If you want to teach, here’s a great example

I recently decided to take up guitar again. I used to play back in the 90’s and gave it up when I traded my guitar rig (Epiphone Les Paul and Line 6 POD) for a laptop around 2003 or 2004. I messed around with bass guitar for about a year and had some fun with that, but I wasn’t playing it often enough to continue so I sold my bass.

Recently I bought another Les Paul and a Digitech multi-effects pedal and decided to try my hand at electric guitar once again. I was never very good at it, but I always enjoyed it.

Training videos didn’t exist the last time I had an electric guitar. My, how times have changed! With the advent of YouTube, you can practically watch videos explaining how to perform brain surgery in the comfort of your own home (where is Gary Larson when you need him?)

The first thing I searched for were charts of scales and chords. Those are easy enough to find and print out. The next thing I searched for were YouTube videos produced by guitar teachers. I found the best there is:

JustinGuitar.com

Justin has been teaching guitar for most of his career and is a natural. There are those who are great at something but can’t teach it effectively. There are those who are great teachers but not that great at the skill itself. Justin is both. After watching some of his videos and reviewing his web site (I’m now a member), it’s obvious he’s both a very hard worker and a genuinely nice chap.

Membership to JustinGuitar.com is free, although donations are happily accepted. His videos are freely available on YouTube, although I strongly suggest those that are interested in learning guitar sign up for a free membership and make a donation. Its cheaper than in-person lessons and you can watch them in any order you wish, as often as you wish, or watch the same ones multiple times.

One of the biggest advantages of setting up an account at JustinGuitar.com is the lesson plans. Justin maps out lesson courses based on your skill level and goals. Following the lesson plans are easy and you can check each lesson off as you complete them.

Justin’s teaching style is very approachable and he has an affable personality that makes the beginner feel very comfortable and at ease.

One of the things I’m impressed about the most, though, is Justin’s approach to teaching in general. It is thorough yet approachable, it is complete yet easy to follow, and it is encouraging throughout the entire experience. Justin not only has a knack for teaching, but he has an organized approach and method that I think would be a valuable lesson to anyone seeking to teach others.

Justin, good on ya!

Writing at my day job

I’m not just an author, I’m also a project manager and senior web developer. That’s actually how I pay the rent, so to speak, but fortunately for me I get to spend a fair bit of time writing at the office. In addition to being the senior project manager, I’m also the writer and editor of the corporate blog.

eRep, Inc.
Learn about the CVI at www.erep.com

The company I work for is eRep, Inc. When people ask me where I work and what we do there, I say, “We sell happiness.” This always generates a fair bit of intrigue and interest because it’s a vague answer that begs for further explanation.

Erep is entirely focused on the Core Values Index assessment. It is a psychometric assessment that measures and defines a person’s innate unchanging nature. It is your personality’s DNA, as I like to describe it.

The CVI is your personality’s DNA.

The CVI assessment starts with an online test that usually takes 7-10 minutes to complete. When done, you are given a score that represents how much of four separate personalty types you possess. It sounds simplistic when I describe it that way, but the number of combinations of those four types is in the trillions.

Personality Types

The Core Values Index assessment is made up of four core values, based on power, love, wisdom and knowledge. These go by the names of Builder, Merchant, Innovator, and Banker, respectively. When you take the CVI, you are given a score between 0 and 36 in each of these four energies or core values, with a total combined score that always sums to 72.

It is your particular combination of these four values that represent your CVI score. Your core values represent where you are the happiest, whether it be solving problems, building relationships, acquiring knowledge, or taking charge and leading others.

The best way I can explain this is to describe my own CVI score. I am a 27 points Innovator and 17 points Banker. My Builder score is 15 points and my Merchant score is 13 points. In the parlance of the CVI, I am an Innovator/Banker.

