On Self-Doubt

I had a meltdown about writing—the process of—this morning. Simultaneously, my son, a recent BS degree graduate, did too—about job hunting.

His email to me while I’m melting down:

I’m applying for jobs and contacting these people but when absolutely no one contacts me back I feel like I’m just sinking. I’m just looking through meetups thinking that no one will ever want to continue a relationship. I just feel like a fucking failure.”

I emailed him back:

The only thing i know that works for me to shed these feelings is WRITING them to dad, or myself. i am doing that now. literally. i had meltdown this morning so i’m journaling. i will for a page or so, then get on with watching youtubers gaming to educate myself before i continue writing the power trip—which is what i melted down on this morning. from my journal:”

The absolute hardest part about writing fiction is shutting out the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough to write this:

I’ll never get this right.

It’s too complex.

It’ll take too much research.

I’m too fragmented.

I’m not focused enough.

The subject won’t be topical if it takes too long to write.

I can’t DO this.

I keep losing the string.

I can’t hear the characters even after profiling them.

I get too wrapped up in superfluous details.

I don’t get to the point quick enough.

I don’t make it exciting, engaging out of the gate.

I’m too heady.

Too technical.

Too too too…

Give it up.

Too much work you’ll never finish anyway.

This is stupid to pursue.

You are wasting your time, not living your best life.

You’ve been working at this too long and are still nowhere…

His email back:

This is exactly what I freak out about as well. Just replace writing with coding.”

Me:

thing is, you have to combat the bullshit voices in your head.”

they are half-truths. not lies, cuz there IS truth in our fears, but only HALF truths. i can counter every one of the voices i just wrote in my journal…

Him:

But there’s always these looming feelings that I’ve accomplished nothing, done nothing. Am nothing.”

Me:

it’s not true. that’s fear—like you are a failure—because you’re scared you will be. And while the fear is valid, real, true, because there is a vague possibility you won’t find a job you want, the WHOLE TRUTH is you are virtually 100% guaranteed to find a job if you keep looking for one, and likely a coding job you’ll like.

Another truth is you’ve proven you can code as a straight As graduate with a CS degree, which was your primary goal the last 4 years. and you did it. Well!”

Him:

I seem to be unable to compartmentalize my feelings.


Me:

this is LEARNING, em, applying for your first real job that isn’t a part-time gig. you WILL get this. guaranteed, IF you keep working at it!! just like i’ll get the power trip written. see, i’ve already proven i can write with 7 books out, with mostly good reviews. and still i hear the voices of doubt as i write the lines to you above:

yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap. 

and the good reviews, well, they were just being nice. 

the bad reviews are the truth about your writing. 

so GIVE IT UP, BITCH. you will always fail at this. 

and so on…

but again, em, i can COUNTER ALL OF THEM.

yeah, you’ve written 7, but they were all crap. BULLSHIT. MANY PEOPLE GAVE MY BOOKS REALLY GOOD REVIEWS.

and the good reviews, well, they were just being nice. BULLSHIT. JUST BULLSHIT CUZ THIS IS SUCH A STUPID THOUGHT.

bad reviews are the truth about your writing. NOPE. THEY ARE HALF THE TRUTH. OR A PERCENTAGE, BUT GOOD REVIEWS ARE THE OTHER PERCENTAGE AND IN MOST CASES THE GREATER PERCENTAGE ARE POSITIVE.

so give it up, bitch. you will always fail at this. FUCK OFF BITCH OF DOUBT.

His response:

Emoji smile. Clapping hands. Thank you hands.

Read THE POWER TRIP

In the near future…4 Stanford students use Deep Learning, a bio Neural Network and Recommendation to get fellow undergraduate students to do what they want.

Chpt 2 of THE POWER TRIP is up:
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You Are Not Safe

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the world wide web. It was 1995. I was in my rented townhome in Alameda, a small island on the east bank of the San Francisco Bay. I already had a dial-up modem plugged into my Mac LC that I used to send graphic files and documents to my lithographers and commercial printers through FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

I don’t know where I heard about Netscape, probably from a business associate. But I remember the afternoon I logged on for the first time. The interface was full color visual, the first I’d seen, since FTP was only black text on a white screen and no images. The Netscape logo—the uppercase N sinking into a black globe against a starry aquamarine sky, was…beautiful. Once I registered, the next screen had bright, colorful illustrations of a spacecraft, a construction site, a radio tower and more. Under each drawing white text against the black frames said, “Explore the Net. Company and Products. News and Reference. Community.” I was floored, drop-jawed. The interface gave me choices to go anywhere. Netscape was a portal to news sites, business with ‘websites,’ online communities, a virtual store, and reference libraries from around the world.

