Monday, December 27, 2010

Obligatory New Year's Post

I resolve to blog more often than every six months. There. That's the first New Year's resolution I've made in a long, long time, because I believe if there's something in your life worth changing, it's worth changing NOW.

That said, since the end-of-year period is a time for tasks like printing out expense logs, getting the final mileage off of our cars, etc., it is a good time to reflect on this past year and plan for your journey in the next year.

Here's some links to help you think and develop goals:

"Bigger or Smaller?" from Seth Godin's blog. I recommend everyone read Seth Godin. His challenging insight will inspire you to move.

Jack Canfield, Decide What You Want for Yourself in 2011. Please note that goals are NOT just for business! It's tempting as students/reporters/captioners to frame all our goals in terms of speed, accuracy, or income, but we're more than just steno.

10 Ways to Increase Your Luck: A Musician's Tips for Freelancers. This article is geared towards the musician, but the tips are VERY applicable to not just freelance reporters, but anyone wanting to up their game.

Some evening this week my husband and I will make an appointment with each other to map out some individual and joint goals for 2011. As Zig Ziglar said (I think), "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." (Or maybe it was Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Almost there...

Hotel reservations? Check.
Convention registered? Check.
Train ticket purchased? Check.
Speed contest entered? Check
CRR entered? Check.

And now we wait.

I love convention. E'en tho' it be fraught with politics *achoo* and debate, e'en tho' I may spend a large percentage of my gross income on accommodations, (srsly, I'm not one of the six-figure income reporters they talk about in the news--not that I'm not TRYING for it, mind you) it's like Summer Camp for Steno Writers.

Yeah, I said Camp. I remember going for a week and getting rejuvenated with the break from Real Life and doing crazy, silly things like the Cocoa Puff Shoot. (How to play: Shove a Cocoa Puff up your nostril. Close the other one and see how far you can shoot it out your nose. Do not try this at home.)


How many bottles of Aqua Net were killed to make this picture? I'm on the second row from the bottom, sixth from the left. Aaack, dang you layout. Whole pic doesn't fit on here. But the pic didn't cut me off, at least. Maybe I'll fix this later.

So soon I get to go to the National Court Reporters Association National Convention (hereinafter referred to as "Convention," or "Court Reporter Camp"), where I expect to get rejuvenated and reenthused for my career, and for crazy, silly things to happen.

And now I'm wrapping things up work-wise...making sure all my travel t's are dotted and i's are crossed.

I'm ready to go!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dad, Business Professor

In the book "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind," by T. Harv Eker, he encourages the reader to think back to childhood and discover how your parents' attitudes toward money affects your own attitude today.

It wasn't until I read that, that I realized how much I run my business like my dad. I definitely budget for it like him--taking taxes and business expenses off the top before I take ANY of it home--but there are a few other ways that merit a paragraph or two.
(At left: My dad being abso-freakin-lutely PWND by my niece Hannah.)

Save for Large Purchases and Events

I remember being, oh, eleven or twelve when my dad, owner and proprietor of a CB radio sales and repair shop, introduced me to Saving For Vacation. We took an annual Griswald-style Family Vacation every year (even saw the frickin' Ball of Twine), and always paid for it with cash from an envelope hidden in our Orange Van--and I do mean Construction Orange Van. We NEVER had any problem finding it in the parking lot.

One day, I'm thinking it was in the winter, Dad showed me, in the fourth file cabinet from the left, two drawers down, in the back (the shop's since closed, so don't think you can find it NOW!!), a file folder. Inside was cash. "This is where I put a little bit of money aside every month to save up for our vacation." We didn't travel on credit. We didn't travel using our home's equity. We used MONEY. No, we were far from rich. But we went to Disney World, Washington DC, Mount Rushmore, etc.

So it occurred to me that I'm doing the same dang thing when I budget for the National Court Reporters Association Annual Convention. It's not a vacation, but it does take a bite out of one's checkbook. Or it WOULD if I hadn't started saving for it as soon as the convention was over last year.

Keep Your Inventory Updated

Dad kept the newest models of CB radios and scanners.

We may not have a physical product inventory, but we do offer products. Whether it's an accurate realtime translation of a lecture, or daily copy of transcripts, or Internet realtime, we have something to sell. And, yes, we need to keep it up to date. (I STILL hear of reporters not knowing what a USB port is. Grrrrrrr.)

I think I'll also include in this category Keeping Up To Date With Current Professional Issues and Events. I did some jobs for a firm that hadn't ever heard of CART, and every time I'm at a test or conference with my LightSpeed, I always--ALWAYS--meet someone who hadn't ever heard of the LightSpeed.

Keep Your Inventory Dusted

When I was a little girl, during the summer my dad would "hire" me for about four hours a week. My tasks would usually be something like sweeping the floor or dusting the inventory. Booorr-rrring. Necessary. Would YOU buy stuff that had a coat of dust on it?

How do WE steno writers keep our inventory dusted and shiny? Yep. Practice. Learn Briefs. (Booo-rrring!) Every day. "But I don't have TIII-IIIME!" If you don't have ten minutes to do a couple speed takes, then you don't have ten minutes for Facebook. If you don't have three minutes to look over some briefs and drill yourself on them, you don't have three minutes during commercial breaks on American Idol.

