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Whatever rings Mel's bells

Posts Tagged ‘learning from mistakes’

Time for a change

Well, the Christmas sales season has come and gone, and I’m sad to report that my sales were weak.  I certainly can’t point to anyone for that except myself.  I left a lot of opportunities on the table because of my schedule and my need to prioritize.  Frankly, it’s kind of insane to try to run a business with everything else I do!  And when you consider that I’m selling in a glutted field, it’s not hard to understand my distinct lack of wild success.

Honestly, I look at my pieces and I don’t see a common thread.  There’s nothing recognizable about my pieces – nothing that makes them obviously mine.  Nor is there anything to set them out from anything else on the market.  I have a couple of amazing ideas in the works that will make both of those true, but unfortunately they both require time commitments that I just can’t fulfill right now.  :,-(  Though I am slowly squirreling away all the supplies and tools I need to make them happen.  And eventually, I will get laid off and have some time…  But that doesn’t help me now!

The other thing about my pieces is that they don’t stand out.  They’re balanced and attractive, aesthetically pleasing and sometimes meaningful.  But I don’t think they’d ever make someone stop in their tracks and release an involuntary gasp.

Basically, I’m saying that I don’t think I’m a particularly special snowflake, and I’m tired of putting this kind of energy into a business endeavor that isn’t going to go anywhere.  So it’s time for a big change.  Like, a REALLY big, world-shaking, life-changing, paradigm-shifting change in direction.

I look around, and I say, what’s selling?  What do people want to buy that I enjoy making?  What can I make that will satisfy my desire to create, and also satisfy a need (or desire) that people actually have?

Short story long, I’m going into the wedding market.

Starting this weekend, I’m going to pack up my office and all the unfinished or half-finished projects so I can start developing new products.  Pinterest is quickly becoming my friend!  I’m getting great ideas for what brides are looking for right now, and I’m going to use those as guidelines to design things like attendant gifts, table decorations, and of course jewelry and accessories for the bride herself.

On one side, I’m very excited!  Big projects and plans always get my peanut brain going, and I love developing ideas and figuring out what I need to make them happen.  On the other side, I’m scared. To. Death.  Change of this scope is daunting, to say the least.  Comfort zone?  Not even sure where it is at this point.  I need to reinvent myself, rebrand what I do, and in some ways start from scratch.  Practically, this means everything from business cards and packaging to descriptions on every social media site I have a presence on.  (See what I mean about big plans?)

I guess what I’m saying is, watch for updates.  It may take me a few weeks or even a couple months to get what I want to do right, so you might not hear much from me right away on new product.  Rest assured, I’ll be busy behind the scenes.  And when I emerge from this dark, scary cocoon, you’ll be treated to some amazing things!  I may even share some of the process as I go…  Sneak peeks, anyone?

So stick around.  There’s a lot to see, and though its going to be a rocky time, it’s also going to be fun.  And after the growing pains are done, a whole new world is going to open up.  Hey look, I’m excited again!

Sale Fail

Have you ever had a marvelous idea?  Have you ever implemented said marvelous idea, and been on the eve of pushing the button to make it happen – only to realize IT CAN’T?

Yeah.  Turns out I’ve screwed the proverbial pooch on the fancy Grand Opening of my shiny new Zibbet store, The Bead and Bean.  The sale was to be BOGO free over the weekend, plus free or discounted shipping rates.  Then Monday it would go to 30% off the whole store, and be that way all next week.

Unfortunately…  Zibbet’s sale function doesn’t accommodate BOGO sales.  And while I can do free shipping, I can’t unless I do a percentage-off sale.  So I changed my welcome message to explain why I’ll have to credit back those amounts via PayPal after the sale, and prepared to go through a lot of hassle.

Then I looked at it from the customer’s perspective.  And immediately decided that as much hassle as it was for me, it’d be more for them!  (Or, perhaps, for you…?)  So I said, screw it, I’m just going to do 50% off the whole store with discounted shipping.  And if I get a bunch of people who each buy one item for 50c and I have to pay $3 to ship them out…  Well, maybe they’ll be happy enough to come back later and buy again.

More importantly, I’ll sleep well tonight knowing I’m not making my customers jump through hoops in an attempt to get them to give me more of their money.  Because, pardon the language, but f&@k that.

Putting out fires at work

Usually when I use that phrase, I’m referring to urgent problems that I have to solve quickly.  Yesterday… not so much.

