Viewing entries in
Inspiration

How to Have (and resolve) an Existential Crisis in One Weekend

How to Have (and resolve) an Existential Crisis in One Weekend

I attended the 2015 Sterling & Stone Colony Summit this weekend and came away with more than I had expected. I rediscovered my true passion, and I know exactly how to pursue without leaving anyone behind.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








The Hand of a Writing God

The Hand of a Writing God

Writing is hard. Keeping at it can be exhausting. Remember where your personal strength comes from, and go there often. Mine is God. I hope yours is too. 

If you don't have a source of strength and courage, to help you write or to help you keep moving forward in any part of your life or career, talk to me. I'll introduce you to mine.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








How to figure out what you love doing (and do more of it)

How to figure out what you love doing (and do more of it)

This morning I've spent some time making lists—my skills, my resources, what I love doing. It's a good practice to take stock every now and then, because you can find a few threads in the knotwork that you never knew were there. I've committed to doing this regularly, any time I feel like I need a bit of inspiration, because it gives me a quick jolt of energy and passion. It's a great practice to get into, and it can help you figure some stuff out.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








"Can you believe it? We were all eggs yesterday."

"Can you believe it? We were all eggs yesterday."

There are days (maybe this is one of them) when you wonder if it's all worth the effort. You ask yourself if it's really worth putting in the time and energy to do what you're trying to do. Sometimes the answer you get back is "no." And you move on to something else.

More often, the answer is "yes." And that's when you have to stop and think about how far you've already come. At some point you had to start, and when you did you started with a lot less than you have today. 

Take stock of what you have. Look at your resources, your inspirations, your insights. List it out, and look it over from top to bottom. And do that again, when you start feeling that things are too heavy, and that you don't know how you'll go on. Remind yourself that you were an egg yesterday. Now get crackin'. 


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








Broken Eggs and What We Make of Them

Broken Eggs and What We Make of Them

What's the biggest mistake you've made in the past 30 days?

What can you create from it?

Call me at 281-809-WORD (9673) and tell me, and I may play your story on the Wordslinger Podcast.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








The 3 Commandments of Building an Authority Business

The 3 Commandments of Building an Authority Business

Recently I wrote this post on the Happy Pants Books blog. It outlines what an authority business actually is. 

This is what I do, and it's what I help other people to do. And at the heart of it, the way to make an authority business successful is to focus on three important ideas. I call them the 3 Commandments of an Authority Business.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








Just because it's easy doesn't mean it's wrong

Just because it's easy doesn't mean it's wrong

Here's irony for you—I spent a huge chunk of my life writing for a living until I could figure out what I wanted to do for a living. 

I kept trying out new careers and new industries, taking new jobs and building new businesses, and all the while doing anything but considering writing as my career. 

What makes it worse is that all the while, I was saying things like, "I wish I could win the lottery or get a job or build a business that gives me the time to just write full time." I kept putting off actually writing, waiting for "some day" to come, so that I could finally start writing.

What a profound disrespect for the skill that has served me so well, all of my life. 


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








How to get what you want without being punched in the face

How to get what you want without being punched in the face

My PaPa said, "I never got a thing I didn't ask for. Even if it was a punch in the mouth." 

Here's how that phrase can help you get everything you want out of life. 


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








"Let's Roll" — How history should remember 9/11

"Let's Roll" — How history should remember 9/11

It's amazing how much can change in thirteen years. When the attacks happened in 2001, I was a high school teacher at an alternative campus in Angleton. I was finishing up my Master's in Education, and I was living in a pretty nice apartment in Lake  Jackson. I honestly thought I had found my career path, that I was maybe a date away from finding the woman I'd spend my life with, and that I knew good and well what my future would be.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








The Wordslinger Diet

Being a writer and a Creative Director is a somewhat sedentary lifestyle, fraught with overlap. M'bellly overlappin' m'belt, mostly. So, like the rest of the Western World, as of 1 January I started doing things that I hoped would help me trim up. Not unusual, and not my first time. But this go, I decided to skip the "resolutions," and instead make a commitment to changing my actual lifestyle. Instead of dieting, I set up a system that lets me eat what I want and still knock off the pounds. No willpower required. Here's what I've put together — 


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








humanity in the face of horror

People will do horrible things. They will dehumanize others. They will tear down all the good they can find. They will gun down children.

But what they won't do, what they can never, ever do, is define humanity. Because humanity is good. It's about building something that lasts. It's about helping people fight the evil things people do, overcoming the sickness in the hearts of people. Humanity is crying about the hurt its seeing right now. 

