Working on Fantasy Maps

Lately, I’ve gotten back into fantasy map cartography and I’ve been experimenting with different tools. I started with Inkarnate and love all the ease of use of it. However, I soon discovered Wonderdraft and gravitated to it like a moth to a flame.

My free evenings and mornings have been working on maps and experimenting. The first thing I did was recreate the Isle of Amum in Inkarnate to test it out. It turned out pretty darn good but my color style is too garish.

Here’s the original ink version in my notebook.

Isle of Amum – Ink

Here’s the final version in Inkarnate.

Made with Inkarnate.com

The thing that drives me nuts right now, and I need to work on it, is the scaling of the maps. That and adding borders in Inkarnate. I’m sure there are ways to do it but I don’t know how at the moment. Still, the map is pretty nice and high resolution. It can easily be used in fantasy campaigns.

Next, I tried out Wonderdraft and fell in love with it right away. The software isn’t as “polished” as Inkarnate BUT it’s very well thought-out. It doesn’t have as many symbols but the ones it has are nice and they give maps a more organic feel.

The first map I recreated is Central Etheras, the general area where our fantasy campaign takes place. For the first pass at making a map, I was able to come up to speed and make it look really cool.

Central Etheras – Our Fantasy Campaign

The only downside to this map is not Wonderdraft itself, rather it’s the biomes. The world we play in was procedurally generated using donjon.bin.sh tools. The biome generation on Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator is better but I didn’t know what I was doing a few years ago and just ran with a fancy map from donjon.

The next Wonderdraft map is where I started getting fancier. I’m working on making detailed map sections now that I have a map I like. I have no name for this “world” but this was fun making it. I did use the auto world generator but I still like dropping pennies on a blank piece of paper and then roughly drawing landmass outlines.

Fantasy Map – Unnamed

Here’s the next one I’m working on, which is looking pretty big. I like this one a lot and will develop it over the next week or so.

New World Fantasy Map-01 – Unnamed

I don’t know why I like making maps but I think it has to do with when I was a teenager and all the fantasy books I read. I read those books as a way to escape the hell that is teenager-hood. Who knows, but it’s fun. So I’ll keep doing it.

Make a Big Impact in Your Life

I owe all my success in life to effective communication. This includes my professional life, my love life, and my social life.

In this article, I’d like to share two tips for effective communication in your professional life.

It’s just three small tips with huge payoffs! Read on…


In my professional life, I work as a sales engineer, data scientist, and master of duct tape. I stick things together to make them work in a high technology field. It’s one of the most affirming and exciting things I’ve ever done in my life and I look forward to going to work every day.

How did I go from “zero” to “hero?”

I didn’t go to school for computer science or data science, I have a degree in Civil Engineering. I worked as a Professional Engineer for over 20 years. So how did I get here?

I got into this field by luck, curiosity, hard work, and communication. I had started a blog on data mining that turned into a full-blown career in the startup world and data science, and I couldn’t have done it without communicating complex ideas simply and effectively.

It appears that recruiters are searching for those communication skills as well:

However, the difference between a good Data Scientist and a GREAT Data Scientist is often not found in their technical ability or their amazing mathematical genius. Data Science exists to provide a service to business and business is run by people. If Data Scientists cannot comfortably communicate with their non-expert colleagues and bosses, then their effectiveness is greatly reduced. They need to communicate easily with people, to understand, to interpret, to translate.

How did I go from “zero” to “hero?” By learning public speaking, writing with style, and making pretty pictures.

Take a Toastmaster’s class

One of the best things I ever did for my career was to take public speaking classes. Before those classes, I used to only speak to other engineers. When I typically started a conversation with them I would say, “I used a c value of 0.95 for that section of impervious cover.

They’d nod their heads and understand what I said perfectly. A non-technical person would be scratching their heads wondering if I was speaking in a strange language.

…I seem to make people cry a lot…

Over time I learned that it’s the non-technical person that was in charge of budgets and/or making business decisions. If they have no idea what you’re doing or you can’t persuade them that your project is critical, they’ll allocate time and resources elsewhere.

You must communicate effectively to non-technical people to persuade them for that important win, budget, monies, or decision.

So what’s the solution here? Is it making pretty images or large displays? Is it writing at a level for non-technical readers, or is it being able to speak clearly? The answer is all three.

Achieving proficiency in all three is completely feasible but it does require some time on your part.

How do you do it? How do you start? You enroll in Toastmasters.

Yes, you get your ass up in front of people and work toward becoming a certified Toastmaster. To achieve that status you need to give 10 speeches, each one with a specific focus.

The first one is the hardest, it’s the icebreaker. You have to get up in front of people and introduce yourself for 3 to 5 minutes.

Then you progress into speeches to inform, to persuade, or to evoke an emotional response (I seem to make people cry a lot).

My current career relies heavily on the skills I learned being a Toastmaster, as does my partner’s career too.

The best part about joining Toastmasters is that it doesn’t break the bank. Yes, there’s a membership fee but it’s nominal and you have clubs in churches, libraries, and schools. Just visit Find A Club link and enter your zip code. Done!

Joining Toastmasters all those years ago was the best thing I ever did, it yielded the highest professional return in my life for the smallest investment of time.

Elements of style

I met Robert in graduate school. He was a Canadian man in his late 60’s, retired, and living in the States with his wife. He woke up one morning and enrolled in business school where I was.

“Tom, this book made a big difference in my writing and I hope it does the same for you.”

We hit it off and worked on many class projects together. Over the semesters he started to share his life with me. I was impressed and inspired by the life he had led up till then.

As a son of Chinese immigrants, he settled in Canada, worked in a dry cleaner, then owned a pizza parlor, started and sold a newspaper, and became a writer.

He was the most interesting man I’ve ever known up till that point and he remains a good friend to this day.

As our graduate life came to an end, we went down to the local pub for a celebratory drink. We had spent a good 3 years together, writing, learning, and presenting. We reminisced about all the good times and commiserated on the bad times.

You’ll never remember all the Macbook versions out there but you will remember the Apple logo.

After the second drink, he reached into this bag and handed me a small sliver-looking book.

He looked squarely in my eyes and said, “Tom, this book made a big difference in my writing and I hope it does the same for you.”

Robert handed me a book titled “Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

It’s a tiny book that packed — and I mean packed — elements of writing compositions, style, and grammar.

Over the years that gift has made a big impact on my writing and I refer to it when I need to edit a lengthy text or just need some inspiration.

Thank you, Robert, you have no idea how your thoughtfulness has impacted my life.

Visuals, it’s about the visuals

The last item that made a big impact on my life is understanding that the majority of people in this world are visual learners. That means they learn best from pictures and visualizations.