I called my roommate into my bedroom/office space to show her what I was seeing on my screen. “This changes everything,” I practically whispered, sure that this portal was the beginning of a connected world I only dreamt of as a kid.

As I sat there clicking on each navigation link, then exploring each site the Netscape browser delivered, I recalled when I was 8 or 9 years old, sitting in the back seat of my mother’s huge Chevy, while she drove me and my sister home from school. “One wish,” my mom asked us spontaneously. “One wish. Right now. If you could have anything you want, what would it be?” She often came up with non-sequiturs like this to fill the void of silence after she’d asked about our day at school and got, “Fine,” back from both of us.

I answered instantly. “World peace,” and I meant it. My brother had come back from Vietnam a wreck. PTSD. Clinical depression. I’d watched war on TV nightly. And I’d felt war all around me, growing up in the early 70s. “I wish that everyone would be nicer to each other, and take care of each other instead of fighting all the time.”

“That’s a stupid wish,” my sister said, sitting in the passenger seat. I cowered in the back seat, and shut up. “It’ll never happen. Violence is part of our nature. We wouldn’t be here today without it, since we have no other defenses like other animals on Earth.” She was 2 yrs older than me. Surely, she must be right. She wished for a new purse.

“This changes everything,” I’d said to my roommate as I browsed the internet that first time. And I believed it. A portal to the world would let us see how others lived, and let others see what was possible. In 1960s – 1990s U.S., most of us had a place to live in, and enough to eat every day. Most kids were vaccinated from horrific diseases, and didn’t die from the flu. We got a free education, through at least high school, and 20 – 30% of the population got a college education as well. And in California, college was cheap, making it accessible to most anyone.

My roommate stood over my shoulder staring at my screen as I went from site to site. She seemed unmoved by what we were seeing, and in short order went back to her room. I stayed online the rest of the night, into the early morning hours, amazed. I pursued news sites, read articles from all over the world. We could never again pretend that Holocausts weren’t happening. We’d find out about atrocities taking place anywhere, instantly, and the United Nations would have to stop them! The privileged would no longer be able to turn a blind eye on poverty or disease, even in the most remote places in Africa or the Middle East, seeing it daily on their computers. We could talk to people around the block or in other countries we’d never meet, but share ideas, and feelings. We’d see how similar we all are, how we all feel sad, or happy, or mad at times. We could connect 24/7, and never feel isolated or lonely again. The internet was a window to the world, and the view would surely motivate all of us to care for each other like never before.

This is the argument I gave to my dad at Saul’s, eating bagels and lox a few years later. As a lover of technology since childhood, he too was on the internet, one of the first adopters in his advanced age group. He shook his head and gave me his indulgent smile.

“The internet changes nothing. It is a tool, like a screwdriver. It won’t change human nature. And it won’t save us,” he said. “We’re going to have to do that. Until we learn to care for each other beyond ourselves, we are doomed.” He took a bite of his bagel and savored the mix of salmon, onions and bread, satisfied in the moment.

“You’re wrong, dad,” I exclaimed with certainty. “The internet is connecting the planet. For the first time in human history we are becoming one world.”

“One very small world, which everyone wants their piece of,” he said. “We’ve invented technology we can’t handle, from the Bomb to this internet. Getting bombarded with information isn’t going to change how we react to it. And the more technology we invent, the more likely we’ll implode with it.” He sighed, looked at me lovingly. “You can’t change the world, baby. Best just to focus on taking care of yourself, and your family.”

It was 1998. I had no idea what was coming, how the internet would evolve into the marketing platform it has become. But I left Saul’s that morning sure my father was wrong.

As it’s turned out, he wasn’t.

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What is SEXISM?

My father raised me to believe my mother was ignorant. “Your mother, (implying like most women) is irrational. Fickle. Full of love and lightness, but not really a [deep] thinker.”