And from this, a lot of humanity will go forward and do something. They'll make the hurt have meaning. They'll heal the wounds and point to the scars to say, "That happened, and now we will always remember."

Because that's what humans do. They take the hurt and heal it. They take the evil and destroy it. They build something that makes the world better, and they do it in memory of those who died in horror.

Look at every human near you, right now, and love them the way you love yourself. Forgive them like you would want to be forgiven. Give them everything they need to feel human in the face of inhumanity. Horror will always happen. It's the enemy. It comes for us. But we will always fight back. And humanity will always win.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








"Be obedient for once"

“Be obedient for once.”

That was the phrase that popped into my head when I was just on the verge, just on the very edge, of doing something I knew I wasn’t supposed to do. In this case it was griping and complaining about someone I have often griped and complained about before. Previously, this phrase has popped into my brain for other chronic sins. It can be a real showstopper.

For the past few weeks I have been in full “learning what God wants from me” mode. I have prayed. I have read. I have prayed about what I read. And in all of that praying and reading (and some sharing with fellow Christians, including my patient and loving wife), I have started to notice that I’m becoming more aware of the problem. Me. I’m the problem. Big surprise.

I’ve already written about my trouble listening. It has been a recurring issue in my life, and I’m getting the message now that God doesn’t really approve of that. In fact, I’m pretty much getting the message that God wants me to actively change that little fault about myself. And to help nudge me along, He has started putting all kinds of stuff in my path. It seems that once you start listening for God, He actually has a whole lot to say, and you’re not going to be comfortable hearing all of it.

So every day, practically every minute of every day, I have an almost constant awareness of how I am thinking and acting. Whenever I do something that displeases God, He reminds me with a sudden burst of insight, which typically leads to me feeling guilty (or maybe convicted would be a better term?), and wanting to making amends.

That’s what has been happening every time I open my mouth to gripe about people or things that irritate me or annoy me or cause me to feel otherwise nonplussed. I start complaining, and I get into it just like I always have, tearing the non-present person a new one, and then … YAAARRRRGGGHHH! Guilt trip. Of my own creation, of course. I’m kind of thinking God doesn’t bother with sending you a guilt trip directly because He knows that if He just gently, quietly, firmly reminds you there will be a self-induced guilt trip on its way in now time. I can punish myself just fine, apparently.

Today, I’ve been on that trip several times. Throughout the day I have grumbled and mumbled, and started saying things to my fellow employees or to my friends or to my wife that I know, for a fact, I should not be saying. Before, when I would launch into these tirades, I hardly noticed. Yeah, eventually I would feel all tight in the chest and the back of the neck and across my brow. I might even feel a tinge guilty about being such a loudmouthed jerk. But for the most part the whole thing was automatic, and I hardly even noticed I was doing it.

This has changed.

Now, when I start complaining about people, places, things or circumstances, I almost immediately realize it. I’m aware of it, in a way that I’ve never been aware before. It hits like a sudden high wave in light surf. It sways me in my step.

And as I pay more attention to it, and as I obey God by putting a stop it when I realize this is what I’m doing, and I make some sort of amends in my effort to repent from it … well, wouldn’t you know, the “alert” just starts coming faster and faster. I’m thinking that eventually it’s going to pop up at the mere thought of complaining and griping.

That’s already starting to happen.

Today I had the opportunity to really dish about someone. I could have torn them to pieces in a series of text messages that I know, for a fact, would have been received with glee and laughter and maybe even applause. I could have used griping and complaining as a tool for bonding with a friend. We could have sneered and laughed together, just like old times.

“Be obedient for once.”

What? Wait … no! I mean … yeah, of course. Yeah. I’ll be obedient. For once.

And so I didn’t do it. I didn’t gripe. I didn’t complain. I didn’t dish.

That’s tough. In fact, it’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. I’m so used to being able to just spew whatever vile thoughts are in my head. Years of training. Years of practice. But now, as I remember Proverbs 3:6 (In all your ways submit to [the Lord], and He will direct your path), I’m slowly starting to overcome that training. I’m slowly, achingly, painfully starting to realize that God actually means it when He says, “Be obedient.” Who knew?

Well, OK. Everyone but me.

The last time this happened, when the voice said, “Be obedient for once,” and I was, things changed. A sin I have indulged in nearly my whole life suddenly had less force. It hasn’t gone away entirely. It has crept back in once or twice. But it went from a daily sin to a “once or twice” sin overnight. I’d call that progress. I’m working on 100%.

I have a theory about this little voice. I think it’s the Holy Spirit. It’s like a support beam for my conscience. It is bolstering me, keeping me upright. Or offering me a chance to stand upright on my own.