A single photograph can inspire a call to action or change the narrative of war.

I took up photography many years ago as a way to express my creative outlet and have spent countless hours reviewing and analyzing photos.

In that time I’ve learned a few things about images and visualizations.

The most effective and powerful images are the simple ones. I’m not talking simple flowcharts, but the ones that are stripped down to their bare essentials and focus on my key thing, whatever that thing may be.

Every commercial and every advertisement we see seeks to focus your eye on one thing.

You’ll never remember all the Macbook versions out there but you will remember the Apple logo.

How many Nike shoes did you have? You’ll remember the swoosh first.

When you create visuals and images, you have helped the viewer train their eye to the most important part of that image. That’s how you make an impact.

To see a non-commercially inspired set of images, I suggest you visit an art museum. Walk around the halls in the different periods, see what images resonate with you.

I’m partial to the abstractive art and Wabi Sabi types of Art. I like minimalistic art because it makes a powerful statement that leads viewers to read into any way they see fit.

You will need to figure this out for yourself and see what works best in your career!

TL;dr

Sign up for Toastmasters. Learn to write better. Make pretty pictures.

How Passive Investing Saved My Life

Passive investing saved my life in many ways, but not in the way you think. It didn’t swing from the trees like Tarzan and snatch me away from a charging Rhino nor did it give me a Flu shot. It did it in two main ways: Saving my time and avoiding costly mistakes. How? Read on my friend, read on.

I know many people that lived through the Real Estate boom and implosion in 2008. My wife and I bought our first home and first rental property back in 2004 and 2005. Prices and values were going up and up and we managed to swing these two properties financially. I was also trading ‘machine-learned’ market models to help my trend trade Forex and some stocks. I thought I had found the means to a quick retirement and wealth. Everyone thought they did.

I was wrong.

First the Boom, then the Bust

When the Real Estate bust happened, it wiped out friends and colleagues. Luckily we had the rental property rented out and it was generating enough income to cover all expenses, so we operated at break even. A friend of mine blew out spectacularly. He nearly lost everything and is now – 10 years later – finally recovering.

After all the injection of money from the Federal Reserve and the backstopping of the financial institutions, the markets stabilized. Not until after trillions of dollars of wealth evaporated. I don’t need to go into a history lesson here, but it was the closest this generation ever got to a Great Depression.

My 401K shrank, my Forex models blew up, my stock models stopped working, my office was close to shutting down. It was horrible but it was the best thing to ever happen to this us and this generation.

Cynicism and Clarity

I hear it all the time, the Millennials aren’t investing in the stock market. How are they going to save for their retirement? Why aren’t they stock trading like their parents? They’re just passive investing and it’s costing us money!

The Millennials are cynically, and rightfully so. This generation of people apply logic and well thoughtful arguments to cut through the bullshit. They see Wall Street’s game and don’t want to play it UNLESS it’s on their terms. That’s clarity and good for them. They know the system is rigged.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase a product or service using one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep my content free of charge to you.

Rigged System – Long Term Investing

It is rigged. The entire stock market is rigged. Howard said it best here:

The markets rarely frustrate me but the players do. I invest and trade assuming the markets are rigged…because they are.

The markets are one big reflection of a hidden shit-show run by shit people. Ok, I’m generalizing here and there are some good people in the markets but for the most part, it’s one big scam meant to separate you from your money. Usually via fees but often through bad investment decisions.

Here’s a few off the top of my head:

-Brokerage Fees

-Trading Fees

-Expense Ratios (Fees)

-Management Fees

-Hot Stock Tips

Like Howard, I don’t hate the markets at all, I just want to outsmart the masses. I didn’t know how until I read this book, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.”

The gist of the book? Long-term investing always wins.

Long Term / Passive Investing

A Random Walk Down Wall Street takes a data-driven approach to the markets and shines a light on all the ‘hocus pocus market participants believe in. Elliot Wave, Technical Analysis, Day Trading, etc. Can you make money using Technical Analysis, sure. It might work now but won’t work at some point in the future. How about Elliot Wave? Of course, a broken watch is right twice a day.

Investors get tripped up when they do stuff like Day Trade. They churn up fees, make some money, have to pay taxes, etc. Then one day the market turns against them and they give back a lot of the gains. I’ve seen many a ‘day trader’ blow up and this one is a classic. Yes, there are ways to limit your exposure by stops or risk size positioning but sometimes you need a blowout to reevaluate your choices.

Markets are great teachers if you only listen and learn.

I switched from active trading to passive trading around 2010. I stopped chasing stocks and forex markets after my models blew up. I realized that I was just being lucky. A rising tide lifts all ships and I mistook luck for brains.

Instead, we started maxing out my 401K’s and IRAs. We saved up more money in our accounts, paid off debt where applicable, and remodeled our kitchens and bathrooms.

The Advice

I took the advice of the book and started to do the following:

  • Invest in index funds
  • Buy funds with low-cost fees
  • Don’t market time
  • Dollar-cost average (easy to do in a 401k)
  • Assemble a portfolio that is diversified across many assets
  • Adjust my portfolio based on my risk tolerance and age
  • Sit on my hands
  • Turn off the screens and focus on my hobbies

Well, number 8 isn’t in the book but the first seven are. Once I started doing 1 through 7, I started doing better. I sat on my hands because I realized that I suffer from market panic just like everyone else. I wanted to time the market and look like a hero but that’s just luck. Like right now, there’s a Wall of Worry in the markets, I call it the Trump Trade. No one knows which way the market will go in the short term but in the long run, it goes up.

Do I own a few individual stocks? Sure but that’s really mad money for me. I barely trade and I save money from not creating taxable events and commissions via my retirement accounts. I have more time to spend with my family and invest my time with them, instead of staring at a screen and building models that may or may not work. If the market goes down? So what? I’ll just buy more shares in my funds when my 401k contribution hits.

So what if the Markets are rigged? People have such a short attention span with everything that they can’t see that long-term and passive investing is the way to success. It has been for me. I can sleep at night knowing that I’ve saved time, money, and stressing about the future.

The Sages at Reddit

I’ve been updating my Python Forex Trading Bot tutorial with new trading classes for my readers to try out. No matter what I code and try, my bot keeps losing money. These results reinforce my beliefs on passive investing.

Then I stumbled across a post in r/AlgoTrading

I find that passive investing does just that, especially if you’re diversified. You don’t know which stock will do well but a basket of them will probably do well in the long run.

This sentiment is what Jim Simon alludes to in his ‘fallow ground’ comment toward the end of the TED Talk. His hedge fund has pretty much cracked the Wall Street code through mathematics and simulations. If I had another lifetime, I’d become a mathematician and try this.

