How to Spot an Up-and-Coming Neighbourhood

You’ve probably heard the saying that you shouldn’t buy the best house on the block. But everyone’s always looking for a deal, and in a fast-moving housing market, buyers especially are looking for a ‘diamond in the rough’: a good home in a not-so-good neighbourhood that they can buy for a steal and then sit […]

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The Best Investors Are Dead — Here’s What to Learn from Them

When it comes to investing your money, dead people have the right idea. Here are four things the dead can teach us about the stock market.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

What to Look for When Buying a House

In this article: What are the top features buyers look for in a home? 1. Search for the right price 2. Prioritize the location 3. Think long term 4. Assess property condition 5. Don’t focus on minor cosmetic details 6. Stick with your must-haves Starting a home search can feel a little like wandering into […]

The post What to Look for When Buying a House appeared first on Home Buyers Guide.

Can Your Craft Become Your Livelihood? A Conversation with Grant Ginder

That creative thing you love—writing, painting, designing, composing—that’s what you do for pleasure. To relax, unwind, escape. Many of us hold a belief that the thing we love to do and the thing we get paid to do can’t be one and the same. Unless, of course, you’re Lizzo or Stephen King. 

But what if that assumption is wrong? What if there's a way to add a small revenue stream, or even make a full-time career, out of the creative thing you love?

Becoming a creative begins with creating.

I sat down with novelist Grant Ginder (author of The People We Hate at the Wedding and Honestly, We Meant Well) who boldly shares his advice on how he turned his writing hobby into a profession and how he believes you can follow his lead down any artistic path you choose.

What makes someone an artist?

When I asked Grant what makes someone an artist, he chuckled before confessing that even as a published author, he struggles to claim the title out loud.

"I think … so much of it is just a matter of taking ownership. [We tend to believe] you're not allowed to call yourself a painter unless you've sold paintings. But a painter is someone who paints. …I spend a lot of my day writing, and so I'm a writer. Getting anyone else to take you seriously is to take yourself seriously. And part of taking yourself seriously is calling yourself what you are."

Addressing the mindset of art as a hobby or creative pursuit only

Many of us carry a creative wish or talent inside of us. And yet so many believe that our art—the creating—is the thing we must do after the “real job” is done. Being creative happens separately from being a professional.

"My parents… encouraged me to follow those [writing] ambitions. And if I would've told them after I graduated college ‘I'm going to go be a writer’… they would have [said] ‘Maybe you won't be doing that.’

"When my first book came out, my parents had a celebration for me and my dad was giving a speech. He said ‘Grant said he was going to write a book and we didn't believe it!'"

Then, after Grant’s second book was published, his parents (supportively) expressed the same surprise.

"It was a mixed message. It’s not just your parents [sending you this message]—I think you have pressures from all sides; from school, from media, from just looking at the world around you. It’s like the only [artists] that matter are the ones who make a lot of money. I think it’s a very skewed way of looking at art."

Making the move from amateur to creative professional

It's all well and good to say that we should all support creative pursuits as a means to an income. But how do you actually get started on making it official? The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that becoming a creative begins with creating.

"For me, the creating part was learning to set aside time, and to protect that time, to engage in this particular craft… I would write on the weekends a lot. [I had to learn] to say no to things… [because] this is the time that I've set aside to engage in this process, and I'm going to engage in this process now. Holding yourself to that and getting other people to recognize and take that seriously [is essential]."

He also speaks to the importance of consuming the art form you want to produce. For Grant, that’s the novel. But he acknowledges that it's probably the same for other creative arts like painting or music. The process involves analysis and self-reflection.

"You read a novel and you want to write one of these things. [What do you like about it? Why do you like that? And how is that writer doing that thing? And so, [you're] coming at it as… someone who's trying to train themselves in a particular craft. I think that's kind of step one in producing something [creative]."

Finding inspiration and motivation

Sometimes you don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike you. You have a job to do.

What about inspiration? Do you wait for it to strike or do you just have to start?

Grant believes the artist simply has to start.