It’s funny, because just by “being obedient for once” I have seen progress in my character. Such a small request. “Just this once, be obedient.” Not forever. Not every second. Just right now. And doing that, it has made all the difference.

So I’m sure I’ll still fail from time to time. I’ll fall back on old habits and old sins. But that voice … I will hear it again, I know. And when I do, I’ll obey. Just this once. What could it hurt?


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








No apologies

OK, I admit I have problems with authority.

I'm not facing down Lou Gossett Junior, refusing to do push-ups in the rain or anything. I just don't like to ask permission for things.

You know those geeks that have top-five lists? What about the really uber geeks who have top-five lists that no one else would have have a top-five list for?

Here are my top-five favorite geniuses:

  1. Leonardo da Vinci
  2. Benjamin Franklin
  3. Thomas Edison
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Steve Jobs

Up until a couple of weeks ago number five was "Henry Ford." But after reading Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs bio (SPOILER ALERT: He dies), I booted Ford for a more modern, more irascible genius. Steve Jobs was kind of the Dr. House of the computer world. Someone tell Bryan Singer.

By the way, Einstein is vying for that number four spot with Walt Disney. Which is ironic, because I'm pretty sure Disney would have loved that playful little Jewish physicist like a brother.

Everyone on my top-five list has something in common (besides being dead). They were all known for doing things their own way, and never asking for permission to do it. In fact, I'm pretty sure all of them were considered assholes in their day.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Gee, Kev., way to backhandedly compare yourself to the greatest geniuses in history."

Agreed.

But my real point is that great leaders and great minds rarely ask permission to do the things that make them great. They just do it and accept the consequences, good or bad.

"Consequences" is kind of an ugly word for some folks, and I get that. Responsibility is hard because no one ever wants to be the one responsible for the bad stuff. If you get fired, you want to be able to point your finger at the boss and say, "That guy's a jerk. He never understood my potential." If a project fails or a deadline is missed, you want to be able to point at someone else and say, "It's that bozo's fault."

It's tough to put it all on the line and accept that when stuff goes bad it's going to go bad because of you.

But if you don't ever take that risk, you never get to the cool part.

You never create a masterpiece artwork that people talk about for centuries after the last stroke of your brush.

You never sign your name to a document that creates the most powerful nation in history.

You never invent something that becomes so indispensable that it becomes the symbol for genius.

You never create a theory that redefines scientific thought.

You never create a company that redefines multiple industries, over and over.

You don't get to do these things by asking permission. You do them when people tell you that they can't be done. You do them because you can't imagine a world that doesn't include what you have to offer. You do them because you are willing to take responsibility for something and see it change the world.

I hate asking permission. I'd rather just define my principles and take action, then accept the consequences and work with what I get. If it blows up in my face, then I earned that. But if it redefines the world around me, makes its way into history, creates something new and remarkable and pure in the world ... I earned that, too.

And I'm never going to apologize for that.



Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








Have you seen my Karate magazines?

Growing up in Wild Peach, Texas, was a little like growing up in a third-world country. I have only my wife's descriptions of childhood in Indonesia to go by, but I have noticed a resemblance. Despite an abundance of fresh dairy products and the absence of stilt houses, the experiences were pretty similar.

You know how people will say, "We were poor, but we never knew it?" I've always liked comedian John Pinette's line: "We were poor, and I was sure of it. And I didn't like it." But the truth was, we were "sort of" poor in my house. We got by on a fairly meager income earned by my stepfather, as an insulator with Dow Chemical. But we never went hungry, never went without clothes or school supplies, and had plenty of trips to the dentist. So I guess we weren't "poor." Just "modest."

And by this, of course, I mean to say we did not have cable.

I remember getting up on Saturday mornings around 5 a.m. and rushing to my station in front of the TV. The Saturday-morning cartoon block began with NBC, and only transitioned to other networks as the morning wore on and the fare became scarce. These channel changes necessitated a shifting of the rabbit ears on top of the TV, resulting in a slightly less fuzzy and static-filled picture. I pressed on. No cartoon shall go unwatched.

By noon, most anything of interest was over, and I would stumble out into the "beginning" of the day, bleary-eyed and frightened of the giant fiery orb in the sky.

I don't remember eating as a child. I have vague memories of frozen Flava-ice and generic-brand soda, but not really much in the food department. I'm sure I must have eaten both breakfast and lunch. I remember cereal ... lots of cereal. Or were those just cereal commercials? Bless me Lucky Charms, I just can't remember.

Anyway, at noon-ish I would stumble out into the world and go wander into the woods behind my house, where there was a clearing filled with the Wonders of the Universe.

