February 2022 Newsletter: Is Love in the air?

How’s it going?

February is moving along. It’s a strange time in my life right now. I’ve finally found some stability amidst the chaos and I am able to take it one day at a time. I work about 13 hours a week and for the moment, the extra free time has been nice. No more 40 hours a week, wake up at 3am and get home by 1pm. Just simple evening shifts and a morning shift on Sundays. I know this cannot last forever but it’s been nice during the Pandemic to finally have a chance to catch my breath. Eventually, I’ll need to be working fulltime again and even consider continuing my education to add more capital to myself.

Outside of work, I have been doing a lot more walking as per my new years resolution. I’ve gotten way too into Pokémon Go and have been battling my way across my neighborhood for the last couple months or so. For whatever reason, I’ve been getting more shinies in the last year than I have in my entire 20 years of playing Pokémon.

For the blog

This month is going to be relatively low key. My ‘State of the Blog’ post took slightly longer than expected and landed into the first week of February rather than the last week of January. Nothing too crazy there. The plan is consistency and this year should have everything I want to write about finalized. For this month I’ve been brainstorming a poem and while it’s not quite ready yet I’m excited to be writing a poem since it’s been a hot minute since my last one.

Other Things

I tried Yoga for the first time the other day! It was surprisingly enjoyable. It involves stretching (which I suck at), exercise (been a hot minute) and a mix of meditation (which I have been rocking). Cooking has yet to manifest itself but I grow tired of frozen burritos and potstickers so I imagine it’s only a matter of time. My bike is prepped and ready to ride, so now that I have a job I’ll probably try commuting to work everyday.


Thanks for reading! As we gear up for March, the blog will start to pick up. April is National Poetry Month, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and July is my Sustainability Month. For now, I get to take a breath and enjoy the calm.

State of the blog: 2022

Ah, January. A month of promise, a month of hope. With my resolutions written, it is time to take a look at my blog. My bastion, my slice of the internet. Whatever storm weathered, this is my safest port (if not my only port in the storm). With this post, I wanted to take the time to talk about the past and look forward to the future. All my plans and dreams (blog related), laid out for the world to see.

2020

A lot of planning went into my blog for the year and the effort showed. My goal was to provide consistency without burnout and to that end I am extremely proud of the work I’ve done. I have no pressure to write and have a lot of freedom when it comes to what I write. I’ve situated myself as a poetry, short stories, and articles blog and made the brand Mike Cole, so there’s no confusion as to what you’re getting into.

2021

I could better understand what was working and what could be improved upon. Overall, a great year. A year of growth and progress and I really have no complaints. Some minor tweaks here and there and 2022 is poised to be another great year.

Come this year

I didn’t want to take too long going over the last couple years as this year is the most exciting to me. This year is simply refinement of the core concepts developed in 2020 and 2021.

The Newsletter

The Newsletter is now official. It was experimental in 2020 and was my way of adding cohesion to the blog itself. In the past, if I disappeared for a while, I would occasionally write an update to let people know what was going on. The problem was, it would be completely random. By having a monthly update 7 or 8 times a year, I’m able to better communicate what’s going on. I find it enjoyable to give a glimpse into my life and the reception to the updates has been fantastic. The Newsletter had a bit of a branding crisis early on but this year I’ve worked out most of the kinks and have a better idea of what I want the purpose of the posts to be.

Series

In 2020, when I made the decision to make my blog a more consistent, cohesive experience I looked into what specifically that would look like. The Newsletters were a big aspect of that change. Every month, even if it was a busy month, there would be a newsletter; I wanted practice writing them and it makes a lot of sense from a blogging perspective. The second aspect of the blog was to give myself a time and place to write about what I enjoyed. Up till this point, the articles I wrote were great but once again inconsistent.

Short Stories

For the series, I decided early on there needed to be four. This gave my content a rounded out feeling and would allow me to have exciting content throughout the year. Short Stories are something I had always pondered writing but usually make me blush in embarrassment with how dorky they can be. I equate them to a similar experience as a D and D campaign (I have only played one, I swear!).

The reason I’ve been so adamant regarding scheduled time to write short stories is I truly believe it helps with creative thinking and problem solving. I love any activity that challenges my brain so being able to create a world from nothing is extremely enticing. What I’ve written has garnered positive feedback and it’s an aspect I’ve been wanting to expand upon for a while now.