Yup!  Real fire!

Not a big one, mind you, but still, fire.  Open flame in a place where no open flame belongs.

Brent and I were pulling string into conduits in the north grade level, and Dave was up on a scaffold with Kim, showing her how to cad weld.  He decides to shield everything below from sparks – but he chooses to use a piece of cardboard.  I’d say that was his first mistake, but actually it was his second.  See, Kim was supposed to be his fire watch.  Which means she should have been down below him where the sparks would fall – and (incidentally) where the fire extinguisher was.

So the flammable-object-as-fire-protection was actually his second mistake.  It lit, of course, so he put it out.  Sort of…

Yup!  Third mistake was not making sure it was completely extinguished, which he compounded by then dropping the cardboard off the scaffold.  Needless to say, it flared back up and next thing you know, there’s flaming cardboard landing a foot away from me.

It was easily fixed, of course.  Grab cardboard (by non-burning end), stomp on cardboard, double check that it’s really out.  Problem solved.

But still, it was the talk of the crew for the rest of the day.  And probably will be when I get in today, as well!

No NaNo

Not this year.  Nope, I’m skipping NaNoWriMo this year.  I turned in my ML card and threw in the towel.

It feels strange, but not bad.  I mean, it turns out that noveling is just not my thing.  And that’s good information to know – that it’s not my strength.  I learned a lot about myself from trying NaNo 3 years in a row, and I’m glad I did it.  But I’m not gonna do it again.

Instead, watch for FAWM – February is Album Writing Month!  Yep, the shortest month of 2014 will spawn enough material for an album.  (Not that I expect it all to be good enough to publish!)  The goal is to write 14 songs in 28 days.  I did it this year and I got 9, which falls short of the goal but is 9 more songs that I would have otherwise.  And it gets me writing, even collaborating with other writers!  So it’s really a great thing.  Like NaNo, there are no prizes, and their website connects you with other songwriters all over the world.  I haven’t been writing much lately, but I have been collecting ideas to work on in Feb.  In fact, I’m having to remind myself that I’m allowed to write the other 11 months too, not just save everything up for Feb!  LOL

So when that rolls around, I may (if I’m feeling bold) share a link or two here for you to enjoy.

Or maybe not.

Crazy girl

I’ve had a tough couple of weeks.  Adjusting to a set schedule, especially one that requires a constant resetting of my body clock, has really set me on one ear mentally.  Today (Or was it yesterday?  I can’t remember.) I realized how much it’s getting to me.

Realistically speaking, it makes perfect sense, since this comes on the heels of a summer of stress – both good and bad.  I flew pretty high for a while there, and when I fell…  Oh boy, was it a hard hit.  I’m still reeling from it, in fact, and every day it feels like it gets worse.  But I’ll survive it, just like I survive everything else.  Problem is that I really need to accommodate and account for the stressors in my life, rather than just try to shrug them off.  Water may run off a duck’s back, but I may not actually be a duck.  I may be a loofah.

Tonight I’m staying up all night.  Why?  Because I feel like it.  Because I can’t sleep, or at least I don’t feel like I can and I don’t want to try.  But as bad as this is for me mentally and physically, at least I went to breakfast with friends and then came home alone.  After all, I could have slutted it up with some random dude from Moondog’s, or texted a booty call to one of the couple options I have there.  Why didn’t I?  Well, when it comes down to it, I didn’t want to.  I don’t want to be that person who can’t be alone, who has to find solace in meaningless “connections” because the loneliness is too much to bear.  Fuck that.  (Yeah, yeah, I know.  I try to keep my language relatively clean.  But sometimes f-bombs must be dropped to provide a proper earth-shattering effect.  So please bear with me.)  Where was I?  Oh yeah, fuck meaningless last-minute hook-ups that only provide a temporary respite from the basic solitary existence I’m in right now.

Someday I won’t be here.  Someday I’m going to find a partner in crime; somebody who I can trust, and lean on, and who I know will always be there for me.  Somebody who I’m excited to come home and see at the end of the day, who sends little chills up my back when I see him/her, and who gets my motor running both with and without trying.  Somebody who’s worth the effort that a close relationship requires, and who thinks I’m worth the effort too.  And you know, as much as I like the couple of guys I’m seeing, they are not this person.  And if this person came along tomorrow, I’d have to let my current “friendlies” go, so that they can find their own match.  Not that I don’t like them, not that I don’t enjoy their company, but let’s face it; if I thought we’d work together in the long run I wouldn’t be lonely tonight, would I?  I’d be with one of them.