"I don't believe that I have to wait for inspiration to strike. I actually think that this comes from my training as a speechwriter, and from writing under deadlines. Sometimes you don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike you. You have a job to do."

He pointed to an idea he paraphrased from novelist Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

"You write a sentence. Just write that sentence. And it might be a really bad sentence, but the next one will probably be a little bit better."

"I'm also a fan of super messy first drafts. I think my writing is at its worst and my process is at its worst when I get way too precious. Am I in the mood? Is the light in the apartment just right? It's like, no, just roll up your sleeves and start."

Getting your creation out into the world

Once you’ve written or painted or composed the thing, is there a clear, step-by-step roadmap to getting it out into the world? Grants recommendations were refreshing. And relatable.

1. Do your research

"I used Google. When I wrote my first novel, I Googled ‘how many words are in a novel?

"I've always loved writing. I've always loved reading. And so, on breaks [from my speechwriting job], I would write. And, I kept that up. And then… when I reached that magic number [of novel words], I Googled ‘how to publish a novel.

"My path was like a Google Commercial."

Grant's googling led him to conclude that he needed to find a literary agent. And, of course, he then used Google to find out what a literary agent was. 

"Your research is really important [in figuring out] what the next steps are and how to prepare yourself for those steps."

2. Be scrappy

"I started realizing I'd never really read the acknowledgments in the backs of books before. So I started reading the acknowledgments… and authors thank their agents. So if I really liked the book, I would read the acknowledgments and keep a list of who the agents were.

"When it was time for me to query agents… I reached out to those agents. Some of them didn’t respond, but some did. It takes a while. You get a lot of rejections. But I told myself that for every rejection, I was going to send it out to two more people. You just chip away."

I told myself that for every rejection, I was going to send it out to two more people. You just chip away.

3. Make connections

"I assume this would translate to other fields—developing a network of other writers, painters, musicians helping each other … to navigate the landscape."

Grant had no prior knowledge of the steps to take in getting a book published. He had no connections. He had only a book, a wish, and a decent internet connection. And this is how he would advise any creator to figure things out as they go.

How do you handle rejection?

Grant mentioned rejection. And I wasn’t letting him off the hook. How, I asked, do you deal with rejection?

"There is this incredible vulnerability in putting something out in the world. It's something that you've sat with for years. And it's just [been] you, engaging with [it]. Then all of a sudden it's in the hands of everyone and they're allowed to think whatever they want about it.

"I think you have to get to this state—and I'm not there yet—[but] I imagine [it’s] like the author's Nirvana… where I’ve made this thing that belonged to me while I was making it. And I am now putting it forth for interpretation… [but] texts are meant to be read and processed in a variety of different ways. And I think that… the more you can lean into that belief, the happier, and probably the better writer you can be."

Grant's advice to budding creatives

I wrapped our interview with this question: What’s the one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?

Here’s a (slightly paraphrased) summary of the pep talk Grant wished he'd received.

"Just sit down and do it. Trust the process. One sentence will lead to the next sentence, which will lead to the next. Don't worry so much. Just write the book you want to write."

7 Things to Do in the Summer for College Students With No Job

Are you graduating college or finishing the school year feeling like you’re stuck in limbo because you don’t have summer plans lined up? Perhaps you missed that internship deadline. Or maybe you have pandemic-related anxiety about working in public spaces again. You can still make the most of your summer break to further your education, […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

What I Would Change About My College Experience

  Recently, I published the post How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees and Saved $37,500. While I did graduate quickly and there are benefits related to that, there are things I missed out on by rushing my college experience. Now I wouldn’t say I had the worst college experience, but I also wouldn’t […]

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How to Manage Distractions and Become More Productive

You know how you strive to stay productive during the day…only to get sidetracked by the notifications on your phone or the donuts in your kitchen? If you’ve ever felt like you could be so much more productive if only those distractions would quiet down, then get ready to feel empowered.