How to Blog Yourself to a New Life

I’m going to start this post with a big helping of gratitude. I’m so grateful to the 1000’s of readers that helped me get into the field of Data Science and Machine Learning. I was a part-time blogger that turned my passion into a full-time gig in the AI Startup world. This post is my way of paying it forward to you. Read below if you want to learn how to make money blogging.

My Journey

I started a blog back in 2006 writing about trading stocks and foreign exchange (Forex). I used my blog like the modern-day twitter/microblog than like a real blog these days. It was that, a weblog of what was going on in my life. I used it like Twitter, writing short updates as blog posts, and ended up amassing 100’s of useless posts. I don’t regret that because that’s what the Internet was like back then.

The sad reality is that work can sometimes paralyze you.

My blog came into being because my work was boring. I was working at a transportation firm as a Civil Engineer and my work life wasn’t very exciting. Don’t get me wrong, Civil Engineering is a great career but over time it turned out that it wasn’t for me.  

I had a hard time getting out of bed every morning and my mood was always sour by the end of the day.  It was starting to affect my family life and that was like a major warning bell for me. I needed to make a change but what?  I felt trapped at work, who would hire this 44-year-old man? I doubted myself and along with it, my confidence fell apart. 

The sad reality is that work can sometimes paralyze you. You end up doubting yourself and your abilities. It’s damn right scary when this happens and I knew I needed to make a change back in 2007. 

I needed to find something that matched my short attention span and was challenging. But what? The ‘what’ was starting a new blog in 2007. What I didn’t know was that this blog would change my life over the next seven years.

I started Neural Market Trends right after my old blog crashed and I lost all my posts. I needed to create a new one and I got bored writing about general stock market stuff. I decided to apply Data Mining (aka Machine Learning) to the stock market and see if I could make market predictions and post about them. If I got them right the majority of the time, I could amass a following like Seeking Alpha or other blogs.

I had found my passion, my true calling.

Of course, I wanted to start trading these models and make a lot of money. I had dreamed of trading my way to freedom where I could start a new career as a stay-at-home day trader. These were all dreams I had while I worked in a constrictive corporate office. I was being smothered and I needed freedom to move around. I like to think, take naps (for creative purposes) and blur my work and personal life. 

I’m not an ordinary guy that can do a 9 to 5! I am not a standard interchangeable ‘labor unit’ and I knew that I was worth more than what I was being paid.  

All these feelings and thoughts help me push ahead with my new blog. I started writing about trading models built with a powerful machine learning suite. I poured countless hours into this software, learning, building, and ultimately teaching. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was learning Data Science. I spent countless hours, days, and weeks writing and sharing with my readers. Then suddenly, my readership exploded! I was being backlinked, cross-posted in other blogs, and ultimately invited to speak at the first RapiMiner conference. 

Everything started to align 3 years after I started my blog.  I knew right then and there that I wanted to get into this field. I had found my passion, my true calling.  Yes, it took 3 years of working and writing to finally uncover my passion. I don’t mind that it took that long because some things need time to ‘gel’ in your mind. Sometimes you have to keep working to push through the obstacles.s

How do find the thing that makes you want to get out of bed every day?

Fast forward another 4 years and I switched my career into Sales Engineering at a Startup. I was offered a position at the Startup because of my blogging and communication skills, so in 2014 I said goodbye to a career that was stable and boring for one that was unstable and exciting. I found something that got me out of bed every morning, excited for the day ahead, and made me feel good when I went to bed at night. My mood changed, I rebuilt my confidence, and I became a better father and husband. I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming but life has been pretty awesome since then.

Ok, enough about me. Let’s do you.

Find your Passion and Work at It

It took me 3 years to find my passion and another 4 years to execute on it. You could make the argument that once I found my passion I should’ve found a new job right away! Well, the job I had paralyzed me and I had serious doubts. These were the thoughts running through my head:

“I’m not good enough” or “No one will hire me, I’m too old” and even “What if I fail?”  

I will not deny that those thoughts are real and YOU will face them but in the end, they are nothing to worry about. I’ll write about these thoughts later, for now, let’s talk about YOUR passion.

Some people have summarized Ikigai into four questions, which is pretty helpful.

I found my passion by scouring the Internet for Machine Learning papers, reading some early blogs on the subject, and devoured anything I could find. I learned about Regular Expressions, taught myself Python, and followed every crazy whim I had. 

What if you’re not as lucky as I was? What if you’re paralyzed in a crappy job or an oppressive career? How do find the thing that makes you want to get out of bed every day?

I’ve given this a LONG HARD Thought over the years and it comes down to a simple Japanese principle called Ikigai. 

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. You can read more about in the link but the gist of it is, what gets you out of bed in the morning? It’s your reason for being alive, your meaning of life, and that is what makes your life worth living. 

There are 100’s of bloggers that post Venn diagrams of Ikigai and their methods of how to make it all work. You should search for it but you’ll find that it’s become too commoditized. They miss the point of the entire meaning in my humble opinion.

Some people have summarized Ikigai into four questions, which is pretty helpful.  The four general questions you should ask yourself are:

1. What are you good at

2. What you love to do

3. What the world needs

4. What you can be paid for

You’ll realize that these 4 questions are part of a greater whole. That whole is your being for existence, your Magnum Opus, your life’s work. When you answer these questions, honestly, and when all work together in harmony, you’ll be the happiest person in the world. There’s nothing that can describe the feeling when all four of those questions align for you, you will just know it.

Still, you have to figure it out. So how do even start?

Getting Started

Getting started is the first step and it’s the hardest step. Getting started means thinking about what you want and then making a plan to achieve it. The sad thing is that this is the biggest hurdle you have to overcome and the probability of failing is very high.

How do you NOT fail?

I found out a long time again that people fall into three main groups for learning. These groups are visual, auditory, and kinetic.

Mind map drawings are the perfect way for you to ‘download’ all the stuff that’s been floating around in your head.  

Visual learners learn best through pictures, drawings, and slides. The majority of us are visual learners. Auditory learners learn best by reading or listening. The last group is Kinetic learners who learn by doing. They work at it in a physical sense. 

My proposition to you is to either write your new life down (auditory), draw it out (visual), or go for a walk (kinetic). This will make sense below. 

Write it down (auditory)

I’m starting with auditory learners because it’s my second method of learning. If it wasn’t then I wouldn’t be writing blog posts! The key thing to note is that Auditory learners love story-telling and reading. It’s their main way of learning. So let’s get started. 