Yup, someday I’ll find that person (again) and I won’t have to be lonely.  But until then, I’m going to choose to continue this lonely, crappy, frustrating, depressing existence that I’m in right now.  It really sucks coming home to an empty home, but it would suck worse to be coming home to somebody I wish wasn’t there.  I’ve been there, and I don’t intend to go back.

Refinement

There’s a bit of religious imagery that has stuck with me since childhood.  In I Corinthians 3 Paul talks about all of our works being tried by fire, and the unworthy things are burned away and the worthy things are refined.  He says if we build with lasting materials our works will survive the fire and we’ll be rewarded, but if we build with “straw and wood” it will be burned away and we’ll be left with no reward.

I’m not religious any more, and I don’t believe that this will ever literally happen.  But I can tell you for sure that it happens to me all the time right now.  Troubles come along, and they set my life on fire.  And let me tell you, having your life set on fire is not fun!  It burns, it hurts, and it’s really scary to see everything you’ve built start to melt down around you.  But I’ve found that when I face my fears, and come to terms with reality, and accept what is really happening, I can use the situation to become a better person.  But it’s not automatic, in fact it takes quite a bit of effort.

First, you have to ask yourself how you got into this situation.  Think of what you could have done differently.  Imagine a similar situation happening again, and see yourself doing it differently next time.  Recognize the flaw, the mistake, the error, the blindness, whatever it was in yourself that either caused or allowed the bad thing to happen.  If nothing you did contributed to or exacerbated the problem, then think of what you can learn from what you’re going through.

The important part is to look.  Look at what you’ve done.  Look at who you are.  See yourself, see the great parts and the icky ones both.  See the things you love about yourself.  (If you can’t see them, ask a loved one to tell you one thing that they like about you.  Then remind yourself of that wonderful characteristic EVERY DAY.  Tell your mirror three times a day how awesome you are because of ________.  Repeat till you believe it.  Then repeat some more.)  See the things you don’t like about yourself, and then figure out what you can do about them.  (If you can’t figure out what to do about it, ask a loved one for advice.  If you don’t have any loved ones that you can trust with either of these tasks, that’s what professional counselors are for.)  Look at yourself honestly, seeing both good and bad.  Know thyself, as it has been wisely said for millenia.

When the trouble-dragon comes around and starts burning your whole world down, it’s natural to fight it.  It’s natural to want to stay wherever we are, and to look at the destruction as a bad thing.  But pay attention.  The things in your life that are worth saving – genuine relationships, healthy behaviors, a positive attitude, a strong moral code – will survive the fire.  They may be melted a little, they may need to be polished and get a little TLC after all that stress.  But they’ll survive.  And the things that aren’t worth saving – fair-weather friends, unhealthy habits, negative attitudes, loose personal ethics – will be fueling the fire, and they’ll be consumed by it.  After the fire dies down, you’ll find yourself with more room to breathe and to rebuild.

So I’m not afraid of the fire.  I don’t particularly enjoy going through it, I’ll tell ya that much!  But I know that whatever it takes away, even if it’s something I desperately wanted and depended on, I can survive on what’s left from it.  And I know that whatever is broken down in the fire can be rebuilt afterward.

Silly me

I did something rather embarrassing a couple nights ago.  Was heading home and stopped in the left turn lane, as was the person in the nearest oncoming lane.  The light turned green, and since my turn lane has its own protected light (the kind with the arrow that lets you know you have the right of  way) I started to turn.  But the oncoming vehicle came through the intersection anyways!  Well I was a bit perturbed, and honked lightly to let the idiot know he jumped the light.  That’s when I looked up and realized my light hadn’t turned yet.

*sigh*

Yup, turns out the thru traffic had the green, and I still had a red.  That’s what you get from putting two lights next to each other and the third light WAY UP ABOVE where the person in that lane has to lean forward over their dashboard to see their own light!

I’m just glad I waited before I started my turn.  Would have had a really bad night if I’d caused an accident and had to explain to the responding officer what an idiot I’d been…

Scratching in the kitchen

No, I don’t think that came out right.  COOKING from scratch!  Yeah, that’s better.