Here is an inventory of the Wonders of the Universe:

  • One rusty but usable boat winch, which would someday result in a catapult that would fling a young friend to his near death
  • Several large pieces of plywood and some long, nail-filled two-by-fours in the shape of what might be called a tree house (if one were feeling generous)
  • Miles of rope, much of which formed the basis of a swing system built precisely for the purpose of Spider-man practice
  • Various electronic doodads and thingamabobs, all of unexplained origin and purpose, which served as instrument panels for various spaceships and time travel devices
  • One or two porn magazines, pilfered from the older kids down the street and hidden discreetly in a garbage bag buried under a fallen tree
  • Several karate magazines, hidden (for some reason) in the same garbage bag
  • Four unsharpened throwing stars
  • A pair of nunchuckus (sensing a theme here?)
  • Pipes, wires, tubes, and other outlets of imagination

I know there was more. There felt like more. But you know how these kid havens work. I may not have had much more than a Slinky and some action figures, but it seemed like a vast booty to me.

One thing I did have plenty of was imagination. And I'm now convinced, as I sit in front of the titanium casing of a MacBook Pro and tap word-candy into the brains of readers, that I had more opportunity for creativity and "big ideas" while rooting around in those woods and tinkering with all that junk than I have ever had in even the most productive brainstorming session or all-night, coffee-fueled writing binge. I think a lot of the stories I've written over the years have come from those days bouncing around in the woods behind my house. It's really too bad TV has killed my capacity to ... something.

Now that I'm all growed up and have a house of my own, a yard of my own, and a neighborhood of my own, I find myself looking back wistfully on those moments in my Cave of Wonders, and contemplating how to get back there. Is it possible, as a grown man with responsibilities and bills and a slight weight problem, to slip back into the stream of carefree fun and creativity that I once swam in? Is there a way to be more child-like without being childish?

Dammit, I intend to find out. And I plan on finding those lost porno and karate magazines in the process.

To be continued ...





Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








60 brilliant people

Of all the things I do, I think teaching Developmental Writing is the most fun.

That's a bizarre statement to see on the screen, primarily because I would never have thought I'd say (or write) anything like that. First of all, back in 2003 when I was laid off from a high school teaching position, I swore I'd never go back to teaching. The heartache of investing so much of myself in the students and the school, only to be let go because of budget concerns, kind of put a bad taste in my mouth. Plus, I wasn't a fan of the miles of red tape and the ever-shifting politics inherent in the public school system.

Second, of all the classes I ever thought I *might* enjoy teaching, "Developmental Writing" was never on the list. Creative Writing, sure. Survey of 21st Century Literature, OK. Graphic Design or Advertising Essentials, absolutely. But Developmental writing ... no way.

All of that changed after the first time I stepped into the classroom.

I took the gig because it was a way to get a bit more classroom time, and to try out some of the things I have learned and discovered about the way humans learn. It would be my learning laboratory, as it were. I could experiment, compare traditional teaching techniques to some of my fancy new theories. I've mentioned before, I have an interest in education, but I also have an interest in human potential. So I was trying to answer the question, "Can I take even the most basic subject and use it to improve the lives of my students?"

The answer is "Hell yes."

In my Developmental Writing course, I'm going over all those fundamentals you would think were firmly embedded in every kid at around fourth grade. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. I can draw up a roster of about 60 young adults over a one-year period who would be willing to confirm for you that they did not, in fact, get the essentials of writing early in their academic careers. Forget the complicated stuff, like when or where to use a semicolon (hell, even I have trouble with that one), or whether or not it is OK to end a sentence with a preposition. These folks couldn't define "preposition" to save their lives. In fact, they didn't even have a working definition of "sentence."

Now I'm being a little harsh here, I think. First of all, most people don't have a definition for "sentence" at the ready. We know what a sentence is, when we see it, but if we had to describe it there would be a bit of stumbling as we came up with the right words. Try it. Do you have a definition of your own? Probably not. And if you do, kudos.

But for the purposes of my course, here is the definition I give them:

A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought.

That's it. Simple, right? Elegant, even.

OK, we start there. And believe it or not, that's most of DAY 1 of this course. Defining what a sentence is, and getting that definition stuck in the heads of the students, is a full day's worth of work.

To be fair, I do go a little further than that definition. For example, I will add, "A sentence contains a subject, a verb, and a predicate." At which point, I will have to spend time defining "predicate." And, believe it or not, I will even have to spend some time defining "subject." For some reason, "verb" gives us no trouble.

From subject, verb, and predicate we typically move on to parts of speech. They known "noun," thank God. And, of course, "verb." I give them an "object" lesson, which more or less goes over well. And then we enter Adjective and Adverb country, and the whole thing goes to hell for a day or two.