First, get a blank piece of paper and a pencil. You’ll write down some questions that you’ll ask yourself. These questions will be very personal and may take some time to think about. 

If you don’t have any idea about what kind of questions to ask yourself, the following are a good start. Write them down and answer them.

“In my free time, I like to do”

“My hobbies are”

“If I had a chance, I would like to do this for a living”

“If I had more time to dedicate to this, I could be great at it”

“What will people remember me for?”

“If I could change the world, what would I do?”

Then I read them aloud and listen to them. I’ll even put the paper down and think about what I heard myself speak. Then I’ll read them aloud again. 

If something doesn’t feel right, I’ll change my answer or ask a different question. 

After a while, you’ll hear some interesting patterns in your answers. You’ll hear what your passion is. When you do, write it down and circle it. Put stars around it. Paste it to the wall and look at it every day. 

Mind Map Drawings (visual)

The next method is a visual way. This is my primary learning method and although I’m a terrible artist, I like to make mind map drawings. 

Mind map drawings are the perfect way for you to ‘download’ all the stuff that’s been floating around in your head. 

Here’s one I did a few years ago.

To get started with a mind map, get a piece of paper and a pencil. Then put a stick figure of yourself in the middle of the paper and draw circles around you. I usually do about 5 and then start filling up the bubbles.

What do you fill the bubbles with? 

The Big Rock items.

Fill them with what’s important to you. Things like family, your life, relationships, and work. Fill them with what you like to do and want to do. Think about what you love to do, what the world needs. 

Starting writing down anything that comes into your mind, it’s ok to edit and restart. Mind maps capture very fluid thoughts and subtle patterns. Some of these patterns are weak and others will be strong. 

This exercise will take a long time and you might have to start over a few times but stick with it. You can even use the writing prompts from the Write it Down section. If you get stuck, I recommend you do that. 

Go for a Walk (kinetic)

Going for a walk is a rather strange way to find your passion but it touches on the concept of ‘no-mind.’ 

No mind is a state of being where your body does something without thinking about it. It’s like the martial artist that practices the same moves every day, over and over again. On the day of the fight, he/she executes the moves without thinking. 

Your mind becomes calm and all the daily chatter goes quiet. Going for a walk helps clear your mind and allows you to be open to receiving your passion. It will happen in a flash. It will seem magical but it’s not, it’s been inside you the entire time. 

Once your walk is over, take a piece of a blank piece of paper and write down any flashes of inspiration you had. If there was no inspiration today, then go for a walk tomorrow or try a more vigorous form of exercise. Keep repeating this method until inspiration hits.  If it doesn’t, then try adding the writing prompts or mind mapping exercises above. 

Summary

By the time you’ve run through this section, you should be able to find something that excites you. A ‘seed’ of passion at the very least. If you don’t, then keep working at these exercises till you do. This step is the hardest and fraught with a high failure rate, don’t stop. 

I touched on the concept of Ikigai, a great starting point to help you frame your existing and future life. Remember those four questions from above?

1. What are you good at

2. What you love to do

3. What the world needs

4. What you can be paid for

Want to know what my answers were? After mind mapping, lots of walks, and writing every down I came up with these answers and key points.

What am I good at? Public speaking, writing and communicating.

What do I love to do? Solve problems and communicate.

What does the world need? AI Transformation, automating processes.

What can I be paid for? Being a Sales Engineer.

What are my hobbies: Blogging, photography, reading.

What are my Big Rocks: Family, writing, personal growth.

You Found Your Passion! Now What?

I’m so happy you found your passion, what do you do now? You will waste all your effort now if you don’t make a plan and execute it.

I didn’t have a plan in the beginning and that’s why it took me 7 years to change careers! I’m not sure if I could’ve done it sooner but in hindsight, I shouldn’t have let this slip. 

Take the time to think about a great domain name, register it, and then host it with  Bluehost or Dreamhost.

A plan is a set of measurable smaller goals that keep moving in the right direction. Your passion is what will drive you on.

The weird thing is that as you make your plan execute it, your passion might change. That’s ok, you might evolve and what got you excited in the beginning might not be the thing that you end up with!

The reality is that can’t go cold turkey overnight. I’m a big fan of easing yourself out of your old life into your new one. 

It all starts with a blog and we’ll focus on that. 

Start at the beginning – Set up a blog

Now, let’s get to the blogging part of this post. You’re going to need a blog if you want to “blog your way to a new life.” The good news is that setting up a blog has never been easier. There are so many ways to do it, you can sign up for a Blogger or Tumblr account or you have to host it yourself.

The best way is to host the blog yourself. If you use a 3rd party blog provider like Tumblr or Blogger, you can be removed at any time for the smallest thing! This has happened when malicious readers decide to ‘mess with you’ and it can cause weeks of headaches. YOU should be the Master of Your Domain!

Take the time to think about a great domain name, register it, and then host it with  Bluehost or Dreamhost.

DreamHost

Once your blog is ready, you’ll have to start writing about your passion. Now comes another problem, understanding the difference between writing and making content.

Anyone can write content but making great content is hard. If my passion was to make a sourdough bread baking blog, I could write about a recipe and post a few photos. That would be writing content and if I did that, I wouldn’t get very far with my blog.

There are 1000’s or even 100,000’s of bloggers that do that. They write some words, sprinkle some images, and call it done. Then they wonder why they have a very mediocre site in the end.

Making Content

Making content is HARD and it will consume a lot of your time. Do not skimp on this. If you ever think “Let me skip this step so I can post faster,” stop what you’re doing and take a step back. Don’t skip because the difference to your readers is in the details. 

Readers can discern a half-assed post over a quality post in the first few minutes of reading the post. They’ll bounce on your videos in seconds if it’s too kitschy or passes over your link in the search results.

Your blog will become your online resume and your brand. You need to protect and cultivate this from the very first day you launch your blog.

Let’s take the Sourdough Bread Baking Blog idea from above. 

Making content would look like this to me:

1. Well lit photos of different parts in the sourdough making process

2. A video or two of you kneading the dough and a timelapse of the bread rising as you’re baking it

3. A short video for Instagram on you cutting through the bread so people can hear the crunch and see the crumb

4. An infographic of your recipe

5. A detailed post of the recipe with a link to another post on how you made your sourdough starter

6. Sharing the infographic on Pinterest

That’s a lot of work and it will slow the frequency of your posting down, but it will be worth it in the end. 

Go To Market Strategy

I touched on this in my Sourdough Bread Baking Blog idea but it’s worth expanding on. When you’re making content you need to think about how it will be consumed. 

This ties into how people learn (auditory, visual, kinetic) and what channels you’ll use.