All women were (are) not as…capable as men, as the woman’s primary job—her role in society of mom, caretaker, homemaker—doesn’t take much real work, or brain power, according to my father. (His ignorance is only surpassed by his arrogance, as he left the raising his children to what he’d deemed his nescient wife.) He actually said to me, “Isn’t it odd that women can’t walk and talk at the same time,” and stopped to tell me this, in all seriousness, while we were walking.

My father thought he was inherently smarter than my mother, or any woman. He was a MAN, after all. He was well read, had to be for business in the real world, unlike silly homemakers. (My mother read the newspaper daily, news magazines monthly, new non-fiction and fiction monthly. My father read only Scientific American and Popular Mechanics, and watched TV. Cop shows, like Magnum PI mostly, where the main, white male character was rescuing ditsy, busty women.)

My mother graduated high school at 16, and attended Florida State University two years before most of the classmates she left behind in New Jersey. My father has no degree beyond high school.

My father went through five or more businesses, several of which failed, none of which ended up in substantial wins. My mother started a pilot magnet program at Cabrillo Marine Museum for underprivileged East L.A . kids, to teach them marine science. For almost 20 yrs she touched thousands of lives, many of whom I met personally, in the store or gas station, when they stopped my mom to gush that they were now oceanographers and scientist because of her program. As a woman, she made 1/3 of the men whom she worked beside, offering comparable programs.

What is SEXISM?

Sure, most of us will agree equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender is an important step in ending sexual inequality. According to Forbes, the top paid actress of 2016 is Emma Stone, at $26M. Actor Mark Wahlberg, made $68 million. Women had only 28% of the speaking roles in major movies, and Emma is the first women, at #15, of highest paid Hollywood stars. (Women are half of the human population, yet no actress is even close to #2, 3, 4….)

In 2017, 54 years after the United States passed the Equal Pay Act, on average, a woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns.

So, why, even today, are women fighting so hard for equal pay, which most of us agree is one obvious step to ending SEXISM?

BELIEF.

My father was born in 1929, when MEN WERE MEN, and everyone ‘knew their role.’ His mother, my grandmother, was a homemaker. His father, my grandfather, was a pianist for the New York Philharmonic, and the breadwinner for his family. To make it through the depression years, and the harsh realities of being a Jew through WW2, each family member had a role, a function to fulfill to assure the family unit was maintained—literally stayed alive, however modest an existence.

From caveman days through the 1940s many jobs required physical labor suited to a man’s physiology, as technology wasn’t here yet. Humans, not robotics, built our vehicles, tools and appliances, and manufacturing was a man’s job even after the war, before it went offshore.

Fast forward to present day. Last Sunday my husband is reading me an article on the feminist #MeToo movement, in the New York Times, while I cook pancakes for him and our two teens. At the end of the article he sighs heavily, his ‘this is absurd’ sigh, and says, “It gets so tiresome hearing women complain how hard they have it. It’s equally hard on men, and always has been.”

I looked at him incredulously, and said, “How many times have you been sexually assaulted on the job?”

He didn’t respond to my rhetorical question. I already knew his answer. Zero. He didn’t turn my question around. He knew an investor in my very first startup tried to rape me in my office at our Christmas party, then fired me that night for not letting him assault me. He knew my second job out of college, as an Art Director for 1928 Jewelry Company, the CEO came into the empty conference room moments after me, introduced himself, and instead of taking my outstretched hand, squeezed my breast, as if checking the firmness of an orange. I’ll never forget, he said, “Mmm, Nice!” before I pulled away, shamed as others I’d yet to meet walked in.

My husband wasn’t at my housewarming party, when a relative accompanying an invited guest tried to assault me when I found him at my work-space on my Mac. I could go on, but you get my point. And even knowing all this, my husband is “sick of hearing women whine about how hard we have it.”

Can’t blame him, really. My father-in-law talked down to my mother-in-law, probably all their lives together, but clearly in the 20 years I’d been on the scene of their married life. He was cruel and cutting with a continual barrage of snide ‘jokes,’ if he listened to her at all. My husband tells tales of his mom going ballistic on his dad every few months, probably when she’d had enough of trying to communicate with him while he verbally slammed her, or, by and large, ignored her.