In fact, by the time we manage our way into adjectives and adverbs, we are already into at least week two of the course. Somehow the mere act of describing nouns or describing adjectives, verbs, or other adverbs is so complex and intimidating, it can't be learned readily.

The first time I came across this roadblock, it really threw me. I couldn't understand what was happening. This was basic stuff, after all. Very basic. Like atomic structure compared to the complexity of the Universe basic. And yet, somehow, these guys not only missed it the first time around they treated it as unfathomable babbling.

I thought about this for a long time, talking it over with my wife, Kara, and some of my friends. And I think I've figured out at least part of the problem here: These people never learned how to learn.

Here's a funny historic note about our education system: It was originally designed by Plato. Well, more or less. Plato put together an education system that consisted of an elementary education, followed by a secondary, and completed with a university education. His position was that students would get the foundations of learning from their elementary education, and then dig deeper into specific subject matter on general subjects during their secondary education. At the university level, they would specialize more, and choose their particular fields of study, in which they would become experts and professionals (as the terms applied in those days). This setup may sound familiar, since it is the basic model of our current education system, and the most logical way to structure that system.

But somewhere along the way, things kind of fell apart.

Suddenly, elementary school became the place where facts were crammed into the brains of young people. Facts, but no system for connecting those facts to each other. Instead of giving students a foundation for later learning, they were suddenly expected to leave foundational schooling with an active and complete education. And then, in secondary school, the process would start all over again. They would get more facts shoved through their ears, nose, and other orifices, and then they were forced to regurgitate those facts (and ONLY those facts) on a test designed to measure how close they could come to the arbitrary "average." In this system, no real attention is paid to exactly how the student learns best. No attempt is made to connect new information to old information in a meaningful and useful way. And absolutely no attempt is made to teach the student how to make up for any gaps in their learning.

So, after 12 years of inadequate education, paid for by our tax dollars, those students with enough gaul and ambition to actually enter the university level will often do so with a woefully inefficient and inadequate educational foundation. They end up having to spend a great deal of money to learn those things that should have been built into their brains before they ever left elementary school.

And that's when I get them.

You're asking yourself, "When is he going to get to the 'life changing' part?"

When I first started teaching Developmental Writing, I figured it would be best if I stuck with the basics of writing. My goal was to get the students from choppy, poor sentences and paragraphs to semi-polished prose. When I discovered that I couldn't even start working with sentences and paragraphs, because the students had no concept of parts of speech much less a working definition of a sentence, I had to change tactics. I started giving them the foundation they were missing, from all those years ago.

And then I thought, "I have this wealth of knowledge about how people learn, and how to streamline learning. It's a shame I can't use that here."

Why not? Why couldn't I? After all, these guys were so far behind, they couldn't possibly be worse off if they left my class with more knowledge about how to learn than how to structure a paragraph, right?

But I felt too guilty about it. I couldn't focus on learning foundations when they had paid for Developmental Writing. They needed to know how to write a sentence, a paragraph, and an essay.

So why not combine Developmental Writing with Learning Foundations?

The class I teach is typically two to four hours in length. The two-hour classes are broken up over two days in the week. The four-hour classes happen on a single day. Both give me more than enough time to talk about the basics of writing, with room to spare. So, I broke each class up into two components. For the first half, I would teach Developmental Writing. For the second, Learning Foundations. And I would bridge the two by showing the students how to use the second half to better understand and remember the first.

I started with memory techniques. I taught them about "location memory," and helped them to learn and use "memory palaces" to remember long lists of things in order. I also taught them how to encode abstract information so it would be easier to store. All of this came in handy for remembering terms and definitions that they would need in order to move beyond the developmental level.

I taught them basic logic and reasoning skills for problem analysis and problem solving. I started with basic concepts, such as "If all subjects are nouns, and all adjectives describe nouns, then what do we call these terms that are describing our subject?" It sounds rudimentary, right? That's because it is. It was also completely lacking for these guys up until now.

Slowly but surely, my students were starting to get the hang of these things. I taught them how the brain works when it stores information. I talked to them about working memory versus long-term memory. I taught them about synapses and the physical connections formed in the brain during learning. I taught them about the power of visualization to help you encode and remember facts. And in the end, all of these things led to some pretty interesting results.

There are three types of questions I will ask any given student at any random time. These three questions are based on the memory exercises and the definitions that we have worked on together. For the first memory exercise, I gave them a list of 20 random items that included terms like "goal post" or "cigarettes" or even "voting booth", and taught them to recall all 20 in order (or even out of sequence) even weeks after they first saw the list. For the second memory exercise, I taught them how to remember a list of 10 random items on a "shopping" list (which could include items such as "gorilla fingers" or "flesh-colored body suit," as well as "peanut butter" or "banana peppers"). And finally, I taught them the vocabulary of developmental writing, with terms such as "adjective," "adverb," and "predicate, as well as their definitions.