At the beginning of this post, I wrote about Finding Your Passion and how people learn in different ways. The same is true for those types of people when they consume information. If you want to reach a lot of auditory learning people, consider adding a podcast version of your post. If you want to reach visual learners, consider making an infographic. If you want to reach kinetic learners, consider making a video of you doing whatever it is you do. 

This extra content is what I call companion content and is important in your Go To Market strategy. This is about finding the right group of people to consume your content and build your brand. You need to always think about what the easiest way your readers will consume your content.

The last thing you should do is add a companion video for your blog post. This way can highlight key things in your blog post and the video for people to pay attention too. 

By creating a video you’re also increasing your consumption channels. Your blog post will only show up in one consumption channel, search! If you make a companion video with your blog post, your post will show up in search AND YouTube. You’ve doubled the chance that someone will see your content!

The same goes for other social media channels like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Not every channel will be best for your niche but you should consider each on its merit. 

Time is all you need

I wrote that it took me seven years to turn my passion into my new life and I suspect it will take some time for you as well. I don’t know how long it will take but you need to stick with it. There will be highs and there will be lows. It’s NOT easy. 

Many bloggers will say “stick to a posting schedule” and that has some merit if you’re only writing content. When making content you should always focus on details and great content. It will take all the time it needs but in the end, it will make a deeper impact. 

Don’t worry about posting frequency and instead focus on quality. 

Over time you’ll notice that your blog will start gaining traction on the search results. People may start sharing your posts on Twitter or Facebook. You’ll get comments on your posts or likes on Instagram. Once that happens, KEEP GOING!

This will be hard to but keep making content. It will feel like a second job and it will drain your energy but that means your life is starting to change. You’ll start to be known as the “Bread Gal” or “Mr. Fix It Dad.”

Monetization Strategy

Let’s face it, if your passion project, your blog, starts to feel like a second job, you should start earning income. I turned my passion into a full-time job offer with a big raise to my salary at the time. It was a no-brainer for me to take the offer and the rest is history for me. 

Your experiences will be different. You might get offers to join startups or something else. Consider those offers if they make sense to you. If not, then consider monetizing your blog.

There are several ways to monetize your blog and I’ll touch on the big ones here.

1. Google Ads

2. YouTube

3. Affiliate Links

Google was once a sure-fire way to make a lot of money if you had the traffic. Then there were the ‘me too’ clones that promised more CPC and revenue than Google Ad competitors. This was all fine and dandy until one day the ad killers came. The Ad killers were either browser addons or built into the browser itself that strip the ads out of your posts. The reason why was that ads clutter up your content and people like reading clean content. 

You can still make money from Google Ads but I wouldn’t rely on it as the main source of your income. People will use browser add-ons to cancel out your ads. 

YouTube

YouTube has a way to monetize your videos if you have enough subscribers and view time over a year. This is not an instant money maker but if you grow your subscriber base and have high view time, you can make a lot of money.

YouTube is great for people who make things. Bakers, Cooks, Travelers, and many more can make great video content and post it. In time you’ll notice which topics in your given passion are popular and you can tailor your content to it. 

I like Affiliate Links because they’re unobtrusive and they’re reader-friendly. Amazon has affiliate links, Dreamhost and Bluehost do as well. These links cost nothing for the readers. When the reader buys a product or service from the Affiliate, the blogger gets a cut of the ‘commissions.’

This is a win-win situation but abusing affiliate links is very common. Many ‘Sploggers’ will write some crazy content so they can rank on Google and then try to get you to click on the link. This isn’t very cool, period. 

Affiliate links only work well if you become a trusted blogger and content creator. You use the products you recommend or have used in the past. For example, I’ve used Dreamhost in the past and still use it for managing my Domains. It’s a great hosting platform for starting new blogs. If people click on my affiliate link and start a hosting plan, I earn revenue. 

Putting it all together

In the end, blogging yourself into a new life is hard work. Nothing worthwhile will ever be easy BUT it’s so rewarding. Imagine waking up every morning and doing the thing you love and making money at it? You’ll never be unhappy again!

I hope that this post stirs you to action because I’m living proof that it can happen. I never thought that my passion would’ve led me to a new life. It’s been the best ride of my life and I know you can do it too.

Helpful Infographic

Please feel free to share this infographic if it’s helpful to you!


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase a product or service using one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep my content free of charge to you.

The Big Rocks

I’m was in Silicon Valley in 2019 for a few days to attend our yearly Sales Engineering (SE) training. It’s a great way for the growing SE team to get together and talk shop. I find these yearly meetings very useful but they’re hectic. Fun but hectic.

I love being in California. It’s such a wonderful place for the outdoors and ‘chilling’ in cities like San Francisco. I’m a big fan of the SoCal desert areas and Joshua Tree is one of my favorite destinations. Ever since I lived in Albuquerque, I’ve had a pull toward the mountains and deserts. Yet it seems that I won’t get away this time for much-needed fun out in those mountains.

There’s always time for work, but never enough time for yourself or loved ones.

I pondered this as I was flying 36,000 feet over the United States and it reminded me of Franklin Covey. I’ve learned that YOU have to take the time for yourself. You have to make it point to go work out, hike, and have fun. It’s those “Big Rocks” that Franklin Covey once wrote about. The Big Rocks are those important things in your life. Family, love, personal care/growth, etc/ Put those in a jar and you’ll see that space is still there. Then you add sand, and the sand fills everything up. The sand is your work life. There’s always time for work, but never enough time for yourself or loved ones. 

…noise robs you of your precious time.

It’s easy to lose track of this habit and I’ve been guilty of this for sure. Still, it’s not a bad thing to lose your way from time to time, the real bad thing is not to course correct. 

To achieve this I plan on digging out my old 7 Habits for Highly Effective People and giving it another read-through. I’m going to focus on all the habits but I’ll spend time revamping my Google Tasks to accommodate something called “quadrants.”Covey broke down tasks into four subcategories and when you do that you identify the tasks that are noise.  This is important because noise robs you of your precious time. Spend more time on important tasks and don’t do the unimportant ones.

What legacy am I leaving behind?

Once you do that you can free up your time to focus on those Big Rocks, and that becomes your legacy, and I ask myself what legacy am I leaving behind?

What legacy are YOU leaving behind?


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase a product or service using one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep my content free of charge to you.

The Social Contract is Broken

Workers are organizing and fighting back – it’s about time

I’m happy to pile on to this video that exploded over the weekend. It’s of James Iannazzo formerly of Merrill Lynch. He was, until a few hours, a wealth management advisor and supposedly one of their top performers. He’s been fired and now arrested.

All over a smoothie.

Good. Fuck that guy.