It all started with that silly cornbread.  Yeah, I bought some corn meal and followed the recipe on the side for sweet cornbread muffins.  They were a hit with the family (and I loved them) so after a while I started thinking of other things I want to make from scratch.

Then it was chicken soup.  That was partly because I was feeding the cats cooked chicken, and I didn’t want to waste the bones and scraps.

Now, I have homemade marinara in the fridge, I’m improving the spices of my chili recipe, and today will be breaking out the masa and making corn tortillas.  Just for the fish.

I guess I’m getting some cabin fever, but I don’t really want to get dressed and go anywhere I don’t have to.  So instead, I go into the kitchen.

Since when did I become this domestic?!?  Knitting, baking, cooking, what’s next?  I don’t want to become Martha Stewart!!!

Nah, it’ll never happen.  First of all, the cats eat anything decorative that they can reach.  Hell, I can’t leave any open space in the up-above, lest I walk into the kitchen and find a cat up there!  Second, I don’t have the patience to do decorative stuff on a large scale.  I get bored too easily!

But maybe I’m channeling just a little bit of my grandmas.  I’d like that.

But not the pot-smoking, sun-worshiping, drunk-riding-on-horseback-home-from-the-bar bit of Grandma.

I’ll skip that part.

Another reason I love science

So last post I wrote about how great it is when you’re wrong.  Specifically, how great it is when you realize you’re wrong, and you figure out how to fix it so you’re right again.

After I wrote that, I got to thinking about why else I love science, which is the scientific community.  That’s right, all those nerds with pocket protectors and coke-bottle glasses with tape on them.  They’re my buds!

If you recall, it all starts with a question in your mind, which you answer with a hypothesis.  You then use that hypothesis to predict what will happen next, and if you’re right then it lends credence to your hypothesis.

This is where experimentation comes in.  So what does it take to create a good scientific experiment?  First, it has to be observable.  In other words, is has to be available to the senses of anybody who is interested.  For example, if I say that I can communicate telepathically with aliens and perform dozens of experiments in which I write down the contents of the telepathic conversations I have, my research will not be taken seriously.  (Note that this actually doesn’t prove I didn’t talk to aliens, it just means that I have no evidence.  Which is why the burden of proof is on the positive side of things.  You don’t have to prove I didn’t talk to them, you can just say, “That’s nice,” and get the hell out of Dodge.)

Second, it has to be repeatable.  I have to be able to perform the same experiment over and over again, and get the same results each time I perform it.  This ensures that the answer you got was not the result of an aberration.  In other words, repetition shows that you got a real result, not a fluke.

Third, it has to be controllable – you have to be able to change things about the experiment to figure out what’s really going on.  For example, you can hypothesize that the protective outer coating of a seed also makes it harder for the seed to sprout.  So you might plant a bunch of seeds that you’ve nicked to see if they sprout faster than intact ones.  In this experiment, you can plant some seeds that you nicked on the bottom, some that you nicked on the top, some that you nicked on the side or end, and some (a ‘control group’) that you didn’t nick at all.  This way, you get to observe how the different actions change the outcome, and you therefore learn even more.

(Keep in mind that this does not in any way discount the value of observational studies, where the hypothesis cannot be actively tested but can only be supported or disproved by observation.  In fact, there are many branches of science where observation is the only way to experiment.  Theories found by observation are no less true or trustworthy than those found by intentional and active experiments.  Even though some people like to think they are.  Ahem, climate change deniers…)

So what’s so incredibly cool about scientific experimentation?  Well, since the knowledge you get is gained from repeatable and observable and controllable actions, it’s accessible to everyone.  EVERYONE.

Yep, universal knowledge is real!  If I say XYZ is true, and this is how I found out about it, the skeptic in another city or state or on the other side of the world can perform the same experiment and see if I’m off my rocker.  And if it doesn’t work, than s/he can say, “This doesn’t work, I tried it.”  Then I can come back and ask if s/he controlled for ABC factor, or used UV protective glass, and why those would have affected the results.  So then my friendly little skeptic can try it again taking those factors into consideration, and suddenly ts/he says, “Holy crap, it does work!”

See?  It’s not that I was wrong, it’s that the methodology used was wrong.  But since all the details of my experiment can be compared to all the details of his/her experiment, we can compare notes and figure out why we got different results.  And then we find – THE TRUTH.