Sustainability Month

Years of brainstorming and it’s finally come to form. I picked two issues I cared about and chose those as my hills to die on. Sustainability has been near and dear to my heart ever since I was a young lad. My first memory is that of the garden we had at my preschool, picking peas from a pod and remembering how delicious they tasted. In my later years, I joined Students for Environmental Action and built a community garden at my high school. In college, we had a garden in our backyard and even made our own compost from our leftovers. Now, I can at the very least write.

Last year was the first year I started my sustainability series. It was exciting, fun, and for the most part lighthearted (except for the Oregon wild fires). This year, I plan to continue all that was good from the last year and expand upon it. Sustainability is a broad topic so it gives me a lot of ground to cover. I could talk about corporate greed, consumerism, and all in-between. I can also talk about walking, cooking, and all other manner of fun topics. The goal is for the series to be engaging and not go into climate crisis mode. There are many pieces written nowadays that stress the urgency of action but as far as effectiveness I don’t know if I believe it works. I’ve read about terms such as “climate anxiety” and it all seems very peculiar to me. Our world is complicated and my hope is to make it simpler. I’m excited for what this year brings!

Mental Health

Mental Health is a tough subject to talk about. In my everyday, I brush it off when in the company of others. I tell everyone everything is fine and it’s rare I’ve been vulnerable around anyone. A lot has happened to me the last couple years so the articles planned for this year will reflect that. I have a rough outline of what I want to talk about and overall I’m excited to share as I work through my life. This year will be a mix as I experiment with articles, only one is planned to be heavy subject matter with the rest being general mental health articles that are more on the lighthearted side.

Poetry Month

Celebrating national poetry month was fantastic last year. I opted to return to form to when I had started this blog all the way back in 2015. A simpler time filled full of questions of the weeks and a bunch of random other topics as I tried to gain a foothold on my chaotic world. It is rare that I have the opportunity to reach back into the past and pull it into the present, so the fact I can for poetry month has brought a smile to my face.

Most poems I write nowadays I simply write and leave up to the readers interpretation. I have my inspiration but the beauty of poetry is applying your own meaning to the poem you’ve read. To make poetry month special, I brought back analyzing poetry from my ‘Fruitful Friday’ series, a now ancient relic of a bygone era. The best part is now the analysis is of my own poetry rather than famous poets. Poetry month will stay the same for this upcoming year.

In Sum

There won’t be any major changes this year. The website is easy to read and follow and the content has been solidified. I am talking about what I want to talk about and the final piece of the puzzle has been resolved this last year. Horror Month is no more and Short Story month is here to stay. There are no creative restrictions and basically the sky is the limit for what I can write about. Two to three articles a month is reasonable for me and writing now takes top priority over other activities.


That’s it! This is just an overview for the upcoming year! Of course there will be updates through the Newsletters and more to come as we get closer the series. I’ll be back soon for the February Newsletter!

New Year, New Mike: The wheel of reinvention never stops.

Yes, it is January. And what does that mean? Reflection but of course. My blog is one big ode to my self improvement. Years ago, I had the brilliant idea of using my blog as a way to keep track of my New Year’s resolutions. A look at what I want to be and a way to hold myself accountable. Since then, I’ve been able to look back at years past and see if I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I’ve had surprising success writing out my resolutions this way and I’m excited to share what I have planned for this year.

What I’ve Learned

Since I’ve started posting my habits on my blog, I’ve kept my goals as continuous goals. It’s not a one and done list! Instead, I modify and adapt. As such, my goals aren’t shear chaos as they were in years past. They are a constant and I’m glad. With each passing year, they become more focused and refined.

I have started using January as a planning month. Instead of running to the gym come January first, I take my time to carefully consider what I want to do. Since I’ve only started doing this quite recently, I have no idea what the end result will be.

Not a French Kisser

One of my goals for last year was to learn French. My German has become much improved since my youth and I found it time for a new language. I have a French friend and one of my dreams is to make my triumphant return to Europe, not as a boy but as a man. So I’ve been practicing French. The great news is that I’ve started. The bad news is I haven’t been practicing as much as I like. So this year, I’m doubling down. Lessons every day, more French shows, and listening to podcasts. As an added goal, I want to do more to measure my success with languages. My reasons, pardon my French, are rather dorky. I am learning Japanese simply for the sake that I’ve played Nintendo games my entire life. French is to impress my friend. And German was so that I wouldn’t starve to death in the airport when I did study abroad.