This shit happens more than you expect because it happened to me when I was teenager, over 35 years ago. I worked low wage jobs in the 1980’s. I pumped gas, I bused tables as a bus-boy, and I worked the overnight shifts at a 7-11. I had to deal with all kinds of ungrateful people that wanted to shit over a kid trying his best to serve them.

…he flips his lid and threatens to “put my ass in a sling.”

I remember one Sunday afternoon when I closed up the gas station. It was 5:55PM and I needed to lock the pumps and count out the register. That would take me all of 5 minutes so I’d be done at 6PM. Why not close at 6PM and stay till 6:05PM, you ask?

Simple, my boss told me to do this because he wouldn’t pay me after 6PM and I shouldn’t donate my time for free. Wise words from “El Heffe” but looking back now I realized he was a pretty cool boss.

At 6PM, just as I’m about to lock the front door a guy comes in to get gas. He jumps out and asks me to fill it and I kindly reply we just closed. He starts to get cranky and tells me to get the key to open the station back up and I reply again that we’re closed. Not getting the answer he wants, he flips his lid and threatens to “put my ass in a sling.”

So now I flip my lid and proceed to tell him that 1) he’d be assaulting a minor, 2) I memorized his license plate, 3) people are watching (it was a busy intersection), and 4) to go right ahead asshole. Call it 16 year old hubris or stupidity but I wanted to fight. He thought about what I said and got into his car and drove away.

Looking back, my altercation couldn’t gone a completely different and possibly violent way if it happened today.

The customer is not always right

I’m here to write that the customer is NOT always right. They’re not right if they belittle you, verbally, emotionally, or physically assault you. Once they attack you in any of these manners you have a right and a duty to fight back. If your manager or company doesn’t have your back and tells you to take it because it’s part of your job, then you tell them to fire you or quit on the spot.

Low wage workers are told they’re expendable, are forced to work in crazy conditions, and get paid at a poverty level.

I told my boss what happened the next day and he had my back. He called the police and let them know what happened and gave them the license plate of the guy’s car. I don’t know if anything ever happened to that jackass or not, but at least if he came back and this happened again it would be on some record somewhere.

I get it, everyone has bad days but don’t take it out on people that are working too hard for minimum wage. They’re people too and you are not always right.

The great worker awakening

Ever since the pandemic took hold workers have realized that 1) they keep the corporate machine running, 2) they’re treated like shit, 3) and are severely underpaid. The Trump and Biden direct payments was the match that struck this new worker revolution.

(c) Pixabay

Workers woke up and realized that they’ve been getting the short end of the stick, the social and moral contract between humanity was broken. We keep hearing horror stories about this especially from companies like Amazon and 1000’s of others. Low wage workers are told they’re expendable, are forced to work in crazy conditions, and get paid at a poverty level. Companies than cry when no one wants to work anymore when workers just get up and leave. They leave because they’ve been treated like shit.

Wouldn’t you?

Add in the deaths of nearly 1,000,000 Americans, early retirees, and people quitting en masse because of the Covid19 shit show, you now have a recipe for workers to demand more and get more. Add in Internet and smart Millennials that can out maneuver Boomers and things are looking good for workers.

The current system we have in place is broken

For the first time in a generation, workers of today can change the narrative of the social contract between us all, if they stay together and “put the pedal to the metal.”

The social contract is broken

I fully believe that our addiction to permagrowth and toxic capitalism will destroy this planet. It’s already destroying lives by treating people as expendable labor units – in MBA school we called them labor units. Yes, the dehumanizing starts in business schools.

A growing majority in Congress still fights to prevent us from having universal health care and caters to the corporations over the citizens that they’re supposed to represent. There are so many other ills in our society (i.e. racism) that it would take paragraphs to shed light on them, but the one thing that’s clear is that the social contract – what it means to live as humans with one another – is broken.

The current system we have in place is broken. When we have the richest men and most valued companies in the world and yet we still have poverty and hunger in this country. We have so many inequalities and so many wrongs that need to be righted.

The current social contract needs to be ripped apart and rewritten. We need a new social contract, one that values us humans as humans. One that has universal healthcare, one that treats workers with respect and pays a living and increase living wage. We need a new contract that actively fights systemic racism and one that mandates equality.

We need a new social contract that satisfies the needs of people first before it satisfies the greed of a few. We need to realize that there is power in the tribe and there is an unspoken rule that if you “shit on one of us, you shit on all of us.”

We must make this change before it’s too late, before we leave our children a dead world while we clutch our dollar bills in our graves.

Managing Your Time with Stoicism

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking

Lately, I’ve been reading Seneca as part of my exploration of Stoicism. As I get older and weepier, I’m drawn to philosophical things. I’m going to be freaking 50 years old in just over a year. If I were to die today, I would not want to go gently into that good night, but I would die satisfied. My life is awesome and I have a wonderful family and children. We live a life of adventure and I have a deeply meaningful career. Still, I want more! MORE!

I watched the video below and it made me pause a bit. I realized that I could squeeze more out of life if I paid attention to where I was wasting my time, so I wrote down in my journal a few big items that I need to work on. I recommend you journal AND watch the video below. I’ve added my keynotes for your reference below:

To live well we must be constant students of life

  • Seneca’s essay “On the shortness of life” reminds us that time is a non-renewable resource
  • Treat time as a commodity, people guard their property but squander time
  • The amount of time we get is uncertain, you could die at 20 or 100 years old
  • Death creeps up on time wasters
  • Make the most of time, it is an amplifier when used properly

Don’t invest your time preparing for life

  • Seneca pushes us to live right now and not to delay happiness
  • Your typical life is work till 60 years old, retire, and then be happy. Why wait for happiness?
  • What usually happens is you are too old to enjoy life when you retire and regret not making the most of life
  • Plan the big things in life but don’t delay living your life

Live life for YouR own self

  • Being busy with things we don’t like is the greatest distraction of your life
  • We waste time at jobs we don’t like, relationships we’re not happy in, etc
  • Invest your time into making a life worth living

Practice Premeditatio Malorum

  • While you waste your time by procrastinating, life goes on
  • Researchers call the dissonance of “short-term gratification vs long-term commitments” as time inconsistency
  • To fight this, use Premeditatio Malorum which is a form of negative visualization
  • Think of what could go wrong with your long-term task and then make plans to achieve it. This will offset the distractions

Make Long Term Rewards Immediate

  • The need to procrastinate is the most powerful RIGHT at the start of work
  • When rewards are years away (i.e. diploma, career, et), you tend to procrastinate
  • To overcome, you must bundle a reward at the start of the task
  • You can eat a piece of cheesecake when you lost 10lbs or give yourself time to browse the web once you finished those pesky spreadsheet tasks

