Is Anyone Reading This?

One of the things I do is take notes for meetings at work. Thanks to learning how to type when I was a young age (love you mom!) I’m reasonably good at this part of the job. After the meeting I’ll send the notes out to the team.

We’ve been so busy recently I wondered if people were actually getting to the end of my notes and reading them. So, yesterday I included the following:

I had Wheaties this morning.  It’s the breakfast of champions and this project deserves champion level effort.  

Within just a few minutes, one of the team members wrote me back to let me know that she appreciates my dedication to the project as expressed by adjusting my eating habits.

What a simple thing to a say, and what wonderful emotions came from reading it!

There actually is a greater lesson in this!

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

One way to set up a collaborative conversation (one where both parties feel they walked away better than when they started) is to think of each opportunity to speak as a vessel that needs to be filled with the other’s thoughts.

While done humorously in my situation, that’s essentially what I was doing for this brief conversation at the end of my notes.

Recently I posted about the need for collaboration not confrontation, but knowing a few snippets on how to set up a collaborative conversation can be helpful. It’s not about you hitting the home run comment. It’s about you setting up the other person to contribute.

Oh, and I got the answer I was looking for. Someone was reading!

Dear Ireland

I have a reader in Ireland! How do I know? Very few people read this blog. And, while I am casually trying to increase readership, I’m very grateful for the size of the audience who reads my posts. They’re pretty forgiving. My proofreading isn’t always the best and there’s few consistencies in what I post.

Typical Blog stats with an abnormally popular day

With the small blog audience there can be a sense of intimacy. I’ve had many of the handful of readers let me know which posts they like either via an in-person chat or a phone call. I was quite surprised when one of my coworkers approached me about a post she liked. While I do connect most posts to LinkedIn, I didn’t realize that there was anyone at work who was looking.

Someone in Ireland is looking and it just warms my day when they do! We went there once on a family vacation. It was one of those vacations to escape from a crushing weight at work and being that far away in someplace green and beautiful was quite important for my mental health. We stayed at a lovely AirBnB farmhouse that was absolutely ideal for our family. A horse on the property needed to get exercised, so my youngest daughter got to ride the horse while it did laps.

The farm specialized in birthing milk cows and the milk ended up in the Kerry Gold dairy products line–which we love! There was also a litter of cats born while we were there and my kids got to name them.

We have great memories from that trip.

I’d like to think that the family who opened up their (spare) house cared enough about our family to stay in touch by reading my blog. They were sweet, kind, and we instantly hit it off. I’d like to think that it’s them, but it doesn’t have to be.

Regular readers will note that the url for the blog recently changed from JFRoecker.com to PartkingThoughts.com. As an early adopter of the internet I’ve always been fascinated by the connectivity it offers. Even if it’s not the family in Ireland that helped us have one of the best family vacations ever, knowing someone is there reading helps me remember how powerful the tools we have are.

While I may not be as good at proofreading as some readers might prefer, I’m good enough that a few people in the world have noticed and that’s a few more than I could have ever engaged with 30 years ago.

Parking Thoughts

With the new year comes new opportunities. While much of what we make resolutions about involves improving ourselves there’s also choices we can make to improve the things around us. In this case my blog falls into this category.

For 2018 I was transitioning out of the military and the blog was designed around the idea that a future employer might google me. I wanted there to be good content online when they did.

2019 is projected to shift my employment model but not in the way it did in 2018.

So, this site was always about publishing my thoughts, but I kept it limited to mostly those thoughts that related to my profession. Now I look forward to expanding that to a more potpourri in 2019.

Welcome to ParkingThoughts.com!

WordPress Support Chat

I switched to WordPress about a year ago and never had to contact customer support–because everything was intuitive and worked the way it was supposed to.

This week I had to contact customer support. It was easy. They have a built in chat feature. The person knew what they were doing. I got my answer quickly and was on my way!

WordPress runs over 75,000,000 websites. I think part of the reason they do isn’t just because the software is OpenSource and extensible. I think part of is that they have quality for the user built in at multiple levels–the good readers who enjoy this blog, and the guy who creates the content.