This means that I value solving problems more than anything, and value knowledge—both its acquisition and dispensation—secondarily. Innovators are all about being the wisdom in the room. Solving problems is their passion, and they don’t believe there’s a problem they can’t solve with enough time. Bankers value knowledge. This combination of core values lends itself to me being naturally and innately drawn to project management and product development.

Merchants find their happiness in the relationships they form with other people. They like to motivate others with their emotional energy and enthusiasm, and they excel at forming consensus among groups. They tend toward being team leaders or team motivators.

Builders are the power in the room. They take charge and get things done. If Innovators can be described as “get it right” kind of people, Builders are “get it done” kind of folks. They love checking things off of lists and earning that strong sense of accomplishment. They are all about action, sometimes to the point of saying, “Get out of the way, let me do it.”

As you can imagine, Builder/Merchants or Merchant/Builders tend to find themselves in positions of power and influence.

These are highlight explanations and don’t do the core values justice. The best way to learn more about the CVI is to read the blog at eRep.

Or better yet, take the free CVI and get your own score. I highly recommend paying for an upgraded CVI. For $49.95 you get a full 17-page report describing your individual CVI profile in full detail. I’ve yet to meet someone who took the CVI and got their upgraded report and regretted it. In fact, they invariably become strong advocates of the assessment, motivating their friends, coworkers, and family to take the CVI.

A writer as well as a rider

Did you know I am a published author?

I have written three novels — a trilogy! — available at Amazon.com individually and as a single volume. All are available as eBooks, and most are available in paperback; I’m currently working on releasing the third book in paperback form.

The trilogy is called The Taesian Chronicles.

Book one is Ohlen’s Arrow. “Vengeance drives him. Can honor save him?”

Book two is Ohlen’s Bane. “There is no honor among brothers.”

Book three is Paragon’s Call. “The sunset of an old hero. The dawn of a new foe.”

I am currently in the process of writing the fourth book, which will be the first of three books in a second trilogy. Stay tuned.

If you want to learn more about my writing career and discover more about the books I write, be sure to visit my author’s blog at www.ruckerworks.com.

John Irving or Stephen King?

The writing methods of John Irving (The Door in the Floor) and Stephen King (The Shining) couldn’t be more different. Both seem to have strong views about the right way to write. Last year I read King’s, Stephen King on Writing and was blown away when he talked about his writing process, but was even more impacted by how strongly he feels about it.

According to King, organization kills creativity.

John Irving, on the other hand, takes an approach that would make King’s eye twitch in barely contained rage and frustration. Irving’s first action is to write the last line of his book. He then outlines and defines every step that will be taken to lead the reader from page 1 to that culmination.

I developed my own writing style before I knew anything about King and Irving’s methods. In fact, I had never heard of John Irving until I’d already published my second novel. I ran across a YouTube video of a speech he gave where he described his writing process. It almost perfectly mirrors my own.

Later, when I read Stephen King on Writing and I learned how the master does it, I found myself asking, “How is that even possible?” (He starts with a blank page and just writes.) Of course, Stephen King is a writing savant. He could write a 1,000 page novel with one thesaurus tied behind his back.

My process can best be described as organized, linear creativity. I invent my characters and the things that happen to them in a series of brainstorming sessions, then I use an organized, methodical approach to refine those broad ideas into specific details.

When discussing my writing approach with readers and budding authors, I describe it by saying, “I don’t write novels, I write scenes.” This is because I outline my ideas down to the scene level during my planning and organization phase. Then, when it’s time to start cranking out the prose, I only have to write one scene at a time. It is specific, finite, and relatively small. I’m not overwhelmed by the intimidating scale of several hundred blank pages and the pressure of having to come up with a novel’s worth of creativity on the spot.

Most importantly for me, though, is I don’t have the fear that I’ll start down a creative path without knowing it will end well. Because I’ve already determined the plot, sub-plots, character development, protagonist-antagonist conflicts, setting, etc., I can write one scene at a time knowing it will all fit together in the end.