Make the Most of your Free Time

  • Too often we waste our free time with stupid stuff. Gossiping, drinking at the bar, etc
  • There’s plenty of time to do everything we want if we just stop wasting our free time
  • We work hard to earn money and free time, so why waste that precious free time
  • Use your lunch hour to explore the city, write in a journal, play an instrument, read, etc
  • To beat mediocrity and start living your life, make the most of your free time

Spend time reflecting on your past

  • Present time is transitory (it’s moving), the Future is uncertain, and the past is unalterable
  • Seneca says to pay attention to the past, so you can be effective today
  • Personal note: Journaling is a wonderful way of capturing the past

Stop Wasting Time in Life’s Trivialities

  • We are all guilty of wasting our time on trivialities (Social Media)
  • Social Media sucks your time away
  • When you’re happy, you fill your time with activities that are valuable and meaningful to the vision you want for your life

Invest your time creating new memories

  • While you preoccupy your time with trivialities, death approaches that you can’t escape
  • Invest your time into creating new memories and philosophies
  • Memory is more enduring than grief (Ed. Very true. I call it Adventuring)
  • Memories may be fleeting but they deliver more happiness than anything else
  • Do yourself a favor and take on challenges and adventures, learn to play music, travel, etc

Invest your time in Philosophies

  • The Study of Philosophy is the most invaluable teacher
  • Study as much philosophy (current, past, etc) as you can because it will help you in your life
  • Your life will expand and your wisdom will grow
  • A Philosopher is a lover of wisdom: truth, virtue, life, and death
flag of the usa on a pole

What I Learned Running in My Town’s Local Primary ELection

Over the past few months, I turned up the privacy settings on my social media accounts, hid my photography and writings, and monitored my Google search page results. Why? Because I was running for a primary spot to be my Borough’s next Councilman and I didn’t want the opposition to find any shred of information to hold against me.

Yes, I expected things to get brutal and they did. It was hard for me to believe that but it came to pass. The reason? I was running in the Republican primary and in my town there was a clear divide between the MAGA nuts and general Republicans.

Politics on the local level are vastly different than on the national stage. At the local level Republicans, Democrats, and Independents argue over the level of funding for things like the Fire Department, Schools, the Library, which roads to pave first, etc.

At the local level, your party affiliation tends to matter less because we’re all neighbors.

We see each other at town events or at the local supermarket. Yes, we have differences of opinions on how things should get done but we all agree that the business of the town needs to be done and we all agree we should move forward.

I knew I had to do something, I had to stand up and defend the line…

But something happened to my beloved Borough, and it started in 2015 when a certain public figure rolled down an escalator in New York City. Living in the heavily Blue (Democrat) state of New Jersey, our Borough is heavily Red (Republican).

At first, this man, who would become President, rallied many people where I live to his cause. He was an “outsider” and a businessman, two things that many people in my neck of the woods thought were good qualities.

We all know how this country 4+ years later was divided and set aflame with vitriol. What happened on a national level trickled down to my backyard. Schisms started to appear in my town, the MAGA movement started rallying people and they started to get into positions of power.

First, it was a seat on the Council, then it was a few Board of Education (BOE) seats, and then the threat for this year and the next — the packing of the Council and BOE with their candidates.

I knew I had to do something, I had to stand up and defend the line, especially against the MAGA ideals. I had to stand up and do something, for respect, inclusion, and for decency.

In March of this year, I got a tap on my shoulder from friends I knew that asked if I wanted to throw my hat in the ring as a Borough Councilman. The MAGA movement in town was planning on running two candidates, one to throw out the incumbent (my future running partner), and take over a seat for a retiring Councilman.

I saw my chance to stand up and say “STOP the Insanity” but I had to change my party affiliation back to Republican.

What? Back to a Republican?

I registered as a Republican when I was 18 and stayed that way till 2018. Why? Because I was always conservative at the local level but I saw the greater picture on the national level. It’s ok to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal and that seems to fit me well.

In 2018 I just couldn’t stand it anymore at the national level, I just couldn’t be a registered Republican anymore and became an Independent. That small change is what contributed to my loss.

We self-financed this campaign and spent the cost of a small vacation overseas on it, and still lost.

A hardcore Republican would probably faint (or get the vapors) when I say we should have tighter gun regulations and that a woman should have the right to choose.

Hell, I stood up in front of a monthly Council meeting and supported our town’s very first Gay Pride event. Yes, I believe in inclusion. I believe in equal rights for all. I believe in the separation of Church and State, vehemently.

I am a man that cares about people. I care about where I live, and about leaving it a better place than when I first moved here. I had been serving my Borough for 17 years on various Boards and Committees because that was the right thing to do in my mind.

I’ve always believed that a strong community begins with being a volunteer, and both my partner and I did. We volunteered and stepped up for our community.

The last two months have been brutal. It took a Herculean effort on my part to not only juggle work, kids, and life but to add running a political campaign to the mix.

Not only did I become insanely stressed and every ounce of my time was taken over, but then there was the money part. Everything costs money.

We had to order mailers, yard signs, a photographer, and a video editor. Then there was the Meet and Greet dinner and speeches (I liked the speeches part).

Every time I turned around our Committee was writing a check from the funds my running partner and I put in there. There was always someone to pay or some new invoice received.

We self-financed this campaign and spent the cost of a small vacation overseas on it, and still lost.

Despite losing, these last few months have been amazing in many ways. I got to talk to so many decent people in the Borough. Our platform and message resonated. There still were decent people out there, they were just hiding, scared of the MAGA movement.

The other part of me just wants to focus on writing and being a Maker again.

My running partner and I brought the conversation and narrative back to the center for all residents. We were a breath of fresh air that was needed and residents from all walks of life and political persuasions told me that we were the right ticket for this town.

But alas, it was not enough. Our platform didn’t appeal to more voters. We lost by a 2 to 1 margin. Ouch. I suspect it’s because the MAGA movement had taken deep roots in this town and spread faster than I ever imagined.

The MAGA cancer is spreading and surgery (elections) alone can’t fix it anymore, we’re going to need a lot of chemotherapy (hearts and minds) to kick it back into remission.

We’re going to need more people to stand up and draw their lines in the sand and defend it tooth and nail.

Ilearned a hella lot from this campaign, but where do I go from here? That’s a great question and I have to do some soul searching first. Part of me wants to continue with some sort of activism, in areas where more warriors are needed to defend the line.

The other part of me just wants to focus on writing and being a Maker again. A maker of videos, content, books, and stories. I want to create things that resonate with me and others. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a life coach or start a ministry?