I invited Nir Eyal – author of Indistractible: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life – to join me on the Modern Mentor podcast today. Nir's research has uncovered tons of actionable advice on how to take back the reins and stay in the zone of productivity. 

Nir Eyal

Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. Nir previously taught as a Lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. He was dubbed “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology” by M.I.T. Technology Review and Bloomberg Businessweek wrote, “Nir Eyal is the habits guy. Want to understand how to get app users to come back again and again? Then Eyal is your man.” He is the author of two bestselling books, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

You’ll want to hear Nir’s story firsthand – in which case you’ll need to listen to our interview. But in summary, we talked about the importance of noting and managing our internal triggers (like boredom, anxiety, or loneliness) in order to manage our relationship with external triggers (like technology, food, drink, or anything that temps us away from our focus). And more importantly, he shares how he does this – and suggests how you might do the same.

Here are some of the big ideas we covered:

Begin by understanding distraction

“The best way to understand what distraction is is to understand what distraction is not…The opposite of the word ‘distraction’ is ‘traction.'” Traction is the thing that pulls us toward the action we want to be taking, and distraction is the thing that pulls us away.

Any action can be traction or distraction. The key is in your intent.

If you’re trying to stay focused on getting that report written but your fingers keep hitting that refresh button on your Insta feed, then technology has become a distraction. However, if your plan was to finish the report and then reward yourself with 20 minutes of scrolling, then your scrolling has become your traction. Because you set and intention and you executed it.

Technology isn’t always the enemy. It’s all about setting an intention. It's absolutely OK to scroll through your feed as long as it's what you planned to do.

Traction is the thing that pulls us toward the action we want to be taking, and distraction is the thing that pulls us away.

Manage your internal triggers

According to research in Nir's book, the “pings, dings, rings, and things” we point to as distractions are only about 10% of the problem. The main reason we turn to our phone – or the donut – is due to an internal trigger. It’s what’s happening within us that truly prompts us to seek a distraction.

When we experience something emotionally uncomfortable – like boredom, stress, anxiety, or loneliness – our human instinct is to comfort that feeling with something soothing. And our phones are delighted to play that role.

Nir says, “Time management requires pain management.” And we need to understand what’s triggering the need for the distraction, in order to then manage the habit or behavior.

So next time you realize your fingers have wandered somewhere unwanted, ask yourself what's going on.  Are you anxious about that job interview coming up? Are you tired of writing this report you've been working on for weeks? Start by noting – and acknowledging what experience you're having.  This self-awareness is the first step in becoming Indistractible.

Next time your fingers have wandered somewhere unwanted, ask yourself what's going on.  Are you anxious about that job interview coming up?

Form a plan – then implement it

What distinguishes truly indistractible people from the rest of us? “They don’t have tremendous self-control. They don’t have tremendous willpower. What they have is a system in place," Nir explains. “They know what to do when temptation rears its ugly head.”

Now that you know why you're turning toward a temptation, you can devise a plan to manage it.

“The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought.”  One of the many techniques Nir employs? The 10-Minute rule. Instead of telling yourself you can’t have or do the thing you want, tell yourself you absolutely can. You just have to wait 10 minutes. If at the end of 10 minutes, you still must have it, then go for it. Ironically, research shows that more often than not, 10 minutes is all it takes for an urge to subside.

Instead of telling yourself you can’t have or do the thing you want, tell yourself you absolutely can. You just have to wait 10 minutes.

Another tactic to try? Time-boxing. Instead of falling into a pit of eternal report-writing, try committing to 15 minutes of focused writing. Then, have a plan to take a break and watch a cat video.

In this conversation, we covered a lot of ground. But a few key takeaways I carried with me include:

  • Being distractible does not make you flawed – only human.
  • White-knuckling your way through temptation – gripping your fists and saying “I can’t have it” only makes you want it more.
  • Managing your internal triggers (your emotions and sensations) will make the external triggers (the temptations calling your name) less powerful.
  • This gets easier with time and practice as you build self-efficacy. So just start somewhere today.
  • Becoming indistractible is a superpower. It’s the “skill of the century.”