My goal right now is to learn French, German, Spanish, and Japanese to fluency. Outside of those languages, I may or may not pick up sign language but only time will tell. My Spanish is rusty and needs work. German I can understand but like Spanish my goal is to learn it so I can hold conversation. This is going to be a year of polish and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Coding

Coding went surprisingly well. My main focus this year is web development. I’ve been lazy the last couple of months but I found coding material that is not only practical but enjoyable. But tough. Very, very tough. If I build a game, great, but web development comes above all else. I’m putting no pressure on myself for this, I am simply treating it as another skill to learn. It could take years or weeks, but my pace is my own.

Piano Man play me a tune

One of my goals has been to hone my musical craft. In my effort to be the smartest man in the room, music is one obstacle I haven’t quite been able to tackle. Motivation is key. So I reviewed instruments and landed on piano. It’s a social instrument and meant to be shared. I can walk into a building and should I find a piano, nine times out of ten I can sit down and play. The other aspect is lessons are easily available. Piano song guides are plastered around the internet and if I want to learn a song, I can. Try doing the same for violin and you’ll find much more of a headache. I still have my Skillshare account, so I’ll be doing lessons over there. It’ll be off and on but I’m hopeful something will stick eventually. The goal is to make it fun and slowly but surely I am getting there.

Cooking

An elusive habit since I’ve moved back home. In college, I learned how to cook. I made many dishes during my studies and found that cooking was not only cost effective but also a tastier option to eating out. So this year, I’d like to ease back into cooking my own meals. The plan currently is to sign up for a New York Times Cooking subscription and to start looking through a cooking blog I only recently found out about, Food52. I am going to slowly integrate cooking as a lifestyle choice rather than simply force myself to cook for the sake of cooking. There is no set plan for my meals but I’m starting the year by simply looking at interesting recipes. Life is a little chaotic right now so I don’t know when I’ll go shopping but I have faith this year I can really get back into making delicious meals.

Big Picture Goal

Individual, SMART goals are great, but they’re not enough to move someone forward. As has become tradition, I’ve been theming my years. A year of Assertive here, a year of New there… These frameworks help set up the plan for the year and help bring together my “Why”.

So this year I want to be my year of Desire. Desire in the sense of asking myself what I want and setting out to get what I want. When I became an Eagle Scout, I picked out a silver coin of one of our laws. In that moment, I picked courteous as I thought it best represented who I was. Always thinking of others, trying to please everyone to the best of my abilities. Later in life I learned that if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. And now I’m ready for the next evolution of that concept; being courteous to myself. So this year is about my goals and getting ahead in life. It’ll be paying off my student loans, helping with as many events as I can and eventually transitioning to project management roles. It’s time I stop sidelining myself and focus on my success, whatever it takes to get there.

Other Goals for the Year

While new skills are a blessing to learn and typically what I choose to focus on, I also want to instill other habits beyond simply building my human capital. For that, I have two goals for 2022. And those two goals are more walks and riding my bike again.

Walking

In Corvallis, I opted to walk every day to class. It gave me time to think and enjoy simply being in the moment. I could walk everywhere and it was great. Now, when I try to walk, I find I have no destination. So I’ve been looking to change that. I’ve recently gotten into Pokémon Go this past year and downloaded Pikmin Bloom as a way to encourage walking. Now going out has a destination and I couldn’t be happier. This year, I want to ramp up my walks and make them more rewarding. Between the two apps, I think I’m on the right track.

Biking

I bought an electric bike. Right before the Pandemic… The good news, last year I finally put it together. How many times have I ridden it? Once… I went from biking every day in college to nothing. So this year, we are going to course correct. I want to ride and I’m going to use my brother to help me get back in the habit. He’s started riding a lot this last year and he clearly has found a motivation I am lacking. So the easiest way forward is to join him. Sibling outings until I’m comfortably riding on my own again. I’ve felt rather homebound for the last couple years with my anxiety, so I’m hoping bike rides will help restore some of the freedom I lost. It’ll be nice to bike to work instead of taking the bus and should I need to get somewhere, it’ll hopefully be less of an ordeal than it has been for the last two years.


Happy New Year! That’s it for the article! Overall, I’m hopeful 2022 is going to be a great year. I’ve taken a lot of time for myself during the Pandemic and have come away better for it. Cheers to 2022!

Productivity Apps and motivation

This article is about apps. Over the Pandemic, I’ve given technology a lot of thought and realized that technology hasn’t really been helping us. Or more specifically, me. Endless scrolling through dating apps without dates and obsessively opening and closing apps led to an epiphany; they were not bettering my life in any way, shape, or form. I found myself accomplishing nothing and the Pandemic became worse as I began a cycle of starting projects only to never finish.