Then, at random times during class I might ask questions like the following:

"What is number six?" (The answer is "gun")

"What is on the couch?" ("gorilla fingers")

"What describes a noun?" ("adjective")

And the funny thing is, this group of students who couldn't get into English 1301 because of their placement test scores can quote back to me, word for word and in order, every single term, item, and definition without once referring to their notes or their books. They can also tell me how the various parts of speech interact in a sentence, and that a sentence should always be "simple and clear." They can tell me how to determine something as abstract as the "main idea" of a sentence or paragraph. They can reason out that a sentence is logically incorrect, and the best way to fix it.

For many of these students, this is the first time they've been able to do something that made them feel "smart." And I praise the hell out of them for doing it. They feel so accomplished, so brilliant, that when they leave my class they go and use these same techniques in their other classes. They are quoting from memory the bones of the body and the list of U.S. Presidents. They are figuring out how to determine whether X is equal to Y. They are relating new facts to what they already know, and making them memorable through visualization. They are, essentially, building on their foundation.

It's such a small thing. It's a semester's worth of teaching, for four hours per week. And yet, I honestly believe it will take them places in their lives that they might never have suspected they could go.

So, I admit it. This is a fun experience. I may not teach this course forever, but I am really glad I did have the chance to teach it. I learned as much from it as they've learned, I believe. And maybe I can take what I've learned and help shape how our education system works. Or maybe not. Who can really say? The whole thing is a mess. But at least I can be sure of one thing:

There are 60 brilliant people who are preparing to start moving about in the world.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








So long, Somedays

Sometimes you have to stop saying "someday" and actually get off your keester and do the thing you want to do. I've recently had a couple of "somedays" become "todays," when I finally got tired enough of getting nowhere to actually step up and take action.

The first Someday got its walking papers about 30 days ago. I went to the doctor for a checkup, the same doctor who was the first and only one to spot my bradycardia a year ago, and was told that my blood pressure was too high.

"It's always high when I come to the doctor," I said. "White coat syndrome."

"It's been consistently high too many times in a row. It's time to get it under control."

What could I say? She saved my life once. Was it inconceivable that she would do it again?

So, starting that day, I had to go on blood pressure meds. This was a wakeup call.

My grandparents had been on this stuff. And though they were far from disabled or incapable of having a life, I did see the abject misery and discomfort and unhappiness that being overweight brought them. And for years, it's brought the same to me. Being overweight is like being in prison. Once you're there for so long, you tend to forget what freedom is like. You become "institutionalized." You stop trying to dig your way out (unless the exit happens to be at the bottom of a big bowl of mashed potatoes).

For the past ten years or so I have been hideously overweight, and I knew it. I could blame it on my heart, and I'd probably be right. But what was my excuse now that I had the pacemaker? What reason or justification did I have, now that my heart worked properly and I was all healed up from the surgery?

It was time to face facts. Eating fried chicken three meals a day, drinking gallons of sweetened something-or-other, eating piles upon piles of candy bars and fries and cookies and whatever else I could cram into my gullet and refer to as "food"-- it all had to stop. It was ridiculous, what I'd been doing to myself. I was wasting my second chance, among other stupidities.

So, as of the day I started the blood pressure meds I started changing my lifestyle. I changed what I eat, going for lots of fruits and vegetables, cutting out all fried foods, cutting out sugar and salt, limiting my calorie intake each day. And I changed my level of exercise, going for three-mile walks each day, doing resistance training (starting to -- working on consistency with that), taking the stairs more, even jogging a little. I started keeping a food journal, to help keep me honest. And I started learning everything I could about creating a clean diet and lifestyle. I don't smoke, and I don't drink, so that wasn't an issue. But food was. And now it's not.

For thirty days I have done this, and I have lost nearly a pound a day since it started.

Yeah -- it's true. I started at 278 (stop gasping!), and as of yesterday morning I weighed 250. I look trimmer and I feel better. And like everyone else who finally says "enough is enough" and changes their lifestyle, I'm wondering, "Why the hell didn't I do this sooner?" [NOTE: I foolishly wrote these weights as "178" and "150" the first time around. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Heather, I now feel much heavier, and am far less impressive. But also, I appreciate her pointing out the goof.]

Easy? Sort of. Not "difficult" anyway. I eat like a king, actually. Any worries about being deprived of food are just ridiculous. I just choose better food.