A Billion to One

In the Star Wars movies C-3PO is often heard quoting the odds of something happening and it’s usually at a moment where there’s a lot of very precise digits.  So, in case you wondered the Star Wars odds for successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3,720:1.  I wouldn’t bother to confirm if this is accurate or not because this information also comes from the same universe that uses parsec as a measurement of time instead of distance.

So, this blog is not anywhere near the top 100 internet sites out there.  In fact, it’s rather unpopular–and that’s ok.  I’m not blogging for my popularity.  But, I was thinking, what are the odds of someone coming to my site?  Based upon the fact that I routinely get about 1 person in India visiting it’s about 1,354,051,854 :1.  That’s pretty humbling, but then you must realize that the people in India are on the Asian continent and so it’s more like 1,415,045,928 (China)+1,354,051,854 (India) =2,769,097,782:1.

That’s how unpopular my blog is.

Screenshot_20181010_072030

Writing Past the Professor

It’s late. You’ve been at it for hours. You got the assignment weeks ago. On this one you didn’t procrastinate. You started compiling notes. Now you’ve now been writing for hours. You look at the clock on the computer screen you’ve been staring at. Is that what time it is? It was easy to lose track about something you cared about. Finally after reading and rereading you’re done. Your logic is on point. Even the bibliography looks flawless. There’s no way you’re going to loose any points on this thing.

You turn it in.

A few days later you get your grade. A+. Congratulations!

And then a few moments later you’ve got a knot in your stomach. You thought the A+ was what you wanted, but now you realize that it’s just the nail in the coffin, and your paper is dead.

No one will ever read it again.

By the time the professor finished grading you wonder if she even remembered your third point. The one that really sold your thesis. You found it life changing and now that you’ve got your grade you know your insight wont be changing any more lives. Reality is a difficult weight to bear.

Of course just because this is a story you’ve probably lived with doesn’t mean it has to be a story you keep on living with. You’re the author of your own destiny. So change it. Take ownership and hack your school experience. Instead of using your professors as the final step in the life of your work use them as an editing service and take your work beyond school. Give someone else a chance to read what you found so helpful.

The easiest way to start this is with a blog. Squarespace.com and other hosting services offer student discounts. I don’t want you thinking that this is the road to popularity and self sustaining income, but it does give you a place to post your thoughts and give them a chance at another life. This small blog averages a few readers a day, but it really does much more for letting me practice my communication skills. Those skills are part of what helps me earn a paycheck. As they get better, the jobs I do get easier and it’s easier for my teams to do better as well.

If you’re confident about your work submit it to another site for their consideration or be really bold and submit it to an academic journal. This part could feel like a bit of a mine field, but with some effort you should be able to find an outlet for your thoughts. I’ve gotten lots of rejection. It hurts, but it’s part of the process. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

There are two reasons for doing all of this. One is taking charge of your brand. YOU! You are a brand.

There are several popular reality TV shows who’s popularity is solely based on the ability of the people being filmed to manage their branding. You can do the same. You don’t need your blog to be popular. In fact you only need one person ever to read it. That’s the person that is going to hire you. You’re going to get googled. When that happens what are they going to find? You can take charge of the answer to that question by putting some of your well constructed thoughts onto the internet.

The second reason I do this is because when I write beyond the professor I write better. I’m more passionate about my subject. I research more. I work harder. It’s paying off. My posts now appear fairly regularly at FreedomPenguin.com and I’ve even had an article published at OpenSource.com. I’m also getting better grades than I’ve ever gotten in my life. I use a professor’s comments not as the final word, but as the last round of editing prior to publication. By the way, they happen to be good at giving constructive feedback. Isn’t that what you’re paying them for?

You don’t have to live with giving life to great thoughts only to watch them die when a grade gets attached. Don’t let your grade be a nail in the coffin. Let it be the feedback right before publishing. Let it be a launchpad for something great. Otherwise you’ll be stuck asking yourself why you put in so much effort in the first place.

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