So I deleted the non-essentials and set about finding new apps. My goal was to make technology my friend and today I share two apps that have helped me thrive during the Pandemic; Habitica and Forest.

Habitica

The holy grail of apps. I found this by chance as I was brainstorming ways of being productive. My wish was to gamify my habits, much in the way Duolingo has turned language into a game. The original plan was to build my own app but to my pleasant surprise Habitica fit the need well. You have your avatar and your tasks are split up into recurring, one time, and daily. You can set them to easy, medium and hard. The kicker is, if you fail to do your tasks you take damage. You succeed in completing your task? You get money, experience, and mana. When you reach level 10, you get to choose a class and that’s when the app really starts to pick up. Each class has four skills and I picked rogue. I can steal money, stab a task (money and experience), collect more items, and even avoid damage if I’m feeling lazy one day and don’t complete all my daily goals. Each skill cost mana, which means you’ll be wanting to keep up with your tasks.

At about level 10 (I’m almost 50 now) I started looking at the other features. The big ones outside of having a fully customizable avatar (along with mounts, pets, and backgrounds) is the party and guild system. The two guilds I joined are for anxiety and life hacks where users can simply chat. These don’t have quests, the party system does. Parties consist of 30 people and create a small community of people dedicated to achieving their goals; it’s absolutely brilliant. With your party, you’re mostly doing quests where you typically unlock pets as rewards (as well as gold and experience) but some quests offer weapons and armor.

Forest

With Habitica, I solved my task problem. I could create goals and adhere to them. However, I was still missing a piece of the equation. Tasks that took a couple minutes or had a clear objective, no problem. But tasks that required flow, motivation, and willpower? Those were a struggle.

By happenstance, I stumbled across a Codecademy blog post where ‘Forest’ was recommended. The idea is simple; you set a timer in app and plant a virtual tree. Leave the app, the sapling withers and the forest does not grow. Reach the allocated time, you have a tree. The main draw? You earn coins depending on how long you set the timer and with those coins you can buy trees as well as shrubs to populate your forest. There is a treehouse tree, a lemon tree, a sundae tree, a celestial tree, and the list goes on and on. You can also use your coins to purchase soundscapes from the lapsing of waves on the Ocean to sitting in a cafe in Paris. With this app, I’ve been able to accomplish more in the last couple months than I had all of last year. Coding has been difficult to learn but getting a reward every 25 minutes has made all the difference. The app is updated fairly frequently with new trees and shrubs, which may not be a big deal for some, but it’s fun for me. The app also has a competitive leaderboard and achievements, so I expect to be using the app for the foreseeable future.

A musing on micro communities and motivation

With the Pandemic, I’ve taken a lot of time to think about what brings about the most joy in my life. To accomplish this, I’ve been exploring the very idea of what makes us human. I’ve boiled it down to competition and community. There are other fundamentals for sure, but as a whole we live to compete and are obsessed with reputation. We need these two things from a survival standpoint. I’ve been dreading competition over the last couple years but have come to see how invaluable it is in our every day life. Left unchecked, it can be dangerous, but utilized in the right ways it can be life changing. If there was no competition, there would be no reason for doing anything. Competition provides challenge and challenge in turn fuels growth.

On the flipside with have community, which I’ve been exploring a lot more. Codecademy has provided a haven for hobby coding, where I can go to feel welcomed. Habitica, has helped with habits. Without banding together in groups, it is much harder. We need other people and if we can focus, we can find little pieces of the world carved out for us. Community we are typically brought up into but micro communities (mostly existing online) we seek out. Typically, we are doing and then for growth to occur, we join together with others. Sometimes we compete, other times we support; it’s all a cycle of motivation. This is the first year I’ve fully explored online communities that match my interest and I plan to delve deeper. It’s an exciting time and here’s to hoping my dreams come true. It’s fascinating how much of a difference a few apps can make.


That’s it for the article! And for the month! I’ll be back in October, for my Short Story Horror Month. The big news is I’ve accepted a full-time offer to work at State Farm as an Account Manager. This month I’m studying for my license in property and casualty as well as life and health. I have 30 days to get everything in order so most of my time is going to be spent studying. On top of that, I have jury duty for the first time in my life as well as a birthday that needs celebrating. It’s an exciting and terrifying time but I’m sure it’ll all go well! Thanks for reading!

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