So that's one Someday I changed this month. The other was YouTube.

For months I have considered starting a vlog. Actually, it was more like years. I have thought about it since vloggers started appearing online. I have even filmed a few "episodes" from time to time, but never posted them, because they never felt "right." But a few days ago I decided I'd had enough. If I really wanted to have a presence on YouTube, I would just have to do it. And do it now.

So I started vlogging. Just like that. I got my iPhone rolling and just spewed a lot of randomness onto YouTube.

Is it clean and polished? No. I could produce something better. I could write sketches, do some editing, use my really expensive equipment and lights. But the problem is, I've had that stuff all of this time, and I've plotted and planned and prepared all this time, and yet I have never actually followed through.

So, I used my iPhone.

Now I've started. And that s all it takes. Will I do more polished videos later? Sure. I think so. I mean, why wouldn't I? Will I still do these iPhone videos? Yeah. I think so. I mean, why wouldn't I?

The point, really, is to start something, and to build momentum. If I do this often, then I have momentum. There's no reason I can't improve what I'm doing. Or, if people seem to like it (and many seem to, so far) then why change it? I can throw in some polished pieces from time to time and just do it for the fun of it. I can put up anything I want, after all. It's my channel.

If there's a point to be taken from this, I'd say it is this: Start now.

I have a lot of Somedays, and you probably do, too. But what makes them "somedays?" Why are they even there? What's the point? A someday is always going to be imaginary. Today is real. So if you're holding back on something you want to do "someday," just do it. It really is that easy. If you fail, you fail. But you won't fail. You'll succeed in starting, and that's usually all it takes.

Check out my new YouTube videos in this playlist: http://bit.ly/eM27TB

Here's one to get you started! Enjoy:


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








Be an educator: How to fix our education system

So I have this interest in education.

I admit, most of my interest is self-focused. I like to learn how the brain works, and how learning can be enhanced, so that I can apply these things to my own personal growth. You know … my personal growth toward becoming a super genius with a tendency toward plans for world domination. Your standard personal growth story.

But I admit, sometimes my self-centered nature gives just a tiny fraction, and I open my mind to the possibility of helping to improve education for everyone. It’s one of the reasons I studied to achieve a Master of Education degree, and why I’ve taken to teaching developmental writing classes as an adjunct professor. It was the reason I got into instructional design as one of the services I offer to clients. Ultimately, human performance, human education, and human thinking are huge areas of interest for me. I read about them, study them, and create new ways to enhance them.

Recently I watched a TED presentation by Sir Ken Robinson (in fact, I watched a couple of Robinson’s talks, and this animated one is a personal favorite). The topic was, “Does education kill creativity?” And I found Robinson’s ideas on the topic to be both inspirational and alarming.

Inspirational because Robinson so thoroughly gets it. His position is that Western education focuses entirely on educating just the left-most portion of a child’s brain. Our education system is heavy on math and science, a little thick on language arts and reading, and pretty thin and watery when it comes to music, visual arts, and dance. He believes that if aliens were to study our education system, the only conclusion they could come to is that the point is to generate university professors.

Alarming because, yeah, education certainly does seem to be killing creativity and innovation in our schools.

President Obama is currently pushing for changes and fixes to No Child Left Behind. That’s a good idea, but judging from what he’s saying on the topic I can only imagine the horrendous mess that’s going to come out of it. The focus is forever on testing, and rewarding or punishing both teachers and students based on assessment scores. After decades of trying to improve our education system in this way, shouldn’t we have concluded by now that this isn’t going to work?

In a letter that I wrote to Obama (answered by a somewhat appropriate form letter), I proposed that he link his “innovation” and “education” platforms (as detailed in his State of the Union). If the idea is to foster greater innovation and creativity in our nation’s industries, then the first step must be to encourage and develop innovation and creativity skills in our students. To that end, why not draw on the experts?

Why not call on guys like Tom Kelley, the author of “Ten Faces of Innovation” and General Manager of IDEO? Or perhaps author Malcom Gladwell? Or Seth Godin? Or Sir Ken Robinson? Why not ask these guys to sit in a room together and brainstorm 100 ways to improve our education system? Hell, make it challenging: “100 Ways to Improve Our Education System for $200 or Less.”

Actually, that begs the question: How much is each American child worth?

Scratch that. The real question is, “How much is it worth to nurture the next Einstein, Edison, or Ford?”

Our current education system stamps out the creativity of our young people by instilling in them a fear of being wrong. Trust me … it’s true. I recently gave a mid-term exam to one of my writing classes, and asked the students to write only a 3-5 paragraph essay on how writing could help them in their career. One student absolutely refused to write the essay. When I cornered him after class and asked why, his response was, “I don’t know how I could use writing in computer science. I didn’t want to write the wrong thing and fail, so I just left it blank.”

