) outside the conversation. The recipient is liable to respond with his phone number but not answer your call. An actionable message would in fact be “My phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX―please call me at 9pm.” This way, you put the burden of action on the recipient rather than yourself.

10. “If you don’t log in within 72 hours, your account will be deleted!”

If the user is concerned about his account being deleted, he will certainly log in anyway, and if he isn’t, he may as well not even receive this message, because he won’t visit your site again. Completely non-actionable.

While you may think providing actionable feedback is best, there are many times when you are talking to someone unpleasant and want to end the conversation. In this case, it’s better to provide non-actionable feedback. If the recipient keeps responding to your non-actionable feedback, you will sense his desperation. Desperate people are never good friends or business contacts, so you should cut them out of your life.

Here is a hypothetical conversation with a desperate person:

Blue: How would you like to establish an affiliate partnership between our websites?
Red: Your blog has potential, but I’m really not interested in linking to it.

Realistically, the conversation should end here, but Blue is desperate and continues despite the obvious futility.

Blue: Are you sure? How about if I link to you only and you pay me?
Red: Like I said on my contact page, I don’t accept solicitations nor affiliate with websites that get no traffic.

Blue is becoming very anxious―the more he is rejected the more he pushes forward. He thinks he’s persevering, but in fact he’s just being a needy nuisance.

Blue: But you should see my traffic logs! My site gets over 100 visitors this month!
Red: I do offer consulting to increase your traffic. 100 visitors per month is nothing.

Red has made a serious mistake―he should have terminated the conversation right here. Blue has continuously provided desperate, non-actionable feedback, so this would have been a perfect time to stop replying.

Blue: How much do you charge?
Red: $100 an hour, $100 minimum.
Blue: That’s ridiculous! $100 for some measly consulting work that should only take you twenty minutes? What kind of consultant are you anyway? A scam artist, that’s what!
Red: I can assure you that my clients would say otherwise. Many of them are very successful and place a high value on my services.

Blue has gained the upper hand, and Red has succumbed to an energy vampire. Red is now on the defensive.

Blue: I don’t care what you are, I’m reporting you to *some agency* for trying to defraud me.
Red: I’m sure we can work this out without the authorities.
Blue: I’ll tell you what. If you help me to market *new worthless service*, I’ll overlook this and allow you to continue your business.
Red: Okay…

This is the price for taking non-actionable feedback seriously. Blue is a desperate, passive-aggressive wimp who can only resort to begging and threats. Red is a person who lets wimps take advantage of him. Both are losers, but both could become winners by harnessing the power of non-actionable feedback.

At the start of the conversation, Red should have said “I’ll look into your blog and get back to you.” With one non-actionable reply, Red could have avoided conversation for weeks, but instead, he engaged the sender in a pointless argument which ended in self-capitulation. Ridiculous, but stuff like this happens every day.

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