C'mon, the faster you write (speed practice) and the more accurate you write (briefs), the easier and less stressful your job is. Some days is it hard to set your butt on a chair and practice? Sure. Do the hard stuff now, and it's easier later. But do the easy stuff now (skipping practice) and it's harder later.

When I was fresh outta court reporting school a mentor said to me, "You're the fastest now you ever will be." Sorry, I can't hear you over the noise of me fondling my 270 Illinois Speed Contest Testimony Qualifier certificate while ogling my RMR. BUT she probably said that because SHE didn't practice.

Insert shameless, unsolicited plug for the Magnum Steno Club here.

If I think of any other lessons, I'll let you know. I should probably now e-mail my dad and show him this entry.

(Whereupon the blog post came to a screeching halt because the blogger couldn't think up of a clever ending.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's gotta be a decision. It has to.

PhotobucketFourth CCP skills attempt down... and I mean DOWN. Fallen like a diaper full to its 15- pound capacity.

Granted, I've had some lousiness lately--my steno writer went on the fritz, so I had to send it away for repair--it came back quickly, but in the meantime I had to get readjusted to writing on a Stentura, and then re-readjust to writing on a LightSpeed again.

And a couple of tornado warnings.

Not to mention the dent I put in a nun's car door a couple weeks ago. But anyway.

I did all the right things. I practiced high-speed material EVERY DAY. I've been CARTing nearly every day the past month. I did my best to entertain only POSITIVE thoughts and avoid negativity. My CART output gets better and better.

So it's test day, and I practiced some high-speed material beforehand. I printed out an encouraging e-mail from a friend. I played positive, upbeat music in the car on the drive over. I wore my Test Shirt. I set up my laptop just like I'm CARTing, any other day, no biggie, no problem. I wrote my affirmations on a piece of paper to put where I could see it during the test.

One of my affirmations is "I am the best in the world at what I do." I ripped off borrowed that phrase from wrestler Chris Jericho (he says this catchphrase a lot), and wrote that phrase by his picture, which I put on the table as well.

You know, for inspiration.*

And the test began, and I made errors, but soon I hit a stride. I did have stretches where I nailed that thang! Problem is though, the stretches weren't five minutes long. I did my best to LET IT GO. If I made an error, fine; move on. Relax. RELAAAAAX!!!!!

It's hard to stay positive. But I've got to DECIDE to stay positive. I've got to. That's the only way I'll ever kill this thing and move on.

I come home and find this article from Cracked Magazine. (Mind you, this humor site in general isn't for young kiddos or people who are allergic to cuss words. But this is a good article.) Getting a BIG SKILL will take BIG EFFORT. I'm NOT one hundred percent engaged in practice. I'd say I was about 80 percent engaged.

So I'm going to work hard and practice hard. And I'll take it again. And again. As many times as I need to.

That's my decision.

*Don't be nailing me for reposting the pic, Men's Fitness. It's free publicity, and you know it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Answer the Door When Opportunity Knocks.

At the very end of the movie Dumb & Dumber (SPOILER ALERT), the two protagonists are hitchhiking home after a good movie's adventure and musing over the fact that they never catch a break and some people have all the luck.

Soon Hawaiian Tropic's tour bus full of international bikini models pulls up alongside them, and several shapely young ladies mention that they're in need of two guys to be their oil boys for the tour.

Our heros helpfully point their way to a nearby town. They keep walking and musing over the fact that they never catch a break and some people have all the luck, While we, the viewers, are *facepalm*ing or *headdesk*ing at their blindness to opportunity.

If you're reading this and you're a court reporter, do you think you'll move into providing CART or captioning "someday"? Will you provide realtime "eventually"? Are you going to compete in state or national speed contests "when I'm fast enough"?

Opportunity doesn't give a rat's nest about "someday." Opportunity will knock when opportunity decides to knock. It's up to you to be ready and have your luggage waiting by the door.

Here's how I got started in CART: I answered the door. Last year one of my clients, a deposition reporting firm, received a last-minute inquiry about CART services for a three-day class. They received the call on Friday. The class started Monday. My client called me because she knew I was interested in CART, and I took a deep breath and said YES.

(Obligatory Doctor Who reference: It was a "Turn Left" sort of moment.)

Why could I say YES rather than "No, I'm not ready for that," or "No, my dictionary is full of too many conflicts," or "RUN AWAY!! RUN AWAY!!"?

Because I've been packing. Ever since I'd heard about the concept of realtime translation in steno school, I've been wanting to write realtime. (I'm including CART & captioning when I say "realtime.") I even bought the Stentura 500--yes, 500. Remember that? The first realtime-capable student machine?

In the eleven-and-a-half years since school I've been building my dictionary bit by bit, adding words that don't normally come up in depositions. (In that first CART job the teacher said the word "albatross," and by golly it translated correctly. I did not have to fingerspell it.)

I "packed" my dictionary a little every day, and I still do so to this day. Today someone mentioned "vichyssoise" in their Facebook status update, and I put it in my "Words To Add To My Dictionary" notebook.

It's not just dictionary building either; I've had my eyes on speed contests since I heard about them, so I've been doing my best to practice, at least a little, every day as well. It's not burdensome or a chore. If you do a little every day, all you have to do is a little every day, whether dictionary building or practicing or laundry.

But that one job, that one time saying "yes," opened up the CART work for me. One year later, I'm providing CART regularly. I LOVE IT, I love helping someone participate, I love seeing the words translate correctly, and I love getting better every day.

I'm so glad I answered the door.