He was so afraid of failing, he wouldn’t even try. I had even told him, when he turned in his paper, “Write anything! At the very least, I’ll give you partial credit. You never know!” And still he refused, out of fear of failure.

If we want our nation to be on the leading edge of technology, to be known for its innovation and invention, to be the top producer of great minds in the world, then we have to overcome this fear of failure in our schools. We have to teach these students to try, to be creative, to take a chance, to build on failure rather than fear it, and to think in new and innovative ways. Without that, we have no shot. Instead of inventing the automobile, our next Ford will walk away, afraid that he would build the car all wrong.

So here is what I propose:

Start by educating yourself. Read books about innovation and creativity. Read books by some of the authors I’ve mentioned here. Read about the historic figures I’ve talked about.

Take what you learn from this reading, and find a child. Any child will do. Yours, or the neighbor’s, or just the kid who mows your yard.

Talk to that kid about what you’ve learned. Ask them what they think. Ask if they find it interesting. Ask what they would invent, if they could invent anything. Ask them how they could turn a failure into a success.

Do this, and do it on your own. Don’t wait for the education system to catch up. Because, I’m sorry to say, it isn’t going to. The only chance our kids and our nation have is for individuals to become teachers in everyday situations.

Remember “plant a tree for your tomorrow?” Read a book and educate a child for your tomorrow. “Be the light you want to see in the world?” Be the educator you want to see in your schools.

That’s your call to action. That’s what being an educator in the future is going to mean. Forget “No Child Left Behind.” That’s a broken system with faulty wiring. The key to reinventing and reinvigorating our education system is to do it from the inside out, and that means starting with yourself and spreading it around.

Go to it.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.








Warren Buffett's balls

In 1952, when Warren Buffett was 20 years old, he discovered that one of his personal heroes, Benjamin Graham (author of "The Intelligent Investor") was on the board of GEICO insurance. He took a Saturday train to GEICO's headquarters in Washington, DC, and banged on the door until a janitor let him in. Once inside, he met Lorimer Davidson, GEICO's Vice Presdient, and the two of them talked about the insurance industry for a few hours.
 
This was not Buffett's first foray into the business world, of course, but to me it shows a point of character that a lot of people should cultivate. Buffett learned something, allowed himself to get excited about it, then jumped into action. And because of that, he ended up making a strong connection with someone that could help him with his goals. And now Warren Buffett is consistently ranked as one of the top three richest men on the planet.
 
This story brought to mind the story of Steven Spielberg, who snuck onto the lot of Universal Studios dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase, both on loan from his father (the briefcase, by the way, contained his lunch). Spielberg had been to the lot hundreds of times, usually taking the tram tour. The guards had begun to recognize him. And so, with his suit and briefcase in hand, he simply waved to the guards as he walked through the gate, and no one ever questioned why he was there. He located an empty trailer and posted a hand-written sign on the door that read, "Steven Spielberg - Producer."
 
The point is, people who want incredible things often take incredible measures to get them. It's the guy with the balls to walk onto a studio lot or into the offices of one of the nation's biggest insurance companies who gets the breaks. The guy who asks for exactly what he wants, or steps into the role of who he wants to be as if he's always been entitled to it, that's the guy who becomes a legend.
 
Doing things the "accpeted" way ... when has that ever gotten anyone the title of "third richest man in the world," or "multiple award-winning producer and director?" Is it the guy who "plays ball" who ends up being a Tom Hanks or Warren Buffett or Steven Spielberg or Richard Branson? None of these guys was born into what he became. Each made his place in the world by taking risks, being audacious, and picking up again and again to try over and over.
 
Today, right now, decide what you want to do. Write a letter to your heroes, and ask them to give you personal and pointed advice about becoming who and what you want to be. Get in your car (or on a train or a plane) and go knock on the door of someone you admire, just to ask them how they did it, and how you can do it too. Go bang on the door of a company you've always wanted to work for and ask them what you can do to start working for them RIGHT NOW.
 
If you get a rejection, what did you lose? You didn't have the advice, the job, the opportunity, the contract before you took the risk. So you don't have it after ... so what?
 
But if you get accepted? If you win? If you get the job? If you make a powerful new friend? If you get the client or the role or the opporutnity you were after?
 
You've risked nothing and gained everything. Anyone who knows anything will tell you that's a good deal. Warren Buffet would tell you it's the secret to an incredible life.


Like what you're reading? Consider tipping the author!

Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.