Despite where I end up I know that I will always take with me the honor and humility that a percentage of my Borough’s residents voted for me. They were the silent defenders of the line I drew and I was honored to serve for them and with them.

I wholeheartedly believe that evil prevails when good men and women do nothing. Although we lost the battle yesterday, the war still needs to be won.

So I ask all my readers, all my brothers and sisters in arms! Stand up and defend the line with me.

Thank you.

Work From Home is Here to Stay

Work from home (WFH) is here to stay if you’re lucky and fight for it. I keep hearing from my customers that more and more companies are starting to reopen and call back employees to the office, except many are not coming back!

That’s music to my ears!

After dealing with the sudden pandemic shutdowns, juggling work-home duties, and dealing with the isolation, the majority of American workers powered through this hell. We did it. We kept our companies afloat and not just survived, but thrived. I don’t know about your work environment, but we accelerated our productivity over the last year.

As companies open up, they’re making demands for workers to come back to the office. They’re asking employees to prove to them why they should keep the privilege of work from home.

Say what?

We kept your asses afloat during the pandemic and you want US to prove to you that we should be able to continue WFH?

SLAM! That was the door closing on the employee exodus. Workers are not tolerating this bullshit and it’s leading to a massive talent shuffle.

Boomers Love Control

I recently shared a Bloomberg article on my LinkedIn wall and added some commentary.

I wrote:

Seven years ago I left the Civil Engineering industry where Work From Home (WFH) was frowned on. The people in charge of the companies assumed that you’d be goofing off if you did WFH. Then the Covid19 pandemic hit and those Engineering companies HAD TO ADAPT and allow WFH, after all, there was always a deadline to meet.

This Bloomberg article really nails the feeling of many professionals that are forced to come into work when a WFH scenario is in everyone’s best interest.

“…there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions.”

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

This article is a shot across the bow to all industries. WFH is here to stay and if you want to attract and keep key talent you’re going to have to evolve AND fast. #careers #engineering #workfromhome

Technology has allowed a massive swath of workers to WFH, except those in charge refused to let us do it. Because they were afraid we’d be sleeping on the couch.

Do you know what we did with WFH instead? We saved at least 2 hours of commuting every day. We were able to pick up our kids at school without rushing out the door of the office. We got to spend more time with our families or friends. We had a life in that fucked up work-life balance platitude we keep hearing.

And we were more productive than we ever.

Fight for Work From Home

The Boomer tyrants are going to work hard to get you to come back to the office, fight for your right to have a flexible arrangement.

I get it, some people like the office interaction and seeing their colleagues – I do too – but do you need to go to the office 5 days a week? Why not do a 2 day in the office / 3 day WFH, or so another arrangement that makes sense for you.

Whatever is the optimal arrangement is for you, the main premise is this: a flexible work schedule makes a lot of sense from cultivating happy workers AND productivity.

Hell, you might not need so much office space anymore and cut back on leasing costs. This might lead to less development of commercial real estate, which is OK in my book.

Seeking Bodhisattva

My posting activity has started to drop off again. This is partly due to a large workload and traveling schedule. I’m enjoying my work immensely but my blog is neglected as a result. A few weeks ago I even considered shutting this blog down because I feel like I’m like an “old man shouting at clouds.”

I’ve come to realize that my skills are not in coding but in communication.

I know that many people find value in my old RapidMiner tutorials and videos but my heart isn’t in making any new ones. My YouTube channel is also neglected partly because I work for H2O.ai now and because there’s so much free content on Machine Learning and Data Science out there now. I think that’s awesome.

There’s never been a greater time to get into Data Science and Machine Learning than ever before. There are so many ‘rock star’ programmers, Kagglers, and technologists out there now. You can’t NOT be amazed how fast the ‘AI’ space is changing, for better or for worse. I consider myself lucky to have joined near ground zero and love the fact that I’m a part of it now.

BUT.

I’ve come to realize that my skills are not in coding but in communication. Sure I code stuff, mostly to make my life easier and automating the boring stuff (great book BTW), but my expertise is best used elsewhere. Sometimes I don’t even know what this means but I feel alive when I talk to prospects or customers and help them go from a ‘zero level AI person’ to applying ‘AI’ to their problems and helping solve them. I seem to be good at connecting the dots and using tactics and strategies to solve problems. I think that’s the Engineer in me.

Someone scrawled on a wall “Be the Bodhisattva you seek.”

I’ve also become more politically aware and active over the past few years. The reason? Trump. I won’t devolve into right vs left discussions here as I find them useless BUT I’ve always been an environmentalist. This current administration has attacked so many people and groups because of their color of skin, who they love or identify as, and religion. There are so many fights to fight and mine is the environment.

Our entire planet is under assault from climate change, habitat loss, extinction, and pollution. All in name of money. Yet I’ve blogged about trading and investing. I’ve blogged about making money. Am I as complicit as credit card companies that approve gun transactions to a future school shooter?

While technically I’m not cutting down trees or killing baby seals, my recommendations, actions, and investments might support doing just that.

Am I part of the problem? Yes, I believe so.

Many years ago I took a course in world religions. I was most enamored with Buddhism, not in the classical sense but more of the Zen version. I learned about Bodhisattvas and how they chose to “out of compassion, forgo[sic] nirvana in order to save others.” Granted, I’m an atheist but I found Bodhisattvas interesting. Then I read a piece of graffiti that made me question everything. Someone scrawled on a wall “Be the Bodhisattva you seek.”

I can spend hours in flame wars with people on Facebook or Twitter about climate change and not change anyone’s position. I’ve realized that relating and compassion are much more powerful than attacking someone’s position.

I think I can help shape the dialogue in a healthy and sustainable way.

Everyone wants to drink clean water, breathe fresh air, and eat healthy food. It doesn’t matter what your political leanings are, I think this is a universal fact. However, if you tie this to work and jobs, then things get interesting. Let me give you an example:

“I don’t care about some endangered animal, I have my family to feed”

“Climate change is fake news because China wants us to be less competitive and you’ll lose jobs”

“The wind isn’t blowing tonight, so you can’t watch TV”

“There are so many job-killing regulations”

Take your pick or make your own, there are hundreds of these divisive messages out there. Why? Because of money.

As a former Civil Engineer, I can design water and wastewater plants. I’ve designed groundwater recharge systems and wetlands. I fully understand how humans impact the land, sea, and air AND I think I can help stop this onslaught. Armed with Data Science and AI, I think I can make an impact. I think I can help shape the dialogue in a healthy and sustainable way.

What does this mean for the blog? I don’t know yet but I want to become the Bodhisattva I’m seeking.