Hot damn, that’s fun!

Remember, if other ppl can’t verify your work, then you might as well not even do it.  Because science is at heart a peer-reviewed undertaking.  Medical and scientific journals?  That’s my pocket-protecting heroes’ way of saying, “Prove me wrong.”  If nobody can, then it really is right!  If somebody does…  Well I guess that’s the point we go back and figure out what went wrong, huh?

And as I wrote in my last post, that’s a good thing in and of itself.

Why I love science

Philosophy is divided into three categories: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.  I will briefly (and very imprecisely) define these as what is real, how we learn about it, and whether it’s good or bad.

Epistemology is basically the means by which you find and explore truth; the means you employ to find out about the world around you.  Personally I am an empiricist, which means different things to different people (Of course philosophy isn’t confusing, what makes you say that?) but to me it indicates an emphasis on observable reality as a means to find truth.  In other words, we learn what is in the world by observing it and interacting with it  So I’m more likely to believe what you tell me now if you’ve told me things in the past that turned out to be true.

I also put a lot of stock in science as a way to understand the world.  After all, one of the basic components of the scientific method is observation.  In fact, that’s how it all starts.  You observe a phenomenon and describe what you observe.  Then, you formulate a hypothesis to explain it – an idea that you *think* is the cause.  Third, you predict what else will happen if your hypothesis is correct, and last you perform experiments to test your hypothesis.  (Some people mistakenly equate a hypothesis with a theory; in fact, a theory is a hypothesis that has been tested many times and passed said tests.  Theories are much more certain than simple guesses.)

This method of learning about reality can be applied in an incredible variety of ways.  You can use it in your garden to figure out what flowers grow best; in your dating life to find out what potential romantic interests want; at work to get a promotion; and on your children to see what gets them to heed their curfew.

Of course, it isn’t always the best method of deciding on your next action.  You will probably want to consult a garden book, your wingman, an article about climbing the corporate ladder, a parenting class, or even just Dear Abby, first.  After all, why not try to learn from others’ mistakes and successes first?  At least then you might learn fewer things the hard way…

But sooner or later you say, “I wonder what would happen if,” and you can’t find the answer anywhere.  So you decide to figure it out for yourself.  You decide to try telling jokes as a way to break the ice with the ladies.  Girls enjoy a good laugh, right?  Make ’em chuckle and maybe they’ll accept a second date.

So you memorize a few jokes and head down to your favorite watering hole.  Sure enough, it works!  You leave that night with a pretty girl’s phone number and a date for next Friday.  Success!  The date goes great Friday – for a little while.  Halfway through the salad, the laughter becomes forced and she’s looking around the room instead of at you.  What went wrong?

This is one of my favorite parts of science.  That’s right!  My favorite thing about science is that it leaves room for you to be wrong.  Because you’re supposed to be wrong sometimes!

And that’s where the real learning comes in.  You excuse yourself from the table for a moment, go to the restroom and reflect a little.  Does she not like the jokes?  Did I offend her?  There’s no politics, no religion, no cursing.  (Okay, the one about the duck was a little blue, but that’s the one she laughed hardest at!)  Maybe she’s getting tired of the joking, maybe she wants to talk about something real.  Hmm, she has mentioned the decor of the restaurant three times.  And I think she’s some kind of art major.  Oh, I’ve been telling jokes all night, and monopolizing the conversation!  No wonder she looks bored!

So then the light goes on, and you revise your idea of telling jokes.  When you get back to the table, you ask her if she saw the sculpture by the entrance.  Her eyes light up and suddenly she’s interested again.  Success!

What have you done?  You have ERRED!!  Your knowledge that jokes are good and get you attention was incomplete, and you had to admit to yourself that your knowledge was not sufficient to explain the situation.  But good for you, you were able to adjust a proven belief (girls like funny guys) in the light of new evidence (just telling jokes is not enough to keep her interest) and change your understanding of reality to conform to what you observe.

Thus we see the beauty of science – when done correctly it is self-correcting.  Any time the evidence contradicts our understanding of the world, we must re-examine our understanding to take the evidence into account.  Our beliefs must conform to the world, not the other way around.

And that is one of the greatest strengths of science.  As long as you look at the world clearly, you will be able to find truth.  It may be difficult, it may be time-consuming, it may be frustrating.  But as it has been said, the truth is out there.