To this day, most men do not BELIEVE a woman is as ‘equal’ to them as other men.

The problem is, most women BELIEVE this too. We do not feel ‘equal.’ Why would we? We get paid less for the same job. Our bodies are more valued then our minds (as so many men, especially wealthy men—think Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Fox News Roger Ailes, or Pres. Clinton—can’t seem to get their brain out of their little head). Women are rarely taken seriously by the overwhelmingly male controlled business world, nor in our home environments.

How many women reading this post did most of the cooking and serving of your last holiday meal, even with a career/job? How many of you do most of the cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring of the kids, even working full time? The fact is, according to the 50 news articles I just read, women still do 80 – 90% of all domestic chores, including kid care, regardless of her job status. Equal pay for equal work, of course, but also equal WORK must be invested by both genders to reach sexual equality.

How do we get there from here? I honestly have no idea, other than to stand up, and say “NO! Not OK,” whenever you are a victim, or see the action of SEXISM.

Since the mastodons are all gone, and we can now buy packaged meat at Safeway, we no longer require the muscular physique of the male physiology to survive as a race. Since most women are now bringing to the table of any union equal intellectual, logistical and financial support, men are rapidly losing their position of strength, figuratively and literally (with obesity at an all time high).

Men have dominated the business world from the beginning, and this too must change. It isn’t “locker room talk.” It is degrading, and women buy into it, thinking our value really is just in our breasts and how accessable our vagina to those that show interest. At the very least, women are made to feel we must acquiesce to this humiliating behavior men dish out to be heard at all.

This BELIEF, that women are lesser than men, by both genders must end, before SEXISM is a non-issue.

Humans, all of us, ACT as we BELIEVE.

Change the BELIEF, and change the actions of SEXISM.

I SEE You

I am an Empath.

Wait! Before you roll your eyes and click off this blog, I don’t have any paranormal powers. It isn’t magic that I can read people. I’m not psychic. I can’t glean people’s “energy,” whatever that means, or any of that mystical crap. I am a devout atheist, and use the word “devout” with purpose.

What I can do, is tell you what you’re thinking and feeling, generally before you know.

How?

If I’m in physical proximity to you, your body (posture, eye contact…etc.), and facial expressions give me tons of data about what you are experiencing inside your head. We all have this ability to read physicality, though most people hardly pay attention to one another, except on rare occasions. Ever had a blind date? The first second you see your date in person, you can tell if they like how you look.

In person, or not— over the wire, or web, I ask a LOT of questions. And I listen to your answers. My brain picks up inconsistencies in what you’re saying, telling me you are lying to yourself, and subsequently…me.

The first time my DH (of 20 yrs now) met my mother, she said to him, “My daughter (me) was born old.”

What she meant was, I was born plugged in. I don’t know why. A genetic anomaly? My senses feel hyper-charged—touch, taste, sound, even vision (clarity in peripheral sight) seem heightened, compared to most (and not just by my reckoning). OCD? Bipolar? Maybe. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to process the massive amount of information I get from others, and it’s exhausting. And I wish I could shut it down, live like most everyone else.

Sort of…

I’ve picked up patterns in human behavior along the way. Lots! It’s another reason I can tell what you’re feeling, often before you know. I can now predict likely responses to an enormous array of specific stimuli. It’s a fantastic tool for writing believable characters. And understanding what motivates people is equally beneficial for developing marketing campaigns with great response rates.

Yet, I struggle with living plugged in. It’s emotionally costly. I lose myself while inside others, acutely feel their pain, their sorrow, their fears and hopes. I’ve tried to shut my senses down with drugs, both prescription, and not. I had an allergic reaction to Prozac that almost killed me, and no reaction at all to weed over time.

I’ve become a recluse for the most part. I limit my friendships to very few. I stay plugged into my two teens, my DH, my bratty, but cute Shepard pound hound, which serves them well, though at times, probably not me so much. I disappear, absorbed in them. (To be fair, the dog’s needs are simple. No hidden agendas, no unconscious complexities. She makes her feelings obvious. Thank you, Ellie!) And while I’ll continue to choose living, be here for my friends and family, I must admit, there is, and has always been, a beckoning to shut it all down, turn off the input. Unplug, for good.